When life hands you lemons…

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I was a baton twirler in high school, so naturally I juggle.

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My backup career is to join the circus. Barefooted.

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^ This book (highly recommend!) is what got me thinking about this topic. Not the joining the circus as a solid Plan B, but the topic of “When life hands you lemons…”

You get to finish that sentence.

… “Make lemonade”
… “Add alcohol and make vodka sours”
… “Juggle them”
… “Throw the lemons on the ground and stomp on them”

However you want to finish that sentence- that’s your choice.

But what isn’t always your choice is what form the lemons manifest in your life. My lemons have taken many forms, most notably getting diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease at age 21. Shoutout to moderate to severe ulcerative colitis Crohn’s disease.

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P.S. Diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, then crohn’s, then ulcerative colitis…and most recently, “Crohn’s?”

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And at times I threw it on the ground.

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I did not handle the lemons gently and I didn’t do life so gracefully, because Crohn’s is a bitter-sour pill to swallow…again and again, ups and downs of flaring and thriving- one step forward and two steps back.

But at the end of the day- it’s my choice. What am I gonna do with those lemons?

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What are you gonna do with YOUR lemons? The pain and the uncomfortable, unfair life that happens that you can’t control- what are you going to do?

I think we create our own realities. Not completely because, you know, disease and things out of our control. Lemons.

But we choose the response that becomes our reality, and that is powerful. YOU choose to get up off of the bathroom floor, put down the Netflix remote, and chase the world outside and around us. You choose to see and feel the beautiful life stuff. You choose to muster the appreciation of the crap that’s happened to you…because even though it’s bitter-sour, it makes you all the more resilient, if you let it.

So.

Let the lemons make your life more flavorful, even though it doesn’t always taste good – let it make you better.
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Because I believe you’re bigger and badder and sweeter than your lemons, and if you disagree then we can just join the circus together.

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P.S. Health benefits of actual lemons:
-Vitamin C is good for your immune system
-Helps with hydration: drinking flavored water sometimes makes you drink faster
-Natural diuretic and can prevent bloating

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P.P.S. I set up the self-timer on my iPhone to take ALL of these goofy photos with lemons AND THEN I put them on the world wide web for the world to see—

-Stacey

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Let Them Eat Carbs!

Let Them Eat Carbs!

I read something infuriating today.

It was one of those “Daily Mail” articles from SnapChat- I know, it’s basically tabloids a la social media; not my proudest moment. This article was about how Kim Kardashian has been sweating her way to redemption from those thong bikini pictures. (disclaimer: I don’t even know the difference between the Kardashians, so I had to google “Which one is Kim?”)

The article angered me, nonetheless- “unflattering” bikini photos? Were the photos so bad that Kim needed to dedicate her life after vacation to living the photos down and THEN we needed to publish an article about it? I mean, c’mon, people. We have got to get away from the body-shaming rhetoric. Make. it. stop. Could we not have written about her confidence in her bikini? How she was proud of her body while on vacation? How she was spending time with people she loved? Nope.

But what really got my blood boiling was that the article quoted that she is eating “absolutely no carbs.” And I hear so often from people around me about how they’ve “cut out carbs” and I just need to lay some truth.

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YOU NEED CARBS.
Normal recommendations are about 3-5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (or 45-55% of your diet). If you’re active, make that 8-10 grams/kilogram, or 55-65% of your diet. Runners especially need carbohydrates, because the muscles are fueled primarily through carbohydrates during endurance exercise.

WHY do we need carbs? 
Because carbs give us energy! Glucose is your body’s main source of energy, and it comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates. Your brain and central nervous system need glucose to function, and so does your metabolism! If your body has enough carbohydrates in the body, it will carry out protein and fat metabolism without using the protein that’s being used to build muscle.

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What kind of carbs can our body use? There are three: starch, sugahh, and fiber.

1.Starch-peas, beans, potatoes, or grains (note: whole grains contain all parts of the grain and thus have more nutrients than a refined grain)

2.Sugar– you may have heard of “simple” or “fast acting” carbs. This is because the insulin is quickly released into your blood stream, causing a decrease in your blood sugar and a suppressed release of fatty acids from fat stores. There are two types of sugar carbs: Those in milk or fruit, which are naturally occurring, and those in sweets and sodas, which are added in a process.

3.Fiber– carbs are non-digestible and come from plants, like spinach, kale, lettuce, beans, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, fruits and veggies (especially those with edible skin and seeds). Try to consume 20-30g/day for optimal benefits. Fibrous foods will help with the feeling of fullness, or satiety.

“BUT I WANNA LOSE WEIGHT, STACEY.”
I get it- it’s true that if you have TOO MUCH glucose, it’s going to get stored as fat. So cut the carbs that release insulin into your blood stream too quickly (these are those simple or fast acting sugars). These carbs, like breads, pastas, cakes, and sodas, will slow down the release of stored fat. We want to burn fat when we exercise, so we need it to be released! The goal is to use the fuel that is consumed; not to store it as fat, so you’ll want to eat food that slowly moves glucose into the blood stream and provides longer-lasting energy, like whole foods and fibers (think brown rice, berries, oatmeal, or bananas!).  Fuel well! But don’t cut ALL your carbs, dear people- I beg of you. Your brain and your body will thank you.

[Please note: A cool thing about being human is that everyone is unique; some people may require less carbs and more fat than others, etc. It’s important to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian before any medical adjustments or dietary changes.] 🙂

After a few days of practice over the last couple of weeks, I finally feel like I can *almost* jump rope without tripping over my own two feet. This was yesterday after ten minutes of hopping around. I’ve been trying to make working out less regimented and more fun- highly recommend the jump rope 🙂

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Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

—–

What do you think of low-carb diets? Have you ever tried one?
Any recommendations for weighted jump ropes that aren’t made for giant humans? Having a hard time finding one! 

 

References: In case you’d like to read some of the articles that I used for this blog post: 🙂
http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/carbohydrates-part-of-a-healthful-diabetes-diet
https://riordanclinic.org/2012/04/fuel-sources-during-exercise/
http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html

 

Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Guys. I’m gonna be real.

For the past few weeks I have struggled with feeling inspired…more than just with my blog content (you may or may not have noticed that I slowed down from hammering out a post daily).

I started wondering, “Should I continue pursuing my degree in dietetics?” Graduation seems so far away at times since I’m working full time using my sociology degree (Yes, kids. You CAN get hired using that liberal arts degree after all!) and taking one/two classes at a time is DRAGGING.

So naturally, I started looking at other degrees career paths. Master’s in Pubic Health? Oh. I could do that! But as I was doing a case study for my nutrition class on Friday night I thought, “I love this crap. I’m just gonna have to suck it up and stick it out.” So that’s what I’m doing. Sticking it out- juggling work with school, and keepin’ on (even though TBH I wish my school wasn’t online and was in person- I LOVE THE CLASSROOM. But I’m thankful anyway).

And today on my run I was reminded of how I always struggle during the first mile and a half and forget why I love running. It’s not until I push through until miles two or three that I FEEL it. “THIS is why I run. Because I’m out here, when I could be anywhere else.” And it’s liberating, after the first mile and a half of clumsy feet/ gettin’ into my groove.

But I keep on.

And then suddenly my muscles remember what we’re doing. My breathing picks up and settles into a familiar pattern. My legs swing happily beneath me. I can feel the wind (on a good, breezy day anyway). There’s nothing like it. And there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of finishing a race after months of training hard. There’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of accomplishment.

So I’m keeping on.

Past this semester of “Ugh why am I doing this?” until I get my groove back. Because I will. Because nutrition is my ultimate jam, and I’m good with people.

So whatever you’re pursuing, keep on…past the mile/semester/time of being uncomfortable, because trials develop perseverance, and perseverance develops maturity. One day you’ll find joy in what seemed like suffering, because you’ll have accomplished your goals…and there’s nothin’ sweeter than that. (1)

Except this, maybe this:

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Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding

It’s gluten free. It’s dairy free. It’s pudding.

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-1 C coconut yogurt (I used vanilla)
-small splash of milk (sorry, I’m still working on the measuring thing
-1/4 C chia seeds
-1/2 C raspberries
-1/2 C blackberries
-1/2 C strawberries
-1/2 C kiwi, peeled and sliced

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-Mix kiwi, blackberries, and splash of almond milk (we’re talkin’ probably less than 1/4 cup of almond milk, guys. Jusssst a splash) in a medium-large mixing bowl.
-Once mixed(ish), stir 1 C coconut yogurt into mixture
-Add chia seeds and stir some more
-Pour in glass container and refrigerate overnight.
-Enjoy a serving for breakfast (about 1/2 cup), topped with favorite granola

When you wake up in the morning, this should be your view:

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I know it doesn’t look all that appetizing, but it is. Oh. It is. Promise.

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About chia seeds:
-not just for chia pets

 

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source: Target.com

-high in Omega-3 fatty acids (if you don’t like seafood, here’s your substitute!)
-high in protein (about 4g/serving in this pudding!- not including the protein from yogurt)
-an antioxidant! Healthful anti-inflammatory properties in these seeds

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Let me know what cha think if you give this recipe a shot! I’ve got a fun Workout Wednesday post in the works for mañana.

Hope you’re having a lovely week. Keep on keepin’ on!

-Stacey

Footnotes: (1) Romans 5:4

[Addictive] Maple Vanilla Granola Recipe

[Addictive] Maple Vanilla Granola Recipe

Hope everyone had/is having a wonderful weekend!

The pup and I hung around the house thanks to thunder storms all weekend long. I don’t complain about an excuse to watch “You’ve Got Mail” until I fall asleep though 🙂

IMG_2264-2Zack survived his very first solo grocery shopping trip, and he did quite well. He even sent me texts as he frantically searched for all the items on my list. He returned with a chai tea from my favorite coffee shop in town. Marriage to this guy is so good.

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^ made me laugh. God bless him.

If you follow me on Instagram, you can find a slow cooker recipe for lemon garlic chicken and potatoes on my story that I threw together today. Turned out fantastic! I’ll post the recipe on the blog later this week if you missed it.

But first!

I have to share this granola recipe with ya’ll before I forget it. This granola is like crack, so if you’re hoping for something that’s not completely addictive…oops. But don’t take my word for it! Give it a shot yourself, and let me know what cha think!

This stuff is gluten free and full of goodness.

Maple Vanilla Granola

1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C pumpkin seeds
4 C gluten free oats (or whichever rolled oats are your favorite!)
a dash (or two or three) of cinnamon- I love cinnamon

Mix all these ingredients together in a bowl separate from the wet ingredients.
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Mix:
1/4 C coconut oil
1/4 C organic maple syrup
Justtttt a tad of organic vanilla- I like to eyeball it. (Still working on measuring things!)
1/4 C natural peanut buttah
I like to heat these ^ until softened (not too long!)- it’s much easier to stir.

Then, pour the mixed, wet ingredients over the mixed, dry ingredients.

Stir until nice and mixed, once it seems all the dry ingredients have been nicely covered.
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Spread evenly on a non-stick pan and pop in the oven for 30 minutes on 275, stirring frequently (every 8-12 minutes) and making sure it doesn’t burn. You want it this golden brown color!

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You can also get creative and add raisins, almond slices, coconut slivers, or dark chocolate to this mixture once it cools. Store in an air-tight container. Serve over smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, or enjoy by the handful. This stuff is packed with healthy fats and carbs (complex ones!) and also makes a great fuel for athletes.

Hope you all have a great Monday!!!

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

The question I get asked most often by friends and strangers alike is, “How did you know something was wrong?”

Please don’t use my experience in lieu of a doctor’s professional opinion. If you think something is wrong…go get checked out! 

Okay. Here’s my story:

Once upon a time in early Fall at a coffee shop on campus at The University of Texas at Austin in 2012, I began having excruciating stomach cramps. When I say the word excruciating, I mean excruciating. Unbearable. The BEST way I can describe the pain for the sake of being relatable…have you ever had a violent stomach virus? Multiply the frequency of your symptoms to several times a day and night, for weeks. Then you get me.

I excused myself a couple times over the duration of my brief meet-up with a friend at the coffee shop. “Guess I should switch the chai lattes to soy,” I thought to myself.

But the pain and the symptoms weren’t alleviated by omitting dairy. Within weeks even ice chips resulted in pain, followed by 10-15 wind sprints to the bathroom.
X rated version: I knew something was wrong when I noticed that my stools consisted almost entirely of blood, and nothing seemed to offer even a hint of relief (not even drinking imodium from a straw…not recommended, by the way). 

About a week and a half later, I made an appointment with University Health Services; they accommodated me quickly when I described my symptoms. They prescribed me high-powered antibiotics, which didn’t phase my symptoms. “Come back in 8 days for a follow-up.” I noticed that I had already lost twelve pounds when I weighed in with the nurse before my appointment.

I found a local gastroenterologist, without a referral from a professional. Something had to be resolved fast.

At the time I would wake up two hours before class began (after a night of restlessness because of constant stomach cramps and running to the bathroom), to ensure that I would arrive to class in time, allotting plenty of time for bathroom stops in the buildings on my way to class until I was finally able to make it to my class. I received permission from my professors to record their lectures during this time, because I would have to sneak out of class three or four times to be sick. This went on for a few weeks.

During my first appointment with the gastroenterologist, he scheduled a colonoscopy for the next day, and so began my life of poking, prodding, stool samples, blood samples, and biopsies. The prep juice wasn’t bad because I was pretty clear from shitting thirty times a day…still not entirely sure what the big fuss over colonoscopies is all about.

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THE DIAGNOSIS
After my colonoscopy the doctor read my diagnosis, “You have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. There’s no cure, but there are treatment options. You’ll be monitoring this disease for the rest of your life.”

Honestly, I was pretty certain that I was dying of cancer. When I was diagnosed, almost three weeks beyond my very first noticeable symptom at the coffee shop, I had lost twenty-five pounds. I looked like a bag of bones.  I was weirdly relieved to have “ulcerative colitis” as a diagnosis. Having answers makes all the difference.

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Taken two days before my scope at 102 pounds

(During this time I got recruited by Abercrombie model scouts on campus for a live audition. They were quickly educated…thanks to the prednisone and my lack of sleep.)

All that I had heard about “ulcerative colitis” was a brief overview in a pharmacology course, and I knew that Crohn’s was its cousin, both under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)…not exactly enough for me to understand what the heck the doc was talking about. He explained that my immune system was hyperactive, recognizing even food as a foreign substance that needed to be expelled immediately.
Not cool, immune system. Not cool.
My body was rebelling against my colon. Why? Could be genetics, or the environment (e.g. toxins, antibiotics altering gut bacteria), or an interaction between the two.

“What can I eat?”

“Eat whatever you want. Since you’re a bit underweight, drink as much dark beer as you want. Eat burgers.”

^ Never made sense to me. UC is an autoimmune digestive disease in my gut, where most of the immune system is located, and I’m being told to eat whatever I want? Too good to be true. I knew immediately that dairy and beef physically hurt to eat, so I eliminated those. Next to go was processed meats and fast food, because no way are those beneficial. To my surprise there were still plenty of good options to eat, despite being in college and on a budget. Good food didn’t have to be expensive. I began researching which foods to eat to help with inflammation, since UC is an inflammatory disease, and I tried to eat more of those helpful foods: leafy greens, grilled fish, lean meats, and blueberries became my go-tos. And so began my interest in nutrition. I watched it help me, change me, and I dreamed of how it could help the people I love. Present day Stacey is in school again pursuing a dietetics degree.

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THE MEDS
After my scope, the doc handed me a paper folder full of info pamphlets and immediately prescribed me an IV biologic & immunosuppressant: Remicade. MANY people ask, “Why did you decide to be on such a high octane medication?” At the time I didn’t feel a like I had much of a choice. Looking back, I still would’ve agreed to such aggressive treatment, because I felt (and looked) like I was actually dying. It’s different for everyone, but for me it was serious at the time. I mean. I LOST OVER 25 POUNDS IN THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE.

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I remember my first infusion, walking into a dimly lit infusion suite with recliners bordering the walls, each with a patient hooked up to an IV pole. Some were asleep, others read books, flipped through their phones, and a few watched HGTV buzzing in the background on the televisions. Not all the patients had Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, some had rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and a host of other autoimmune conditions. This was the first time I realized that my life would not be the normal I remembered. I needed medication from an IV so I could live life like I remembered living. Weird.

Overnight, I felt like I had gone from being a normal, healthy, social college student to a smaller, weaker shell of myself: spending more time alienated by my symptoms; a more vulnerable person, more medicated, with less autonomy over my own health. I bought a pill pack from the pharmacy store that looked like the one my grandmother carried in her oversized old-lady purse, so I could keep up with my new lifestyle.

In addition, I was prescribed pain and sleeping aids (which I never took), along with a hefty dose of Prednisone, a corticosteroid. Jesus and steroids saved my life, and I honestly believe that. Prednisone was the only oral medication that seemed to ever work.
But I hated it.

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On the left: steroid-free! Right: “Moon Face” side effect in full swing after a flare, taken seven months apart

Steroids were great in college, because I felt very energetic (almost jittery) while taking Prednisone, so even on little sleep I was able to get a lot accomplished. However, the mood swings made me feel like a crazy pants to say the very least, so I avoid Prednisone at all costs today. I also like to sleep…and I have the hardest time sleeping when I’m on the ‘roids (disclaimer: not the same anabolic steroids that give you muscles…womp womp)

LIFE AFTER DIAGNOSIS
Slowly but surely, my energy levels began to creep back up to normal. I got my life back.  Sure, I had to make some adjustments here and there (still learning), but heyyy I’m alive!

I graduated with a pretty decent GPA, even with a hospital stay, despite my family’s pleading for me to take a medical leave of absence from college. I never asked for a project deadline extension. I honestly look back on this time in life and think, “How?” But I was in survivor mode. Don’t say “I could never.” You could. And you would.

I got into the working world, took some time to get a Crohn’s diagnosis, had a doc switch diagnosis back to “ulcerative colitis”, changed shifts, changed jobs, conquered anxiety, and got to know myself really well. Wasn’t glamorous, and wasn’t what I anticipated, but it’s okay! I’m okay.

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LEARNING TO COPE
1. Haters Gonna Hate
People will criticize you whether or not it’s warranted. I have been criticized for being a “pill popper”; for “taking the easy way out” with the infusion (that one is beyond me); for being “too stressed”; for not taking a medical leave of absence from college; for drinking beer; for the way I eat. People don’t mean to be as nasty as they can be sometimes; they simply don’t know your situation. I control as much as I can with diet, but I’m also human and sometimes I slip up or make conscious decisions to indulge. The meds help where nutrition cannot for me. My dream is to be 100% in remission with diet, but I’m not there yet. I can’t advise YOU if you were recently diagnosed on which course of action you should take. This disease is different for everyone. What works for one person may NOT work for another. It’s all about figuring out what works for YOU until there’s a cure. But shake off the negativity. You’re living with this- YOU are the badass.

2. Keep your people close
There will be people in your life who are with you during your diagnosis, and I don’t just mean the people who happen to be around. Who is WITH you? Who is there keeping you strong? These are the people you want around forever. For me that’s my sister, my college roommates, and my Zack. Story time 2.0:

One night in my apartment that I shared with friends, I was THE most physically ill I had been in my life, sick from both ends for hours and hours (pretty, huh?). I called Zack and begged him to come over. He spent the entire night on the phone with pharmacists, arguing with my doctor about medications, all while I slept on the bathroom floor in between being sick. Finally, around 4am, after much harassing Zack managed to get me some anti-nausea meds. My gawsh, the guy is a saint.

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 He fought with me. He went to bat for me. He never judged. He didn’t do good things for reward. He was just there, beside me, gutting it out with me. And so were my roommates. The BEST people I know.

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After Roommate Haley’s UT Graduation, the Spring after the diagnosis. We rewarded our girl bossery by finishing a sprint triathlon

I promised myself that if I ever had the energy again to move, then I would. Sounds overly emo, I know. But y’all. I really struggled with weakness for so long. So my roommate and I did this thing ^. Not pictured: Roommate Becca, still one of my greatest friends, probably drinking a mimosa at the finish while snapping this photo. 
KEEP YA PEOPLE CLOSE.

3. It gets better
There will be times when you think, “TF HAPPENED? I was doing so good! Where’d these symptoms come from?” This will pass. It will get better. You will prevail. You’ll come out stronger with every flare. You’ll live to tell about it, and you’ll develop a pretty damn good sense of humor from it, too.

4. Find your silver lining
There may be days when you shit yourself in your car while in traffic. It’s okay to cry about it, but then try to find some humor in that.  When you’re in a flare and EVERYTHING makes you sick, think about all the amazing Netflix you’ll be able to watch. “I won’t be able to do this when I’m better.”  Think about all the food you CAN eat. If none of those options work, recognize how this has changed your life. I wasn’t interested at all in nutrition before this disease, and now it is my life. I sho wasn’t going to run before UC, and now it’s my hobby.

5. You’re still you
You’re still you, but you’re more relatable. You’ve seen struggling, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are struggling. You’ve seen sickness, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are sick. You’ve seen recovery, and people NEED to find their strength to recover. Help them find it. See this as a weird superpower. This disease doesn’t define you, but if you let it, it will make you a better, bigger, badder, stronger, gassier(?) version of you. You’re still you, only better.

Please let me know how any unexpected life situations have changed YOUR life!  I’m with you. Solidarity!

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

OH! And have a great Monday! There is such a thing, I promise.

A Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Nutty Smoothie

A Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Nutty Smoothie

GOOOOD MORNING!

Okay. Ready for a smoothie? I got ‘chu.

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Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Nutty Smoothie

-1 C almond/coconut milk mix

-1 scoop Vega chocolate sport protein

-3/4 banana

-Handfull of strawberries

-2 tbsp peanut buttah

-1 C ice

BLEND!

Top with remaining banana (sliced), two chopped strawberries, a pinch of chia seeds, a pinch of sliced almonds, and a leeetle pinch of shredded coconut.

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This thing is PACKED with healthy fats and protein. Eat with a spoon and it’ll feel like a whole meal instead of a snack. This was today’s breakfast. Not pictured: coffee.

On the running calendar for today: 4 miles tempo…and it is gawgeous outside.

Hope your day is a good one!

-Stacey

Eph 2:8-9 

2 Cor 12:9

1 Peter 5:10

Slow-cooker chicken breast recipe (low FODMAP friendly)

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-1.5-2lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast (mine was frozen, and that was fine!)

-2 large Idaho potatoes OR 4 new potatoes, diced with skin on (I used Idaho potatoes because it’s what was in the pantry, but I think new potatoes would be even better)

-2 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil

-2 large lemons, juiced

-1/2 tbsp rosemary

-1/2 tbsp oregano

-dash of black pepper

Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice (NOTE: don’t use the lemon juice that comes in the crappy plastic lemon and expect this to taste just as good), rosemary, oregano, and black pepper. Pour about 3/4 over chicken in slow-cooker, and pour the rest over the diced potatoes layered on top of the chicken. Close slow-cooker and set to high for four hours, or low for 6-8 hours.

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If you want to make this and you’re not following low FODMAP, feel free to add minced garlic and some diced onion to this recipe! Very aromatic, and you’ll come home from work feelin’ 50 shades of accomplished!

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This could also be layered with green beans and be delicious. I steamed some broccoli separately, and it made for an easy meal.

I intend to make some chicken salad with the leftover chicken. mmm.

Let me know if you try this recipe! Feel free to tweak it! Confession: I have a *hard* time measuring ingredients. I’m more of a pinch and pour kind of cook, so if you feel like it needs more or less of something, make it your own! It’s YOUR kitchen! Go crazy.

Hope you have a great Wednesday 🙂

-Stacey