It’s Book Release Day!

Higher Vibes Cover only master jpegI’m overjoyed to announce the release of my latest book, Higher Vibes Toolbox. This is a different type of book than I typically share here at Modern Ancestor. Typically, I keep my two writing lives separate – the writing I do as a health author, and the writing I do as an energy healer. I even have two websites that separate one from the other.  In my latest book, however, the two worlds converge. Actually, I believe they’ve always been intricately linked. Body, mind, and spirit are inseparable, and you must nurture all three in order to live your most vibrant life.

From the book jacket:

Divine Guidance in Action…

What would your life look like if you could live in alignment with your highest and greatest good? What would you experience if you had the tools to remove roadblocks keeping you from your life’s true purpose? How would you live if you understood the secrets of tapping into your unlimited potential as a Divine being? In the Higher Vibes Toolbox, intuitive energy healer Karen Frazier offers a comprehensive guide that allows you to do these things and more. Working with the energy healing tools available to everyone, Karen shows you how to connect with your Divine guidance system and use vibrational healing tools to remove blocks, balance your energies, raise your vibration, and connect to your soul’s highest purpose.  Everyone has access to a Divine guidance system, and anyone can use these vibrational healing tools in all aspects of their lives, from healing physical, emotional, and spiritual health issues to raising the vibration of the planet. Learn how to use the tools and discover your full potential to live an empowered life as a Divine being.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Introduction
Chapter 1: An Overview of Your Energetic Systems
Chapter 2: A Process for Healing
Chapter 3 – The Chakras
-Root Chakra – Muladhara
-Sacral Chakra – Svadisthana
-Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura
-Heart Chakra – Anahata
-Throat Chakra – Vishuddha
-Third Eye Chakra – Ajna
-Crown Chakra – Sahasrara
Chapter 4 – Vibration and Healing
Chapter 5 – Awareness and Intention
Chapter 6: Recognizing and Healing Projections and Judgments
Chapter 7 – Meditation
-Grounding
-Traditional (Eastern) Meditation
-Mantra Meditation
-Focus Meditation
-Movement Meditation
-Prayer
-Guided Meditation
-Chakra Meditation
-Affirmation and Visualization
-Gratitude
-Other Activities as Meditation
Chapter 8 – Harnessing the Power of Dreams
-Symbolic Dreams
-Lucid Dreams
-Visitation Dreams
-Out of Body Experiences (OBE) or Traveling Dreams
-Psychic Dreams
-Prophetic Dreams
-Recurring Dreams
-Nightmares
-Remembering Your Dreams
-Basic Dream Interpretation
-How to Use Your Dreams for Vibrational Healing
Chapter 9 – Cultivate Joy
Chapter 10 – Create a Sense of Purpose
Chapter 11 – Sound
-The Effects of Sound
-The Frequency of Sound
-Note, Pitch, and Octave
-Sounds and the Chakras
-Tuning Forks and Singing Bowls
-Solfeggio
-Music
-Binaural Beats
-Vowel Sounds
-Bija Mantras
-Pineal Toning
-Other Sounds
-Listen for Your Spiritual Frequency
Chapter 12 – Crystals
-Magic Rocks
-Working with Crystals
-7 Basic Crystals Everyone Needs
-Properties of Crystals
-My 7 Favorite Crystals
Chapter 13 – Aromatherapy and Herbs
Chapter 14 – Energy Transfer/Energy Healing
-Reiki
-Quantum Touch®
-Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
-Healing Touch
-Homeopathy
-Body Work
-Acupuncture and Acupressure
-Hypnotherapy
-Other Modalities
Chapter 15 – Food, Movement, and Body Image
-You, The Body
-Body Image
-Food
-A Step-By-Step Approach to Finding What to Eat
-Food for the Chakras
-Other Substances
-Movement
Chapter 16 – Vibrational Healing for the Planet
The Vibration of Empowerment

The goal with this book is to offer an array of tools to help you live your most vibrant life. You can pick and choose what works for you. It offers practical tips and activities that bring together body, mind, and spirit into one glorious whole.

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A Journey for Every Body

About 3 1/2 years ago when my son went off to college (I was 48), I was at the peak of my partnership with my autoimmune disease. I noticed constant pain, and even the smallest amount of movement seemed like a huge struggle. I lived a rich life in my mind, spirit, and relationships, but I left my body behind. I knew it wasn’t how I wanted to live, but I accepted it was how things were going to be because I’d been so ill for so long.
 
With the kiddo away at college, it was much easier to get gluten out of my kitchen and eat in a way that was supportive of my body, and my health slowly began to change. For the first time In my life, I made food and movement choices that were about my health and feeling as well as I could instead of being about a) what I craved; b) how much I weighed; c) what was convenient; d) how I looked; e) what I thought my family would enjoy. For the first time ever, I made myself and my health a priority.
 
I started to incorporate gentle movement practices, as well (I started with seated Tai Chi and I gently and slowly went for walks that were as far as I could go). After being a personal trainer, competitive body builder, and aerobics instructor before I got sick, I stepped out of the mindset of “No pain, no gain” for fitness and into the idea of moving what I could in ways that felt good. Some days, what felt good was just rolling my shoulders, so that’s what I moved. Before, fitness for me was all or nothing – I could either take my body to the limit in exercise or not participate at all.
 
I also began to notice how I thought about, talked about, and spoke to my body. The messages I sent weren’t supportive. I thought of my body as broken. I thought it was a prison. I was angry, bewildered, betrayed, heartbroken. My thoughts were, “I’m fat.” “I’m out of shape.” “My body hurts all the time.” “I hate how I look.” “I hate how I feel.” “I don’t trust my body.” “I’m always sick.” These were just a few of the messages with which I bombarded my body. How could it have any choice but to comply with the thoughts and words I directed at it? I started to notice these thoughts and reframe them into communication that was more positive, grateful, and loving.
 
Yet, here I am now. I’m 51 years old and I move with ease. This past weekend, I spent my entire weekend in movement practice (Thursday through Sunday). My body moved at will throughout four days of Nia classes, free dance, learning specific movements, and more. Less than four years ago, even sitting in a class for more than an hour or so was a test in endurance of pain and discomfort. A three-hour car ride to drop the kid off at school was excruciating. Sitting through movies or concerts were tests of endurance. Walking up a flight of stairs had me in pain for days (not to mention gasping for air just a few steps up).
 
I tell you this not to show you how wonderful I am, but to offer you hope if you are struggling. If you had told me four years ago I would be here, I would have thought it was a fairy tale. But then I started to choose me and to make lifestyle choices to support my body and health. I changed the messages I sent to my body. What I thought was a broken body – a prison – just needed something different. My body needed me to notice it, think about it, talk to it, nourish it, and nurture it in a different way.
 
No matter where you are, there is hope. Your body is not your prison, but it is communicating with you. While the changes may not be as extreme as mine were (or they could be – if you release expectation, you stop limiting the universe), there are small (or large) changes you can make to nurture yourself. Ask yourself, what would feel good right now? And then tune in and listen. Your body will tell you. Honor its wishes. Start small. Every body is on a journey, and you are in control of yours.

 

photo credit: x1klima Woman and Grief via photopin (license)

8 Pasta Hacks for the Paleo or Low-Carb Foodie

zucchini-lasagna

You don’t have to limit yourself to zucchini lasagna.  Photo credit sexyliciousness via photopin.

by Karen Frazier

When I tell people I have celiac disease and can’t eat gluten, and that I further choose to eat low-carb paleo to help health conditions and keep my weight in check, one of the most common reactions I get is this one: “I could NEVER give up pasta!”

I get it – I truly do. Back in the day, I loved pasta. It was cheap, versatile, delicious, and easy way to get totally creative in the kitchen. Sadly, I love pasta, but it doesn’t love me even a little bit.

Since I eat mostly low-carb paleo, pasta is a thing of the past for me. I can’t eat gluten-free pasta substitutes (often made from corn flour, rice flour, or a combination of various legume-based flours). But I still enjoy a tasty pasta-style dish from time to time, such as my low-carb paleo lemon and artichoke shrimp scampi on zoodles.

With years of low-carb and paleo experience under my belt in a household of picky eaters, here are some of my best low-carb and/or paleo pasta hacks.

paderno1. Spiralize “Zoodles” and Other Veggie Noodles.

If you’re not new to the paleo world, chances are you’ve made a batch of zoodles – or another kind of veggie noodles – in your day. In fact, I’ve written an entire cookbook about making noodles out of veggies using a handy little gadget called a spiralizer. I use the Paderno World Spiralizer, and all you’ve got to do is crank the handle to get super cool “noodles” that make a great stand-in for pasta if you’ve either chosen or been forced into a gluten-free lifestyle. Try it, you’ll like it.

2. Make Veggie Peeler Noodles.

julienne-peeler

Dual veggie and julienne peeler from Precision Kitchenware

Limited shelf-space or no room in the budget for yet another gadget – or both? No worries. If you’ve got a veggie peeler and a knife, then dang it, you’ve got oodles of zoodles and other veggie noodles. It’s pretty easy. Use a veggie peeler to cut the vegtables into ribbons. Then, either leave wide ribbon style veggie pasta, or use a paring knife to cut the noodles into smaller shapes.

You can also try a julienne peeler, which will cut the veggies into angel-hair like strips. No need to clutter your drawers with both, however. Many manufacturers make peelers that do double duty, working as both a veggie and julienne peeler. Clever!

3. Choose Veggies That Noodle.

That’s right. Noodle is a verb. Of course, not all veggies are created equal when it comes to noodling around. Some veggies make much better noodles than others. Try noodling:

  • Zucchini and other summer squash (peeled or unpeeled)
  • Sweet potato
  • Winter squash
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Other solid root veggies

To cook the veggie noodles, I recommend sautéing them in your fat of choice, sprinkled with a little salt, for two to five minutes, until they are al dente.

spaghetti-squash4. Use The Aptly Named Spaghetti Squash.

So what if you abhor kitchen gadgets of all kinds (I can’t imagine anyone not loving a kitchen gadget, but that’s just me, owner of a Ginsu knife that supposedly can hack through an aluminum can in one clean slice), so making fancy noodles is out? If you have an oven, a baking sheet, a fork, and a sharp knife, you can still make veggie noodles from spaghetti squash.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise.
  3. Place it cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake it in the preheated oven until it is tender, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove it from the oven. Use a fork to pull the flesh away from the rind in “noodles” and go forth with whatever sauce sounds tasty to you.

5. But What About Lasagna and Stuffed Pasta Dishes?

salamiI’m so glad you asked. Of course, you can use thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini as your lasagna noodles or as a pasta to wrap around filling. Here are some tips:

  • Use a mandoline for paper-thin slices.
  • I recommend if you do this, you place the thin slices of veggies in a colander in the sink and salt them. Then, after about 30 minutes, wipe away the salt completely and use the veggies. The salt will draw off excess water so you won’t wind up with a watery dish. Go forth and make your lasagna or stuffed pasta.

6. But What if I Can’t Stomach Another Noodle Made From Veggies?

Here’s the thing. It’s okay to be super sick of veggie noodles and you want something a little different. In this case, I offer a tried and true idea from the Frazier household to yours that will change the way you make low-carb lasagna. Use thin slices of salami as your noodles. I’ll allow a moment for the genius of this idea to sink in before I continue. Salame. Thinly sliced (or another deli-sliced meat you like). Use it as your noodle layers or wrap it around a filling. Of course, you could also use large pieces of kale or spinach, but doesn’t using pre-sliced salami, crisp cooked slices of bacon or pancetta, or some lovely Canadian bacon sound somehow much tastier?

This is one of my favorite low-carb maxims – when in doubt, wrap it in meat, baby! You’re welcome!

7. Whip Up a Truly Great Tomato Sauce.

A good tomato sauce is shockingly easy. It takes a bit of time, of course, but most of that is time you can spend reading a book as the sauce simmers to allow the flavors to blend. Here’s my super easy and tasty tomato sauce.

  • 2 tablespoons fat of your choice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or Italian seasoning blend)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans crushed organic tomatoes (I love Muir Glen, which has no sugar added), drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the fat on medium-high until it shimmers.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown, about five minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is the desired consistency and the flavors are blended, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Stir in the basil.

8. Make a Tasty Low-Carb White (Béchamel) Sauce.

Béchamel, Alfredo, and other white pasta sauces usually start with a roux of butter and flour, so they tend to a) have gluten; and b) be a bit carby. This low-carb, gluten-free version isn’t paleo unless you include grass-fed, organic dairy as part of your paleo repertoire, but it’s really, really tasty either as a sauce by itself on one of your pasta substitutes, or combined with other meats and veggies, like chicken and broccoli or ham, spinach, and mushroom.

  • 1/4 cup grass-fed unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces grass-fed cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup grass-fed heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated grass-fed parmesan or asiago cheese
  1. In a medium pot, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Cook on medium-low, stirring constantly, until all the components are melted, and the sauce is well combined and smooth.

Pasta on, my Friends!

These are a few of my favorite ways to keep pasta-like dishes in my life. Combine your creativity with these tricks, and you won’t miss pasta a bit.

 

Autoimmune Flares: Possible Triggers & Solutions

pain in the usby Karen Frazier

I’m certain I have mentioned it before, but I started eating low-carb paleo out of self-defense. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and celiac disease, both which are autoimmune diseases. Changing the way I eat has been incredibly helpful in managing autoimmune symptoms, but occasionally I have flare-ups. For example, this week, I am experiencing an autoimmune flare, and I know I’ve done it to myself.

What Does a Flare Feel Like?

Autoimmune flares may feel different for different people, depending on the type of autoimmune disease they have. In my case, an autoimmune flare includes some, all, or a combination of the following symptoms of varying intensity (ranging from mild to debilitating) depending on the severity of the flare.

  • Consistent pain – both systemic (throughout my body) and in specific locations (particularly for me my hips)
  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion
  • Stuffy nose
  • Stomach pain
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased physical stamina
  • Brain fog
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever and chills
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle aches, pains, or stiffness

What Causes a Flare?

In general, there is one major cause behind a flare-up of autoimmune symptoms: inflammation.  That’s why an anti-inflammatory paleo diet is so effective in calming symptoms of autoimmune disease – because they help your body naturally decrease inflammation by eliminating substances that trigger it.

Possible Dietary Triggers

I can tell you exactly why I’m experiencing a flare this week. It’s because I consumed some foods and substances that trigger inflammation in my body.

You’ve probably seen me mention the 90/10 principle, that as long as you eat cleanly 90 percent of the time, your body will tolerate the other 10 percent of the time when you slip in an inflammatory substance. For me, however, I notice that I can’t do that entire 10 percent in a single sitting (or over the course of a few days). I have to space it way out. The more triggers I consume, the more likely a flare is. For example, I might be able to slip in a little dairy or have an alcoholic beverage here and there, as long as those things occur in isolation. However, if I do as I did this past week, and I don’t get enough sleep so I have some caffeine (in a base with artificial sweetener), then have a few drinks at a wedding along with a few puffs of a friend’s cigar, spend a late night out dancing, come home and only sleep a few hours before getting up and moving again, try to continue my regular exercise routine, and have some dairy, chances are I’m going to be in trouble.

So what are the possible dietary triggers for autoimmune flares?

  • Dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohols
  • Grains
  • Industrial seed oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, etc.)
  • Conventionally raised meats
  • Non-organic vegetables
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chemical additives like preservatives, colorings, etc.
  • Sugar
  • Nicotine
  • Gums and thickeners
  • Gluten
  • Too many omega-6 fatty acids

Other Potential Causes of Inflammation

Other things might cause inflammatory flare-ups, as well, including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Overexertion/overexercising
  • Injury
  • Hormonal shifts

Solutions

Look, we all overindulge occasionally. What my body considers going on a debauched bender is very different than how it looks for other people, however. With my body’s tolerances, it’s a huge bender when I’ve had a few drinks, perhaps some artificial sweetener, and a touch of dairy while staying up past midnight one night. For me, that’s all it takes. It’s up to you to learn your body’s tolerances.

While it doesn’t seem fair that when people with autoimmune disease overindulge, they may experience a flare-up of pain and inflammation, the fact remains it happens. Therefore, your best bet is to take care to nature  your body to return to health as quickly as possible.

Return to Clean Eating

While you don’t have to return to a strict elimination diet, you will want to return to your way of clean eating, leaving out any small indulgences that may cause inflammation for the time-being. The time-frame you need to do this varies – for me it takes a week or two, although I start to feel better after a few days. If you haven’t done an elimination diet yet to determine what your food triggers are, I strongly recommend it.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water can help you flush out all of the stuff your body doesn’t like more quickly, so keep drinking lots of water as you work to decrease your body’s inflammatory response.

Sleep

When your body is inflamed, it needs rest. I get pretty tired when I experience a flare-up of inflammation, and I take the time to nurture my body’s needs by going to bed earlier and getting up later. I even indulge in a nap from time to time when this happens – I listen to my body’s sleep needs and do my very best to meet them.

Choose Gentle Physical Activity

Now is not the time to tell yourself pain is just weakness leaving the body. Your pain is telling you something, and it’s encouraging you to be gentle with yourself. Listen to your body as you exercise, and engage in gentle exercises like taking short walks or doing yoga. When you do exercise, pay attention to your body’s signals and adapt the exercise accordingly. During very severe flares, I have to skip exercise altogether for a few days. This week, I’ve been doing my regular Nia classes, but I’ve been adapting them to a less strenuous level. I’ve also skipped running altogether because my body just can’t tolerate it right now. Your body will tell you as you exercise whether it can handle more, or if you need to tone it down. Listen and respond accordingly.

Try Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Substances

There are foods and supplements that can help decrease inflammation and re-balance your body. These include the following:

  • Turmeric (I take supplements)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood, fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds)
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Green tea
  • Fermented foods

Heal Your Gut

If your 10 percent crept back up to being a majority of the way you ate over a sustained period, you may also want to work on healing your gut and encouraging healthy bacterial formation. Licorice (I use DGL) or marshmallow (the root, not the candy) can help to soothe the gut while probiotics and fermented foods can help re-colonize it in a healthier way.

Bust Stress

Stress contributes to inflammatory responses, so soothing your stress is essential. Along with getting adequate rest and sleep, choose activities that can help relieve stress, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi, mindfulness, and meditation.

The Road to Health

Autoimmune flares can be frustrating, especially when you’ve been doing well. In my case, I’m almost always the cause of my flare, typically because I get in the mindset that a little bit of something isn’t going to hurt me. Then I have a little of this and a little of that until BAM – inflammation.

Different people have different tolerances to activities and substances that cause inflammation – and it can vary from time to time depending on other health factors, as well. That’s why it’s so important when you have autoimmune disease to tune into your body and listen to the signals it gives you. Then, it’s important to react quickly to those signals to honor your body’s needs in order to remain as vital and healthy as you possibly can.

 

Confessions of a YoYo Dieter

YoYoby Karen Frazier

A few years ago, I submitted a piece to Chicken Soup for the Soul called “Being Fat Set Me Free.” It was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength, and I heard from many people who told me how much my words had inspired them.

The gist of the piece was this: I’d spent most of my life as a morbidly obese adult, and in gaining and living with all that extra weight, I’d learned to rely on something other than my appearance to develop self-worth. While the article was truthful, it never told the whole story about what it truly felt like to be fat – or what it felt like to gain and lose hundreds of pounds over the course of 25 years.

Currently, I’m about 150 pounds down from my highest weight, and I feel fabulous. I’m active, mostly pain-free, and energetic. At the same time, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me I’ve been here before. It’s not the first time I’ve dropped a significant amount of weight, although I hope it will be my last.

Being a YoYo dieter requires a lot of hope and optimism – and it also comes with crushing disappointment. In the past, it was always painful as I began the slow slide back into obesity once again.

So many people felt it was their place to comment about both my weight loss and my weight gain. When I was losing weight, I’d get praise. In fact, the weight loss would seemingly become the most praiseworthy thing about me, to the point people would talk about that before and to the exclusion of any and all other accomplishments. And then, as I’d begin the slide into obesity once again, I’d see glee in some people’s eyes and disappointment in others. Once again, for many people it was about my weight and little else.

When I was at the top of the YoYo, “I’m a person!” I’d want to yell. “See me? I’m ME! This weight thing? It’s not me. Look beyond it and see me – no matter what size I am.” But I knew I’d be yelling into a vacuum.

Catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, I’d stop, surprised, and think, “Who are you? That’s not how I feel on the inside.”

This is what it was like for me to be morbidly obese. I was still the same person inside I was when I was small. I felt, experienced, and recognized that every day. Fat was just one thing about me. I was a person. I lived a life of joy and contentment. I had trusting and loving relationships. I engaged in creative activities. I was professionally successful. I worked hard. I was an engaged parent, a volunteer, a busy member of my community, a loving wife, a spiritual being, a loyal and supportive friend.

At the top of the YoYo, I was terrified to go to the doctor, because no matter what was wrong with me, every conversation was about my weight. Went in for a broken arm? “Lose weight, fatty – that arm wouldn’t be broken if you were thin.”  And so, I put off going to the doctor for those times when I couldn’t hold out any longer. And then I sat in the waiting room, dreading the scale. In the exam room, I’d flush with shame when the inevitable conversation came up. And it always did.

I had some “friends” who felt it was okay to discuss my weight freely under the guise of concern. “I am so worried about you,” they’d say. “I want you to be healthy, you know.” These are the same “friends” who, as I lost weight, seemed to drift away or develop resentment when they could no longer make themselves feel better by pointing out to me that I was fat. As if I didn’t already know that.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt invisible, and I liked that. At other times, I felt conspicuous as people surreptitiously stared and judged. One day, I was walking through Macy’s behind two women. As we passed through the plus size department, one pointed out the clothing on the racks to her friend and started laughing.

“Look how gigantic it is,” she said to her friend, stopping to touch a large sweater on display.

Then, she caught sight of me as I continued past her. She looked at me and smirked. As I passed, she said loudly to her friend, “Fat ass.”

I wanted to stop and look her in the eye and tell her that at least I was a kind and compassionate person who would never make a remark like that. Instead, I put my head down, burned with shame, and continued walking with my heart pounding in my ears and my face hot.

Once, when the YoYo was just starting to rise, I was lying in the sun by the pool at my apartment building. There were two young adult females splashing in the water nearby. One kept ducking under the water, gathering water in her mouth, spitting it at me, and saying, “Look, I’m a whale.” That was my first taste of how some people treated overweight individuals.

When the YoYo was rising, I was shopping for a wedding dress. I was probably a size 12 to 14 at the time, significantly heavier than my size 3 frame had once been. In the bridal shop, I went to the size 12-14 rack and started looking at dresses. I saw a salesperson eyeing me from across the room. She approached with a frown and asked how she could help, one eyebrow cocked high.

“I don’t think you’re in the right section,” she told me. And then she pulled a size 20 dress from the rack. The style was ugly and the fabric worse – it looked like a potato sack, and I told her it was too big and really wasn’t my style.

“You just need to learn what’s available to you and stop trying to be something you’re not,” she told me, sniffing and walking away. I realized in that moment she’d decided if I wouldn’t fit within her definition of what I should be, then she felt I wasn’t worth helping. It was at that moment I decided instead of a having a wedding, I’d get married in a chapel somewhere with no one else in attendance.

Those were the early days when I was still learning to navigate the waters of being fat. Those were the days when I earnestly tried everything I could to lose weight, such as very low-calorie diets and lots of exercise. Those were the days when I was hungry, exhausted, irritable, sore, bewildered, sad, humiliated, confused, hopeful, and optimistic. Those were the days when seeing myself in the mirror was a shock, because I didn’t feel any different inside.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I always received positive reinforcement from others. But I still felt the same inside. The only difference was that the size of my ass was smaller. It was bewildering people considered that an accomplishment but barely noticed any of the other, truly amazing things I had going in my life. At the same time, I would feel euphoria associated with chiseling down my size and squeezing into smaller jeans. I’d also feel apprehension, because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the YoYo to rise once again.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I stopped being invisible. I both reveled in it and missed it at the same time. People were kinder, more engaging. People provided positive reinforcement.

Once when I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I had been doing some intense volunteer work – spending about 50 hours a week volunteering in addition to doing my regular job and raising my kiddo. Someone I respected came up to me and said, “I am so proud of what you are doing.” I thought that person was talking about the volunteer work, and I started to discuss it. “No,” that person said. “I mean the weight loss.”

Why is that more worthy of comment than helping others, I wondered. And so it went.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt I was betraying myself. At the bottom, I often felt I was betraying my community, because instead of accepting myself as a fat person, I was behaving as a “good fatty” in the eyes of society and doing what it took to lose weight. Losing weight, I heard, meant I didn’t truly have self-acceptance, and I was also telling other fat people they shouldn’t accept themselves as overweight either.

One day on the bottom of the YoYo, I walked out the side door of my office building and saw an overweight woman sitting in her car eating. Our eyes met through her windshield. I smiled at her, but I saw the shame flash in her eyes. In that moment, I recognized her as me. She was eating alone in her car, feeling shame for the simple act of providing her body with fuel. I have been her possibly hundreds of times – eating alone somewhere and praying nobody saw me and judged me harshly for the simple act eating.

I can’t tell you how many times I ate a meal with thinner “friends” who had plates piled high with processed junk foods while lecturing me because I was eating a single chicken leg. Or felt it was okay to comment on my weight as they shoveled junk foods into their mouths. Or offered what they surely felt was well-meaning advice about exercising while they sat at home watching television and eating popcorn.

And I allowed it. Somewhere, I’d gotten the idea my body was fair game for others to discuss, and that because I was fat, the state of my body was open for commentary.

On the bottom end of the YoYo, it appears my body was open for commentary, as well. Men have often felt free to sexualize my body. I’ve heard how amazing my rack is. I’ve been told my ass is juicy and squeezable. I’ve been catcalled on the streets, propositioned by strangers in bars (or even walking down the street), and grabbed without my consent. I’ve had women call me a skinny bitch or assume I am sexually promiscuous because of my figure. I’ve been slut-shamed because of the way I looked. These interactions feel just as icky as the fat shaming.

I’ve had “friends” who have dismissed me on both ends of the YoYo. I’ve had other “friends” who have just shifted the content of their negative commentary depending on whether I was fat, skinny, or in-between.

The noise surrounding weight is loud, and it is often difficult to filter. If you listen to it, it just might make you a little crazy. On the one side, you have people telling you to be a bold, proud, fat person. On the other, you have people shaming you for being fat, stereotyping you, treating you as if you aren’t a person at all. The media is loaded with messages about weight. Being too fat or too thin is treated as a moral failing. People have no compunction about commenting on your appearance, no matter how you look. And no matter how self-assured you are, that noise is nearly impossible to completely filter.

Right now, I am on the down side of the YoYo. Not at the bottom, but in a place where I feel well, energetic, and vibrant. In the back of my mind is that little voice always there at the bottom of the YoYo – the one that warns me my weight may rise again. It feels different this time – like this is a permanent change, but I’ve felt that way before. I’d like to believe I’ve got it dialed in – that because this time I’ve made changes for my health that happened to affect my weight instead of making changes for the sole purpose of losing weight, the YoYo won’t start to rise again.

But here’s what I know to be true. Regardless of where the YoYo is, it isn’t a determinant of my self-worth. Certainly being fat has provided me with amazing benefits. It has taught me to focus on health instead of weight. It has moved me away from being appearance- focused, helped me find self-acceptance and self-worth in a world that values appearance above all else, made me compassionate towards myself and others, and many other amazing things. It’s taught me not to judge and showed me I can’t possibly understand who someone is by looking at their appearance. Size doesn’t determine worth, and regardless of whether anyone’s YoYo stays down or zips back up to the top again, what matters is that I treat myself and others with kindness and compassion, listen to my body’s signals for good health, live a life of purpose, respect others’ journeys, and find joy in each moment.

So while my body has often been on a YoYo, the rest of me is not. I have reached a place of equilibrium where I am settled in myself, the noise around me has quieted, and I can meet my own eyes in the mirror knowing I am trying my hardest every day to be the best person I possibly can.

photo credit: Tom Kuhn SB-2 splash yoyo via photopin (license)

A Step-by-Step Approach to Find Your Best Way to Eat

12308868834_ea348220c6by Karen Frazier

If you’ve read any of my blogs or cookbooks in the past, then you’ve probably seen me say this: There’s no single dietary approach that works for everyone. There’s only the diet that works for you. Everyone has their own unique biology, so trying your buddy’s diet that is so fabulous for them may not work for you.

I get emails all the time from people who read my cookbooks asking about some ingredient – whether they can have it, or why it is in the recipes. My response to the emails is always similar: It depends on your body. You need to take some time to discover how that ingredient affects you.

Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of dietary approaches. I’ve eaten low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, paleo, paleo low-carb, intermittent fasting and probably a few others, as well. Each approach brought changes – some for the better and some for the worse, but there wasn’t a single dietary plan I followed that left me feeling as fantastic as I do right now.

So what changed? I personalized my diet, discovering which foods nourished and supported my own unique biology, and which didn’t.

While it takes time and some effort to personalize your diet, it can be done. The trick is to strip your diet bare for about 30 days (follow an elimination diet), and then slowly start adding foods back in to see how they affect you.

Step One: Learn to Listen to Your Body

Before you start, it’s important you learn to listen to your body’s signals. Keep a journal of food, activity, and how you feel. It doesn’t need to be complicated  – just write everything you consume, write your activity, and note if you feel energized, sleepy, sore, irritable, hungry, cranky, or any other physical or emotional symptoms and feelings. As you do this, you may notice patterns emerge after you eat certain foods.

This journaling does something else, as well. It teaches you to tune into the signals your body is sending. It teaches you physical, mental, and emotional symptoms aren’t just “normal” variations, but that they are messages from your body to you. Listening is the first step.

Step Two: Learn What to Eliminate

In the elimination diet, you’ll be removing foods that may cause reactions. It’s a whole big list, but bear in mind you won’t necessarily need to eliminate all of it forever. Rather, you’ll eliminate it for about 30 days and then slowly add things back in to see what your body tolerates. Here’s a list:

Processed Foods

This includes pretty much anything in a bag, box, or package. A partial list:

  • Cookies, crackers, chips, and snack foods
  • Pasta and pre-made pasta sauces
  • Candy
  • Pre-made foods or food mixes, such as Rice-a-Roni
  • Fast food
  • Baked goods like bread, donuts, cakes, and pies
  • Canned pre-made foods like chili, soup, pasta sauce (with the exception of organic broth)
  • Foods that have long lists of things you can’t pronounce, such as preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, binders, and emulsifiers
  • Protein bars
  • Meal replacement shakes

Dairy Products

This includes both fermented and non-fermented dairy, including:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

Soy

This includes all forms of soy including:

  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Soybean oil
  • Soymilk

Grains

All grains including (but not limited to):

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Bulgur
  • Barley

Nuts

All nuts including but not limited to:

  • Peanuts (which are actually legumes)
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Nut butters

Sugars and Sweeteners

All sugars and sweeteners with the exception of stevia. This is includes but is not limited to:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Saccharine
  • Acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)
  • Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, and others

Nightshades

These are fruits and veggies that include:

  • Potatoes (white, not sweet)
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Chili peppers
  • Tomatillos
  • Goji berries

Legumes

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Beans (with the exception of green beans)
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans and edamame
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas

Industrial Seed Oils and Hydrogenated Fats

This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Soybean oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Shortening
  • Margarine
  • Safflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil

Gluten

Gluten is sneaky. It’s obviously in gluten-grains like wheat, barley, rye, and some oats, but it also shows up in unexpected places, like:

  • Soy sauce (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)
  • Mustards (read labels)
  • Malt
  • Beer
  • Soups, sauces, and gravies
  • Imitation crab
  • Restaurant scrambled eggs and omelets

Beverages

While you’re in the elimination phase, your best bet is to consume water. Avoid other beverages, including:

  • Juice
  • Lite beverages (like Crystal Light)
  • Regular and diet soda
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee (except decaf)
  • Tea (except herbal)
  • Alcoholic beverages

Step Three: Plan to Eliminate

Next, it’s time to plan. By nature, I’m not a planner, so this step is not an easy one for me. If you are a planner, however, you’re going to be in heaven! It’s time to get organized.

Stock Your Pantry

Stock your fridge and pantry with the foods you’ll be eating over the next 30 days. While it may vary for you, these are the foods I recommend on an elimination diet.

Organic Vegges

If you can get seasonal produce, even better! Stock your fridge with veggies, such as:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage
  • Root veggies like onions, beets, and carrots
  • Other green veggies like asparagus and artichokes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Summer and winter squash, including acorn, butternut, zucchini, spaghetti, and patty pan squashes
  • Mushrooms

Organic Fruit

Stock your fridge and pantry with low-glycemic, organic fruits, such as:

  • Avocado
  • Berries (except goji, as noted above)
  • Lemons and limes
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines

Animal Proteins

If you can find them, choose organic, pastured sources of animal protein, including:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Wild-harvested shellfish and mollusks
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Organ meats
  • Pork

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices will help bring flavor to your foods. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Ginger and ginger root
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper

Expeller Pressed Oils and Unprocessed Fats

The goal with fats and oils is to find those that aren’t refined through an industrial process. Good choices include:

  • Avocado oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Extra-virgin coconut oil
  • Macadamia oil (expeller pressed)
  • Duck fat
  • Lard
  • Tallow

Flavorings

Your diet doesn’t have to be flavorless. You can add some of the following flavorings:

  • Citrus zest
  • Vinegars (with the exception of malt)
  • Dijon mustard (read ingredients)
  • Mustard powder
  • Salsa (check ingredients)
  • Coconut milk
  • Organic broth (buy canned or make your own)

Seeds

You can also use seeds, such as:

  • Chia
  • Flax
  • Pumpkin
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower

If possible, remove temptations from your kitchen. If it’s not possible to get rid of all the processed foods, then at least keep them in their own separate spot so you don’t see them and aren’t tempted by them.

Step 4: Enlist Support

Let your family and friends know what you are doing and why. Explain you are working to find a diet that works for you so you can be in good health. Ask them to please not try to tempt you with foods outside of your elimination diet.

Step 5: Eliminate for 30 Days

Once you’re ready, get started. Eat the allowed foods only for a full 30 days. Give yourself that time to truly clear your body of any substances it doesn’t respond well to. Don’t worry about counting calories or macronutrients. Eat when you’re hungry, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and engage in gentle exercise as your body allows.

Step 6: Journal

During the 30 days, keep a journal, noting what you eat and your symptoms. Note positive changes. Please note in the first week or so of the elimination, you may feel a bit worse as the toxins work their way out of your body – although some people notice an immediate change for the better. Stick with it for the full 30 days.

Step 7: Re-introduce Foods One at a Time

After your 30 days, you can start to reintroduce foods and food groups. It’s important to do this one food at a time so you can note how it feels in your body. To reintroduce:

  1. Choose a single food from one of the eliminated groups, such as cheese.
  2. Eat a little bit of cheese (an ounce or so). Wait 24 hours, noting any symptoms.
  3. If you have symptoms, no more cheese (or whatever food it is).
  4. If you don’t have symptoms, eat a little more of the food at a couple meals.
  5. Watch for the symptoms again. If you have them, stop – that food isn’t compatible with your body.
  6. If no symptoms, then try another food from the same group. So if you’re having dairy, try a little yogurt.
  7. Wait 24 hours. If symptoms, that food group probably isn’t your friend and you’ll want to avoid it.
  8. If no symptoms, spend the next week trying other foods from the food group and noting any symptoms. If you don’t have any, you can assume that food group is compatible with your body. If you do have symptoms, note which foods from the group cause them and avoid those.
  9. Repeat after a week or two with the next food group.

Using this process, you’ll gradually get a picture of which foods work with your own unique biology, and you can adapt your diet accordingly.

The 90/10 Principle

Once you’ve got it all dialed in, how different foods and food groups affect your body, you can begin to make healthier choices that will help you attain better health. Once I did that, I started using what I call (and maybe others do, too?) the 90/10 principle. I try to eat cleanly (that is, with foods that don’t affect me) 90 to 95 percent of the time. Occasionally, I may allow myself certain foods, such as a little sucralose, dairy, or an alcoholic beverage. There are some foods, however, that I consider deal-breakers (I never eat them) because they have such a negative effect on my body. Your deal breakers may be different than mine, but mine include:

  • Gluten (I have celiac disease)
  • Sugars of any kind (I’m super carb-intolerant and the weight just piles on)
  • Fast and processed foods
  • Grains (same reason – carb intolerance)

Tips

The following tips can help you:

  • Drink tons of water to flush out toxins.
  • Engage in gentle exercise.
  • Listen to your body and heed its signals.
  • Don’t skip the food/symptoms journal. It’s easy to forget, when you’re feeling well, how poorly you felt before.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Talk to your primary health care provider before you start any new food or exercise program.
  • Have patience with yourself. If you slip, start over.

Remember also that you’re seeking what works for you, here, not for somebody else. You are creating a sustainable, lifetime eating plan that supports and nurtures your good health.

Helpful Links

hashisYou may find the following links helpful:

You’ll also find great recipes on this blog that meet (or can be adapted to meet) a variety of dietary needs.

Final Thoughts

The process is involved, but well worth it. I hear from a lot of people who follow an elimination diet and reap the benefits of better health, fewer symptoms, and more vitality. This isn’t about weight loss – it’s about creating a healthy environment within your body where you can thrive with the best health possible.

Questions? Leave a comment below or contact me.

photo credit: Braune Champignons via photopin (license)