Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Nachos

Guys. I just stumbled upon something amazing. Do you ever get the craving for buffalo sauce or is that just me? Lately I have been OBSESSED with Primal Kitchens Buffalo sauce, AND I found a vegan ranch that is creamy and delicious with NO soybean or canola oil. (Can you tell by the capital letters how excited I am???)

I should also add that I am – once again – off of gluten and dairy. Why? A few reasons. One, I feel better. Two, my skin has been acting up and these are the two main culprits for many skin issues. Three, I really don’t need to offer an explanation for why I decide to eat the way I do, so move along with your judgment. Haha. I say that in a spicy way because about a year and a half ago I started following a bunch of “food freedom” nutritionists, dietitians, and influencers in hopes that I would gain a better understanding of how intuitive eating could work in my life – so that I am not held down by diet culture and its nonsensical food rules.

What I discovered is that in allowing myself unconditional permission to eat anything and everything, my mental and physical health started suffering, and turns out – my INTUITION about gluten and dairy and sugar was right – I don’t do well with those guys. So… if by listening to my body’s cues and leaving those things out of my diet means I’m just falling prey to the evil snares of “diet culture,” then the whole food freedom movement is just as judgmental and apt to finger-pointing as the “diet culture” they are so against. You can’t promote food freedom and eating intuitively for YOUR BODY, then tell someone they’re doing it wrong.

Ugh. Double standards and hypocrisy make me LOSE MY MIND. And there is so much of it happening today, I’m surprised I’m sane enough to be typing this out. As one of my good friends in the wellness world says, “eyes on your own plate.” YOU get to decide what is best for you, not matter what anyone else thinks about it.

Oh – am I supposed to be sharing a recipe? Apologies. I’ll stop ranting in CAPITAL LETTERS now.

Here we go…

Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Nachos

Continue reading “Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Nachos”

Feast 2 Fast Lent Round

The Lent round of Feast 2 Fast, starting February 17, is open for registration!

Typically, Feast 2 Fast is 4 weeks long, as we systematically use a pattern of feasting and fasting to increase metabolic flexibility and restore nutrient density. The Lent round is six and a half weeks long. We start with a brief sugar detox and incorporate a weekly superfast. We are encouraging each other to give up a food/practice/poor habit for the duration of Lent, while also adding in a divine activity to level up the spiritual focus and become more mindful and purposeful in who we are.

We are simplifying our lives to focus on what truly matters, and I hope you will join us! For more information or to sign up, click here.

  • No calorie counting.
  • No logging macros.
  • No mandatory workouts.
  • No shakes or supplements.

In this program, we use intermittent fasting in a way that works for YOUR unique body. We introduce real food carbs, whole food carbs, and my favorite – heck yeah carbs – which not only encourages metabolic flexibility, it encourages a healthy mindset toward food as well!

Weekly Zoom meetings are available for those wanting more individualized support, but they aren’t mandatory. You get to go at your own pace and use what components work best for you!

Sign up here.

How Relationships Impact Your Health

It’s February, the month of loooooove, so I can’t NOT talk about the importance of relationships to your overall well-being.

While loneliness is just as detrimental to your health as smoking, there are numerous studies showing that having healthy relationships increase your quality of life and longevity! Those with social support have better mental health, cardiovascular health, immune system function, and cognitive ability.

In fact, a study spanning eight decades of research at Harvard, proved that close social connections are better indicators of health and lonevity than anything else.

Our relationships with others are PRIMARY NUTRITION.

What you put inside your mouth may cause a temporary shift in your body’s digestive processes, but being in a stressful, unhealthy relationship – or being in isolation – can be a chronic stressor that causes permanent dysfunction to your entire body.

Why is that? I have a few thoughts.

  1. When a body is in “fight or flight” mode from stress, it is impossible to access the prefrontal cortex in the brain to make clear decisions, show empathy, connect to others, regulate emotions, be open-minded, and control impulses. So for someone who is under chronic relationship stress, or under stress from isolation and loneliness, it is possible that they will struggle with making good choices when it comes to health and well-being. They will literally be in survival mode, taking the easy way out, time and time again, because their brain can’t offer any other solution.
  2. Another possible reason stressful relationships wreck physical health is because it increases the amount of cortisol pumped into the bloodstream. Where there is cortisol imbalance, there is inflammation. Where there is inflammation, there is chronic disease and lack of health.
  3. Stress destroys digestion. When digestion is altered, your body can’t utilize nutrients from food or restore bacterial balance in the gut, which is so needed for mental and physical health.

I encourage you to make the effort to strengthen the relationships you have.

Maybe that means seeing a marriage counselor, or finding an individual counselor for yourself to deal with your past hurts in relationships. Maybe you need to call up an old friend or schedule a dinner date with someone you care about but haven’t had time to see lately. If you’re married, plan an intentional date night (you know, something different than turning on Netflix after the kids go to bed).

Take time to nourish your relationships this month. Your health and theirs depend on it.

*If you are looking for a professional therapist to support your healing journey, check out Talkspace and use the code sparkingwholeness for $100 off your first month of therapy.

Freedom from Scale Drama

It’s been one year and a half since I stepped on a scale. She’s an old friend. We haven’t had the best relationship over the years. More like a dysfunctional one.

She doesn’t give me my worth or value. She doesn’t even tell me how healthy I am. But I used to let her, over and over again.

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When her number is up, my mood is down. When her number is down, my mood is up. We can’t ever seem to agree on anything. Yet the codependency has existed for decades.

Some would say I fear her and what does that say about me? But I’m learning to see past her gaslighting and abuse, her finger-pointing and blaming.

I refuse to let an inanimate object steal my joy or give me fleeting confidence. I refuse to let a number tell me a story about my health – because health is about so much more than a number, or a diagnosis, or anything you can measure.

In my new online course, ReFOCUS 21, starting February 1, we are renewing our minds with truth and adjusting the way we look at health, habits, body image and chronic dieting!

It’s not too late to join us for 21 days of a new view of who you are – beyond what a number tells you. Each day’s content will be delivered straight to your inbox. Click the link here learn more and sign up!.

How Many Times a Day Should I Eat?

The blood sugar conversation is more important than ever. We have to understand how to manage our blood sugar before it starts managing us. Like most “common” health concerns, it shouldn’t have to be normal to have blood sugar that is on a continual roller coaster.

Kris DeFoer is a Nutritional Therapist and owner of Happy Body Health. She is passionate about helping women optimize their nutrition and lifestyles to look and feel their best. She believes that healthy digestion and blood sugar regulation are critical to good health and that a healthy diet and lifestyle can address many of the chronic issues that people deal with today.

This discussion with Kris breaks down why we want to fuel our bodies with food that helps to stabilize our blood sugar, and keep our brain and immune systems strong! Download the episode here or find wherever you listen to podcasts!

Key Topics:

– What blood sugar is and why we should care about it

– The difference between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia

– Kris’ history with dieting and finding a way to regulate her blood sugar naturally

– How many meals a day should I actually eat?

– The stress and blood sugar connection

– What to eat to support a healthy insulin response

– How to eat enough nutrients

– How to support a healthy immune system through food

– The key to salad-building (and a listener challenge)

Learn more about Kris and sign up for her informative emails at Happy Body Health.

Should You Practice Fasting?

Should you try fasting this year?

That’s a hot topic question right now!

Fasting is a practice that has been implemented for thousands of years for a variety of reasons. It isn’t a dieting trend, though it is often misunderstood as another weight loss quick fix. While there are plenty health experts promoting it as a great option to bring balance to your body, optimize insulin sensitivity and support digestion, there are others who treat fasting as if it’s a type of starvation tool that will lead to an eating disorder.

This is why fasting must be addressed with an individualized approach – what I teach in my Feast 2 Fast program!

Most people can benefit from different types of fasts, whether it is a true water fast, or fat fast, or even a bone broth fast. It is a good way to improve your health, and it can be a beneficial spiritual discipline as well.

The majority of studies on the trendy 16:8 style of intermittent fasting have been done on men and postmenopausal women, so it’s important for women who still have a menstrual cycle to nourish hormones and not restrict food too much at all cycle phases. That can really backfire and cause stress to your body!

My advice? Start with a 12 hour fast. Everyone can benefit from a 12 hour break between their last meal and first meal. And hey – if you’re sleeping 8 hours at night most of your fasting will happen then, which makes it even easier!

Want to make fasting work for you, while also learning how to incorporate more nutrient density into your real life? Join my four week Feast 2 Fast program that starts January 4!

This program is one of the most science-based approaches to health I have seen! But we don’t just target physical health; that’s secondary. Every day you will receive nourishment for your soul in the form of a short devotional. We even meet weekly on Zoom to individualize our approaches to even more!

For more details, and to sign up, click here

Past Participants Say This:

“Through Feast 2 Fast I learned to listen to the natural cues from my body. After years of dieting I had stopped listening to the natural cues like hunger. Feast 2 Fast slowed me down and forced me to listen and learn what is best for my body and not just follow it because some ‘diet’ tells me it’s right. It literally brought joy back to my relationship with food!!” – Jen

“The feast to fast program allowed me to stop and really think about the way food affects me. It was truly like a reset and I now feel more in-tune with my body and mind! I lost a lot more weight than I expected and gained confidence in my ability to listen to my body!! That is priceless!” – Laura

Join the program here!

Master Your Health and Know What Healthy Feels Like

I’m just over one year into the wonderful world of podcasting. With more than five million downloads in that short timeframe, there are numerous episodes interviewing renowned health experts. I’ve been honored to sit down and pick the brains of the best of the best. But what I also love is interviewing the non-famous experts, the people who have been passionate about holistic health for decades and let it infiltrate every area of their lives.

My friend Emily Hill is one of those people. She has been a connoisseur of all things health and wellness for the better part of two decades and currently works as a holistic nutritionist in Dallas, Texas. She has spoken to many audiences on the topics of nutrition, supplementation, and holistic living and has so much wisdom to share when navigating these tricky health issues.

In this episode we cover all things related to individualizing nutrition for optimal health and avoiding “diet dogma.” We even get into the great meat debate! Emily is a wealth of health info, and her belief that there is no one sized fits all gives a refreshing perspective in the midst of endless nutrition debates that often make incorporating healthy habits completely overwhelming.

Key Topics:

  • img_4723Emily’s holistic health journey and various certifcations
  • Favorite health hacks and supplements
  • Why nutrition dogma is such a problem
  • How to individualize nutrition while staying away from diets
  • Emily’s philosophy: “if it comes from the ground, it’s way more sound.”
  • Should we be concerned about lectins and grains?
  • How to give our livers a break
  • Meat or no meat – what’s the concern with eating meat?
  • Movement and weight lifting for women
  • How “women need a constant reminder of how strong they are.”

Download the episode here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth area, check out Aum Integral Wellness here.

The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It

We are in the middle of a mental illness epidemic. According to a report done by the CDC in June, 25% of people between the ages of 18-24 seriously have considered suicide since March. The percentage was 16% for adults 25-44. 31% of all age groups reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder, and over 40% experienced adverse or behavioral health symptoms. “The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%) (2).” See full report here.  

These numbers affect me on a very personal level.

I was diagnosed with PTSD at a young age, followed by depression, followed by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by the time I was 18. I was on many different medications to attempt to treat my mental disconnect, and while some of the worked, some did more harm than good. I understand what it is like to experience the deepest of lows and the highest of highs. I know what it feels like to have a brain that you can’t control, a mind that races and thoughts that spin around and threaten any kind of peace or stability.

One thing I have learned, in my last decade of mental stability, is that our mental health symptoms are always responses to an imbalance in our internal or external environment. External triggers could be grief, stress, or lifestyle disruption. Internal triggers could be something like blood sugar issues, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient deficiencies… or poor gut health. Learning about the gut/brain connection and addressing key areas in my physical health made a huge impact on my mental health.

Now, there is no one size fits all. What worked for me is not going to work exactly the same in someone else. But I do believe everyone can benefit from improving gut health.

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In a perfect world, the lining of the intestine allows entry to nutrients from our food to be absorbed and go where they’re needed. This lining is supposed to prevent toxins, bacterial overgrowth, and food products from exiting the gut lining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. When you have poor gut health, thanks to stress, toxins in the environment, overconsumption of sugar and processed foods, overuse of antibiotics or other common medications, and a whole lot of other triggers, the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, and endotoxins leak out. This is what the phrase “leaky gut” refers to. The inflammation that results leads to a myriad of health issues, but what is being studied a lot right now is the effect on the brain and mental health. Many psychiatrists are suggesting that poor gut health is at the root of many of our mental illnesses.

To further that point, it’s important to note that over 90% of our serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) is produced in the gut, and serotonin cannot be produced without the assistance of amino acids. So if what we eat impacts the way our neurotransmitters are produced, it stands to reason that what we eat impacts the way our brains receive neurotransmitters and find mental wealth.

There are many lifestyle interventions that are FREE, that can benefit our brain function as well as our gut. To break it down in the most simple form possible, here’s the acronym LIVE to help you get started and give you some practical ways to start taking nourishing your gut and brain together!

Continue reading “The Gut-Brain Connection and What You Can Do About It”

Let’s Reset! A 14 Day Coaching Group to Enter Into Fall

Today is the first day of fall. The changing of seasons always feels special to me. But the shift from summer into fall is especially meaningful. The autumn season is associated with transformation and letting go of the old.

Because of this, I am partnering with my friend, fellow holistic health coach and master sports nutritionist and personal trainer, Melissa McGaughey, to bring an online 14 day coaching group for the low price of only $29 – and it starts Monday, September 28!

Melissa and I recently discussed a few of our favorite health tips on my podcast, sharing simple tools to creating healthy habits, and we thought what better way to implement some of our ideas than through a group coaching experience?!

This group is all about adding in real food, movement, and mindset, in order to nourish our bodies and minds as best as we can in this new season. The format will be through a closed Facebook group, which will encourage participation and accountability from participants and coaches. Sign up here!

Also included in the group:

  • Kick-off meeting through Zoom
  • Daily educational posts
  • Accountability from other participants along with the coaches
  • Recipes
  • Pantry/Grocery store list

Melissa and I both strive to empower women to become their own health advocates, and this is a great time to do it! For only $29 (which is just a teensy fraction of the cost of our private coaching sessions) you are getting the encouragement from two experts for a full two weeks!

Together, we can let go of old habits that are weighing us down and embrace this new season with a complete reset – body, mind, and spirit! Contact me for more information or sign up here and I will email you a confirmation.

Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food

“People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.

In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.

Key topics of our conversation include:

  • img_0728a.wDr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
  • How what we eat affects our brain
  • The origin of the gut/brain connection
  • The rise of mental health concerns
  • Food to avoid for mental well-being
  • Inflammatory foods
  • Orthorexia and food obsession
  • How to add more diversity in your diet
  • The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
  • So much more!

Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo

Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!