Life Update: Sorting myself the hell out

I have been struggling.  In early December, I got test results that I had resolved my h. Pylori bacteria overgrowth (on my own, without antibiotics!) and thought life was going to get easy.  Then, I left my part time office job, we drove 20 hours back to CT for Christmas, spent a couple weeks, drove home and then packed up everything and moved from Alabama to upstate NY (way upstate, think Canada), getting a puppy on the way and finally settling into a place in March.  Since then, I have been unemployed and just trying to keep myself and my family, and my crazy puppy, alive.  I'll be honest, I haven't been in a very good mental state and it's just been getting worse.

You'd think, with all the free time I have being unemployed, I'd be accomplishing ALL the things: exercising, cleaning, recipe developing, learning to take freaking good pictures and how to make my silly little blog pretty and eating all the amazing, healthy things.  Instead, I found myself spending a lot of time on the couch feeling more tired, unmotivated and sad.  Everything became an intense struggle, cooking, cleaning, taking the dogs for walks.  I've had bouts of depression in the past, starting in high school, but I guess you just think that it can't get to you once you know ALL THE THINGS about health, right? Well, I learned that all the knowledge won't do anything unless you do the work and fight it.  I'm tired of being tired and sad and worried.  Time to take it back!

Strategies that I know help: simple, clear schedules; get shit done BEFORE you sit down to relax; start small (accomplishing just one thing you've been avoiding can make a whole day a bit brighter); and lots of deep, calming breaths when you feel like you're drowning.  It's not a perfect system.  I've been awake for 3 hours today and have done nothing but feed the dogs, drink coffee and start writing.  My workout was supposed to happen first thing but now I have to force myself to start it once I drag myself off the computer.

Speaking of working out, almost a year ago, I attempted to begin Steph Gaudreau's (of Stupid Easy Paleo) Healthy Happy Harder to Kill program.  It was a month, just a month of workouts and food.  I managed the food just fine, she had a beautiful, simple meal plan that reduced a lot of my thinking and planning.  The exercise, however... I'm not sure what happened.  I started out so pumped, and then I just wasn't.  Part was simple lack of motivation and energy, I was fighting h. Pylori and I just often didn't feel well.  The rest was that I probably just took on more expectation of myself than my body could handle and my brain couldn't manage the letdown.  I tweaked muscles a few times, they hurt and each took a few days to heal.  Not only did I lose motivation in those days I wasn't doing anything, but I didn't know what I was doing wrong.  Was I just too tight? Do I have some sort of weird imbalance?  Is my form terrible?  I was pretty confident about my form, but I started to doubt and then I just gave up.  I needed to focus on my gut anyway, right?  But now it's been almost a year and I have done nothing for my physical health (beyond lots of Pokemon Go fueled walking this month).

So I'm trying again, with the very most basics.  Little to no weight, lots of stretching and mobility and slow slow slow escalation.  I'll take this month to be VERY careful and, if it goes well, maybe next month I'll start it over and actually pick up the barbell this time.  It's a process, guys.  I don't have it figured out, but I am done giving up.

I'm excited about food again.  Last week, I sat down with a few of my favorite cookbooks and made my own meal plan.  The rules I set for myself were that I MUST eat three meals a day (except for Brunch Sunday), the meal must be relatively easy to make and use minimal dishes.  The dishes have been killing me.  My tiny kitchen is always a mess, which I don't want to work around and, when I finally clean it, I don't want to cook anything and make a new mess.  When I cooked the other night, using my new meal plan, my husband marveled at my genius of selecting something so delicious that left so little mess in the kitchen and wondered how we didn't think of this before.

GUYS, you can make amazing food using just 1 knife and cutting board, a colander and 2 pans! Some of the books I'm using this week: the Frugal Paleo Cookbook by Ciarra Hannah, The Zenbelly Cookbook by Simone Miller, The Performance Paleo Cookbook by Steph Gaudreau (she's kinda my favorite, can't you tell?) and One-Pot Paleo by Jenny Castaneda.

This has been a long, probably boring post, but if you stuck with it, thanks for letting me vent!  If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them in the comments!  Off to workout, ciao friends.  :)


Chicken Pot Pie (Paleo)

What?!  A Recipe?!  Kate gave up writing recipes, didn't she?  Well, I did.  But sometimes, you just stumble upon something so perfect and a recipe just appears.  Those times, it would simply be selfish not to share.  This time, it was pot pie.  I've been making pot pie fairly often since going paleo and I nailed the filling from the start.  It's perfectly creamy magic.  But, I've struggled finding the perfect paleo crust.


Things I'm Into: Tea in my Hair

About two years ago, I decided to try "no poo".  For those who don't know, no poo refers to discontinuing use of common, chemical loaded shampoo and conditioners.  The usual replacement method is using diluted baking soda as shampoo and diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) as conditioner.  After the 3+ week adjustment period (in my case, probably a few months because I kept getting frustrated and undoing all my work with a dose of regular shampoo), my hair thrived on this method.  It always felt healthy, soft and shiny and I grew to loathe the strange, artificial softness of store bought conditioners.

However, my scalp did not do so well.  I developed a serious case of dry scalp and would often feel massively flaky and itchy, particularly after a few days.  I also noticed, after a wash, my face, shoulders and chest would be itchy and blotchy red.  I attributed this to the ACV as I had previously tried using it as a facial toner for my acne and my skin was just too sensitive for it.  So I started using the BS/ACV method less often and alternated with a cleaner shampoo.  My scalp continued to suffer and my hair needed washing closer to twice a week, rather than the full week I could go previously. Huff.

Eventually, through trial and error, after many different combinations, and even a few times using Mr Not-So-Naturally's dandruff shampoo in search of ANY sort of relief, I realized that, well, I was an idiot.  It wasn't the ACV causing all my irritation and itchiness, but the baking soda.  So, after one or two more painful tests, I gave it up.  No more baking soda on my sensitive scalp.  Now, I had almost two years worth of damaged scalp to heal and a determination not to go back to commercial shampoo.

Getting real up close and personal here, guys.  Be nice.
Enter:  Tea.  That's right.  Tea is an amazing thing.  If you drink a steeped version of various herbs, you can get tons of health benefits, but you can also get those benefits on your skin!  I read that rosemary is amazing for dry scalp and decided to give it a try.  I boil a couple tbsp of dried organic rosemary with dried organic hibiscus (both purchased in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs) and let them steep for... pretty much forever.  The rosemary is for my scalp while the hibiscus just adds some color and helps revitalize my henna hair color.  During my shower, I dump a couple cups on my wet hair, massage the heck out of my scalp and then rinse it out after letting it sit a while.  I still follow with a quick rinse of diluted ACV mixed with lavender and tea tree oils as my scalp needs all the help it can get.  I'm currently doing this twice a week, and every 2 weeks, washing with a clarifying shampoo from Acure organics, mostly because I love that lather feel and I just can't totally give it up. My scalp has a ways to go, I still have a few flakes that appear in my hair daily, but no longer large, dry patches, and my scalp just plain looks and feels healthy, rather than massively itchy!  I call this a success and am so glad I finally found a routine that works for me.  If you're trying/have tried the no poo method and are struggling, I greatly recommend looking up herbal options for your hair type.  There's something for everyone and, you never know, it just might be exactly what you were missing!


Things I'm Into: Standing Up

It's going to be my goal every week to share at least one thing I'm currently into, be it a new thing I've discovered, something I'm experimenting with or just an old, resurrected obsession.  I was going to share two things this week, but, as usual, I talk too much.  I'm sure I'll still be into the other next week to share.  :)

First off, an app called Stand Up.  I've been dealing with a lot of body pain and stiffness lately.  I KNOW I need a new pillow (I finally ordered one!), but a lot of it comes from my typical, overly sedentary lifestyle.  I work as a cubicle drone and our chairs are awful.  I spent a month using an equally awful lumbar roll from my doctor and I managed to train myself to actually sit properly, which is wonderful as I'm the stereotypical sloucher.  The roll not only forced me to sit upright, but it alleviated some of the pressure on my back while my muscles learned to support themselves. There's more than that though, sitting all day just makes you stiff and sore and tired, no matter how good your posture, particularly since the aforementioned awful chairs offer no support. I'm just not ready to be "that person" who brings in a yoga ball to sit on or a standing desk setup, but I need to fix my pain.  Lately, I've been hearing (from various sources), for every 20-30 minutes sitting, we should be getting up and moving for a few minutes to counteract that damage.  I've already been making as many trips to the printer as possible, but I was ready to amp up.

I downloaded this app (free for iPhone, not sure about Android), which allows me to set a time frame for it to remind me to, well, stand up! I currently have it set for 30 minutes and I can simply leave my phone face up on my desk on silent and see the little notification pop up.  When it does, I either take a trip to the bathroom, go for some water, stand up and stretch or simply do some butterfly kicks or toe taps under my desk.  Employers don't really "get" or encourage truly healthy habits in their employees and I feel like getting up for a walk every 30 minutes would get me in trouble.  A sad fact about today's work life.

It feels great though, I move a little and work out the kinks before they really get a chance to settle in.  And butterfly kicks under the desk are actually a great little ab workout.  I only look a little silly, I'm sure. :) Body pain and aches are a serious cause of stress for me, and all I want to do when I get home is curl up on the couch and be tired, which only perpetuates the problem. I'm hoping to make this a habit, plus walks with co-workers at lunch and, soon, lifting (something I started a few weeks ago, but failed to continue for various reasons).

Do you spend most of your time sitting?
What sorts of things do you do to keep active and reduce pain?


New Name, New Outlook

Hey, folks!  It's Kate, of the former Better Than Bread blog.  I started this blog a few years ago when I discovered Paleo and a new passion for cooking (I used to hate to cook, it was the need to innovate and get creative that led me to love it).  I had a sudden urge to share any of my nifty creations, and at first, they were many.  Then, things happened.  I got more into the Paleo-sphere and realized how much was out there, life started stressing me out and I just stopped coming up with "new" things, or I decided that someone else could do it better and it just seemed exhausting to try.
Plus, frankly, I hate writing down recipes, because I am a "dash of this, dash of that and oh-crap-this-is-delicious-and-I-have-no-idea-what's-in-it" kinda cook.  I simply gave up and there was a long time of just ignoring this place that was meant to be my way to connect with the world.

But other things have also happened in that time.  My discovery of Paleo has led me to other great people who talk about nutrient density and food quality, plus looking at your skincare and cleaning products the same way you look at your plate.  My passion has grown so much beyond just a love of food (trust me, I still love food) into a desire to detoxify as many aspects of my life as I can control.

I have many goals.  I'm working to heal my gut and convince my husband we don't need conventional detergent (work in progress, guys, work in progress) and I'm learning new things every day that I just want to explore and experiment with.  So, my new name, Naturally Kate, is to reflect that goal.  I want to discover ME and I want to share it all.  Food, skincare, cleaning products, meditation, exercise, everything!
Even if no one reads this ever, it's part of my own journey to document each new thing.  Something cool I find, some new things I try that work, and things that don't work.  I love each and every one of you that might take the time to read this and tag along on this journey with me, but a lot of this is about learning how to be Kate, naturally.



The Road to Healing

Oh my, it has been a day.  Last night, I wrote up a long winded post basically whining about how absolutely terrible I felt.  I feel almost consistently bloated, moody/depressed, run down, unable to fall asleep nightly, sore all over, breaking out in tiny dry eczema patches and currently dealing with three freaking canker sores, a problem that went away when I went dairy free, not to mention the stubborn dregs of acne that I just cannot completely banish.  I decided not to post it though, because there was really no point.  It was just a vent session and I felt like a hypochondriac, inventing a ton of potential conditions, and I wanted to hold off until I could read it through and either add something useful, or decide that it was necessary to share.  That was yesterday.


Meal Planning and... ok, mostly babbling...

So, remember how I said I was going to post every week about my meal plans?  I have a REALLY difficult time forming habits.  All it takes is one missed day and, boom, back to square one.  It's something that I've both been working on improving and also working on accepting about myself.
After the weeks I did post, we went on an awesome mini weekend trip up to northern AL for some vineyarding and foodie adventures.  I took that week off from meal planning and we just sorta winged it, eating things from the freezer and cobbling together simple meals. There is NOTHING wrong with going to simple meal route.  I sometimes realize that I take on too much when it comes to meals because I get excited and want to make ALL THE THINGS! It can be exhausting sometimes when every meal is a fair amount of work and planning and recipe reading.