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Mindset: The #1 factor in your success

With today being the first day of a new month and the beginning of the final quarter of 2019, I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering where this year has gone. I’ve been reflecting a lot about this past year in relation to where I thought I’d be by this point in time, and I’ve got some work to do in order to reach my goals. I could spend hours stewing on all the different ways I’ve not measured up when it comes to building my business or my personal health goals, but I know better than to do that. Besides, I can pinpoint the one single thing that’s prevented me from reaching my goals: my mindset.

When it comes to any challenge in our lives, whether it be health, business, relationships… our mindset matters MOST in determining whether or not we’ll find success. When we get our mind right, things just seem to happen a little bit easier for us, doesn’t it?

There are so many different ways our attitude (and mindset) can impact our lives. Did you know that there is actual scientific evidence that proves the power of a positive attitude when it comes to health outcomes? It’s true! Johns Hopkins even cites a positive attitude as a component of aging well, and those with positive attitudes are much more likely to have better outcomes when faced with serious health issues like heart disease, traumatic brain injury, and stroke.

Beyond the power of positivity, simply having a can-do attitude about situations sets people apart from one another when facing certain challenges. I’ve talked about aspects of this in social media posts from time to time because I see a lot of different attitudes with the work that I do, especially as it relates to making changes to ones lifestyle to address a specific health need, and I can usually determine within a 5 minute conversation whether or not an individual will have an ‘easy’ time reaching their health goals, or if it will be a bit more challenging for them. With nutrition therapy, I always design a protocol for clients based on what their goals are in relation to their individual health assessment. These protocols typically involve making a good number of changes to a clients’ lifestyle in order to help them reach their goals, and quite honestly, it’s a LOT of work for my clients to make these changes. That’s not to say that it’s bad or really hard, but it requires a mental shift to embrace the fact that they’re going to have to do some work and make some changes along the way. (Remember, a protocol only works if you put it to work for you!) I’ve had prospective clients flat out tell me they won’t change certain aspects of their eating even though they know those eating habits aren’t good for them. I’ve also had prospective clients tell me that their intent in working with me is so that they can clean up their habits for a short period of time to alleviate health symptoms, but they plan to go back to those bad habits once their symptoms are alleviated… (THIS MAKES NO SENSE TO ME). To me, this shows that they aren’t mentally prepared yet to make a true commitment to themselves in order to achieve improved health.

On the flipside, I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients who are fully ready and mentally prepared to take on a challenge. I have one client right now who has had to implement the toughest protocol I’ve ever developed. For starters, she’s had to eliminate close to 40 foods that she’s highly reactive to… she’s now the most creative home chef I’ve ever heard of and has embraced this so well she’s even started her own blog to document it and share it with others! Even though her ‘diet’ is limited at the moment, instead of focusing on what she can’t have she’s focused on all the food she CAN have and appreciates how these foods make her feel. And while she’s seen huge success so far when it comes to weight loss, the biggest shift she’s experienced is in her mindset… beyond the kitchen, she’s seeing a ripple effect in other areas of her life too. She’s got a crazy stressful job and she feels she’s better suited to deal and roll with the stressors that she’s presented with every day. And instead of wanting to stress eat, she shifts her thoughts to focusing on the future and what lies ahead of her. She sets goals, achieves them, sets new goals, and keeps moving forward.

Now, given all the successes, that doesn’t mean that it’s all rainbows and unicorns everyday. This is hard work to remain in a positive mindset when surrounded by so much negativity in this world. Add to that unsupportive people or individuals who just don’t ‘get’ what it is you’re doing, things can get tough! That’s why it’s important to stay focused on your goals and remember why you started in the first place. Mindset work takes time, it’s a commitment, and something you have to train and work just like a muscle. And just like everything else in life, consistency is key to your success.

Here are some tips on how you can train yourself to have a more positive, can-do mindset!

1. Seek out the good in people, don’t assume the worst
2. Smile and laugh more
3. Practice reframing- focus on the things you have control over and not the things in which you can’t control
4. Start a gratitude practice- every day, write down the things you’re grateful for, when you train your brain to seek out the blessings in your life, the more they’ll become apparent all
around you
5. Build resiliency- learn how to accept that change is part of life, take action on problems rather than waiting for a situation to resolve itself
6. Write down your goals and keep them in a place where you can see them every day- having a constant reminder of what you’re working toward simply keeps them top of mind and help you stay
committed to your goals, and yourself.

A much needed mindset adjustment

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog and I gotta be honest, I’ve been feeling less than inspired as of late. Starting a new path in life is hard, and the past few months I’ve allowed a lot of self-doubt to creep in to my head and I’ve been struggling with feelings of inadequacy and wondering if I’ve made a mistake or if I’m truly doing what I’m meant to do.

Where do these feelings come from? For starters, I know these feelings come from years of being less than kind to myself and allowing others to be less than kind to me too. I grew up in a household where comparison was constant because I have 5 siblings, and the worst comparisons were made (and still are) between my twin sister and I. She was the skinny, pretty twin. I was the chubby, smart twin. It sounds silly but those really were our identities when we were younger and it did not lead to a great place in our relationship. My twin and I were estranged for close to 20 years because of all the repercussions of those stupid labels. What a waste of life, feeling like part of your heart was missing, all over labels that people forced on you. On top of that, as the ‘smart’ one (which drives me nuts because my twin is incredibly intelligent), I still had a parent tell me that I’d never get in to college. So these feelings of ‘less than’ are deep-rooted.

And labels are hard to move away from. Beyond my chubby, smart label, I was also the independent, rebellious kid who left my home state for the farthest point away (in the contiguous U.S.) after college with both middle fingers in the air, vowing never to return. At 22, I was dealing with these same feelings of inadequacy. I wanted so badly to build my own identity that I could be proud of. And, for the most part, I was proud of who I was becoming. I had a budding career, overcame some serious health issues, was living on my own and paying my student loans and medical bills, and was really proud of myself never once asking anyone for help. But, despite all of that, I still allowed certain people in my life to treat me as though I was inadequate. I allowed a boyfriend of mine to ‘encourage’ me to lose weight, while constantly putting down my family’s blue collar roots. I allowed a boss to repeatedly call me a ‘bitch’ (NOT KIDDING) because I beat him at xbox, in addition to allowing him to control nearly every aspect of my life. I had another boss who deliberately scheduled an out-of-state work assignment on what was to have been my wedding day, and because I was dumb enough to be committed to that job I actually cancelled my wedding plans and we got married at the courthouse (I lost that job 2 days after we got married)… and it’s hard for me not to feel as though I’ve brought it on myself. On the other hand, these experiences make me value and appreciate where I’m at today. I have the cutest husband, a restored relationship with my twin sister, I have my own business… so why am I feeling so freaking insecure at this particular moment?

Truthfully, it’s just a bunch of different little things. I have had a couple conversations in the past week that didn’t sit well with me. One woman decided to share with me that I’m irresponsible for having left my corporate job, while another told me it’s cute that I sell makeup… I didn’t feel the need to try and validate myself to these women who know nothing about me, but it did get in my head a little. Then, I’ve had friends send me links to jobs they think I should apply for, and while I know it’s well-intentioned, it makes me wonder if they believe I should be pursuing my passion because if they did believe in me, why the hell are they sending me jobs to apply for? And on top of all that, I have been in my head a lot lately about my own self-worth. I left a cushy 6-figure career to start my nutrition therapy practice and there are times when I think “WTF DID I DO?!” I love the work that I do, I love helping people take control of their health, and I love building awareness on the simple things we can do to live happier, healthier lives… and I can’t lie, I do miss my old paycheck. I tied a lot of my identity to my salary, and even though I don’t actually notice a difference financially, it’s still something I struggle with. I know I’ll get there again one day, but not ‘contributing’ to my household the way I used to has messed with my head a little bit. (And no, at no point has my husband ever brought this up- this is all me. He’s been incredibly supportive of this transition.) Then I think that people won’t take me seriously as a nutritionist, and this imposter syndrome/attitude comes up. Looking at other nutritionists on social media, they seem to have it all figured out. Beautiful profiles, fancy pictures, the perfect captions… and then the actual physical comparisons we go through…‘Nutritionists should be skinny, I’m not skinny, nobody would want to work with a nutritionist who isn’t skinny’. Comparison is the root of all evil, I know this, but when you’re feeling insecure in the slightest, this is where comparison will just pummel you down even more. I am so f-ing done with it, I just want to get to the point where I’m comfortable in fully owning ME and who I am and what I stand for.

I’m not writing any of this to get any amount of sympathy, I just felt it on my heart today to share what I’m feeling , why I’ve been quiet, and how I plan to tackle it head on. My husband and I do a 3 week cleanse every year to reset ourselves before we start our (literal) hunt and gather season. We eat pretty darn healthy to begin with, but we’ll be 100% plant-based for the next 21 days. On top of that, I’ll be stepping back a bit from social media. I’m giving myself space to work through these thoughts and emotions I’ve been having lately so that I can release what no longer serves me. I know deep down that I have something to give, I know I am meant to do this work and I know that I add value. Toxic thoughts and emotions have energy and that energy can weigh us down, and I am so ready to get rid of it and move on.

So, I’m going to come back refreshed and energized. I’ll be keeping a journal of my experience and will share when I’m ready. This level of self-care is much needed.

For me this is personal- Type 3 Diabetes

This was actually supposed to be my very first blog post… one that I’ve started at stop no less than 30 times over the past 7 months. Every time I start I get so overwhelmed with emotion and before I know it, I’ve written a novel and the marketer in me knows that ‘good’ blogs aren’t too terribly long and are ‘scannable’ and easy to read… and I just haven’t been able to fit this subject into what is deemed ‘good’. So I’m breaking the rules and ignoring what I ‘should’ do. I’m hopeful you’ll read this and hopeful that maybe it’ll resonate with you, maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s selfishly therapeutic so here goes.

My handsome grandfather, John.

A lover of suspenders and snap-up shirts with double pockets on his chest, my grandfather always lived life to the fullest.

A lot of people know that my grandfather was really important to me. When my twin and I were just days old, my dad took us to meet him and apparently when my dad arrived at my grandpa’s house it was feeding time. So my dad threw me (not literally) and a bottle in the arms of my grandpa and he fed me. Shocker- he won my heart via my stomach and our bond was unwavering from that moment forward. He was my person, my best friend. He taught me so many things! He taught me how shoot a gun with both eyes open, he taught me how to drive, he taught me the importance of hard work and a good education, in addition to the art of ‘bullshitting’. He taught me about economics (‘Nelle, what do you think about the price of eggs in outer Mongolia?’) and how to trade stocks online, how to save and invest for my future, how to do my taxes… He taught me the best way to cure a cold is to take a shot of Wild Turkey and head to bed. He would always tell me I was beautiful when others were making fun of me for being overweight and having bucked teeth. And he would also tell me that I could do or be anything that I wanted as long as I was willing to work for it. He came and rescued me the morning my mom left my dad when I was 16… just 3 days prior to that he woke me up at 5:30 in the morning with Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little 16” blaring on his jukebox to wish me a happy birthday. And he gave the BEST hugs.

He grew up very poor and as the only boy in the family, started working on a farm at a very young age. He served in the Korean War where he earned a Bronze star, and when he got home he worked 3 jobs to support his family while simultaneously earning his degree in accounting. He started his own accounting firm which still stands today in Palmyra, PA. During tax season, the only way I’d get to see him was to have my parents take me to his office where I could squeeze hugs in between his client appointments. He was a work hard, play hard kind of man who loved country western movies and music, and especially John Wayne. And during the summers, we’d get to go spend a couple of weeks at a time with my grandparents (and my parents only lived 5 miles away) and we’d play in the pool, ride horses, ‘camp’ in the backyard (in a camper… in the middle of town).

Even with all that I’ve written about him so far, I feel like I’m not even scratching the surface of who my grandfather was. He had a larger than life personality and an incredibly huge heart. I know that he wasn’t perfect, but to me he was.

I also learned about Type 2 Diabetes as a young child and open heart surgery. He would sit us down and make us prick our fingers to test our blood sugar levels ever so often. Thankfully, my twin and I never had issues but we learned the numbers to know when my grandpa needed to adjust his insulin, which we also learned how to give him those shots at a young age. I learned what Diabetic Shock is, and it’s quite terrifying. We had taken a trip to Disney World with my grandparents when we were 10, and after a long day in Magic Kingdom my grandfather’s speech started to become slurred and he had difficulty walking and seeing. Once we got him back to our hotel room he started to convulse and my grandmother sent me out to find the fastest meal (a cheeseburger) to get to him to help bring his sugar levels back up. I was terrified. I thought in that moment that I lost my best friend in the happiest place on earth… thankfully it was the only time I saw him go into shock like that, but it stuck with me. He also had a 7-bypass open heart surgery in 1987… I don’t know how much you know about that, but it’s a BIG deal. He was told that he’d be lucky to live another 5 years after that surgery, and knowing how stubborn he was it really wasn’t a surprise that he lived another 24 years after that surgery. (Seriously- THAT is incredible!!!)

A teddy bear in real life.

A huge civil war fan, my grandfather would always visit the Boyd’s Bears store during his trips to Gettysburg.

He would take nitroglycerin tablets for his chest pains every once in a while, but other than that we all thought he could just manage his diabetes by adjusting his insulin according to his blood sugar levels. His doctors said he could drink all the diet, sugar-free sodas he wanted to, but beyond that he really only had to avoid sugary sweets (like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, those were his fave). So instead of those sweets, he replaced them with sugar-free pudding, sugar-free fudgesicles and creamsicles… He loved hamburgers with tons of ketchup on top… he would go through CASES of those diet sodas each week, and BOXES of those popsicles a day. And all we’d do was check his blood sugar twice a day and adjust his insulin dose appropriately. He lived like this for decades.

Then, one day he started repeating himself, A LOT. He also misplaced a large sum of money, which was not characteristic of a man who knew where every penny was at any given time. He’d be driving along somewhere and forget where he was going so he’d turn around and go home. It got to the point where he didn’t ever leave the house. He would sit and ask my grandmother (and anyone else around), the same question of “what are we doing now?” (among others). My grandfather, who once was obsessed with personal hygiene, stopped bathing. And then one day, after being home for a weekend from college to visit, he completely broke down when I was leaving and told him I was heading back to Penn State because I had class the next day. In that moment, my grandfather realized that he couldn’t remember the past few years when I graduated high school and left for college. In that moment he wept in disbelief and horror and thought we were playing a cruel prank on him. The next moment it was gone as if something so traumatic had never happened. I was gutted. To see my grandfather so upset crushed me. Besides the one time he and I saw Saving Private Ryan together, I had never seen my grandfather cry before and in that moment he wept. It was a glimpse of the man (or mind) that he once was and had. My grandpa had Alzheimer’s.

In the years following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis it became more challenging to manage his diabetes (he couldn’t remember what he ate!) and his heart health continued to decline. At one point doctors said only 25% of his heart was actually functioning, and they believed that contributed to the Alzheimer’s because so much less oxygen was getting to his brain. My grandmother and Dad were his caretakers for a few years before he finally was placed in a nursing home where they made him shave his trademark silver beard. Then, one day, my grandfather asked a nurse if she could please help him out of his wheelchair and over to sit down on a couch, where he passed away peacefully. I cannot begin to tell you how I feel writing this, it’s as if it happened yesterday. It kills me that I wasn’t there with him, but I know that he’s at peace and he’s got his mind and health back. He’s probably now living out his wildest dreams of riding horses and being the cowboy he always wanted to be.

Always a beautiful smile.

Celebrating his 80th birthday.

It may sound strange, but I cannot help but feel guilt about how my grandfather and his health ended up. My grandfather lived life to the fullest ALL the time, and with that came a constant state of stress that his body was in. From trying to manage his diabetes to his heart issues, his body was constantly fighting to get itself to a state of normal. And the food that his doctors said were OK for him only poisoned him more.

When I decided to check out Nutrition Therapy programs, I went to audit a class at the Nutrition Therapy Institute where I went on to earn my certification from. I took off of work and was so excited to go sit in on a Nutrients class. During that class we discussed the chemical structure of sugar and had an in-depth discussion on the effects sugar had on the body. To say what happened next was mind-blowing is an understatement. We got in to a discussion of how when we consume sugar, our bodies release insulin in an effort to normalize our blood sugar levels. In turn, when insulin is released, or bodies also release cortisol (the stress hormone) as a way to get the rest of the endocrine system to wake up and fix whatever is wrong in the body. Now, over time, this stress response will erode the coverings of the nerves in your brain (called myelin sheaths), which basically act like little conductors between the nerves that help our nerves essentially ‘connect the dots’. When those little conductors wear away, they aren’t able to connect with each other and signals in the brain aren’t able to be completed, resulting in memories issues, etc… At that point, a lightbulb went off in my head and I raised my hand and asked my professor if she felt there was a correlation between diabetes and Alzheimer’s to which she responded “Dear, we refer to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 Diabetes.”

Now, this isn’t the ONLY way that Alzheimer’s can happen to us, but it’s a big one. And when you think about the fact that over 30M Americans have some form of diabetes and over 80M Americans are pre-diabetic, this is a BIG deal. It’s a health crisis. I’ve witnessed a lot of health issues in my life, but Alzheimer’s is the most disgusting, horrifying disease and I would not wish it on anyone. It robs you of your mind, it robs caretakers of their own health and well-being, and it takes such an emotional toll on everyone in the situation that I’m still not sure if you ever are really able to recover from that.

I often think about what I could’ve done to help my grandfather. Still. What if we had known those sugar-free sodas were so toxic? What if we had insisted that he eat real food instead of all those sugar-free treats? What if we had been more vigilant about the amount of ketchup he put on his hamburgers??? What if we had realized the constant state of stress that his body was under (because it was always working in overdrive to ‘fix’ itself), that we had considered effective ways to reduce his stress? Seriously, I think about that almost every day and I feel guilt over all the things I didn’t know back then. He deserved better than what he got.

After that class, I decided to enroll to get my Certification in Nutrition Therapy. I honestly had no intention at the time to leave corporate America to do this full-time, I just thought that I’d like to help people on the side in hopes of even preventing 1 person from ending up like my grandpa. So he’s a big part of my why. If I can help bring more awareness around how importance it is to naturally be able to manage blood sugars and stress in the body, I am here for it! It’s what I choose to do to honor him.

GMOs: What you need to know

I’ve talked before in social media posts about the importance of choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible in an effort to obtain optimal health. If you think about it, any food that we consume that is closest its most natural, primal form is going to be the best option for us. Why? Well, for starters, foods that are in their most primal form are higher in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), free from pesticides and herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Obviously vitamins and minerals are good for us and we get those on some level in most types of food, whether they be whole foods or processed foods ‘enriched’ with those micronutrients. But it’s when we start to mess with the food we consume that the quality of the micronutrients starts to deteriorate. A lot of people assume they can simply wash off pesticides from their produce and the food is fine but, like human skin, a lot of our produce skin/shells/peels absorb those chemicals and you still end up consuming them. Add to that a fruit or vegetable grown from a GMO seed, and the actual quality of the food you’re consuming (even though it’s a fruit or vegetable and automatically assumed to be healthy) begins to further diminish.

A typical roadside produce stand

A beautiful country produce stand. <3

GMOs have become accepted in society today because they are so widely used and certainly do have ‘benefits’ (albeit not benefits for your health, more so for the business side of the agricultural world). Like the name states, GMOs are modified to be able to withstand a multitude of environmental factors so that they can continue to grow and be plentiful in an effort to mitigate any crop loss and in turn, lost profits. GMO crop seeds can be altered so that the crop will be able to grow with less water if a farmer is in an area of the country that’s drier, GMO crop seeds can be altered to grow faster if a growing season is shorter in a certain area of the country, a GMO seed can be altered to deter certain pests and bugs that would be a natural threat to a crop… now, clearly there are a lot of advantages, from a business perspective, for using GMO seeds for crops as they can help mitigate uncontrollable situations that can have harmful and adverse effects on a farmers crop and livelihood. BUT, would we as a society be OK if we decided we wanted to alter human genetics and find a way to ‘grow a baby’ in its mothers womb in any timeframe shorter than 9 months? Or find a way to ensure that a baby had blue eyes or would grow to reach a height of at least 5’8”? No. We would NOT be OK with that, so why are we OK with modifications to our food chain that exists to nourish and support our health and well-being?

There are greater costs than crop production

Environmental: GMO crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable due to their detrimental impact on natural habitats and species.

Human Health Implications: GMOs were introduced in 1996, so we are really only scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long-term implications of GMOs in our food chain. Animal (unfortunately) studies have shown GMOs to cause organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies have shown that GMO foods leave material behind inside us and a great example of that is the toxic insecticide of GMO corn being found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. Beyond that, numerous health problems have increased since 1996. More Americans suffer from chronic illnesses more than ever before, food allergies have skyrocketed (in my kindergarten class we actually could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cough cough) in addition to autism, reproductive disorders, and digestive problems being on the rise since GMO introduction. To top if off, our cows are treated with GMO Growth Hormone, which in turn has shown that cows milk from treated cows contain higher amounts of hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)- which has been linked to cancer.

Who is going to protect us against harmful GMOs?

You. You are who is most going to protect you from GMOs. Each of us is responsible for our own health, safety, wellbeing, and happiness. Educate and empower yourself about where your food comes from, how it’s grown, how it can impact your health. Unfortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require a single safety study, nor do they require the labeling of GMOs, and they allow companies to put their GMO foods in to marketing without even notifying the agency. They claim they have no solid information showing that GMO foods are any more harmful or different than, say, organic foods. Even though the science is there to show and prove the harmful effects on our population, and that as a nation we are sicker than ever, our government does not see food quality and safety as a priority (even when healthcare is truly a national crisis at this point).

You CAN shop wisely! Lists like the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen were created to help you navigate a produce department and get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. The Clean 15 is comprised of the ‘cleanest’, least-contaminated conventional produce items that are deemed safe to eat in their conventional state. The Dirty Dozen is comprised of fruits and vegetables that should be purchased in their organic state, as they are either likely GMO or highly permeable and susceptible to herbicides and pesticides that we can end up ingesting.

My pie in the sky dream is for one day the conversation to not be about GMOs at all. I recognize the ‘benefit’ (from a business standpoint) to the American farmer as I have farmers in my family and I know how incredibly hard they work every single day. (Talk about a profession that doesn’t allow for much, if any vacation!) Their livelihood depends on the ability to farm in a way that ensures crop safety and durability, I get it. Small family farming operations are the heart of this country and it’s very near and dear to my heart. I just hope that one day we get to a point where our health as a society is a priority again, and sustainable, organic farming is the expected norm, not the exception. We as consumers can vote with our dollars by choosing safer food options for ourselves and the environment. When we do that, you increase the demand for those products and over time, can actually normalize an industry. We can also encourage our lawmakers to value people over profits, and to drive the food (and pharmaceutical industry) to overhaul our system so that it truly benefits the citizens, and not the large corporations who ultimately profit from our illness.

We deserve better for us, our children, our children’s children. We know better, now let’s do better.

Family farming operation in Annville, Pennsylvania.

A hot summer morning overlooking my hometown of Annville, Pennsylvania.

Taking control of Autoimmune Disease

Did you know that over 50 million Americans suffer from a form on autoimmune disease? Autoimmune disease is one of the most significant health-care issues facing the world today, with over $100 billion spent every year on conventional treatments. There are over 100 different types of autoimmune diseases, and another 40 diseases suspected to have an autoimmune component. That is a big deal. Diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Grave’s Disease, and Psoriasis are all examples of autoimmune diseases and chances are you know someone who has one, or have one yourself.

What is Autoimmune Disease?

In short, autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system, which is designed to protect you from foreign invaders, starts attacking your own tissue. This is done by the creation of antibodies, which usually identify and destroy pathogens and help you recover from illness. With autoimmune disease, the antibodies target your own healthy issue, which leads to inflammation and destruction of your own cells. There are two types, organ specific (like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Type 1 Diabetes) and non-organ specific (like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus). The most commonly impacted organs are in the endocrine system, think the thyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands. And the most commonly impacted non-organ tissues are the blood and connective tissues like muscles and joints.

How do you get Autoimmune Disease?

Genetics play a part for predisposition, so it’s common to see autoimmune disease run in families. For example, my dad, twin sister and I all have psoriasis.
Environmental Triggers account for 1/3 of your risk in developing an autoimmune disease. Pathogens, chemicals and substances that your immune system is exposed to can greatly impact your risk. (This is why you see me talking a lot about the importance of safer personal care products!)
Diet and Lifestyle play a huge role in your risk. Poor diet, lack of sleep, lack of movement, drug exposure, and stress levels play an important role in our lives. Those who experience acute and chronic stress have a significantly higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

How do you know if you have Autoimmune Disease?

Well, unfortunately, most autoimmune diseases go undiagnosed for years. Most autoimmune sufferers have general symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, migraines, weight gain/loss, and pain. And because of that, a lot of autoimmunesufferers aren’t taken seriously when they’re trying to find answers for their illness because they don’t ‘look’ sick. If you think you might have an autoimmune disease, do your homework and be your own advocate. Only you can tell how your body is feeling, and you know when something is ‘off’. Don’t ever let someone tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong.

How I manage my autoimmune disease

This will come as no surprise, but my nutrition is the top way that I manage my autoimmune disease. Because I have psoriasis (which a lot of people just think of as getting weird little rashes on your skin), that means I’m that much more at risk to develop another autoimmune disease. But what I’ve found is that certain foods directly contribute to my psoriasis flares, which can be very painful and humiliating depending on where the flare occurs. (I once cut bangs because I had a patch appear on my forehead… as someone with a widows peak, the bangs were almost more torturous than the flare itself). For me, gluten is the top irritant for my psoriasis. And I get that it’s a ‘fad’ to be gluten free and I certainly get my fair share of people thinking I jumped on a bandwagon or, my favorite, they think I avoid gluten for ‘attention’… (why YES, I really would love to go out to a pizza restaurant so that I can simply sit there and smell the pizza and not enjoy any of it.) Sugar is another trigger, I avoid refined sugar and when I bake I go for lower glycemic sugars to use, like coconut sugar. How do I know these are triggers? Well, beyond developing more psoriasis patches, the triggers literally make my joints and skin hurt, almost as though my whole body is bruised… that’s the best way for me to describe it. But if I avoid gluten and sugar and eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, I’m in good shape!

Beyond that, I try very hard to manage stress as it can make my entire body feel as though it’s on fire from the inside out. I take long, hot Epsom salt baths probably at least 3 times a week, I meditate, I pray, I write in my gratitude journal, I spend time outside in the sun. The mental battle to fight stress takes a lot of work, but when my ‘practice’ is in a good place, then my sleep is better and my stress levels are lower and overall, I feel good.

Lastly, I exercise at least 6 days a week. That may sound like a lot, but it’s never for more than 30-45 minutes. We all know that exercise is good for us, but it’s really tricky for someone to navigate with autoimmune disease because most times we’re so tired or in so much pain that it makes exercise seem impossible. Super high impact workouts actually work against us, as do long workouts, because they actually cause our bodies to go into ultra-stressed out modes that can put us in to a flare. Personally, I’ve found that shorter workouts that incorporate heavy weights and bursts of HIIT (high intensity interval training) work for me and actually leave me feeling energized instead of completely drained.

Moving Forward

If you have autoimmune disease, do know that you have the right to take control of the situation and it does not in any way define you. I challenge you to take charge of your health. Most autoimmune medications only treat the symptom and not the root cause of the issue, and furthermore cause more damage to other areas of bodies and/or leave us feeling like zombies. I’m proud to say I’m 100% drug-free for over 12 years now. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it.

This blog is just the tip of the iceberg, but if you have any questions about autoimmune disease I’d love to chat with you about resources available at your fingertips to get you on the road to improved health. We all deserve to feel good, and you absolutely have the power to take control of your health and I’m happy to help you do just that.

Do yourself a favor, eat the yolk!

If there’s any one food on this planet that is my soul mate, it’s the egg. The incredible, edible egg. And yes, I DO love eggs from my head down to my legs, and toes, and even further. Y’all, my love for eggs runs DEEEEPPPPP. From the protein to the fat and all the micronutrients, eggs are (to me) perfection. And I do take it personally when people say that eggs are bad for you, it really hurts my feelings.

Recently, a study that garnered wide national media coverage (insert eye roll) stated that eating more than 3 eggs a week raises your cholesterol and puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This study was observational, meaning the participants were largely unmonitored and would self-report their food consumption. On top of that, the study focuses largely on dietary cholesterol levels and the food consumed, and in those participants who consumed more than 3 eggs a week they saw an increase in overall cholesterol, so therefore the eggs were deemed the reason for that increase. The study does not take in to consideration, or at least it’s not stated clearly, how the eggs were prepared (in a stable or unstable fat), if the eggs were high quality, what the rest of the participants diet looked like (highly processed, high in sugar, etc), or even other various lifestyle factors that are shown to raise cholesterol (like a sedentary lifestyle, a smoker, high alcohol consumption, etc)… but, the media is always looking to confuse the general public with its incessant back and forth on demonizing certain foods, but I’m here to tell you that as a nutritionist, the egg is one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck foods you can consume. We’ve been going through this whole ‘eggs are good vs. bad’ since the 80s, the time in which the low fat craze went rampant and our societal health plummeted to an all-time low, and has remained there ever since.

It’s important for people to know that cholesterol is not bad for you. It’s actually necessary for your body to be able to build and support a strong cellular structure, balance hormones, support your metabolism, and produce Vitamin D. In fact, it’s proven that diets higher in cholesterol have been shown to benefit Dementia and Alzheimer patients because cholesterol helps to protect the myelin sheaths of nerves in the brain. Yes, there are advisable levels of blood cholesterol, which is comprised of High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs= ‘Good’ cholesterol, the higher the number the better), and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs= ‘Bad’ cholesterol, the lower the number the better). I put ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in quotes because it’s really not that one is better or worse than the other per se, but LDLs have been directly linked to an increase in heart disease, and higher HDL counts associated with lower levels of heart disease. You should also know that your body actually produces most of the cholesterol in your body, and added dietary cholesterol makes up very little of the overall cholesterol in your body. So by avoiding whole foods that are ‘higher’ in cholesterol isn’t wise when it comes to your own overall health.

There are SO many factors that play in to what can and does raise cholesterol… genetics do play a part to a degree, but lifestyle is HUGE player when it comes to if your body uses the cholesterol or ends up getting stored in your arteries. Lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet high in processed and refined foods will raise your cholesterol. And those vegetable oils that you’ve been told to consume because they’re better for your heart? Think again. Canola oil couldn’t be more inflammatory and unstable to cook with, is hydrogenated and is a trans fat. How you prepare your food matters too! Pay attention to smoke points of your cooking oils (use saturated fats for high-temperature cooking), and invest in quality cooking oils.

So what can you do to lower your cholesterol? For starters, eat eggs and don’t you dare throw out that yolk. But in all seriousness, take a good hard look at your diet and lifestyle and be honest with yourself. Don’t like to exercise? Be an adult and change your mindset. Smoke? It’s not 1987 and nobody wants to smell that anymore. Drink too much alcohol? Try limiting alcohol consumption to the weekend. Eat a lot of things from boxes or bags? Try incorporating whole foods in to your diet, focusing on plant-based recipes that incorporate good healthy fats and moderate protein.

You don’t need to be a slave to the cholesterol number, you don’t need to be a victim to your genes and you don’t need to live a life on statins. Best of all, you don’t need to cut out eggs to be ‘healthy’. So embrace them, love them- they love you!