*Some of you who follow me have noticed a shift in my social media posts as of late. While I will always offer my support to a variety of women for a variety of health issues (far beyond weight loss), I’ve decided to focus my practice on helping women heal their bodies so they can get pregnant. Since I’ve been in practice, that’s largely why women come to me for help, and some may know that that isn’t a coincidence, but it’s time that I share with you why.
1 in 8 women in this country suffer from infertility, and I am one of them. I’ve never shared my entire story with anyone (including my family and husband) because I was afraid to be judged, I was afraid to acknowledge my feelings and perceived inadequacies, and most of all I was afraid of feeling regret for what happened along my journey because what I did (and most of all, did not) do. So here goes.
I was 23 when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. A few months prior I moved from Pennsylvania to Washington state for my first post-college job… I had health insurance so I figured I would finally go get my VERY FIRST pap smear because I wanted to be put on birth control. I had horribly painful cystic acne, and I had been battling really painful, heavy, and LONG periods (2 weeks on/2 weeks off) basically since I started getting my period at age 14… now that I was in the professional world and the only female working in my office, I felt that I needed birth control to get my body under control so that I could thrive in my career. At that point in my life, my period was debilitating and I realized I needed to function better. I had no idea that a horrible period could’ve indicated anything wrong with my body because both my mother (had a complete hysterectomy at 32) and my sister (had her hysterectomy at 37) had suffered the same kind of periods their entire lives too, so I was just under the impression that this was normal and life as a woman was basically just misery.
Now, 23 year-old post-college Janelle didn’t want to get married, nor did I want to have children. 1 am 1 of 6 children, with 10 nieces and nephews to boot, so I figured I didn’t really need to contribute to the family pool any further because my siblings had taken care of that for me. Furthermore, I had also experienced losing a child when my niece Valerie was born prematurely, I was devastated- but seeing how that loss impacted my sister was brutal, I just couldn’t fathom taking that risk myself. So all I wanted were two handsome, scrappy rescue pups to be named Pudge and Biscuit, and collectively we’d be named PB&J (I know, I know), but that was my family plan at age 23.
It was a Monday morning, first appointment of the day, for my pap smear. I pulled in to the medical center parking lot sweating profusely and just had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was so terrified to have someone look at me ‘down there’. (Grew up in a Pentecostal church too so that could be a whole other blog post about that! … and if you know, you KNOW why I’d be so scared)… anywho, I literally bawled while the nurse practitioner gave me my pap smear because I was so scared and so uncomfortable, but it’s what I needed to do in order to get the prescription for birth control so I could stop my awful periods and hopefully clear up my skin. That was the ONLY reason I was there. The nurse practitioner said that she could see dysplasia with her naked eye, so I’d have to have the OB/GYN come and take a look to determine if they should biopsy it right away. WTF. Biopsy?!?! Like what in the actual F would you need to biopsy anything in a 23 year old who has a lot a zits and horrible cramps?!? So, my OB/GYN came and did the biopsy. Writing this write now I can feel the pain of the biopsy, which is a feeling I (unfortunately) had to endure more times that I care to share. With the biopsy done, they handed me the prescription for birth control and told me they’d call me soon with the results and sent me on my way. At no point in time did anyone ask me questions about my period or lifestyle, it was never once mentioned to me that my period experience wasn’t normal. I look back at this appointment with so many regrets for not asking questions and trying to figure things out for myself, and be my own advocate because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW.
Wednesday, two days after my first pap smear and day 2 taking birth control (you best believe I filled that prescription right away!), and I received a phone call from my doctor saying that my biopsy showed I had cervical cancer cells that extended beyond the area of the biopsy. I tested negative for HPV, and they wanted to do a LEEP procedure (where they essentially cut out a large portion of your cervix) on Friday morning. So, I informed my male employer that I needed to take emergency sick leave (who proceed to ask for details of my emergency medical leave and then proceeded to educate me on his thoughts of female anatomy- NOT kidding), and after fighting with my insurance company the following day because they claimed this was a pre-existing condition and they wouldn’t cover the surgery, everything was a go. I had called my Mom back in Pennsylvania to tell her what’s going on, and she told me not to worry because these things happen all the time, at least it wasn’t a hysterectomy because those are far more invasive and painful.
Friday, 4 days after my pap smear, and I’m wheeled in for surgery. I think it was a fairly quick procedure, but I remember waking up in the recovery room to the sobs of a woman next to me who had had a DNC after suffering a miscarriage. I will never forget the sound of her sobbing, my heart broke in to a million pieces for her.
My recovery from my LEEP procedure was odd to say the least. Lots of weird things happen ‘down there’, and matters were only complicated further because 2 days after my procedure I had to fly to Washington, D.C. for a week-long business development trip- basically my firms biggest business trip of the year. If you’ve ever worked in the schmoozy Defense industry, you know trips like this are easily 18 hour days on your feet, nonstop chit chatting with one ego after the next. On top of that, imagine being a 23 year old girl surrounded by a bunch of pervy old men… It was exhausting but I got through it.
The only good thing that seemed to happen at that point in time was that my skin was clearer than it had been in years, and I finally had a period that only lasted 5 or so days! But after you have cervical cancer (or dysplasia even), doctors require that you go in more frequently for check-ups, and rightfully so. Catching cancerous cells early is imperative to ensure they don’t spread elsewhere. Over the course of the next 2 years, I had irregular pap smears every single time I went to the doctor. Eventually they decided to give me internal radiation therapy as the final ‘zap’, which was deemed successful. Over this period of time, however, I also had been diagnosed with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease and that’s when I started to really research on my own about diet and health (beyond weight loss), and if there’s anything I could be doing from a nutrition standpoint to improve my health. I should also state that at no time during my procedures and treatment did anyone once say or recommend that I should consider making changes to my diet or lifestyle, or that someone larger could be going on in my body. NOR did they tell me that all of this could result in my not being able to get pregnant.
Eventually I moved to the other Washington- Washington, D.C. I was still working for the Department of Defense and still taking birth control, which made me feel tired all the time but I was happy to at least not have horrible acne and long, painful periods anymore. I had started seeing a new doctor (obvs- new state), who just was the worst. I had gone in for a pap smear like usual, and she had noticed slight dysplasia so immediately proceeded to a biopsy… I recall asking her (because I was 25 at this point and it truly hadn’t crossed my mind) ‘Will all of this prevent me from having a baby?’ and she literally laughed out loud and said ‘What do you think? You’re way past that.’
Now, her reaction and those words stung a little in that moment. NOW IT PISSES ME THE EFF OFF. (She is still in practice today in Alexandria, VA and her reviews still show that she’s the same A-hole today as she was then.)…but that could probably be a whole other blog topic.
Moving on- I heard her say those words to me 3 months before I met my husband. I met a man who literally loved every flawed square inch of me. I met a man who had been married before and had a son, so in my 25 year old mind I told myself that this was God’s doing because this was his answer to my inability to conceive. But one day when we were dating, we had just gotten done doing one of those 10 Minute Trainer workout videos in my living room at my apartment when he looked over at me and said “I would have a baby with you if you wanted”. That’s when I had to tell him what had happened to me. That’s when I felt completely inadequate and broken. That’s when I felt like I had let him down. That’s when I realized that I really did think I could be a really great Mom and together we could make a some really cute babies (I say ‘babies’ because we’re both fraternal twins and to me that means I would’ve had quadruplets). But it was too late, there was nothing I could do because I didn’t have any options for myself. Hell, I had never been given any options throughout the entire process. I was a naïve young woman blindly listening to her doctors, not asking questions, and seemingly allowing others choose the outcome of my life for me.
Knowing what I know now makes my situation back then seem that much more ridiculous. Why didn’t my doctors want to get to the root cause of my terrible periods? Why didn’t anyone mention some of the things I could’ve done to help support my immune system better through food and lifestyle so that my body could’ve fought off the cancer? Why didn’t I get a pap smear when I started getting my period, why did I believe it was ‘wrong’ to get an examination? Why didn’t anyone tell me about the other issues that could stem from being on birth control instead of just giving me a pill I asked for (as someone who was uninformed and NOT a medical professional)?
So, over the years that man I was dating became my husband. His son became my son. We adopted my handsome, scrappy puppy Pudge (who has lived up to every ounce that I always dreamt him to be) who just turned 10. People would always ask when we’re having kids, and I’d just quickly dismiss that MOST ANNOYING NONE OF YOUR FREAKING BUSINESS QUESTION EVER. And still, after all of this, however, I still had pretty bad periods. After I was told that I was infertile, I went off of birth control right away because I didn’t like the way it made me feel. The result? I felt human again, I just had awful periods. Thankfully, they had started to improve over the years due to the much healthier lifestyle I had grown to lead. Nutrition became my hobby and passion. But one day when I was 32, I had a breakdown in my OB/GYN’s office. My friends were all having children, and while I was blessed to have my stepson and my handsome Pudge, I told my doctor that every month of getting my period was a painful reminder of what I could not have myself. And with that, I had an endometrial ablation to put that reminder behind me. No more periods, no more reminders…
NOW- I realize that some may judge me for this and that is OK. This is my journey, this is my story. I was always someone who pushed feelings and emotions aside so that I could be everything I needed to be for everyone else around me. And honestly, I never fully let myself accept the fact that I struggled with infertility because 1. Infertility for me didn’t look like anyone else I knew and 2. Because I never really grew up wanting children of my own, I sort of felt like this was in some way a punishment for that- like the universe giving me what I had asked for in some way… I’ve also never shared my story before because I’m scared of your judgment, because boooyyyy have I been judged. I’ve had people tell me that I’m ‘Just a stepmom’, or tell me ‘You’re so lucky you get to travel and do all the things without having to worry about kids’… Lucky??? JUST???
Doing this work and helping so many women is so incredibly rewarding. And it’s also made me realize that I have a lot of unresolved feelings and emotions about my past. All the woulda/coulda/shoulda moments. I wish I would’ve fought for myself. I feel as though I just gave up and accepted things as they were. But that’s why I do what I do. I fight for women and their unborn babies. Every woman I help in turn helps me in my own healing and for that, I feel selfish! But I don’t want anyone to experience what I went through. Had I known better, I would’ve started going to see an OB/GYN when you’re supposed to after your first period. I would’ve asked someone to figure out why my periods were so terrible instead of asking for birth control to fix the symptoms of a bigger issue. I would’ve asked the questions about the things that I could do to support my own health. I would have fought for me, so this is my way of fighting for you.
If you are someone or know of someone who struggles with infertility, horrible periods, or just knows there’s something off. I’d love to talk with you/them. Please don’t think you ever have to go through this alone or have to settle for what a doctor tells you is your only option. We are in this together, you’ve got a tribe.
I am 1 in 8.
We’ve heard the buzz term ‘self care’ countless times now on social and mainstream media. It’s been positioned as a bit of a selfishness where we actually take time to care for ourselves instead of everyone else around us. So, in all honesty, I kinda have an issue with that because taking care of yourself is actually self love and in face I believe it to be an act of selflessness, you’re taking the time to make sure you’re in the best place possible so that you can care for others.
Why is self care more important than ever? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock (and by now, even those living under a rock will and/or have been found), we’re living in a pandemic that has shaken most of us to our core. Before this pandemic we were crazy busy, stressful lives full of work demands, family and societal demands, networking and volunteering organizations. A lot of us are used to being on the go non-stop, and that is stressful (whether we realize it or not). And now we’re faced with having to slow down, avoid social contact while being 100% stuck with our families in our homes, we can’t go attend our networking and volunteer events, we feel unproductive and THAT is now making us stressed because it’s different from the life we had before, and we’re not sure if we’ll ever get that back.
Now, one thing is certain. Things are going to stay the way they are for at least the next month. And that’s OK. We’re human, and in that case we need to adapt as we’ve done for thousands of years. If we refuse to adapt it’s only going to leave us more stressed than ever. And what people don’t realize is how detrimental stress (real or perceived) is to our health. At the end of the day, stress is stress. Your body literally cannot differentiate from the sources of your stress, seriously. And when we get stressed our hormones get out of whack and that can lead to a host of issues such as hormonal imbalance, autoimmune disease, depleted immune system, and chronic disease. So it’s important that we learn to not only check ourselves when we’re feeling stress, but we also need to incorporate self care in to our daily routines so that we can relieve stress as we go about our days. We owe it to ourselves, and right now we have no excuses for avoiding it. You can make the time (love you).
Here are my top 5 ways to self care
1. Skincare: Our skin is the largest organ in the body. It’s our first line of defense to the outside world, and it’s pretty sensitive! It quickly absorbs everything you expose it to, so I encourage you to research safe, high quality products to ensure you protect your health too! (I’m also always happy to help make recommendations too). But, implementing a skincare routine now, if you don’t already, is a wonderful way of getting you to take some time out of your day to relax and pamper yourself. Who doesn’t want clear and refreshed skin? We’re not getting out of the house anytime soon, so give your skin a break from makeup and let it breathe! Try incorporating a face mask a few times a week, or just get in to the routine of washing your face in the morning and in the evening. Your skin will thank you!
2. Exercise: We’re no longer walking from our cars to the office (which some people do claim as their exercise), but we need to take time to move our bodies. Not only is it beneficial for lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and releasing endorphins that make you feel good, exercise is a foundational element of simply using your body for what it was made for- movement! There are SO many FREE resources available right now so that you can workout from home, you’ve probably seen a few on Facebook already. Everything from yoga, Orange Theory Fitness, cardio/kickboxing to weightlifting (if you have the equipment). I’ve personally been a Beachbody customer for years now because I prefer working out at home (introvert), and their online streaming service has been a great resource for me because for $100/year I have access to a library of workouts, every kind you can imagine, that I can access from anywhere. And it’s not like you need to workout for an hour or two a day, you can get a great workout in in 30 minutes or less. Let me know what you end up trying and tell me how you feel afterward! I promise you it’s worth it!
3. Cooking: I know some of you are thinking “I already cook and I don’t like it”, but hear me out. Do you truly enjoy what you’ve been cooking? Are you trained to know how to do it well? A lot of celebrity TV chefs are hosting free cooking demos on their social media pages right now, which is pretty cool. And there’s also a host of online resources that are available to you at any time if you would like to learn how to up your cooking game. You could learn new techniques and dishes, and turn cooking in to an activity that not only nourishes your body but also your soul. And if it’s not something you truly enjoy doing, consider telling yourself that you’re grateful for getting the opportunity to cook.
4. Rest: This can look different for a lot of people. But right now, it’s OK to slowdown. Everyone else is and nobody it better or worse than you are, so get over the comparison of watching Susan declutter and hand scrub every square inch of her house. Take the time to rest and recover, even if you didn’t have a crazy busy day. Take advantage of this time in our lives when you are literally being forced to do less. You will survive. There’s also lots of different ways you can ‘rest’ without it being sitting in front of the tv for hours or simply taking a nap. Find a quiet corner and read a book, enjoy a nice long bath, work on a jigsaw puzzle, color in a coloring book, listen to a podcast… rest doesn’t have to equate doing nothing, it just has to equate something that brings you peace.
5. Get outside: Vitamin D and fresh air does SOOOO much good for us! Not only does getting some sunshine help you produce Vitamin D in your body, but that Vitamin D helps produce serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that makes us happy. 🙂 15 minutes is all it takes to get our daily dose of Vitamin D too! Being outside is also a place where we can ground ourselves. Humans are meant to be in nature, so talking a walk or hike, or simply sitting outside and listening to the sounds of nature is incredibly soothing to the soul. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point (and if it’s warm enough), take your shoes off and walk through the grass. Doing this is a technique called grounding, and it’s incredibly effective at shifting the energy you feel in your body in response to the calming energy of nature.
So, can you incorporate some or all of these in to your daily/weekly routine? Remember, taking the time out of your day to do these things for yourself is NOT selfish. You absolutely deserve to feel calm, you deserve to feel rested, you deserve to feel GOOD. And making sure that your stress levels are in check, meaning that you’re feeling at ease and able to adapt to the situation at hand, will serve you beyond this time. You’ll be more prepared to deal with and adapt to stressful situations in the future, and overall I guarantee you’ll see an improvement in your health in both the near and long-term.
Well, since we’re all stuck at home and a lot of restaurants are having to either close their doors or offer limited services, I figured now would be a good time to share some resources on how to menu plan and meal prep!!! HOORAY!!!!
I, personally, love meal prepping… menu planning is a whole other thing. For me, there’s just something so gratifying about opening my fridge and always having some form of protein already cooked and ready to eat, along with cleaned and cut veggies for a quick and handy snack! I realize that I live in a little bit of a Type A bubble, and it’s hard for me to grasp that some people don’t do this and actually go to the grocery store every single day. Since times have changed, we have to be better prepared to not only efficiently grocery shop to navigate the store in a timely manner, but also ensure we get the items we need so that we’re not having to make repeated, unnecessary trips. So, here are the things that I do every single week to make sure that I’m prepared for whatever gets thrown at me (like having to stay indoors for days/weeks at a time!)
1. Sit down and right out a menu. Have you ever heard that a ‘failure to plan is a plan to fail?’ It’s true! This week I challenge you to sit down for 5-10 minutes and just write down your favorite family meals. And if you’re new to this, keep it simple! Once you have your meals written down, write down the ingredients. BOOM- your grocery list is complete.
Here’s an example of a few favorite staple meals in my house:
• Spaghetti: Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, and ground meat of choice. (I always serve this over a bed of greens because why not.
• Stir Fry: Mixed veggies that I have leftover in my fridge and diced protein (for us usually elk or chicken), diced up and lightly pan fried in coconut oil, served over rice and topped with sesame seeds and coconut aminos.
• Pesto Zoodles with protein: Zucchini noodles with pesto sauce (I just buy from Costco) and serve with a protein usually lightly pan fried in avocado oil… you could do a ground meat of choice, tempeh, tofu, or even beans.
• Brupper aka ‘breakfast for supper’: Eggs, toast and/or roasted potatoes and/or pancakes/waffles along with sautéed greens.
• Roasted potatoes, protein, and veggies: this is probably the biggest staple in my house… literally viewing my plate into quadrants and just filling the space with ¼ potatoes, ¼ protein prepared any way, and ½ veggies. EASY PEASY.
So, to recap, once you’ve got a menu written down, make a list of the ingredients that you need. Then you’ve got your grocery list.
2. Grocery list. In order to make sure you set yourself up for success in the grocery store, take the extra minute or two to separate your list based on the section of the store the item you need is in. Produce, Meat/Dairy, Aisles… This way you’ll be able to cruise through your list in a timely manner and hopefully not forget things and/or have to go back and retrace your steps to grab something you forgot (since we’re trying to be efficient with our time).
3. Meal Prep. If there are things on your list/menu that can be made ahead of time, DO IT. Set aside an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon just to clean, chop, or roast items that can be made ahead of time. I, personally, like to wash and chop all of my veggies at once and then store them so they’re easily accessible. I also like to prepare some protein (like roasted chicken, salmon, cod, hardboiled eggs) to keep on hand too. It doesn’t have to take a long time, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. The more you complicate things the harder it will be to turn it in to a habit. So start small, start simple. The more you become comfortable with it then you can add in more challenging recipes or steps if you’d like.
4. Get comfortable in your kitchen. So, you’ve meal prepped and now you’ve got to cook. Make your kitchen a place you enjoy (as best you can with what you’ve got)! Arrange things so that they’re easy to access and find and most of all, make it fun!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some additional resources that you may find helpful as you get started!
• Cook Once Eat All Week: I refer my clients to this cookbook if they’re getting started in home cooking. This helps you maximize not only your time in the kitchen, but also meal planning and prepping! You’d be surprised how much money you save on groceries too.
• Meal Planning Online Courses: Yes, you really can find everything online! This is an affordable online meal planning and prep course that you can take to help you get better organized and prepared!
• Basic online cooking school: Are you looking to improve your culinary skills? America’s Test Kitchen offers an affordable online cooking school that helps you up your game in the culinary department.
I hope these items help you embrace this new adventure in home cooking. Beyond being able to create healthy, nourishing meals at home, I hope that you’ll see this as an opportunity to bring your family together during this challenging time by creating some nourishing traditions. One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting around the dining room table every night with my parents and all of my siblings. And then getting older and being able to share kitchen time with my family and preparing meals with and for them, it’s just a real gift that we have to come together in that way to truly nourish each other.
So, I wish you happy planning and happy cooking. <3
Have you ever been called, or do you consider yourself to be a ‘hangry’ person? (Hanger = Angry + Hungry)
Do you wake up hungry in the morning and feel the need to eat something right away before you’re able to function?
Do you struggle to lose weight? Do you suffer from hormonal issues like PCOS?
Are you able to consume a lot of sugar at once without experiencing a ‘sugar rush’?
If so, your body may be telling you that something pretty serious is going on that’s holding you back from reaching your health goals: Insulin Resistance.
Insulin resistance defined
Insulin resistance is the term given to what happens when the cells of our body don’t respond properly to insulin. Basically, whenever we consume food, our blood sugars naturally rise, and in our bodies homeostatic effort to lower those blood sugars to normal levels, insulin is released. Insulin resistance occurs when our cells don’t react to that release of insulin, allowing our blood sugar levels to simply rise and rise, eventually resulting in a severe blood sugar crash. It is the driving factor that leads to Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
How insulin resistance develops
In general, insulin resistance can develop from being overweight, having too much belly fat, not enough exercise, not enough sleep, and eating a poor diet. When your diet is full of empty calories, an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc), the body slowly becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and needs to work in overdrive to try and keep your blood sugar levels even. Since your cells aren’t responding to all of that insulin, your body isn’t able to process the blood sugar for energy and you develop an insatiable appetite (I refer to it as the sugar monster) and all of that excess insulin gets stored as fat in your body.
Symptoms and risk factors of insulin resistance
High blood sugar and insulin levels in the blood are your first and foremost warning sign. However, there are lots of other signs that point to it too. They include:
- Difficulty losing weight. Excess blood sugar and excess insulin gets stored as fat in your body.
- Other health issues like: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Fatigue after meals. This is what we consider a ‘crash’. Your body gets hyped up from your blood sugar levels raising, and since the insulin doesn’t phase your blood sugar levels anymore, it plummets quickly and you get tired.
- Sugar Cravings. If you’re constantly eating some form of sugar and constantly crave more, this is a sign that the bad bacteria in your gut (which thrive on sugar) are constantly in search of food. Unfortunately, this also indicates that the good bacteria in your gut aren’t flourishing.
- High Triglycerides
- Low HDL
- High blood pressure
- Overall inflammation
- Waking up hungry first thing in the morning. Unless pregnant, nursing, a child, or you have an over-active metabolism, waking up starving in the morning is not a normal thing. Our bodies are genetically designed to go for extended periods without food (at least 12+ hours).
- Hanger. We joke around a lot about getting ‘hangry’, and Snickers even did an ad campaign based on it. But hanger is also not a normal reaction. If we get to the point where we’re so hungry that it impacts our mood (read: HORMONES), especially if it’s only been a few hours since our last meal, that’s a sign of insulin resistance. It is OK to feel hungry. It is OK to not snack (in fact, in general we shouldn’t have to snack if we eat proper, nourishing meals). It is NOT OK to feel anger, rage, irritation, and frustration over going a few hours without something to eat.
- A large waist. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement gives you your hip-to-waist ratio. A ratio bigger than 1.0 for men or 0.8 for women indicates your abdomen is obese, increasing your likelihood of insulin resistance and increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Can you cure insulin resistance
In my opinion, absolutely! I only say that because I used to have every single one of the above symptoms and risk factors myself. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. So, I personally know that it can be done through a change of diet and lifestyle. You have to be committed to changing your life and reclaiming your health. Here are the steps I took to reverse my insulin resistance and reclaim my health.
- Take an honest assessment of the food that you eat. If the majority of the food you eat comes from a box or a bag, rethink your eating habits. Ditch things that come in a box or a bag, and opt for foods that are in their natural state like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Learn about the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a valuation of foods based on the impact they’ll have on your blood sugar levels. The higher the valuation on the glycemic index, the faster that food will spike your blood sugar. So aim to eat low glycemic foods that will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
- When eating carbohydrates, combine it with a healthy fat (like nuts/nut butters, avocado, coconut, butter, olive oil). Why? This helps your body slow down the digestion of the carbohydrate, assisting your body in maintaining steadier blood sugar levels through digestion.
- Ditch sugary drinks. Drink water. Sugary drinks literally add 0 value to you. They’re a waste of calories and a waste of time.
- Consider intermittent fasting. This is actually one of the fastest and most effective way at normalizing hormonal shifts in your body, especially insulin resistance. Aim to eat all of your days calories in an 8 hour window (or less). Your body thrives off of allowing your digestive system some rest. Since ridding myself of insulin resistance, I don’t wake up hungry and only naturally start to get hungry around lunch time, so my ‘eating window’ is usually between 11 am and 7 pm. That’s what works for me, but you can experiment with eating windows yourself and gauge what works best for you.
- Prioritize sleep. I challenge you to make your sleep a priority starting for 1 week. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Find a workout program that you like and aim to workout 5 days a week. Movement does so much for our health and makes it easier to reverse insulin resistance. You don’t have to kill yourself, just find something you enjoy and do it.
Insulin resistance isn’t a life sentence, nor does it mean you’re doomed for Type 2 diabetes. Yes, it does make things a bit more challenging for you, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or struggle with PCOS and are trying to conceive. I will tell you that you cannot allow this to be an excuse for not reaching your health goals. (#toughlove) If you have a goal to lose weight, get pregnant, improve your mood or energy, and you 100% can control the outcome of this condition then by all means- DO IT. Is getting healthy hard work? Yes. Is being unhealthy hard? Yes. Choose your hard. At the end of the day you’ll never regret putting in the work to improve your health.
If you think you have insulin resistance and are looking for accountability or a plan to help you overcome it and reverse the condition, let’s talk.
I recently posted a poll on Instagram asking my followers if they’ve ever heard of dry brushing, and if so, do they do it. I was surprised to find that about only 40% knew what dry brushing was and of that 40%, NOBODY actually did it! So that’s why we’re here today to talk about all that is dry brushing.
What is dry brushing?
Dry brushing is a type of Ayurvedic medicine* that’s been around for centuries. Basically like the name states, it’s brushing the skin in a particular pattern on dry skin using a dry brush, usually before showering. You should start at your feet, and brush lightly over your skin and moving towards your heart. You’ll remove dead skin cells, improve circulation, and help stimulate your bodies natural detox system. It’s really a very simple technique that has so many health benefits, so let’s dig in!
*(Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit.)
Benefits of Dry Brushing
1. Lymphatic Support
This is my absolute favorite benefit of dry brushing. Our lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs (think lymph nodes) that help rid the body of waste, toxins, and other unwanted materials. (When I was in my Anatomy & Physiology class, I always referred to the lymphatic system as our bodies trash man as an easy way to remember its function.) The lymphatic systems transports lymph, a clear fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells, all throughout the body, which means that the lymphatic system is incredibly important in supporting the immune system. What’s more, it also helps us absorb fatty acids and transport fat to the circulatory system.
Dry brushing actually helps stimulate the movement of lymph throughout your body, similar to the same way a massage helps stimulate that movement too. Depending on the amount of toxins and waste that are built up, you may experience soreness or discomfort after a massage or dry brushing. This is totally normal and a sign that your body is working to remove that from your body.
This is usually what people notice the very first time they dry brush. Using a firm, natural bristled brush over the skin helps to loosen and remove dead skin cells, naturally exfoliating the skin. This can help your skin feel softer and also opens up your skin to better absorb any scrubs or moisturizers you apply to the skin later. I, personally, really like Beautycounter’s Lemongrass Sugar Scrub and Lemongrass Body Butter. They’ve helped me combat my dry, itchy skin in this dry Colorado climate.
3. Reduces Cellulite
Now, evidence for this is anecdotal at best, but lots of people claim that regular dry brushing helps to reduce cellulite. It’s known that cellulite is largely genetic (grrr), but it makes sense that lymph can get a little sluggish in some areas (think the back of your thighs) and stick around and create that appearance of cellulite. There isn’t a ton of research to back up these claims, but with the lymphatic support and exfoliation alone I’d be more than happy if cellulite reduction is an additional benefit.
4. Natural Energy Boost
The act of dry brushing helps to stimulate your sensory nerves, helping you feel revitalized afterward. Because of this, many recommend that you only dry brush in the morning prior to showering, however, I do this in the evening before I take a hot bath and I’m just fine. That said, I also am one of those people who can drink espresso for dessert and sleep soundly… but if I eat something with sugar or drink wine, I’ll be up all night (go figure). So, if you’re sensitive to caffeine then you may want to try this first in the morning.
How to practice dry brushing
Now, this isn’t something you need to do every single day, unless you really like it and want to. You’ll experience the benefits simply by doing this 2-3 times a week. To start, use a natural fiber brush with a long handle… I emphasize the long handle because I, personally, do not have a long handle on my dry brush which results in my having to contort my body to try and reach my back. Trust me, you want a long handle. From there, follow these steps:
1. Start at your feet and move up your body. Always brush towards your heart.
2. Brush your skin using wide, circular motions.
3. Use light pressure in areas where your skin is thin and harder pressure on thicker skin, like the soles of your feet.
4. Brush your arms after you have brushed your feet, legs, and mid-section. You should brush upwards toward your armpits.
5. After dry brushing, take a shower or a bath to remove the dry skin.
6. After your shower, dry off and moisturize.
So, I encourage you to give dry brushing a try sometime. At a minimum, it just feels lovely and is a great addition to any self care routine.
You know, back when I worked in marketing for a huge financial services firm, when people found out what I did for a living they’d quickly change the subject to something far more interesting, like the weather. Now that I answer the ‘What do you do for a living’ question differently, with ‘I’m a Nutrition Therapist’, 50% of the time it’s met with wanting to pick my brain on how that person can be healthier without me actually knowing their individual situation. The other 50% of the time that answer is met with the individual barking ‘I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO EAT HEALTHY’ at me as if I’ve somehow judged or lectured them in merely stating that I’m a Nutrition Therapist. It’s quite entertaining actually because when I get the latter reaction it always reminds me of the random ‘I LOVE LAMP’ scene from Anchorman… but I digress.
So, for the 50% of you who already do know how to eat and be healthy and all the things, this blog post is not for you. You will not learn anything new so no need to comment and point that out to me (I already know, thanks!). I will, however, be writing a blog post in the future for your 50% titled ‘I already know how to eat healthy I just choose not to’. For the other 50% who are on the ‘can I pick your brain’ bus and actually care to hear my thoughts on quick and easy ways you can improve your health, then stick around and read my top 5 SUPER easy and effective ways to improve your health!
Yeah, I know you’ve heard it before, but you’ve heard it before because it’s really effective and easy and cheap. There’s really no excuse for you to not be drinking water. It literally has 0 flavor, making the ‘I don’t like water’ argument really unacceptable.
Why is water so good for you? Here’s a list of reasons!
- You’re made of 60% water, so you actually need it just to live. It’s more important than food even when it comes to living, so there’s that.
- It flushes out toxins
- It boosts skin health
- It regulates body temperature
- It helps maintain blood pressure
- It lubricates joins
- It boosts energy
- It improves digestions (read: it helps you poop better)
- It helps you better absorb nutrients from your food
- It boosts exercise performance
- It helps with weight loss
That’s just the tip of the iceberg (hey- those are made of water too!). At a minimum, one huge change you can make in your day is to start off every morning by drinking a glass of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice in it. It slowly wakes up your digestive system and literally gets your day moving. But really, if there’s any 1 simple thing that you can do right now, it’s to start drinking water. Aim to drink half your weight in ounces a day!
Avoid foods with a shelf life longer than you! If you must have a processed food, choose ones with 7 or less ingredients. Bonus points if you can easily pronounce all of those ingredients too!
I think in this day and age most of us have heard how processed and refined foods are bad for us. We know they’re full of gluten, trans fats, sugar, chemicals, preservatives, and Lord knows what. Those ingredients are largely what cause inflammation and weight gain and unfortunately these are all regular components of American meals. Macaroni and cheese, cake/muffin/cookie/bread mixes, instant mashed potatoes, cereal, crackers, and pasta are all things commonly consumed on a daily basis.
So, if these are items that you eat regularly, I challenge you to find options that have 7 or less ingredients in them. If you can’t find an option that has 7 or less ingredients then I challenge you to making said item using whole foods, from scratch. Like the good ‘ol days.
Ditch the fake oils (canola, margarine, ‘butter spreads’) in place of real oils like avocado, coconut, extra virgin olive oil.
We’ve been taught to fear fats. We’ve been taught to eat ‘fats’ that are made up of less fat. The problem with that is that we’ve taken an otherwise healthy substance, removed the beneficial nutrients, and created something that does more harm than good in our bodies. Canola oil, margarine, and butter spreads are highly inflammatory- but gained popularity because it is cheap and is marketed as being heart healthy since it’s unsaturated and low in cholesterol. The problem with that is you’ve got a product (margarine contains plastic btw) that actually is incredibly unstable. It becomes rancid easily, and when ingested your body basically treats it as a trans fat. That in turn increases inflammation in the body, which can lead to higher cholesterol, chronic illness, and other diseases.
Real fats like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, ghee, and butter are an important part of a healthy diet! They provide a lot of essential fatty acids that are so beneficial for our overall health, in addition to providing a save way to cook our food. Pay attention to smoke temperatures of oils and how they relate to your cooking. For pan frying and sautéing, choose high heat oils like Avocado, Coconut, Ghee, and even Lard. For salad dressings and marinades, choose lower heat oils like olive and sesame oils.
You cannot go wrong eating real food, plain and simple.
MOVE your body. Get that heart rate up!!!
We were made to move! We know that exercise is important, but movement of any kind is really beneficial to our overall health. Whether you like high or low impact, just find something that you enjoy and do it! As a society we are so sedentary- we sit at our desks, we sit in our cars, we sit on our couches and stare at a screen all night. And, the more you sit the more stiff you become, which actually leads to greater risk of injury because you’re not working the muscles that are designed to support your body. Here are the many benefits that movement can provide!
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps control blood sugar (read: helps improve hormone balance)
- Helps control weight
- Builds a strong, healthy heart
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves circulation
- Improves digestion
- Helps boost metabolism
- Helps strengthen lungs
- Helps the body detox
Ideally, you’d be moving 4-5 days a week for 45 minutes or so at a time. But if movement and exercise is new to you, just start small! Aim for 10 minutes a day. Go for a walk over your lunch break, take the stairs, park far across the parking lot from the store- every little bit counts and it’s never ever wasted.
Eat the RAINBOW
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me say this a time or two, to EAT THE RAINBOW. And I don’t mean Skittles. I’m literally talking about paying attention to the colors on your plate. Hopefully you’ll be choosing a wide variety of whole foods, and eating with the rainbow in mind is a simple and effective way to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that serve your body.
So, there you have it. My 5 easy tips on improving your health. Hopefully you find this informative and helpful, and remember, you don’t have to do all 5 at once! Take it one week at a time. Start with simply drinking water for a week, then add another item the following week. This is your journey, and you’ve gotta make these work for you so that they become a permanent part of your healthy lifestyle.