Saturday, September 30, 2017

Lamb Shakshuka

Primal lamb shakshukaAlthough inspired by Middle Eastern shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce), this version is for meat lovers. Instead of thick tomato sauce, these eggs are simmered over ground lamb and bone broth, with a handful of charred cherry tomatoes thrown on top. The cherry tomatoes, plus a generous amount of herbs, give this high-protein meal a fresh, light flavor. It’s fantastic for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

If you want to start your day with this powerhouse meal, consider cooking the meat and tomatoes ahead of time. Right before breakfast, reheat the meat in a skillet with eggs. It’s an easier way to enjoy a hearty breakfast and still get out the door on time.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 45 minutes

Ingredients

ingredients aviary

  • 12 to 16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (340 g to 453 g)
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided (45 ml)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or other ground meat) (450 g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (2.5 ml)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (3.7 ml)
  • ½ cup bone broth (or chicken broth) (120 ml)
  • Fresh herbs for garnish, like parsley or dill

Instructions

eggs and meat

Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) avocado oil over medium-high heat in a wide saucepan that has a lid. When the pan is really hot, add the cherry tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes until the tomatoes are lightly charred and begin to soften. Stir the tomatoes as little as possible. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons avocado oil to the pan. Add the onion and sauté 3 to 5 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic, and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the lamb and season with cumin, smoked paprika, and salt. Cook until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Add bone broth to the saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low. Crack 4 to 6 eggs in the pan on top of the meat.*

Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the egg whites are set (about 7 minutes) but the yolks are still soft.

Before serving, add the tomatoes and garnish generously with chopped parsley, dill, or other fresh herbs.

*The meat and tomatoes can be cooked ahead of time, then reheated in smaller portions with a little bit of bone broth and 1 or 2 eggs.

Primal lamb shakshuka

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Friday, September 29, 2017

My Entire Life Changed When My Nutrition Did

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

I never thought about writing my story and sharing it here but, I realize now my story is a crucial part of my life, business, and relationships. I share it every day and will be so happy if it inspires at least one person to take action to start healthier living.

I moved to the states from Russia in 2010. I had quite an unhealthy lifestyle back home: ate sugar, drank tons of coffee, stayed up at night,  smoked cigarettes, and I never exercised. When I moved to the US, my host family (thank God someone was so dear to influence me) made an ultimatum: I either quit smoking or I can’t stay with them. I had no other options, and quit after 8 years of chain smoking and 4 years of attempting to quit. Part one of getting healthier was done.

In the next two years, I got chubby. I never got fat, but with no exercise my muscle tone was remarkably similar to a marshmellow. I was hooked on all the new packaged and easy to eat foods. I could eat a box of Cheez-Its after dinner, my lunch was 2 huge grilled cheese sandwiches daily, and I ate cookies in between classes in college. Needless to say, I took many classes, and there are many types of cookies…

By May of 2012, I looked and felt horrible. I had acne, indigestion, migraines, high blood pressure for a girl in her late 20s. I did not gain a ton of weight, but 15 pounds extra were there for sure. I hated my body. I couldn’t run a mile since I was a child, and it usually resulted in me fainting (seriously!). I had a terrible self-esteem and never had energy. Then I had a bad breakup. One of those stab-you-in-the-back-for-no-reason (oh, was there a reason?) type of affairs.

A couple of weeks prior to that, my new friend named Mark told me about Paleo and Primal. He sent me those initial lists from the Primal Blueprint and recommended Loren Cordain’s book as well as MDA. I hit rock bottom with my health and was desperate to try something new. In fact, I was a vegetarian for 8 years at that point, and out of nowhere I started secretly getting in my friends’ fridge in the middle of the night to eat frozen, pre-cooked bacon (yuck). It was hard to “come out” but I did. And once I did, I switched to no sugar, no gluten, and no dairy.

For the next few weeks, I felt PHENOMENAL. I felt like I was reborn. I slept for 4 hours and would wake up well rested. I started running. I could run a mile, then two. Then I signed up for a half marathon and ran after 3 months of easy, enjoyable training. I worked through my other issues. Acne cleared. Blood pressure improved dramatically. Self-esteem went up. I looked amazing and felt like a queen of the world.

My mindset changed. My relationship with myself changed. I respected myself so much more and my confidence grew daily. My grades went up. I was totally rocking my life.

And then when I was not looking (of course), I met my prince Charming, who prior to meeting me lost 200 pounds on keto. Since he randomly ran into my life, and since we ate the same way we decided to get married. Kidding. It was a commonality that did bring us closer. We fell madly in love and could not spend any time apart. He enlisted in the military, and we have had plenty of adventures ever since. He kept the weight off and taught me how to cook delicious, low-carb friendly meals. Now I do most of the cooking, since the military can be so demanding, but we still keep the same high standards in our food.

Kennys-journey-1024x768

I did a fair share of not-so-primal long distance running ever since, and then switched to CrossFit, other fun workouts, playing more, and listening to my body.

Fast forward 3 years. I quit a successful corporate job because one of our mutual life goals is to help 10,000+ people to restart their lives through health. I became a Primal Health Coach in August 2016 and started my practice then. I am happy to do what I love every day, and see how people’s lives change; It makes my heart beat faster and really is a great motivation every morning. I am honored I could learn from Mark and MDA so many things about the Primal lifestyle. I am now a CrossFit Level 1 coach and coach both CF classes and nutrition at a local gym. I eat low-carb and primally most of the year, and carb-cycle when I build. I have so much energy daily, and I know I am extending my life every hour by fueling my body with proper food, good movement, and positive thoughts.

Thank you, Mark, for being such an inspiration and well of knowledge for people. I will always cherish that and continue sharing knowledge with the masses.

full_tranformation tuesday (1)

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Our First Date

This past weekend Thomas and I decided to re-live our first and second dates.

We decided to meet up for drinks at the C&O bar. He got there first and was wearing a blue pin stripe button down (still my favorite shirt of his!) and jeans. I had on skinny jeans, Tom’s boots, and a black Stitch Fix blouse! I walked there, so I was a few minutes late, and when I spotted him I said, “You look like the guy I’m supposed to be meeting!” We were both smitten from the start, and I don’t remember how long we talked. He gave me a ride home in his truck and said he couldn’t wait for the next one.

So, the C&O bar is so special to us! It’s romantic and rustic and tucked into the basement of one of Cville’s finest dining establishments.

Dinner is served…

You can order the dinner menu down there, so it’s a great way to enjoy the menu in a more casual setting.

This past weekend we had the tuna, which was melt-in-your-mouth good, and duck gnocchi to start!

My entrée was rockfish over grits with micro greens and pesto, plus roasted corn to share!

Our first date was on a Tuesday, and I invited T over that Friday night for a fire pit and s’mores. He arrived looking handsome and ready to build a fire! We talked by the fire for hours, about soccer, iPhones, music, and growing up in Charlottesville.

So, last Saturday night we reenacted the fire pit night with Mazen.

Mazen LOVES fire pit nights, and he likes to take charge of the tasks. He wore Thomas’s headlamp and gave us all instructions on how to get things set up.

I was in charge of the s’mores!

Sparklers are always involved too.

Turned out I had chocolate all over my face when we went back inside!

Our third date was a meet-up at T’s house to watch the very first Game Of Thrones episode. And then the rest, as they say, is history. We both admitted we were waiting for red flags, but as time went on, they never appeared. Everything about our relationship has felt so natural and easy-going from the start.

I think this was our first photo taken together, a few weeks later when I was T’s date to a friend’s wedding.

It’s hard to believe our own is coming up so fast. I didn’t share so many pictures from our first few seasons together, but here’s a bunch!

We couldn’t be happier! <3

Have a great weekend, friends!

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Marketing Artificial Color To Children Should Be Illegal (Amazing Story)

I’ve got some real idiotic news about Trix Cereal… but first let me explain why I’m so angry about it. If you’re part of the Food Babe Army, I doubt you’re filling your carts up with Trix and Lucky Charms at the grocery store. That’s because you are some of the smartest consumers out there when it comes to your food. You know what to look for on an ingredient list, what additives to avoid, and how to keep the GMOs out of your diet.

People sometimes criticize me for writing about processed junk foods like Trix because they think it’s obvious how unhealthy it is… but there are still a lot of people out there who do not know this information. They do not know what additives like Yellow #5 and TBHQ could be doing to their health or the health of their kids. They do not know that there could be Roundup weedkiller in their Cheerios, silly putty in their french fries, or wood in their cheese. We still need to reach these people! That’s why it’s important to keep raising awareness of these issues.

I also want to keep y’all informed as to what’s happening in the processed food world so that you can spread the word to your own friends and family who need to know this information. Our movement is growing, but there are still SO MANY people we need to reach… and this sad news about Trix really helps make my point…

General Mills just announced they’re putting the artificial dyes – Yellow #6, Blue #1, Red #40 – back into Trix Cereal because they were “besieged” by customer complaints since they removed these dyes two years ago.

You may recall, General Mills announced with big fanfare a couple years ago that they’d remove chemical dyes from all their cereals and replace them with natural colors like turmeric extract, vegetable and fruit juices. They later claimed sales of the dye-free Trix “exceeded expectations” along with great feedback from customers, which makes it even more perplexing as to why they suddenly pulled a 180. They’re going to start selling their original version of Trix with “neon bright” fake colors as soon as next month (both versions will be available).

Who is asking General Mills to put artificial dyes in their children’s food? Are you or anyone you know actually calling up General Mills and complaining about the color? Do the fake colors really make Trix taste better? I really want to know the reasons why anyone would want their children to eat Blue #1 and Yellow #6.

I truly believe if consumers knew that these colors are derived from petroleum, what they do to their bodies and how they have been shown to affect children, they would not want to eat them. We clearly still have so much work to do and need to keep spreading the truth.

Removing artificial colors from children’s diets can produce remarkable results

The Feingold Association recently thanked us in their newsletter for our successful petition which got the artificial dyes out of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, along with a story about how one little boy’s life was changed forever when artificial dyes were removed from his diet (following our petition). They graciously granted me permission to publish the entire story here to reach more people and impact as many lives as possible. When I launched the Kraft petition, I received countless letters like this one, and I know that thousands of you are having the same experiences. I hope you read and share this story below with your loved ones and keep sharing the truth about artificial food dyes. 


Cameron — a little boy with no speech and endless tears

From birth, Cameron was “different.” He was very moody, angry, hated being touched and would not sit still —EVER. He hated car rides, being in a stroller, being carried, sung to; you name it. Other than video games, he hated everything. He never slept for more than a few hours at a time and averaged about five hours. He woke up at night for no obvious reason 5-15 times a night until the age of 5. He spit up every time he ate until he was 3 years old, and he would break out in hives all over his body. At 1 1/2 we took him to an allergist, who said it was food sensitivities and he would outgrow it. He didn’t.

Cameron’s behavior was horrible. In stores, he would run away and hide. In the car, he would scream until he vomited and he gave me two black eyes before he was three years old. He couldn’t speak; he would make sounds but no distinguishable words. We took him for a hearing test, which was fine, and they recommended occupational therapy. He was very uncooperative, but we continued with it two times a week for a year.

When Cameron was four he started speech therapy, but he hated it. He would scream until he began vomiting. He wouldn’t participate with his speech therapist but would kick, hit and spit at her. She suggested medication to help subdue his outbursts. He didn’t know the alphabet or colors but was very good at math. We started thinking he was mildly autistic. He still was not sleeping and was getting hives daily. He craved food with dyes like a junkie craves heroin.

Cameron started 4-year-old kindergarten, and it was horrible. He hated it as much as his teacher hated him. He was the worst-behaved kid in a classroom of thirty-five 4-year-olds. His teacher also suggested looking into medicine, as she didn’t think he would be able to function in mainstream school. But I was firmly against medicating him and started considering homeschooling.

Here is a sequence of pictures I took as Cameron ate a blue lollipop (before I learned about additives). I can now see how he became progressively more miserable. In the last two pictures, there are tears rolling down his cheeks. That final picture gets me every time I look at it! 

The following day, I took him for his first allergy appointment. The allergist said he had sensitivities. “Nothing to worry about. It won’t kill him. He should outgrow it by age 4.”

My “Ah-ha moment”
In the spring of 2013, I saw an online petition calling for Kraft to remove dyes from its mac & cheese because the additives could cause ADHD, mood swings and hives. This was my “ah-ha” moment!

The previous night, Cameron had eaten Kraft Mac & Cheese and he didn’t sleep and was covered in hives. I decided to try taking out food dye for a week to see if his hives went away. They did! We were amazed that after only a few days, he didn’t severely itch. After a few weeks, when he had had very limited exposure to food dyes, I noticed his behavior was different. I thought maybe he was getting sick.

Then, Cameron gave me a hug all on his own! This had never happened before. What’s more, he was waking up only a few times a night instead of ten. He wasn’t so angry, and he wasn’t as itchy. And, after thirty days of being dye-free, he could SPEAK! Nearly perfect, clear words that everyone could understand. For the first time ever, he said, “I love you.”

I spent most of that month in tears because of the life-changing miracles that came from removing dyes. He literally learned his colors overnight. I spoke with him about these changes, and he said his body didn’t hurt as much as it used to and his head didn’t buzz as much. I then realized my son spent the first five years of his life in constant pain and didn’t know he was supposed to feel any different. We were dye-free for three months and doing great; then, we went to a 4th of July parade. He was perfectly behaved until I let him have some cotton candy, and all hell broke out! He was yelling, crying, screaming, curled up in the fetal position having a complete breakdown. This reaction to dye took five days to wear off.

How the additives affect him
If Cameron ate the petroleum-based dyes, artificial flavors or preservatives eliminated on the Feingold Diet he would experience these reactions: anger, body & joint pains, hives, impaired learning, ringing/buzzing in his ears, stomach pain, anxiety, rapid & loud speech, bipolar tendencies, and the inability to follow simple directions.

I decided it was all or nothing. No food coloring, ever!
Things were much better that winter, and I also noticed a major change in Cameron’s dad. He cut back on his dye consumption. (He was completely addicted to Jolly Ranchers, Sour Patch Kids and Mountain Dew.) But now, he wasn’t as angry at the world like he had always been and was just nicer in general. Who knew that dyes could affect adults? (They also affect pets. My dog will rip up toys if he eats anything with dye in it.)

He had felt miserable so it’s no wonder he acted miserable as well.
By March of 2014, we were about one-year dye-free, and Cameron was complaining about body pain again, and he had what doctors kept referring to as eczema. That’s when I stumbled across the Feingold Diet and thought, “This sounds like the symptoms Cameron is having now right down to the ADHD and behavioral issues.” I ordered the membership materials and have never looked back. The Feingold Association provides a long list of brand-name foods that are free of dyes, artificial flavors and the three worst preservatives. They also show how to test for salicylate sensitivity. We removed all preservatives from Cameron’s diet, and things slowly began to improve. (Preservatives are hard to identify because of loopholes in labeling laws. Chemicals like BHA, BHT and TBHQ can be hidden in the ingredients in a product or sprayed on the insides of the packaging and do not need to be listed.) I kept a daily food & behavior journal for Cameron; if it went in his mouth, it was written down. This was a huge help in identifying a possible culprit. 

After being dye-free for just thirty days, Cameron experienced the following:

1. Hives subsided
2. Anger diminished
3. Started speaking
4. Learned his colors
5. Slept better at night
6. Body pain lessened
7. Developed compassion & empathy
8. Began to socialize (He couldn’t handle being in public places with any number of people prior to this.)

Cameron started kindergarten, free of artificial colors and flavoring at the same school where two previous teachers “suggested” medication. Three months into the school year, he was awarded “Student of the Month.” He no longer needed speech therapy or an IEP. The therapist had no explanation as to why he suddenly could talk, but I am 100% certain it is from removing the additives. His occupational therapist contacted me three years after her last meeting with him, saying she couldn’t believe the progress he had made. She said she assumed he would always have major issues.

Food sensitivity avoidance has become our way of life. We follow the Feingold Foodlist almost 100%. Cameron still has “eczema” flare-ups occasionally, but they are not as severe. There are zero behavior issues that we deal with now. Cameron sleeps an average of eight hours a night, seven days a week. He has never been sent to the principal’s office, and he actively & willingly participates in school. We still need to tweak his diet on a regular basis and watch for things, but it is much easier now. We also found Cameron can have reactions to dyes in soap, shampoo, temporary tattoos, toothpaste etc., so, all of that must be dye-free also.

The last accidental food coloring exposure was in May 2014. Within twenty minutes of ingesting a microscopic amount of red dye 40, he was curled into the fetal position, lying on the floor, under the table in a restaurant, experiencing severe body pain & itching. An hour after ingestion, his speech became loud and rapid, and he was unable to hear us when we tried to speak to him. For two hours after exposure to the dye, he repeatedly used the word “what.” His behavior became manic, but while this subsided quickly, the body pain lasted several days. We have found that soaking in a bath with baking soda can lessen some of the symptoms as it helps draw out toxins. We went dye-free in 2013, to try and clear up the hives issue. I never in a million years would have thought additives in food could be linked to Cameron’s behavior, but after seeing the cravings for and withdrawal from food coloring, I can honestly say it should be illegal. It is addictive and mind-altering, just like any other drug.

Success at last!
After consulting many allergists, dermatologists, pediatricians & pediatric rheumatologists for more than five years, and not getting help, we finally figured out my son’s issues. It began with an online petition and continued with the help and guidance of the Feingold Association. Happily, Kraft removed the synthetic food coloring from its Mac & Cheese in 2016.
~ Feingold Association Pure Facts Newsletter, September 2017


I am so moved by this story and would love to see these dyes banished from our food forever. I hope this information helps every family out there who is affected by the dyes in our food. Please share this post and Cameron’s story with your loved ones. You never know who it may help! 

Xo,

Vani

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5 for (Almost) Friday

Hi, friends! Happy almost Friday to you!

I was planning to share this blog post tomorrow, but I never finished my post for today (because the $40 internet on the plane was so terrible), so I decided to publish it a little early. I thought this round-up would be a great way to share some of the fun things from my week so far, so here are 5 for (almost) Friday!

1. I just had to share our recent video podcast with Mobius Media Solutions – We chat about the business side of Designed to Fit Nutrition, specifically where we’ve been and where we’re going with the business. Also, please note how uneven my skin looks. We filmed this podcast at the beginning of the summer before I started using the Rejuvenating line. For comparison, check out this video that we made just last week. I’m wearing the same exact makeup in both videos, but it’s quite the transformation, right?!

2. I can’t get enough sweet potato toast in my life lately – I used to eat it all the time, but forgot about it until recently. On Sunday, I sliced up a couple of sweet potatoes and stored them in the fridge until I was ready to eat. Then, I just nuke a slice in the microwave for 2 minutes, heat in the toaster oven until perfectly browned, and top with nut butter, ground flax, pumpkin seeds, etc.

3.  I’m weirdly in love with this Extra Mile Long Sleeve. It’s simply the best and it’s definitely a step up from my usual athleisure! The fit and fabric are much more “sophisticated,” which means it’s a top that easily transitions from inside to outside the gym – everything from running Saturday morning errands with Qman to grabbing happy hour drinks with Mal at our favorite bar. Let’s just say, it’s a piece that gets A LOT of wear nowadays! FYI: My “diaper bag” is from Skip Hop but I use it as a combo diaper bag/gym bag/purse. I love it so much!

4. I got a manicure the other day, and I’m obsessed with this color. Fun, right? I actually use to think that manicures were the biggest waste of money, but now I look forward to having a fresh one every couple of weeks. There’s just something about new nails that makes me feel so good!


5. I am making these 3-Ingredient Pumpkin Brownies the second I get home from San Francisco. They look so easy, so delicious, and, hello, only require three ingredients. Sign me up!

Question of the Day

How’s your week going?

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When Bloggers Come To Town

(Sung to the tune of “When country comes to town!”)

On Tuesday I took the train up to Washington, DC, for a special dinner with Dietz and Watson. I’ll be sharing more about the dinner in a week or so, but I wanted to recap the rest of my visit with Anne! We spent a lot of time weighing options for accommodation for the night, from sleeping on her couch to going to a Kimpton hotel. There was a conference going on that had all hotels at $700+ so we found a simple little basement Airbnb in the U Street area to crash for the night – close to the restaurant and close to Sweatbox, where we went for an early morning workout. I gave Anne the bedroom and took the futon for the night. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked!

I LOVE Amtrak! My train arrived around noon and I spent the afternoon working in the Airbnb before needing some fresh air and sunshine.

I made my way to Meridian Park and walk/ran around for 3-ish miles, taking running breaks to chat with my mom and sister. My legs were still really tired from soccer, so I didn’t want to push it. I did have fun running up these stairs a few times!

Back at the apartment, I showered and put on my best face!

When bloggers come to town, you help each other take pictures! 😉

We walked to dinner and had a glorious time at Kapanos. I’ll share the what and why soon!

When bloggers come to town, they make you get up before sunrise to exercise!

Anne had an invitation to try out Sweatbox and brought me along. We were staying just a block away, so at least we didn’t have a commute! Anne’s friend Chelsea and fellow-blogger joined us as well!

The class was cool because the studio was dark and the lights gave the room a club effect. I love workout classes in the dark, especially first thing in the morning! We wore MyZone heart rate monitors (we have these at my home gym too!) and used a mounted computer screen plus the light-up bike to motivate us to push into the highest zones. Only about 25% of the class was on the bike, and the rest was done in “boxes” where we had TRX, weights, and room for plyo and planks.

I enjoyed the workout, the class style, and the data! It wasn’t one of my biggest burns because we did a lot of weights, but by the end of it I felt like I got a great total body workout. The instructor, Mark, was great too! Super helpful and nice to us newbies.

When bloggers come to town you have to take them to the best eats!

After quick showers, Anne and I headed to brunch. We walked to Slipstream, which was a cool cafe with coffee, light bites, and cocktails (for the later hours of the day, lol.)

The coffee was INCREDIBLE! Mine tasted like caramel (even with no sugar!)

We each had our eye on loaded toast.

Anne had avocado and whipped goats cheese with egg, and I had smoked salmon with greens, egg, and a potato hash that was too oniony to really enjoy. (I asked if there were onions involved and was told no, but didn’t want to send it back.)

When bloggers come to town, it’s always fun to compare notes, especially when you have twin posts!

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

9 Ways to Normalize Your Hormones

Home » Diet & Nutrition

September 27, 2017

9 Ways to Normalize Your Hormones

By Mark Sisson

0 Comments

Hormones word cloud conceptThere are straightforward, pharmaceutical methods for altering specific hormones, and, as I showed in last week’s testosterone replacement therapy post, they can really help. But a safer intervention for your overall endocrine environment is a systemic one. Some might call it scattershot approach in that one input affects multiple endocrine targets. I’d say, “That’s the whole point.”

Today, I’m going to give you some tried and true methods for helping to normalize your endocrine health. These are things that apply to everyone, as far as I can tell. They won’t fix every problem, but they’re good places to start. Whether you’re a post-menopausal woman, a 21-year-old bodybuilder worried about overtraining, or a thyroid patient, these interventions can’t hurt and will probably help.

Get Your Sleep in Order

When you sleep poorly, everything falls apart, including the normal function and patterns of testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormone. Sleep loss itself alters the activity of the master endocrine organ, the pituitary gland, so following good sleep hygiene is a non-negotiable.

Sleep in a cold, dark, quiet room.

Get plenty of bright natural light throughout the day, especially the morning, and limit bright light after dark, especially blue and green lights. Sun lamps can help if actual natural light is unavailable during the day. Blue-blocking goggles or glasses like these (inexpensive, block blue but not much green light) or these (expensive, but block both blue and green) can help at night.

Use the seasonal variation of daylight as a rough barometer for how much sleep to get. In the summer, when it’s lighter longer, you can probably get by with 7-8 hours. In the winter, when it’s darker longer, you should aim for 8 at a minimum and 9 as an ideal.

Check out TS Wiley’s Lights Out for a full treatise on seasonal sleep variations, and why they’re so important.

Make the effort—nay, commitment—to get more sleep. Stop fiddling with your phone at 10 PM (you always regret doing it). Don’t fall asleep with the TV on (read a book instead). Get a bedtime routine.

Get Your Diet in Order

To make hormones, you need the basic structural building blocks. That means eating enough dietary fat, especially saturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fats.

Cholesterol is an important building block, too, and has been shown to increase muscle and strength gains in weight training adults, an indication of testosterone boosting.

Minerals like zinc, selenium, magnesium, and calcium are also extremely important for healthy hormone production and metabolism.

You also need to make sure you’re eating enough calories—not too many, not too few—as the amount of food you eat sends a strong signal about the bountifulness of the environment around you. Hormones like leptin, thyroid, testosterone, insulin, and others all perceive and are modulated by the caloric balance. Your endocrine system responds to the availability of energy by up- or down-regulating hormone production. You’re not going to get pregnant very easily during a famine, nor will you produce much testosterone if you’re obese.

Carb/glycogen balance is another indicator your endocrine system uses to determine production. If you’re training hard and burning through glycogen, you’ll probably need to eat some carbs. If you’re just doing easy slow movement, some sprints, and strength training, you probably don’t need extra carbs. The key is to eat the carbs that you earned—no more, no less.

Hammer Home Primal Style Exercise—and Avoid Any Whiff of Chronic Patterns

For Crossfit hardcores, that might mean dropping from 4x/week to 2-3x. For endurance heads, that might mean trading 140.6 goals for 70.3 goals, or 26.2 2 for 13.1 (and buying the requisite new bumper sticker, of course). For everyone, that means making your short, intense workouts even shorter and more intense.

My good friend, former co-competitor, and current writing partner, Brad Kearns, more than doubled his free testosterone simply by sucking it up and lowering his assumed aerobic base heart rate (the heart rate at which you’re burning primarily fat) from 145 to 130. Didn’t change his actual training, diet, or anything else. Staying at or below 130 HR during long slow days was enough to get his free T to the 99th percentile for his age.

Increase Your Non-Exercise Movement

Increased daily movement—fidgeting, walking, housework, gardening, carrying groceries, playing with your kids/pets—adds up, and it’s something that the most health- and fitness-conscious tend to ignore or discount. This is the stuff Katy Bowman talks about in Move Your DNA and Don’t Just Sit There.

Exercise isn’t enough.

Manage Your Stress

When we’re stressed out, everything gets put on hold until we can deal with the stressor. This makes sense, because back in the day a stressor was usually a life or death situation like an enemy tribe encroaching on your tribe, a huge predatory cat, or famine. Even though most stressors these days aren’t life or death in the immediate sense, our body treats them like that—and there are a seemingly endless string of them to contend with.

What happens when stress hits? Cortisol appears. If stress sticks around, or constantly wells up, cortisol levels become chronic and disrupt your endocrine system. Chronic cortisol opposes testosterone production. Chronic cortisol reduces thyroid hormone production and impairs the conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. Chronic cortisol makes you insulin-resistant.

Everyone’s stressors are unique, but there are some big ones to watch out for: toxic relationships, terrible commutes (at the very least, find a great podcast you can listen to on the drive/ride), lack of time in nature, excessive technology exposure (especially social media). 

Discover Meaning in Your Life

Hormones direct physiological processes in the body. They’re a bit like software programs—if they’re riddled with bugs, nothing gets done. But just as computers need a user to tell the software what to do, our bodies need a narrator to give the hormones a goal to work toward. Without meaning or life purpose, the endocrine system drifts aimlessly. Why produce testosterone if there’s no competition on the horizon?

There’s admittedly not a ton of clinical support for this hypothesis. Middle-aged women with strong life purposes have better sex lives, indicating a more favorable hormonal environment. I suspect a lot of the links between life purpose and hormonal function are circular, with causation going in both directions. But that means disrupting the circle at any point can help.

Search within for what makes you tick. What makes you get up in the morning. What inflames the passions and makes you feel strong and good and right when you’re knee-deep in it. Then stick to that.

Test Frequently and Track Relevant Variables

I’m a big believer in following the symptoms, in going by how you feel, look, and perform. But having the numbers in front of you can really help, especially if you if you pair them with your symptoms, get tested at regular intervals, and track the trends.

Case in point is the earlier example of Brad Kearns, who more than doubled his free testosterone by tweaking his training and tracking the trends in his numbers. Had he not done the testing, he wouldn’t have any reference points.

Directlabs has good deals on male and female hormonal panels.

Get Uncomfortable

We lead comfortable lives. Everything works. We don’t have to face pulse-pounding situations or bring down large game just to eat. If we get cold, we turn up the heat. Hot, we turn up the AC. Things are so easy that we can spend all winter in short sleeves. It turns out that exposure to uncomfortable physical and mental sensations is important for hormone function.

Cold exposure is great at improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels. In one study, women swam in cold water at least twice a week for 7 months, enjoying huge increases in insulin sensitivity and drops in insulin.

Heat exposure also has positive hormonal effects. It increases endocrine homeostasis in Russian fighters. Sauna use increases insulin sensitivity. A 1989 study found upwards of 5-fold increases in GH after using a sauna.

Bring In the Professionals

Sometimes you just need modern professional medical help. As I’ve said time and time again, the Primal Blueprint is about availing ourselves of everything both traditional wisdom and modern science have to offer. And because our environments are so wildly different from our evolutionary environments, we occasionally need to step outside of “natural” methods to get the help we need. Sometimes replacement therapy is the ticket. Sometimes supplementation and healing protocols. That’s okay, especially if they’re laid atop a strong foundation of ancestral health practices. There are no purity tests.

And yes, they may recommend hormone replacement therapies or pharma/nutraceuticals. Exercise caution and implement extreme vetting, but don’t dismiss them out of hand. According to Weston A. Price, North American Indian tribes would often harvest moose thyroids when they were at their largest and most potent and reserve them for men and women trying to conceive. They may not have known the word “thyroid” or even understood the concept of a hormone, but they took artificial steps to enhance men and women’s hormonal health.

For more guidance, check out the podcasts Elle Russ did with Dr. Gary Foresman. He’s a former UC Irvine doctor who got sick and tired of all the nonsense and decided to branch out into integrative medicine.

NourishBalanceThrive does comprehensive testing and consultation for the peak performance minded client interested in maintaining or regaining hormonal health.

I can vouch for Dr. Howard Liebowitz in Santa Monica. A former athlete with an athletic mindset, he curates customized regimens that emphasize hormonal health, especially for the aging adult.

Don’t sell traditional docs short, either. At least not before you actually see them. They may know more than you assume, and if nothing else, they can help you order the necessary tests.

That’s it for today, folks. There are plenty of other ways to modulate your hormone function, I’m sure, and I’d love to hear about any of the ones I missed. Thanks for reading!

Question: Has anyone done all these measures and had your hormone situation worsen?

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Testing Out Whole Foods Delivery + Instacart

The experiment

Our Whole Foods just started doing delivery with Instacart (I think that link includes a $10 coupon, if you haven’t tried it!) I picked up a flyer in our store offering a $20 discount and free delivery on my first order, so I figured I’d give it a try to score $20 of free groceries! I tried it the night we came home from the beach. If you haven’t heard of it, you order groceries online with Whole Foods and then use the Instacart service to have a shopper shop for you and deliver the groceries to your house. For anyone who 1) hates grocery shopping, or 2) is really busy, this service would be life changing.

Overall I really liked it, but I don’t think I have a need to justify the cost of doing it regularly.

Things I Liked:

  • I could make my shopping list online.

    I had fun and felt organized, but it was also a little frustrating as I tried to make sure I was getting the correct products that we always get. Once you do it a few times, though, this may be one of the best parts! Especially because you can save your staples and load the list with the click of a button.

  • There were text notifications.

    I received a text when my shopper began, as she replaced a few things that were sold out or otherwise unavailable (mostly organic –> regular).

  • I was able to text my shopper!

    She swapped our bread out, and I knew she probably just missed it on the bottom shelf! I texted her and she found it right away. That was my favorite part!

  • It was convenient.

    Obviously, the convenience of not spending an hour at the store or spending any gas money going there was great.

  • There was no impulse-buying.

    Our grocery bill was about 20% lower than usual because there were no impulse buys!

    Things I Disliked:

    • There was some confusion over the service charge verses the tip.

      There was a surprise 10% service charge (which I should have figured because Instacart also needs to make money), but it canceled out half of my coupon code. I also panicked when our shopper was on the way and I realized I needed to tip her. (Did I think a robot was delivering them, or I am too used to the FedEx guy bringing a Blue Apron box?) I still don’t really know if the service charge was the tip or not. Instacart asked for a tip digitally after the order was delivered (even though I paid in cash). Google searches suggested that the service charge goes to Instacart’s profits and you can actually delete it and then just tip extra. I care most about making sure my shopper is cared for, so I want to be sure I am tipping properly and that part was all pretty confusing!

    • The groceries didn’t come refrigerated.

      Luckily I was home when they arrived (and this saved on packaging, so that’s sorta good), but I guess you can’t use this service like you would Blue Apron and let it sit on your doorstep for a few hours.

    • Our order was an hour late.

      This was only a concern because I initially planned to make dinner from the groceries and we were all really hungry. So, I went to plan B and made spaghetti instead. We were at home, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but while I was waiting, I pictured someone expecting this delivery at work. They would have had to stick around an extra hour! Just something to mention.

      Here’s the pantry meal I made that turned out to be really good: whole wheat pasta, jarred Parmesan sauce from Whole Foods, canned artichokes, capers, and parmesan cheese. 

      Final thoughts

      I will probably use the service again if I’ve had a really busy or coming-home-from-out-of-town kind of week where it would be worth 10% + delivery. Other grocery stores like Harris Teeter and Kroger have shopping services that are much more affordable on the service charges ($5 flat fee, I think). Although, you do have to go pick them up and I think you have to order 24 hours in advance. That seems like the best of both worlds, especially for parents with small kids!

      Do you like to grocery shop and have you ever used a service like this?

      This post wasn’t sponsored in any way – I’m just sharing my experience! 

      The post Testing Out Whole Foods Delivery + Instacart appeared first on Kath Eats Real Food.



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Clean Eating Hearty Bean Chowder Recipe

This is one of those recipes that makes a huge pot of soup that you can easily portion out and freeze for a cold winter evening with some crusty garlic bread. It makes about a full gallon of soup. I… Read more →



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