Fitness and Nutrition, Goal Setting, Health & Wellness, nutrition, Uncategorized

8 Weeks to Wellness

It’s that time of year again: the time where the New Year New Me thing happens. I love the energy that is created by the communal hope and goal-setting this time of year, it makes me feel like anything is possible!

But this energy fades, our motivation fizzles out, we finish our 21 Day Reset or Dry January and then what? We can often feel left to figure it out from there and with the first stressful day at work, condescending phone call from a parent, or fight with our spouse, we find ourselves “unstressing” with whatever “treat” is our favorite. By March we have reverted to so many of our old habits and these habits keep us stuck where we don’t want to be.

So how do we make sure that 2019 is different from every other false start that we may have had over the years? How do we hold ourselves accountable when motivation fades? How do we learn to recognize and more importantly break the patterns that are holding us back? How do we IMPLEMENT a goal instead of picking one?

… Enter Nutrition Coaching! Individualized coaching is the secret weapon that gives you the edge to make sustainable change. It will provide you with a plan that works for you to get to where you want to be. It is dynamic and adapts to your circumstances as they change. It gives you access to a trained coach who can help you cut through all the noise and confusion thrown out there by the diet industry.

This year, I am launching an online Nutrition Coaching Course: 8 Weeks to Wellness, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! This program is revolutionary in the way it helps women make and create sustainable changes for their health and nutrition. It doesn’t rely on products or quick fixes, in fact, the program is 8 weeks long specifically because this allows for enough time to implement lasting change. It also doesn’t require you to turn your life upside down – all of the shifts in the program are designed to integrate seamlessly with your lifestyle.

Over the last 8 weeks of 2018, I ran a group of volunteers through the program (that’s right, these ladies decided to invest in their health over the holidays) and they had incredible results:

“Before starting, I was hesitant about a couple things….a) that everything would be too much of a change for me to be able to keep it up and b) that I’d have to completely change my approach and way I grocery shop, start going to health food stores (which I’ve never done), and spend a lot more each week on food… both concerns which weren’t a reality.”

“Overall I’m eating way more veggies and drinking way more water, eating way less sugar and processed food.”

“I’m down inches, up energy, and still down pounds overall over the holidays!”

“Best part was simple, but thorough lessons… Plus your quick responses to questions.”

“I’ve seen an increase in my energy levels, I’m eating foods that give me more nutrition with less quantities (more bang for my buck), I’ve expanded my horizons in terms of trying new veggies, and I’m more able to make conscious choices about what I consume.”

“Alasen is friendly, non-judgemental, supportive, helpful, engaged, and wanting everyone to be at their best!”

“I’ve told so many people about my ‘program’ and how simple it is to follow. I would love to join a second round now that the holidays are over!”

If you are ready to finally make a sustainable change for your health and nutrition, the next 8 Weeks to Wellness course begins on January 20, 2019. Enroll in the course and personally see how powerful Nutrition Coaching can be! I can’t wait to get started. My reason for entering this field was to help as many moms as possible to cut through the diet hype and create affordable, sustainable, natural health for themselves and their families. 8 Weeks to Wellness is your key to accomplishing this.

To sign up, click here.

To read through some FAQ, click here.

If you have any additional questions, or would like to chat with me directly about the program to see if it is right for you, please contact me!

Elimination Diet, Health & Wellness, New Mom, nutrition, Uncategorized

An Elimination Diet Hack

One of the most powerful tools in an Integrative Nutrition Coach’s kit is the elimination diet. This diagnostic tool helps us to determine which foods (if any) are adversely effecting our clients and which foods are not. This allows a client to learn how to tailor their lives towards foods that help them thrive, rather than just get by.

While it is relatively rare for someone to have a severe allergic reaction to foods (think the typical anaphylactic reaction we see in the movies), general immune responses to foods are becoming increasingly common. Because symptoms of a reaction can vary and can also be delayed by hours to a few days, it can also be difficult for someone to realize that every time they eat dairy or gluten or whatever problem food, they get xyz reaction 2 days later. This is why an elimination diet is needed: to help you identify what foods, if any are triggers. If you knew that the root of a particular nagging health complaint (like insomnia or muscle soreness) was actually caused by a food you were eating, you’d want to stop eating it, right?

An elimination diet is a temporary restriction of the types of foods that commonly cause immune reactions. If you are staring an elimination diet, you record in detail how you are feeling prior to the diet. Once common problem foods have been eliminated from the diet for about 4 weeks, they are reintroduced one at a time to see if a reaction occurs. You would journal how you feel again while reintroducing foods to see if you can find a pattern between the foods you eliminated and any symptoms. If you’ve ever heard of the Whole30 program, this is an elimination diet.

While elimination diets are extremely helpful in improving your health and nutrition overall, they can also be pretty hard to implement. During the elimination period, your food choices are extremely strict. This requires a lot of planning, cooking/preparing all of your meals at home (so you aren’t accidentally eating a food that is on the no list), support from your family and friends, and sheer willpower at times to be successful. The entire process can also take up to 3 months to complete!

If you are considering going on an elimination diet, I would highly recommend the Whole30 program to get started. This program is great because it gives you a very clear set of rules, a ton of recipe resources, and a large support community to get you through the full 30 days. It will still take commitment and planning on your part, as well as the local support of your friends, family, and coworkers, but it is by far the best elimination program that I have worked with.

But what happened when you are the mom of 3 kids under 3, who is also working full time while still waking 3x a night with your youngest and barely making through the day? Getting through 30 days to 3 months of additional effort and willpower may just be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. If you want to be able to target problem foods more immediately, you can take a IgG blood test to determine some of your triggers. If you take a food allergen test, you provide a blood sample, and a report comes back showing which IgG antibodies you have in your system. If you have antibodies to a food, then this is a food causing a reaction and it should be avoided. Often having a more targeted list of foods to start with is exactly what someone needs to take the first step towards better health.

You can work with your doctor to order a food allergen test, or you can go through an online service. I recently tested out this Food Allergen Test from EverlyWell and was completely impressed with the results. Their website is easy to navigate and ordering the test is simple. Everything you need comes in the mail, taking the test takes practically no time at all, and it comes with prepaid return shipping to the lab processing the results. I mailed my test off on Friday and had my results by Wednesday.

Here is what the kit looks like when it arrives.

When you open it up, there are detailed instructions inside and all the materials that you need to provide your sample. When taking the test you want to be hydrated. You’ll relax your arm and hang it at your side for a minute or so, so that your blood flows to your finger tips. I’m a total chicken when it comes to needles, but the lancets they provided were not bad at all! Then you just dab your card in 6 spots, put on your bandaid, and wait for the sample to dry. Then dump everything into the prepaid envelope to ship back for analysis. The entire process took about 30 minutes, with me pausing to take pictures.

 

As I said above, I mailed my results on a Friday and had them by Wednesday of next week. You will get a general and a detailed report of your results (the detailed report is to share with your physician). Here’s a few screenshots of what I got back.

 

When you tap on any of the foods, it give you additional detail about how severe your reaction to that food is and additional information about sources of the food (in case it is in ingredient like gluten, for example). I can tell you, while my issues with gluten and dairy have been pretty obvious, I would not have figured out that I was having issues with green beans easily!

I’m hoping that learning about this EverlyWell test will be able to help any moms out there who need to start feeling better right away but who are worried about the implementation of a full elimination diet. If you decide to try an elimination diet or one of these tests and want help with how to navigate life while avoiding your food intolerances, feel free to contact me. It’s my job to help my clients figure these things out!

Health & Wellness, New Mom, Uncategorized

Time for an Awkward Conversation

Well, I sort of fell off the face of the earth for the past 8 weeks or so. Not *literally* of course, but my online and blogging presence has been minimal at best. With as much passion that I have about my nutrition coaching and as much joy as I get out of creating meaningful content for you all, it seems especially weird that I just couldn’t muster the time or energy to do ANYTHING.

I feel like I owe an explanation. So its time to have that awkward conversation about… post-weaning depression. (Yes, it’s a thing.)

I’m sure that a lot of you have heard about postpartum depression. While we are learning more about that, post weaning depression is still somewhat of a mystery. There has been little to no scientific study of post-weaning depression, but it’s effects have been reported by many women. The theory is that the sudden drop in prolactin and oxytocin are what causes the depression to kick off.

My last baby self weaned around the end of May. It was such a gradual process and was totally guided by her growing less and less interested. Eventually she was only nursing sporadically a few times a week, then she could go for almost a week between nursing sessions, then only on weekends, then… it just stopped all together. I was a little sad, since this was bringing this chapter of my life to a close. For 5.5 years I had been growing or nourishing another human. I sort of had a “woah, what now?” feeling, but also, I was excited to do some things that I coudn’t do while nursing again (Hello cute sports bras, I’m lookin at you!)img_5409.jpg
And of course post weaning depression wouldn’t effect me! I had my shit together after all. My nutrition was on point, our weaning was gradual over a few months, I do all the healthy, hormone balancing things, this was going to be a non-issue. Of course. (Sarcasm font is used here, in case your device doesn’t have that installed)

It didn’t help that right at the time baby weaned, my day-job took a drastic turn towards the OMGSTRESS direction. Within a week, there were 3 major issues discovered that were my responsibility to fix and a week and a half after that, equipment broke that was also my responsibility to fix. I chalked-up my extra feelings of anxiety and stress to these issues at first. But as time went on, I realized that the way I was feeling wasn’t right. It was “off” and I coudn’t figure out why.

I was having drastic mood swings. I was incredibly irritable. I was anxious, close to tears, and apathetic all at the same time. I was finding it hard to even get out of bed in the morning or to do everyday normal tasks (like brushing my teeth took ALL THE EFFORT, for example). I was zombie-ing my way through every day, and the sheer amount of effort it took to do anything with a semblance of “normal” made it almost impossible to do things that required additional effort (like cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries, exercising, all of my normal activities). I mentioned the weirdness to some good friends of mine and it went like this:

Me: vent about being so totally stressed at work

Friends: general empathy and also, you just weaned and your hormones are probably whack right now

Me: nah, it was gradual and ended a few weeks ago. Definitely not the hormones.

Then a couple weeks later, it went like this:

Me: VENT about this BULLSH*T at work and I am SO STRESSED I’m not being healthy

Friends: more empathy but also, you JUST weaned and your hormones are whack right now…

Me: No I’m fine, I will flip it around and be 100% better in the morning…

And finally, last week it went like this:

Me: OMG THIS JOB THIS SRESS WHY THE HELL DO I FEEL LIKE A CRAZY PERSON WTF IS WRONG WITH ME AND WHY CAN’T I STOP CRYING

Friends: All the empathy. You’re starting to scare us, are you talking with someone (counseling) about this?? Also YOU JUST WEANED.

Me: Holy shit, can this be hormone induced?

Post-weaning depression is a thing. While I thought that I was going to miss it entirely, due to being generally healthy going into weaning, I was definitely not immune. Looking back at my history with the super strong and unexpected hormonal effects that my first pregnancy had on me, as well as my mild PPD the first time and my initial struggles to breastfeed, it makes sense that I am going through this. My body in general takes a long time to adapt to drastic hormone changes.

Emotional and mental effects due to changing hormones is considered a taboo topic, and honestly there is still a small part of me that thinks “these things shouldn’t be discussed” or “these things can’t be real.” But the truth is that they are very real and there definitely isn’t enough discussion or resources for help with these topics. So here I am, writing this blog and hoping that maybe, someone in my shoes will find it. If you are going though this know that you aren’t crazy or uncontrolled, you aren’t the only one, and there are things you can do to combat post-weaning depression.

#1 Dial in on Your Nutrition

When you are feeling emotional and down, often the first thing we do is to seek out the comfort foods that aren’t the healthiest for us. Unfortunately, these foods only make the problem worse. Things like unhealthy fats, sugar, and caffeine tend to increase our mood swings and make them more severe, as well as making us feel sluggish and generally crappy. The more junky comfort food we eat, the more severe our symptoms are, and it becomes harder and harder to break out of the cycle.

Instead, remind yourself that even though that double shot frappachino is what you REALLY want right now, it will only make you feel worse in the long run. It will only extend this period or hormone rebalancing. If eating a kale salad everyday sounds like too much, focus on the following things: drinking enough water, eating healthy fats, and eating as many veggies as you can.

#2 Get Regular Exercise

In the words of Elle Woods, “Exercising gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” I’m sure you have heard about the link between exercise and improved mental health 10,000 times. As hard as it seems right now, do something to move your body. Go out for a run or go for a walk around the block. Use Amazon prime to do a free yoga session. Go to the gym and crush it with some weights. Whatever it is you can do, do it.

#3 Establish Regular Sleep and Wake Times

Getting enough sleep is absolutely critical for hormone regulation, among all of the other health benefits linked to sleep. I know that “enough”sleep never seems to happen, especially when you have such young kiddos around. So the next best thing that you can do it to make sure you go to bed and get up at the same time. Every. Day.

I actually have to get up at the same time every day (thank you early-rising 4 year old!) and that time is godawful early. So to help in the sleep regulation department, I’ve actually set an alarm on my phone for 8 hours before my wake-up time. That’s right, an alarm to go to bed. Sticking to a regular (and somewhat early) bedtime did wonders for helping to regulate my mood swings.

img_5275.jpg
#4 Control and Reduce Stress

Again, this seems like a really hard task to do when you have tiny humans to look after. It feels especially hard when you are going through post weaning depression. But controlling and reducing the stressors in your life give you a huge advantage in beating the post weaning blues.

When we are stressed, our bodies are in that notorious “fight or flight” mode, which is causing our adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline and cortisol (which are both hormones). What you may not know is that the adrenals also produce other hormones besides these two famous ones. When your body is in the fight or flight response, all of the “non essential” tasks get put on the back burner, including the production and regulation of other non-emergency hormones. Reducing your stress levels allows your body to begin to focus on other things, like regulating your post weaning hormones correctly.

#5 Ask For Help

This is the one tip that I didn’t want to follow. I didn’t want to admit that there was something off with me. I didn’t want to be a drama queen or a burden. I was afraid that people would laughter at me and say I was crazy or making things up. But overall, admitting to myself that post-weaning depression was real, and that I likely had it was the first and biggest step in moving back to normal. Letting my husband and friends know about it was the next big step (also, surprise, they had already figured it out!).

If you have a close friend you can talk to, talk to them. Reach out to your significant other and your family. You can also talk with your primary care doctor or your OB if you are worried about the reaction of your friends and family. You can reach out to a counselor. Just reach out, you’ll be so grateful you did.

Here are some additional resources on post-weaning depression:

Kelly mom

BellyBelly

The Hardest Two Months of My Life

My Experience with Post Weaning Depression

Fitness, Fitness and Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Positive Thinking, Uncategorized

What (failing at) Exercise Has Taught Me About Nutrition

Here’s something that you may not know about me: I’m one of those people who exercises. A lot (by some standards). I generally don’t talk about it much because I definitely did not use to be an exerciser. I didn’t really find fitness until I was in my 30’s. And a huge reason why I didn’t succeed with starting an exercise routine for all those years was related to intimidation and comparison and the shame associated with each of these. So now I don’t want to be shouting about my daily workout from the mountain tops because I don’t want to discourage the me from my 20’s. Hey, this seems logical in my head, alright?

This past weekend, I was supposed to be in a race on Sunday. This was a race that I had trained a lot for, and that I thought I had a chance at accomplishing a HUGE goal of mine at (or maybe even two of my biggest fitness goals at once). I was really excited to get it done and bask in the glory of my awesomeness. And feel grateful for #whatmybodycando. And generally just enjoy the endorphins that come from the hard work.

But then it rained. And thundered and lightninged and sort of flooded. I was up, waiting in my car at the race start at 5am. The race people eventually announced a 2 hour delay to the start of the race after I was there, and announced that the course would have to be shortened (Ok, one of the HUGE goals is now off the table – sad emoji). Then, after waiting for another 2.5 hours, they announced the complete cancelation. I was pretty upset to say the least. (angry swearing emoji)

I thought, “Well, since I can’t race and I already have this kid-free time set up, I guess I’ll head to the gym to crush the CVG weekly workout” (<– this is an amazing group of women in fitness, if you’re in that headspace check them out). I drive to the gym, trying to not feel angry at mother nature and trying even harder to not feel angry at the race people for taking 3.5 hours to make a decision (because I could have been sleeping, dammit). When I get there, I start my workout. I’m working up a sweat and getting to the #hurtssogood feeling when BAM! I missed a move that I have never in my life ever had trouble with and fell flat on my face, injuring my shin/leg. I saw so many stars that day, felt broken, and was totally defeated.

I drove home and proceeded to mope. It was NOT my day.

Now I’m sure you are thinking “Ok lady, what the heck does this sob story have to do with anything, especially nutrition?” There’s a point, I promise.

Since Sunday, I’ve been thinking about all the “fails” that happened that day. I also have been thinking about the success of going to the gym after the cancelation and doing something healthy instead of doing nothing. Then on Monday, I went back into my normal routine (to the gym) and made it through a grueling workout, even though I was sore. Me in my 20’s could never have accomplished this feat. Me in my 20’s wouldn’t have even shown up at the race start and waited for it to be canceled. 20’s me would have probably seen the potential weather forecast the night before (which was no where nearly as bad as the actual weather the day of) and thrown in the towel then.

It’s taken me over 7 years of continued effort to get to where I was with exercise and fitness this week. That’s 7 years of failures, of habit forming, of learning new and better technique, of learning about what works for me, of digging deep to find the grit and motivation and discipline to keep going.

What was different about these past 7 years compared to all the false starts that I had made with fitness over the rest of my life? It’s a combination of things: I was in a place where I finally saw that I needed to make a change for my health, I had moved and therefore got away from the expectations of others (“but you don’t like the gym“), and I was able to finally stop comparing myself to my fit friends (who ultimately intimidated me from trying because I thought I looked like a “wuss” compared to what I “should” be able to do).

Starting on a nutrition journey is almost exactly the same as starting on a fitness journey. There are the same false starts, the same “experts” online who present conflicting information as fact, the same comparison to others, the same shame associated with that comparison. Really, you can substitute everything fitness in the story above for nutrition and see what I mean.

My “ah-ha” moment this week helped to reinforce one of the most important (and best) things about Nutrition Coaching for me. As a Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach (yes, I did go to school for this), I am there to be a “personal trainer” for my client’s dietary choices. I get to meet them WHERE THEY ARE and hold space for them to let go of the comparison, the shame, the false starts. I get to help them learn to choose things that are healthy and that they actually WANT to eat. I get to guide them through the transformation from the person who “walks into the gym for the 100th first time” to the person who gets up after failing on Sunday and goes about their usual healthy business on Monday.

And you can begin to see why this work is so incredibly rewarding for me.

My little failure this weekend with fitness has ultimately helped me to become more empathetic for the struggles that my clients go through, which continues to make me an even better Nutrition Coach. And so I see again that “everything happens for a reason.”

Here’s to more failures and the lessons they teach us.

Health & Wellness, Uncategorized

That #primaryfood Thing

I’ve talked a bit before about the reason why I chose to go to IIN for my nutrition education. The school taught two concepts that really resonated with me, and based the rest of their nutrition education program on these ideas. The first one is bioindividuality: the theory that there is no “one right” diet for every human on the planet and that we should work to find what foods nourish our individual body best so we can thrive.

The second concept is the subject of this post: Primary Food. This idea is that the nutrition you consume through food and drink is actually second to the Primary Food of life when it comes to your overall health. This Primary Food is divided into 4 main categories: Career/Meaningful Work, Relationships, Physical Health, and Spirituality. When one or more of these Primary Food areas are out of balance, you could be eating all the kale in the world, but you won’t be healthy or happy. You can’t thrive without Primary Food.

What. The. Heck? When I first learned about Primary Food, it sounded unscientific, wishy-washy, and a bit Woo to me. I’ll admit there was a strong internal eye-roll associated with it. But at the same time there was this tiny voice in my head that knew the idea of Primary Food was spot on. And the worst part about it was that all 4 areas for me were totally in the ditch.

Fast forward nearly 2 years and you get to me today. Someone who has been working on improving each of these areas and made huge gains. Someone who has now been to school and studied exactly how these Primary Food areas interact with your life and your relationship with nutritional food. It’s been an eye-opening journey, but it is completely worth the work it has taken.

I’m lucky to have found Meaningful Work through Nutrition Coaching. I continue to work in this area to help make The Nutrition Doula a thriving practice, so that I can do help as many people as possible to find the food that works for them and their families. My Physical Health recovered relatively quickly after I gave birth to our second daughter, but knowing how important it is for me to be able to stay this way, I make sure to carve out the time needed to maintain it. I still have plenty of work to do in these areas, as well as in the Relationships and Spirituality areas, but the improvement from where I was before learning about Primary Food is significant.

The thing about shifting your perspective to look at your life through a Primary Food lens is that it begins to help you prioritize in a different way. You may have heard the quote about nutritional food that says “Every bite you eat is either helping your health or feeding disease. Choose wisely.” Once you begin to look at life through a Primary Food lens, it becomes everything you do is either nurturing a Primary Food or starving it.

Thinking like this is what allows me to say yes to the right things and no to the things that don’t help me, without the typical guilt that is often associated with making these decisions. It’s what will allows me to sit down and play with the kids when they ask without cleaning the kitchen first (because I’m nurturing the Relationship area, the dirty dishes guilt melts away). It’s what lets me go run a race, then sit down with amazing friends for brunch and acknowledge and appreciate how much these activities recharge my soul. It’s what gives me the ability to get out of bed at 4:30am to go for a swim before work, or the drive to continue my work as a Nutrition Coach even on days when I’m already exhausted from the day-job.

Ultimately, when the Primary Food areas in your life are going well, then it becomes much easier to make good and healthy choices when it comes to nutritional foods. It becomes easier to thrive in this life. So it pays off to assess the Primary Food in your life and to work on improving it.

Take a minute to consider the four Primary Food areas: Career/Meaningful Work, Relationships, Physical Health, and Spirituality. Give yourself a rating number in each area between 1 and 10 (with 1 being there is nothing right at all about this and 10 being everything couldn’t be more perfect). Once you have your ratings, look for the lowest number. That is where making changes can help your overall health and happiness the most. If you’ve rated an area with a low number, don’t worry! Knowing the problem is there is the first step to fixing it.

So what do you think? Were you surprised by your Primary Food Exercise results? Did you discover something that needs work? Let me know in the comments or send me a message. I’d love to talk about it with you!