Author Archives: Guest Diva
It’s the time of year so many people dread. Just when the last of the Halloween candy is either consumed or discarded; BAM! Thanksgiving. And the sugar binge begins anew.
The holiday season is a three-month junk food marathon, but Thanksgiving is the foremost culprit. Why? The entire holiday is based around a meal! Sure, we drive (or fly) for hours to visit family and friends, but what do we do when we get there? Eat. We eat like it’s our job.
Before you start dreaming about the pumpkin pie and stuffing, consider this: On average, Americans tend to gain weight over the holidays every year, and it often accumulates over time.
1. Drink Water
Make it at least a gallon a day. It sounds like a lot if you’re not used to drinking water, but the benefits of keeping yourself hydrated are something you can really be thankful for. For a food-based holiday like Thanksgiving, drinking water is key, because it makes you feel full. If you feel more full, you’re less likely to have that second helping of stuffing, or that third piece of pie. In addition to that, every time you drink a glass of water, you didn’t drink a glass of soda, or beer, or any other beverage that hides sugar and empty calories.
I know, easier said than done, right? Still, the holidays are stressful enough without denying your body the time it needs to recover and rejuvenate itself. Sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health, and so before the weekend with the in-laws, make sure you’re getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Keep in mind, that most people need more. If you don’t sleep enough, your body is going to think it’s starving, and it’s going to retain water, and store as much fat as it can. Not only that, but your body is going to start craving sugar to help keep you awake. Add on three days of binging on sweets and carbs, and that ten pounds could pile on pretty quick.
3. Change the Menu
I know the traditionalists out there just cringed, but really, what’s more important, your health or yams with marshmallow? From introducing low-carb substitutes, to simply making less of certain dishes, there are plenty of menu-fixes which can help keep you trim this November.
Too many people throw down completely unhealthy food because it’s tradition. Cranberry sauce? You might as well serve Jell-O, for the amount of sugar that’s in a typical can of that stuff. Wherever you can, try to eliminate as many carbs, and as much sugar, as you can from the menu. Maybe your family will enjoy mixed berries and homemade whipped cream just as much as apple pie.
Now, I’m not saying cut out all of the family favorites, but recipes can be tweaked, like using stevia instead of sugar in the apple pie, or fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned yams. Try topping those yams with pecans instead of marshmallow. Finally, if there’s something your family absolutely HAS to have, like stuffing, make half as much. Nobody needs to eat 8 ounces of bread on top of a full meal folks; nobody.
4. Cauliflower Is Your Friend
Speaking of tweaking recipes, cauliflower’s so good that it gets its own point. You all know broccoli’s pale cousin. Well, there are so many empty carbs in the Thanksgiving meal that you can replace with this one vegetable, it’s amazing.
· Replace breadcrumbs. Grate the cauliflower with a cheese grater (or buy it pre-riced, many supermarkets now sell it this way) and bake it on a cookie sheet.
· Pureé and use it to thicken gravy instead of cornstarch or flour.
· Don’t mash potatoes. Boil cauliflower and mash that instead. Throw in some garlic and butter, or sour cream and chives, and it’ll taste so good, the substitution will go unnoticed.
5. Portion Control
It’s only a salad plate if there’s salad on it. Seriously, serve your meal on salad plates. It’s ingrained in us to go back for seconds on Thanksgiving, so make the portions smaller. Dinner plates are enormous, and if people fill those up knowing that they’re going back for more, there’s no way their bodies are going to be able to process all of that.
Speaking of seconds, make a mental note to have a full glass of water after your first plate. A good 16 ounces of water after your first helping, and maybe you’ll decide you don’t really need that second one. Not only that, but the Thanksgiving meal is heavy in sodium, so your body will be grateful for the extra water.
6. Assign Dishes
A lot of people do this already, and it can really work to your advantage. If you’re the chef this November 23rd, focus on the turkey, and assign your guests a side dish. It’s too easy to graze when you’re preparing the whole show, and regardless of where you eat what, the calories always count. Save yourself the hassle of picking while you cook, and outsource the fixings.
In addition, there’s no law against doubling down on protein. Instead of stuffing and mashed potatoes, maybe you offer turkey and ham?
While you’re at it, disposable Tupperware is cheap. Send all your guests home with leftovers, so you don’t have to eat it every day. You’re much less likely to eat stuffing if it’s in someone else’s house.
7. Arrive Prepared & Don’t Graze
So, maybe you’re the guest and the food is taken care of. Bring what YOU need to stay on track! If you know folks are going to be drinking wine, or cocktails, bring along some sparkling water for yourself so you can feel fancy too. Or, if you’re worried about the pre-meal spread, bring something you know you can eat that isn’t crammed with sugar and carbs. Crudités (sliced veggies and dip) is something everyone can eat, and it’s a pre-meal snack that won’t dump sugar into your bloodstream.
There’s no rule saying you have to eat all day long. Arrive fashionably late. Don’t show up until the main event. And remember there’s nothing like a walk after a big meal to clear your head and get you away from the dessert table. You can play with the kids, take the dog for a walk, socialize with friends, or anything; just don’t put yourself in the same room as the food.
Remember, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a three-month long chow-fest. The habits you set and the tricks you use can use this November 23rd can set you up for success in the coming months. Drink your water, get as much sleep as you can, and avoid the sugar and carbs. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about being with the people you love; don’t make it about food.
About the Author:
Cristy “Code Red” Nickel is an author, speaker, and celebrity nutritionist. Since 1994, she has helped thousands lose weight by eating real food. She is the author of The Code Red Revolution, which details her 7 simple rules for losing all the weight you want without pills, shakes, diet foods, or exercise.
Learn more about Cristy “Code Red”
Need a Mental Health Break? When You Know It’s Time for a Vacation
Guest post written by Henry Moore from FitWellTraveler.com
If you’ve felt overworked, anxious, or exhausted lately, you’re not alone. Record numbers of Americans report feeling fatigued and stressed out. Taking care of our responsibilities at home while also caring for our own health is becoming trickier than ever.
One possible solution might be more accessible than you think. If you’ve felt overworked, overstressed, or even just anxious lately, it might be time for a vacation. Travel brings many mental health benefits that actually help us get centered, live in the moment, and become rejuvenated by the time we return home.
If you’re having trouble convincing yourself that it’s time for your next vacation, here are some reasons why some time away is actually good for your mental health.
1. Stress Relief
Travel can be an incredible way to let go of your daily stresses so you can simply learn to enjoy life again. It allows you to reconnect with nature, yourself, and even your loved ones. While soaring above the clouds or standing beside the ocean, our problems seem miniscule in proportion to the vastness of the world we live in.
2. Boosting Your Positive Traits
Travel may actually change your personality for the better. When we meet new people and visit new places, we open ourselves up to new experiences. In addition to boosting creativity, travel (especially to a foreign country) makes us more adaptable, open to change, emotionally stable, and less reactive.
3. Emotional Benefits
Travel improves emotional health, starting even before you leave and lasting after you return from vacation. One study found that people are happiest during the vacation planning process. Travel also boosts positive thinking with regards to our health, quality of life in all areas, and even current economic situation. In addition to increased happiness and reduced stress, travel relieves anxiety by allowing the mind to reset and providing physical and mental distance from stressors.
There you have it: travel really is good for you! To make the most of your time off, try engaging in activities that are known for reducing stress. This might include attending a yoga class, relaxing in a pool or hot tub, or splurging on a professional massage with aromatherapy.
To allow yourself to really relax and have a worry-free vacation, it’s also important to ensure your beloved pets are taken care of while you’re gone. Some pet owners prefer to bring their pets on vacation with them. If that isn’t an option for you, hiring a pet sitter might be your best bet. Consider having a family member or friend watch your dog or check on your cat, or hire a professional dog walker or pet sitter.
What are you waiting for? Taking a vacation will help your mental and emotional health. It might just be what you need to return to a centered, calm state of being. Your upcoming vacation will help prepare you for your next important project when you come home. Besides, you’ll be taking the steps toward building character traits that will ultimately make you a better person. Bon voyage!
Check out more of Henry’s work at FitWellTraveler.com
Julie’s Psoriatic Arthritis Journey
Today Julie from It’s just a bad day, not a bad life shares how she treats psoriasis. Please remember that Julie and I are not medical professionals and cannot give medical advice. We are just sharing our experiences and opinions. Check out It’s just a bad day, not a bad life and be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In the beginning
I started having knee problems when I was in fifth grade. At first, the doctors treated me symptom by symptom, but soon were unsure of how to help me. When I was in middle school, my orthopedic surgeon suggested I see a rheumatologist. I ended up getting two opinions. One said nothing was conclusive, but the other suggested I had psoriatic arthritis. Because I wasn’t even through puberty yet, he didn’t think it was a good idea to start on the new drugs that has just hit the scene – biologics. He suggested I treat the flare ups as they came.
I never believed what he said. I remember my Mom and I having screaming matches when she would suggest my problems were arthritis related. I was a young teen, not a grandma. How could I have arthritis? We didn’t have the internet to do research and I certainly didn’t know anyone who had psoriatic arthritis. My family and I had no idea what psoriatic arthritis even meant. None of us truly understood what it meant until about 17 year later.
What started as a simple surgery (my 4th knee surgery) in June 2012, turned into having another surgery in September (my 5th), resulting in a week long hospital stay in December 2012. As I laid in that hospital bed, I wanted anything and everything that could get my pain and inflammation under control. I couldn’t even move without pain shooting through my whole body. I spent weeks on end not being able to rest or function. After “officially” being given a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis I was put on methotrexate. About 3 months later, I began taking Humira. I first started taking Humira bi-weekly, but after a year of taking it I switched to weekly.
During the course of 2012 and 2013, I was put on so many different medications. At the height of it all, I was on 9 different prescription drugs, plus two different injections. It was for a myriad of different conditions – psoriatic arthritis, avascular necrosis, complex regional pain syndrome, depression, anxiety, prothrombin thrombophilia and melanoma. Every time I went to the doctor with a new symptom, I was given a new prescription.
Time for a change
I really started to get fed up and knew there had to be a better way. Learning from others on Twitter, Facebook and through blogs, I started a journey to change my life.
I became a data crunching machine, logging EVERY little thing about myself. I created my own pain scale so that I could accurately reflect my pain on a day-to-day bases and a massive excel spreadsheet to log every little data point I could think of. My chiropractor has always taught me that everything can be traced back to a physical, emotional or chemical cause. I was determined to figure out what was making me sick and how to manage it.
In the end, I was able to create my own personalized treatment plan. I started putting things together and began to eliminate foods, toxins, activities and other things from my life that caused me flare ups. I went being on disability, spending 5-6 days not able to get out of bed, to working and even teaching yoga twice a week! After all my research, there are 5 main pillars to my psoriatic arthritis treatment: Diet, supplements, avoiding toxins, meditation, and yoga/movement.
I was able to get off of ALL of my medications after making these adjustments. I stayed off of Humira for 2 years, but just within the last few months I did have to start back on Otezla. It was a tough pill to swallow (pun intended), but I know I have to do what’s best for my body.
Living an amazing life
Every day I have to focus on managing my condition. Whether it’s the food I eat, the amount of rest I get, how much work I’m doing or focusing on self care. My condition never gives me a day off. BUT, having said that, I still live an amazing life.
Throughout all of my health struggles, I’ve truly found my strength. I’ve found my passion in life, I’ve met some pretty inspiring people (like Cynthia!) and I even had the opportunity to present at Stanford Medicine X this past year a case study on all of the changes I’ve done to manage my psoriatic arthritis. Had I not gone on this healthy journey, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. And for that, I am grateful.
Alisha shares her long road to relief from psoriasis
Today Alisha from Being me in my own skin shares how she treats psoriasis. Please remember that Alisha and I are not medical professionals and cannot give medical advice. We are just sharing our experiences and opinions. Check out Being me in my own skin and be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Before the early 90’s there were no vaccines for chicken pox. Chicken pox is an itchy, blister-like rash that usually comes and goes away after about a week. As a kid, it was a virus you were expect to catch, it wasn’t a big deal. Some parents would even purposely expose their children to other kids who were currently contagious with the virus so they could get the process over with before they became too old. The vaccine for chicken pox was approved in the early 90’s for kids, so this virus is a thing of the past. Unfortunately I acquired the chick pox virus at the age of 7, around the same year the vaccine became available. Prior to the virus I had patches of dry skin on my knees and elbows, but my family didn’t think anything of it. After chicken pox, you normally have scars left behind, which signify your encounter with the virus and the amount of scratching you did. My grandmother noticed my “scars” were a little different than what normally appears after the virus leaves. She then took me to the dermatologist who surveyed my skin and determined I had psoriasis.
At that age it was hard to comprehend exactly what it meant to have psoriasis. I knew I was different but the ideas of beauty did not manifest until around the 5th grade, this is when the pressures of good looks and school crushes came into play. The treatment side was also a challenge. Up until the age of 18, the only treatments I could use were topicals, phototherapy, and occlusion. My grandmother was desperate to help me to achieve clear skin. She would take me to phototherapy at least 4 times a week. The trip to the doctor was about 50 miles there and back. As you cabn imagine she spent a lot of time and money to ensure I received the best treatment. Unfortunately light therapy was not the best treatment for me because it did nothing for my skin but at that time it was really the only option I had from the time I was 7 until my late teens. Around the age of 16 a team of doctors worked to get me on enbrel. At that time it was only available to those who were 18 or older, but my case of psoriasis was so bad the doctors wanted to see if I could get special approval. Unfortunately the company said no, and years later I was afforded the opportunity to use the drug, in which I found it did absolutely nothing to improve my skin. Up until my ;ate 20’s I was covered with psoriasis by 90%.
Once in my early 20’s I had WAY more options when it came to treatment, I also had more of a say-so than when I was younger. Around 21, I started with medicine in a pill form. The doctor prescribed an oral steroid which I was instructed to take for a few weeks only, then I would have to discontinue for period, and then start it again later. The issue with this medicine is it cleared me completely, but I suffered from severe depression while on the drug so it was not something I could function on. After that I moved on to my first biologic, which I mentioned earlier. The first one was enbrel, which did nothing to improve my condition. It wasn’t until almost 5 years later that I had the opportunity to try Stelara, which for the first time in almost 20 years cleared me up by 80% with in a year. I was elated to be on a drug that actually worked. But almost 2 years of using the drug, my body became use to it and it stopped working, which for some is a common issue for those on biologics. Unfortunately when the drug stopped working I started to show signs of arthritis, which is apparently a disadvantage of using biologics, sometimes your disease can worsen when and if the drug stops working or you stop taking them. I had always had slight pain in my knees, but the pain seem to appear in other areas such as the joints in my hands, something I had never experienced before.
Currently I’m on taltz, which has cleared me 100%. Since I didn’t have much trouble with the arthritis the mobility part of the disease is not currently a huge concern, but is something I monitor closely. Since my psoriasis is gone my quality of life has improved by 100%! I am more vibrant, more confident, and way more outgoing. My anxiety and panic attacks have also decrease by a significant amount. Although at this time I’m psoriasis free I’m not totally absolved from the disease. I worry about this current medicine one day no longer working, and honestly this drug is really my last hope at the moment. I don’t have any other options if this drug doesn’t work because I’ve tried everything available at this point. I also worry about the severity of my depression if my disease comes back. I can’t imagine being 100% clear and going back to the state I was once in.
Don’t forget to check out Being me in my own skin and be sure to follow Alisha on Twitter, and Instagram.
How Aimee from Chronicwriter.net is Combatting Endometriosis
Today Aimee from Chronicwriter.net shares how she treats her endometriosis. Please remember that Aimee and I are not medical professionals and cannot give medical advice. We are just sharing our experiences and opinions. Check out Chronicwriter.net and be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Warning: This post contains graphic photos from surgery.
I was diagnosed with Endometriosis after a traumatic 11-month battle involving numerous trips to A&E, hospital admissions and acute pain management. I received this diagnosis on my birthday; 16th January 2015 via a laparoscopy.
My endometriosis was initially treated with excision during my diagnostic laparoscopy. My surgeon freed the adhesions from my organs and pelvis and removed the endometrial tissue. I was then advised to have the Depo Provera injection, which as a contraceptive would stop my ovaries from releasing an egg therefore avoiding a period, and the damage it caused. Within a month of having this injection, I knew it wasn’t for me. It severely affected my mood, which given my recent and life-changing diagnosis only caused me to feel desperately low. I didn’t have another injection when this wore off 3 months later. Instead, I was put on Cerazette, a form of contraceptive pill AKA the ‘mini-pill’. However, this didn’t seem to be strong enough to stop the bleeding and oddly, I began to spot/bleed every day. My doctor then prescribed Norethisterone in an attempt to stop the bleeding. So, at this time I was taking 4 tablets a day just to control my cycle and prevent a period.
After moving GP surgeries and finding a new specialist, I finally found relief with Zoladex injections. Whilst on the zoladex injection, my periods stopped completely and the pain abated. After a few weeks, I started to notice menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes and irritability, trouble sleeping. Although annoying, these symptoms were much more manageable than the severe pain I experienced during menstruation. However, it is not possible to conceive whilst on this treatment. Therefore, I decided to stop having the monthly injections, to try and conceive (naturally). It wasn’t long before my symptoms returned and the only treatment was to try and manage the pain as best as I could while trying to conceive. During this time, I had to have a 2nd surgery, which revealed multiple cysts and this led to having my right ovary removed due to a borderline cancerous cyst. A year later, I’m still having severe pain, no sign of pregnancy and I have scheduled a nurse appointment to go back on the zoladex injections. I am devastated that I’m back to square one and my life seems to be falling apart again. But I am hopeful things will improve once I start the treatment.
Whilst on the zoladex treatment, my pain abated and my periods stopped. I was able to do more, and my quality of life improved. I’d gotten my life back, even if it was for a short time. I was so grateful to not be in pain every day. Without this treatment, my pain management includes Fentanyl Patches, Tramadol and Diclofenac, along with Cyclizine for sickness. This isn’t always successful, but there are no other options at this time. I also find that heat wraps, hot baths and a TENS machine can help.
Once I start the injections again, I’m hoping for a good few months to recover and rebuild my strength; I feel so drained. I’ve been battling pain for over a year now, whilst trying for a baby. My consultant has advised that it is unlikely that I will conceive naturally, and so will need to consider IVF. Which can coincide with the zoladex. It’s just IVF is so expensive and I’m not entitled to a free cycle with NHS funding.
Currently, I’m struggling to find some relief, even with my prescribed meds. I am on the waiting list for an appointment with a bowel specialist and the endo has caused my bowel to adhere to my womb. I’m facing another operation, to include surgical intervention on my bowel and to remove the active endometriosis. Due to the positive effect of the zoladex, my specialist has suggested that eventually, I will need to consider a full hysterectomy.
Don’t forget to check out Chronicwriter.net and be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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How Lori-Ann from City Girl Flare Contends with Psoriatic Arthritis
Today Lori-Ann from City Girl Flare shares how she treats her psoriatic arthritis. Please remember that Lori-Ann and I are not medical professionals and cannot give medical advice. We are just sharing our experiences and opinions. Check out City Girl Flare and be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
My name is Lori-Ann Holbrook. I am married, live in Dallas and am disabled due to my Psoriatic Arthritis. That’s right, disabled. Although I was only diagnosed five years ago, I believe I’ve experienced PsA symptoms as early as 25 years ago.
It was tough to get to a diagnosis, as my symptoms would usually only present one at a time. So, my initial diagnosis was obesity. After we relocated from Atlanta to Manhattan, my immune system flipped out and I started experiencing all my symptoms at once. I did not know what was going on with me. I had lesions on my feet, could not straighten my right leg, was in pain all over my body and was exhausted all the time.
Unfortunately, my doctor was forced to try step therapy with me. Step therapy involved trying the least expensive treatment that MIGHT work, then allowing approval of a biologic treatment after failure of two to three other drugs. First, I was on gold therapy. This did not work and upset my stomach. Second, I was on a sulfa drug. This was so dehydrating I thought I was dying while out in the sun. Finally, I was put on a biologic, coupled with a low dose of chemotherapy. Over time, this biologic causes weight gain and, as I flared, I sometimes took steroids and opioids. These caused even more weight gain that my biologic had to be increased to keep up with my BMI.
In moving to Dallas and meeting with a new rheumatologist, I discovered I had been dosed for RA, instead of PsA. The PsA dose is much higher. Now, with the right dose, coupled with a higher dose of my antidepressant, my pain is under control and I’ve been able to wean off my opioids. After a year and a half, I am finally feeling more like myself. My biologic helps with pain and stiffness, my antidepressant helps with brain fog, depression and pain.
I currently have no plan to change my medication, but there are new drugs coming down the pipeline for PsA. What I really hope for is legalization of medical marijuana in the state of Texas. I believe this would be more beneficial to me in the long run. I hope, when the time comes, my rheumatologist agrees.