Establishing a Healthy Routine

Here at Cultivated Wellbeing, we often talk about the importance of nutrition (more recently, SIBO friendly nutrition), but I want to take some time today to talk about something that can play just as big of a role in our overall health. I’m talking about establishing a healthy routine.

Personally, my two non-negotiable practices every morning are a 20 to 30 minute walk with my dog, Dexter, and a warm mug of bone broth.

The walk first thing (even before I brush my teeth) helps me get my blood pumping at the beginning of the day. It’s also a good time for me to do some thinking, listen to a podcast, or even do a walking meditation (I need to get better about incorporating that last one).

Bone broth has been like a miracle for me, playing a major role in helping me solve a twenty-year acne problem. The collagen and gelatin in bone broth, along with the many other micronutrients and vitamins from the veggies boiled alongside the bones (usually chicken feet when I make it myself), have helped me heal my gut and revitalize my complexion. (This is my favorite bone broth to buy.) When I drink bone broth, my skin feels softer, smoother, and I have far fewer breakouts.

For me, having a set amount of things that I do daily has really helped me stay on track with my healthy lifestyle. Maintaining change is incredibly hard for most of us (myself included), but if you can find those few non-negotiable things — the ones that have the greatest impact on your health — and stick to them, you’ll be much more forgiving of yourself if/when other things fall through the cracks from time to time. For those of you looking to start your own healthy routine, check out this graphic below from Elysium Health.

How I Arrived at a SIBO Diagnosis (and what I’m doing about it)

About a month ago, I was diagnosed with SIBO. That’s right, the blogger who loves to talk about gut health has a gut problem. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is actually exactly what it sounds like — bacteria are living in your small intestine that shouldn’t be there. Whether it’s the “good” kind that propagate to aid in digestion and immune function in your large bowel, or the “bad” kind that can make you sick, bacteria do not tend to colonize a healthy small intestine.

So what happened? How did I get SIBO?

Because there’s no test for tracing this problem backwards, I can only guess how those little bugs crept their way into the wrong place. I’ll be hypothesizing, but my ideas are based on my Naturopath’s input, the research I’ve done on the topic, conversations with my father-in-law who’s a Gastroenterologist, and my experience of the onset of symptoms. 

Factor 1: I went off of hormonal birth control (HBC) for the first time in 11 years, which affected my sleep, my ability to cope, and very likely disrupted my microbiome. It definitely did a number on my weight (I gained about 10 pounds, and shedding even one ounce felt impossible), and it reintroduced PCOS symptoms that I hadn’t dealt with in years (like unwanted hair growth, back-ne, and the weight) — very disheartening. 

Factor 2: 2016 was quite possibly the most stressful year of my life. I worked two jobs, one of which was a relatively high-demand early stage start-up, and in allowing work to take over my life, I de-prioritized my health. Stress in and of itself is a risk factor for SIBO, as it disrupts the production of gastric juices and has been shown to impair motility (the movement of the bolus, or digesting ball of food, from the small to the large intestine). These two factors end up creating two potential problems:how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis-1

  1. Poorly digested food stays in the small intestine for too long, resulting in putrefaction (gross), which causes bacterial growth in the small bowel.
  2. Bacteria migrates upward from the large intestine, due to a loose or imperfectly sealed ileocecal valve (the valve that separates the small and large intestine) and results in overgrowth in the small bowel.


Factor 3: Being overly stressed negatively affected my food choices and my ability to maintain my normal self-care routine. Although I was taking Dexter for regular morning walks, I all but stopped lifting weights and couldn’t keep a consistent climbing schedule for months on end.

Factor 4: I wasn’t getting enough sleep (or sleeping well). I was having trouble turning my brain off at night, I’d wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, or I’d wake up feeling exhausted. 

If you’ve read my gut health series, Why Gut Health Matters, you already know how stress, food choices, exercise, and sleep can impact the gut. So those are my best guesses as to what allowed SIBO to take hold for me. 

What changed?

I started seeing a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) over a year ago in an attempt to mitigate the potential hormonal hiccups that could arise from going off of HBC. I had started taking HBC back in college to control my PCOS symptoms, and since I’d had such great success clearing my acne with bone broth, I was pretty confident that it was safe to stop taking it.  
I was wrong.
In the first six months after stopping HBC, my back started breaking out, I experienced random, intense headaches, I gained those 10 lbs, and I was feeling constantly fatigued, yet having trouble falling asleep. AND all the hair that I’d paid thousands of dollars to get laser-removed came back (in places where women aren’t supposed to have hair: neck, jaw line, chest, belly, and extending down my leg from the bikini line. No bueno.)how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis
My goal with my ND was to keep my skin and hair issues at bay through nutritional supplements, herbs, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. But after a year of trying just about everything (and spending hundreds of dollars on supplements), nothing changed. I was still 10 lbs heavier and much hairier than I wanted to be, with no signs of improvement on the horizon.
My ND, who specializes in women’s fertility issues, was befuddled by my lack of response to the interventions she was employing. The interventions we were trying were effective with nearly all of her PCOS clients, and she was concerned that I was having an absorption problem. This prompted the conversation that something gut-related was at play.

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

I was experiencing near-constant gas and bloating, feeling puffy, occasional intestinal cramping, and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Other symptoms include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Malnutrition (malabsorption, as I was experiencing)
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Rosacea
(I pulled that list from Dr. Axe’s website

Testing for SIBO

The best way to test for SIBO is to do a breath test. It’s kind of an involved process, because you have to alter your diet 24 hours in advance to ensure that the test is accurate, but it’s worth it if you suspect you might have SIBO. There are a few options out there, but I did the Aerodiagnostics Breath Test. My results came back positive for both types of bacteria, but were far higher for the type that produces hydrogen gas. Bacteria that produce hydrogen gas can cause diarrhea, while those that produce methane can cause constipation. (That’s why both symptoms are cause for concern.)

It all boils down to INFLAMMATION

The underlying problem that causes this array of symptoms is the inflammation that SIBO creates in the gut. When bacteria is living where it doesn’t belong in the intestinal tract, it irritates the lining, causing leaky gut and the host of issues that follow. (You might remember this infographic from my gut series.)
Why Gut Health Matters

–click to view larger–

How to Treat SIBO

Treating SIBO requires more than a simple diet change. Nearly all professionals agree that an intervention that actively kills the offending organisms (such as an antibiotic or herbal protocol) is necessary to fully address the problem at its root. The most commonly researched antibiotic is called Rifaxamin, but it’s extremely expensive, and not all insurance carriers will agree to pay for it. (Mine rejected it twice, so I went with the herbal intervention, prescribed by my ND.)
While many conventional GI doctors don’t necessitate drastic dietary changes, most holistic practitioners (including my ND and many Functional Medicine doctors) recommend a restrictive dietary protocol that starves out (and therefore begins to kill off) the bugs in the small intestine. This diet is intended to quell symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve the chances of success during the first pass of antibiotic treatment. It combines a Low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (Gaps Diet), which amounts to a list of foods that will inspire some creativity* in the kitchen.
*That was my nice way of expressing my frustration when I first embarked on this journey. But there’s a silver lining to everything — I’ll be sharing some of the awesome recipes I’ve come up with to accommodate the restrictions of this diet. (You can check out my Chocolate Almond Butter Cups recipe here and my Icelandic Pesto here!)

The SIBO Diet Short List

I’ve created my own abbreviated chart as a quick reference for you. It doesn’t go through every single food option out there, but I do share which fruits, veggies, and dairy options you can eat in unlimited quantities, and which starches are allowed on the diet. Since these are the main food groups that are restricted on this diet, I focused there, but I’ve also outlined protein and fat guidelines as well. My guide also includes info on the main web resources I’ve been using as I’ve made my way through this experience. You can download the PDF by clicking HERE or the image below.

SIBO can become a chronic issue that’s not easily eradicated on the first try, working through the phases of this diet can dramatically increase the chances of a successful treatment the first time through.

My Treatment Progress

Excepting my week-long hiatus in France — in which I literally ate whatever I wanted for a solid 7 days — I’ve been following the SIBO diet protocol (at about 85-90% fidelity) for almost two months now. The insurance rejection process and the Euro Trip pushed my treatment schedule back a couple of weeks, which is why I’ve gone so long on the restricted diet before taking an antibiotic (this was not ideal, but was unavoidable in my case). Most people start either herbal or conventional antibiotics much earlier than I was able to — after two weeks on the diet.


I can honestly report that I’ve felt amazing since removing the offending foods. I’ve lost 9 pounds, my “back-ne” cleared up almost entirely, I haven’t had a single headache, and I feel like a million bucks in the climbing gym — stronger with lots more energy. I’ve also been far less gassy. I can tell when I look in the mirror and by the way I feel in my clothes that I’m less inflamed and no longer bloated or puffy all the time.
I started the herbal antibiotic this week and will be on that regimen and in phase two of the SIBO diet (slightly less restricted) for the next four weeks. And then I’ll retest with that same breath test to see if there are any bugs left in my small intestine. I’m crossing my fingers that this will work on the first try!

Long-Term Plans for SIBO Patients

The SIBO diet isn’t meant to be the solution — killing the bugs is the solution — but following the diet temporarily the fastest way to get the inflammation down and begin to feel like yourself again. FODMAPs feed the good bacteria in your large intestine that keep your digestive system, your immune system, and your overall health in good working order, and long-term elimination of these foods is not by any means ideal. 
Pay attention to your body, and listen to what it’s telling you. If you find that gas returns, that some of those old familiar feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, sugar cravings, or perhaps depression return, consider retesting for SIBO. You might need another round of treatment. Maintenance through a healthy, whole foods diet, adequate exercise, and most importantly, stress management is the best way to prevent SIBO relapse. 

Biocodex is Setting a High Bar for Microbiome Research

Through an unlikely series of events, I recently found myself in Paris at the Biocodex International Headquarters. I was there to learn about their latest endeavors in the world of microbiota research. (Gut flora — my favorite topic!)

Crazy right? I just quit my job, and then suddenly I’m in Paris for my first paid writing gig. Without going into the long backstory as to how this happened (which is not the point of today’s post), it all started when a friend shared a sample of Florastor with me. Florastor is Biocodex’s signature product, a probiotic featuring a unique strain of beneficial yeast called Saccharomycese boulardii lyo CNCM I-745. biocodex microbiota

I know, I’d never seen all those letters and numbers after a probiotic before either. It’s basically a super-specific strain of yeast that my friend’s company (Biocodex) discovered and began testing with great success in clinical trials for maintaining a healthy intestinal microbiome.

Interestingly, this product is used in hospitals all over the world and has been the subject of hundreds of clinical trials, testing its efficacy on positively impacting the gut microbiome. Being the gut health geek that I am, I swiped up those samples and encouraged my friend to check out my series Why Gut Health Matters right here on CWB. 

One week later, after reading through my series, he and his team invited me to join them on the Paris trip, where I would learn about their new foundation and research institute. I couldn’t believe my ears — a trip to Paris? Yes please! Where do I sign?

I spent the next few weeks learning what I could about Biocodex so that I would be prepared for the big event. And what I learned, both before and during this serendipitous experience has been nothing short of amazing. This company has been conducting research of its own since its inception as a GI company back in 1953. But they’ve now launched an expansion project that includes not only funding outside research endeavors (Foundation), but also providing information — in layman’s terms — for those of us who want to learn more about how we can take better care of our health (Institute). They also have a special section on the institute website geared toward empowering doctors with the latest research outcomes to better serve their patients.

The overarching goal for both the Foundation and Institute is to spread the wealth of knowledge, all while digging for greater and deeper understanding of the relationship between microbiota and human health.

biocodex microbiota

Biocodex Microbiota Foundation

The mission of this undertaking and the important projects Biocodex is in the process of launching are incredibly impressive. The Biocodex Microbiota Foundation will support scientific research on microbiota, leveraging an international committee of independent scientists to determine an annual research topic and grant funding to the most exciting and innovative proposals.

The Foundation is completely independent from Biocodex the company, with an ethic of trust in the scientific community and respect for researchers. To that end, the company has deliberately removed any concern about profitability, regardless of the outcome of the research. This is truly a quest for knowledge and understanding — full stop — as the President of Biocodex, Jean-Marie Lefevre, emphasized more than once during the kick-off meeting. Biocodex has committed to 6 years of funding with a firm, dedicated budget, which will be subdivided annually across multiple countries to the most innovative researchers in the world.

Biocodex Microbiota Institute

The Biocodex Microbiota Institute will be the first international platform for scientific expertise on microbiota, with the goal of educating both the general public and health care professionals on the latest findings in the field. The Institute has already published a book, entitled, Gut Microbiota – A Full Fledged Organ, which will soon be available directly through the website.

I was deeply honored to be among the first to hear about what Biocodex is planning for the betterment of the human race. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I truly believe that the research they’ll be funding and publishing, along with the information they’ll be sharing with the general public, will ultimately enable us to better understand our own ecology and how changes to it can dramatically influence our health.

That’s a lot to take in, right? Let’s break it down, because I want you to bookmark the Institute Website and use it as a reference going forward (much like I hope you use CWB!). There’s a TON to learn there, so I’ll just start with the basics.

The Human Microbiome

The statistics on how many non-human cells are living on and in our bodies at any given time is staggering. Microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) outnumber human cells more than 10 to 1 in and on our bodies, with dense concentration in the large intestine. When all is harmonious between us and them, we function well and our health flourishes. But when dysbiosis occurs (an imbalance of organisms, including an excess of pathogens), our health suffers, and diseases are able to take hold.

Thirty years of research have resulted in a greater understanding of the relationship between gut dysbiosis and certain pathologies, but there’s a lot of work left to do. Precious little is known about the microbiota living in other areas of the body and how they interact with bugs in the gut to impact our health. Interestingly, it’s still unknown whether dysbiosis causes disease, or if the reverse is true. The current hypothesis is that both are possible, creating a “vicious circle” that leads to poor health outcomes and chronic illness. 

Biocodex Microbiota

What causes dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis can occur after a round of antibiotics kills most, if not all, of the living bacteria in the body (especially the gut bacteria that help us assimilate nutrients and digest certain fibers). It can also be the result of a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection.

Another major cause of dysbiosis is stress. If you’ve read my gut health series, you know that I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to explaining the connection between gut health and stress. You might be surprised at how profoundly stress affects our health. Not only does it create obstacles to efficient digestion and metabolism, it can impact our sleep, and all three of these functions can have an effect on the microbiome. In fact, stress can play a role in causing a type of dysbiosis of particular personal interest to me lately, due to a recent diagnosis of my own: SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). Research seems to point to a causal relationship between stress and impaired motility — the movement of food from the small to the large intestine — which is a contributing factor in SIBO. Stress is a powerful thing and should be taken seriously!

Impacts on the Microbiome

I pulled this image from the Biocodex event, because it perfectly illustrates the myriad factors that impact the microbiome. 

biocodex microbiota

We all know that we should eat our veggies and avoid smoking, but did you know that the inevitable fact of aging can have an impact on the gut biome? I didn’t. So as we get older, it’s that much more important to stay on top of our health, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, a nutrient-rich diet, live foods, and possibly supplementing with a probiotic. And don’t forget the spirit part of the mind-body-spirit equation. That’s where healthy relationships, supportive community, time spent outside, and possibly a meditation or religious practice come into play. 

A Company on a Mission

Since the inception of the company in 1953, Biocodex has been embarking on research connecting intestinal dysbiosis to digestive health conditions. Now that mission is expanding, drawing dotted lines to certain cancers, allergies, neurological disorders, diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and many other pathologies that hadn’t previously been linked to gut dysbiosis. 

This year, the Foundation is calling for innovative research exploring the interaction between the liver and gut microbiota. They have a long-term commitment to uncovering solutions to some of the most pressing diseases we face as a society today. And through the Institute, they’ll disseminate the information they glean so that we can take the measures necessary to protect and improve our health. 

Each of us is truly an ecosystem of our own, in the same way that the soil in which we plant our food is an ecosystem, and the forests we hike through to get some exercise and stress relief are their own ecosystems. There are so many moving parts that lend a hand in helping us thrive, and we’re learning that the microbiome is at the foundation of it all. 

I hope you’ll bookmark the Biocodex Institute website and refer to it when you have a health concern or question. After taking part in their kickoff meeting and talking with the president and medical leaders in the company, I’ve learned that these projects are fueled by a passionate quest for knowledge aimed at expanding the possibilities of truly helping patients heal. I’m just thrilled to have been included in this event, an I’ll certainly keep you informed as I learn more about this amazing undertaking. 

FTC DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post, which means I have received monetary compensation for sharing the above information. All opinions are my own.

Gut Check: Confessions of a Burnt-out Blogger

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been holding up my end of the wellbeing bargain. For the last year and a half or so, things in my corner of the world have been BANANAS, and I’ve let all the frenzy and urgency inch out some of what’s most important to me.

Simply put, I haven’t been taking care of myself in the ways I know I should — in the ways I want YOU to take care of YOURSELF. And I can feel it. I can feel it in my energy levels and in my digestion. I can see it on my face and in my midsection. I can feel it in my tight shoulders and clenched jaw. And it was all confirmed when I went to get a routine teeth cleaning and my dentist discovered my first cavity in like 15 years. I was shocked.

So today, I’m delving back into my long-lost love here at Cultivated Wellbeing — gut health. This first long post in quite a while will be part confessional, part educational, and part excitement to share what’s helped me get out of my rut. 

Consider it a life lesson in listening to your gut — or a gut check, in the literal and figurative sense. 

gut check ultimate gut health super bundle


Because I know myself and my body pretty well, I’ve known for a good 6 months or so that something needed to change. But for some reason, until these last few weeks, I just couldn’t get myself to make even the smallest adjustments to get back on track.

Whether it was the winter blues, this election cycle, the full-on burnout I was feeling from work, or all the rain we’ve been getting, I just couldn’t motivate. And every day I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be the day I’d turn it all around — and then it wouldn’t happen.

Here are some of the things I’d been battling:

  • Craving sweets after every. single. meal. and giving in to the cravings 90% of the time
  • Skipping work outs regularly
  • Hitting snooze 4 and 5 times every morning before rolling out of bed exhausted
  • Getting to work late every day and still managing to work way too much
  • Finding myself constantly distracted and on edge
  • Making frequent concessions to food rules I’d had firmly in place for myself for years — too much dairy, too many fried foods, too many white, processed carbohydrates, meals with no vegetables (or not enough), and lots of dessert

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t been keeping up with the things I love to do. I hadn’t been blogging. I hadn’t been making kombucha or bone broth consistently. I hadn’t been feeling inventive in the kitchen or cooking as often. I wasn’t writing much of anything. I was down to climbing only a few times a month, whereas before I was going a few times a week. And even my succulent obsession was on hold — something I almost never stop doing, regardless of how busy I get. (I’ll blame that at least partially on the incessant rain, but it was all adding up to misery.)

This doesn’t sound like me, does it? Something had to give.

Gut Check: Literally

Because some of what I’ve been feeling has danced on the edge of actual depression, I’ve taken two steps to ease myself back into the groove of self-care:

  1. I made an appointment to talk to a therapist (more on that in another post)
  2. I decided to relaunch my crusade to spread the word about gut health (and include myself in the audience — I need to revisit all this info too!)

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen some of the second step in action. I shared the multi-part series I created on gut health. My “Why Gut Health Matters” series draws connections between gut health and other systems and functions of our bodies and offer suggestions for how you can take charge of your health by sealing your gut and fortifying it with healthy bacteria. 

The key to addressing the whole mashup of symptoms — from IBS to acne, from depression to auto-immune diseases — is in finding and stopping chronic inflammation. If you followed along in that series the first time, you might remember this infographic:

Why Gut Health Matters

Chronic inflammation manifests in so many bodily and emotionally felt symptoms, as you can see from the illustration. And cooling it down can feel impossible if you’re stuck in a rut (as I’ve been). I revisited this series because I needed to jump-start the healing process for myself after going on a “health hiatus.” But I also found another comprehensive resource that I’m pumped to share with you right now.

The Gut Health Super Bundle

If you’d like to ensure that The little note in my inbox from the folks at Ultimate Bundle sharing this amazing collection of eBooks, classes, tutorials, guides, and freebies couldn’t have come at a better time. It was actually exactly what I needed to see. It offered a gentle reminder of what I’d been neglecting and provided the tools I needed to get myself back on track.

I’ve had the opportunity to comb through everything in this bundle already, and it’s definitely safe to say that there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are on your health journey. And I really mean that. I say that because sometimes you see these types of bundled products online, and they’re either so basic that a simple google search could get you there for free, or they’re so esoteric that they’re not useful unless you have a PhD in the topic. This bundle hits that “Goldilocks” sweet spot — it’s just right.

What’s Inside?

If you’re a gut health newbie (or you want a refresher), you can start with the Foundations of Gut Health and Getting Started sections, where you’ll have access to 4 eCourses and 2 eBooks.

If you have (or suspect you have) a gut-related health condition, such as hormonal imbalance (like me), IBS, candida problems, or gluten sensitivity (also like me), you can learn about how to address your concerns with the help of 6 eBooks and 3 eCourses. 

If you’re already on-board and ready to dive in and start making changes in your life and yummies in your kitchen, the Gut-Healing Foods and More Recipes sections of this bundle are right up your alley. There you’ll find 8 eBooks and 2 eCourses to help you get started making bone broth, fermenting your veggies, making kombucha, learning about cooking for special diets, and much, much more.

And then there are the bonuses, which I’ll be telling you about next week! I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because the bonuses happen to be my favorite part of the whole bundle!

The bundle isn’t quite for sale YET, but it will be really, REALLY soon. I can’t tell you enough how much these resources have helped me dig myself out of the rut I’ve been in. I know they’ll help you too. 

Set a reminder for yourself now by clicking the button below so that you’ll get a little note when it’s time to buy. And stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you all about those bonuses really soon. 

Note: This offer is no longer available. If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out on the next offer like this, join my newsletter here.

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin [INFOGRAPHIC]

I’m excited to share a guest post today, featuring an infographic that focuses on nutrients for healthy skin created by Samantha Thayer. Samantha is a Health Educator and blogger in the health and wellness space, and we met on the interwebs because of a shared passion for holistic health and wellness.

Acne Cure

CWB covers a wide swath of topics (because I have a wide swath of interests) but one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to this site is for skin health information — specifically acne remedies. I had some seriously miraculous luck in clearing up my lifelong acne a couple of years ago, and since sharing my experience and some science behind why it worked, I’ve made connections with readers and bloggers across the globe who have either experienced similar results or are looking for answers for themselves. From time to time, I come across someone like Samantha who has a simple, easy-to-implement message that I think would be helpful to my readers in their quest for healthy, clear skin.

Heal from the Inside Out

The most important message I want those of you suffering with skin issues to receive is that healing starts from within. No amount of creams or potions will work topically if you aren’t providing your body with the right nutrients for healthy skin. What you eat matters, and this infographic is a great depiction of how to take care of your skin by feeding yourself properly.* 

*If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I’m not a big fan of low-fat dairy. I still chose to share this infographic instead of asking Samantha to redo it for my audience, so I’m making this brief caveat and offering a suggestion in its place. You can find my personal views on low-fat or skim milk in my post 7 Foods you Think Are Healthy But Aren’t.

I wouldn’t be sharing this post from Samantha if I didn’t stand behind the claims she makes.

Samantha shares vitamin A as one of the key nutrients for healthy skin. I agree with her on the importance of vitamin A; but there are other, more ideal food sources of vitamin A than dairy of any kind (which frankly I think shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have acne), such as fermented cod liver oil and organ meats.

If you want to consume dairy, I recommend full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised animals, preferably raw. Even then, if you have acne, something as insulinogenic as dairy should be limited if not totally avoided until you get your skin under control, and from there I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Eat Healthy Look Healthy: 5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin

– Samantha Thayer, B.S, CHES

nutrients for healthy skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use topically when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nourishing nutrients we need in order to look and feel our best.  

So, what are the most vital nutrients for healthy skin? And how do we find them in the foods we eat? 

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots, organ meats, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon! 
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

It’s also very important to have a healthy digestive tract to keep your skin looking great. (Learn about the connection between gut health and skin health.) Here are some additional nutrients to include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste and cleanse from within. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria living in your gut that protect your gut lining, preventing the skin and other health issues caused by leaky gut.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance the flora your digestive tract, keeping less helpful bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are also helpful in supporting a healthy immune system and keeping inflammation in check. 

Digestive Enzymes – Enzymes assist in the breakdown of the foods you’re eating. While the human body is capable of producing its own enzymes, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement if you find you’re having particular absorption issues that could be manifesting in your skin. 

Check out the infographic below that illustrates the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy gut to help keep your skin healthy!

nutrients for healthy skin   

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, B.S., CHES, who is an online education and outreach specialist for USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design is by Taylor Romney and used with permission.  For more information on health and wellness, feel free to visit us at her blog, What’s Up, USANA?.

4 Ways to Stay Hydrated for Weight Loss

I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away. 

I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).

I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water. 

Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.   

stay hydrated for weight loss

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking

Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.

First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.

Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal

Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”

So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings

I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.hydration for weight loss

Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.

For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded 

Track Your Daily Water Intake

While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.

You can’t change what you don’t track.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed. 

And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.

hydration for weight loss

Drink Water

Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.

I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)

We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.) 

As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.

The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.

Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies

If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake. 

Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.

Here are a few fun suggestions:hydration for weight loss

  • ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
  • strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
  • blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
  • cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole

Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.

Water for Weight Loss

So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles [RECIPE]

Today’s spaghetti squash waffles recipe was born out of a need to use an incredible surplus of spaghetti squash, which landed in my kitchen after my first experiment with a grocery delivery service. It’s the kind of service where you go online and select your items and then someone goes to the grocery store of your choice and shops for you. I had never done this before. It was fun going through the online list of items and picking out the foods I wanted delivered. It took surprisingly longer than I thought it would, but most definitely less time than going to the store myself would have. So I was excited at this new-found extra time I’d have because of this convenient service …

Womp Womp 

While I won’t say that I was entirely satisfied with the service (or that it’s worth the up-charge on every item, the tip for the shopper, AND the delivery fee), I will say that it was definitely a learning experience as far as “being specific” is concerned. There are elements of grocery shopping that you take for granted when you do it for yourself — things you don’t necessarily think about, because they’re inherent to you and your family. You know what you’re shopping for. You know how many people you’re shopping for, and how quickly these people will eat the food you buy/cook.

I have two people in my household, and I added one spaghetti squash to the list. When I saw my bags of groceries sitting on my doorstep, I was shocked to see that one of the grocery bags was almost entirely filled with one.gigantic.spaghetti squash. It was literally the biggest spaghetti squash I’ve ever seen. As an aside, I also ordered a few root veggies, thinking I’d do a nice roasted root side for dinner one day that week. I ordered one parsnip as part of that combo, and got the saddest, tiniest little parsnip I’ve ever seen. Here’s a size comparison:

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to be a bashing of home-shopping services. I know many people find them useful. And if it weren’t for this incredibly sized spaghetti squash, I never would have thought to come up with this kitchen hack or recipe. So there’s a silver lining, per usual.

Leftovers + Waffle Iron = New Creative Meal! It works for a lot more than just squash. In fact, I saw some pretty cool ideas right after Thanksgiving using leftover cornbread stuffing, veggies, and all kinds of other goodies. Start experimenting!

Size Matters

Apparently, in the world of spaghetti squash, size really does matter. I baked this thing using my favorite, super simple method for making winter squash. Stick it in the oven whole. I’ve done this many times with many different types of winter squash, and spaghetti squash in particular has come out great in the past. I could use a fork to fluff out the “spaghetti” strands and top it with my favorite paleo sauces. This time, with this gargantuan, the fluff yielded big chunks rather than “spaghetti.” I thought maybe I hadn’t cooked it long enough, but the flesh was definitely cooked.

Still as delicious as any other spaghetti squash would be, I decided to get creative with my chunky squash, as I knew we’d be eating it for days. And these beautiful waffles were born!

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles

I have slight variations on this waffle to make one sweet and one savory. Neither has a particularly strong leaning either way, but one is perfect for savory toppings (like avocado, some homemade salad dressing or even as the bottom of an open-faced sandwich), while the other is better suited for a sweeter topping like almond butter and bananas, pumpkin butter, or maple syrup and butter. Basically all butters!

All the other ingredients are the same. 
sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

A Word on Maca Powder

I’ve added maca powder to this recipe for my own personal reasons, not because it adds much in the way of flavor to these recipes. But I wanted to include it here, because I thought it’d be a good chance to tell you about this awesome super food.

“What are my personal reasons?” you might be wondering. I’ve been feeling somewhat drained lately, and I’m concerned that my adrenals are taking a hit from all the work I’m doing (three jobs right now). As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve also recently decided to go off of birth control after 11+ years of use, and as a result, I’m experiencing some wonky hormonal side-effects. 

While I don’t think I’ve reached the point of full-on adrenal fatigue, I’d like to prevent it before I get there, so I’m taking precautions. If you’re unfamiliar with adrenal fatigue and are curious to learn more, this is a great place to start for some basic info and links to more in-depth explanations. I haven’t yet been tested, but I’ve been super burnt out and exhausted lately, so I’d like to get ahead of my energy to avoid hitting the bottom.

After all, this blog is all about self-care, so I sure as heck better be taking care of myself, right?! My course of action so far has been to supplement with maca powder and another potent adaptogen formula (affiliate link) every day, and I can say with certainty that I’ve noticed a positive difference in my energy levels and ability to focus. I’ll share more about adaptogens in a future post. 

What’s Maca Powder?

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

click to purchase through my affiliate link

Straight from WebMD: “Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in Peru for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine. 

Maca is used for “tired blood” (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, memory, and fertility. Women use maca for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause. Maca is also used for weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.”

I’ve used maca on and off for years but this is the first time I’ve included it in a consistent daily routine. An occasional teaspoon added to a smoothie here and there never yielded any noticeable changes, but daily use has benefited me these last few weeks. The caveat, of course, is that I didn’t go about my change very scientifically. Desperate to feel better, I added my adaptogen formula and the maca at the same time, so I can’t say for sure if my better state of health is due to one, the other, or both. I plan to keep using the maca when the adaptogen formula runs out and see how I feel after a few weeks. On with the recipe!

  —> Pin this Recipe <—

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles
Yields 6
Season one way for sweet and one way for savory, and use these waffles for any meal of the day! This recipe yields 6 regular, square waffles.
Write a review
Prep Time
6 min
Prep Time
6 min
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 1.5 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  3. 1/2 cup almond meal
  4. 3 tbs coconut flour
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  7. OPTIONAL: 2 tsp maca powder
  8. For savory waffles: 1 tsp lemon pepper
  9. For sweet waffles: 1 tsp cinnamon
  10. Avocado spray for the waffle iron
  1. Heat your waffle iron before you start mixing
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well-incorporated
  3. Spray waffle iron with avocado spray
  4. Pour mixture over waffle iron
  5. Cook in waffle iron until browned and crispy (or less crispy if that's how you like them!)
  1. I included the time to cook the spaghetti squash in the "cook time" area above. If you've already cooked and scooped the spaghetti squash, this recipe takes only as long as it takes you to mix the ingredients and cook in the waffle iron. These waffles keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven when you're ready to use them.
Cultivated Wellbeing


Heal Your Gut with a Free bottle of Get Kombucha PRO

Here’s the thing. I’ve harped about gut health a lot. Maybe even too much, but it’s only because I count it among the most important things you can do for your overall health. At the top of this page, you see a whole section of that main menu dedicated to a series I wrote called “Why Gut Health Matters.” It’s a 6-part series in which I take various health challenges, talk about them from the perspective of gut health, and offer various solutions including probiotics (of which kombucha is a great option), bone broth, and dietary changes, just to name a few.

I actually made a pretty awesome infographic for that series. Here it is again, just in case you forgot (pretty proud of myself) 🙂 If you want to check out the full series after you’re done reading this post, just click the image and a new page will open up and be waiting for you:

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Heal Your Gut and the Rest Will Follow

Anyway, to put it mildly, I happen to think that gut health is the pretty-much the end-all, be-all of health and wellbeing — fix your gut, and you’re about 90% the way there. Whether you’re talking about diabetes, heart disease, immune system support, allergies, stress, anxiety, depression, skin issues, insomnia, weight loss, bloating, food sensitivities, and/or quite possibly even dementia (research is still being done), by reducing inflammation, healing your gut lining, and balancing your gut flora, you’re sure to improve your physical (and very likely mental/emotional) state. 

I’ve shared with you my unbelievable acne story (I’d never have believed it if it had happened to anyone else), and 100% of my success is attributed to healing my gut. How I did that was a multi-step process, with the final step being a daily practice of consuming warm bone broth. I did that for two weeks straight, and twenty years of acne nearly vanished. 

The Good Bugs (Probiotics like those found in Get Kombucha PRO)

One thing I do pretty consistently in conjunction with my daily bone broth is include probiotics in my diet. Probiotics are the “good bugs” that live in your large intestine. They help ward off excessive inflammation and sugar cravings (both caused by the bad bugs), they aid in the assimilation of key nutrients from our food that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to absorb, they regulate our mood and our cravings, and can even have an effect on our sleep. To put it as simply as possible, the good bugs keep us healthy.

Whether it’s with my homemade kombucha recipe, kim chee at my favorite Korean restaurants, raw sauerkraut, or some of my awesome wild pickles, I like to incorporate some beneficial bacteria into my diet every day. But sometimes it’s just not feasible, which is when a supplement comes in. It’s also nice just to mix it up every once in a while.

Get Kombucha PRO

Because when it comes to creating a healthy colony of good bacteria in the belly, variety and quantity are your two best friends, I like to take a supplement from time to time. I will often take different ones to ensure that I’m getting a good variety, and I recently added another super cool product to my probiotic arsenal. Get Kombucha PRO is a pretty remarkable product. It takes all the good stuff from kombucha and concentrates it down into an intensely potent tincture supplement. They do it through a cold-pressing process that presses 5 lbs of the actual SCOBY, not the brewed kombucha, into one tincture. Pretty neat technology if you ask me — especially if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like the taste of kombucha but still wants all the health benefits.

How to Get a FREE bottle of Get Kombucha PRO

So why am I telling you about this product? Besides it being AWESOME, it’s also a FREE GIFT in this, the very last day of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle Flash Sale. Now is your very last chance to get in on this amazing opportunity to get $1900 worth of eBooks and resources from the best health bloggers in the blogosphere (including me!) at a steep 97% discount.

The collection is really something, and it covers just about anything you could possibly imagine in the way of healthy living, homesteading, parenting, natural remedies, essential oils, whole food diets, homemade body care and cleaning products … and the list goes on and on. I used this eBook as the inspiration to some of my homemade Christmas crafts this year, and I’ve checked out quite a few more too, for guidance in a personal health challenge, recipe ideas, and chemical-free cleaning products. Here’s the full picture of what you get in this bundle. It’s pretty mind-blowing!

Get Kombucha Pro

We as authors and bloggers offer our products at such a deep discount for a tiny amount of time because we know that, when packaged together, our collective knowledge will spread farther and reach more people than we could ever reach alone. And we want to help as many people as possible!

I’m really proud to be a part of this bundle (you can see my Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-Free Living tucked in there on the second row!), and I’m eager for you to check it out and benefit from the priceless resources inside. 


So about that bonus thing. Not only is the Get Kombucha PRO offered to you absolutely free (a $39.99 value — you just have to pay shipping), but you also get bonuses from five other UHLB partners, totaling a $175 value!

  • ePantry – FREE hand soap + $8 credit on one shipment, FREE dish soap + $8 credit on the next shipment, AND 60-day VIP access with FREE shipping ($30 value)
  • Bloom Naturals – FREE SPOT treatment for acne & eczema OR a $15 gift certificate toward Bloom Naturals products ($15 value)
  • Perfect Supplements – $15 gift certificate toward any Perfect Brand product ($15 value)
  • Strawesome – $15 gift certificate toward the straws and accessories of your choice ($15 value)
  • TriLight Health – FREE 2-oz liquid herbal formula or $15 off larger bottles ($15 value)
  • Craftsy – 1 FREE online class ($44.99 value)

Get Kombucha Pro

Don’t miss your chance to get in on this amazing deal. It goes until 11:59pm TONIGHT, that’s 12/29/15. And of course, there’s a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so there’s zero risk to try out this amazing bundle. Once the sale is over, this bundle is gone forever. 

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FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Partnering with Bone Broths Co to Bring You the Best Bone Broth on the Market

Editor’s Note (3/20/16): Since writing this post, Bone Broths Co. has changed names to Kettle and Fire. This post has been updated to reflect the changes. The product is still the same top quality.

The questions I get most often at CWB are about my Bone Broth Acne Cure — how to make it, how it works, and will it work for this or that type of skin condition, allergy, or gut problem. I also hear a lot of reservations about actually taking the time to make the bone broth itself.

Over the course of the last two years since sharing my own gut-healing story, I’ve learned that asking people to spend time in the kitchen when they’re not used to it; to leave their stove on low all night or all day while they’re fast asleep or away at work; to buy a bunch of jars and clear space in their freezer — these requests can be pretty uncomfortable for some.

As someone who loves to cook (and someone who suffered long and hard for years with gut and skin problems), it never occurred to me just how big these barriers to entry might be. To those of you who love making your own bone broth, by all means, keep on keeping on; but if you have been curious about bone broth but haven’t tried it because it seemed like a hassle or too much work, I’m talking directly to you for the remainder of this post. 

Shortcut to success with the Bone Broth Acne Cure

Today, I’m offering the ultimate shortcut to getting this nourishing, gut-healing elixir into your belly, so that it can do the important work of sealing your gut lining and clearing your skin. 

I’ve hinted at this collaboration for long enough, and it’s finally time for me to announce that I’ve officially found a pre-made, slow-cooked bone broth that’s up to my quality standards and nutritional snuff — one that I can stand behind and feel good about offering to you with a full vote of confidence. 

bone broth acne cure kettle and fire
Believe it or not, there is a lot of high-quality bone broth companies to choose from, and I’ve tried quite a few. But a big problem lies in the packaging and the shelf life. Not a single one of the high-quality brands I’ve tried comes shelf-stable.

Kettle & Fire reduces waste with minimal packaging (and no ice packs, which saves you money on shipping) and uses only top quality bones from grass-fed cows and organic veggies, and they slow-cook the broth just like I do at home. 

Bone Broths Co partnership acne cure

The box on the left shipped two cartons of Kettle & Fire product. The box on the left shipped two freezer bags of the same size from a competitor.

Does it gel?

This is an important question. It might be THE question in fact. 

For the past 6 months, I’ve been on a mission to find the right company to work with in my quest to offer YOU, my readers, an excellent pre-made bone broth solution. Upon gently turning down one of the frozen brands I’d sampled, they responded back to me that I’d be sacrificing quality by choosing a shelf-stable bone broth. They said that the broths you find in tetra-packs aren’t cooked long enough, use fewer bones, and don’t gel. While that’s true for one brand I’ve tried that shall remain nameless — and flavorless — it’s patently false about Kettle & Fire

Their product is the absolute exception to this rule. They cook their broth for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the important healing constituents in the bone matrix make it into the liquid. Otherwise, it would be a bland, watery mess like some of their competitors.

Does it gel? YES it gels. Here’s proof: 
Bone Broths Gel

Bone Broth for Travel

The box in the picture above was pulled out of my suitcase, not out of the refrigerator. One of the beauties of having a shelf-stable product (in addition to sparing the environment, skipping the waste, and saving on shipping costs), is that you can now travel with your bone broth. This summer on my 10-day vacation, I packed two of these little boxes in my luggage so that I could enjoy my morning ritual away from home.

And honestly, traveling could be when you need bone broth most — the immune-boosting qualities can protect you when you’re on an airplane breathing recycled air and touching everything that everyone else is touching. 

I’ve tried a number of the pre-made bone broths on the market right now, and I can honestly say that this one not only tastes the best, but is of the absolute highest quality. And the portability is basically priceless — especially for someone like me who likes to escape to the van from time to time and go adventuring. 

Bone Broths Co partnership acne cure

photo credit: Loren Rothman

The CWB/Kettle & Fire Affiliate Partnership

If you’ve been struggling with gut issues or skin problems and haven’t found the time to make homemade bone broth yet, this is your chance to try it without spending more than 1 minute in the kitchen to warm up the mug. 

The Bone Broth Acne Cure

I won’t pretend to know how every individual will react to adding this healing liquid gold into their diet, but as most of you have read, it took just two weeks of drinking the stuff for 20 years of acne to disappear from my face

curing acne naturally

These little boxes make two servings each, so if you want to guarantee that you’ll have enough for two weeks straight, I suggest you start with 7 boxes. Your other option is to get the subscription package (which I happen to see as more of a maintenance plan). Either way, you save 15% by using my affiliate link, and you get free shipping too!

bone broth acne cure kettle and fire
If you have any questions before you purchase, feel free to hit me up. I love helping you guys out, so don’t hesitate to ask!

I can’t wait to hear how you like this bone broth! I love it and have already placed my order for my Thanksgiving travels and a few recipes I plan to feature right here between now and the end of the year.

Addendum #1: Two weeks ago, in an effort to answer the flood of questions that come in about the BBAC, I announced the launch of my new YouTube Channel: Bone Broth Acne Cure: Question and Answer, where I address your burning questions about this amazing remedy. New episodes drop every Thursday at 2pm PST. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss anything, and if you have a question of your own, please reach out to me directly so I can get it answered on a future show. 

Addendum #2: If you haven’t already subscribed to my newsletter, it’s high time you did. You’ll get a free eBook just in time for the fall season. It’s filled with amazing pumpkin recipes that range from sweet to savory, even spicy — and they’re all simple to make! You’ll also have your pick of some of my other clear skin resources, including how to take your skin to the next level: Vibrantly Healthy Skin. Just reply to your welcome email to let me know you want my Bone Broth Acne Cure Resources and I’ll shoot them right over to you as soon as humanly possible.   Subscribe Now

FTC DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post but I will receive compensation if you use the links in this post to purchase Bone Broths Co. bone broth. I’m proud to call this company a partner and work with them to bring bone broth to as many people as possible. All opinions are my own.

Beer Belly vs Muffin Top: A Healthy Debate

fit fat TOFI

What’s the difference between a beer belly and a muffin top? No, that’s not the first line of a bad joke. It’s a real (and important) question that I’m planning to answer today. Although both are slang for some extra body bulge, the difference between extra inches on the waist and padding on your backside is actually a lot more critical than you might think. Have you ever noticed that beer bellies are actually hard, rather than cushiony like muffin tops, junk in the trunk, or even thunder thighs? 

Ok, enough with all these euphemisms. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m not a fan of fat shaming — I’ve had my fair share of struggles in the body image department and don’t wish to perpetuate any of the hype that “thin is in.” But the truth is, not all fat is created equal. There’s the kind of fat that makes us a bit softer in certain places, but then there’s this other kind — a more insidious kind — that can be nearly invisible in some people. And because it doesn’t come in the form of a little extra padding, it’s not taken as seriously as it should be. I’m talking about visceral fat — the kind of fat that inhabits organ tissue beneath the outer layers of our bodies; the kind that leads to all sorts of health problems and needs to be addressed far more urgently than junk in the trunk.

Let’s talk TOFI 

TOFI? Is this a new hair product? No. TOFI is an acronym: Thin Outside Fat Inside. I did not come up with this term. Professor Jimmy Bell, head of the molecular imaging group at the Medical Research Council’s centre at Imperial College, London did. It’s in reference to exactly what it sounds like — thin individuals with fat in their internal cavity. The location and type of fat that defines TOFI individuals is of particular concern when it comes to health risks like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In the picture below, you see two cross-sections of human torsos. The white areas are fat. You can see on the left, there’s a thicker layer of fat around the perimeter of the body but there’s not much fat in the center. The opposite is true on the right. The white (fatty) area in the middle is much larger on the right, which means this person has fat deposited in and around the organs. The person on the right might have less “flab” but is actually the less healthy of the two. Individuals with a normal BMI but greater than normal amount of middle body fat (typically the visceral fat that you can’t necessarily see) are considered TOFI.

fit fat TOFI

Image by “ImagingFat” sourced through Creative Commons

What’s visceral fat?

Visceral fat is found in the midsection of the body, and it lives in the organs and internal tissue, rather than on the outside (like love handles or junk in the trunk). Visceral fat is a hard beer belly. While TOFI people almost certainly don’t have a beer belly, they have a miniature version of it right under their tiny tummies, and they possess the same health risks as the person with the beer belly.

This means that they could likely be on their way to Metabolic Syndrome and all the accompanying health challenges that come with it, all the while thinking that their diet of gummy bears and candy corn are doing their bodies good. (If you recognize that movie reference and put it in the comments at the end of this post, you are my new best friend.)

Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that tend to lead to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease if no intervention is undertaken (namely lifestyle change). Symptoms include a large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high fasting blood sugar. 

While most of those symptoms I just rattled off require blood tests to find out, the one that doesn’t is the waistline measurement. And a good way to know if you’re TOFI — or even FOFI — is to measure your waist AND your hips to find out if the ratio is within healthy guidelines. 

The World Health Organization states that abdominal obesity is defined as a waist-to-hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females, or a BMI (Body Mass Index) above 30.0.  

TOFI Thin outside fat inside

image sourced through Creative Commons by Mikael Häggström, from original works by SuicideGirls and FatM1ke

Can you be Overweight or Obese and Healthy?

The short answer is yes. Everything has its opposite, right? The flip side of TOFI is FOTI (Fat Outside Thin Inside). It’s possible to have a little extra padding without putting your health at risk — as long as the padding is in the right place. (Not in the middle of your body in and around your organs.)

Rest easy on your big beautiful booty. 

Trim Down the Waistline: Reducing Visceral Fat

Chronic Illnesses like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are all preventable with behavior change. If you’re worried about visceral fat, what you eat and the quality of the food is just as, if not more important than how much you eat. And the way you live your life day-to-day is actually pretty important too. 


fit fat TOFIWhen it comes to food, mitigating inflammation and insulin spikes with your diet is the best course of action for reducing your risk. What that means is eating a whole food diet rich in alkalizing foods and low in sugar and processed junk. Think organic fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and dairy, organic or wild sources of protein, and healthy fats like coconut oil and avocados.

In fact, if you’re not already diabetic (and are free from liver disease), replacing most (or all) of your cooking oil with coconut oil could actually help you achieve your weight loss goals! Coconut oil consists of medium chain triglycerides which go straight to your liver to either burn as energy or get stored as ketones — compounds that can reduce appetite and stimulate the metabolism. (Ask your doctor before making any dramatic changes.)


As for how we live our lives, this is where the mental/emotional/spiritual piece comes in. I’m sure you’ve heard of that pesky hormone cortisol. If not, think stress. Cortisol is activated when we’re under stress. It’s part of a cascade of effects the body sets off in the stress response, and once we start seeing cortisol in the blood stream, insulin isn’t far behind.

If you haven’t yet made the connection between cortisol, insulin, and middle body weight, start now. 

Here’s how it works: You experience stress, which begins the fight or flight response in the body. Fight or flight shuts down digestion and prepares the body to use its biggest and most important muscle groups (arms and legs) for fighting off or running from life-threatening stress. But for the most part, traffic, screaming children, and work deadlines aren’t life-threatening. Cortisol lingers in the body after the stress subsides, causing increased appetite, increased glucose production, and increased insulin release. The latter two promote fat storage around the midsection.

Relax and Enjoy Life

Sometimes the best way to slim down (specifically in the midsection) is to make big shifts in how much stress we take on and how much sleep we get. Find ways to enjoy your life. Get outside and bask in the sun, swim in a lake, or hug a tree. Bury your feet in the sand. Play with your pet or call your best friend for a walk around the park. Do something to get yourself connected. You might be surprised at what this can accomplish.

fit fat TOFI

Get Started Now

Are you looking for a way to get started on your journey to health? Need some simple recipes chock full of veggies and healthy ingredients to get you going each morning? Download my latest eBook 23 Healthy Smoothie Recipes and never eat another greasy breakfast again.
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Debunking PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

My PCOS Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) back in the late 90s, and the doctor told me that I should go on the South Beach Diet for the rest of my life. I was in my late teens, an athlete, very muscular, and a voracious eater, and I was most definitely not going to do that. I loved my pasta and my sweets. Plus I was in no way mature enough to stick to a diet like that for a week, much less consider the prospect of doing it for a lifetime.

The doctor prescribed me a testosterone blocker (Spironilactone), which I took on and off for years, along with Metformin, which is a drug for diabetes (which I didn’t have) that made me feel absolutely terrible — didn’t take that one for long. She also tried to get me to go on birth control, which I refused for a long time but eventually conceded. Although I’ve stopped the testosterone blocker, I’ve been on BC ever since. 

Debunking PCOS

image sourced through Creative Commons by Ceridwen~commonswiki

What’s PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance often detected through the occurrence of a collection of symptoms. In my case, I had terrible acne (which got far worse after this diagnosis), male patterned body hair (jaw line, chest, happy trail), and extra weight in my midsection. Other symptoms include not having a period, thinning hair, and mood problems. Admittedly, I was a teenager/early adult at this time, so the mood problems were never discussed as anything abnormal in my case. Poor gut health is also connected to PCOS, but my own bowel issues were never discusses at any point during my doctor’s visits. 

A Life Sentence

Being a very young adult in the late 90s, I wasn’t quite ready to hear a doctor tell me that I was going to have to take medication for my PCOS for “the rest of my life.” I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready to hear that, and I don’t feel any differently about the prospects of having to be on birth control forever either. While I’m not ready to think about having children, I am ready to step back and examine if it’s time to consider getting off the pill (or Nuva Ring in my case). 

Debunking PCOS

Years ago, my naturopathic doctor (ND) who helped pave the way for my eventual decision to go gluten-free told me that she didn’t think women should be on hormonal contraception for more than 10 years. I have no idea what the scientific reasoning behind that 10 year rule is, but it stuck in my mind — and this year is my 11th year. I’ve been very seriously considering making a change.

What the Doctors Say

What the doctors have told me over the years has varied. The first doctor who diagnosed me was a fertility specialist. She said that I would need to be on meds for the rest of my life and that I might have trouble conceiving one day. The second doctor was the ND. She told me that after our work together, I was showing no blood markers of having PCOS (including insulin resistance) — but I was on the pill when we did all those tests. My current OBGYN has told me that once a woman is diagnosed with PCOS, she will always have it, and that the pill is the only reason my blood work came back normal.

She didn’t take any of the positive changes that I’ve made over the years into account when she made this statement. She didn’t seem to notice the dramatic changes in my skin or care that I went from having violent, emergent “bathroom situations” to having none at all. She didn’t consider the fact that after years of having low-level candida overgrowth, I haven’t asked for a Diflucan prescription in close to 3 years.

Debunking PCOS

She said that if I ever want to get pregnant, I should stay on the pill until the very moment I decide I’m ready, and then start trying right away, because the further I get away from having “regular” periods like the ones I have on the pill, the harder it will be to conceive. So I’ve begrudgingly stayed on it into my 11th year, even though I don’t even know for sure I want to get pregnant at all.

Debunking PCOS: The Book

I have spoken to a few acupuncturists about the idea of “easing” my way off of birth control, and they’ve all told me that they could help me or knew someone who could whenever I’m ready. I’ve explored the idea on and off for about a year, and when I found this book tucked inside this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, I knew it would be the first one I cracked open. I read the whole thing in one sitting and regained my resolve to find a gentle way to get off BC for good.debunking PCOS

Nat Kringoudis is a Doctor of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and in this book, she lays out the symptoms, the causes, and the steps to cure PCOS naturally. She shares both Eastern and Western perspectives on the disease and debunks some of the myths I was told by my doctors.

Importantly for me, she also validates the parts of my journey in which I’ve successfully healed myself. She doesn’t say that once you have PCOS, it never goes away. She says that proper self-care and taking measures to heal your gut are key steps to alleviating PCOS. Nat confirms that I’ve been doing the right things to take care of myself and heal my leaky gut. For me, that’s been drinking bone broth, eliminating gluten, and eating probiotic foods. She’s also offered new ideas for supporting my liver that I’ve never done consistently (didn’t stick with it). Her book has motivated me to get consistent with these practices and find an acupuncturist to help me get off the pill. 

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

This short and inspiring book is just one of over 90 resources in this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. It falls into the Natural Remedies category along with 10 other resources. Three of those 10 could be relevant to someone with a PCOS diagnosis.

Heal Your Gut from Lee at Supercharged Food

Conquer Diabetes from Jose at Conquer Diabetes

Inflammation Free Zone from Amy at Bee Happy Life

Those three books alone are a $130 value, but this bundle costs just a fraction of that and comes with so much more. With categories ranging from Homesteading to Paleo, from Essential Oils to Healthy Kids, from Allergy-Free to Natural Home, this bundle is worth $1900 — and that doesn’t include the bonuses that the amazing sponsors throw in for everyone who purchases.  

Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

Bonuses from CWB 

Not only have I contributed my eBook Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-Free Living to this amazing bundle offer, I’ve also decided to give my readers 2 bonus prizes! After you place your order, simply fill out this form and I’ll get your bonuses sent over to you right away! This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

What are my bonuses?

First, there’s my latest eBook, 23 Healthy Smoothie Recipes. I’ve been collecting and testing these recipes for over a year, and they’re finally ready for your blending pleasure! 

Second, there’s your very own CWB bumper sticker! That’s right, I’ll mail you this sticker, my VERY FIRST EVER piece of CWB swag. It could be yours! 


What’s the Catch?

The only catch is the timing. The folks at Ultimate Bundle are able to create such a steeply discounted product simply because the authors agree to a very short sale. This bundle will be available for purchase until MONDAY, 9/14/15 at 11:59pm EST. After that, you’ll have to buy all these wonderful resources separately. 

Find out more about the bundle HERE, and don’t forget to fill out that form to get your CWB stuff! 

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp [RECIPE VIDEO]

It’s hard to believe, but the beans in this dish started out purple. I’m calling it a green bean dish because it’s much easier to find green beans than purple ones, but I feel compelled to tell you that these beans started out purple! I’d seen online that purple beans do turn green when you cook them, but I think some part of me was in denial until I saw it for myself. 

pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Gardening and Eating for Optimum Health

After reading Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson (affiliate link), I decided that this year’s garden would have as many purple, red, and blue items as possible in it. Red and purple plants possess a markedly high potency of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant shown to promote ‘anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation.’ This year in the garden, we have multiple types of red lettuce, purple pole beans, and red and purple carrots. We also have strawberries, beets, and blueberries, which fall into this category as well. We’ve already committed a bit of real estate to our globe artichoke plant and our green okra, but purple artichokes and okra might be on the list for future seasons if we can find a place to put them. The more the better!pesto recipe green beans with shrimp

Pesto-Making [VIDEO] 

A while back I promise that you’d be the first to know if I ever got around to making a how-to video for quick and easy pesto at home, and I finally did! I used the simple formula laid out in this video to make the pesto I included in the recipe below. I hope you enjoy it and try some creative combinations in your own kitchen to make truly unique and flavorful pesto of your own! This recipe included fresh basil and carrot tops (from purple carrots) straight from the garden, so it falls right in line with our goal of eating for optimum health.">
Pesto Green Beans with Shrimp
Serves 3
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Cook Time
20 min">
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 3 cups green beans
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 18 raw shrimp (deveined and peeled)
  4. 4 tbs pesto
  5. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  6. Salt to taste (this is the herb salt I use in the video)
  7. Optional: dash of red pepper flake
  1. Blanch the beans in about 1 inch of water, save the water
  2. Add 1/2 the water to a shallow skillet and heat to a simmer
  3. Add 1 whole sliced red onion and cook until the water evaporates
  4. Once the onions are cooked through and the water has evaporated, add shrimp
  5. Cook shrimp until about 1/2 way done and add in the beans (you can toss the rest of the water
  6. Season with lemon pepper, good salt, and an optional touch of red pepper flake
  7. Turn off the heat when the shrimp are done
  8. Stir in 3 tbsp fresh pesto
  9. Serve hot with a side of sweet roasted potatoes or another whole food starch
Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

The Best “Cheezy” Popcorn [RECIPE]

cheezy popcorn vegan

To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for almost three years and not shared this vegan “Cheezy” Popcorn recipe yet. The nuts and bolts of this recipe take me waaaaay back to my days of doing demos at Whole Foods Market as the Supplement Specialist on the Whole Body team. If you’ve ever shopped at Whole Foods on a demo day, you know that there are tons of tasty treats all over the store waiting to be sampled and then added to your shopping cart right then and there, either by a rep from the company or a Whole Foods team member. One of the treats I used to demo a lot was a simplified version of the recipe I’m about to share with you today. It’s a healthy snack chalk-full of micronutrients and packed with flavor that can be as customized as your fingerprint — or at least as what’s on your spice rack.

A Word on Popcorn

cheezy popcorn vegan

click to purchase (affiliate link)

Popcorn (corn in general) is technically considered a whole grain — a whole kernel unadulterated or processed. While it’s a starchy food, it’s certainly a decent part of a whole foods diet, but the topic of popcorn isn’t cut and dry. We’ve talked recently about GMOs on this blog, and so much of the corn we grow in this country is GMO that it’s important to seek out organic, non-GMO popcorn kernels. This way you know you’re not getting a mouthful of pesticides to go with your whole grains, and you’re doing something good for Mother Nature too. Another important caveat about popcorn is the method used to make it.

There’s a big difference between the microwaveable stuff and the stuff that pops on your stove top or in an air popper, and the difference is in the bag. Literally. The ‘microwave-safe’ bags used to pop popcorn contain what the EPA considers a “likely carcinogen,” perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). There’s also that weird butter powder that microwave popcorn tends to feature. A chemical in that powder diacetyl is so toxic to the respiratory system that there’s an actual disease unofficially called “popcorn worker’s lung.” Why this substance is considered safe by the FDA is beyond me, but I’m going to go out a limb and say you probably shouldn’t breathe it in — or eat it. 

So, in conclusion, air-pop or do some old-school stove top action, and choose organic, if you plan to make popcorn part of your healthy lifestyle. I use this air popper and absolutely love it. (affiliate link)

Fancy Flakes (aka Nutritional Yeast)

CWB Favorite Pick (affiliate link)

The first thing I thought when I learned about the benefits of nutritional yeast was, “wow, I bet more people would try it if it
weren’t called that.” Nutritional Yeast, while possessing a less-than-appetizing name (should we rally for “fancy flakes??”), is a micronutrient powerhouse and a delicious additive into sauces, vegan “cheezes,” and even smoothies if you play your cards right.

Rich in B vitamins (including thiamin, folate, niacin, and B6), minerals (including iron, selenium and zinc), and glutathione (a potent antioxidant), it’s an awesome ingredient to add into your diet whenever you can. It’s also low in sodium but high in flavor, and it contains all the essential amino acids (plus more), making it a complete vegan protein source. For those of us concerned about candida overgrowth, nutritional yeast does not aggravate or feed candida in the body. 

For our purposes today, nutritional yeast brings the cheez too our cheezy popcorn.

Flax Oil

By now you’ve probably heard hundreds of times the importance of including Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet, and that as Americans, we definitely aren’t eating enough of them. I’ve shared my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil, which mentions the importance of Omega 3s, so I won’t go through all of it again, but quickly I’ll share that flax oil is great not just for Omega 3s, but also for the lignans from the hulls of the seeds pressed to make the oil. Lignans are beneficial to cardiovascular health and may play a role in breast cancer prevention. There’s still more research to be done on the potential benefits of lignans, but we also know that they’re a great fiber source as well, and come with all the benefits generally associated with adding fiber to your diet. You can buy the oil with or without the lignans. In addition to their health benefits, they also offer a more nutty flavor to the oil.">
"Cheezy" Popcorn
Serves 4
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  1. 10 cups air-popped popcorn
  2. 2 tbs Organic Flaxseed Oil (with lignans)
  3. 3 tbs Nutritional Yeast (CWB Favorite Pick)
  4. 1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
  5. 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  6. 1/4 tsp Lemon Pepper
  1. While the popcorn is warm, mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl
  2. Toss popcorn with oil first, then toss in dried seasonings
  3. Enjoy fresh
  1. This recipe is versatile and flexible. Try adding in some fresh chopped rosemary, one time, a touch of cayenne or chili powder another time, or even a sprinkle of truffle salt. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!
Cultivated Wellbeing


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie: Busting Myths with Dr. Robert Lustig and the IRN


Pardon me while I gush like a total geek for a second.

I have been on the planning committee for the Wellness Conference put on by the Hospitals Association of Southern California for the last three years. For the last three years I’ve been wanting Dr. Robert Lustig to come to the conference to speak about his work with diabetic children and the research he’s done to convincingly argue that the excess sugar we consume as a society is killing us, one diabetic at a time. He finally made it to the conference this year, and I almost literally jumped for joy when I saw him walk into the room. I think I might have made him a little self-conscious when I asked him to take a picture with me, but he graciously obliged. Yesssssssssssssss!

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

Some of you might have noticed I did a teeny tiny bit of live tweeting (a whopping 3 tweets) during his talk on Thursday of last week at HASC, but since it was just a few tweets they might have passed you by. They featured some of my favorite sound bites, which will guide you through what I consider the most important information Dr. Lustig shared.

Dr. Robert Lustig’s Work

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Lustig’s work, I suggest you start with his book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Diabetes (affiliate link). He’s been working with children at UCSF who are presenting with the diseases of the old — metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension — and in his research, he’s found that the number one problem in our modern diet today is the sheer amount of sugar we consume. He uses the old adage “the dose determines the poison” and asserts that the food industry is dosing us.

“Sugar is the alcohol of the child.”

I’ve heard Dr. Lustig speak a few times before, and each time he not only covers this problem on an individual level, but he also points out the systemic, institutionalized, tacit (but not really) agreement between “the people in charge” (USDA, FDA, lawmakers) and “the big food companies” to keep people uninformed about how much sugar we’re consuming and just how dangerous it is for our health. The most compelling evidence for this little arrangement is the fact that food labels never share the RDA percentage of sugar per serving. 

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

The point stands that if the spot under % Daily Value were filled in with accurate percentages for Recommended Sugar Intake, people would think twice before buying sugary cereal for their kids (or any of the other boxed products in the center aisles of the grocery store). Part of Lustig’s work at the Institute for Responsible Nutrition (IRN) is to move sugar from the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list to the “Food Additive List,” citing it as an addictive substance, a cheap preservative, and not a necessary part of our diet. Doing this would put sugar in the same category as trans fat and create awareness around the health hazards of consuming too much.

“Obesity is not the problem. People Don’t Die from Obesity.”

Myth #1: If we cure obesity, we cure our health crisis. Dr. Lustig spent a long time on debunking this point, sharing obesity and diabetes rates across the globe and arguing that while there’s certainly overlap between obesity and diabetes, there are also plenty of cases where obesity is present and diabetes isn’t, and vice versa. India, Pakistan, and China, for example are not obese countries, but the rates of diabetes are skyrocketing. Mongolia and Iceland are obese but not diabetic. The position of mainstream medicine on this matter is that if you cure obesity, you cure the problem, but Dr. Lustig reveals that 40% of normal weight people (who make up 70% total population) have the exact same chronic diseases as 80% of obese people (who make up 30% of the total population). So the problem is metabolic syndrome, not obesity. Obesity is a potential symptom of the problem, but not the problem itself.

“I don’t believe in common sense. I believe in science.”

a calorie is not a calorie Dr. Robert Lustig Institute for Responsible Nutrition

Click the image to see the full infographic on the IRN website

Myth #2: A calorie is a calorie. We’ve been told our whole lives that a calorie is a calorie — that the law of thermodynamics states that if we take in more energy than we expend, we will gain weight — it’s just common sense. Well no it’s not. The laws of physics don’t trump the laws of nutritional biochemistry, and all calories are not created equal.

Our bodies react differently to different nutrients that accompany each calorie — in fact, some calories (like the ones that come from soda and other sugar-laden drinks and processed foods) are downright poisonous to us when consumed in the quantities that we’re consuming them right now. We do not digest a carrot the same way we digest a soda.

I touched on the calorie myth in my post Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening, where I talked about the difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat, but Dr. Lustig drives the point home with his charts that correlate increased sugar consumption with CVD (cardiovascular disease), diabetes, and liver disease occurrences over time. You can see some of that work at the IRN website.

“Your choice to drink soda is hurting me.”

Myth #3: It’s about personal responsibility. I almost fell on the floor when I learned that the notion of “personal responsibility” was invented by the tobacco industry in 1969. It makes complete sense, and the parallels between big tobacco and big food don’t stop there. (In fact, some of the major players are/were the same!) If one can argue that quitting sugar (or smoking) is just about personal choice, an individual decision that affects no one but the person eating (or smoking), then one can keep regulation away, keep warning labels away, and keep people addicted.

If you can be convinced that your decision to eat junk (or smoke cigarettes) isn’t hurting anyone but yourself, then you can just keep right on doing what you’re doing until you’re ready to change, at which point, it’s your own personal responsibility to do so, and you should just be able to stop on your own. Forget the constant barrage of commercials advertising your substance of choice to you (no longer legal for certain media to advertise smoking). Forget the fact that it’s available at your fingertips everywhere you turn (barriers have been put into place for cigarettes, including age requirements), that nothing is labeled properly (warning labels have been legally mandated for cigarettes), and that there are so many different names for sugar that can all be buried into the ingredients label so that the average consumer is none the wiser (not the case for tobacco or nicotine products). Most importantly for our society, forget that your sugar (or smoking) addiction makes you a more expensive medical patient who’s more likely to get sick and stay sick for longer, and in the end we all bear the brunt of a sicker population. Of course big food wants to make it about personal responsibility, because it keeps them in business!

Dr. Lustig cites the three ingredients needed for the case for “personal responsibility” to be made:

  • Knowledge – of the actual contents of the food we have to eat AND of the real consequences of our current system
  • Access – to real, whole foods AND the information we need to know to make good decisions about these foods
  • Affordability – related to access, real, whole foods need to be available to all socio-economic levels, not reserved for those who can afford to shop at Whole Foods.

Click to download a PDF of this list to take with you to the grocery store!

“I’m for dessert, for dessert. I’m not for dessert for breakfast.”

This one is my favorite — I too, am for dessert! And I too have a rant on the topic of breakfast cereal! This is where the action items come in, and where I don’t leave you empty-handed thinking that the cards are stacked against you and your health. No one is asking for a ban on sugar. No one is saying that it should be considered a controlled substance. What Dr. Lustig, the folks at IRN, and I am saying is that we need to be informed, we need to recognize that we can’t do it alone, and that it IS possible to make lasting change on this issue at the personal and societal level! Here’s what you can do to make a difference:


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