Olympic Swimmer Living with IBD

It’s been a hard week… But you know what is incredibly uplifting? Seeing a strong young woman achieve her life-long goals while living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Kathleen Baker has Crohn’s Disease, but she is COMPETING IN THE OLYMPICS!!!! She’s officially my new hero… Some days may be pure torture, but this disease does not have to limit your dreams. Living with chronic illness may mean taking a new route, but you can still make it to the finish line.

Now you know who I will be supporting at the Rio Olympics. Goooooo Kathleen! Thank you for inspiring all of us with IBD. I hope to see you around Charlotte one day.

Check out an amazing article on her below.


Jun 27, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Kathleen Baker during the women's 100m backstroke preliminary heats in the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Unconditional Love


This is me, two years ago (July 3rd, 2014). I was in the hospital between the first and second bag of my blood transfusion. If you think this photo is bad, you should have seen me in person. The old woman wobble, memory fog, bald spots, and steroid rash really topped off the look. But do you see that smile? That was real. I was outside, and I wasn’t crying.

In the weeks leading up to my hospital stay I would beg my boyfriend to take me outside. I needed his help to make it across the fifteen feet of flooring and two stairs that separated my living room from my driveway. I usually pleaded and promised to be good for over an hour before he would cave and drag/carry me outside. You see, he had a very good reason for protesting.

As soon as my face felt the sun, I would break down. Being outside opened a floodgate of emotions. I would cry about my stupid disease, my lack of independence, and my desire to just be normal. I would cry about the constant pain…. And every time I cried, he sat down beside me, stroked my hair, and told me I was going to be ok. Every time, after I finished crying, he picked me back up and carried me inside to begin another round of the couch to bathroom shuffle. This was the first time in weeks I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt the sun and instead of thinking of days past I thought of the days ahead.


When I see this picture, I see hope, joy, and unconditional love.


I see my mother going without sleep for weeks to make sure I didn’t hurt myself stumbling to the bathroom 30 plus times in the middle of the night. I see my father paying my astronomical medical bills without expecting anything in return and my brother driving 14 hours to clean out the dorm room I abandoned when I got really sick.

I see my boss and coworkers stepping in to help me, and I see my roommates watching over me when I came back to school. I see the doctors and nurses who cared for me and the friends and family who came to “babysit” me when I could not be left alone.

I see my grandfather reaching for my hand “for him, not me” when I was too weak to walk by myself but too stubborn to ask for help.

I see my boyfriend telling me he was going to marry me, because he wanted to be the one taking care of me for the rest of my life. And… moments after that he had to rush me inside to get sick.

This picture represents more love than anyone could imagine. In this picture, I felt Christ-like love when I had nothing to give in return. I would yell and scream. I would break down and cry. I would say hurtful, mean things to people who were giving up huge chunks of their lives to take care of me. (Sorry mom…).

I did not deserve their love, but they gave it anyway. I did not deserve their patience, but they gave it anyway. I did not deserve their grace, but they gave it anyway.

They showed me a glimpse of heaven.

In this picture I see the love, the compassion, and the hope for a better tomorrow. I see the huge strides I have made in the past two years. I see the blessings the Lord placed in my life, and the assurance that there is always a peace that passes understanding. In short, I see the unconditional love of Christ. The wobble, the bald spots, and the memory fog are gone, but the smile remains. I know my support system will love me through anything. Some days are still really tough, but I know no matter what happens I have unconditional love on my side.

Paleo Foods that May Be Causing Inflammation

You started paleo. You said goodbye to fried foods and soda, but you still feel tired, nauseous, and sick. It seems impossible. 

This has often been my story with my paleo diet. There is a reason that I strongly believe everyone’s body is different and everyone reacts differently to dietary changes. However, I also do not accept the physician viewpoint of determining which foods are triggers through trial and error. Over and over again, I was told I should try a food to see if I could tolerate it.  This method made me terrified to eat, and I spent months on a diet consisting of about 5 difference foods. Many times I was told my diet was not affecting my disease at all. While there are still certain foods I personally cannot tolerate, I no longer live in fear that a food will put me in the hospital since I went paleo. I have also learned which foods on the paleo diet do not work for me. 

While paleo is helpful, there are some foods that are paleo approved but could still be causing inflammation. I highly suggest beginning on an autoimmune protocol diet and slowly adding restricted foods, as you feel comfortable. This type of reintroduction protocol helped me realize which foods I could tolerate in small amounts, which foods caused no issues, and which foods were on the final “no fly” list. Below are some common culprits for those with autoimmune disorders on the paleo diet.

Nuts/ Nut butters/Nut flours/Seeds

Nuts are extremely hard on the digestive tract. Even in modified forms (almond flour, cashew milk) nuts are extremely hard to break down in your gut. Using nut flour is a quick way to add A TON of nuts into your diet. Nuts are full of good fats and excellent protein, but moderation is essential to nut consumption. Overconsumption of nuts into an system that is consistently fighting inflammation can spell disaster.

paleo nut butter

Too much fruit

Now this idea seems completely impossible right? Fruit is good for you. Many fruits possess anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits also contain lots of natural sugars. These sugars linger in your gut and help grow bad bacteria. Yes, there is good gut bacteria, but that is another blog post… The natural sugar in fruit can give you a spike in energy with a drop off, just like refined sugars. Too much sugar, in any form, is not what the body needs. I love fruit, but I always make sure to pair it with veggies and a protein to limit the sugar intake in my blood.


During my restricted days, I missed berries. I missed them terribly. Even though they are filled with antioxidants, be careful with berries. Not only do they possess the natural fruit sugars, they have teeny tiny seeds inside. When you are inflamed, these little seeds act like a grater on your digestive system. Once I healed, I started eating blueberries for the anti-inflammatory properties, and then expanded to all of my favorite berry deliciousness. I still limit my berry intake (about once a day) to make sure I’m not causing additional harm to my body.


Too Many Paleo Treats

AKA: too much natural sugar

Yes, maple syrup and honey are still sugar. These sugars give your body a boost that it comes crashing down from, just like a refined sugar crash. They also cause bad bacteria to build up since it can feed off of un-needed sugar in your gut.


AKA: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers of any kind, spices made with peppers, potatoes

This concept was definitely the hardest for my family to grasp. They kept saying, “But vegetables are good for you…..”. Yes, vegetables and nightshades have tons of vitamins inside their delicious exteriors. However, nightshades possess lectin, a protein used to protect themselves. Some nightshades are incredibly poisonous. The nightshades we typically eat have very low levels of this protein, but for those of us with autoimmune disorders, it causes inflammation and leads to leaky gut. (Leaky gut is an entirely new blog post.) I can tolerate a meal with tomatoes or peppers about once a week. Any more than this will cause me to experience bloating, nausea, and exhaustion.


Grass Fed Cheese/Milk/Yogurt

Grass fed cheese is allowed on paleo, but often people with gut issues of any kind struggle with lactose…trust me this saddens me as much as it saddens you. Cheese replacements… even worse for me than actual cheese. Now that I have been in remission for a while I can tolerate dairy about once a week in small amounts. If you are going to eat dairy make sure it is grass fed. That gives you the highest chance of preventing inflammation.


People often remove eggs and possess some kind of allergy (small or large) to this common ingredient. Personally, I have never had any problem with eggs, and I receive almost all of my eggs from my father-in-law’s organic, cage-free chickens. Cheap eggs possess soy, hormones, and additives. Free-range organic eggs are the way to go. If you have a problem with eggs, they can often be replaced by gelatin in many baking recipes.


Chocolate/Cocoa Powder

Cue the tears. I love chocolate and cocoa powder. However, cocoa often causes inflammation. Limiting chocolate, even my favorite allergy-friendly Enjoy Life chocolate (technically not paleo) is essential for healing. It can also limit acid reflux.


Alcohol as part of the paleo diet is controversial, but the point is alcohol can cause serious inflammation. The sugar found in alcoholic drinks can be extremely detrimental in healing a digestive tract. Alcohol is inflammatory and makes it much more difficult for your body to deal with chronic inflammation. Some studies have shown that alcohol in small amounts is beneficial for preventing inflammation, however the sugar, carbonation, and sometimes wheat (I’m looking at your beer…) found in alcohol can cause major inflammation. I typically drink one glass of red wine (ONE) when I want a drink since red wine does have some anti-inflammatory properties.

Coffee/ Caffeine/Carbonation

Lay off the caffeine! So many people say they cannot give up caffeine, but coffee is like pouring hot inflammation directly into your body. Caffeine causes acid reflex, bloating, digestive issues, and curbs your natural appetite, throwing off your digestive tract. There are some studies that state coffee helps with digestion, but remember coffee is often used as a laxative. We are trying to keep food in the body. I also stay clear of all carbonation…. Even when I am flaring. For me, it only amplifies the issue.


 Raw/Slightly Cooked Vegetables

I learned this lesson the hard way this past week. My in-laws have a huge garden full of delicious and nutritious goodness. When the produce came pouring in, I started eating it at every meal. I was in heaven until my stomach threw me into a flare/stomach problem/whatever you want to call it. In short, it was no fun. Cut back on my raw vegetables, followed some directions by my doctor, and I am back on track. Raw vegetables are extremely hard for the body to digest. Your body has to work harder to break them down, steal the nutrients, and move them through the digestive tract. Cooking the vegetables until they are soft and mushy makes consumption easier. I plan on still eating raw vegetables in moderation, but I am also adding more cooked vegetables. I highly suggest cooking them down in organic chicken broth. It adds in nutrients but mostly it is just delicious.

For King & Country

I love when people living in the spotlight share their health struggles. It helps the public better understand the millions of people living with chronic illness, and it shows those of us with chronic illness that our disease does not define us! We can fulfill our callings, just like these great humans!

For King & Country is definitely one of my favorite bands, and it just so happens my best friend works for them as well. The band is made up of two brothers, and one of them is living with Ulcerative Colitis (shout out to my diagnosis!). Check out this article on a little bit of their journey.

Way to spread ‪#‎ibdawareness‬ Joel and Luke! I hope you win all the awards you are nominated for at the K-Love Fan Awards this weekend, but even more importantly thank you for sharing the love of Christ every day!

for king and country


Weight Fluctuations

I’ve been working on an educational post, but instead I decided to post something personal. Something that I, just like most 20-something year old women, too often let define me. My weight.

The semester before I was diagnosed with UC I was considered slightly overweight (I probably needed to lose 10-15 pounds, but at 21 it seemed like 100) and suffered from symptoms of unknown origin. I wasn’t obese but I was puffy, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and exhausted. I was so determined to lose the extra pounds, I registered for a jogging and conditioning class even though I knew my body could not handle the stress. I spent most of the class time pretending to get water while I was actually getting vehemently ill. Basically… I was an idiot.

Fast forward 3 months. I lost 30 pounds in 30 days. During those days I barely had the strength to sit up, much less look in the mirror. I first saw my “new self” in the door of the hospital elevator. I almost asked my mom why that little girl was staring at me until I realized she was me. I laughed at first… then I cried. My clothes hung off me, my bones were showing, and I had zero muscle mass. Obviously I already knew this, but actually seeing it somehow made it much more real. For the first time, I realized how seriously ill I actually was, and I was terrified.

One month later I had gained about 5 pounds. I was determined to go back to college (under doctor supervision) but all of my clothes were way too big. My mom drove me to the store, and for the first time in my life size 0 tops and skinny jeans actually fit. Everyone assumed that would be fun for me, but it wasn’t. Try as I may, I could not see myself in the girl in the mirror. I started crying, and the lady in the next stall asked my mom if I was ok. “I just don’t see me…I don’t know where I went….” We found two outfits before I completely broke down.

Fast forward two weeks. I returned to school, and an acquaintance mentioned that he knew I had been really sick, but “Dang, I looked hot.” I went home and cried. Did he not understand the pain that accompanied being so tiny? Did he not know how much I wished my legs were stronger, or realize how uncomfortable I felt in my new shorts? Did he not know the reason I looked “so hot” was I was too afraid to eat? What did that mean about how he saw me before my illness?

I spent the semester on and off steroids. I had a ravenous appetite, and by Christmas I had gained around 20 pounds. All of my new clothes were too small, and all of my old clothes were still too big. I had failed at keeping my new “hot, tiny body…” and I cried.

Two weeks later I experienced another flare and dropped back down to the “almost dangerous” skinny zone. I cried. My mom cried. My clothes fit, but I looked like a skeleton again.

Three months later I finally achieved remission and returned to school once again a size 0. “At least this disease made you skinny,” they said. And I cried. By graduation I had to buy a dress that was a size 4. I was still tiny but had gone up 2 sizes in 2 months. My clothes became too tight again.

I ordered my wedding dress and told the seamstress I did not know if I would need it taken in or let out. “How much weight could you lose or gain?” she asked. “Possibly 30 pounds more or less.” She had her work cut out for her.

I gave away my “big” clothes, assuming I would never weigh the same as before my diagnosis. I follow a paleo diet… there was no way. I started graduate school. I gained my appetite back…. And I gained the weight back. At Christmas, I packed my shorts for a trip to Florida. When I got there I realized I could no longer zip them. I cried. I decided I would lose weight, tighten up my diet, cut out treats, really try… and I still gained weight.

I now weigh almost exactly what I weighed before my diagnosis. This time, I am not puffy. This time I look healthy and feel good. This time, I have muscle. But this time… I remember the many times I was told how good I looked when I was “so thin.” I wonder if people judge me for gaining 30 pounds in a year. I wonder if they thought I was too thin back then, or they think I am too big now.

My family tells me I am always beautiful… and I cry.

I share this with you to make a very real point about living with chronic illness. There are times when we gain weight and become “puffy”. There are times when we lose weight and look like skeletons. There are times when we are in between. There are people that have had even more drastic weight changes than me due to flares and medication. Autoimmune disorders have a very real impact on all aspects of the body, and this includes your weight.

Weight fluctuation is a very real part of living with an autoimmune disorder. Your appetite and energy level fluctuate. You are put on steroids and gain 20 pounds in two months. Or, life gets in the way, and you gain weight just like anybody else… even if you are eating paleo.

Throughout it all, we are on mood-altering medication, losing our hair, trying to cover up rashes, and struggling to keep our heads above water. Yes, I hated seeing my ribs, but I loved when someone would say, “You look so good. I mean, I love how tiny you are!” My weight has been a constant struggle for me, and maintaining a specific weight has been impossible. I have 3 pairs of the same pants in 3 different sizes that I had to buy in a 3 month span (yes, that is a lot of 3s).

Today, I am exercising, I am eating right, and I am trying to love my body just the way it is. I am trying Crossfit to make myself more toned, and I am cutting back on bad snacks. I am listening to my friends and family more, and focusing on how I look less and less. I am realizing steroids will make me balloon up, and flares will make me drop weight quickly. I may always have a stash of clothes in the back of my closet in case I gain/lose weight…. And that is ok.

When you see someone with an autoimmune disease, take a minute to think about how they got to their current weight. People with chronic illness range from 80-400 pounds. Some people are gaining weight due to lifestyle restrictions and steroids. Some people are losing weight due to malnutrition. And it is always hard. Love us just the way we are. Sometimes it is hard for us to love ourselves.

How to Succeed in School with a Chronic Illness

Being in school while managing chronic illness is like navigating a minefield. You never know when symptoms are going to hit or the impact it will make on your education. When I was really flaring I would leave for class not knowing if I would make it through the lecture and wondering if I had the strength to get back home. I was so high on medication I could barely remember my own name, much less new information. I was a zombie, just trying to piece together some semblance of a life.

Even a year into remission, my stamina is still pretty low. I have to sleep at least 8-9 hours every night (no exceptions), stay hydrated (AND NEVER HAVE CAFFIENE), exercise the exact right amount (I shoot for at least 30 minutes a day), and eat three balanced meals (that I usually make myself). Some days I wake up and I can’t leave my apartment. I could feel great in the morning and be certain my body is trying to kill me by the afternoon.

My life does not fit into the “typical student” lifestyle you picture of all-nighters and coffee addiction.  However, myself, and many people with autoimmune disorders, are taking on the world of higher education. It may not be easy, but it is possible. No matter if you are in middle school, high school, college, or beyond, chronic illness complicates your schooling, but there is a way to make navigating the minefield a little easier.


Here are just a few tips I have used to make it through school with a chronic illness:

Advocate for Yourself.

You have a diagnosis for a reason. Tell your professors/teachers about your autoimmune disorder after the first class. Let them know how serious your disease can be and how quickly it can effect you. If you have to miss a meeting with your classmates, let them know why. When I was first diagnosed I was embarrassed about my IBD (because of all the glamorous symptoms) and tried to push through without telling anyone what was going on behind the scenes. This only caused confusion and stress, so I went ahead and told the people around me about my Ulcerative Colitis.

Instead of wondering why I was constantly distracted or MIA, they reached out to support me. My classmates often give me notes when I miss class and share their study guides when I am too tired to create my own. I was able to graduate from undergrad because two of my professors went to the administration and asked that I participate in their classes online when I told them I would be out of school for at least 6 weeks.

At the beginning of each semester I walk up to my professors after class and give the same quick statement.

Hi, I think that you have heard something from Disability Services about me (they send out an email every semester to my professors). I just want you to know that I have an autoimmune disorder called Ulcerative Colitis. This basically means my body attacks itself, and I have a difficult time digesting food. I am on medication and currently in remission so I do not forsee this having a huge impact on my classes, but I like to be upfront and let you know. Usually I am fine, but some days I wake up and I just can’t get out of bed. This can happen extremely quickly. I also am on strong medication with a lot of side effects. Sometimes I react really well and sometimes I experience fatigue, migraines, pain, and nausea. If I have to miss class, I will make sure to contact you as soon as possible. Can you think of anything ahead of time I can do to make up class if I miss it?

This usually sparks a great conversation with my professor about accommodations I may need or how I compensate when I am feeling ill. So far, my professors have been nothing but understanding. This year alone, I have had a professor give me an entire lecture I missed due to a Remicade migraine, another professor offer to let me take my final in a room alone in case I got sick or needed to run to the restroom, and yet another professor offer to work with me individually when I caught a bug (lowered immune system) and was forced to miss a lab. Advocating for yourself really works. It helps people better understand your disease, and I have found when people understand they are always willing to offer a helping hand.

Tell Them You are Sick

  • Send an email

Teaching is a hard profession and a lot of work goes into each lecture. Make sure your professor knows you take your schoolwork seriously by letting he or she know you will be absent with an email AS SOON AS YOU KNOW YOU ARE SICK. It looks professional, it makes for easy communication, and it allows all information to be written down in case you need to look at the response later. State you are sorry for the inconvenience, give a brief description of what happened (caught a bug, migraine from medication, had a flare), and ask what you can do to make up the class.

  • Text if Possible

I do not have the numbers of most of my professors, but I do have the phone number of those I work with in clinic. Most people have their phones on them 24 hours a day. It is a quick and easy way to follow-up an email without getting out of bed. Once again, make sure the tone is professional. I usually just say hello, sorry for texting you last minute, I sent an email but I wanted to make sure you knew, I have x today and won’t be making it to clinic/class.

  • Ask Another Student to Tell

This is extremely helpful if you get sick right before class. Even if you sent an email, many professors do not have the time to check their emails throughout the day. Having someone say something directly to the professor ensures that they get the message.Usually I just leave this one as will you let Professor X know I’m sick today? Your professor has enough time to get the gist when he or she reads your email later.

  • Ask What you Can do to Catch Up

Always ask what you can do to catch up on the lecture you missed. Not only does it show you take your classwork seriously and realize classes are important, it is usually this statement that gets a professor to meet with me one on one or give me additional information that will be useful.

Learn to Let Go

I am a classic nerd, and I have always worked like crazy to make straight A’s. After my diagnosis I quickly learned that it wasn’t always possible for me to make straight A’s anymore. I couldn’t stay up all night studying for a huge test. When I feel sick, I can’t focus. My goal has switched to learning the important information and passing my classes. I may not make straight A’s and that is ok. I had to learn to Let It Go… Let It Go…. Yes, I love Frozen. I make no apologies.


Use Disability Services

This is the greatest resource you have in the educational world. I have found most professors are great at working with you, but every once in a while you need someone in your corner. Disability services (or whatever it is called at your school) is there to help you and advocate for you when advocating for yourself is not enough. I also found just having documentation through this office helped my professors take my autoimmune disorder more seriously.

Take a Break When You Need It

My favorite study tool is a quick nap. I know it sounds crazy, but I have learned I can only study so long before my mind checks out. After that point I know I won’t remember anything. I can take a 15 minute break or a quick 30 minute nap and feel refreshed enough to study a little longer. Breaks are crucial for me and help me perform much better.


Do Your Make-Up Work

No matter what you missed, make sure you know the material. I have a friend in class who records all of our lectures for a professor. I will re-listen to these, thumb through the book, and make sure I understand the material before the next lecture. If I miss lab I make sure to meet up with my professor to make sure I can grasp whatever I missed.

Do Your Work Ahead of Time

I learned this tip the hard way. We all know that the beginning of each semester moves a lot slower than the end. I tend to feel better when life is moving slower, and in the past I have gone ahead and worked on projects, made notecards for midterms, or tried to look ahead. This semester I did not do these things and faced the consequences during finals. I had a little mini-flare and still had a mountain of work. It was AWFUL. Work ahead, get it done, and you will feel much better towards the end of the year. This also helps a lot in group projects. Working ahead ensures you won’t leave your classmates hanging if you feel poorly.

Making it through school with a chronic illness may be difficult, but that does not mean it is impossible. I hope these tips help you to better navigate the minefield and make it easier to obtain success in the educational world. 

How A Serious Paleo Diet Changed My Life… by Madison Fox

Check out this amazing post written by an incredible lady. Her story is extremely close to mine, and I am so thankful she is feeling better. We were both seriously struggling at the same time at the same undergraduate program. Through two different paths, we both found healing through diet and lifestyle. Today, we are both successful in two different graduate programs and… healthy! You go Madison! Thanks for sharing your incredible story.


Not Every Day Can Be a Good Day

Not every day can be a good day. This simple truth is something I have struggled with since my diagnosis.

I truly believe that the changes I made brought me out of my year-long flare. I spend almost all of my limited free time maintaining the medicinal, lifestyle, and dietary routines necessary to keep me healthy. Since I dedicate so much time to my health, I should reap the rewards every moment of every day of the year, right? I should be skipping through meadows and reminiscing about when I used to suffer from a chronic illness. That would be nice. 🙂

While my investment severely minimizes the bad days, it definitely does not eliminate them.

I feel a little guilty even addressing this subject as I am about to celebrate a YEAR in remission. I had a great gastro visit last week in which my doctor literally patted me on the back. This great gastro check-in used to seem like an impossibility. At this time last year I was debating turning down my acceptance to graduate school, thinking about canceling my wedding, and talking with my doctor about surgical intervention. Every morning, when I head to school after kissing my husband goodbye, I thank the Lord for my health. I am truly thankful for this last year, but some days I am still left wondering what life would be like without UC.

The day after my amazing doctor’s visit I began feeling pain, body aches, and nausea. While I wasn’t experiencing a flare I knew I was headed that direction. My body definitely needed my next Remicade infusion. I felt defeated, and I started wondering what I had done to ruin my health. I began blaming myself for how I felt, for not being stronger, and for spending the day on the couch when I really needed to be in the library. I was pretty far down the path of self-blame when I remembered…

I have a chronic illness.

Yes, my “bad” days now are the days I used to pray for during a flare, but I am still allowed to have days where I can’t keep up with everyone else. Even though I am doing extremely well, there will always be days when I feel terrible. My body is constantly attacking itself. On these bad days, I need to step back and let my body recover. It is impossible to do everything correctly all the time, and even if I follow every hypothesis on how to keep a body with UC healthy, every day is not going to be a good day.

The bad days, no matter how often or how sparse, will always be around. And that is ok!

I have to stop trying to find the perfect combination of diet and lifestyle that will provide me with unlimited energy and no symptoms. I have an autoimmune disorder. My body will always be attacking itself and sometimes I have to give myself the time it needs to adjust. While my diet is helpful it cannot heal me. I can provide my body with the best weapons possible, but I am not going to win every battle. My goal is to win the war.

Basically, the whole point of this post is…

When you have an off-day, do not beat yourself up. It happens. Your body is fighting off a whole host of internal attacks every day. It is ok to ask for help and realize you cannot do it all, even if you are in a much better place than you have been in the past. Take a day or two to sit back and recover. Then, get back out there and fight. While not every day can be a good day, the majority definitely can.

Even on the bad days there is something to celebrate… like the fact that my puppy loves me enough to give me his most prized possession… on my face…. during my nap… in his own cute attempt to cure me.



How To Eat Paleo Without Going Hungry or Insane

Imagine this common scenario. You come home after a long day and there is nothing to make for dinner. Your energy is completely drained, you have a million things left to do, and the last place you want to spend your time is in the kitchen. You are hungry and frustrated. The take out menu begins calling to you, and the battle between health and efficiency has begun.

No matter how hard you try, your health continues to be sacrificed.

It seems like there is no hope… until now.

It is time for me to share my dirty little secret… most of the time I hate cooking. By Tuesday night meal planning and prepping becomes unbearable. However, I know making my own meals improves my stamina, energy level, attitude, and number of symptom-free days. The only way for me to stay on track is to remove the stress from midweek cooking. Through many months of trial and error, I created several tips for myself (and you) to help keep away the workweek blues. No matter what diet improves your health, these tips can help you stay on track in a busy world.

Make A Plan:

When I started my graduate program I began making a meal plan for every week.  At the start of this semester, I moved to weekly breakfast (usually 2 eggs and a smoothie) and lunch (usually a larabar, cut veggies, apple, sunbutter, and bag of veggie chips) plans with monthly dinner plans. I shop every Saturday for groceries. Below is my monthly meal plan for January with each meal scheduled. Easy meals are scheduled on busy days and more complicated meals are either scheduled for shorter work days or prepped days before.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 2.16.38 PM

These meals are then listed in order on a word document, with all ingredients and instructions I do not have memorized, for easy access during the week. Click on the link below to see an example of my meals from January. Almost every meal was pulled from online resources, paleo cookbooks, and Pinterest. Some included new recipes. While many were wildly successful, a few will be replaced in the next rotation.


Before my weekly grocery run I can scan the ingredients for the next week and see which items I need to pick up at the store. The planning seems tedious, but it saves SO MUCH time during the week.

Stick To The Plan:

Some nights all I want is to do is pop in a pizza and lay down on the couch. Sticking to the plan can be tough, but it makes me feel great. I have to remind myself it only takes five more minutes to stir-fry my veggies or pop prepped chicken thighs in the oven. If I don’t… I face the consequences, and often end up with a stomachache and a few days worth of rotten food.

Make A Shopping List And Only Buy What Is On The List:

If you buy junk at the grocery store, you will eat it. Do not let that junk in your house! You will cave! Can you tell I am saying this to myself? Make a list, and only buy what you need for the week. Include healthy snacks for a growling stomach in between meals. Your body will reap the benefits from your nutritious choices. Making a list also saves time. Instead of wandering down the grocery isles picking out what seems good at the moment, I sprint through my list like lightning and can be out of the store in 15 minutes.

Have A Back-Up: 

Sometimes things happen and there is no possible way to make the meal you planned. That’s ok! Have a back-up meal you can easily throw together. My back ups are banana pancakes with bacon, tuna salad, and grass-fed hot dogs sautéed with sauerkraut. I keep the ingredients on hand at all times for the days when it seems nothing goes right. Sometimes I have to remind myself that these are back-up meals because I love them so much…


Pick Yummy Foods to Make:

There is nothing worse than coming home to a bland meal. Eating paleo, AIP, or Whole30 does not mean giving up taste. Take time to find a multitude of delicious recipes you know your whole family will enjoy. Pick different flavors and styles to keep your palate from getting bored. Make sure your meals include your favorite fruits, veggies, or a tasty surprise. It makes it much easier to stick to your diet if you know you will enjoy it.

Meal Prep, Meal Prep, Meal Prep:

This is probably the most essential step. Without meal prep it is impossible to eat clean during the week. My meal prep usually occurs on Sunday afternoons. It takes me a few hours, but I can throw my meals together in minutes during the week. During prep I make lunches for both my husband and me. I also chop up veggies, rice cauliflower, roast sweet potatoes, and season meats to pop into the oven. Below is a picture of my typical meal prep. It is a lot, but it means not stressing once the week starts.


Make Simple Meals:

Complicated meals or new ingredients tend to stress me out. I save new recipes with unknown items for long days like Saturday and Sunday. This midweek salad is simply mixed greens topped with mushrooms, leftover artichoke hearts, celery, carrots, and salmon seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple can be delicious without any added stress.


Eat It More Than Once:

The best nights are leftover nights. Make extra and plan to have the meal more than once. Usually the flavors have marinated and it is even better than the first night. All leftover night requires is a few minutes in the microwave. Can you tell this is my favorite night of the week?

Take It With You:

Following your diet is increasingly hard if you are not in control of your meals. It is nearly impossible for me to explain what I eat to new friends or address my dietary concerns for a pre-planned meal at a conference. When I go to a party or on a trip, I make sure to pack something I can eat. This pack ranges from a simple snack to a whole set of Tupperware depending on the situation. By bringing my own food, I still get to enjoy the social aspect of meals and travel without wrecking my body.

Below is a meal my parents helped me pick up at a grocery store before a road trip. After trips stuck eating french fries (which i love) and nothing else, packing food was a relief.


Eat Beforehand:

Sometimes it is easier to just eat before you meet up with people. For school gatherings with professors and staff, I often eat on my own beforehand. With a full stomach, I’m not tempted by the spread of goodies present wherever I am going.


These are the tips I follow with to make sure I stick to my paleo diet and feel my best. I hope that they help you feel your best as well. Feel free to comment any additional tips or questions!