My First Whole30: The WHY.

Something to know about me: I am seriously Type-A, to the most extreme degree. I plan everything, organize it, and then overthink it all. So my decision to do my first Whole30 did not come lightly. But it’s one that I’m so extremely excited about, and truly feel that I am doing for the right reasons! So I wanted to do a post explaining why I chose to make this change, and help shed a little light on some information that not a lot of people may know.

If you are unfamiliar with the Whole30, the website is by far the best place to go for information, along with the book It Starts With Food. Both of these resources explain the program far better than I ever could, but in simple terms: It’s 30 days of strict paleo where you work to not only improve your digestion  and overall health, but relationship with food. People come out of it raving about skyrocketing energy levels, improved skin, disappearing digestive/bloating issues, and so much more! So, obviously, I had to get some of that for myself, right?

W9-ISWF-Sliding-Header-2

I mentioned earlier that I am in love with listening to the Nourished Podcast – so a ton of information comes from there! There were a lot of topics that Meg and Shawn talked about that sparked my interest, which I then researched further on my own, such as:

  • Autoimmune disease: My mom has ulcerative colitis, a form of irritable bowel disease. Dairy and gluten are two major foods that cause flares and inflammation (a HUGE FACTOR in autoimmune disease), and I’ve been noticing more and more intolerances to them over the past few months. I also am constantly bloated, and these could be a potential cause. Additionally, people have literally cured their Autoimmune disease through a combination of Paleo, Whole30, and the Autoimmune Protocol. I have another health situation that I’m not ready to blog about, but could very well be autoimmune and thus I want to try every possible remedy for it!
  • Hormone balance: my hormones are a big factor in this “mystery condition” as it is appearing. 😉 Grains, legumes, and dairy have all been known to disrupt female hormones, not to mention cause inflammation, disturbing cortisol levels.
  • Poor quality sleep: These factors are ALL interrelated. What happens when you have disrupted cortisol levels? Well, it’s not high when it should be (the morning), and you wake up feeling groggy and drag yourself out of bed. Then, as a result, it’s high at the wrong time (evening) and you feel like you can’t sleep even though you’re exhausted. I’m pretty sure a lot of you can relate to this! Additionally, eating too much / too much sugar close to falling asleep often results in waking up at 2-3am due to low blood sugar. I had never considered this cause, but it makes perfect sense! I always eat fruit / cookies / chocolate / whatever right before bed, and always wake up 2-3 times per night. More balanced blood sugar = more balanced sleep.
  • Thyroid issues: Some symptoms of hypothyroidism: constant fatigue, hormone imbalance, dry/brittle hair/skin/nails, brain fog, mood swings, and/or weight gain (and struggle to keep it off). Now, these aren’t all of the symptoms, just some very common ones, and I can relate to every single one! Guess what? Hypo OR hyperthyroidism is often an autoimmune disease, which inflammation is a HUGE trigger for. And our three major inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy, legumes.
  • Keratosis Pillaris & Nutrient Absorption: Here’s where I get all science-y on ya. Dairy, grains, and legumes (along with other foods, just picking on these 3 for simplicity’s sake!) all contain phytates, which bind to many the nutrients in the food, limiting our ability to digest them. So the nutrients are there, but not bioavailable and therefore of very limited benefit to us! There are, of course, many consequences of this occurrence, but the one I am focusing on here is keratosis pillaris. You know, those weird red bumps common on the back of arms and legs? I’ve had mine for over seven years, and nothing has helped get rid of them. So the hope is, along with dry-brushing and coconut oil lathering, my body properly absorbing a ton of nutrients will help these annoying little guys disappear for good.

Wow. That was a lot of information – and I could keep going! The truth is, there is an infinite amount of information available to us in this era, and it only makes sense to take full advantage of it! I can’t wait to start experiencing some of the major benefits of this experience, and will be sure to keep you updated along the way. I’m thinking of a “Whole30: The HOW” post, explaining some of the things I’m doing along with changing my diet, and of course a “THE FOOD” post, showing the delicious creations I’m eating. 🙂 I hope you all have a fantastic Monday!

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How I’m Working to Balance Cortisol

Now, I may not be a nutritionist, but I’ve long prided myself on having excellent “gut instincts”, and that combined with hours of research has me pretty solidly at the conclusion that my cortisol hormone levels are way, WAY out of whack. My reasoning for this?

1. Zero appetite in the mornings. It doesn’t matter if I eat 2000 calories between dinner and bedtime or 500, I don’t remember the last time that I woke up hungry. I usually run or lift weights first thing, so that makes me hungryish, but on a rest day, the desire to eat is non-existent.

2. Uncontrollable appetite at night. I’ve told myself I’m going to eat less at night so many times I’ve lost track. It’s not about eating less overall, it’s about allowing my body a break from digestion while I sleep to recover and repair for the next day!

IMG_1974This is basically my appetizer. 

3. Sluggish and lethargic until late at night. Tonight is a perfect example. I felt nauseous from exhaustion around 3pm today, having woke up at 5am. Here it is, 10pm, and I am all of a sudden full of energy working on my second blog post of the night. Granted, the amount of sugar I consumed is probably a part of that but you get the idea.

4. Anxiety. I’m constantly worrying about something, whether it’s relationships, school, moving, work, life, self-confidence, running, etc. and it completely squashes me. My personality squirts out here and there but it is largely crushed by anxiety right now and that makes me sad. <— that was 100% unintentional but THERE I AM WORRYING ABOUT WORRYING.

to this  trip of a lifetime!  Potentially the only time in my life I have willingly worn a dress.  Take me back, please.So let’s smile and explore New York City instead. 

5. Intense sugar cravings. All day, all night, I literally cannot get enough sugar. Gum and aspartame make it worse, but they’re still there when I go weeks without the fake stuff.

apple-fritters

6. Frequent migraines. Geeze, I feel like I get these every day lately. They’re almost always at night but absolutely miserable and cause neck pain as well. Ibuprofen helps about 5% but I usually end up in bed with ice on my face hoping it goes away.

Now, obviously these things all contribute to one another, but they have to be sparked by something – and that is very likely cortisol! I’m beyond sick of feeling gross and out of balance, so it’s time to make a change. Here’s what I pledge to do in the future:

1. No electronics in bed. I can’t try to make a “2 hours before bed” rule, because right now that’s the only time I can blog and soon it will be intense study time. But I can stop bringing my phone into bed with me and staring at it until I pass out. Only books and magazines immediately before sleep now!

EmmaOceanI should really get around to finishing this one! 

2. NO aspartame, and eat fat when craving sugar. Yeah, we’ve all heard that first one 8000 times. I’ve never tried the fat in place of sugar thing, though, but I do notice my cravings subside when I do it. So the next time I’m hankering for some mentos or even fruit, I’m going to try a spoonful of peanut butter first.

3. Treat my body well. That’s a vague statement because it needs to be. Honestly, I’ve been treating my body horribly lately. Mass amounts of gum, processed food, sugary baked goods, the list goes on. I just want to nourish myself, experiment with things like apple cider vinegar and oil pulling, incorporate yoga, and be good to myself in general.

salad bar, you have done it again! I had an intense craving for some veggie  power: kale + mushrooms + squash + chicken + asparagus!There was a time when I ate salads. 

4. Blog and journal. It’s no surprise that I always feel better after blogging and writing. Getting out some of the eight million thoughts in my head is so freeing; it’s like a weight is lifted off my shoulders each time I write a post. So I’m going to continue blogging as much as I can, and journal about the things that don’t make it onto the internet for the world to see. With any luck, the stressful thoughts will stay on paper / screen, out of my head, and I won’t be so worried and anxious about every darn thing.

5. Take action. It’s so easy to be paralyzed by fear. Take my house hunting, for instance. I’m so worried that I’m not going to find anywhere to live that I haven’t even looked for over four days. I’m rendered motionless by anxiety of the unknown. So instead of cowering in fear, I’m going to turn each thing I’m worried about into an attainable goal, and take action to reach it.

Have you considered your cortisol levels? 

What is one thing that regularly stresses you out? 

College Dorm Room Snack Hacks.

Let it be known that I am a professional snacker. I don’t even bother trying to “make it” to the next meal. That would be not only an incredibly unpleasant idea for me, but everyone around me that would be faced with Hangry Emma. And nobody wants to meet her. 😉

That said, though, I don’t have the luxury of whipping up pancakes and smoothies whenever a craving hits. For 21 (!!) more days, I’ve gotta work with that mini fridge / freezer / snack drawer lifestyle.

DormRoomSnackHacks

^ By the way, my snack drawer is better than your snack drawer. The one above it filled with skirts has been opened exactly twice since I moved in last September, but the one with the food…we’re tight. I also take full advantage of the freezer on my floor. I’m pretty much the only one that does, unless you count the girl with the biology project…but I personally prefer my nomz.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a few things figured out. Made a few discoveries, realized what doesn’t work, you get the idea. Just a little disclaimer: I don’t eat perfectly healthy right now, for two main reasons:

1. I don’t have enough money on my meal card. The salad bar is expensive, bagels are not.

2. When I get the munchies at 11pm, I can’t exactly go whip up a batch of organic kale chips.

So these options are not chocolate bars and easy mac, but they are also not perfect. But perfection is boring, am I right?

Current obsession: Frozen yogurt tubes.

I was taking a casual stroll around Safeway (What? You don’t get your exercise lapping grocery stores?) when I came across Phineas & Ferb yogurt tubes. It was like I had an epiphany –> I instantly remembered being like eight and obsessed with frozen yogurt tubes. And apparently not much has changed after a decade. I bought a box on Friday, annnnnd, now it’s gone.

yogurt-tubesOops?

Seriously though, these are perfect whether you are in a dorm room or not. They are the perfect size for a little snack / breakfast dessert and are sweet enough to satisfy a craving. Plus you get a platypus on your wrapper…that just can’t be beat.

Staple: Almond butter + rice cakes.

This could not be more perfect for a college student.

Picture this: You are on the go nonstop, only returning to your room for six hours to sleep. One night, after collapsing on the floor in exhaustion, you notice a strange green thing on top of your mini fridge. “I didn’t buy that?” you think to yourself, before realizing that said green item is in fact moldy bread 870 days past it’s expiry date.

Excuse-me-i-have-to-go-vomit

Morale of the story: buy rice cakes. I prefer the caramel chocolate ones because they are actually super delicious and don’t taste like cardboard. No, they aren’t as healthy as organic sprouted grains, but I will take them over green fuzzies any day!

Luxury: Chocolatified greek yogurt. 

I live on this stuff way too much to actually admit. I consider this a luxury because I can’t buy it with my meal plan, so I have to shell out actual (student loan) dollars to buy it. The thing about the dining hall, though, is that there are basically zero protein sources. Of course you can get it in the prepared entrees, but those are covered / mixed in questionable sauces & ingredients 100% of the time. So since I choose to say away from those, my options are cottage cheese, eggs, and 0.5oz chicken breasts.

The size of my $4 chicken from the dining hall ... They are officially trying to starve meI would bet money that is how much this weighs. 

The solution: cocoa powder + stevia + Frye’s cocoa. My absolute favourite dinner is to dip an apple in this, and then microwave a Quest bar. It’s the most satisfying thing I can make for myself, and I know I am getting a solid combination of carbs / protein / fat.

Easy Nutrients: omnipresent veggies. (English nerd much?)

 I should probably include some veggies on my healthyish living blog, hey? Pro tip: carry a tupperware container with you at all times. Then, when you find yourself in the presence of produce, load up! If you aren’t hungry, take it back with you and leave it in your dorm room. That way, you always have something healthy on hand. Sometimes the dining hall has roast carrots (my absolute favourite) at 2pm approximately seven seconds after I’ve eaten lunch. So instead of lamenting this sad state of affairs, I just take some back with me to enjoy later on!

[Tweet “Simple & healthy snacks for college students!”]

I hope that this was helpful to you guys! It’s currently NINE DEGREES and sunny out right now, so I am off for a quick run and then some essay writing on the grass. 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

What was your favourite snack when you were younger? 

Do wimpy portions make you as mad as me? 

I’m still upset about that chicken breast weeks later…

Healthy Swaps to Kick Artificial Sweeteners

As most of you probably know, I have had a loooong struggle with artificial sweeteners. I know how detrimental they are to our health, and yet I can’t seem to kick the habit for good. I’ll go weeks without diet soda, but usually only make it a few days gum-free before caving. And then once I succumb to the gum cravings, I usually use that as an excuse to have ALL the crap: pudding, jello, jam, etc.

Hermione-Granger-Control-Yourself-GIF

I’ve discovered that the best way for me to keep the junk out of my diet is to not simply try and avoid it, but replace it with something that will help satisfy the craving! That way I don’t feel deprived, but I also am not poisoning my body with chemicals.

These are a few of the things I’ve discovered that have worked wonders for me – so much that I actually have an unwrapped pack of gum sitting beside me (I got it in a care package) and have no desire to even open it!

The Fake: Jell-O / pudding: You guys have probably seen them at the grocery store – the 5 calorie jell-o cups and “no sugar added” puddings. I get super snacky after dinner, so sometimes I fall trap to buying these things with the hopes that they will satisfy the late-night munchies. But what they usually end up doing is make me crave sugar more (hello artificial sweeteners!) and feel generally crappy (chemicals galore). I also had a super not fun sugar high after downing three jell-os, only to realize they were the full sugar ones.

SugarfreeJellO

The Swap: Unsweetened applesauce! I have no idea how these have not been in my life beforehand. They come in perfect little cups, just like my beloved pudding, but they only have two ingredients: apples & pectin. These are exactly what I need after dinner and I honestly don’t miss the fake stuff one bit.

The Fake: Diet soda: You know, when you aren’t hungry but just feel like something sweet? I don’t actually even like diet coke anymore, but fresca used to happen a little too regularly around here.

The Swap: Tomato juice! I actually discovered this on the airplane – it is thick, satisfying, and made of only tomatoes and salt! It is definitely salty though – I wouldn’t have more than one every few days, one per day MAX, but it honestly eliminates any craving instantly. Travelling generally makes me really snacky, mainly out of boredom and not hunger, so this is also great for those instances when you just eat for something to do.

caesarI would prefer clamato juice in caesar form…but tomato juice works too. 😉

The Fake: Gum: OH GUM. I have given up counting the number of times I have attempted to quit the stuff and failed. I don’t remember the last time I had any, so that is a good sign, but it wasn’t overly long ago. I tend to associate gum with things like reading magazines, so that has been the hardest part of quitting for me.

The Swap: A new outlook. Let’s just be completely honest here – the “naturally sweetened” gums are just plain gross. The flavour lasts for 2.3 seconds and then it turns into a flavourless wad of plastic. I think the main reason I haven’t been craving gum these past few days is I’ve realized my mouth does not need to be occupied at all times! It sounds ridiculous, but I honestly used to feel that way. I had to be eating / drinking / chewing something at all times or I was uncomfortable. Since getting over that, the cravings have vanished.

The Balance of Nutrition & Activity

As I wrote a novel about yesterday, last week I went on a four-day cruise! All the food was free onboard, which led to a rather lot of unconventional eats / snacking. There were waffles for breakfast, ice cream for 11am snacks, the list goes on. I didn’t gorge myself, but I absolutely indulged 1-3x per day. Personally, I am a believer in moving more when I eat more. It’s not to punish myself, and it’s definitely not to “burn off dessert”. It simply makes my body feel healthy and balanced.

Dessert2Because it is impossible to say no to something like this. 

I know there are a lot of schools of thought that food and exercise should remain 100% separate – and while I totally respect that ideology, I know it is not possible for me. I need to increase my protein intake when lifting a lot of weights, eat more carbs & calories when running more, eat a bigger meal after a hard workout, smaller meals when doing nothing but sitting, etc.

7-mile-runBack in September when I ate burgers every night for dinner. I have no regrets. 

With that said, I was most certainly not perfectly balanced this week. I did 3 four mile runs on the ship’s treadmill this morning, and probably walked 2-3 miles max throughout the day. Compared to my usual level of activity, that is way down! And my food intake was way up.

I am incredibly happy with how I have reacted to this whole experience, though. Not once did I feel guilty for indulging in dessert (although my stomach definitely complained a few times). I didn’t deprive myself of anything but I also did not eat everything in sight “because I’d already blown it”. I have struggled a lot with the “all or nothing” mindset with regards to food, so I’m seriously proud of my level of moderation on this trip!

cookies-gif[source.]

I also have no intentions of doing anything dramatic this week. Obviously, it will be nice to not crave sugar 24/7 as I did when it was at my fingertips, and I am of course looking forward to things like kale and chicken. But I won’t run more or eat less than usual. I will only BE HAPPIER because it is impossible to not be after a once in a lifetime trip at sea.

Do you think food & exercise should be related? 

Tell me if you disagree!

Coffee + Caffeine / The Real Deal

I know that this statement probably means nothing to you guys at this point, after me abandoning you and coming back multiple times sine mid-November, but I promise it’s true this time. I am back to blogging for good! I explained why I wasn’t posting much over winter break – between work and soaking up every minute of being at home, I just wasn’t interested being behind the computer.

And now, on my third day back at school, I can hardly believe it. On one hand it seems impossible that the entire month I had off has passed, and it feels like it did not even happen. On the other hand, though, first semester feels like it was a different life, so long ago, and now everything has changed. However, not everything is different.

I am atrociously addicted to caffeine

It’s not what you think, though. I don’t need coffee to feel “awake” – I drink it because I am in love with the taste, and savouring the different flavours is an art form to me. I just recently started drinking espresso – my taste buds finally adapted enough to get past the bitterness and appreciate the taste – and so the whole “coffee experience” is what I am in love with.

CREDO

My body, however, seems to have other ideas. I didn’t even realize that I consumed no coffee on Monday. I obviously didn’t get to continue my habit of going to Credo (my cafe), and so I simply woke up, went to class, and continued on with my day.

Annnnnd, then I had to skip the two hour screening of my film studies class because I had such an awful migraine I was on the verge of vomiting.

1160857-voldemortWorld’s most appropriate picture. 

This continued all afternoon and evening, leading me to take my last tylenol 3 from one year ago when I got my wisdom teeth out. T3s, you have served me well.

The headache actually continued this morning, until I finally got a coffee, and then it miraculously disappeared. Coincidence? Don’t joke with me. IT did get me thinking, though – I started to feel sick about four hours after waking up with no coffee. When I’m at home (I experienced this at Thanksgiving too) I can go all day with no coffee and feel 100% fine. At school, though, the moment I stray I am literally incapacitated by pain.

I think it’s an incredibly interesting situation and balancing act. There are two camps with opposite viewpoints – one recommends coffee and touts its health benefits, and the other trashes it, calls it “unnatural” and proclaims tea to be the be all and end all. I think it’s pretty clear which camp I’m in – I will never give up coffee. I am far too in love with it and the entire cafe culture (did I mention I want to drop out of school and become a barista?) to even consider that option. BUT it is incredibly annoying to have to force a Starbucks down because my only other option is collapsing on the frozen sidewalk in agony.

best

I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking coffee regularly – it improves athletic performance, contains antioxidants, and is seriously  comforting. A cup of warm, delicious liquid on a cold morning to start the day? It can do wonders for my mood, and for others too.

Yes, it is habit-forming, and a lot of people will shy away from that. I think the name of the game in this situation is to be aware of said habit, and sip smartly. <- yup, I just created my own tagline for coffee. Went. There.

Tips for being a healthy coffee drinker

beautiful-latte-art

  1. Drink in moderation. During the computer science days (oh, how we miss those…) I was downing upwards of 400mg of caffeine per day. The chemical boost wasn’t necessary for my sanity, but the comfort aspect was, and for that reason I have no regrets. The same goes for drinking while I was at home. That coffee (Intelligentsia) is the nectar of the gods and no way was I not savouring every single bit I could get. Again, I wasn’t drinking it for a boost, it was purely pleasure. No. Regrets. But I’m confident I reached 600mg of caffeine a few days, which is sort of the opposite of this tip.
  2. Consume quality. I’m going to be a Starbucks hypocrite. I hate the taste and the company BUT I will drink it in desperate situations (such as being about to vomit in class). However, organic, humanely sourced coffee is the ONLY way to go. We see everyone, including healthy living bloggers, all about the organic fruits / vegetables to avoid pesticides and antibiotics, but ignoring the label when it comes to coffee. Pesticides are a real thing in coffee, not to mention growers being treated like vermin. I personally recommend Intelligentsia. 🙂
  3. Keep yourself balanced. You could do what I did on Monday: become incredibly exhausted, eat no real meals throughout the day, drink zero water AND stop drinking coffee cold turkey. OR, you could maintain organ function and remember to treat yourself extra well if you are drinking the back stuff regularly.

I leave you with my smurf-spresso, folks. Sip smartly.

I call it smurf-spresso.  Adventures in latte art - I'm just a wannabe .

Coffee: GOOD or BAD? Honest opinions! No judging here.

My Favourite Ways to Relax

I was -thisclose-  to starting off this post with “Happy Monday!”, since yesterday was a holiday and I was joyfully free from all my classes. It didn’t feel remotely like a weekend, though. Shall we do a quick recap?

4:45am: wake up. Glance at time. Curse time. Attempt to fall back asleep. Fail.

5:30am: unable to handle the idea of lying in bed wasting time, so gather my blanket, computer science notes and head out to the floor lounge to do some studying (my roommate was obviously still asleep)

6:30am: stomach growls. take a quick break to eat an entire container of greek yogurt, plus apple + PB

7-12: study

12-12:30 gym (bad idea…I was yawning during my tricep dips)

12:30-7:30 study

Yeah. And it ended up being one of those horrible days where you mentally exhaust yourself, but feel like you got nothing done. I know I was all gung-ho about computer science yesterday, and while I still am in the big picture, I’m feeling really discouraged right now! I’ve been working on this problem set for hours and can’t. figure. it. out. But instead of drowning in my own frustration I decided to take a break to do some blogging, which will hopefully refresh me!

Making time for myself has been something I’ve been relatively good at for quite a while. I will have absolutely insane, nonstop, unbelievable days, but I do carve out at least a tiny bit of relaxing most days, and I fully credit that for my sanity. Especially at this point in the semester!

WaysToRelax

1. My morning routine. My mornings have been sacred for YEARS. I wake up, write/publish a blog post, comment on a few blogs, and then get ready. I always allow a lot of time in the morning so that I can do my makeup slowly, figure out my outfit, and just stay relaxed. After that’s all done I  make my breakfast which I eat curled up on the couch reading blogs. ❤ It’s the only part of my day that I don’t feel guilty for taking a break, and it has been an absolute lifesaver for me. I always have that time to breathe, sit still and not focus on what I need to accomplish for the day.

oatsPumpkin season makes breakfast that much better. 

2. A creative outlet. I used to avoid writing “just for fun” because I imagined that it would feel like work and I was already way too tired. I’ve always loved writing, but when I got incredibly stressed out it felt like “another thing to do” rather than just collapsing, my only wish. But since blogging regularly, writing relaxes me more than just flaking out! When I do lie on my bed for X amount of minutes, I always lose my motivation to start back up again and just become more and more fatigued. But when I blog, it’s like my brain switches gears, gets a break and I actually want to go back to work!

3. Music. I actually discovered this on my way home from the gym yesterday – I had my music playing and didn’t want to turn it off! Normally it’s just a filler for me, but yesterday afternoon I kept it playing and just jammed out! I ended up in an incredibly happy mood and felt 100% relaxed. 

4. Backing off on workouts. When I’m super busy, adding in a ton of intense workouts makes it impossible for me to relax. I’m too tired, so I just feel awful all day and never feel calm or rested. Lately I’ve just been doing a few 30 minute lifting-only sessions in the gym and it’s been perfect. Enough to feel like I’m doing something, without a ton of added stress on my body.

WAYOUTTHERE

And that’s that! All the things that help me to actually relax when I rest, not just become lethargic and waste time. I hope everyone has a spectacular Wednesday!

What is your #1 time-suck?

Instagram for me, all the way!