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Birthday update!

Yesterday was my 46th birthday! 🥳🥳🥳🎉🎉🎉

And I’m so grateful for another year. I started an active rehab program with a wellness center to have better mobility and build strength, both of which I need. Since being there, I’ve been able to go forward down the steps rather than turning sideways, bend the right knee more regularly (yay!!), do water exercises weekly and incorporate more yoga on the floor rather than in a chair.

I also started taking medication for Ankylosing spondylitis and that helps tremendously for pain and fatigue. I’ve got a way to go (because brain fog is real! 🤯) but I’m so glad that I’ve made progress. I’ve even started walking more regularly, which had been a challenge because joints would be painful with swelling.

And I’m continuing to work on diet and lifestyle. My sleep is still spotty at best, but I’ve started reintroductions for the AIP and I’m now on stage 2. I did add black and pinto beans early because I needed the calories and feeling of fullness from fiber!

And I’m including a recent photo comparison. The pic on the left is from my cousin’s wedding, just over 5 years ago. The one on the right is earlier this week at the beach with family.

Hope your health journey is going well!

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Healthy with Friends

As I’ve mentioned, I really started focusing on new ways to get healthier in August 2018. But before that, I had tried so many times to lose weight and would get to a certain weight and get stuck! In the in-between times, I would just think – screw this – and eat or do whatever I wanted, even if it wasn’t healthy.

What I have learned in this health journey is that having others who are moving in the same direction as me is key. That being said – a memory popped up on FB today from 7 years ago with a good friend. In the “then” picture, she had lost 15 pounds and I had not even tried again.

And then there’s our now pictures. We took very different paths to achieve better health but look how far we’ve come! My friend is a workout queen, working her way down to a size 6. I am more the lighter workout (think yoga, walking, bike riding) person and am at a size 8. And we both changed our eating habits, though I am much more strict since I’m following the AIP.

And I have other friends who are working on their health too! Be that person who motivates others to make a change to become healthier 🤗. I recently read a quote that where you will be in 5 years will depend on the people you hang around. Get some friends traveling in the same direction as you. It makes a difference!!

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Surprises with the AIP

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

Capturing how I’m feeling!

I have been on AIP (the autoimmune protocol) since January 1 and while there have been challenges, it has not been as dramatic of a change as I thought it might be. I had a win Friday! 🙌🏽

I manage osteoarthritis and get steroid shots in both knees a couple of times per year. In not planning as well as I needed to on Tuesday, I had to grab a protein bar to eat something while prepping for a lunch time meeting. Keep in mind, I had that same protein bar before AIP and thought that it did not affect me. But, later that night, I felt a twinge of pain in both knees and my ankles were much stiffer. I knew it was the bar! 🤦🏽‍♀️

So I readjusted and made a puréed vegetable soup to really focus on nutrients. And when I got up Friday morning, no more ankle stiffness or pain twinges. That was a great learning experience and it shows how far I have come. Before, when eating foods that arthritis doesn’t like, I’d be in a ton of pain in less than 2 hours! Like barely walking with the cane type of pain.

And then today … I did part of a yoga workout on the ball and could bend and lift knees, though not as high as instructor! 🧘🏽‍♀️I have not been able to get the right leg to bend and lift for months doing the exercise!How amazing is that! That’s combined with doing a short 1000 step walk beforehand without my knee sleeve!!! 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

This is such an unheard of breakthrough for me. I’ve read so many testimonials from people who have had such amazing health wins once they started AIP but those are generally from people who have autoimmune diseases. And technically, I don’t. Osteoarthritis is not and while PCOS is akin to autoimmune disease with a published paper making the argument that it should be, it’s not either. But I thought hey, what could it hurt to try and focusing on nutrient density is always important.

I will continue to document this journey, including reintroductions to find out what works for me and what doesn’t. If you don’t know a lot about AIP, I would definitely recommend finding out more, even just to dive deeper into better health. And if you know someone who has an autoimmune condition and think they could benefit, share this post with them!

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The AIP and me

Allow me to remind everyone that I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my journey that has allowed me to move toward better health.

If you caught my first update of the year, then you’ll remember that I wanted to try the AIP, autoimmune protocol. So what is it? It’s a complementary elimination diet to remove foods that could be a trigger and help heal your gut. There’s also a lifestyle component that focuses on sleep, reduction of stress and movement among other things. Now I will be honest, I tried a semi-elimination diet about 2 years ago but didn’t go all in.

And going all in for me is EVERYTHING!

I find that if I try to slowly transition, I’ll cheat because I keep putting off the next item to eliminate. This time, I did go about 95% elimination as there were food items that wouldn’t last too long. But I didn’t replace those. So now I’m going on all in. And here are my thoughts:

  • Meal prepping is crucial. Since I’ve eliminated so many things, I have to cook alllllll the time. I live in a college town and there are just lots of chain restaurants and fast food places. I do have a couple of go to places just in case but I’m trying to limit my use of those.
  • Sleep is your friend! I have to go into the office one day per week and need to get up earlier to be on time. But my go to bed time is about the same = less overall sleep. And I can definitely tell a difference.
  • Movement as exercise. This is a carryover from working with my nutritionist (who I’m starting to work with again!) but finding movement that works with you and doesn’t burn you out is important. I overdid my movement today while watching Encanto and dancing merengue in my living room! But I recognize that and will focus on restorative movements tomorrow.
  • Trying different recipes has been very helpful. I also track my nutrients in an app to see where I’m landing since the goal of AIP is to focus on nutrient density. In my case, dialing back my fats would be helpful.
  • And I can’t say enough about drawing inspiration from those who have completed the AIP and seen such tremendous progress. My goal is to try this for 3 months before methodically introducing food in stages. In full transparency, the first 10 days were not fun. It was like a detox for me but I know that doesn’t happen for most. If I have detox symptoms again next month, I’ll try introductions earlier. It’s recommended to do AIP for at least 4 weeks before reintroductions.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes! Have you tried an elimination diet? If so, how did it go for you? Let’s share our experiences!

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Update: first of the year

So I had my annual physical with my primary care doctor today. I really like working with her because she listens and tries to help based on my lab results, how I’m feeling and what might have been treated by other doctors in the past. Below is my update on issues I’ve mentioned in the past:

  • Iron level: still sketchy. I tested 6 months ago and it was low. Now, it dropped almost another point even though I take iron 3 times each day and liver pills. Since I have heavier cycles, I’ll be getting some testing done with an ob/gym
  • C reactive protein level: still elevated BUT…lower! In the past, I had hs CRP measured but the lab with the doctor just did CRP. And from my understanding, the conversion is based on a factor of roughly 10. So in converting my 39.5 CRP to hs CRP, I would be at a 3.9! This is AMAZING!!!!!!! My last test was done at the end of 2020, around November and it was 19

So, mixed results. My weight was about 8 pounds less than last year but I’m not really concerned about weight. I’m more than okay where I am. I’m just trying to see what is going on with these iron levels!

What are my health intentions this year?

1. Increase iron level

2. Continue to decrease c reactive protein

3. Better mobility in knee and neck areas

To help, I started the autoimmune protocol. It’s basically an elimination diet to help lower inflammation, heal the gut and find out what food triggers I might have by systematically reintroducing foods with a journal of results. I’m starting with 3 months but may go up to 6 months if needed. And I’m trying to find a functional or integrative doctor.

What are your health intentions this year? How are you going to make it happen? All the best in this new year! 🤩

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Then and Now

About a month into my journey to feel better, I started taking pictures to chronicle my progress as the scale doesn’t always correlate to progress. And I still do it because the body dysmorphia is real! I may not see myself as the size that I started, but I also don’t see my current size the same way others do.

So …the left hand picture is from September 2018. I remember buying that shirt; I loved it! It was a size XXL from JCPenney. The picture on the right is from last week. I am going to a funeral and, as usual, most of my clothes are too big *sigh*. I live by a Gap factory store that has AMAZING prices so I headed there to find something appropriate. The sweater is a small 😱 I haven’t worn a small since 8th grade while running track! The skirt is a size 8, both by banana republic 😱 I don’t ever remember wearing anything below a size 9. I’m always amazed when I see these comparisons.

How it started. How it’s going

And as you can see, I still have a knee sleeve on as my right knee continues to be a challenge. That day, I had gotten steroid shots in both knees so I’m still researching ways to improve joint health and minimize inflammation and arthritis. I plan to start the autoimmune protocol (AIP) in January to continue to reduce inflammation and figure out what triggers I may have.

I’m also focusing on gut health and started a new probiotic that is supposed to be great. With all the research available about the gut and the need for bacterial diversity to support health, I’m hoping that the probiotic, along with continued modifications, will help. And on most days, I aim for 5-6 servings of veggies and 1-2 servings of fruit along with protein; I eat a good deal of fish. All of this is a change from then to now.

Let me know what changes you’ve made and seen in your health. And any tips to reduce inflammation are great appreciated! To your good health…

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Eating across America – Wellness Wednesdays

One of the hardest parts of changing my eating habits was finding an acceptable place to eat when I travelled, especially for work or vacation as I may go to an area that I’m not as familiar with. So today I’m doing something different than my other posts. Let’s chat about great places to eat that may meet dietary restrictions.

As I mentioned before, I follow a cross between the paleo diet and the AIP protocol, focusing on nutrients like iron, my continued problem child 😃. So I can’t just say- oh let me grab a breakfast sandwich from this chicken place that has wonderful biscuits and chicken! And that can create a problem. I have quite literally sat and started crying because I’m hungry but have no idea of what food is in an area that I won’t have a reaction to later. whew!

So…let’s share recommendations of where we can eat. I’ll start with what have been go to places for me.

  • Whole Foods market. Prior to the pandemic, this was by far the best place for me to go. The hot bar lists what is in the food so it was an easy choice. I went to Whole Foods in: Manchester, NH; Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Long Island, NY; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Huntsville, AL; Nashville, TN; San Antonio, TX; Santa Cruz, CA; Sacramento, CA. Yes, it’s that’s serious!
  • Restoration Cafe in Manchester, NH has great smoothies. I cannot do almond butter and almond milk but this place carried other nut butters and coconut milk.
  • Founding Farmers in the Washington DC area. I love love love this place. The menu is seasonal and always super fresh.
  • Zoe’s kitchen is one of the only chain restaurants that I frequent but the quality isn’t consistent. Some are always great but others aren’t so good.
  • First Watch is probably the only other chain restaurant that I go to and only for very specific items. Quality is always consistent so when I get a quinoa bowl in Franklin, Tennessee, it tastes the same in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Green District Salads in Louisville, KY. A relatively newer place with a few locations around the area. You can customize salads or wraps and they’re always tasty and fast.
  • Zameen at the Point in Capitola, CA. This is a small Mediterranean spot that I came across while in the area. It was soooo good and very fresh.

What places do you recommend? If you live outside of the United States, I invite you to share your recommendations as well – have passport, will travel! And if you have enjoyed the wellness Wednesday series, let me know and I’ll keep posting. The series was to be limited to summer so this may be the last post; let me know!