Controlling Gestational Diabetes Naturally

At my 28 week appointment, I took the dreaded pregnancy glucose test.  Since my pregnancy nausea was still pretty bad at the time, I was most nervous about trying not to throw up for an hour on an empty stomach.  I never would have imagined that I would get a call the next day saying I didn’t pass.  The following day, I had to do it all over again.  This time, I had to drink 2 of the glucose drinks and get my blood drawn 4 times over 3 hours.  I was extremely nauseous and faint, but resting in the fact that if I got through those 3 hours, it would all be over.

On Monday, I got the call that I had failed and was officially diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM).  I was shocked.  I didn’t know much about GDM at the time, so I went into full on planning & research mode to figure out how to fix it.  I was also scared; my plans all along had been to deliver at a birth center instead of the hospital and I was nervous this diagnosis would risk me out of that option.  Plus, what did it mean for the baby and for my own health? How did this happen to someone healthy like me?

That week, I got my glucose monitor and started the 4 times/day finger pricks to test my blood sugars.  I researched the gestational diabetes diet recommendations extensively and immediately began following them- mostly adding in more snacks and protein.  Because of my continued pregnancy nausea, my diet had not been great (lots more carbs than my diet pre-pregnancy), but I was committed to try my best.  I was surprised to find that sticking to the GDM diet recommendations, my blood sugar levels continually tested high.  Post-meal levels were okay, but I was only passing around a quarter of my morning fasting levels.

When I went in for my next doctor’s appointment, they were alarmed at my results.  I told them I was following the exact diet recommendations given and didn’t know what else to do.  Besides recommending a 30-45 minute walk every night after dinner, they didn’t have any other ideas for me.  At my pleading, they gave me one week to try to have PERFECT morning fasting levels; if I didn’t, I would be put on medication (glyburide) to control my body’s insulin response.  Getting put on medication would officially label me as high risk and guarantee a hospital birth with continuous monitoring and insulin during labor. Plus, after researching the medication, I wasn’t confident it was safe for my baby either. I was devastated.

Pregnancy is certainly a lesson in loss of control.  Of course, I’m sure God designed it that way to prepare us for parenthood.  I’ve felt out-of-control for my entire pregnancy… nausea I couldn’t fix, diet I didn’t want to be on, hormonal emotions, and now this. I had no idea how emotionally taxing a diagnosis like this could be.  You blame yourself. You worry about what it means for the baby you’ve been trying so hard to protect.  And the constant blood testing and attention to diet is a continual source of stress and anxiety.  And don’t forget, you’re not supposed to be stressed during pregnancy- it’s bad for the baby. Ugh.

I was determined to not let this diagnosis get the best of me.  I continued my research. Google-ing “natural ways to lower blood sugar” or similar searches came up with nothing.  No one online seems to want to try this; they all just assume that you will end up on medication or insulin and recommend you simply try your best to eat healthy for baby.  Finally, I pieced together some different ideas and resources to make a plan.

By a complete miracle, I was able to have perfect blood sugar levels that next week and return to the doctor with confidence that I could continue without medication.  But the next week, Thanksgiving came along… I splurged and enjoyed just one holiday meal & dessert and my fasting levels couldn’t recover from it; my levels became unpredictable again.  I was defeated as I walked into the doctor’s office the next week, certain they would put me on medication this time.  But my midwife was gracious and knew how hard I was working- she said it was probably due to a lack of routine, and once again I was given one last week to try.

Since that visit, I’ve been able to keep my blood sugar levels totally under control.  Even the morning fasting ones. Praise God! So, for those of you pregnant mamas diagnosed with gestational diabetes who are looking to stay off medication/insulin and want to control it naturally, I want to share what’s worked for me in hopes that you can have the same success.  I can’t point to one particular thing that made the difference; it wasn’t until I did all of these together that I was finally able to bring my levels under control.

  • Prayer – I’m listing this first because I truly believe God is the only one who has the power over all of this. I consider it a miracle that He’s kept my levels low when they were SO high and unpredictable to start with.  Pray before each meal and each finger prick- that dependence on Him will help calm you and help relieve the never-ending cycle of stress that only causes higher levels.
  • Minimal Carbs – Aim to eliminate carbs completely from your diet.  Everyone processes carbohydrates differently, so there’s not really an exact amount that’s “safe.” The nutritionists who write diets for GDM will give guidelines like 25 carbs for breakfast & lunch, 35 for dinner and 15 at two snacks.  And they’ll say that as long as you balance with a protein and fat, those carbs will not convert to glucose.  If I followed this ridiculous protocol, I would be on medication today. The only thing that worked was when I basically eliminated carbs from my diet; that means no bread (not even multi-grain), no rice, no potatoes, no corn, no oats.  It even means avoiding high glycemic produce, like fruit (some can tolerate berries, but I haven’t really been able to).
  • Eat High Protein, High Fat & Veggies – Focusing your diet around these items is the best way to avoid blood sugar spikes.  Healthy fats are especially great at keeping blood sugars stable and keeping you full.  I can’t stomach it with my nausea, but I’ve seen several recommendations that a teaspoon of coconut oil before each meal can help a great deal.  I just try to include it in what I make instead.  Search ketogenic recipes for meal ideas that fit this diet; I also have quite a few here on my blog – veggie noodles with lemon cream sauce being my fave.  My favorite snacks have been: cashews, cheese sticks, Greek yogurt and Graze meat sticks. Breakfast is the hardest on rushed mornings, but I try to alternate between hard-boiled eggs with breakfast sausage links, scrambled eggs with avocado and Greek yogurt with nuts.
  • Satisfy Sugar Cravings Safely – I know, pregnancy cravings are real and having gestational diabetes, especially over the holidays, is just the worst. Of course you have to eliminate sugar (and always avoid unsafe sugar-free products), but I’ve found a couple ways to satisfy my intense cravings for sweets: Stevia leaf naturally helps to lower blood sugar, so I’ve been using that in the tea that I drink or to sweeten Greek yogurt a bit.  And dark chocolate is also helpful to lower blood sugar- make sure to get a bar that is 75%+ cocoa and soy-free.  My go-to nightly snack has been whipped coconut cream (high in good fat!) sweetened with a bit of stevia and topped with a few dark chocolate chips – here’s the super easy recipe.
  • Walk After DinnerEvery single day. For at least 30 minutes. This is one of the hardest from a scheduling perspective and because it is uncomfortable when you are hugely pregnant and tired.  The first week is the hardest, but I promise your body will start to crave it.  It will help with digestion, relieve indigestion/heartburn and is also great at getting your body ready for labor.
  • Herbal Supplements – I talked with both my naturopath and the herbalist at my local pharmacy to see if there were any supplements to help with blood sugars that would be safe for pregnancy; they recommended two that I’ve been using these past months.  I take Diaplex before meals (started with 2 pills before each meal, but I’ve gone down to just two before lunch now) and Glukokine once in the evening right before bed.  Since I had done my research and talked with the right people, my doctor’s office was fine with me taking these; as always, you should check with your doctor before taking any medication or supplements during pregnancy.
  • Drink Lots of Water – If you are diabetic, one of the most common symptoms is frequent thirst, so this shouldn’t be a hard one to implement.  Hydration is one of the best ways to control insulin response, so you should be drinking around 2 gallons per day.  I know you are already peeing every 30 minutes, but this is crucial to stabilizing your levels.  Add some fresh lemon slices to your water for even further blood sugar stabilizing benefits. And, more importantly, drink water every time you wake up at night – it’s crucial to not let yourself get dehydrated overnight and I really think this made a huge difference with my fasting levels upon waking.
  • Consistency – Ultimately, I’ve found that a consistent routine is key to predictable levels, especially the morning fasting ones.  Schedule your meals and snacks to be at similar times each day.  Keep a food journal to track what you are eating to see if anything affects your levels.  This is not a typical diet where the occasional splurge is okay; you have to stick with it. Wake up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time each night. A strict schedule is the last thing I wanted to implement before a baby entered my life, but it’s certainly been worth it.

35-week-picNote: Don’t be surprised if you stop gaining weight or even lose weight once you put this protocol into place.  I was a bit alarmed that I’d only gained 12 pounds by 37 weeks, but my midwife assured me that it is completely normal since it’s all being done in a very healthy way.  I’m not crash dieting or exercising too much; it’s safe. Enjoy this one benefit to all your hard work and be excited that you will have less to lose after baby!

Lastly, I want to encourage you mamas not to blame yourself.  The diagnosis isn’t your fault. If you are trying everything and still failing your levels, it is not your fault.  Your placenta is causing this and sometimes it is not something you can control.  Do your best and be at peace with that.  I’m so proud of you for trying.

P.S. A great resource I finally found online was a UK website on gestational diabetes.  I definitely recommend that you check it out for great information, ideas and encouragement.

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Natural Pain Relief

For most of my life, I struggled with some level of back pain on a daily basis.  Chronic pain is just awful and, unfortunately, far too common.  It affects every area of life – relationships, work, exercise, activities; it’s hard to focus on anything other than that pain.  I tried different medications and therapies with no relief, and then suffered the side effects of pills… too much ibuprofen over time actually sent me to the hospital for a week (even though I used as directed by my doctor!).  In fact, recent research has shown that over-the-counter pain relievers increase risk for heart attack and stroke, can have a significantly negative impact on a woman’s fertility, and cause kidney damage.

Eventually, I started looking to natural alternatives to address my health issues and found significant relief.  I still have my bad days, but have found some great solutions that really help.  If you’re looking to try something new without the dangerous side effects of medication, here are my top 5 methods for natural pain relief:

Curcumin SupplementTurmeric

Yes, the spice!  Turmeric has been widely used in Indian medicine for centuries; one of its components – curcumin – is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Research has also shown that turmeric helps aid in the “prevention of cancer, protection against heart disease, reduce Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, ease pain and inflammation, boost bone health, protect the immune system from bacterial infections, and increase the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body.” (Source)

I take a curcumin supplement daily to help with inflammation & my back pain.  You could also add it to your diet – try this delicious turmeric tea recipe or my Coconut Curry Chicken recipe.


Topricin CreamTopricin

This anti-inflammatory pain relief cream is a safe alternative to medication that is effective for muscle, tendon, ligament and nerve tissue pain. It is safe for the elderly (as it does not interfere with medication), kids, pregnant women, and for all skin types.  It has no odor or fragrance, no petroleum and is non-greasy &, non-staining.  When I have back pain, I rub this on and the results are instant.  Plus, its actually working to promote healing, not just masking the pain.


Pain Relief Essential OilsEssential Oils

  1. PanAway – This blend of wintergreen, helichrysum, clove, and peppermint combines oils that each have anti-inflammatory properties, making for a super-effective combo.  It “…reduces pain and inflammation, increases circulation, and accelerates healing.  It relieves swelling and discomfort from arthritis, sprains, muscle spasms and cramps, bumps, and bruises” (Source: Essential Oils Pocket Reference).  Mix a couple drops with some coconut oil and rub on the area of pain.
  2. Deep Relief – This blend takes the combo above to the next level by adding some additional oils to the mix.  It comes in a roll-on tube already mixed with liquid coconut oil for easy spot-on application.  Here is what it contains:
    • Wintergreen – relieves head and muscle tension
    • Helichrysum – restorative support for nervous system
    • Clove – anti-inflammatory, supports immune function
    • Peppermint – anti-inflammatory, helps relieve headaches
    • Copaiba – supports the body’s response to irritation
    • Lemon – purifying properties
    • Palo Santo – relieves pain and inflammation in joints and muscles
    • Balsam Fir – relaxes the body and soothes muscles
    • Vetiver – grounding, helps with stress and tension

If you’re interested in trying out essential oils, check out my guide to getting started.  Bonus – PanAway comes in the Young Living Premium Starter Kit!


Drink Water

I know, that sounds way too simple, but listen… Our body is made up of 75% water and our brain tissue is 85% water. Adequate hydration is essential to our bodies and brains functioning properly.  We tend to think that we are “thirsty” when our mouths become dry and we crave a drink, but this is actually the last outward sign of dehydration – if you are feeling this, your body is screaming for water.

Chronic pain is a huge indicator of thirst.  For a while, painkillers may work, but eventually the brain will become so dehydrated that it will register all pain until it gets enough water.  And, until it does, the pain will increase and the body will limit the mobility of those areas in order to “prevent the production of additional toxic waste” that water, if available, would wash out. If you are experiencing consistent back pain, leg pain or headaches, take note.

I’ve started making sure I drink 8 glasses of water per day (if not more) to stay consistently hydrated.  When I do have back pain, the first thing I do is drink several glasses of water to see if the pain passes.  Surprisingly, it actually works most of the time. And if it doesn’t, no harm, and I move on to the other options above.


Chiropractor

If you haven’t visited a chiropractor, you are seriously missing out. I have seen dramatic healing by visiting my chiropractor regularly.  I started off seeing her 3 times a week when my pain was constant, and as I improved, it became less frequent.  Now, I see her for adjustments and some PT or massage every two weeks.  What I have found incredible about adjusting my spine is how much it also affects the overall nervous system and brain.  It’s improved the health of my body as a whole… it sounds a bit crazy, but my chiropractor has also helped with my allergies, ear infections, headaches and digestive issues.

It can be hard to find the right one, but if you’re in Austin, I have a great recommendation for you: Tracie Schwab at Backbone Wellness Center.  Plus, most insurance companies will cover your visits (with a copay) up to a certain number each year.


While these natural methods may not work for all types of pain, I pray that they help provide some safe relief next time you are suffering.  Let me know how they work for you or if you have any other suggestions!

 

 

Summer Reading List

Reading in the SunWith summer just around the corner, I’m dreaming of days by the pool reading and soaking up the vitamin D.  While I typically opt for the easy-to-read young adult dystopian novels (yes, I am a teenage girl, apparently), I’m also excited about the health books I have on my reading list.  For those of you looking for some non-fiction book ideas,  here are a few old favorites on my bookshelf or ones that I am currently reading (and will be writing about very soon)!

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food – This book changed the way I think about food and my health and was the ultimate inspiration for this blog.

The Coconut Oil Miracle – This was a fascinating read since I had absolutely no clue of all the health benefits that coconut oil could provide.  Read my summary here.

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water – Wow… if anything will convince you how important it is to drink water, it’s this book.  You’ll be surprised how many health problems are a simple result of chronic dehydration – read more in this blog post.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It – A controversial read that attempts to debunk the calories-in, calories-out theory. Read my review here.

RX: Charcoal – Would you ever eat charcoal?  Read about why charcoal is now a staple in my medicine cabinet here.

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways – I’m halfway through this book and planning to do the Whole30 “diet” this summer… I’ll let you know how it goes!

Healing Oils of the Bible – Just started this book and I am already so inspired.  If you are theologically-minded and want to learn more about scriptural healing, this is a must-read.

Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well-Being – One of the hardest things about the transition to a healthy diet has been self-control and our relationship with “good” and “bad” food.  I’m interested to read the author’s take on how we eat being just as important as what we eat.

Essential Oils Pocket Reference – Not really a sit-down and read kind of book, but if you have essential oils, I promise you can’t live without it.  Organized by symptom, you can figure out how to use oils to promote healing.

The Holistic Dog Book: Canine Care for the 21st Century – I’ve always been intentional about feeding my dog the best food and making holistic medical choices for her, but after she got really sick a few weeks ago, I’m more motivated than ever to make sure she has the chance for optimal health.  This book is going to help me make the transition to a raw food diet.  I will certainly share what I learn soon for all you dog-lovers out there.

Bookshelf

Which one of the these books interests you the most?  What are your favorite health & wellness must-reads that I missed?

*The book links above are affiliate links, which means I make a very small commission if you purchase that product.  I sincerely appreciate your support to keep this blog going!

Lemon Essential Oil

In my last post, I included a reader poll on future blog topics and the majority has spoken….you want to learn more about essential oils.  So, I’ve decided to start a series on oils, focusing on different ones and how I use them.  Today, I’m going to start with one of my favorites – LEMON

Lemon OilLemon essential oil is highly concentrated – cold-pressed from the rind, it takes 75 lemons to make one 15ml bottle. If you have heard about the benefits of drinking lemon water each morning, lemon oil is an easier alternative to stocking up on lemons each week, and the lack of citric acid can be easier on your stomach and teeth. Just a drop of lemon essential oil in a glass of water can have a lot of benefits first thing in the morning:

  • Rehydrates your body after 8 or so hours of no water, reinvigorating your body and brain
  • Helps flush your digestive system & promotes stomach acid production to aid in digestion throughout the day
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Calms the body, reducing stress and helping your adrenals prepare to tackle the day
  • Gets vitamin C into your body first thing, boosting your immune system
  • It’s a powerful antioxidant, which combats free radicals in the body – learn more about that here
  • Suffering from post-nasal drip?  Lemon in hot water with raw honey can soothe a sore throat.
  • Note: I only ingest the Young Living brand of essential oils as not all brands are safe internally

My husband and I love citrus scents, so it’s one of my favorite oils to diffuse and fill our home with a lovely energizing aroma.  It’s a great air freshener to get rid of odors… I have been really thankful for it when we’ve left trash in the house during a weekend away, returning to that awful permeating smell; a few minutes in the diffuser does wonders. On that same note, (although I must be the only one who does this) if you accidentally leave your laundry in the wash for a few minutes too long before moving it to the dryer or the dryer doesn’t fully dry your bulky load of towels, you know that your clothes will smell terribly musty/mildewy.  Instead of rewashing, rub some lemon oil on a dryer sheet and throw it in the dryer to make your laundry fresh and clean again – it’s amazing!

In addition to the two ways above, there are many other ways that you can use lemon oil around the house. I mix my own totally safe & cheap all-purpose cleaner & disinfectant to use all over – the kitchen, bathroom and windows/mirrors (streak-free!).  It’s a simple mixture of one part white vinegar, one part water and 10-20 (depending on your “part” size) drops of lemon oil in a spray bottle.  The lemon helps a lot with the vinegar smell, but if you still can’t stand it, there are plenty of other recipes on Pinterest.  You can also make your own easy furniture polish by replacing the water with olive oil in the mixture above, adjusting ratios as needed depending on your wood varnish and how well it absorbs.  Polish with a microfiber cloth to protect and clean your wood furniture. Depending on how much you want make at a time, you may want to use a glass spray bottle as citrus oils can eat through plastic.  And one last cleaning tip – lemon oil can help remove anything sticky, including gum from hair.

Beyond being a staple in my medicine cabinet & under-the-sink, lemon oil is also a go-to in my cosmetic drawer.  I mix it with coconut oil to use as a face moisturizer each morning; it helps balance my oily skin and helps heal any blemishes.  Lemon oil is known to improve circulation so is great for making cellulite disappear (hello, nearing swimsuit season) and I’ve heard it helps with varicose veins as well.

I literally use lemon oil every day and don’t know what I would do without it.  Interested in giving it a try?  Learn more about purchasing essential oils here.

How do you use lemon oil? I’m always wanting to hear more ways essential oils help people!

“You’re Not Sick; You’re Thirsty”

Is it possible that the majority of illness originate from something as simple as dehydration?  Could we be treating ourselves with medicine when we should just be drinking more water?  I recently read Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by F. Batmanghelidj, MD, which explores this possibility.

Water

Our body is made up of 75% water, and in particular, our brain tissue is 85% water. Adequate hydration is essential to our bodies and brains functioning properly to stay healthy.  But many of us are suffering from chronic dehydration because we live in a society where coffee, tea, alcohol and manufactured beverages like soda have become acceptable thirst-quenchers.  While many of these contain water, they also contain dehydrating agents that only make our body’s more thirsty.  And, sodas, in particular, are addictive (both the caffeine and sugar), taking away our natural thirst for water, even when it’s plentiful and available.

We tend to think that we are “thirsty” when our mouths become dry and we crave a drink.  But this is actually the last outward sign of dehydration – if you are feeling this, your body is screaming for water.  And as you age, your body begins to ignore “dry mouth” more and more, making dehydration easier. Our vital organs receive the water, nutrients and hormones they need to work only by enough water existing in the body to deliver those elements, so it’s obviously essential to our basic functioning.  Just in case you need a few more reasons to drink more water, here are some that really stood out to me:

  • Morning sickness during pregnancy is the main indicator of a baby and mother’s dehydration.  Water is essential to cell expansion during a baby’s first stage of life.
  • Chronic pain is a huge indicator of thirst.  For a while, painkillers may work for pain monitored by the central nervous system, but eventually the brain will become so dehydrated that it will register all pain until it gets enough water.  And, until it does, the pain will increase and the body will limit the mobility of those areas in order to “prevent the production of additional toxic waste” that water, if available, would wash out. If you are experiencing consistent back pain, leg pain or headaches, take note.
  • Dyspeptic (gastritis, heartburn, constipation) pain is an emergency thirst signal.  “Digestion of solid foods depends on the presence of copious amounts of water” and “water provides the only natural protection against the acid in the stomach.”  Antacids contain a lot of aluminum (so does your deodorant, by the way), which combined with brain cell dehydration are proven causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Stop popping those antacids and drink a couple glasses of water instead.
  • “Fully 75 percent of the weight of the upper part of the body is supported by the water volume that is stored in the disc core.”  While proper posture is helpful, adequate water is essential if you are experiencing back pain.  Exercises that stretch the back and help “vacuum” water back into the disc space will help both neck and back pain.  I personally find that laying on the bed with my head off the edge for a minute or so helps a great deal.  Of course, my chiropractor adjustments help tremendously as well.
  • Dehydration affects the regulation of body temperature.  Many migraines and headaches are caused by “heat stress” because of dehydration that may occur due to lack of drinking water, drinking alcohol, or an allergic reaction that releases histamines (blocking hydration).
  • Dehydration leads to stress in the body and causes hormones to go into crisis mode.  As a result, dehydration contributes to chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.
  • Using caffeine to override your body’s available energy will lower levels of stored energy, meaning that your hormones will not be able to react appropriately later and the brain has less energy to work from, leading to less focus and attention span.  This dehydration effect is exacerbated when elderly people with memory problems or children with learning disorders drink anything other than water, especially soda.
  • Adequate water and salt intake are essential to maintaining blood volume that prevents hypertension.  The body will do all it can to retain water and sodium (helps balance water in and out of cells), yet the current “treatments” for hypertension prescribe diuretics.  Water is the best diuretic – if you are drinking enough water, your body will respond and eventually flush out the toxic edema fluid rather than the water your body desperately needs.
  • Cholesterol is essential to the function of our cells because it helps our cells retain water.  In the state of dehydration, you will develop high cholesterol as its working in overdrive to prevent cell dehydration.
  • “The sensation of thirst and hunger are generated simultaneously to indicate the brain’s needs.” We cannot tell the difference, and thus often overeat when our body’s are really just crying out for water.  Then, dehydration causes our brain to crave more energy, thus causing us to crave sugar.  So, we overeat, eat unhealthy foods and gain weight simply by being dehydrated.
  • Asthma and allergies are indicators that the body has resorted to an increase in production of the neurotransmitter histamine, the sensor regulator of water metabolism and its distribution in the body.”
  • In some cases of chronic dehydration, our brain begins to inhibit insulin so the pancreas can provide water for food digestion – a crucial function to provide energy to the body.  Ultimately, this can cause insulin-independent diabetes, and instead of drinking more water & eating a balanced diet to get the body to behave normally again, people take chemical override medications to force the body to produce more insulin.
  • Salt is crucial to ensuring we have an “ocean” of water outside our cells, but the table salt we eat in most foods is a chemical and not mineral-rich.  Remove sodium preservatives and table salt from your diet and replace with unrefined sea salt to keep your body’s hydration in balance.

The simple way to prevent the damage from chronic dehydration is to drink enough water.  Your body needs a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day, more, especially, if you are drinking alcohol or caffeine.  If your urine is not colorless, you are not hydrated enough.  Drink water slowly, throughout the day.  I typically drink a glass of water before and after each meal, and then at least one in-between each meal as a rule of thumb.  If I am feeling sick, my allergies are flaring or my back pain returns, I immediately drink lots of water, and only water, until the symptoms pass. I have truly noticed a difference.

Are you drinking enough water?  If any of the above dehydration-related illnesses stuck out to you personally, you must read this book. It has very detailed chapters on each of the effects of dehydration and testimonials for how water has healed people.  Go read it (or borrow from me!) – it’s fascinating!

A Health Challenge: My Goals

Auld Lang SyneWe are almost halfway through January and I wanted to check in… how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?   I’ll be honest, I’ve failed already.  But, I’m not giving up quite yet!  

I recently organized a health challenge for my office and have also decided to participate.  The challenge runs 12 weeks and started yesterday.  The competition is based off of body fat percentage loss since that is a good indicator of both fitness and health and more accurate than BMI.  Plus, you can see your percentage loss, weight loss and inches loss at the end, which is so encouraging.  Y’all, my current body fat percentage puts me in the “overweight” range… I have got to get back in that healthy range! I’ve known for awhile what I should be eating and doing to get my body healthy, I just haven’t had the self control to do it. As I sat down last night to think through my goals and make a plan, I knew that many of you also have some health resolutions this year and might want to see what I’m doing.  If you haven’t made a resolution yet – it’s not too late!  Here are the five things I am focusing on for this challenge, why they are important and some simple action steps to follow if you are interested in adapting them yourself:

  1. Increase Nutrients – With all the packaged and processed foods in our restaurants and grocery stores, we are no longer getting the nutrients our bodies are starved for.  We have essentially become malnourished as a culture.  The blog 100 Days of Real Food has some great meal plans and recipes to avoid processed food.  I will be focusing on eating real food with real health value to my body.  I will aim for 5+ servings of vegetables per day and a high protein, high fat diet to keep me full and give my body energy instead of relying on cheap carbs to do so.  Basically, I’ll just be eating lots of freshorganic produce and protein.
  2. Eat Clean – It is important to eliminate the toxins in our environment and foods that are causing harm to our bodies.  In order for the nutrients we eat to work effectively to help our body, we need to make sure we are not poisoning it at the same time.  I always look for these on food labels when grocery shopping or on a restaurant menu:
    Hormone-Free
    Antibiotic-Free
    Preservative-Free
    Pesticide-Free (Produce)
    Cage-Free (Eggs)
    Free-Range (Chicken)
    Grass-Fed (Beef)
    Wild-Caught (Fish)
    Non-GMO
    Nitrate-Free
  3. Eliminate Inflammatory Foods – While losing weight/inches/fat would be great, my main goal is health.  I want to get my hormones balanced, be pain-free and increase my immune function.  My adrenal levels are currently way high, which is inhibiting all of those things and causing me to gain weight.  Eek! The only way to fix it is to change my diet: I will be avoiding grains & cheap carbs, soy (as always!), sugar (except for a couple of special occasions & some dark chocolate here and there) and vegetable oil (I use coconut oil instead… and no, it doesn’t taste like coconut).
  4. Drink More Water – A couple of months ago, I read the book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water and learned so much about how dehydrated I am (I plan to write a review about the book soon!).  Drinking lots of water has tons of benefits, including losing weight & detoxifying the body.  Per the book’s recommendation, my goal will be to drink at least 64 oz of water per day, plus an extra 16 oz for any coffee or tea I drink since those beverages work to dehydrate us.  Also, less alcohol… red wine is healthy, right?
  5. Get Moving – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate exercising.  I can commit to eating well all day, but commitments to exercise always fail.  Recently, I watched an interesting documentary about exercise and I really want to put the routine into practice.  It will only take 3 minutes a week… surely I can.  I’m going skiing soon and my trip to Europe this Spring will entail lots of walking, so I need to be in shape. I woke up this morning and worked out for the first time in years, so I’m off to a great start. Please, ask me next time you see me and hold me accountable!

Writing those out makes it seem a little less daunting than it did yesterday.  Instead of focusing on what I can’t have, I’m going to focus on all the yummy foods that I can eat…. here’s to bacon, avocados, raw cheese, BBQ, sushi, colorful salads, nuts, fresh juice, sweet potato fries, fried okra, dark chocolate, and (in case you forgot) bacon.  Cheers!  *Water glasses clink*

Who else wants to join me?  What are your goals?

Tips for Staying Fit During Thanksgiving

With a holiday so centered around a tempting buffet of food, lazy days watching football and pies galore, it can be hard to not feeling like the stuffed turkey after Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips on how to stay fit and healthy during your Thanksgiving holiday:

Eat Breakfast: We tend to save up our appetite for a big meal, but you’ll end up overeating if you do.

Chew Slowly: Focus on your loved ones and enjoy the dinner table conversation. Give your body time to process how much you’re eating so you don’t eat too much.

Drink Water: Our bodies often misinterpret being thirsty as being hungry; staying hydrated will help you eat appropriately-sized portions.  And, remember, that all those liquid calories in alcohol can really sneak up on you too.

Exercise: Take your family to the Turkey Trot for a fun fitness outing, shop til you drop during Black Friday sales, or, if you’re traveling, try these easy exercises you can do in the car or an airplane.

TurkeyTrot

Buy the Best: Turkey can be an incredibly healthy part of the Thanksgiving spread.  Make sure to choose pasture-raised, organic turkey to feed to your family so that you can avoid the contamination risks and toxicity that are in conventional meat.

Choose Wisely: Remember, Fats Don’t Make You Fat, Carbs Do!  Load up your plate with turkey and veggies and check out these delicious options for healthy side dishes:

Don’t Skip Dessert: It’s okay to splurge a little.  If you’re like me, trying to stop eating any dessert is likely to make me abandon my diet altogether. Limit yourself to one piece of pie and try this yummy, healthy version of whipped cream instead.

Transform Your Leftovers: The benefits of bone broth are astounding, so make a hearty turkey and vegetable soup that will last all weekend.

Remember the Primary Ingredient: Gratitude! If your Fall has been anything like mine, it is likely that stress has taken its toll on your body; and if not already, the upcoming holidays sure might.  Gratitude has been proven to have great health benefits so cherish the time with your family and friends, relax, and remember all that you have to be thankful for this holiday season.  As I look forward to Thanksgiving next week, I am reminded of all that I have to be thankful for, especially for my health.  I am so grateful for all that I have learned and for the incredible healing, especially with the chronic pain I used to suffer from, that I have experienced this year.

What are you thankful for this year?