Art Lover

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I have always been a patron of the arts.  As far back as I can remember, I was and remain an enormous music fan.  I bought my first 45 at 8 years old (yes, I’m showing my age here) and my love of music and live performances just grew from there.  As a child, my parents regularly took me to museums, foreign and independent films, art exhibits and festivals.  These adventures stuck with me through adulthood.  I spend a lot of time seeking these things out for myself and my family.  It wasn’t and isn’t unusual for me to plan an entire trip to another city just to see an exhibit.  We have done this as a family countless times.  I don’t know if my kids will retain this love of the arts I have.  I can only hope!

During the time when I was not functional, all the fun stuff was off the table.  I could not even entertain the thought of traipsing through a museum or going to a concert.  So, while working on my happiness project, I thought I need start getting back to doing what I love as soon as possible.

The Arts

My Quotation: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”

Daily/Weekly Actions:

  • Attend live performances
  • Find a craft I can learn
  • Listen to music everyday
  • Seek out exhibits
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First up, Attend Live Performances!  Well, I certainly have done that!  I started with a few concerts and other live events and to be honest sitting in those chairs for hours was brutal on my neck at first.  And it was frustrating and depressing.  But, I had enjoyed getting out to do what I loved so much that I kept going.  And kept getting therapy to get myself through.  And eventually, that didn’t happen anymore.  It took awhile.  Probably 8 months.  Now I don’t even think about it, I just go and have a good time.  Did you know that people who attend concerts live longer!! Just saying…

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Oh, finding a craft was a tough one.  I love being crafty, but I’m not exactly good at it. The ladies from my exercise group invited me to an art class to and I thought, “Yay! This is exactly what I’ve been looking to do!”  I’m not going to say I created a masterpiece.  It was pretty rough. But the experience of doing it made me so happy.  That was the first of MANY outings we did together!  We have a standing date once a month now.  I’m always looking forward to our time together!  And for the record I’m still searching for a craft that I enjoy.  I tried drawing and sketching, but got bored with it.  I do bullet journal and that can be crafty.  I’m still on the hunt.

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Listening to music everyday came in the form of Spotify.  I was an Itunes user until my son explained to me how much music I could have access to with Spotify.  He could NOT understand why I was not using Spotify! Once I got used to it I was sold!  Now I’m not sure how I did without it!  Listening to music is the ultimate distraction.  I listen in the car, while I’m cooking or doing laundry.  Anytime I can, just because it makes me so HAPPY. 

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I’m lucky to live near the nation’s capital and you could not ask for a better place to Seek Out Exhibits.  There is CONSTANTLY something wonderful to see!  Really, it’s just a matter of having the time to get there to see it. I would say I head to the city at least once a month to see an exhibit or a show.  DC is just full of museums, most of which are free.  I get so excited to see the Arts Preview section of the newspaper every season, sitting down with my cup of tea and circling all the things I want to attend over the next few months!  It’s the best!

How about you?  What do you love doing?  Maybe it’s not the arts.  Maybe it’s sporting events, or dog shows, or car shows? Think about what you love to do and make a plan to do MORE OF IT. I promise it will make you happier!

If you do start seeking out things you love comment below!  I’d love to hear about everyone’s experiences!


Becoming an Optimist

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After reading Learned Optimism and understanding how to use the ABCDE method to start changing my pessimistic views and to overcome fears, I wanted to continue with this theme and made it my next resolution, which was:

My Quotation: “You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.”

Daily/Weekly Actions:

Problem Solve

Pick a Time of Day to Think

Listen to the Happier Podcast

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So, the first action was to problem solve.  Not my strong suit.  It was rare that I actually would attack a problem going on in my life.  I would skirt around it or make small changes but never the big sweeping action steps it would take to actually solve a problem all the way.  If you remember, problem solving was part of my “How to Improve Coping Skills” list as well.  Here’s more on why problem solving is important. “Work out what you need to do now to get over what is happened to you.  Talk to people and think about taking practical steps, such as finding a support group.  Sympathy feels good, and sometimes it’s tempting to be a victim and tell people how bad your troubles are, but problem-solving will be more constructive in the long run.”  This sounds very much like something a child should have learned.  Something I should have learned along the way at some point.  But, I did not.  I have notes written next to this action that say “budgeting – research in the fall.”  Money was at the forefront of my mind.  We’ve always had plenty of money.  My husband works very hard and is very successful, which we in turn thought the money never ended so we could spend and charge as we please.  Not the case.  That does catch up with you.  I also had MOUNTING medical bills.  Thousands of dollars with no end in site.  It was incredibly stressful.  These notes, were the very first time I ever thought about taking control of our money situation.  My son would be leaving for college the next year and there was money put away for him but not enough.  And the thought of taking on any additional debt just made my stomach turn.  Even though I did not take action on this immediately, I eventually did.  I woke up to the fact that we could not continue this path.  And I was adamant that no one was going to have debt, not my kids with student loans and not us either.  So for the first time in my life I started a budget.  I did my research, found a few extremely helpful podcasts such as HerMoney with Jean Chatzky and How to Money.  I took it all in, started my budget, attacked the debt, and started seriously saving not just for college for my kids, but for everything that would be coming our way in the next 5 years.  I sold a ton of stuff, I cut expenses, but mostly I PAID ATTENTION to where the money was going.  I discovered we were wasting money EVERYWHERE.  Literally throwing it away.  Having a budget, at first, seems restrictive, but it’s not.  I’ve never felt so free to spend in my life.  Not an ounce of guilt with any purchase, because it’s all accounted for.  I’m happy to say we are just about debt free now and the college savings are building. 

Until I had this project in writing and actually wrote down my resolution and took action, I would have never started this process. It just would have been another source of stress in my life, which was the LAST thing I needed at the time.

My second action of Pick a Time of Day to Think was straight out of Learned Optimism (Which you can purchase here if you’re interested. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400078393/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=myawakenedwel-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1400078393&linkId=f5121b37228bba3162df147b18ecf86b) The idea is to use this time not to be anxious, but to use the time for problem solving and solutions. This forced me to stop stressing out every time something came up. I would put it aside and have a time, for me, usually in the evening, where I would sit down and sort through all the issues that have come up. Even though I might not come up with a solution immediately, I haven’t spent my whole day in a state of worry. Read more about this strategy here. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stop-worrying-anxiety-cycle_n_4002914

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My third action was to Listen to the Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin.  When I started this Happiness Project, I started looking into the work Gretchen Rubin had done since I had read the original Happiness Project eight years early.  I found she had written several more books! (yay!) and had a weekly podcast (also yay!).  I DEVOURED these episodes.  I had about two years worth to listen to. So to catch up,  I listened whenever I could.  So many fun tips and hacks that I will go into more later.  But for the most part just having this in podcast in my ear all the time kept some of my priorities in order and kept me on track.  I can say the same about the personal finance podcasts.  Podcasts are my new favorite thing! I rarely watch tv anymore.  Podcasts are where it’s at.  Any niche you are into, there is a podcast for it I promise.  I’ve learned SO much.  I can’t recommend them enough.  Also, it’s just so easy to have them on while I’m getting ready in the morning, doing chores around the house or driving. 

One more note about becoming an optimist.  I just want to share another piece from Learned Optimism.  Here Seligman provides the case against pessimism:

Pessimism promotes depression.

Pessimism produces inertia rather than activity in the face of setbacks.

Pessimism feels bad subjectively (blue, down, worried, anxious).

Pessimism is self-fulfilling.  Pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges, and therefore fail more frequently – even when success is attainable.

Pessimism is associated with poor physical health.

Even when pessimist are right and things turn out badly, they still feel worse.  Their explanatory style now converts the predicted setback into a disaster, a disaster into a catastrophe.

Who would want to live this way?  Not me.  I decided I never wanted to live like this again.  My health was and is my number one priority and this was part of being healthy.

Do you feel like you are a pessimist?  Try the following:

Start problem solving.

Pick a time of day to think.

Find a podcast that will keep you on track that align with your goals.

I can’t wait to hear all about your progress! Thanks for being here!


My Happiness Project Round 2

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In one of my previous posts I talked about finding strategies for good mental health. One of them if you remember, was Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself. That really caught my attention and was very different from the other strategies. It went on to say “Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.” This was aha moment for me. Immediately, out of nowhere, I remembered that eight years earlier I had done a Happiness Project after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. I ran to my bookshelf for it and there it was. Just waiting for me. The goal of The Happiness Project is the same as the strategy I was working on. Get to know who you are and what makes you happy! In addition to finding what truly makes you happy the other side of that is to STOP with all the things that other people find fun and you don’t. For me, I don’t find any of the of following fun; Skiing or any cold weather activity, watching sports, and more recently drinking alcohol (gasp!) and going out to eat. One of the big lessons of that book was just because someone else finds something fun doesn’t mean I have to. I don’t let people talk me into things I know I won’t enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t try new things. I just am way more in touch with myself. I know now what I consider fun and honestly, I’ve always known, but now I’m being AUTHENTIC. I love going to concerts and music in general, I love reading, cooking, planning, hot sunny weather, fitness and exercise, going to museums, and the arts in general. There’s more but those are the big ones. And guess what, not everyone will find those things fun either and that’s ok. It’s all about knowing what makes you happy and doing that. Years ago, when The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was first published I jumped right in. I was 39 years old, loved the book and thought “that looks fun”. Fast forward to 2017, I’m 47 years old and a mess and looking at another Happiness Project for completely different reasons. So, this Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself strategy struck a cord immediately. In my wellness notebook I wrote next to it “Consider doing another happiness project?” And that’s what I did.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, I suggest giving it a read whether you choose to do the project or not. You can find it here. https://amzn.to/2LwcApU Basically once you come up with your resolutions, you choose a quote to keep you motivated and then break the resolution down into actions you will do daily or weekly, for the entire month. My first Resolution, which I started in November of 2017 (again, so thankful for my journaling) looked like this:

This Month’s Resolution: Conquer Fears (take control)

My quotation: “Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen”

Daily/Weekly Actions

Take timed walks

Progress with different shoes

Take timed baths

Visualize

Rebute Fears in Writing (see previous post on ABCDE model)

Get back on my Computer

Taking timed walks and rebuting my fears in writing I’ve talked about already. So, you know where I was headed on those resolutions. Let’s talk about the shoes! Ah, the shoes! I only wore one pair for at least for a year and a half. I’m sure you can guess why! Fear that any other shoes would hurt my back! I couldn’t even wear what you would call regular athletic shoes. All the technology going on in the bed of shoe would throw my neck out of whack. I still don’t wear them. I’ll admit I’m not wearing heels (yet!) but I wear whatever flats I want. This may seem small and trivial to you, but to me it was a REAL fear. I was afraid of more pain. Period. So, retraining my brain was the goal.

For the next few weeks I will continue to post more about my second Happiness Project going month by month. Hope you will join me!

Have you done a Happiness Project? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below! Thanks for being here!


The Book that Changed Everything

A few years ago, when I was still in the throws of recovery, my personal trainer suggested I read a book called “Explain Pain” by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley. I was at a point where I had gained strength, continued physical therapy, but continued to have significant pain that would send me off emotionally and also keep me from doing more of what I loved to do. Everyone had their theories as to what was going on, but the only person in my life that was up front and honest with me was my trainer. She basically told me I couldn’t “fix the pain I was feeling with exercise”. She was saying it was “in my head” which was true, but not (I explain this below). It was REAL alright and she knew it. She also told me I needed to start meditating or “go talk to someone”. Hmmm, she was telling me I needed a different kind of therapy.

No one had spoken to me this way before about my anxiety. She was brutally honest. It was jarring and I was a bit shocked. I sat there in tears. It felt like some sort of emotional breakthrough. I am FOREVER grateful for her for being this honest with me. For seeing that I needed to hear these things in a way that would wake me up. No one in my family would have ever talked to me this way and if they did I probably would have been so angry with them I wouldn’t have listened anyway. The fact that it came from someone on the outside means I could no longer hide that part of myself. It was obvious to her and she did the right thing by making me confront it.

Two things she suggested immediately was a book called Explain Pain and a meditation app (that I now use every day, religiously, starting the day after she suggested it. Upholder quality at work!) As soon as I began reading Explain Pain everything started to become clear. I was reading my story. I couldn’t believe it! Finally, I could see myself on the pages and I started to understand. Right from page two it became clear. “When pain persists and feels like it is ruining your life, it is difficult to see how it can be serving any useful purpose. But even when pain is chronic and nasty, it hurts because the brain has concluded, for some reason or another, that you are threatened and in danger and need protecting – the trick is finding out why the brain has come to this conclusion”.

I also learned that stress can make nerve pain worse and that damaged nerves become sensitive to the chemicals you produce when you are stressed. This made perfect sense to me. I was having unbelievable stress and worry at the time when my pain was spreading and getting worse and no one could tell me why. The authors also explained that “things that used to hurt, now hurt more. And things that didn’t hurt before, now hurt”. There I was, right there on the page. Exactly what I experienced. And for the first time, there was an explanation. I was so relieved to see my story in print. Someone gets it! Other identifying statements I read were “It started off so simply and now it has spread” and “No one seems to believe me”. I basically said those exact words. Something else that really hit home for me was that even the FEAR or ANTICIPATION of pain may be enough to prevent changes from returning to normal. Returning to normal was ALL I wanted! Clearly, I needed to figure out how to get over my fear of pain. It was time to take control and work out the threats or feel like this forever. So, I made a decision right then that I will do whatever is suggested to reverse what had happen to me.

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Now I had my goals and was motivated to get started. With the understanding that the pain was coming from my brain, not the tissue/nerve damage, I now knew what I needed to work on to get my life back to as normal as possible. In the next few weeks I’m going to break down each of the goals above into what I did.

Are you dealing with chronic pain? Do you have fears of certain movements, re-injuring or making it worse? Surgery, botched surgery? Or other fears? I want to give you a few Action Steps to apply to you own life if you feel like this speaks to your situation. And then over the next few weeks we will talk about the steps above in more detail and I will share what I did in my personal situation. For this week, you could start by:

  1. Decide to take control and work out the threats. Just deciding to do this is a HUGE step. Yay!!
  2. Have a goal. What is it that you want to do more of without pain? Walking, reading, driving, playing with your kids. You decide. But I suggest picking one to start and focusing on that.
  3. Increase activity with slow exposure.

If you would like more information about the type of training I did, you can find my trainer Carrie’s website here. https://pnxsolutions.com/

That’s it for this week!! Seems simply enough, but honestly it’s a big decision and takes strength to move forward. You can do this. After you pick your goal, come back next week and we will start on the “how to’s” and I will tell you what worked for me, what didn’t and what I’m continuing to work on now :). See you then!


To Bean or Not to Bean

Ok, that was corny I know. But it made me smile. Let’s talk about legumes. Legumes are one of those foods that have a reputation for being part of a healthy diet for their fiber and protein content. But they also have lectins that irritate the lining of your gut, which leads to leaky gut and can be a problem, especially for those us with autoimmune issues. Read more about how lectins effect the body here. https://www.google.com/amp/s/health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/2017-11-29/the-trouble-with-lectins%3fcontext=amp

But what about the people of the Blue Zones who make beans part of their regular diet? The people of the Blue Zones if you don’t know, are people in the world with the longest life expectancy as studied by National Geographic. Many, many factors play into that longevity and you can read more about it here. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125071/

With my autoimmune markers I choose not to eat beans. They obviously cause gut irritation and gas and I personally try to keep my gut as healthy as possible. There is a lot of hype about the fiber and protein beans have, but honestly you can get that and more from some vegetables, like broccoli and brussel sprouts. My goal is to not eat anything that will disrupt my microbiome. Especially because I’m still taking an anti-inflammatory for my neck and back issues. I am currently testing the waters of getting off them completely. That is my goal because anti-inflammatory medications also destroy the lining of your gut. So I’m super vigilant about my food. That said, it is NOT as powerful of a drug as I was on in the beginning. I’m now taking Meloxicam which is a low level anti inflammatory. I will get there. Right now I skip a pill here and there without any issue. My doctor seems to think I will feel more pain if I go off of it but I’m not convinced of that. I know my body. What is left for me to deal with is more muscular that anything else and yoga is working that out for me. I’m getting way ahead of myself here! More on ALL OF THAT later!! I got off topic a bit, but my point is I’m choosing to stay away from anything that would cause leaky gut or any other health problems for my own mental and physical well-being.

Did you know peanuts are legumes also? I didn’t until a few years ago. This is one of the many reasons why my blog is called “My Awakened Well-Being”! I was asleep at the wheel of my health for SO LONG. Awakened has multiple meanings for me, some on a much deeper level, as I will talk about later. There was so much I didn’t know or didn’t pay attention to regarding my health. I noticed a few years ago that I did not feel well after eating peanut butter or peanuts. And not in an “allergic” way. Just upset stomach, throat tight, just all around not good. Peanuts are not nuts, they are part of the legume family. So, this makes complete sense to me. I now eat cashew butter and almond butter instead. Try dipping apple slices into almond butter. It’s my go-to snack! Sometimes I’ll roll up a grain-free tortilla with organic fruit preserves and cashew butter. My version of pb & j! So good!

What are your thoughts on legumes? Are they a regular part of your diet? Try the following:

  1. Pay attention to how you feel after eating legumes? Do you have stomach pain, gas, bloating?
  2. Go a week without legumes and up your high protein and fiber veggie intake.
  3. Assess how you feel without legumes. Comment below!

One more thing!  I’d like to provide you with a link to The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin for those that are interested.  I talk a lot about her and her work here on my blog because I find it so incredibly useful.  I know some of you have taken the quiz that I posted last week.  If you want to go deeper or even if you haven’t taken the quiz, you may want to read the book for insights into your own personality.  Enjoy! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1524760919/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=myawakenedwel-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1524760919&linkId=961771dc8819af9694a02c2b808778c7

I can’t wait to read your feedback and thoughts! Thanks for being here!


Ditching the sugar

We all know sugar is not good for you. But do you how bad is actually is? I didn’t. I grew up hearing sugar rots your teeth and makes you fat. And although that is certainly true, it does so much more. Sugar causes inflammation among other things, which in turn causes a multitude of chronic diseases. Read more here. https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-sugar-does-to-your-body/

And more about the link between sugar and cancer here. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/10/health/sugary-drinks-cancer-risk-study-intl/index.html

This was fairly easy for me to give up, personally, for a couple of reasons.

  1. There are SO many alternatives to processed sugar.
  2. Once I knew what it was doing to my body, I was completely on board.

That is partially my personality type at work (I’m an Upholder, see The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin https://gretchenrubin.com/books/the-four-tendencies/intro/) Once I decide to do something, I’m all in.

I think the best alternative to processed sugar is honey and organic pure maple syrup. I bake and cook with both. When I first eliminated sugar I was doing a lot of baking of paleo recipes to fend off my sugar cravings. But now I only do that maybe once a month or so. If I want something sweet I eat fruit or a Larabar. My taste buds have completely changed.

Processed food is not food. Period. It’s what some of us have become accustomed to, to the detriment of our health. Sugar is hiding in things you may not think of. We all know it’s in sodas, desserts and the obvious places but you will also find it in bottled salad dressings, condiments, soups, etc. A lot of foods labeled as organic still have sugar. Reading labels is key. Pretty much anything in a box or a can has sugar with few exceptions. Some companies are coming around due to demand but it’s slow. I was raised making our family recipe for salad dressing since I was a kid so I’m not one to buy bottled dressings, but if you haven’t tried making your own I promise it’s super simple. Or just throw some oil and vinegar/salt and pepper on your salad. And yes, I do like cooking. That also makes it easier. But I think cooking is a life skill! Not some chore to complain about like cleaning a bathroom. Your health is the number one most important thing. Without it you have nothing. I know this to be true first hand. Until you lose it maybe you’re not aware of how important it is and how important what you eat is to your health. No dessert will ever be that enticing to me when I look at it this way. I feel good. And that’s all I need. And I want to stay that way.

Have you thought about eliminating sugar from your diet? Try the following steps. Remember, it’s good to know your personality type. It will help you figure out the best approach for your internal expectations. I highly suggest taking Gretchen Rubin’s quiz here. https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/Once you know your personality type everything you want to do for yourself becomes easier!

  1. Decide to eliminate sugar from your diet. Hooray!
  2. Shop! Read the labels. Pay attention. Look to avoid sugar, corn syrup, fructose, etc. Buy replacements like honey and maple syrup.
  3. Try a few recipes for baked goods, salad dressings and replacements for your favorite foods. I suggest recipes by Cassie Joy Garcia, Diane Sanfilippo or any quick paleo recipe google search will do the trick.
  4. If you are having a craving eat fruit.
  5. When eating out just ask! Be THAT person. Lol. I am. I ask, I alter, whatever I need to do to get what I want. I’ve never had a restaurant not comply.

Good luck!! I want to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment with your questions and experiences! Thank you for being here!


Thoughts on dairy

I decided to continue my thoughts on diet after last week’s post on my discovery of the paleo diet 😃. I’m going a little deeper into each part of the diet that had the most effect on me, over the next few weeks starting with dairy.

Pretty much my whole life I said I had “a sensitive stomach” or “I have reflux” when the truth was a simple diet change corrected these issues for me! I don’t know why the doctors I saw over the years never suggested I may have a lactose intolerance. Until I simply tried cutting it out myself I didn’t know either (a lesson in taking control right there).

My acid levels were also all out of whack. It’s amazing to me now that I can eat anything I want without any heartburn at all. You’re talking about someone who was on Nexium and was still having issues. Not just cutting dairy, but my overall paleo diet corrected all of this for me. And no more over the counter medication which is even better. Looking back I can see now that a multitude of symptoms were coming from my consumption of dairy. Random rashes, stomach pain and gas, diarrhea, acne and allergies. I just do not get acne anymore. At all. Period. And my seasonal allergies are much, much less severe. Noticeably so. No more sinus infections or asthma. Such a better quality of life!!! Hooray!! How many people just live with being this uncomfortable and try taking over the counter meds that don’t really do the job? Too many is my guess.

You might be thinking I can’t give up cheese!! Well, you may not have any issues with diary and that’s fine. Take a look at the quality of the food you are consuming. Is it grass fed? Is it whole milk? Is it organic? I also suggest full fat milk vs 1%, 2% or fat free. These products are highly processed and are stripped of all the healthy fats. And as I said in my previous posts, healing a leaky gut is so important to our overall health and preventing chronic disease! How would you feel if you gave it a shot for a thirty days? Just to see what would happen. No harm there.

I still enjoy Ghee which is a clarified butter. I’m getting all the benefits of the healthy fats without the lactose. Alternatives for cream and milk are full fat coconut milk. The cream on top of the can is an excellent replacement for cream used in soups, sauces, etc.

Many people who can’t eat products with cow’s milk do just fine with goat’s milk. I will occasionally have a little goat cheese without any issues. Everyone is different! The key is to know your body and what works for you.

So this week think about eliminating dairy from your diet if you have any symptoms you may think could be stemming from dairy. Try the following.

  1. Eliminate all forms of dairy for 30 days.
  2. Replace butter with ghee.
  3. Replace cream and milk with coconut milk or other nut milks (almond for example)
  4. After 30 days reassess. How are you feeling? What’s different?
  5. Comment below!

I can’t wait to hear your thought on this! Enjoy your week!


A lightning bolt moment on the Hallmark Channel

Stay with me here. What does the Hallmark Channel have to do with health and wellness you say? Well, for me it’s were it all began. Years ago when I was dealing with tendon and nerve pain from the prescription drug interaction (see My Story) some of the doctors I was seeing were still unconvinced that the side effects of the drugs could be the ONLY source of my pain and were continuing to do blood tests to check for other causes. I only had one doctor during this time who truly understood, because he had seen this reaction in others. I did not stop seeing the other doctors (for a time) because my blood work showed I actually did have markers for a couple of autoimmune diseases. So, I was given more drugs. Fairly strong drugs to treat these diseases. At the time, I knew I had a marker for Sjogrens but now it was showing Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis as well. But, logically, with the timing and how it all happened, I knew this was not the cause of my pain and so did my orthopedist. In my search to find someone to help me I saw a chiropractor for a little while who first spoke to me about leaky gut. Even though I ended up leaving that practice to see a surgeon (I have not and did not have any surgeries) regarding my neck and back (see My Story), my appointments there stayed with me. Especially what he said about leaky gut. He explained to me that the Cipro I was given killed EVERYTHING in my gut and that I would need to heal my gut to help with the pain I was experiencing. He did not explain how this actually happen, I learned later that when we eat inflammatory foods and take anti inflammatory medications (like Advil), the lining of our gut becomes broken down and leaky, which leads to food particles being released into our bloodstream, which then our body treats as an invader and creates an inflammatory response.

I was sent to yet another practitioner in this practice who explained best she could about the foods that I could have an intolerance with, not necessarily an allergy to these foods. I was sort of listening. I was SO overwhelmed with pain that I couldn’t really absorb what they were telling me. I didn’t think about it again. A typical day during this time was get up, feel the pain, try to get comfortable, have my mom drive me to my appointments, come home, chat with my mom, have her take care of me, try and get comfortable, go to bed. I was NOT living at all. Like I said in my story, I wasn’t living my life, I was just surviving.

During this time, if I watched TV it was something very low stress. No news or dramas. The Hallmark Channel was a big fav. Happy endings, low stress. So I’m watching their morning show and on comes this woman, Diane Sanfilippo cooking and talking about her book, Practical Paleo. I hear words that sound familiar.. leaky gut, anti-inflammatory, no sugar, etc. My ears perk up. This is what the people at the chiropractors office were trying to explain, but Diane was doing a MUCH better job. As soon as it was over, I grabbed my phone and ordered her book. Within a few days I had finished reading it and immediately made the changes suggested. A lightening bolt moment for sure! It all made perfect sense to me! I changed my diet right then and haven’t looked back. That was three years ago.

If you aren’t familiar with a Paleo diet, for the most part you are to eliminate all processed foods, dairy, sugar, legumes, gluten, grains, soy and unhealthy fats. You then eat whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, eggs, healthy fats, nuts and seeds. So that’s what I did. And boy did I see a change! Most notably, no more stomach pain. I cannot believe how much I tolerated for so long… gas pain, diarrhea (all the time), rashes, acne and thinking it was just “my normal”. No, we can ALL do so much better, and be living so much better. All of those aliments went away completely when I changed my diet. Also, I wasn’t so foggy anymore which I attribute to eliminating gluten. For so many years of my life I was so focused on “low fat”. Everything I ate had to be low fat. I wouldn’t even eat olives in my 20’s because I thought they had too much fat! That is a crazy, warped way of thinking about food. But, it was the 90’s and we were all eating Snackwells thinking we were doing the right thing. Now that I was eating healthy fat and more protein I was no longer starving and reaching for snacks all day. What a great feeling that was! Wow! Eat and be satisfied! And as for my auto immune markers, the last time I saw my Rheumatologist, I was feeling so much better that she did not bother checking my levels because she said “it’s more about how you feel than the numbers we see in your blood work”. And I stopped the medications she gave me LONG ago. So, I haven’t been back in three years. I don’t feel the need to. Especially, since my time there I have learned so much about how diet effects autoimmunity.

I’m not here to tell you Paleo is the only way to go. But a whole foods diet and eliminating processed foods certainly is. Inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases. So, removing inflammatory foods and foods you have a sensitivity to is extremely important. Have you considered changing your diet? Are you looking to make a change for yourself and/or your family? Some of us are Abstainers and some of us are Moderators according to Gretchen Rubin (here she is again! I love her work, so you will see that I mention her often here). I’m an Abstainer. I can’t have “just a little”. That would just make it worse. I need to eat it ALL if I have any of whatever it may be. Abstaining is much easier. Others are Moderators and feel more in control having a little and taking it slow. So think about what would work better for you, jumping right in, or making progressive changes over time. Would you like to make any changes in your diet to improve your overall health? Would would those changes be? And why? It’s so important to know your why. That’s what will keep you on track if you start to struggle with the changes. Keep a post it note in your car, on your bathroom mirror, in the kitchen. Wherever you will see it to remind yourself the reason you’re doing this! My why is I simply don’t ever want to deal with the stomach pain, acne and brain fog again. In addition, because of my possible autoimmune issues, eating anti inflammatory diet will be a way of life for me as to never “kick off” those symptoms. For this week, consider the following:

  1. Decide what changes you would like to make in your diet.
  2. Commit to eliminating processed foods and eat only real food. I will be here to cheer you on and give support!
  3. Know your “why” and place post-it reminders around your house/car to help keep you on track.
  4. Comment below on how it’s going for you and ask questions! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Have a great week!


Welcome to my wellness blog!

I’m so excited to being blogging about my journey into health and wellness! My name is Mona and I am a Certified Holistic Health Coach. My story begins five years ago with the first of two debilitating episodes to my health. On this blog I will share the story of what happen to me, my reaction to it, how I recovered (twice) and everything I learned about health, wellness, happiness and myself along the way. This isn’t a place to be preachy or stuffy. I’m just me, telling you what I’ve learned and what worked and what didn’t. I found I was so passionate about this topic I decided to earn my certification in Health Coaching which I completed this year (yay!). Some of you may already be familiar with the information I write about here or this may be brand new information to you. Either way I hope you can always take something away and apply it into your life in some way. More than anything else I did for myself in the last five years, it was TAKING ACTION that had the most impact. Knowledge is great, but without action there won’t be progress. For me, getting over fears was a huge obstacle but with the encouragement of my personal trainer (more on that later), finding my tribe (and even learning I needed to do that), knowledge learned through books, podcasts, classes, etc., I moved forward. And I’m still moving forward. Constantly working on myself and living in an “atmosphere of growth” as Gretchen Rubin would say :). So, in that vain one of my goals here will be to provide actionable steps you can take every week to improve your overall health and wellness. And that includes mental, physical, social, environmental, emotional and spiritual health. These are super broad categories and there will be SO much to cover! And that gets me really excited because I could talk about this subject all day! Next time I will dive into more that you can ponder for your own life, for now I just wanted to give a little intro to myself and what this blog will be about. If you would like to be notified of new posts please subscribe below :). Also, I love comments! Can’t wait to hear all the feedback!

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