Rewarding Yourself Without Food

As I’ve thought about my own struggle with weight it’s become clear that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. One could reasonably say an addiction to junk food. This shouldn’t be too surprising, it’s well known now that food companies use flavors to hit the pleasure center of our brain, filling us with empty calories and leaving us a craving more. Our broken food system is only part of the problem for me and many others though.

For me, and I’m sure some of you and others you know as well, our unhealthy relationship with food also started in childhood when junk food was used as rewards or for special occasions. Our parents, rightly, didn’t let us have these foods often, but when they did it was always a treat. We got to go out for dinner on the last day of school. We got candy for holidays. We’d get a gumball at the grocery store if we behaved well. We got cake or cupcakes for our birthdays. We got soda at big family events, like the Fourth of July picnic, or on those rare special occasions when we went out to eat. The circumstances of our treats added extra ties to the pleasure centers in our brains, above and beyond what was being created by the junk food alone. For me at least, later on in life, as I was able to make more and more of my own food choices, when I am stressed out I crave those “good feeling” foods like cupcakes, cookies, brownies, chips, fast food and soda, all the more because I’ve treated them my whole life as a reward. So if I’ve had a really rough day I’ve “earned” that cupcake, or two.

In addition to serving “real food” to ourselves and our children, avoiding processed grains, sugars and industrial fats, I propose that we also need to re-think the mentality of junk food as a “special” treat. It is okay to have such things as a once in a rare while food – but I have come to believe that tying it to the idea of a “treat” may be as unhealthy for us as the food itself.

It is harder to re-train those of us who are already adults, though not impossible. Our brains are fairly plastic, and if you stop allowing a reward loop to continue it will eventually go away – but it will take much more will power as an adult than what is needed for children. Because they are still laying down their neural pathways, it’s especially important that we come up with some non-food rewards for special occasions. for children. Here are some ideas I have come up with that are good rewards for kids (and adults) that don’t involve food. (Note that most of these are experiential, practical or educational – because we don’t want to replace gluttony for food with gluttony for “stuff” either).

  • A trip to the local amusement park
  • A family camping trip
  • A backyard camp out
  • A movie night with healthy snacks
  • Sleepover with friends
  • Trip to the local zoo
  • Trip to the museum
  • Going out to the movies
  • Hiking
  • A new book
  • A new educational toy
  • An extra half hour of internet or TV time
  • A trip to the library
  • New sports equipment
  • New article of clothing
  • A new cosmetic item like lip balm or body spray
  • New water bottle
  • Extra allowance into a savings account
  • A big hug
  • Words of praise
  • A card
  • A potted plant
  • A new journal
  • New crayons, colored pencils or markers
  • New supplies for a favorite hobby or craft
  • Music, dance or sports lessons

What would you add to the list? What non-food rewards do you find most meaningful?

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What It’s Like to Live with RA

I should say up front, that my RA is mild to moderate. I am seropositive, which means my disease course is likely to be more severe, but I feel pretty good most days right now. And I have every reason to hope that diet changes (like trying AIP) and lifestyle changes (like hitting the gym and practicing relaxing self-care) along with medications will slow my progression and possibly even put me into remission completely!

Most days I wake up a little stiff, morning stiffness is one of the hallmarks of RA. For me it’s usually in my back and hips, which makes it hard to stand up straight when I first get out of bed. My joints also tend to pop and crack like crazy those first few steps in the morning. I’m like a bowl of rice crispies walking to the bathroom to start my morning routine.

Some mornings I skip breakfast and choose to fast, but when I eat breakfast I usually grab something quick like yogurt with berries or leftovers I can quickly reheat. I like to sleep in as much as possible. Sleep is super important and I am a person who needs a lot of it, even before my diagnosis. So if that means I don’t have time to cook my own breakfast every morning, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

I head to work around 8:45 am, and when the weather is nice, I’m fortunate to live close enough that I can walk to work! It’s just under a mile, so it’s a great way to get in some good movement and vitamin D sunshine at the beginning and end of the day. (I was so tired this past summer that I rarely did this, I have been feeling well enough to do this 2-3 times a week so far this year!)

I’m a librarian and I’m fortunate that my position keeps me moving throughout the day. I’m not on my feet all day, nor do a sit all day, I’ve got a good mix of resting and moving which is good, it keeps my joints from gelling up from being in one position for too long. One of my early symptoms was hip pain after sitting for an extended time. A couple times I even got up after sitting for a long time and thought I had sprained my ankle! But the pain went away by walking around for a little while.

Sometimes at lunch I walk home to let my dog out for a little midday break. (Just because she can be in her kennel all day doesn’t mean she likes to, so I try to give her breaks as often as possible). When I plan to stay at work for lunch I try to pack something healthy. Often leftovers or a salad with some protein (chicken, shrimp, hard boiled egg, etc.). Sometimes I also continue a fast through lunch. I actually try to fast a full 24 hours once per week, from dinner one night, to dinner the following night.

Afternoon is when my fatigue tends to set in, so I really try to “Eat the Frog” and try to get the highest priority or most difficult stuff done early in the day when I have the most energy.

After work I usually head straight home. Often my energy stores are zapped for the day, which is why meal kits have come in so handy for me. Not having to think about what to make for dinner, or spend much time prepping ingredients is so helpful when I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Still, I also try to use evenings as time to build community and challenge myself intellectually by going to Bible study, book club or taking classes at the local community college.

Before bed I’ve started an oil pulling routine (more on this in a later blog post), which is also a great time to pop in some ear buds and do a guided meditation. I wash my face and use organic witch hazel toner and then aloe as my moisturizer. If I am having any joint pain I use topical CBD ointment and/or Max Freeze to help alleviate symptoms without needing to take an NSAID. (Though I do take aspirin or ibuprofen when needed, and per my doctor’s instructions, I always try to take the minimum effective dose – so if I can spare my kidneys and gut lining by not taking an NSAID for pain, then I will. NSAIDs help with symptoms of RA, but they don’t halt disease progression).

Then it’s off to bed by 10:00 pm so I can hopefully have a full 8-10 hours of sleep to be ready for the next day!

If you have RA, or another autoimmune disease, what is your day like?

Now that was my usual weekday, but Saturdays are my me days – check out the new vlog to see what a Saturday is like for me!

How To Make a Health Log

This is a video of how I created a DIY health log. It’s a little bit bullet journal with a dash of traditional planner, but focused on tracking my health. If you are trying to make a lifestyle change or are dealing with a chronic condition I highly recommend making a health log of your own.

The resources I used to make mine are listed below.

Avery Heavy Duty 3-ring Binder

Plum Paper 18 month planner (monthly)

Symptom Tracker –  (as I mentioned in the video, mine is a personalized version of this tracker)

Avery Pocket Dividers 

This is not a sponsored post. I pay for everything I try out of pocket so that you know my reviews are unbiased. Though some links are affiliate links for products I would recommend.

The Crunchy Checklist

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I have definitely got some latent crunchy/granola/hippie genes. I value real food, even if I don’t always make food choices in line with those values. I value self-sufficiency, even if I can also be a pretty darn good consumer of things I could just as easily make myself. I value the great outdoors and conservation, but I do not always recycle or use the greenest products available to me. I value health, but I definitely have some chronic health issues common among populations in the developed world.

So how can I start living out these values I hold more consistently? How can I embrace my inner “crunchy earth goddess”? That is why I started this blog in the first place! To find out. To experiment. To try new things and see how living more in line with my values might help my overall health and well-being, but also my family, community and world too.

To that end, I have compiled a “Crunchy To Do List” of sorts. Based on information from other natural and holistic health blogs, books I’ve read, etc. I have created a list of things to do to fully embrace my inner crunchiness. They fall into a few main categories: Food, Hygiene and Health, Household, and Lifestyle; though some could easily fit in more than one, and others don’t quite fit where I’ve put them – that’s where they are listed all the same. So here goes …..

Food – Just Eat Real Food

  • Eat fermented foods
  • Eat real fats
  • Try offal (organ meats)
  • Make and eat bone broth and stock
  • Try raw milk
  • Try supplemental foods like cod liver oil and gelatin
  • Drink water without fluoride in it
  • Try a cleanse
  • Do a Whole 30
  • Cut out white sugar
  • Cut out all added sugars

Hygiene & Health

  • Try oil cleansing
  • Try oil pulling
  • Try dry brushing
  • Make and use my own deodorant
  • Visit a naturopath
  • Visit a holistic dentist
  • Visit a chiropractor
  • Try the “no-poo” method
  • Get rid of synthetic lotions and potions
  • Try essential oils
  • Try herbs and tinctures
  • Try a cleanse
  • Try CBD oil for pain and anxiety
  • Try cranio-sacral massage
  • Try accupunture

Household

  • Get rid of harsh chemical based cleaners
  • Make my own cleaners using natural ingredients
  • Try soap nuts
  • Try organic cotton bed sheets
  • Get a Berkey filter for tap water
  • Try a salt lamp
  • Acquire air purifying house plants
  • Acquire better quality pots and pans

Lifestyle

  • Read “crunchy” books
  • Try grounding
  • Try yoga
  • Try pilates
  • Go for hikes
  • Go camping
  • Try amber glasses to block blue light at night

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list but should definitely keep me busy for a while. There are some other crunchy things I would love to try but cannot yet. More may be added to the list over time.

Is there anything crunchy that you think is missing from my list? What would you add? What is the “crunchiest” thing you do?

Intro to Paleo

When it comes to overall health I have not yet found a diet that yields the same results as real food, and especially a paleo diet. I admit I’m not the most faithful paleo lifestyle liver, but I can say from past experience that the more faithful I am to paleo the better my health. My digestion is better, my skin is clearer, my allergies are less severe, my joint pain is practically non-existant and I am closer to my ideal weight range the stricter my paleo lifestyle. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about paleo, so this is my attempt to cover the basics of what to eat, the most frequently asked questions, and to point you towards some excellent resources that have more and better information than I.

paleo-diet

What Do You Eat on Paleo?

Lots of real good food! Meats (preferably pastured, organic, humanely raised sources – it’s better for the animal and for you, I promise), fish, eggs, lots of vegetables, fruit (especially berries – yum!), nuts, seeds and healthy fats (like olive oil, pastured ghee and coconut oil).

What Do You Not Eat on Paleo?

No grains. (That means no wheat, oats, corn, yes corn counts as a grain, etc. No quinoa either). No legumes (No beans, no peanuts, technically no green beans or peas – but those are in a grey area). No dairy, unless you tolerate it well – and then you should aim for pastured, organic sources.

Is all that fat bad for you?

Heck no! It’s all that sugar, not the fat, not even the saturated kind, that is killing you. Some fat is bad for you – trans fats are good for no one. I repeat – No One. Omega-6 fats (the kind you get from seed oils like corn and canola) are bad for you if not in balance with your omega-3 fats. Saturated fat is also good for you when it is in balance. (No it won’t raise your cholesterol and give you heart disease – but sugar probably will).

Is all the red meat bad for you?

No. But if you’re concerned about it you can always stick with poultry, fowl and plenty of fish! Not to mention lots of fruits and vegetables.

Where do you get your carbs?

From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! Paleo is not necessarily low-carb. Yes, you can make it low carb. (And if you have metabolic syndrome that’s probably wise). But no, it doesn’t have to be. Sweet potatoes, bananas, mangos and papaya are just some of the higher-carb fare that you are free to eat on a paleo diet.

Where do you get your fiber?

From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! Really – and they come packed with many more nutrients and far fewer anti-nutrients than those whole grains that the food pyramid wants you to get your fiber from.

Okay, I’m interested, where can I find more information?

There have been so many paleo books published in the 7 years since I first tried paleo. Still, the two best books I’ve read on the paleo diet are Practical Paleo and The Primal Blueprint. Some other good ones include The Paleo Solution, Paleo PrinciplesEat The Yolks and Primal Body, Primal Mind. For more info check out these resources.

 

It should go without saying that I am not a doctor and while I am a strong proponent of the paleo diet because I’ve seen it work first hand, but I do not know your unique situation or medical history. Always consult a trusted physician before undertaking a new diet or exercise program.

Simply AIP Supscription Box Review

Simply AIP is a new subscription box service specifically for the Autoimmune Paleo community. Though I am not full AIP yet (I am still baby stepping my way to complete elimination), I wanted to try out the box to see if it would be something that would help make the AIP lifestyle easier to adopt and more manageable to stick to for long enough to see results.

Overall, I really like the contents of the box. I think the tigernut butter was most exciting for me because it’s something I had never tried before and had heard good things about. Like most subscription boxes it comes with coupons for discounts on any of the products you really like, and it is a great way to sample products you might not have access to otherwise, or might not be willing to pay for full size. The only product in the May box that I wasn’t super jazzed about was the Epic Bar, as I mention in the unboxing video, I have tried Epic Bars before and I’m just not a fan of the meat and dried fruit combo. (I do love Epic Pork Rinds and Crackling though…).

For around $40 bucks I felt I got my money’s worth, enough to go ahead and keep my subscription for the June box. I am not sure I will continue to get it every month, but I was glad I tried it and I am looking forward to trying all the snacks! Stay tuned, because I will review all my favorites here on the blog.

Have you ever done a subscription box before? If so, what was your experience? Do you have another one you’d recommend I try next?

(This is not a sponsored post. Though I do use affiliate links for products I would recommend, I always purchase products out of my own pocket so that you know my review is unbiased)

Notes From the Crunchy Journey

So I went to see my first rheumatologist this past week. Overall I felt the appointment was good. The doctor let me just list all my many symptoms (mostly pain related) that have come on over the last couple year. Then we ran more blood work, took x-rays and did a physical exam. I was not sure what to expect, but I really liked that she let me just spew symptoms at her and at the end of our appointment she asked if I had any questions. Which I did (because I went prepared), only one of which was pressing.

All the tests came back a couple days ago and she called me to follow up. Not her nurse or a medical assistant, she phoned me directly. That was nice, and almost a first in my experience with allopathic doctors. She is pretty sure I have early stage rheumatoid arthritis and wants me to start taking heavy dose NSAIDs and a mild first line DMARD.

Even though I really liked this doctor, I am still planning on seeking a second opinion. With something like a chronic autoimmune disease I feel I have to do my due diligence and get at least two opinions. Once I get a second opinion I think I can move forward; decide which specialist to see long term as my rheumatologist and also really start chipping away at the lifestyle stuff.

For me the first step will be to move towards an AIP elimination diet. I have already cut out alcohol (not hard since I never drank much anyway) and coffee as well as diligently adding vegetables to every meal and eating fish 2-3 times per week. Next I will cut out gluten and dairy while adding bone broth and more veggies. I would like to get up to 2-3 servings of veggies per meal. Eventually I would like to do full AIP for a month or two, including weaning off my NSAIDs, followed by reintroduction.

I would also like to get back into restorative yoga once per week to help with keeping my joints mobile and help with mindfulness and stress management.

As part of this journey I would also like try acupuncture, visit a naturopath (and maybe even make a naturopath part of my care team), experiment with essential oils for pain, go on a spa retreat, work to reduce my toxic load with things like all-natural cleaning products, organic cotton sheets and even more all-natural body care and makeup. What things would you add to this list?

If you have an autoimmune disease, what things were most helpful for you to bring symptoms under control?

 

Best Real Food Products Available Online

With working full time, taking classes part time and trying to make time for rest and relationships – shopping for groceries is something I like to get done quickly. I love the option to order pantry staples online, here are some of my favorite products of the moment….

Vanilla Ghee – Yummy! Perfect for paleo/keto desserts and sweet fat bombs. (Also available in Himalayan Sea Salt for your salty/sweet and savory needs).

Sprouted Pilli Nuts. These creamy fatty nuts are a great snack to stash when you need something on the go or to tide you over until your next full meal.

Paleo Angel Power Balls. These AIP friendly nuggets really hit the spot. I loved the lemon and vanilla flavors best, but they were all tasty. Try a sample pack to discover your own favorites!

Wild Cocoa Butter Wafers. Cocoa butter is super versatile! Use it in homemade soaps and lotions – or melt it into your tea or coffee for a rich, nutty hit of healthy fat.

 

What are some of your favorite online real food discoveries?