Where’s Dria?

February 1st, 2017! Wait – what?!
How long has it been since I wrote a blog post?????????????

I just counted how many months it has been. I do not want to share that number with you. Instead let’s talk about what I have been up to in my absence.

I officially launched Dria’s All Natural and was blown away by the support from my local community. Weekday evenings were spent making countless small batches of my extra special extra strength deodorant and Saturdays were spent making new friends at the Farmer’s Market.

Weekdays I continued running the office at Be Your Very Best. I also officially graduated from holistic nutrition school and had the pleasure of working with some AMAZING clients. They impressed me every day with their positive attitudes and astounding progress in balancing their hormones, losing weight, learning to listen to their bodies, and just feeling healthier.

Working at Be Your Very Best means I get to learn from one of the best healers in the world, AKA my mom. She has been teaching me the tricks of the trade of mind-body health for years, but we finally took a more formal step in my education and signed me up for massage school! I can’t wait to get my hands on some bodies!!!!

Finally, I just completed this trendy new diet thing. You may have heard of it – Whole 30? I learned more than I ever dreamed I could from this 30 days, you know considering it is my job to help people get healthy. I learned a lot, but not about the things I thought I would. I won’t spoil any secrets now, but I will say that you are probably among the 91% of people who isn’t eating enough vegetables.

In the coming month I will share my Whole 30 experience with you, so that you can learn from my mistakes…errr… my learning moments. That’s what we’ll call them. After all, everything is a learning experience. If you are going through life and not learning anything, are you really living? No, the answer to that is no.

I can’t wait to share all these gems with you. Oh and did I mention recipes? There will be recipes!!

I know we are already a month into 2017, but on this first day of February I am starting fresh again today. Here’s to an amazing 2017!!!! I hope yours is amazing too!

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The Zombie Apocalypse is Here.

The day scientists warned us about has finally come. The first known case of the zombie sickness on U.S. soil was confirmed at a Pennsylvania hospital yesterday. The infected female patient presented with symptoms of a urinary tract infection in April of 2016, but doctors  were concerned that her issue was much more severe. It turned out they were right.

When the woman’s urine sample was sent in for laboratory analysis, it became clear that the she had indeed contracted the dreaded, fatal zombie sickness. She has since been quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease. Zombie sickness is highly contagious and there is no known cure or treatment. Symptoms include fever, cold sweats, and rapidly deteriorating mental state. Those in later stages of zombie sickness are sometimes catatonic, and very often violent, prone to clawing and biting. There have even been reports of these patients becoming cannibalistic and eating human flesh.

This disease has previously shown up around the globe stretching from Europe, to Africa, and South America, as well as in China and Canada, but this is the very first case to be reported in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control urges hospital workers to exercise extreme caution in interacting with anyone who presents with these symptoms as zombie sickness is so highly contagious and almost always fatal. Worldwide, it is estimated that 700,000 people die yearly as a result of zombie sickness with estimates expected to climb now that the disease is stateside.
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If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard this groundbreaking story anywhere else, it is because it is not entirely true. But there are some important elements of truth: Lab results recently came back for a woman in Pennsylvania showing that she had contracted a bacterial urinary tract infection caused by E-coli. This particular strain of E-coli was resistant to the antibiotic Colistin. Colistin is currently the last line of defense against bacterial infections. It is the drug they use when all other antibiotics have failed. If you are paranoid about the zombie apocalypse happening, this is a real life equivalent and it is just as scary.

While doctors were eventually able to find other antibiotics that did work for this woman’s infection, the type of resistance harbored by this type of E-coli is particularly problematic. This type of E-coli stores its antibiotic resistant gene in a place that makes it very easy to share with other bacteria, via something called horizontal gene transfer.

What that means is that these superbugs can share their resistant genes with other bacteria, even those that are not forms of E-coli. If bacteria are resistant to the other less potent antibiotics and then pick up resistance to Colistin from these rogue e-coli, we could be looking at a world where catastrophic numbers of people die from simple bacterial infections, because there are simply no drugs left that have the power to do anything.

How did we get to this point?

There are many things we as humans do that increase the spread of antibiotic resistant superbugs but here are a key few:

1. Taking antibiotics when we don’t need them, and pressuring doctors to give them to us without a clear diagnosis. Not all illnesses are created equal. Bacterial infections are caused by tiny living microbes, but viral infections are caused by non-living viruses. Antibiotics are only effective for killing bacterial infections caused by things like Salmonella, E-coli, Listeria, Streptococcus, etc…

“Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and many leading organizations now recommend against using antibiotics unless there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection.” – WebMD

If you have a cold, flu, or other virus, taking antibiotics will NOT help you get better. It will only increase the chances of your body creating antibiotic resistant bacteria.

“Doctors often wind up prescribing antibiotics because of pressure from patients or parents” – Katherine Fleming-Dutra, a CDC medical epidemiologist.

2. Another problem is not following the prescribed dosage instructions or discontinuing antibiotic usage early. Antibiotics are meant to be taken as prescribed.

“Take an antibiotic exactly as the healthcare provider tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect.” – RxList

3. A bigger problem that many people aren’t aware of is the use of antibiotics in food.

It is estimated that 1/3 of antibiotic prescriptions written for humans are unnecessary. Now that is a lot of unnecessary antibiotic use, but what if I told you that 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. end up being given to animals, not humans? Livestock confined in cramped cages and barns are often at risk for many diseases because of unsanitary, crowded conditions. As a result, these animals are given antibiotics to prevent illness. Sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics in livestock have also been historically linked to growth promotion. The constant stream of antibiotics in livestock has made room for many new drug resistant superbugs to emerge, and for these bacteria to cause infection in humans. The same type of Colistin resistant E-coli that caused this Pennsylvania woman’s UTI was originally discovered in 2013 in a pig in China.

We are standing on the edge of a figurative cliff.

Bacteria are evolving faster than we can create new treatments. And, because people only need antibiotics for a few days or a week, there is little incentive to work on creating new ones.

“Antibiotics, in particular, have a poor return on investment because they are taken for a short period of time and cure their target disease.” – World Health Organization

Sadly, the research and development go where the money is, and the big bucks aren’t found in developing new antibiotics.

Each year, 2 million Americans contract antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, and at least 23,000 die from them. It is estimated that by the year “2050, 10 million people will die a year from otherwise curable diseases.”  This means that we could be looking at a future in which antibiotics are powerless to help us fight bacterial infections. This means simple surgeries like wisdom teeth removal might not be possible. Do you want to live in a world with no useful antibiotics? Where you  could die from complications of a simple surgery? Or a urinary tract infection? or Strep Throat? Or an ear infection?

This article was designed to create a pit in your stomach. At this point it should be clear that as a society we are in a very precarious position. A zombie apocalypse is scary, but it’s not real. Antibiotic resistance is a very real threat to the survival of humanity – a real threat that we have to start fighting immediately.

So what can we do?

1. Only take antibiotics when you absolutely need them, as directed by your doctor, and don’t pressure your doctor into giving you an antibiotic that you don’t need.

2. Take the full prescribed course of antibiotics as directed when your doctor diagnoses you with a bacterial infection. You might want to ask your doctor about which drugs are most effective for treating the type of bacterial infection you have.

3. Eat organic meat. USDA organic regulations “require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.” Because of this more humane treatment, constant preventative antibiotics are not necessary. If organic meat isn’t feasible in your budget at the moment, look for companies that pledge not to use antibiotics in their meat or opt for vegetarian protein sources like beans or quinoa. Also, look for wild caught fish, as farmed fish are often raised in unsanitary conditions with heavy antibiotic use.

The future of antibiotics looks grim right now, but we can change it by being vigilant. By now you should have a full arsenal to arm you in your fight in the zombie apocalypse. Don’t let the zombie sickness sneak into your home, and make sure you are protecting your family. Being smart about antibiotic use and switching to organic or antibiotic free meat and fish will go a long way in helping protect you from the walking dead.

NIght of the Living Dead

Anxiety? Depression? You Need to Read This

I went to an amazing concert last weekend and it is all I can think about. I am still riding the electrifying energy from that show, 6 days later.

Music is one of those things that nourishes in a way nothing else can. Fellow frequent concert-goers know exactly what I am talking about: the rush you get from seeing your favorite band on stage right in front of you. The sense of community experienced by perfect strangers as they shout lyrics in unison. The unparalleled stress relief you get from rocking out, and perhaps if you’re really lucky, the indescribable feeling of getting to chat with the band members after the show.

Maybe music doesn’t do this for you like it does for me. Perhaps your cathartic escape is running, going to the gym, or participating in a sport. Perhaps it is knitting, dancing, skateboarding, bee-keeping, beer-brewing, horseback riding, or cooking. Whatever yours is, you know it because it feeds you in a way that food doesn’t. Your passion for this is hard to put into words, but it is almost as important to your well being as the air you breathe.

Music, especially live music, feeds me in a way that has no parallels, which is why I am still riding the high from last week’s show. But this concert was different in a very big way, and that is the part I really can’t stop thinking about.

I didn’t get anxious. At all. The entire show.

For some context, the music I most enjoy live could be considered… INTENSE. Especially the crowds. Think: circle pits, moshing, crowd surfing, etc…

For years, I attended these shows and positioned myself in such a way that I would be safely removed from the chaos. Going to these shows was life-giving and helped relieve stress, but my intense anxiety caused me serious claustrophobia, so I was always very careful about where I stood and brought friends with for backup in case I had a panic attack. I could never be completely boxed in – always had an escape route – and lots of space around me and whoever stood closest. I preferred smaller venues because big crowds were literally terrifying.

At last week’s sold out show, I stood with only one person in front of me, dangerously close to the stage, for the first time in my life. And it was freeing in a way that I have never experienced. The crowd ebbed and swayed, but instead of sneaking away to the side to hide, I just let it move me. I even got separated from my concert buddies, but I just kept dancing while the musicians melted our faces off (figuratively of course).

When the crowd got particularly boisterous I got knocked around a little bit. There was shoving, elbows flying, and it was difficult to stand upright, but I just pushed right back. Despite this, my husband and sister panicked a little. I kept having to turn around and give them a thumbs up because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Despite people being squeezed in all around me in what appeared to be total chaos, I was screaming along to every song, jumping as high as my legs would allow, completely engulfed in the experience.

Not only was I free from anxiety, but I also didn’t have a single sip of alcohol. This was a first for me. In the years since I hit drinking age, I always had a drink at shows because of how anxious I was. Like a lot of people, I needed it to help me unwind and let go. This time I rocked out sans alcohol and anxiety, totally wrapped up in every moment. This event made me realize just how far I have come, and I knew I had to share this experience.
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For someone struggling with anxiety or depression (or both), it can sometimes seem like there is no way out. I know, because I was that person for a long time.

Many people reading this might be surprised to learn that I used to suffer from anxiety and depression, and that is because I suffered in silence. I struggled on my own for a very long time. I was depressed in high school but had no idea that what I was feeling was depression. It wasn’t until my Behavior Disorders class in graduate school that I truly realized what was going on.

The joke is that doctors and other health professionals always diagnose themselves with whatever it is they are studying at the time. I was no exception, but I also really had what I was reading about. This was life changing information for me. Anxiety and depression were more than just words on a page – they suddenly became very real.

Even though that class helped me become aware of what was going on, I didn’t really tell anybody outside of my very close family members what I was experiencing. I didn’t want to be cursed with the stigma of mental illness. I didn’t want it to change the way people looked at me. I kept it to myself and didn’t seek help because if I was seeking help that meant I was accepting my fate. I didn’t want to let depression or anxiety define me.

It wasn’t until that fateful appointment with my doctor a few years ago that I started to change the way I looked at depression, and mental health in general. Hearing that I was going to need medication for the rest of my life to keep depression and anxiety symptoms at bay forced me to take a good hard look at myself. I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself, but the appointment that day made it crystal clear that I wasn’t. I wasn’t taking care of myself at all.

My diet was crap, completely void of nutrients. I didn’t get good sleep. I wasn’t exercising. I didn’t engage in any stress relieving practices. I relied on too many prescriptions and over the counter medications for stomach problems, headaches, allergies, asthma, and hypoglycemia. The amount of money I wasted on all those products should have been a clue that I was unwell, but somehow I ignored it.

Despite knowing that I had some serious life changes to make, I still didn’t tell people I was depressed. Lots of people knew I had debilitating allergies and low blood sugar, but I only told the people closest to me about what I was going through with depression/anxiety because there was such a tremendous stigma around mental health issues.

Heck, there still is. Other than my health, nothing has really changed in these few years, and that is exactly why I am writing this post. We are in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is time to end the stigma associated with these health problems. I was in denial about my health for a long time because I didn’t realize how many people around me were also suffering. I thought I was alone and I felt too ashamed to ask for help.

If you are suffering, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are other people out there who know what you are going through, because they are going through it right now too. Please also know that there is a way out and it is beautiful, paved with sunshine, puppy dogs, and rocking music 🙂 I wish I had the courage to share my experiences with these issues back when I was actually experiencing them, but I am doing it now in the hopes that it will reach someone who is walking in the shoes I used to walk in.

Everybody’s depression is different, everybody’s anxiety is different, but I am living proof that it is possible for someone to be symptom free, drug-free, and happy. Every day I have a better understanding of how I healed myself, and it is nothing short of miraculous. There is hope for all of us. You just need to know how to get better. First and foremost, you just need to know that you CAN get better.

When I started taking charge of my health, my symptoms vanished, one-by-one. The more I put myself and my health first, the more the unhealthy me slipped away. The fearful one, the sad one, the one who had to go home 4 times every day on the way to work to check that her doors were locked. The one who had panic attacks – the one who cried for no reason – the one suffering from terrifying chest pain – the one who hated meeting new people and going to social functions – the one who couldn’t get out of bed for a whole month – the one who believed she was worthless – the one who loved singing but was too afraid to get in front of a crowd – the one who thought she was broken – the one who washed her hands until they were raw, cracked, and bleeding – the one who lashed out at the people who were just trying to help her.

The unhealthy me becomes more of a distant memory every day.

If you only take one thing away from reading this, please let it be that if you are struggling, you are not alone. There are people out there who can help you, and things you can do to get better. There is hope. I know, because I found it. And I know you can too. Keep rocking.

If you need to talk to someone please reach out to your doctor, counselor, or holistic health care practitioner. The therapists at Be Your Very Best have been helping people through mental, physical, and emotional issues since 1989. Please visit their website if you are interested in getting help.

 

 

Feel Good Smoothie: Delicious – easy – affordable

Because everyone is different (Remember that idea of bioindividuality?), there are few universal truths when it comes to food and nutrition. But there are some things I talk about with all my new clients because many people don’t already do these things enough:

1. Are you eating enough dark green and brightly colored veggies?

2. Are you drinking enough water?

3. Are you getting quality probiotics somewhere in your diet?

Don’t panic if you are reading that probiotic ^ word and thinking you missed that post I promised you. I keep saying that I am going to write a post on the gut microbiome, antibiotics, probiotics, etc and I promise I will. But first we need to talk about breakfast.

For many people even thinking about choosing a probiotic supplement is overwhelming. There are so many kinds, with so many different strains of bacteria. Some come in bottles and some come in blister packs. Some have high enteric coatings, some mention prebiotic fiber or other ingredient blends… HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO JUST CHOOSE ONE???

Well the good news is that I have a simple solution.

Make a smoothie. Not only does this recipe give you a nice dose of easy to ingest probiotics, but it also includes a couple other fantastic ingredients that help nourish your body AND prevent cancer.

Recipe:

6 oz of strawberry kefir (or other flavor if you prefer)

1 cup (or more) of fresh organic spinach leaves

1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries

1/2 cup frozen organic strawberries

1/2 medium organic banana – you get bonus points if it’s not all the way ripe yet

2 oz organic apple juice to help provide a smoother texture

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. Step 2: Enjoy! Step 3: Pick up those 2 blueberries you accidentally dropped. Seriously – they will turn your counter purple.

If you’re counting up the total grams of sugar in this, let me stop you and say, yes – there is a decent amount of sugar here. It contains about 40 grams. For comparison, there are upwards of 70 and even 80 grams of sugar in some of the large size iced coffee beverages that some people grab from their favorite drive through every morning. I’m looking at you venti caramel something or other…

No, sugar is not magically good for you just because it comes from fruit. Fructose can still impact your blood sugar levels, although some studies show it has less of an impact than sucrose does because it is processed differently. The bottom line here though is that the combination of fiber, protein and fat in this smoothie can help prevent blood sugar spikes. Further, there are compounds in unripened bananas that actually help LOWER your blood sugar. So… bananas are magic? How cool is that?! All in all, this smoothie is a nutrient packed way to start the day. BONUS: it tastes really good.

With about 3 servings of fruits and veggies, this smoothie is an easy way to help you work toward your daily quota.  This 16 oz smoothie can stand alone as a mini meal (I love drinking it after I work out), but I also like to pair it with some high quality protein. My husband and I usually split one for breakfast, and enjoy it alongside some organic eggs and Ezekiel toast, or root veggies. Find whatever combination works to help you feel your best, and enjoy all the health benefits that come with it!

Here’s a bit more thorough information on each ingredient in case you’re interested:

  • Kefir = PROBIOTICS!!! In addition to providing 15-20 billion CFU’s for 12 different live and active cultures, kefir also contains protein, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A. Nutrition info here.
  • Spinach gives you Vitamins A, C, and K1 as well as Calcium, Iron, and Folate. It has lots of other awesome benefits too. Read more here.
  • Blueberries are a good source of Vitamin K1, Vitamin C, and Manganese. They are also the ruler of all antioxidant fruits. That means they can help prevent cancer while they are staining your counter-top! Read more here.
  • Strawberries pack a nutrient punch with Vitamin C, Manganese, and Folate. Also a good source of cancer fighting antioxidants. Read more here.
  • Bananas provide good amounts of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Manganese, and Potassium. Bananas also contain cancer fighting antioxidants, as well as a fiber called pectin that helps regulate blood sugar. In addition to pectin, unripened bananas also contain resistant starch which provides even more support in balancing your blood sugar levels. AND resistant starches act as food for the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Read more here.
  • Apple Juice: Unfortunately juice doesn’t provide us all the awesome benefits of the fiber found in whole apples, but this one does contain a decent amount of Vitamin C!

If you’re wondering where I get my smoothie ingredients, look no further than my last post – Affordable Organic: An Ode to Aldi. I make my smoothie with ingredients solely purchased from Aldi for about $3.00. They stock all of these items on a regular basis making it easy and affordable to drink your vitamins and your probiotics. Bottoms up!

Affordable Organic: An Ode to Aldi

In my first post I talked about the health challenges I have faced, and how far I have come in just a few short years. My journey isn’t over, and I will be the first to admit that the path I took to get here was a long and winding one full of trial and error. I experimented with many supplements (under the supervision of a trained professional), and made other lifestyle changes, including making homemade natural air fresheners, lip balm, deodorant, and sunscreen, but the single most important change that I made was switching to an organic diet.

Since making the switch, the mood and anxiety symptoms that used to cripple me regularly are virtually non-existent. I no longer need allergy medicine, because I no longer have allergies. I get so much joy now from being able to run up to household pets when I visit friends and family, petting the fluffballs all over without even the hint of a sneeze. My blood sugar is stable for the first time in my adult life, and I can finally enjoy sugar and fruit without feeling drunk.

I also unintentionally lost a decent amount of weight – easiest 15 pounds I ever lost! My palate has changed a lot in this process so the foods that I enjoy and consume regularly have changed, but everything we make at home is beyond delicious (ie: loaded baked potato broccoli cheddar chicken soup we made today). Bottom line, I eat just about whatever I want, as long as it’s organic, and still maintain a healthy weight, feeling great both physically and mentally.

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Another huge part of my recovery was healing my gut with probiotics, and eliminating foods/ingredients that are connected to poor gut health (eating organic makes it much easier to do this without having to try so hard). You would be astounded if you knew how many processes in the body are tied to the bacteria that call your gut home! This is such a complex topic that it will get its own blog post in the near future.

While eating organic and focusing on cultivating good gut bacteria seems to be my holy grail of health, it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone’s body reacts the same way to the same fuel. Some people have sensitivities to certain foods, and others have full blown food allergies. Ultimately you have to listen to your own body to find your own perfect diet.

Food allergies and sensitivities aside, I would suggest that eating organic is a good idea for everyone, for a few reasons: More cancer-fighting antioxidants, higher concentration of nutrients like Omega-3 fats, reduced exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, and avoiding consumption of medically necessary antibiotics. I won’t get into the science behind all of that today though, because this post is about cheap clean food.

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One of the first things that people ask me when they find out our family eats all organic is, “But isn’t it really expensive?” The answer is, “Yes and no.”

First, it’s more expensive than conventional food, but it’s not un-affordable if you know where, when, and how to shop for it.

Second, the amount you could save on health related costs (over-the-counter medicines, doctor’s visits, blood tests, prescription drugs, hospital stays, etc) is, in my opinion, well worth the investment at the grocery store or local farmer’s market.

You probably know the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You can pay a little more upfront for high quality, clean, nutrient-rich food, or A LOT more in cumulative medical costs over your lifetime. The choice is entirely up to you.

For our family, stores like Aldi, Costco, Jewel, Meijer, Wiseway, and Ultra Foods have made eating organic a breeze. There are new organic products available every time I browse the aisles at these stores and my husband laughs at me because it makes me so giddy to see all these new options available to help keep my mind, body, and budget happy.

The happy shopping trip that inspired this blog post took place at Aldi. If you aren’t familiar with Aldi, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out. Aldi is great because they have their own store brand called Simply Nature, which is free from more than 125 artificial ingredients and preservatives. Not all Simply Nature products are organic, but many are, and the store has a great everyday selection of organic items available. But that is not the only reason Aldi is great. They also have “Special Buys” every week where they offer new featured products for a limited time. When the special buys feature a large amount of organic options I stock up and save big.

There are several Aldi locations throughout Northwest Indiana but the two that I frequent the most are the Crown Point and Merrillville locations. Here is a short list of what I came across during the second week of January at the Crown Point Aldi.

  • Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes, 8 oz – 12 count: $9.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: $1.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Frozen Green Beans: oz – $1.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Pancake Mix (Oatmeal or Whole Wheat): $2.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Yellow Corn Chips: oz – $1.89 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic 2% Milk half gallon: $2.95
  • Organic Creamy Peanut Butter: $3.99
  • Organic Grass-fed Ground Beef, 1 lb (85% lean): $6.99
  • Organic Gluten Free Pasta (Penne or Rotini): $2.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Shredded Cheeses (Mozzarella & Mexican Blend): 6 oz bag – $2.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Cabernet Sauvignon: $6.99 per bottle!!!!! [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Canned Beans (Pinto, Black, Garbonzo): $.79 each
  • Organic Spaghettios: $0.99 [SPECIAL BUY]
  • Organic Baby Carrots: $0.99 [SALE]
  • Organic Spring Mix: $1.69 [SALE]
  • Organic Baby Spinach: $2.49
  • Organic Bananas: $.69 per lb
  • Organic Tomatoes: $2.29 per pint
  • Organic Apple Juice – 64 oz: $2.49
  • Organic Frozen Strawberries/Blueberries – 12 oz: $2.99

This is just a small sampling of the awesomeness that I came across when I shopped at the Crown Point Aldi between January 6 and 12. There were many more organic items available in store that were not advertised in the weekly flyer, but many of these were listed online.

Aldi also offers THE MOST DELICIOUS Organic Brownie mix sometimes as a special buy for only $2.99. This mix is what my husband uses as a base when he makes my favorite (not-so-healthy) peanut butter cheesecake brownies. Don’t worry, these completely organic sweet treats only happen like twice a year for special occasions.

My body doesn’t require that I maintain a gluten-free lifestyle, but Aldi also has a line called liveGfree for those who need to avoid gluten consumption. I would exercise caution with processed gluten-free items that have incredibly long ingredient lists though, because they sometimes contain ingredients and additives that can cause other negative reactions. As a general rule, it is ideal to minimize the amount of processed food consumed (organic, gluten free, or otherwise).

If you are looking to maintain a healthier lifestyle by eating food that makes your body happy, and also keeps your wallet healthy, Aldi is a great affordable place to start.

To learn more about health coaching, visit Be Your Very Best’s website by clicking here.

*I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV. This post is meant for informational purposes only. It should not serve as a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any medical condition*

 

The Perfect Diet

I am about to reveal the most perfect diet. The one that will help you lose the last 15 pounds, the one that will cure all your health problems, the one that will work for every single person on this planet.

This perfect diet: Does not exist.

There is simply no such thing as a cure all diet that can possibly address every health issue, or help us all achieve our ideal weight. If there were such a perfect diet, it would be recommended by every governmental body in the world, and we would all be on it already, all eating the exact same thing, all feeling great, and there would no longer be obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or anything else that threatens our well-being. We would all already be healthy and happy. But the reality is that many of us are not happy and healthy, because there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet.

If you look around the world, national governmental agencies can’t even come to a consensus on what is considered healthy. Granted, there are some political issues at play. and in some cases these dietary guidelines might be a bit… adulterated… but that is a separate issue from what we are discussing today. The bottom line is that if all the major nations in the world can’t even agree, it isn’t a surprise that regular citizens are left wondering what is good for them.

Raise your hand if you were one of the people who clicked on this article because you were hoping for the holy grail, the one diet to rule all the diets, the perfect diet that will make you fit and healthy and perfect. It’s okay if you raised your hand, because we have all been there at some point, desperate to find something that will help us reach our goals.

The good news is that there is a diet that will work for you. The bad news is that what works for your neighbor, friend, coworker, brother, cousin, etc, might not work for you too. I know people that are vegan and loving it, and others who are on a meat heavy paleo diet. I have friends who are gluten free and others who completely avoid processed food – making everything at home from scratch. I also know those who follow some combination of the above. None of these people are right, and none of these people are wrong. They are all eating what helps their body work in the best way possible.

The reason diets don’t work the same for everyone, is that all people bring a different set of variables to the table. When you are working to find a diet that is right for you, it is helpful to remember that many different aspects of your life have an impact on what your body really needs to be healthy. Your family history and genetics, your ethnic heritage, your hormones, your home life, your stress level at work, your eye color – okay I am kidding about that last one, but you get the point. People maintain their own specific bioindividuality, and this is why the perfect food for you might be somebody else’s poison.

If you stop treating foods as Good or Bad, and start looking at foods as if they are good or bad for you, it becomes easier to investigate and find out what actually works for you.

I happen to eat a completely organic diet – everything in our home has the USDA organic seal on it. As you might already know, I was suffering from a great many health problems, but they are virtually nonexistent now that I eat this way (I also lost 13 pounds, which was a nice unintended side effect). I didn’t start eating a 100% organic diet all at once though. I started by adding a few organic items to my diet, and I noticed my symptoms were improving. I gradually added in more organic items over time, and I just felt better and better, until one day I was eating all organic and my symptoms were gone. We will get into the potential health benefits of choosing organic options in a future post, but the key takeaway here is that I listened to my body and I adjusted accordingly.

I don’t count carbs or calories or fats or proteins. I just eat what my body tells me it wants. Sometimes that is a juicy cheeseburger. Sometimes that is a HUGE salad. Sometimes it is nachos or garlic chicken with veggies, and sometimes it is gluten free lasagna made from sliced zucchini instead of the long pasta noodles. Sometimes I just want a brownie or chocolate milk, but I listen to what my body is asking for, and I have never felt better in my entire life.

As a general rule, we could all probably benefit from minimizing our consumption of heavily processed food, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, but beyond that, there is a lot of room for experimentation. You can reach your weight goals. You can improve your health. In the end, we all just need to grab a magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes hat so we can start being the clever food detective in our own “healthily” ever after story.

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Tonight’s dinner consisted of Annie’s “Shells and Real Aged Cheddar Mac and Cheese,” green beans and corn, and slow-cooker chicken with Chef Kate’s homemade organic barbecue sauce.

SIDE NOTE: If you happen to be looking for organic, vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free  prepared meals for when you don’t have time to cook, I’ve got the perfect place for you to get your hands on the most delicious dinner you will literally ever eat in your entire life: Green is Good By Kate. No, I am not exaggerating in the least. Go check out the website, start following their Facebook page so you can see what new items are available this week, and stop in to grab something before they sell out.

*I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV. This post is meant for informational purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for medical advice or treatment of any medical condition*

This is just the beginning

A few years ago I was sick.

I lived on a fast food diet, and required regular interventions with stomach soothing bismuth tablets and ginger ale. I had to have caffeine every morning or I was useless. My blood sugar was erratic – I couldn’t go more than 3 hours without eating, and sugar made me really drunk. I couldn’t even eat fruit sugar. Whether I had a banana or beer, it didn’t matter. Both would render me incapable of driving my car. Candy might as well have been cognac. But sugar wasn’t my only nemesis. My allergies were so bad that even with medicine, I couldn’t be outside for very long or hang out with anyone who had animals. If I tried running, exercise-induced asthma kicked in after a few minutes, and caused me to double over gasping for air.  I had no energy.  I was anxious.  I was depressed.

Last spring, I was face to face with my M.D. who told me that my recurrent anxieties and severe mood symptoms meant I needed some pretty strong medication. I was already taking all of the over the counter stuff and hearing that I was going to be dependent on yet another pill to feel like a whole functioning human being was just another kick in the gut. That day changed my life forever, because that was the day that I decided I wasn’t going to be sick anymore.

A year and a half later:

I don’t suffer from crippling depressive symptoms or panic episodes. My blood sugar is stable and I can finally eat sugar and fruit without looking like I took shots of expensive tequila. I can exercise without getting the wind knocked out of me and I can be outside without pollen and dander causing sneezing fits and bloodshot eyes. I also never get those horrible stomach aches that made pepto so essential in my diet.

I am a picture of health.

I take no medication – literally none. Nothing for asthma, nothing for allergies, nothing for mood issues. I don’t even need caffeine to get going in the morning anymore. I also inadvertently lost 13 pounds. I wasn’t trying to do this, but weight started coming off with virtually no effort, the more I learned about what my body really needed to be healthy. My life is a complete 180 from where I was a year and a half ago.

I didn’t find some magic cure. It took a long while with lots of trial and error to get here but I listened to my body and I am never going back to where I was before. That miserable version of me was not me.

I know that I am not the only one who has wanted to feel better.  I know that I am not the only one who has struggled with health issues, feeling like a victim resigned to a fate of continuous doctor’s visits and never-ending prescription pads.  I also know that I am not the only one who is capable of going from zero to feeling like a million bucks. And that is why I am writing this for you. I want you to feel like a million bucks too.

In the last year and a half, I started working on my own natural bath/body product line, and began working on my certification to be a health coach. Everyday I work on making new products to help make people’s lives happier and healthier. Everyday I am learning new dietary theories and reading up on research studies to help me better understand the challenges that my clients might face. It is my sincere hope that I will reach people who are longing to feel better, people looking for answers, people who just want to be the healthiest, happiest versions of themselves.

This blog is meant to chronicle my journey. I hope that by sharing my story, it will help you get in touch with the best version of yourself. Let’s find the real you.