You ever get a salad to try and be “healthy” and look at it and think to yourself, “Well this sucks…”
That’s probably because it did suck. It was probably a shitty little salad. Some iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, a cucumber slice, and ranch dressing. Maybe a crouton or two.
But salads DON’T HAVE TO SUCK. Just look at this masterpiece right here ?
So here are the 3 Steps to Making a Non-Sucky Salad:
Vary your lettuce:
Plain old iceberg or romaine alone is boring. Make your salad base a mixture of different lettuces, baby greens, and maybe even some shredded cabbage, brussels sprouts, or carrots. You want variety and texture here!
Add a ton of fresh veggies:
ANY veggie can go on a salad, so add as much as you can. Love jicama? Salad topper. Bell peppers? Salad topper. Beets? Salad Topper. And if you can, dice the veggies into smaller pieces before adding. This helps you to make sure every bite has a little of everything. Can we say flavor explosion?
Add some weight:
Salads that include a good protein source or whole grain (chicken, beans, legumes, tofu, quinoa, farro, etc) not only taste better; they keep you full. So pick 1-3 of these “heavier” items and top you salad with those.
Voila! You have a much better salad: tasty and full of nutrients your body needs to function.
If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve heard me talk about That #PrimaryFoodThing on the blog before. Primary Food is one the the main health premises taught at IIN (where I went to school for nutrition coaching). This premise is: you could eat all the kale in the world, or any other extra healthy diet, but if your relationships are awful or abusive, your job is something that you dread going back to on Monday, or you’re completely out of touch with yourself and your spirituality, you will not be able to thrive. And if you are mired in all these things, you won’t be healthy overall.
Primary Food is divided into 4 main categories: Career, Relationships, Spirituality, and Physical Activity. Every now and then, it’s a good idea to pause and think about how you would rate each of these areas in your life, so you can adjust where you would like to spend your focus to keep everything balanced. (If you’re interested in assessing your own Primary Food needs, you can use this tool.) I’ve been working on the Career area for the last year and a half, so when I took a moment to think about where I was with my own Primary Food at the end of last year, I realized that it was time to shift my focus to building (and maintaining) stronger relationships in my life. And voila! 2019: The Year of the Relationship was born.
One of the first things I wanted to do in this area was to build a stronger relationship with the hubs. I’m sure many of you can relate to the ships-passing-in-the-night feeling that we get when our kids, toddlers, and babies are young. At first, we’re in survival mode. After that, it morphs into juggling 2 full-time jobs, kids extra curricular activities, the groceries, the errands, household chores, and all of that. If we don’t intentionally create the time to reconnect as a couple without all that noise, we can go months with out really knowing how our other half is doing.
I always see the suggestion to schedule a date night once a month. Great idea! BUT when like us, you don’t have grandparents or other family and friends who can help out with the kids, a once a month date night can be cost prohibitive. The next suggestion is “ok, schedule your date night at home after the kids are asleep.” Also a great idea! We went with this route, but then found that sitting together on the couch in front of a movie wasn’t exactly giving us the opportunity to reconnect. And we found that we often skipped these dates due to being flat-out exhausted.
This year, my word is intention, and that is exactly how we needed to be with these monthly dates, more intentional. In December, I began to work on planning out 12 dates for us to do each month of 2019. And of course, work and life got in the way and I wasn’t making much progress, especially since I wanted these to be really fun but also be AT HOME as much as possible (and you can only play board games so many times, amirite?) Then I stumbled across Date Night In, a monthly subscription box to create dates for us at home. You mean, I didn’t have to plan it all myself? I could be just as surprised as hubs when we went on our date? Perfect.â€¬
I bought a subscription for Christmas, and we got our first box in the mail Friday. Each moth has a theme for the date and I nearly died laughing because the theme for this month was engineering, and hubs and I are both engineers. This made the box a perfect “ice breaker” for us since the topic wasn’t too far out of our comfort zone. We had our Date Night In date last night. The short story is that it was actually really fun!
The booklet gives you recipes for a nice dinner, activities, and talking points to go over. We made the mixed drink (which is one we would have never tried but both ended up liking a lot) and the appetizer since we already ate a light dinner with the kids earlier.
The relationship questions and talking points provided were actually really great as well (I was worried they would be cheesy). They were the kind of deeper questions that you may not normally ask or discuss with your partner, especially when you are caught up in the business of day-to-day life with young kids. They led us to some good conversation tangents, working out a few issues (WOW), and laughing.
The activities were all fun to do, especially for us as engineers. We built a candle holder/lantern out of popsicle sticks, a truss/platform out of toothpicks and jelly beans, and the “tallest tower possible” out of straws (really, we didn’t go as high as we could because it was late by then and we were like – meh, we know we could make this higher but we wanna go to bed). Each of the activities had discussion that related back to the intro questions we had talked about at the beginning. So it kept our focus on the date theme: Why having a strong foundation is important, which was great.
Overall, it was fun and a great way to spend time together actually doing something to make our relationship stronger. I’m looking forward to the box coming next month! If you are thinking about working on the relationship area of your Primary Food, I highly recommend you try it out. It seems like the perfect fit for us in this stage of life.
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 thingsâ€¦.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.
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!
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!) 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.
#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: