Getting a Better Night's Rest with Reverie Sleep Coach
A few months ago, I teased you guys and let you know I was working with a sleep coach. It was never something I thought I’d need to try - I’ve always fallen asleep quickly and been able to take a nap almost anywhere. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I started connecting the dots; the reason I can nap any time is because I rarely sleep through the night and wake up at least 4 or more times, tossing and turning, getting overheated, and of course trips to the bathroom! (Is it just me or do you also drink like 3x as much water at night?!) I worked with Reverie, an innovative leader in sleep technology for over fifteen years, to create a custom sleep plan to identify the factors that were keeping me up at night and how to fix them.
I was nervous but excited - would it be worth in investment? Would I walk away with better sleep habits? Could my partner benefit, too? Before I give you a resounding YES - let’s talk about what Reverie Sleep Coach entails.
Reverie offers all kinds of products to help you get a better night’s rest, from mattresses to pillows and sheets, to one-on-one sleep guidance with a certified Sleep Coach. can go the more DIY route or consistent coaching route, depending on your sleep needs. You have the option to relearn sleep through curated and customer sleep tips delivered to your inbox once a week or work on your unique sleep needs with a Sleep Coach. My private sleep coach, Elise, and I met in two separate over-the-phone sessions after I finished the initial sleep quiz. The sleep quiz helped identify any issues I was experiencing, and Elise dove deeper into those problems to help me create a sleep plan to overcome them. She pointed out simple tactics to put into place to help alleviate waking up 4+ times a night, to stop that constant need to pee at 4 a.m.
The Reverie Sleep Coach program gives personalized guidance, working with an advisory board of doctors, scientists, and psychologists to develop the most accurate, relevant information on how to sleep better - which means you are getting the most current data on sleeping your very best! Reverie Sleep Coach also equips consumers with knowledge that will help them understand the importance of sleep and the impact healthful sleep can have on everyday activities. For example, sleep is involved in the healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke to name a few. A large portion of the population makes do with six or less hours of sleep on average, but six hours of sleep a night puts your health at serious risk. We NEED to get more uninterrupted, quality sleep at night rather than continually playing catch up, which is something I learned from Elise!
Like I said earlier, my biggest sleep problems revolve around waking up throughout the night and shuffling to the bathroom in the dark. After chatting with Elise in my initial session, we set my first few goals as follows:
1. Hot Shower or Bath Before Bed—This helps with overheating at night. I get hot often, even when I don’t wear that much, because I like to get way too cozy in the blankets. Elise shared that taking a hot shower before bed would help to cool my core body temperature naturally by drawing all the heat to the surface of my body. When you step out of the bath and begin to lose the heat, your body stays cooler for hours. Plus, you can always throw in extra lavender or Epsom salt to help your body relax!
2. Cut Down on Liquids Before Bed—This helps minimize the amount of times I wake up to use the bathroom at night. I give myself at least an hour or two before bed to help give my body time to relax and prevent the nightly bathroom breaks.
3. Consistent Bedtime—Creating a balance has helped my circadian rhythm get back to a regular cycle making it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night.
4. Screen Time Cut-Off—I make sure to have at least an hour without any screen use before bed. Blue light from screens (big and small) messes with your brain's ability to fall into that natural sleep rhythm, so the earlier in the day you can ditch it, the better.
5. Charge Phone Away from Bed—I would wake up from random phone calls and late-night texts but charging my phone across the room prevents waking up from those notifications. Pro tip: when your phone is away from your bed, it forces you to wake up and get out of bed to turn off the alarm.
I noticed a big shift in my sleep quality after a few weeks of working on these goals on my own. I was sleeping more regularly through the night and removing my phone before and during bedtime also pleasantly forced me to spend more time with my books and my partner in the evenings. I did my best to cut down my liquids, but because I sometimes teach at night and end up chugging water, I still struggled with getting up for the bathroom at least a few nights a week. The best thing Elise has me try was the hot showers, which have been LIFE CHANGING! Not only do I sleep better and longer. I also stay far cooler throughout the night.
My second session was focused on my progress and more practices I could put into effect. This time my most significant remaining problems were my partner waking me up, waking up and not being able to fall back asleep, and forcing myself to stick to a regular bedtime. I talked with Alex about implementing some of the same things I’d been trying and that helped with his tossing and turning slightly. I think sleeping with a partner can be hard, especially when they’re on a different schedule, sick, or moving around more than usual. When I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep. I started challenging myself to get up and be productive rather than just lying there. HUGE difference! My final challenge for our last session was getting on a consistent bedtime. I still struggle with that one. I work weird hours sometimes and my husband often works late, so I usually find my bedtime irregular but falling between about 10:30 p.m. and midnight. Other than that, my sleep has been SO MUCH BETTER! By forcing myself to sleep cooler and without my phone nearby, I found my restlessness ceasing and my sleep deeper than ever. My husband has benefitted too. He uses that hot shower trick almost every night after work. Reverie Sleep Coach helped me re-learn basics of quality sleep I forgot.
So back to those questions at the beginning of the post: would it be worth in investment? Would I walk away with better sleep habits? Could my partner benefit, too? YES - YES - and YES! I seriously cannot say enough great things about the ease of the service and depth of knowledge of the sleep coaches they have on staff. Plus, the price is pretty great, too! Reverie Sleep Coach Basic is $49 and provides 90 days of individualized tips delivered via email. Personalized 1:1 coaching packages start at $129 for two sessions. To learn more about Reverie’s Sleep Coach Service and find better sleep for yourself, visit http://www.reveriesleepcoach.com and start by taking the Sleep Quiz!
10 small things you can do EACH morning that will lift your mood + Make You Your Most ProduCtive Self!
10 SMALL THINGS YOU CAN DO EACH MORNING THAT WILL LIFT YOUR MOOD + MAKE YOU YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE SELF!
1. Start a Gratitude Practice! 🙏 Mine is a simple checklist in my head of the three things I am most grateful for in that VERY moment. It changes regularly and you can check in on your gratitude practice as many times a day as you like…like when you’re about to scream at the person who just cut you in traffic.
2. Make your bed - it matters! I make my bed every morning because it sets me up to be organized and productive. Plus, it’s my way of moving my brain from ‘sleepy’ time to ‘awake’ time! 😴 And who doesn’t want to get into a cozy, nicely-made bed each night?
3. MEDITATE. Seriously - just a few minutes a day helps, and there are tons of apps, blogs and podcasts designed to help! It takes practice, so keep trying - every if the first few times feel a little silly! 🙈
4. Morning Mantras! 📿 Find your phrase or empowering could words and repeat then until you EMBODY them. Whenever I’m down, I look at myself in the mirror and repeat “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh daring - people LIKE YOU!’ and while I always end up feeling a little ridiculous and inevitably laughing at myself, it HELPS. Find your mantra and repeat it over and over and over.
5. WORKOUT! I am a HUGE believer that a good seat can cure almost anything. When in doubt, SWEAT IT OUT! Now sure where to start? Our recent Real Good Podcast episode on Fall Fitness is a great place! 🍂
6. Journal. Journal. Journal. 📖 Okay, so I actually hate journaling guys - I prefer to talk it out. But if you ARE someone who likes writing, please try it! Getting on your feels out on paper can be SO stress relieving and a great way to sort through your feelings! I’m still more of a talk it out kinda girl, and if that’s your style, just make sure you’re venting to someone who doesn’t mind listening! 🤷♀️
7. Put Down the Phone + Stop Scrolling 📱 Give yourself a time limit on your phone and set some guidelines for yourself on when you use it. Stop sleeping with it next to your bed and stop taking it into the bathroom with you. Boundaries are key!
8. Make a To-Do List! I’m an OBSESSIVE list maker, but it helps me clear my head of excess stress and focus on what NEEDS to get done that day. 👌 Cross things off as you finish and watch your stress melt away with your to-do list!
9. Message a Friend 👯♀️ Sometimes all you really need to lift your mood is a chat with a close friend. If your favorite babe is unavailable or needs a little extra love, be the best friend ever and shoot them a random “YOU ARE AMAZING AND I FRICKEN LOVE YOU” text or send a little coffee money to their venmo account. They will SO appreciate it, and you will feel great for doing it. A win / win!
10. Treat Yourself! 🍩 Get yourself a donut, matcha latte, crazy coffee drink pr whatever it is that makes your morning feel like a YES! You deserve it, you badass babe.
MY HELIX FOOD SENSITIVITY+ TEST RESULTS
I've had a TON of interest and questions about my Food Sensitivity+ testing since I posted about receiving my kit from Helix. If you’d like to read more about my experience using the kit to test my saliva + blood for my body's response to 96 foods, you can head here. Otherwise, I’ll catch you up. Basically, a company called Helix sent me their DNA kit to collect and sequence my DNA so that their partner EverlyWell could analyze my DNA for a genetic predisposition to different food sensitivities. Helix uses Exome+ sequencing which reads every letter of all 22,000 protein-coding genes and produces 100 times more data than most consumer genetics companies. Then, once you've taken and sent back your DNA sample, they'll store and protect your genetic data so you can access and share just the relevant portion with any Helix partner of your choosing (such as EverlyWell) without ever having to provide another DNA sample. And if you're interested in finding out more about your DNA, Helix offers other tests to help you dive further into that information too. They offer cool tests for ancestry, family planning, hereditary cancer screening - all kinds of different things if you're interested in exploring further.
I did a kit called Food Sensitivity+, made by Helix's partner EverlyWell, that tests elevated levels of immune antibodies in my blood, plus, it measures my genetic predisposition to metabolize and absorb foods and vitamins. Food Sensitivity+ needs just a few drops of blood (plus some saliva for the DNA part of the test) and it can test for genetic predisposition to reactivity to 96 foods (like gluten, wheat and dairy) as well as genetic influences on lactose intolerance, caffeine, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and magnesium. That’s AMAZING! And way more info than I get from my doctor in a single visit, too.
And guess what?! I just got my results back! I’m so excited to share them with you guys, and frankly was just so excited to have some insight on why I am having these constant tummy troubles. I knew there had to be something contributing to some aches and pains, but I couldn’t pinpoint what. You guys are not going to believe what came back in my results! Some serious surprises and things I was eating literally EVERY DAY. This test is a quick (results came back within about two weeks), safe, and effective way to figure out what your food sensitivities are.
So what were my biggest sensitivities? Soy and most types of dairy came up as highest reacting; no surprise there! I already do my best to avoid them because of how badly I do react, so this just reinforces for me that I should be reducing my intake of them. The real exciting (and disappointing) part comes next; I had sensitivity to the following foods, in order of reactivity: sweet potato, cashew, clam, crab, green beans, pineapple, sesame, wheat, chia seed, malt, sunflower, kelp + gluten. Yeah, I’m just going to let the take a moment to sink in. I had to. That is a LOT of foods that I very regularly eat showing up on my sensitivity test. Ugh.
For me, that means a lot of foods that I was eating nearly every day - cashews, gluten, pineapple and chia seeds, specifically - may be causing a reaction. And it made a lot of sense! For someone who eats a pretty healthy, balanced, nearly sugar-free, plant-based diet - I shouldn’t be having so many issues. Or so I thought! But compound that same diet with a host of inflammatory foods and you’ve got a recipe for an upset stomach + a bunch of skin issues - which is exactly where I’m at.
Along with food sensitivity testing, the DNA portion of the test also tested for genetic variants for things like B6 + B12 levels, lactose intolerance, magnesium levels and caffeine metabolism. Everything there came up normal for me except my genetic predisposition for low B12 levels. Even though the test doesn't tell me that I currently have low B12 (I'd have to confirm with a doctor), I'm definitely going to try to have more foods with B12 in my diet. I might consider grabbing a niacin-free B12 supplement too.
Just knowing what my body reacts to is going to help me so much. I can alter my diet to reflect the removal of said foods, and can be on high alert when I am having a stomach ache or reactive effect for what I may have ingested that affected me. I have started trying to reduce my intake of the other foods that I’m most sensitive to, but I still find that wheat, gluten, and chia seeds slip in here and there.
I am hoping to start the New Year by trying to reduce my intake of some of the foods I have highest sensitivity to, to see how my body reacts. Since finding out which foods most affect me I’ve been trying to cut back a bit on them, and have already started to see small improvements in my eczema and acne. Score!
I look forward to using the Helix DNA collection towards one of their awesome biomarker tests, too - because once they have it on file, they keep it on file. And they have so many great accompaniment kits I’d love to try! You can get 30% OFF any purchase on any Helix product with code: HelixJPfO. But HURRY - only the first 25 unique users get the discount!
This post is sponsored, which is a tool we use to keep the content on this site fresh and relevant. While I was paid for this post, all thoughts and opinions expressed are true and from my own experience.
NOT ALL VITAMINS ARE THE SAME - HERE’S WHY!
This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with a brand I really use and really love, and helps to keep the site running. Thanks for your understanding!
I love vitamins. I know - weird. But as someone with all kinds of food allergies and intolerances, taking high quality, supplements made with whole foods is a great way for me to make sure I’m getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need in my diet. That said, there are too many companies touting their products as ‘the best’ or ‘most effective’ that it can be really tough to figure out what’s worth your money and your time. I’m a big fan of MegaFood® products - the majority of their products are free from the most common allergens: wheat, corn, gluten, dairy, and soy. But there are a lot to choose from!
So how do you figure it out? Well, my friends, transparency is key. Most companies are quiet about where or how they source their supplement ingredients. Often they buy from farms that use glyphosate, the number one herbicide in the US - labeled by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “probably carcinogenic in humans”. NOT COOL. Luckily for us, MegaFood is committed to quality, safety and purity above all, and to providing their customers with the most authentic nourishment possible. They are a brand you can really trust! And I love them for that.
MegaFood is the first supplement brand to have its ENTIRE LINE certified Glyphosate Residue Free by The Detox Project, an independent research and certification organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the public by testing consumer goods and food products for toxic chemicals. This certification is just one part of MegaFood’s continued commitment toward The Big T Transparency, which is a complete operational transparency between MegaFood employees, suppliers, retailers and customers - and a challenge they’ve officially extended to other supplement brands!
Glyphosate is - terrifyingly - the number one herbicide used in the United States. It’s on ALL KINDS of things, including just about anything that isn’t grown organically. It’s sprayed heavily on GMO and conventionally-grown crops at harvest, and used frequently in home gardens, public parks and school. It’s use has skyrocketed over the last two decades - nearly 15 fold! Organic farming bans the use of glyphosate and other fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones, which is why an organic certification for your supplements is so important, and is why MegaFood is committed to working with organic farms and farmers. You can even meet the farmers they work with - and see the products they grow - right on their website!
MegaFood is keeping their supplements made with whole foods number one in the game with their commitment to transparency and their constant innovation of products. As someone on a plant-based diet, I’m often low in iron and have taken their Blood Builder® tablets for years. They go down easily and never give me an upset stomach, like some iron supplements do. I’ve also been taking their Doctor-formulated Muti for Women, a vitamin specifically for the ladies that is packed with real, whole foods ingredients like brown rice, carrots, broccoli and oranges! I’ve also recently started making hot morning drinks with their nutrient booster powders and LOVING them! They make both a Daily Turmeric Nutrient Booster Powder™ and Daily Maca Plus for Women Nutrient Booster Powder™ that mix into my lattes seamlessly and add a ton of nutrition to my morning drinks. Unsweetened and packed with good-for-you, whole food, from-the-farm ingredients - they’re a win / win!
Ready to get started on your own healthy, whole food supplement journey? Head to MegaFood.com to get started and find the right products for you!
At Home Food Sensitivity Testing with Helix
(This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Helix. All opinions are 100% mine.)
If you’re following me on Instagram, you may have seen that I recently got the coolest thing in the mail. A company called Helix sent me a DNA test. This particular test is called Food Sensitivity+, made by EverlyWell and powered by Helix. Together, they’ll tell me if I have any sensitivities to certain foods, plus measure my genetic predisposition to metabolize and absorb foods and vitamins. What does that all mean? Well simply said, Food Sensitivity+ needs just a few drops of blood (plus some saliva for the DNA part of the test) and it can test for my reactivity to 96 foods (like gluten, wheat, and dairy) as well as genetic influences on sensitivity to lactose and metabolism of caffeine, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and magnesium. That’s pretty rad!
This test is a quick (results come within about a week!), non-invasive way to figure out what your food sensitivities are. Helix’s proprietary technology, called Exome+, reads every letter of all 22,000 protein-coding genes in your body, which produces 100 times more data than most consumer genetics companies. Then, once you’ve taken and sent back your DNA sample, they’ll store and protect your genetic data so you can access and share it with any partner of your choosing without ever having to provide another DNA sample. And if you’re interested in finding out more about your DNA, Helix offers other tests to help you dive further into that information, too. They offer cool tests for ancestry, family planning, hereditary cancer screening - all kinds of different things if you’re interested in exploring further!
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ‘IBS’ after blood and stool tests plus an endoscopy, colonoscopy and an ingestible camera found nothing but healthy organs with a lot of inflammation. Eventually, after many tests and dietary restrictions, doctors finally figured out that I was having reactions to soy. They figured that was what was causing all my abdominal pain, content bowel movements, and eczema breakouts - and they were mostly right. Now I’ve been soy-free for almost two years and while the abdominal issues, cramping, and overall IBS symptoms have stopped, the eczema and adult acne have only gotten worse. And while I’ve tried tweaking my diet here and there, it can be really hard to pinpoint when you’re shooting in the dark. With Food Sensitivity+, you’ll learn your body’s sensitivity to many common foods AND the impact your DNA may have on your ability to digest certain foods and nutrients. That’s pretty awesome, because it also gives you the tools to create long-term meal plans and food awareness for yourself, plus it'll help you understand which foods may be triggering you and causing your symptoms. You’ll know which foods your body should be getting more of and what you might want to try reducing from your diet to see how you feel.
The process was super easy. I ordered my kits online and they arrived within just a couple days. For the Helix part of the test, the DNA part, I just needed a simple saliva sample. Spit in a tiny tube, close it up, and shake it up! For the EverlyWell part of the test, the blood part, I did a simple finger prick, then put drops of my blood onto a biomarker collection card. Then all I had to do was drop my samples into a pre-addressed, safety sealed envelope and drop it into a mailbox! Two days later I got an e-mail that my results had been received by the lab, and now I’m just a few days out from my results. And I can’t wait! You can get 30% OFF any purchase on any Helix product with code: Helixivhk. But HURRY - only the first 25 unique users get the discount! And stay tuned - my results will be back soon and I’ll share them here!
See the video below for a sneak peek at contents of the FoodSensitivity+ blood test!
This post is sponsored, which is a tool we use to keep the content on this site fresh and relevant. While I was paid for this post, all thoughts and opinions expressed are true and from my own experience. Thanks for understanding that sponsored content helps offset the costs of keeping this site running, and thank you to out sponsors who allow us to create such awesome content!
5 NATURAL REMEDIES FOR AN UPSET STOMACH
I've always had an easily upset-able stomach. It's sensitive to new foods, too much sugar or spice, dairy, soy, and sometimes wheat. And because of my history with an eating disorder, I've totally wreaked havoc on my insides. My stomach has a hard time finding it's happy place, but with the help of lots of probiotics, a good routine, and a couple other little helpers, I've mostly gotten a handle on it. That said, I still overeat sometimes or go out and splurge a little on my diet - and that can cause serious tummy troubles. Sure, you could just feel crummy and go to bed, hoping that your stomach will have dealt with the bulk of the uncomfortable trouble while you're sleeping - or you could start to try and fight back! Working on balancing your belly pH and cutting your crap intake all at the same time. I've found a few tools that have really helped me to work past the uncomfortable belly pain and get into a state of relief. These tools may not work exactly for you, but they're ve helped me HUGELY and I think you'll find some relief with at least one of the options listed. And I'm always open to suggestions! Please totally leave your suggestions in the comments below, I'd love to know how you help fight your tummy troubles. Otherwise let's dive right in. Your insides need you!
I'm all about those probiotics. Between my daily kombuchas and kraut intake, I do my best to take in fermented foods every single day. On top of that, I take a daily refrigerated probiotic pill - the 50 billion from Ultimate Flora - to keep my tummy in check on the regular. When I do need a little extra oophm, I love the GoodBelly Probiotics Shots. They also make probiotic juices and drinks but they tend to be really sugar heavy. The plain an vanilla chamomile flavored shots are my fave and have the lowest sugar content, plus pack a serious probiotic punch - I swear you can feel it start to work as soon as you drink it! Probiotics are getting easier and easier to find, so make sure you start using them. They're great for digestion and intimate pH balance in your gut, and with all of the studies coming out tying gut health to mental health, you want to be take as good care of your gut as possible. Plus, they really will help kick the tummy troubles!
2. Coconut Charcoal
I was suggested coconut charcoal from someone before our Honeymoon trip. I always struggle with digestion when traveling, and a friend recommended I try these pills from Bulletproof if I was feeling gassy or bloated along the way. And guys - they TOTALLY saved me. I struggled a lot with bloating when we hit the ground in Europe because we basically survived on bread, and these pills became my lifesaver. That said, go easy on them. Charcoal is GREAT for removing impurities, but it can also remove all the good stuff in there, too. So if you are going to take it, be sure to take some prebiotics a bit before and probiotics a bit after to keep everything balanced. But do try it! Even after an accidental dairy slip-up it worked wonders on my grumbling tummy. Big fan!
3. Ginger Capsules
Ginger is great for helping with an upset stomach, in any form you've got it. Fresh, raw, in juice, kombucha, or powder form - it does WONDERS on the tummy! Ginger is known to aid digestion and increase saliva flow, AND it boosts nutrient absorption in the body! So really, take it everyday in some form, if you can. When you've got an especially crummy tummy these ginger pills are great because they pack 540 mg of ginger per capsule, and are easily sucked down. They work fast, and I usually feel relief within 30 minutes of taking a few of the capsules. Ginger is also a great remedy for motion sickness, and because it's totally plant-derived, you don't need to worry about 'overdoing' it. 2-3 capsules and you'll be feeling better!
4. Essential Oils
I love putting essential oils in my diffuser, but since taking yoga teacher training I've gained a much bigger appreciation for slathering them right onto my skin. I use lavender oil regularly for massage, but didn't even really think about using a scent like peppermint at first. As it turns out, Peppermint not only smells great and stimulates up your senses, but it's cooling abilities also calms the stomach and aids in digestion! I have a few essential oil roller-sticks I've picked up recently, and one of my faves has become this 'Chill' stick from Frisky Fish; it's a blend of mint and lavender oils, and I think it's the perfect combo of cooling and relaxing. Perfect for post-yoga or after a big meal. I just roll it onto my wrists, neck and temples, and occasionally rub it right onto my belly for extra oomph. I immediately feel my body relax a bit and start to calm - from the inside, out. After some researching, I learned ginger + tea tree essential oils would be great options for diffusing or applying for digestive issues, too!
5. Herbal Tea
I've been hooked on Aloha's 'Clean' Ginger Green Tea lately and love the way it makes my stomach feel. Clean, balanced, and refreshed! A green tea with added nettle, dandelion root, and ginger root, the tea promotes detoxification in the body and and purification of the digestive system. Completely organic and wrapped in biodegradable sachets, these bags of tea are great hot or poured over ice. I sometimes add a bit of raw honey to mine, but you could also add a couple of slices of fresh ginger for extra digestive care.
And that's my go -to upset stomach routine! Hopefully having these 5 Natural Remedies on hand will help you find relief the next time you have an upset stomach. I'd love to hear your recommendations and what you do to calm a troubled tummy - let me know in the comments below!
When I was 17 I went through a really crummy breakup. I was already at an age where I felt insecure about my body and the changes it was going through, and insecure about who I was and who I would be in the future. There was a lot of upheaval in those years, and without getting into too much detail (another post, another day - maybe), I had one parent in and out of serious legal trouble and the other struggling to stay afloat amidst the chaos. It had affected me more than I was willing to admit or recognize, and coupled with the messy breakup, I started to feel out of control. Things were spinning, and the only thing I had some semblance of control over was what I was eating. I have always had a sweet tooth, and I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes, ‘clean your plate before you leave the table!’ kind of family. I never had healthy eating habits, but never really understood that they were bad, because everyone around me ate the same way. I had no idea really that I probably could’ve just changed what I was eating in a much easier, healthier and far less damaging way. Instead, I started a combo of starving myself and then binging to such fullness that I was forced to purge or would force myself to in an effort to clear out my stomach, to essentially prevent from gaining weight and hopefully lose some.
If you are still struggling with an ED, please know this may be triggering for you. I’ve never used this space to open up about this topic, but I have gotten so many questions and so much positive feedback when I’ve mentioned it on instagram. I’m not embarassed about sharing it because I am in such a better place now, and I just hope my experience can maybe help someone connect or get some perspective. Sorry - it’s gonna get really real guys.
The first time I made myself throw up was what I consider the real beginning. I had restricted food a bit before but never in such a conscious way. I was sad and feeling sorry for myself, so I went to the store and grabbed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and ate the whole thing. Just like that. Oops! I hadn't even meant to, but I was just drowning in my angsty sadness and eating and not even thinking. We’ve all been there, right? I felt really sick. Which made it really, really easy for me to throw up when I went into the bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat. I’m not proud of admitting how easy it was, but at the time - it felt freeing. It felt like somehow if I could unload the contents of my stomach, I could unload all of my emotions and the weight on my heart. Spoiler alert: it doesn't work like that.
I continued on the cycle of binging and purging and then starving myself for about 2 years. How can you do both, you ask? Well, as most people with disorders eating habits know, it’s a fluctuating thing. Some weeks I threw up every meal - some weeks I barely ate at all, so there was just nothing to throw up. I feel guilty even writing this - knowing how many people in the world don’t get to eat real or healthful meals, and I was buying good food just to waste it. I saw that juxtaposition even then, but as much as I hated what I was doing, I hated myself more. I had low self-esteem and was definitely battling depression. I wasn't working out much and I was the heaviest I had ever been, but I was soft. My muscles were deteriorating in front of me because I barely had any strength - literally. I was barley eating or drinking. After graduating high school I went off to college and the eating disorder absolutely spiraled. I was dating again but still feeling awful about my body and my size, trying to battle the ‘freshman 15’ while simultaneously eating exclusively cafeteria food, drinking to excess on the weekends, and sitting ALL DAY LONG in classes. I remember my anorexia taking the lead here - it was much harder to sneak away and throw up, except on weekends, when we drank to the point of throwing up anyway. I was keeping my calories under 1000 a day - starving limits. I was a big fan of eating a single sleeve of saltines and a cup of frozen raspberries a day - which, obviously, is far too little for any adult. I was sleeping all day through classes by the end of my second semester because I had no energy - I couldn’t even get up out of bed to go to the bathroom with out getting dizzy and feeling like passing out. I was in a bad place, and felt like I had no support system or reason to be in school. I dropped out and moved back home in February, and started to work on trying to feel better about myself.
By April I had saved up enough money to visit a friend for a week in California, and that’s where I met Alex for the first time. That week was freeing for me. I was feeling a bit better and getting a little more control over eating again at this point, and had regained more interest in working out. I still had my ED - I always will. Recovery is a choice you have to make everyday. But I decided that while I was in California for the week, I’d try new foods. I’d try to just enjoy it a bit. And I did! I tried In ’n’ Out for the first time, plus TK Burgers, Panda Express and The Hat. Do you live in Southern California? If so, you’re probably seeing a pattern here - it was all total junk food. But still, I enjoyed it! And that mattered. I visited again in May and had decided to more out permanently in August. I got a job as a live-in nanny in Pasadena and moved out just days before my 19th birthday in September. I was at my heaviest and feeling awful. I was eating a lot more food, and puking a lot less, but the foods I was eating at this point were total crap. Nothing healthful, lots of processed and fast foods. And for awhile after the move, it stayed that way. There were so many new-to-me places and foods to try in California - I went hard. And dating someone like Alex was tricky for me in the beginning; he can eat almost whatever and keeps his great bod. Some people are just lucky! What did help was Alex himself - I opened up to him about my struggles with eating and food, and he was a wonderful listener. He made a sincere effort to start eating better and working out with me, which was really incredibly helpful to me.
Even without Alex’s help, being in a new environment and around exciting new things made me want to be happy. I was sick of feeling sick all the time, and sick of constantly worrying about what I’d be eating or wouldn't be eating. Being happier made me want to start enjoying meals with my partner, enjoying food in social settings without having to excuse myself to the bathroom to berate myself for eating too many appetizers. I got curious about food, and about why I was feeling sick all of the time. I had simultaneously screwed with my metabolism and insides so much I had constant stomach aches and heartburn, and I didn't know why. I started cutting out foods I knew I might be struggling with - starting with dairy. I’d always had some lactose intolerance, so it seemed like a natural place to start.
Within 6 months of actively reducing the dairy and occasional other foods intermittently and rarely seriously, Alex and I moved in together. We got a couple of roomates, one of which was a vegetarian. She sparked my interest in removing meat from my diet. If I’m being honest, I was more initially allured into veganism because of the restriction aspect. Like I said, I had always grown up with healthy appreciation for meat - but had also very much ‘met my meat’. I never ate meat from factory farms growing up or helped support animal agriculture on a large scale - we ate a few eggs weekly from family chickens and ate a single deer yearly that my father hunted. This isn't a defense or calling out of anything - you do you. This is just what I lived. I wanted control over my food, but I also wanted to get much healthier. I wanted feel good about food and eating again. So I went vegan! It wasn't easy when I started, and I ate a lot of french fries and apples because I didn't know what else to do. But I taught myself to cook, and started the blog to try and share my experiences with other people. Back then it was exclusively recipes, and some of my very first recipes that I posted are simple smoothies and salad ideas that I learned as I went along. The pictures sucked because I was shooting them on like an iPhone 4, but I was just excited to start to feel like I was getting it.
At this point my ED had diminished a bit. I was in therapy weekly, was eating a lot better and had started working out. I’d started to lose some excess weight and was getting a little stronger. I wasn't super healthy, but I was working on me and it felt really good - probably the best I’d felt in a long time. But I still dealt with serious food guilt; if I ate too much and felt really full I’d think about how easy it’d be to slip to the bathroom and make myself sick or how if I maybe just skipped breakfast all next week I’d look slightly thinner. I talked to my therapist about it, and I talked to Alex about it. And that helped a TON. I will say this loud and proud: it is so incredibly important to take as good care of your mental health as you do your physical health. If you think you need a therapist or psychologist or new doctor or even a really great dog groomer in your life, DO IT. You will never regret asking for help when you need it. It may even take you a few tries to find someone you’re comfortable talking with, but when you find that person, see the value in opening up. It helped me so much to get the weight off my shoulders of what felt like a major secret to me, and also helped me to see how damaging the things I was saying to myself were. When I would eat something even slightly indulgent, I would berate myself. “You’re so fat Amber, no wonder you feel disgusting. Your jeans look so gross - all people are looking at is your muffin top.” I’m not kidding - I thought that telling myself these things was helping me. I don't know how. Well, I sort of do; diet culture tells women that if they are not a thin, perfectly in-shape person that they are less than. This kind of crazy bullshit needs to stop. Diet culture is bullshit - it is a lens at which you look through life that begins to cloud how you see yourself and others in it. It’s all pretend. My therapist started to help me realize that the way in which was speaking to myself actually REALLY mattered, and that is I changed that, I could make real change within myself.
So I started trying to speak to myself more kindly, remind myself that this body has also done a lot of impressive things, and is capable of anything I want from it. I started to see only recently that I don't want to be thin or in-shape, I want to be STRONG. I want to feel safe and proud and capable. And those things only happen when you eat a balanced diet. It took a lot to learn what healthy food was because of the crazy diet culture in our country. It was hard to get straight answers on what I should and shouldn’t be eating, and most of the last 7 years have been a learning curve of trying new things and seeing how my body reacts. If you’re curious what I generally eat in a day, check out this MBG article I wrote recently. I talk about my fave foods and snacks, though I don't mention in the article that I have been recently diagnosed (in the last last two years) with a severe soy allergy. That has definitely changed what I eat as a vegan person, and has eliminated most of the faux meats, cheeses, and processed foods from my diet, which generally contain soy products. It has greatly increased my appetite for more fresh foods, and I’ve been feeling healthier than ever lately. It’s important to get tested for food allergies if you can - I would’ve saved myself years of tummy troubles if I’d looked into it earlier.
Another thing that was instrumental for me in working towards recovery (besides Alex - he’s been an incredible, uplifting partner on this journey!) was discovering how much marijuana helped me me increase my appetite. I prefer to vape now because it’s much better for the lungs, but whether you ingest it, smoke it, or vape it, its acts as a wonderful way to increase your appetite. It also calmed me way down, so I was able to start enjoying how food tasted and felt in my mouth again. I started appreciating food for what is was - nourishment - and also for how it made me feel. I started to reconnect and really hear when I was hungry before eating. We have a couple great posts on vegan Medical Marijuana Edibles here and here, if you’re interested. Before you get started though, know what you’re doing. THC + CBD are slightly different strains of marijuana. CBD is more about pain relief and THC is more about getting high and getting the munchies. Both are great! And we use both. But you probably want THC if you’re looking for increased appetite. Within THC there are two types essentially: sativa and indica. Sativa is my daytime preference, makes you snacky but keeps you active. Indica is my nighttime go-to because it gives you more of a ‘body high’ and helps you sleep. Also increases your appetite, probably more-so than a sativa strain would. Whatever you do, please do it safely and legally!
So do I still get food guilt? Hell to the yes! I think I always will. My relationship with food is an ever-evolving one, constantly striving for more balance and positive and more of what makes me feel good. While I am in a pretty great place of balance right now with eating and exercise and mental health, there are totally breaks. That’s where self-care and really tuning in and listening to your body become so important. The little negative, nagging voice in the back of my head will always be there; it’s more about realizing it’s there, accepting what it is, and just moving past it. My ED carries a lot of baggage and pain with it, and those memories are not something I want to live anymore. When I find myself most triggered is usually when I am most stressed and emotionally compromised. I’ll accidentally skip a meal, or purposely skip it in favor of ‘eating more later’. This is not okay, and it’s a cycle I’ll probably have to work my whole life to break. But I choose to be healthy and to eat - because as much sadness as food used to carry for me, it also carries an incredible amount of joy. I have so many great memories of cooking with my parents and grandparents when I was little, and of towering birthday cakes, and plates full of tacos, and bowls of mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving, of my wedding cake; these are special, happy, social food memories. And I prefer these. I think, again, recovery is a lifelong process. It’s waking up each day and deciding you need and want to do something different, something better for yourself.
And for veganism, it was definitely an aid in rehabilitating my relationship with food. It helped me strip down to the bare essentials - which is to say, eating more healthful fruits, veggies, and grains and cutting out meats, eggs, and dairy products. That said, I have been a vegan for 7 years now, and the older I get, the less I like labels. More coming on this later, but that is essentially why we’re changing the name around here. I’m done with labels, and I’m done judging people. I’m at a spot in my life where I feel like you gotta do what is best for you. If that means eating vegan, great! Please do! If that means just eating vegan one day a week, thats also awesome! I’m all about bettering ourselves and the planet, and the way to encourage people to do that is with inclusion and encouragement. I still eat a plant-based diet, but I’m done with labels. I finally feel at a point where I can admit to you guys that on our honeymoon in Paris last month, I tried some goats cheese one day. It was pretty good, and it was something I hadn’t tasted in years. I ended up feeling pretty icky afterward, so I don't think I’ll be doing that again. (Lactose is not my friend.) The lesson here is really more about being open to trying things. Don't be too restrictive on yourself if that’s a trigger for you - because it absolutely was for me. For years I’ve gone hungry in situations over eating something that wasn’t 100% vegan, and I’m done starving myself to stick to a diet that only I am enforcing on myself. As much as going vegan has helped me as a tool in recognizing and overcoming my disordered eating, I’m at a fork in the road, because it’s also a very restrictive mindset for someone in recovery. For my own ED recovery, I’m taking the high road: eating a plant-based ‘vegan’ diet because it’s good for me and the environment, but not being so incredibly hard on myself if theres a situation in which I end up eating something not so plant-based. And I hope you do what’s best for you, too. Because eating disorders and depression are scary things, but you are capable and strong fucking babe. Don't ever forget it.
If you need help right now, please call the National Eating Disorder Hotline or let someone you trust know you need some help. Find a therapist, talk it out. Do what you need to do to get better - you deserve it.