Pressing the Reset Button

handNow and again, there comes a time when we just need to take a breather and hit the reset button on life. Frustrations mount, stresses build, and complications twist everything into a knotted, tangled mess. You can’t always walk away from your stressors – usually you can’t – but you can take a step back. You can take a moment to yourself and reenter the situation with a fresh perspective.

This month, that’s exactly what I’m doing: Resetting.

Resetting My Body – Starting AIP

For those who have been following the blog for awhile, you know that I’ve had trouble with chronic fatigue for about a year and a half now. For months at a time, I would need 10 to 14 hours of sleep every day. Even awake, I wandered through life in a fog, exhausted and unmotivated. Two things entirely contrary to the life of a grad student!

carbsWhen my doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started researching my symptoms and found the autoimmune protocol paleo diet. No grains, no legumes, no dairy, no nightshades, and no starches. Yikes! As someone who has spent most of the past 10 years as vegan or vegetarian, it was pretty scary to think about eating animal flesh at every meal. However, all of my symptoms kept pointing to the AIP as a way to reset my digestive system and stop the extreme autoimmune reactions causing my fatigue and inflaming my joints.

This past weekend, I celebrated my birthday with all my favorite foods! Ice cream, cupcakes, pasta, chocolate… 28 never tasted so good. September first marked day one of my 30-day AIP reset. I’ll be updating SuddenSight with my posts about the experience, so keep checking back for updates!

Resetting My Mind – Taking a Step Back

The fatigue, as well as numerous setbacks with my eyesight since January, made finishing my master’s degree this summer, well, difficult. I did manage to turn in everything and have my paper accepted (hooray!) Still, moving forward I decided I needed to recognize my physical limitations.

Even on my good eye days I read at half the speed that others in my program read. When I’m sleeping 10 hours a night, it becomes virtually impossible to keep up with the 60 to 70 hour work week required to keep up with three graduate classes and teach a class. So I took a step back and slowed things down for a bit to let my body catch up.

I’m only taking two classes this fall, and I’m pushing myself to make more time for yoga classes and cooking – my favorite relaxing hobbies.

Resetting My Blog!

ice creamTaking all of this into account, I’ve also decided to shift the focus of this blog a bit. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this fall SuddenSight will be relaunching with an all-new look! Get ready for more health and lifestyle posts, a recipe section, and guest bloggers featured each month.

Stay tuned for more news!

How to Throw Your Best Pity Party Ever!

538524_10100307570358459_563922595_nYou just found out your best friend has been sleeping with your significant other. Your cat has the flu. Your job promotion went to the guy two cubes down who can’t even find AutoSum in Excel. The fecal matter has found its way up and into the proverbial fan, and life seems like it just can’t get any worse.

We’ve all been there. From tragic hair days and fender-benders to volcanic eruptions of hot messes, sometimes the only thing that can truly make you feel better is a party. A Pity Party, that is!

I know what you’re thinking: wadded up tissues in front of a Meg Ryan marathon with a gallon of Moose Tracks slowly melting into sugary-chocolate soup nearby. But a Pity Party doesn’t have to be a cliché. There is so much you can do with this traditional fête!

So dab your bleary eyes, roll up those snotty sleeves, and let me guide you through the magical makings of a Pity Party miracle.

Step One: Theme

More often than not, a Pity Party is spontaneous and comes with its own pre-packaged theme delivered to you FedEx á la Universe. When this happens, there may be little else to do than dress it up in a sparkly sweater while calling your mom. But that doesn’t have to be the end! Yes, the given theme might feature cancer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accessorize with adorable puppy photos from the Internet. I find that puppy-themed pity parties are best when you make sure to avoid adoption websites – else you end up with a new furry friend (or ten).

If you’re having a real downer, you might set the mood with Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album or Beyoncé’s feminist power-ballads (for anger) and Adele’s first few hits or some old-school Goo Goo Dolls (for subtle angst). If you’re feeling really down, you can always break out Babyface, Tori Amos, or the big guns: “Here In Heaven” by Eric Clapton.

Whether your Pity Party is intended to cheer you up or help you let out all the frustration, choosing the perfect theme is key.

Step Two: Decor

What would a party be without the proper decor? Even fraternities have learned to spice up their keggers with Tiki torches and brightly-colored leis. Once you have your theme, decor and wardrobe are your primary means of of setting the tone.

First things first: what are you wearing? My personal favorite outfit for pity parties is a long evening gown, accessorized with a sparkly tiara and bottle of cheap champagne. If you’re in a darker mood, you might try slapping on some thick black eyeliner and crawling into some pj’s from the bottom of your clothes hamper. Nothing says “Pity Party” quite like raccoon eyes and the strong, sour odor of cotton that’s been soaking in B.O. for the past week!

You may go with the traditional look of spreading boxes of tissues throughout your apartment. In that case, you might consider dressing up this version of the Pity Party with monogrammed handkerchiefs. I also highly recommend the childlike solace of a sheet fort, where you can blubber in privacy beneath a linen canopy to block out any and all happy light from the outside world.

Yet another route may be to decorate the living room with Styrofoam boxes of old Chinese food and the remnants of ripped-cardboard “plates” salvaged from multiple delivery pizzas. Which brings me to my next point…

Step Three: Food

As aforementioned, ice cream is the traditional food du jour, served with any and every type of alcoholic beverage. However, there are a multitude of flavors and brands to choose from! Fear not the option of buying several pints when you cannot decide on just one.

Beyond the world of cold and creamy lies a variety of comfort food choices: macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, apple pie, chocolate cake, strawberry cake, cheesecake, carrot cake, really any kind of cake, truffles, salted caramels, lemon bars, candy bars, peanut butter from the jar… You get the idea.

Whatever you serve, just be sure it has enough calories to sustain a horse.

Step Four: Invitations

This may well be the most important part of the Pity Party. I recommend quality over quantity in your guest list. Know that pity parties can be difficult to fill, but they certainly let you know who really matters in your life. Do not be too upset if someone declines; much like Santa Claus, you can put them on a different kind of list later. The important thing is that you surround yourself with exactly the right people.

Or, if you prefer, lock the door and turn off your phone. Give yourself some time to quiet the madding crowd out of your thoughts, and allow yourself to bask in the rich emptiness of a party of one.

In all seriousness, take note of your Pity Party for exactly what it is, and be careful to remember exactly what it is not. It’s okay to take a moment (or an evening) to be upset and frustrated, to cry or shout at the television, to be selfish for a split second in time. Just make sure you’re using good coping skills and not distorting your situation too far out of proportion. Only invite those nearest to you to participate, and don’t leave them cleaning up the mess when you’re finished.

Know that at the end of the day, the world is still turning on its axis. There will always be someone out there worse off than you and someone better off than you. There will always be things worth crying over, but there will also be many things worth smiling about.

So take your moment. Have your party. Then throw out the trash and move forward with tomorrow. Embrace your life – whatever it may be.

12 Tips for a Healthier Digestive Tract

When you’re taking a lot of medications, each seems to come with its own set of unpleasant side effects. Often, they tend to wreak havoc on your digestive system, creating the need for more medications to alleviate discomfort. Through all my years of dealing with various prescriptions, I’ve found that keeping a healthy digestive tract helps with many side effects. If you can keep the medications moving through your system, your body can take from them what it will use and quickly flush the rest out. This is exactly what the body was designed to do with your food. So here are a few tips I’ve picked up to keep your digestive tract healthy and moving!

1. Keep in mind the hierarchy of foods.

Some foods take longer to digest than others, placing them differently on the Quick Exit Hierarchy of Foods. Eating foods out of order will often cause your digestive system to move more slowly, and foods that should be passed quickly end up fermenting in your digestive tract. If you pull nothing else from this article, try to avoid eating fresh fruit after a meal. Fresh fruit only takes 30 minutes to pass from your stomach, where vegetables take at least 90 minutes and starches take 3-4 hours. The quickest way to give yourself gas is to have fresh fruit sit in your stomach too long!

2. Combine your food properly.

Poor food pairing can back up your digestive system and create flatulence (see aforementioned fresh fruit example). Each food type is broken down by a specific set of enzymes that your stomach produces when it recognizes the food you eat. Poor food pairings will cause a back up in waste, leading to blockage and difficult digestion. Proper food combination keeps separate fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, starches and legumes, whole grains, and animal flesh (allowing for some exceptions). Non-starch vegetables can be combined with all foods except fresh fruit. For more information, see the Detoxinista.

3. Choose natural over processed.

If your body does not recognize what you have eaten, it has a very hard time breaking it down. Processed foods are not easily recognized by your digestive system, so they tend to bulk up as pure waste in your lower intestine. This is not only uncomfortable, but it also blocks other waste from escaping, which can lead to toxins being reabsorbed into the body rather than released.

4. Learn your allergies and sensitivities.

Some people know their allergies very well. They have had horrible experiences with nuts or shellfish or have undergone many tests to learn those allergies. Others of us are simply sensitive to certain foods, and we often do not recognize it. If you find yourself with digestive troubles, look back to what you have eaten in the past 24 hours to see if there is a likely culprit.

5. Stay hydrated!

Water is the most essential thing you can put into your body. It helps flush out the system and keeps everything working properly. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and water-packed vegetables like celery and carrots is a sure-fire way to keep your cells hydrated while also getting essential vitamins. But be careful! If your body is not used to consuming fresh fruits, you will need to slowly ease them into your diet. Fresh fruit and vegetable juice is also an excellent way to stay hydrated while receiving your essential nutrients. Try waking u each morning with Green Lemonade instead of coffee.

6. Don’t drink water during a meal.

Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables are your best source for hydration, but drinking water is also essential. However, drinking water during and immediate after a meal will wash away the digestive enzymes that are needed to break down what you’ve eaten. Try to wait at least 15 minutes after you have consumed the last bite before you reach for your water bottle.

7. Exercise regularly.

Sitting is one of the worst positions for your digestive system, yet it is also the one Americans most frequently find themselves doing. We sit in an office. We sit while driving. We sit to watch a movie. Sitting causes waste to build up in our lower intestine, making it more difficult to pass. Walking and other forms of gentle exercise help to break up that bulk, allowing it to pass more readily.

8. Get a step up.

The body’s natural position for passing waste is not sitting, but squatting. Many Asian countries still use the in-ground toilet, which provides foot placement on either side of a basin in the floor. To replicate this position on your Western-style toilet at home, simply find a way to elevate your knees. Try turning the restroom wastebasket on its side to prop your feet up in front of you while you sit.

9. Sip some tea.

Several tea companies provide a relaxing herbal option to help with troubled digestion. Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals is one of my favorite, and it comes in a variety of flavors including chocolate. Other folk remedies include triphala, and herbal supplement. Please do not start any herbal supplement without consulting your doctor or pharmacist, as they may interfere with your medications.

10. Try daily probiotics.

We’ve all seen the commercials recommending yogurt for a healthier digestive tract. If you’re lactose intolerant, though, dairy products can do more harm than good. And recent research has shown cow’s milk to leech calcium from bones because of the lactic acid that must be created to digest the milk. The real digestive help that yogurt offers is found in the bacterial cultures used to create yogurt from milk. These probiotic bacteria are now packaged separately for their health benefits and can be found in most grocery stores in pill or liquid form. Acidophilus is a popular probiotic, but kefir is a typical entirely non-dairy option.

11. Look into colonics.

While I have not personally undergone a colonic, health gurus and nutritionists like Natalia Rose of the Raw Food Detox Diet rave about their benefits. The idea behind them is that old waste builds up along the walls of the lower intestine, hindering nutrient absorption and blocking waste excretion. A gentle, but more direct cleansing of the intestine can help flush out old waste and rejuvenate the digestive tract. If you are interested in having one performed, the important thing is to go to a trustworthy clinic. An improperly performed colonic can back up waste even more.

12. Keep a digestive journal.

You should think about keeping a food, exercise, and restroom diary for at least two weeks to find patterns between what you eat and what you excrete. You may find a sensitivity to gluten , or you may find you are unable to eat certain combinations of foods without being backed up for days. Certain exercises or food choices may lead to better digestion. Each body works differently, so keeping a journal will help you to see exactly what works for you.

These tips are a compilation of research and experience, but they are not guaranteed to work with every body’s digestive system. Talk over your digestive difficulties with your doctor or nutritionist, explaining that you first want to try lifestyle changes before taking more medications.