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Wellness

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Hey, guys! I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written a blog post! We just got back from Cartagena, Colombia and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida a week ago. It was an amazing trip! I’m so excited to start sharing some photos with you and make a travel guide, too.

Being in Cartagena was like stepping into another world in a different century! It was so beautiful. They are so creative with their interior decorating. Everywhere you looked was an Instagramable! The people were so beautiful and kind, the food was DELICIOUS, the energetic vibe was contagious, and we just had an incredible time! My cousin also married an amazing woman while we were there and we got to attend their fabulous wedding! It was a trip we will never forget 🙂

All that sun and sand made me think about how important it is to protect yourself from harmful UV rays! So, for this week’s Wellness Wednesday, I thought I would share one of my favorite non-toxic products that is super effective AND a time-saver, too! It’s the Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer by Suntegrity.

This moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup primer all in one is pretty awesome! I love how it deeply moisturizes my skin. It creates such a nice base for your makeup. My skin feels so smooth and soft, and makeup just glides right on on top of it. I hate having to use multiple layers of products. Sometimes it gets cake-y and then makeup will crumble on top of the layers. This is everything in one, so it’s quick and easy! It has SPF30 in it, which is a great strength for your face. I notice that SPF20 doesn’t protect me enough. My freckles come back when I use a strength that’s lower than 30. It does have a white color to it, but you just have to rub it in well and that goes away. It’s also full of anti-oxidants and amino acids which enhance your skin, too!

Suntegrity is an awesome company that was developed in honor the loss of the founder’s mother to melanoma skin cancer. Since then, Suntegrity has received the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)
Champion Status for Safe Cosmetics! You know you are using a safe and quality, non-toxic product when it’s EWG approved!

I can’t share about my favorite sun essentials without including a self-tanner! I’ve currently been using NKD Gradual Glow Self Tanner and Moisturizer. I love it! Of course, it’s also naturally derived and non-toxic! It has no alcohol, perfumes, or parabens like so many self-tanners do. I love the gradual glow because you can apply it daily as your moisturizer and control the level of tan that you want to be.

I always use a tanning mitt when applying self-tanner to ensure that it goes on evenly and streak-free! A little tip – avoid your knees, elbows, feet and hands until after you’ve rubbed the majority of the product onto other areas. Then, use what small bit is left on the mitt to go over those areas. This will help keep them from absorbing too much product and looking too dark or splotchy. I use this tanner on my face as well and it looks natural and never orange-y!

Suntregrity and NKD have some other great products that I am linking below, as well as this cute leopard one-piece that was my favorite on my trip! You can’t go to the beach without a great pair of sunglasses (I’m obsessed with these Ray Ban’s!) and a cute bag, so I’ve added those, too! What are your favorite vacation essentials?

Happy Wellness Wednesday, babes! I hope you’re having a great week so far! I wanted to share this recipe I’ve been making lately with you. I’ve recently switched to a plant based/vegan diet most of the time. It’s hard when you travel a lot, but I definitely stick to it at home. I’ve had a hard time finding recipes that I like that are filling and and don’t have added junk in them like store bought vegan cheese. So, I started experimenting, and I am really digging this Tempeh Stir-Fry!

Here’s what you need:

1 Package of LightLife Organic Tempeh – Original (Whole Foods)

1 Yellow Squash

1 Zucchini

1 Red Onion

1 Red Pepper

1 Green Pepper

Organic Balsamic Vinegar

Avocado Oil

Frontier Salt-Free Organic Garlic & Herb Seasoning Blend (Or other seasoning blend you like)

Sea Salt

How to make it:

  • Cut the Tempeh into strips, then cubes
  • Slice and dice veggies
  • Pour a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil in a skillet on medium high heat
  • Add veggies and Tempeh cubes to the skillet
  • Sprinkle with salt, and plenty of the Garlic & Herb seasoning. (at least 1 TBS)
  • When it’s starting to turn slightly brown, add about 1/4 cup of the Organic Balsamic Vinegar and stir it in.
  • Continue cooking on medium high heat until the Tempeh is soft and the veggies have a nice brown to them.
  • Enjoy!

It’s so easy to make and the flavor is really great! I love that! I hope you do, too! Let me know what you think if you try it out 🙂

Infrared Saunas

Happy Wellness Wednesday, friends! Hope your week is going well! I am excited to be sharing about Infrared Saunas with you today! It’s been something that I have been using for a while now and it has so many great benefits.

When I was in the throws of my Lyme Disease treatment, I was in desperate need of ways to help my body detox. If you are going through this treatment now, or any kind of treatment where you are killing off pathogens, you know how horrible toxic die-off can make you feel! I was doing many different forms of detoxing like ionic foot baths, massage, dry brushing, binders, supplements, cleanses, hydrotherapy, epsom salt baths, etc. When we heard about the infrared sauna, though, it sounded like a whole new level of detoxing I had yet to experience!

My husband Ryan is actually the one who was particularly adamant about purchasing an infrared sauna for our home. We have a friend with Lyme Disease who swears by it and he really thought having it at the house was our best bet. But, before we bought it, we wanted to try it out first! So, I made an appointment at Three Rivers Thermography to try it out.

I was a bit nervous because I do get claustrophobic and tend to get faint in high temperatures. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The thing about far infrared saunas is that they use infrared panels to heat your body directly instead of heating the air around you. So, you don’t get that suffocating feeling you might get in an ordinary sauna. The infrared lamps use electromagnetic radiation, unlike traditional saunas. This allows your body to get all of the benefits of sweating it out in a sauna at a lower temperature. Plus, the heat goes deeper into your tissues than your average sauna, too! So, I didn’t feel like I was gasping for air at all, or I like I couldn’t withstand the heat as I have in the past with other saunas (and even epsom salt baths)!

So, we decided to purchase one for at home use. We did some research on our own, and had some suggestions from friends. One of them was High Tech Health International. They had amazing reviews and their customer service was really helpful! We decided to purchase their Transcend Two Person Sauna. We even got a great deal on it during one of their sales. This model has plenty of room for two people to sit and relax together or for one person to sprawl out. It was the best choice for us! They have larger and smaller models you can purchase as well.

The saunas by High Tech Health are made of Poplar wood which is great because it does not splinter the way cedar models can. It is also environmentally friendly and sustainable! These are all great things you would want to keep in mind when purchasing a sauna.

It was very easy to put together, too! You just follow the directions and it snaps right up! You can set it to the temperature you like from outside of the sauna and inside, too. There’s built in speakers, a timer, and chromotherapy lights, too! So, you can switch the lighting inside to stimulate the mind, body, and senses! Pretty cool!

Benefits of Far Infrared Sauna Use:

We all know that a good sweat does great things for the body. But, you might not know that sweating in a far infrared sauna has even more benefits for you, like:

  • Detoxification (heavy metals, mold, fungus, environmental toxins, and chemicals which can be the cause behind what’s making and KEEPING you sick, for so many chronic health conditions like Alzheimers, CFS, Fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disease, etc)
  • Weight Loss
  • Improved Skin Clarity and Tightness
  • Immune System Stimulation
  • Relief from Joint and Muscle Pain (very helpful for those of us with chronic conditions like RA, Lyme, CFS, Fibromyalgia, etc)
  • Increased Blood Circulation
  • Better Quality of Sleep
  • Stress Relief
  • Cardiovascular Health Improvement

As you can see, the far infrared saunas have a lot of benefits for those of us with chronic conditions. It has certainly helped me a lot. But, it’s an excellent thing to start doing even if you are not chronically ill! It will no doubt decrease your chances of an illness happening to you. Think of all of the pollution and toxicity we come into contact with daily. You might not realize it, but our bodies do not handle this much toxicity well on their own. Especially the older we get. These toxins can build up in our organs and tissues and cause a host of problems. Plus, toxins also feed pathogens that are present in the body. They are the main reason why we get sick and how we stay sick. So, I’d highly recommend making it part of your weekly routine whether you’re sick or not.

As for me, I like to use the sauna about three days a week. I would do more if I could, but this is the amount that currently fits into my lifestyle and what feels best for my body. It’s perfectly safe to do on a regular basis. It’s a very safe practice, but if you are under medical care, just run it past your doctor so they know that it’s part of your protocol.

I started low and slow, as they recommend you do. The first week I began at 100 degrees for ten minutes, then gradually built up my time and temperature to 150 degrees for thirty minutes. When you are finished in the sauna, (be sure to get up slowly, don’t push your body too hard) it’s best to hit the shower right away if you can so that the toxins you just sweated out don’t re-absorb through your skin again. You also want to be sure to drink a ton of water and take some minerals (I do 600mg of Magnesium and 300mg of Potassium). If you notice that you are feeling anxious, weak, or light-headed, it’s most likely because you need to replenish those minerals. You do lose some when you are detoxing in any way, so be sure to keep feeding your body those essential minerals!

If you can’t afford a sauna for your home, you can find them at a lot of wellness centers. I know there are several places here in Pittsburgh. Three Rivers Thermography is a great one! I’d highly recommend using their facilities. If you aren’t in the Pittsburgh area, just google Infrared Saunas near me and you should be able to find one pretty easily.

If you have any questions about how infrared saunas work or how they can help your detoxing routine, I would love to help you! Please leave a comment below or send me a message 🙂 Have a happy, healthy rest of your week!

How to Boost Your Immune System with Superfoods & Supplements!

Okay, so I have a confession to make. I’m sure you’ve seen me in my Instagram pics looking happy and healthy and like I’m totally enjoying the heck out of life right now. While I do take joy in every moment that I can, I have been having a really hard time with my health lately. My trips to NYC in December and last week to Charleston were at times excruciatingly difficult. My energy has been completely tanked, I get sick almost every time we eat a meal out of the house, and I feel like I am walking around with a constant case of mono. By the end of the day, I typically feel like death and have to push so hard to get myself up to even brush my teeth or wash my face. Most of the time I feel like I’m dragging my body through life. I get moments where I’m excited and adrenaline kicks in and I seem fine, but I’ll crash the minute that is over. Even though my Lyme Disease is in remission or perhaps gone after the treatment I had, I still struggle with a lot of other issues. I have mycotoxins and other pathogens that have taken up in my body while my immune system has been wrecked so hard. So, when I asked my practitioner why I’m feeling so awful and why it hits me so hard when I travel, he did some tests and realized that my immune system is currently only functioning at about 50%. I knew this was the case, but it’s nice to have someone else back up that it is in fact the reason behind my struggles.

I’m kind of under the gun at the moment to get my immune system functioning at a higher level, because we are about to travel to Cartagena, Columbia in about 2 weeks! Being in a foreign country, you are always exposed to new germs that your body isn’t used to. So, it’s time to get serious about boosting this immune system! Plus, I get this question so often from so many of you about ways to do the same for yourselves, so I thought it would be a great topic to share with you!

Over the years, I’ve done so much research and studying to find ways to help myself through the worst of my health problems. I’ve read so many differing opinions about the best ways to do things. But, when it comes to the immune system, everyone pretty much agrees on the same things: vitamins, minerals, and herbs in the form of foods or supplements! These are your three powerhouses to get your immune system back into fighting shape! Of course eating a clean, and healthy diet rich in plants will also greatly benefit you and your gut. So, don’t assume that you can just get away with eating herbs on your takeout pizzas everynight, LOL. Wishful thinking.

Herbs for Immunity:

  • Ginger
  • Horseradish
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Hot Mustard
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Dandelion
  • Mint
  • Celery
  • Echinacea
  • Olive Leaf
  • Astragalus

I like to do a combination of eating herbs, and taking them in supplement and tincture form. As for eating them, you can easily throw them into your smoothies, soups, salads, and on top of other dishes. It’s best to eat them raw if you can. You can find them at your local grocery store. Sometimes they will be in small packets because a little goes a long way. Just try to get them in a few times a day. You don’t have to do them all at once either.

I take several herbs in supplement and tincture form around my meals. At differet times, I do an Olive Leaf Capsule, Cayenne Pepper capsules, Goldenseal and Echinacea Tincture, Garlic Capsules, Moringa capsules, and Astragalus capsules. You don’t want to do all of these together right off the bat. Start with one and slowly add some in if you like. You don’t want to overwhelm your system. My favorites are Garlic, Astragalus, and Goldenseal and Echinacea. You can experiment and see which one’s work best for you. As always, it’s great to work with a natural healthcare practitioner to guide you!

Foods Full of Vitamins and Minerals for Immunity:

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Leafy Greens of any kind
  • Radishes
  • Avocado

In addition to eating these foods, I do take vitamins and minerals in supplement form as well. I always take a good quality magnesium in tablet form (the blue bottle linked below that says Trace Minerals on it), an Ionic Zinc tincture, Esther-C capsules (I take this instead of a Vitamin C because it does not have citric acid in it, which is often made from GMOs and can damage tissue lining like the stomach, intestines, and bladder walls), Vitamin B-12 tincture, Vitamin B Complex, an Iron Patch, Maganese Tincture, and Vitamin D. I know this sounds like a whole lot, but I’m a lot sicker than you probably think! I am doing better than I was in the past few years, but I still have a ways to go and need a lot of supplemental support. If you are looking to simplify this, you could always look for a quality multi-vitamin. I would recommend shopping at a natural health food and supplement store either online or locally. Some practitioners who have established an online presence such as Dr. Amy Myers have multivitamins that are of good quality, too. Most pharmacies and grocery stores have them but they have a lot of filler ingredients that are not beneficial to you and can be harmful. If you must buy from a grocery store, I would recommend Whole Foods.

How To Incorporate These Into Your Meals:

Superfoods & Supplements

In the morning, I’ll make a smoothie with Nutragen Pure Plant Protein Powder, water, frozen blackberries, raspberries, parsley, and mint leaves. I love to use my Vitamix Blender! It makes my smoothies so soft and fluffy! They’re seriously like a soft serve ice cream/sorbet texture and it’s so much better than my old blender could do. It can blend big chunks of frozen fruit or ice, make nut butters and nut cheeses, chop vegetables, and so much more! If you are committed to eating healthier and want to invest in something to make it easier and tastier, I’d highly recommend getting one of these!

Later in the day I will drink a glass of pure cranberry juice (not the sugary kind, the only ingredient here should be cranberries) with a scoop of Amazing Grass Berry Green Superfood Powder which is loaded with vitamins, minerals, herbs, and antioxidants! I squeeze some limes into it to add to the taste and vitamin power, stir it really well, and slowly sip it. For some reason I almost always feel better after doing this!

My practitioner recently told me that I should switch my heavier meal from dinner to lunch because pathogens eat at night. So, if we eat a heavy meal at night, especially with animal protein (which is a dead food that pathogens love to eat), it’s just strengthening those invaders and keeping our immune systems further suppressed. So, for lunch, I’m going to eat my meals with protein, either animal or plant and any vegetable form of starch if I want. So for example, I could make a piece of salmon and cover that in some dill and lemon juice (which is a delicious combo!), or I could make my grain free vegan tacos (Siete tortillas at Whole Foods are BOMB!) with tempeh or quinoa and top those with spinach (or other greens), avocado, cilantro (or parsely for those of us who have a cilantro aversion – ME!) and lime.

For dinner, it’s best to keep it light and stick to vegetables and bitter fruits. My practitioner tells me, “If you want to have a sweet life, eat and drink bitter. If you want to have a bitter life, eat and drink sweet.” I know, bummer, right?! Ugh. Well, people have differing opinions on whether or not some fruits are helpful or hurtful to healing processes. It can get so confusing and you start to feel like, who should I believe? Well, my guy has never been wrong, so for now I’m following his advice! He also says that if you eat garlic with the fruits, it will help keep your blood sugar low and pathogens under control. If you aren’t familiar, garlic is known to be very effective in killing pathogens. I once took it in very large amounts for several months, and while my breath was rancid, I felt SO MUCH BETTER!

So, for dinner, I might make something like a salad loaded with multiple kinds of greens like spinach, arugula, and romaine, topped with cucumbers, celery, avocado, and a dressing made with EVOO, apple cider vinegar, and lime. I also really love to make plant based meals around vegetables, like zucchini lasagna, where you add in orgegano, spinach, parsely, and garlic, or eggplant rollotinis adding the same. You could also make a Buddha bowl of veggies and incorporate these herbs and foods. You kind of have to get creative and find ways to add these things in that taste good to you!

After dinner, I like to make tea. Since ginger is an immune boosting food, and I happen to love it, I drink a lot of it! The best way to do it is to get a chunk of ginger from the store, grate it into chunks, or cut it into small pieces, and add it to a tea ball. That way you can boil your water and add the tea ball in without the chunks floating everywhere. I also like to add some fresh turmeric to it and some stevia, too! As you probably know, turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory. So if you’re feeling discomfort from any sickness already it can be beneficial to you, too!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful! Below, I have linked this outfit and more importantly all of the products I’ve mentioned in this post! I would love to hear any feedback and comments or questions you might have!  Wishing you a healthy season 🙂


Power of Positive Affirmations

Hey there! I hope that your new year has gotten off to a great start! I’ve been a little behind in setting goals and writing out my intentions for the year this year. I think it is because the holidays hit on a week day, and so the rest of the week just seemed like an extended holiday! But, I wanted to share something with you that I started doing last year that I think has been really helpful for me.

As I’m sure you know by now if you’ve been following along, that I have had a long battle with chronic illness. For last several years, I was so bogged down with pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and fear from it all that it was taking over my mind and I couldn’t see anything past what I was feeling in that moment. I was struggling to see a future for myself that didn’t involve pain and struggle. My illness isn’t the kind where you eventually get better a week later, like you would when you have a cold or the flu. When people say “I hope you feel better soon” it actually would make me feel worse because I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was just a reminder of that fact. But, as I was exploring ways to heal myself, I kept coming across people saying that you have to work on your emotional and spiritual health, too. You can’t ignore that. If that’s not healing as well, you won’t ever get better physically. Part of healing the emotional and spiritual health is changing your thoughts to be more positive. While I always knew that thinking positively was beneficial to me, it was so hard to do all of the time when I was in so much pain and feel so lousy. So, instead of just trying to remember to think positive thoughts, I physically wrote them out, framed them, and put them in the place where I spend a lot of time and would see them every day as a constant reminder: my bathroom!

Last January we went on an amazing trip to Hawaii! We spent New Year’s there, and it was incredible! A couple weeks before we left I had just started having constant, horrific bladder pain that would not let up no matter what I tried. That was when I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis. We almost didn’t make it to Hawaii because of it. But, I figured if I was going to be in pain anyway, Hawaii was probably the best place to be experiencing it! Lol. I was in agony the whole way there, most of the time we were there, and even worse the entire way home. But, while we were there I was working so hard at staying present in the moment and being so grateful for everything I was experiencing. Hawaii certainly made that easier to do! It was honestly just what I needed at that time in my life. I felt so inspired by the beauty and my time there, that I promised myself I would continue to do this when I got home to help cope with the pain. I was journaling my thoughts and using meditation a lot. But, one day I got an email from the Lyme specialist, Dr. Rawls, that talked about the power of positive affirmations and how placing them in front of you can be really helpful. It gave examples of things to write down that would help to retrain our brains to think differently. So, instead of thinking my usual thoughts like, “This is never going to end, I’m going to be in this kind of pain for the rest of my life”, I turn that around and write down “I will heal and do wonderful things with my life” and “I am doing good things for my body and it will respond”. I got out my old art supplies from college and wrote down several more affirmations like “I am becoming more calm and focused everyday”, “My life has value”, “I can and will heal”. I made it look pretty with colored pencils and drawings of flowers around it. It was actually a really peaceful and relaxing exercise! I decided since I spend a lot of time in my bathroom getting ready for bed and to go out during the day, I would frame it and put it on the counter. This way, I see it several times a day and those thoughts go through my head each time I look at it.

A year later, I’m ready to write myself some new affirmations because now I know without a doubt that those things I wrote down are TRUE. I think it really did help me to believe and get behind the idea that positive change was possible for me. None of the statements were lies or things that were utterly impossible! And by seeing them each day and reading over and over “I am doing good things for my body and it will respond”, I started to see and believe the truth in those words. I felt like I was letting go of some fears and trusting my body to do what it naturally wants to do. On the really hard days those affirmations helped to bring some positive energy to my mind and calm my nerves. If you think about it, we do repetitive exercises for our physical health, so why not for our mental health?

Even if you’re not sick, you can still benefit from positive affirmations! This year, I’ll be writing some that don’t have to do with my health, which feels pretty amazing! For so long my health was the only thing going on in my life. So for example, one of mine this year is “You are capable and worthy of success”. I’ve always struggled with feeling like I am good enough to do things, or deserve to have good things happen to me, which is another negative thought process that I’d like to see turn around! We all have untruths that we tell ourselves and those things just stand in the way of our happiness and fulfillment in life. So, whatever yours may be, turn that thought around, write it down, and put it somewhere where you’ll see it. Then maybe you’ll see some positive changes for yourself, too! 🙂

Positive Affirmations

An Anniversary Reflection
Anniversary Reflection
Reflection OF Anniversary

Every year around Christmastime, I start to have warm, fuzzy thoughts about all kinds of things, but especially about my husband and the day we were married. I really wanted a Christmas wedding! That’s how much I love this time of year! I wanted to have lights strewn everywhere and an excitement in the air that just doesn’t happen any other month. It snowed that day, six years ago, and it was just as I had imagined it! We had a beautiful ceremony at our hometown college campus chapel, and a gorgeous reception at my dad’s country club. There were trees lit up and my centerpieces were white flowers with blue lights in the vases, crystals and snow flakes scattered atop mirrors, and a touch of sparkly silver accents everywhere. It was just as I had dreamed it would be! The big band played all night and everyone had a blast!

Ryan had proposed to me at a family Christmas party two years prior to us getting married. At the time, I hadn’t been feeling well. I had just been in the hospital for a very serious kidney infection. I had other issues, especially digestive ones that were bothering me daily, too. But, it was kind of in my nature to ignore it and just keep pressing on. “Eventually it will go away” is how I always thought about things. So, Ryan proposed, and it was perfect! We were so happy and so excited to start planning our wedding!

Two weeks later at work, I turned completely jaundice. My eyes and skin were as yellow as Big Bird. I went to the doctor. He couldn’t determine what was wrong right away, but wanted to hospitalize me immediately. I went through so much testing. It was kind of torturous. But, just after New Year’s 2010, I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis. It’s not a viral form of hepatitis. It’s only called that because there is inflammation of the liver, which is what hepatitis is. The viruses are identified by the letters after them. This one is just an immune response in the body when the liver “attacks itself” so they say. It was a chronic condition for life, they said. So, for the next six years we tried everything we could to get it into remission. When I finally did, I weaned off the medications, and my body crashed. That was when the Lyme Disease journey began, as well as the Interstitial Cystitis diagnosis.

So, for years my husband has been living alongside of me as I’ve battled through one chronic illness after another. Some of them have been life threatening at times. It’s been a scary ride. But, he has always been my constant companion, my solid rock, my unwavering source of strength and comfort. He has taken on so much by marrying me! I always think, he had a chance to get out! Haha. We were engaged and fighting the first diagnosis for two years before we actually got married. But, he stayed. And he has fought so hard with me. He built his business in hopes of making a better life for us. None of my treatments are covered by insurance, so we had to make changes to be able to afford the things we needed. He works tirelessly around the clock. He’s taken care of me like I saw my grandfather do for my grandmother when she had Alzheimer’s and into her final days. Always there by her side, meeting her needs morning and night. Ryan has taken on all of the things that I would normally do at one point or another. He does the dishes, the laundry, the grocery shopping, ALL of the errands, drives me to my hair appointments and friend dates, fills my pillboxes of all of the supplements and vitamins I need when my mind isn’t clear enough for me to do it, and so much, much more. It has been hard for me to get out of the house so much in the last several years. But, Ryan always sees to it that I have what I need, and that I get out and have some fun, too. And he NEVER complains. I don’t know what I did to be so blessed by this man. It doesn’t seem right that I should have someone to care for me the way that he does. But, I am so grateful and love him so much for it.

Not only does he look after my needs, but he’s always looking for something to cheer me up and to make me happy! It’s the sweetest thing. He will spend a lot of time secretly looking online for something to surprise me with, like a concert by my favorite artist, or a trip to a spa to relax. He also is a comedian. True story. So he loves to find ways to make me laugh. Laughter as medicine has played a big part in keeping me here on Earth, I believe! Haha. In times where the pain is so great, day after day, week after week, month after month, you just have to find ways to feel the smallest bits of joy. He does that for me. Either in his own way or by introducing me to new comedians to watch in bed on Netflix, he’s always thinking of how to make me smile. He never stops thinking of others and that’s another thing I love about him so much.

He’s had to endure the hardships, too. Ryan loves music. I mean, LOVES it! He lives and breathes it! For years, I couldn’t go to concerts. I either had a chronic migraine, absolutely no energy to move, or was in too much pain to the leave the house, and it kept us from seeing his favorite artists, going to the movies, or even going out to dinner with friends. There were so many things he had to miss out on. But he never made me feel guilty about it or complained. We were hermits for a long time, always having to say no to invitations or cancel on people. I know it affected him a lot. I always told him to go without me. But, he wouldn’t.

So on our Anniversary, I like to reflect on all the things my love has done and sacrificed for me, and how lucky I am to have a husband like him. I know I could not have survived all of this without him. So many women I speak to with chronic conditions don’t have support systems like Ryan, and it breaks my heart. I wish everyone had a Ryan in their life! The world would be a sweeter place. I love him with every fiber of my being, and I hope to start to show him how much now that I’m on my way to healing! I think we have a pretty beautiful life ahead of us. Happy Anniversary, Ryan.

Below these photos I have linked this dress, accessories and some similar options 🙂

Reflection Anniversary
our Anniversary

Christmastime has always been my favorite time of the year! I think it is for a lot of us.  I know for me it’s that month of the year that I feel a little bit more alive than usual.  I look forward to the beauty of the lights, decorations, the warm, cozy smells, the beautiful music, and my favorite – giving gifts!  I love the generous spirit of Christmas.  I get so much joy from picking out things for people I love that might make them smile, and how everyone is just a little bit more spirited. So, when this time of year rolls around and you find yourself in a difficult place in your life, it hurts to not feel that same joyous feeling.  But, I think Christmastime is the perfect season to remember to hold onto hope, too. 

The first weekend of December is always our annual Little Concert that my husband organizes and puts on to benefit a local charity.  Last year, although I was still feeling very sick after my Lyme Disease treatment in September, I still sang with Ryan anyway.  We had a great night, so many people turned out, and we raised a lot of money!  The next day, I was busy online shopping for Christmas presents when I suddenly got a terrible pain in my bladder.  It was a sharp, stabbing pain, worse than any bladder infection I had ever had.  I tried my usual natural go-tos for UTIs that typically work, but for a week or so, but it persisted.  I finally went to the doctor.  They couldn’t find any trace of infection and sent me to a specialist who told me that I had Interstitial Cystitis, also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome.  It happens when the lining of the bladder becomes damaged and inflamed.  They told me it was a chronic condition and there wasn’t a cure.  There was one medication on the market for it that only worked for a small percentage of patients and the side effects were terrible.  From my experience with autoimmune disease years before, I wasn’t really looking for medications to solve the problem.  I knew that they would only mask it, not truly heal it. 

I couldn’t believe that after all of the years of sicknesses and all of the efforts I’d made to heal that I was getting yet another chronic illness diagnosis.  I’d changed my diet completely.  I was so strict about what foods I put in my body.  I ate superfoods on the regular!  No gluten, no grains, no dairy,  no sugar, no processed anything!  I only ate organically.  I took supplements and vitamins and I detoxed myself constantly.  I rarely ever drank alcohol anymore.  It just didn’t make sense?

As the pain continued,  I felt completely hopeless.  I had just been through the Lyme Disease Treatment three months prior, (and had finally gotten my autoimmune disease into remission after 6 years prior to that!) and while those symptoms were very gradually improving, this new bladder condition was raging on with a wicked vengeance.  It felt like life was just screwing with me and I was never meant to get out from underneath the boulder of chronic illness.  I was terrified of living the rest of my life in that much pain!  I joined Facebook support groups and SO MANY women had been living in this pain daily for decades!  I’ve had all kinds of pain and so many varying (usually on the extreme) degrees.  But, this was the absolute worst.  There was nothing that brought relief.  Day in and day out.  Night after night of sleepless, horrendous pain. 

Months went by, and I spent every waking moment searching for answers.  I probably spent several thousands of dollars in trial and error treatments and pills.  I even went to physical therapy.  I meditated, did gentle yoga and stretching, and completely changed my diet yet again.  I was journaling, repeating positive affirmations, soul searching, getting energy healing sessions, and I was only eating about six different foods for months, avoiding anything that might cause more pain.  Six months went by and I was still hurting.  

One day in my rife machine Facebook Group for chronic illness and cancer, someone responded to my post about the die-off symptoms I was feeling from one of the detox programs I was doing on the machine (Spooky2 Rife Machine – look it up, it’s pretty incredible!).  He said that he could help me with his radionics machine.  I didn’t really think anything of it, or know anything about it for that matter. I told him to go ahead and try it (this happens remotely – also absolutely incredible!), and I wasn’t expecting anything at all.  Within a couple of hours my heavy fatigue, excrutiating joint pain, and headache had lifted!  So, I continued to pick his brain about what else we could do to get me on the road to healing.  He had used radionics himself to get back to health after his own bout with chronic Lyme Disease.  So, we started treatments to detox my body of all of the pathogens and toxins that feed them and were likely causing my bladder pain.  

At the same time, I also started a raw fruit and vegetable only diet.  I stuck to this for a few months, and along with the radionics treatments, I was starting to feel more energy than I had in YEARS!  My bladder pain was also coming down.  Where it had been a 10 out of 10, it was more like a 5.  It was an incredibly difficult time, but I kept reassuring myself through positive affirmations that I was going to heal.  I’m not always the strongest person.  I don’t let people see my weakness often.  I completely broke down at least once daily.  But, I always kept the smallest glimpse of hope in my heart, and kept fighting every day.

Now, a year later, I’m almost completely bladder pain free.  I don’t take any prescriptions for it.  I just use diet, supplements, and radionics, and my bladder is so much stronger!  I used to not be able to drink a few sips of water without having to run to the bathroom because of the pain.  I now can sleep through the night with only having to get up once or twice, instead of fifteen or more times!  I can eat things I couldn’t before.  I can even have a glass of wine, or cocktail without pain!  I’m not 100% healed, but I am most definitely on my way there.  I’m so happy to say that I’ve enjoying this Christmas more than any other in so many years!  I feel so blessed and grateful to have less pain in my life.  I never thought I would be in this place just one year ago.  

So, what I really wanted to tell you is, that even when life feels like a living nightmare, there is still hope for things to completely change for you!  You just have to hang on and keep fighting.  Don’t ever give up on yourself!  I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I couldn’t go on another minute.  But, if you really set your heart and mind to changing your circumstances, I do believe that things will change for the better for you.  It’s like I say so often on my blog and social media posts… the energy that you put out will always come back to you.  I don’t believe that you can work so hard for so long and never see results.  Dig deep, find your grit, hold on, and fight like hell!  You’ll get to where you want to be.  Sometimes it means thinking outside of the box and stepping outside of your comfort zone.  Try things you’ve never even considered!  Change doesn’t come without making changes.  And so often we think we can’t do things.  We are limited because of “this or that”.  Stop letting those things get in your way and get creative as to how to solve the road blocks.  Asking for help isn’t the end of the world, and you’d be surprised at the number of people out there who are willing to lend a hand.  Remember that you are capable of anything you truly set your mind to.  Believing in yourself is half of the battle!

I hope that this story brought a little beacon of hope to any of you suffering this Christmas season.  I really wish for this to find it’s way to the people who need to hear it most.  I know how it feels.  I know much it hurts.  But, things can and do change.  Keeping hope in your heart and positive, forward thinking thoughts are so important.  You CAN do this!

Finally, I promised to share my favorite Paleo zucchini muffin recipe!  I love this recipe! It could seriously fool anyone at your holiday table – gluten free or not!  They are so light, fluffy, and perfectly sweet!  If you’ve never heard of Danielle Walker and her series “Against All Grain” you should definitely check her out!  She has amazing Paleo recipes of all kinds.  Her recipes are my favorite Paleo recipes of all!  You can make this zucchini bread recipe in bread pans or as muffins!  My mom and I both think that making it in a mini bread loaf pan works better than trying to do it in a bigger loaf pan.  But, the muffins always turn out great!  You can find the recipe here.

Since Dress Well, Be Well is more than just a fashion site, I couldn’t cover the Black Friday & Cyber Monday deals without doing a post about my favorite Amazon wellness finds!  So many of these items we use everyday.  They are all things that help me to cook healthy meals, or keep my wellness goals in check!  They would make great gifts, too!

  1. The Instant Pot – I am a huge fan of the Instant Pot!  It helps me so much!  I can make soups, roasts, delicious sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, stews, spaghetti squash, desserts, and so much more in a matter of minutes! What usually takes over an hour or more in the oven or slow cooker, you can do so much faster!  If making healthy meals in a pinch is important to you, you’ll want to have one of these in your kitchen arsenal!  You’ll also want to have these accessories for your pot so that  you can cook a wide array of things, including an egg basket for hard-boiled eggs, the steamer basket for vegetables, seafood, and other recipes, as well as a circular pan for desserts and pot pies!  I’ve listed a few of my favorite Instant Pot Cookbooks as well 🙂

2. The Vitamix – I finally invested in a Vitamix this past summer and I’m soooo glad I did!  It’s awesome.  It would be an incredible gift for the health nut or chef in your family!  I got mine because my normal blender wasn’t cutting it.  I couldn’t get it to blend frozen fruit for my smoothies very well, it wouldn’t blend nuts to make vegan cheese without a ton of water added to it.  I was using a food processor AND my blender and neither one was working as well as I’d like and they were both taking up so much counter space!  I love the Vitamix because it blends everything so smoothly!  It makes my morning protein shakes have a fluffy, soft-serve-like consistency to it, and I can use it as a food processor to chop foods and blend nuts to make nut butters and vegan cheeses!  It does so many other amazing things, too!  I have the first model linked below.  If you click on the photo and scroll down you can see that it will compare the models and what all they do.  Here are some of the best ones out there at the best prices! I’ve also linked my favorite protein powders for my morning shakes 🙂

3)  Ionic Foot Bath – I got an ionic foot bath a few years ago when I was going through treatment for Lyme disease.  I was doing everything possible to detox, and I found a local spa that had this ionic detox foot bath.  After using it, I noticed that I was sleeping better, my joints hurt a little less, and I had some more energy.  I was going pretty often, though, so the cost was adding up.  I decided to invest in one for my home to save myself time and money.  The ionic detox foot baths are great for detoxing your body from things like heavy metals, yeast, mold, other fungi and mucus, toxic chemicals, and helps detox organs like your kidneys, liver, gallbladder, and systems like the urinary tract and reproductive system.  It’s really neat.  You’ll notice when you first start using it that the water is full of all kinds of substances and the more you you use it, the less murky the water becomes!  It’s great for detoxing for everyone, not just Lyme patients.  If you have any kind of chronic condition, it would be particularly helpful.  Always make sure to take supplements to replace minerals that can be lost after detoxing, though.  I’ve linked what I use below.  I have the Ionize Me that is listed first.  This is the newer version. The second one I linked is also good.

4) The Amazon Echo – I can’t imagine life without Alexa anymore, haha! (Alexa is the name of the voice who speaks to you through the Echo, similar to Siri, but it’s Amazon’s version of Siri).  If you don’t have one of these I would highly recommend getting one, and it would make an awesome gift!  I actually got it for Ryan a few years ago and I use it more than he does!  It’s an essential for anyone working in the kitchen.  You can ask Alexa for weather updates, to play any kind of music you like, radio stations centered around a particular artist or genre, albums, songs by a certain artist, podcasts, audiobooks and more!  She knows a lot of answers to all kinds of questions!  I can ask Alexa how to convert measurements, set a timer, and ask for substitutes for things!  She can also create lists for grocery shopping, things you need on Amazon, and can be activated as a hub for your smart devices. You can also get the Echo Dots to put in other locations in your home, but the Echo acts as the hub for all of them.  Not a day goes by that I don’t have interaction with Alexa, especially when I’m cooking up healthy meals in the kitchen!

5) The Air Fryer – I actually don’t have one of these, but I really, really want one (hint hint for any of my family reading this 😉 hahaha!  It is definitely on my Christmas Wish List this year!  I’ve had chicken wings, fries, and chips made with an air fryer before and they were delicious!  You don’t need any oil at all to make your food taste like your favorite fried comforts!  So, if you’re trying to be more plant based, and cut out extra fat and oil, this is a must have!  It sits right on your counter top. You can make your own healthy veggie chips!  How cool is that?  Here is Amazon’s choice and the Best Selling Air Fryer on Amazon 🙂

6) Cookbooks – There are so many great cookbooks on Amazon!  There’s really something for everyone!  I have a lot of Paleo cookbooks and a lot of vegan and plant-based ones, too.  I have recently been more into plant-based eating than I was in years before, but that’s a major change.  So, I wanted to get some good books to help guide me.  I still eat Paleo a lot of the time, but I try to only eat meat of any kind a few times a week.  All of these books below have amazing recipes no matter what diet you align yourself with!  They also make amazing gifts for the health conscious and chefs in your family!


7) The Infra-red Heating Pad – I did an entire blog post on the Infra-red Heating Pad which you can read here.  It will tell you all about the benefits of the Infra-red heating pad!  To sum it up in short, the Infra-red heating pad goes much deeper than your standard electric heating pad, it’s effects last longer, and it doesn’t expose you to harmful EMFs.  I’ve had so much more pain relief for all kinds of chronic pain conditions from an infra-red heating pad than I ever did from an electric one or a hot water bottle.  Be sure to check out that blog post to read about all of the differences and benefits on the Infra-red heating pads.  You can find all sizes and shapes for whatever your need is.  I have the large size (the third one listed) for my whole back as well as the small size (the first one) for things like menstrual cramps and interstitial cystitis, and I’m hoping to get one of the neck ones as well for Christmas!

I hope you find some great deals this Cyber Monday!  These are definitely my must-haves from Amazon.  All of them have helped me along my wellness journey in some way. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions on these at all!  Happy bargain hunting! 🙂

The holidays are rough on anyone’s diet, but particularly if you have to watch what you’re eating for your serious health condition!  Most of us on AIP, Paleo, or Low FODMAP, etc are doing it because we want to improve our inflammatory conditions.  The weight loss is just an added bonus!  But, sticking to your diet when everyone else is eating mom’s famous, traditional cheese potatoes is a lot harder than one might think!  There are so many temptations around every corner at the holidays from work treats, parties, gifts of food, and holiday dinners, it’s hard not to give in, even “just a little”.  But, as we all know, giving in “just a little” often times leads to A LOT.  So, I’ve compiled a list of my best tips for staying on track throughout the holiday season!

  1. PLAN AHEAD – Never go to a party not knowing what you are going to eat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a cocktail party or a full on dinner party – don’t go in without a plan!  Talk to the host if it’s not at your house.  See what they are providing and figure out if there is something that you can eat or not.
  2. BRING YOUR OWN DISH (or more) – Anymore, I just bring my own food most places that we go!  I know that I will enjoy myself more if I have foods I get to enjoy while everyone else is, too.  It makes me feel a lot less deprived and left out.  I always make my own side dishes for myself (and my mom who is also gluten an dairy free) for every holiday dinner!  If I know there will be turkey, then I bring some brussel sprout salad, mashed sweet potatoes, paleo-approved cranberry sauce, paleo breads, and my own paleo pumpkin pie!  I enjoy the day just much as I used to and I don’t have the digestive issues or weight gain afterward, and that’s a beautiful thing!  I make enough to share, and others like it, too!
  3. FIND WAYS TO MAKE YOUR FAVORITE FOODS PALEO APPROVED – This is huge!  Just because you are now gluten, dairy, grain, and sugar free, doesn’t mean you can’t eat the foods you love!  I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, can you?!  That’s why I searched Pinterest years ago to find my favorite healthy dishes to make the holidays more enjoyable.  Now 4 years later, they are my traditions and I still love them, if not more!  You can find recipes for all kinds of things like cauliflower “mashed potatoes”, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie!  Get out there and search for the things you love and put some effort into making them.  You will thank yourself at the dinner table later.  The holidays will feel a lot more enjoyable and a lot less isolating if you have those festive, comfort foods that you love and can eat.
  4. DON’T OVER DO IT ON ALCOHOL – The worst thing you can do to yourself is overdo it on alcohol when you are trying to stick to a diet.  Trust me.  Haha!  Anytime that I have ever come close to completely blowing the diet, it has been because I had a little too much wine.  When you’re on AIP you’re not supposed to drink anyway, but I’ve been Paleo for many years, and while I didn’t drink until I was in remission, I do indulge in a glass of wine, or clear liquor with club soda now and then on special occasions.  That being said, if you drink too much you tend to lose some inhibition and over indulge in things you shouldn’t.  I always crave chocolate for some reason!  But, if you keep it to a minimum that’s not likely to happen.  Keep yourself in check.
  5. MAKE CROCKPOT RECIPES – Crockpot recipes are a great way to easily throw together some of your favorite dishes for a crowd of people.  I’ve made balsamic roast beef, chicken pot pie soup, and spaghetti squash and meatballs all for Christmas Eve or other holiday parties and everyone loved them!  They don’t take a lot of time and you can put them together in the morning or even cook them overnight.  It takes time and stress off your plate and you still have a delicious, nutritious meal to look forward to!
  6. ASK FOR HELP – If you are struggling to get everything done and cook your meals, find a family member or good friend who would help you, or even a company!  I’ve enlisted the help of friends before who love to cook.  My mom also is a huge help.  Find some recipes that you like that aren’t too difficult and see if they’d be willing to help you get through the holiday transition on your new diet.  I’ve also used a local company that specializes in healthy foods and can make things to your dietary needs.  If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, be sure to check out Green Light Meals.  They’ve done an entire Thanksgiving dinner for us before!
  7. FILL UP ON VEGGIES – Make sure that your plate isn’t just all meat.  If you can eat a lot of veggies you’ll feel fuller and more satisfied making you less likely to crave and go after the sweet stuff.  Plus, you’ll get the nutrients your body needs, too!
  8. GET ENOUGH SLEEP – When I get sleep deprived, I’m less focused.  When I lose focus, I tend to let things go.  Sometimes that is my nutrition.  I’ll start eating random things for breakfast because I’m too tired to make what I should and then my whole day is thrown off and I’ve eaten almond bread with almond butter all day long.  Sure, that’s technically Paleo, but it’s not a nutrient dense day of eating.  Make sure you get yourself rest in between all of the chaos.
  9. MAKE FOOD AHEAD AND FREEZE IT – If you know your holidays are going to be busy every single day for a stretch and you know it’s going to be hard to find the time to cook, think ahead and freeze some things!  I’ve done this with meatballs and soup for Christmas Eve, pumpkin and zucchini breads, and even cookies!  They defrost well and no one will ever know the difference!
  10. DON’T GO DOWN A RABBIT HOLE – If you happen to slip up and eat something you shouldn’t, don’t give in to that voice in your head that says, “well, you already messed up, might as well just let yourself go now”.  Eating one sugar-filled cookie is a lot different than eating a dozen!  I’ve made the mistake of buying gluten and dairy free cookies with cane sugar before, thinking I would eat just one and then I ended up eating way more over the course of a week after promising myself I’d get back on track the next day!  Sugar is so addictive even after you’ve cut it out for a long period of time.  I majorly suffered from gastro problems after my Christmas cookie binge for weeks.  It wasn’t worth it!  I would never do that again.  I thought I could handle it, but I definitely could not and it set me back and made me worse.  So, don’t give in to that voice.  Stay strong, believe in yourself, know that you CAN have control over temptations and show them who’s boss!

I hope these tips are helpful to you, whether you are new to AIP and Paleo or are a long-time veteran like myself.  Navigating the holidays can be tricky and stressful, but if you keep your health goals in mind, plan ahead and are prepared, you can get through it and stick to it!  And let me tell you, it feels SO GOOD when you do!  You’ll feel like you have finished a marathon and your body will thank you, too!  We can do pretty amazing things when we really focus and set our minds to it.  If I can be of any help to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out!  I hope you have an awesome holiday season 🙂

*Notice above that I have linked some of my favorite holiday recipes, including this pumpkin pie!

Being on an anti-inflammatory diet for health reasons, or just wanting to eat clean to stay healthy, doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some dessert, too!  I’ve been to many a holiday gatherings where I’ve felt like everyone gets to indulge and I’m left to the dried out carrots on the mediocre veggie tray.  You know which ones I’m talking about!  When they’re all white and cracked after having sat our for several hours.  NOT APPETIZING.  So, over the years I’ve learned that if you want to enjoy the party like everyone else, you gotta bring your own desserts!  Trust me, you’ll feel much more satisfied at the end of the meal when you have your own treat to indulge in, too.  Plus, you get to show everyone at the party how eating healthy doesn’t mean you deprive yourself of delicious indulgences!  You’re setting an example and hopefully inspiring others to change their eating habits, too.

These 4 Ingredient Pecan Pie bites are my current favorite!  (Shout out to one of my bffs, Valerie, for the inspiration when she so kindly brought something similar to my house for a party!  So thoughtful!) They are vegan, gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free, whole30, and paleo! They are so simple to make and seriously taste so ooey-gooey, you won’t even miss the pie!  Plus, the ingredients are chock full of health benefits.  Dates  and pecans contain vital minerals like maganese, copper, potassium, iron, and calcium!  They’re also rich Vitamin A, B, &  E.  Both dates and pecans have lots of fiber, anti-inflammatory properties, and dates can help fight infections.  They both contain a high amount of anti-oxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body, making them great choices for people suffering from autoimmune or other chronic illnesses.  They’re heart healthy, too!  Coconut oil is also a heart healthy fat, known to raise the good HDL cholesterol.  It is great brain food, helps to increase metabolism, and heal damaged tissues and organs!  So really, this “dessert” is more like a powerful healing agent.  No guilt here! 🙂  I seriously eat like 6 at time and feel good about it, lol.

Now, here’s the how to:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pkg Organic Pitted Medjool Dates – I find a great little container at Whole Foods in the refrigerated, pre-cut fruit section
  • 1 7oz container of Organic Pecans
  • Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Organic Pumpkin Pie Spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place desired amount of dates you want to make on a cookie tray.  Slice them open on one side so you can stuff them.
  3. Add a tiny amount of coconut oil inside of each opened date.  No more than 1/8 of a tsp.  (You can also omit the oil for a plant-based treat! and it tastes just as delicious, just not as gooey)
  4. Sprinkle Pumpkin Pie spice over the dates.
  5. Smash up your pecans with a meat tenderizer.  Depending upon how many dates you are using you can decide how many pecans you need.  If it is a smaller batch you definitely won’t need the whole container.
  6. Stuff the dates with the pecans.
  7. Sprinkle a little more Pumpkin Pie Spice over the dates.
  8. Close the dates up.
  9. Bake in oven for 5 minutes.
  10. Cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!  These taste great when completely, cooled, too!  (I actually eat them raw, too and they’re so delicious that way as well!)

These are a great treat to take to any fall, Thanksgiving, or Christmas party!  Everyone, whether they’re a clean eater or not will love them.  Let me know what you think if you make them!  Enjoy 🙂

4 Ingredient Pecan Pie Bites GF, DF, SF, Vegan, Paleo, Whole30

 

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