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 ❤

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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

Eating With Love and Gratitude

I want to let you in on a little secret – you can eat “bad” sometimes and not feel guilty about it. You can snack on a few sugar cookies, say yes to a serving of mom’s special hashbrown casserole, all without suffering many (if any at all) negative consequences.

All you have to do is change your mindset.

The mindset with which you eat food is huge in how your amazing body reacts to it. Feeling guilty, undeserving, and disgustingly weak while eating that slice of cheesecake? Your body knows it, and will respond by sending out all the signals that you’ve eaten a terrible, heaping mountain of sugar.

But aren’t your body’s reactions all automatic? Well, yes and no. In one amazing study, two groups of people were given identical milkshakes; group one was told the milkshake contained 620 calories, while group two was told it contained a mere 140. The group with the “unhealthy” milkshake responded as if they had consumed a huge indulgent meal, and their hunger hormones went way down. However, the group with the “healthy” milkshake responded as if they had eaten the equivalent of a small salad, and their “feed me!” hormones stayed high.

So what does this mean for you? Come to peace with the food you’re eating, and your body will too. (This doesn’t mean you can eat oreos and ice cream all day every day – those foods don’t contain much in them that your body needs. You’ll be starving for nutrients, and sooner than you think.)

A practice I implement when I intentionally eat foods I normally wouldn’t is to send love to my food, and feel gratitude for the energy it will provide for me. I pause before I take that first bite and really say thank you, fill my body with love, and allow my body to use what it needs from the food while letting go of the rest. Take it from someone with a list of food sensitivities a page long – this works. I can eat an ice cream cone on the first day of summer and, using this practice, not experience the intense stomach aches and digestive… issues… that this treat would normally give me.

So try this simple trick when you’re in the sugary throes of the holidays or really want a bite of that delicious looking chocolate pudding pie that your aunt always makes and begs you to try. Be thankful, be kind, and treat your food like you would want it to treat you – with love.

DisclaimerThis practice is not for people with food allergies or extreme food sensitivities. Eating with love is not a replacement for eating healthy foods – merely a way to enjoy occasional indulgences without suffering. With great power comes great responsibility, y’all!

XoX Kelli

Welcome to Me!

Hey there friends!

I am so excited to be writing to you from my new virtual home. In between class, work, laundry, and cooking, I’ll be sharing all kinds of fun stuff with you – like what I eat in a day, new interesting nutrition research (made readable – I promise!), how I de-stress and take care of myself, and my favorite natural, healthy products.

I’m here to get you interested in the scientific AND magical parts of being a healthy human. And make you feel a little less crazy about your own life, because I DON’T HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER. People think because I meal prep and use a planner that I’m perfect. I go to therapy. I eat pizza (it’s gluten free but I freaking eat it). I forget to scoop the litter box. This is not a blog about another perfect person eating perfectly healthy food and taking rose petal baths every night after they practice yoga and meditate for an hour. That’s all great stuff to aspire to, but it’s just not me most days. I strive to be the best, happiest, healthiest, zen-est version of myself – and I will probably be striving to be that version until I die. And that is what it’s all about.

Now did someone say pizza? I’m pretty sure someone mentioned pizza…

Love x3

Kelli