Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Paleo Journey: From Sick and Flabby to Fabulous!

Hey hey, y'all!!

So, it's been a minute since I have been able to slay you with my delicious words (aka the avocado blog). But alas, the time has come again, and ohhhh it's gonna get REAL up in here! You might want to grab a box of Kleenex for this one and prepare to be inspired! It is a long blog, but please stay with it. I promise, it's worth your time!

So, flashback to November 2013: My life was pretty damn good. I was engaged to be married to a seemingly perfect, charming man named Eric. He was my rock. We had been together for almost three years before he finally popped the question. I opened up the ring box to reveal the most beautiful rose gold diamond engagement ring you've ever seen - with a decent-sized rock in it (you shoulda seen it, wow!). I was interning (paid) in the marketing department at Grantham University at the time, trying to get some experience in blogging and social media. I was in a healthy relationship, finally getting some writing experience under my belt, and feeling good. I was on Levothyroxine at the time for my hypothyroidism. My numbers were stable there too. All the boxes were ticked.

Fast forward to Summer 2014: So, wedding plans are being finalized and I was doing so well, and found work as an Account Manager at a small ad agency in downtown Kansas City. I loved my job! I got to write copy and blogs and do social media on a daily basis, as well as chatting it up with clients and making sure they were well taken care of. Then in August, I got laid off due to budget cuts. I was devastated. But, I got a small severance package and scored an interview for a writer position at a compounding pharmacy publication. I rocked the interview and was given the job a few days later. I was set! Then, my health suddenly decided to crap out on me. I came down with what seemed like a bad cold, and turned out to be EBV (Epstein-Barr virus). I wasn't tired though, like most people with Mono, I was quite the opposite: I just couldn't sleep well anymore. I went from getting eight to nine precious hours of snooze time at night to maybe five or six for no apparent reason. I also had some testing done and found out I was VERY low in Vitamin D (in the 30's) and dangerously low in iron. We're talking red zone, borderline anemia here. So, the doc I went to for these tests put me on a whopping 25,000 IU of Vitamin D2 (not the good kind!) and I was in so much pain for an entire week! I could barely walk. The dosage was just too much for my 5'3" frame, and my system just couldn't handle all that Vitamin D. Idiot doctor! He also put me on ferrous sulfate iron supplements, which constipated me horribly. TMI maybe, but I went from going twice, maybe three times a day down to once every two days. It was painful. Iron supplementation is fine, if it's the right kind (chelated iron or iron bisglycinate are often better-tolerated). So, I was declining fast with the low iron, poor sleep (now down to three to four hours a night), and low Vitamin D levels. Then, my thyroid turned its back on me. I tried Armour (NDT), which is derived from the glands of pigs and supposed to be a better alternative to big pharma thyroid meds like Synthroid and Levothyroxine (a generic T4 medication). I did not tolerate the Armour AT ALL. It gave me heart palpitations, induced heavy sweating and made me feel like I was going to have a heart attack. So, I called the doc and told them about my symptoms and they immediately switched me back to my old standby, Levothyroxine. The heart palps and sweating ceased, but I still felt unwell. Armour works well for some people, but it was reformulated in 2009, and additional additives and fillers were added, which messed with a lot of people (including me) as it turns out! Yikes!

I felt so sick from all of these issues that I was unable to take the new writing job that I had so rightfully earned. It was a terrible feeling to have to call their HR manager and explain that due to health reasons, I felt as if I couldn't perform the job. Major downer for me.

My fiance was growing increasingly concerned about the rapid declination of my previously picture perfect health. My sleep had gotten so bad that I was down to about two hours per night. Then a week later, zero hours. Yes, you read that correctly. I couldn't sleep anymore. I tried supplements like valerian, and ashwagandha to see if they would help, but to no avail. I became so desperate for sleep that one afternoon at home alone, I made the decision to call a local mental health helpline, because I was considering hurting myself. I know that may seem crazy to some people, but I was at the very end of my rope. The lady on the helpline suggested that if I was able, I drive myself straight to St. Luke's emergency room and check myself in to get help. So, that's what I did.

After a physical and mental assessment by a mental health counselor, I was told that I was a possible danger to myself and was urged to check into their mental health wing for a few days. My mom showed up for support, and I checked in. I didn't know what to expect. My thoughts traveled back to the 2010 movie, It's Kind of a Funny Story, where a mentally exhausted teen checks himself into a psych ward. I was just like that kid. I thought about potential weirdos talking to themselves in the hallway, rocking themselves, screaming obscenities at invisible friends and so on. It was nothing like that (thank god!), but instead, a very supportive environment consisting of people mostly my age with some depression and anxiety issues, many with sleep problems like me. We had three square (mostly) healthy meals a day, did daily group counseling and were assessed and given medications. I was given Trazadone my first night there (an anti-depressant sometimes used for sleep), and I was knocked the hell out for like eight or nine hours. Finally, sleep. That was night one. The second night, they gave me Remeron (a low-dose anti-depressant sometimes used for sleep). I slept ok on this, but it only lasted two nights and then I was right back to square one. I was given a script for a few different medications and sent home three days later.

The Remeron worked for a little while when combined with the Trazadone that they had also sent me home with. Then, it all stopped working. I would lie awake all night, trying to find a way to fall asleep. I listened to relaxing meditation audio files and binaural beats on YouTube, which relaxed me, but didn't get me into the sleep I desperately needed. *Sigh*

I called my assigned psychiatrist and he suggested I lower the dose of Remeron and increase the Trazadone. Once again, this worked for only a few days. At the time, I wasn't working and had too much free time on my hands. My thoughts began to travel into dangerous territory again, and one afternoon, I decided to take about 60 pills with the goal to end my life (about three different medications total). My health and my life were spiraling downward, and I'd had enough. I got in the shower and almost blacked out. I managed to get out and get dressed and lie on the bed. I immediately called 911, realizing what I'd done to myself. An ambulance showed up with about six or seven EMTs and I was wheeled out into the ambulance to be taken to a nearby hospital. There, I was interviewed by another mental health counselor that by law, determined that I had to be admitted into yet another mental health facility. She said that I was too much of a danger to myself to be left alone. My now husband was there, becoming increasingly concerned, but at the same time, emotionally vacant. He was more worried about the mounting stack of medical bills than he was about me. He came to visit me twice at the facility (my mom came to see me every day she was allowed). I was there for about five days and given a plethora of meds: Zoloft, Lunesta, Klonopin, Ambien to name a few. Then I was again sent home with some new scripts for sleep medications. The Ambien actually worked for a while, but then back to no sleep. I was seeing doctor after doctor, each one studying me, trying to figure out why I could no longer sleep. I did a sleep study (on medication), which surprise, surprise,came back as inconclusive, since the medication I was on helped me get about six hours of sleep that night. Complete waste of time. My relationship with my husband began to crumble at a fast rate. I moved in with my mom, so that she could be with me during the day and drive me to doctor appointments. This further removed me from my husband, and he'd finally decided he'd had enough. He wasn't a strong enough man to stand by me in my greatest moment of weakness. In February 2014, I received a knock at the door with marriage annulment papers delivered by a process server. I was surprised, but not really. We'd only been married five months and didn't have any assets together (besides wedding presents of the monetary kind and various kitchen gadgets), so we divided up what we had been given, me taking most of the expensive kitchen gadgets, because I'd always loved cooking.

Still with me? Let's press on...

So that was it. Marriage over. I was still sick, I still wasn't working and the unemployment checks finally ran out. I had no money, no job, no hope for the future. Luckily, I didn't have many bills, and my wonderful mom was more than willing to let me stay with her as long as I needed support. My friends Alex and Jamie were also a source of support, and I'm forever grateful to them for this. I attended a wedding with Alex in late June 2015, and had a blast. This is when I was also at my heaviest (around 154 lbs on my little, 5'3" frame).

At Alex's cousin's wedding (June 2015)

I finally found a contract Web Merchandiser position in the Hallmark Corporate office for a few months, and was making some pretty good money there. I was doing better, but still having thyroid and major sleep issues. My mom and I decided to pack up and move to Phoenix to get a fresh start. I looked for jobs in marketing once we got to Phoenix, but the market was very competitive and I wasn't able to find anything. I was at home all day, watching tv, eating a lot of fast food and merely existing. I worked in retail over the holidays part-time, but that was about it. We both decided we hated the Phoenix heat, packed up once again in August 2016 and moved to Elgin, TX, where my aunt and uncle lived. We found an apartment in Elgin within about a month of searching (Austin is a tough and expensive city to find an apartment in). I needed money and a job, so I went online to search jobs with Advantage Solutions, a company I'd previously worked for doing retail merchandising. After a brief in-person interview, I was called the next day and offered a full-time job. Finally, I was back! It wasn't marketing or writing, but at least it was a source of income! I was still on medication for sleep, but managed to keep my energy levels up to do my job and the medication was allowing me to get about five to six hours of sleep each night. My job (still current job) with Advantage keeps me very active. I walk around stores all day checking for out of stock product, missing tags, checking displays and reporting on-shelf items for Mars Petcare. I learned how to talk to grocery managers in stores to get what needed to be done, done. And oh, I became VERY good at my job! I was always very shy in the past, but my job forced me to interact with several managers a day, so I got rid of that shyness really quickly!

I don't remember the exact moment, but something made me decide I wanted to wean myself off gluten. I just wanted to try it and see if I could do it. I had read about the dangers of a highly-processed carbohydrate diet for persons with thyroid issues, so I think this is what kicked my butt into gear finally. And oh boy, I was a recovering pasta and bread-aholic! I started out slow, cutting out bread and eating rice pasta. Not too bad. I started reading food labels more, performed my job at 100%, and began losing weight rapidly. I was shocked at how much different I looked and felt by cutting out gluten. It was so simple. The only exercise I was getting was walking around my stores, bending and lifting 30-50 lb bags of dog food, but all of that helped too. By March of 2017, I was ready to take it even further, so I made the jump to Paleo. I started eating salads every day for lunch with protein and avocado, cut out the rice pasta and flour, and eventually all grains and dairy. I had been soy-free for years, because of my thyroid, so that wasn't an issue.

I also decided to start blogging again. I had blogged in the past with jobs and internships I'd had, and I missed writing. It's my drug of choice, and I was always good at it. So, what to blog about? What else? Paleo, duh!

By April 2017, I had lost about 30 lbs. I started going to Zumba classes twice a week and became hardcore, balls-to-the-wall Paleo. I'm talking 100% grain-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, almost AIP (Autoimmune Paleo), but still eating nuts and eggs occasionally. I was holding steady at about 122 lbs and feeling pretty good. But still, I wanted to become more fit.

I attended Paleo f(x) in May (read my awesome recap blog here), which was a game changer for me. I got to meet my heros Mark Sisson, and Josh Axe (heavy-hitters in the Paleo world) and listen to some really good discussion panels and do some HEAVY networking. This is how I earned my first blog affiliate, 2XL Premium Angus, LLC (a 100% grass-fed/finished angus ranch, which I am visiting in Iowa in a few more weeks!).

I became curious about how I could step up my exercise game and challenge myself more, so I inquired about a little something called Barre with my friend Alli from Missouri. She said it was an awesome leg and core workout. I was sooo in! I bought a ten class Groupon pass for a studio called Todd Pilates and Barre in Austin (read my blog about Barre here). After two classes, I was HOOKED. I started going twice a week, then three times. My favorite class is my Wednesday night class with Doug at the Round Rock studio. I call Doug, 'The Fireman', because he always makes us do barre to "Bun Up the Dance" by Dillon Francis every week. This song burns your calves like FIYAH. Seriously. We are on the balls of our feet for the.whole.song.doing pulses and lean-backs while balancing a squishy blue ball between our thighs. I call it the four-alarm fire song, because it's that intense, y'all! lol

So now I'm loving barre, my new Paleo way of eating, and I am blogging regularly again. I even figured out how to create email campaigns for the blog, which is how you are probably receiving this post right now ;)

I also weighed myself today for the first time in about a month and here's where I'm at:

Yeah, definitely within the healthy range! I'm now beginning to build muscle, burn fat (by cutting carbs and sugar), and I'm doing it the RIGHT way. I don't take diet pills or subscribe to the latest fad. And if you think Paleo is just a 'fad diet', it's not. Paleo has helped so many people and it isn't going anywhere as far as I'm concerned. And so says the other thousands of people from around the world who attended Paleo f(x) with me this year. Paleo has not only helped me lose weight, it has also improved my skin clarity (I have rosacea), improved my digestion, gives me a ton of energy throughout the day, my blood sugar levels are fantastic, and I don't get hangry anymore!

I love talking and reading about nutrition and exercise so much that I decided to take a leap and sign up for Mark Sisson's Primal Health Coach program. I just want to help others, and I believe this is my life's calling. I chewed on it for a while, and I finally decided to JUST DO IT (like Nike lol). I'm still keeping my merchandising job to pay the bills until I finish my coaching training, and then who knows? I'd love to be my own boss, and I'm very driven and ambitious by nature. I know how to network and talk to people, and I LOVE talking to people about their health. I talk to Type 2 diabetics, people with thyroid and autoimmune issues, and those struggling with their weight on an almost daily basis. I try to set an example for others and share the knowledge that I've gained. Bottom line: many people need help turning their health around, and I believe it's my mission to help them do that (while eventually getting paid for it lol). I already passed Module 1 of my training (molecular biology and genetics, anyone?), and I'm so ready to get started on Module 2 in a few days. Yup. Bring it.

In closing, I want to give a shoutout to my new friends Kristen (a fellow Primal Health Coach student and Girlboss in training) and Brittany, an amazing yoga instructor (just did her Sunday hot yoga class, yowza!). Love y'all!

I've even started an Austin Paleo/Primal/Keto/AIP Meetup group, and it is growing each day (currently at 45 members)! Our first Meetup is on July 2, and I'm so excited to meet more like-minded people!

So this is me now: happier, healthier, and more fit. And I'm still a work in progress. We all are. You've just got to want it, and everyone has to start somewhere, right? You've got this!

Me now! (June 2017) Paleo warrior!

I know I've shared some VERY personal information with you guys today. Why did I do it? Because I trust and value you as readers and I know what it's like to struggle. I've been to hell and back, and I've come out on top. Please contact me anytime via the blog, email (risforrachel@gmail.com) or on social media (austinpaleogrrl on Twitter and Instagram) if you ever want to learn more about the Paleo way of doin' things! I'm happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability! Also, check out the Austin Paleo Grrl page on Facebook if you haven't already. I hope you'll make the move and join my tribe!

As always, be well and THRIVE!



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rock Out With Your Guac Out!

Hey, y'all!

So, this post is about something that is very near and dear to my heart! What am I talkin' bout, Willis? AVOCADOS!!! Oh yes, yes I did :) Why do I love them so? Here's why...

According to the Paleo Foundation:

1. An avocado has more potassium than a banana! A single avocado has 975 milligrams of potassium, while a banana only weighs in at 487 milligrams of potassium. OMG. So good for you!

2. Avocados are a high-protein fruit. One avocado contains about four grams of protein. Hells yeah!

3. You can use them in recipes as a butter substitute! The healthy fats are a good baking substitution.

4. They have antioxidants, amino acids and essential oils that can help repair damaged hair, moisturize the skin, treat sunburns and minimize wrinkles! Yowza.


Other reasons to love this amazing fruit:

1. One cup of sliced avocado has ten grams of dietary fiber! Ten! That's almost half of the daily intake of dietary fiber recommended for adult women (25 grams) by the American Heart Association. This high-fiber fruit will also help if you have any constipation issues.

2. They taste frickin' amazing! They can be put on toast, in salads, made into guacamole, used in baked goods, made into a healthy cooking oil (I use Primal Kitchen avocado oil), and as it turns out, they make for some pretty sweet art! Check out this beauty:
Art by Gaku

3. Avocados contain twelve grams of carbs, so yeah, you don't have to eat a bunch of processed grains to get some of your carbs on, peeps! Word.

4. Avocados also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6 and a little bit of Magnesium, which is something that many of us are lacking! 

5. Avocados contain twenty-one grams of fat..the healthy kind of course! They are heart-healthy and good for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. 

So, have I given you enough reasons to consume these beautiful green gems on a regular basis? I sure hope so! I eat a small avocado every day. Yes, every day. Usually in a salad.  

And hey hey, check out my new mug from FoxyMug

Pretty much sums it up!

What's an avocado blog without a nice AIP (autoimmune paleo) guacamole recipe? Mmm mmm! The recipe comes from Whole New Mom and contains no dairy or nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, etc.). Goes great with some Siete grain-free tortilla chips! Another good option for chips if you can't have chia seeds (found in Siete), I recommend Cassava Crunch chips (can be found at select health food stores or online).  I actually made a how-to video on this guac recipe, but I couldn't get it to upload on Blogger :( #fail  However, you can find the video on my new Facebook page: Austin Paleo Grrl

Oh yes!!!

 Lastly, I got this cute magnet in the mail today (freebie!) from the friendly folks at Food Matters. They have a great blog, recipes, and some awesome films about food, health and personal well-being. Food is medicine! 

So that about wraps it up for this post! Hopefully I've convinced you to eat more avocados :) *evil laugh*

Updates: I've been under the weather for the past few days, so I am on the mend right now. I'm having a lot of issues with coughing and a sore throat. I went to urgent care a few days ago, but the nurse practitioner said it's probably just a virus that needs to clear itself out. I've been drinking bone broth with garlic, using essential oils, elderberry syrup, even resorting to Mucinex, which is no bueno for me. Hope to be feeling better within the next few days. We shall see! Send some good vibes my way, k? :)

Also, as I mentioned above, Austin Paleo Grrl now has an official Facebook page! Ch-ch-check it out here.

PS: Please leave a girl some feedback! I want to know your thoughts/opinions (good or bad) on the blog!

Anyway, take care and be well, my Paleo peeps!



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Barre So Hard: My New Fitness Obsession

Hey, y'all!

Guess who's back again (cue Bruno Mars)? lol

Today's blog post is about something I just recently discovered and now have a new love for. It's been around for a while in the fitness world, but somehow I missed it! Until now...Yup, barre is the word!

I hopped on Groupon the other day after talking to my new friend Alli (a fellow Paleo girlie and Crossfitter) from Missouri. She'd mentioned that she had taken some barre classes and expressed how amazing they are for leg and core fitness. I was intrigued! I had to check this out!! So I did a search for barre classes on the Groupon app and a few results popped up. The best deal was for ten barre classes for $59 with a local studio called ToddPilates and Barre. They have three locations around the Austin area, so I signed up for my first class on Sunday afternoon with Eve Springer (a former dancer). It was a sixty minute class with thirty minutes at the barre, fifteen minutes on the mat, and ten minutes with light weights. Man, was it intense! I was dripping with sweat when I was finished. I'm a Zumba girl, and I took ballet as a kid, so I do have some level of coordination at least. This helped me out a lot with the lifts, plies, and arm movements that we did during the class!

ToddPilates & Barre South location in Austin, TX 

So, what exactly is barre? It's basically a combination of ballet with cardio, Pilates, and yoga. And it's one hell of a workout! The Sunday class was set to music, mostly Prince and some older stuff, so that was right up my alley! We started out with some light weights (five pound) and did some warm-up squats, arm movements, and lifts on the balls of our feet. I was able to keep my balance pretty well, even without the support of the barre! Amazing, considering it's been years since I've done ballet.

After the warm-up, we went into some heavy barre cardio using a squishy ball placed between the inner-thighs. We did a lot of stretching, hand weight exercises to tone the arms, and of course lifts and plies. I was in my element! Sporting my new (now drenched) tank with the word 'Strong' on it, I felt truly empowered. We continued with some mat work using our weights and a flexible hoop that is also placed between the thighs. We squeezed, we lifted, we smiled, and we sweated our collective asses off! It was uh-mazing. Truly. After the class ended, I immediately went up to Eve and told her how much I enjoyed her class. She said I did well, just needed to make sure to keep my feet parallel during barre work. I.can.do.this. haha!

So, that was Sunday. I was off work for Memorial Day, so I decided to try the Monday Barre Express class with Doug at the Round Rock studio. It's a forty-five minute class with a LOT of barre cardio, and some mat work. Whoa, Nelly! This class kicked my ass!! Doug is the man! He had some great music bumping (including some Sean Paul), and we did a ton of lifts, arm movements, plies and resistance band work. Once again, dripping with sweat, I spoke to Doug after class. I told him about my thirty pound weight loss from going gluten-free then Paleo, and he told me that he is also Paleo! We are everywhere! *evil laugh* We talked about the class a little, and the Paleo lifestyle. He's not as strict as I am, but it was great to meet someone like-minded that I can talk fitness and nutrition with. And dude's in amazing shape! He's got an athletic build, and is of course, very toned. I think he will be my new inspiration to get in even better shape!

I'm actually going to skip my Wednesday night Zumba class to go to Doug's Wednesday night Barre class *gasp* Yes, I'm starting to love barre that much! It's fun, exhausting, and brings me back to my childhood as a little ballerina :) Plus, there's nothing like a good sweat to feel a sense of accomplishment! I went on Etsy today and purchased this tank for class:
Pretty clever, eh?

So I guess that about wraps it up for this post! I'm excited to sweat some more, work on my fitness and hopefully get some killer legs and arms out of my barre experience!

Oh, just one more thing before I sign off! I just got the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott in the mail today! It's a gorgeous hardcover book with some totally drool-worthy recipes inside! Some of the desserts look especially amazing! Mickey Trescott is an AIP goddess and I follow her Autoimmune Wellness podcast. She's so knowledgeable about all things AIP! She's a great one to follow if you have any sort of autoimmune condition! I'm not 100% AIP, but I'm pretty darn close. Her recipes contain no nightshades, which is what urged me to purchase this book. Makes for a pretty coffee table book too!

My new cookbook! #love!!!

Until next time, y'all, keep on sweatin' and being well on your Paleo journey!



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Paleo f(x) 17: Weekend Recap

Hello, my Paleo lovelies!

Wow. Where to begin? This past weekend was probably one of the most prolific and enlightening experiences I've ever had in my life. I had been gushing about attending the upcoming Paleo f(x) event here in Austin since like, forever, and alas, it finally came! I attended the event on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 with a Premiere pass that allowed me to attend just about any workshop or panel that I wished. I'm so glad that I splurged on this one!

I gathered some great new information about all things Paleo, made some great contacts through some heavy networking with other Paleo bloggers and heavy hitters of this movement. Hippocrates once said, "Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food." Words to live by!

The theme for Paleo f(x): Heal thyself. Change the world.

So, lets dig in, shall we? :)

My biggest accomplishment at this event is that I got to personally meet and get photos taken with Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple and the Primal Nutrition empire. I also attended his workshop on the Primal Health Coaching program that I had no idea existed. I've had the thought of becoming a health coach buzzing around in my brain for a while now, but now that I know there's a program geared specifically towards the primal lifestyle, I'm even more interested! I'm still debating on this, because of money, and the element of fear that hides deep in the pit of my stomach. This is something that I mentioned to Mark Sisson on Saturday at the event, and he asked me what I am so afraid of. I simply replied, "everything."

My hero, Mark Sisson 

Being unfulfilled in my current job has left me feeling empty and unsure of myself sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I'm very good at my job, but that's the thing: it's just a job to me. A means to an end. A paycheck. But, I want and deserve so much more in my life. I know this now. So, I may still continue to kick around this idea in my head of becoming a primal health coach for a few more months. Then I'll make a move. I know it won't be easy and would take a lot of time and dedication, but I believe so much in the power of Paleo that I will never stop. It's woven into my DNA now, and I can't imagine my life without it. I know now that it's my passion and my life's purpose to help others learn about the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. Right now, I shell out free nutrition advice to just about everyone who's willing to listen to my ramblings :) It's simply because I've found the love of my life in Paleo. It's turned my life around and brought me out of a dark place where I was merely existing. A little background on me: a year ago, I was stuck in a rut. I was eating a lot of fast food and packaged, processed foods. I was also eating a lot of carbs and getting fat, at least for my height. I'm only 5'3", but I weighed 152 pounds - the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. I first made the decision to give up gluten in the Fall of 2016, not too long after I moved to Austin. This part was easy! And the weight just began to melt off. It was astounding. I saw such a difference in the way I felt and how I carried myself. My dignity returned. I started out as a caterpillar, then emerged as a beautiful, healthy, glowing butterfly. In March, 2017, I decided to give Paleo a try.  At first, I was like, "what the hell am I going to eat now?" lol But you know what? This transition was so easy for me. I went at it full-force and embraced the power of healthy food, and figured out how it could change my body and my life. I began to cook again, something I'd lost my passion for somewhere along my journey. I began reading articles on Paleo and books like The Paleo Thyroid Solution by Elle Russ, and The Thyroid Connection by Dr. Amy Myers (a big proponent of a strict primal diet). I became a human sponge. Having hypothyroidism since 2010, I'd read that the Paleo diet could be very beneficial to people like me. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, I took action and cleaned up my life. I also do Zumba twice a week now at a small gym in Round Rock, and I love my teacher, Sonia and the music! She throws in a lot of Spanish music (of course), with a dash of Bruno Mars, Pitbull, and Sean Paul. I gotta admit, I'm pretty good at it too :)  I plan to start lifting a bit also, so that I can get a bit more toned in the places I need to work on.

Before and after: Left pic August 2016 (152 lbs), Right pic April 2017 (124 lbs)

So, I'll be honest, Paleo isn't for everyone. It takes dedication and discipline, but it is achievable and sustainable. For me, it's all about eating clean, healthy food. I eat salad for lunch with some protein  just about every day. I eat one small avocado a day (usually with my salad) as well so I can get my healthy fats in. See, with the Paleo approach, fat is NOT the enemy! Fats (good fats like avocado, coconut oil, full-fat coconut milk, etc.) being bad is such a misconception, and a concept that needs to be put to rest for good. Here's a good article on why everyone should be eating an avocado a day: Why Researchers Recommend Eating Avocado Every Day

Yup, this pretty much sums it up! My new shirt from Paleo f(x)

So anyway, sorry to get off track a little, but I wanted to share a little bit more of my personal story, as I think it's important to show y'all how I got to this point in my quest to become healthier.

Pressing on! I had a BLAST this weekend! I was totally in my element. Shoutout to the Paleo f(x) event coordinators for hooking us all up with the Paleo f(x) app! It was insanely helpful in scheduling which panels and workshops I wanted to attend and was very user-friendly!

First: in the Primal Health Coaching workshop with Mark Sisson, I learned that the health coaching industry is a $4 billion industry! Wow. People are becoming increasingly more curious, experimental, and increasingly fed up with how the current healthcare system seems to be failing them. People want to know what they can eat to support their bodies. Becoming a certified health coach gives you credibility, hones your skills, and increases your earning potential. Mark's program teaches you how to determine your niche, develop a business/marketing strategy, and most importantly: find clients! I gleaned so much information from this workshop! 

Next, I attended a panel discussion on Botanical Healing. This panel was awesome! I learned about plants, spices and essential oils and just how powerful they can be. For example, did you know that mint can be anti-viral? And it's easy to grow, according to panel member, Guillermo Ruiz from 3030 Strong. Guillermo is a wealth of information on plant-based medicine, as he's currently studying to become a health practitioner. 

My next stop was a blogger networking session! Perfection. I met with a small group of health entrepreneurs/business owners and we exchanged information and ideas on how to build and grow a successful following. My group consisted of two primal health coaches (Melissa Emmons of Honey Bee Kitchen and Dora Ferreira from fitdots), myself, and a farmer from Missouri with a business called Roam Sticks: nitrate-free pork meat sticks (@roamsticks on Twitter). I loved conversing with like-minded people, and getting ideas on how I can grow my blog! 

After this, I attended the Listen To Your Gut panel with natural medicine Dr. Josh Axe and Dr. David Perlmutter to name a few. Most of this information I already knew, but it was still an interesting panel discussion. The panel spoke about the gut microbiome, the importance of *ahem* going to the bathroom every day, probiotics, etc.
Dr. Josh Axe and I. He was such a nice guy! 

Next up was Turning Your Passion Into a Business with Mark Sisson at the Bulletproof Keynote stage. Mark spoke candidly about his successes and failures in business, how he got started in the health business, and how success can be achieved. He is truly a legend in my eyes. He didn't experience overnight success, and this is what makes him so humble! His presentation made me believe that I could go out there and achieve just about anything I set my mind to. 

After back-to-back workshops and presentations, I took some time to walk around the vendor booths and boy, was this fun! I found out about some awesome products that I'd never heard of. I had an excellent conversation about grass-fed beef with Michelle from 2XL Premium Angus, LLC, a grass-fed, grass-finished Angus ranch located in Garden Grove, Iowa. Such a kind woman! I sampled a grass-fed beef burger from PRE-brands, based in Chicago. Hey, a girl's gotta take a break and eat! And man, were they delicious!

PRE's grass-fed beef burger. Yum! 

I visited the Austin-based Fond Bone Broth booth and sampled some excellent Youth Tonic chicken bone broth with shitake mushrooms, lemon juice and sage. It was so delicious, I had to try a jar!

My Youth Tonic broth, already almost gone lol

I also visited and sampled from other various vendors like: Rugged Meats, Epic Provisions, Elixinol, Bubba's Fine Foods, Balm of Gilead (their tallow-based body balms are amazing!), Aketta Crickets, Bonafide Provisions, U.S. Wellness Meats, Austin Eastciders, Muffin Revolution, Buddha's Brew kombucha, and White Claw Hard Seltzer to name a few. There were so many, it was hard to get to them all! :) 

I'm hoping to get some type of affiliate program/sponsorship for my blog through U.S. Wellness Meats, as well as a few other food companies that I made contact with. This is something I've been wanting to do ever since I started my blog, but didn't really get the opportunity to explore it until I made some contacts at Paleo f(x). It definitely pays to network! 

My grass-fed beef sliders from U.S. Wellness Meats! Can't wait to try 'em!

I got some other goodies as well, but now I want to circle back around to the importance of networking! I met so many awesome people this weekend, and a few new lifelong friends! I've gotta give a shoutout to my new friend Rene Ruiz from New Jersey, a fellow-Paleoan and one hell of a nice guy! Rene and I became fast friends and attended many of the same panel discussions, so we just just kinda hung out together for most of the weekend at the event. He's someone I hope to stay in touch with for a long time!

Hangin' with Rene after a Microbiome presentation. Buds for life!

Another friend I made is Sandra, an AIP (autoimmune Paleo) follower and entrepreneur from California. She's launching her own 100% AIP online store soon! So excited for her, and I wish her much success!

Click on the above image to learn more about the launch of Sandra's AIP store! 

Marisa Bode. I heart this girl! I met her via Twitter after Sandra told me about an AIP BBQ sauce called KC Natural. I lived in Kansas City for about sixteen years, so I love me some BBQ! I don't do nightshades anymore (tomatoes, peppers, egg plant), so this kinda makes it hard for me to find a BBQ sauce that I can eat! Anyway, Marisa does the marketing for KC Natural, and I tweeted at them in desperation, as I found out this sauce isn't available in Austin yet. She promptly responded and we started talking about food and health, and we've both had long and sometimes difficult health journeys! She said that she was going to Paleo f(x) and we agreed to meet up at the event. She was kind enough to bring me a bottle of the Primal Cherry BBQ sauce all the way from KC! It is nightshade-free, and tastes uh-mazing! KC Natural is still a very new business, and is trying to grow. I think they are going to be very successful with Paleo and especially AIP folks! Their product is top-notch.

My girl, Marisa! Repping KC :)

On Saturday, I listened to another discussion led by Dr. Axe: Ancient Medicine for Modern Disease. I got so many takeaways from this one: the importance of drinking bone broth, vegetable juices and herbal teas, and taking a good probiotic for gut health. Dr. Axe is a big believer in using herbs and plants like turmeric, ginger, boswellia, and reishi mushrooms to name a few. I also learned more about intermittent fasting, which can be very beneficial when combined with drinking bone broth! This was probably my most favorite presentation of the day. 

Dr. Josh Axe on the importance of bone broth!

I also attended Dr. Chris Kresser's presentation on environmental toxins, caught most of a documentary: An Acquired Taste, which was about three city kids learning about the practice of humane wild game hunting, The Business of Health Panel with Mark Sisson, Aubrey Marcus, Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, John Durant and Krisstina Wise. This panel discussion was all about taking your passion and learning how to leverage it to become a successful entrepreneur. Very informative! 

The Business of Health Panel

 So, I guess that about wraps it up for Paleo f(x) 2017!

My key takeaways: 

1. Drink bone broth :)
2. Let your passion guide you, whatever it may be!
3. Eat fat
4. Network, network, network
5. Food is medicine

You can change your life by simply changing what you consume! It's possible. I've heard so many success stories of people reversing illness, losing weight, and getting healthy by simply changing their lifestyle habits and switching to a Paleo diet. Again, it just takes a little effort and desire to help yourself. You've just got to want it. I've done it, and so have thousands of others. So whether you're already into the Paleo movement or just a little curious about doing things the primal way, I highly recommend you at least give it a try. You, and only you possess the power to change your body and your life for the better. Heal thyself. Change the world.

Until next time,



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Primal Living in the Rural Landscape

Hello again, my Paleo friends!

So, a good friend gave me the idea for this post (thanks, Jerry!). Jerry lives in somewhat of a small town, Hannibal, MO and he's newly Paleo. I'm very proud of his progress thus far on the Paleo diet!

I'm still doing my thang, fully embracing the Paleo lifestyle right now, and getting better at meal planning and such with each passing day. I'm fortunate to live near a city (Austin, TX, baby!) where I have amazing access to good, clean, healthy food. Some people aren't so lucky, which is what inspired me to write this post. There are places here like Picnik Paleo and Wild Wood Bakehouse (a 100% gluten-free establishment), as well as quick, healthy takeout places like Snap Kitchen that I am oh-so thankful for!

BTW, I'm typing this in-between bites of my grain-free, Good Seed cauliflower mushroom burger smothered in avocado aioli ('cause that's how I roll), so bear with me. I promise to make it worth your time. I want to dive into food sources in this post, more specifically, where the heck do you get good, clean food if you are Paleo and don't live within the urban sprawl? Well, have no fear! You have options:

1. Online ordering

This is a no-brainer with today's technology. You can have good, grass-fed meats and broths (a staple in the Paleo diet) shipped frozen to your door in just a few days. Companies like Butcher Box and U.S. Wellness Meats make this possible. I can't comment on these two, as I have yet to order from them, but they are both highly-reputable and established companies. You can also order Paleo snacks like Epic bars and Wild Zora meat bars (Mediterranean lamb is the best!) online through specialty food websites like Thrive Market. Thrive caters to gluten-free, Paleo, organic, vegan, and offers all kinds of cool products, even personal care products! Thrive does require a paid yearly membership fee to order ($59.95), but they do offer a free thirty-day trial, so you can try out their service and decide if you like it before joining! They offer a vast array of products to choose from. These are just a few examples of where to shop for Paleo goodies, but it goes to show that you can order just about anything online these days! Just the other day, I ordered some cricket flour (chirp! chirp!) from an Austin-based company called Aketta, and I'm awaiting my delivery so that I can try the product in my morning smoothies! Yes, these are real crickets raised specifically as a food source for humans. Interesting concept, eh? I followed these folks on Twitter, and they were kind enough to give me a discount code to use on their website for my order. Thanks, guys! Crickets are packed with protein, and are a safe and Paleo-compliant source of protein, especially for the AIP (autoimmune Paleo) folks.

Click the above image to get 'yo Thrive on! 

2. Farmers' markets

Even if you live out in the sticks like I do, somewhere there is a farmers' market nearby. I can easily drive to Austin on a Saturday morning to SFC Farmers' Market if I wish, but plenty of rural towns offer fresh, homegrown produce in parking lots and little stands roadside. Just check out Local Farm-Markets.org's website, and it gives you a resource to find locally-grown produce in your neck of the woods. Easy peasy! There's nothing better than locally-grown goods. 1. You know where they're coming from, and 2., they are usually organic (but not always!). Just something to keep in mind.

SFC Farmers' Market-Downtown Austin, TX

3. Gardening

I wish this was something that I could actually do myself, but apartment living doesn't really afford me the opportunity to grow much in the line of my own fresh veggies *le sigh*. But, if you are lucky enough to live in a house with a yard, I highly recommend starting your own garden. Now, this may or may not be possible depending on what part of the country you're in, as growing conditions vary from state-to-state. Living in Texas, I'm lucky enough to be in a place where the soil is decent and growing conditions are pretty stable due to the fact that it rarely snows in the Austin area. Dallas folks aren't as lucky. That being said,  I grew up in South Dakota, where the winters are brutal and can last anywhere from four to six months or more. Yet, my parents had an awesome garden in our backyard every summer! The tomatoes grew like weeds, and the green beans, cabbage, zucchini, peppers and pumpkins also thrived quite well. My mom ended up with so many tomatoes one year that she couldn't keep up with all of the growth and had to can most of them in Mason jars lol We ended up giving half of our zucchini away as well. There's just something about getting your hands in the dirt and seeing the fruits of your labor! Urban gardening can be a pretty cool thing too for city folks. With the proper equipment and planning, fresh produce and herbs can be grown in the most unlikely places.

Pretty Rooftop Urban Garden

4. Your local grocery store

At times, rural folks may not have access to health food stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts, so the local grocery store is all they have to choose from. This is indeed a shame, but if this is your only fresh food resource, then you must find a way to embrace it. More conventional grocery stores are starting to carry more organic options and I've even seen some pastured, grass-fed meat at my local grocery store. These types of stores mostly cater to the general public, and not the more health-conscious crowd, but it is possible to find things like organic lettuce, spinach, and apples to name a few.

5. Local ranchers and farmers

Plowing through the country roads around my town, I've seen chicken and cattle farms galore! Living in the country does sometimes have its advantages. Eat Wild is also a great resource that allows you to look up (by state) local ranches and farms that offer up grass-fed and pastured meats, eggs, and other items. How perfect is that? On Eat Wild, I located a cattle farm called Always Grass-Fed Beef, LLC that is located about forty five miles east of Austin and offers beef that is raised on nutrient-dense grasses and legumes. Yes, please!

So that's about it for this post! Hopefully this gave you rural dwellers a good bit of info to help you out on your Paleo journey. Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my new friend Sandra that I met via Twitter. She follows the AIP diet after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. She has her own awesome AIP blog and resource page, Living and Breathing - Relatively Unscathed. Check it out! Sandra is a great resource on all things AIP, and she's agreed to be my Paleo f(x) buddy this year, so I won't be all alone at the event! She hails from Truckee, CA and is flying into Austin for all the weekend's festivities. The event is coming up soon (May 19-21), so just a few more weeks away! I'm so glad to have someone to pal around with there and share ideas and tips with on Paleo living.

Until next time, be well, y'all!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Paleo Woes and Gluten Sensitivity

Hello there again, folks!

So, I figured it was time for another installment of the new Paleo Grrl blog. I hope to gain more readers, but for now, I just do this for the pure joy of it! Anyway, so I'm still fairly new to the Paleo lifestyle. I'm going back and forth between Paleo and AIP (autoimmune Paleo). I'm avoiding nightshades (peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, tomato, etc.) at the moment, but this beautiful Paleo cookbook that a good friend ordered for me (thank you, Amazon!) includes several recipes that incorporate tomatoes. And I love a good tomato, so it's kind of rough. The reason I'm avoiding nightshades (for now) is that they are sometimes known to cause gut and or skin issues for some people. They are also a big no-no for the AIP diet. Nightshades also include some spices like cayenne, paprika, chili powder, etc. I avoid these spices myself, because I have Rosacea, and I think spicy things just exacerbate my skin condition. I don't really miss these foods though anyway, so it's all good.

My beautiful new cookbook! Thanks, Jerry! 

Today was rough. I do retail merchandising for a living (for now), and I was in one of my Target stores in Austin that I service on a monthly basis. As I was leaving the store, I passed by their cafe, where I smelled the delectable smell of pizza! OMG, it was glorious. Then..I snapped out of it, realizing that pizza is technically no longer a part of my life. What a shame, right? I did actually attempt to make a Paleo pesto chicken pizza about a week ago out of coconut flower, some oregano, basil, and a few eggs. It was ok, but just not the same as the pizza I know and love. I covered it with pesto from the grocery store, which (grrr!) incidentally had dairy in it in the form of parmesan cheese bits. FYI, dairy is also off limits for most Paleo peeps, such as myself. So, my lovely mom made some homemade pesto yesterday, sans dairy and I plan to try this pizza recipe again soon. But again, pizza is just not the same without a good tomato sauce and ooey, gooey, cheese! I know there are some non-dairy cheeses out there, but I don't know what's in them, and if they are laden with weird chemicals or soy, I will avoid them at all cost. I used to eat pizza maybe every other week, and oh, I love it so! For now, I'll just have to live vicariously through my sense of smell whenever I smell a fresh, hot pizza.

It's also less than a month away from Paleo (fx) in Austin! I'm so thrilled I could scream! I will be going it alone, unfortunately, but I'm sure I'll meet some nice folks there to chat with about all things Paleo. It'll be my first time going, so I am very excited to see what this event has to offer. I'm very excited to hear Mark Sisson speak (a God in the Paleo world), as well as Dr. Josh Axe and Dr. Chris Kresser, among others. I'm going on Friday, May, 19 and Saturday, May, 20 so that I can catch all the action. They also have cooking demonstrations, a vendor fair, and I get a free gift each day at check-in! Woo hoo for free stuff! I hope to go home with a head full of new knowledge and some sweet samples and freebies.

Now, lets switch gears a little and talk about gluten. Ah, a very controversial topic, indeed. I gave up gluten a few months ago, and I think it was the right move for me. I've lost weight (26 lbs and counting), and I don't have to worry about my blood sugar spiking through the roof every time I eat a piece of bread anymore! I don't get "hangry" anymore and I have a ton of energy throughout the day. I actually avoid gluten-free bread now too, as most of them are filled with other junk that makes them almost just as bad as gluten-containing foods. I've cut down on a lot of processed foods in general, and I think I'm better off because of it. Anyway, back to gluten. One big reason to avoid modern wheat: it's sprayed with a nasty, toxic herbicide, glyphosate (aka Roundup) and it is not that of the wheat our ancestors consumed. Considering the population is only about 1% Celiac, gluten may not seem like such a big deal, and for some people, it's not! But, there's also something called gluten sensitivity, which I tested positive for on an IgA food sensitivity test a few years ago (thousands of people also have unknown gluten sensitivity!).  Back then, I wasn't informed enough to know about the dangers of gluten for some people, so I freely ate several servings of bread and pasta on a daily basis, thinking nothing of it. Gluten also tends to bother people with thyroid issues, especially those with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the thyroid. I have hypothyroidism and have had my antibodies for Hashimoto's tested, and they came up as "1", which is basically saying that I don't have Hashimoto's. However, it is sometimes possible to test negative or very low for these antibodies, but still have the disease. So, the fact that gluten can be very detrimental to those with thyroid issues in general, I avoid it like the plague now! It's hard though, because it's in almost everything processed that humans consume in the Western world. This includes most breads, pastas, salad dressings (I now make my own dressing!) and other sauces. It's often used as a filler or thickening agent and it's what gives bread dough it's flexible, pliable texture. Here's a very recent compelling article transcript and radio interview with Dr. Chris Kresser and a functional medicine doc named Pam Grover on Revolution Health Radio on why a gluten-free diet may or may not be dangerous.

Now with that being said, my newly-acquired cookbook does include a Paleo bread recipe that uses almond flour and coconut flour, which I eventually hope to try! That, and the coconut flour tortilla recipe. Yum! So see, I don't really feel like I've been missing out by not incorporating gluten into my lifestyle anymore. I've been eating these cassava coconut wraps made by Siete Family Foods once in a while, and they are actually pretty good, but not AIP compliant, because they contain xanthan gum. Gums such as, guar gum, xanthan gum, and locust bean gum are not allowed on the AIP diet. Like I said, I'm teetering on the edge of AIP, but I still eat things with nuts and seeds (like chia) in them sometimes as well as eggs, so I am half Paleo, half AIP I guess you could say lol. PS: Siete makes these killer grain-free lime tortilla chips, which go great with this awesome AIP guacamole recipe that I've already made twice in the past week! Jealous? You should be!

MMM...holy guacamole! 

Anyway, I think that about rounds out this blog post! Also, it's almost 8:30 PM, and I haven't eaten dinner yet. So alas, it is time for me to go! Until next time, au revoir my bloggie friends!

Also, I would love to hear your feedback! Have you gone gluten free or Paleo or even AIP? If so, how do you feel? Has it dramatically changed your life as it has mine? Lemme know!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Transition

So, I haven't written a blog in forever. I think it's time to start again!

I've gone through a lot the past few years, mainly health challenges. In 2014, it's like a light switched off in my body, leaving me with debilitating insomnia with no rhyme or reason. I've been on every sleeping pill you can think of, not to mention the things I've been prescribed off-label for sleep.

It's a terrifying feeling, not being able to sleep. The meds have all but stopped working for me. Did I mention scary?

I've done a complete overhaul of my health in hopes that this will cause that light inside me to switch back on. I'm now eating a Paleo diet, which is a 180 from the way I used to eat. It's too early to feel the effects I think, but I have lost six pounds since I've been eating this way. For those not familiar with Paleo, it's basically the way cavemen used to eat, with some meat, lots of veggies and some fruit and nuts (depending on the person). I'm personally avoiding nuts and nightshades right now in the name of possible gut sensitivity issues. Not to mention, rosacea flare ups. Grains of any kind, gluten, and dairy are also not allowed. In spite of the lack of zzz's, I actually feel ok with my newfound way of eating. I drink high protein smoothies every morning, sip bone broth when I need a snack, and am eating more veggies than I ever have. I make my own salad dressing, which I have been putting on my daily lunch salads. I am totally immersed in the Paleo lifestyle, and loving it. Yes, I do miss pizza and pasta sometimes, but the benefits of eating this way far outweigh any high-glycemic, processed carb that I used to put in my mouth. Now, if I could just get my sleep back, I'd be golden!

I'm seeing an integrative doc in the Lakeway area of Austin, and she is doing everything in her power to get my sleep back. I'm doing an adrenal saliva test, which I have to say, is one of the most annoying experiences I've ever had. Spitting into four tubes at various points of the day is not my idea of fun! I'll also be doing some gut testing in the next couple of weeks to rule out yeast overgrowth and other stomach maladies. Wish me luck! I just had my thyroid rechecked too, and I'm hoping my numbers have improved since a couple of months ago. I've dropped a size in pants, and I can actually fit into size 3/4 jeans now! I wasn't even that small in high school. Amazing what eating right will do for you.

I am hoping to go to Paleo fx in Austin next month, but I will probably be going solo. It's a bit expensive, and I don't know any other Paleo folks in the area. I think it'll be an awesome experience though! Looks like it's time for me to make some friends here. I only have one, and he's very cool, but I don't know if he also thinks of me as a friend yet. We've only hung out through energy healing Meetups thus far. He's very easy to talk to though, and is a good sounding board for my sleep woes.

I'm also in the process of looking for a new, better job that I can be happy with. Happiness is key. I met a lady the other day at a gluten free expo who's a health coach in New York. I can only imagine how rewarding this would be! This is something I may look into, as I feel I could take all of my knowledge of nutrition and put it to good use. I love talking about healthy eating to anyone who'll listen :) I'm also getting back into Zumba and yoga, which I'm thrilled about!

Anyway, I will cut this post short. I just felt like writing again. I miss it. I crave it sometimes. Plus, it feels good to get your thoughts out there into the digital world for anyone who's willing to read it.

That's all for now. Love from Elgin, Texas!

My Paleo Journey: From Sick and Flabby to Fabulous!

Hey hey, y'all!! So, it's been a minute since I have been able to slay you with my delicious words (aka the avocado blog). But ala...