When your healthy habits are causing you harm

I have some new followers and blog readers so I figured it would be a good time to share one of my original posts of why I really started opening up about my health and wellness journey.  It has been about 6 months since I wrote this post and things have gotten better but it is still a process and some days are harder than others.  I have been working super hard to help my body recover and I still have a long journey to go!

I have sat down a few times to write this post and have found it difficult to put into words how I am feeling.  I recently started seeing a functional medicine doctor to get to the bottom of a few things that have plagued me for a while.  Meeting with this doctor, we sat for two hours going over all my concerns and symptoms.  He sent me home with a huge list of tests to get done (stool samples, urine samples, blood work and a breath test).  I am so thankful for his desire to see the whole picture because it turns out some things I thought were “healthy”, were actually causing my body harm.

I decided to become a vegetarian when I was 17 years old.  At first it was just something I wanted to try, to see if I could.  It was also around that time that I started working out and being more conscious of my eating habits.  I lost some weight, got into better shape and was getting complimented on it so I figured I would stick with my new “healthy” lifestyle.  Soon after I left for college, The University of Vermont, where it was very easy to be a vegetarian.  There is a huge scene of pretty hippy people and the dining halls catered to that.  It was also a great way to keep myself from drunk late night food binges which usually consisted of burgers, breakfast sandwiches and pizza. 

I continued with my vegetarian lifestyle throughout my four years there, getting more and more strict with it.  It was during my last two years that I was also under a tremendous amount of stress.  I was studying dietetics which was kicking my ass and had a falling out with my best friend/roommate which made my living conditions extremely uncomfortable.  It seemed the only thing I had true control over was my diet and exercise.  I was super unhappy, basically depressed, and very stressed.  I told myself to just get through the last year of school and I would be ok.  All of this was taking a toll on my body, more than I even knew.  My weight suffered to the point where friends and family were concerned.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t eating, I was.  I had 3 full meals a day and lots of snacks in between.  The problem was my body was just on overdrive and I was pretty restrictive on what I allowed myself to eat, no cheat days.  I am 5 foot 10 and weighed 107 pounds, not good.

After college, I moved back home for the summer, taught sailing and was back with loved ones and in my happy place.  Things improved and I felt much better.  I decided to move to California to do a yoga teacher training.  I fell in love with LA and that is where I have been ever since.  I was still a vegetarian, still worked out a ton, probably a little too much, but I was happy.

Fast forward to now, to my follow up appointment to go over all my test results.  I met with Dr.Lekkos and he told me we had a lot of work to do.  The first thing he shared was that I am extremely deficient in all my B vitamins.  B vitamins are ones that need to be consumed daily and are found in beef, poultry and fish (things I was definitely not eating).  B vitamins are responsible for keeping our bodies running.  They help our bodies convert food into fuel, giving us the energy we need.  They also play an important role in immunity.  My levels were super low and that explained my fatigue and also why I was getting sick often.  He told me that my body isn’t efficiently using fat as a fuel and that my cell membranes are “rusted”.  Seeing the numbers on paper and how deficient I was really hit me hard.  Here I have been for the past 10 years thinking I was doing something amazing for my body.  I am not saying that a vegetarian diet is bad for everyone, some people can function well on one, but for me that clearly was not the case.  Since that appointment I have been slowly adding meat back into my diet.  I want to give my body the nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Another thing I learned from my test results was that my adrenal glands are fried.  The adrenal glands are active during stress, physical and emotional.  Long term stress causes these glandes to be overworked and they can’t keep up with the demands.  Dr. Lekkos said that my period of high stress in college and my continued intense workouts had flooded my body with cortisol, causing my adrenal fatigue.  This adrenal fatigue has since led to a slowing of my thyroid (slower metabolism and less ability for my body to successfully convert energy). 

It really upset me learning this.  My whole purpose, my brand is health and wellness.  To learn I have been negatively impacting myself made me feel like a failure.  There is so much pressure these days to look and act a certain way.  I had become so concerned with my body image that “junk food” and a rest day didn’t exist for me.  I have been pushing myself too hard, over training and also not giving my body the nutrients it needs to keep up.  This has been a huge eye opening experience for me.  It is now more important than ever to practice what I preach, balance.  I need a balanced diet.  I need more protein. I need more meat. I need more healthy fats.  I need to learn to workout smarter, not harder.  Instead of doing multiple workouts a day, I need to learn to do more efficient workouts that make me feel great and are good for my body.

I am not a lost cause, Dr.Lekkos assured me that with the proper diet and supplements I can repair my body.  It is important to me to do what is necessary to get back on track.  Derek and I want to have kids soon and my body needs to be functioning properly for that to happen.  This is also a huge lesson in self-love.  I need to be easier on myself.  I need to give myself rest days, I need to give myself overindulgent days.  I need to live life and be happy and confident in myself.  Not everything we do is good for us.  It is easy to get trapped into a mindset that your restrictions are healthy.  Balance is the key to life.  It took really harming my body to learn this and it is a lesson I am taking to heart. 

Yoga teacher training experience

I asked a while back what people wanted to see a blog post on and I had a few requests for my experience with yoga teacher training. So here is the story! 

I’ve talked about it before but as a recap, yoga basically saved me. I was stressed out in college, felt lost and alone. I started taking classes at a bikram studio nearby and i was hooked. Not only did I love the way my body and my mind felt but I also loved the community. The regulars at the studio became friends, people I spent time with outside of yoga. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was something that would-be part of my life forever and I wanted to share it with others. By senior year I knew I wanted to do a teacher training. At that time, I thought I would do the bikram training in LOS Angeles. I had been to LA once before and loved it so this seemed like the perfect option. Then everything changed after I took my first vinyasa class. I knew there were other styles of yoga but all I had experienced was bikram. A friend and teacher from the studio took me to one of her friends vinyasa classes and my mind was blown. There was music and smiling and lightness and fun! It was the complete opposite of the very militant bikram style. I loved how freeing it was, how you moved with your breath and could just deeply feel.

At this point I had to reevaluate my whole plan. I knew I wanted to do a hot vinyasa teacher training and I still wanted to go to Southern California so I started some google searching. There were of course tons of different options but one that really stuck out to me was Core Power. The class structure looked great, the timing was perfect and the price was doable. It finished up right around the holidays and at that point i thought I’d move back to nj after so it seemed like a perfect fit!

I decided to bite the bullet and I called to put down a deposit so I wouldn’t chicken out. This was a huge deal for me. I was someone who struggled being 6 hrs away for college. I am so close with my family and such a home body that moving across the country was so out of character. This is how important yoga was to me, important enough to completely leap out of my comfort zone. I also had only planned to go for the training so in my mind it was just a 3-month move. Another pretty scary part of this was I didn’t know anyone in LA. I was going to live in a place where I had no one to turn to if things got tough. To say I was nervous is an understatement. 

When the time came, I found a month to month furnished lease. I packed up some suit cases, shipped my car to CA and my mom and I flew out. She stayed with me a few days to make sure I was settled and I remember the day she left all I wanted to do was go back with her. She told me worst case scenario I could always come back home. 

So, there I was alone in a new place. I had a few weeks before training started and I would just ride my bike around, explore the area, found some studios to practice at and basically just hung out alone. I did get a part time nannying job so I could make a little money, so I had two friends ages 4 and 6. 

I will never forget my first night of teacher training. They encouraged us to take class beforehand so I walked into the Wilshire studio for a 6pm C3 class. At night, the studio is so busy! I was so overwhelmed. We started class, I was in the back row and we just got right into it. I can remember thinking what did I get myself into. After class, we had time to shower and get some food and then it was time, night one of teacher training. We had a group of about 20, all ages and all types of people. People with full time jobs, moms, college kids. Etc. I being the introverted person that I am was so shy. I don’t think I really spoke at all that first night. We met every Wednesday night and also Saturday’s and Sunday’s. It took me probably a full two weeks to start to open up and befriend my fellow TT crew. The great thing about yoga is that it is a space of non-judgement. Once I was more comfortable there I really felt safe. I now had friends. People I could turn to if I was stressed, people I could hang out with outside of the studio. 

Once I felt more comfortable, I started to open up more during our training sessions.  I started to let people get to know me and I started to find my voice as a teacher.  One of my favorite days of training was the finding your voice exercise.  We stood up and cued a posture and then a guest lecturer told us a pose to do.  I got up, said my cues and she told me I needed to awaken my inner child and that would help me find my voice.  She said I needed to be more playful, not so intense and serious.  She had me do happy baby pose and then do my cueing again.  There was SUCH a difference.  I still listen to that advice today and when I teach I focus on letting out my more playful, less serious side.

I did take teacher training very seriously.  I studied all the time and was always practicing my sequencing.  We had to know a full 60 min class sequence so I would go down to the beach during the day and just do it over and over again.  I was also in the studio ALL the time.  I took 2 classes a day and just fully emerged myself into the yoga world.  Looking back this was probably a little too intense but it helped me at the time be sure of myself.

Even though I was loving TT and had friends, it was still really hard to be away from home.  The second month I was gone, Hurricane Sandy destroyed the east coast and my family was extremely affected.  We lost our beach house which was sad but not the end of the world, but my family home was out if power for over two weeks.  It also was extremely cold weather during that time so my mom would light a fire in our living room and that is where they slept.  All I wanted to do was go home and comfort them but I couldn’t even get there.  It was so hard being on the outside and knowing my family was suffering.  During the storm my dad had torn his bicep helping move a tree off my uncle’s car.  He couldn’t get into the hospital for a few weeks and when he finally did he needed surgery.  During the surgery, my dad responded poorly to the anesthesia and his liver shut down.  At the time the doctors didn’t know what was causing this.  We were all so worried; they couldn’t figure out why his liver wasn’t functioning but they basically told us to prepare for the worst.  Being across the country I felt so helpless.  My mom kept telling me I didn’t need to come home, that it would all be ok.  I think for that week and a half I cried every single day.  Finally, they figured it out and my dad began to stabilize. 

Even facing all these tough times and feeling like I should be back home, I still managed to fall in love with southern California.  I loved being so close to the beach.  I of course loved the sunny warm weather.  I loved the focus on health and fitness.  I loved how many healthy food restaurants there were.  I loved the yoga studio that had become my home.  Most of all, I loved the people who had become my family.  I knew I had found a place that I wanted to be.

I went home for a while for Christmas and that is when I decided I wanted to go back to CA.  My sisters were growing up, doing more things with their friends and I knew they wouldn’t be around all the time.  My mom highly encouraged me to go back, I think she wanted a warm place to go visit ;).  So, I went back.  I signed up to do Core Power extensions program so that I could teach at CPY.  I finished that, auditioned and started teaching.  Once I was teaching a ton and had regular students I was forming connections with I knew I had made the right decision.  I met my husband out here in LA so it is a good thing I stayed!

My yoga teacher training was one of the most transformative experiences of my life.  It helped me to grow and to have confidence in myself.  I had to get up and command a room, create a class that felt good for students, one that could be judged, and fully support myself.  I will always miss home, there are still times I get really homesick and cry, wondering if I should be back closer to family.  But then I go to teach, I see my students faces and I know that I am helping people, I am sharing the gift of yoga, the same gift that saved me. 

 

IMG_5939.JPG

Living with anxiety progress update

I had a great opportunity last week to put into action the things I have uncovered about my anxiety and the tools I now have to soften it.  One big cause of my anxiety is having everything under control, having everything planned out and having in place a schedule.  In everyday life, it wouldn’t cause too much of an issue because I have a pretty standard routine.  I know what and when I am going to do things so I don’t feel worried or stressed about it.  Where the anxiety would show up really intensely would be when I was traveling, on someone else’s schedule or planning things out with multiple people. 

I was away for 9 days last week, going from Austin to Vegas and ending in Utah.  In the past, when I travel with my family I tend to be very uptight.  I want to know what we are doing, when we are doing it, where we are eating, when we are eating, etc.  Having this uptight approach would put me into a negative place and I could never fully enjoy my time away.  In therapy, I have realized that a big reason for wanting to have things controlled is to give myself a feeling of comfort and safety.  If I have a plan I can prepare, I won’t be caught off guard or surprised by things that may make me feel vulnerable.  I won’t go into detail of the underlying reasons for all of this because I do believe some things are too personal to share.  I will share that I have uncovered many deep-rooted issues, I have talked through them, and I am working on letting go of pent up emotions and being more accepting and understanding of them.

It is funny because I didn’t even realize the progress I had made until after the trip was over.  I was reflecting back on my time away when I got back to LA and it hit me, I had been way more flexible and open.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was feeling and acting that way because it wasn’t even a thing I had to think about.  My old feelings of anxiety and needing to control situations wasn’t there.  We were all over the place, having a loose outline for the day but no set times.  There was a day we were driving in the car for over 5 hours and in the past I would get very anxious and concerned about when we were stopping for lunch (since food is a big thing I have had control issues with) and what kind of place it would be.  I realized that I spent that time just hanging out in the back seat, snacking on rice cakes when I was hungry but I wasn’t stressed about food, I wasn’t anxious about knowing when/where we were headed.  I had made an unconscious decision to just go with the flow and be comfortable with whatever happened.

Another area my anxiety really kicks in is at night.  I have talked about in past posts how I have created a set bed time routine that I feel I can’t stray from.  It requires me to be home by a certain time, taking different supplements and having down time watching TV.  Obviously on vacation this routine goes out the window and usually that would cause me extreme distress.  If I go out to dinner or have to be out somewhere at night I will usually start to feel really anxious, I will get a tight feeling in my chest and I will be consumed with thinking about when I am going home.  On this trip that barely happened.  When we were out at night I didn’t find myself constantly checking the time and worrying about it getting later and later.  I found I was really enjoying being with my family, seeing different things and exploring the area.  When we did finally get back to the hotel I did a few steps from my routine and guess what, I slept.  The world didn’t end; I wasn’t up all night tossing and turning.  I changed up my routine and was out of my comfort zone and everything was okay. 

This whole experience and looking back on the difference between this trip and previous trips has me really happy and hopeful.  I now have evidence, situations I can use to show myself that my world won’t fall apart if I don’t have everything completely planned out.  I will be fine if I eat at a restaurant I didn’t previously vet out.  I will be able to sleep if I go out at night and live my life.  I know that I am not “healed”, I will always have trouble with anxiety but I now feel like there is another side to it, a side where it doesn’t control my life and keep me from doing things I want to do and being truly happy. 

What I think has really helped me make this progress is acceptance and letting go.  I have accepted past situations and made the conscious decision to not hold onto them anymore.  Anger, resentment, sadness, frustration, they are normal life emotions but they are not things I have to constantly let live inside me and write my story. 

Saunabar LA

Recently I’ve been really focusing on all things self-care. I’ve gotten better at slowing down, at listening to my body and doing more restorative work. Focusing on self-care will hopefully help with my adrenal fatigue, anxiety and sleep issues. Some days are better than others but every day is progress. 

During Wellness Week LA I was introduced to SaunaBar. SaunaBar has different services including infrared sauna pods, lymphatic massage and a vibration machine. The first service I tried was the infrared sauna. The sauna pods emit both far and near infrared light which provides a dual detox. The beds are lined with jade stones which adds a powerful healing component.  The jade stones also are more clean, protecting you from bacteria.  The sauna benefits include improved skin, relief of pain, removal of toxins, reduction of stress and strengthening of immunity!  I left that session feeling so incredibly detoxed. Another thing I noticed that really peaked my interest was that night I slept so deeply, better than I had in months. I was actually startled awake by my alarm which never happens. I had to get a package here and see if the sauna pod could consistently help with my sleep. 

The next time I went, I did a full trifecta of services. I started with the vibration machine, moved onto the lymphatic massage and ended with a sauna. 

The vibration plate is very interesting. You stand on this machine that has a vibrating plate under your feet. You work on engaging your muscles and work through a few different moves on it. The vibration machine transmits energy to your body, forcing your muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second.  It has been known to tone and build muscle, increase bone mineral density, tighten the skin and reduce high blood pressure.  I finished that session feeling a little wobbly but I had more of a strength and tightness feeling throughout my muscles. 

Next up was the lymphatic massage. The lymphatic system is a system of organs and tissue that helps break down and rid the body of toxins, waste, and unwanted materials.  This system removes excess fluids from the body’s tissues, absorbs fatty acids and produces immune cells.  The lymphatic massage uses air compression to stimulate a wave like constriction and relaxation of muscles inside your body.  You lay down on a table and basically slide pant legs onto your legs and then your torso is wrapped up as well. You lay for 30 minutes as different areas of your body are tightly compressed. It felt like a really good deep tissue massage. Some of the benefits include removal of toxins, improved circulation, cellulite reduction, reduction of appearance of varicose veins, and soothes muscle cramps.

At this point after the first two services I was already feeling super relaxed.  I was ready to take it all home as I went into the last session, the sauna pod. You lay in naked, with just socks on (to keep the heat in your body). Your head sticks out the top and you lay for 40 min at 150 degrees. During this session, I did a 20-minute meditation and then dozed off into a nap. When the time ended, I was so sweaty and also felt so rejuvenated. I already felt like I was ready for a super deep sleep. 

Now for the exciting part, it happened again. I could barely keep my eyes open on the couch past 9pm that night and woke up the next morning like omg what day is it, where am I? I felt so refreshed and had fallen asleep in a blink of an eye. Another amazing thing was how good my body felt! I had done a hard stair work out that morning, one I hadn’t done in a few weeks and normally I would have woken up extremely sore. Doing all 3 services that day totally helped with muscle recovery and left me bounding out of bed in the morning. 

The bottom line is, I’m hooked. This is absolutely going to be a staple in my self-care routine. I even joked with Derek that we need to get a sauna pod of our own, unfortunately I don’t think it would match our living room decor. SaunaBar you make me feel amazing, you’ve facilitated some of my best sleep, I’m a fan for life. 

They are located in Brentwood so if you’re local you absolutely need to go!! Take care of yourself, mind body and spirit.  www.SaunaBar.com 

 

Traveling and anxiety

Since I have admitted to myself that I have been struggling with anxiety issues for quite some time now, I am able to look at past experiences and behaviors and they make more sense.  Something that I love but is also difficult for me is traveling.  I know people experience anxiety around travel, people afraid of flying, not comfortable in the stress of an airport, but mine is much different.  I don’t get anxious about the actual travel, the flying or the environment I will be in.  I get anxious about everything else.  I worry about being out of my routine, I worry about sleeping somewhere other than my bed, I worry about the food I will be eating, I worry about what access to a gym I will have, along with many other things.  Some of these things have gotten way better since I have worked out other issues and I will dig into these anxieties a little bit deeper.

Being out of my routine is extremely difficult for me.  I am a creature of habit, it is where I feel safe, where I don’t feel vulnerable.  When you travel, you are obviously forced into a completely different routine.  This is something I worry about the moment I plan a trip.  I am simultaneously excited and anxious as soon as I hit the book button.  Being in control all the time is something I have been working on.  I take little steps as much as I can to give up control.  When I am less in need of having control, it makes a different routine easier.  These little things may seem silly to some but to me they are something I am proud of.  I will ask Derek at the beginning of the week what he wants as dinners instead of me just planning everything out.  I will let Derek pick what we should do after dinner whether that be sit outside on our balcony, take a walk, or watch TV.  I still always insist on driving, but that is a big thing I hope to get to eventually.  These little steps of being more okay with letting go of control have made traveling feel a little less overwhelming.

The anxiety over the sleeping somewhere different is a huge thing.  The sleep issues I have revolve around a fear that I won’t be able to fall asleep.  I basically set myself up to fail by telling myself if my bedtime routine isn’t the same every night or if I am out after 7pm that I won’t fall asleep.   When my sleeping troubles first started, I did research on the subject and found a lot of people recommended having a consistent routine.  I of course took this to an extreme level.  I found little things that helped me fall asleep but now my mind set is if I don’t do x, y, z then I absolutely wont sleep.  It is an all or nothing way of thinking.  By finding a consistent bedtime routine, I basically made myself a prisoner to it.  This is why traveling is so difficult.  I will be out of my element; I may not have access to what I think I need to sleep or I will be doing things much differently than I am used to and this can throw me into a panic.  I basically convince myself before I even arrive at my destination that I won’t be able to sleep during the trip.  I then get extremely frustrated with myself for having these thoughts and I throw myself into a vicious negative feedback loop.  What I have been working on in therapy to help with this is having more compassion for myself.  Instead of getting mad at myself for thinking I won’t sleep, I try and tell myself it is ok, I place my hand over my heart and I breathe.  I give myself some time in bed awake, calm time where I am not getting exacerbated at myself, and if an hour passes by I allow myself to take a sleep aid.  The little things I am doing to help me with needing control like the night time walks are also helping me with getting out of the mindset that I have to be home on my couch at 7pm with my bed time tea to be able to sleep. 

The food anxiety is something that used to be a lot worse than it is now but it is still something I struggle with.  I am a very healthy eater.  It used to be more out of restriction and because I thought I had to eat with restriction to look a certain way.  Now I eat that way because it is what makes my body feel the best.  I know certain foods make me feel tired or bloated or give me stomach issue and I typically avoid them.  When you are traveling, especially to other countries, it is hard to get food you are used to.  I used to get so anxious about this, constantly worrying about where I would eat, what I would be able to order out and what kind of things I could pack with me to bring.  I used to drive myself crazy with how much I would worry about it. Things have gotten better and I’m less anxious about it now.  I still always looks up restaurants I will be near and search menus for things I know I would want to eat.  I am less adventurous with eating out than I probably should be but honestly I don’t want to risk feeling like crap.  I still make sure to always bring bars or others snacks to have with me in case I need extra food.  I also always pack food for the plane.  Airports are notoriously bad with food choices so I like to always have a full meal and snacks packed. 

The last thing that really causes me anxiety around traveling is how I will be able to work out.  Again, I have gotten better at this.  In the past working out was more out of an obsession rather than just doing it because it made me feel good.  Since I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue I have been much better at taking a step back from exercises and I am much better with rest days.  I still can’t say I would ever take a full week off so I do get anxious about workouts when traveling.  When I am booking hotels I always make sure it has a gym.  I very rarely will book somewhere that doesn’t, but sometimes that is the only option.  I will also search for yoga studios or other workout classes in the nearby area to see if they will fit into my schedule.  Being a morning person is helpful because I know I can get myself up and get a workout in before it is time to adventure/explore for the day.  I always have to work out before I get on an airplane, even if I have to wake up extra early to do so.  There is still something about sitting on a plane for long hours without any physical activity that drives me crazy.  I am hoping to get better at this, to one day just pick a hotel just because I like it and not even worry about if it has a gym or not. 

Anxiety about traveling is very tough for me because I love to travel.  I want to see the world.  I want to explore new places and see how other people live.  Working on my general anxiety has definitely helped when it comes to travel.  Many of my issues cross over so working on them in one aspect of my life helps with the other.  When living with anxiety, every day is a new day and every day can be a step forward and sometimes it can be a step back.  I am never going to let my anxiety keep me from doing something that I love.  I am just finding ways to help make it less.  The less my anxiety is the more of my trips I know I will enjoy.  Even now there is still a little voice inside my head telling me I will have sleep issues or that I need to eat healthier or move more.  I am working towards quieting that voice and knowing that it does not have power over me.  I am not my thoughts and I deserve to have the compassion towards myself to work out these issues and I plan to do so!