How to Heal Your Body Image with Autoimmune Disease

Would it surprise you if I told you that I grew up struggling with body image? Probably not. And that’s incredibly sad. The number of young girls, women, and yes, men too, that struggle with negative body image is staggering. We all feel the pressure to be look a certain way, and we all feel like we’re not good enough if we don’t look that way. Those of us with chronic autoimmune disease, that can often affect our appearance face this issue of negative body image… including myself.

A negative body image can be incredibly wearing both emotionally and physically, which is why healing my own negative body image was so crucial for healing my own Hashimoto’s and for healing autoimmune disease in general. So, how do you do it?

My Own Negative Body Image Story

To tell you the truth, my negative body image began way before I was ever diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was never a healthy kid growing up. I was never the “thinnest”, the most athletic, or the most stylish. I was frequently ill and little did I know, it was only foreshadowing for more illness to come as I got older. I’d compare myself to the other kids who were thin and healthy and desperately wanted to be like them. Why couldn’t I? Was I just doomed to be self conscious forever?  

By the time I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease at 17, I had already been through over a decade of hating my body… how it looked, how I felt in it, how it made me feel. This diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease meant that I would have a chronic disease for the rest of my life that affected my appearance, mood and energy. 

As my weight became unstable and digestive issues worsened, I began restricting calories and over exercising which only ever resulted in more hatred towards my body. I would obsess over how my appearance changed one day to the other, constantly turning to the side in front of mirrors to see if my tummy was protruding a millimeter more than it was yesterday. It became so maddening, that I eventually resorted to turning the lights off in front of every mirror. Something had to change. Not only did I have to heal my body, but I had to heal my heart.

It took time, dedication, and understanding my situation to heal my body image and start loving my body, but doing all of those things allowed my body to heal. As with any long standing issue with ones habits and mindset understanding it was the first step… 

So, how can autoimmune disease create negative body image? 

Autoimmune disease can present symptoms that alter physical appearance such as:

  • Weight Gain 
  • Weight Loss
  • Skin issues (pigmentation, hives, etc.)
  • Hair thinning or hair loss
  • Inflammation of joints
  • etc.

In a body conscious world, changes or differences in our physical appearance can negatively affect our body image. 

However, how we see our bodies doesn’t have to be all physical appearance. Rather, how we perceive our bodies can be influenced by how well they function. Autoimmune disease often results in some sort of impaired function. Whether it be fatigue, joint pain, headaches, mood shifts, or more, we can so often view our bodies as bad or to be working against us which also contributes to how we view our body in general.

What are the affects of negative body image on autoimmune disease?

Though the physical manifestation of symptoms may indeed be physical, body image is all mental. It’s our negative self-talk when we put on a top that we see as unflattering. It’s the voice in the back of our head saying that our hair looks terrible. It’s the compulsive urge to restrict food an overexercise to shed the unwanted weight. Sound familiar? Me too. And it’s made my autoimmune disease worse when I was this hard on myself. In the words of Buddah himself, “We become what we think”. Our thoughts and perception of ourselves have a powerful impact on how we feel on a daily basis, and how our autoimmune disease progresses.

If we perceive our situation as a bad and our body as bad, that becomes our reality. With autoimmune disease being caused by our body attack itself, the last thing we need is our mind to be attacking itself. 

Beyond perception, having a negative body image is physically stressful to the body. When I would cry and get worked up about how I looked due to weight gain in college, I was influencing a chronic stress response which caused high cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is woven in with the intricate web of our other hormones. If we’re over producing cortisol, our hormones become out of balance, which harms our ability to heal.

Having a negative body image does nothing than exasperate an already unideal situation of autoimmune disease. So what do we do?

How to heal your body image with autoimmune disease

How to Heal and have a Positive Body Image with Autoimmune Disease.

1.  Focus on your health not your appearance.

Society leads us to believe that our appearance is directly connected to our health. Society got it wrong. When we ditch the idea that we have to look a certain way, or weigh a certain amount to be healthy, we do our bodies an incredible favor and make huge strides in our body image healing.

Becoming bound to believing that heal is behind a door that is represented by a certain body is wrong and harmful.  Focus on your health as a whole. That means mental, physical and emotional health.… how much energy do you have? How much did you laugh today? How stressed do you feel? Are you moving your body in a way that you love? Are you enjoying real food that you love? Your health is so much more than your physical appearance. 

2. Nourish your body with whole foods that you love.

A negative body image is often coupled with a strained relationship with food (much more on that later). My own negative body image was married to a bowl of special K cereal with low-fat milk. Food was calories to me, and my negative body image controlled that.

Loving your body is synonymous with treating it well and doing things that enable it to feel better. Special K did not make me feel good nor did calorie restriction. When we nourish our bodies with real food, we give both our body and our mind what it needs to help us feel our best. 

But really, why does what we eat matter for our mental health?

  • We are made-up of millions of cells that are made up of the cholesterol that we consume. Eat fat!
  • Our hormones that influence our mood are made from the proteins that we choose. Eat humanely raised, wild caught, and local!
  • Energy and vitality is fueled by rich vitamins and glucose found in fruits and vegetables. Eat your greens, reds, purples, blues, and anything that was grown on this Earth! 

Now, a nourishing diet is different to everyone. Just because I love bone broth in the morning doesn’t mean that you will. My best advice as a nutritional therapy practitioner is to eat what your body wants that is properly raised, properly prepared, properly portioned, and eaten with gratitude. 

3. Meditate, pray, and journal.

Practicing mindfulness is a game changer in both healing autoimmune disease and having a positive body image. When we really get down the core of hating our bodies and becoming honest with ourselves, we can more easily uncover the truth that our body is not our enemy. However, that realization takes time, self reflection, and hard conversations with yourself that are often best had with journaling, or observed through prayer and meditation.

Journaling isn’t only a a therapeutic way to get out your thoughts, but it can be a great way to reflect. As an avid journal-er (is that a thing?) I love going back to my old journals and seeing how far I’ve come. In the past and the present, it’s helped me to just be honest with myself and express all of my opinions, feelings, and pain associated with how I see my body which is incredibly therapeutic. \

Though restorative yoga has helped me getting closer to mastering mediation, prayer just can’t be replaced for me. Bringing my problems and concerns to God not only help with perspective, but with overall healing. 

4. Practice self-care and positive self-talk. 

That nagging voice always telling you everything that’s holding you back from loving yourself. So much of negative body image can be incredibly internalized and often fueled by negative self talk and poor self-care. Think sleepless nights followed by a constant mental soundtrack telling yourself that you look tired and gross. Been there, done that. 

Turning that negative self talk and lack of self care around allows you to start taking control of how you see your body and how you feel in it. Luckily practicing self-care and positive self-talk is one of the most indulgent and enjoyable parts of this process. Where can you start?

  • Tell yourself that you love yourself… that you’re worthy of love, and that you’re worthy healing. 
  • Enjoy hobbies that you love and may have recently neglected. 
  • Take that “me time” that you’ve been depriving yourself of. 
  • Practice simple indulgences like hot baths, long walks, and a pedicure or two.

Basically… treat yo’ self, and be kind to yo’ self.

5. Focus on more than the exterior.

In my post talking about my weight gain with Hashimoto’s, I say that we need to stop measuring people’s character by their outward appearance. This not only goes for how you see others, but how you see yourself.

You are so much more than your body, and so much more than what your disease may have done to it. You are God’s creation with a personality, a favorite song, a special talent, a beloved hobby, a past, a future, and so much more. You are at least a thousand things other than just your body, and just your disease. 

 

Autoimmune disease is never an ideal situation, I get it. Changes in your body and health can be damaging, and changing your mindset takes time. This process didn’t happen to me over night and it likely won’t for you. However, remember that the process is worth it, and the journey to loving your body is so much richer than a life of hating it. 

Diet & Lifestyle Management with Hashimoto’s

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. None of the content on my blog is not to be substituted for medical advice, or treatment. These are my personal experiences. 

At 17 years old, I suddenly became very sick. I had an irregular heartbeat, was incredibly fatigued, I was having panic attacks, and I had even suffered several fainting spells. Doctors had no good answers and I joined a very large population of people who were sick and didn’t have answers. As my condition worsened, and I saw specialist after specialist, I finally got my answer with a Hashimoto’s disease diagnosis. Though I was given the same prescription of “pills and suck it up” with a lifelong outlook, I eventually learned the power of diet and lifestyle changes.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease where you immune system essentially gets confused and begins attacking your thyroid as if it were a foreign invader. Your thyroid hormones control your metabolism and contribute to the delicate balance of all of your hormones, so when your body begins attacking your thyroid, things go south. The side effects vary from weight issues, to fatigue, to brain fog… the lists goes on and on.

There’s a lot of buzz about Hashimoto’s and gluten, healing your gut, and AIP diets. But, how? Is it really as simple as just cutting out gluten? Or is there more to it?

 

1. First, I recognize that there is more than just diet and address lifestyle factors. (refer to this post)

First, I have to be honest with you and tell you that even though diet is a huge driver of reversing my Hashimoto’s, it’s not all of there is to it. I could have very easily told you that you need to cut out gluten first and leave this question for last to put a nice little PC bow on this blog post. However, that’s simply not the case.

I went years just focusing on diet while keeping stressors in my life such as stressful people, stressful jobs, overly intense exercise, and so forth. I was cleaning up diet, but I was still having flares, anxiety and experiencing unnecessary stress. Diet wasn’t enough to cut out my stressful side job or draining relationships, nor will it ever be.

Though diet is incredibly healing, and necessary for addressing Hashimoto’s disease, it doesn’t stop there. I wrote all about this in my previous blog post, but in summary here are some of the lifestyle factors outside of diet that I addressed beyond diet and why…

  • Stress.
    • Stress produces a lovely hormone called “cortisol”. Cortisol is an emergency hormone that our body takes very, very seriously. The precursor hormone for cortisol is called “pregnenolone”. This is also the precursor hormone for estrogen, testosterone, and others that also play into the delicate balance of thyroid hormone. If your system is overloaded with cortisol, pregnenolone essentially gets diverted away from other hormones and only produces cortisol seeing as its an emergency hormone. This is called the “pregnenolone steal”, and it severely throws off the balance of our hormones which only hurts thyroid function and quality of life further. I know what you’re thinking… “But I can’t quit the super stressful job that has me working 80 hour weeks!”. If it’s affecting your quality of life that much that you’re constantly stressed, it’s time to think deeper into that one.
  • Relationships and support system.
    • Not having adequate support, or worse, having people who outright disapprove of what you’re doing is draining and stressful. Coming to a resolution of compromise with those around you and finding the right support is so important.
  • Exercise.
    • Diet and exercise can often go hand in hand conventionally, but overly intense exercise is stressful and anything but healing. I quit CrossFit, and adopted a routine of yoga, light weight lifting, and walking.
  • Sleep.
    • One of the most under-appreciated healing tools is sleep. You can be doing everything else right but if you’re sleeping 4 hours a night, your healing will be slowed, no question.
  • Attitude and outlook. 
    • Having a positive outlook on life, your diet, and your Hashimoto’s disease is life-changing. Having a bad attitude and doing

2. I addressed my adrenal fatigue.

Also playing intro stress, adrenal fatigue is caused by chronic output of cortisol. Before you go into trying to heal your body with diet, you have to address healing your adrenals as well.

Our adrenals are two glands that are about too inches above your belly button that respond to stress. These glands are only meant to be used in emergency situations, but unfortunately, we zap our adrenals with everything from disregulated blood sugar, to stress from driving. Wearing out our adrenals that results in adrenal fatigue not only kills our energy, but it throws off the delicate balance of our hormones.

I’ll be writing another blog post specifically about healing adrenal fatigue, but I’ll tell your right now that number one is stress reduction! When I had a flare back this fall, I focused 90% of my energy of taking care of my adrenals by cutting back on my commitments, breaking up with intense exercise, and embracing stress reduction techniques. The result? Total control of the flare and a reversal in my antibody levels.

3. I eat a quality, nutrient dense diet rather than just “gluten-free”.

This literally took years and years to perfect. I went entirely too long believing that as long as I was avoiding gluten, my diet was fine. My diet consisted of rice chex with low-fat milk, oatmeal, egg white omelets made with pam spray, the occasional vegetable in the form of carrot sticks, and gluten free pizza. I wasn’t eating gluten, but I also wasn’t nourishing my body and allowing it to heal with the right foods.

The food that we eat is fuel for our very cells and vital for healing our cells. Fats are necessary for our cell membranes, proteins for our hormones, and carbohydrates for our energy. Can you imagine the kind of cell membranes we’re building with pam spray and egg whites? Poor quality nutrition does not enable healing and managing a disease like Hashimoto’s.

Even when it comes to real foods like eggs (which may or may not work for many with Hashimoto’s) factories farmed eggs can have a ratio of omega 3, an anti-inflammatory fat, to omega 6, a pro-inflammatory fat, as unbalanced as 1:16 according to Nourishing Traditions! Whereas, pastured eggs are a perfect 1:1 ratio and promote normal inflammation healing process within the body. The same goes for conventional beef, conventionally packaged bacon, and even seemingly safe products like “organic” chicken. Animals are much like people in the sense that they need real food to be healthy. When we still feed “organic” chicken, “organic” soy and corn, it’s still not part of their natural diet. Animals need to eat a natural diet in order to be a healthy food source.

So, what do you need to look for as far as food quality goes?

  • Pastured rather than free-range, or cage-free eggs or chicken
  • Grass-fed beef, bison, and wild game
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Organic and non-GMO vegetables and fruits (see this list for exceptions)
  • Sustainable coconut oil and palm oil
  • Local when possible

Avoid buzzwords like “natural”, and “gluten-free” as it bears little meaning in the long run.

I know what you’re thinking… cost. Though it may sound expensive, you can easily cut food costs on real food by joining a local co-op, participating in meat shares, and finding local providers through your local Weston A Price chapter.

4. I worked on my gut health.

“Disease begins in the gut”, and that’s especially true for autoimmune disease. It’s said that increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, it part of the root cause of all autoimmunity. Our guts become damaged from a myriad of things such as…

  • Poor digestion
  • Imbalance of gut bacteria
  • Overuse of prescription drugs or NSAIDS
  • Poor diet
  • etc.

I was first diagnosed with leaky gut when I was 20 after having severe distress and fatigue after eating literally everything. It took years and disciple for me to start healing my gut, and my two biggest healers are the following too points…

5. I added in fermented foods, bone broth, and other healing foods to heal and rebalance my gut. 

Avoiding things like gluten and processed foods is certainly part of a healing diet. However, we so often make the misconception that these healing, elimination diets like AIP and Paleo are all about removing, when in reality, they’re just as much about adding.

Adding in fermented foods will help to rebalance your gut bacteria which is crucial for the continued health of your gut. It’s said that one jar of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics! Enjoy foods like sauerkraut, beet kvass, and other fermented veggies.

Bone broth is another great, healing food for a damaged gut. When made properly and from grass-fed/pastured ingredients, bone broth is rich in collagen which is healing to the stomach lining, and full of broken down amino acids that are easy to digest. Proteins are the building blocks of hormones which all comes back to thyroid function, so getting good quality proteins and really assimilating them is huge for a Hashimoto’s diet.

6. I healed my digestion process, and fat absorption.

Even when I started working on healing my gut, and adding more fat into my diet I was still suffering stomach pains and painful gallbladder attacks. What gives? I thought I was gut healing. Let me be clear… gut healing is not always healing your digestion.

An ever-missing link to gut healing, healing your digestion is crucial. In my studies to become a nutritional therapy practitioner, I’ve come to understand that “You are what you digest”. Cutting out and adding in foods is important, but if we’re not digesting them properly, we’re still harming our guts.

So how does proper digestion actually work? Digestion is a north to south process, which can mean that if you’re having a problem further south, like increased intestinal permeability in your small intestines, or “leaky gut” it may very well be caused by dysfunction further north. Digestion is a long process that works sequentially so when one piece is missing, it disrupts the whole process.

If food is not properly digested and absorbed, we will never heal our the damage done to our gut, nor will we actually heal our body after the damage done to it by our immune system. We need food as fuel and nutrition to support our health at a cellular level… especially fats which are very commonly malabsorbed. If we’re not digesting our food, we’re not healing. 

How do you start to improve digestion?

  • Slow down when you eat.
  • Chew, chew, chew your food.
  • Supplement with stomach acid supplements like HCL and bitters. This was a huge game changer for me. Work with a practitioner to get to your own sweet spot here.
  • Add foods like beet kvass for better fat digestion.

7. There is no one perfect diet, but AIP is the general template that I followed.

There is no one, perfect, miracle diet for Hashimoto’s disease. We’re all individuals and our bodies and disease are all different. Having Hashimoto’s disease does not magically unite hundreds of thousands of people by designating this perfect diet that magically works for everyone. We have individual needs, sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances.

However, AIP is the general template I followed. You can find a full list of foods here. 

 

8. I cook at home as much as possible.

I get it, processed gluten-free convenience foods are just that… convenient. A gluten free convenience food and gluten-free menu items at a restaurant are fast and easy, and just what we need that sometimes. However, when these convenience foods and “safe”  restaurant options become staples, it’s time to take a step back. Though these may be acceptable treats for some, they’re neither healing nor nourishing to the body.

Cooking at home is not only the more traditional way to eat, but it ensures better control over your food quality and ingredients. Even seemingly safe convenience foods carry risk of poor quality oils, cross-contamination, and less than ideal macronutrient ratios. Having more control and ownership over your food will set you up for success.

It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy sashimi and an epic bar at the park every now and then, but I’ve learned to love cooking at home and have lots of recipes here of what I eat weekly as well as meal prep tips.

9 . I worked to control my blood sugar.

I never wanted to admit that I had a blood sugar problem. I though that blood sugar was only a concern for those with diabetes and had nothing to do with my thyroid or hormones. Quite incorrect… we need to know and facts and recognize that controlling our blood sugar is crucial for diet with Hashimoto’s.

Remember all of that talk about cortisol and how it throws off our hormones? Well, stress isn’t the only factor for chronic cortisol output. Sugar is another factor. In normal blood sugar regulation, we wouldn’t have to rely on cortisol. There really isn’t pure, processed sugar in nature that we’d fine in sodas, cakes, and breads, so our bodies didn’t evolve with the need to lower blood sugar. However, when we’re drinking coffee with sugar, and eating sugary cereal or sweetened oatmeal, and having soda and having sugary food after sugary food, we’re spiking our blood sugar beyond what our body can handle. We’re over loading our liver and pancreas who are responsible for processing all of this glucose and we’re putting ourselves on a blood sugar roller coaster that’s stressing out our bodies and forcing cortisol production to deal with the stress.

Every get hangry? How about that 3PM feeling? You’re looking at blood sugar swings, subsequent cortisol output, and an eventual imbalance in hormones that only worsens Hashimoto’s symptoms and management.

So, how can you lower, and control blood sugar?

  • I started out by ditching the coffee… its a huge contributor to spiking blood sugar as well blood sugar as well.
  • Cut out the artificial sweeteners (I’m looking at you, stevia and diet soda). They still spike your blood sugar.
  • Eat natural sugars in moderation.
  • Pair carbohydrates that may spike your blood sugar with fat to slow absorption.
  • Eat fat! Go to an avocado when you’re hungry rather than a smoothie. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Enjoy treats within moderation.

 

Don’t worry, I still live a little. However, rather than diving headfirst into a candy jar at work, I opt for fruit, or a low sugar AIP treat.

10. I tried to break my obsession and not stress around food.

It’s easy to get sucked into the details and become obsessed when it comes to as restricted diet. It’s stressful to be constantly meal planning, shopping, sourcing good quality food, and cooking. In the beginning, the stress really bogged me down. Head my warning, that this stress can be just as bad as eating a poor quality diet. Stress is harmful to our bodies and throws off our hormones as well.

At the beginning, it is inherently stressful, but it only lasts until it becomes a habit. I powered through the stressful point and tried to quiet that voice in my head as much as possible until it became routine. I wrote another post about How to Deal With Stress on a Healing Diet that has action steps on how to combat this.

11. I changed my diet for the right reasons.

We can so easily identify anything diet related to things like weight loss, that we lose sight of why we started. I’ve written about weight gain before, and it’s tempting to just want to restrict calories and change your diet to lose weight. I’ve been there… and it never lasted. I hated that way I ate because the reason behind it was out of hating my body.

With Hashimoto’s, and with an autoimmune disease, and really anyone, we should be eating a good diet because we care about our bodies not because we want to be thin, not because we want to look a certain way, and not because everyone else is doing it… Do it because you love yourself.

So, long story short… Hashimoto’s is manageable and a healthy lifestyle is achievable! I’m not going to say it’s easy, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it is so, so worth it.

 

50+ Paleo & AIP Sweet Potato Recipes

I don’t feel like I grew up around a lot of people eating sweet potatoes. These days, sweet potato fries are everywhere. They’re trendy, they’re tasty, and they’re a great alternative to white potatoes which are harmful (to many) nightshades. Nightshades definitely aren’t allowed on the autoimmune protocol, and I found myself not eating them way before I ever even heard of the AIP. Whether you’re following a Paleo template, AIP, Whole 30, or are just eating real food, you can probably relate to me when I say that I eat a lot of sweet potatoes. I welcome these versatile tubers with open arms, but sometimes just throwing them in the oven can get a little old. We all need new recipes every so often!

Luckily, there are a ton of ways to reinvent sweet potatoes on the autoimmune protocol. I rounded up my favorite Paleo AIP sweet potato recipes from my favorite bloggers. Enjoy this fun recipe roundup of Autoimmune Paleo Sweet Potato Recipes!

Breakfast 

Apple and Bacon Loaded Sweet Potato  by A Squirrel in the Kitchen 

Breakfast Sausage of Sweet Potato Hashbrowns  by He Won’t Know It’s Paleo 

Breakfast Skillet (with sweet potatoes, of course) by Autoimmune Paleo

Lox and Everything Sweet Potatoes by Grazed and Enthused

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash by Meatified 

Sweet Potato Scramble by Food and Sunshine 

Sweet Potato, Apple, Squash, and Bacon Harvest Hash by Brittany Angell (omit black pepper for AIP)

Sweet Potato, Apple and Pancetta Hash by Gutsy by Nature

Sweet Potato Waffles by Further Food

Fries 

Cilantro Lime Sweet Potato Steak Fries by Brittany Angell (omit Cayenne for AIP)

Crispy Sweet Potato Oven Fries by Gutsy by Nature 

Crispy, Oven- Baked Sweet Potato fries by Meljoulwan

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Fries by Cup of Sugar Pinch of Salt 

Sweet Potato Crunchies by Skinny Ms

Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic “Mayo” by Autoimmune Paleo

Pull-apart Sweet Potato Fries by Make the Best of Everything

Chips

Easy Baked Sweet Potato Chips by Paleo on a Dime 

Homemade Sweet Potato Chips made in the Dehydrator by Eating Bird Food 

Sweet Potato Chips by the Paleo Mom

Rosemary and Sea Salt Sweet Potato Chips by Sweet Potatoes and Plaid 

Pasta 

Paleo Sweet Potato and Sausage “Pasta” by Primal Eye

Sweet Potato Gnocchi by Paleo Pumpkin

Sweet Potato Spaghetti by Healthy Living How To

Turkey and Zucchini Lasagna with Sweet Potato Noodles by He Won’t Know it’s Paleo 

Soups and Chili 

Carrot and Sweet Potato Chili by Autoimmune Paleo

Cozy Sweet Potato Ham and Kale Soup by Heartbeet Kitchen 

Sausage and Kale Soup with Sweet Potato by Sweet Treats Baking

Simple AIP Sweet Potato Soup by Sweet Potatoes and Social Change 

Sweet Potato, Artichoke and Bacon Soup by A Clean Plate

Sweet Potato and Broccoli Soup by Meatified 

Sweet Potato Chili by A Clean Plate

More Savory

AIP Sweet Potato Casserole by AIP Lifestyle 

Bison Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Unbound Wellness 

Bread Free Holiday Party Stuffing by Empowered Sustenance (use bacon grease for AIP)

Moroccan- Spiced Rice by Grazed and Enthused

Silky Sweet Potato Puree by Grazed and Enthused 

Spinach and Sweet Potato Bombs by Eat Drink Paleo

Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by a Squirrel in the Kitchen 

Succulent Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Beyond the Bite 

Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet by Primavera Kitchen (omit black an red pepper for AIP)

Sweet Potato Nachos by It’s Me Charlotte 

Whipped Sweet Potatoes by Balanced Bites (use coconut oil for AIP)

Sweet 

Anti-Grain Sweet Potato Flour Cinnamon Coffee Cake by Beyond the Bite 4 Life

Blueberry topped Baked Sweet Potato by Comfort Bites 

Purple Sweet Potato Ice Cream by Zesty Paleo 

Sweet Potato Freezer Fudge by Grazed and Enthused 

Sweet Potato, Coconut and Vanilla Cookies by Healing Family Eats 

Sweet Potato Ice Cream by Paleo OMG (omit nuts and nutmeg for AIP)

Sweet Potato Lefse by Sweet Treats Baking

Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallows by Enjoying this Journey 

Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake by Autoimmune Paleo

Sweet Potato Raisin Scones by Cook it up Paleo 

Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon by Primal Palate

I hope this AIP sweet potato recipe round up gives you tons of ideas! Special thanks to all of the wonderful bloggers who created these sweet, masterpieces.

 

How to Name your Business or Blog as a Health Entrepreneur

So, I’ve decided to start blogging once a month about marketing for health professionals and bloggers. Why? Well, my passion is health, autoimmune disease, and I’m currently studying to be a nutritional therapy practitioner. However, my day job is digital marketing. My degree is in Emerging Media and Communication and I’ve managed paid advertising, website development, social media, and content marketing for brands with TV shows, nonprofits, and even a popular Paleo brand. I’m constantly thinking about how everything works in a digital space, and really just want to share my knowledge here! So many NTP’s, nutritionist, health professionals, and health bloggers start their business or brand and just kind of wait for the business to come to them… I want to share about how to bring it to you!

First, I want to start at the ground floor, and that’s naming your business. Before you can have a thriving business, practice, or blog, you have to actually create it by naming it. I know what you’re thinking. “All of the good names are already taken”, or “I’m not creative enough”. However, it’s totally within your grasps to come up with a unique, catchy name for your business or blog as a health entrepreneur.

Here are my 7 tips on how to name your business…

 How to Name your Business or Blog as a Health Entrepreneur

1.Do your research. You could have the best idea for the most catchy name, but if it’s already taken or too close to another brand, it’s best to start from scratch. Here’s what you want to research…

  • Domain. You really, really want a .com. They’ll almost always rank better in terms of SEO (organic search), and are much easier to remember. People will always default to a .com, so you’ll tire yourself out always reminding people if it’s a .net.
  • Avoid dashes. This is another one that’s hard for people to remember.
  • Social media. Ensure that you can get your name on all social media platforms. I’m still trying to get my blog name on twitter, and it’s a pain.
  • Other brands. Is there a brand that’s similar to yours that also has a similar name? I’d say it’s a no go.

2. Don’t get tied down to a specific “diet”. This is a tricky one. It’s undeniable that people do search for certain diets like, the “paleo diet”, “gluten free” or “vegan”. Even if you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll always recommended that diet, I’d advise to pick a name that doesn’t tie yourself to a diet template, especially if you’re a health professional or more broad based blogger (exception to follow).

I’d be lying if I said that no one has ever been successful with a name the includes “Gluten Free”, or some other diet template. Many people make it work. However, I’d still recommend that you’re going to be saving yourself some potential backlash.

So, what exactly could happen?

  • You may have to denounce that diet template one day. People change… what if I were to tell you that I almost never ate meat but am now a happy bacon eater? What if I named my blog, “NoMeatGirl” or something like that? I’d have to go back on that promise that I made my audience and probably suffer a lot of backlash. Jordan Younger of BalancedBlonde who was once the BlondeVegan, or Alex Jameson were both vegans and suffered severe backlash from the Vegan community when they changed their tastes.
  • The demand could change. I can pretty much guarantee that I’m going to have to stay gluten free for the rest of my life. However, will “gluten free” still be a big as it 10 years from now? Will it still be called “gluten free”? I can’t guarantee that.

Here are a few case studies that better help illustrate that point…

Realfoodliz.com

Many of you know and love Liz Wolfe. She’s smart, funny, and is basically one of favorites. Before she was Real Food Liz, she was Cave Girl Eats. Though I can’t say I know the exact reason behind Liz’s name change, I can tell you that it was an excellent move. “Cave Girl” comes with the association with Paleo, and though Liz follows a general Paleo template, she doesn’t preach strict Paleo. Rather, she built her brand off of real food. Real food fits her brand better, is more relatable to the general public, and hey, “real food” gets a lot more searches than “cave girl” according to Google trends.

Abel James of the Fat Burning Man and the Wild Diet

I became familiar with Abel from the Fat Burning Man podcast. He has several great products including “The Wild Diet”. The Wild Diet is very similar to the Paleo Diet. However, by creating his own brand, Abel saw some huge success. Not only was he still appealing to a defined Paleo audience, but he was opening up the potential to those who potentially had a bad impression of the term, “Paleo”. the term, “Paleo” is still hot right now, but who knows where it’ll be in 10 years? By coining his own term, Abel was thinking a step ahead of the game.

3. Consider your possible niche. As I said before, it’s best to stay more broad if you’re a health professional or a broad blogger, but if you’re really just wanting to zero in on a niche and have researched the heck out of it, you need to consider that niche.

Not every brand needs to be detached from “trendy” terms. Even though you don’t want to get too tied down to a certain diet template or trend, you may still have to consider your niche if you’re really looking to get focused and zero in on a very narrow audience. Take the following example…

SimpleGreenSmoothies.com

Though “green smoothies” is a bit of a trendy term, it works for their brand which is just about the smoothies. These ladies actually got started in the health world with a much more broad brand, but quickly found that it just wasn’t working for them, and Simple Green Smoothies took off. Their brand is now much more narrow, but it works.

5. Be memorable and unique. We all remember catchy jingles, funny commercials, and short, snappy names. The easier to spell, the better in the internet age!  

6. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help and opinion. Even the biggest, most successful brands have outside agencies come in to help them build their brand or come up with their name. It’s so incredibly helpful to have an outside perspective. So, who can you ask?

  • Friends and family
  • Coworkers
  • Likeminded people in your target market (find them on forums, other blogs, etc)
  • Your website or graphic designer 
  • Your social media community/friends

7. Don’t get too hung up on it. When you’re an entrepreneur, you want things to be perfect… I get it. However, if picking a name is really holding you up that much that you’re delaying the process of launching your business by weeks and months, just pull the trigger. If it doesn’t work down the line, remember that even the biggest brands have changed their name. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world.

When naming my own business/blog, it was kind of painstaking. I was so set on one name with a domain that was already taken and almost forked over hundreds of dollars for it. However, after I stopped getting too hung up on just one name, I did my research, ask some friends, and named my blog. More importantly… that enabled me to launch it. 

So, what about you? How did you name your blog or business? Or if you’re still naming it, what are you struggling with the most?

Coconut Kale Smoothie Bowl | Autoimmune Paleo & Gut Healing

This post contains affiliate links. Learn what that means, here.

Have you ever seen those big beautiful smoothies on Instagram? The ones that are just overflowing from a mason jar or have a mosaic of toppings in a bowl? They look so beautiful, so fresh, and most of the time… pretty full of sugar. If you actually take a good look at the recipes that go along with these popular smoothie bowls or juices, they’re usually packed with sugar, scarce on veggies, and almost always void of healthy fats and protein. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! That’s why I created a nourishing smoothie bowl thats packed with all the good stuff while still being full of flavor.

Smoothies can be one of those pseudo-health foods that seem healthy, but can have just as much sugar as a soda if not more if not made properly. So, what does a good, nutrient dense smoothie need?

Mostly veggies. Especially leafy greens! Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of leafy greens. Have as many veggies as you want in your smoothies!

Moderate fruit. Fruit may be natural sugar, but it’s still sugar. And in excess, it’s still going to swing your blood sugar and not satiate you. If you’re relying on mostly fruit to make your smoothie, I guarantee that you’ll be hungry soon after and craving more sugar. In nature, we didn’t have much need for more than 2 servings of fruit a day. However, smoothies can easily have 3-4 servings of fruit along with sugar-y juice that’s void of fiber. Try sticking to one serving of fruit in a smoothie and using something like a frozen banana, or fresh berries.

Healthy Fats. Fat is usually the big thing that’s missing from most smoothies. Healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil are a great addition to a smoothie, and are what actually satiates us. Adding a tablespoon of fat to your smoothie will help keep you full.

Good quality protein. Extra protein is a great addition to a smoothie, but be cautious of poor quality powders. Many protein powders can be filled with sugar, fake ingredients, and soy. I like adding grass-fed collagen to my smoothies. It doesn’t add any funky taste either! Collagen from grass-fed cows is also great for gut healing as helps to restore the intestinal lining that is often destroyed by leaky gut. Get some here!

It’s also important to note that I say smoothies not juices. Juices can be great in moderation if you’re juicing mostly vegetables, but when we’re talking fruit juice, it’s a huge shot to your blood sugar. 

Now that we’ve got all of the essentials laid out, let’s put them all together in my coconut kale smoothie bowl!

Print

Coconut Kale Smoothie Bowl | Autoimmune Paleo & Gut Healing


Scale

Ingredients

  • 34 large kale leaves
  • 2 pieces of frozen peach
  • 1 tbsp collagen hydrolysate (link to buy above)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 ice cubes
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • For topping
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tbsp coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Wash and destem the kale leaves
  2. Add the kale to a blender of choice with coconut milk and juice of 1/4 lemon
  3. Blend for 20-30 seconds or until very smooth and no longer chunky
  4. Add in frozen peach and ice cubes and blend until smooth and blender is no longer working to blend frozen items
  5. Add collagen and coconut oil and blend for 10 seconds
  6. Pour smoothie into a bowl (or glass if preferred)
  7. Top with banana slices and coconut flakes
  8. Eat with a spoon and enjoy!

I highly recommend trying this out if you’re looking for a cold treat, or are struggling to get extra leafy greens into your diet. Not only is it nutrient dense, but it’s so much fun to eat!

Do you make smoothie bowls? What are you go-to toppings?

Adult Coloring for Stress Relief and Healing Autoimmune Disease

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SAD diets, 8 hrs + a day sitting, less sleep, screens galore… it’s no secret that we’re sick and out of balance. In my journey with an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroid disease) I’ve learned that balancing multiple health and wellness practices are key to maintaining my health. It’s not enough to just exercise if I’m not eating well, etc. Stress reduction always seems to be one of the last hills that try to climb. It’s just so daunting and seems impossible to conquer. However, when we break it down into tactics and practices rather than just one big picture, it suddenly becomes more manageable. Enter the hottest new stress reduction strategy, adult coloring.

Adult coloring has blown up in the past year. No, seriously, look at the Google trends.The number of people searching “adult coloring” in the past year has increased tremendously and is only trending upwards.

It went from something that I never really heard about to taking over Urban Outfitters shelves across the country. Everybody’s doing it and talking about the positive impacts of adult coloring. So, what gives? Why did it just blow up? Should you be doing it?

First, why are we obsessed?

I can’t tell you exactly why it blew up, or “went viral” per-sey. Sometimes these things just happen. Here are some theories as to why we’re so obsessed with coloring all of a sudden.

  1. We’re overly stressed. It’s no secret that we’re all stressed. The world that we live in is just so unnatural and the list of stressors goes on and on.

      2. We’re sick and need healing. Chronic illness and autoimmune disease are on the rise. Allopathic medicine tells us take our NSAID’s and prescriptions and deal with it. After living with autoimmune thyroid disease for over 7 years, I can tell you that there’s more to healing than prescription drugs.  

      3. We’re obsessed with visuals. In the age of Instagram, people want to stare at pretty things.

      4. The internet makes random things hot. Cue the Harlem Shake, The Dress, and anything that Drake does. Not to say that adult   coloring is totally random, but it’s a little random.

I won’t be the first one in this world of healthy living blogging to say that my life is still a bit stressful. Eating well, praying, sleeping, and practicing yoga will always be a huge burden off my body that feels the need to attack itself (i.e. my autoimmune disease), but I can still go to bed some nights with the gnawing feeling of stress and anxiety. I knew that I needed a good, hands on way to chill myself out a bit more to promote healing.

When you have autoimmune disease you’re in this constant state of either healing or maintaining a healed state. Stress reduction is essential for healing. There are so many ways that your body and mind can get stressed. Whether you’re fighting your autoimmune disease or chronic illness, battling blood sugar swings, or just have too much on your plate, you’re stressing your body out. When we stress our bodies out they stop focusing on repairing and go into high alert to fight just the stress and inflammation that we’re experiencing. Reducing all types of stress (both physical and mental) enable the body to calm down and heal, or maintain a healed state. Coloring is just one way to achieve just that.

Adult Coloring for Stress Reduction and Healing Autoimmune disease

How does coloring de-stress and heal?

  1. Art and coloring are proven to de-stress. Psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung actually recommended his patients to color as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Many psychologists follow in his footsteps, and for good reasons. Art and coloring are proven to de-stress by relaxing our brains.
  2. Increased creativity. Something about about adult life… well, everything about adult life stifles creativity. We’re expected to color within the lines. Our day to day lives are routine, pre-planned and lack creativity in multiple regards. Getting back in touch with your creativity can be so mentally therapeutic. It’s especially healing in a nostalgic sense if you were a creative child.
  3. Better hand-eye coordination. This is may be more of a personal experience, but when I suffer a flare with my own autoimmune disease, I deal with decreased coordination. My hands get shaky, it gets harder to write and I stumble around. Sitting down and focusing on something like coloring help me focus on my hand-eye coordination while doing something calming.
  4. Staring at something other than a screen. Face it, we’re all entirely too screen happy. I go from staring at my computer all day at work, to starting at it most of the evening when I’m blogging and doing school work. It’s so unnatural, and never ending. Not only is it bad for our eyes but it can toxic to our mental state depending on what we’re constantly looking at. be Taking even just 20 minutes to color at night rather than starting at my phone is therapeutic in itself.
  5. Fun and play de-stress. No matter how lame it may seems to call coloring “fun”, it’s light years more fun than scrolling through instagram and seeping into some crazy comparison fueled self-hate spiral. Coloring is a form of play by nature as well as in a nostalgic sense. We played more as kids, and we much better off for it.

When I first got my hands on a coloring book, I instantly felt calm out. Turning the pages and seeing the tessellating patterns, bare of any vibrancy and wondering what colors I could add to it. It was both hypnotic as well as nostalgic. Ever since my husband gifted me a coloring book for Christmas, I’ve used it for 20 minutes or so on days when I feel too stressed and it’s been nothing but a pleasure.

I’d been wanting to get started and do it for a while but didn’t really start until it was gifted to me. So, how can you get started?

How to Get Started

Colored pencils, markers, crayons or whatever coloring utensil you choose! I recommend these colored pencils from Yoobi. (photo from Amazon)

If anything they’re just super cute and I’ve been loving using them. Markers bleed and crayons just always bothered me when I was a kid. Colored pencil, 4ever.

As for the coloring book, I recommend, this one, or this one. I just love the patterns but you can grab whichever interests you most! (photo also from Amazon).

You can also download patterns online and print them out. This seems like a great place to get started for that.

Finally, to get started you’ll have to swallow your pride or any weird feelings you have against. coloring. Keep an open mind and just go for it!

Have you jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon? What are your thoughts?