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A personal confession and a taco casserole….

I am slowly starting to accept that yoga will always be somewhat painful. And on the rare days that I can run, my jog will be awkward and slow at best. And my body will likely always feel significantly older than it actually is. It’s hard to accept things like this when exercising and healthy living has always been such a big part of my life. It is a huge part of who I am. 

Things change as we age. My body just changed a lot faster than I ever imagined. I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is a degenerative rheumatic inflammatory disease that is similar to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but instead of affecting the joints, it targets the spine. And unfortunately it can travel all over the body.

Why am I telling y’all this? To be honest, I never ever thought I would post about this, much less tell my family (my parents don’t know) or my friends (only a few know). There are two reasons I felt the gnawing need to share for some months now. One, I realized that there is so little awareness of this disease. I started to think of all the people and patients I’ve worked with over the years that should have this on their radar. Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons has been one of the first to share his story with AS and hopefully others will be helped by getting diagnosed earlier (which can help prevent damage), and I hope to do the same. People that have an IBD (Crohn’s or UC) — even if they have been in remission for years — are much more likely to get AS. But anyone (even kids) can be diagnosed. Unfortunately, because of a lack of awareness it often goes undiagnosed. If you have lower back pain, consistant muscle stiffness (and weakness), and fatigue that has lasted for more than 6 months then you might want to mention it to your doctor. There are more people affected by AS than MS, CF and ALS combined. Here is more information if you’d like to learn more about ankylosing spondylitis.  

The second reason I am sharing this is more of a confession, I guess. Personally, it is very hard for me to admit to myself that I have AS. When I was diagnosed, I was a little embarrassed. I felt like a phoney for always claiming to control my body with diet and exercise, and, in turn, telling others that they can do the same. To be clear, I haven’t a stomach flare in almost 10 years and I don’t take medication. Diet has radically changed my life for the better. Much better. But now I always feel like I should add the caveat, “but I also have AS and it sucks every single day.” 

Then I realized that clients aren’t paying me to hear about me, but I don’t want anyone to ever think I’m being deceitful about the issues I do have. And see…I am owning it. Because you know what? I do have some control. If you know anything about AS, then you’ll know I’m doing pretty damn good. For the people I work with or anyone else, you CAN take control of your health. I believe that with all of my heart (it helps that science is on my side) and live it every single day. I will continue to workout and go to yoga, get labs to make sure I am balancing my hormones (and nutrients), and of course, I will continue to nourish my body with good foods because that, more than anything, has changed my life for the better. My doctors have said, “thank goodness you eat the way you do or this AS could be a lot worse.” Thankfully, I LOVE the way I eat. I really do! Now….I just have extra motivation.  Thank you for taking the time to read this. 

On to the food…

Who doesn’t love tacos?? This amazingly delicious and easy to make taco casserole (by Paleomg) was a hit over here. And even though it’s low carb, it feels carb-y (with the Siete tortillas) and is super satisfying.  I hope you all like this casserole as much as we did!!

Print Recipe
Taco Casserole
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9x12 baking dish.
  2. In a large pan, add 2 tablespoons ghee or buter or avocado oil. Once warm, add the onion, peppers, and garlic and sauté until peppers are browned and onions are translucent.
  3. Add ground beef and break into small pieces. Cook until no pink remains and then add taco seasonings and salt, to taste. Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. To that same bowl, add the salsa, green chile salsa, and eggs and stir until completely combined.
  4. Now build your casserole: add a large spoonful of the taco/salsa mixture to the bottom of the greased dish, then put a tortilla on top. Then repeat that: meat/salsa mixture.
  5. Place in oven to bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the middle is no longer moving. Let casserole rest for 15 minutes to set before slicing.
  6. Top casserole with garnishes (jalipeno, onions, sour cream or cheese if desired, etc) before slicing and serving!

  • Ella Herlihy - Can I just say that I should have been Mexican?? As good as this looks for dinner, I think leftovers for breakfast would be like heaven. Especially if it was warm and sunny here and I could see the Gulf…. Oh well! At least we have tacos.ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Ha! I hope you like it for breakfast or whatever meal! 🙂 I love it for breakfast, too!!ReplyCancel

  • JC - Hi Landria! Thank you for your AS story. It’s tough when our bodies don’t behave like we remember they did! I just realized today that it has been 22 years since my 8th back surgery. Water exercise is the best thing for me. I wish you all the best for your future well-being!
    Now, on to Taco Casserole! Mexican food is my favorite and I make something very similar, Enchilada Casserole. I’m going to try your taco version. It looks great. Thank you!❤️ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Hey JC! I cant imagine 8 back surgeries! Talk about chronic pain. Eek. I m so sorry you had to go through like. We definitely all have our own stuff. And your casserole sounds good, too!! I hope you like the taco one if you try it. Hope you’re well!!ReplyCancel

  • Krissy - It was so fun seeing you this morning. I can’t believe Tate is at same school as my kids! Such a small world. I really have thought about posting a comment or emailing you since reading your recent post. So I take this morning as a sign.
    I have always loved reading and learning about food (and how it affects our bodies) from you. You have such a great way of making it all make sense! Also just want to say how awesome it is that you have opened up to share what you are going through with your diagnosis of AS. I am surprised to see how many are affected, how common the symptoms are, and that many times it is not diagnosed. Thank you for helping increase awareness!
    Keep doing what you are doing!!!ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Hey Krissy! It was great seeing you, too!! It is such a small world. And thank you for talking the time to post your comment. Your kind words and support mean a lot!!! Thank you!!! I hope to see you around the school more! 🙂

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