When Food is Foe 😈

It certainly is a frustration and a struggle when you suspect that the food you’ve been eating is somehow contributing to the trouble you’re having with your gut, brain, muscles and joints, or skin.

A short list of common symptoms related to food-induced inflammation can range from heartburn and stomach pain to bloating and diarrhea. It could manifest as headaches or migraines, loss of focus, anxiety and/or depression. The symptoms could show in your achy points or in your skin as rashes or breakouts.

Your Personalized Diet

Everyone needs to eat according to their own needs, preferences, and lifestyle. A diet that works for a celebrity, your best friend, and even your cousin may not be what creates health for YOU.

Truly personalized nutrition doesn’t just take into account your height and weight, age, ancestry, activity level, or food preferences and lifestyle, it also means finding out which foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body.

Gut Permeability aka “Leaky Gut”

Having a “leaky gut” was a condition once unbelieved but is now well-documented in scientific literature. When there’s a compromise or breach of the cells lining the gut, there is a potential for all sorts of maladies, including poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, and many symptoms throughout the body.

Inflammation: the Good AND Bad

Just like stress, inflammation isn’t all bad. When you get a cut, the area of the trauma will start to swell and redden as the immune and circulatory system rush to the scene to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and start laying new skin structures. The problem is when stress, or in this case, inflammation becomes chronic. This situation can ignite a host of disorders including arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental issues.

How do you heal the painful symptoms associated with stepping on a nail? Sure, you could try covering it up, wrapping the area with pillowy gauze and taking aspirin, but you haven’t removed the root cause. So the first step to true, actual healing is to have the nail removed.

How might diet-induced inflammation show up for you? We’re all different so while soybean might cause one person a headache or migraine, for another it could cause joint pain or heartburn. Same with gluten, blueberries, or even green peppers.

Just because a food or diet is labeled as anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean it’s acting that way for you. In fact, surprisingly enough, we’ve had two clients in the past year for whom tumeric, a known anti-inflammatory, was actually INFLAMING them. One of the clients had been taking it everyday (!) in attempts to quell her joint pain.

The Multiple Problems with Elimination Diets

One of the keys in reducing diet-induced inflammation in the body is first identifying the foods that are causing the ‘fire’ in the body. Why not start with an elimination diet to try to improve migraines, autoimmune conditions or gut health? Why not try eliminating the most common allergens (e.g. wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) or trying FODMAPs? While a particular food may relate to certain symptoms, it’s not necessarily the best course of action to subject clients to an elimination diet because they are difficult to sustain , are often inconclusive (do you have a mirgraine or heartburn because of the gluten or because you’ve been under stress or because of barometric pressure change in the weather?) and they don’t usually give the full relief clients need and desire.

1. They could miss a genetic component important for you to know and to share with your family. A good example of this would be a person who eliminates gluten from their diet and feels better. Unless they were tested for celiac disease, they wouldn’t know how stringently they might need to follow the gluten-free diet. Their relatives might also be unaware of how their expression of ‘silent celiac’ disease could be infertility, skin rashes, mouth sores, osteoporosis, and even lymphoma. 

2. Extra stress is another problem of elimination diets. They are frustrating and mentally demanding (trying to figure out a symptom’s cause might feel like a scene from A Beautiful Mind or this It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme), time-consuming and perhaps most importantly – they are not as successful as testing. The reason for this is that as you eliminate or add in foods, you may not do so slowly or completely enough AND since the immune system is in a heightened state of alert still responding to the foods you haven’t eliminated, you’re likely not going to feel 100% or even 80% better. Instead of spending 6 or more months removing foods from your diet – not feeling sure that you’re even getting better, or not getting a 100% resolution- you may want to consider another process. With our protocol, we guide clients through step-by-step, starting with 10 days of their ‘safe’ foods and then systematically expanding their diet in a way that allows us to determine other food reactions and intolerances.

3. Elimination diets don’t necessarily ‘put out the fire.’ Because our genetics and environment can play a role and impact our abilities to deal with inflammation, you can’t just avoid foods that cause you problems. Our body’s response to stress plays a role too. The great part of knowing your food – and food chemical – sensitivities is that they give a wider, more accurate picture …when it comes to discovering that molds, yeast,  FD&C Blue #2, or benzoic acid are also causing issues, perhaps in your household environment or products. Once we remove the ‘known offenders’ in your diet (including supplements and hygiene products), the immune system starts to calm down and then we can safely start food reintroduction and see more clearly what causes your problematic symptoms. Otherwise, with elimination diets, you’re mainly just guessing about the foods, supplements, and hygiene/household products you’re using and whether or not they are ‘safe’ for you.

Supplements aren’t the Answer

“Can’t I just take extra probiotics, collagen, turmeric, or fiber to help my gut?” You could play the guessing game and potentially waste time and money in trying to find the perfect supplement (or twenty). Here’s the problem: you’ll likely not see a great benefit from them if you’re still eating foods that irritate your gut’s lining and that cause inflammation in the body. As mentioned before, you could be reactive to turmeric and therefore adding that supplement could be your personal kryptonite.  

Want a faster, better way to help your gut AND body heal?

Consider comprehensive food sensitivity testing. Why comprehensive? Because, for example, just looking at IgG levels doesn’t mean that the food is the problem necessarily; IgG can be elevated for a number of reasons. It’s more important to look at multiple markers of inflammation being released by a cell in response to a food – including cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, leukotrienes, interleukins and more.

If you’re tired of feeling “gross”, being so bloated you look 5 months pregnant, and have stomach pains that distract you from fully participating in the life you want to live, or have other ‘unexplained’ symptoms that could be related to the foods you eat regularly, consider a comprehensive program that includes your test results and implementing the proper protocol with expert guidance and support.

Food sensitivity testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to help clients finally improve life-long symptoms and get back to engaging in life more fully. Interested to see if the testing is a good option for you? Schedule your complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call and let’s get your healthy journey started!

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Food Sensitivity Testing with MRT

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Most people – whether younger or older, ill or well – benefit from knowing which foods their bodies react negatively to.

Here’s the kicker: the food you think is healthy, may not be healthy for you.

If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, the focus is on prevention; since food is central to any wellness plan, to eat in a precise and personalized way is best.

Dealing with health challenges?

Maybe you’ve given up some of the ‘big 8’ offenders (e.g. wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs) but are still having some symptoms. Perhaps you’ve done (ineffective) skin testing or IgG food sensitivity testing. In either case, you know you need to drill down further and find out if your everyday “healthy” foods (e.g. blueberry, turkey, or tumeric) are actually inflaming you. This has been the case for many of our clients, some visual examples of food sensitivity testing results are below.

Conditions associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease
  • Heartburn / GERD
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD

Symptoms associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and acne
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Nasal and sinus congestion or post nasal drip
  • Food cravings
  • Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
  • Water retention and difficulty losing weight

Additionally, this is a test worth doing if you plan on having children (to help lower inflammation in the body and improve fertility) or if you have children who are ‘picky eaters’ (oftentimes, kids intuitively know that a certain food is ‘hurting’ them and they try to avoid it).

If you want to lose weight or improve performance, this test provides you with the foundation for your personal diet strategy and may provide the missing link necessary to achieve your goals.

What makes MRT different? How does it work?

Some of the other tests you may have done, such as a skin prick or a food sensitivity test ONLY measuring IgG levels, often lack the accuracy in determining actual food sensitivities you may have.

Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult; here’s why – the reactions can be delayed or dose-dependent. This means we may not immediately feel the effect of a food reaction; it may take many hours or days to appear. If it’s dose-dependent, we might feel okay with a little bit of the offending food, but stacking it gives us a reaction.

Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that shows how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring chemical mediators released from the cell. When released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. Fortunately, MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!

Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods that were showing up as inflammatory for clients, including: bananas, turkey, blueberries, coffee and more!

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Test results are only part of the equation. With your functional medicine dietitian-nutritionist, you’ll put into play the LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) protocol to help get you the results you desire. Curious about finding out the foods and food chemicals causing inflammation and symptoms in YOUR body? Contact us and see if MRT testing is right for you.

We’re Toast

…well not quite in trouble, but recently the feeling of burnout has been trailing behind us, like a blazing fire following a gasoline leak. The steady, hazardous drip came from an embedded, almost subconscious thought: “I love my work, I don’t need a vacation.” While the former is true, the latter part of that statement is definitely false. It wasn’t until recently that we realized our last vacation was 13 months ago. With little more than an occasional half-day off in over a year, the reason behind our exhaustion came into focus. Without sustained and intentional time off, we were burning the candle at both ends; everything was becoming too much effort and yet we pushed forward anyway.

Perhaps you’ve felt it too, the sneaky symptoms of burnout include:

— Falling asleep quickly only to wake up in the middle of the night

— Less healthy, natural color in face

— Relying on quick-energy food options to get through the day

— A tired-but-wired feeling, never being able to fully relax

— Lack of a desire to connect with friends

— Feeling like you’ve been “run over by a truck”

— No energy, tired all the time, fatigued

— Waking up exhausted, not well-rested

The common responses of “busy,” “tired”, and “stressed” when asked how you’re doing is the zeitgeist of our current time. It’s the consequence of our sleep-deprived, 5-hour energy lives. For productivity, it’s pump-or-pill-yourself-up, and at the end of the day we ‘wine’ down and scroll through or watch screens.

You may feel like you can handle the frantic pace and multitasking of life for awhile – maybe you claim to thrive when life is too busy. However, eventually, everyone pays the piper. The stress we don’t even know we’re under starts to accumulate and we, our minds and our bodies, are unable to cope with it.

Why am I Exhausted?

First things first. Get evaluated by a healthcare professional and lab work to rule out underlying conditions such as anemia, thyroid disease, depression, allergies, side effects of certain medications, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.

Second, as with most things in life, this problem is a matter of balance between supply and demand. There are times when work gets hectic or short-term caregiving can cause exhaustion and there are other times when, despite our busy lives, we feel energized and ready to take on life. At a basic level, when our lives have more demands, we tend to feel tired. If this is short-term, we typically have energy in the bank to help us through. Common examples include pulling an all-nighter to tend to a sick child or a work project, or even running a half-marathon. The problem is when the demands don’t let up and others pile on. The scale then tips very unfavorably and we deplete our reserves, our emergency energy, and we become exhausted. It’s critical here to point out that there is a difference between being ‘tired’ (which can typically be remedied by a good night’s sleep) and ‘fatigue’ (which tends to be a longer-standing state not easily remedied by a massage or a day off).

Tools

Fatigue is a wonderful teacher. While she might initially make you slow down, it’s only to give you the opportunity to examine your life, learn more about yourself and what’s truly important to you. She certainly taught us a thing or two these past few weeks – namely getting back to the basics, examining our thoughts, and using the tools we have in our toolbox.

As one example, we will often use a life inventory tool as we work with clients to help bring awareness to certain areas of life in need of support. We explore your relationship with food and physical movement as well as your mind functioning and stress, self-care, and spirit.

We help you plug your energy drains and naturally increase your personal energy level so that you can meet the demands of the day.

Along with this is personalized support, mindset adjustments, setting boundaries, learning to delegate and stop people-pleasing, and building up natural energy stores with proper nutrition and lifestyle changes. Our goal is that your sense of wellbeing is good most of the time so that you have a higher quality of life. If this sounds like natural energy restoration you are looking for, schedule a complimentary call and we’ll get started.

Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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Sugar Detox Challenge Star: Bobbie

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This past Sugar Detox Challenge was a huge success! Over 78% of participants experienced a weight loss of 5-10% (average pounds lost in 25 days: 8). The feedback included everything from improved skin texture and tone, less stomachaches, less tinnitus, better digestion, conquered out-of-control cravings, and inches lost!

We would like highlight the journey of Sugar Star, Bobbie:

Bobbie started out early in the journey and realized she was getting over 160 grams of added sugar per day! Within the first week of the challenge, she got down to than less than 5g of added sugar.

During the past 24 days, she has lost 11lbs – which wasn’t even her primary goal!

In terms of body composition, she lost a total of 7 inches from chest, waist, hips, and thighs! As she reports: “My size 8 pants used to be tight; now I can get into size 6, they are a bit snug but fine”

In her words:

“This is the easiest ‘diet’ I’ve ever been on! Instead of calorie-counting and deprivation, I’m just getting rid of sugar and it’s working!

I feel better and good about myself. I find that my depression has lifted and I’m getting off the couch more – I feel more energized and my to-do list actually gets done!

I thought that $149 was a lot of money but it’s less than I spend on sugar! The ice cream I was eating was costing me between $6-8.50 per day so I’ve actually saved money, now and for the future!

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about health but I still experienced ‘aha’ moments; also speaking with an actual person, who is caring and helpful, is a wonderful way to check-in and keep myself accountable.

I’ve discovered a difference between a mental craving and a physical craving. When I’ve had a treat, I’ve really savored it.

Plan for maintenance: “I feel so proud of myself! I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing now – I’m happy and want to continue! Also I’m glad I can come back to you for additional help when I need it”

Runner-up: James

James loved his sugar-sweetened beverages and he felt he needed them to provide energy to get through the day. He was at his highest adult weight and his doctor recently cautioned him about developing disease states. James understood that his habits around food and cravings were a root cause for his weight gain.

“I didn’t even change my exercise but getting rid of the extra sugar helped me to lose 9.8 lbs! I still miss soda sometimes but when I’ve had it recently, it’s too sweet! The strategies Adrienne helped me develop are working. I am having healthier substitutes, distracting myself, and deconstructing cravings. I realized that when I was stressed, soda was ‘the answer’ but now I have better stress management techniques. We cleared out the junk food at the house. My family and I thank you for all that you do!”

3rd place: Dawn

Dawn has lost 6.3 lbs during the past 24 days! She finds the 3pm slump doesn’t happen as much and she’s skipping visits to the vending machine; when she does want a snack, she is making healthier choices.

“Working with my coach has been terrific- she has ideas for every obstacle I tell her about and helps me create my own solutions too!”

Thanks to all Sugar Detox Challengers for your hard work and dedications to living a sweeter (no-sugar added) life!

Curious? Ready to start your own sugar-squashing journey? Our next challenge will start before the holidays on October 2nd!

Could it be your Thyroid?

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An estimated 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid disorders; roughly half go undiagnosed. Women are mainly affected. About half of those diagnosed have Hashimoto’s, an auto-immune condition.

Basic Thyroid Information

The thyroid, from the Greek word thyreos meaning “shield” is a small gland in front part of the neck just above the voice box.

Just because it’s tiny and weighs less than an ounce, does not mean it can’t pack a punch. This little gland is a force to be reckoned with as it can influence your other organs (and vice versa) and your overall health. The thyroid releases hormones that regulate metabolism help control the function of many of your body’s organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, reproductive system and skin.

What might amaze you is the variety of connections this little networking gland has with seemingly every part of the body. Do you have digestive issues, hair falling out, fatigue, constipation, or struggle to lose weight? Guess what, your thyroid might be the culprit.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism’s symptoms are often subtle and non-specific (mimicing symptoms associated with other conditions). Sometimes they are attributed to the aging process.

Those with milder forms of hypothyroidism may not have any signs or symptom, but they generally become more obvious as the condition deteriorates.  A slower metabolism, or inability to lose weight, is often a first complaint. Here are more:

Fatigue
Depression
Weight gain
Intolerance to Cold
Excessive sleepiness
Constipation

Dry, coarse or brittle hair
Muscle cramps
Increased cholesterol levels
Decreased mental focus and concentration
Joint or muscle aches/pain
Swelling of the legs

Morning headaches
Poor circulation
Cold hands and feet
Increased susceptibility to colds and illness
Slow wound healing
Facial swelling (edema)

Hair falls out easily
Chronic digestive issues
Excessive sleep required to function properly
Loss of outer 1/3 of eyebrows
Dry skin
Weakness

A Typical Presentation

Here’s a fairly typical example of what can happen with a client who has thyroid issues: (typically female) she will present during our initial consultation with quite a few symptoms of hypothyroidism but says “my doctor says my TSH is in the normal range.” That’s where we have take a pause and educate about how one problem with only testing TSH is that it is not telling the whole story of thyroid health. The second problem is that the lab range (often based off of sick people) for what is considered ‘normal’ is quite large; the functional range is much smaller. You may benefit from further testing, especially to rule out Hashimoto’s.

One Client’s Case

A 32-year-old female who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease has had gastro-intestinal issues for years. When ‘gluten-ed’, she suffers immobilizing joint pain making it nearly impossible to get out of bed. She works part-time and ‘muscles-through’ when feeling ill.

Her sleep is erratic, she hasn’t had a menstrual cycle in years, and she has debilitating fatigue at some times and tons of energy other times.

Guess what she was diagnosed with?

Based on her health history and symptoms, we suspected Hashimoto’s. Her doctor ran some lab tests and that’s what they found.

The client’s doctor has her on medication and she, with our work together, she is currently diligently avoiding aggravating foods as well as using addressing dietary deficiencies and lifestyle changes to ameliorate her immune system dysfunction.

Get educated on your thyroid and join about a dozen other smarties coming to tonight’s class.

Already have plans? Consider getting in touch with an Integrative & Functional Dietitian who examine your symptoms and, if necessary, suggest further testing. We will also help support you in dietary and lifestyle changes to support not only your thyroid but your overall health.

Celiac vs. Gluten Intolerance

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Source: Sapone A, et al. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification. BMC Medicine. 2012; 2013

Gluten is the scary gremlin on the health scene. Just because your best friend, neighbor, or favorite celebrity is gluten-free, does that mean you should be too?

What is gluten? It’s a collective term for a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and derivatives (i.e. spelt, einkorn). Gluten is well-recognized for giving breads a doughy, elastic structure; but beyond breads, it is used as a thickening agent and flavor enhancer.

Quick note: Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed. Some experts maintain that gliadins are catalysts for problems typically attributed to gluten.

Celiac disease

For those with celiac disease (CD), exposure to gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the intestines. When the villi (finger-like projections) of the intestines become damaged, the body cannot absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment and serious chronic health conditions.

People generally develop celiac from a combination of genetic disposition for the disease, a stressful event triggering the genes, and a diet with exposure to gluten, wheat, gliadin, barley, etc.

The diagnosis of celiac disease can be challenging since it shares symptoms to other conditions such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, and even lactose intolerance. Blood tests can reveal auto-antibodies to gluten and often an endoscopy follows; this is where a biopsy can reveal intestinal damage, if one hasn’t started a gluten-free diet already. The presence of genetic markers HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8 only shows you may develop CD; it is not a confirmed diagnosis for CD as not all of our genes fully express. Because those with celiac are at risk of malnutrition , other auto-immune conditions, cancer, and osteoporosis, proper diagnosis and support is essential.

For those with celiac disease, it is essential to avoid gliadin/gluten for the remainder of life.

Wheat allergy

Wheat is one of the 8 most common food allergens in the United States. The reaction to ingesting wheat can include rashes, hives, swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, a rapid heart-rate and anxiety.

Unlike celiac disease, where there’s an immune reaction to all gluten-containing grains, for those with a wheat allergy there is only a reaction to the proteins in wheat. Wheat allergies can be diagnosed via a skin prick or blood test.

Sometimes wheat allergies are diagnosed in children but can fade in time.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) may experience
similar symptoms as those with CD (including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness/foggy thinking), however, antibodies to gluten are not produced nor is there intestinal damage (two hallmarks of CD). There’s not enough evidence to know for sure if eating small amounts of gluten causes damage.

Interestingly enough, there is evidence linking gluten intolerance to a number of other health conditions including autism, depression, digestive disorders, even schizophrenia.

The symptoms often improve after removal of gluten from the diet.

Detecting gluten sensitivity is difficult since there is currently no accepted diagnostic test for NCGS. It is important to rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy. An elimination diet should be done under supervision of an expert nutritionist.

If you suspect you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivity, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and work with a qualified healthcare professional on an elimination diet and food sensitivity test as well as support for following a gluten-free diet.

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The results of an individual’s food sensitivity testing showing gluten, gliadin, and wheat as issues.

The Cost of Clutter – Death, Peace, and Money

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Almost imperceptibly, we slowly accumulate increasing piles of…stuff. Like cholesterol blockages in arteries, clutter doesn’t happen overnight but its effects can be just as deadly. It’s true, people have died from extreme clutter, or hoarding, in their own homes – by fire from which they couldn’t escape or crushed and hidden beneath their stuff. It’s estimated that up to five percent of the U.S. population has a problem with hoarding and a CBS News poll found that 1/3 of Americans say they have too much clutter in their homes.

About 10% of American families rent storage space for belongings which don’t fit in their homes or items they aren’t ready to part with. That money serves your stuff, instead of your life and growth. Then there are some people who will forgo renting space but choose larger homes to contain their clutter.

It’s simple to put a dollar figure on the cost of rented storage spaces, but what about the clutter in your home? The first step is to assess and take stock of your possessions and the space they own in your home. In a single room, take a look and estimate the cost of what you’re not using and what you don’t love. Unworn clothing, make-up purchased years ago, jewelry, knick-knacks, spider-webbed sports equipment, and paper all have a financial cost. If you find that a certain item tugs at your heart or causes an emotional response, that’s an added cost (which can be greater than the financial one!).  Add up the cost of the items – what you remember spending or the item’s price tag. If you’re still paying it off, record that too. A perusal through one’s closet may show hundreds of dollars of unused, cluttering clothing, shoes, and accessories. Are you still paying on the $2000 television purchased 3 years ago? Guess what, even if it breaks (and if the term ‘planned obsolescence‘ means anything to you, it will), you’ll still pay for it AND the new television. Is anything worth the stress of those monthly bills?

Another tactic is to figure out how much each square footage of your home is worth and then discern how much of the space is ‘owned’ by clutter. If you own your home, take the current, roughly estimated value of the home and divide it by the square footage (i.e. $75 per square foot). If you rent, we find it’s easier for clients to add up the total rent for the year and divide by the square footage of the home. Once you have this number, multiply it by the square footage of space stuff is taking up in your garage, bedrooms, living room, and basement. You may find a surprising estimated cost for the clutter in your space. Whether you’re paying a mortgage or a landlord, are you writing that check mainly on behalf of clutter storage?

How about money spent for replacement items? Have you purchased a new pair of sneakers only to find some in your closet from last summer? Clutter costs us money and time when we buy duplicates of stuff we already own but can’t find. 

Part of this equation should be a discussion on safety and health. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, most accidents occur in the home. Clutter can pose risks for falls and accidents. Slipping on laundry thrown down the wooden basement stairs? Kids toys? Feeding what could have been a small house fire with paper clutter? Also the growth of allergens like dust and mold can be expensive to treat.

When you are disorganized, you can’t function effectively, much less optimally. Much like a small business, you need to have an organizational structure for your home life. Misplacing checks in piles of paper, late fees, tax penalties, and library fines are all extra dollars out your door. At a very basic level, time spent looking for car keys is time that could have been spent relaxing, working, or socializing.

Clutter also costs us time by demanding our attention. We have to work around it to get groceries in the car, pay our bills, find a useful item, and make a meal. What could normally be accomplished in 15 minutes can take 3x as long! The extra hours of housework are a time and energy drain that could be used for creative endeavors, education, hobbies, or any number of productive projects.

Clutter can also affect your mental health. You know the feeling when you enter a dwelling and the space is bright, clean and welcoming versus one where shoes are strewn all over the dirty floor. One client felt her life was becoming unmanageable and she was dealing with increasing amounts of anxiety and depression. It turns out that she didn’t need pharmaceutical pills, she needed a clean and welcoming sanctuary to call home. We made a few recommendations and she flew with it, hiring an organizer to help her declutter and a housekeeper for occasional, detailed visits. As of this writing, she reports feeling calmer and more emotionally stable.

What about the sheer joy and lightness of being that comes with having space to twirl around your room without running into piles of stuff? A place for you and your family to grow, expand, and learn in a clean and orderly environment? The contented sigh as you look over and see flat surfaces without piles on top?  Living in peace is priceless.

Perhaps the biggest cost is an intangible one: clutter impedes and causes procrastination for personal growth. It’s just one giant, clutter-y obstacle to overcome on living a life you desire.

We can become prisoners and Stuff is our warden. We tie up our money in rarely used sports equipment, shirts that don’t fit quite right, gadgets, and various entertainment. Some people develop Stockholm syndrome with their clutter, relating positive feelings for their stuff and imbuing it with sense of human comfort to counter-act their loneliness. Liberate your stuff, liberate yourself. tweet this

When there is too much stuff around you, it’s like being a plant in a tiny pot. It’s overly challenging to thrive and grow when you are tucked into a bunch of clutter. The answer, of course, isn’t moving to a larger space. The solution is to put your space on a diet. Once you get rid of stuff and get organized, that’s when you begin to expand your wings and take off!

Ready to take charge and get support? Come to our Declutter your Home, Clear your Mind class this Thursday!

The Person behind the Professional – My Healing Story

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A short jaunt over to the “about” tab will give you some of my professional story- the multiple degrees and certifications from such renowned institutions as The Ohio State University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and more. However, client curiosity around why I chose this satisfying profession has led me to share more about the person behind the professional.

“You’re so lucky to be thin and healthy, you can eat whatever you want!”

This phrase has been said to me at various points in my life. I wanted to believe it was true because then I’d only have to stay thin in order to be healthy, right?

Early Life through Adolescence 

Let’s begin at the beginning. As an infant and small child, I had gastro-intestinal issues and was on repeated rounds of antibiotics for both active infections and as a prophylactic measure for something the doctors told my parents I should ‘grow out of’. That never happened. I was painfully poked and prodded, given barium and multiple x-rays, and underwent extensive testing. At age 5, I had major surgery to correct part of my urinary system and we all hoped my problems would be over.

…But they weren’t. Over the years I would intermittently get to live the life I loved – full of energy, activity, and vitality. Other days and weeks, even months, I would go to bed one night and wake up in pain, feverish, and unable to leave the house. If it was a weekend, that was the worst, because it meant me having to wait days to see the doctor while being in acute pain. Sometimes I think about how much of my life I’ve spent curled up on the couch, overloading myself with fluids and prescription medications, and wondering if I’d ever truly be well and free of what felt like a health curse.

An Unhealthy Obsession

Somewhere around ages 15 and 16, I developed disordered eating practices and patterns. As mentioned above, thinness was associated with health and I was also praised and envied by others for being ‘so tiny’. It was rewarding to be small & athletic- I was always the ‘flyer’ in gymnastics as the lightest person in 7th grade gym class but was still strong enough to do 18 pull-ups! As my body changed and I went from 89lbs at age 15 to over 100lbs at 16, I had problems adjusting and, like some others, developed a sense of body dysmorphia. Recruited to run track as a sprinter in high school, I felt the need to be light so I wouldn’t weigh myself down with extra poundage. Eating for athletic performance? I knew nothing about this. Lunch was a Twix bar from the vending machine and an apple; these were justified on vegetarian grounds at the time. My friends and boyfriend were worried about me and, to both my annoyance and twisted sense of pleasure, they gave extra attention to me and my meals. I felt I could better control the stress of school and life if I could just control my weight. Now I can recognize that part of this disordered eating had roots in food intolerances…the so-called healthy cereal, bread, and pasta gave me stomachaches. By eating less or barely at all, I felt better and had more energy. Buuuuut, I still had cravings…

I craved sugar and carbs like an addict. Baking cookies, eating ice cream, and having salty pretzels became a regular occurrence. During one particular day, I couldn’t find the sweet-enough item I was jonesing for so I took a spoon out of the drawer and went straight for the bag of brown sugar in the pantry. That feeling of desperation to get my sugar fix was reminiscent of an addict doing whatever it took to get alcohol, heroin, or meth. I realized this was a problem but felt powerless over my cravings and berated myself for not having enough willpower to stick to my ‘healthy diet’.

Forays into Health Education

As a teenager with aims to become a doctor and a passion for learning about health, I was already building a library of books on traditional and holistic healing theories. Nearly everyone has a go-to health-nut friend and I was that person people would come to about their acne, blood sugar levels, anxiety, depression, and even their parents’ issues. This challenge was enticing to me and I’d go home and look through my library for ideas on how to use nutrition, herbs, and alternative therapies before presenting my findings. I had great faith and quite a lot of scientific evidence that nutrition was a key part of the puzzle; it was just so overwhelming and hard to implement the knowledge. (This is later where behavior change and accountability with my health coaching would come in.)

The College Years & A Turning Point

When starting college, at a youthful time in life that is associated with being at the epitome of health and fitness, I wasn’t feeling it.

Besides the recurrent illness itself still playing into my college years, I also had acne breakouts, skin rashes, stomachaches, constipation, alternating periods of high energy and lethargy, anxiety, depression, hormone imbalances, and my increased weight had my BMI dangerously close to the ‘overweight’ category. For the first time in my life, instead of informing me that I was in the lower percentile for weight and height, I horrifically received a talk from my doctor about the need for ‘diet and exercise’. I threw my hands in the air with exasperation. What did that really mean anyway?

It became apparent to me during my sophomore year of college that I might have to withdraw from the university due to not being able to attend classes more than sporadically. I, the person who loved learning and had been a precocious teenager taking college classes, was about to give up. I put aside my studies in German and political science because I knew I didn’t have another option- I was desperate and compelled to learn more about why my body was so upset.

I did a lot of internet searching while still faithfully visiting my multiple doctors. Between and during fresh rounds of antibiotics, I was learning bits and pieces about gut health, sugar, probiotics, herbs, and medical ‘cures’. Eventually, I took a course in nutrition and had an epiphany. THIS is what I wanted to do with my life. Instead of doctoring with surgery and medications, I could utilize food in helping people heal! But first I had to heal myself and that required a lot more than what I already knew from years of my nutrition hobby. That year, I started my third undergraduate degree- this time in dietetics. I received another small miracle in late 2005 when I visited a website with a link to a nutrition school in Manhattan that offered to educate me on all the different dietary theories and to help me heal my own life so that I could help others heal theirs.

It amazed me that I, a lay-person and nutrition novice, through learning about the human body’s systems and the interactions of nutrition, could put pieces of the puzzle together that my urologist, general practitioner, and OB-GYN could not. It just made so much sense, I couldn’t ignore it.

I stopped relying on doctors to ‘fix me’ and started taking responsibility– for every morsel of food I put in my body, getting enough water, sleep, and exercise, as well as managing stress better. I acted as though my life depended on dietary diligence and application of lifestyle improvements, because it did.

The first time I was able to effectively mitigate a healing crisis with herbs, nutrition and fluids, I was astounded. Maybe I didn’t have an antibiotic deficiency at all – maybe I didn’t need to have my doctor’s phone number on speed-dial…..I scarcely dared to hope that perhaps, just MAYBE, my body wanted to get better and all I needed to really do was pay attention to it and supply it with the tools it needed in order to repair itself.

As I rose into the role of president of my own life, I knew I still needed a cabinet- a group of experts who would help me achieve a higher state of health. I hired acupuncturists & massage therapists and have consistently had a health coach who inspires me and keeps me accountable to my health goals. Having a health-minded partner and friends is huge in this area too. No (wo)man is an island.

Illness and Fear, with a Twinkle of Hope

Having a recurrent illness does a lot of things to you. One of these is creating fear that you’ll always have this condition, pain, and misery.

It did the same to me. Since I had suffered for this long, fear told me my life would probably always be like this. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to hold down a job without running through my sick days like crazy. I had fear that I couldn’t be in a great relationship or see my friends when I wanted to because I never knew when I could count on being well enough. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to travel without bottles of supplements and the possibility of needing to find a store to buy more, or even more dreaded, visiting a doctor.

But, at the same time, I knew health was possible because I had those short periods of true vitality and energy…. and that’s what I would strive for.

The Cost of Illness and Disease

My illness and health conditions cost me (and my parents until age 18) thousands of dollars in the form of co-pays, prescriptions, and expensive tests. It cost me money that I couldn’t earn due to being unable to show up to work as well as college tuition for classes I couldn’t attend.

But not all costs are associated with ones from the wallet. This illness was cheating me out of education and better grades, a sense of security, time with friends, and vitality….it OWNED me. And I was tired of being its sick, sad slave.

How Nutrition Changed Everything

Let’s talk about the diet I had growing up. First let me say that my parents are wonderful people who tried the best they knew how. My mom recounts how, even though she’s not a fan of vegetables, she would always get them in for her pregnancies. We grew up eating ‘healthy’ cereals such as Total, Kix, and Special K with skim milk. Junk cereals were relegated to the weekends along with coveted pancakes and bacon and eggs dishes. Our lunches were not the fruity snacks, white bread sandwiches, and sugary treat meals our school companions had – we had whole wheat bread sandwiches, a piece of fruit, juice or water, and 2-3 small cookies. Dinners might be a stir-fry, pot pies (with trans-fat *shudder*), microwaved meals, pasta, and usually some vegetables at every meal. Snacks were ice cream, pretzels, and occasionally candy such as Snickers or M&Ms. I drank milk, juice, and (not enough) water. When I became a vegetarian, my parents didn’t really know what to do with me. I didn’t either. I just knew meat was out of the question. So I was left with oh-so-many carbs in my very low protein and fat diet (this was the low-fat craze from the ’90s going on.)

I started healing as best as I could during my adolescence but it wasn’t until years later, particularly during my year of school in New York that I made myself and my healing more of a priority. I kept a food journal, had a a health coach who encouraged me and provided ideas and accountability, I did elimination diets/food sensitivity testing and found a few foods that were associated with my digestive issues, skin, and hormone issues. I realized the connection my brain/gut had was real and that my mood improved when I started giving myself better food. Genetic testing gave me an additional layer to my already-healthy-eating plan that has also lead to improved mood, digestion, eye-health, and hopefully decreased risk for diseases.

Food has become the foundation for a healthy life along with lifestyle factors and ‘primary food’ – the areas of life that feed our souls, not our stomachs- including having a meaningful life I love and share with others.

How my Life has Transformed

The tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on my education to learn about nutrition as well as self-care has been worth every single penny. I’m glad to continue to invest in myself through buying organic, healthy, anti-inflammatory and genetically-appropriate foods and supplements, to get massage and acupuncture, and….to take rejuvenating vacations. Compared to the dollars spent in co-pays, medication costs, expensive tests, and doctors visits, I now experience less pain, less negative side effects from medication, and waaaay more fun and pleasure.

Through applied, bio-individualized nutrition, the benefits to my health have been: clearer skin (no make-up!), drastically improved stomachaches and digestion, little/no cravings, much better mood and mental outlook, and an increasingly balanced life.

In terms of my illness, the changes I was making in my life started adding up. I could soon go a solid week without another infection, then I slowly reached my first month without a healing crisis. As of this writing, knock on wood, I have been free and clear of the former ‘health curse’ for over 3 years. 

There is a moment in our lives when most of us experience a great shift. Everything changes. For me, this came when I decided I would no longer be a prisoner to this illness and I was willing to do whatever it took to get better. That moment of commitment, as Goethe reminds us, is when the “entire universe conspires to assist you.” The results I’ve experienced as well as my healing team of health professionals and personal relationships are a testament to the veracity of this statement.

A Healthier Obsession

During the deepest and darkest times of my life and with my health condition, food became an obsession. When a person is sick, all they can think about is how they don’t want to be sick and how they can get better. For me, this manifested as anxiety around food (especially low-quality food in social situations) and disordered eating.

These days, quality food is not an obsession. Orthorexia is a real issue, but it’s not one I have. What I do have is a strong set of values and awareness around organic/non-GMO, whole and sustainably grown foods.

Epilogue

Health involves so much more than being thin. I think about what people have told me and how such a simplistic statement puts focus on the wrong areas of life.

Though I find it a bit traumatic to revisit this time in my life and reflect upon the pain and discomfort involved, I let gratitude for my healing overshadow it. I’m so thankful that I’ve healed my body and that this experience has enabled me to empathize with my clients as I empower them to also leave health issues, frequent doctors’ visits, lists of medications, pain, and unwanted weight behind so they can step into the life of vitality they deserve. We all deserve this.

Call to the Nation: Take your Vacation!

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Of all industrialized nations, America has the least number of vacation days. A far cry from the 30+ days offered as annual leave and paid holidays by other countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy, some Americans are lucky to get (and use) the roughly two weeks given as a ‘benefit’. However, quite a few of us are not even taking this small amount of time off, in the true sense of the word. To ask for a week or *gasp* two off requires advance notice of a few months, large efforts to secure work while away (though about a third of us do work during vacations), and tends to bring a decent amount of anxiety as we worry about being perceived as disloyal or lazy.

Often vacation time is now mostly utilized as personal days, taken here or there, to run errands and ‘catch up’ with life’s demands or to take a mental break from the severe stress of over-work. Do you know anyone who works 40 hours a week? Rarely do we at One Bite Wellness encounter a person who works 40 hours or less at a job; most people answer their work ranges from 45- 60 hours per week. Because of this over-working, we have higher levels of stress and depression and less recreational time with friends and family, much less time to cook and exercise.

Americans may be economically more advantaged than other countries in the world, but we seem to have lost our health and longevity. We have some of the poorest health rankings and spend more money per capita on healthcare than almost any other country. In 1980, we ranked 11th in the world for longevity; now we’ve fallen to 42nd, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here? Well the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regulates the maximum number of working hours, over-time, child labor, and minimum wage but never mentioned paid time off. There was never a baseline set for vacation or sick time and now it’s up to the employee and employer to negotiate. Many companies will give workers about 1-2 weeks off per year, but they can also stipulate that you cannot use more than a certain amount of days in a row. About a quarter of Americans don’t get any vacation time at all.

Benefits of a Break

  • Studies suggest that those who take vacations are less likely to suffer from heart disease and other illnesses.
  • Taking a vacation from work is associated with better health, relationships and social life, productivity and creativity, and general well-being.
  • Replenishment and life-enriching experiences, preventing ‘burn-out’
  • Stronger social and familial bonds
  • Improved patience and tolerance, less anxiety and depression

These benefits really take place over a block of vacation time, not a day taken here or there.

Focusing on this issue of vacation time forces us to examine our values, as individuals and as a country. What do we value? Economic progress over all else? What about our health and our families? Our mental well-being? We work hard and long for progress and production, but if we want to improve our quality of life and well-being, we have to fully realize that vacations matter greatly.

Do it for your sanity and your health. Be ‘time rich’. Take a vacation– holistic nutritionist’s orders. 🙂