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Reasons I suck as a mom lately

April 6, 2019

The other night I got home and was having a pleasant conversation with Ronnie while he was preparing dinner and Skyler interjected “Yay! You’re in a good mood!” and I immediately felt embarrassed and ashamed that it was such a rarity lately that she was excited enough to call it out. To hammer the nail in further, she made a similar comment again a few nights later, and it just hit me how I clearly haven’t been keeping it together around here!

I thought I had gotten to a decent place this year after spending January and February really dialed into my nutrition, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, and following my naturopath’s protocols pretty darn closely. But between some craziness at work and our recent family tragedy, it wasn’t long before I spiraled downward. It hasn’t been a complete disaster – my “reckless” behavior looks like a bag of chips fried in avocado oil with homemade dairy-free ranch dressing and a bottle of wine. That was probably my low point. Or maybe it was Taco Bell…but that’s neither here nor there. In reality those were one off events and I’ve still kept to at least an 80/20 rule with my own nutrition, exercising consistently and sleeping well.

But despite the steps I’ve taken to not completely wreck myself, my mental health has really taken a hit from the stress and I’ve been really down on myself in the mothering department, among others. Its easy for me to get into a rut of self doubt as soon as I get stressed or hit with a challenge.

Skyler’s been mentioning wanting new shoes, and when Ronnie took her last week, she had grown 3 shoe sizes! She also mentioned her glasses needed adjusted so we stopped by the eye doctor to get them fixed and the tech said the frames were completely broken and she ordered new ones! How did I not know these things?

She’s been begging to take gymnastics and I’ve been slacking on signing her up for a couple reasons. Money has felt tight for awhile. But when I look at our budget and expenses, we’ve got no problem paying the bills. For some reason we are just frittering away all our “extra” on little dumb stuff that I can’t even quantify. On paper we can afford gymnastics with plenty to spare. So I feel like a selfish jerk that we haven’t made that a reality for her. She’s so amazing though; she watches YouTube videos and teaches herself. She practices and stretches diligently and can do so many different and difficult tumbling moves. It’s shameful that she’s not being coached professionally!

The other reason I haven’t signed her up is because frankly, my days are so long as it is and I just want to come home from work, eat and relax with the family and get to bed at a decent hour. I just can’t do evenings of running around after work from activity to activity. I want to throw up thinking about that added stress! But then I realized I could go and bring my laptop and use that time while she’s there to actually write in this blog for one uninterrupted hour that isn’t past my bedtime, so now I’ve talked myself into signing her up. But then I feel guilty that it took a selfish reason for me to finally get on board.

When it comes to Layla, I’m a big time slacker because I can get away with more. Most days I drop Layla off at daycare and realize I haven’t brushed her hair or washed her face. I look at the other little girls with cute barrettes and pigtails and feel ashamed. Then again, Layla doesn’t care, the other kids don’t care, so why should I? She has the rest of her life to worry about how she looks, so why start now?

Since she was a baby, she’s been attached to me much more than Skyler was. She follows me around every room of the house, even the bathroom if I don’t swiftly lock the door behind me. Even then, she’ll pound on the door until I come out. If I sit down on the couch she’s immediately in my lap, and she doesn’t always sit still and snuggle. There’s a lot of wiggling and goofing around, with bony elbows and knees digging into my ribs as she wollers around. I try to soak it up for a few minutes and enjoy it since I know it won’t last forever, but I can only take so much! I’m an independent person so it really stresses me to never have any alone time or space. I feel guilty every time I tell her to sit next to me rather than on me, or go play in another room so I can do the laundry without questions and comments from the peanut gallery about every single item I’m sorting and folding.

I could go on and on and list a hundred things I am not doing and should be, or things I don’t do “right.” Don’t ask me how often I clean the house or make my bed. Don’t ask me how often anyone’s socks match. Don’t ask me how often my face is buried in my phone while nodding and carrying on a “conversation” with my kids. If I answered all that and shared my other weaknesses, my loved ones reading this might disown me, and it’s possible child services could get called. All I know is these girls are alive and happy and healthy, so I’m just thankful we aren’t in a worse situation!

Tell me, mamas, what are the ways you are feeling incompetent as a mom lately? Or maybe share some encouragement on something you are proud of? Comment below!

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Fat: the key to your health and delicious vegetables – Part I

March 28, 2019

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will make a commission off your purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in. If you purchase through one of these links, I truly thank you for your support!

It might be that I’ve been geeking out on nutrition for long enough, or maybe it’s the popularity of the ketogenic diet, but it seems to me like dietary fat is cool again. So, fat is phat? This might also just be the perspective in my little echo chamber, so I wanted to take some time to talk about it here because either way, there’s a lot of goodness going on with the slimy, squishy stuff.

Why fat is good for you

From a really high level, fat is one of three macronutrients (the others being carbohydrates and protein). Our bodies need varying amounts of all three to survive and function optimally. Fats make up our cell walls, and surround and protect vital organs. They are also the building blocks of hormones. Did you know that cholesterol (a type of fat) is actually something the body makes to repair damaged tissues? Additionally, some essential vitamins (A, D, E and K), are only fat soluble, so there must be dietary fat present in order for our bodies to absorb them. For survival, fat is clearly non-negotiable!

One of my favorite (and the most practical) benefits of dietary fat is that it just tastes so good! It’s cravable and satiating, so it’s important to have in our meals so we can be full and satisfied and actually stop eating. Meals without enough fat can leave you feeling hungry, which might cause you to overeat something that isn’t nutritious! Additionally, fats are a “slow-burning” form of energy. This means that when you eat meals with enough fat, you can slow the metabolism of carbohydrates, which will help provide you longer lasting energy and help avoid the sugar crash that can come with lowfat/high carb intake. Properly balanced meals with healthy fat portions can help you go longer between meals.

Healthy fats for cooking

Cooking with fats has opened a whole world of vegetables to me that I never would have incorporated into my diet regularly if steamed or boiled. Until my husband sauteed broccoli in garlic and olive oil and the little “leaves” got all crispy and dark, I wanted nothing to do with broccoli and just choked it down on occasion when I felt I owed it to my body to pay for some previous dietary sin. But now I crave broccoli cooked like that and it’s a treat rather than a punishment!

It is important to use discernment with which fats you use regularly, as cooking fats are not all equal in the eyes of health. Vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola can easily go rancid and tend to promote inflammation in the body. Unfortunately these are the cheapest oils and used most often in the food industry. Other plant-based oils like olive and coconut are moderately priced, easy to find, and don’t cause inflammation. Walmart, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Target, and Costco all carry organic coconut and olive oils for decent prices. Avocado oil is also tasty to cook with, but can be harder to find and more expensive. Seed oils such as sesame and sunflower can be used and have unique flavors, but are fairly unstable so should be protected from light and heat and not used in high heat cooking.

Animal fats get a bad rap in the conventional health world, but saturated fats from free range, grass-fed beef and pastured pork are extremely stable, flavorful, and great for high-heat cooking that might cause the plant-based oils to oxidize and become rancid. And they are inexpensive in that they can often be rendered from meats you are already cooking. You can also purchase high quality beef tallow and lard for cooking from local farmers at the markets, or you can order on Amazon.

The key with cooking fats is variety, both to keep the flavor profile interesting so you don’t tire of something, but also to balance the fatty acid profiles you are getting. Different fat sources offer different risks and benefits, so maintaining a variety is key for your body to get all the nutritional benefits fat has to offer, while still enjoying life and making other healthy foods more delicious!

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll share some simple, healthy ways to incorporate healthy fats into your meals.


The price we pay for love

March 16, 2019

It’s been over a week since we said goodbye to our puppies in an unexpectedly tragic situation. Our home feels empty and eerily quiet and calm. We have never not had at least one dog in our 13 years as a family, and Ronnie and I both had dogs growing up and for the majority of our lives before we were together. We are animal people, so this sudden absence of them on our couch that smells like them is ripping our hearts out.

There have been lots of tears and hugs and holding each other. Lots of knowing looks when Layla says something nonchalant about her silly dogs because she doesn’t really understand what happened. And there’s been bickering over dumb stuff because we are all hurting and struggling throughout our days and patience is wearing thin. Though just a certain part of our life has changed dramatically, it feels like the whole thing is going wrong. Furthermore, Ronnie and I grieve very differently, which creates some friction when he’s try to be productive and I want to curl up in the corner, ignore everyone and everything, and sleep till it doesn’t hurt anymore.

I’ve thought a lot about life and heartbreak through this, as I often feel we’ve had more than our fair share of trials and tragedies. Some would say that is God testing us, and showing us how strong we are and that we can learn and grow in faith through this. Some would say that life is suffering, and it just looks different for different people but we all suffer. But as I analyze all that we have weathered together, I have determined that our life is the result of choices we have made to love and follow our dreams.

So much of our pain could have been avoided had we never got married, never had children or pets. We could’ve stayed single and emotionally safe, living our own lives selfishly and autonomously. We wouldn’t have watched two babies nearly die from heart problems , and wouldn’t have felt the strain on marriage that parenting creates. Ronnie didn’t have to take risks to follow his dream and open his own business; he could’ve stayed in the big box fitness world where he was protected by corporate lawyers and administrators that took care of the paperwork and financials, never feeling the pain and stress of a lawsuit directed his way. And we didn’t have to have pets – they are a lot of work and sometimes a total pain in the butt. We’ve said tearful goodbyes to 4 beloved dogs and one kitty in the last 4 years, but no one made us choose them or bring them into our family and onto our couch. Life would’ve been a lot cleaner and less stinky without them.

Choosing love and passion comes with risk and the cost of pain. But as deep as the pain runs, so does the joy flow in equal and opposite directions. It’s just Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, I guess. As tempting as it is to never again feel the heartbreak of losing loved ones or failing at a new endeavor, that’s just not the life I want to live. We are risk takers, thrill seekers, and love warriors. I hope we will continue to suffer and grow through the inevitable pain this life will bring, savoring the joy and beautiful moments we earn along the way.

Grief is, after all, the price we pay for love.

–Queen Elizabeth II

What happened when I went vegan for a week

March 14, 2019

Never in a million years did I think I’d go vegan. While I love vegetables and all the nutrition that comes with them, I also believe that animal protein and some animal fats are a highly nutritious and bioavailable form of nutrients for many people. Furthermore, I believe in bioindividuality, in that everyone is different due to their genetics, lifestyle and environment. While a vegan lifestyle may help one person thrive, it may not be ideal for another. So when my naturopathic doctor recommended I do a liver cleanse that included one week eating completely vegan, I welcomed it as a learning opportunity.

My week as a vegan had some additional restrictions and rules as part of the liver cleanse. In addition to animal products, I had to avoid soy, wheat/gluten, corn, peanuts, tomatoes, grapefruit, caffeine and alcohol, so I couldn’t just swap my meat out for soy-based meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or faux chicken. Furthermore, since I am genetically more prone to Type II Diabetes, I tend to keep my carbohydrates pretty low so I can maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This presented a unique challenge for me, since most soy-free vegan protein sources tend to also have high carbohydrate content. Some of this was managed with a supplemental plant-based protein shake as part of the cleanse protocol, so I wasn’t 100% dependent on my meals for protein.

I spent a couple weeks leading up to this week researching vegan recipes that I thought looked delicious or provided a unique spin on foods that would keep things interesting for me. I ended up incorporating a few different legumes: black beans, lentils, and chickpeas, which I don’t normally eat a lot of because they make me bloated and gassy, which is no fun for anyone! I also used quinoa and a lot of mushrooms, especially portobellos, which became a favorite for me! Finally, I got a bag of hemp hearts to sprinkle on salads, which are high in protein and fat.

My breakfasts were either a smoothie using the plant-based protein powder supplement with almond or coconut milk, almond yogurt, cashew butter and chia seeds, or I made overnight oatmeal with chia seeds and some blueberries or banana slices. This was not a big change for me, as I often do smoothies for breakfast if I’m not eating leftovers.

I ate salads with mushrooms, cashews, and chickpeas sprinkled with hemp hearts for lunch, or leftovers from whatever vegan dinner I had the night before. Avocados were key to a satisfying salad – they provided the umami flavor I’m used to from meat (as did the sauteed or grilled mushrooms) and helped fill me up with the fat content.

portobello mushroom salad

Dinners included cauliflower-based “alfredo” over zucchini noodles, sweet potato lentil curry, portobello “burger,” vegetable stir-fry with quinoa, some random combinations of veggies and leftovers with sauteed mushrooms and pan-fried spicy chickpeas.

vegan stirfry with mushrooms and broccoli

I enjoyed most of what I ate and was able to get full most meals, but definitely felt something lacking. The first couple days I had a constant headache. I had quit caffeine a week prior to this and had not had a headache so I knew it wasn’t due to that. I also had numerous twitches and some charlie horse muscle cramps, so I know the change impacted my mineral and electrolyte balance. I made sure to salt my food generously, which seemed to help. The bloating and gas was serious, folks! I was so uncomfortable after almost every meal. I think the combination of bananas, grains and beans was too much for my particular intestinal ecosystem. I don’t know if it would have improved with more time, but it’s not something I really feel like experimenting with anytime soon! Finally, I was so darn tired. I felt like all I wanted to do was sleep.

vegan black bean brownies
These vegan black bean brownies were legit though! Will definitely make again!

The worst symptom of all was abnormally high irritability. I felt angry at everyone all the time, and this week did not coincide with my usual PMS week where irritability can be a common symptom. I do believe this was actually a result of the high dose of B-vitamins I was getting through the shake supplement, as I have learned from previous experiences taking high dose B vitamins and through digging deeper into my 23 and Me genetic data that I have a couple genetic mutations that combine to cause issues with the assimilation of B vitamins, even from the more bioavailable methylated form. As soon as I made that connection, I discontinued the shake and went back to my regular multivitamin that has a moderate amount of B vitamins that I tolerate just fine. That helped tremendously with the irritability, but it was hard to ensure I had enough protein. There were only a couple days left of this vegan phase so I just rode it out and didn’t do any intense exercise. I also added back some collagen (not vegan) to my morning tea, and threw in the towel on the last day with some chicken bone broth and a piece of tilapia at dinner. I was over it and just ready to get back to an omnivorous base of nutrients!

One thing that somewhat surprised me was that I did not lose a single pound during my week as a vegan. I lost maybe two pounds the week prior, which allowed chicken and fish, and I’ve since lost another couple pounds the week after with chicken and fish. Part of the point of this liver cleanse was to allow my liver to clean out and reset, since the liver is so crucial in fat metabolism and hormone balance. I suspect that in my case, due to my tendency toward blood sugar issues, that the vegan week was too high in carbs and low in protein to provide the right macronutrient ratio for my metabolism. I wish I would’ve thought to monitor my blood sugar with my glucose meter after meals that week, but it just didn’t occur to me and I was already a bit overwhelmed!

Other than how I felt physically, I want to address the emotional aspect of eating or not eating meat as it relates to ethics and animal welfare. I have thought a lot about this over the years and especially during my vegan week. I definitely don’t love the idea of killing another living thing in order to eat. But I also know we are the only species of meat-eaters that gives that a second thought. I believe we are part of a greater ecosystem and that, as cheesy as it sounds, in the whole circle of life we all feed each other in life and in death. When we die and are buried, our bodies feed the microorganisms that aid in the decomposition process, and then we become food for the plants and grasses that grow above us. These plants in turn feed animals and humans and thus we are all connected in this natural energy exchange.

I haven’t yet wrapped my brain around why it’s acceptable to eat some animals and not others. We consider pets to have souls and are beloved members of our family, but what about cows and pigs? I know that for now, I try to purchase most of our beef from places where cattle are pastured and raised in a natural environment where they are free to roam until their final day. We are on a budget so I don’t always buy all of our meat from the best sources, and for now I choose to accept that and not beat myself up for it. And since Ronnie has taken up bow hunting, I am much more comfortable eating the wild game he brings home, knowing those animals lived a life of freedom. But it is something I give a lot of thought to, and I’ve learned from my vegan week that I can probably thrive with less meat than I did previously, so I feel good about moving forward with an even greater plant-based diet than before.

All in all, it’s not something I plan to try again anytime soon, but I’m really proud of myself for doing it and allowing myself to learn whatever came out of it. And I have so much respect for vegans, as I know that it is not an easy way to live and takes a lot of strategy and preparation to do it in a healthful way. Oreos might technically be vegan but that is no way to go about it and actually feel good! I think it’s important for people to break out of their comfort zones in any part of life and try new ways of being, whether that be nutrition or lifestyle, in order to learn more about themselves and gain empathy for others. Without personal growth, it’s too easy to become stagnant and narrow-minded in the way we approach the world.

Have you ever gone vegan or vegetarian for a period of time or would you consider it? If so, what did you learn? I would love to hear from you in the comments.


The best avocado chicken tomatillo soup ever

March 1, 2019
chicken tomatillo avocado soup

I am not much of a recipe creator. Not because I’m not a decent cook, but I just don’t have the patience or time to try things that aren’t proven. Mostly I start with a recipe but take the liberty to customize it to my liking, so I can’t really take the credit. But now and then I come up with something that’s different enough from whatever recipe inspired it that I can call it my own.

Enter this healthy chicken, tomatillo and avocado soup that I’ve been making for several years now. This is a creamy, savory, incredibly filling low carb soup that’s high in protein and healthy plant-based fats. This is one of my favorite healthy soups and there are plenty of ways to prepare it depending on how much time and effort you want to take!

This version is the easiest since it’s a crockpot soup recipe, so you can throw most of the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and then add the creamy avocado mixture when you get home, and it’s ready to go!

Chicken Tomatillo Avocado Soup

Yield: 8

chicken tomatillo avocado soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 11 oz cans tomatillos
  • 2 - 3 lbs boneless chicken breast/thighs
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 3 avocados
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (do not use a carton of coconut beverage. Not the same!)
  • 1 jalapeno (keep or remove seeds depending how how you want the soup)
  • 2 - 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro - as much as you like or none at all. I know cilantro can be a divisive topic!

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken and lay it in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add the chopped onions, celery, garlic, green and poblano peppers, tomatillos and broth over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 5 - 6 hours.
  4. Shred the chicken with two forks when it's done.
  5. In a blender, mix avocados, coconut milk, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Pour into soup and mix well.
  6. Optional toppings: bacon pieces, sour cream, hot sauce, crispy fried chickpeas
https://beautifulmessmama.com/best-avocado-chicken-tomatillo-soup/

Alternative preparations involve just boiling the soup base in a stockpot while cooking the chicken separately via boiling, or roasting, or bringing home a rotisserie chicken. Before adding the chicken to the soup, use an immersion blender to puree the soup veggies and the creamy avocado mixture together. This makes a smooth, thick and creamy soup, and is also a way to sneak veggies into picky eater’s mouths when they like to avoid every individual vegetable in their bowl!

Let me know if you make this and how you liked it in the comments!

Biohacking with the Oura Ring fitness tracker

February 26, 2019

What could be more exciting to a data nerd and health geek like me than a device that gives you data about your own health on a daily basis? There have been lots of fitness trackers in the market the last several years but none have piqued my interest like the Oura Ring and accompanying fitness tracker app. The Oura Ring tracks your activity, sleep, temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability, and combines the data points to provide daily “readiness” scores and health tips so you can optimize your overall health.

In the first two months I’ve had the fitness tracker ring  (Ronnie got it for me for Christmas!), there have been so many ways this has given me insights into what’s going on in my body that I might not have realized the impact of before. I’ve also had it long enough to gather enough data to provide some good long term trends that I can use to gauge and adjust what I’ve been doing, and share with you in this fitness tracker review.

Body Temperature

Oura Ring body temperature report

My daily body temperature readings from the Oura Ring app

I wasn’t particularly excited about the Oura Ring’s nightly body temperature monitoring, since I’m not planning on having any more children and Ronnie took care of that on his end, but it would be very useful for women trying to track their ovulation schedule for family planning. However, it provided me some peace of mind when a recent tummy bug made its way through our house. It alerted me that my body temperature was above average for a few days after Layla had been puking, and recommended I take it easy in case I was fighting something. I backed off exercise and focused on sleep, and never ended up catching the nasty that the rest of the family caught. I also made the assumption that once my temp went down, the bug had passed me by and I wasn’t living in fear that it had yet to hit me. Ronnie was the last one sick over a week ago, so I hope that this means I am officially in the clear!

Heart Rate Variability and Resting Heart Rate

Oura Ring HRV trend

Improvement in my weekly HRV average over the last 2 months

Since I’ve dealt with a lot of stress over the years and trying to heal from adrenal fatigue , learning that I could use the Oura Ring fitness tracker to monitor my nervous system was the driving factor behind my desire for this particular wearable fitness device. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of the distance between two heartbeats, whereas heart rate is just the average number of beats in one minute. When HRV is high, or there is a lot of variation in distance between beats, it’s a signal that we are relaxed and healthy. When we are stressed, our HRV lowers as the nervous system powers up for fight or flight mode. By measuring HRV consistently at night during sleep, the Oura Ring provides average nightly HRV and maximum HRV, which are then used to monitor how well your body is recovering from the stresses of life, whether that be intense workouts, inflammatory foods, a rough workday or bad night of sleep. Since I’ve been using the Oura Ring along with cutting out anti-inflammatory foods, prioritizing sleep, cutting down on alcohol, and practicing breathwork, I’ve seen my own HRV average improve significantly in just over 2 months.

The most dramatic impact to my own HRV I’ve seen is when I have alcohol. Not that I didn’t know that tasty adult beverages aren’t exactly health promoting, it’s still something I love to indulge in, especially on a Friday night after a long week. While I know that wine calms my racing thoughts and helps me mentally break away from work stress, when I saw what happens to my HRV and resting heart rate after a glass or three of wine at night, it has made me much more thoughtful about how badly I need that glass of wine. And it’s been much more rewarding when I skip it, get a quality night sleep, and have high readiness/recovery scores in the morning! A glass or two of wine significantly diminishes my HRV, increases my resting heart rate, and decreases the amount of deep sleep I get. The below images show first a normal, healthy night’s resting heart rate and HRV, followed by a night after I’ve had alcohol.

normal resting heart rate

My normal resting heart rate throughout the night

 

elevated heart rate after alcohol

After a few drinks of alcohol, my heart rate was elevated until about 3 am, and never reached my normal low

And here is the HRV impact:

healthy heart rate variability

This is what my HRV looks like on a good night. I must’ve done some breathwork right before bed.

And here is HRV after alcohol…

low heart rate variability after alcohol

You can visibly see the lack of variation while my body is stressed trying to metabolize the alcohol.

Can you see why I’m geeking out about this? I’m my own living science experiment!

Sleep cycles

alcohol's affect on deep sleep

Not enough restorative deep sleep due to alcohol before bed

This might be the most mysterious thing of all for a device that simply sits on your finger all the time, but the Oura Ring has an amazingly accurate sleep tracker as well. It shows how I cycle in and out of sleep stages each night, as well as the amount of total time I spend in each sleep stage. It also calculates total time in bed and actual time sleeping. How it knows this is beyond me, but it works! The sleep tracker is also an area that I see alcohol have a significant impact, because usually my deep sleep will suffer and I will notice more awake/light cycles throughout the night.

Readiness Score

Oura ring app homepage

My readiness score on the Oura Ring app homepage

The Oura Ring fitness tracker also tracks daily calorie expenditure (basal metabolic rate + calories burned from activity), how many steps you get in a day and exercise duration and intensity. You can also manually input these measures if you remove the ring to do barbell activities or something where you don’t want it to get damaged. It will estimate calorie expenditure based on what you input, using your personal attributes like age, gender, height and weight from the settings. But the magic happens when it takes all the factors listed above and combines them to provide a Readiness Score, along with a quick tip of advice based on your score that day. If the readiness score is declining, it will warn you and call out which aspect of your health might be causing that. This is where I learned I might be running a low grade fever after spending a night cleaning up puke from my kiddo. On the flip side, it tells you when you are rested and recovered so you can be confident kicking butt that day. Additionally it gives you a calorie burn goal based on your readiness to help you moderate your activity level and workouts.

Outside of the totally nerdy and amazing features I’ve listed above that help me biohack my way to better health, the Oura Ring has solid battery life and doesn’t need recharged for 4 to 5 days. I just set it on the charger once or twice a week when I’m getting ready in the morning as it only takes about an hour to charge up. It’s also water proof up to some ridiculous water depth that I will never be swimming so I can wear it in the shower, washing dishes, at the lake if Summer ever gets here, etc. And it easily pairs with your phone and the free fitness tracker app that comes with it. It isn’t cheap, with prices starting at around $300, but they run occasional sales and  it’s a one-time fee. I think in the long run, my health is a worthy investment and the information this fitness tracker provides could help keep me out of the doctor’s office with illness or injury, and help me achieve the balance needed to live a long, active, and full life. Now if I can just keep the 3-year-old from stealing it off the charger and losing it…

How I’m healing from adrenal fatigue

February 22, 2019

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will make a commission off your purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in. If you purchase through one of these links, I truly thank you for your support!

When I look back over the last several years (that I haven’t been blogging, ah-hem), I see a blur. I see some darkness and a lot of colors and light. I see the ups and downs and a whole lot of in between. I see massive transformation in Ronnie and me and of course our family. Life is nothing like I thought it would be as I round the corner to the big 4-0.

family

But when I quantify the last few years compared to the rest of my life, it’s like looking at a boa constrictor that ate an alligator – like how can all that possibly fit? From job changes, to nutritional therapy school, to the lawsuit at the gym, to marriage troubles to another baby born with a broken heart, and a couple moves of home and business in there, life somehow managed to feed us an alligator (we chose some of those things, but maybe we bit off more than we could chew). There have been times of bitterness about it all, and thinking “life’s not fair” and shaking my fist at God. But I’m far enough removed from the heavy stuff to see the blessings that have unfolded. As Winston Churchill said “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival,” and I truly believe we are better for it.

However, those years have aged me. My body feels like that of a completely different person than 5 years ago, and it feels more like what I would expect closing in on 50 to feel like, and not the last of my thirties. I learned about this in my nutrition training, and I knew it was happening all along, but when you are just trying to survive, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. When I finally got with a naturopathic doctor a little over a year ago, she agreed that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, which was also impacting my hormone balance and likely the cause of my lack of energy, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and skin issues.

My naturopath was able to use my standard bloodwork, a salivary cortisol test, and in-depth interview to develop protocols for me to follow that included the below dietary and lifestyle changes as a treatment for adrenal fatigue:

  • Prioritize sleep: This wasn’t hard to do since I was so exhausted, but I was having trouble staying asleep for the whole night and feeling rested. I use a high dose of magnesium citrate/glycinate before bed, and if I woke up, chewed 1 or 2 tablets of GABA . It didn’t take long for me to sleep through the night, and my mornings became much more tolerable! I still chew GABA before bed on occasion if I’m particularly wound up, but it’s a rare occasion at this point, so, progress!
  • Moderate workouts: Not that I had much energy for exercise, my doctor recommended I tone it down for awhile till my body feels “safe” again. Intense or excessive exercise can stress the adrenals more and prolong the healing process. She recommended, walking, moderate weightlifting, yoga, and high intensity interval training for a max of 20 minutes. Since I’ve got goals to summit more fourteeners this summer, I’m going to need to step things up, but I’m working with my doctor to figure out that training plan. In the meantime, it’s nice to have the “permission” to not feel like I have to go all out in my workouts and be okay with that.
  • Nutrition:  I’ve been eating a diet low in inflammatory foods for several months now, limiting sugar, dairy, gluten, eggs, coffee, and alcohol. Limiting these foods has decreased the stress on my gut and immune system which has done wonders for my gut and mental health. Additionally, I tend to eat lower carb, but my doctor recommended I read the Adrenal Reset Diet book, which provided guidelines on how to time when I eat my carbohydrates to best work with my ideal cortisol rhythms. And, now that we are passed the holidays, I’ve begun a gut health/liver cleanse that involves 3 weeks of a strict elimination diet along with a supplemental shake and extra nutrients to assist my liver. The shake tastes like ass, but by day 3 I had figured out some acceptable mix-ins to make it tolerable.
  • Supplements: I’ve been cycling a lot of different supplements, and adjusting types and dosage each time I follow up with my doctor (about every two months). I’m not going to go into detail here since it’s super customized to me and how I feel, but I’ll list of few of the things I’ve been taking through this process, not necessarily all at the same time: Vitamin C and D, phospatidylserine, licorice root, methionine, DIM, maca, various mushrooms and herbal adaptogen blends/teas.
  • Breathwork/meditation: I read a great book on meditation that simplified it and took all the woo-woo out of the process to make it much more practical. It’s such a basic concept that just does wonders for my mental clarity, especially since I love to overthink and overanalyze. In addition, I’ve started doing simple breathwork, almost daily on my commute (both ways) and before going to sleep. I use the simple cadence of 4-6-7 (4 second inhale, 6 second hold, 7 second exhale) and try to repeat that for at least 5 minutes. What’s amazing is I could see an immediate impact on my heart rate variability tracked in my Oura Ring when I started doing this before bed.
  • Oura Ring: This wearable fitness tracker was a Christmas gift from Ronnie and I am obsessed. My doctor hadn’t heard of it as it’s fairly new to market, but I heard about it on several podcasts and felt it was the perfect tool to help me figure out sleep/activity balance to get a better handle on my nervous system as I try to restore adrenal health. Check out my Oura Ring review for more info on how I’ve been using it as part of my health journey.

All of the tactics listed above were prioritized by my doctor and have been slowly layered into my life as I gained energy and formed new habits. There was no way I could’ve taken on all that with the way I felt when I first began working on my adrenal fatigue. Even though I knew about this condition and had some ideas how to go about dealing with it, I was so exhausted I didn’t even know where to start. Working with a naturopath has been an investment since insurance doesn’t cover the treatment, but it has been the best decision I have made and money well spent. It also helps keep me accountable when I have to follow-up with someone that I am paying! I would love to know what other energy hacks or stress management techniques you’ve used or are using to help you through this crazy life. Let me know in the comments below!

Spring fever

February 18, 2019

It’s Saturday night and I’m already feeling a mixture of cabin fever, exhaustion, and just plain irritability about everything in sight. I’ve worked from home too many times to count this year with both girls (and sometimes Ronnie) stuck at home with me due to sicknesses and weather. As grateful as I am that’s it’s an option for me and I don’t have to use precious vacation time when things like that come up, I’m frankly just sick of it at this point!

It’s next to impossible to focus on work when Layla is asking for a snack every 30 minutes. And in between her snacks she needs me to turn on a new DVR show. And if I don’t get her a snack she helps herself, which means finding her in the kitchen digging at a jar of almond butter with a knife. I can’t play with her since I’m trying to get work done on my computer, so she keeps herself busy, but not in necessarily safe or appropriate ways.

  • I have found her in the bathroom using every single wet wipe and half a bottle of foaming hand soap proudly saying “I’m cleaning Momma!”
  • We spotted oily spray marks up the wall next to the stairway and on her bedroom walls, only to discover the empty can of olive oil nonstick spray on the floor in her room.
  • Most of the walls, doors and trim in our house (that haven’t been chewed by our dogs) have original artwork by Layla on them, via whatever medium she could get her hands on.

She’s ruined my makeup brushes, emptied the entire contents of her dresser drawers immediately after I put all her clean laundry away, and almost lost my Oura Ring only a month after I got it. For every bit of adorable, hilarious spunk, she’s got equal parts curious, nonstop tornado.

I know that if I was present with her more I could focus that energy into fun activities. She loves jigsaw puzzles and in the evenings we do a lot of them together. She also loves to count things and read books and practice her letters. When we engage with her she’s not constantly asking for snacks, but when I’m working from home, I am stuck between trying to keep her out of my hair but also safely not making a boatload of mess for me to clean up later. The other day I was on a conference call while sweeping the kitchen floor. It’s like a no-win situation that just makes me feel like I’m failing at both parenting and my job at the same time!

Working from home with the kids here also means that we are making all the messes that go along with living here, but I don’t have the leisurely time to pick up after everyone each meal or stay on top of all the puzzles and random toys that get strewn about. So by the end of the day, the house is a total disaster and I’m overwhelmed with it and just want to run away screaming.

This past week has been extra draining due to the tummy bugs going around (Ronnie now has it), and the liver cleanse/detox I’ve started, which also means no caffeine or wine to help me cope. I’ve been so tired and irritable that dealing with the cluster of our mess this week has been too much to keep up with and I’m stumbling around, angrily kicking people’s shoes across the kitchen floor (since of course shoes belong in the kitchen), and grumbling about how the dishes don’t do themselves and the living room is not a dirty laundry basket and NO, sippy cups are not toys so you can’t use a half dozen of them as bottles for your stuffed animals!

I hate to say it, but I’m kinda already looking forward to Monday so I can get out of the house, back to work, and in a place I am only supposed to focus on what I’m being paid to do. It’s so much easier than being a mom and managing a household. I dream of having the energy to work full time while also keeping things balanced at home, but right now I feel like home is just a giant juggling act with flaming knives. And somewhere in between catching and dodging knives I’m trying to fit in things that I love to do so I don’t go completely insane!

The only hope I cling to is remembering when Skyler was this age and that in a matter of years she became a much more self sufficient, tidy person that can do her own laundry and clean the bathrooms. She can have friends over and mostly entertain herself, get her own snacks and wipe her own butt. I do miss her sometimes, and feel like I spend an unfair amount of time with Layla, but I think it’s par for the course as she finds her independence.

I should caveat all this with the fact that I’m writing this on day 6 of my 21 day liver cleanse and sometimes during a detox, things can feel worse before they feel better. Life is the same as it has been for awhile, but despite being on point with my nutrition, I’m just not handling it as gracefully as I have in recent months. I’m hoping that I can just vent about this here, let the detox run its course, and soon I will be back to more contentedly juggling my beautiful mess. In the meantime, if I could get a quick beach vacation and a cleaning fairy to stop by, that would sure help!

Coffee: Devil or Savior?

February 15, 2019

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It’s been a weird week, with stomach bugs and a lack of caffeine since I started this liver cleanse. Even though I quit drinking coffee on a daily basis last September, I didn’t realize how much I was still relying on the caffeine in the teas I was drinking. It’s not as much caffeine as coffee, but man, I’m definitely missing it this week! I don’t have trouble waking up in the mornings like I used to, but have just felt a general sense of tiredness all day. I’m sure it didn’t help that I’ve had two nights of being up in the middle of the night cleaning up puke, but I’m really hoping my energy levels back up soon, because I was feeling really good!

herbal-tea-turmeric-latte

Now, I’m not one to hate on coffee, especially because I love it. BUT, it is something that can be a problem if you are struggling with any of the following:

  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Lack of energy, especially upon waking and after lunch
  • Irritable Bowl Syndrome

While coffee does have some beneficial antioxidant properties, the caffeine content is what can get our systems out of balance. Caffeine can raise cortisol, our main stress hormone. Temporary cortisol increases are beneficial and necessary to deal with emergencies, but prolonged high cortisol levels mean your body is stuck in “fight or flight” mode rather than “rest and digest” mode, and this can wreak havoc on your hormones, digestion, and immune system.

If you think coffee could be an issue for you but are overwhelmed at the thought of quitting, I highly recommend switching to hot tea (black or green) or matcha tea. Tea is also high in antioxidants, but is much gentler in your gut (some even promotes healing) and contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that has a calming affect. I’ve been enjoying this matcha since it also contains other beneficial herbs and mushrooms to help with energy balance. Since teas tend to have less caffeine than coffee, you can taper and lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

If it’s the coffee taste you can’t live without, start blending your favorite java half and half with a high quality caffeine free coffee, that way you can maintain the flavor with less of a caffeine hit. Additionally, there are some new mushroom-based coffees out that blend one or more beneficial mushrooms with coffee. Mushrooms have long been considered superfoods by ancient cultures, and are gaining popularity in the west for their mood-boosting properties. They are less acidic and earthier than regular coffee, and other than the price tag, I find them very enjoyable. I like to have it as a treat, so a couple more weeks of this caffeine-free liver cleanse diet and I’ll be reaching for one!

Ultimately coffee can be almost like a religion for many people, and I get it. I still fantasize about it. But if it is like a religion and the thought of not having it sparks a deep, passionate outrage in your soul, and you’re struggling with sleep and energy and stress in your daily life, then you might need to distance yourself from it more than you know. There is a freedom in being able to wake up refreshed and able to function without that warm, tasty cup. And it’s empowering to not be dependent on a chemical to get your day started. I’m not all the way on the other side of it, but I’ve already experienced significant changes in my sleep, anxiety, and morning energy level just from reducing the caffeine intake, so I can’t wait to see what a few weeks cold turkey will do!

When I grow up

January 21, 2019

I can count the number of times I wrote in 2018 on one hand, and that is not okay. The need to create is in me (it’s in all of us actually), and it’s not something I get often enough at work to bring fulfillment. And at home I’m living in mostly maintenance mode just trying to keep everyone alive. My house is not decorated, nor would it matter because it’s mostly messy all the time and the dogs have destroyed nearly every piece of trim and baseboard on the main floor because OMG THEY HAVE LEFT US AND WE MISS THEM SO MUCH THAT WE MUST EAT THE HOUSE!!!!!!

We do cook a lot which could provide some creativity but so much of the time it’s rushed and stressful because it’s after work and Layla (now a threenager) is yelling at me or the dogs and demanding something or other. Also I don’t like our kitchen – it’s just small and awkward so doesn’t lend itself to much of a flow state.

Last year I setup an art/play room but in no time it was just the room of mess and chaos and gives me anxiety to step into so ain’t no creating happening in there (from me – the others have definitely created something in there!). I should give credit where credit is due because Skyler recently took it on herself to clean up that room and organize a bit, but I don’t have the enthusiasm I once did to go back in there and get out my art supplies. It only really works when no one else is around and that literally never happens in my life unless I stay up past 9 and that is definitely not happening these days. Mama TIRED!

And I have this blog, which I’ve barely kept alive for almost 12 years (including the babysite that started it all when I was pregnant with Skyler). I’ve covered a lot of ground here through various phases of life, but it’s been harder and harder to keep up. It’s not that I don’t want to write – I love writing and have so many thoughts and ideas I need to release. It’s just the lack of uninterrupted time right now and that ever-present desire for sleep. Or just to be present with the family since there is always always always something I should be doing. I think I’ve also found some minor release in Instagram – I share a lot of our life @lorikelley66 , and it is not nearly the time commitment as writing here, plus I really enjoy the photography aspect. I recent got an iPhone 10 which has a dual lens camera that produces some pretty amazing photos for a phone. Better than my old digital SLR Canon that’s been collecting dust in the closet for a few years. The artist in me feels some guilt about this but hey – no need to make life harder than it is for the sake of the craft, right? Sorry purists.

I’ve been conflicted the last several years in my career. I haven’t been doing my passion but then does it really matter since I’m providing for my family? I know working your passion is not a right, but when you’ve been in the corporate world 9 – 5 Monday through Friday for nearly half your life, it gets draining. Sometimes I sadly reminisce that I once had an art scholarship and almost went to school for an art degree. I think had I chosen a school with a better art program things might have been different, but instead I burned out real quick and changed my tune to business. It was safe and not so demanding. But it wasn’t a mistake because college was where I met Ronnie and I can’t imagine how different things would be had I never gone there.

It’s been nagging me how short life is and how much I think I have to give and share that I’m just not doing in my current career track. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty happy with my job and definitely love the company and people I work for and I’m proud of what we do. But I’ve got a whole lot more to offer in the areas of art, writing, nutrition, psychology, and wellness. In the back of my mind the gears are always turning and trying to figure out what to do with all of it.

helpAs the new year turned over and I was reinvigorated to get back to clean eating and cooking after some gluttonous holiday transgressions, I had a random thought of starting a new Intagram account that was all about food (@stuffinfridge). I know there are a ton but I think (and hope) that there is room for one more and I can bring my own unique spin and knowledge to that space. It will allow me to get more creative with what we are cooking, play with photography, and write (albeit briefly for Instagram), while sharing my knowledge of health through nutrition and lifestyle. I have pipe dreams of gaining enough followers someday to produce some advertising revenue and maybe really turn it into something bigger full time, but for now it’s a way to play and help others. Even inspiring a single person to make healthier choices or find easier ways to stay on track with their nutrition is fulfilling for me, so every follower matters! So if you are reading this and are on Instagram looking for inspiration in the kitchen, please consider following my little experiment @stuffinfridge or sharing it with someone you know might be into it! My goal is to keep it real and my 2019 resolution is to commit to this for the full year and see where it goes. At a minimum, it’s a creative outlet for me, that might help other people, and an opportunity for bigger things if my energy and the universe can collaborate!