The Superfoods Wrecking Your Health

I’ve gotten soooo many messages about this latest episode. How can spinach be toxic? And sweet potatoes, too?

This fascinating interview takes on the topic of oxalates. In this episode, we discuss the research behind oxalate overload, the problems with promoting superfoods that contain these toxins, and how to learn to start your own low oxalate journey.

Sally K. Norton, MPH holds a nutrition degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in Public Health. Her path to becoming a leading expert on dietary oxalate includes a prior career working at major medical schools in medical education and public health research. Her personal healing experience inspired years of research that led to her forthcoming book, Toxic Superfoods, which was released on December 27 everywhere books are sold.  As a leading expert on oxalates in food, Sally’s work has been featured by podcasters, radio shows, and several online and print journals. In this episode, we discuss the research behind oxalate overload, the problems with promoting superfoods that contain these toxins, and how to learn to start your own low oxalate journey.

Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Group Coaching: Feast 2 Fast

If you are tired of dieting gimmicks but want to upgrade your health with real, whole food – this is for you!

Feast 2 Fast is a monthlong metabolic reset that takes you through three layers of carbohydrates to help you tune into what your body needs. It’s a way to find balance between “Oh, I’m craving that treat” and “I think I need to add more nutrients to my diet.” It models the rhythms of feasting and fasting that we are all created for.

The format looks like this:

  • Week One: Real Food carbs
  • Week Two: Real Food and Whole Food carbs
  • Weeks Three and Four: Real Food, Whole Food, and Heck Yeah Carbs

The goal is to become more metabolically flexible and balanced in body, mind, and spirit. By stripping your diet down to the basics and gradually adding items in, it’s a great way to partner with your body and listen to its needs!

For the entire program, including the complete guide and hundreds of recipes, the cost is $179. A new group will launch through a private Facebook group on Monday, February 6. Weekly Zoom meetings will also be available for anyone who wants more accountability.

If you have been interested in health coaching, this program will give you the most bang for your buck! To sign up for this session, fill out the form here. For any questions, send me a message!

Five Health Trends That Aren’t That Healthy

Your body needs to feel safe to heal and thrive. That’s true for emotional safety, and it’s absolutely true for physiological safety. Unfortunately, due to fancy food marketing and years of junk science twisted to benefit the food companies, we have commonly consumed foods that are keeping your body in an unsafe, stressed out state. We have strayed so far from food that our great-grandparents ate that our bodies are sounding the alarm on every level – yet we keep trying the newest things.

So I’ve rounded up a list of the five things that I believe are creating long-term chaos in the body’s ability to function optimally – from a cellular level to neurotransmitter level to every area in between. We all want what’s best for our health, but it can be so confusing figuring out the best ways to be healthy. I believe, based on the piles of research I have done and the training I have received, that these five trends masquerading as health could be extremely destructive, especially when habitual.

Five Health Trends That Aren’t Healthy:

  1. Using reduced fat, low fat, or light, sugar-free anything. I can’t believe I even have to say this, 30 years after the low fat movement led us all into hypoglycemia and prediabetes (that may come off as an exaggeration; I do believe there is a strong correlation). Fat is necessary for so many functions in our body. It is crucial for cell membrane health. It is necessary for brain health. It is extremely satiating and keeps us full and our cravings down. When fat is removed from something that naturally has fat in it, it throws off the balance of carbs and fat, which can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. In some cases, like in light salad dressings, chemical stabilizers (and sugar or artificial sweeteners) are added to maintain texture and flavor. That overly sweet flavor can stimulate the cephalic blood sugar response and set you up for blood sugar roller coasters and hanger. Still skeptical? A meta-analysis of 16 studies showed that those who consumed full fat dairy were less likely to be at risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Also, a study of women who ate low fat dairy increased their chances of infertility by 85%. to As my friend Chelsea, the Christian Nutritionist says, God didn’t make cows with low fat udders. Eat the fat. Be full.
  2. Consuming seed oils. For years we were told canola oil is safer and a great source of omega 3. Same with soybean oil, vegetable oil, corn oil (I still see commercials about how it’s heart healthy), palm oil, sunflower, and safflower oil. These oils are damaging to the mitochondria – meaning your cellular health is at risk by over consuming these oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are very unstable and break down (oxidize) under high heat and heavy processing. Not to mention they tend to throw off the omega 3:6 ratio, which can increase inflammation if omega 6 oils far exceed omega 3. They are in coffee creamers, processed chips and baked goods, cereal, nut butters, ice cream, breaded chicken products, bread, tortillas, salsa, canned goods, etc – BUT there are options that don’t have them as well. It takes reading the ingredients, not the nutrition facts like we’ve been trained. When all else fails, go organic. It is very rare that inflammatory seed oils will be in an organic product. This is an excellent reference guide from Dr. Cate Shanahan here.
  3. Drinking oat milk. Take the inflammatory oils from item number two, turn a glyphosate-ridden grain into a “milk,” add some other fillers and stabilizers, and tell people it’s healthy because it’s plant-based. It’s genius marketing, which seems to be working, based on all the varieties of oat milks out there. I have nothing against organic oats for most people. But oats aren’t milk. They go very well with milk, but they aren’t milk. To be milk, a lot of processing needs to happen. And because recent studies show that eating ultra processed foods increases depression and anxiety, why add one more item of processing to your morning coffee? If it’s here and there, I don’t see an issue. But most of these items on this list, this one included, are replacing daily staples. It’s not worth it to me. If you truly have an issue with organic dairy, whether a sensitivity or allergy, pure coconut milk is the best option for a substitute. Most of the plant-based milk options are highly processed and can be aggravating for sensitive systems.
  4. Eating 5 small meals a day. On one level, this seems to make sense. We’ve been told that by eating five (or six) small meals a day, it can support satiety, blood sugar, and “stoke the metabolism.” However, recent research is showing that it might be doing more harm than good. Multiple studies have shown that meal frequency doesn’t actually impact metabolism and lead to greater weight loss as we’ve been told. For those with digestive issues and gut imbalances, eating too frequently hinders the work of the Migrating Motor Complex, which is basically the internal gut vacuum, taking out the trash to keep our system cleared out from excess debris that could cause inflammation. It needs a good four hours on average in between meals to to do its job. By constantly eating, we prevent it from happening. Furthermore, we are seeing a massive increase of insulin resistance in all ages and stages of life. When you are continually snacking, especially when it’s a low calorie, low fat but higher carb/sugar food, you are constantly asking your insulin to support the load, which can lead to hypoglycemia and down the line, insulin resistance. Research shows that eating less meals that are more satiating and packed with sufficient fiber, FAT (there’s a theme here), and protein, will keep blood sugar from constantly spiking and dropping throughout the day.
  5. Doing intense cardio all the time. I’m not hating on you runners or HIIT people. I used to be one. Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, is an incredible hormetic stressor. This means that your body is put under a little bit of stress for a short period of time, then it recovers, and you become more resilient. The problem with most people living a modern, fast-paced lifestyle, is there is little room for recovery. This used to be me. My alarm went off early in the morning, I threw on my workout clothes, and headed out for a run. Then, still buzzing from the energy (stress) created by the run, I jumped into the shower and prepared for a packed day, rushing from one thing to the next. I rarely stretched, I rarely recovered. So my body maintained the stress created by the run. Reminder: even good stress can be a stress. How do you know if you’re doing too much? For most people, doing over 30 minutes of cardio most days per week could be harmful, especially women in the luteal or menstrual phase. If you find yourself exhausted when you wake up, pushing through exhaustion during your workout, chronically sore and in pain, highly anxious and edgy in spurts throughout the day, waking up throughout the night… you may benefit from slowing it down some days. Even adding in a couple days of yoga or strength training can be beneficial. And always, always stretch and breathe after an intense workout. This reminds your body you are safe and no longer “running from a tiger.”

I will finish by reminding you that a body in stress won’t digest. So while I have focused primarily on food and what NOT to do, keep in mind that learning to manage stress and creating an environment for safety and healing is always going to be the most important thing you can do for your health. I will also add that losing weight rapidly due to extreme caloric restriction or a processed food based diet program does not equal health. It is very stressful to the body, especially if detoxification is hindered by insufficient nutrients or nutrients in a synthetic form (like folic acid). Furthermore, it may be creating metabolic adaptations that can cause long-term difficulties maintaining a healthy set point weight while consuming “normal” amounts of food. More on that here.

Realistically, we won’t be able to avoid all seed oils. We won’t be able to stay away from all toxic chemicals. We can’t erase our stress, as much as I’d love to. But what we want is to become more stress resilient. By minimizing the toxic load as we are able to, by becoming more aware of what is stressful for us, we can take steps toward resilience and healing and safety. Your body is on your side.

Need more support? I’m getting ready for a new round of Feast 2 Fast next month! This one month program is a metabolic makeover using real, whole food – no diet drinks or substitutes. Sign up here if you are interested, or message me for more information!

Transform Your Health Using the Power of Awe

How can engaging one emotion reduce depression by 24% in 21 days? Tune in to this awe-inspiring episode to find out! I loved this interview and was completely mind blown by the research being done.

Jake Eagle, LPC, is a psychotherapist, mindfulness instructor, fellow/member/trainer of the International Association of Neuro‑Linguistic Programming. After thirty years in private practice, he now works part-time as a meta-therapist, working with people who want to go beyond the bounds of traditional therapy. He is co author of the new book, THE POWER OF AWE: Overcome Burnout & Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity & Purpose—In Less Than 1 Minute Per Day

Download and listen here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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Five Things I’m Doing for My Health This Year

Happy New Year!

It’s the time of year when people are setting goals, creating self-improvement plans, and looking forward to change that sticks. As a health coach, I know that creating changes that stick have to do with small, sustainable habits. I like to practice what I preach, so I created some small steps that I can focus on this year. I share in more detail on my latest podcast episode here.

My word of the year is renewal, and all five of these are ways I can focus on renewing my mind, my body, and my soul!

  1. Start my day with at least 20 grams of protein in my first meal. Protein is crucial for mental health and neurotransmitter function, but most of us don’t get enough – especially at breakfast. So while I don’t have a set breakfast time, I make sure that my first meal includes sufficient protein. When that happens, I have more mental clarity and less sugar cravings throughout the day.
  2. I’m doing intense trauma therapy. I am working with a counselor who specializes in EMDR, a therapy that helps to reprocess trauma at the brain level, which creates safety in the entire nervous system. Ironically, after all my podcast episodes centered on trauma, I didn’t realize I had complex PTSD until this fall, so I’m looking forward to correcting some core belief systems that are based upon the lies that trauma and shame told me about my place in this world.
  3. Build intentional muscle. I move my body 5-6 times a week for mental health reasons, and I usually choose yoga and walking as my favorite forms of movement. But new studies are showing the anti-inflammatory benefits of muscle as we age, not to mention how it benefits insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial function. My plan is to do strength training twice a week on top of what I already do, in a way that supports functional movement and longevity… and my husband was my inspiration for this one, which you can hear more about in the latest podcast episode.
  4. Read the Bible in a year. My faith is important to me, and I read a lot. However, in 2022 I spent much more time reading research articles and fiction than the book that is foundational to my belief system. I’m going back to the Bible Recap plan, and I’m looking forward to seeing God’s faithfulness in a new way, which happens every time I do a plan like this, no matter how many times I’ve done it before.
  5. Take a break from food at least 12 hours every day. I recently learned that less than 10% of Americans eat in a 12 hour window, while the majority of Americans are now considered metabolically unhealthy. There is something to be said for taking a break from food to let your body digest and assimilate and utilize nutrients. It’s beneficial for so many systems in the body. For females, I don’t recommend going longer than 16 hours from eating on a regular basis, and definitely not during the luteal or menstrual phase of the cycle. But most women can benefit from a 12 hour fast every day, though it will be different for everyone.

Programs this year:

I will be hosting three day reset groups periodically throughout the year for anyone who wants to try a fasting-mimicking approach through a food-based system from the company Plexus Worldwide. It contains bone broth, protein powder, collagen soup, and other antioxidant-packed products designed to give your body a metabolic overhaul. You can look at more details and ingredients here. Email me for a special discount code!

I will continue to utilize the online month-long Feast 2 Fast program on Facebook, with in person group opportunities in East Texas. Stay tuned for that information. Our first group will launch in February.

I’m still available for 1:1 virtual coaching. Let’s put together a New Year goal sheet for you and your unique body’s needs.

Why Sugar is a Drug and How to Quit It

She is a neuroscience researcher who has published over 100 peer-reviewed scholarly articles. Yes, I said 100. She’s an associate professor of neuroscience at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. And she’s bringing her research on sugar and the brain in a new book called Sugarless, out in January.

I loved getting the opportunity to have Dr. Nicole Avena on the podcast. We bust up some myths on what sugar actually does to the brain in this episode. Yes, changes are happening to your brain when you overconsume sweetened beverages and treats. It’s not fun to hear, but I know I needed the reminder.

Bio: Dr. Nicole Avena is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and a Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. She graduated from Princeton University with her PhD in Neuroscience and Psychology, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology at Rockefeller University in NYC. She is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition during early life and pregnancy, and women’s health. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition to over 100 peer-reviewed scholarly publications, Dr. Avena has written several books, including What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler and What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant. She has the #2 most watched TED-ED Health talk, How Sugar Affects Your Brain, with over 13 million views and counting.

Download this episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Why Sugar is a Drug and How to Quit It”

Practical Tools to Support Kids’ Mental Health

Dr. Nicole Beurkens is a leading holistic child psychologist, as a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced degrees in psychology, education, and nutrition. She has dedicated her 25-year career to providing parents with research-based strategies that get to the root of children’s attention, anxiety, mood, and behavior challenges so they can reach their highest potential. She founded and runs a multi-disciplinary evaluation and treatment clinic in Grand Rapids, MI, and is a best-selling author, published researcher, award-winning therapist, media expert, scientific advisor, and experienced mother of four.

Download and listen. to this episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts!

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When the Christmas Season Doesn’t Go as Expected

Do you ever have the feeling you just don’t do holidays as well as other people? Or maybe the holiday season hasn’t gone as you wanted it to? 

We’ve had a difficult fall, as I’ve been dealing with some heavy past trauma I didn’t know I had. My Christmas spirit has been minimal. I don’t decorate like crazy anyway, but this year was half-hearted at best, featuring an old artificial tree with busted lights, a couple nativity sets.

I ordered a few presents on Amazon when I was sick in bed with the flu, and we took our kids to Six Flags for an experiential gift, instead of loading them up with more toys they won’t play with more than once.

I waste a lot of time scrolling social media. I look at other people’s decoration pictures, the baking reels, the cute creative reels, the smiling kids in their matching Christmas clothes… and I worry my kids are missing out on something this season. We didn’t do enough. They’ll resent us.

But then I offer myself a different perspective. Our family has spent many evenings in the last month cuddled up on the couch together, watching The Chosen. Richard and I have spent numerous nights, practically every night we can, connecting and sharing – often with hard conversations, but mostly making memories I will treasure forever.

See, I might have made a mistake sometime in September. On a morning walk, I asked God to show me His love in a new way. And boy, has he delivered. I’ve seen his love through the raging tornado of my past trauma, because out of my brokenness comes his promised wholeness. I’ve seen his love through friends who have checked on me and offered a listening ear. I’ve seen his love through the unconditional love and support of my husband. I’ve seen his love through the three very chill, very laid back kids I’ve been gifted.

And I see his love through the gift of Jesus.

As Paul David Tripp writes in his Christmas devotional, Come Let Us Adore Him, “What sense would it make for God to go to the extent of sending his Son to be born for our sake, and then abandon us along the way? Since God was willing to make such a huge investment in his grace, isn’t it logical to believe he will continue to invest in his grace until that grace has finished its work?”

It’s okay that I don’t have an Instagram-worthy living room. It’s okay that my kids didn’t decorate Christmas cookies, that they didn’t see lights, that they didn’t get the usual amount of cousin and grandparent time this year. It’s even okay that they got more screen time than I’d like (it pains me to say that one out loud).

What matters to me is the lesson I’m learning… THAT is the most important legacy I can pass on to my kids, something they can hold on to through any of life’s plot twists.

His grace and unfailing lovingkindness don’t run out. There is no limit. I haven’t reached capacity. I continue to pull from that well of living water, the kind that never runs out, because he can’t be anything other than who he is – a God who sees, who rescues, and who creates life from death. Over and over again. He did it for me. He can do it for you.

Oh, come let us adore Him indeed! 

Merry Christmas, 

Erin

Putting My Mental Illness into Remission

I was medicated for bipolar disorder for 18 years. Ten years ago, I went off anti-psychotic medication. Eight years ago, I weaned off my remaining medication, an SSRI antidepressant.

Today, I am mentally healthier than I’ve ever been, particularly in the last five years, since I have been (mostly) gluten free and eat a lower carbohydrate diet. In fact, my husband would agree that since I changed my eating habits, there has been more of an increase in my mental stability. The times that I consume a bit of gluten here and there, and eat a little more carbs than usual, I typically start to sense some mental instability creep up. The connection between gluten, carbohydrate content, and psychiatric disorders has much clinical evidence behind it, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I always feel the need to offer a few disclaimers before I share more of my story. Number one, I never encourage anyone to go off medication cold turkey or without the support of a medical professional. Unfortunately, many medical professionals don’t offer much caution in the tapering of medication, so there must be more of a support team in place, in my opinion. Going off medication cold turkey can lead to many unfavorable side effects and can often lead to a person feeling worse than they did BEFORE medication, so it is a very bad idea. When I weaned off my last med, I had a support team in place, and I had established many health practices that had me in the best physical shape possible. It wasn’t a quick decision; it took a lot of detailed planning and prayer.

Number two, every mental illness manifests differently in every individual who experiences symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, back when they still called it manic-depressive illness and didn’t distinguish between bipolar 1 or 2 as they do now. The symptoms I experienced at the time met the diagnostic criteria. Unlike most clinical diagnoses, diagnosing a mental illness means checking boxes on a list of symptoms, not looking at a blood test – and definitely not a brain scan. Because of that, and because I no longer experience the same symptoms, I consider myself to be in remission from this illness.

Here are the symptoms I experienced at the time that categorized me with bipolar disorder: periods of depression, lasting longer than a week where I felt fatigue, loss of interest in regular activities, sadness, apathy, worthlessness, and an inability to get out of bed at all. I also experienced symptoms of mania and hypomania, which meant that for short periods of time I felt increased energy, euphoria, an inability to sleep or slow down, racing thoughts, distractibility, and an increase in risky behavior and impulsivity.

Continue reading “Putting My Mental Illness into Remission”

How to Be Happier This Holiday Season

Pamela Gail Johnson founded the Society of Happy People in 1998, created the first three globally celebrated happiness holidays, and is the author of Practical Happiness: Four Principles to Improve Your Life. She was an award-winning salesperson for American Express and Staples, and now helps leaders and teams create happier workplace cultures.

Download and listen to this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “How to Be Happier This Holiday Season”