life changer thursday: the adoption option edition

remember when i said that we have been blessed beyond measure by our friends and family supporting us in our adoption process? yeah. that’s not just lip service my friends. literally every day we are blown away by the support of our village, and today is no exception. the way our community has come around us, and how well they understand our hearts for adoption is really unbelievable.

so. amy (lucy, as i call her….long story) is one of my very best friends. we met in grade school and have been pretty much inseparable ever since. she’s so giving, so loving, so supportive. she’s the kind of friend that shows up every. single. time. you need her. if you don’t have a friend like lucy, i HIGHLY suggest you get one….but you can’t have her–she’s mine. :)

thank you luc for writing these unbelievable words of encouragement for me. thank you for loving us PLergs so well, and for always being there for us. love you so much –love, ethel :)

here’s what she wrote:

I asked Leah if I could write a “Life Changer Thursday” for her blog.  If you are reading this, you probably know what an amazing, sometimes inappropriate, but always hilarious couple Paul and Leah are.  I’ve known them for about 15 years.  It has really touched my heart to witness their process of adoption.  I have learned so much through my dear friends about how the process of parents adopting children mirrors the process of God adopting us into his family.

I came across this article by John Piper, our former pastor:   He outlines 8 similarities between human adoption and God’s adoption of us as his children.  I’ve paraphrased the two that were the most powerful to me:

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly.

To redeem means to obtain or to set free by paying a price. What was the price that God paid for our liberation and adoption?  It cost God the price of his Son’s life.

There are huge costs in adopting children. Some are financial; some are emotional. There are costs in time and stress for the rest of your life. There is something very deep and right about the embrace of this cost for the life of a child!

We look to our heavenly Father for our joy rather than rejecting the stress and cost of children in order to maximize our freedom and comforts. Adoption is as far as possible from the mindset that rejects children as an intrusion. Praise God for people ready to embrace the suffering—known and unknown. God’s cost to adopt us was infinitely greater than any cost we will endure in adopting and raising children.

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned.

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

God predestined us for adoption before the creation of the world. His plan was was creation, fall, redemption, adoption so that the full range of God’s glory and mercy and grace could be known by his adopted children. Adoption was not second best. It was planned from the beginning.

Paul and Leah have taken a huge step of faith that mirrors what God has done for us.  My husband, Ryan, and I are not called to the “adoption option” right now, but consider it a privilege to be able to take part in what God is doing through the PLergs.  I would ask you to honestly search your heart and pray about if God is calling you to do the same.  Check out the link below.  Encourage them, pray for them.  Then be prepared to watch what God can do through us, his adopted children.

Life Changer Thursday: Paul’s Story

we’re back! i hope you all had a wonderful new year and that you look forward to 2014 with hope and anticipation of great things to come!  after taking a week off from ‘life changer thursday’ today seems like a perfect day to talk about life changing moments! new year, new goals, new lifestyles…what’s motivating you this year? where are you hoping to change, grow, or stay steady? 

this week’s post is near and dear to me because it’s written by….drumroll please……my husband! when i told pauly i was going to start this ‘life changer thursday’ deal, he was so excited and asked me when he could write! he has an incredible story, and i am so proud of him and so proud to share that with you now.

Paul’s story:

You should see the look on old friends’ faces when I tell them I’m a vegetarian. It’s utter disbelief. “You?! What…how…but you..really..uh..vegetarian??!!” If I were them, I’d be just as shocked.  I grew up on pepperoni pizza, bacon, steak, chocolate milk, and Mountain Dew. I was probably the worst eater of anyone I knew. At Thunderbird, where I attended graduate school, my friend Josh and I would go to Safeway on Saturday mornings and buy a 3 lb. package of bacon – it was easily gone by Sunday, if not sooner.

Since we’d been married, Leah had tried to gently coax me into a healthier lifestyle, but I was stubborn, and I would cite my family’s longevity as an excuse to not have to change.  In 2010, Leah took the plunge into vegetarianism.  She literally went cold turkey (ironic pun intended). I kept demolishing packages of bacon.  Leah was a vegetarian because she needed to do it for her health, I told myself, but I was fine.

Then, in 2011, people around me started getting skinny, or at least that’s what I was telling myself. It’s certainly didn’t occur to me that maybe I was just gaining weight…  But when I looked around my office and church small group, I was the fat guy. In Sept. of 2011, I was 237 lbs. and my waist was a robust 38″ (I’m 6’2″).

I stumbled my way into becoming a vegetarian in November 2011.  One night, Leah and I, along with our friends, Cory & Summer, watched an incredibly compelling documentary called “Forks Over Knives” – it changed my life. It wasn’t preachy in the least, and the case was so clear.  I am so grateful for that night.  I committed to being a vegetarian the next day, and it stuck.

To be honest, I started mostly out of solidarity with Leah, but it quickly turned into so much more. (Ironic side note, I actually gained about 5 lbs. after becoming a vegetarian because things like french fries, potato chips, and ice cream aren’t meat… I’m a slow learner, just ask Leah :) Thankfully Leah is an incredible cook, and once I got the courage to try “her food” (more like got over myself), I found that I actually liked what she made MORE than what I used to eat.  By Oct. 2012, I was down to 190 lbs. and a 34″ waist. I ran my first 10k – and lived to tell about it.  In Aug. 2013, I completed my first triathlon.  I am going to run a half marathon in 2014 and do 2 more triathlons.

Now that I’m over 2 years into my journey, my views and convictions have grown from simply acting out of solidarity with Leah and  my own health. I have come to see the importance of manifesting a non-violent lifestyle by the way I eat. Trust me, 2 or 3 years ago, my “hippie”, “tree hugging”, “uber-liberal” red flags would’ve been raised.  I was a vegetarian for health reasons, not because “cows have moms too.”  But, the more I learned about the shocking, revolting, and horrific way we treat animals (namely cows, pigs, and chickens) in this country, my commitment deepened. (the documentary “Vegucated” is pretty preachy, but the fact that I became utterly sick to my stomach when I saw how animals are slaughtered truly rocked me. God calls us to care for the earth and the animal kingdom; I no longer had the luxury of looking the other way when it came to how “meat is made”).  I am explicitly not saying this is the “Christian way” to eat – Jesus ate lamb at the Last Supper after all :)  I am simply saying this is something Leah and I are exploring and growing in. I should mention here too, that Leah and I do occasionally eat seafood. Especially when we have traveled abroad, maintaining and exclusively vegetarian lifestyle would be difficult, so introduced wild caught, (never farm raised) Alaskan salmon and other fish back into our diet and do enjoy sushi on special occasions. We also make it a priority to never be “those people” when we are invited anywhere for dinner, and seafood is an easy way for us to share meals with friends and family.  I say all that to say this: it’s an art not a science. Growing in our convictions and finding a healthy balance is what it’s all about.

Leah is “encouraging” me to keep this brief, so I will wrap up by saying this: it has been a long, slow journey. I started with incredibly small steps, like eating cheese pizza instead of pepperoni…. But by surrounding myself with a network of healthy people, and being willing to ask difficult questions about where my food really comes from and the implications for my  health (not just weight),  this journey has become one of the best things I have ever started. This is a philosophy and lifestyle Leah and I are cultivating not only for ourselves, but our future children as well.

And just so you know, if you wake up tomorrow and make 3lbs of Safeway bacon, no judgment. :) I’ve been there.

before.... and........

before…. and……..

ready for the gala!

ready for the gala!


i love this pic of him finishing because it kinda looks like he's doing the 'running man' dance move! haha!

finishing my first triathlon!

and again, if you have any questions, comments, general ponderings about this or any life changer post, please leave them in the comment section and paul or i will be happy to answer them!

life changer thursday: rachel’s story

this week’s ‘life changer thursday’ really has my heart. when i contacted rachel and asked if she would like to write here about her time in Africa, i had NO idea how powerful her story would be, and how it would change my perspective so greatly.  after seeing the incredible faces of these children, and reading stories on the HopeChest website, i decided to sponsor a child, and let me tell you, it is incredible! HopeChest has not only changed rachel’s life, and hundreds of orphans in uganda, but my life too. if you are interested in sponsoring a beautiful child, there are links at the bottom of this page to help get you started. please consider sponsoring this year. these kids are so deserving of extra love and support all year long.

rachel’s story

When Leah asked me to write about the kids in Uganda for ‘Life Changer Thursday,’ I immediately thought how immensely these kids have changed my life.  When I think about them my heart beats harder, I get a little teary eyed, and most of all, I want to be with them again. But until day comes, I will share their stories.

From the time I first met God, I have also had this strong urge to get to know people from other cultures.  And when I  met my husband John—the most incredible, loving, handsome man who exists— he knew that I hoped to spend a lot of time in another country at some point, but had no idea where or when that would be.  When one of my friends told me about Children’s HopeChest, and the opportunity to visit Uganda on a yearly basis, John was on board and excited for our family to become part of this new adventure.  Both of us went to Uganda in 2012, and I went again in 2013, both times with a team of people from the states.

I have to say, my initial opinion of missionary groups wasn’t’ great.  There seemed to be a reoccurrence of people who wanted to ‘do good’ for others but, due to lack of experience or information, ended up making little difference or even hurting people more than helping.  Children’s HopeChest, however, had a deeper purpose compared to other organizations I had come across.  Their aim is to build long lasting relationships between two communities–one stateside, such as a church or business, and the other a high orphan population, like an orphanage or village. Building these relationships is meant to allow God to bring change to both groups of people. I honestly didn’t think this was possible, until I went to Uganda.

A soon as I got there and met the people, I kept asking myself, “How is it possible to fee like family when you’ve just met,  and hardly speak the same language!?”  Our teams spent the majority of each trip in two neighboring villages, Bukedea and Ogoloi, with a combined orphan population of over 300 being sponsored through Children’s HopeChest.  Our main focus here was to spend time with the kids and get to know the families.  There were numerous things we did while in each village, but loving on the kids is priority.  I would like to share one of their stories with you:

Thomas lives in Ogoloi with his grandma.  He is HIV positive.  He is incredibly quiet and shy when you meet him, yet latches onto your hand and follows close by you wherever you go, as faithful as a shadow.  During my first trip in August 2012, I went back to my hotel crying for Thomas more than once.  During my time with him, sometimes he would be content enough to stand by my side, smiling every now and then.  At other times, however, he would shake with pain from headaches or stomach aches, crying uncontrollably.  I saw him throw up the little lunch he ate one day, and then later watched a friend remove jiggers (a type of worm with eggs) from his feet.  In addition, his head was covered by a fungus that led him to scratch until he bled.  This boy seemed to have a mountain of hopeless hardships for someone still under ten years old.

The beauty in all this filth was though, was to watch the HopeChest staff in Ogoloi love and care for him and his family.  They visited with his grandma, and helped her however she needed around their home. Discovering that Thomas had not been taking his medicine, the staff made a care plan for him to take his medicine, with food, under their supervision each day.  By the time I saw him again the following August, his head was almost completely healed. The staff reported he had been getting healthier and healthier, and I was able to witness a happy Thomas, actually playing with other kids.

Thomas is one of so many stories that have left me changed.  The way I spend time, money, and how I value people have all been affected by my experiences in Uganda.  However, it is my prayers that have been changed more than anything.  Before my time in Africa, I was relatively satisfied with how things were—in my life and with the world.  Since then, I have a new prayer: ‘Jesus, help us bring Your Kingdom to earth.’  God wants us to partner with Him, as He makes us and others more like Himself.

There are more orphans in Bukedea and Ogoloi who still need sponsors. If you want to be part of these transformations, in both yourself and the kids of Uganda, please visit the links below.  If you have any questions for me, feel free to post on this blog or e-mail me through Leah.


life changer thursday: summer’s story

hello again! here comes another addition to our ‘life changer thursday’ routine! these first three posts have been about health and diet, however, starting next week, we will be branching into the fields of marriage/online dating, missionary work, faith, adoption, and much more!  thank you for all the feedback about these posts! it’s nice to know that people appreciate them :)

so here is summer’s story about taking control of her family’s health. she and her husband cory are the proud parents of ashur and tyson (whom you will see a LOT of on our blog…we love them…a LOT.), they are some of the most intentional, driven, and dedicated people we know. summer has been the single driving motivation and support behind the plerg health turnaround, and she creates most of the yummy recipes featured here. all of that to say, summ really knows what she’s talking about, and has done a ton of research into the world of natural food and medicine. nothing should be taken as a prescription (disclaimer here: we are not doctors…duh.) but the knowledge base of this girl is insane.

summer was nice enough to mention too, if you have any follow up questions for her, please leave them in the comment section of this post or email me directly, and she will respond to those as well.

enjoy! learn! and happy almost weekend!

summer’s story:

First of all, I want to say thank you to Leah for her enormous heart, and her desire to educate others on all things health, relationships, and just plain old life stuff. You are leaving your mark on this world, and for that I thank you.
With that being said…when Leah asked me to write this blog I had no idea it would be so hard…I have written and deleted my opening line to this thing four times now, and I’m kinda irritated with myself for trying to be so formal and “blog savvy” as I write this.  So screw it.  I am going to write as the thoughts sound in my head, and hopefully you all will learn something along the way.
My husband and I have been married for 6 years and have two beautiful boys.  Ashur, our 3 year old, and Tyson, our 2 year old are the reason I am sitting down writing this blog to you today.
Two years ago I had taken Ashur to his one year appointment. It was just a regular old check up, but it actually ended up being a life changing appointment for our family.  I remember very clearly leaving the doctor’s office feeling frustrated, hopeless, and very defeated.  When I had asked her about preventative care for the common sicknesses most kids experience throughout the year she said…and I quote, “these next few years you will be sick more than you ever have, and Ashur will too, and that is just part of the process of kids growing up in this stage of life.”  Well there you have it.  Don’t bother preventing your kids from getting sick because…well…you just can’t.
To make a long story short I simply did not accept that my family was going to be sick all the time during this stage of growing our family.  One thing you need to know about me…I am extremely passionate about food and the effects, both positive and negative, it has on not only us as humans but on the planet as a whole. (I have been a plant based eater for over 5 years now along with my husband.)  What I have found through years of research is that we can, in fact, prevent and even reverse sickness altogether.  To get there initially sounded, quite honestly, like a lot of work…but I would argue, so is taking care of a family that is sick all the time! It all seemed too good to be true, but what I discovered has changed my family’s life.
My oldest son Ashur just turned 3 in September and has never been sick.  Let me say that again….he is 3 and has NEVER BEEN SICK.  He has been exposed to every sickness that goes around, and regularly attends day care at the gym, preschool, nursery at our church and lots and lots of play dates.  Our second son Tyson who will be 2 in January, was hospitalized at 2 months of age with a severe fever and an infection that kept us in the hospital for 4 days.  However at that age sickness like that is not something we could have prevented with diet, as he had not started solid food yet.  Since then he has yet to be sick.  I say all this to give mothers out there hope that through discipline, consistency, and the right tools, we can take control of our families health.
I will give you a few examples of things we have done in our kids’ diet that I believe deserve all the credit to their health.  Number one…eating whole, plant based foods.  Number two…my boys never ever get sugar outside of fruit.  Number three, know what foods and supplements are preventative to specific illnesses and incorporate those into their diet at the appropriate time…for example, during the fall when sicknesses start to emerge I increase the boys vitamin D dosage as well as adding coconut oil to their diet for its antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties (coconut oil is a huge part of their regular, daily diet as well).  When the stomach flu is going around I give them “Braggs”organic apple cider vinegar (it is important that the label reads “with the mother”) to increase their stomach acid therefore enabling them to kill off a virus before they get sick.  We also give our boys a probiotic regularly to build up the good bacteria in their gut, as well as a multi mineral/multivitamin daily.  These are just a few of the things we do, but from my experience they are the “big ones”.  I will quickly add that brand names and the manufacturing companies I listed above matter greatly, so do your research!
Here’s the deal: My kids eat food off the floor in public places, they share sippy cups with friends, and outside of bath times their hands never get washed…my point is…I am not a ‘germaphobe’ or paranoid about my kids getting germs from others…I simply believe that our kids can be exposed to sicknesses and not get sick due to our diet and supplemental support. ( I am not a doctor, and it is important to know and understand what, why, and how much you are giving your children.) But be your own advocate! Trust your instincts as a mother and see where it leads you! This is one path, but I believe there are many ways to end up with the same result.
Honestly, I could keep writing about this topic but I promised Leah I’d keep it brief;)
Good luck and know that I am rooting for you!

life changer thursday (a day early!): angel’s story

hello friends! so, this installment of ‘life changer thursday’ is coming at ya a day early, but i figured with thanksgiving just around the corner (ie: tomorrow!) this would be a great way to start off the holiday! my friend angel so graciously agreed to share her incredible story with us and let me tell you, it’s truly inspirational. so enjoy today! eat lots of yummy foods tomorrow, and be blessed and inspired by angel’s story! happy thanksgiving!

angel’s story:
Since this is “Life Changer Thursday” here on Treasure and Heart, I thought I would share my story- and what I am most thankful for!
From July 2012 to June 2013 I suffered three miscarriages. My experience was a little different than the average infertility or recurrent miscarriage case. I have two healthy children whom were conceived easily. Both pregnancies were problem free, and both babies were born very healthy.  I could not figure out why my body wasn’t cooperating this time around. I would get more frustrated and weary as each month passed and each pregnancy ended. I was begging God for answers, praying for peace, trying to see the good, all while wrapping my head around the reality. It was a long year.
As a little back story, (hang on, this will all tie together at the end, I promise!) shortly after my almost three year old daughter (and youngest child), Veda, was born I was having heart palpitations. They were bothering me enough to where I made an appointment to see a doctor. Or…. my husband was sick of my complaining so he forced me see a doctor. :) The EKG and the 48 hours of heart monitoring came back normal. Even though I still had the palpitations I felt more at ease knowing the test results didn’t show any red flags.
As time passed I eventually decided to ask my chiropractor about my irregular heart beats. Dr. Josh suggested that he check my adrenal glands because stressed adrenal glands can cause irregular heart beats. Sure enough, they were stressed. He explained that the adrenal glands can become fatigued from physical stress, emotional stress, or intestinal stress (which would be like your body dealing with a food allergy). I just chalked the fatigued glands up to emotional and physical stress, as I was a new mother of two kids under two, not sleeping enough and having a lot to stress about. I took the cortisol supplement to repair my glands, and not only did my heart beats go back to normal, but a huge chunk of energy, that I didn’t know was missing, came back as well.
Problem solved. Maybe…
Fast forward to June 2012 my husband and I decided that we wanted to expand our family with another baby. To our surprise things were not happening as we had hoped and planned. Eleven months, two chemical pregnancies and one early miscarriage later we were both devastated and stumped.
After I experienced my first chemical pregnancy, followed by a miscarried at 7 weeks I met with an OB. I knew something wasn’t right. He first insisted both losses were flukes, but to keep me happy he offered to do a dye test. This is where they insert dye into the uterus to check for blockages or polyps. The fertilized egg could have been attaching to a polyp and not surviving which would have explained the losses. He also prescribed me progesterone (unfortunately, without doing any blood work to see if my levels were in fact low). Well, the dye test came back normal and the progesterone just made me really sick.
After the third loss, another chemical pregnancy, I went back in to see the OB. This time even more confused. The Dr. didn’t really know what to make of it, but ended up prescribing me Clomid (What?!). I decided not to take the prescription (I figured I’d just end up miscarrying multiples!) and went to a recurrent miscarriage specialist who offered a lot more help. She arranged more testing to check for blood clotting diseases, chromosomal defects, thyroid issues and low progesterone. All came back normal except for the thyroid.
The specialist had me see my family doctor regarding the thyroid labs. It wasn’t that my thyroid was just off, it was oddly off. Let’s just say one of my levels was so low that the doctor was questioning cancer. But seeing as I had no symptoms which would have included: drastic weight loss, swollen thyroid gland, anxiety, trouble sleeping, racing heart, he concluded that the lab results must have been wrong and suggest I retest.
The second lab results came back and although my thyroid stimulating hormone wasn’t as low, it was still low. With all of my other levels of my thyroid in normal range the doctor didn’t know what to make of it so he referred me an endocrinologist.
In the mean time I had been doing my own research. Of course, Google can either be a huge blessing or just create a ball of anxiety as I self diagnosed every little ailment I’ve ever experienced. I will say, I did not find any situations just like mine, but there were enough anecdotes about women suffering infertility due to gluten intolerances that I decided to omit gluten from my diet for a few months just as a last resort, plus I wasn’t able to get in to see the endocrinologist for 6 weeks anyway.
Two weeks after I cut out gluten (which, yes, I did have shaky withdrawals, it was nuts!) I decided to contact my chiropractor again and just get his take on my situation. And boy am I glad I asked for his help, but that he did!
Right away he confirmed I needed to stop eating gluten. He then explained:
“Your thyroid is like a canary in the mine, it’s the first gland that typically malfunctions when something is wrong in the body.  Over 50% of thyroid problems are autoimmune in nature, meaning they are caused when your immune system mistakes your thyroid cells for a foreign invader.  This most often occurs through a process called cellular mimicry in which the protein sequence of your thyroid cells looks similar to a food or pathogen you’ve become allergic to.  The offending allergen or pathogen can also create a situation where it binds to the thyroid turning it on or tuning it off.  
How this can relate to maintaining a viable pregnancy:
The last case I’ve heard of that reminds me of your situation was one of a gluten allergy causing miscarriages.  Not only was the female having thyroid issues but she was also undergoing autoimmune attack on her tissues of pregnancy because they share a protein sequence similar to the gluten molecule (anti-endometrial antibodies).
Ok, yes! things were starting to make sense. Maybe I wasn’t dying of cancer after all. The heart palpitations, the thyroid, the miscarriages, it was all coming together. Full circle, baby!
It takes the body 4-6 weeks to rid itself of gluten and often times up to six months (depending on the damage gluten has already done in the body) for everything to level out (thyroid, intestinal damage, etc..). Four weeks after going gluten free I got pregnant.
Hip hip horray!
I could tell this was different than the previous three positive pregnancy tests I had taken. The second line on the pregnancy test was dark and I started to actually feel pregnant around week five. This is the only time I totally welcomed and was excited about nausea and fatigue!
Now I am 18 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby. And my thyroid levels have all normalized.
This is a happy ending for us and for that I am so grateful. I really am. But I can’t help but be sad that this information is almost nowhere to be found for other struggling women. The specialist, the midwives, the OB, the family doctor  were oblivious to gluten even being an option for the wacky thyroid or the miscarriages. It makes me sad to know that the three losses could have easily been prevented, and even more sad to know that there are probably many other frustrated women out there who do not have answers.
My hope and prayer is that this information gets out and in turn women who are suffering from unexplained infertility or miscarriages at least get informed and tested for a gluten sensitivity. (As a side note, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are not the same. You could pass the celiac blood test and still have a gluten sensitivity). Also, I totally understand that there are a number of reasons as to why women struggle to get pregnant or stay pregnant and gluten may only make up a small percent, BUT, if I can help one person it would make my long journey that much more worth it!
The moral of this story is…a lot of things… but mainly take care of your body and be your own biggest advocate. I choose to see the good in this because I know that although God didn’t take those babies from me, He does not waste a single experience. Had I not figured out and done something about my gluten sensitivity, I could have not only had a longer string of miscarriages, but also a long road ahead of me of health problems. And now with Leah opening up her blog to a friend who has a story to tell, I hope that you or someone you know will benefit from this information. Then that would be a season of suffering not wasted!

life changer thursday: eleanor’s story

guest post! guest post! GUEST POST!!  i am SO excited to announce a new event happening on my blog! “life changer thursday” will be a reoccurring event here….until i run out of guest posters! :)  this will be a chance for friends, family, strangers, to post about how making a change in their life, well….changed their life! it may be in the food department, exercise, seeing a really great therapist (all advice welcome!!), dating, marriage, kids, or any other event or change that has made a positive impact in your life. i just want this to be a time where people are encouraged and motivated, and i think hearing other peoples’ stories can be so powerful.  so to start, my friend eleanor has volunteered to get things going! she has an incredible story of overcoming her chronic illness, and i can’t wait to share it with you! be inspired! and if you have an inspiring or life changing story to tell, email me!

so without further ado:  eleanor’s story: 

Question: Have you ever really, I mean really looked at all the choices there are in the local grocery store? Let’s even just say, for cereal (yeah, that’s right, cereal)? Stores reserve an ENTIRE aisle just for cereal. And I mean a looooong aisle too, not your tiny-pack-everything-into-one-aisle-Trader-Joes-style aisle. We are talking about an aisle so long you have to squint to see the end. Now, imagine looking through all those boxes and trying to find just one box that doesn’t have sugar in it. I dare you. Double dare. Before we continue here, let me explain my story:

My healthy food lifestyle story, (yes that is a fancy way of saying ‘diet’), is really, truly, a life change. Not a fad, or a number I was trying to reach on that horrible scale I never should have bought, but a big change, a hard change, and the best change I ever made.

I don’t really know where to start, so let me just put you right into the thick of my thoughts or else this might turn into a novel:

I have always been an active, healthy person.   I grew-up in a house where we made all our own meals, there was never a pop in the fridge or cookies in a cookie jar (were cookie jars real or was it just a song?). We were the “co-op grocery store” shoppers, the “homemade bread” kind of family. But, then I went to college. Cafeteria food entered my world, and I LOVED it. King size rice crispy bars 24/7, late night Mac and Cheese, and of course as a poor college kid I didn’t want to spend more than $40 at the grocery store every two week, if I could help it.  Well, as a result, my stomach started to ache. You know, just the usual ache here and there, the once in a while ache from stuffing my stomach so full I could burst, or the occasional ache of a balloon in the stomach. This is normal right? That is what I thought for years. Until…Drum roll……

I had a baby. Now don’t get me wrong, he is the cutest little blue eyed baby the world ever did see! But, well, he gave me Chronic Hives. Babies do that sometimes (something to look forward to, those of you who don’t yet have kids!).  I’ve known moms who have ended up needing glasses after being pregnant, moms whose hair turned curly, and even moms who were blessed with perfect skin after the blessed event (I hate these women!) Aaaaaand, then there was me. I was blessed with Chronic Hives. Never heard of such a thing? Yeah, me neither, until I finally went into an allergist to solve my “hive mystery”. I had been breaking out in hives EVERY NIGHT for 4 months all over my stomach, legs, back, and arms after my sweet boy was born.  Go ahead, Google Chronic Hives, it is legit.  Overall, unfortunately, my doctor didn’t have any good answers or advice on how to help me aside from taking drugs, which I wasn’t a fan of since I was breastfeeding. Frustrated and defeated, I called my mom for help (she is a research queen). She read that Chronic Hives can be caused by such triggers as certain types of foods, stress, lack of sleep, and exhaustion. Oh yeah, did I mention I just had a baby? Stress, lack of sleep….it all started making sense.  But the biggest trigger for me was FOOD.

FOOD. I was tired of breaking out in hives. I needed to change my food choices.  I took a deep breath, and then a REALLY deep breath, and cut out ALL sugars (with the exception of honey) ALL processed foods and ALL grains. Now listen: the first 3 weeks were horrible. I love to eat, and I now felt hungry every second of the day. I did eat, I ate all the time, but my body wasn’t satisfied. My body and mind were going through sugar withdrawals, grain withdrawals, Trader-Joe’s-dark-chocolate-sea-salt-covered-almond withdrawals! But I had to do this. I was tired of my skin feeling like fire every night. And before I knew it, there it was: the light at the end of the tunnel! And it was BRIGHT! My hives stopped. And on top of that, even more exciting things started to happen. My stomach seemed to disappear, as in, I couldn’t feel any more aches, no more bloating, no more uncomfortable ‘jean button popping after meals’ kind of thing. My energy stayed up throughout the day. WOW, it was amazing, and still is amazing. Sometimes I take the plunge and enjoy that big glass of sugary red wine or a mouth-watering piece of truffle chocolate cake but the aftermath always reminds me of why I made my lifestyle change. Uncomfortable aches, itchy skin, sleepy eyes and food cravings, be gone! I am now fueling my body for the long haul.

So I started off talking about cereal, but I could replace “cereal” with “t.v. dinners”, “bags of chips”, “frozen pizzas”, “Hamburger Helper”, or any and all of the processed foods that tempt us daily.  We are in a country where sugar and processed foods are in every food aisle we walk down. As for me, I am sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store where most of the real food lies, and am loving my hive free skin, my ache free stomach and knowing that I am fueling my body with the good stuff that will keep me healthy!  You too, have this same ability to only consume foods that are REAL, in their most natural form, but it is not always easy. Most rewarding things in life aren’t easy, and are usually the hardest to achieve. But that’s what makes it SO rewarding.

So ladies and gents you now know why I finally changed my lifestyle, starting with food. A lot of good info goes in one ear and out the other, but our ‘instant gratification button’ we Americans have just won’t cut it when it comes to health. It takes time. But feeling good over the course of your life, is time well spent.