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There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

How to Find Joy in Nourishing Your Body

There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I’ve experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I’m so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

“You have to be healthy to eat healthy.”

It’s something I often say to people frustrated with trying to eat the “right way” but still not feeling great. There are so many diets that promote real food and healing. They all have merit, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone.

I know this because I’ve tried them (read some of my thoughts HERE). And the only thing I got was severe obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, more food intolerances and infertility. But no healing.

The real problem is they all include rules. Specific diets place restrictions on what you can eat and categorize food as good or bad. When a food is deemed bad or forbidden guess what happens? You want it! You are left with this constant decision making between doing the right thing or the wrong thing. And feeling guilty if you choose wrong. Or worse food starts to cause anxiety.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

It took me the last twenty years to move past feeling like food is either good or bad. But I did it.  And I love it! It is so freeing to finally enjoy food.

Sound Familiar? There’s help!

Are you hung up on trying to find the right diet for you? Are you wondering if low carb or grain free or high fat is right for you? Does it make you stressed just thinking about it? Here are some simple tips to get past the fear and back to joy.

  1. Start listening to your body.
    Take note of how you feel when you eat certain foods. Keep a food journal for a week or two if need be. If nuts bother your stomach, take a break from them. If you feel better eating more carbohydrates and less fat then go for it. Eat what makes YOU feel good, not what helps your neighbor or your favorite blogger. If you are dealing with an autoimmune disease or allergies that will impact what foods hurt or help.
  2. Get rid of the rules.
    Stop viewing food as good or bad. As long as it’s real food it’s ok. Enjoy a piece of homemade chocolate cake and ice cream. Make a big stack of pancakes with butter and real maple syrup for breakfast. When you restrict foods because you think you shouldn’t eat them (instead of restricting because they actually make you feel bad) they create more stress. Ditch the diet and rigid rules.
  3. Start focusing on nourishment.
    This is where the fun begins. When you let go of unnecessary rules and you’re not constantly debating between eating a salad and digging into a container of ice cream you can focus on really taking care of your body.

Finding Joy

I spent far too many years trying to eat the perfect diet. Only to feel stressed, anxious and deprived. Then I had to go the other direction of eating anything and everything to try to restore metabolic health (you can read about my journey HERE and HERE). All to find a place of balance. Now I find great joy in nourishing my body. Not because a diet tells me to. Because I want to.

I heard someone recently say that happiness is external and joy is internal. Being happy comes from your circumstances, but joy is a state of being that comes from within. And it’s true. Good food does make me happy. But it’s the joy and peace I have inside that motivates me to make healthy choices every day.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Balance is Key

Today eating is like an exciting adventure for me. I try to pack as many nutrients into my food as possible. I add desiccated liver and fermented kale to smoothies and salads. I eat sardines and anchovies a couple times a week. I eat pastured meats and eggs regularly. I aim for a rainbow of vegetables and plenty of healthy fats daily. I drink herbal teas for added minerals and to support my body and get my hormones back in balance. It’s almost like a fun game to see how many vitamins and minerals I can get each day. I feel good and the joy comes pouring out.

But I also enjoy a dish of ice cream when I want it. Sometimes I eat a bowl of mashed avocado and tortilla chips for breakfast (quick and delicious…and it’s easy to add liver to avocado!). I like to bake with my kids and make special sweet treats together (like gluten free Oreos® and salted honey chocolates). It’s even rare that I go a day without at least a little bit of chocolate.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

There is no more should or shouldn’t with food. There are no rules. There is no restriction. Which in turn eliminates cravings (imagine that!).

Now I love to fuel my body, and I love how it makes me feel. That does not mean my diet is perfect. Not every single bite of food has to be nutrient packed. And less healthy foods here and there don’t negate all the good stuff I put in my body every day.

Let go of the Guilt

There is no guilt or feeling of reward for eating a certain way. I just truly love to eat nutrient dense food. No rules or special diets. I don’t eat GAPS or Paleo or AIP or low carb or any other specialized diet. I just eat real food that makes me feel good and that I know is helping me take care of my body. One day I might eat grain free while the next I might need some extra starch. And they are both just fine!

It’s very freeing to let go and find joy in nourishment. And it’s the healthiest I’ve ever been!

I am very blessed that I do not have an autoimmune condition or severe allergies. But I do have some sensitivities and health issues I’m still working through. But I try not to let them get me down. I nourish my body as best I can with my limitations and keep striving for full healing.

Eating real food is easy. There are limitless options. Eating real food that meets your needs can be hard. But once you figure out how to do it you’ll love how you feel.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Foods That Nourish

Some of my favorite nutrient dense foods are ferments. They are packed with natural probiotics. What I really love is how easy they are (take a big scoop and enjoy!) and how much my kids like them. My toddler can’t get enough sauerkraut. While we do make our own sometimes, I don’t always have time to pound cabbage.

I recently got the chance to try sauerkraut and fermented pickles from Cultured Guru.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Both the kraut and pickles have just a few simple ingredients and taste amazing! Using traditional fermentation these products are teaming with probiotics. They make great additions to a meal or are the perfect quick snack.

My oldest can’t get enough of the pickles. She has oral SPD and doesn’t tolerate any amount of spice. So even though she likes pickles it’s rare we can find any she’ll eat. But she loves the Cultured Guru pickles! She loves the sauerkraut too. Another rarity for her.

If you want to try some Cultured Guru ferments you’re in luck! You can get 25% off off using coupon code PROBIO.

I’ll be stocking up too. My kids and I can’t get enough!! Such a blessing when working on healing allergies!There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Super Charged Bites

Another super food that tops my list is a traditional staple – organ meats. I get mine by adding Perfect Supplements desiccated liver to just about everything. I even make caramel with it! I also love the fermented kale, collagen and aquatic greens from Perfect Supplements. I add them to most of our smoothies.

You can get 10% off any of these Perfect Supplements products with the coupon code TAKE10.

Some of my other favorite foods include sardines, salmon, eggs, raw milk, butter, lard, tallow, pastured meats and a rainbow of vegetables. They all make my body smile.

You have to be healthy to eat healthy.

I’m so excited to finally be healthy so I can enjoy eating well and nourishing my body every day.

Are you ready to let go of rules and enjoy eating again? Ditch the diets and find joy in nourishing your body.

Today is my birthday, and I’m starting it with pure joy. Joy that I’m taking care of myself and this beautiful body God gave me.

Want to see what I eat for my #nourishingbreakfast #nourishinglunch and #nourishingdinner? Follow me on Instagram! It may inspire you…or it might gross you out. In my husband’s words, “You eat that for breakfast?!”There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Disclaimer: I am working with Cultured Guru for this post. I have been compensated for my time but all opinions are my own.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Every year I take steps towards breaking the chains of anxiety and OCD. Every year I learn more about myself and grow closer to God. This year...I'm going all in.

Going All In This Year

Every year I take steps towards breaking the chains of anxiety and OCD. Every year I learn more about myself and grow closer to God. This year…I’m going all in.

Every year I take steps towards breaking the chains of anxiety and OCD. Every year I learn more about myself and grow closer to God. This year...I'm going all in.

2016 was quite a year. There were so many amazing things that happened (I wrote about it here).

That doesn’t mean 2017 will be a let down. Far from it! I have some fun goals for this year. More importantly, God has good plans for me.

Fun Things Ahead.

Here are a few of the things I want to accomplish this year:

  1. Write a new book! I already have the topic. I just need to find time to make it happen. You’ll be the first to know when it’s ready.
  2. Settle into a home school routine. We’re starting fresh this year now that my son is home too. So we’ll be seeing what does and doesn’t work, figuring out the best layout for our classroom and finding some fun ways to learn.
  3. Have fewer doctor appointments. I am thankful that lately this hasn’t been too much of an issue. My daughter is now going to the orthodontist only once every six weeks. And we’re still deciding if she needs to continue with the functional neurologist. Aside from that it’s just regular check ups or a trip to the ped if a child is really sick. My goal is no allergist appointments this year!!
  4. Get the house totally unpacked and settled. I’m amazed at how much we accomplished in three weeks here. We’re down to odds and ends boxes left to unpack. We’re still adding a few decor items.
  5. Adjust to farm life. I think come spring it will hit me a little more that we live on a farm. We’ll be cleaning the barn, starting a garden and hopefully getting chickens. Maybe a few bunnies too. Then reality will sink in!
  6. Make new friends. It’s my priority this year to make sure my kids have plenty of interaction with friends even though we home school. Plus we want to meet the people that live around us and develop new friendships when we find a new home church. It’s exciting and scary for this shy introvert!
  7. Spend more time together as a family. Now that we don’t have cable, we’re not as busy and we home school my prayer is that we have a lot more family time. We’re already trying to figure out where to go on vacation! I’m including in this extended family too – just yesterday I talked on the phone with my dad for a while. He broke his knee cap and had surgery a few days ago. I don’t live near by so I can’t really help much, but I can talk to him!
  8. Make sleep a priority. I probably say this every year. But I really mean it. I know it is the missing piece to my health puzzle. Now that my toddler has been sleeping through the night regularly for a month I am amazed at how much better I feel. I need to allow myself to sleep in sometimes and go to bed early sometimes. To-do lists can wait. I kicked this off yesterday with a nice Sunday afternoon nap. And going to bed early!

Setting My Sights High.

Probably my biggest goal is to finally slam the door shut on my anxiety and OCD that I’ve battled for years. I have made huge progress on them over the past ten years. But I’m ready to say goodbye completely.

This is only possible by the grace of God. Last year he laid it on my heart to be fearless. And that is my goal heading into 2017 as well. Following God’s path is not always easy, but it leads to blessing beyond measure.

Every year I take steps towards breaking the chains of anxiety and OCD. Every year I learn more about myself and grow closer to God. This year...I'm going all in.

My Words This Year.

Every year I pick a word for the year to focus on (or should I say God picks a word for me). This year I have two:

FEARLESS

HUMBLE

Last year I felt lots of change coming. This year feels like it will be calmer. But still big. I anticipate more time just being still and quiet instead of constantly on the go. I look forward to the blessings and surprises God has in store for myself and for my family. And I pray that I will approach everything fearlessly and with humility.

Lest I question this choice, my sister-in-law bought me a “Be Fearless.” sign for Christmas and just yesterday after I had just finished writing this post my toddler was walking around saying “humble, humble, humble…”. Sometimes God speaks loud and clear!

This year I’m going all in. I pray God will guide me through the challenges and the joys that lie ahead.

Do you have any goals for this year? I’d love to hear about them!!

Every year I take steps towards breaking the chains of anxiety and OCD. Every year I learn more about myself and grow closer to God. This year...I'm going all in.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

I’m Slowing Down…

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

I’m slowing down.

Whether I want to or not. I am. My mind is. My body is.

Here’s the problem.

Life is not.

In fact life is going in the complete opposite direction.

I have three very active children that seem to keep growing…don’t they know they’re supposed to stay little forever?

With those growing kids come more and more activities like soccer, t-ball, piano, church activities, time with friends, etc. As each child starts the activities multiply.

Full Time Work.

Then there is work. I work from home. I started my blog shortly after my oldest was born as a hobby. But it has grown into more than just a hobby. I have to work on it daily. And it’s a LOT of work. But now instead of just my own blog I help with someone else’s blog and write for several other blogs and magazines. Those hours add up very quickly. And none of them include child care.

I also started home schooling this year. Which I absolutely love and can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. But it does take work. I have to be more organized and I don’t have as much free time during the week.

Did I mention we are moving to a 10 acre farm by the end of the year? That means we’re in the process of packing and cleaning right now. Soon we’ll be selling our house and then doing the big move…during the holidays. Yeah, it’ll be busy.

No Big Deal?

This all sounds like normal stuff. Most people can handle it.

But I’m struggling.

It’s not something I like to admit. But I am.

I am the kind of person that likes to say yes to everything and everyone. I also don’t like to ask for help. Those two traits don’t go so well together.

I also don’t have any help aside from my husband. We don’t have close family in town. If life is feeling crazy and hectic I just have to deal with it. I can’t call Grandma to take the kids for a few hours so I can catch my breath. Instead I get a few minutes of nap time to scroll through Facebook or Pinterest before jumping back in.

What Happened?

The thing is I used to be able to handle more busyness. So what happened?

I didn’t listen to my body.

I wasn’t honest about my struggles. I never accepted help. I never asked for help. Not even from my husband!

I’ve had a lot of really big stressors in my life over the last fifteen years. Bigger than I realized. And they took a toll. Major colon surgery. Years of infertility and treatments. Years of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder and working with a psychologist.

I thought I was over a lot of the major stuff after that. So I didn’t even realize until just now how stressful the last three years have been.

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

Three Years Of Worry.

In mid 2013 I went through my last (7th!!) round of IVF…which ended in a miscarriage. The miscarriage lasted over a month. And my adrenals and thyroid went haywire. My whole body was swelling. I was gaining weight every week. Things were out of whack. I was trying hard to make huge lifestyle changes.

And just when I was making some progress I got pregnant with my miracle baby…the thing I had been working towards.

I was so happy, and the pregnancy went smoothly.

But it caused me a lot of anxiety. I worried about the health of the baby every day. But I just dealt with it. As I did my adrenals continued to suffer.

Wait, It Gets Worse?

After my daughter was born things were good for a bit. Then she had multiple severe vaccine reactions. And I spent the next year and a half fighting for her life. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone than I did during that time. I worried about her and cried about it almost daily.

Her malnutrition and fighting to keep her nourished through nursing impacted me so much that even now, at 2 years old, every time I nurse her I have heart palpitations. Even though she only nurses a couple times a day and is a great eater. It’s my body’s natural response…worrying she won’t get enough.

To add to the stress of the last three years we’ve dealt with health issues for my other two children. It started as allergies and general gut health and has now turned into neurological issues.

As I’m typing this I’m still trying to unwind from a morning of my five year old constantly screaming at me and responding to everything I say with an extreme negative. Sometimes to the point where he shuts himself in the closet and screams over and over that he wants to kill himself.

It’s exhausting, disheartening and just overwhelming at times. All I can do is keep praying.

Allergies.

It is also a lot of work to cook for my family. With so many varying allergies I always have to cook multiple meals and make just about everything from scratch…even if I don’t have time.

There is no such thing as ordering pizza or going out to eat when I just don’t have the energy. Or even pouring a bowl of cereal when I can’t even think about breakfast.

It is a huge responsibility on my shoulders. If I don’t do it my kids can’t eat.

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

Waiting For Our Dream.

Over the last year we have had some huge ups and downs in our house search too. We have had multiple offers accepted but then things not work out for one reason or another. It’s been very emotional and at times has felt very similar to our infertility journey. We are praying this house is really the one and we can move past this by year’s end.

Deeper Thoughts.

When I was growing up my mom dealt with anxiety and depression. At about the same age as I am right now she had a nervous breakdown and was in in-patient care at a mental health facility and was on lots of medication. We got to visit her once in a while and had to have my grandparents help take care of us. I was in third grade. My little brother was in kindergarten. Right now my daughter is in third grade and my son is in kindergarten. Yeah, it really makes me think about how things could go if something doesn’t change. I don’t want that to happen to my kids.

I’ve also always thought I’d have four kids (just like my family growing up…girl, boy, girl, boy. Right now we’ve got girl, boy, girl). From the time I was five all I wanted to do was be a mom…and have four kids. There were times during my infertility journey I wondered if I’d ever be a mom at all. But I still held on to that dream of having four kids.

Now here I am with three kids…and the desire is still there, stronger than ever. But I also know my body is not healthy enough right now for another baby. And I’m not getting any younger. And life isn’t getting any easier. It weighs heavily on my mind almost daily. Though I try my best to remember that God’s plans and timing are perfect. We’ll see what the future holds.

Taking Its Toll.

Through the last few years of pregnancy and breastfeeding and stress my body has become extremely depleted. Which really doesn’t do good things for you, trust me.

Over the last few months I’ve started having more and more heart palpitations (which freak me out). I have started to gain weight in my abdomen over the last nine months (something I’ve never dealt with).

I thought maybe my thyroid was getting worse. I had my levels checked…perfect. I still tried increasing my medication just to be sure. No luck. If anything it made me feel worse.

So I did a 24 hour saliva cortisol test. It’s really not bad. My levels are in the normal range most of the day. But I think they are working very hard to stay there.

My adrenals are really being taxed on a daily basis.

Adrenal Health.

So I’ve been doing some research on adrenals. A few of the things that always come up:

  1. Get more sleep and go to bed by 10 pm.
  2. Don’t skip breakfast and eat a good balance of protein and carbs.
  3. Reduce stress.

I always thought sleep was my biggest problem.

But I don’t really think it is. I go to bed at 10 every night. I have for many years. I’m not a night owl. And although I am an early riser I get about 7 hours of sleep a night. So I could improve, but it’s not horrible.

I never skip breakfast. I am ready to eat the minute I get out of bed. I’ve been that way for many, many years. And I eat a big breakfast.

I also don’t skimp on calories throughout the day. So I’m not restricting in any way when it comes to quantity…a huge bonus for adrenal health and your metabolism.

Oddly enough the things that are a hindrance to most people are the things I’ve been doing right for years.

Sleep and morning routines are great. It’s the rest of the day I have to figure out.

It comes down to two things – stress and a limited diet (due to a nursing toddler with allergies).

So…

So now what? I can’t just stop life. Can I?

Well, not exactly. But I can make some changes.

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

My body is getting older and slowing down. Life is getting busier. I’m ready to switch that around.

So I’m making a few goals for myself. And if I share them with you it will help me stick to them.

Maybe you want to join me?

These are goals for my myself as an individual and for my family.

  1. Lay down during the day for 5 – 15 minutes. Resting isn’t always enough. Physically laying down can really help recharge your body.
  2. Eat a snack in the afternoon to help with blood sugar regulation (I can’t wait to learn more about this in the Fix Your Blood Sugar course!!)
  3. Eat less before bed to give my body time to rest and truly recharge at night instead of working on digestion.
  4. Change my exercise routine. Try more T-Tapp and yoga and do less cardio.
  5. Sleep in on the weekends (this is a HARD one for me…but I am really going to try)
  6. Take time off from work (another really hard one…I love sharing my stories and my food with you…but it’s a lot of work…I may be MIA here and there over the next few months/years…it’s because I’m heeding my own advice). Keep the weekends more open for family time.
  7. Use our move to get the house organized and more functional for us so we spend less time with chaos and cleaning.
  8. Start using some hormone-supporting essential oils (still researching these a bit).
  9. Start the big kids on some herbs that help with calming their nervous system and a cleanse to get rid of parasites.
  10. Continue to have my oldest work with the functional neurologist to also improve the nervous system. And possibly have my son start as well.
  11. Take time for my marriage and connecting with my husband (it’s been over 2 years since we’ve been on a date due to the above situations…I think it’s about time!!)
  12. When my toddler is done nursing I can add a few more to this list – hormone level testing and another hair tissue mineral analysis to see where I’m at. Then go from there with flooding my body with the nutrients it needs.
  13. Read as many of the books and take as many of the courses in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle as I can. After I download them I’ve got them for life. So I can take my time. But for once I am going to make the time. There is just such a wealth of knowledge contained in the bundle. It may take me a few years to get through it all. But I really hope to. I’m starting with the Perfect Periods course and the Heal Your Gut Summit. Then I think I’ll switch over to some of the books on kids’ health. Maybe I’ll even include it in our home school curriculum and read it with my kids!!

Life Is Still Crazy.

I know the next two months are still going to be pretty stressful with moving. But I know that up front and am going to take measures to deal with it as best as I can.

I also know that there is much more to the root issue than adrenals. I’ve got to work on hormone balancing and overall gut health.

Sometimes you tell yourself to just keep going. But sometimes you can't. I can't. I'm slowing down. It's time to listen to my body and take action.

Then once we get settled I’m ready to start a new lifestyle.

One that includes home schooling all of my kids, starting a farm and watching them learn about raising animals, getting away from the busy pace of life and just slowing down. Having that goal in mind keeps me going.

If I can remember I hope to do an update on this in a year. I love to look back and see how much has changed. See where God has led me and how He has directed my path.

God’s Plans.

Even this post was not one I had planned to write at all. I just sat down in front of the computer and started typing. Really. I wanted to share a piece of me with you today. And that is one last goal. To do more of that moving forward.

At the start of this year God really laid it on my heart that this would be a year of huge change. I had no idea what. But I knew stuff was coming. He also told me to be fearless. And I am trying my hardest (though it is REALLY hard for this natural worrier). So far He has been true his intentions. If you had told me at the start of the year I’d be nursing a healthy toddler, home schooling my oldest and getting ready to move to a 10 acre farm I would have said you were crazy. But God is good.

I feel more changes still to come.

Including even more change in focus in my writing. I’m not even sure what that means. But I trust God does. And He’ll guide me.

Do you have any goals you’d like to share? Did any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear about it!!

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Ever wonder why real food bloggers have sick kids? You might be surprised.

Why Real Food Bloggers Have Sick Kids

Have you ever wondered why so many real food bloggers have sick kids? Allergies, autism, asthma, eczema…what’s the deal?

Ever wonder why real food bloggers have sick kids? You might be surprised.

When it comes to seeking health advice we all go online. We may not trust everything we read. We may ask a doctor’s advice too. But we all do it.

We do a search on our good friend Google. We come up with various medical sites and blogs. I do it all the time when my kids have a particular problem I need help with. It’s easy. It’s informative. It doesn’t cost money.

A view from the other side

But I also give the advice. And maybe that’s why you’re here reading this right now! I am a blogger myself. I share strategies for getting kids to eat well and for dealing with allergies.

But sometimes I wonder…why should anyone believe what I say? What makes me credible? Do I take stock in what other bloggers say?

I ask these questions for good reasons. There is a lot of incorrect information online. You can find twenty different opinions on just about anything.

Ever wonder why real food bloggers have sick kids? You might be surprised.

But really I ask it because sometimes I feel like people don’t believe me. I advocate a real food lifestyle and promote healing strategies. But all three of my own children have health problems.

DO I REALLY KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT?

The thing is it’s not just me. So many real food bloggers have sick kids. By sick I mean any kind of health issue. Some well known bloggers have kids with autism, allergies, sensory conditions, leaky gut, ADD, skin conditions. The list goes on. So why should you trust them or listen to their advice? It’s a real concern.

But it might actually be a good thing. I’m sharing why real food bloggers have sick kids over at Kitchen Stewardship. Check it out!

Why Won't My Child Eat?!

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Holiday Travel Tips With Food Allergies | Just Take A Bite

Holiday Travel Tips With Food Allergies Plus A Giveaway!

Don’t miss out on family gatherings this year! Follow a few simple travel tips with food allergies to keep everyone safe and having fun. Plus enter for a chance to get even more great real food information.

Holiday Travel Tips With Food Allergies | Just Take A Bite

The holidays are a time to celebrate, a time to see friends and family and a time to enjoy good food. You can relax and take a break from every day duties. It is something to look forward to all year long.

Unless you have food allergies.

If you or your child has food allergies holidays can be stressful! Did someone put the butter knife in the jelly jar? Are there nuts in the pesto? Is there anything I can eat? Did cousin Joe wash his hands before playing with the toys?

Start celebrating.

When it’s time to pack up and head out for the holidays there are some things you can do to take the stress out and add the fun back. Plus you’ll get to enjoy good food too!

  1. Ask for the menu ahead of time.

 Whether you are visiting grandparents, siblings or friends ask for the menu in advance. Be sure to ask for details and ingredients.

This will give you an opportunity to offer suggestions and substitutions if necessary. It will also give you an idea of how much safe food will be available.

  1. Pack your own food.

When you have food allergies you always have to be prepared with safe foods. Pack a cooler with a few simple, nutritious foods. This can be anything from raw fruits and vegetables to cheese slices, bacon and hard boiled eggs. Whatever you tolerate.

If there won’t be much on the menu that you can eat don’t hesitate to bring something more substantial like a sandwich, roasted chicken or a thermos of soup.

Just be sure you have plenty for a meal and some extra. People change plans at the last minute and you don’t want to show up and be caught off guard that the food you were planning on isn’t available.

Holiday Travel Tips With Food Allergies | Just Take A Bite

Want more?

Want to read my other five holiday travel tips with food allergies? The full article will be in the November/December issue of Real Food and Health magazine!

If you don’t already have a subscription I highly recommend it. It has a large variety of articles about food and natural health plus tons of great recipes. The magazine is digital and comes out every other month.

Did you know I’ve been a contributor to Real Food and Health magazine for almost four years?! I’m lucky enough to work with Heather, the creator and editor. And she is being very generous and giving away subscriptions!

I’m excited I get to share this great resource with you by giving away THREE subscriptions to a few lucky readers. You could win a one month, three month or six month subscription to Real Food and Health.

Register below for your chance to win!

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In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for  you.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Allergies: Avoiding Is NOT Healing {10 Tips Plus An Update!}

Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

*As with all of my posts, this should not be taken as medical advice.  I am not a doctor.  I am just a mom that has a lot of experience and has done a lot of research.  Every person is different and responds differently to diet and supplements.  Not all allergies can/will be healed or prevented even on the healthiest diet.  But I hope many can make steps in a positive direction with some simple changes.*

Allergies.  Whether food or environmental they are not fun.  But an allergy diagnosis is also not a life sentence.  There are things you can do to heal rather than simply avoid allergens.

Today I’m talking about food allergies and some of the mistakes so many people make when dealing with them.  I know so many families that deal with food allergies.  But I never hear much talk about trying to get rid of them.  They just suffer with them.

How do I know about the mistakes so many people make?  I’ve been there.  I’ve made them…with both myself and my children.

Where do allergies come from?  There is no single answer.  Often times allergies are passed down through generations.  According to my allergist they usually come from the father.  So it makes sense that since my husband and my father-in-law have allergies my children do too.  Keep in mind it’s not necessarily the same allergy that gets passed down.  My husband and my daughter have environmental allergies, but my son has food allergies.  It is still TBD if he has environmental allergies as well, but the allergist said it looks like he does.

Allergies can also be a result of the mother’s health and diet both before and during pregnancy.  If you ate a lot of peanut butter while pregnant it can increase your child’s chance of having a nut allergy.  Though some say the opposite is true.  If you had an unhealthy gut during pregnancy your child might as well.

Also, if you have a c-section your child does not pick up your good gut bacteria from the birth canal and usually gets some antibiotics in his or her system.  We deal with this situation as well.  My gut health was definitely not where it should be during pregnancy.  I also had c-sections for all of my children.  That being said I was on a REAL food diet when pregnant and breastfeeding my son.  He still developed allergies.

Note that the health of the mother can have an impact not only on her own children, but on her grandchildren and great grandchildren!  It can be passed down through generations.  Just as it can take several generations to make a significant impact for the better.  So while my diet won’t totally keep my own children from health problems.  My changes plus the changes my own children make will likely have a positive impact on future generations.

These are just a few of the many possible sources of allergies.  And most people have multiple factors that play a role.

Regardless of the source, allergies are a big pain.  My son was diagnosed last year with quite a few food allergies.  The worst being dairy.  We are thankful he never had any life threatening reactions (we don’t even own an epi-pen).  But it was still not pleasant to see him suffer.  He had hives, eczema, digestive issues and behavioral issues.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

After our first visit with the allergist we had about three foods to strictly avoid and about ten foods to not eat very often.  We tried that method for a while.  The result?  After six months he had new food allergies.  This seems to happen to many people.  The allergies aren’t too bad so you just limit the offending foods.  But it doesn’t work.  Then you cut them out completely.  That helps.  But it still doesn’t solve the problem.

What now?  Here are the things I’ve learned about allergies that I hope will help you as well.

1. Avoiding does NOT heal allergies.

This is probably the most important thing to understand.  Avoiding the problem foods will definitely help ease symptoms and reactions.  This is an important first step.  But it doesn’t actually get to the root of the problem.  Allergies are an autoimmune problem.  You have to heal the gut and the autoimmune system to actually get rid of the allergies.  Else they are almost always going to be with you for life.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

2. Work on the gut.

The gut is the source of the problem.  You need a healthy gut full of good bacteria.  How do you get that?

There are many healing diets you can try like GAPS, SCD and AIP.  They tend to be quite restrictive and not individualized.
I prefer to follow some of the healing principles of these diets while adjusting for individual needs.  So here are the main things that I think are helpful to everyone that needs healing, even if you don’t follow a specific diet.

*Bone broth – try to consume this every day if possible.  It is so nourishing and healing.  Even if you do nothing else, consuming real broth will greatly improve your health and your immune system.  It is also a great source of calcium and other vitamins and minerals that are often missing on a restricted diet.

*Probiotics – find a good quality probiotic to take daily and rotate brands periodically to get different strains of bacteria.  You can also add fermented food to your diet to obtain a variety of good bacteria.

*Gelatin – this is the main component in broth.  It is also very healing and very easy pure protien to digest.  You can add it to just about anything.  So it’s very easy to give it to children.  My kids love homemade fruit snacks.  Plus I add collagen to drinks and smoothies.  It does not gel and has no flavor.

*Avoid gluten – even if you are not allergic to wheat it is problematic for most people.  I don’t think eating grain free is necessary for everyone (though some do benefit from it while healing).  But stick to gluten free grains.

Homeopathy and parasite cleansing can also help to heal allergies.

3. Rotate foods and eat a variety to prevent creating more allergies.

One of the biggest pitfalls when dealing with allergies is eating the same foods over and over.  This is the one I struggled with the most.  I had no idea that eating the same food day after day can actually cause problems.  But it does.

I need to clarify here – if you are a healthy individual with no gut or autoimmune issues food rotation is not necessary (though still good for you).  But if your immune system is already compromised and attacking your body then eating the same foods every day will create new problems.

When I was in college I ate granola and apples pretty much every single day.  Now two of my biggest problem foods are oats and apples.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat them again without digestive distress.

The same thing happened with my son.  While his body was still at a low point we were struggling with what to feed him.  If we found something he would eat willingly we tended to give it to him quite often.  That is how he added new allergies to his list, like peas and avocados.

The more you give your child the same food day after day the more allergies they will develop.  Although it can be tough to find anything to feed them some days you have to try.

A common allergy protocol will include a rotational diet.  I’ve been on one myself before.  The general idea is that you rotate foods on a four day schedule.  So if you eat an apple one day you can’t have one again for four days.  If you eat dairy one day you can’t have it again for four days.  It is challenging to eat this way, but it can really help with healing and prevention.

I have found that we don’t need to do strict four day rotation for every type of food.  But I do make sure to get variety in our diet.  If I serve broccoli for dinner one night I won’t serve it again for quite a few days.  I try to serve a variety of fruits, meats, vegetables and grains throughout the week.  I don’t worry too much about rotating what types of fat we use.  But the rest I try to make sure we get variety and rotate things.

I urge you to make this a priority.  I see way too many kids gradually get worse because they eat the same foods all the time.  The diet gets more and more restricted as new allergies arise.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

 4. Avoid processed foods.  Make the diet as nutrient dense as possible.

Another important part of healing is making sure the diet is as nutrient dense as possible.  That means avoiding all processed foods and loading up on the good stuff.

The good stuff includes broth, grass-fed meats (especially cuts on the bone, with fat, including beef, pork and poultry), pastured eggs, organic fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (real butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow, avocado and extra virgin olive oil).

It is critical to avoid vegetable oils like canola, safflower, corn and sunflower.  These are found in just about every packaged food.  Even things like cereal should be cut from the diet.  It has no nutritional value and can actually do more harm than good.  It may be easy, but it will hurt your efforts in the long run.

Healthy food does not have to be complicated.  Snack on a piece of fresh fruit.  Cook a vegetable in butter or coconut oil.  Serve raw veggies with homemade sour cream dip.  Eat leftover roast chicken for some energy.  Keep it simple, but real.

 5. Be strict about avoidance.

 This is another component of healing that I did not understand at first.  The allergist told us we could give my son some of his problem foods in limited amounts since they didn’t show a strong reaction.

So that is what I did.  I really was good about only giving these foods once in a while.  But it wasn’t enough.  And those allergies actually got worse at my son’s six month check up.

Even if a food shows only a small reaction it’s still attacking the immune system every time you eat it.  And it does not give the body time to settle and heal.  It’s like having a cut.  If you leave it alone completely it will eventually heal.  But if every day you pick at it just a tiny bit it’s going to stay irritated and inflamed and maybe even get worse.

If you or your child has any degree of allergy, avoid it.  Once the body has gone through some healing then you can gradually add foods back.  But when the body is inflamed and very sensitive even small amounts of allergens will cause big problems.

It takes a while for allergens to fully clear from the body.  So if you are periodically having small amounts of a problem food you never fully clear it out.  Foods like dairy and gluten can stay in the system for as long as 6-8 weeks!  You have to give the body time to fully rest.

6. Detox methods can be very helpful.

When the gut is healing detox is often an important part of the process.  As you add the good bacteria and nutrients to your body the bad stuff will have to get out.

I am no expert on detox.  I struggle with it myself.  But I do know that one of the easiest ways to gently detox is with epsom baths.  Simply add epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for twenty minutes.  This even works well for kids and is very relaxing.

Another simple way to detox is by drinking lemon water.  You can add a couple drops of lemon essential oil to your water or even some real lemon juice.

Detoxing will help speed up the healing process. Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

7. Diet at a young age is very critical.

It is very important to observe your child for any allergy symptoms from birth.  From day one my little one had green bowel movements (and a LOT of them in a day), a red bottom and even blood in her stools.

She had little red bumps all over her face.  Most people just ignore this and say it’s “baby acne” and don’t give it another thought.  But the skin is a great indicator of what is going on inside.

Once I cut dairy and wheat 100% out of my diet she was such a happy baby.  No more twenty dirty diapers a day.  Normal looking bowel movements.  And clear skin.

Does this mean that my baby has allergies?  Not necessarily.  But I’m not taking any chances.  I’m going to let her body rest and heal to help prevent problems down the road.

Even when my little one starts solids I will be very careful about what she eats.  Keeping children grain and sugar free until they are at least one year of age is very important.  They do not have the enzymes to digest grains.  And sugar is just not necessary or healthy for them.

Stick to whole foods like fruits and vegetables, bone broth, grass-fed meats and pastured eggs.  Don’t forget to give them plenty of healthy fat like butter, coconut oil and sour cream.  It is so important for their brains, hormones and overall well-being.

By avoiding foods they react to and filling their bodies with nutrient-dense foods you can minimize long term health problems.  This is also helpful for healing allergies at a young age if they do arise.  It does not guarantee your child will not develop allergies.  But it will give them a good foundation for improving health.

I was on the GAPS diet myself when pregnant and breastfeeding my son.  He had a very nutrient dense diet.  He still developed allergies.   But he had a solid foundation of health that really helped on our journey.

8. Find ways to relax.  Stress will only make things worse.

If there is one thing I understand very well it’s how stress and anxiety impact your body.  I am the queen of worry.  Worrying about health and diet is at the top of my list.

Stress will actually weaken your immune system and cause problems of its own.  If you are in the process of healing worry can really sabotage your efforts.

I find that often it is the parents that worry about the children with allergies.  It’s natural.  But it is so important not to let it show!  Kids pick up on your fears very quickly and mimic your behavior.

If I make a big fuss over what my kids can and can’t eat when we are around others then they get uptight about it.  If I act like it’s no big deal and don’t get emotional about it they think nothing of their restrictions and don’t worry about possible reactions.

Allowing your child to be a child and not worry about their allergies is one of the best things you can do for them.  You need to let them know the importance of the situation, but they don’t need to worry.

Whether it’s you, your child or both that worries, find ways to relax.  A detox bath can help.  Also any enjoyable activities like reading, exercising or being with friends.

I have to also mention here that proper rest is critical as well.  Your body does most of its repair work while you sleep.  If you don’t get enough rest your body will gradually get more and more run down.  You’ll see signs of it in your skin, your mood, your digestion, everything.  So making sure you and your child get enough sleep is very important.

 9. Picky eating is often a symptom of allergies.

I have written quite a bit about picky eating since we have struggled with it with both of my big kids.  For my oldest it was related to oral sensory issues.  But for my son it was tied to his allergies.

When he was very young he was a great eater.  Anything I put in front of him he would devour.  He didn’t even want sweets.  He loved all vegetables and meats.  Around the age of two he started to eat less and less.  It became a struggle to get him to eat good food.  That is also when his allergies surfaced.

For a while we had a battle at every meal.  Just putting one bite of a vegetable on his plate sent him running and crying from the table.

This is very common in children with allergies.  It’s not because they are being strong willed.  It is because their bodies are run down and food actually doesn’t taste good to them.  The bad bacteria wants sugar and starch.  That is what they crave.

But don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Give them a variety of foods.  Start with just a vegetable on their plates when they are really hungry.  Even if they only get one bite down give them praise.

As the body heals their appetite will increase and their tolerance of a variety foods will increase as well.  I am amazed almost daily lately at what my son will eat without hesitation now that we’ve been working on healing for a while.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

10. Even if an allergy does not show up on a test there can still be a reaction happening.

This last point is a tricky one.  You have to be very observant of how you or your child responds to foods.

Originally my son was diagnosed with an allergy to peas.  But by his six month check up it went away.  We were so excited.  So we let him have peas again.

It took us months to figure out that peas were still bothering him.  He may not have a true allergy to them anymore, but his body was still reacting to them.  It took a lot of trial and error to figure it out.  But once the peas were out of his system he was finally free of his digestive problems.

Even if an allergy seems to clear be sure to add the food back in very gradually (start with once a week) and observe any reactions.  There can still be an allergy or a sensitivity even if a test does not show it.

We have observed a similar situation with our oldest.  She does not have any food allergies.  But she definitely reacts to gluten.  Once she went gluten free we saw big improvements in her overall health, growth and behavior.

Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

This is my top ten list of ways to work on healing allergies and prevent them from getting worse. 

Simply avoiding allergens may relive symptoms.  But it will not take away allergies.  Start taking steps now to heal instead of simply avoiding.  These steps do not guarantee healing.  But in most cases they will at least provide an improvement.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

And now for the update:

Over the last year we have experimented with my son.  We’ve had times where he was symptom free.  We’ve had times where we couldn’t figure out what was bothering him.  He has gotten rid of some allergies and has acquired others.  But we have been working hard to heal his body with probiotics, broth, gelatin, rotation and avoidance.

It is amazing to see the progress he is making.  About six months ago his diet was very limited.  I struggled to find more than one vegetable he could/would eat.  He loved avocados (not really even a vegetable, but it was all he would eat), so I gave them to him a lot.  And of course that led to an avocado allergy.  When we would put one tiny piece of cooked carrot on his plate he would run from the table crying and wouldn’t come back until it was gone.  If I managed to get him to put a sliver of raw carrot in his mouth he would spit it out instantly.  If we got squash in his mouth he would gag and spit it out.  It was that bad.

Fast forward a bit.  Two weeks ago he ate an entire RAW carrot in his lunch…with no problems.  When he was helping me prepare cauliflower for dinner he grabbed a piece (again, raw) of his own accord and happily munched on it.  Another day he had a plate full of food for lunch, including a vegetable.  He asked me if he could also have a dish of plain salsa to eat.  My son that screamed at the sight of vegetables six months ago asked for extra without me even mentioning it.  We used to have to force him to try one bite of a vegetable.  Now he’s asking for more.  The other day I made pizza for dinner.  My son finished the squash on his plate before his pizza.  He has even told me he loves crunchy carrots now.  It’s pretty amazing.

He also used to have eczema all over his legs.  He would scratch it until he was bleeding.  Now his legs are totally clear.

His other major symptoms were loose bowels and frequent urination.  They both subsided once we finally got all of his allergens out of his system.

In addition to the eating improvement and clearing of symptoms my son is definitely making great progress in his development!  He has grown about 1 1/2 inches in the last six months.  He is fully potty trained now.  And he is finally showing interest in learning letters, writing, coloring, etc.  He is also making great strides in his speech with just a few visits to the speech therapist.  Now that his body is working better he is just taking off in all areas of development.

Last week my son had his one year check up since being diagnosed with food allergies.  I was hopeful and nervous.

I am happy to say that we have healed my son of all but two food allergies!!  He even got rid of his dairy allergy!!!!  It is truly amazing.

The only allergies left are to banana and corn.  Corn is actually a new allergy.  I’ve been suspicious of that one for a while since he eats a lot of corn when he can’t have wheat or rice.  And as I said above if you give a lot of one food when the body is in the healing process that is when new allergies pop up.

So we’ll keep bananas out as before and get rid of corn.  I can live with that!Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

Now we begin the process of gradually adding foods back and seeing how he tolerates them.  Of course we are starting with dairy.  My son is so excited.  And I’m hoping he tolerates it well.   It will take a while to fully introduce dairy.  Since he has not had one bite of it for a year his body will have to relearn how to digest lactose.

So far we have given him very small amounts of plain, whole milk yogurt per the allergist recommendation and a tiny bit of butter.  From there we will follow the GAPS protocol for introducing dairy and see how it goes.  I’m hoping he can tolerate all dairy at some point.  But for now I’ll be happy if he can at least handle raw dairy.

Once we get through dairy we’ll gradually add the other foods – beans, peas, grapes, pears, avocado, tuna, rice and nuts.  We’ll probably do peas and avocados last since even just a few months ago those were bothering him.  We also get to try turkey finally this Thanksgiving.  Last year he could not eat turkey.  But I don’t think I’ve served any turkey since his allergy cleared at his six month check up.

Even though he does not have a wheat allergy we will continue to eat gluten free.  It is especially important as his body has more healing to do.

Of course as we start this process of reintroducing foods I will continue to give him healing foods and continue the process of getting his body to full health.Allergies - Avoiding is NOT Healing || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

It is truly amazing to me the power of real, nutrient dense food.  It is also beyond my wildest dreams that God would allow us to have two stories of healing in one year.  My blog is focused on dealing with infertility and allergies.  This year we welcomed our third child, conceived naturally.  And now we’re on our way to being a food allergy free house!  God is good!  Real food heals!

 Do you or your children struggle with food allergies?  Start taking steps now to heal.  It can be a long process, but it’s worth the effort.

If you suspect your child may have food allergies I strongly urge you to get them tested.  It is a simple process and then you can end the guessing game.  Typical symptoms can be eczema, hives, loose bowels, constipation, frequent urination, delayed development, picky eating that is not just a short phase and behavioral problems (like tantrums and hyperactivity).  For symptoms such as throat swelling seek immediate help.

If you made it to the end of this post I commend you.  It was a long one!  But the information is so important.  I have learned so much in the last few years about dealing with allergies.  I hope you can use some of this information for yourself or your children.  Please pass it along to anyone you know dealing with food allergies.  Real food can heal.

Do you have a story of healing?  I’d love to hear it!!  Do you have more questions?  Ask away.

This is a great starting point for dealing with allergies.  If you’d like to read more here are some other great articles:

Why I Stopped Eating Eggs | Simply Healthy Home

Best First Foods For Babies | Mix Wellness

Feeding Nourished Babies | Raising Generation Nourished

Do You Have the Guts to do the GAPS Diet? | Holistic Squid

Three Surprising Ways To Heal Food Allergies | Weed ‘Em and Reap

A Surprising Natural Food Allergy Remedy | Whole New Mom

What Causes Food Allergies | Nourishing Days

 

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

It’s Just Food – Taking the Emotions out of Eating

It's Just Food || Homemade Dutch Apple PieIf you’ve been a reader here very long you know that I’ve tried just about every “diet” possible.  I went from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to real food.  I’ve been low fat, high fat, low carb, high carb, grain free, gluten free, nut free, dairy free, egg free…just about everything you can think of.

It took a lot of trial and error, but I finally realized that I don’t have to follow any prescribed diets.  I need to eat in a way that keeps my body nourished and makes me feel good.  What that entails is a little different for everyone.

I am still a firm believer in eating a real food diet with lots of traditional foods.  We also have food allergies in our house that we have to take into account.  Those two factors combined give us a guide for how we eat.

Going on this long journey of figuring out how to eat created quite an obsession with food.  There  have been times that I couldn’t think about much else.  I would get so stressed about choosing the “right” food that it didn’t even matter what I was actually eating because the anxiety outweighed any benefits of whatever I chose.

I used to hate eating with other people because I felt so isolated by food restrictions.

Now I have to watch my kids say no to things a lot.  When they are offered some sort of “treat” it is tough to say no.  It’s hard to feel different or left out.  I get anxiety trying to make the right choices for my kids and know when to stick to my “rules” and when to just let it go.

There is a lot of emotion tied to eating, especially when it comes to community and events.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about going to a baseball game?  Eating a hot dog.

What is a fun summer treat?  Ice cream from an ice cream stand or the ice cream truck.

Now with fall activities in full swing kids are bombarded with offers of treats and snacks wherever they go.

For some people it’s hard to enjoy events without the traditional food involved.  It tugs at your emotions.  You have fond memories of doing these things as a child.  It’s part of the experience.

I’ve been there.  I’ve felt it.  I feel it every time my child gets invited to a birthday party or we go to someone’s house or we go to an event.  But I have finally come to a place where I realize one thing:

It’s Just Food.

That’s all.  Food.

Now I choose to focus my attention on the experience and relationships.It's Just Food || Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

We have to bring food with us no matter where we go.  But I have yet to see my kids go hungry or feel like they were unhappy or dissatisfied after eating.  I love to see the contentment on their faces as they enjoy whatever they are given and run off to have fun without putting any thought into it.

When my family goes to a baseball game we either eat before we go or I bring most of our food.  Do my kids care?  Not at all.  They simply want to have fun at the game.  They don’t care if their hot dog came from home or from the concession stand.  To be honest they don’t even care about eating much at all.  They are fascinated by what’s going on around them.  It’s harder for Mom and Dad to separate the experience from the food.

When my daughter goes to dance class she doesn’t need a sucker at the end to feel like she did a good job or to make her enjoyment of dance any different.  It’s not about the food.

So, how do you get to this point?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Take the emotions out.
  2. Relax – look at the big picture if  you are feeling stressed about a situation and remember it’s just food.  You probably won’t remember if you got to eat a piece of cake at a party.  But you will remember how much fun you had with your family or friends.
  3. Make new memories that don’t revolve around food.  If you go to an amusement park, focus on the rides and excitement.  If you go to a sporting event, focus on the game and the atmosphere.  If you are going to church or school, focus on what you are learning and building friendships.
  4. Keep it simple – enjoying an apple at the zoo is just as good as having an ice cream cone.  Food doesn’t have to be complicated.
  5. Set a good example for your children – if you don’t make a big deal about food, eating differently or restrictions your kids won’t think much of it either.

Food does not have to be the center of everything.  Instead focus on what really matters.  Take the stress out of eating.  Simply eat what works for you, be thankful for it and enjoy it.

It does take work and thought to eat well.  But beyond that remember that it’s just food.  Relax.  Enjoy what works for you.  And enjoy life.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

My Pre-Baby House Makeover

house makeoverBack in March I posted my 2014 goals.  One of them was to simplify and de-clutter.  I was slowly getting my energy back after a very long stretch of “morning” sickness.

I started doing little things here and there.  Gradually I was able to tackle projects that took 2-3 hours (that’s what nap time is for, right?).

After three months I think I’ve achieved my goal.  Is there still more to be done?  Absolutely (please don’t look in the “craft” room in our basement).  But I have gotten all of the bedrooms organized.  I moved all of my son’s things to my daughter’s room.  I set up the nursery (including baby clothes, cloth diapers, etc.)  I cleaned the office.  I reorganized my daughter’s craft center and our living room.  I got rid of some old stuff.

I also actually cleaned instead of just organizing.  This is very helpful for all of the allergy sufferers in the house.

Was it a lot of work?  You bet!  Was it worth it?  Totally.

Now I just have to keep up with things.  When I see a mess it only takes a few minutes to get things back in order.  I don’t feel overwhelmed with the clutter.

I actually can clean and dust now without feeling like I have a million things to move out of the way first.

One of the best parts is that my children love the change.  When they don’t have too many toys out at once they play so nicely together and really use their imaginations.  It’s so fun to watch.

We also now have room to set up the baby gear.

In the end it was a lot of work.  But it is so worth it.  Even if you only work for 15 minutes a day it can make an impact.  De-cluttering the house has made life far less stressful.  Plus I’m teaching my kids how to take care of their things and put them where they belong…now that they actually have a place for everything.

I’m not perfect.  Neither is my house.  There is always more to be done.  But I’m excited about the change.  Here are some before and after pictures.  I think they speak for themselves.  I didn’t remember to take all of the before pictures.  But the after pictures are still great.

Is your house or your stuff feeling overwhelming?  Taking just a few minutes a day to de-clutter will make a big difference. 

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A clean bedroom.
breakfast nook collage
We can eat at the breakfast nook again.
craft center collage
My kids LOVE the setup of their craft center. They use it every day.
nursery collage
The nursery closet is ready for baby’s stuff.
office collage
I can see my desk again.

 I feel calmer just looking at the after pictures!  I didn’t even take pictures of some of the big rooms like the kitchen and living room.  Organizing the house was a big task.  But I’m glad it’s done.  Now my goal is to just maintain and not let things get as bad as they were.  If I can do the hard work while pregnant I should be able to maintain when my body is fully functional again.

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Health Update 2013 Part 2 – What I Learned

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Every time I think about writing what I learned in 2013 my mind goes in a million directions.  I learned so much.  I learned it all the hard way – through first hand experience.

I know I’m not alone.  I know I’m not the only one struggling with these problems.  So I want to share my journey with others in the hopes that someone else doesn’t have to go through the struggles like I did.

So here is my attempt at sharing some of these lessons.  I hope to go into more detail on some of the topics in separate posts later.  For now, here is some of what I learned in 2013 (and over the last ten years).

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1. Eat enough food.

I fell into this trap for many years.  And I see it in so many well-meaning sites and books.  Time and time again it is suggested that women should eat 1200 – 1500 calories a day to loose weight and be healthy.  This is far too little to sustain your health.

Unless you are on complete bedrest and can barely move your body most women should eat a minimum of 2,000 calories a day.  You should consume even more than that if you are active and exercise.  If you starve your body it will not function well.  If you feed your body you’ll feel great.  Combining enough quality food with moderate exercise is a great way to maintain your health in the long term.

2. Eat what works for your body.

Don’t follow a prescribed diet (GAPS, Paleo, low carb, etc.) just because someone else says it’s great.

This is another lesson I had to learn the (very) hard way.  I’ve been on every diet you can think of to try to feel good.  For me it was never about losing weight.  I just wanted to feel good and heal my body.  So I tried the IBS diet, low fat, high fiber, dairy free, egg free, wheat free, red meat free, grain free, GAPS, low carb,…I’ve tried them all.

Where did that get me?  Feeling worse than when I started.  Over the last 10 years I have learned to eat what works for my body.  And that is what makes me feel good.

Just because your friend tried eating paleo and feels great doesn’t mean it’s the perfect diet for you.  Just because someone says grains are evil doesn’t mean they don’t work for you.

I have read over and over about how things like potatoes, bananas and root vegetables are “safe” starches and much better for you than grains.  I am living proof that this is not true for everyone.  If I eat potatoes and bananas I will be in so much pain.  But I MUST eat gluten free grains daily to feel good.

All this boils down to – don’t restrict your diet just because someone else says it’s good.  Eat a variety of real food that makes you feel good and gives you the energy you need.  Don’t cut foods (real food) out of your diet if they aren’t causing you problems.  You won’t find your “perfect” diet in any book.  You have to figure out what works for you.

3. Real food is great!  But sometimes it can be beneficial to stray away from it.

I know this sounds contradictory to what my site is all about.  But it’s true.  I still firmly believe in fueling your body with healthy, homemade real food…most of the time.

But depending on the state of your health, there are times when you can benefit from some less than ideal foods.  For someone that has been on a strict diet (like paleo or GAPS) and is underfed and unhealthy, processed foods can be a great jumpstart to getting back to full health.  Processed foods are easy to digest (yes, frozen pizza is often easier to digest than a big plate of vegetables).  It is also easy to quickly increase your calorie intake with processed foods.

I am not recommending this as a permanent solution to health by any means.  But it can be beneficial if you are recovering from undereating or a condition called orthorexia.  Once your body is not starving anymore you can go back to eating real, quality food.  You just have to be sure to eat plenty of it.

Having bad morning sickness was a good way to break me of my orthorexia.  I do love to fuel my body properly with quality food.  But sometimes I can be too strict about it…and it fuels my OCD and anxiety.  I had to just learn to eat whatever I could manage for the last couple months.  I am really looking forward to getting back to eating mostly healthy food.  My body is ready for it.  But it was nice to have a break and just eat whatever I wanted.  It was a great way to change my mindset and figure out how to find balance.

4. Don’t drink too much water.

One of the best things I did for my health in 2013 was to stop drinking so much water.  There really is no science behind the 8 glasses a day rule.  And if you really think about it, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself to drink water.  If your body needs fluids it will let you know.

Drinking too much water is a great way to slow down your metabolism, lower your body temperature and feel cold all the time.  It will also flush the vitamins and minerals out of your body.

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5. Get plenty of sleep.

This sounds like common sense.  But there are probably very few people that actually get enough sleep.  For a healthy individual seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is the minimum needed.  Most people need at last eight.  And for someone that has been sleep-deprived for a while nine or ten hours is ideal.

Quality sleep with no problems falling or staying asleep is a sign of good health.  While you sleep is also the time when your body repairs itself.  So if you’re trying to heal and you’re not getting enough sleep you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I went for years and years getting very poor sleep.  I had too much to get done in a day to spend my time sleeping.  But at some point I just had no energy and could barely function.  It has been great over the last couple months to get nine or ten hours of sleep a day (night time + a nap).  My body really needed it.  Hopefully soon I can stop taking a nap every day and just stick with my eight hours a night and have it be sufficient.

Even if every other part of your lifestyle is ideal, if you’re not getting enough sleep you won’t feel your best.

6. Exercise is great…if you are eating and sleeping enough.  

If you are not eating or sleeping enough, it can be beneficial to take a break from exercise.  When you do exercise it’s good to do a variety of things like weight lifting, yoga and walking.  You don’t have to push yourself to extremes to be healthy and fit.  Too much aerobic exercise may be harmful.

I used to run every single day.  And do nothing else.  Now I still enjoy running.  But I don’t do it every day.  Actually I haven’t done any running in a long time because my body was not healthy enough.  When I was healing I stuck to short walks and bikes.  I also did gentle yoga.  I got new weights for Christmas…but haven’t been able to use them.  Maybe by next Christmas I’ll be able to start lifting weights 🙂

Move your body doing what you enjoy.  Make sure to do a variety of things to work all parts of your body.  And combine it with enough food and enough sleep.  That is the way to stay healthy.

7. Basal body temperature can tell you a lot about your health.

Basal body temperature is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning.  Another great thing I did for my health in 2013 was to check my temperature every single morning and keep a spreadsheet of it.

Your bbt can tell you if your metabolism is working well or not.  For women it can also tell you when you ovulate/how your hormones are functioning.  So it is a good indicator of health (since metabolism is a key factor in health).  It is also great for understanding fertility and either getting pregnant or preventing pregnancy.

A healthy individual with a well-functioning metabolism should have a bbt of at least 97.8 F in the morning.  Higher is even better.  You can also check your temperature throughout the day to get an idea of how your food and activity level impacts your body temperature.  It will help you see what keeps you warm (boosting metabolism) or makes you cold (suppressing metabolism).  Then you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

For women, bbt is lower (but still usually around the 97.8 range for a healthy individual) in the first half of your cycle when estrogen is dominant and progesterone is low.  When you ovulate there is often a temperature drop for one day.  Then after ovulation progesterone increases, raising your temperature.

It will take a few months of charting your temperature to get an idea of how your body works and to see if there are any patterns.  For example, as I was healing and charting my bbt there wasn’t really a pattern that I noticed at first.  My cycles were not regular.  But after a while I noticed that if my bbt dropped into the 96’s (or below) even for one day my body was way off and was struggling to get my hormone levels up.   And it would be at least two weeks before ovulation.  A bbt below 97 meant a restart for me.  If my bbt stayed in the 97’s for two weeks I knew ovulation was coming.  And after ovulation my bbt was always at least in the 98’s and sometimes 99’s.  Once my bbt started dropping that meant the start of a new cycle.

Charting my bbt was the easiest change I made the whole year.  But it told me more about my health than just about anything else I did.

8. Focus on health, not looks.  

I think I’ve been saying this for years.  So it’s not completely new.  But deep down I don’t think I fully believed it.  I did shift my mindset to focus on health a long time ago.  But I didn’t ever drop the focus on looks and size.  I still wanted to be thin.

In 2013 my control over my size was taken away.  With my thyroid totally out of whack my weight kept going up and up.  There was nothing I could do about it.  For the first time I truly had to focus 100% on my health.

Did I always like how I looked?  No.  Did I want to loose some weight?  Yes.  But that was completely secondary.  My health was front and center.  And it always will be now, no matter what size I am.

When I look to the future I think about how I want to impact my children.  I would much rather teach them to take care of themselves and be healthy.  I don’t want to teach them to be obsessed with looks and size.  So I am done with that.

Don’t try to be a certain size or weight.  Treat your body well.  And give your body what it needs to be healthy.  You’ll be so much happier.  Love yourself and take care of yourself.

9. Change is a very gradual process.

Change does not happen over night.  No matter what the next fad diet or workout video tells you.  If you want to make changes that are sustainable long term it will be a very gradual process.

Do you want to loose weight?  That’s fine.  But know that it will take a while.  Do you want to eat healthier?  That’s a wonderful thing to do.  But don’t go crazy trying to do everything at once.

Small, consistent steps each day will get you where you want to be.  Don’t get upset because two weeks into making changes you haven’t noticed any big improvements.  Give it time.

Healing takes time.  Weight gain or loss takes time.  A healthy diet takes time.  Don’t rush it and set yourself up for failure.  I’ve been working on getting healthy for about 15 years now.  And I’m finally getting there.  One step at a time.

10. Your thyroid can have a big impact on your health.

I was diagnosed as hypothyroid in 2006.  I was put on a synthetic thyroid hormone and had my TSH checked about once a year.  I really knew nothing about thyroid.  I figured the doctor knew what he was doing.  I didn’t have any hypothyroid symptoms that I knew of.  So I didn’t bother to learn about it.  I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

Seven years later I finally had to learn more about it.  I wish I would have researched it sooner.  I didn’t realize just how much your thyroid could impact your health.  I think there are about 200 symptoms that can be attributed to thyroid dysfunction.

Last year I learned so much about the thyroid.  I learned what blood work you need to get done and how to interpret the results.  Just because your levels are in the “normal” range does not mean you are on the right dose of medication.  You have to look at the symptoms more than the numbers.

I learned about the different kinds of medications, how to take them and how to get correct dosage.

I learned how other hormones can impact your thyroid and vice versa.

I learned that iron levels and adrenal problems can mimic thyroid problems.  And they need to be addressed first.

I can’t say that I have my thyroid problem 100% figured out yet.  It is the last piece of the puzzle that I’m still working on.  And I will be writing more on this topic in the future.  I will be getting my thyroid hormones levels rechecked in a week and go from there to see if adjustments need to be made.

11. Manage stress.

Stress can be as bad for your health as lack of sleep, a poor diet and lack of exercise.  Stress can suppress your metabolism.  It can alter your hormones.  It can come in many forms too.

Find a way to manage your stress to stay healthy.  Take time to do things you enjoy – reading, writing, visiting with friends.  It’s also important to find techniques to relax such as walking, yoga or reading the Bible.  Figure out what works for you and make it a priority.

12. Adrenal health is very important.

Your adrenal glands play a huge role in your health.  If you are not getting enough sleep, aren’t eating enough, are exercising too much or are too stressed, your adrenal glands have to work overtime to compensate.

This works for a while.  That is what they are for.  They raise your cortisol levels to compensate.  But if you do it for too long you stress the adrenals and eventually it leads to adrenal fatigue.  Then your cortisol bottoms out and it takes a lot of work to get it back up.

If you think you are suffering from adrenal problems it’s great to do a 24-hour saliva test to check your cortisol levels.  I had it done early last year.  I’m thankful that my levels were just slightly raised.  Which means I was doing ok, but starting to make them work a little too hard.  By altering my sleep, diet and exercise I was able to get my cortisol levels back to normal.

13. Birth control is not for everyone…and probably not good for most women.

This is another less I had to learn the very hard way.  But it wasn’t until years after I stopped birth control that I realized how much it had harmed me.

A few months before I got married I started birth control.  That’s what you do, right?  I knew nothing about what it was or what it actually does to your body.  But had I not made that one decision I probably never would have struggled with infertility for so many years.

When I was in college I got my health under control.  Things weren’t perfect, but I was eating enough, sleeping enough and exercising regularly.  I had found a good balance.  And for the first time in my life I had regular cycles every single month.  This lasted a few years…until I started birth control.

Once on birth control things started to change.  The changes were gradual.  And I never attributed them to the birth control.  But now that I have done a lot of research I can see the big picture.  I started to gain weight.  Five pounds or so.  Nothing major.  My anxiety started to get worse.  My OCD started to get worse.  Eventually I started having panic attacks.  My gut got so messed up that I started restrictive diets to try to help.  My weight went way down from restriction.  I was a big mess.  I even had to switch to a new form of birth control because I was starting to puke every month from the hormones.  In case you haven’t noticed by now my body is extremely sensitive to any hormone fluctuations.

After stopping birth control three years later it was too late.  My hormones were non-existent.  I was underweight.  I was hypothyroid.  My OCD was so out of control that I could barely function.  My anxiety was so bad.  I had to start seeing a psychologist.  My digestive system was so messed up that I had to have major colon surgery.  Eventually we started fertility treatments.

I think almost all of this could have been avoided had I not taken birth control.  It messed up both my mind and my body.

I know not everyone reacts the same way to hormones.  And I’m sure there are cases where it can be helpful.  But please do your research before considering any type of birth control.  I know that it is something I will never take again.  It has taken me many years to get my life back.  I’m not going down that road ever again.

14. Be your own advocate.

One big lesson I have learned over the last ten years is that you have to stand up for yourself.  Don’t let doctors brush you off or tell you you’re fine when you know you’re not.  If something doesn’t feel right, find a doctor that will help.

I had GI problems for years.  I finally was brave enough to talk to my doctor about it.  He referred me to a gastroenterologist.  Great.  I thought I’d finally get the help I needed.  He asked a few questions, felt my stomach and told me I was healthy and fine.  Eventually I got him to run a few tests.  But he still said I was fine.  I knew I was not.  I had to research and research and finally diagnose myself.  Even then when I told the nurse at my doctor’s office what I thought was the problem she said “you don’t have that.  You’re too young” without missing a beat…over the phone…without asking me a single question.  I’m so thankful I was persistent and didn’t just say ok.  I finally got referred to a colon surgeon who confirmed my diagnosis and immediately scheduled surgery.

This has happened time and time again to me.  I go to a doctor, even specialists, trying to get help.  And they tell me I’m fine.  Even though I know I’m not.  I have had to figure out all of my problems on my own…and just use doctors to get medications and treatments.

15. PCOS is a confusing topic.

When I had my first appointment with an endocrinologist he asked some questions and made an assumption about my health.  He assumed I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).  He ran some tests and did an ultrasound.  His conclusion?  I had what he called polyfollicular ovaries.

Great.  What does that mean?  I never really did find out from him or anyone.  I tried to research it for years.  Nobody else used that term.  I have come to some of my own conclusions (as usual).  But it’s still confusing.

Many women with PCOS are overweight or have trouble maintaining their weight.  Many women with PCOS have irregular cycles and heavy, painful periods.  Many women with PCOS struggle with facial hair.  Did that sound like me?  Not really.  I just had no periods.

The common solutions for PCOS are losing weight, eating low carb and taking Metformin to help with insulin resistance.  Did I need any of that.  No.  In fact, eating low carb made my situation worse.

Where did that leave me?  Basically my body would try to grow some follicles/eggs each month.  But my hormone levels weren’t high enough to mature the eggs.  So instead of having one dominant follicle that released an egg (ovulation) I’d have lots of small follicles that did nothing but sit there.  Which on ultrasound looks like little cysts.  They are really just lots of follicles…polyfollicular.

Even when doing IVF I would have tons of follicles start growing.  But very few actually matured enough for the egg to be good (hence our seven rounds of IVF and two good eggs out of almost forty that were retrieved and fertilized).  That is also why I would have a condition called hyperstimulation every time.  There were too many follicles.

I still don’t have a full answer about what this means.  One endo said it’s from bad communication between the brain and the ovaries.  Could I technically be classified as having PCOS?  I don’t know.  I don’t really have the symptoms.  My condition is helped by being a healthy weight and taking care of myself.  Finding balance with sleep, exercise and food.  I also think it is related to my thyroid problem.

All this to say that if you have been diagnosed with PCOS please do your research to figure out where you fit into the criteria and what treatment is best for you.

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15 weeks

16. Let God have control.

I’ve known my whole life that ultimately God is in control.  But I also know I can make choices.  For most of my life I’ve tried to be in control.  I ask God for things I want.  I ask for things to go my way.  If things are good I say it’s God’s plan.  But when things aren’t going so well it’s hard to believe it’s still true.

I have such a strong desire to be in control that I could not let go on my own.  In 2013 God took the control out of my hands.  And it was wonderful.  It doesn’t mean that my life was great.  Actually it was very hard.  But it gave me such freedom to not have to hold every little detail of my life in perfect balance.  It was terrifying and wonderful at the same time.

It is so good to know and have proof that God really does have things in his control.  He knows what I need.  His plans may be different than mine.  His timing may be different than mine.  But I don’t have to worry about it.

On my own, trying to keep control, I probably would not have had any more children.  I would not have made the necessary changes on my own.  But with God in control we are expecting baby #3.  And the door is open for more.  That is something we can decide as a couple down the road.  But just to know the door is open, even if we decide not to have more kids, is amazing.

17. OCD does not have to control my life.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with pretty severe obsessive compulsive disorder for many years now.  I was finally diagnosed/finally realized that I had it about five years ago.  And I’ve been working on treating it ever since.

It has been a long and difficult journey.  No matter how much I told myself my compulsions were silly and illogical I couldn’t stop.  I went through a lot of exposure therapy and have made progress over the years.

Over the last seven months once again God has allowed me to change.  When He takes the control, my OCD does not have to control me.

Especially during the first trimester of this pregnancy I had to just let everything go.  I just had to do what I could to get through each day.  If that meant laying on the couch most of the day, then that’s what I did.  If that meant eating less than ideal food, then that’s what I did.  If that meant my digestion was so messed up that I was in pain, I didn’t let it bother me or make me anxious.  I just kept on going.

I’m so happy to be able to continue this process of eliminating my OCD.  My fear does not have to take control.  I can give it to God.  And I’m never going back to where I was.

It’s hard to think back to when I was first married.  It’s hard to think about all the time I wasted being consumed by my thoughts and compulsions.  I am very blessed to have such a loving husband that never judged or got upset with me.  He helped me through it.  And with each child I’ve let more of it go.  I’m a type A person.  So I will never be 100% cured from OCD.  It’s part of my nature.  But it will no longer control my life.  It will only be an asset and be used for good things.  It is what fuels the drive and determination I’ve always had.  But if it hinders my relationships or my life it has to go.

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Final Thoughts

It feels so good to share all of this information in hopes of helping even one other person.  But even more than that it feels good to write it out and be done with the things that have burdened me for so many years.  I know how to be healthy and happy.  I’m ready to move on to 2014 now.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I’ll be digging deeper into some of these topics later.  For now if you’d like to do some research on your own, here are some great resources I’ve come across.

The Nourished Metabolism (20% off 6/10/16 – 6/30/16 with coupon code SUMMER20)

Eat for Heat

Diet Recovery 2

The Nourished Metabolism (20% off 6/10/16 – 6/30/16 with coupon code SUMMER20)

Go Kaleo

Your Eatopia

Stop The Thyroid Madness

Natural Fertility and Wellness

What have you learned over the years about your health and how to really live?

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Change Your Brain…

Change your brain…is that possible?  For someone with OCD most days that seems impossible.  But maybe it’s not…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again.  I have to keep reminding myself.)…God’s timing is perfect.  And He knows exactly what we need when we need it.  I’ve been adjusting my diet over the last couple years to try to be healthier and heal both my mind and body.  This journey led me to the GAPS diet.  Which has been extremely helpful.  After 9 months I have seen a lot of progress.  But I’m still not where I want/need to be.  Then a few weeks ago as I was digging through the clutter on my desk I spotted a book that has been on my shelf for well over a year now.  And it’s not even mine!  Sorry, Sara.  I will give it back.  I promise 🙂  My SIL loaned me Change Your Brain Change Your Life a long time ago (thanks so much!!).  It’s been on my to-read list ever since.  But life got busy with pregnancy, kids, etc.  And I forgot about it.  But for some reason a few weeks ago I spotted it, pulled it off the shelf and started to flip through it (not something I would normally take the time to do, but God knows better).

I don’t often have time to read.  I have several books sitting on my desk that I started reading when I was pregnant…that I haven’t touched since then.  But it just so happens that when we have overnight guests (like we did over Christmas) I bike in the mornings in the office instead of the basement, which means no tv.  I can only read.  Normally that would mean flip through a magazine.  But instead I started reading this book.  I skipped right to the chapter on worry and obsessiveness (in other words OCD).  It was like reading a chapter about my life.  The idea behind this book is that when you have a mental illness it is actually a physical issue in your brain…that can be fixed.  If your brain was scanned you could see strange activity in certain areas, correlating to certain mental illnesses/brain functions.  OCD stems from problems with the cingulate system.  Problems with the cingulate system cause:

worrying
holding on to hurts from the past
getting stuck on thoughts (obsessions)
getting stuck on behaviors (compulsions)
oppositional behavior
argumentativeness
uncooperativeness (tendency to say no automatically)
addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders)
chronic pain
cognitive inflexibility
OCD
eating disorders
road rage

Well…that pretty much sums it up 😛  That’s me…and I don’t like it one bit!  My brain makes me negative, argumentative, obsessive, quick to say no.  No wonder growing up my dad often said the common phrase “Mary, Mary quite contrary.”  It was true.  My behavior is made up of all kinds of stuff that I don’t like and that is not the kind of example I want to set for my kids.  I want to be a Godly woman that is loving and kind and patient.  I want to be a good wife and mother and not let my messed up brain control me.  So I want to do something about it.  I want to change my brain.  This book gives quite a few techniques for overcoming these issues.  And I intend to try some of them (I have already done some via my years of therapy).  I hope to do more posts about some of the specific techniques later.  Sadly this book jumps right to medications as a solution.  I don’t intend to do that (although some days it is tempting to think that a pill could magically take away the obsessive thoughts that I can’t get out of my head).  Thankfully it also talks about diet.  I’m glad this author sees that as a critical part of healing.  Wouldn’t you know it…he says that a high protein, low carb diet (like GAPS tends to be unless you are very careful and intentional) can actually make cingulate problems worse! It can lower levels of brain serotonin.  He suggests foods high in carbohydrates (to increase serotonin levels via l-tryptophan…calming effect) or foods rich in tryptophan (to increase cerebral serotonin) such as chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, peanut butter, eggs, green peas, potatoes and milk.  After reading about magnesium and grains and already debating about adding them back into my diet this was the information I needed to decide to change directions with my diet.  I truly believe GAPS has helped heal my gut.  But it may be having some of the opposite effects on my OCD it seems.  So now that I have started healing my gut I want to heal my brain.  This will require dedication on my part to balance the two.  I still need gut healing foods, but also some properly prepared grains/carbs.  Thankfully I already eat a lot of the food that is naturally high in tryptophan.  And I will be adding more dairy to my diet (including raw milk).  This book does not say if this is more a “quick fix” when you are anxious/a way to keep things in check or a way to truly heal.  I guess I’ll have to experiment and see.

The author also talks about supplements.  The main one is l-tryptophan (a naturally occurring amino acid found in milk, meat and eggs).  He also mention B vitamins…which is something I’ve been debating about taking for a long time anyway.  So I am planning to look into a good B vitamin complex.

Finally he mentions exercise as an effective treatment.  I could have told you that 🙂  That’s why I exercise daily.  It is my main way to relax and forget about anxieties and worries.  It doesn’t have to be intense exercise.  Just some simple biking or jogging.

So that is the main information I wanted to share and the direction I’m headed.  But I also wanted to mention a few other things.  First, this is actually not the first time I’ve read from this book.  Way back when I started seeing my psychologist about 5 1/2 years ago she printed out a section of this book for me to read.  It was the section on anxiety and the basil ganglia part of the brain (at that time I didn’t know I had OCD and had not shared any of that stuff with her).  So I started following some of the advice from this book many years ago.  And I know that it helps.

I also wanted to talk a little about Rebecca and her behavior.  It’s no secret we’ve been struggling lately with her behavior.  Lots of tantrums, refusal to obey, refusal to answer questions, struggles eating, all kinds of stuff.  I’m sure some of it is just typical 3 year old behavior.  Especially a 3 year old with a baby brother that gets lots of attention.  But I often wonder if there is more to it than that.  I know that mental disorders are genetic (my mom has struggled with anxiety and depression for years, and I believe my dad has some OCD though he’s never been diagnosed).  So it would make sense that Rebecca could have some of the same tendencies.  As I was reading about worry and obsessiveness I came across a section about ODD…oppositional defiant disorder.  This is what is says:

“ODD is considered a behavioral disorder of children…who are negative, hostile, defiant and contrary.  They tend to be argumentative, are easily annoyed, and lose their temper often, especially when they do not get their way.  These children are chronically uncooperative.  They tend to say no even when saying yes is clearly in their own best interest…Most children will comply [with a parent’s request] seven to eight times out of ten without a problem.  For most ODD children [this usually only happens] three or fewer; for many of them it is zero.”

It certainly would explain a lot of Rebecca’s behavior.  I found this part very interesting: “These children cannot shift their attention.  They get stuck on No, No way, You can’t make me do it.  They often have ‘cingulate parents,’ and many of them have a family history of OCD and other cingulate problems.” (meaning me :P)  “One of the most interesting findings among [ODD children] was that mothers or fathers who had obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, or inflexible personality styles tended to have children with ODD.”  “A child’s inability to shift attention causes his behavior to appear oppositional.  It is also possible that the parent’s rigid style causes the child to react in an oppositional way as a way to gain independence and autonomy.”  “[Some] oppositional children get worse (“more stuck”) under pressure or when they are pushed to comply with certain requests.”  This would explain why once Rebecca starts to get defiant and you ask her over to do something (and you get more impatient/stressed) she just gets worse, the tantrums start, she cries harder and she can’t get “unstuck” from the cycle until you give her something calming (her milk cup) and let her be for a minute.  She often even says “I can’t stop.  I need something to settle down.”  I guess I need to start listening to her.

So, what do we do about it?  Well, I can start with diet for her just like for me.  Stick to nourishing foods with a good balance of carbs and protein (I’m so glad she drinks so much raw milk!).  It is also very helpful to give her options and distractions.  This will help her get “unstuck”…change her thoughts.  If she is having a meltdown about getting on her shoes, instead of getting impatient with her I should forget about the shoes for a moment and ask her what doll she wants to bring to the store.  Then go back to the shoes after she has cleared her mind a bit.  And that is also why I mentioned in my goals post about giving her options that require more than a yes or no answer.  Since she is likely to automatically say no that doesn’t work.  I need her to have choices that make her think and give a true response.  This will change her thought process and get her away from any obsessive thoughts.  This could also be why Rebecca can’t drop a topic.  If she has a question she will ask you over and over and over until you answer.  And sometimes you even have to answer multiple times.  She can’t get it out of her head.

I’ll be honest, I have only read the part of the book that talks about OCD/worry.  I want to read the whole book at some point since I know I have other mental issues that need to be addressed.  But this is my starting point since the OCD is my biggest struggle.  God knew exactly what I needed to know right now in order to continue on my healing journey and to help with Rebecca.  I have a lot of changes to make in the way I interact with her.

So this is my starting point.  It will be experimental.  I’ll see how things go with the diet and supplements.  If adding grains makes my gut way worse than I’ll switch back to GAPS and just be careful about my carb intake.  For now this is where I’m at…right where God wants me to be.  And I feel a peace about it.  I hope that it helps both Rebecca and myself…and the whole family.  I want to be a loving Christian wife and mother that brings joy to her family.  I want to heal my brain and change my life.

Do you struggle with OCD or any other mental illnesses?  I’d love to hear from anyone that has found things that work.

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