my issue with portion control is sometimes not eating enough. esp during busy days – I’ll over do it on caffeine and look up at 4PM realizing I haven’t eaten lunch 🥴 anyone else?
I love throwing together these little snack bowls to make sure I’m getting a variety of nutrients, even if I just pick at it throughout the afternoon 👏🏽

since I’m doing my best to avoid dairy in the new year, today’s lunch consisted of mixed nuts, (including dairy free dark chocolate covered almonds), turkey, dried apricots, and strawberries with gluten free crackers. I’m also a big fan of Mike’s Hot Honey to give any snack a sexy little kick 🙂

what can you do to help ensure your body is getting proper fuel + nutrients?

About Tenikatime

So last week I turned 27, which admittedly feels kind of weird. But truthfully, it’s not the sole motivation for this post.

I’ve been sharing what seem like telling, yet still tiny, snippets of my life over the past couple of years, but I’ve never actually taken the time to introduce myself. Similarly, if you read my most recent post on Instagram, I’m excited to focus on utilizing this little corner of the internet of mine to share more about what sets my soul on fire!

But for now, you’ll just have to make do with a little bit of an introduction to me, as told through 27 random(ish) facts! Hopefully at least one will surprise you! Haha

one. I have an identical twin sister. ok yes – potentially the most obvious fact to a lot of people who know me personally, but since we’ve never lived in the same place as adults, she only shows up on my social media a few times a year. We are almost nothing alike, and the best of friends!

two. pizza is 100% my favorite food and I eat it probably close to once a week. yes, I prefer to eat healthy, balanced meals, but pizza is my splurge and I wouldn’t do life without it! as long as there’s a gluten free crust option 😉

three. our new puppy leroy is the first dog I’ve ever had and I love him so much! we rescued him from cause for canines in July!

four. my first ever job was for the government! I worked for the social security administration as a student intern my first two years of college. I was considering going to law school at the time 🤓

five. I am obsessed with music, all genres! I think it’s one of the most beautifully expressive art forms.

six. I love to run! I competed in 3 half marathons over the past 2 years, but prior to beginning the training for those races, I grew up a sprinter who hated long distances!

seven. my first job out of college was as an inner city middle school teacher. I taught 8th grade reading in indianapolis and I absolutely loved it!

eight. teaching actually led me to yoga – I didn’t find my practice until 2014 when I turned to yoga as a ways to relieve stress.

nine. I’m originally from a super small town in ohio over an hour away from any major cities!

ten. prior to moving back to ohio last year, I lived in brooklyn, nyc, which was my favorite place I’ve ever lived!

eleven. I am so irrationally afraid of sharks that if I see one on tv, I’ll pull my feet up on the couch!

twelve. I am obsessed with the universe and believe in it with all of my heart.

thirteen. I have been “blogging” for as long as I can remember! writing is a passion of mine – I have published posts all across the internet, and journals/notebooks all across our apartment 😂

fourteen. my roommate/boyfriend, brenen, and I have known each other since we were 17.

fifteen. a year and a half ago, I was in a skiing accident and severely sprained both my rotator cuffs and got a moderate concussion, which made me legitimately feel like I was brain-damaged for a few weeks.

sixteen. I have a stuffed monkey named “monkey,” and I sleep with him every night.

seventeen. I have always slept in a position with at least one arm above my head and it’s actually superrr uncomfortable to wake up to.

eighteen. I’ve never left the country, except for mexico – but brenen and I are going to europe this month and I am so excited!

nineteen. I take my myers briggs at least once a year! I have always been obsessed with how we can improve our interactions with others if we try to better understand the way in which they may view the world.

twenty. I used to get manicures a lot but I rarely do anymore, and if I do, I always ask for clear polish because I loveee the natural look!

twenty-one. for as much as I practice and love yoga, I’ve never owned a single thing from lululemon lol

twenty-two. I cannot stand shopping! I hate everything about it. It takes way too much time and I constantly have anxiety about spending money on clothes…which probably helps explain twenty-one lol

twenty-three. I’ve done both simple and more-complex elimination diets and was able to self-diagnose myself with a gluten sensitivity in 2016. there are a few other foods that don’t sit great with me, but gluten is the only thing I avoid 100% of the time at all costs – my reaction if I do eat it? very bad cystic breakouts!

twenty-four. I love the board game monopoly, and actually started collecting them my senior year of college! last count was close to 30!

twenty-five. over the past couple of years I’ve gotten incredibly close to my hormones, better understanding them, listening to them, and working with them rather than against them in order to feel my best!

twenty-six. I am not easily tempted by much in the way of sweets! sure, everyone has their weaknesses…like pizza for me😂 but I have a solid sense of self-control, esp when it comes to eating, and it’s something I’m super proud of!

twenty-seven. I am actually naturally very shy, and sometimes come off super awkward when trying to interact with people because of it, even those I’ve known my whole life!

And I guess that covers it! For now…

Hopefully you learned something new or interesting! Thanks for reading, and for being here! I am excited for the new year of life ahead and look forward to sharing more of it along the way!

All about collagen!

I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share all about collagen (in an organized way, at least!). If you’ve been following me a for a while, or know me IRL, then you know collagen is definitely one of the health-focused topics I talk about the MOST…and for plenty of good reasons!

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Collagen is not just a new hip buzzword everyone wants to talk about – it’s actually the most abundant protein in our bodies! It shows up in our muscles, skin, bones, joints, and even blood! It’s essential to many important functions within our bodies including skin elasticity, protecting joints, and organs, and keeping bones and muscles together.

Our bodies actually produce collagen on a regular basis, however the rate of this production naturally slows over time. That is why as we age, we tend to see things like sagging skin, achy joints and muscles, and wrinkles.

I first discovered collagen about a year ago. I was rolling off of my first elimination experience, and still driving toward new ways to use diet to help heal my body. Specifically, I came across collagen because I was doing a lot of research on how to help bring more health back into my hair!

The short of it: I used to have the most awesome curly hair. I mean honestly, it was incred. Then kind of out of nowhere (honestly), it just lost it’s life. This brought a lot of sadness over me, as I realized too late that I had completely taken my curly hair for granted. Now not only were my curls gone, but my hair was seriously thinning out, and I was worried it would only continue to get worse.

I had tried taking hair, skin, and nails pills…doing treatment masks, and switching up my products to heal my hair, but nothing seemed to work. I talked to specialists, and did a lot of research, and everything kept pointing me toward collagen. I liked the idea of it, admittedly, because after-all, collagen is a natural protein our bodies are already producing. I only needed to support that production.

However, the tricky (ok, and kind of annoying) think about collagen is that all of the research I was finding explained that it could take up to 3 months before any benefits of it would be noticeable. All the same, I decided to give it a try. I started using FurtherFood Collagen, and would mix 1-2 scoops into my coffee every morning. I did this consistently for a couple of months, and then inconsistently for a couple more after that. (This was during a time of a lot of chaos in my life, as I was transitioning from NYC to Ohio, and traveling a lot throughout the summer for weddings and other events). I was determined to really give it a chance, so I did my best to stick with it and eat it every day.

While I really had to be patient before noticing the major benefits to my hair health, a more immediate takeaway for me was how collagen impacted my metabolism and prevented me from snacking throughout the day. I would typically eat breakfast, then add a couple scoops to my coffee and not eat again until lunch. This was a complete shift in my daily routine, as I was used to waking up super early to workout, so I’d find myself super hungry throughout the entire morning, sometimes eating two or three times before lunch! Since collagen is packed with nutrients and protein, it actually helped to keep me full.

Finally, overtime I have been able to notice that my hair has not only grown in thicker and stronger, but it’s continued to grow in length – something even my seemingly healthy curly hair failed to do! I used to lose big clumps of hair in the shower (I know, gross…), but now this is something that literally NEVER happens anymore.

Here are the top benefits of collagen, and the main reasons you need to be incorporating this into your diet NOW:

  1. Repairs Joints/Eases Pain – whether you are highly athletic, or barely walk from the car to the office, and back again, joint pain can sneak up on any of us. Cartilage weakens over time, and can deteriorate with age. Collagen helps to reduce this and alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
  2. Digestive Health – Collagen can help support and strengthen the protective lining of the digestive tract, as it lives within the gut’s connective tissue. If you’ve ever struggled with Leaky Gut Syndrome, or IBS, Collagen is a great choice for helping to reduce inflammation and building up the tissues that line your gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Building Muscle/Burning Fat – Since collagen is a major component of muscle tissue, it can have a big impact on building up muscle mass and providing you fuel throughout a tough workout. Adding lean muscle mass to your frame can help convert essential nutrients to energy.
  4. Improve Health of Skin and Hair – As I mentioned, there are noticeable changes that happen to our bodies overtime due to the slowing of collagen production. By providing your system with this important (and otherwise depleting) protein, you can aid in the firmness and smoothness of your skin by helping your skin cells to be able to renew and repair normally, as well as keep your nails growing in stronger, and even reverse signs of hair loss.

I mentioned I used to primarily mix collagen into my morning coffee. Since I’ve actually recently gone coffee free, I now have to find different ways to consume my collagen on a daily basis. Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat it!

  1. Coffee/Tea/Water – since collagen is almost entirely tasteless, I started by mixing it into things I was drinking on a regular basis. It was undetectable in coffee for me, and I didn’t mind the very subtle taste it added to water. I usually mix it with lemon or other fruits if I add it to water. This helps distract from any lingering taste. Now, whether I make a latte at home, or even if I order a matcha or other hot drink from Starbucks or other cafe, I almost always add in a scoop of collagen. I literally carry a container of it in my purse LOL!
  2. Smoothies – adding the collagen powder to a smoothie or smoothie bowl is super easy, especially if you are using a blender. The only caveat of this technique is to be mindful of your overall protein intake in one meal. I actually don’t typically add collagen to smoothies because I usually make a protein powder based smoothie. However, if you are not using too much protein powder, feel free to add a couple scoops of collagen in!
  3. Baking – again, since it’s tasteless, you can really add it in anywhere where it can be dissolved easily. I will typically sneak it in anywhere I can – including oatmeal, cereals and even soups! If we are making any kind of baked good at home, collagen is definitely included in the recipe in order to easily increase protein intake alongside other nutrients!
  4. Bone Broth – OK, so this is different than the powder I would mix into coffee and other drinks/foods, but bone broth itself is an excellent source of collagen! A post I did about bone broth a little while ago includes all you need to know for an easy DIY recipe, as well as all of the amazing benefits of drinking/eating bone broth.

Finally, the most common question I get about collagen is “which brand should I buy?” As I mentioned, I started with FurtherFood, which I really liked. Currently however, I have been using Vital Proteins. I’ve tried a handful of different collagen brands, and the only reason Vital Proteins has won me over recently is because of the price point on Amazon Pantry. The cost savings I receive from my recurring order on Amazon Pantry, coupled with how often we consume collagen, this makes the most sense for my wallet!

Still, I’ll include a list below of different options I’ve tried and my takeaways from each:

  1. FurtherFood – $49.85/24oz. – Grass-fed, Pasture-raised, Non-GMO, Kosher, Gluten-free, Paleo, Keto
    • I used FurtherFood for about 3 months, and this was my first ever collagen brand. I liked it totally fine, I just didn’t like the price point. It was tasteless, mixed well in hot liquids, and mixed fine in cold liquids if I shook or stirred vigorously.
  2. Thrive Market – $24.99/20oz – BPA Free, Ethically Sourced, Grass-fed, Non-GMO, Pasture-raised, Gluten free, Paleo, Dairy free, Dye and color additive free, No added sugars, etc.
    • Thrive Market’s collagen was amazing! I only used it for a month but I was really impressed with the quality – it truly does dissolve well in hot and cold liquids, and is virtually tasteless. The price point is great, I ultimately just decided against opting for a Thrive membership.
  3. BulletProof – $39.95/16oz.
    • Bulletproof was something I tried in a much smaller quantity than the others. I purchased a couple of samples for a work travel trip. It was good – I honestly have no complaints, however I didn’t like that there was not a lot of information about the company’s values compared to the other brands. I.e. gluten free, non-GMO, non-BPA packaging, etc. In addition to the powder, I have also tried some of the Bulletproof collagen protein bars, and they are AWESOME! Not necessarily my top recommendation for someone who isn’t well accustomed to eating protein (there is a bit of a chalky taste/texture), but overall, I really enjoyed them and felt they did a great job of keeping me fueled and satisfied during work travel.
  4. Vital Proteins – $43/20oz  – Gluten free, Dairy free, No sugar added, Paleo friendly, Whole 30 approved, Kosher
    • I really like Vital Proteins, as I mentioned, because it works perfectly with my budget and ordering habits. I found it was majorly discounted through Amazon Pantry if I set up a subscribe and save order. VP mixes well, and is virtually odorless and tasteless in everything! If you are intrigued, VP also makes related collagen products including Beauty Collagen, Matcha Collagen and even a collagen creamer for your coffee! I personally have been so attached to the benefits of collagen on it’s own, I do not necessarily feel the need to get a specific type of collagen – the original works perfectly well with my routine – but I have heard great things about them!

I hope all of this information is helpful! This post (and no post I’ve ever shared about collagen) is in any way sponsored by any of the aforementioned companies or brands. Still – if I could persuade you to make any kind of adjustment to your daily diet, it would likely be to add collagen! I believe in it so much – and hope you’ll give it a try to see if the benefits are impactful for you.

xo

T

Half-Marathon Training Tips

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you probably know that I have been training for (another) half marathon. I’ve run two other half marathon races so far, but this is the first one I feel I’ve focused on really following a training protocol, so I am really excited to see how it all comes together on race day! A half marathon race is far from an easy feat, and training for one can be tricky, too! Not only is it a lot of running (duh!), but that equates to a lot of time, which means you have to plan ahead to fit training around your schedule: what days can I run this week? How long will each of my runs be? This also means being conscious about what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis from what foods/drinks you consume, to how late you stay up at night…From hydration to rest, etc. training isn’t just about running – it’s a preparation for your whole body!

So this weekend I am running the Indianapolis Indy Mini Marathon, and I’m really excited because it’ll take me back to the place where I really first started to fall in love with leading a healthy lifestyle, plus this is the first half marathon race I ever aspired to do! When I was living in Indianapolis after college, I signed up for the Indy Mini on a whim, only to pull a muscle in my back during a yoga class the week before. I was pretty bummed, but I took it as a sign that it just wasn’t the right time for me to be taking on such a commitment.

Now, having run my first two half marathon races in Brooklyn and Columbus, Indianapolis is the last city in which I’ve lived (so far) that I will get to complete a race! This weekend is supposed to be of beautiful weather, and the course will take us around the Indianapolis 500 Speedway, so it should be a lot of fun! Not to mention, one of my best friends, and my roommate that I lived with for the two years I lived in Indy will be running the race, as well!

And let’s be honest…one of the best parts about completing a race is celebrating afterward, and I can’t wait to hang around downtown Indy this weekend!

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Typically, I have found that I like to prepare for my half marathon races a little differently than what you might expect. I originally cherry-picked from different programs found online, and I used the Aaptiv app a few times during preparation for my first race in Brooklyn. However, since I really enjoy weight training, yoga, and other physical activities, I found I didn’t like sticking to just a standard training guide because I didn’t want to sacrifice what I enjoy just to focus on running. To that end, a typical week for me might look something like this:

  • Monday: Cross-train lower body
  • Tuesday: Short run, speed training
  • Wednesday: Alternative cardio + Cross-train abs
  • Thursday: Short-Medium run, tempo/endurance training
  • Friday: Cross-train upper body
  • Saturday: Long run
  • Sunday: Rest day

Cross training might refer to a lifting day, resistance exercises, or attending a fitness class. Alternative cardio usually ends up being the stair-master for me, but could also be another cardio machine at the gym, swimming, or just walking. For the shorter runs, I typically reference my own personal sprint training (I used to be a sprinter), or I might use Aaptiv for these days. I love their tempo run days, and sometimes their short runs involve speed training. My long runs usually taper up to just a mile or two short of full race distance throughout my training, and then back down a week or two before the big day.

Since I can sometimes have a pretty sporadic travel/work schedule, I honestly almost never see a week that looks exactly like this. I’ve been traveling a lot through the weekends recently, so Mondays have been popular rest days for me and I just shift things around to get in my workouts otherwise. When I am considering myself in full-training mode (minimum 4-6 weeks out), the only days I don’t sacrifice, no matter how rough my schedule gets, are lower body cross training and long run days.

In addition to training, and focusing on the right nutrition and rest, having a good pair of running shoes is essential. I recently purchased a new brand of running shoes for the first time and so far I love them! You can read more about them and some other pairs I reviewed here!

I also am a big playlist runner. I’ve tried to run to podcasts, audiobooks, etc. but I really feel better when I have my tunes. I’ve made a ton of exercising playlists over the years, but I think this race’s might be one of my best. Some of you have asked to check it out, so I’m sharing it here, but be forewarned – it’s really quite the mix, and very unique lol

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A few additional tips for anyone who might be considering if a half is right for you…

  • The first step is choosing a race you’ll be excited for. Whether it’s a local race happening in your town, or one somewhere fun that you can turn into a weekend trip. If you’re not excited for the event, you won’t be excited to train for it. Pick a race, sign up online, and pay the entry fee. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be even more motivated to commit to your investment. Plus there are sooo many half marathon races out there. Try searching online for “best half marathons US,” I promise you will find one that you like!

Once you start training…

  • Experiment with different types of exercises or training plans. Find a balance that bring you joy! Like I mentioned, I don’t like only running all of the time, which is why I try to continue to sprinkle in classes I like, or just a day where I can zone out in the weight room of the gym. You don’t need to exercise six or even five days a week. If you’re building up your endurance, and more importantly, confidence in your ability to finish the race, that is all that is important!

However, one day of running a week will not necessarily be enough. You want to think of training the same way you would about learning a new language. If you take one class a week, and never look at the materials again in between classes, chances are each week would just be spent reviewing what you should already know, and then absorbing only a small portion of new information (which would again be forgotten by the following week). By running every other day, or at least every few days, you’ll be teaching your body how to handle the stress of running, and overtime, will become much stronger.

Finally, and probably most importantly…

  • Take it day by day. Be proud of yourself, but never hard on yourself. When I started running long distances, I was running a 12 minute mile, and couldn’t finish a 10k without stopping several times. My last race, in October in Columbus, I ran a 8.5 min pace and didn’t stop once! Progress takes time, and setting out for 13.1 miles can seem impossible if you’ve never done it. You can always start with smaller races, too! Since the summer gets pretty warm even in the mornings, a lot of times there will be organized shorter races like 5ks, and 10ks. Check for local events in your area to potentially start off with a smaller goal in mind. Either way, if you just take it one day, week, month at a time, I promise you will be amazed to learn what you can do!

Athletic Shoe Review

As you know, I love exercise! I am training currently for a half marathon, but also love hitting the gym, or attending classes with friends. I am constantly receiving messages asking me for recommendations on the best workout shoes, and the truth is, the shoes I wear to run are often completely different than the ones I’d wear to cross-train. Plus, I recently tried a handful of different shoe option, so I figured now is as good as time as any to share my thoughts on all of the variations.

HIIT Exercise/Cross-Training
For the past few years it would seem I’ve been pretty biased toward Nike shoes when it comes to just a basic athletic shoe. My favorite cross-training shoe I’ve ever worn is the Nike Free RN Flyknit shoes. I also love my Nike Flex running shoe, but would literally never run in them!

Hence the names, these shoes are designed for running but they just don’t work for running for me. It’s nothing against Nike as a running shoe…just these specific styles.

Another one of my favorite athletic shoes I’ve ever bought is the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 shoes. I bought these last year for the first half marathon I did in Brooklyn, and they were amazing to run in. I continued to wear them for HIIT and cross-training, and they’ve just been perfect all around.

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Distance Running
The most important thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different, and everyone runs differently. You might have a different type of foot than me, with a different preference in support, etc. My first recommendation would be to learn as much as you can about your personal preference, and your feet. If you go to a place like SecondSole, or a local running shoe store, they will be able to watch you run, take measurements of your feet, and make recommendations based on the type of foot you have. I did this a lot growing up to get fitted for spikes for sprinting, so I have a lot of knowledge of the type of runner I am, and how much support I need. All the same, I still do it almost every time I buy a new shoe. I highly recommend you give it a try – at the very least, you can learn about your running style!

I grew up wearing ASICS, so they were my first choice when I was looking into a new running shoe this year. Nothing against my Nikes, but I wanted to get back into traditional running shoes, and really make sure I was choosing the best one for myself.

The shoe I decided on ended up being my first of the Brooks brand, one which I receive a ton of recommendations toward! I’ve linked the exact pair I got here. The Brooks Levitate are ideal for road running, and for runners looking for a springy responsiveness. I have a neutral pronation, meaning my foot doesn’t really sway to the inside of outside when I plant after a stride, but rather I hit the ground straight/flat on. I love these shoes because I feel they are extremely supportive in both my ankle and arch (I have very flat feet), and they are super lightweight, allowing me to not feel weighed down as I am running. It is almost as if I am running barefoot, or like the shoe is just a part of my body!

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If you are looking for some information on some additional options, though, I’ve included a few others I’ve tried with my thoughts below! Keep in mind, everyone’s foot is different and my feedback on these styles is simply based on my personal preference. I would still definitely recommend you try each of these brands/styles because they were all great shoes (just not the right one for me).

The first shoe I tried was the ASICS Gel-Kenun. I was so excited to try these because they were so cute, on sale, and I read a lot of good things about them online. To be honest, picking them up I did not think they looked like a good, comfortable running shoe, but I was open to it because like I said, I grew up wearing ASICS so definitely trust the brand. I ran a few miles in these and my shins were killing me. I determined they did not have enough support for me, and were not very responsive to my stride. Although they felt lightweight, they were heavy when I was running, and I felt as if I was being pulled down by them.

Second on my list was a pair of Sauconys. I had a lot of people recommend Sauconys to me, including a specialist I worked with at a local running store, so I was excited for this one as well. I wore the Saucony Echelon, but didn’t run a whole lot in it because I found it was not as supportive/stable as I would have liked. I have very narrow feet and thin ankles, so I need something that will sit snug on my foot and feel tight around my ankle. This shoe was very light and responsive, but ultimately didn’t fit me as properly as I would have liked.

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Finally, I gave another pair of ASICS a try – a real, more traditional running shoe, the ASICS Gel-Kayano 23. This was the exact color/pair I tried and I loveddd the look and style. They were very comfortable to wear around, and felt super supportive…until I started to run. Similarly to the Sauconys, I felt these shoes were just not as snug around my ankle and narrow foot as I needed for long distance running.

Overall, I would say the Brooks, Saucony, and ASICS brands all came super highly recommended, and have a history of being great running shoes. If you are looking for your next (or first!) running shoe, I definitely recommend checking out some of the specific styles listed above, or even just looking into these brands.

Another one I received a couple of recommendations for was APL, and even an Adidas Boost shoe, but I didn’t get a chance to try any of those. Please feel free to email me with any additional questions you might have on my experience, or if you’d just like to share more recommendations!

 

Happy running! 🙂

Let’s Talk Lattes

Since going OFF coffee at the start of this year, I’ve pretty much been all about my alternative morning elixirs. At first, I stuck to just my hot water + lemon. I love hot water and lemon first thing in the morning, and I still drink it from time to time. However, just I pretty much only drink water throughout the day…so I was getting kind of bored of it.

Enter my morning latte creations. I realized I was missing out on an opportunity to kick start my day with a ton of healthy nutrients. Each of the recipes I’ll share are packed with benefits which can help to naturally heal your body.

I’ll share more about WHY I decided to cut out coffee a little later. As I was making this transition though, I will say one of the things I was most worried about was how the absence of coffee would affect my morning ritual. I have always loved waking up, pouring a hot cup of joe, and then starting my day slowly either reading, or just being still, maybe on my balcony or the stoop of my apartment when I lived in Brooklyn.

Not to mention, the caffeine! I usually liked to down my coffee and work through this slow morning aspect before hitting the gym. Sometimes I’d even take a second cup of coffee to the gym with me! I remember going to bed most nights, feeling my body yearning for what would give it life again the following morning. I was so incredibly addicted to caffeine.

BUT…after a long series of mindful observations, and as I’ve grown more intuitive to understanding my body and how it reacts to certain foods and substances, coffee had to go.

And guess what?

I’ve never felt better! I have more energy than I did drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day, and this energy lasts throughout the whole day, without any horrible crashes or weird side effects (again, I’ll elaborate more on quitting coffee in another post!).

Below I’ll share the few morning cocktail go-to’s which have helped me to feel even better about hopping off of the coffee train. Let m know if you decided to try any of these, and how you like them!

First up…

Matcha Latte

If you’ve followed along on my Instagram at all, you know I loveeee my morning matcha. Matcha does include caffeine, but it’s a fraction compared to the amount in coffee.

When I feel like I need a little extra boost, I go for matcha instead of coffee, now. It is much more sustained than coffee, so I don’t get jittery, or feel a crash later in the day.

Matcha also has so many health benefits compared to coffee. It helps to boost metabolism and burn calories naturally. It’s packed with antioxidants, including EGCg, which can’t be found anywhere else! Matcha detoxifies your system effectively and naturally, and is rich in fiber, chlorophyll, and all kinds of vitamins.

My Recipe:

1/2 cup hot water (not boiling)

1/2 cup nut milk ( I pretty much always use almond milk, but you can use any kind of milk you’d like!)

1 scoop collagen (I have been loving Vital Proteins lately)

1 tsp matcha powder (I am not partial to any specific matcha I’ve used, but I am using Nativas currently, and really like it!)

1 tbsp melted coconut butter (I like Maranantha)

1/8 tsp or a dash of cinnamon

+ optional small amount of honey or maple syrup to sweeten

Blend everything together, & enjoy!

Dandelion Tea

I posted a picture of my dandelion tea a while back on my Instagram. This has been a new recipe I’ve been experimenting with, primarily because dandelion tea itself has so many health benefits, especially for us women during our ovulation phase. I wanted to work dandelion into my diet somehow, and was pleased to discover it actually works perfectly as a coffee replacement!

Beyond that it legitimately tastes like coffee in a way, some of it’s health benefits include liver detox, muscle recovery, blood circulation, and aid in digestion. In fact, this tea has become the go-to remedy for digestion in our house, anytime we might be feeling like something we ate didn’t sit right.

My Recipe:

1/2 cup hot water (not boiling)

1/2 cup nut milk ( I pretty much always use almond milk, but you can use any kind of milk you’d like!)

1 scoop collagen (I have been loving Vital Proteins lately)

1-2 tbsp Dandy Blend, depending on how strong you want the taste. I love 2 full scoops, but you might want to start out with just 1.

1 tsp Four Sigmatic Caffeine-Free Adaptogen blend (this is optional, but highly encouraged to give you an extra medicinal kick, and add a little to the overall taste)

a dash of Pumpkin Pie Spice (found at Whole Foods or Trader Joes) or cinnamon

+ optional honey or maple syrup to sweeten

Blend everything together, & enjoy!

Turmeric “Golden Milk”

Finally, one of my favorites, the turmeric “golden milk” latte! I’ve been experimenting with turmeric probably longer than any of the others. When I discovered a “golden milk” recipe, I instantly had to give it a try. I remember it was one of the hottest days of last summer in NYC, but I opened all the windows in my Brooklyn apartment, and turned up the stove to give this baby a try. My first attempt…awful! LOL but I think I’ve gotten better over time…

I love turmeric because it is beneficial for your WHOLE body and brain. It battles against inflammation, increases your antioxidant capacity and helps to boost the immune system, eases joint pain, boosts mood, protects your heart and your gut, plus much more! Turmeric has been shown to improve long-term cognitive function through it’s active ingredient curcumin which directly supports the health of an important brain hormone.

I like to use turmeric as much as I can, but especially during the ovulation phase of my cycle, and especially in the form of my golden milk latte! Check out my *improved* recipe below…

My Recipe:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup nut milk ( I pretty much always use almond milk, but you can use any kind of milk you’d like!)

1 scoop collagen (I have been loving Vital Proteins lately)

1-2 tsp ground turmeric (more or less depending on how strong of a taste you like)

a whole cinnamon stick

1/4 tsp fresh or ground ginger

a dash of pepper (important to help activate the turmeric)

1/4 tsp cardamom (optional, and I don’t always use when I don’t have it on hand)

Bring everything to a simmer over low-medium heat, but do not boil! Strain out the ginger and cinnamon stick (you can reuse), froth the top if you’d like, & enjoy!

I am also linking my hand-held frother here because I am obsessed! I use it for all of these cocktails, and it is just too good to live without.

I hope you all enjoy these recipes! Let me know if you give them a try! 🙂

All About the Bones

I first became interested in bone broth a few months ago – initially attracted to the idea because of all of it’s healing properties. A common misconception of bone broth is that it is too expensive! It’s true, buying the pre-made, organic, fancy versions can get pricey – especially if this is something you’d like to incorporate into your everyday routine. However, making your own can actually be super easy, and inexpensive if you take the right approach!

Bone broth is different than the chicken or beef broth you see in the store for a couple of bucks – technically “stock,” is a mineral infusion which comes from slowly simmering bones and ligaments of healthy animals. It is rich in powerful amino acids including collagen, glycine, proline, and glutamine – all which are vital for healthy connective tissue (ligaments, joints, around organs, etc.) and start to naturally go away as we get older. Drinking bone broth can help to slow the effects of aging on your body – internally and externally. Bone broth is known to work wonders for those with leaky gut, or other digestive issues such as IBS, and has even been said to help clear skin, boost the immune system, and help the body overcome food sensitivities.

I personally have enjoyed making and drinking bone broth throughout my luteal phase (the 10-14 day phase before starting your period) in order to reduce cramps and help give me a sense of calm.

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I’ll give more detail on a couple of these amino acids below, but feel free to skip this section if you just want to get to the recipe! 🙂

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies – helping to build muscles, bones, skins, blood vessels, tendons, and our digestive system. Collagen is what gives our skin strength and elasticity. Basically, you can think of it as a glue which helps to hold the whole body together! As we age, the amount of collagen our body naturally produces starts to slow down, and that is when we might start to notice wrinkles, sagging skin, joint pains, etc. Factors such as eating a diet high in sugar, smoking, excess exposure to the sun, etc., can also contribute to depleting collagen levels. Consuming collagen may help to improve these aspects of your health, among others!

Glycine plays a major role in digestive health and proper functioning of the nervous system as it is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and other proteins in the body. It enhances muscles by increasing levels of creatine, helps wound healing, and is involved in detoxification. It also aids in the regulation of blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogensis, which prepares and ships glucose from proteins to the liver. Arguably, most importantly, glycine positively affects the brain as produces a calming effect, while also promoting mental alertness, improving memory, and boosting mood.

Proline helps to reduce cholesterol buildups in the blood stream, preventing potential blockages, and helps the body to break down proteins in order to create new, healthy muscle cells.

When it comes to making my own broth recipes, I have two preferences – using beef bones definitely improves the overall turnout of the broth (consistency, taste, etc.) but the chicken was just as good and to me, more sustainable: I had to purchase the beef bones (without the meat), whereas for the chicken, I just bought a rotisserie and at least got dinner and lunch out of it! LOL

INGREDIENTS:
• All of the bones from a whole chicken, or 1-3 pounds of assorted bones • 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns
• A sprig of fresh rosemary
• Water

The steps to making your own broth are extremely simple, and honestly not that time-consuming, considering you can prep the recipe then leave it for the majority of the time it takes to “cook.”

Regardless if you prefer beef or chicken, I would recommend purchasing your supplies from Whole Foods, or another store that you trust has not used any preservatives or weird stuff. Make sure the bones are completely clean and healthy! You can even roast a chicken yourself if you want, and feel free to use any spices, added veggies, etc. – this will only add more flavor to your broth!

 

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1. BLANCH:
Once you’re ready to begin, put all of the bones, ligaments, etc. into a big enough pot so that you can cover it with water. To the water, add a pinch of salt, allow the water to come to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer aggressively for about 20 minutes. This step is called blanching, and is very important to remove any impurities from the bones.

2. ROAST:
After the bones have been blanched, drain the water, and place them into a roasting pan. Roast the bones in the oven for 20-40 minutes in order to brown and caramelize them. This helps to improve the flavor. Don’t be shy about cranking up the heat to 400-450 and allowing them to roast for a good amount of time. The bones may stick a bit to the pan, but just be sure to scrape any brown bits back into the pot for the next step – trust me, you don’t want them to go to waste!

3. BOIL:
Back in the pot, cover the bones again with water, and add in 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and any additional spices that you wish. DON’T OVER DO IT! A lot of recipes will encourage you to add in vegetable “scraps,” and a bunch of other crazy spices – Good bone broth doesn’t need much more than just the bones and adding more stuff can absorb the liquid, or overpower the natural depth of flavor. Bring the bones to a boil.

I usually allow it to boil for another 20ish minutes, maybe on medium to low heat, meanwhile warming up my crock pot on high. I personally don’t like to leave my oven burner on, so the next step I take is transferring the bone broth to the pre-heated crock pot. If you want, you can leave the burner on low and allow the bones to simmer that way, but I am usually not home long enough to monitor it, and I wouldn’t leave it on if I left my house. Even in the crock pot, keep an eye on the broth until you notice it has reached a simmer (there is usually a bit of a lag as the liquid adjusts from the heat of the burner to the crock). Once it is simmering, you can turn it on the low setting.

4. SIMMER:
Set a timer for 18-24 hours (shorter for chicken, longer for beef).

5. COOL & STRAIN:
When it’s time to finish up, make sure you cool the broth appropriately! Don’t put it still boiling hot in the fridge, but don’t allow it to cool off completely. Broth can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so  this step is super important. Once it’s cool enough to handle, strain it into an air tight container and store it in the fridge so that it is able to form properly. Once it’s ready, it will have formed a light gelatinous layer around the top. That’s how you know you did it right! Before serving, simply scrape this layer off. You can then add the broth to a small pot to heat up, or use in recipes as you see fit!

I like to top mine with lots of additions including fresh cilantro, cracked black pepper, turmeric, crushed red pepper flakes, sometimes a little salt – you can really mix it up however you want! I sometimes use it as a substitute for recipes that call for water, or any cooking broth, but most of the time I just enjoy it after dinner or first thing in the morning to start my day off feeling super nourished and ready to go!

A Brief Introduction to Life with PCOS

No matter how much you attempt to surround yourself with those things that make you feel comfortable, it can inevitably often feel as if the battles you fight are fought entirely on your own. This is how I have always felt when it comes to PCOS. Unlike many women who are diagnosed with PCOS in early adulthood, I have actually been aware of my condition since I was about 13 years old…almost 3 years before I ever had my first period.

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and it refers to a disorder within the female reproductive system. It’s widely believed to be incurable, as well as the direct cause of a slew of hormonal imbalances which include irregular periods, hair loss, uncontrollable acne, dramatic mood swings, and fertility problems, (to name a few).

In addition to the entirety of that short list, I’ve experienced most every catalogued “symptom” related to PCOS. However, rather than a path of discovery through these issues, my journey in navigating my disorder has been a bit backwards.

Let me start by speaking a bit on how my experience has unfolded thus far:

How I Learned I Had PCOS:
Pretty simply, my mother has it. When I was “coming of age,” I complained of severe migraine headaches, and unbearable pain in my abdomen, coincidently around the same time every month. I hadn’t yet started bleeding, but my mom took me to see a gynecologist who confirmed her belief that I had inherited the curse of small cysts forming on my oversized ovaries, then bursting around the time of my menstrual cycle (the fluid causing the pain and discomfort). The doctor immediately prescribed me a low dose of synthetic birth control, and sent me on my way. I was 14.

The symptoms subsided within a couple of months, and I was honestly ecstatic. I was able to maintain an active lifestyle throughout high school, and rarely complained of any side effects. I loved my birth control regimen because as a young teen, it made everything so much easier. When I did get my period, it was consistent, and easy to navigate. I never shared with any of my girlfriends that I had a hormonal condition because I didn’t have to. Birth control masked my imbalances, and once I got used to it, made me feel “normal.”

What Happened Next:
I wasn’t only private about my hormonal condition in high school, I was also close-lipped on the little pills I was taking with my lunch every day. To me, I had an “issue” for which I was taking medication, and I would have felt embarrassed if all of my classmates knew I was “different.” Once I got to college, I quickly learned that A LOT of girls were taking birth control, but not for the same reasons I was. They were taking it to literally control whether or not they gave birth. This may seem like a stupid realization to have after I had been taking it for years at this point, but you have to remember, that was never why I started taking it. To me, it was a medicine I thought I needed to mitigate the side effects of my condition. It had nothing to do with having sex.

Once I learned that was not the primary motivation for most of those using an oral contraceptive, what happened next is kind of hard to explain – I just started to feel a little uncomfortable. Here I was, almost 20 years old, and I had been religiously taking a pill I knew little to nothing about every day, for almost a quarter of my life!

I wasn’t sexually active at the time, and I was more afraid of the risk of not knowing, so without really thinking about it, I decided to stop taking it. Just like that.

In what seemed like an overnight change – I immediately felt better than I ever remembered. Within just a few weeks, I lost nearly 15 pounds. Meanwhile, my appetite and energy levels dramatically increased to a healthy level. I was overall lighter and happier.

Fast Forward:
Of course, nothing good can last (without maintenance). After graduating, I experienced both a level of stress and a variety of emotions that I had never known before. More specifically, my physical health was struggling, and I had no idea what was wrong. I drank easily an entire pot of coffee a day, and quickly gained back all the weight I had lost in college. I was rarely active, and always anxious. I had hair growing in the most random of places, and acne showing up in places I had never experienced before! And they weren’t little bitty blackheads. It was cystic (hormonal) acne, always around my chin and jawline and it never went away! (More on this later).

I visited a psychologist to try to talk through my uncontrollable mood swings; I saw specialists who tested for food allergies like celiac disease, and lactose intolerance; I was even recommended to have multiple tests done to scan for rare cancers in my breasts and colon. Thankfully, none of these tests proved fruitful, but unfortunately, the mystery of my long-list of discomforts remained unsolved.

You have to remember, it had been almost a decade at this point since I last even spoke of PCOS with a doctor, and almost four years since I had given up the pill, cold turkey. It truthfully never crossed my mind to tie anything I was feeling to my hormones. In hindsight, I didn’t really know enough about my condition to know all of the symptoms, and it wasn’t something I had ever consciously thought to allow to play a role in my life.

A Push, Then A Shove:
In late 2015, results from a routine pap came back as “irregular,” and “inconclusive.” I pretended not to panic, and reminded myself that I had never really been that convinced I’d ever have children, anyway.

“What should I do differently?” I asked my doctor.

“Nothing you can do,” she explained. And told me to make sure I get another check up in a year to make sure it’s nothing serious.

What?! Nothing I can do. The cells in my cervix were showing up “irregular,” and the results of whether or not I had cervical cancer were “inconclusive,” yet there was nothing I could do over the course of 12 months to ensure the next test was better?

For the first time, I shared with my doctor that I had a condition called PCOS, “they told me about it when I was young,” I explained, “but I haven’t taken birth control in a while. Do you think either of those things could be impacting my results?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, “but PCOS is incurable. I would strongly encourage you to reconsider birth control.”

I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. This time was different than when I was a young teen because I felt as if I had more knowledge. I surely didn’t know all there was to know about my PCOS still, or even birth control, but faced with a hormonal issue, I certainly couldn’t believe the solution would be to chase it with synthetic hormones.

Womancode:
In the Summer of 2016, shortly after my move to NYC and starting a new life, I started researching more seriously the condition and came across a lot of great resources which helped me to feel more educated and empowered than I ever imagined. One book was especially interesting to me: Womancode, by Alisa Vitti. I skimmed it half-heartedly, but didn’t implement any of it’s recommended strategies until months later. What she suggested in the book seemed almost too simplistic, and so I was afraid of it not working for me. I was terrified that maybe what the doctors had told me my whole life was true: there was no hope; I am incurable, and I could never have children. I would always be defined by this condition.

As my symptoms worsened, and the fear for my fertility (and happiness) loomed, it became blaring that I could not continue to live my life this way. The day-to-day symptom I was affected by the worst? Mood swings. I felt as if I was losing my mind, literally, and it was making me miserable. I decided to take a stand of my own. I dove back into my research, determined to win this supposed would-be life-long battle. This would not be my story, I was sure of it.

I decided the following Spring to take a leap of faith. Everything kept pointing me toward Womancode. Armed with new knowledge and understanding I had gained from my research, I had already read Vitti’s book, but now it was time to study it like the Bible. I cried as I read through the testimonials she spoke of. “This is me,” I thought, “this is exactly how I feel.” My confidence was restored, even before taking action. I felt empowered through her words, and for the first time, as if I was not alone in this experience.

I learned so much about listening to my body, and giving in to my feminine energy to stay in tune with my cycles in order to optimize my abilities, but the journey was also a testament to a patience and perseverance I didn’t know I had.

How Did It All Happen?
The first task I challenged myself with was balancing my blood sugar. I learned a lot about what can cause sudden drops and spikes in blood sugar, which seemed to be a major culprit in my uncontrollable mood swings. Now, I try to eat every few hours, even if only a small snack, in order to maintain this balance.

Overall, aligning my diet with my hormones was the easiest part. Womancode includes a super-easy to follow list of cycle-friendly foods, so you know what is best for you during the different phases of your cycle, and what to avoid. What worked best for me was doing a 21-day elimination diet to determine where I might have food sensitivities, and then continuing to avoid those foods as mindfully as I can. I also got to try a lot of new foods I’d never otherwise think of incorporating into my recipes!

It took me almost three months to fully churn my bathroom cabinets, but eliminating harsh products was the next step I took. Harsh toxins can disrupt the endocrine system, and that can lead to hormone imbalances, as well. I studied which parabens specifically tend to appear in which types of products, and used helpful apps like ThinkDirty to determine if what I was already using would make the cut. This was sometimes sad, because I had to say goodbye to a lot of products I loved, but also exciting because I was able to try new things. After a few months of getting used to my new products, I found I love them just as much and it’s great knowing they’re better for me!

A few other key strategies I try to implement into my lifestyle as much as possible include:

  • As much stress-relieving activities as possible – journaling, herbal tea, long walks/runs when I am feeling overwhelmed, using essential oils (I love clary sage), yoga, meditation, using hormonal complementing herbs (I love ashwagandha), self-care splurges like a pedicure or massage every once in a while. I also have recently adapted some special mantras that I like to speak to myself when I am feeling especially stressed, or as if I am losing control of my mood.
  • Limiting sugar – this has been a more recent discovery, but I’ve always known sugar sensitivity is common in those with PCOS. At the beginning of the year I did a 31-day sugar detox in which I consumed absolutely no sugar. This helped to “reset” the way my brain thinks about sugar, and as I slowly reintroduced different types, I’ve been able to keep my intake at a minimum.
  • Cutting out coffee – yep. from a pot-to-myself a day to no coffee at all. I recently reintroduced coffee after my elimination diet this year and confirmed the subtle theory that this too was contributing heavily to my mood swings, and hormone imbalances. I plan to stick to matcha (if necessary, but not every day), and avoid coffee as much as I can!
  • Cycle-syncing my workouts – you read that right – and no, I’m not making this stuff up. There is a whole section in Womancode which talks about the different physical exercises that are better during different phases of your cycle. To me, this mostly just means listening to my body. If I’m in my menstrual phase and don’t feel like going to the gym, I don’t go. I also try to push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things during my Follicular phase, when I know I am in a good position to discover something new I might love!
  • Limiting carbohydrates – ok, if you’re reading this and I’ve ever spoken to you about carbs before, you know how much I value them as a source of energy for our bodies. However, consuming carbohydrates in moderation is important for everyone, not just those with PCOS. I try to avoid ingesting more than one complex carb per meal, (for example, at Chipotle I might order beans, but no rice). I also try to avoid carbs entirely for dinner. If I can’t avoid a carb heavy dinner, I at least try to complement it with plenty of protein and fat to balance it out, and then opt for more protein and fat the next day. Another great couple of books I’ve read which speak more to diet as it relates to the brain and hormones include Grain Brain by Dr. David Pearlmutter, and Unleash the Power of the Female Brain by Daniel Amen.
  • Maintaining a consistent morning routine – arguably one of the most impactful things I done to improve my health has been drinking at least 32 ounces of water as soon as I wake up (before anything else), then making sure to eat breakfast or at least protein/collagen within the first 90 minutes of being awake. This helps to ensure you’re blood sugar is off to a proper start, and provides you with stable energy to positively impact your mood first thing in the morning which can set the stage for your day as a whole!

It is safe for me to say that following the Womancode Protocol has changed my life dramatically, as well as has continuing to learn from other authors. Within 2 months of becoming more mindful about my diet alone – that means none of the other stuff I mentioned, just eating food recommended for each of my cycles – I experienced the first regular period I had since stopping birth control…my first regular period in over 7 years! I also noticed differences in my mood and overall happiness after only a month of cleaning out 90% of my products (not even all of them, because I was using most of them until they ran out).

What’s Next?
Ever since learning more about PCOS and my hormones, I feel excited talking about the topic, and I want to share with others that there are ways to take control of your body. You can change the way you feel. It all starts by working with your hormones, rather than against them.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s definitely still a journey, but that to me is exciting. I am still battling some skin purging, and sometimes I still struggle with my mood swings…but I am able to look at these now as “flare ups,” which I can tie to specific causes. KNOWLEDGE is powerful, and it helps me to feel in control – something I never felt I had before.

If you or someone you know is dealing with PCOS, or maybe has some of the symptoms I discussed but doesn’t understand why, you are not alone. PMS, hormonal acne, mood swings, irregular, painful periods, and difficulty conceiving are not normal. We were not designed to struggle as women, we were designed to thrive. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling, and seek support for attacking these issues. If you’re willing to face them and make a change, I promise you, it’s possible to overcome.

 

Shopping List, Recipes, and All Things Elimination Prep, OH MY!

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling lost or confused as to what could be ailing you…maybe you have stomach issues that never seem to go away, experience skin flare ups or breakouts randomly, or have a digestive system that barely allows you to sleep through the night – it’s possible that an elimination experience is right for you.

An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan designed to eliminate potential “trigger” foods that could be causing allergies or other uncomfortable reactions. After a short period of cleansing your body’s system, these triggers are then reintroduced slowly, one at a time in order to determine which could be not as well tolerated.

The first time I went through an elimination experience was almost a year ago, and the more I’ve thought about it over the past year, I think my reasoning for submitting to such a challenge was simple: I was curious. In my opinion, curious is always an okay place to be…as long as you are open to what your curiously may uncover.

So I took a large step toward better understanding my own body and health and it turned out to be so eye-opening, I decided to do it again.

Fast forward through a whole year of learning and growing and developing, and I’m more excited than ever for round 2! There are a lot of posts about my first experience, and what I ate, or didn’t eat, and how I felt from last year’s posts, so I will just cut to the chase here and start with what you probably want to know:

Which foods are removed during an elimination diet, and for how long?

There are 6-8 foods which most professionals consider to be “common allergens,” so these are always a good place to start if you’re not sure what to eliminate: milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat/gluten, soy, fish, and shellfish.

However, elimination diets can and should vary depending on what you personally want to identify about yourself. Here is what I plan to eliminate this year:

• Gluten
• Dairy
• Soy
• Eggs
• Peanuts
• Corn
• Alcohol
• Caffeine
• Processed food/preservatives
• Refined/added sugar/sweeteners

I also have a hunch that even small carbohydrates in certain foods could be the culprit to some lingering digestive discomfort, so I will be sticking primarily to low FODMAP foods, excluding the above list. You can learn more about the Low FODMAP Diet plan here, an article shared by one of my sweet friends, Lauren Palm.

Most elimination experiences last a total of about 4-6 weeks, as it takes at least a few weeks for your body to rid itself of any antibodies which could be lingering due to a negative reaction (you read that right – so if you choose to never identify what your body could be negatively reacting to, you essentially run the potential of having perpetual antibodies just hanging out on your insides…ugh!). After this initial few week healing process, the next part of the experience is reintroduction.

How to do an elimination diet:

It’s really quite simple, and more than anything else I will mention, simply takes a little bit of extra focus and attention.

First, stop eating whatever foods you choose to eliminate. Maintain an otherwise healthy and fulfilling diet for 3 weeks, absent of these foods.

During this time, carefully read food labels to ensure you are avoiding even trace amounts of your triggers. It might seem like now, more than ever, is a good time for a cheat day but trust me on this one – you’d only be cheating yourself. The elimination diet WILL NOT WORK if you cheat even a small seemingly insignificant amount. The first step is allowing your body to heal, let it.

After three weeks, begin to slowly reintroduce one food group at a time. Don’t go wild and crazy, here. It might seem fun on the first day of reintroduction to make pancakes or go to a fancy Italian restaurant, but the point is actually to be pretty conservative through the reintroduction phase, introducing a single serving amount (1 cup or less, typically) of the food group in as simplistic and pure a form as possible. You want to introduce one food for 1-2 days before moving onto the next one.

This might look like a cup of whole wheat pasta on the gluten reintroduction day, or a glass of cow’s milk on the dairy reintroduction day. Pay attention to how you feel within about 20 minutes of consuming the trigger food, and be sure to record any symptoms or differences. If you calculate that one food or another left you with a negative experience upon reintroduction, you can confirm this food as a trigger food by eliminating it again. Essentially, the entire process is simple trial and error. The most important task throughout the experience will be to take notes, and listen to your body. If this is something you’ve never done before, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by pairing mindfulness with consumption.

 What foods can I include?

So as mentioned earlier, I plan to follow (as closely as I can) the low FODMAP directory of foods, additionally eliminating any low FODMAP foods which are captured by my essential elimination list.

Previously, I ate about 70% vegetables, and 30% lean meat, with the occasional and unintentional sprinkle of healthy fats. Since last year, I’ve been on a mission to learn more about what other potential eating habits could be affecting my gut health, and leading to uncomfortable digestive issues. At a high level, foods that are considered high FODMAP foods mean they contain high levels of sugars and sugar alcohols, which if poorly digested, can ferment in the lower part of your bowel causing the intestine to stretch and expand. The result? Pain, bloating, and other related digestive issues.

With this added knowledge, this time around the goal will be to aim for about 30% fresh vegetables, 30% clean protein, and about 40% healthy fats. Notice this leaves no intentional room for grains or carbohydrates…lending to another topic I’ve been continually researching as of late, but I won’t go into that too much now…

Vegetables, especially leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like Brussel sprouts and broccoli, mushrooms, squash, radishes, and sprouts are all good for healing your body! In addition to avocados, some other healthy fat sources include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

If you can’t imagine going without any source of grains, try to keep them at bay by only including them as about 10% of your food intake, and stick to gluten-free lighter grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and gluten-free oatmeal.

What else can I eat, and how about some recipes? 

So the real juicy inside info I know many of you have been waiting for – my shopping list, and recipe book to meal prep for the diet.

To preface, I’ve always imagined this could be a bit of a letdown if your expectations thirst for flare and excitement. The honest truth: this experience is very plain when it comes to ingredients. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – that does NOT by any means lead to tasteless, boring, or repetitive meals. I just mean to be upfront that what you see is very literally what you get, and you’ll notice the recipes are just as simplistic as the ingredients. Surely you can hit up some other spaces on the internet to find more shazam for your kitchen, if that’s what you’re into. For me, however, I find it easier to stay motivated as long as my food taste good, and minimal work is involved.

So without further ado – my shopping list:

Some other staples include plenty of spices, herbs and other flavor adders such as Salt, Pepper, Turmeric, Coconut Aminos (taste exactly like soy sauce), Avocado Oil, Red Chili Flakes, Everything Bagel Seasoning (from Trader Joes), plus I drink pretty much allll the herbal tea – just make sure to read the ingredients and especially watch out for soy letchin.

So what do you plan to eat?

Like I said – to me, simple is key. I plan to stick to a protein smoothie for breakfast, using vanilla Garden of Life plant-based protein. The ingredients might look something like this:

Breakfast Smoothie
1-2 scoops vanilla protein
10 frozen berries
bunch of spinach, kale, or other green
1/2 – 1 cup almond milk or water
handful of seeds, if desired

I typically will pack snacks for at least the first few days, in case I find myself hungry between meals. I will plan to share some fat-ball recipes later this week! In my experience, however, this lingering hunger between meals will go away as my body starts to heal, so snacks will become less necessary overtime.

Snacks
5-10 Sprouted and roasted almonds
1-2 Small kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 Medium clementine, mandarin, or orange
Couple slices of pickled beets
1 Cup fresh grapes

In my opinion, lunch should be especially easy since it typically has to be prepared ahead of time. I tend to stick to salads, or take leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. My first week lunches will probably be something like the following:

Chicken Salad
1 Cup of chopped romaine
Unlimited amount of kale, if more greens desired
1/4 – 1/2 Medium avocado, chopped
1/2 Lb plain boiled chicken, shredded or cubed (I love the Simple Truth chicken selection from Kroger)
1 Slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1-2 Anchovies, if desired (excellent added low carb source of protein!)
Avocado oil + balsamic vinegar
Everything Bagel Seasoning, if desired

I also like adding pickled beets to my salad, and you can pretty much add any vegetables you want! Carrots, celery, bell peppers? Salads are an easy way to easily and quickly experiment while you food prep. Just be careful to stick to clean dressing options, like a fat-based oil, and natural herbs or spices to add flavors.

Egg Roll in a Bowl (Recipe makes 3-4 servings)
1 Lb ground pork
16 Oz bag of coleslaw, cabbage and carrot mix (avoid preservatives and artificials!)
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
Green onions, for garnish/topping

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, coconut aminos, and oil – set aside. Brown the pork in a large skillet, then add in the cabbage/coleslaw. Add the sauce mixture to the meat and veggies and stir to combine, cooking for about 3-5 minutes until the veggies are wilted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

When it comes to dinner, we tend to stick to just simple meat and veggies. This week we will likely enjoy salmon and cooked Brussel sprouts or carrots a couple of nights, then maybe make a soup to last the next couple of days. Brenen has been talking about curry a lot lately, so here is what my soup recipe may look like:

Chicken Curry Soup
14 Oz Chicken Broth (Pacific, found at Kroger, is a great brand!)
14 Oz unsweetened full fat coconut milk
1/2 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Jalapeno chili, seeded, minced
4 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-3/4 inch pieces
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 Cup chopped green onion
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and chili and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the chicken and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Mix in the lime juice, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add in the lime wedge, green onion and cilantro as a topping right before eating. This soup is also excellent with cooked white rice, but we will be avoiding rice, personally!

I know this was a longer read, but I hope you find the information and recipe/shopping ideas helpful. I am so excited to begin this journey (again) with some awesome friends joining along, so please feel free to share any other ideas you might have, questions I can answer, or just general thoughts on how things are going along the way. 🙂

I will be back with more updates soon! Good luck, and have fun!

So You’re About to Start A New Diet?

I can appreciate all the sides of the “dieting” arguments out there, and it’s no secret that many in the health and wellness community would disapprove of any form of a constricting diet regimen. I, on the other hand, strongly disapprove of closed-mindedness – on condition. When I think about restricting what you consume, I frame it more as a way of preservation. I don’t remove things from my diet to punish, or torture myself – I choose to remove what I believe (based on research and communication with my own body) actually causes more harm than good. Ideally, once these foods are removed, they stay removed. Therefore, I am not simply participating in an elimination diet, but I am embarking on the first step of a journey toward understanding more about my body.

I strategically plot to improve my overall wellbeing by structuring a dietary regimen that will support the areas through which I define such a state: stable mood, quality sleep, energy level, comfortable digestion…to name a few.

To be perfectly honest, I think it would be difficult for me to support any kind of diet-altering plan that wasn’t backed by some kind of research, be it personal at the very least, but I can whole-heartedly and confidently stand behind any well-organized and thought out attempt to feel better.

With the new year off to the races, and many of us “trying new things,” read on for my top 5 tips for switching up your diet/nutrition, not just for a moment, but in order to cultivate a serious change in your relationship with nutrition + everything else. After all, food is fuel – might as well customize what drives you.

1.     Make Sure It’s Healthy

A healthy eating plan should include foods you enjoy, along with plenty of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, etc. And take note on what ‘healthy’ means in that previous sentence. It depends greatly on your overall goal of dieting as to what ‘healthy’ might mean to you. If you are attempting to lose weight, maybe these healthy foods include low-fat diary, and whole grains. If you are attempting to uncover potential trigger foods that could be the root cause of a perpetual discomfort in your body, maybe you stick to all natural substances like nuts and beans, instead. The only way to actually feel good is to make sure you are consuming a healthy amount of nutrients that your body needs in order to survive, and the only way to make sure you are in tune with this information is to read, and learn, and be open to the discovery. Don’t start a new diet without knowledge of how it might affect you.

2.     Take Baby Steps/Track/Prepare

Change is hard. The ideal approach to creating new habits it replacing them gradually, and experts agree, this is actually the best way to overhaul your diet. If a goal of yours is to simply drink less soda, then maybe the goal today should be to drink less than you did yesterday, and so on. Don’t stress yourself out by attempting to quit something you love cold turkey – spoiler alert: it’ll be incredibly difficult to maintain, and you’ll likely end up feeling disappointed and discouraged if you’re not successful right away. I wanted to stop drinking coffee, which I LOVE, and averaged 2-3 cups of every day. It took me almost 6 weeks to even completely ween off of it, and every single day that I turn down a cup is a successful day to me. I’m still taking baby steps, even after it seems the goal has been reached. Track your progress using your phone, or a note book, or even a handy tracking app like My Fitness Pal or Fat Secret. Even if part of your diet is not necessarily focused on calorie/macro counting, having the ability to actually see what you’re consuming and how it adds up can be extremely powerful, and encouraging. Write everything down! From how you’re feeling to what you did that day. You will be surprised looking back at the progress you’ve made internally from improving your diet. Consider it like progress photos for the mind.

Overall, the most important part of this step is to be prepared. Similarly to doing your research ahead of time, make sure you are prepared for any potential obstacles that may present themselves to throw you off course. Have a company happy hour coming up? Know ahead of time what you can get from the menu, or pack a snack/eat before you go and politely sip on soda water at the event. Plan your shopping trips so that you have plenty of time to get everything you need, and then plan your meal-prep day so that you are not stressed out, or end up going hungry because you didn’t make enough food for lunch AND dinner one night. Prepare until you feel over-prepared and then prepare some more.

3.     Set Realistic Goals

It often seems that those who wish to change their lives the most are the ones who set the most lofty, unrealistic goals. What you may not realize is that even a 5-10% change may make a huge difference in how you feel. Set realistic goals so that you can feel accomplished when you reach them. If you are attempting to lose weight, keep in mind that it’s recommended to strive for shedding no more than 1-2 pounds a week. Slow and steady…or rather, focused and consistent wins the race in developing habits that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

4.     Clean Out/Start Fresh

As it reads, if you’re attempting to switch up your diet, then you might as well actually do just that. Not only will cleaning out your kitchen prevent you from feeling tempted by the sugary snacks you’re used to having, but it will support the overall fresh start that you are attempting to give to your health. Donate the foods you don’t want to a food bank, or neighbor. Don’t put them in the bottom of a closet – get them out of the house! Eliminate the possibility of having a crutch, and simply dispose of anything that doesn’t fit into your new lifestyle. This will be HUGELY impactful to making changes that remain consistent, and not just for a phase.

5.     Experiment and have fun!

Finally – the most important of all – have fun! If you find yourself miserable, hating the idea of every new day, you’re definitely doing something terribly wrong. Use the new opportunity to get in touch with yourself – try new things, explore more about yourself and your surroundings. DON’T sit at home on the weekend sulking because you can’t go out with friends due to your new diet…instead, use the opportunity to see if there are any cool restaurants around town where you can enjoy healthy options. Invite friends out for a movie instead of drinks. Experiment in the kitchen – maybe buy a new cookbook and play around with recipes. Whatever you do – take advantage of this time. You’re not just doing a thing, you’re creating a chapter of your life which has the potential to affect the entire rest of the story. Make it your own, be proud of yourself, and enjoy it!

Good luck!