Friday, August 19, 2016

My Dessert for Breakfast Diet!



Dessert for breakfast diet? Wait .. what?! 
Yea you heard that right. Dessert, for breakfast, while staying healthy AND losing weight! 
I can just hear the angels singing now

"But how Ashley?" you may ask ...

SIMPLE. Superfoods + wholesome ingredients = a Power Bowl to wake up your metabolism and your taste buds.

*     *     *     *

I first started making these smoothie years ago, attempting to squelch my inner fat kid dreams of daily ice cream sundaes lol I figured frozen fruit had to be better for me than ice cream & let's face it - you could drizzle an old boot with peanut butter and coconut and I'd think it was a delicacy ...

Fast forward to 2013, I'm living in San Diego, California, and I keep seeing these "acai bowls" everywhere. They looked great and I heard there was peanut butter - so obviously had to experience this goodness. Austin and I sat down in a little cafe in the Gaslamp before work  and ordered our first Acai Bowl. This massive bowl filled with fruits and nuts and granola and gobs of peanut butter and honey showed up in front of me and I dug my spoon in deep. 
It was freaking delicious. I couldn't stop shoveling it in. As I really started to actually taste every ingredient - I realized how badly we were just ripped off.
$10 for a yummy bowl, of which I (and most likely you) have all the ingredients to at home. It took about 50 second to throw a bunch of stuff in a blender, pour it into a bowl and top it with some stuff straight from a bag... 

I never bought another one again.

And the best part about making it from home is you control exactly what ingredients you include, you know the quality of what you're eating, and you can experiment!



Ingredients:
- bottom layer* -     
1 scoop vegan shakeology
1 frozen banana
3/4 cup frozen fruit of choice (strawberries, dark cherries, mango, etc)
6-8 ounces liquid (water, milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc)
- top layer* -     
1/4 cup organic granola
1 tsp raisins (or other dried fruit)
1/2 tbs unsweetened coconut
1/2 tbs nut butter (unsweetened peanut, cashew, almond, etc) 
1 tsp chopped nuts

Directions: 
    1. Put all bottom layer ingredients in blender - blend until smooth
(should be thick consistency)
     2. Pour into Bowl
3. Top with ingredients of your choice



* this is where you get to experiment! Some of my very best superfood smoothie bowls have been spur of the moment creations. Try out different fruits, nut butters, spices, etc for a tasty treat!


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Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Taste Of Summer


s u m m e r   s a l a d

Though it may look like this took me a ton of time to prepare {because let's face it ... it's so pretty!}, I was able to throw this together in well under 10 minutes! 
No cooking & all in one bowl ... does it even get any better?!

Ingredients:
    1 medium yellow zucchini
   
1 medium green zucchini
1 medium tomato, diced
1 lime, sliced
    1 avocado, diced
  1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup raisins
salt & pepper to taste

Directions: 
    1. Turn zucchini into "zoodes" (I used my vegetti (get yours here!))
    2. Dice Veggies & Chop nuts

3. Layer in large bowl
4. Top with any dressing (I used my Sunshine Sauce! Recipe HERE)
 
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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Simplicity Tastes Better

 p a l e o   c h i c k e n   s a l a d

So I haphazardly threw all of this together, and it wound up being one of my newest fav go to meals!
Quick & easy, Whole 30 approved!

 
 
Ingredients:
    1 grilled chicken breast
    1 tsp homemade mayo
    1 tbs organic sundried tomatoes
1 tsp slivered almonds
1 scallion, diced
salt & pepper to taste
Directions: 
    1. Rough chop chicken and place in small bowl
    2. Add next three ingredients and mix well. Add more mayo if chicken is dry.

3. Stir until blended and smooth. 
4. Top with scallions, salt & pepper
 
Serves 1





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Thursday, July 7, 2016

WHOLE 30 // week two recap

The Ups, The Downs, The All Arounds 

 I swear. Week two of Whole 30 I was more emotionally unstable than I was my entire pregnancy.

                       "I FEEL AMAZING!" 
                                            "I FEEL LIKE DEATH" 
                       "I CAN DO THIS FOREVER!"
                                            "WHY DID I EVER SIGN UP FOR THIS"
                       "WOW I HAVE NO CRAVINGS!"
                                            "UGH I JUST NEED ONE 35 PULLED PORK TACOS TO MY FACE"

The roller coaster ride was real my friends.

The good thing about not giving in to every little temptation or to time I said "this is hard", is that feeling you get each and every time you simply stick to your guns. Commitment to Change.

bear with me for a moment ...
Imagine you just had the absolute worst date of your life. You walk in the door and let out a huge exhale for the giant waste of your life that just took place. You wonder if you'll ever be happy.
Right then at that very moment you get the call/text/email/snap/morse code/bat signal/however the heck singles communicate these days ... from your ex. 
It would be easy to say yes, to go back to that old habit & find a quick comfort. But hey - they're an ex for a reason, right? Why welcome something back into your life that you purposely walked away from?

I realized I have a lot of exes in terms of food. 
Foods that can make me feel so happy, 
so good, so satisfied for fleeting moments, 
then literally within minutes cause ultimate regret,
heartache, pain, & 
turmoil to follow for days on end.

Now think about how you feel when you get home from that crappy date and see your ex on your phone - but you say no, #NotTodaySatan. 

That feeling of power to be  y o u  and make your own choices, of self love, of worthiness - that's a key piece in the game of life. That feeling carries on to making better decisions the next day, to experiencing new things, to venturing out & enjoying your life a little bit more, and most importantly - the satisfaction of living without that regret.

Whole 30 week two can basically be summed up as that very moment. I had a lot of "exes" in the form of pizza, cookies, brownies, ice cream, cake & pulled pork try to enter my life. 
But right now, I'm just a little too dang busy doin' me; & living with No Regrets.


... quick meal snapshots
i'll be adding some of these recipes to the blog as well for you guys to try out!
I get asked a few times a day what recipe book I use - but I have to be honest
other than the Whole30 Bible (get it here) itself, they're all straight from my brain...
I need to get better at writing them down. 
but hey, I'm a work in progress.

breakfast: asparagus + mushroom omelet + fresh strawberries lunch cold thai salad + sunshine sauce (see previous blog post here for recipe) + paleo salmon cakes dinner: grilled chicken burger + fresh greens topped with + paleo pesto
-
breakfast: asparagus omelet + fresh avocado lunch: fresh garden + steamed potatoes + bell pepper stuffed with tuna + sunshine sauce + cold thai salad dinner: mesculine greens + vegetable chicken burger + homemade pesto
breakfast: baked salmon + roasted potatoes  + pesto snack: coffee lunch: cobb salad dinner: steak + avocado + homemade butternut squash soup


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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Taste of Sunshine

s u n s h i n e    s a u c e 

Without being the slightest bit dramatic, this super simple, quick & easy sauce has changed my life. 
I add it to EVERYTHING: chicken, all my veggies, cold cuts, tuna, salmon ... I even dip apple slices in it! 

I always have a batch of this in the fridge ... makes for some killer flavor to any meal! 
 
Ingredients:
    2 tablespoons lime juice
    1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1 tablespoon coconut aminos
    1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
    1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
    1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
    dash ground cayenne pepper (optional)
    1/4 cup full fat coconut milk, canned

Directions: 
    1. Place all the ingredients except the coconut milk in a bowl and stir until blended.
    2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper, then add the coconut milk. 

Stir until blended and smooth. Store covered in the fridge.


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

WHOLE 30 // week one recap

From Tiger Blood to Swiftness of a Sloth

I thought about writing this blog post a few times a day, but just the thought of it was mind bogglingly exhausting ...

I started out feeling great; I'm talking Tony the Tiger Great. The first couple of days were a breeze and my optimism in Day Two's blog post (read here) honestly sickened me later in the week. A few days in and it was like my head was high up in the stratosphere - above the clouds, losing consciousness. I've experienced Pregnancy Brain, sleep deprived brain, & intoxicated brain but I've gotta tell ya - detox brain may take the cake. I napped midday, I put the dishes away ... in the oven, I responded to clients with more errors I'd like to admit & no recollection of generating such response. By Saturday I was in such misery. I described my day to Austin like so, 
"well, I woke up alright then slowly started to feel like I was high & ultimately ended in me feeling like a jackhammer is perpetually penetrating my skull."

Yikes. 

The fact that SO MUCH was happening to my body was a sign that a detox was truly taking place.

I always claimed to be the person who doesn't really eat dessert. I'd rather two dinners than dinner & dessert. It wasn't until I started Whole30 that I realized just how many "treats" I have a day. I don't even think about them  - and I definitely don't count them in my meal plan. But between the ice cream, cookies, froyo & all the other snacks ... it adds up!! I could eat 100% to my meal plan, then after 10 PM down a pint of almond milk ice cream or Wendy's double cheeseburger. And I wonder why I wake up feeling swollen, put weight on super fast when I take a few rest days, and just feel kinda bleh.

Snacking & eating at night are habitual. And habits are hard to break - hence why they're called a habit...

I'm assuming the detox was from sugar, as sugar is totally avoided on Whole30. I haven't had any cravings for bread (what I thought would be the most difficult), cheese, wine, or french fries. Instead, I've craved fruit juice (I despise fruit juice), chocolate, ice cream & more fruit juice. Seriously, what's with the fruit juice!? 

. week one meal plan & prep . 
Week 1 started like a sprint. I was so psyched to get started & couldn't wait to feel different. Now, over the last 2 years I've become pretty good and meal prepping & planning. This wasn't easy and definitely took a TON of trial and error before getting it right. Each week I spend between $70-125 on groceries for the week (more expensive weeks are when I run out of staples like coconut oil, olive oil, etc). Sunday is my grocery shopping day. It takes me under an hour to go through my kitchen and figure out what I need for the week, write it all down, and approximate the meals I'll be making. Then we hit the farmers market + grocery store as a family. It's not an all day affair, 2 - 3 hours total. 

Sunday before starting Whole 30, I once again hit up the local farmers market + Whole Foods to get everything the book listed in the 7 day sample plan. I adjusted the recipes to feed the three of us, but I wanted to follow it pretty exactly to ensure I wasn't making my own version of Whole30 which would result in just following my standard meal plan. 

I have to admit, this was an expensive trip. We spent around $350 that day on everything needed for the week. I wasn't too happy but I also really wanted to do this right. There were some staples I was either out of, or simply didn't have (things I won't need to purchase again for a while), which contributed to the cost. We don't eat a lot of meat in our family, so buying 5 different meats for the week was a real shock. I prepped for the first few days, knowing I would prep again midweek for the second half.
I'm also totally accustomed to replacing 1 meal a day with my superfood Shakeology. A lot of people cringe at the thought of Shakeology because of the price, but what they don't realize it that over a months time, you actually SAVE a ton of money on groceries/eating out! So knowing this, I expect this month's grocery budget to be a bit higher than usual.

The Whole30 tells you to make adjustments to the recipes/meal plan according to your needs & the needs of your family. The seven day meal plan I was following was just a sample, but I will say it was WAY too much food for us. I wound up freezing half of the meats for the next week, I only used a few of the non-perishables, and I was able to load my plate with fresh veggies at every meal. I suppose that's the most ideal way to eat though, so maybe it wasn't a bad deal!

So even though we spent over double our normal budget, the groceries we bought have lasted longer than the week I planned for. I am a huge meal recycler: last night's dinner into today's breakfast/lunch - so nothing goes to waste! Week 2 requires little purchases - basically, I'm calling it even.


But What Do You Eat?
 As I mentioned above - the sample meal plan in Whole30 was actually TOO MUCH FOOD for us to eat.
Please, please, please do not pass up on Whole30 in fear that you'll be starving. Contrary to what I am used to - there are no rules when it comes to portions. You eat until you're full. As a chronic over eater - this idea scared the crap out of me.
I've never been one to have a great deal of self control with food. If I like it, I eat it. And then I eat more of it. And then some more just in case I never, ever get to taste this tasty morsel ever again. #Normal

Anyway. The cool thing about this is once you take out all the crap our food is filled with, eliminate the chemical cocktails of shit we consume ... I'm talking GMO's, hormones, artificial sweeteners, sugar, & other purposefully addictive, hazardous ingredients the FDA deems "safe" for us to consume ... our bodies just run. They just work. You get hungry? You eat. Whole, natural ingredients & guess what? You get full. And you're done. And then a few hours go by and  you're hungry again. 
A cycle. A healthy, beautiful cycle. 
No more gorging myself till I can't button my pants then regretting it and feeling remorseful and ashamed, vowing not to eat anything bad the next day but end up repeating this horror story come 10 PM.

So without further ado, here's what I ate days 3 - 5! 

side note:
 I swear I did not have a single cheat or go off plan, even after picking up a homemade Carrot Cake for Austin on Father's Day from our favorite bakery then proceeding to go to a BBQ celebration. In fact, I brought my own food to avoid all temptations, and it worked! Problem is - I was in such a brain fog I completely forgot to take pictures to document what I was eating days 6 & 7. Let's just say that first weekend was a little, off ...


breakfast: bell pepper + cilantro omelet + avocado + fresh strawberries lunch: mixed greens salad + apple, dried fruit, cashews + grilled chicken + avocado + fresh pineapple dinner: spaghetti squash + homemade marinara meat sauce
breakfast: spinach, tomato, onion omelet + avocado + fresh pineapple lunch: chopped salad with grilled chicken + avocado dinner: slow cooker beef brisket + root vegetables
breakfast: tomato + onion omelet + banana Lunch: bell pepper + sunflower butter + fresh green juice dinner: salmon cakes, roasted yams, cabbage salad
Kill All The Things
 
This part of the 30 days is accurately named. 
Days 6 & 7 were honestly a blur. I know I just about drank my weight in black Iced Coffees ...

Saturday I just wanted to chop my own head off then take a nap. I even had to cancel on a friend, I could not muster the energy to even get myself ready to go, & the detox migraine was fierce. I've suffered from caffeine withdrawal headaches, and it felt similar to that but a bit more sad. I don't know if that makes sense, but caffeine headaches make me feel angry & agitated. This detox headache had me more sad and mopey. It was so bad I turned to the Whole30 book for answers, my memory vaguely recalling reading the "timeline" as described by previous whole30 testimony. 
This point in time was labeled "Kill All The Things". Yup - that about sums it up.

I have to say though, as weird as it sounds, I was excited to feel changes (even if they weren't good ones just yet). With so much in life, things need to get worse before they can get better. I was genuinely so naive & brainwashed by sugar that I thought this Whole30 business would be a breeze and I would be the only person on the planet who didn't suffer or have any real changes come from it.
Oh Ashley. You silly little fool...


Thank God my headache was gone by Sunday morning. I was able to wake up and teach my Total Body Bootcamp on the beach Sunday morning, which was beautiful. Seriously, if you're in the area you've gotta check it out. No better way to spend your morning!
I felt way better all day, and then around 4 PM my stomach started getting funky. I knew I had to find a bathroom fast - my body was literally expelling waste from my body. A few trips to the bathroom & I was done, but it was slightly intense. Sorry, TMI, but I know you all really want to know ;) 

I had some rough cravings Sunday night, probably from seeing my entire family eat all the Father's Day treats & knowing there was a tasty carrot cake in my fridge, but I held strong. The book says not to give into cravings. That even using fruit to subdue a craving is a no-no because your brain can't distinguish the sugar of a candy bar from a banana. Reward a craving with fruit and you don't ever kill the craving. I get it, really I do. But I totally had 4 strawberries that night. 
Don't kick me out of the club guys.

^^ i say this jokingly, but i actually was kicked out of a Whole30 Support Group for this.
more to come on that later ...

All In All
Alright so I've got to admit. There were moments I was miserable. But then there were moments where I felt amazing. My body is changing - internally and externally, and I'm only a week in. I've experienced ups and downs, highs and lows, and I am genuinely even more excited to see where I will be at the end of 30 days.
There is a rule of NO weighing yourself or checking measurements during these 30 days. I didn't care about that rule - I'm not big on weighing myself anyway. But I've gotta say I'm having a hard time keeping myself off the scale - I feel so light and my clothes are all fitting so much better, I'm really excited to see what's happening numerically. 
But it's a rule and I am here to play by the rules - so no tracking until the 30 days is up! If nothing else, I feel great and that's why I am doing this. So that's  huge win for me. 

xx Ashley

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WHOLE30 // day two

Today really, honestly, was not too bad. I woke up with a lot of energy this morning, especially considering I was up till 2 AM writing my blog post for day 1 & fighting an ever frustrating battle against Optimum wifi.

Side note - honestly I think I am a very patient person, I can put up with a lot ... 
but when the wifi goes out I have about a 2 second window before I 
seriously lose my cool. I can't be the only one, can I?

I mentioned yesterday that my intention with this program is not weight-centric (though I'll welcome any trimming up!). The program insists that you do not weigh or measure throughout your 30 days. Sounds scary, right?! Yea - that's a whole other post for a different day ....
After reading Whole30 (get a copy right now and serioulsy change your life!) I was inspired to write down my goals, something I like to do (an encourage my clients to do) a few times a year. With weight loss not a factor, I struggled a little to figure out what exactly I wanted to accomplish over the next 30 days. Of course I want to see improvements in my health, more specifically my candida flare ups, stomach issues, & mood; but what can Whole30 help to improve upon in my everyday life?
And then it hit me ...
.meal. timing. 
what I mean by this is simply when I eat. I am a habitual breakfast skipper. Honestly - even with daily Shakeology, as simple as that is, I still wait about 4-5 hours after waking up to eat my first meal. It's bad. It slows my metabolism, it zaps my energy for the day, and it causes this incredible surge of hunger around 3-4 PM where I want to eat everything in sight (and often make some pretty unhealthy choices). Many different books I have read indicate the importance of eating within one hour of waking, and the detrimental health effects of missing this window. Not only does waiting longer than one hour negatively impact your health, but not being hungry within that first hour may be an indication of a hormonal imbalance. Well sugar honey iced tea, wouldn't that make a whole lot of sense?! 
Best part? 
Scientific studies have shown these imbalances can be 
reversed as simply as  e a t i n g   b r e a k f a s t. 


okay. goal = eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. got it. 
ehh, scratch that ... working on it. 

---------------------

One of the greatest things about Whole30 is that you are allowed caffeine (aahhhhh! hear the angels singing? I sure do)
Since there are no artificial sweeteners, dairy, or sugar for 30 days - tons of w30'ers have a really tough time every morning. But guys I've gotta be honest. Ever since forever, I've been a black coffee drinker. No cream, no sugar, no nada. 
So black coffee in the AM while ridding my body of toxins, YES PLEASE. 
Although I will say, I want to work on cutting this out. Caffeine can cause your blood sugar to rise, but the main problem is that it weakens the adrenals and can impair your immune system. Working to eliminate candida in my body will require elimination of caffeine. But hey, one thing at a time!

 ---------------------

Now everyone is asking me the same two questions: "What are you eating?" and "Are you totally starving?" 
I think, in this case, a picture says a thousand words. So to accurately and descriptively answer both of these questions, take a gander ...

 
breakfast: leftover frittata from day one + avocado + fresh blueberries
lunch: grilled chicken breast over fresh green + fresh herbs + avocado
dinner: homemade meat sauce + superfood salad



I mean, for real ... do you see all that food?! No I'm not starving and this ish is freaking delicious. Kind of amazing how flavorful nature can be when you take out all the crap that's added to it! 

ps - the recipes for frittata and sauce came straight out of the Whole30 book. The other two meals took about 90 seconds to prepare: just my standard, "throw whatever's likely to go bad first in a bowl and call it a salad" meal.

---------------------

Since it's only day two I really didn't expect any changes at all. Like I said earlier, I actually woke up full of energy. At around 1 PM I noticed a dull headache; it could be some die off symptoms, but it could have also been slight dehydration, or what I now know may have been hormonal. 

At around 3, I found myself hitting that sugar craving. I think this is the time of day I normally snack on things with my daughter - pretzels, cookies, ice cream, etc. I never really thought about it, I just did it. So today when she was having her afternoon snack (half a black and white cookie), and I found it sitting there taunting me, I realized I totally do crave sugar, contrary to my savory beliefs. I'm pretty proud of myself for holding strong. I may have gone head to head in a staring contest with this bad boy, but I came out the victor; or maybe the cookie did since it's still in existence? 
either way ... no cookie for me!
anyone else read that in the soup nazi's voice? 
no? just me? 
moving on.
  

Also, I have to just add - this may be simply coincidence, but I will say I unexpectedly got visited by Aunt Flo today and I didn't hate everything about life! #winning! Honestly, other than that little headache - no other symptoms. No cramping or leg pain (my usual indication). I felt a little run down at around 5 PM, but chugged some water which always boost my energy (funny how simple that solution is, isn't it?) and got ready to head to teach my Bikini Body Bootcamp HiiT class. Taught it, crushed it, came home and devoured dinner. It's just about midnight now and I'm definitely ready for some toddler snuggles.

Pretty excited to see what the rest of the week brings to the table, but for now I'll say I'm definitely enjoying the program, not feeling hunger or deprived, and diggin' the self control whilst PMSing I exhibited today. On that note - sweet dreams friends! 

xx Ashley


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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A new venture: the Whole 30

Okay, okay. I know it's only Day 1, but I cannot believe the hype I created in my head about this ...

"WHOLE 30 IS GOING TO DESTROY ME"
"THIS WILL BE HARDER THAN CHILD BIRTH"
& the scariest of them all
"HOW WILL I LIVE WITHOUT TACOS"

.... trust me the list goes on. Perhaps the fact that I gorged myself on my fav foods these last few days is why I feel totally on board with W30? As if my body just knows it's time to get on track ... maybe I'm just delirious. Who knows!

I've been getting asked a TON of questions about Whole30. Like for real, so many questions!!
  • what is whole 30? 
  • why are you doing it?
  • don't you already follow a diet? 
  • why are you trying to lose more weight? 
  • is this another fad?
  • what are you supposed to eat, twigs?
  • aren't you still nursing, it can't be good for her? (not really a question...)
  • NO ALCOHOL?!?!

First off - can I just say I find it strikingly odd that there are people out there who think clean eating while breast feeding may pose a danger to my child, and yet they are completely mind-blown to how I will go 30 days without alcohol. Hmmm, is it just me or does something just NOT add up there??

I digress ...
So YES! I have chosen to complete the Whole 30 program (get it here!) ... possibly making it a Whole 40? 60? 90?! ... that's that Day 1 ambition right there HA!

This means for the next month I will be eating tons of fresh veggies & fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins & experimenting with nature's secrets like fresh herbs, citrus, & other tasty mouth-party foods!
I'll be eliminating anything processed, sugars, legumes, soy, dairy, grains, & alcohol. 
SAY WHATTT!?!?! No tacos, pizza, ice-cream or whiskey?! But those are the tastiest things on the planet!

True, so true. But you know what? They also come with a full platter of nasty side effects that I have just about had enough of. Not the typical "I feel bloated after gluten", "My face breaks out after chocolate", "Cheese makes me gassy" kinda stuff. No. My issues keep me from sitting at that trendy cool kids' problem table.




story time
 {and I may just get a little graphic so if you have a weak stomach, skip to the end!}

For as long as I can remember, my Dad had terrible athlete's foot. I know, gross. But this is real shit kids. I remember when I was little, we lived in a tiny little 700 sq foot (on a good day) bungalow with 1 teeny bathroom for my parents, myself, and my three sisters (yea, you read that right ... 6 people to 1 bathroom). My dad would prop his foot up on the toilet and spray his feet with that God-awful smelling Lotrimin ... I can literally smell it right now as I type this. He did this what seems like daily for as long as I can remember. It never really went away though - it was just always kinda, there
I didn't know what it was really, my Dad was an athlete, he had feet, so to a little kid, A + B = C, right? 

I remember talking to him, I was probably 12 or so, about my ears. I rarely had any problems with them, but occasionally they would get really itchy. I'm not talking itchy like you have an itch, scratch it, hit the spot & it's gone. I'm talking a ferocious itch. In school I would literally take the end of a pen cap and use it to scratch the inside of my ears (yes I now realize how incredibly dangerous this is, but hey - ya gotta do what ya gotta do).  Anyway, my Dad knew exactly what I was talking about - even showed me the drops he used (conveniently in his pocket) to "clear them up". Again, it wasn't like this was a huge problem; but for both of us, the annoyance was just always kinda, there.

As I got older, more uncomfortable little bumps in the road of health started creeping up. After puberty, I started to get weird skin splotches. I have pretty clear, naturally olive-tan skin ... but every summer I would suddenly wake up with scaly white patches; my face, my back, my stomach, and sometimes the backs of my arms would be covered in white spots about the size of a quarter. I was so disgusted with it (I mean really, how dare anything interrupt the tan of a 16 year old), I went to the doctor who gave me a weird cream for my "fungus". UM WHAT. Fungus? Like a mushroom? On my FACE?! Yea, I wasn't happy. I used the cream, which worked for a bit. They'd come back each summer, sometimes less noticeable - or maybe I just got used to it. Either way, they were just always kinda, there.

Over the next few years I started to notice a little trend - I was getting yeast infections a few times a year. 
Sorry, I know. But I think it's important I go full disclosure here. 
At first, it was a few times a year, maybe 2 or 3. I just assumed it was normal to be honest. I knew exactly what to do - Monistat 7 was ideal, 3 if I really HAD to, but 1 was a waste of money. Always get the wipes and external cream because Lord knows I needed that. I could literally feel it coming on and I'd know I had less than 24 hours to make something happen. I still don't really know how, but I did a great job of hiding this from family, friends, & boyfriends ... all things considered.

Fast forward a few years of this lovely pattern, coupled with the sudden onset of some SERIOUS seasonal allergies (I'm talking so bad I had to be seen by the Infectious Disease Specialist at Stony Brook Hospital more than once), a false Lupus diagnoses, & I started having increased mood swings & anxiety. I started gaining a ton of weight. I wasn't a sweets person (savory please!), but I started craving sugar. I craved alcohol. I gained more weight. I became more depressed. My scalp was flaky, my skin felt waxy in spots ... and then I hit 212 pounds. 

I saw that number on the scale during my Winter Break home from college in December of 2008. I was 19, and I was 212 pounds. I felt like shit. I looked like shit. I kept saying how I felt like my brain was in a dense "fog", for lack of a better term. I decided I needed to do something. In February 2009 I read a pretty cool book, Skinny Bitch, and went totally vegan. I felt freaking AMAZING. No joke, I had tiger's blood running through my veins. I started working out with (funny enough) Tony Horton's P90X, and in about 45 days I had lost nearly 30 pounds. For the next 4 years I was a vegan - but my problems, ahem, 'down there', didn't stop. Every year, a few times a year, I had to run out and blow $20+ on those stupid cream kits. It wasn't until I was about 22/23 that I realized ... this wasn't normal. 

It was about that time that my dad's cancer (Hodgkin's Lymphoma) stopped responding to treatments. He sought out holistic nutrition, holistic doctors, & holistic cures. I remember researching with him and coming across an article on fungal infections in the body. The article went into great detail, how fungi (is that right?) grow quickly given the right conditions, they can take over and kill off healthy organisms in the path of fungal growth ... just like a cancer. 
Wait, what?! So cancer is fungus? Is fungus a cancer? 
Before I start to make medical claims that I am not qualified to make - yes, I have done research on this, no it's not conclusive, yes there are actual studies out there linking the two. My Dad passed away in 2013 after battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma for 12 long years. The tenacity of his cancer was overwhelming, spreading and thriving in the environment that was his body.
His case was so rare it's written up in Medical Journals at NYU and Sloan Kettering. Hodgkin's was supposed to be the curable one.

After having my daughter Isabella in 2014, my symptoms started to worsen. And then they came more frequently. And then it was like a damn tornado. 
All of the sudden I realized I had strategically placed bobby pins around my house, because they made the best inner ear scratchers. 
My seasonal allergies became totally debilitating, leaving me in the hospital twice in 2015 for what doctors believed was Lyme's Disease. 
I get yest infections monthly, sometimes twice a month. 
My skin looks like a leopard with white spots. 
My scalp is perpetually flaky. 
I feel painfully bloated more weeks than not. 
I've been seeing a therapist once a week, at a minimum, for my anxiety and depression. 
I have awful mood swings. 
Oh, & I am officially addicted to sugar.

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I want you all to understand that with all that said above, I don't feel bad daily. Really, I don't.
In fact, I feel a lot better now than I have in a long time. These weird health ailments are all just kind of ... there. I don't think about them much. At least not until I started to put it all together in the last few months, doing more and more research, and finding every single one of my symptoms points to a singular issue. 
A familiar issue. 

.candida.

Candida. A yeast. A fungus. An infection of the body.
specifically, "a yeastlike, parasitic fungus that can sometimes cause thrush". Thrush - now there's a familiar word. You mean that oral infection that my daughter suffered the first few weeks of her life? Where her pediatrician said, after her second round of medication, that if this new medicine didn't cure it we would have to schedule an appointment with the infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook hospital? 
Oh yea, I know thrush.


Suddenly Dad's "Anti-Candida" books suddenly come to mind after all these years ...  
And a fungus, ey? So was my Dad's persistent Athlete's foot a precursor to his wildly persistent cancer? Was his body a breeding ground of fungal infections, ultimately leading to a breeding ground for Lymphoma? 
Honestly, I may never know. 

But what I DO know - is I am very much like him. scary much. And I know I do not want to end up missing out on life's greatest moments;
My Dad never got to know that I was pregnant. 
He never got to be a Grandpa. 
He will never get to walk me down the aisle. 

I refuse to let history repeat itself.

And this, my friends, is WHY I have chosen to complete the Whole 30 program. It has nothing to do with weight loss. It has everything to do with breaking food addictions. Killing off the yeast that is thriving inside of me. Starting fresh. Creating a breeding ground of optimal health within me, rather than parasitic fungus. 
It is perfectly healthy nutrition, IDEAL even. Think it's unbearable? Follow me to check in on how absolutely freakin' delicious my "twig" meals are. And oh yea - I can have approved tacos, so HA to the haters!

In all seriousness though, if skipping out on some pizza, ice cream, and drinks now
means I get YEARS of enjoyment in life later
SIGN ME THE HELL UP RIGHT NOW.

For YEARS I didn't talk about this, tell anyone, or even acknowledge it. I now realize I am far from the only one who suffers from this. If you, whoever  you are reading this now, can relate and know you aren't alone, then this post has served a purpose.

I'm excited to share this next month with you, and I really can't wait to know how I am going to feel on the other side of all this!

xx Ashley
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