5 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Smorgasbord

Coming off of the 4th, I thought I would share some tips to help get through holidays, backyard bbqs and summer family gathering as you go through your dietary evolution. As I have said before, food is the centerpiece to many gatherings.  If your family is anything like mine, there is usually an abundance of it. And it is the food that makes you feel warm and cozy and loved. It also sits there. In your stomach. For a while. And the cozy, loving feeling becomes a little nauseating. Before you know it, you are more than full. I get it. Believe it or not, I miss it sometimes.

I must say, even though I miss those traditional foods sometimes, I enjoy feeling good even more. My body thanks me for making mindful choices, and I feel far less guilt. If you are trying to navigate through an evolution of eating habits, I’d like to give you a few tips on how I get through the family togetherness from a food perspective.

1 – Eat a snack before you go. I usually try to eat something filling, meat or a sweet potato. A food that is high in protein helps me feel satisfied and sustains my energy.  Arriving on an empty, hungry stomach makes it easier to make unhealthy decisions.

2 – Remember to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. This is just a good tip in general. The body functions better when hydrated, especially when outside and/or active.

3 – Bring more than the ‘required’ amount of sides. If I am asked to bring a side, I will bring 2 – 3 that I know I can consume. If I am not asked to bring anything, I still will bring 1 at least. I will choose whole foods like fruits and veggies or organic tortilla chips and salsa. Things that most people can eat, but ensures there are multiple that work for my diet so I don’t feel starved or neglected.

4 – Bring a dessert. I tend to have a sweet tooth, especially when there are quite a few at gatherings. This allows me to eat dessert with everyone else and enjoy the experience without hurting my intake or my system. The first couple times I did this, I felt a little odd bringing a cupcake in a baggie in my purse. But I quickly got over it after I got to enjoy my sweet treat and go home with a happy tummy.

5 – This is probably the most important of them all. Be present. I try to be cognizant of the memories being made around me. It is easy to get caught up in the delicious food at the gatherings over summer, but the real joy comes from the relationships and the time spent together. In an attempt to stay away from the food table, I envelop myself in the activities going on. Watch the kids kicking the ball around, join the conversations about the family tree, join the volleyball game regardless of skill level. Being present helps me to not focus on the food I can’t consume.

Summer time is a great time to enjoy the fresh foods, the outdoor activities and the sunshine. But it can be difficult when trying to navigate through dietary changes. For me, it also helps to remember that this is my choice. A lifestyle choice. And I am choosing this because I want to be healthy and I want to feel good. It gets easier, and your body will starting craving the old foods less and less. Hang in there. And hopefully these tips will help!


You Can Do It! Starting a Diet Change

When I started on the journey of radically changing my diet, I was completely lost. To be honest, I still feel lost quite a bit of the time. Food is more than fuel in our culture and it was certainly more than sustenance growing up. Food is celebratory, it is a coping mechanism. It is social and a bonding experience. It is a way to show support, sympathy and love. A welcome and a goodbye. It is way to enjoy time together and a way to fill time when we are lonely. There is, most certainly, an emotional connection to eating, and science has shown there is a chemical connection as well. All these things make it extremely difficult to change our relationship with food and our eating patterns. Even when it makes us unhealthy. And even when we feel continually horrible, like I did.

Hopefully along the way, I can talk more about the anthropological reasons we are connected to food. And dig deeper into our emotional addiction to the way food makes us feel. Or the societal and cultural norms that make changing our eating habits feel so radical. But in this point, I wanted to introduce that there is help. The day I decided I needed to change my relationship with food was difficult. I didn’t know where to get help or who to talk to for support. And the day I got my food testing results and knew there were foods I needed to avoid for my health, I felt lost. I felt a loss of freedom, a loss of connection to my immediate culture and most certainly I felt like I didn’t have many options. A picture of me eating alone at the school lunch table like an outcast was the immediate image running through my head. And as crazy as it sounds, I felt depressed, lonely and scared. I knew if I didn’t change the way I ate, I would continue to feel sick all the time. I also knew no one else who had to make these changes in life. And I knew that I was losing the freedom to go out and eat with my friends, the freedom to order a pizza when I was lazy and didn’t want to make dinner, the freedom to grab something from the vending machine when I was hungry. And I don’t think we realize how connected we are all to them as a society.

If you are going through, or have gone through, a similar experience, you can understand what I am describing. Those of you who have gone through this know that it helps more than words can describe, to have at least one resource. For me, I had a friend who was going through something very similar at the time, which proved to be invaluable. But I also had to be my own advocate and find the resources that would help me take control. My hope is that I can give you a few resources to start your journey…or to help you along the way. I want to give you 5 tips for getting started. Things you can do TODAY to feel like you are putting one foot in front of the other.

1 – Allow yourself to feel frustrated. It is ok. There is a deep connection with our food and our emotions. Changing that relationship feels like a break up. And a mourning period is certainly allowed. It is also, in my experience, necessary. Take the time to enjoy the last ice cream treat if you are cutting out dairy. Enjoy the last sandwich or piece of pizza if you are cutting out grains. Enjoy the last … well anything … if you are going vegan. Know that it is ok for it to feel good to eat it and say good bye.

2 – Throw out the food you know you can’t eat. After you have said good bye, cut the ties. Not having it around helps exponentially. Make it a party, a celebration. Create a game of basketball out of it or keep away with the kids. If you have children involved, explain to them why this is happening. Food is fuel and we are going to take steps to make our vehicles run more efficiently. They will understand the logic and will enjoy having fun with you.

3 –  Avoid going to the store for a bit. I know it sounds counter-productive because I just told you to throw your food away. And you certainly need to restock with food that you can eat. But the store is the devil’s playground when you first change your eating habits. All you see are the things you cannot have, and it makes you feel even worse. For the first few weeks, order groceries online and have them delivered. You can search for specific recipes and foods, and you aren’t tempted by those Little Debbie’s at the front of the store that always call your name as you pass. Ask someone else to go to the store for you. Go to the farmer’s market instead, or a small healthy food store. Avoid for just a bit until you get more comfortable. (not forever as avoidance doesn’t help us get stronger, but at least for the first couple weeks)

4 – Find ways to move. When you start changing your eating habits, especially if they are drastic, you will probably feel lethargic and lazy. And for me, I felt sorry for myself. 😊  Movement is difficult when your body is processing the change, but it also helps. Even if it is a walk, or a bike ride, or playing tag with the kids. Find ways to move and help your body recognize it can still function with the change. If you are going through grain flu or detox, it is important to help your body process through those activities. Don’t go extreme, take it easy, but don’t stay in one place all day long.

5 – Take time to seek advice and do your research. Set aside some time to find books at the book store about your particular diet change. Look online, there is an abundance of information. Call and talk to a trusted doctor if you have one or do research to find one. I had to cut out a lot and the closest thing I could find to my new diet was AIP Paleo. So I went to Barnes and Noble and looked for anything AIP or Paleo, for how to make the change and commit. I looked for recipes and blogs that helped inform me but also gave advice that I could fit in to my life. The more connection you find to your change, the more you will realize you can do it. Others have done it and there are people out there who understand. Seek your people!

In this daunting process, 5 steps are doable, right? If 5 seems like too much, do 1 today and 1 tomorrow. Work your way up. Do what you feel comfortable with but keep moving. It is hard. But you can do it. I still struggle tons, but it does become normal and you do find little ways to make it easier and to make it manageable. And if you get stuck, email me. I will certainly help in any way I can! From the bottom of my heart, Good Luck. I believe in you!



What My 6 Year Old is Teaching Me

As the mother of two, I often find myself learning as much as teaching. Probably more so learning than teaching, honestly. The two pieces of me, that walk around outside my body while I pray they stay safe and make good decisions, live their lives without the fear and stress that comes with adulthood. Another perk of hitting that milestone, like voting and paying back student loans, we incur a boat load of stress at some point in adulthood that few of us learn how to handle effectively. Often times I look into their innocent faces and am almost jealous of their curious abandon for rules and order. It seems almost foreign to me. So foreign that I, along with many other parents I suspect, don’t really know what to do with it. We have long since abandoned the carefree days of living without society telling us what is good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes, I can truly appreciate how much they enjoy the simple things that make life worth living.

My 6 year old is different from me. As a parent, that is tough some times. I feel like I don’t know how to raise him most days, and I am struggling to keep him emotionally sound. We usually try to fit our children into boxes we can understand, because that is how we make sense of things. We aren’t given manuals on how to live our own life, let alone how to teach someone else to live theirs. Myles is the sort of child that will seem like he isn’t paying attention to me or what I am saying, but will turn around and make a point at just the right time that feels far too mature for his little brain.

Last night we were talking about conforming to what society wants and expects. I, of course, wasn’t talking about this concept directly to him, he was in the periphery of the conversation. I was speaking in the vein of how hard we should try to push him to societal norms, to always stay calm, to listen, to communicate clearly about his feelings. I was mentioning things to family members about how Myles is his own person, and different than Korbin, my oldest, who communicates and feels emotions differently. And we need to be aware of how much we are pushing him to be like everyone else around him. His individuality makes him who he is and we need to try to honor that and not extinguish it. Myles, who was playing in the bathtub, grabbing at the calming effervescence of the bath bomb he got for Easter, acting like he was simply hearing back ground noises, looked up at me innocently. His eyes were wide and he calmly said to me, “Mom…I want to be me. I don’t want to be anyone else. I like being different.”

He said it like it was a fact. And he was comfortable in it. As I am struggling trying to make him fit into society, to be more like everyone else, he is comfortable standing on his own, simply being him. This is the first time I have heard him vocalize this, and not the only time we have had conversations about how everyone is different and special in their own ways. We talk often about how we should embrace others for who they are, and differences should not divide us. And for that moment, as he was telling me that it is ok to be different, I learned a valuable lesson. Well, a few actually.

One – our children ARE listening. To the conversations we have, and that the world is having. And they are taking notice. Two – without the burdens of adulthood and life, a 6 year old can understand there are differences between all of us, but those differences are ok. Three – it might take awhile, but at some point, all the noise will make sense. If even for a second. As I have been struggling with how to be the best mom to this little ball of energy, maybe what I have been doing is closer to enough than I thought. Four – I hope…at least in some ways…that he never loses that innocence and strength that makes him confident enough to say “I am ok with who I am”, because for me, at 35, that is still a difficult thing for me to say.

The Quiet

In the quiet is when the thoughts seep in. Working out, the drive to work, the time right before falling asleep when the house is settled for the night. That is when the fear, the anger, the worry and the helplessness starts to take over. Outside the comfort of my little piece of the world, the rest of the world seems to be erupting in chaos. In pain, anger, contempt and turmoil. So many of us are experiencing the same feelings, I am sure. As we go about our lives, we try to push the discomfort down, but in the silence we can’t ignore our own feelings of pain, anger and contempt.

This morning, as I was driving to work, in the intentional quiet, the radio off, phone on silent, I let it all come in. I am afraid of what we are becoming. I am worried about what this means for my future, and the future my kids haven’t even begun to think about. I am worried education will be impacted, compassion will be forever changed, diversity will become a word we learn about in school books but don’t experience for ourselves any longer. I am scared that I won’t have any answers when my children ask me, faces full of innocence, what is happening.

While the thoughts swirled in my head, and started to drown my heart in heavy emotions, I let them drift in and out, like a tide. And after I allowed the fear and anger to move in and out, the hope started to drift in as well. The reality is, we are experiencing a terrifying time in history. We aren’t the first to experience such times, and we probably won’t be the last. And I cannot tell you how each of those times felt for those fighting the battles before us, but I can tell you what glimmers of hope I see in our current climate.

I have seen strands of commonality, strung together to create beautiful, emotional and powerful quilts of strength and humility. I have seen people come together to illustrate that their differences are what make them special. I have seen fires ignited that have been ignored for many years, and leaders stand up to those trying to extinguish them. I have heard hundreds of single voices, singing a different verse of the same song from their own corners of the world. I have seen people stand up for themselves in ways that are both respectful and admirable. I have seen people stand up for other people in the same vein. I have seen people get involved in ways they never thought of previously, because it is all becoming too precious to take for granted. I have witnessed compassion and kindness and diversity. All things that make us human.

And I have seen fear. And raw emotion. I have seen anger. I have seen spite. And I have seen mean, hurtful statements that make some feel more powerful. But, in the quiet. In the moments when my own fear threatens to take over, I choose to remember, and be energized by, the hope. The hope that I can be a part of. The hope I can contribute to. I can stand up for myself and for others. I can have respectful, caring conversations with those with different viewpoints than me and make those conversations human and emotional. I can support people and empathize with what they are feeling. I can show my children, every day, that love is a most important emotion. Humility, respect, empathy, compassion, strength, courage are all things I can emulate so they see that is what their future should include.

I can’t change everything that is happening in the world. But I can impact it. I can have a say in how I think about it and how I react to it. I can be filled with hate or with courage. I can sit and be afraid in my little piece of the world, or I can get involved. I can support education, and love, and diversity, and help for those who desperately need it. I can do this empathetically, and with the strength I want my children to see. I can break down and feel the emotion of it all being too much. And I can get back up and fight again. And I trust that many of us can do, and will be doing, the same thing. And little by little…we will make a difference.

The Tide is High

There are few times in life that the emotions become too much and there are no words to describe the tornado of feelings swirling in your body. Today is one of those days. I have lived in Cedar Rapids my whole life. I have memories of going to see the flood water rising downtown in 1993 when I was in middle school. I remember being pregnant in 2008 when the waters reached all time highs and I felt helpless. I have lived through this before, as most of us have, but for some reason, this time is hitting me in a different way.

This is the community I have chosen to continue to make my home. To raise my children in, to buy a home in, to settle into. And it is happening again. Again, we are under siege from an enemy we cannot hate or retaliate against. This time, I presume, it is different for a lot of us. It is true that this time, we had more time to prepare. We had more time to think. More time to choose how we react. Our community could either choose to prepare as best we could and work together, or to charge hate against a terror we cannot continue to loathe.

Walking around a desolate Czech Village and NewBo area that was preparing for the impending fight with boarded up windows and sandbags surrounding the foundations, memories came flooding back to me of getting treats and meats from the Village. Of talking to store owners with my great grandmother, my grandmother and my mother. It connects with a deep part of who I am. My heritage and identity, my history. This is part of all of our heritage and identity. Part of our home, of who we are. There is sadness. And there is anger. And most of all, there is confusion.

But, through all the anger, and the fear, and the worry, I hope we all feel pride. And love, and support. And I hope we all feel the difference of the choices our community made. We chose to come together, to work to make us all stronger together. Our connections extended beyond our borders and beyond the water fronts. They exploded like tears from our eyes and the feeling of family has been palpable. People have worked together to save us all, not just to help physically defend against the water, but to defend against how defeated we felt 8 years ago. To show ourselves what we are made of. We are stronger…we are emotional…we are courageous…we are kind…we are generous…we are CR. And we won’t be broken.

Work in Progress…

Have you ever thought about who you are? And who you want to be? Like really thought about it? Maybe most people don’t. I have been known to over think from time to time.  We are inundated with images of what we should be every day from birth through adult hood. We are all given recommendations on our life. Some of us are better at listening to the voices that really matter, and others of us struggle with deciphering the messages.

For so much of my life I was trying to be the person I thought people wanted me to be. To be the perfect version of the person they envisioned. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But really, I was rarely truly comfortable in my own skin. I became afraid of failing and of not being perfect, even though I still have no idea what perfection looks like or why it is so important.

I always wanted to be the perfect person for everyone else. But I didn’t really know what the perfect person was for me. And the truth is that people are so busy living their own lives, most of the time, they don’t even think about what kind of person I am. Which, was a scary realization. Because if I people don’t care about me, then who would?

In honesty, for a long time, it never occurred to me that I had to figure out who I wanted to be for myself. That I had to own who I am,the things I am proud of, but also my flaws and imperfections. And I needed to figure out who I want to be for me, to be able to love myself. I never treated myself with the same compassion and honesty that I treated others with.

It has taken me quite a bit of time to be able to understand this and to be able to actually identify it. I have been able to realize that I can’t live my life for other people. I can’t do things to make others happy without doing anything for myself. But it is strange to me, how some people are just comfortable with who they are, completely know themselves and make no apologizes, and then others who have to work at it. Some people care so much about what others think and then other people don’t care at all, or at least very little. Certainly there is a lot of grey in there as well, but you get my point.

Is it just innate, they are born with the security of who they are? Do they grow up in a situation where they are given so much praise, and so many examples of people having confidence, that they just see that is a totally acceptable way to be? Did they have to work to figure out who they are? Perhaps a combination of those things? Do they care just as much about what others

think but they just don’t show it? Why don’t people talk about that very much? Am I the only one?

It continues to be a daily realization for me. I figure out more things about myself, how I far I have come, how far I still need to go. I see examples of who I don’t want to be or things I don’t want to accept in myself. I read…A LOT…of self help and self realization books and blogs. I do yoga, I run, I pray, I meditate, I talk to people, I play with my kids and allow myself to get lost in play from time to time. I spend time on myself and with myself. I used to think it was selfish, but I am realizing that it is

necessary for me, at least right now. But as I think about this, I also think…there have to be more people who identify with this.

So, here is where I get to my point. There have to be more people out there who are working on who they are continuously, who think about it. Who are interested in how they improve themselves in many ways. Who want to explore things in themselves they were always too embarrassed or afraid to. Think of who we could all be if we didn’t care what others thought and if we did all the things we were afraid of failing at. So I guess I want to know what you guys do…to get in touch with you. To nurture yourselves, to grow. Do you think about it often? Or not very much? How do you grow thicker skin without

losing your compassion? Can you? Do you even want to? Talk to me about it. I think the discussion is helpful. For me…and for others. Anyone care to join in the conversation I am having with myself?? 🙂


I have always been told, and known, that I am an emotional person. Some have said too emotional, some have said empathetic, some have said girly, some hormonal, but at the end of the day it is simply that I feel things deeply and am honest about what I am feeling. Now, sometimes, I lack a filter. And just say what I am feeling or thinking. But, most of the time, I try to be respectful while doing so. However, there have definitely been times in my life when it wasn’t always a good thing. People don’t always appreciate my openness with my feelings.

I get too hurt by other’s words, even when they don’t mean anything by it. I am sometimes offended easily and make things about me when they have nothing to do with me. I love deeply, I care deeply, I cry when I am upset, or happy, or angry. If I am pissed, you know it. When I am happy, you know it. Basically, I don’t hide my emotions very well. For many years, I tried. It was exhausting. And I was very sensitive, constantly second guessing myself.  I have come to learn that not everyone does this, shockingly enough. Most people just feel things, express themselves and move on. Lucky me. 🙂 However, I have come to own my feelings, and my ’emotional’ side. It is part of who I am. I am not ashamed.

But, let me explain what bothers me the most about being an emotional person. So many people see it as a weakness. I some how am unable to make logical decisions because I am so ’emotional’. I somehow cannot have a mind because I have a heart. It is ludicrous, and it angers me. How, in any way, does it make me inferior because I feel things? Because I care about how my team feels, or about the way we treat each other, or how people might perceive a decision or communication we make? Why am I, all the sudden, incapable of leading, simply because I cry? Simply because I feel something and express it. Do tears and feeling emotion mean that I am losing bits of my brain while I cry? Is this something scientific that I just never learned?

Why, in a world where we are accepting of people stabbing each other in the back, and being cut throat to get what they want, is it not ok to be ’emotional’? Why is crying seen as weak but yelling in someone’s face is seen as strong? It seems so backwards. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had tears in my eyes because a co-worker was crying about something in their life. Or how many times I have pounded tables because I am upset about the way a friend was treated. Or the amount of times I have had to take a walk around the block and just swear because I had to get the emotion out. None of these are bad things, or weak things. They are simply forms of feeling and connecting. Ask the friend who I cried with or the friend I pounded tables with or swore with while complaining about life. Do you think any of those people would tell me that me being ’emotional’ with them made me any less of a person? Or made me some how too weak or incapable?

I was made to feel like for many years, even recently, that being emotional is a weakness. A sign of strength is to hold it in, be stone faced, to not express any emotion about how people are treated or what they are experiencing. Because somehow I cannot be strong, smart, educated, powerful, a leader, and emotional all at the same time. I have gotten to the point where I believe that is bull shit, my friends. Now, I don’t think that it is ok to go into work with mascara running down your face every morning, being emotional in meetings and lashing out at coworkers because you heard how they treated someone in the checkout lane at the supermarket. There is always a time and a place, and there are still many occasions I save my emotions for a breakdown at home. However, I don’t shy away from feeling what I am feeling and expressing my feelings.

And to be honest, I think I am stronger now that I own that is who I am. It is a hell of a lot easier to sit in an office, or cube, or bedroom, and mind your own business. To not involve yourself in anything emotional. I think it takes strength to care. To show people that you care, to stand up for something that you believe in even if it puts you in a scary position. It is tough. But, I think it has made me a better friend, a better mother, a better leader and a better person. It has given me the ability to find strength in situations that are horrible, because I feel it, then try to make sense of it and figure out how to move forward.  What many people call ’emotional’, I have come to call passionate. Because if I care enough to be emotional about it, I am passionate about it and the outcome. And I don’t see how having passion in life makes me, somehow, a weak person.

So, I say, be emotional. And logical. And brave. And strong. And weak. And carefree. And responsible. Be them all. Own them all. Find how being all of those things makes you the best person you can be. Don’t let people tell you what you are is weak. Find strength where you don’t think there is any. Because that is how we learn to be who we are.