Eat a pickle: Good for your gut and your mind

A few months ago, one of my students told me about this site, where for about 20 dollars, they send you a box of organic produce. However, you don’t pick what they put in it. The site is Misfits Market  (that’s a referral link). Its awesome, they send you so much stuff! Its basically “cast offs” of fruits/veggies that aren’t good enough for the stores, but everything they have sent us so far has been good! I love it!

Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot of cucumbers lately and one of my favorite things to do is pickle them. Not your standard vinegar pickles, but lacto-fermented pickles.

img_20190426_215452_546

Why lacto-ferment?

  1. They taste better.
  2. They are super healthy! Fermented foods should be at the top of your list of healthy things to eat. For some people this is tricky, because these types of foods might not be everyday foods. Other fermented foods are kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt and of course, pickles!

Fermented foods are excellent at keeping your gut healthy, or rather the bacteria in your gut healthy and happy.

The gut microbiome consists of over 1000 microbial species. You literally have more live bacteria in your body than your own cells! These little guys affect your immune system, digestive system, metabolism, vitamin synthesis, allergies, and MOOD.

Keep them happy and they will literally keep you happy.

Majority of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut. Also, I would think that if your immune system, digestive system and metabolism are working good, you might tend to be happier overall as well.

These little guys are super sensitive and can be affected by eating the wrong things, stress, antibiotics, environmental toxins, and other chemicals.

One of the first things we tell clients when they are feeling “off,” or are having digestive issues, inflammation issues or just want to get healthier, is to make sure their gut is healthy first.

Lacto-fermented Pickles

  1. To make the brine: Dissolve 2 tab sea salt in 1 liter room temperature water (filtered is better).
  2. Cut up your cucumbers (long ways like a sandwich pickle or into slices, whatever shape you like).
  3. Put cut-up cucumbers into a clean jar (I just wash mine really well with soap/water).
  4. Add flavorings.
  5. Once you add everything to your jar, fill it with your brine all the way to the top. Need to make sure the cucumbers are completely submerged.
  6. Then lightly place the jar lid on top. Don’t screw down, because the bubbles created will create too much pressure.
  7. Keep jar somewhere where it won’t be disturbed (I keep mine in a cabinet in my kitchen).

Flavorings: You can get creative with this. But this is what I like: A handful of fresh dill, half garlic clove, 1 tsp peppercorns, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 dry thai chile (can omit if don’t want spicy).

Check on them in a few days and see if you like the taste of them. If they aren’t “pickled” enough for you, just let them sit longer.

Notes: You want to see bubbles and cloudiness, that means its working. If you see anything else strange, something else is going on and you might need to start over.

1c528a08-4dc1-45a6-a520-ddbcd25752d9

Let me know if you try them! I also pickled carrots too!

Calorie or not to Calorie

beef-berries-breads-793765

The argument of “calories in, calories out” has been drilled into our heads forever. Its easy to say, well “its only thermodynamics!” Sure, you can be one of those people who track every single thing you eat and figure out the exact number of calories you should eat vs. how much you are supposed to eat on a given day. Is this sustainable though? Also, doesn’t this take away the joy from eating? Yes, we need food to live, but that doesn’t mean we also shouldn’t be able to enjoy it either. Took me years to figure this out. Literally years. I wasted so much time. But hindsight is 20/20 right?

Right after college, I looked down at my thighs one day and realized, “Omg, I have stretch marks!” I also started to look at pictures of myself and saw that in a span of about one year, I had looked a lot bigger. From someone, who had never had to worry about weight (thanks to teenage metabolism), I didn’t know what to do. So, I did what I thought was best and what I thought I was supposed to do. I thought if I tracked my diet and ate under a certain amount of calories, I would lose the weight and be fine. After lots of spreadsheets … I realized that not only did this not work, but I felt very restricted and deprived. Which of course, backfired. I actually kept gaining weight.

It wasn’t until I learned about nutrients and how each nutrient was processed in your body (especially carbs and fats) that I switched my approach, and it actually worked! I also felt better. I focused more on increasing fats into my diet, focused on eating real foods and things started to actually improve. I lost weight, gained muscle and also my face cleared up after having struggled with acne literally since I was in middle school. I also think my mood improved. I felt just calmer and more at peace than I could remember from before.

So, to tell people “its just math” and to focus on not eating too much, is incredibly misleading. Your body is not a calculator. Its very complex, with lots of complex chemical reactions happening. Its just not that black and white to focus on just a number attached to a food. Focus on eating real food again. Ignore the number. Eat good fats. Cook more. Eat less processed (or boxed, already prepared) food. Your body wants nutrients. If you are constantly starving yourself, you are literally starving your body of what it needs. You are hungry for a reason, right? (that’s your brain telling you to supply it with nutrients and energy!…aka FOOD).

Let’s break it down….

There are three nutrients that have Calories associated with them: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. We can really eliminate protein because unless you are starving yourself, fasting, or trapped on a desert island..your body will mostly use carbs and fats for energy, so their calories matter the most. (However, when food companies calculate Calorie content, they include all three…so again, I feel this misleads people too).

For every 1 gram of a carbohydrate, your body will get 4 Calories of energy.

For every 1 gram of fat, your body will get 9 Calories of energy.

By this math alone, you can see how fat is a much more efficient energy source. You are literally getting more bang for buck here. It also takes longer for our body to process fat, so we stay satiated longer. Carbs get converted to energy at a much faster rate, so your literally burn through them faster (hence, blood sugar dips and you get hungry (or even “hangry”) faster). This generally leads to people eating more frequently, because they are just hungry faster.

Now after we eat, carbs and fats are digested completely differently, processed differently, and turned into energy differently. Different hormonal responses for each, different ways of digestion, entering the body, storage..etc. This is where things get complicated. If your body treats carbs and fats differently, how can we just focus on the calorie content alone when dealing with food?! It just doesn’t make sense. Which is why it usually doesn’t work. You need to instead focus on which foods make you feel your best. This is different for everybody. I personally do better on a more high fat, low carb approach. But that’s me. A 34, moderately active, woman.

(Side note: I have had to increase my carb intake due to current breastfeeding demands. Feeding another human takes so much more energy! I am starving all.the.time).

Experiment with different foods. Try adding in new foods to see how you feel. Need help figuring out what to do? Let me know!  I can help you figure out what foods work best for you individually, to make you feel your best.

X’s Birth Story

So, I wanted to write up X’s birth story because I personally loved reading others stories, especially when I knew I wanted to have kids of my own, and perhaps there are others out there that do too. I also figured it would be a good way for me to remember, since I am sure as time goes on I will forget what actually accrued those 2 days. Yes, it was 2 days from time water broke to baby out. However, I wouldn’t change a thing about how it all went down, even though it was nothing like I had envisioned.

So X’s “due date” was Oct 2 (a Tues). I actually had a doctor’s appointment that day to see how things were. Everything was fine with both of us, but I wasn’t dilated at all yet. The doctor wanted me to schedule a planned induction for the following week. I told her that I wasn’t ready to do that because I really wanted him to come out on his own and asked how long I could wait. She said that was fine, however scheduled me to have my placenta checked in one week, just make sure everything was ok. If things were fine, then I could go up to end of the 41st week. I was happy with that. I really wanted my birth as natural as possible and figured, if he isn’t ready, but is still fine in there, why rush it? (Honestly, the thought of induction sort of freaked me out too. I know many people go that route, but it personally made me nervous. I heard too many mixed stories).

That week (my 40th) sucked because I was doing everything I could think of and have read about to induce labor naturally. Took lots walks, bounced on my yoga ball, ate lots of dates…etc. I was so freaking uncomfortable! Sleeping was hard because I couldn’t rotate anymore. I was peeing every 2 seconds. My legs were constantly sore from the added weight. I was so done being pregnant. I really believed that he would’ve been a Sept baby and I would be early, and so did others around me, but no..he was way to comfy in there.

Then the following Sunday morning (40 wks plus 5 days), I woke up to pee and I stood up and boom, water broke. I remember thinking,”thank god!” I was so happy (and relieved!). Things are finally starting and I don’t have to be induced. He is finally coming out on his own. I woke up my husband (it wasn’t too early, around 8:30 am) and then I called my doctor. She said that if I felt comfortable, I could labor as long as I wanted at home and come into the hospital when I felt ready later in the day. That made me happy because that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to sit in the hospital longer than I had to and I actually felt quite normal still. I was very relieved that things were finally starting and just tried to keep myself busy around the house and get labor progressing. However, I didn’t get my first (maybe) contraction until about 5 pm. It was still very subtle, because I kept thinking, “is this it?” I was still very calm and in no hurry to go the hospital (it was only 10 min away), but my husband was getting anxious. I just wasn’t in pain yet and didn’t feel the need to go to the hospital. We decided to eat dinner, get our stuff ready, make sure the cats were ok and then we left. When we got to the hospital, I remember thinking, I feel too good to be here. Shouldn’t I be in more pain? (Famous last words..haha.)

I checked in, my doctors checked me and I was only dilated like 1 cm. Ugh….how annoying. My doctor suggested pitocin to get things moving. However, since I was afraid of the pain getting worse on that, I told her no. I wanted to labor on my own and progress on my own as long as I can. She agreed. I asked for a birth ball and alternated between bouncing on that and taking walks around the hospital. None of it really progressed anything for a while.

The “real” contractions started sometime in the middle of night…maybe around midnight. I say “real” because that’s when things got real. Really painful. I just kept trying to remember to breathe and relax my body as best as I could. I kept alternating positions and hunching over the bed (driving the nurses crazy because I kept moving the monitor, haha). I didn’t care at that point. The pain was getting intense and I was getting really tired. I think at around 2 am, I was in so much pain and so exhausted, I just wanted to sleep. I kept telling my husband, “I don’t think I can do this”, “its too much.” I really just wanted to rest. He was so good and tried to keep me calm the best he could (because I am pretty sure I started freaking out at this point and asking for an epidural, which he said not yet, because he knew that wasn’t what I wanted). I kept thinking that if I don’t rest, how will I have the energy to push later? I begged the nurses for something to help me sleep. Thank god there was. I don’t remember exactly what they gave me, but I was able to relax enough to sleep. It was wonderful to just be able to sleep and rest.

The next morning, I was checked again and was only 2-3 cm dilated. So defeated…. Since, it had been 24 hr since my water broke, I agreed to pitocin to get things moving. I also knew that if I was getting that, I had to have an epidural now. There would have been no way I could handle that pain again, especially if it was coming more frequently. That epidural was awesome for the simple fact, it allowed me to continue to sleep! I was able to rest, which is what I wanted to do. I basically slept the day away, while I continued to labor. I kept waking up intermittently to be checked on by the nurses (since now I was confined to the bed from the epidural) and to get my husband to (secretly) feed me candy and juice (they didn’t want me to really eat anything for fear of me throwing up, but I was starving and again..how would I have the energy to push if there was nothing in my system?).

At around 7 pm, I was told I was dilated fully and could begin pushing. This was weird at first because the first round of pushing, seemed like “practice” because you couldn’t really feel anything do anything. I think they were monitoring and upping my pitocin during this time to help get things moving. I am sure also having an epidural slowed things down too. At first, I just pushed when they told me to during each contraction.

At some point (honestly, not sure how far in I was pushing), my doctor came in and told me that he wasn’t progressing far enough down and she didn’t think he would get past my pelvic bone. She said that I could keep pushing for as long as I wanted, but there was a chance that I might need a c-section if things weren’t progressing. I told her that had to be the absolute last resort and I will keep pushing for as long as I need to. During all of this he was never in distress or anything. He just was in position, where he couldn’t get his head in the right spot.

I asked to switch pushing positions. I pushed on my right side for a while, then I pushed on my left side for a while. This is when pushing became super intense and I started for feel a ton of pressure. This was a new kind of pressure and a new kind of pain. I think I knew at this point, something changed. It felt different. When his progress was checked again, she saw that he had finally slid down far enough and he was in a good position. The nurses and doctors were so amazed at my perseverance. I just kept thinking “I will not have a c-section!” and “get out!” I have no clue how much time had passed at this point. I was just so “in the moment” and just mentally trying to keep myself together. In between each contraction, I intentionally both mentally and physically relaxed myself as much as I could. I think it might have looked like I was meditating because even my doctor noticed how calm I was in between. Each round of pushing was just so intense and painful and I just wanted it over that I had to mentally keep it together to get through it. I felt everything. There was tremendous amount of pressure at each push, that at the end I was starting to freak out and get tired. I just kept asking if they could see him and how far out was he. Finally, after 5 hours of pushing (which I didn’t know until they told me its been that long), my doctor said something like “I can have him out in one push if you want.” I said “yes!” I wanted anything to just be done. Apparently, the vacuum was used and in one final push and he was out. I asked for delayed cord clamping to ensure he got all his blood from the cord and he was taken to be cleaned and checked, which was in the room, while my doctor helped me get out the placenta, and get cleaned up (which took quite a while and was actually very painful). I also had to get stitched. X was 8 lb 11 oz. No wonder he was difficult to get out! He was born minutes before midnight on Oct 8.

I should also mention that during this time my husband was with me, helping me. At one point I yelled at the nurses to keep him from passing out because I just remember at one point, he said he was going to from the combo of lack of sleep and no food for 2 days. They would have taken him out of the room if he did pass out, and that freaked me out. So imagine me, already yelling and trying to push a baby out, while also yelling at both my husband and the nurses to keep him awake.  Thank god he didn’t. He said he was on the verge, until the moment he saw X come out, and he woke right up at that moment.

Once, I was cleaned up, they brought X over to me. I can’t really describe my emotions at that time. I think it was a mixed of exhaustion, relief and happy. Probably more so, relieved it was over and I could rest (if I am being honest). I mean, I just went through a huge ordeal.  The doctors and nurses left us alone in the delivery room for about 45 min as a family, but since it was about 2 am at this point, we asked to be brought to our actual room to rest. My husband had been up for about 24 hours straight at this point and needed to lie down and I was starving!  I asked for a sandwich and basically inhaled it.

I stayed up for a little longer and the nurses help me with my initial breastfeeding. We did have X sleep in the nursery just for a few hours, so I could get some sleep too. After that, we stayed in the hospital for about 2 days and then home.

 

Reflection:

Towards the second half of my pregnancy, both my husband and I began reading about the birthing process, as well as took a 6 week (in person) course. I am do glad we did this because I think things could have gone a bit differently, if we weren’t prepared. We read this book and took this class. I wanted to know everything about the birthing process, so I could be as prepared as possible. I also wanted as natural a birth, as I could get. Yes, I did end up getting interventions, but I was able to make my own decisions about everything, which is ultimately what I wanted. I really just didn’t want decisions being made for me, because I wasn’t informed enough (if that makes sense). I think that I would have had a c-section, if I didn’t know that I could switch birth positions to help move things along (which is what ultimately worked). I do think that having an epidural might have slowed things down when it came to pushing, so I am hoping that things progress quicker on their own the next time, so I could avoid that (but again we will see what happens). My doctor did say that I pushed for my first two babies and the second time will be much easier (here’s hoping!).

I am hugely grateful to have wonderful doctors and nurses who listened to me and let me make my own decisions. Maybe, its the scientist in me, but I could never imagine going into a birthing situation, completely blind. I really believe that there is so much going on and its so intense, that you really need to be prepared. Also, because my husband knew everything too, he was incredibly helpful during the whole process, because he also had the same information. He felt so prepared going in and I think it alleviated much stress on his end too.

I also believe, you need to be in shape to give birth! I used probably every muscle to push him out and was incredibly sore for like a week after. My arm muscles killed me for days! It really is like running a marathon, while also doing a million push ups at the same time. I want a lot more arm, leg and core strength going in the next time. You really need it!

In the end, you can not predict what kind of birth you will have. But you can be prepared for any outcome. At the end, as long as you and the baby are healthy and safe, that is the most important part. Even thought I had envisioned the birth of my son to be different, I have no regrets in how it ended up. Everything ended up being perfect.

I went and had a baby…

Hi Friends,

So I took a much needed 4 month break from life to have a baby (unless you follow me on IG, then you know this already by all the cute pictures I need to post 🙂 ) So, lets back track a bit…

Xavier was born on October 8th at around 11:53 pm. This was after 2 full days of labor and 1 week after my “due date”. That little man did not want to come out! But that’s a story for another day.

I took off September because a. I was huge and b. exhausted. My back hurt, my legs were also sore and I was just ungodly uncomfortable in general. I also knew that my life was about to be turned upside down, so I took the opportunity to rest as much as I could and have some me time and also nest like crazy. I was also fortunate to be able to work from home which was very good. It was to the point where just driving was uncomfortable.

X ended up coming out one week past my due date, which was drove me crazy. I honestly thought he would be early but no, he had a totally different time table. Those last few weeks drove me nuts though. Talk about anxiety. Every feeling in my stomach was like “is this it?” “please be it!” I was doing everything I could think of to induce labor (walks, bouncing on the ball, eating dates…alone time with husband…everything). I will tell you when my water broke, it was the biggest sense of calm and relief.

After X’s arrival, I took another 3 months of “maternity leave” to just be with him, have family time, and just try to adjust to our new life (which is still a work in progress, because I still feel out of whack most days). However, I am still in total disbelief that that little cutey is mine and he is really here.

I start teaching in a few weeks, which I so excited about. Taking off last semester made me really sad, but I knew that I had to. I have so many ideas for my course, that I have been writing down all year to make this my best semester yet. Also, this month I am graduating from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition! What a wonderful journey that has been to complete that program! I can’t believe the year has already gone by! I am super excited! Having a nutrition certification has been something I have wanted to do for such a long time. The program was fantastic and I learned so much about helping people, myself, and I just grew a lot during this past year thanks to all the training and personal development.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and say thank you for allowing me to take this break to be with my son and family during this special time. I am so grateful to everyone for your support.  I am back in action now!

 

 

My Journey – Part 3

atmosphere blue bright cloudiness

Missed Part 1 and Part 2?

Finally….

I discovered something that I was passionate about, but didn’t know it until I was doing it. Which, in retrospect I find very interesting and how having a strict plan in life, may not be the way to go. A road map, guideline..perhaps. But one thing I realized writing this story is that the road to where I am now was not the one I planned on 10-15 years ago. The universe had its own plan, I just had to listen to it.

Teaching has become a primary focus in my life. It was something I really wanted to be good at. I spent (still do) a great deal of time researching for my nutrition lectures. I always wanted to make sure I gave them good science background for every topic (with my own experience trickled in too). This was a science class, technically. I actually really like reading biochemistry and nutrition journals (yes, I am still a science nerd, haha). Truthfully, I never cared to “research” for any other job before, because the material never excited me to the same extent. This is material I can get excited about. I truly love learning about this stuff, so it makes it very easy to keep learning.

Nutrition is a weird subject because everyone can have a different spin on it. “Eat meat, or don’t”. “Is fat really bad, and how much”? Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to food (some people can treat it like a religion, ever noticed that?). Its the only “science” where both sides can have valid arguments or be “right”. So then what does one do?

I knew from the very beginning that I could never teach one way of eating because everyone is different and has different needs. I also really cared about my students. I wanted them to actually get something from the course. I didn’t really care if they understood the chemistry or got straight A’s. I always joked that I had to grade them, but I didn’t really want to (which is true). I was just happy showing them this stuff. I just wanted them to learn healthier habits, especially because they were in college. I wished I took a course like this in college. It would have set me up in a much better way when I got out on my own. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have struggled for so long during my twenties, if I knew what I know now.

After a few years of teaching nutrition, I came to a realization. “How can I teach this stuff and help people outside of the school”? That’s what led me to becoming an Integrative Health Coach. The program I found has met my expectations and so much more. I am amazed how much more information there was still to learn! Healthy living really is more than the food you eat. Its everything in your life being in balance. This was something I think, I intuitively realized through my own health journey. Its why I named my site “Balanced Life.”

Then a few weeks after I enrolled in the course, my life met another big change. We found out we were pregnant. So, I am currently involved in two major transitions in my life that are happening at the exact same time. Which has made both journeys better (and perhaps easier?), I think. Because I am navigating the ever-changing process of being pregnant (and what’s to come after), plus being ingrained with all these new holistic teachings. (I rather write another post on this topic or this post really will be a novel).

I realized these past 10+ years that “being healthy” really just means being happy and calm in life. If something is off, like hating your job situation, it really affects other areas of your life. For me, when I was miserable at work, it led to other problems like not eating right, constant stress, which led to gaining weight, grumpiness, and just feeling crappy all the time. When, I started following my passions and doing what I wanted, and changing my mindset, things made a dramatic turn with my health (and sanity too, honestly). I ate better, slept better, lost weight, exercised consistently, made time for myself, which snowballed into just being a better version of me. Also, when I did put time into bettering myself, the other areas of my life improved too. When I ate better and took better care of myself,  I was more productive, energetic and just handled stress better. This was a huge epiphany moment for me.

Now, I always think of it as a circle:

food stress health circle

If one is off, it will affect the other two. They all have to balanced for you to feel your best.

This is what I hope to bring to my health coaching practice. I want to help people improve their circle. I want people to follow their passions and truly enjoy life. Its more than just eating better. Of course, that is one major piece. But sometimes there is something blocking it. And that’s ok. Everyone is on their own journey. It took me a long time to get here and who knows where I will be 10 years from now. I am scared again because it is something new. But, the last scary thing I did, I ended up doing well and everything worked out better on the other side. Sometimes, its good to be scared, especially when its something new and exciting. I know that I will only get to the life I want, but pushing through this and just letting the universe do its thing.