Why I Stopped Eating Gluten

Why I Stopped Eating Gluten:

Back in 2010, I was having consistent nausea. I wasn’t vomiting but it felt like a bad version of car sickness 80% of my waking hours. I was frustrated because the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me and my blood work came back “a picture of perfect health.” In the meantime, my sister was having similar issues but of a more serious nature. She also went to the doctors and had tests done including a test for celiac disease. It came back that she didn’t have celiac disease but she was gluten intolerant.  She then changed her diet and was suddenly a much happier person. She then suggested I give the “no gluten” diet a try to see if that was it. At that point I was sick and tired of feeling nauseous. It was beginning to wear on me so I gave it a try.

Why I stopped eating gluten...

What Happened When I Eliminated It From My Diet:

I went all out and eliminated gluten from my diet. I was not a die-hard pasta or bread fan so it wasn’t that big of a deal. However, I did have to learn what “gluten” was and make a new menu for my meals which many times differed from what my family was having.  Within two days I felt great. I had no more nausea and I had other surprising and positive side effects that have continued to this day.

One of the most notable side effects was a huge increase in energy. I thought lacking energy was a normal thing for a career mother of two kids. I would go home from work every night feeling exhausted and have to slug my way through the evening routine of homework, baths and prepping for the next day. My nausea was gone and my energy had gone through the roof.  I imagine I was a lot more pleasant to be around as well.

Within a couple weeks I had lost 5-7 pounds. I was not overweight but apparently my change in diet made enough of a difference. At that time, I was still a sugar addict so instead of having cake or cookies full of gluten, I would have a gluten free candy bar such as a snickers bar (yum!). I opted to stay away from the cakes, cookies and donuts which were always in abundance at my workplace. I would prefer not to be nauseous. It was well worth avoiding as long as I could get my sugar fix in elsewhere. This could be the reason for my weight loss (less cookies and cakes). Of course I quickly tested out various gluten free baked goods made with rice flour which often times I found to be tastier than the baked goods made with wheat flour.

Another great benefit was an improvement in my mood. I’ve always dealt with depression and continued to struggle with it but I seemed to have a lot less ups and downs. I also noticed my PMS wasn’t as bad. It’s possible my mood improvement had no relation to the gluten reduction but all in all I felt consistently better.

Why Was I Suddenly Gluten Intolerant?

The question then was why suddenly did I have a gluten intolerance? After doing some research and a bunch of reading, the only thing I could figure is that auto-immune disorders run in my family (Type 1 Diabetes, Sjogrens Disease) and I probably had an intolerance all along. I read that if you have a trauma to your body it can trigger more symptoms of autoimmune disorders. When I think back on it, I had started feeling the major nausea after I ran my second half marathon. It may have started gradually during my training but I most likely brushed it off and assumed it was due to over-training.

My Current Stance On Gluten:

Due to the way I feel when I eat gluten I have chosen never to eat it again. I’m not saying this should be everyone’s choice. On the other hand, I do believe if gluten is eliminated there is a great uptick in your health and the way you feel. I’m a believer in “everything in moderation” but I have found that some people who have health issues eat gluten way too much. I don’t believe in fad diets and unfortunately the GF diet has been labeled as one and has gotten a bad rap. However, I still hold strong to my belief that gluten should be eliminated due to my personal experience as well as a few other people I know.  If you’re not convinced, you should read a book called Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health.  You may also give going gluten-free a try for a few weeks and see how you feel. You may be surprised (or not).

Below is a great article cited from authoritynutrition.com

Here are 6 reasons why gluten is bad for some people:

1. Celiac Disease is on The Rise and Most People Remain Undiagnosed

Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Gluten consists of two proteins… gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin part that people react negatively to.

When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins, giving elastic properties to dough and allowing bread to rise when baked. Actually, the name gluten is derived from these glue-like properties. When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacteria. In certain people who are sensitive to gluten, this causes the immune system to mount an attack against it.

In celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten sensitivity), the immune system attacks the gluten proteins, but it also attacks an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract called tissue transglutaminase. Therefore, gluten exposure in celiacs causes the immune system to attack both the gluten as well as the intestinal wall itself. For this reason, celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease. The immune reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, various digestive issues, anemia, fatigue, failure to thrive as well as an increased risk of many serious diseases.

Celiac disease is believed to afflict about 1% of people, but it may be more common (over 2%) in the elderly. There are also studies showing that the rate of celiac disease is increasing rapidly in the population.

Keep in mind that a large percentage of celiacs don’t even have abdominal symptoms, making diagnosis on clinical grounds very difficult. The symptoms might manifest themselves in different ways, like fatigue, anemia… or something much worse, like a doubled risk of death in several studies. According to one study, over 80% of people with celiac disease don’t even know that they have it.

2. Gluten Sensitivity is Much More Common and Can Also Have Serious Consequences

Bread Caution

You don’t need to have full-blown celiac disease to have adverse reactions to gluten. There is another disorder called gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance), which is much more common.

Although there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, it basically means having some sort of adverse reaction to gluten and an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet. If you have adverse reactions to gluten, but celiac disease is ruled out, then it is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

In non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no attack on the body’s own tissues. However, many of the symptoms are similar to those in celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints.

Unfortunately… because there is no clear way of diagnosing gluten sensitivity, reliable numbers on how common it is are impossible to find. There are two sources showing that up to 6-8% people may have gluten sensitivity, based on anti-gliadin antibodies found in the blood. However, one gastroenterologist found that 11% of people had antibodies against gluten in their blood and 29% of people had antibodies against it in stool samples. About 40% of people carry the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes, which make people susceptible to gluten sensitivity.

Given that there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, or a good way to diagnose it, the only true way of knowing is by eliminating gluten temporarily from your diet, then reintroducing it to see if you have symptoms.

Bottom Line: Gluten sensitivity is much more common than celiac disease, also leading to multiple adverse effects. However, there is no clear way of diagnosing it yet.

3. Gluten May Cause Adverse Effects, Even in People Who Don’t Have Gluten Sensitivity

There are also studies showing that individuals with neither celiac disease nor diagnosed gluten sensitivity have adverse reactions to gluten.

Young Man Eating Bread

In one of these studies, 34 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome were randomized to either a gluten-containing or a gluten-free diet. The group on the gluten-containing diet had more pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and fatigue compared to the other group.

There are also studies showing that gluten can cause inflammation in the intestine and a degenerated intestinal lining. Gluten may also have negative effects on the barrier function of the intestine, allowing unwanted substances to “leak” through into the bloodstream. However, according to one study, this “leakiness” of the gut only happens in celiac patients.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involves various digestive issues with an unknown cause, afflicting about 14% of people in the U.S. According to the studies above, some cases of IBS may be either caused or exacerbated by gluten. Although this needs to be studied a lot more, it seems very clear that many more people than just celiac patients react negatively to gluten.

Bottom Line: Several studies show that individuals (especially IBS patients) who don’t have diagnosed gluten sensitivity can have adverse reactions to gluten.

4. Many Brain Disorders Are Associated With Gluten and Patients See Dramatic Improvements on a Gluten-Free Diet

Bread

Even though gluten primarily works its “magic” in the gut, it can also have severe effects on the brain. Many cases of neurological illness may be caused and/or exacerbated by gluten consumption. This is called gluten sensitive idiopathic neuropathy.

In a study of patients with neurological illness of an unknown cause, 30 of 53 patients (57%) had antibodies against gluten in the blood. The main neurological disorder believed to be at least partly caused by gluten is cerebellar ataxia, a serious disease of the brain that involves an inability to coordinate balance, movements, problems talking, etc. It is now known that many cases of ataxia are directly linked to gluten consumption. This is called gluten ataxia and involves irreversible damage to the cerebellum, a part of the brain that is important in motor control. Many studies show strong statistical associations between gluten consumption, gluten sensitivity and cerebellar ataxia. There is also a controlled trial showing that ataxia patients improve significantly on a gluten-free diet. There are several other brain disorders that respond well to a gluten-free diet:

  • Schizophrenia: A subset of schizophrenia patients sees massive improvements by removing gluten.
  • Autism: Several studies suggest that people with autism see improvements in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
  • Epilepsy: There are several reports of patients with epilepsy improving significantly when removing gluten.

If you have any neurological problems and your doctor doesn’t have a clue what is causing them… then it makes sense to try removing gluten from your diet.

Bottom Line: Several disorders of the brain respond well to a gluten-free diet, including autism, schizophrenia and a rare form of epilepsy.

5. Wheat Gluten May be Addictive

 

There are many people who believe that wheat may be addictive. Getting unnatural cravings for things like bread or donuts is very common. Even though this is far from being proven, there are some studies suggesting that gluten may have addictive properties.

When gluten is broken down in a test tube, the peptides that are formed can activate opioid receptors. These peptides (small proteins) are called gluten exorphins. Exorphin = peptide that is not formed in the body, that can activate opioid receptors in the brain. Given that gluten may cause increased permeability in the intestine (at least in celiac patients), some believe that these exorphins can find their way into the bloodstream, then reaching the brain and causing addiction. Gluten exorphins have been found in the blood of celiac patients.

There is also some evidence from animal studies that these opioid-like peptides derived from gluten can make it into the brain. It is well known in various food addiction circles that wheat is one of the most addictive foods there are (right after sugar). This doesn’t prove anything of course, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Bottom Line: Many people report getting unnatural cravings for wheat and there is some evidence of gluten having opioid-like effects. However, this is definitely not proven and is mostly speculation at this point.

6. Gluten is Associated With Autoimmune Diseases

Toast With MargarineAutoimmune diseases are caused by the immune system attacking things that are found naturally in the body. There are many types of autoimmune diseases that affect various organ systems. All of them combined afflict about 3% of the population.

Celiac disease is one type of autoimmune disease and celiac patients are at a drastically increased risk of getting other autoimmune diseases as well. Many studies have found strong statistical associations between celiac disease and various other autoimmune diseases, including Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple sclerosis and various others. Additionally, celiac disease is associated with a ton of other serious diseases, many of which have nothing to do with digestion.

My Journey with Depression

I woke up depressed, again. This is the time of year when it becomes a little more present in my life. The goal is to prevent it from getting severe. That just means I will not contemplate suicide. The good news is that I haven’t done so in about thirteen years. I will admit I have paranoia about getting that bad again. I would never end my life. Instead, I accept the challenge and appreciate the low-level to mediocre depression.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate being depressed. What does it mean to be depressed?  Primarily it means having a feeling of hopelessness. Nothing excites you. I mean NOTHING. It sucks to have great things going on but you have no ability to look forward to and enjoy them.

I subconsciously started doing something years ago when I felt the big D coming on. I start making plans. I’m the type of person who will always do what I say I’m going to do, no matter what. If I can’t live for myself, I will do things for my family and friends. So I make plans with family and friends. Then I follow through with those plans even though I may not want to. It’s like going through the motion of life. However, sometimes I feel better when I do. This is a coping mechanism. It’s one of the ways I keep myself going.

Depression is NOT the opposite of happiness. I hate when people say “just be happy.”  I AM happy.  What is there NOT to be happy about?  My husband is phenomenal. My kids are happy, healthy and well-balanced and my parents are supportive and superb people. I’m a successful career mom who has the support of her husband to make it all work, all while he works a job too. We have money because we’re smart with it, most of the time. I have good physical health but admittedly work hard to make that happen. At least I’m doing everything I can to be healthy and often think how much worse my depression would be if I weren’t doing those things.

So why do I suffer? I used to ask myself this a lot when I was younger.  It never made sense to me until my doctor said, “it’s all chemical Honey.”  Yes, he calls me “honey” probably because he’s old and that’s what you call people when you’re old.

I tell myself I should be thankful that this is my disease.  I could have cancer, MS, diabetes, or any other sucky-ass condition. I should appreciate my asinine mood disorder. I should appreciate that sometimes I feel like I’m in a black hole that I can eventually dig my way out of because others don’t have the ability to dig their way out of a cancer diagnosis.

Depression is pretending you’re hunky dory when you’re not. Who said authenticity is overrated? Probably an asshole. I’m sorry, but I’m sick of “faking it until I make it.” Do you know how exhausting that is?

I pull myself out of bed every day and live my life. What’s the alternative? I get on my treadmill because nine times out of ten this will give me “hope” and push me through my day.  Sometimes that running-induced chemical change will only last a couple of hours but guess what, those couple of hours feel so good!  Then I just fake my way through the rest of my day.

I work in an office environment so I’m surrounded by people. I can’t tell them I’m not feeling well. I can but I don’t want to talk about it. Some of my closest co-workers know and they support me. That means they let me be myself. I can be authentic. I can cry in front of them. I don’t have to put my fake smile on. I can just be “me” and I love them for that. They are not just co-workers, they are my closest friends.

Being depressed is feeling bad about yourself. It’s finding all the negatives and making them ten times bigger than they are. I’d like to point out that most of the time I’m frickin awesome and the rest of the time I suck. There’s never an in-between.

Being depressed is feeling like you’re a burden to everyone around you. This is when you may “fake it” because you don’t want to burden the people you love most.  Of course, these are the people who will know right away when you’re not “OK” especially if you see them every day. They can see the look in your face. It’s a little harder to ascertain via phone call or text message.

My journey with depression

My husband is my primary support. He can take one look at me and know I’m depressed. He will push me when I need to be pushed but he also knows when to stop. He’s my anchor and my strength. I can’t imagine how depressed people without a strong support system can do it. Maybe that’s why suicides happen. Suicides also happen because depressed people truly have a mindset that they’re burdening others. That makes me sad.

Depression is not sadness but I do cry a lot. It’s not “having a bad day” and it’s not “having a sucky life.”  I’m a big believer in “you reap what you sow.” I didn’t ask to be depressed but I fight against it every day.  When I’m NOT depressed, I’m usually high as a kite because I’m so happy I’m not depressed!  These are the times my kids call me “weird.” I love being weird.

For those of you who suffer, just think of HOPE – hold on, pain ends.  Remember, you are not a burden and you are not alone.

I also encourage you to read a book called Beat Depression and Anxiety by Changing your Brain.  It will not heal you but it will help you cope.

4 Foods I Eat Every Day to Fight Depression

According to a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry, severe depression is linked with brain inflammation.  Here are 4 foods I eat every day as insurance to keep my depression at bay.  They give the nutrients my body needs to fight off inflammation in my brain.

An Apple

An apple a day keeps the depression away :-).  One of my favorite snacks is a Gala apple with almond butter.  I get my omega-3 fatty acid along with some fiber.  Apples are also high in antioxidants which can help prevent and repair oxidation damage and inflammation on the cellular level.  When I was younger I would get an upset stomach every time I ate an apple.  However, I switched to organic a few years ago and it doesn’t happen anymore.  Now it’s one of my favorite snacks to eat in the afternoon!

Spinach

If you were to choose the healthiest food of all, the most nutrient-dense item available for us to eat, it would be dark, leafy greens.  Greens are the first of the G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Seeds) that Dr. Joel Fuhrman describes in his book, The End of Dieting, the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anti-cancer effect.  Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation and are especially important because they contain a ton of vitamins such as A, C, E, and K.

Of all the leafy greens, I prefer spinach.  I’ve had people ask me how I can possibly eat spinach every day.  I either eat a spinach salad for lunch, in my taco salad for dinner (once a week – our family’s predictable that way!) or I add a cup of spinach to my breakfast smoothie.  Sometimes that means I may get two servings of spinach each day.  You can’t really taste it in the smoothies though your smoothie ends up with a pretty funky color.  I’m a lettuce snob so even when I eat out at restaurants I make sure I only order salads with spinach or some other kind of leafy green.

Blueberries

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available to us.  In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients were treated for two years with antioxidants or placebos. After two years those who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score. They are like DNA repairmen. They go around fixing your cells and preventing them from getting cancer and other illnesses.

Every day, I either add fresh blueberries to my morning oatmeal or I add about a cup of frozen blueberries to a smoothie.  Yes, I have a smoothie almost every day if you haven’t noticed the pattern.  This smoothie typically has frozen blueberries, spinach, cacao powder and maca powder.  You can read more about maca in my post, Maca Root – Nature’s Powerhouse.  That post also has one of my favorite smoothie recipes involving all the above-mentioned ingredients.

4 foods I eat every day to fight depression

Cacao Powder or Cacao Nibs

Now you may be wondering exactly how this is “food”?  Well – it is ingested, right?  Cacao is powerful for so many reasons.

The benefits of cacao are truly fantastic: it can improve your memory, increase your bliss, reduce heart disease, shed fat, boost immunity, and create loads of energy.

The Incas considered it the drink of gods, an association that gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink).

It may surprise you to discover that raw cacao contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas

One of cacao’s most powerful nutrients is magnesium.

Low levels of magnesium are connected with an increased risk of depression overall, to the extent that those who have the lowest amount of magnesium in their system are around 20% more likely to suffer from the condition.

In addition, cacao has the mood improver, anandamide – known as the bliss molecule, which creates a feeling of euphoria.

Source:www.dailysuperfoodlove.com

As mentioned above, I add a tablespoon of raw cacao powder to almost every smoothie I make.  If I have oatmeal for breakfast, I add cacao nibs along with my blueberries.  This may not sound very good to you but I typically don’t eat food because it tastes good.  I eat it to make sure my mood stays “hopeful,” what I consider the opposite of “depression.”  My oatmeal does not taste bad, it just doesn’t have a ton of great taste, if that makes sense :-).  I prefer Navitas brand cacao nibs and powder due to its purity (plus it’s organic).

Are You Addicted to Fast Food?

We know fast food is bad for us but we brush that thought aside and make excuses as to why we continue to eat it.  What are your excuses?  Here are the top three reasons people resort to fast food:

It’s fast and easy

Of course it is.  That’s why it’s called fast food!  Why does everything have to be fast and easy?  Are we really that lazy?  The American culture has succumbed to the “everything should be fast and easy” and the “busy-itis” mentality especially with the rise of technology.  I read a great book called Fast Food Nation and it talks about the increasing number of fast food chains and locations since the 1970’s.  It’s astounding!  Along with this comes the amount of money involved.  America spent $6 billion on fast food in 1970 and we’re projected to spend $210 billion in 2016!  If you’re a money person like I am, you’ll relate to this quote by Michael Pollan:

“(The price of) fast food simply doesn’t take account of that meal’s true cost — to soil, oil, public health, the public purse, etc,  Costs which are never charged directly to the consumer but, indirectly and invisibly, to the taxpayer (in the form of subsidies), the health care system (in the form of food-borne illnesses) and obesity, and the environment (in the form of pollution).”

It’s no coincidence that the obesity rates have tripled since the 80’s.  In September 2015, the State of Obesity organization reported that 38% of adults are obese and 8% are extremely obese.  Along with this comes the rise of heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke and fat induced cancers 🙁

I highly recommend you read Fast Food Nation: The Darker Side of the All-Amerian Meal.  If you’re not a reader, there’s a movie you can watch made after the book.  I’d also recommend the documentary, Supersize Me.  You may never eat fast food again!

My kids don’t like my food 

Since when did parents become so weak with their kids?  We should teach our kids that food is supposed to fuel our bodies, not to taste great.  Who cares if it doesn’t taste phenomenal?  I deal with this first-hand and that’s always my answer.  No, my kids don’t like it but I’m the parent and I need to be the one to enforce good habits.  Everything you eat doesn’t have to taste great.

Next time your kids ask you for fast food, think about the long-term unintended consequences.  You’re only enabling your kids to become unhealthy and potentially obese followed by major health problems.  Kids mimic what their parents do and then a vicious cycle ensues.  Plus, it’s hard for a child to recover from childhood bullying and poor self-esteem. 🙁

The Vicious Cycle of Childhood Obesity

I’m Addicted

This is most likely true especially if you eat fast food frequently.  This is where calories are not created equal.  The fast food chains are known to put sugar in almost all of their food and sugar is more addicting than cocaine.  Sugar is added mainly as high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.  MSG and casein are also known to be addicting and most fast food restaurants have those substances as well.  This is why we continue to crave it and it’s harder to fight that addiction when there’s a fast food joint around every corner.  Do you really know what your favorite fast food chain is putting in their food?

I was a big fast food eater in college and used the “it’s fast and easy” excuse.  After college, I continued to eat it not realizing it was a major addiction (I LOVED TACO BELL!).  Once I became older and smarter, I cut this food out of my diet and can tell you first hand that you no longer crave it once you get over the addiction.  It does become easier.

Are you addicted to fast food?

 

What should you eat instead of fast food?

There’s a great article from WebMD on 13 quick-fix ideas to help you drive past the drive-through.  This article will give you some good alternatives.

In addition, I encourage you to keep things simple.  Do you always have to make a grand meal or can you combine a few snacks and make a meal of it?  If you plan well, there should always be something to eat at home rather than getting fast food.  It may not be something you’re craving or it may not fill you up like you just ate a Thanksgiving meal but you’ll forget about that once you get something in your belly.  Here are a few quick fix meals we make in my house:

  • Eggs/omelets
  • Frozen pre-cooked chicken patties – the healthy, grilled kind
  • Smoothies – typically involving spinach, frozen blueberries, and a form of protein such as protein powder or peanut butter
  • HelloFresh – a fresh and packaged meal for the whole family.  These pre-packaged fresh meal companies are popping up all over the place.  I like this one because it’s perfect for my family of 4 and you get everything you need in one box, including spices and the recipe, and it’s delivered right to your door.  My 13 year old son loves to help make dinner on Hello Fresh nights plus it allows me to skimp at the grocery store without creating an excuse for fast food.

I encourage you to find other alternatives to fast food.  Think about the unintended consequences on your long-term health and that of your family.  Plus, you’ll end up saving a lot of money if you eat more meals at home. ??

Have You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau?

Have you hit a weight loss plateau?

We’ve all been there and it’s frustrating!  At one point I stopped weighing myself.  Isn’t that how you make that problem go away? 🙂  I still don’t weigh myself and instead focus on how I’m feeling and how my clothes fit.  Full disclosure: I do get weighed by my doctor at my yearly checkup so can vouch that I weigh less than the last time I checked.

I will say I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been because I’ve learned many lessons along the way, albeit through trial and error.  One of my biggest lessons was what I ate.  I’ve always been an avid runner and exerciser.  It’s WHAT I was putting into my body that was cancelling out all my efforts.  I could call all those years of exercising a waste of time but I won’t because I didn’t exercise to lose weight.  It was to help with my anxiety and depression.  Once I stopped eating gluten and got over my sugar addiction, I was able to stop focusing on food.  What I mean by that is I’m not constantly thinking about my next snack or meal.  Instead I think about how to fuel my body when I become hungry.  I don’t care if the food isn’t super tasty and I try to keep it simple.  Aside from that, here are my personal tips on getting over a weight loss plateau and surprisingly, they worked for me:

Exercise Less:

I know this may seem counterintuitive but if you’ve worked hard for many months or years to lose weight, you’ve probably made a good habit of exercising. However, there is such a thing as overdoing it.  Many times when people hit a plateau, they exercise more.  The more your body adapts to exercise, the harder it is to make changes to it.  You need to trick your body’s metabolism.  Don’t let it always think you’ll do the work for it.  Take more breaks!  Instead of working out 6 or 7 days a week, drop it down to 4 or 5.  Whether you’re training for a 5K, a half marathon or just trying to get past a weight loss plateau, be especially mindful of these over-training symptoms:

  • Fatigue, physical and/or emotional
  • Decrease in performance
  • Sleep issues
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mood disturbances
  • Getting sick more often
  • Changes in heart rate during your normal exercise activities
Source: askthetrainer.com

Add Variety:

This is where I noticed a large difference.  I used to run on the treadmill at the same speed and time.  Now I add tabatas, speed runs, HIIT, hills, side shuffles, lunges or a combination of all those things.  Again, it comes down to tricking your body!  I spend too much time on the treadmill to call it “variety” but at least I’m working my fast twitch muscle fibers, glutes, calves, hip flexors, etc… and not doing the same run over and over again.

I complete at least one day of weights per week ranging anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.  Ideally a person should use weights two to three times a week.  However, I’ve found I need to get more cardio in due to my depression and anxiety so sometimes I will combine weights and cardio.  I have about six weight workout DVDs that tell me what to do because I’m lazy that way.  Some of those have two or three workouts so I change it up every week giving me a different workout for three or four months.  It’s nice to have a surprise workout rather than doing the same one or two and getting bored with it.  Remember, if your brain is bored then your body is too.

I try to do hot yoga and the rowing machine once a week as well.  Yoga helps my mood but it works my body in a completely different way than free weights and running.  The rowing machine is an all over great workout and adds variety.

Have you hit a weight loss plateau?

Increase Calories – because Jillian Michaels told me to  🙂

Here’s an excerpt from a Jillian Michael’s article that I believe says it all.

When you have a smaller amount of weight to lose, your body is already healthy, which makes it tougher to lose weight. What people in this situation often do is cut more calories or increase their time at the gym, but this method will not work. All that does is slow your metabolism down and send your body into starvation mode. The best quick fix is to give your body a little more food so it feels secure. Varying your calorie intake is my best advice for keeping your body from plateauing. For the next three days, vary your calorie intake between 1,800 and 2,400 calories. I know this may sound crazy, but trust me — I know what I’m doing. After three days, drop back down to your usual calorie allowance. Remember, never allow your daily calorie allowance to fall below 1,200 if you are a woman and 1,500 if you are a man. Falling below these daily allowances can do real damage to your metabolism and result in excessive loss of lean muscle tissue.

I’ll admit that I haven’t counted my calories in a long time even though you should do a check from time to time to avoid calorie creep.  I will have days when I intentionally eat more though I make sure it’s clean food unless I’m having a cheat day.  I also make sure my added calories are protein.  I have become more of a protein fan over the years.  Maybe that comes natural after cutting out gluten and sugar 🙂  Call me crazy but I love the “heated” feeling you get when you eat a lot of protein.  This tells me my body is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Cheat two days a week – because Dolvett Quince told me to 🙂

I’m a big believer in “everything in moderation.”  I’m not a fan of fad or extreme diets.  I believe you should change your lifestyle to make permanent change rather than going on a temporary diet. I read a great book written by Dolvett Quince called The 3-1-2-1 Diet: Eat and Cheat Your Way to Weight Loss (see below).  This book explains the most effective way to cheat.  In a nutshell, the first 3 days you eat clean, then you have a cheat day followed by two clean days and then one last cheat day and you repeat this pattern every week.  It’s not a fad diet but one that resonated well with me because it gave me permission to cheat!  What happens when you tell yourself you have to eat a certain way every day of every week for years?  You fail fast!  Then when you fail, you call yourself a failure and eat worse than you did before.  It’s OK to give yourself a couple cheat days.  It’s a reward for doing good most of the time.  You still have to be careful not to go overboard but even Dolvett drinks alcohol and eats dessert (you wouldn’t believe it with that body).  I loved this book for the following reasons:

  • permission to cheat
  • easy recipes
  • the workouts mixing cardio and weights
  • I learned a lot from it to get over my weight loss plateau and I didn’t feel like it was a lot of work

I like Dolvett’s workouts because he combines cardio and weights.  I’ve always been one to dread weight workouts.  I’d rather do my run and skip the weight training but his book showed me how it’s possible to do both.  I also like that he encourages you NOT to count reps.  Counting reps always made me batty!  Instead you complete a set during a specified timeframe (such as 1 minute).  If you read the book and give his method a try, please let me know if it helps you get over your weight loss plateau.

Maca Root – Nature’s Powerhouse

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What is Maca?

Maca is a root that belongs to the radish family and is most commonly available in powder form. It’s grown in the Andes Mountains and has been known as “Peruvian ginseng” because it’s used by both men and women to increase libido, fertility and stamina ?.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse that’s dense in amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

I discovered maca when I googled “what can help PMS?”  I was surprised I had never heard of it before but decided to give it a try and I’ve been using it ever since!  I typically add maca powder to breakfast smoothies plus I use it in one of my favorite energy bite recipes (see smoothie recipe at the bottom of this post).

Maca has no serious known side effects but like any other supplement it should not be taken in large amounts. When you first start using maca it’s best to begin by taking smaller amounts such as 1/2 teaspoon.

How does it taste?

It has somewhat of a “malty” flavor and can taste like butterscotch if mixed with a little bit of vanilla protein powder. It doesn’t have a bad taste and even if you’re not a fan of malt or butterscotch, it’s not too strong and its benefits are well worth it.

Maca’s Benefits:

  • Women’s fertility – it balances hormones which leads to regular ovulation (red maca)
  • Pregnancy – it’s rich in vitamins B, C, and E and provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. As always, you should talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about taking it while pregnant.
  • Increases libido and endurance – it’s used to promote sexual function of both men and women and is considered a “potent aphrodisiac”
  • Menopause – it works very well to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and insomnia
  • Osteoporosis – helps reduce/prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone strength and density (red and black maca)
  • Depression – it works as a mood uplifter due to its high nutrient content (red maca)
  • Mental focus and clarity – again due to the high nutrient content
  • Muscle building – men especially like it for this benefit (black maca)
  • Prostrate health and overcoming erectile dysfunction (red maca)
  • Skin – it helps to reduce acne and improve skin tone
  • Energy – within days of using maca your energy level may increase; many athletes take maca for peak performance

Maca is now being produced in China but some believe it’s of lesser-quality.  To be assured you’re getting the best quality you should get it straight from Peru from The Maca Team.  Here’s the link to learn more:

 

Here’s a delicious smoothie recipe.  It may look like the ingredients don’t go well together but you’d be surprised how good it tastes.

Best smoothie for PMS - the maca, spinach and cacao are essential due to the iron, magnesium and vitamins

5 Reasons a Treadmill CAN Work For You

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not opposed to running outside but I LOVE my treadmill.  Over the years it has gotten me through many bouts of anxiety and depression.  It gets me moving in the morning when I’m feeling lethargic.  It helped a great deal when I was training for a half marathon.

Here are the 5 reasons I believe a treadmill is more reliable than running outdoors:

1) Convenience

This only counts if you have a treadmill in your home. Some people say they just don’t have enough space but I think that’s a poor excuse. There are many treadmills that fold up so they don’t take up a ton of space.  I used to have one like this when I lived in a one bedroom 700 square foot apartment and it worked well.

It’s nice not to have to drive to the gym just to get in a quick run not to mention the privacy factor having it in your own home.  I can wear the most worn down running clothes (like when I haven’t done laundry in a few days) and not worry about how I look.  You can find a good price on used treadmills especially with our cyber world and it’s more cost beneficial than a gym membership.  You can then add other items to your home gym that can be tucked away in closets (hand weights, yoga mats, kettle bells, etc…).

2) Safety

I always worried about running outside when I was training for a half marathon.  I would do a lot of my training on the treadmill but I also did some of my longer runs outside.  I would have to get up at the crack of dawn so I could get in a 9 mile run and still make it to work on time.  It was scary running by myself even as it was getting lighter outside. Bad things can happen anywhere. There are many other safety concerns like falling, getting hit by a car or getting bit by a dog.  I’ve known people all three of these things have happened to!

3) Weather

I like knowing I don’t have to worry about weather to get my ideal workout in.  The winter and summer would be brutal if I didn’t have my treadmill.  I give kudos to those people I see running when it’s icy and 10 degrees or humid and 90 degrees!  I’m too wimpy for that!

4) It’s easier on your body

Running on a treadmill belt not only feels better than concrete and blacktop but it’s easier on your joints.  I know people who have bad knees and feet and have made them worse over the years by running outside.  Many people would argue that running in general is bad for your joints, knees and feet but the impact of a treadmill over a long period of time is much less harmful than running outdoors on hard, uneven surfaces.

5) It doesn’t have to be as boring as you think

This is one of the top reasons I hear people say they hate treadmills.  It’s a mental challenge because it’s BORING!  I run on my treadmill at least 5 days a week which is more than I really need to but it’s for my mental health more than anything.  People often ask me HOW I do it and doesn’t it make me crazier?  Not at all and here’s why.

It’s my private and sacred time.  I’m away from chatty children (sometimes fighting children) and work demands. This is the time I catch up on my favorite television shows (DVR) or my podcasts.  I know many people like to listen to music but I need something more engaging.  I’ve even listened to audiobooks while running.

Even though I run on my treadmill many times each week, I have not done the same run in a year.  I go into my run with a plan.  How long will I run? Do I want to work on endurance or build muscle in my legs and glutes? Will I do a hill run or speed run or combination of both?  Will I do a fast walk and steep hills with hand weights?  Will I incorporate intervals or tabatas?  Will I include lunges and side shuffles?  I never do the same run twice and sometimes I even tweak it as I go if I feel I’m not getting a good enough workout.

I have some of my favorite runs stored in my programs on my treadmill but most of the time I’m using runs I find on Pinterest. I have a treadmill workout board with 174 pins that I’ve gotten from many people over the years.  Once I pick which one I want I pull it up on my iPhone or iPad which I set on my treadmill screen in front of me and follow it while watching TV or listening to my podcasts.  I’m really killing two birds with one stone AND I feel great afterward!

Here are a couple treadmill workouts I’ve created:

Treadmill run - beginner

Treadmill run - advanced

Stop Drinking Your Calories!

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We’ve become a society of drinkers.  I’m not just talking about alcohol.  Sugar laden coffee drinks or big gulps from the local convenience store have become a bad habit for many people.  They’re easily accessible and give us a pick-me-up during our busy on-the-go schedules.  Have we stopped to think about how much havoc these drinks are causing on our bodies and mental health, not to mention weight gain?  Let’s consider the drinks we love:

1) Soda, INCLUDING diet soda

Diet soda is my biggest pet peeve!  I call these chemical cocktails because that’s exactly what they are. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, “It’s diet so it must be OK.”  Seriously?  You’re drinking chemicals because that’s what an artificial sweetener is and it’s no different than sugary soda.  It tricks your body into triggering insulin which then sends your body into fat storage mode.  What does that mean?  It means you gain weight!  Plus – do you really think it’s good for your long-term health to drink chemicals?  That’s like saying – yes, I would like to increase my risk of getting cancer.  Whether you drink diet or regular, you should eliminate soda altogether. If you do the math – one can of soda each day equates to an extra 16 pounds of weight each year and four cans equate to 63 pounds! ?

2) Coffee

We love our daily iced caramel macchiato (390 calories and 49 g sugar) or white chocolate mocha (620 calories and 75 g sugar).  But do we love it enough for the amount of weight being gained?  One of these consumed daily converts from 40 to 60 pounds each year and there’s no nutritional value whatsoever, not to mention they leave you feeling lethargic in the afternoon.  I understand we may need a boost of caffeine to start our day so if you must have one, change it to an 8 oz version with skim milk and no whipped topping.  It’s not preferable because it’ll still leave you with a lot of sugar and sodium (ever feel bloated after drinking one of these?).  The best option is to drink your coffee black.  I’ll be the first to admit I can’t drink coffee black.  I get my “pick-me-up” elsewhere and have cut out coffee altogether (see alternative below).  The middle ground option is to make black coffee at home and add 2 TBS organic half & half and a teaspoon of sugar (my husband’s preference).  Plus this is much cheaper so will help you find extra money in your budget. ?

An alternative to coffee I discovered several years ago is EBOOST It’s an energy and vitamin supplement that comes in powder or shot form.  It has green tea leaf, essential vitamins and minerals, electrolytes, super-antioxidants and more.  It’s non-GMO, all natural with only 5 calories and no sugar (no artificial sweeteners either!).  I add a packet of the Acai Pomegranate powder to 12 ounces of water and ice every morning and it serves as my coffee but it’s also considered a pre-workout drink.  Coincidentally I also do my workouts in the morning so l drink it while working out.  I’ll admit I did not like the taste when I first tried it because it’s made with stevia.  Stevia is a sweet herb from South America used as a natural sweetener.  It tastes much like an artificial sweetener, even though it’s NOT, so it took me a couple days to get used to the taste.  The reason I kept drinking it was because of the way it made me feel.  It’s clean energy so you don’t get jittery and you don’t “crash” after drinking it.  Another thing I like about it is the high amount of B-12 which has been helpful for my depression.

Needless to say, I haven’t had coffee in a few years plus I don’t take vitamins.  I get everything I need from my daily EBOOST.

The only downside is that it’s not easy to find so I typically get it from my local Vitamin Shoppe or online.  Here’s a link so you can give it a try:

3) Juice 

I used to be a grape juice junkie when I was in my early twenties but I stopped drinking it when it started staining my teeth purple.  When I stopped drinking it I became super shaky and didn’t feel very well.  I realized I was having a major sugar withdrawal.  Each glass has 150 calories (worse than soda) and 36 grams of sugar and there’s not enough nutritional value to make up for those numbers.  I then started drinking orange juice thinking it was better for me plus I was able to get a lot of vitamin C every day.  Of course I was just telling myself stories because I loved that boost of sugar in the morning with my breakfast.  When I started watching my sugar intake I had to cut out juice altogether because one glass almost doubled my daily allotted amount of sugar.  The best option is to have an orange rather than drinking the juice.  You’ll get more fiber and much less sugar.

4) Alcohol ?

I’m all for a glass of wine from time to time because it helps with my anxiety.  However, it can also do the opposite and make me depressed if I have too much.  There’s a fine line with alcohol.  If you cross the line, it completely destroys your inhibitions.  If I drink more than one glass of wine at a time, I then decide I can eat everything in the house, including the sugary things I’m not supposed to have.  Many people have a hard time drinking alcohol in moderation.  If this is you then you may consider eliminating it altogether.  I’ve learned that I’m good with one glass of wine at a time and no more than three a week.  Even though I love sugary alcoholic drinks, like a yummy Cosmo or a delicious Lemon Drop Martini, I’ve learned these drinks don’t work for me due to the sugar content so are double whammies on my depression!

Stop drinking your calories! Cut out soda, sugar laden coffee, juice and excessive alcohol and drink MAINLY water.

WATER ?

Why not keep it simple and only drink water after your cup of “pick me up” in the morning?  After about a week, you’ll see what a difference it makes in your energy level though you should be prepared for some horrible withdrawal symptoms the first four or five days.  Here’s how to calculate the amount of water you should drink:

Weight in pounds X .67 = number of ounces per day then add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise.

Do you drink a lot of calories?  If so, I challenge you to cut most of it out and let me know how you feel and how much weight you end up losing. I’d love to hear about it. ??

17 Habits to a Healthier Life

ARE YOU READY TO GET YOUR MOJO BACK?

If you’re like me you’ve probably had many ups and downs with your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Do you feel like your life revolves around chasing kids or a big promotion and you’re progressively losing your identity?  It could be you’re stressed out and constantly snapping at your loved ones.  It could be you went to your doctor and she’s told you you’ve gained 30 pounds in 2 years.  How did that happen?  Have you forgotten about yourself?  I’ve learned the hard way that taking care of yourself is priority.

MY Story

This happened to me after I suffered a nervous breakdown when my first child was about four months old.  I was trying to do too much at once plus I had postpartum depression on top of my type A personality.  I wanted everything perfect both at home and work and I took it very seriously when it wasn’t. I can still remember my doctor telling my husband and I he wanted to admit me to the hospital.  I begged him to just let me work it out on my own so I could continue working and take care of my family.  But that was precisely my problem – I cared too much about everything and everyone else and not enough about myself.  Since then I’ve come a long way.  Even though I still struggle with depression and anxiety (have since I was a teenager), I’ve learned the nuances of my mind/body and the daily habits that can help me or possibly make things worse.  It’s taken me about 10 years to learn this but better late than never, right?

There’s no time like Now to make positive changes to your eating, drinking and exercise habits

Sign up for the 17 Habits to a Healthier Life journey - it's free!

That’s why I’ve developed 17 Habits to a Healthier Life.  It’s as simple as eliminating a bad habit or adding a good habit every three weeks for a year (3 weeks X 17 = 51 weeks).  I’ll tell you exactly what to do every step of the way.  Plus, it’s FREE.  Who doesn’t like free?  Your job will be to hold yourself accountable to follow the plan without cheating.  This IS the hardest part but it does get easier over time.  I promise I will NOT ask you to run a marathon or completely cut out your favorite foods.  Everything in moderation, but only if you can handle moderation!  I want you to openly recognize your weaknesses and know when you can’t do moderation (because somehow that piece of cake turns into a whole cake in one sitting – sugar is my weakness)!

Sign up for the 17 Habits Journey

A year, seriously?

Trust me when I tell you TIME IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS in this plan.  We develop many bad habits over our lifetime especially involving what we do or don’t do for our physical being.  These physical habits greatly impact our mental and emotional capacity and thus our whole life balance.  It’s hard to change habits overnight.  They say it takes 21 days to make a habit and the same amount of time to break it.  Why not drop your bad habits and add more good ones one habit at a time.  Psychologically, you won’t feel as restricted and you give your body some time to adjust to the changes without having a mental breakdown.  We’ve all been there!

WHO CAN BENEFIT from this program?

  • People dealing with mood issues (like me)
  • People lacking energy and motivation (was me)
  • People trying to lose weight (was me after my pregnancies)
  • Emotional eaters (was me)
  • People who are consistently stressed out (been there a time or two)
  • Chronic dieters who have yo-yo dieted and now weigh more than they ever have
  • People who have undiagnosed digestive issues (was me)
  • People addicted to food (sugar for me)

How does this work?

Just sign up for my 17 Habits to a Healthier Life newsletter and you’ll receive an e-mail detailing the first habit we’ll be working on.  You’ll then receive an e-mail every three weeks to reveal the next 16 habits.  We can support each other along the way but it would be ideal for you to invite an accountability partner or someone who can follow the program with you.  You’ll then be able hold each other accountable when weak moments happen (and they WILL happen).

Be prepared for THE unintended consequences

I don’t want you to go on this journey just to lose weight.  Yes, you will lose weight and/or see changes to your body if you follow the plan.  However, I want you to approach this with the desire to change your lifestyle.  At the end of the 51 weeks you should not only look different but FEEL different.  Do you often feel tired, depressed, anxious, lethargic, stressed out or down about yourself?  All of these things should go away by the end of the year and probably sooner.  You’ll be healthier and happier.  In the end you’ll find you have more control over your life and will succeed with any endeavors you take on.  Good luck and let me know how you’re doing by responding to my e-mails or commenting on my website.