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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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Time to Learn!

I just wanted to share my news with everyone. Living with an autoimmune-related condition can be hard and exhausting at times, especially as I try to juggle in between flare ups.

But

I decided to take my experiences and move more into the health and wellness arena by starting this blog, working with a preventative health company to share some of the blogs and working for a research scientist who focuses on wellness. So I took another step and decided to apply to a masters degree in public health program that focuses on nutrition.

And … I’m excited to announce that I received my admission letter today to UNC Chapel Hill!! I’m amazed and so so thankful to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. And of course, I will update this blog with information that I learn. I can only hope that it is helpful to all!

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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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What’s your why?

Everyday, I have a decision to make: to either do all the things to give me a chance to feel great that day or revert back to old habits that weren’t the best for me. Every. Single. Day. I say this because every day is NOT a great day but I choose to move forward with something that can help tomorrow.

Why? Even when it’s hard. Why? Even when I seem stuck. Why? Even when there’s no progress. Because I cling to my reasoning behind what I’m doing. See, when I started my journey in getting healthier, my nutritionist asked – what’s your why? I took that to mean- what’s the reason that is so strong that even when I don’t feel like it, I’ll keep at it. My why?

Elimination of pain

So as I’ve mentioned, PCOS can cause low grade chronic inflammation which I definitely deal with. Well when everything is inflammatory, then it can have negative effects on the body including the wearing and tearing of joints; this can lead to osteoarthritis. And arthritis is painful. Pain is that motivator for me.

I plan to start the autoimmune protocol diet in January to start targeting what may be causing pain and to heal the gut, which I need in the worst way. When you wake up in some level of pain everyday, then you will look for ways to reduce pain – physical therapy, gentle exercise, NSAIDs, more sleep, Epsom salt baths, CBD oil, dietary changes, weighted blanket. I’m trying them all in an effort to minimize pain and enjoy each day.

So what is your why? Whether you are just starting or looking for ways to stay motivated, I encourage you to find a strong reason to stay on track. Writing it down and sharing your reason with accountability partners are both great recommendations that I’ve used. On my vision board, I even include ways to accomplish my goal.

What is YOUR why? Share below and motivate someone today!

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Meal time

I have been asked by some family members and friends a lot – what do you eat?! I think the misconception is that I barely eat or eat “weird” food. One person asked when I was going to go back to eating real food. I thought that’s what I had been eating! 🤷🏽‍♀️

So I’m including today’s meals. Breakfast was a homemade smoothie. I’m dealing with a flare up with my joints so I try to really focus on nutrients more at this time. I don’t have a picture but I just included –

  • Vitamins (I just open them up and dump into the blender)
  • Collagen powder
  • Flax seeds
  • Turmeric powder (have to get this inflammation down)
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Parsley
  • Dollop of walnut butter
  • Frozen berries and cherries
  • Coconut milk
  • Ginger root
  • Splash of honey and vanilla extract

Breakfast is super easy and I tend to have smoothies when it’s warmer or when I’m managing a flare up. Lunch was just a protein bar. I run errands on Saturdays and need something that I can have on the run. Not the best nutrient wise but it’s so much better than crying over fast food! True story!!

This was Saturday dinner. Weekend dinners tend to be different than what I eat during the week as I try to find something I wouldn’t get during the week. I happened to go to a particular grocery store and snow crab clusters were on sale 🤩🤩 the pic is 👇🏽

Trying to focus on nutrients and reduce this inflammatory response, I decided to have blueberries for antioxidants, black beans for fiber to get toxins out, roasted collard greens chips to capitalize on nutrients and crab legs for protein. I eat seafood wayyyyyyy more than any other protein so sale prices are always welcome 🤗 And I try to get at least 6 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. Again, focusing on nutrient density.

If I’m feeling up to it later, I may have a square of dark chocolate. Your thoughts on the food choices? What would you recommend? Until next time…

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Sugar Rush

It’s that time of year when sweets are in abundance EVERYWHERE! I even saw this display at a local big box store. There were even TWO displays and they were gone within a couple of weeks 😱

Bags of sugar!

And it’s sooooooo tempting to give into all the sweets. But the sweets are laced with so much sugar! And yes, I used the word “laced” because sugar lights up the same parts of the brain as drugs. I have been researching the effects of sugar for years and while I don’t have the links for proof, please take the time to research what I mention below:

  • Sugar is addictive (as mentioned above)
  • Regular sugar has no nutrient value to add to your food
  • Sugar suppresses the immune system, making it harder to get better when you’re sick and consuming it
  • Sugar in excess seems to affect the level of sweetness that your taste buds become accustomed to
  • Sugar is detrimental to so many body processes and functions

When I consume too much sugar in a sitting or in a day, I can quite literally FEEL all these areas of my head lighting up because I try to minimize sugar as much as possible. My joints ache and hurt, making mobility much harder. And the uveitis in my eye begins to flare and it’s really hard to get that down. Whew!

So what do I do? When I do add sugar on purpose, it’s usually honey or maple syrup. I do have treats sometimes – there’s a non-dairy frozen dessert that I like or I may have portions of organic dark chocolate. But pain is a motivator and on my quest to live and feel optimally, then avoiding excessive sugar is a must.

Enjoy your holiday season! I’m just reminding you to be mindful of what you eat. Everything affects your body and wouldn’t it be great to be at your best over the holidays? 🤩 That’s my goal!

Got any recommendations on how to keep the sugar to a minimum during the holidays? I would love to hear your advice!

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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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Experiencing Cryotherapy

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.

Sooooo I decided to give cryotherapy a try! It’s touted to help decrease inflammation, which I am still trying to work on. So I thought- why not?! I decided to search for locations in a couple of areas and landed on one that has a special if you were visiting for the first time. Great!

Near the entrance

While the location that I visited was small, the staff was super helpful. I used the changing room to switch to shorts and a workout shirt. Then I had to pile on a ton of safety gear so that there’s no frostbite or anything; this includes heavy gloves, extra thick socks, heavy slippers and a covering for my ears. I felt like I was going camping in Alaska!

Then the attendant explained that I would walk into the first chamber for and be there for 20 seconds. He would then buzz for me to enter the freezer where I would be for 3 minutes! I do like that they allowed me to pick my choice of song that would be played inside the chamber to take my mind off the cold 🥶

Just outside the cryo chamber

The first chamber actually was not that bad. But when I had to step into the freezer – 😱 is I’m sure what I looked like. Well not at first. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I tend to get cold really easy. But it wasn’t bone chilling cold, just I’m shivering through these 3 minutes cold! But I made it out 😁

Would I go again? Yes- I want to get tested for my c reactive protein level before I go again and then retest in about six months to monitor the effectiveness of cryotherapy. They also have an option to do localized cryotherapy which I could try on specific parts, like my knee. I think that would be helpful.

So what about you? Have you tried cryotherapy or similar? Let me know what you think and share your story!