It's been a long journey to here…
When my second daughter was 3 years old, out of the blue I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition called Hashimoto's (I was 38). With that my attention was suddenly turned intently upon eating a nutritious diet. Well, that's a mild way of putting it. It would be more accurate to say that I completely FREAKED OUT when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's. Up until that point my eternally optimistic mind was blissfully convinced that I had been super healthy!
Overall I have been healthy my whole life. I had a great childhood, and I have always been fortunate to have been surrounded by loved ones.
So getting a diagnosis was quite a shock. It took me about 6 months to come to terms with it and it definitely set me along the path of trying to figure out how to eat well, and how I could get rid of the diagnosis. And as I became more educated and more aware of my body I began to realize that I hadn't been as healthy as I had thought.
In reality, I had fatigue, low-grade depression, acne, rosacea, sleep issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, muscle cramping, and low muscle tone and stamina. I guess 2 pregnancies, 6 years of breastfeeding, and prolonged daily consumption of ice cream and processed carbs will do that to you.
This is me in spring 2009, pretty soon after getting diagnosed with Hashimoto's. Red cheeks and acne and all!
It took some time, and a masters degree in nutrition to get this more or less sorted out. In a nutshell, over the course of 4 years I started eating red meat and eggs again (but only the best quality), increased protein intake, removed gluten, increased the quality of the dairy and grains I ate, reduced processed foods, and stopped snacking throughout the day.
That was enough to nearly eliminate the Hashimoto's and certainly to get rid of almost all of my symptoms. I felt pretty friggin awesome!!
During this process I came upon an idea that was (and still is) somehow revolutionary in the nutrition world, and that was called biochemical individuality. In other words, we all have different needs based upon our biochemistry. Some people need more protein, some less. Some people need more fat, some less. Some people need more carbs, some less. Some people can fast and feel fantastic, and others less so. And so on....
This idea alone allowed me to stabilize my blood sugar by simply paying attention to my body's needs. I paid attention and realized that when I ate more protein and fat, and less carbs, I felt better and I could literally FEEL the difference when my blood sugar was stable. Phew...that was pretty important information to figure out!
But there were still so many pieces to the puzzle. I won't bore you with all the details but the most glaring issues I had were: I still had some positive anti-thyroglobulin (thyroid) antibodies (the anti-TPO ones were normal and I thank 30 days on the Ketogenic diet for that) AND I had a nasty ongoing habit of eating ice cream and other unhealthy foods right before bed.
I was eventually able to eradicate the anti-thyroglobulin antibodies by two key practices: fresh, homemade, organic veggie juice AND regular moderate exercise and physical activity (4-6 times/week). So that was sort of an easy win because those practices also just made me feel even better...in other words, absolutely fabulous!
My daughter Belle in 2018
The nighttime eating was the biggie. I mean, BIG. I had been nighttime eating since my oldest daughter was born in 2002. It started with Haagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream in copious amounts during my pregnancy with Belle. My poor husband and the poor lady at the Haagen Dazs shop in Tokyo would have to suffer through her scooping 7-8 pints fresh into the containers on a weekly basis. Ugh!!
Once Belle was born and we were back in the US my nighttime eating became quite solidified as a seemingly unbreakable habit. When baby #2 came along (Sonia) the situation did NOT get better. It wasn't until Belle was 7 years old (2009) and late one night when everyone was asleep I read a particularly graphic article about conventional dairy that I decided to give it all up!
Well, yeah, that lasted about a day...as soon as nighttime rolled around I just shifted from Haagen Dazs to organic ice cream! It's amazing I didn't weight 200 pounds at this point. But somehow I didn't. Maybe if I had gained weight from it I would have stopped. But I did not.
Over the years as I learned more about nutrition I became more and more convinced that eating sweets before bed was really bad. So, what did I do? I started trying to eat "healthy food" before bed. So now it was yogurt with fruit or nuts or homemade popcorn. Yes, it was an improvement, but it bugged me to no end that I felt this was a habit I just couldn't kick.
Then I started reading more about intermittent fasting and how important it is for hormonal balance and gut health to give your body a break from food for 12-13 hours every night. This was a basic health practice that I just couldn't even begin to master! Not only was this mortifying and embarrassing, it was really, really annoying!
I hated feeling beholden to something. I wanted to be the master of all that ate. Not to say I wanted to eat a "perfect" diet with no treats, but rather, that I would be able to CHOOSE what I ate and when I ate it. And this went on for many more years. I tried substituting with healthy foods, I tried drinking a bunch of water, I tried drinking sparkling water, I tried brushing my teeth after dinner, I tried going to bed really early (lol), I tried having nothing appealing in the house (impossible with kids), but most often I just gave in to the urge.
I would say that today, June 20, 2018, as I am writing this, I am more healthy than I have ever been in my adult life. I have more patience, energy, passion, endurance, strength, and optimism than ever before. My mind is super clear and focused. I sleep peacefully and wake up well rested every day. I rarely get sick and if I do, it's mild. I love the way my body looks and feels and I love being physically active.
My daughter Sonia in 2017
Is that a result of all the amazing foods that I eat such as fresh veggie juice, bone broth, tons of salads and cooked veggies, high quality meats and fish in moderation, healthy fats and oils, seeds, nuts, and beans and so much more? Yes. But what has taken me to a place I had never dreamed is probably the overcoming of the nighttime eating!!
"HOW?!", you say?
OMG, it was so easy it's annoying! I SIMPLY STOPPED.
I KNOW! Crazy right?!
It's a little more detailed than that. But basically I learned that there are two parts to our brains and one is the upper or "human" brain (prefrontal cortex) and the other is the lower or "animal" brain (hypthalamus). And the lower brain is driven by survival instincts and habits. So perhaps I started eating the ice cream out of some kind of warped idea of needing it to survive (all parents can sympathize with this right?). And then it became a deeply ingrained habit.
So when I wanted to stop my lower brain was like, "hell no, this is a habit and we need it in order to survive!". So, my upper brain, despite all the knowledge it contains and despite a strong desire to stop, well, it couldn't resist the strength and power of the lower brain. UNTIL I became aware of this whole situation and I simply took charge. I said to my lower brain, "look, I'm on to you, you are tricking me!" "I know you think I need to eat at 9:30 PM but I actually DON'T, like really, really don't." "So I'm just going to not take action on your messages and I am going to opt out." And amazingly and unbelievably, it worked...IN....ONE....DAY....!!
Did I have urges for about a week after? Yes. But I simply said no. Was it the easiest thing I've ever done? No...but it certainly wasn't the hardest. It had been WAY harder to substitute with weird things I didn't really want to eat or to pretend I wasn't craving something and run to bed.
So, now I am free!
This is me spring 2018 age 47. Much healthier, happier, and fitter than ever before in my life....
I have so much I have learned about the body and nutrition over the years from school, mentors, colleagues, patients, clients, friends, and family. And I want to share what I can with anyone interested so that perhaps I can help them feel better. This is why I became a nutritionist in the first place. But what I have discovered about habits and urges and how I and YOU and anyone can resist them and truly be in charge, THAT is truly revolutionary!
Summer 2018, me and the girls