Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Chia Porridge

I wish I had taken this picture but mine looked JUST like this. However, picture credit goes to The Healthy Family and Home.

‘Tis the season for all things pumpkiny: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice almond butter…yes, that’s a thing. However, most of those things are laden with sugar and lots of bits and pieces that we can’t pronounce.

While I don’t want to miss out, I decided to add a little spice to my breakfast today. I don’t do a whole lot of carbs these days because of the energy drop within a couple of hours of eating them so I have turned to more healthy fats as my fuel source. I usually do Bulletproof Coffee or tea in the morning then eat my first meal sometime close to midday or early afternoon.

An easy substitution for the more traditional oatmeal breakfast is a chia seed pudding or porridge. It’s super easy to make and requires very little effort.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 5-7 drops of liquid Stevia
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup organic canned pumpkin (a loose measurement so you can see how pumpkiny you want it)
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin spice seasoning OR 1 drop cinnamon essential oil + 1 drop clove essential oil + 1 drop nutmeg essential oil (only 100% pure EO’s recommended!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Stir all of the ingredients in a small mason jar, top with a lid and let that sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. When the hunger kicks in, you’ve got an energizing yet cozy “treat” ready to go.

What’s great is that you can substitute all kinds of things to make this porridge in all seasons: chopped apples with cinnamon, blueberries and lemon zest or lemon essential oil, bananas with dark chocolate morsels, peaches and coconut cream…the possibilities are endless!

Did you know that chia seeds are a good source of calcium, manganese, phosphorus, fiber as well as essential fatty acids and antioxidants?

This is also a FANTASTIC breakfast or snack for the kids before school, homework session, or athletic activity to give them healthy brain support as well as lots of natural energy.

Want to feel a little indulgent? Try topping it with coconut whipped topping!

The Decision to Make Lifestyle Changes is Often The Hardest Part

Photo credit: Andy Totell

“Actually that medicine isn’t meant to work long-term. Your body figures out to how to get around the medicine and it is longer effective.”

Wait…what? I switched the phone to my other ear because clearly my right ear wasn’t working.

“Come again? I must have misheard you because I thought you said the medicine no longer worked which is complete insanity because I can’t survive another month, week, day or hour of this shit!”

Okay, I didn’t really say that but it was what I was thinking. The previous two months had been a waste because I was back to where I was prior to taking the medicine that was supposed to be helping me but really it mean it solved absolutely nothing. It was in that exact moment that I knew my health was going to be up to me because modern medicine had failed me miserably. That moment, that decision, changed the trajectory of my life. And no, I’m not being dramatic. I went from feeling helpless to taking charge of my life in a matter of seconds. Actually, it took me years to get to be able to make that decision but the decision itself was done in a blink.

I dove headlong into research to find what the possible root causes were behind my symptoms. As I dug, I began to find some consistent information that told me my nutrition was off. I made some changes and finally found the relief I had been looking for all along.

What started out as the typical American teenager diet became my downfall in adulthood. As I transitioned from teenager to adult and added more alcohol, poor sleep, and all the other things that come with a stressful job and starting a family, things began to show up like acne, brain fog, chronic sinus infections, headaches, and gastric ailments galore. With that came some horrible side effects like misery, low self-esteem, frustration, and hopelessness.

It wasn’t until I after had my third child as I was speaking to the nurse that I hit my breaking point. And I’m so very grateful for that moment. Before any real change could happen for me, I had to say, “No more!” and it was in that one tiny yet very powerful moment that changed my health. It all came down to my decision to change.

I had finally decided to care for myself and do whatever I needed to do to get to the bottom of my health issues. I refused to no longer accept that this was going to be my life. It’s amazing how long we allow ourselves to suffer before we give ourselves the love and attention we each deserve. We give to everyone else and often put our own needs and desires on hold, sometimes indefinitely. It’s also easy to hide behind the status quo, dated (and biased) research, and all the excuses in the world.

I reflected on that time of my life recently, because I had a reminder of how hard big that decision can feel for some people. A few months ago, I had a friend ask me to share some information about the health benefits of essential oils and she ended up ordering a few. When I tried to arrange a time to explain how to use her oils and set up a game plan, I got nothing but crickets. After a few more tries (which ended up being months later), I finally just asked her if I had done something wrong, in my teasing sort of way. She replied that she was embarrassed to tell me that she hadn’t used her oils yet. While I was relieved to know I had not done anything to make her mad, I was sad to hear that she hadn’t used her oils yet. It became clearer when she had added that she wasn’t quite ready to get into “that lifestyle” just yet. I realized that for her just making the simple decision to use essential oils felt monumental.

She had equated using essential oils to mean that she had to shift her whole lifestyle. A common misconception about adopting a healthier lifestyle is that we have to go all in. While I did go a little radical with my diet when I learned a lot of my health issues were because of poor nutrition, I didn’t shift everything right away. Getting to where I am now was a gradual process. The most important thing was that I just started. It took me time (10+ years!) and consistency along with the desire to make permanent changes to get where I am. I wanted to become healthier and happier more than I wanted to be sick and tired.

We can choose to take baby steps or radical jumps when we decide to explore a healthier lifestyle. The important thing to recognize is that by taking a step forward, any step, is progress. It doesn’t matter how big or small that step is.

As much as I would love to help as many people as I can, there is nothing I can do until they decide to help themselves. What I can do, whether it is here on my blog, Twitter, my Facebook page, or Instagram, or through face to face conversations is to help inspire others to make that decision. Oh my gawd, I want to help erase the shame, guilt, frustration, low self-esteem, depression, denial, and even anger that comes from chronic health issues so bad! I was there and I know how bad that sucks! I wish I could invent a magic change button to turn off those feelings but I know the only way to make those feelings go away has to come from within, to choose to stop doing what isn’t working for us. The magic happens once we make that decision.

It’s okay to start small but the important thing is to just start.

I’d love to know:

-What are your roadblocks to change what’s not working for you?

-What keeps you from saying yes to a better quality of life? 

 

The World According to Your Gut

Source: SweatlifeNYC

The gut is where everything good happens in your body. Or it’s where it should be happening. If your gut is unhealthy, then there is a lot of bad happening in your body that you aren’t connecting to the state of your gut. Well, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t put make that connection but I want to share some things I’ve learned lately that you may find pretty interesting yourself.

A few weeks ago, I joined Chalene Johnson’s Diet Beta Test group but it isn’t what it sounds like. It isn’t a diet as much as it is an experiment and you are in charge. What Chalene does is gather scientific information via research and interviews with experts then shares them in the beta group. It is broken down to weekly sessions so that you can go through the information at your own pace. There are three levels of this test group and this was level one.

I joined this beta test group because the objectives of the five week test were to help with weight loss resistance, balancing hormones, reduce inflammation, heal my gut (which I didn’t realize I still needed!) and even shifting my mindset around eating.

The program was broken down like this:

Week One: Education and learning 

Week Two and Three: Priming our systems with Intermittent Fasting for Week Four 

Week Four: Fasting (you choose the protocol that works best for you)

Week Five: Refueling the body post-fast

I know exactly what you are thinking. Fasting is starving yourself! No wonder people lose weight.

I’ve actually fasted before and have played around with intermittent fasting quite a bit so these weren’t new concepts for me. There are lots of podcasts, articles and blog posts out there talking about intermittent fasting and multiple day fasts so I was mentally on board. What’s important to know is that it is a myth that fasting is detrimental and that we completely mess up our metabolism. There are actually lots and lots of benefits from doing a multiple day fast a few times a year.

But first, let’s discuss Intermittent Fasting. This is the amount of time between the last meal of your day to the first meal of the next day. The goal is to shorten the eating window to eight hours a day. So a typical day would be eating your first meal at noon and your last at 8 p.m. The purpose of this type of eating schedule is to help you get rid of the glucose in your body and switch to burning fat.

The other benefits of IF are :

  • reduces triglycerides
  • reduces blood pressure
  • reduces inflammation
  • reduces oxidative stress (hello anti-aging!)
  • increases cellular turnover (helps us heal faster)
  • increases our fat-burning potential
  • increases our HGH (growth hormone)
  • increases our metabolic rate

Did that grab your attention? Yeah, mine too. So for the two weeks of Intermittent Fasting, I chose to have my bulletproof coffee (made with mushroom coffee by Four Sigmatic along with Brain Octane oil with a touch of ghee) first thing in the morning, then had some sort of salad with healthy fats for lunch, then a little protein, veggies and fat for dinner. With the Bulletproof Coffee, I had no problem waiting until noon to eat and is a great way to hack the fast without affecting blood sugar.

The second part of this Intermittent Fasting stage was to switch to eating ketogenic foods to support the shift of burning glucose in the body to fat as a way to fuel the body. So why is it bad to burn glucose? When we eat food high in carbs (glucose), our body has to release insulin to control our blood sugar. The higher the carb count, the more insulin has to be released. Excess insulin or unused glucose (the energy made from the carb-rich foods) is then stored in the fat cells of our bodies. See where I’m going? If we eat a high carb diet and don’t workout enough to burn it all off, we are going to gain weight, plain and simple. The excess insulin is also a concern because if we keep triggering the release of gobs of insulin every time we eat, our bodies need more and more to keep up with the demand. When that happens, you end up being insulin resistant. There is a whole lot of wrong that happens in your body when that happens and it’s a major health issue you should not ignore.

But a problem that kept lingering for me was weight loss resistance. I ate about as healthy as one can eat and worked out at least four times a week. I even stopped drinking alcohol this year to see what would happen. Not much in the weight department but I have slept and felt better than I have in years! Truth: I’ve had three glasses of wine and two mixed drinks since January 1 and I don’t miss it at all. If anyone is reading this that knows me on a personal level, you know this is big. Like big big.

So back to this Diet Beta Test thing. I follow Chalene Johnson on social media as well as her podcast so when this topic of weight loss resistance came up as an issue for her as well, I was all ears. There were some other things happening with her health and after consulting lots of doctors, the driver behind her program became about the gut health, not weight loss like you might initially think based on the name. I thought I knew all about a healthy gut but turns out I didn’t! I had been taking my probiotics and eating a low sugar diet so my gut should be great, right? Surely I didn’t have Leaky Gut Syndrome because I didn’t have any allergies, chronic skin conditions or digestive issues. But from the information I was learning from Chalene’s test group, there’s a good chance I did due to inflammation. We can be in a state of chronic inflammation and not even know it. This is what I was talking about earlier about not making the connection from what was happening in our bodies to our gut health. Inflammation is a key contributor to Leaky Gut. This can come from certain inflammatory foods and over time, they break down the gut lining. Maybe it’s eggs or dairy or corn or gluten or alcohol or sugar. You won’t know unless you get tested or do an elimination diet.

And can we talk about the gut lining for a second? There are things I learned from her interview with Dr. Zach Bush that I had no idea about! Did you know that our gut lining is one cell thick? One stinking cell. I also learned that there are special protein strands that lace those cells together to create a powerful barrier between what is in our gut and what is in our blood stream. When those protein strands get weakened and create gaps between our intestinal wall cells, our immune systems become compromised and then our body starts down the path of poor health. I also learned that if we keep taking the same probiotic over and over, we are creating this monoculture of bacteria that may not be all that beneficial. This was a major lightning bolt for me. You can listen to the podcast here.

As I dove more into who Dr. Zach Bush was and listened to Chalene’s post-interview closing, I learned about a product he sells called Restore. FYI, he didn’t mention his product once in his interview. By taking Restore daily, you can restore and keep the integrity of your intestinal wall despite the things that are working on destroying it, like maybe inflammatory foods. Of course, it’s important to get tested or do an elimination diet to find out what may be causing some of my food sensitivities, but there are some things I can’t control that may also be affecting me like the quality of the air or the soil. Chances are there is glyphosate in much of our environment. Unfortunately, so much so that it’s hard for the organic crops to stay organic because it even gets in the rain water. And why is glyphosate bad? Let me count thy ways but one of the main is that it kills bacteria, even the good ones. The ones we need for a healthy gut. So if all the good bacteria are gone, what happens? We become hot messes, that’s what, and society becomes an endangered species because we won’t have enough of the good stuff to kick out the bad.  I just started taking Restore this week so I’ll report back on how it goes.

So let’s get to week 4, the one you are all wondering about. I chose to do a three day fast while drinking Bulletproof coffee or my Four Sigmatic mushroom tea (blended it with Brain Octane oil with no added fat source like I did while doing IF), water, or bone broth. I did great the first two days but come the morning of day three, I felt horrible. I felt like I had the flu but this can happen as you make the shift to burning fat instead of glucose as fuel and transition into ketosis. I ended up drinking some bone broth and felt much better. I lasted until about 5:00 p.m. and I was ready to be done. The important thing is that you don’t shock your body and have a gourmet meal right away. You ease your digestive system back into having food so I ended up doing more bone broth and a few soft nuts. As I reintroduced foods I found that I felt bloated after having corn as well as eggs so I’ve avoided them ever since.

A nice side benefit is that I lost 6 pounds. I had gained one during my IF phase then lost six from that point. I was sure that once I started eating again that it would all come right back but I was wrong. I’ve kept the net five pounds off and it’s been a full week since I broke my three day fast. I haven’t lost five pounds since 2010 so this was big for me. The bloat was gone, my muffin top shrank and I fit into some pants that I had long given up on. Again, not to stress the weight loss but there is something to fasting as a way to reset the body.

I highly encourage you to look into IF, fasting, and the ketogenic diet to see if it is something that could benefit you as well. Of course, check with your physician before starting anything like this, especially if you are being treated for a medical condition.

If you want to learn more about Chalene’s Diet Beta Test, go here for more information.

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If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you will already know some of this information because I’ve been sharing my Diet Beta Test experience over there. If you’re not following me, head over to IG and you can find me at @hallie_sawyer. I share things in my stories that aren’t posted in my timeline so once they’re gone, they’re gone. I share thing I’m trying, books I’m reading, essential oil tips, funny personal stories, and other things to help my audience learn, laugh, and inspire them to make changes in their lives, too.