The Wellness Project Book


While I still am not 100% sure whether or not I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis (GP says no, naturopath says yes), I'm taking all my happy thyroid cues from Phoebe Lapine, the leader of the #HashiPosse. I was so excited to help launch her new book The Wellness Project, which started as a year-long experiment of monthly challenges to improve her health. 

As part of helping launch her book, I participated in the #4WeekstoWellness challenge. I decided to work out some of my gut issues and proper elimination. I began my making my own bone broth (see recipe below) and drinking 1/2 cup to a cup every morning. I also tried to up my leafy green intake to help the process along. The second week I tried to up my hydration level, which is so hard! I always think I drink so much, but I am always so thirsty when I leave work. In the book Phoebe says that if our body goes thirsty one day it can replace the thirst desire with a hunger desire. I have definitely noticed that feeling, especially mid-morning when hunger strikes, but I really just need to drink more water. 

The third week I began to cut out sugar. While my sugar level has significantly dropped from a year ago (I no longer eat a bag of gummy bears in a sitting), I have been eating a lot of dark chocolate. It's been a stressful year and dark chocolate is my go-to de-stresser. These days I'm trying to cut out the sugar and see if the acne that has set up shop on my jaw dissipates. It's been two weeks and, while I'm also doing my best to stop leaning on my hands so much, it seems it's finally starting to fade. I've been upping my fruit intake to curb the sugar cravings which includes lots of fruit: frozen fruit smoothies, dried fruit, & fruit with nut butters. Fruit, though high in sugar, contains fiber which slows the release of glucose into your system (which is why they say smoothies are better than juices). 

I'm happy to report that even though my digestion has been upset with some of the foods I've event lately (ugh, onions!), I've been fairly regular and that is pretty fantastic. Why did I choose focusing on my elimination patterns? For anyone with a hormonal imbalance, it is imperative to have a regular system of elimination. I'll get into this further in another post, but our excess sex hormones are flushed out through the large intestine and if they sit in there for a longer period they can be reabsorbed back into the body. That re-absorption can lead to further imbalance which can manifest in a myriad of ways, acne included. 

If you're interested in learning more about how you can start your own #4WeekstoWellness challenge and focus on a specific issue you may be dealing with, check out Phoebe's site, Feed Me Phoebe, or order the book! It was such a great (and funny!) read filled with so much valuable information on healthier lifestyle patterns. 

Want to make your own bone broth? Here's the basic recipe I used from The Bone Broth Miracle by Ariane Resnick:

Basic Bone Broth

1 lb of grass-fed (VERY IMPORTANT) beef bones. You can use more, but it will be equal to how much water you can fit in whatever pot you use.

1 quart of water per pound of bones

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per quart of water

1 teaspoon of sea salt per quart of water

1 bay leaf or tablespoon of dry herbs of your choosing

Roast the bones slightly for added flavor, if desired. If using a crockpot, combine all the ingredients and set on low for at least 24 hours, but it can go for up to 48 hours. If using the stove, set the temperature to as low as possible and simmer for 24 hours or longer. 

Strain the bones, bottle, and store in the fridge up to a week. Reheat on low whenever desired. 

Reading The Wellness Project? Making some bone broth? Tag me @lisammagee and @phoebelapine. If you begin your own health challenge be sure to use the tag #4WeekstoWellness. 

Three Things Keeping Me Healthy This Winter


The weather has been weird lately. It was 19 degrees last night and in the high 60s last week. Since this weird, global warming winter has been shaking things up internally, it has been a good sign to check in on my health. I used to be the person that would get sick every time the weather changed, so I try to be very aware of how I'm feeling physically whenever a new season is upon us. I'm offering a few of my favorite ways to stay healthy below (plus a few things that are keeping me occupied indoors while the cold works itself out). 

Elderberry Syrup - High in Vitamin C, a little bit of this in my daily hot lemon water has been a delicious start to my day and a great immune boost first thing in the morning. Currently, I'm sipping on Mother Mountain Herbals' Elderberry Oxymel that was steeped for over 8 months. My other favorites included Wooden Spoon Herbs' Elderberry Sumac Syrup and the Organic Sambucus Elderberry + Zinc Lozenges

Kitchari - This is Ayurveda's answer to a cleanse. This lentil/rice porridge with veggies is so stewed down that it gives your digestive system a rest. It's the perfect way to change seasons, take a break after an eating holiday, or any other time your digestive system feels taxed. Here's my favorite recipe for kitchari from Noel Graupner, an Ayurvedic practitioner in NYC. If you have any questions about the recipe, email me or comment below!

P.S. This recipe makes a few days worth which is really all you need to reset, but you may want to use Triphala (a mix of berries and herbs in pill form) to help you poop daily since there isn't much roughage. I usually take 2 pills before bed. 

Noël's Spring Kitchari
1 cup split or whole mung dal
1 cup white basmati rice
½ tsp mustard seed, whole
½ tsp cumin or kalonji seed, whole
½ tsp coriander, ground
½ tsp fennel, whole
½ tsp turmeric, ground
½ tsp fenugreek, ground
½ inch ginger root, chopped or grated
¼ tsp mineral or soma salt
2-3 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1-2 cups of spring veggies, chopped (bitter melon, daikon radish, celery root, asparagus, pea, fennel, etc.)
1 cup bitter spring greens (mustard greens, dandelion, sorrel, nettles, collards, arugula, kale, spinach)
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
6 cups of water, filtered if possible

First, sift and sort through lentils and grains to remove any stones. Soak lentils and quinoa 5-8 hours or overnight, rinse well twice in cool, preferably filtered water. Soaking and rinsing will improve the digestibility of the kitchari.

Add the 5-6 cups of water along with the rice and mung beans to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid slightly ajar, and cook until the grain and beans have become soft, between 20-30 minutes. While the rice and beans are cooking, prepare vegetables and greens of your choice, add them to the pot of rice and beans, and continue cooking until they have become soft. The result should be a soupy porridge. Allow to cool slightly and  divide into bowls. 

In a separate saucepan, warm 2-3 Tbsp of ghee over the lowest heat possible. Add first the whole spices, stirring constantly until they begin to pop, then add the remaining ground spices to the ghee until well integrated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat before the aromas of the spices are lost from the ghee mixture to the air. Generously spoon the seasoned ghee over the cooked kitchari. Top kitchari with a sprinkle of mineral salt, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve warm. Enjoy, chewing each bite well before swallowing!

Tea - If you know me, you know I drink a LOT of tea. Mostly herbal since I cut out caffeine for the most part (Is now the time to tell you that it increases the chances of infertility by 50%?) Anything that keeps my digestion happy will keep away sickness and I know how much my body loves hot water. I'm drinking lots of immuno-happy herbs like lemon balm, nettle, peppermint, turmeric, and ginger. My favorite thing lately has been to just cut a few slices of fresh ginger and put them in my cup to refresh with hot water throughout the day.

Things I'm Loving Lately

Podcasts - Trying my best to keep informed by listening to NPR Politics which breaks the news down gently for me and trying to stay uplifted by listening to The Cookbook Deal by my favorite cookbook author, Jessica Murnane (P.S. If you aren't following me on Instagram, you probably haven't seen my hundreds of pictures of her cookbook but it is beautiful!).

Music - When I feel like I'm full up on people talking in my ears, I've been listening to and remembering my love for music. Right now I can't stop playing Aaron Copland's Rodeo and Chance the Rapper's All Night. What can I say? I have diverse taste...

Books - I had a chance to read Adina Grigore's second book, Just the Essentials, in advance and I am so excited for you all to read it! It is everything you need to know on essential oils and how to use them with lots of recipes. I made the Rosemary Clarifying Shampoo this week and it is GOOD. P.S. If you pre-order the book now you can get a free functional fragrance! Also enjoying Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander's The Art of Possibility. It provides tools to open you up to more (ahem) possibilities. 

 

What are you loving this week? What is keeping you healthy? Comment below or find me on Instagram @lisammagee. 

 

Sometimes I Need to Hear Things Twice


Sometimes I need to hear things twice before I REALLY hear them. Such was the case this past week when I attended The Class by Taryn Toomey on Wednesday. They mention on the website how cathartic of an experience The Class can be. The sounds, movement, and sweat can really get emotions flowing. While in the cool down after intense cardio, I contemplated what I needed to leave in the room before I headed back into the world. My mind immediately jumped to something Erin Stutland says in her "Soul Stroll" audio.

"What you used to think was hard is now easy. Just see if you can take on this idea that it's easy. That life is just getting easier. " 

These words brought tears to my eyes. As crazy hard as the workout was, my life has been feeling harder. It's been so hard to see my face breakout. To see my thyroid hormone plateau at an elevated level. To not know if something I eat is going to make me feel terrible. But as I sat there on that mat and heard those words again (which to be honest, I've heard them at least 20 times), I realized I had a choice to make. I could either choose to let my life feel hard or I could choose to let my life feel easy. I don't know about you, but I want any easy life. Does that mean I won't have bad days? Of course not. But choosing my health is an easy choice. Choosing to not eat specific foods because they can disrupt my body's processes sounds like an easy choice. Is it challenging? YES. But it is the easy choice to make. I keep thinking how hard it is to have to watch what I eat so carefully. And is this going to be life for as long as I live? It probably will be. But that doesn't mean it has to be hard. It may feel hard for awhile. Hard to figure out what my body responds well to, but it will get easier. The more I pay attention to how I feel with certain foods, exercises, and daily habits, the easier it will be to stay on the path of health. 

3 Ways I (Try to) Cope with Anxiety


I wrote the post below while sitting on a plane heading back to New Orleans for Christmas. I'm going to be honest, it's pretty personal, and possibly TMI. It also feels good to post it knowing that the people who need to read it will, and anyone else will just know my digestive system a little better. Also, to my cousin Charlotte who sat next to me on the plane, if you read this, sorry and I love you!


At present, I'm sitting on a plane with Debussy in my ears while still hearing the screeching cry of a baby a few rows away. And I am feeling that baby's pain. Maybe not that much. But I'm uncomfortable. My stomach is popping little gas bubbles all the time and I can't figure out why. Yes, those zucchini potato latkes at the airport may have been a bad idea. But why? They were oven baked. Nothing weird. And the few fries I had? Not out of the ordinary. Somehow though immediately upon consumption I felt terrible. Sharp stomach pains then annoying bloating and gas. And then I ate some banana bread. And some dried mango.

I've been having weird stomach problems for a few days now and it's something that comes and goes. Overall, my digestion is better. Better than it was last year. Better than it was 6 months ago. But I'm going home. And that brings anxiety. Sometimes I am the strongest disciplined person, able to say no to the things I don't want and know will make my body feel awful. But lately I've been giving into cookies and sugar and things I know I don't want to consume. The anxiety I've been feeling over going home, over the election, and the stress my family has been under because of it has taken a toll on my strong will. I want comfort. I want mac and cheese. I definitely don't want kale. I want a po-boy and bread and cookies. I want bacon. These are things that have never made me feel good. So the question becomes how do I move through this? How do I cope with anxiety and the stress I feel I'm under? Well, I'm still figuring that out. 

One thing that seems to work well for me is writing. Even a few minutes helps release a lot of tension that I feel. Writing this now I'm consciously having to unclench my jaw just from the build up of anxiety that's manifesting itself in my body. 

Another thing is breathing. Consciously, deeply breathing. I'm a breath holder. It's unconscious but sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. 

Talking (and usually crying whilst talking) has also become a big part of moving through this season. I'm a very emotional person anyways but this season has brought an uptick of sharing my feelings with others and looking for support and someone to talk it out with. My sister has been a big part of this as well as a few other dear friends without whom I would be a mess. I'm also looking forward to potentially seeking some professional guidance in the new year. 

This outlet of talking is also coming forth in community. I've set up a meeting this month for women who have (currently or otherwise) health issues and need space to be supported by other women. As I've reflected on this year, I've realized how far I've come, while also feeling like I haven't moved at all. I've been getting a lot of advice but I see the need to just vent and cry and be comforted in the unknowing of what my health looks like and will look like in the future. If you're in the NYC area and interested in participating, please email me at the address in the About section. There is no better time than the present to hold each other up and give comfort and support.

From the Beginning...


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I want to begin with how I got to now and why I'm starting this blog.

Since I was a kid I've always had bad skin and a bad digestive system. I just never connected the two. In high school, my dermatologist put me on skin treatments that exacerbated the situation so I let go of the (expensive) creams and stuck with good ol' Clearasil. But nothing changed. For years. Instead, my hormones were imbalanced, my digestion was inflamed, and my skin was a mess. 

As a 24 year old, I began having terrible cystic acne, the worst IBS symptoms for a time, and developed menstrual cramps that made me feel like I could pass out. So I turned to the gynecologist and dermatologist for help. My gynecologist found nothing wrong, but my dermatologist said that the jaw/chin acne were clear signs of an hormonal imbalance. So she put me on a birth control pill to balance my hormones. My acne cleared and my insane cramps went away. Miracle! It was like magic. And I was telling everyone how I had been healed and recommended they do the same if they experienced any similar symptoms. 

Cut to 3-4 years later, skin still free from cystic acne, but painful cramps every so often and low energy, I learn from Nicole Jardim that my miracle pill is just covering the problem like a Band-Aid on a giant gash. My body is tricked into thinking it's pregnant (are anyone else's alarm bells going off???) and what I thought was my period is just bleed-through. The pill I had put my hope in was nothing but a lie. Here starts the drastic change that would ensue. 

A blood test later would reveal I also had hypothyroidism (possibly Hashimoto's autoimmune disorder, but more on that later), a vitamin D deficiency, and high cholesterol and triglycerides. I started working with a naturopathic doctor for three reasons: get off birth control and balance my hormones naturally, calm my digestive system, and improve my thyroid health. 

Now at about five months later, I've been off birth control for 3 months using food and supplements to balance my hormones. This is a work in progress, however. My period has become regular and cramps have subsided and I'm thankful for that. My thyroid health has improved and my energy has increased. My digestive tract is much happier than before and still somewhat inflamed.

So here we are. My mental and emotional state during this transition has taken more time to process than my physical health. I want to explore that, too, since they are so interconnected. I want to use this space to discuss these topics and my progress more in depth. If you have questions about what I'm doing, I want to explore them with you. I believe in community. I believe in a shared life. So share with me. Tell me how you feel healthy and well.  

P.S. Two books that helped me begin my journey were Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore and Woman Code by Alissa Vitti. I will talk about these books more in depth later, but if you need a place to start, these are great reads that really get to the heart of the matter.