Tag: healthy eating

My Chocolate Addiction

I’m a chocolate girl through and through. In my family, a dessert isn’t a dessert unless it incorporates some aspect of chocolate. I have learned to appreciate fruity pies and other things but when someone says “dessert” my mind automatically conjures up a piece of chocolate cake. Cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake… if beggars can be choosers.

Growing up, my grandma would hand make beautiful themed cakes for all of the grand kids birthdays (there’s 12 of us). While she’d always incorporate some other flavor into a small section of her elaborate creations for those poor souls who didn’t know the joy of growing up in a chocolate addicted family, when it came to choosing a flavor for the bulk of the cake no questions were asked. It was going to be chocolate. Those cakes remain one of my dearest childhood memories.

When I cut out sugar 14 months ago and a few months later decided to continue with a diet that excluded refined sugar, I quickly realized I would need to get creative. We’re talking crisis mode. Chocolate and sugar often go hand in hand. You’re going to be hard pressed to find chocolate based desserts or even chocolate bars that do not contain added refined sugars unless you make your own. So what was a girl to do? Google! There are tons of recipes online that use refined sugar alternatives and having baked my entire life, a made from scratch solution was just what I was looking for. I was determined to find the perfect recipe before my birthday arrived.

That’s when I discovered Chocolate Covered Katie. She has created an extremely popular healthy baking blog. After a quick glance at her website I knew I had found my girl. Katie’s recipes include healthier alternatives to many of your standard baking ingredients, such as refined sugar. It did not take me long to settle on her Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Cake which features both gluten free and vegan options. I’ve made this cake 3 times now.

Once of the things I love about Katie’s recipes, is that she makes them as customizable as possible. In place of cows milk, I’ve used almond and coconut milk in the past and I opt for coconut oil and a gluten free flour blend. I also use equal parts Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa for a richer chocolate taste.

My taste buds have changed over the last year with the reduction in my sugar consumption and I’ve found that the called for 1/2 cup of maple syrup makes the cake too sweet for me. I reduce it slightly to between 1/4 – 1/2 cup (depending on who will be joining me in consuming… I’m unashamed to admit that I have eaten the entire cake by myself… not in one sitting of course!). I usually double the recipe using (2) 8′ round baking pans and I also add in 1/2 cup dark chocolate baking chunks per layer (so a full cup when doubling the recipe). That’s probably not necessary but again, I love chocolate and, why not?

Katie has many frosting recipes and glazes on her website as well but when I originally made her cake recipe I did not have the correct ingredients for the frosting recipe I had selected, so I found and have continued to use this 5 Minute Vegan Chocolate Frosting instead. I’d love to find a delicious refined sugar free peanut butter frosting recipe. Katie has a slew of them on her website. Mmmmm… that would be a winning combo right there.

When I don’t want an entire cake taunting me from the kitchen, I opt for a single square from chocolate bars that are comprised of at least 88% dark chocolate to cure my cravings. These bars generally have 6 grams of sugar or less per serving. A serving is usually half of the bar. The bars are often broken down into 12 squares so when you reduce the serving size down to 1 square per serving, that’s less than 1 gram of sugar! Not bad and just enough chocolate to give me the fix I’m looking for. Here is one of my favorites. This is another. What’s your “go-to” chocolate?

Healing Starts at Home

We’re surrounded by it. The commercials, the magazines, the relentless ads featuring cure all solutions for every condition under the sun. Often times it involves purchasing one or more products, a slew of supplements or subscribing to some bundle of promises neatly packaged. A healthy person may not give these advertisements a second thought. Some of them even come across as obviously scammy in nature. Under normal circumstances, they might not have drawn your attention either. But when you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, you notice.

If you go so far as to dig deeper into these products you’ll likely find avid supporters who swear by them, say the products pushed them over the hump on their path towards healing and they will never purchase from anywhere else. Then you’ll find customers who will never touch the same product again. Your mind will acknowledge the latter but it’ll keep coming back to the former…what if this is the answer I’ve been searching for… what if…

While there’s nothing wrong with investing into health products or supplements (I take a handful myself and they’ve been instrumental on my own journey), these items do add up and it does get expensive. Then it becomes stressful. I think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in finding “the one solution” – the “answer to our prayers” – that we overlook the place where true healing starts: at home.

Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating right? Are you consuming mostly unprocessed foods? Are you spending some time outside under the sun each day? Are you meditating? Are you taking time out of your week for some form of yoga or exercise? Are you on good terms with your family, your friends and your coworkers?

I encourage you to create your own checklist and once you have it, quiz yourself on a regular basis. If you find that your daily life is not serving your physical or mental health, then you can take all of the supplements and follow all of the advice that you can get your hands on and you’ll never receive the full benefits. They might help you for a while but sooner or later your body and your mind will rebel. And the climb out will be longer and harder than it was before. This is the truth.

It’s hard, I get it. But no matter what I try, I always come back to the basics… personally, I feel better when I’m in bed by 10pm. I don’t know why that’s such a struggle for me but it is. I love dairy – especially cheese – but I know my body does better without it (all things in moderation). Even though I have to force myself outside on some days, I always, almost immediately, feel better for having done it. Strenuous exercise just isn’t in the cards for me right now but yoga… that I love and that I can do. And as a highly empathetic person, I feel everything… I do my best to pick my spots and pick my people because I know if I put too much on my plate or associate with negative nelly’s, the weight of those things is immobilizing and I’ll be no good to anyone, myself included.

Be gentle with yourself and be kind. But don’t forget to also be honest. If you’re at square one right now, I feel you. I really do. Take a deep breathe and find one thing – just one – that you know has a positive impact on your health (physical or mental) that you can implement immediately. It could be a 15 minute walk during lunch to clear your head and get some fresh air or maybe exchanging the drive thru for a more nourishing lunch that in reality, only takes a quick trip to the store and a couple of minutes each night to put together.

Start there and build… slowly, gradually, setting yourself up for success. Once you’ve done all that you can, add in those supplements for support and research those products you’ve heard so much about if you believe they might really help you. But don’t overlook the healing that starts at home, for that’s where the true healing begins.

Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos

I was at the grocery store not long ago, in the vegetable section, selecting some mushrooms to use in dinners for the upcoming week. Sitting right next to the containers of whole and pre-sliced button mushrooms were these beautiful Portobellos and right next to those were some smaller, stuffed mushrooms. They caught my attention but as I bent over to grab some I hesitated. Honestly, they didn’t look all that appetizing in their commercially prepared form but I loved the concept! Generally, when given the option, I prefer to eat things as unprocessed as possible so I thought, why not make my own?

 

I love mushrooms but truth be told, the big Portobellos can be a bit intimidating… at least, they’ve always seemed that way to me. I was quite happy to discover that they’re very easy to work with. If you don’t like mushrooms to begin with, you may not be a fan no matter the size but those of you that do, whether you’ve worked with Portobellos before or not, will love this recipe. Not only are my Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos super tasty, they make wonderful leftovers as well.

 

 

I realize sausage is not exactly a “health food” but you can easily substitute ground beef, ground turkey or even more vegetables in place of the ground sausage to opt for a more heart healthy version. I decided to stick with the sausage in my recipe because it’s so flavorful and alleviates any need to add additional seasoning, which may be a factor if you don’t have a lot of extra time.

 

Quinoa is another main competent of this dish and for those not familiar, quinoa is not only high in protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids! One of the few foods that can boast that fact. (What are amino acids? Great question! This article breaks it down in a detailed way that is very easy to understand.) I’m still at the experimental stage with quinoa. On it’s own it can be a bit plain and tasteless but combined with other things? It blends very well, adds a cool texture to the dish and is packed with nutrients, which is why I opted to use it in this recipe.

If you’ve never cooked Portobellos before and haven’t tried quinoa, consider today’s recipe a challenge and a stepping stone! I’m constantly trying to bridge the gap between what I know I’m capable of and the potential that’s just waiting to be tapped into. Cooking is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of the time you’ll be rewarded in the tastiest of ways and you’ll have fun doing it!

Have you made one of my recipes? I’d love to see your pictures!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3 

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Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Refined Sugar Free 

Course: Main Course
Servings: 6
Calories: 333 kcal
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Red Quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium Zucchini, cubed
  • 7 bunches Broccoli Florets, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice)
  • 1 lb Ground Sausage
  • 6 large Portobello Mushrooms
  • 1 jar Ragu Simply Marinara
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. 

  2. Add rinsed quinoa, cover and reduce to a simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

  3. While the quinoa cooks, cut up your garlic, onion, zucchini and broccoli. 

  4. Heat 1 tbsp. ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice) in a large skillet on medium heat.

  5. Add your chopped garlic and onion to the skillet and brown.

  6. Once your garlic and onion are browned, add in your chopped zucchini and broccoli.

  7. While your vegetables are browning, prepare your portobello mushrooms. Cut off the stems and if desired, chop them up and toss inside pan with other vegetables. Scoop out gills with a spoon and discard. 

  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  9. Push veggies to the side of the pan and add 1lb ground sausage. 

  10. Cook meat thoroughly, breaking up big chunks with a wooden spoon as it browns.

  11. Once meat is brown, remove from heat and add cooked quinoa to pan. Combine the veggies, browned meat and cooked quinoa.

  12. Spread a thin layer of the mixture onto the bottom of a 13 x 9 non stick baking dish. 

  13. Brush the outside of the portobello mushrooms with 1 tbsp ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice) and place inside the baking dish.

  14. Fill mushroom caps with remaining mixture.

  15. Top with desired amount of marinara sauce.

  16. Bake for 30 minutes until mushrooms caps are thoroughly cooked.

  17. Plate and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

-1 clove of garlic is equivalent to approximately 1 tsp bottled minced garlic

-I only used 4 Portobello Mushrooms when I made this recipe. There was a significant amount of stuffing left over, which I spread along the bottom of the baking dish. If using 6 Portobello Mushrooms like I recommend, you will have enough leftover stuffing to lightly layer the bottom of the baking dish but stuffing ingredients can be increased if more leftover stuffing is desired.

-If you don't have a large enough skillet or pan, you can cook the meat in a separate skillet and combine with the veggies and quinoa at the end.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I love hummus. Love to the point that while I’m a total rule abiding date checker with most food items, I refuse to let a single drop of those container’s delectable contents go to waste (and at an average price of $5-$6 per container, really, who can afford to??). Hummus goes great with so many things. And it’s such a versatile snack.

I’ll even use hummus in place of salad dressings on my sandwiches or as a spread atop burgers. It’s also a handy sidekick when you’re trying to get more veggies in at snack time. A tablespoon of creamy hummus can transform any carrot stick, cucumber slice or pepper wedge like you wouldn’t believe… I’m not fooling anyone am I? Alright, well I suppose it’s helpful to like veggies to begin with. Corn chips and pita bread are two more standard hummus go-to’s.

Then we have all of the flavors hummus boasts – Roasted Garlic, Sun Dried Tomato, Mediterranean style, and of course, good old Classic. I even came across *gasp* AVOCADO hummus. Two of my favorite foods combined into one. You bet I’m going to try that one out. The list just keeps on going. There’s a flavor for just about everyone. One of my personal favorites is Roasted Red Pepper and, interested in learning how to make it myself, I set out to create my own hummus recipe.

When I began experimenting with hummus recipes this past spring, one thing I was surprised to learn was how easy it was to make hummus. To my relief, the ingredients were very easy to find. All the die-hard hummus makers are laughing at me now. But seriously, one of my pet peeves with healthy recipes is the amount of strange ingredients you come across that you either can’t find or will likely never use again and I just assumed hummus would be one of those recipes.

It’s not. And a lot of it comes down to personal taste preference. Aside from the Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste), an ingredient you may or may not be familiar with – which, by the way, is worth a Google to learn about the medley of other things it’s awesome with – hummus is very straightforward and the ingredients are easy to find.

The best part? Once you have the ingredients for your favorite hummus recipe, you are all set! Most hummus recipes have a similar base with an assortment of spices in varying amounts and many of those ingredients will last you a long time. If you want to change things up, you can easily experiment and switch up the flavor combo with a couple of tweaks or substitutions.

Aside from the yummy flavors and wide variety of snacks that can go along with hummus, it makes a wonderful side dish for a multitude of occasions, from a delicious after school snack for the kiddos to the perfect center piece for an appetizer party platter. Football season has just gotten underway here in the states and while I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge sports fan, I am a huge food fan and I’m looking forward to putting together another platter like the one pictured above, to share with some friends this coming weekend.

With that, I hope you enjoy my Roasted Red Pepper Hummus as much as I do!

What’s your favorite hummus recipe? Have you tried mine? I’d love to see your pictures!!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3 

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Vegan

Course: Side Dish, Snack
Servings: 6
Calories: 54 kcal
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
  • 1 15oz Can Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), drained, liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. Chickpea Juice
  • 3 tbsp. Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)
  • 1 medium Lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 medium Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Roasted Peppers, diced
  • 3/4 tsp. Cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Salt
Garnishes (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, minced
  • Sweet Roasted Peppers, diced
Instructions
  1. Drain chickpeas into a bowl, save and set aside drained liquid.

  2. Rinse chickpeas and remove skins, if desired.

  3. Add chickpeas, 1/4 cup chickpea juice, tahini, lemon juice and garlic to a food processor.

  4. Process on high until well blended. 

  5. Scrape the sides of the food processor and add the sweet roasted peppers, cumin, paprika and salt.

  6. Process on high until creamy. If more liquid is needed, add remaining 2 tbsp. chickpea liquid and process until incorporated.

  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish as desired with olive oil, garlic and diced sweet roasted peppers.

  8. Refrigerate until chilled and serve.

Recipe Notes

-If you're feeling ambitious, dried chickpeas can also be used. 

-While I did not do so, many people take a few extra minutes to remove the skins from the chickpeas to make a creamier hummus. If you peel your chickpeas, less liquid may be required. For more information, here is a great article with some tips for peeling chickpeas!

-1 medium lemon is the equivalent to approximately 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice.

-1 clove of garlic is equivalent to approximately 1 tsp bottled minced garlic.

 

 

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl

I’m SO excited to be at the point where I can finally start sharing recipes with you all!! When I first began seriously considering starting a blog I knew that no matter what, I wanted there to be a recipe section. Growing up I was an avid baker thanks in large part to the influence of my grandma’s, both of whom I spent many hours with in the kitchen whipping up delicious desserts. By the time I was diagnosed with mono I was struggling to gather the energy to simply shower, let alone spend any quality time in the kitchen and when I began experimenting with my diet not long after, finding things to bake that contained ingredients I could eat became a real challenge.

I did get back in the kitchen and I did eventually discover a whole world of really yummy gluten / sugar free desserts (some of which I’ll be sharing with you) but as I cleaned up my diet and discovered the power of real, nourishing foods, I was surprised at the amount of satisfaction I found in preparing them. I fell in love with the art of cooking. Baking is, in many ways, an exact science and while it will always be one of my first loves, in cooking I found the freedom to create.

I launched Incredibly You during my trip to Canada over the summer and due to time constraints and other things, I just wasn’t able to put the prep time and thought into properly launching the recipe section of my website. BUT I did have plenty of time to come up with lots of fun recipes ideas I’m now beginning to work on!!

It didn’t take long to decide what recipe to post first. It was a no brainer really. Every morning I start my day off with a protein shake. I LOVE protein shakes for so many reasons, the top 3 being:

1. They’re filling! and with a balanced combo of protein/fat/carbs, they carry me through the morning until lunch time without the urge to snack.

2. They’re quick and easy to make on the go.

3. They’re the perfect base for a smoothie bowl and SO MUCH FUN to customize!

I used Vivo Life Perform Protein Powder in today’s recipe but any protein powder and flavor will do. That’s totally up to you! Another reason I love this recipe is because I hate unnecessary messes and having to lug out my big old blender for single serving endeavors. If you have a magic bullet or something equivalent, that will do the job just fine!

If you like a thicker base or are looking for a more calorie dense meal replacement or snack option, a whole banana can be used and half of an avocado can be added. Avocado is a great way to up your healthy fats and it takes the delicious creamy factor of the base to another level. (Keep in mind you might need to increase your liquid content if you make these additions.)

Tip: When bananas have reached my desired level of ripeness (I don’t like them mushy!) I cut them into chunks and freeze them for my protein shakes and smoothies. I find this also reduces the amount of ice that is needed. Fresh banana can be used, but you may find more ice is necessary.

I’m sure you’ve heard the often repeated mantra that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I can already hear my no breakfasters groaning 😉 Today’s recipe can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re like me and wake up starving, it’s a great way to begin your day. If you’re not, that’s ok too. It also makes a wonderful pre/post workout snack or (again, if you’re like me) a “just because you need a snack” snack. It’s highly customizable and can easily be used as a meal replacement if desired. For all of my fellow peanut butter / banana addicts, this one’s for you!

Have you made one of my recipes? I’d love to see your pictures!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3

0 from 0 votes
Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Refined Sugar Free / Vegan

Course: Breakfast, Meal Replacement, Snack
Servings: 1
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
Protein Smoothie Base
  • 2/3 cup Nut Milk*
  • 1/2 cup Crushed Ice
  • 1 scoop Protein Powder**
  • 1 tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • 1/2-1 Banana, frozen
Optional Toppings
  • Chopped Pecans
  • Chopped Walnuts
  • Sliced Banana
  • Cacao Nibs
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Flaxseed
  • Peanut Butter Drizzle
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the protein smoothie base in a blender and blend on high speed for 1 minute or until thoroughly combined.

  2. Transfer protein smoothie base to a bowl or mug.

  3. Add desired toppings.

  4. Enjoy!!!

Recipe Notes

*I used homemade cashew milk in this recipe but any store bought nut milk will do. I have not made this recipe with dairy milk. Nut milk is generally thicker and creamier than cow's milk so keep this in mind if you opt for the latter; you may need to reduce the liquid to 1/2 cup or less depending on the contents and desired thickness of your smoothie base.

**Protein Powder recommendations: I discovered Vivo Life’s Perform Protein Powder last spring and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. With a variety of flavors like Raw Cacao, Madagascan Vanilla (used in today’s recipe), Salted Maca Caramel and Acai & Blueberry the flavor combos are endless. Garden of Life Meal Replacement is another personal favorite and is a less expensive but still nutrient rich protein powder that you can find on Amazon. If you don’t already have a favorite, both of these are great, clean options!

First things first…

This week I was looking forward to sharing with you all what I hope is the first of many recipe posts. I’ve been working on a couple of different yummy creations I’m excited to put out there but I’m afraid the first of those will have to wait until next week. The time and energy I had allocated this last week to finish up my first recipe post was unexpectedly redirected to another cause. I’m sorry, not sorry if you know what I mean 😉 Well, let me explain first.

Those of you who know me are almost certainly aware that I’m a big animal lover. I always have been and I’m sure I always will be. (*Queue my body’s distress signal*… sorry allergies, this is one I’m not willing to give up!) I currently play mom to a retired racehorse, a very particular Tortie and a painted turtle, who, after a year, I learned was not a male, but in fact, a female… that’s a mind blowing story for another time. All of them are rescues in one way or another.

(Day 1) He’s very gremlin-ish right now but I’m positive there’s a handsome face hiding under all that gunk.

I currently live in the country and at least a couple of times a year, a stray cat or kitten will show up, sometimes pregnant. While some of them have stuck around to join the little posse of barn cats, I have re-homed a good majority of them after attending to whatever small issues they may have, usually home remedy style. Though they generally find me, I will take on a project now and then if one happens my way through social media or an acquaintance.

Such was the case on Sunday night when I received a facebook message about a kitten that had been found in the middle of the road about a half hour away. Unfortunately, the family’s schedule did not allow room to take on a 5 week old kitten with an eye infection who needed care. Assuming I could treat the eye infection on my own and knowing the flexibility of my schedule meshed well with taking on a young kitten, I agreed to come and get him.

After picking up some eye ointment and a couple of other small supplies, I drove out to collect him the next morning. I am not a hard core rescuer and I was not prepared for the sight that greeted me when I arrived. I found a small gray kitten curled up in a ball tucked into the corner of a breezeway attached to the house. He broke out in a deafening purr when I reached down to pick him up but when I turned him over, my stomach flipped. His eyes were swollen shut and covered in gunk. I was horrified to see fleas crawling over his face and running up and down his belly.  It was obvious he had an upper respiratory infection (which likely led to the conjunctivitis) and his bony but bloated body screamed worms.

With a knot in my stomach, I gently placed him in my car and headed home. The first order of business was to get rid of the fleas. I gave him a couple coconut oil / dawn dish soap baths (that combo works like a charm) and got him into the vet a couple of hours later. We are on day 4 of antibiotics with another check-up scheduled for this afternoon.

His eyes are still swollen and icky looking but warm compresses and eye ointment are helping and he can now open them both halfway. He’s eating like a champ and we FINALLY had a bowel movement… yay!! Time will tell if he’ll regain full eyesight and everyday I’m hoping the sneezing will lessen and the congestion will start to clear.

He can’t see very well and because of his congestion, he probably can’t smell much either but that hasn’t slowed him down. He’s a sweetheart, full of life and spunk in spite of his handicaps and sick quality of life, very likely the only kind he’s ever known. Each time his little face looks up towards my voice, my heart melts. He’s a gem and a constant reminder to me that the bad days will come and I don’t need to apologize for them, but if I can simply remember to do the best I can with the cards I’m dealt and keep that attitude of gratitude, everything will be alright.

So, my friends, after a couple of nights with little sleep, a sick kitten on my mind and my body warning me to tread more slowly, I realized the recipe post would have to wait because the little man couldn’t.

I can’t wait to share with you some of my creative concoctions. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy them as much as I do 🙂 but, first things first…

For updates on “Archie” including videos of his deafeningly sweet purr and wickedly fast moves you can follow along via Facebook and Instagram

Learning to Love the Process

I’m no stranger to working out. I’ve been exercising and coming up with workout routines for myself on and off for the past 10 years. I haven’t always been the most consistent with it but it’s definitely been a part of my life. Whether in the form of gym sessions or home based training sessions, I’ve amassed a nice collection of DVDs and youtube workouts, weights, resistant bands and other exercise related accessories over the years. I’ve dabbled in quite a few different areas from running, kickboxing and HIIT training to yoga. For the most part, exercising has been something I enjoy doing.

A morning spent cleaning the barn? While not your conventional workout, it counts in my book!

While I use to find it relatively easy to push myself in my workouts, my nutritional support had often been lacking. The research and dietary changes I’ve implemented in the last eighteen months has changed that but it’s been over two years since I’ve had any sort of consistent workout routine. Since the end of 2016, my health has been the dictating factor. My body simply hasn’t felt well enough to even think about doing any kind of semi-strenuous exercising… until recently. My health has improved significantly in the past couple of months and it’s had me thinking more and more about the idea of starting up an exercise routine again. So in true Kayla fashion, I wasted no time in signing up for a free month long trial of the fitness app, Aaptiv. I woke up the next morning, full of energy (well, mental energy at least) and excited to jump into my first 40 minute workout session – Abs, Booty and Cardio.

Things started off well but by the halfway point my heart was pounding out of my chest and I could feel my breakfast coming back up (ewww, sorry… honesty can be brutal!). I couldn’t get enough air. I tried breaking for longer and longer periods of time between each set of exercises but I just wasn’t recovering and I couldn’t catch my breath. I pushed on a little more and finally, with 8 minutes left to go, detached myself from my pride and quit. Pushing any further was just downright counterproductive. My body was spent.

I sat down for a minute before heading to the bathroom for a shower. I splashed some water on my face and realizing how shaky and lightheaded I actually was, sat down on top of the toilet to give my body another chance to recover. All at once the walls came crashing down and I was consumed by an overwhelming feeling of failure as the tears flowed. I sat on the toilet crying my eyes out for 20 minutes. They just kept coming. For eighteen months I have felt betrayed by my body and longed to feel strong again, to feel physically adequate.

“I thought I was starting off easy…” I texted my mom. “I’ve worked out over the years but never had the nutritional element to support it. Now I have that down and can’t do the cardio ugh I don’t know why I feel so discouraged. My brain wants to do more than my body can.”

In true mom fashion, she quickly replied with some sound advice: “Don’t do cardio stuff to start, you have been super busy. Start with more yoga; I’ll send you a link to a girl I like. You have come leaps and bounds compared to where you were, so look at all the ground you have covered versus the ground still to go. You will build up to it, you’re doing great,” she said.

“Thanks Mom,” I replied, “that’d be great. I haven’t even been doing yoga consistently and haven’t been getting enough sleep, my own fault. I don’t know why I thought high intensity would be best to start off with (insert laughing emojis). Laughing now. Pity party closing down. Love you!”

And just like that I realized how silly I had been and how right she was. Six months ago I had struggled to get through a grocery store. Since then I had planned and executed a six week trip to Canada, driving 21 1/2 hours each way on my own. I had undertaken a part time job as a bartender/waitress with no prior experience and had done so successfully. I had started riding horses again. I made new friends in a new country and pushed my body farther than I thought I could, farther than I probably should have. Through it all my body had been resilient, offering me more lee-way than it had in a long time. Why was I punishing it in return?

A necklace I purchased for one of my sisters serves as a great reminder for us all.

Why was I viewing my body as weak? Was it because I felt it didn’t live up to what I thought constituted as “strong?” Who’s definition of strong was I using? It wasn’t serving me well. Strength is not limited to what you see on the outside, I realized, as I thought about my journey over the past year and a half. In fact, I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been in so many ways.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s often the embracing, the letting go of whatever frustrations or expectations you feel like you’re just not meeting, that opens up the door to growth you may not have even realized was possible. It’s such an incredibly humbling but beautifully liberating experience. Maybe I’m just different (that’s entirely possible ha ha), or maybe I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m more open to receiving the lessons that so often present themselves if we’re only receptive, but these realizations seem to come frequently these days and I’m so grateful for them. I have every intention of building my body back up to what I know it can be. I still want those abs and the tight glutes too, and I’m confident I’ll get there. It probably won’t be tomorrow or next week or next month but it will be with eyes and ears open to what my body is telling me. Slow and steady. Learning to love the process.

Next week: NEW RECIPE POST!

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Adrenal Fatigue

This week brings us to the last post in the five part overview of my own recent health journey. I appreciate everyone that has followed along and hope that that the telling of my story has offered some guidance and hope to those going through similar things and perhaps some insight for anyone on the outside looking in. Over the next few weeks I look forward to delving deeper into some of the topics that were touched on and much more.

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While I felt much improved after my candida diagnosis and subsequent treatment, things still weren’t great. By the time I went home to Michigan again for Thanksgiving I was seemingly relapsing with more symptoms. Christmas was worse. Once the downhill slide started, as with everything else I had dealt with, it seemed to progress very quickly. For a couple of months I couldn’t do much of anything. Walking through the grocery store was exhausting. I once again needed help looking after my animals. Trips to the barn were brief. I could not get my body out of bed in the morning and everything was overstimulating. The anxiety I was again experiencing was palpable. Night sweats became common, a sure sign that my hormones were out of whack.  After another consultation and test with my naturopath, we confirmed I was suffering from adrenal fatigue.

I think it’s important to briefly explain what adrenal fatigue actually is. Your adrenal glands sit right above your kidneys and they control a variety of hormones. One of the hormones indicative of adrenal function is cortisol. When your body perceives danger (real or “imaginary”) your cortisol levels rise and your body goes into fight or flight mode. Once the danger has passed, your cortisol levels return to normal. If your body is under a constant perceived threat (which could be anything from major relationship problems to the death of a loved one to physical stressors) your cortisol levels are kept at a constantly high level and the adrenal’s ability to regulate other hormones starts to suffer which can set off a chain reaction.

In the morning, your cortisol levels for the day are supposed to be at their highest. That’s what wakes you up and gets you out of bed every morning. From there, cortisol will slowly taper off until nighttime hits and melatonin (your sleep hormone) begins to rise. For someone with adrenal fatigue, that pattern can be seriously skewed. My own cortisol level was not only at its lowest for the day in the morning, it was below the normal range completely. From there, my cortisol spiked around noon, dropped significantly again by late afternoon and then once again started to rise in the evening. I was, literally, riding a wave. My DHEA levels, another hormone produced by the adrenals, was also extremely low.

As with everything else since finding my naturopath, I choose to go the more holistic route with treatment which was basically a combination of supplements and mindfulness practices. I began making a concentrated effort to get to bed by 10pm (I’ll admit, it’s still a struggle), my living and work situation allowed me to sleep in past the point most would be able to which gave my body some of the extra rest it needed, I continued to eat as clean as possible in an effort to reduce the effort my body was required to put forth to digest, and, perhaps the biggest of all was my mental shift, allowing myself to just be. I was so tired of being tired and unwell.

For someone who hates to draw attention and make a big deal out of anything that has to do with oneself, I constantly felt like my body was forcing me to do nothing but that – out of pure necessity. In retrospect, I realize that others did not view me anything like the inconvenience I was sometimes sure I was, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful in the moment. I know that many can relate. You have to make a concentrated effort not to let your mind become your own worst enemy. Your family and friends love you, they want to see you well again and often feel just as helpless themselves. We all need to give ourselves a little break now and then.

Around April of 2018, I started a stronger supplement called HPA Axis Daytime Maintenance, which made a huge difference in my energy levels throughout the day. I started venturing out, doing more things little by little and realized that I could, in moderation. As I improved, the night sweats did as well until they disappeared completely. The palpitations now come only as a warning when I’ve done too much – pushed too hard – instead of as a daily occurrence. I had had so many plans before I started to feel unwell at the end of 2016 and doing things again started to seem possible. I got the urge to travel and moved forward with arrangements, prepared to apply the brakes as soon as my body began showing signs of overload. The timing seemed right to start that blog I had been thinking about for so long, to share my journey thus far and everything I’ve learned with others. To start a conversation, maybe plant an idea or two.

And here I am. For six weeks this summer I enjoyed island life in Canada on Prince Edward Island off the coast of New Brunswick (reference the Anne of Green Gables books for those familiar). I’m so much better in so many ways but my body continues to remind me not to get lackadaisical, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. In a continued effort to heal my gut, I recently took a food sensitivity test to try and more easily identify the foods that could be causing an inflammatory response in my body. My next focus will be to take out those foods for a period of time and then slowly reintroduce them. I’ll also be retesting soon to see where my levels are with my adrenals. For now, I’m enjoying my ventures into new territory and the elusive, ever changing quest to find – and keep – the balance.

Next week: Learning to Love the Process 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Candida Overgrowth

One of the big things I’ve learned so far on my journey is that the ability to pay attention to what you’re feeling and experiencing, in both your mind and body, can not be overstated in its importance. I am grateful for the advancement of medicine and doctors, both of which continue to help so many, but those things should not be used as an excuse to tune out everything your body is telling you on a daily basis. I believe this deeply and have seen example after example to prove this true along my own health journey.

I’m also a big proponent of doing your own research and educating yourself as much as possible on what is or could potentially be going on, especially if you are seeing doctor after doctor with little results, as was my case. Naturally curious by nature, my need to know more and understand as much as I could as to what was happening to my body was only exacerbated by the lack of willingness I found in many of the physicians I saw, to get to the root cause of my problems.

We’ve likely all participated in the “Google symptom search” where the worse case scenarios appear and try to convince us that we’re on our way out. You know that’s going to happen so acknowledge it and dig deeper; in my experience, that is where the gold mine of information lies. Not necessarily among the top 3 search results or even on the first page, but somewhere among the thousands of other websites and forums that are out there. If you truly want answers and are willing to put in the time to find them, you will be amazed by how much you can learn.

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This “Candida Handout” provided by my naturopath was very helpful for breaking down and reminding me which foods I could eat and which foods I needed to stay away from for the ensuing months.

After the initial hour and a half consultation with my naturopath, a follow up “Report of Findings” visit was next (this was all included in the initial $250 consult fee I referenced in my last post). Through my own research, reading and familiarity with the symptoms I was experiencing, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be dealing with an intestinal candida overgrowth. After discussing this with my naturopath, I decided, through her recommendation, to do a stool test which would measure the levels of bacteria in my gut, as well as the yeast levels and check for parasites. (Comprehensive Parasitology, stool, x3 via Doctor’s Data).

The test was very easy to conduct (albeit a little gross) and my results came back within a couple of weeks. It showed that I had some out of wack gut bacteria – not enough of the beneficial bacteria and too much of the commensal or imbalanced, ones. The test also showed that out of “none”, “few”, “moderate” and “many”, I had a moderate amount of excessive yeast found in my gut. To be clear, we all have a small amount of yeast in our gut. That’s normal. The problem occurs when an overgrowth happens. Like with most things, there are usually multiple contributing factors. My immune system had already been weakened considerably by the mono and resulting issues that required the use of steroids and other medications.

By the time my naturopath gave me a Candida diet handout, I was, thankfully, already familiar with the sort of outline I would need to follow should my suspicions be confirmed. Unfortunately, candida feeds on sugar, which means adherence to a strictly sugar free diet is necessary to kill it. This includes doing away with not only refined sugars, but also taking out high sugar fruits and vegetables and limiting the low sugar ones. Along with this, I removed all cheeses and other “moldy” or mold susceptible foods such as mushrooms, peanuts (and peanut butter), as well as any yeast containing foods. Having already been gluten free for some time by this point, this last item was fairly easy to avoid since I was largely already doing so. It also meant no ice cream! I’m sure glad I got my fix earlier in the summer but realized how much worse I had probably been making my symptoms without even knowing it.

An arsenal of strategically chosen supplements was a critical part of the mission to help restore the balance in my body.

I adhered strictly to the supplement and dietary recommendations my naturopath had given me for the next two months. By the time I retested for the candida and made an appointment to see my naturopath again, I had been on the diet for around 4 months, twice as long as was necessary. My stomach issues had largely (although not completely) resolved and I was feeling so much better in so many ways. Mercifully, my test results reflected that. The candida no longer appeared to be an issue and the bacteria in my gut were at healthy levels again.

Now the fun part: re-introducing some of the foods I loved (oh how I missed the aforementioned cheese, peanut butter and mushrooms and looked forward to adding them back into my diet – not at the same time… or together, ewww!). This was done one food at a time. I successfully reintroduced everything, except the sugar. By this time I had read and learned about the havoc our gross over-consumption of sugar reeks on our bodies and I wasn’t sure I wanted to fully reintroduce it again. I’ve already been sugar free for this long, I thought, what’s a little longer.

This diet was a big adjustment and so much more difficult for me personally, than going gluten free – but I did it, I learned a lot and by choice have continued to stick with it. I’ll be sharing more soon on why I’ve chosen to denormalize sugar, along with some helpful information and advice if you’d like to do the same.

Next week (the last in the 5 part series documenting my recent health journey) – My Journey Through Health and Healing: Adrenal Fatigue 

My Journey Through Health and Healing: Finding a Naturopath

In spite of the new challenges my allergies and the onset of asthma (that I covered last week) presented, summer came, the tests and doctors visits slowed down and it felt good to get outside. I was still having a lot of GI problems and was growing frustrated with the symptomatic treatment I was receiving from doctors. No one seemed to think that my sudden outbreak of symptoms and issues were related. To me it was a no-brainer. I was being treated and medicated for each symptom on its own but what about the cause??

Per the recommendation of the allergist, I bought a HEPA air filter and some allergen proof mattress and pillow covers that spring… I was doing my best to cover my bases!

Summer time meant warm weather up here in the Mid-West and ICE CREAM. Like ice cream every day. At least, multiple times a week. I might have an ice cream addiction, okay? Well, it’s not that bad but it’s a personal favorite and finding little enjoyment in much else during that period, I indulged in it.

Around this time, my mother told me about a conversation she had had with a doctor who had recently partnered with a business that my parents co-founded, called Bonvera. She had told him about myself and everything I had been dealing with. He had started a revolutionary clinic in Wichita, Kansas called Prairie Health and Wellness that offers a monthly membership and takes a multi-faceted approach to health and healing. It was too bad I didn’t live closer to his clinic, he had told my mom, there were a number of tests he would have run right off the bat that a typical doctor most likely wouldn’t.

One of the doctors in his practice is a licensed naturopath, something I hadn’t even considered up until that point. After deciding that moving to Kansas for a short time was just not practical, I decided to look into the possibility of seeing a naturopath. I honestly didn’t know much about them and had certainly never been to one before; I didn’t even know if there were any remotely close to where I live.

Lo and behold a quick Google search revealed not one but many naturopath’s in the state of Ohio and several with-in a 90 mile radius. I quickly educated myself as I narrowed down the results to one who I hoped would be a good fit for my situation. Not all self proclaimed naturopath’s have actually had formal training, I learned. There are only 7 accredited naturopathic medical programs in the United States and only 22 states currently recognize licensed naturopaths. I noticed that Ohio was not yet one of them.

What does this mean? It simply means that even if your ND (Naturopathic Doctor) has had formal training (which was important to me), if they are practicing in a state that does not recognize that training, they have some restrictions placed on them. They are more than qualified to practice medicine but they will not be able to accept insurance and they will also not be able to write prescriptions, if they are needed. They can however, still order a large variety of home based test kits depending on what your situation calls for. Overall, I’ve come to think of it more along the lines of a consultation.

Initially, I was a little taken back by the fact that my visits would all be out of pocket and the initial consultation costs were around $250. But honestly, what did I have to lose? I had already spent thousands of dollars (after insurance) on doctors and tests that, in the long run, did not seem to be doing anything for me. I felt like if anything, I was being pushed along on a sideways trajectory. I wanted up and out. I wanted answers. I wanted to feel better again, and if this had any potential to be the answer to my prayers, I wasn’t going to let another couple hundred dollars deter me. What is your health, sanity and quality of life worth? I couldn’t put a price on it.

I began taking more notice of the foods I was eating. I felt like crap already and didn’t need junk food to drag me down further. I found comfort and enjoyment in healthy, nourishing snacks that not only tasted good but didn’t make my body feel worse.

I finally settled on Dr. Maleigha Watts of Toledo Naturopathic. Dr. Watts has a very professional website that clearly states her views on medicine and her belief in the use of both traditional and non traditional methods depending on what the situation calls for. She isn’t against using medications if they are necessary. She also offers free 20 minute phone consultations with potential patients so you can both get a feel and assess if you’d be a good fit for each other. Many of the other naturopath’s that I looked into offered something similar. After my initial consultation with Dr. Watts I had no doubt.

I scheduled my first appointment with Dr. Watts and was amazed when she spent an hour and a half during my first visit asking various questions about my physical and mental health history, dating back to childhood. She is usually scheduled out a month or more in advance for the initial consultations – it’s worth the wait, trust me. The best part? She listened. I mean truly, sincerely listened to what I had to say and to the concerns that I had. Dr. Watts has a beautiful way of making you feel at ease and in every appointment since the first, I walk away feeling refreshed and reinvigorated with a renewed sense of direction and understanding. I left that very first appointment on a high, both physically and emotionally, already so very grateful for what would become a game changer on my journey towards health and healing.

To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a licensed naturopath near you, click here.

Next week: My Journey Through Health and Healing: Candida Overgrowth