Today I wanted to share with you about a time in my life I haven't publicly shared about before. On the internet, it's easy to show off our best selves and not talk about the struggles we have had, but when I think back to why I even became interested in nutrition in the first place, it was because of my own health issues.
My struggles have made me who I am today, so I hope in sharing what I've been through, you too will begin to see that real change is possible. Any hardships you are experiencing right now are ultimately necessary to take you where you need to be. I now feel great in my body, however, I did not always feel this way. I had serious struggles with weight gain, acne, and slow digestion, and at the time it was really hard to love myself. Now, I am grateful for those struggles, because they have guided me to be where I am today: lean, energized, happy and sharing all of my knowledge to help other people.
It all started three years ago when I traveled to India. I arrived with a one-way ticket and a six month VISA and was determined to stay as long as I could. Little did I know, my health would take a toll during my time there.
Chai was literally on every corner and I loved it. Every day I drank the milky, caffeinated, sweet cup full of sugar, two, three, sometimes even four or five times a day. I ate buttery, salty restaurant food (and sometimes ashram food depending where I was staying) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyday, for six months.
I ate ZERO raw food because I was advised by my doctors in the US to avoid all raw greens and vegetables because the water it was washed with might not be safe.
I wore flowy, loose shawls and ali baba pants for six months and had no access to a full-length mirror or a scale, so I didn't even notice when I added an extra 15 pounds to my normal weight. However, I knew something was wrong because my skin was breaking out with cystic acne and I was tired all the time. The extra 15 pounds, did not make me feel more womanly, I just felt heavy, lethargic, and constipated.
When I was back in the states, my dermatologist gave me antibiotics to clear my skin, so to add to the whole problem, I wiped out all my friendly intestinal flora bacteria. It was the third time my dermatologist had me take several weeks worth of antibiotics, and this time, it did not help my skin, but it only made it worse.
On top of it all, I came home to no job, no home (besides my parents), no community, and no boyfriend. I felt lost.
That was when I started searching. I thought, there must be something I can do to fix this BESIDES take more pills. After the antibiotics, my doctor wanted to give me accutane, more antibiotics and birth control pills. I remember asking him, "Is there anything I can change in how I eat?" and he replied, "No, that is just a myth that what you eat affects your skin. You should just stick to the pills."
That was when I took my health into my own hands and went to the internet. Through my research, I learned my skin was breaking out because my liver and intestinal track were congested and my hormones were out of balance. Taking accutane, antibiotics, or birth control pills would only further mask and worsen the underlying problem.
My research then led me to solutions. Simple solutions: I need to change how I eat.
I stopped making the doughy parathas and chapathis made from white flour that I learned how to cook in India, and started making green smoothies. I learned how to cook delicious, healthy meals full of fiber and nutrients, I rebuilt my intestinal flora, I made new friends, discovered my love of teaching yoga, fell in love with my now boyfriend, and in 2013, decided to go to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach. Within one year, I cleared my skin, optimized my digestion, lost the weight I gained, and finally felt happy.
So here are the 10 steps I took to get started:
1. I drank more water
75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Drinking more water has been proven to cure all kinds of ailments including headaches, constipation, toxic overload, even stomach ulcers. Before I do anything else in the morning, I drink an 8 oz glass of water (and sometimes I add fresh squeezed lemon for vitamin C and liver cleansing properties).
It is best to drink water before having caffeine in the morning and to drink one or two glasses of water for every cup of coffee. You should be able to have a bowel movement within half an hour of drinking a glass of water every morning, before drinking caffeine.
2. I balanced my hormones (and added in tons of fibrous whole foods)
My mood was all over the place when I came back from travelling. The acne I had was hormonal - near the mouth and along the jaw line. First I cleared my pathways of elimination so extra estrogens in my body could be eliminated by my liver and intestinal track. Then I learned about what foods to eat during each part of my cycle. I started eating greens with every meal, brown rice and quinoa and beans. I switched from butter to coconut oil and supplemented my diet with Omega 3's from fish and cold pressed flax oil.
Learn more about balancing your hormones in my program, Nutrition for Clear Skin and Balanced Hormones.
3. I made my own sauerkraut and goat milk Kefir for probiotics to rebuild my intestinal flora
Most probiotic pills don't make it through the acids of the stomach to the intestines. I started making whole food sources of probiotics like raw sauerkraut (recipe here) and raw goat milk kefir. Goat's milk is tolerated by even many who are lactose intolerant because the digestive system of a goat is more similar to a human. When the kefir grains sit in the goat milk, it makes the proteins even more digestible through the process. These fresh strains of probiotics healed my intestinal track from years of overusing antibiotics.
4. I drank warm water and Magnesium calm before bed
Many Americans are deficient in Magnesium - a key mineral necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Magnesium also relaxes the muscles, helps you sleep through the night, and loosens the stools to minimize constipation. "Magnesium Calm" is a white powder and can be found in the supplement aisle of any Whole Foods or health food store.
5. I cut out dairy
Hormones in milk today are affecting the delicate hormonal balance of many women. Cow's milk inparticular is very congesting to the human body and can be difficult to digest. After drinking non organic low fat milk for many years, my body became sensitive to dairy, and it congested my system. As soon as I stopped drinking cow's milk, my constipation lessened and my skin started clearing.
If you are going to drink milk or eat cheese, eat it to be the way nature intended it to be: full fat, from healthy animals that graze in the fresh air on green plants.
6. I switched from processed sweets and cane sugar to agave nectar, honey, dates, coconut palm sugar and stevia
I used to have intense sugar cravings. Especially any time I felt sad or lonely, I immediately went to sugar to lift me up. It became a struggle, because my blood sugar levels would spike, then quickly drop, making me more depressed, and have even less energy. The sugar fed the candida in my system, and with no healthy intestinal flora, I became constipated and gained weight. When I came back from India, I couldn't quit sugar all at once, so I switched from all cane sugar products to sweeteners with a lower glycemic index such as agave, honey, dates, coconut palm sugar and stevia.
7. I started making green smoothies and switched to a primarily raw foods diet for the first month to kickstart my new eating habits
Green smoothies became my FAVORITE breakfast. I read all of Victoria Boutenko's books and eventually bought my own vitamix to enjoy the creamy, delicious smoothies. Green smoothies allowed me to pack in more nutrients in my diet and helped me clear out my digestive track. Because the green smoothies are made with not just greens, but also fruit, they taste delicious, and my body started craving greens. My first month determined to improve my health, I ate about 80% raw foods to help my body detoxify and start better long term habits. If you want to learn more about green smoothies, download my green smoothie handbook with 15 recipes.
8. I made self-care and self-love a daily practice
It was hard to love myself when I didn't feel good in my body. I took small steps to start loving myself, because I knew when I loved myself, I would naturally choose the best foods to put in my body. I started taking salt baths, rubbing my favorite cacao body butter over my whole body, and used affirmations. It felt uncomfortable at first, but it has become one of my favorite rituals in my life. My clients receive my favorite self-care gifts to start nourishing and loving their body in my programs.
9. I found my community
It was hard to arrive back from six months in India to old friends in New York that went out to bars for fun. I was hardly interested in staying out late or drinking alcohol, and I was ready to find a community that had a similar interest in health and wellbeing. When I moved back to California I meditated every day on finding the right friends and the right home, and within three months, founded an intentional community house in Berkeley with six friends. Everyone loved to cook, knew so much about healthy eating, and wanted to set aside two hours a day for silence and group meditation. When I surrounded myself with the right environment, I learned from everyone around me and began to thrive. When I no longer had to eat dinner alone, I stopped using food to fill the hole when I felt lonely.
10. I began a consistent daily spiritual practice
My spiritual practice has gone through many transformations over the last three years, but it has always been something that keeps me grounded. It is the time when I can reflect and vision, and come back to what is really important in life. It connects me back to myself, brings me in touch with my body and emotions, and strengthens my intuition so I know what steps to take next in life. It makes me feel connected to something larger than myself, and has helped me know my purpose and start living it.