DICAS – Step by Step

Make sure you grab my free resume template download before you leave!

When I was filling out my DICAS application, I read every blog post and watched every video I could find looking for advice. And while there are a lot of great resources out there, none of them answered all of my questions or provided specific advice. So here are my own tips and tricks that I used while filling out DICAS in Spring of 2018. I hope it is helpful to you!

Still Far Out From the Application Process?

Great! You can start getting prepared now. The sooner you have this stuff in the back of your mind, the better! Helpful things that will set you up for success if you’re not ready to apply yet:

  • Every time you volunteer, keep track of the dates, how long you were there, the supervisor’s name and contact info, and a brief description of what you did.
  • Go ahead and create your resume and keep it updated as you go through school and gain new experiences.
  • Look for leadership roles, either through school or in the community.
  • Internship programs love innovation – if you have a cool idea, DO IT. Make it a reality! My friend and I had a crazy idea to start a nutrition podcast, and we actually did it. That really made us stand out as unique candidates.

Start Early

If you are applying for Spring like most of us, do yourself a favor by starting to get your stuff in order in September. You’ll need to start thinking about how you’re going to gather the following:

  • MONEY (for transcripts, application fees, etc.)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Transcripts
  • Inspiration for personal statement (like, why are you even doing this?)
  • Stuff to put on your resume
  • Emotional support (Who can you go to for a pep talk? Who can help you edit your personal statement? Which professors can you go to for advice?)

Once You’re Ready: Get Organized

I do not like the way DICAS is organized, so I made myself a personal checklist of every single thing I needed to do before I hit “submit”. Here it is in all its glory:

This helped me stay organized and helped me to be 100% sure I wasn’t leaving anything out. You can see I added check-boxes for each step along the way. Having this on the bulletin board above my desk really helped me stay on track, plus what’s better than checking things off a list?

I made sure to include all fees I needed to pay on that list as well as where that money was, which brings us to….

Start Saving For Those Fees!

Each part of the application process requires money from you.

  • DICAS requires $45 for the first school you apply to, along with $20 for each additional school. These fees are paid after you hit that submit butto, so make sure the money is in your account and you have a Visa or Mastercard handy (No Amex, checks, or cash allowed).
  • D&D, the matching service that you also need to sign up with, requires a $55 fee at the time you sign up.
  • Each internship you apply to typically has their own separate fees payable to the institution itself. Check each program’s website for specifications, but typically you need to have a check in the mail postmarked by the day the application is due.
  • Another thing to be prepared for is that many programs require a deposit once you get accepted in order to hold your spot. This can be hundreds of dollars, so again, check with your specific program so you don’t get caught off guard.
  • And of course, transcripts usually cost money. Some colleges offer a certain number of free copies, so check with your school.

First Things First: Transcripts

Do this as soon as possible! DICAS requires that you use their special transcript form, and they want a physical copy mailed to them directly from your institution. Not all schools are willing to provide physical copies, or allow you to attach a form to your transcript (which again, DICAS requires), so give yourself plenty of time to figure all of this out.

Don’t be afraid to call and ask for help from the institution you’re requesting a transcript from. Another good resource for figuring this part out is the DICAS help section on the website. You can even call DICAS and they’ll walk you through whatever you need help with. Use those resources!

Next Up: References

Another thing to do as soon as possible. Most schools want two letters of recommendation from academics (so a professor or the director of your program), plus one letter from a work colleague or boss.

You will send each person a request through DICAS; they will then be able to go onto the website and type their recommendation directly into the system. Also give a heads up to the people writing your recommendations that they will not be typing a free form letter. Apparently, DICAS wants them to answer certain questions about the student instead.

Make sure you’ve asked your chosen people if they are willing to write you a reference before you send the request, as it will email them automatically. And no, you can’t see what they’ve written =).

And here’s an important tip: don’t ask someone unless you’re positive they’ll write you a glowing review. Teachers notice when you’re consistently late or talk during class, and they will include that in your reference!

Here We Go: The Personal Statement

This is honestly the most time consuming and challenging part of the entire application process. DICAS wants you to answer:

  1. Why do you want to enter the dietetics profession?
  2. Discuss experiences that have helped to prepare you for your career.
  3. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses or areas needing improvement?
  5. What other information do you consider important for the selection decision?

Make sure to check with your specific program’s instructions to determine whether you need to include anything else in your statement. You should start on your personal statement as soon as you can and work on it over a month or two … or three … or four. Give yourself lots of time to fine tune!

Since the personal statement is such a huge part of the process, I’ve written a separate post about it HERE (coming soon) – make sure you check it out!

Next Up: Session and Coursework

This is where you can really get yourself in a pickle! You need to list all of the courses you’ve taken that are listed on your school’s DPD Course List. This list can usually be obtained from the director of the dietetics program at your school – they will email it to you, and you will upload it into the DICAS system yourself. Make sure, if it isn’t already, to convert the DPD Course List into a PDF so that it cannot be altered in any way.

Again: You do NOT need to list each and every course you’ve ever taken! Just the ones on your DPD Course List.

Specific tips for this part of the process:

  • Make sure you list everything exactly as it appears on your official transcript, not how it appears on the Course List! I know, it’s so confusing.
  • I chose to order official transcripts from each school for myself just for this part. Print them out along with a copy of your DPD Course List.
  • Make sure you enter each course by term – semester or quarter. Classes you haven’t taken yet need to be entered into future terms.
  • Double and triple check that you have everything listed correctly in this section, as there are a lot of little pieces where you can make mistakes.

I found it helpful to go in the order of my transcript (since it was already in the right order). I started by crossing classes out on my transcript that weren’t on my DPD Course List. Then, I highlighted the course on both my transcript and the Course List once I had entered into DICAS.

A snippet of my school’s DPD Course List. I highlighted each course in yellow once I had entered it into DICAS, then again in orange once I had double checked it for accuracy.

Part of my personal copy of one of my official transcripts. You can see I crossed out courses not on my DPD Course List. Again, yellow highlighter when entered, orange when double checked.

On To: Volunteer and Other Experience

This is a biggie. Programs want to see that you are involved in your community and have taken on leadership roles. You can put experiences you’ve had in this section that are both volunteer and paid – I think a mix of both looks best!

If you haven’t kept good track of your volunteer hours, start looking for this information ASAP! Look through old planners, old emails, and your school’s social media platform (if applicable) for times you lent a helping hand.

If you work full time, have kids, or other circumstances that make it hard for you to volunteer, that is completely okay. You are not alone in that – the dietetics program is full of people with families and other obligations! One of the ways I gained experience was by freelance writing for health and nutrition websites. I did this from home when I could fit it in, and it looked great on my application (plus it was a valuable, paid experience!).

If you aren’t a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, now would be a great time to join! This looks good on your application (and it may even look unusual if you aren’t a member) and many internships require membership before you start anyway. Students get a discount, so take advantage of it while you still can!

A few ideas for ways to gain experience:

  • Volunteer at your local food bank
  • Shadow a local dietitian
  • Join the nutrition club at school
  • Volunteer at your school or community garden
  • Write health and nutrition articles for your school’s magazine
  • Attend FNCE or another nutrition conference
  • Attend meetings for your local AND chapter
  • Become a tutor
  • Develop a class on basic nutrition or meal planning (make sure you follow myplate) and teach at your local community center
  • Keep seniors company at meal time at a local assisted living center
  • If you can / want to, find a job in food service
  • Make some extra cash doing people’s grocery shopping or meal prepping
  • Help with or start a recycling program at your school

Next Up: That Resume

Use your resume to consolidate all of your education and experience. When looking at my friends resumes, my biggest advice was always to focus on the related experience you gained from each entry. This may not always be obvious!

For instance, my previous career was as a veterinary technician. I focused on my experience typing SOAP notes, creating a training manual, and working in a medical setting. I left out things like taking x-rays because, while cool, it’s not related experience.

Look for areas in your previous or current jobs where you:

  • were a leader
  • trained others
  • created materials (manuals, hand-outs, brochures)
  • communicated with clients/patients/customers
  • took accurate records
  • were an entrepreneur
  • worked with food in pretty much any way

Emphasize these points, and leave out less relevant duties. You want to stick to a few important tasks you were in charge of.

The fun thing is that resume is a place where you can really stand out. The formatting, style, and design are fully up to you! I chose to use my resume as a way to show a little bit of my personality, because I love being creative with design. Below is a downloadable template of the resume I used:

Just be sure that your resume lines up with everything you input manually on DICAS. I realized some of my dates weren’t consistent between the two, and I’m glad I caught it before I hit submit! Speaking of that…

Before You Celebrate: Triple Check Everything

Yes, really. Here’s how I went about this:

  • Once I had everything entered into the system, I went through each category on the computer looking for errors.
  • Then, I printed out my application (you can do this under “program designations”) and put it alongside printed copies of my transcripts, resume, and DPD course list to double check everything on paper.
  • After doing that, I set everything aside and looked at everything again the next day with fresh eyes.
  • And THEN, I submitted it.

You’ll drive yourself crazy nitpicking and rechecking everything one zillion times… plus, it can be really scary to hit submit. Once you’ve triple checked everything, you’ve gotta be confident and be done.

Finally: Be Confident

This application process can be really, really stressful. If you are in the thick of it, know that you will finish and hit that submit button. Reach out to fellow students to help you out. Maybe work on your applications together in a cozy coffee shop. You can do this! Once you break it down and look at one chunk at a time, it becomes much more doable.

And because I’m all about that sweet, sweet self-care, here are some ideas to keep you sane during DICAS season (because yes, there is always time for self care!):

  • Take a short walk outside
  • Play with you dog, cat, or kiddos
  • Leave a little early for school and grab a coffee at your favorite place
  • Give yourself a mani/pedi (Yes guys too! Take care of those nails!)
  • Take some deep breaths and roll out your shoulders
  • Make a dinner date with your friends who are also applying to DICAS (Broke? Share a plate of apps and a pitcher of beer / margs)
  • Clean up your desk space and add a bouquet of fresh flowers
  • Cook yourself you favorite meal
  • Go outside and put your bare feet in the grass (grounding!)
  • Have a warm cup of tea

Need More Help?

DICAS actually has a customer service number you can call! If you have any question at all, dial them up and ask. They’re the experts, after all! You can also ask your advisor, or the director of your dietetics program if it feels appropriate, although they won’t always have the answers (it’s probably been a while since they used DICAS after all!).

Also, don’t forget that each page of the application has an “instructions for this section” link at the top right corner of the page. They instructions aren’t always detailed, but it can be a good starting point if you aren’t sure what you need to do.

The End!

So there you have it! I wish I had something like this while I was applying, and I hope it’s helpful to you. If you have any of your own tips and tricks to add, make sure to leave a comment below! Let’s help each other out =)

Good luck and try not to stress out too much! This will pass, and at some point this will all be behind you. You can do it!


Advertisements

The Nutrition Nerds Podcast

Did you know that I’m the co-host of a podcast? The Nutrition Nerds Podcast has been going strong since January of 2018 and we just released our 70th episode! I created this podcast with my lab-partner-for-life Jenn, and each week we discuss new research, dissect fad diets, debunk nutrition myths … and make lots of lame jokes!

If you haven’t checked out The Nutrition Nerds Podcast yet, below are a few of my favorite episodes:

EP70: Our most recent episode is one of my favorites because we talk about metabolically healthy obesity! AKA, living in a bigger body doesn’t automatically make you unhealthy.
EP67: We do a deep dive into the future of nutrition and medicine in general – if you’re a tech nerd, this one’s for you!
EP61: In this episode we talk about weight bias in my own profession, dietetics. It’s a hard subject but an important one. We also talk about misophonia, a disorder I have that can be a major bummer!
EP58: An intermittent fasting episode – it just had to be done! Get some science behind this latest “fad diet”.
EP44: Here we give you the low down on Keto! Is it good for you, horrible for you, or somewhere in between?
EP27: Did you know food can be counterfeit?? Tune in to this episode to find out which of your favorite foods may not be what they seem.
EP10: Literally everything you ever wanted to know about soy. We did the research so you don’t have to!
EP47: This is a very special episode, because it’s all about us nerds! Why we got into dietetics, things we wish we knew before starting school, and all about what a dietitian actually does!
EP63: And last but not least, this special episode is for our RD2Be listeners – all about how to get a coveted dietetic internship! Plus a fun and informative interview with Jenny Westerkamp, RD!

There you have it! If you want to find us, head to The Nutrition Nerds Podcast or find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.

On Loving Food

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all!

I wanted to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about lately – emotional eating and love of food.

We all agree that emotional eating isn’t the best. You’re sad, or angry, or disappointed, or even happy, so you reach for food. Cue disordered eating.

But what about loving food? What about eating a slice of cheesecake because you love cheesecake? What about making chicken and dumplings because it reminds you of your mother and it makes you happy? What about buying yourself a box of chocolates on V-Day and savoring them, and screw the calories and the high-fructose corn syrup?

When I was in my years-long calorie counting obsession, when I moved on to my Paleo obsession and even up until (very) recently, I thought associating food with any emotion wasn’t ok. LOVING food led to binging, or weight gain, or falling off the wagon, or losing control. Food had one purpose, and it was to nourish your body.

But where’s the joy in that?

Food is such an amazing, fun, delicious part of life! We cook for others and ourselves to express love. We eat together and share stories and put our phones down for 10 seconds to look each other in the eye. Food is magical, so can we give ourselves permission to really, truly enjoy it without dismantling it into something scientific?

I bought that box of chocolates today and I savored them. I’ve done this for myself every year (except when I was Paleo…), but I usually feel guilty about it. I think about how I should be showing myself love in a different, non-food way like taking a walk in nature or getting my nails done. But you know what? I really love chocolate and it makes me happy. Buying a box of chocolates just for myself feels so lavish and indulgent and it literally makes my day. How fun and awesome is that?

There is a difference between food bringing you joy and emotional eating. So here’s your permission – you can love food! Food can make you happy!

Enjoy your holiday, celebrate love, and eat some yummy food.

Grace

I feel like I have done nothing but learn new lessons for the past nine years. I’m nearing the end of my twenties, and everything they say about them is true. It’s been agonizing, eye opening, magical, and horrific to discover who I am as a person and why I am that way. Thank god for therapy!

The lesson I’m working on right now is Grace. I don’t like identifying with a Type A personality, but I absolutely am one, and I’m not very good at cutting myself a break. Luckily, I have some really great opportunities to practice Grace pretty regularly.

I have dealt with chronic migraines since I was a child. I used to hold them off with ibuprofen until years of taking it frequently gave me a stomach ulcer (please be careful with Motrin friends!), and now I have no real effective way of masking the pain. I am fortunate enough to go to a school where there is free chiropractic care available, and it was through this that I discovered I have a severely rotated disk in my neck that causes the migraines. So that’s great – we know the cause now! The only thing is that it’s going to take YEARS of regular care to get rid of the migraines – or I may even be under regular care for life to keep them at bay. I’m ok with this. I’m actually ecstatic about it, because I have control over my pain now.

At least, I thought I would.

I still get migraines pretty regularly, because my body is getting used to a new way of living after over 20 years of being out of place. So once every week or so I get migraines, sometimes for days. My way of dealing with these migraines for over a decade has been to push through as long as I can, basically until I’m in so much pain that I’m throwing up and literally cannot force myself to function anymore. I feel like I have to do this, because the alternative is to lay in bed for days and watch the world pass me by. Jobs don’t like that option very much, and neither do professors. And neither do I.

But one thing my therapist has helped me see is that I have to allow myself Grace when I’m suffering from a migraine. In reality, if I gave myself a break when I feel one coming on, if I turned off the lights and rubbed some lavender into my temples and took a 20 minute nap, there is a very good chance it would go away. And even if it doesn’t go away… I have to be ok with that. Sometimes there is literally nothing I can do about them (other than go to the hospital and get an injection, which I refuse to do multiple times a month), and that is so scary. It’s also really challenging to “check out” because I have so much to do, and most of it is stuff I really love doing.

So now I’m practicing Grace. When I have a migraine that won’t go away, I surrender. I try not to push myself and ignore it until I’m in agony. To be honest I’m not very good at it so far (for instance I have a migraine right now… oh the irony!), but that’s the point of practicing. I also remind myself frequently that everything is temporary. I tend to get plagued with What If’s – what if this time it never goes away??? But it always does. And that knowledge gives me comfort and allows me to surrender more fully to what is.

I know this has got to be a struggle for others who deal with migraines, chronic pain, or other conditions that interrupt their lives on a regular basis. Take this advice or leave it, but if that applies to you I would highly recommend finding a therapist you like. In fact, if you’re reading this at all, I would highly recommend find a therapist you like! Therapy is amazing. All of us have weird stuff from our childhood that affects us in adulthood, no matter how “perfect” our younger years were. Shit, I was living with PTSD for years and had no idea.

So Grace. That’s the lesson for this season – allowing room for what is with no judgement. Not forcing things. And surrendering…. my lesson for this lifetime.

Happy Sunday friends ❤

Making Space When There is None

My life is pretty busy these days, and I’m guessing yours is too.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m in the process of making my way through a Dietetics degree. It’s… not easy. As someone who has a low tolerance for suffering and needs a lot of recovery time (introvert + long days surrounded by young college students = dead), I’ve made the realization that I can’t be “on” as much as others may be able to. Maybe you can relate? I’ll hear classmates talk about how they stayed up until 3 am studying and I’ll think Did I not do enough? I went to sleep at 10, is that bad? I’ll see people spend 10 hours in class and still have energy to volunteer the next morning while it takes me half a day to recover from that much activity… Am I being unrealistic? Am I supposed to suck it up and rest in… 5 years?

Yeah, no. I tried that. I tried working 20 hours a week while going to school full time (some people work full time, I should be able to work part time…). I tried squeezing in volunteering and meal prepping and budgeting and cleaning and being a wife and a daughter (some students have kids, I can handle this…). I tried staying up late to get things done (I did this in high school, why can’t I do it now?). I tried just “dealing with it” and pushing through while constantly comparing myself to what other people where doing.

But here’s the thing. I’m not other people. You’re not other people.

I need a lot of space and recovery time. I’ve always been that way, and when I just surrender and allow myself that time, I’m about 1000% more productive when I finally get back to work.

So how do I make space when there is none? How do I find time to relax and let go and recharge when I have deadlines, financial stress, a marriage to tend to and piles of dishes to wash?

– I surrender to the fact that I can’t do everything.

– I quit my physical job to focus on work I can do from home.

– I let everyone know that I’m not available on Sundays so I can recharge.

– I force myself to wake up at 6 am every single day so I have time for my yoga and gratitude lists.

– I allow my house to get a little messy (hint – keep the room you work in clean and close the freaking door!).

– I take less credit hours than I would like in order to maintain as much sanity as possible.

– And I make room for what brings me joy, like co-hosting a nutrition podcast and walking in nature.

I promise you, if you schedule time to STOP and refill your cup, you will be more productive when you get back to work. I promise. It feels scary at first because of the pressure (from whom…?) to be working or studying or doing every waking minute, but that’s just not sustainable. At least not for me, and if you relate to this, not for you either.

If you’re looking for a place to start, clear your Sunday mornings. Until noon, pledge to make no plans, answer to no one, and stay off of your phone and computer. Do absolutely whatever you’d like to do – sleep in, make a huge breakfast, do yoga or exercise, binge watch your favorite show, take a bath, meditate, bake, read a book, journal, wash your hair, organize your closet, lay in the sun, play with your dog, go for a swim, create, spend time with your spouse and/or kiddos…. care for yourself. If you can only give yourself this one pocket of time all week, that’s GREAT. You’re ahead of the game.

When I decided I was ok with not being perfect at everything, life got a little bit easier. Try it this weekend? Give yourself Sunday morning. See how great it feels to take care of yourself. You’re so, so worth it.

Owning Your Inner Warrior

The world of spirituality is a weird place.

I first found my way into a spiritual life through the divine feminine – a path full with flow, surrender, allowing, and receiving. That shit felt great, and I leaned way in. I fell into the river of femininity and flowed right along, allowing and being soft as hell.

And then I began trauma work.

Healing from a trauma is no joke, and it’s not soft. It’s not flowy, it’s not delicate, and it can’t be done whilst floating in a river of divinity. At least, that hasn’t been my path.

My path has involved hiding under a rock, trying to crush myself with the rock, and then….. unfurling. Anger that had to be pulled up from a deep well. Fighting, both myself and the trauma. Horror when I realized that I’d used my divine femininity as an excuse to protect and excuse my abuser. Anger that spilled over and flooded my whole being, that at once scared me and felt something like….

Peace.

It’s ok to be a warrior. In fact, I’m going to say it’s necessary. For a long time I laid down and allowed and surrendered and that’s all I did. Learning to fight and feel anger and rage and allowing those things- that has been a whole new experience. It’s a merging of the divine feminine and something new and delicious… the divine masculine. There is divinity in anger, and warriors can be noble creatures. They can fight for beautiful things like love, and humanity, and their struggle makes room for that softness after the storm.

I am a warrior. I don’t lay down anymore or float passively along. I’m fighting, and it’s messy and clumsy and I don’t quite know what I’m doing, but I know it’s divine work that needs to be done. I’m owning it, and allowing this masculinity to find it’s place among the feminine. Because without the banks, the river has nowhere to flow.

 

 

 

 

 

Food Fear and Navigating Healthy Eating

I’d like to share a little of my food journey with you today. I want to go ahead and state upfront that, while this is my experience, it might not be yours. None of what I’m writing below is meant to be advice, BUT if you relate to it, if it brings you peace, if it makes you feel more normal or makes a light bulb go off… beautiful.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but I’ve spent the last ten to fifteen years dancing around a pretty persistent fear of food. I don’t give myself a hard time for this – it seems pretty reasonable to develop a fear of food when it seems to cause you pain. Especially since the exact source of that pain is often unclear; sometimes pizza is ok, sometimes it has me writhing on the floor. Sometimes vegetables and fruits don’t sit well with my system, which is especially frustrating because they’re “healthy”.

As far as I know, I don’t have any serious food-related problem like Celiac (unfortunately my food problems have been hard to pin down, and to be honest I stopped with the diagnostics and just started listening to my body). It’s becoming more and more clear to me that obsessing over and fearing food only exacerbates food-related problems. Orthorexia is a real thing, and is especially hard to manage when what’s considered “healthy” changes so frequently. Guess what – science isn’t absolute. What we know evolves and gets disproved and reassessed and it can be hard to know what to listen to. And to add to the confusion, our bodies change too. We age, we go through stress, we have babies and get injured and pick up infections. And our food changes too! Pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs (another discussion entirely), organic or not, free-range or not, grass-fed or not…. there’s so much to consider, and endless things to obsess over and try to “get right”.

As someone who tries to coexist with anxiety, the idea of controlling every aspect of my diet was alluring. And the line between being a health-conscious person and someone who won’t eat at a restaurant or a friend’s house for fear of eating something “wrong” can seem pretty blurry sometimes. Especially when you have health problems and are trying to fix them. Especially when doctors prescribe elimination diets that reinforce these obsessive behaviors.

What makes that line between health and obsession super clear for me now? How I feel. When I’m meal planning, does my body feel restricted and tense and sweaty, or do I feel relief that I won’t have to think about food for the rest of the week? Does eating a yummy, homemade Curry Vegetable-and-Rice Soup nourish me inside and out, or am I worrying if the black pepper I used might cause a reaction because I might be slightly intolerant to it? Do I look forward to eating or wish I could just take a pill and never have to eat again?

Struggling for so long with finding a diet that doesn’t cause me pain (pro tip – it’s not just about the diet) has taught me to have some serious compassion for my body and for myself. Having compassion for my body has allowed me to slowly release my fear and obsession over food, and for once since I was ten (yes TEN!) years old let go of restriction. I ate something with whole wheat in it this week, and this is a weirdly big deal for me. I’ve spent a lot of time playing detective with my health problems – What if it’s the gluten? What if it’s the bran? What if it’s the carbs? What if what if what if????? It was really nice to put all that away and just eat a damn whole wheat fig bar!

And I survived. And I didn’t punish myself for eating it, and I didn’t worry about it. And I enjoyed it.

My food journey has been so packed with lessons that don’t just apply to food or healthy eating but to life in general, and I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned (and continue to learn!) with my future People. But there is one thing I would directly advise you to do TODAY, and that is to begin cultivating compassion for your body. Especially if you have health problems or struggle with disordered eating. Your body is really and truly doing the best it can, and when you reinforce her with “You’re doing great! Thanks for taking care of me!” rather than “What the hell is wrong with you why won’t you let me eat cake you stupid broken idiot!”…. well, she’ll appreciate it. It’s a lot easier for her to do her job and thrive when she has your loving support! Be nice to yourself. And from me to you – you’re doing great ❤

What is Gluten?

I know I’m not the only one who freaking loves bread.
It’s chewy and soft, spongy and moist, crunchy on the outside and irresistible on the inside.
So why give up eating bread, or even cut back a little?
There are a few reasons, but the most well known is that bread contains gluten. But what is gluten? And why are more and more people avoiding it like the plague?

Gluten – Grain Glue
Gluten is a protein found in many grains. It is the part of the grain that gives dough its elastic, stretchy quality. Baking with gluten-free flours can be a challenge because they lack this magical ingredient.
Grains that contain gluten include wheat, barley, farro, rye, bulgur, spelt, semolina, pumpernickel, and a few other more obscure varieties.
Oats are a grey area, as some people react to the non-gluten proteins they contain while others do not.

Protein? Isn’t That Good For You?
Most people have heard of Celiac Disease, but the protein gluten (specifically, gliadin) is thought to be a common food sensitivity as well. The controversy around whether this food intolerance exists comes from the fact that there are no good diagnostic tests for it. Gluten intolerance is seen right now as a “diagnosis of exclusion” – aka “we don’t know what’s going on with you so I guess this is what you have”. However, many people are able to self-diagnose by following an elimination diet. Gluten intolerance can show up as any number of symptoms including weight loss or gain, intestinal/ stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, brain fog, food cravings, and skin conditions.

Why Eliminate Gluten?
There are several studies out there showing that gluten causes things like systemic inflammation, gut permeability (bad), and irritation of IBS. The true amount of people with gluten sensitivity is unknown, while the amount of people with these issues is overwhelmingly large. If you’re symptom-free right now, this is still relevant to you – the chances of developing a gluten sensitivity increases with the amount of unvaried grains that you eat. If you eat wheat bread every day for lunch, you are more likely to develop a reaction due to repeated, frequent exposure.

So What to Do?
For me, it was worth eliminating gluten for a few months to see if my symptoms (migraines, joint pain, ezcema, and digestive problems) went away. It was a relatively simple experiment that had amazing results! Eliminating gluten wasn’t a cure-all, but my life-long eczema did go away completely and my stomach pains decreased significantly. Some people simply feel better in general and have more energy after giving up gluten. Others don’t seem to suffer any ill-effects from gluten at all, but even they can benefit from varying the types of grains they eat. Eating the same grains day after day can eventually lead to gluten intolerance, so switching things up can benefit you in the long run. Plus, trying new and different foods is fun! And for those gluten-intolerant folks,  don’t fret – there are plenty of gluten-free grains for you to try out. Rice, quinoa, corn, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and teff are all naturally gluten free. Just make sure you pay attention to how your body reacts to them, as some people can’t handle gluten-free grains either. Don’t worry, a life without grains isn’t so bad – even if you cut them completely out of your diet, you can still bake delicious healthy treats using coconut, almond, cassava, and other unusual flours!

Gluten-Free the Healthy Way

It is important to remember that something being labeled “gluten-free” doesn’t make it healthy. Gluten-free cookies are still cookies, sorry! So while enjoying treats is just fine, don’t kid yourself into thinking something is healthy just because it’s lacking gluten. Continue reading your food labels or better yet, make your own healthy versions of gluten-free goodies!

Do you eat a gluten-free diet? If so, has it improved your health? Let me know in the comments below!

References:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-gluten
https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/what-is-gluten/

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the above does not substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing any symptoms, please visit a doctor or registered dietitian!

Energetic Detox

Detoxing is a word that usually makes me cringe. Typically, detoxing refers to a special diet one adapts in order to “reset” their body. Many people juice, cut out solid foods, abstain from meat, or attempt countless other methods in order to help their bodies detox. The truth is, our bodies are very good at detoxifying on their own – thanks liver! Oftentimes the body simply needs less junk food and more healthy food to allow it to let go of yucky stuff it may be holding on to.

But what about the rest of you?

What about your mental space, your emotions, your energetic body? Do they detox on their own too? I tend to think not. Especially with the stress-filled lives that most of us live, energetic crap likes to slowly build up until one day you have trouble finding motivation to do anything but rewatch the entirety of Parks and Rec on Netflix.

So while tending to the health of our bodies is crucial, so is tending to the health of our energetic bodies!

Here are my six favorite ways to detox my energy:

  1. Meditate – Let’s get this one out of the way. We all know we should be meditating, we’ve all promised to do it more and no judgement for not making good on that promise. But… here’s the thing. Meditation really is the superfood of the energetic body. It’s the acai bowl for your mind! Countless studies have shown that meditation elevates levels of compassion and contentment while lowering perceived levels of stress, among other countless benefits. Here are two of my favorite guided meditations – this takes all the guesswork out and lets you truly relax into the experience!
  2. Spring Clean – There is something to be said for a squeaky clean home. If your environment is fresh and clutter-free, it will be easier for your brain and energy to be clutter-free too. I like to take an entire week to deep-clean, organize, and de-clutter my home so I don’t get overwhelmed trying to fit it all into one day.
  3. Sage – If you’re unfamiliar with “smudging”, it is the practice of walking through your home with a smoldering bundle of dried sage leaves, wafting the smoke throughout and saying a prayer, if you like. While smudging with herbs is said to be a great way to dispel bad energy and encourage good energy to stick around, it also has some scientific benefits too! Research has been conducted showing that significant amounts of bacteria are eliminated by the smoke put off during smudging – so not only are you cleaning up your energy, you’re also literally cleaning too!
  4. Re-evaluate Your Systems – Meaning, look at any systems you have in place and see if they need updating. I like to reassess my budget, planner, meal planning/grocery list methods, etc. and see if they’ve really working for me. Oftentimes I’ll find that I’ve been using a budget, for example, that has become inaccurate or is missing important bills – this leads to stress, worry, and irritation, none of which is good for your energy. Revamping your systems will help prevent any annoying slip-ups later.
  5. Forgive and Release – Letting go of what is no longer serving you can be a life-changing practice. Life rarely goes as planned – maybe you lost your job, had a relationship end, or had some health problems. If we don’t look at the emotions that come with these experiences and move through them, we can end up living in them for weeks, months, even years.  Journaling is a great way to reflect on things that didn’t go your way, forgive them, and let them go. Try writing them down and then and burning them, tearing them up, or simply throwing it away. Know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and that you have a wonderful opportunity to try again every single day.
  6. Move – This is my FAVORITE way to change my energy for the better! Any form of movement – for me it’s yoga – that makes you happy will work. Even better if it requires all of your attention (like yoga, kickboxing, martial arts), as it can double as a sort of moving meditation. Movement is the fastest way to shift your energy, make you feel more alert, and bring a smile to your face! Even a 5 minute dance break in between tasks will help cleanse your energy.

 

What are your favorite practices for detoxing your energy? Let me know in the comments below!

XoX Kelli

Cacao – Superfood of the Gods

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”
–Geronimo Piperni (1796)

I’m about to tell you why it’s totally ok to indulge in a daily square of dark chocolate – in fact, I’m going to tell you why you should! You’re welcome.

Cocoa VS Cacao
People often get confused over the difference between “cocoa” and “cacao” on food labels. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can get – it is raw and cold-pressed, meaning all of the good stuff stays inside. Cocoa, on the other hand, has been roasted at high temps, meaning a lot of that good stuff gets killed off.
When choosing your chocolate, always select products with “cacao” in the ingredients list. They may be a little more expensive, but the health benefits are worth it.

Cacao Loves You!
Cacao is thought by some to be the world’s most super superfood! It is extremely high in flavonoids, those plant antioxidants you keep hearing about. Flavonoids do great things like reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to the skin. Interestingly enough, a lot of these benefits are much more pronounced in women – my chocolate cravings are finally justified!
Cacao is also loaded with magnesium and iron. Magnesium is great for calming nerves and aiding in muscle pain and cramps, while iron is essential for the production of red blood cells and extra important for menstruating women.

Caffeine Alert!
Many people forget that chocolate contains CAFFEINE. Indulge in a 2 oz 70% dark chocolate bar before bed and you’ll be ingesting about 80mg of caffeine – yikes! That’s more than enough to keep you up until the wee hours of the morning. Stick to smaller doses at night, or get your chocolate fix earlier in the day.
Before You Eat That Snickers…
Chocolate is only beneficial when it is of good quality and without crappy additives. A snickers bar is not going to do you any favors, my friends. Instead, pick as dark a blend as you can enjoy (think 70% and up) and look for organic, fair trade products. Similar to coffee, cheap chocolate beans can contain fungi (among other things) that you won’t find in organic, high quality crops. Fair trade simply means that the conditions in which the product is produced were sustainable and ethical to the people involved as well as the planet – can’t be mad at that! Other things you might want to avoid in your chocolate – artificial AND natural flavors, emulsifiers like soy and sunflower lecithin, dairy (if your tummy doesn’t like it), and unnecessary amounts of sugar.

White Chocolate?
Sorry, but that milky, creamy, snowy goodness isn’t really chocolate. It’s usually made with cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and an emulsifier, but since it leaves out the actual cocoa solids (cocoa powder), it doesn’t qualify as chocolate. I won’t lie… I do enjoy a bit of white chocolate every now and then, especially with a dollop of natural peanut butter on top (mouth watering?). But don’t fool yourself into thinking that white chocolate is doing your body any favors.

How do you enjoy your chocolate? Any cool recipes you’ve been wanting to try? Let me know in the comments!

XoX Kelli