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!!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9x12 baking dish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Top casserole with garnishes (jalipeno, onions, sour cream or cheese if desired, etc) before slicing and serving!
I’ll try not to rant too much, but while I was watching the national news today at the gym, a segment came on about how those who ate breakfast couldn’t lose weight and those that skipped breakfast didn’t gain weight. Ugggh. If you saw me, you might have noticed steam coming from my ears. With so much conflicting information on the subject of health out there, do we really need something like this to confuse us even more? Okay, so here is the link to the article.
To sum it up, based on trials on overweight and average individuals, “those who ate breakfast experienced no weight loss and people who skipped their morning meal also saw no weight gain”. So they are basically telling us to skip breakfast if we want to lose weight or rather not gain. What that really means, is, I hope you have good willpower tonight and likely every night after, because at some point, your body is going to want the calories (energy) it needs and deserves.
Also according to the story, “the latest findings should be interpreted with caution because some of the 13 trials used in their study didn’t last long”….because they were hungry!
If they ate breakfast, “they ate more calories in their day” and hence no weight loss. Ok if we left it at that, then we might say, “hmm, must work, so no more breakfast for me.” And then your daily meal plan might looks something like this, which I hear a lot from clients.
Sample meal plan:
Breakfast: Nothing or just coffee
Lunch: Salad grilled meat
Dinner: Grilled fish and veggies
After dinner: Ice cream
After after dinner: Large Pizza
What is SUPER frustrating for me is that the article doesn’t go into detail on what study subjects ate for breakfast when they “ate more calories.” If someone is hungry after breakfast, which again, I hear often with clients, then what are they eating? And typically, it’s almost 100 percent certainty it was something that raises (refined carbohydrates) their insulin/blood sugar and then they had a drop in blood sugar, so here come the cravings, intense hunger, etc.
What raises insulin levels? Well, the standard American diet, which includes lots of refined carbohydrates, does exactly that. What if the study included what the people ate and different people ate different things in the study. Let me pick out what they get to eat and I can almost guarantee that their appetites would not increase. And not only that, they would be fueling their brains, body and GREATLY reduce the risk of that late afternoon early evening binge that is certain to come when we are tired, hungry and will power has left for the day.
Refined carbohydrates = Insulin spike, then drop = cravings, increased appetite, drop in energy/focus and our body then stores fat.
Now if you’re Intermittent Fasting or IFing (which doesn’t mean restricting calories but it’s just fasting for 12-16 hours) and you don’t have low blood sugar or adrenal/cortisol issues, then that is totally fine, and seems to work well, mainly for men (of course! :)), and that is a whole different story. But for those of us that don’t IF, what if we had a breakfast, I mean a big breakfast, that allowed our insulin/blood sugar levels to stay stable for longer and never spike. I bet our energy would be more stable, our cravings would diminish and our appetite would be regulated. And, we wouldn’t be hungry after dinner! Yes, Landria, sounds great. So how do we do that? Well I’ll tell you. The three things that keeps our blood sugar and insulin stable include FAT (healthy), FIBER and PROTEIN. Don’t be afraid to fill up on these things. Try it one morning but instead of an egg and toast, have 3 eggs cooked in butter or ghee or coconut oil, with a side of sauteed shredded brussel sprouts cooked in butter (cooked the night or Sunday before of course, no time for cooking in the more except for eggs, right??) or half an avocado and bacon. I can almost guarantee you’d feel great. And, you’re not telling your body to hang on to fat with a big ole insulin spike. If I’m wrong, and you don’t feel great, tell me and I will personally write you a check for $500. Ok, I am totally lying. I am not going to do that, but I am just that sure that you will feel great (baring no personal physical issues with digesting fats or proteins)!
What do you have to lose? Okay, besides possibly some weight, and gaining more energy.
Speaking of things that will keep insulins stable and blood sugar levels stable….
As you may have noticed by now, I love casseroles. Being the carb addict that I once was, I love all foods that feel hearty. There is just a comfort level that I enjoy, but also it’s satisfying. I love salads too, like in the summer, once in awhile. I’m kidding. Kinda.
Ok I do like salads but I’ll take a casserole most any other time. Some of my favorite “casserole” type dishes that I love and cook (not just in the winter) include Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, Pizza Casserole, Chicken Pesto Pasta, Paleo Bolognese just to name a few. And you know what is great about all of these meals, they will keep insulin steady and blood sugar levels stable.
My sweet friend made this Buffalo Chicken appetizer, which would be GREAT for the Super Bowl by the way(!), the other night and it was fabulous with chips and guacamole on top. All she did was dump 3 ingredients, plus some chicken, into a crock pot for about 2 hours and wahlah. And, if you don’t have time to slow cook it, according to Dana who posted the original recipe, you can just bake it in a dutch oven or casserole dish for 30-35 mins at 350 F, until lightly brown.
Because it was sooo delicious, I wanted to make it into a hearty meal. And I did just by adding cooked spaghetti squash. It was so easy!!
So here it is…. maybe even try it for breakfast if you don’t love or are sick of your eggs. Hey, dont knock it until you try it!
Preheat oven to 400F. Then cut your spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and then put both sides, face down on a cookie sheet. Cook on 400 for 20-25 minutes or until soft.
While that is cooking, combine the other ingredients in the slow cooker and stir until well combined.
Set the slow cooker for approximately 2 hours on LOW. The chicken should start to fall apart with a fork.
The last 45 min, scrape the cooked spaghetti squash into the slow cooker, shred the chicken with a fork and stir well.
By the way, look at these two good lookin’ guys, althought my son could use a hair cut. Anyway I use to have my dad, and my kids, in more of my post just to mix it up some. It’s been awhile so thought I would share to add a little color to this post. I’m pretty sure my dad looks the exact same from years ago….
If you have access to the restaurant Kale Me Crazy then you must try their chicken pesto wrap! We had it on a gluten free wrap and it was delicious!! I thought we HAVE to recreate this. And we did and honestly, I have to say, I think our version turned out even better. And it was a lot cheaper!
Tate literally slapped his hands together after he ate this dinner and said “done in record time!”. And, while I don’t advocate eating quickly (althought he typically is the slooooowest eater), I will take that as a compliment to the meal. He loves it but we all do. This is our new favorite meal!
With our creation, we decided to use grilled chicken instead of sliced deli meat. And while their gluten free wraps were really good (they use Food for Life rice tortillas), we used our favorite Siete tortillas (the same ones we use for our enchiladas – see picture in post). But since the Siete grain free tortillas are smaller we made quesadillas instead of wraps. For the pesto, I was able to make it dairy free (I think KMC’s) has some parmesan. And, I was also able to make it nut-free using my favorite pumpkin seeds. Anyway you could easily just buy some of your own pesto but I love it fresh and really it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to make. And it’s sooo worth it!!
Sometimes you gotta mix the pics up and it’s been awhile since I’ve used my kids in the pics. They are getting so old! Alice just told me a few minutes ago that she will be doing a Drivers Ed course this summer. That just about blew my mind. Anyway, the reason I got this picture is because she actually volunteered to “hold the plate”. Needless to say, I got this snapshot before she devoured the quesadilla!! The pesto is what really makes this wrap, I mean quesadilla. But after making it twice last week (yes, we had this dinner two times last week since my hubby grilled so much chicken the Sunday before anyway), I am realizing that I need to put this pesto on everything. Just this morning, I added some to my breakfast mash it was awesome!!I tend to munch a lot when I am cooking. I mean, don’t we all? Anyway I thought this (below) was delicious just this way. What a great little appetizer this would make!
By the way, does anyone have an air fryer? I hear people love them and use them every single day. I got one for Christmas but haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I am excited to try all kind of veggies, buffalo wings, and chicken parmesan with it. I would love to hear your experience/recipes if you have one!
I love a good salsa verde! I fell in love with that stuff back when I lived in San Francisco after college. But once I moved back to Atlanta, I found it fairly difficult to find a good, fresh one. Often, they were sweetened with sugar, which is a weird choice on an ingredient in a salsa verde in my opinion. Anyway, I’m happy to say I’ve finally found one that I love!
I used these three ingredients (see picture below) and mixed them with some blended tomatillos, (jalapenos if you’d like, just take the seeds out and it will be fairly mild), garlic, onion and cilantro, and it made for an amazing salsa verde!!
I also love many crock pot recipes made with pork, but I always felt like when I used a pork shoulder (which is what most of the pork crock pot recipes call for), there was always just way too much fat to cut/pick out. My son is totally grossed out by big chunks of fat, as am I. So for this recipe, we used pork tenderloin (bite-sized pieces) and it was way better. As much as I am a fan of fat for flavor, I think we will be pork tenderloin for the crock pot from now it. I also feel like it saves time in the end.
I love that the cauliflower made this so much thicker and heartier. You could also use white potatoes or a white beans if you prefer!
You can use canned tomatillos or you can roast some fresh ones along with fresh jalapenos (peel off outer layer of the tomatillos, cut them in half, coat with avocado oil and bake on 400 for 10 min) if you would like.
You can also prep this meal ahead of time. I blended tomatillos (and jalapenos), onions, garlic and cilantro (and jar of salsa verde, green enchilas sauce, and green chilies) ahead of time, so all I had to do the next morning was brown the meat, turn on the crock pot, place the meat in it, along with the sauce (salsa verde you’ve made) and let the crock pot do it’s magic!
And I really loved this Kite Hill (dairy free) cream cheese with it. I think that is what really made this dish but the kids said I was “alone on that one”. But they did enjoy the stew with some avocado and hubby loved it with sour cream. I hope you all enjoy it too!!
I found this after Whole Foods 365 and also Publix carries it….
In a medium sized skillet, add avocado oil and heat over medium high heat. Brown the sides of the pork (for about 2-3 minutes on each side) and add them to the slow cooker.
In a food processor add the tomatillos, onions, garlic and cilantro and blend until fairly smooth. Add it to the slow cooker along with the cauliflower rice, green enchilada sauce, salsa verde, green chilies, cumin, dried oregano, and salt.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5 until the is fork tender.
Garnish with avocado, sour cream (or cream cheese :)) if desired.
I love almost all soups, not to mention, they are probably one of the easiest things to make. It’s an all-in-one meal. No need sides needed! And, with Hot & Sour Egg Roll soup, I didn’t even have to cut anything. I just dumped, cooked and mixed and that was it. And thankfully, even though there was ground meat in the sauce, which they weren’t a huge fan of last post, the whole family loved this!! I’m looking forward to the leftovers for the rest of the week. Hope you all like this nice easy meal the weekend before the holiday break.
Add an onion, or a pre-cut onion pack if you’re a lazy cook like me, to this picture…
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.
landriav - Ha! I hope you like it for breakfast or whatever meal! 🙂 I love it for breakfast, too!!
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!❤️
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!!
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!!!
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! 🙂