A journey towards health

I have to be honest, sitting down to write this post has been no easy task. I literally cringe thinking back and feel a sadness for the girl I was. A lot of insecurities are sitting in the following words and for a while I thought it was possible to become a health coach without fully telling my story from start to finish. There would be a dishonesty in pretending that I was always a healthy, exercise loving girl or that getting to a healthy place in mind and body were easy. It wasn’t- and it is still a balancing act some days- but shedding some light on my truths is something I feel like I have to do in order to help others and finalize my own healing in so many ways. So here goes…

I remember as far back as grammar school thinking that my body wasn’t good enough. This is where my relationship to food became pretty skewed.  I used to create “meal plans” and exercise routines for myself- of which I could never actually stick to- and would feel guilty for it. I would gather old magazines and create vision boards of “fitspo” inspiration. I was a dancer and loved the idea of my body maybe one day magically changing into these long, lean muscles that could move in these graceful manners. Instead, my body was often greeted with painful hips and knees when moving in those ways.

At 12 years old, I loved the idea of being “the tiny one”- and I was, but never felt it. My mother used to complain about her body and at other times say things like “Sorry Kar- you got my body!” Although I don’t think her words were intentional, it made me realize that if her body wasn’t nice, and we had the same body type, then my body wasn’t nice. Not to mention, my older sister was the ultimate tall and skinny Barbie- opposite of me completely. My 5’4″ body just never measured up to my “ideal body.”

Fast forward to high school, I started my freshman year at around 85-90lbs. I remember my guy friend teasing me about wearing a bra at all and insinuating that my bras must be super padded. (oh, they were!)  Being older and having a bit more freedom meant a lot of time spent out with friends. We went to cafes, diners, fast food places, pizza, ice cream and of course, like most teenagers, alcohol. This partying also meant less sleep and pretty much no physical exercise at all. Needless to say, my metabolism kept me slim but by NO means healthy at all. I was often bloated, tired, had migraines and suddenly started developing reactions to foods I was eating without ever realizing what was happening. When you feel like crap most days, it becomes your baseline and so you don’t notice when the little signs are creeping up.

By the time college came, I was literally in my own bubble with zero awareness of what I was physically doing to my body. Up all night partying, school and work all day- eating out constantly. To make matters worse, my physical body wasn’t the only thing that was under a lot of stress. My emotional and mental well being weren’t in the best place either. My step father had the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and was in a very depressed state. During this time he had attempted suicide a few times and my reality when I went home at night was really scary. I never knew who I was getting, if he had a good day or a bad day, if he was upset with me over something trivial or was happy I was home. Worst of all, never knowing if I would find him alive or not. This anxiety caused me to pick up more shifts at work than necessary, find things to do to be out of the house, more partying, more escape from reality. It caused a lot of turmoil with all relationships around me- my family, my friends and my boyfriend.

I was managing a children’s gym and teaching about 18 classes a week when things started crashing down around me, one at a time. I had to move out of my house for my sanity, I had relationships problems with just about everyone around me, including myself, and my body literally felt like I was 100 years old. One after another, abnormal symptoms started to appear. I felt like I was walking around in a fog, felt “ADHD” like- never being able to wrap my head around anything before having to concentrate on the next thought, my stomach was bloated all.of.the.damn.time, my joints hurt, my face broken out and my energy level was so low it was scary. Really scary. My friend suggested that I try going gluten free for a while, just to see how I felt. And WHOA did it make a world of difference for my energy, joints and mind! I was gluten free for 3 or 4 years when I noticed how bad nuts made me feel- particularly almonds. Then I would have random reactions to fruits such as bananas. It seemed like everything I ate made my stomach bloat and cause this sharp, shooting pain. So I put gluten back into my diet figuring small doses wouldn’t make me feel any worse than I’m already feeling.

I was at a really low point with no hope to feeling better and no idea where to turn to next. I knew my body wasn’t responding to foods the way it should or the way it used to. I ended up contacting an allergist who administered a prick test on my back for any reactions to common foods I was eating. As he walked back into the room a few minutes later, he laughed and said “You may need to start eating meat my dear, because with the looks of this test, I’m not quite sure what you can eat anymore.” (Yah, any little hope I had of finding out the root cause that day-SQUASHED!)

The test showed I was reacting to 58 things that I ate pretty regularly. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, chocolate, dairy, wheat– you name it! (He didn’t actually test me for meat since I had been a vegetarian for so long, there was no chance that any sort of meat would have caused the reaction in my body.) My body was in full on FREAK OUT mode and totally inflamed. I spent the next few months on an elimination diet. Every few days putting new foods back into my diet after an initial 2 week cleanse of every food that I reacted to except for almonds and tree nuts. (I was told that my levels were a bit too high to safely put those back in without complete supervision.) To this day, I don’t eat any tree nuts.

The elimination diet gave me so much insight into how my body was reacting to things and the most amazing thing to come of it was realizing how GOOD I was supposed to feel! I had felt like complete crap for SO long that I didn’t even realize what feeling good felt like. This experience completely changed my perspective on how the body works and with that, my obsession with nutrition and wellness was born.

It started with myself. I re-ignited my yoga practice I had abandoned during this time of madness and dove head first into learning more about yoga philosophy. I enrolled in my first yoga teacher training. I also started to research the hell out of my condition and what caused my body to react like this. Stress, poor self care, not enough nutritious food, perhaps too many antibiotics over the years (I had a bad kidney infection as a child that caused me to be hospitalized and was given antibiotics for nearly a year afterwards)- the list could go on and on. But at this point, I stopped counting the items on it and started to turn to healing.

During this time, I realized how much inquiry I was getting from friends and coworkers about what I was eating, how I was feeling, my energy levels, how to help their issues, etc. In true “out of balance” Karen fashion- I quit my Masters’ program (that I was really close to completing, by the way 🤦🏼‍♀️) and dove head first into a health coaching certificate at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. BEST DECISION I’VE EVER MADE!

Perhaps because it was the first thing I ever did strictly for myself (I asked no ones opinion before enrolling & didn’t tell a lot of people for a while either) but this program changed my life. It not only pointed a positive direction for my career but it pointed out all of the areas I needed to work on for me, without the shaming that comes a long with “accountability” type programs. I was excited to do homework & couldn’t wait for the next week of work. Isn’t that how school should be?! I’ve learned how to calibrate and recalibrate my life to achieve my perfectly unbalanced balance. I’ve learned that pumping the brakes is necessary some times but so is completely diving in. The good, the bad, the messy and the beautiful- this journey was worth it.

So now, I’m on a mission. I’m fighting for a pure, clean, honest & safe life for my family and myself. And now, for other people as well. My honest truth is that I don’t want to be another health coach who is going to give you endless amount of pretty pictures recipes with ingredients you don’t know much about or where to buy. I don’t want to give you a diet plan. I want to show you the beauty in the simplicity of a good life. I want you to find your balance with your health and mind. I want you to not only look good but more so, feel good!

I’m on this mission to spread the idea that balance is this insane notion to be played with- not achieved.

My wellness journey may have started with me but it’s shifting towards everyone else now & I couldn’t be more excited for what comes next!

Cinnamon- Vanilla Smoothie

Okay, okay… so I promised myself I wouldn’t get too excited for fall until September 22- the first official day of autumn…

Buuuuuttttttttt…..

I can’t help falling in love with everything cinnamon!

Around here the weather is just getting to the “ooh, may need to bring a sweater with me” point, which means this smoothie is perfect! Still a cold smoothie but with just the slightest hint of fall in there.

As always, I’m the queen of smoothie approximations. Feel free to add or decrease your amounts for your preferences. Recipe below! Continue reading “Cinnamon- Vanilla Smoothie”

Lessons of life & death

As I sit in the cool calm of the Adirondack Mountains, sipping on my warm tea, it hits me… When I go home, my little fur ball friend isn’t going to be there to greet me.

My rabbit, Puffy, had passed away on August 29th. He was almost 11 years old. To say my heart is broken would just be an understatement.

Now I know what you’re thinking… it is just a rabbit.

But have you ever met one of those animals that just had something special about them? Yep, that was Puffy.

He was a little more like a dog than rabbit & had been a little buddy of mine since I was quite literally a child. We grew up together, moved around together, and went through a lot of heartbreak and joys. He loved to cuddle and give kisses, was picky about what food he got and loved to get on my yoga mat with me. He never had a door to his cage yet liked his carpeted areas nearby, never causing any sort of worry about chewing on things he shouldn’t be. When we’d travel in the car, he got too anxious in a carrier, but sat perfectly still and content on my lap. The vet had told me the day before he passed,

“Puffy is literally the smartest and most compassionate rabbit I have ever come across in my career.”

It was so, so hard to say goodbye to the little guy who was my baby before my baby.

 

In the silent moments up here, my mind began to think back to the end of the summer last year. I couldn’t help but think of the duality of life and death. Last year, almost to the day of Puff’s passing this year, I found out that I was pregnant with Lily.

One of the first signs that I was pregnant was Puff’s behavior. He seemed a bit clingier and often would sit on my belly instead of near my neck nuzzled the way he used to. He would start to nip at my clothes, almost like he wanted to move them. When I would, he would kiss my belly. As I got bigger, he would fall asleep along side or on top of my belly and wait for her to kick. When she would, he would jump over the area she kicked and kiss it. It was the most heartbreakingly adorable thing ever.

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When she was born, he would kiss the top of her head or try to climb into her seat with her. If I was in the other room and heard her crying, I’d rush in to see him stretching up next to her on his hind legs to check if she was okay. If I left anything on the floor that smelled like her, I knew I would find him sitting right on top of it.

I started noticing the signs of something not right with him around the end of April, when Lily was born. I was juggling recovering from a rough birth, having my fist newborn and running him back & forth to the vet. At first the vet thought allergies and put him on children’s Benadryl. Then it progressed to a cough and it was antibiotics. Then we noticed he wasn’t hopping around like he used to- a laser treatment for a degenerated disk in his back. He still had his wits about him though, eating and drinking despite the coughing/ sneezing that came with it. Then he started to lose fur. I don’t mean the slight shedding rabbits normally do, I mean big time– bald patches everywhere. Then I got the actual diagnosis,

… there was a tumor in his chest that was causing all of the symptoms.

When talking about his health one day to a family member, I mentioned how it seemed to have started after Lily was born. I secretly wondered if somehow I was slipping on how well I was taking care of him. She said to me, “Think about it this way… maybe he has been suffering and didn’t want to show you since he knew Lily wasn’t here yet. Maybe he needed to know that you had her and it would be ok for him to let go.”

It broke my heart and all at the same time made perfect sense. This rabbit was also the last living piece I had to my stepfather who had passed away 5 years ago.

Maybe it is my need to believe, but I tend to feel my step father’s presence around me still, and I especially felt it in all of those bunny kisses. Of course he would want to meet Lily! Of course he would be excited! Of course he would love her! I had to let go of my step father with the same reservation I had with Puff- “in no way do I ever, ever want to lose you, but the suffering is way beyond my capacity to make you comfortable.”

This life/death duality hurts SO bad to process but all at the same time gives me such a peace. Feeling it all is by far a necessary component to healing from each loss. In my case, with every loss I didn’t properly process, it came back hurting more so in the next loss.

I’ve learned how important it is to surrender. Each time I thought I surrendered, I had more to do. So I keep surrendering and keep reminding myself that there is a plan much bigger than mine. Whether you believe in God, the Universe, spirits, Mother Earth- it is bigger than you and I and what happens is not in our control. The lesson in surrendering is the same.

My job now is to appreciate every little thing I’m given- the good and the bad. There are lessons in both. This whole experience was a reminder that all these beautiful things in life aren’t ours to keep. It is all temporary and cannot be taken for granted.

I have one focus now- this beautiful baby girl. She isn’t mine either. I have her for a short time, and it is flying by! There will never be enough time, never the “right” time, but when she is ready, she’ll be spreading her wings and becoming who she is- and I’ll have to surrender in that time as well.

Love, let go, surrender, learn, and repeat

A bit of Paradise with Papaya

Whenever I eat papaya, I instantly feel like I’m sitting on a beach in Hawaii. Since papaya isn’t grown locally for me, I forget how much I love it until I make the point of buying it & pop one of those bad boys open.

Besides transporting me to a sandy beach, there are more reasons to love this fruit. Papaya is not only low in calories but packs a punch with the amount of fiber it contains and is a great source of beta carotene, folate, and vitamins A, C and E!

Don’t throw away those seeds either!! There are tons of benefits to these icky looking seeds.

Papaya seeds contain an anti-parasitic property called carpaine and have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive system aiding with IBS, constipation, ulcers, indigestion, acid reflux, and even cramps during that time of the month! High levels of oleic and palmitic acids in the seeds are believed to help protect your body against cancer and aid in detoxifying and strengthening the liver and kidneys. Flavanoids found in the seeds are said to help boost the immune system.

PLEASE NOTE: I have seen warnings against taking papaya seeds during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mamas- so make sure you consult your doctor before starting a papaya seed supplement or making papaya seeds a part of your daily routine.

In the mean time, enjoy that papaya with some lime juice squeezed on top or whip up one of the recipes below…

 

Continue reading “A bit of Paradise with Papaya”

Quinoa love…

My love of quinoa runs deep.

 

I jumped on this spiraled grain band wagon shortly after I was put on an elimination diet and quite literally ran out of food that I could consume safely. (More on this in a future post!) It was allergy safe and at a time when cardboard was looking pretty appetizing to me, I happily ate this bland tasting superfood.

After doing my research, I realized that quinoa was the EASIEST ingredient to work with in terms of flavor, not to mention heath benefits like crazy! (High in protein, minerals, antioxidants, provides energy, aids in weight loss, lowers triglycerdies, blood sugar and insulin levels…I’m sure you need more convincing ;)) Quinoa takes on the flavors of whatever you are cooking with meaning it could be paired with any spices or vegetable to pump up the flavor! This beautiful grain works for breakfast, lunch or dinner! I posted below one of my favorite go-to quinoa meals. Just like quinoa… Mexican bowls will always have my heart!

Continue reading “Quinoa love…”

Finding balance within the WILDEST of adventures…

So I figured I would start this blog off with a bang… start it with the wildest of adventures- AWAITING THE BIRTH OF MY BABY. ;P Insane! I’m literally just waiting… could be weeks, days, hours or even minutes! Partaking in the journey to motherhood has in fact, been the wildest of adventures. It has been a wonderful way to reclaim my balance in life however, due to the unbalanced and totally unpredictable nature that growing a human requires of a person.

There are a few things you could have counted on from pre-baby Karen… I would wake up and drink my lemon-ginger tea, I would practice some yoga, find some time for meditation, drink my green juice- ya know, all the typical healthy stuff. But here I was morning sickness that was not settled by the ginger, sick at the thought of ANYTHING green, too tired to get on my mat (or too swollen to comfortably do asana at ALL towards the end), and breathing … who are we kidding? I had a child sitting on my ribs for months! My routine, my patterns, my sense of health and wellness, my identity was being questioned by this human I had growing inside of me. My place of balance I had found before pregnancy was no longer working for me. It was really hard to change my habits and beliefs about what I “should” be doing everyday. I was at a cross roads that I think so many people face: “I know this is good for me but… (enter excuse).”

Now I would love to say that I powered through and drank that juice, got on my mat everyday and never had an unhealthy craving- but I would be lying. And I’d rather not lie. In fact, I ate more ice cream than I have ever have in my life & those pints my friend,  were my biggest teacher.

It is true, I worked hard to get myself into these routines to start but once they became part of my day to day, they were easy for me. This isn’t the case for everyone, especially those who are just starting out on their wellness journey. Experiencing these struggles in what felt like a foreign body at times, really helped me to put myself into some of my  health client’s mindsets. It has also helped me to understand physical limitations of my yoga students that I haven’t ever had to consider. It taught me how to re-balance when I was out of whack and most importantly: It has taught me about not getting stuck in routines, even the healthy ones. 

I’ve come to learn the modifications of my yoga practice quite well. I’ve learned that having some ice cream at the end of the day may in fact make the whole day worth it. I have learned the beauty of just taking a walk when reaching for my toes is no longer accessible to me. I now bend at the knees or say “screw it” when something drops to the floor– these are all my new normals. Soon, I’ll have a baby girl in my arms and will have to adjust ALL over again. Getting stuck in these habits- not an option. Going with the flow is the ultimate in learning to balance, over and over again.