So we moved. Across the ocean. It’s been a wild ride so far with plenty of excitement and relief coupled with awkward transitioning, and astronomical culture shock (small town Ontario is preeeeeetty different from Copenhagen). We’re also renovating a very old home by Canadian standards, and the hidden surprises lurking under every lifted floorboard are creating a project slightly larger and lengthier than predicted. But wouldn’t it all be so boring and predictable without those fun discoveries?! Right! Who needs a kitchen anyway? Oh wait.
Amongst the self-inflicted chaotic state of affairs, I’ve actually found some peace in the simple living we’ve got going on. Since we don’t really have any friends in our little village yet, there’s been plenty of time to actually take care of myself and our family. Afternoons are spent building toy train sets, cooking big batch meals, and making snacks for the days ahead. I’ve started taking aerial yoga and NIA, going for nature walks every day, and having candlelit baths on the regular. Funny what removing one’s social life will make room for!
An important part of my self-care routine these past weeks is my simple ritual of making golden milk. Warm, comforting, and satisfying, this drink has everything needed to combat winter blues and mover’s remorse (I kid, I kid). Usually I make golden milk on the fly, one cup at a time, but recently I realized how handy it would be to just make a huge batch and have it ready to spoon into some hot milk when the mood strikes. Genius.
For those of you that aren’t yet familiar with this wonder drink, I’m excited for the vibrant, spicy world that is about to open up to you. Golden milk, or haldi ka doodh, actually dates back thousands of years in Ayurvedic tradition where it has been used to aid digestion and respiration, prevent colds and flu, decongest the liver, ease sprained muscles and joint pain, purify the blood, clear the skin, and aid sleep. The main ingredient in golden milk responsible for all of this awesomeness is the curcumin in turmeric, a compound that is responsible for its vibrant hue. Curcumin has been widely studied for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also supports detoxification, helps balance blood sugar, and lowers the overall risk of cancer.
How do we get the most out of this powerful phytonutrient? Simply by combining it with black pepper and fat – two important ingredients in golden milk! A compound in black pepper called piperine actually helps the body absorb curcumin, and shows to increase the bioavailability of it by up to 2,000 percent. And the good news is, you only need a very small amount to reap the synergistic benefits. Then melt a little coconut oil in, and the curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system. That’s a cooperative one-two punch of absorption and deliciousness.
Once mixed, your Big Batch Golden Milk spice blend will last for up to six months. Keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct light – a closed cupboard is perfect. Do not store it right next to the stove or on top of the fridge, where the warm environment will speed spoilage. We wanna keep our medicine fresh!
The Big Batch Golden Milk recipe below makes about 120 servings, so there is plenty to divvy out to your most beloved, and even save some for yourself. Make sure to include the directions so that your lucky recipients can make golden milk themselves. I’ve divided them below so that you can print out just the single serving instructions for your friends and family. I’ve also included a recipe if you want to sample just one cup for yourself before committing to an entire jar.
My version of golden milk has a few more spices than some blends that I’ve tried, but this unique combination just tastes that much better. If you’re on a tight budget, or you simply cannot find some of the spices listed, leave them out. The main ingredients you need are the turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. The others are there for added health benefits and of course flavour, but the recipe will still be delicious without them.
The milk for this recipe is totally flexible. Coconut is classic, but almond, cashew, or hemp are tasty options. You can also do half milk, half water if you like. It will be less creamy, but it’s great if you’re trying to make your milk stretch a little farther!
The most important thing to remember when making golden milk is to not overheat the spices, as they will become bitter-tasting and therefore not all that enjoyable. If you choose to use milk in your recipe, warm it gently on the stove, then remove from heat and gently whisk in the golden milk spice blend. If you’re going with water, do NOT pour boiling water over the spice blend, but instead pour the recently-boiled water into a cup, let it cool for 30 seconds or so, then whisk in the golden milk spice blend. I also advise you not to add the honey or coconut oil until the spices have been stirred into the liquid you’re using, as they’ll incorporate easier if the spices have dissolved.
If you want to use a vegan sweetener, maple syrup is my favourite choice, but brown rice syrup, coconut palm sugar, and stevia are also good options. I also love adding a sprinkling of vanilla powder right at the end for some extra va-va-voom.
I recommend enjoying your golden milk first thing in the morning (right after your lemon water, of course!), or right before bed. If it’s a particularly cold day outside, this intelligent spice combo will warm your cells up from the inside out. Or, if you’re looking for a luxurious way to unwind down after a long day, I find that golden milk is also a very effective sleep tonic. Whatever the time you choose to enjoy this drink, you will absolutely love its warm, and satisfying vibes. Make it a ritual yourself: spoon lovingly, stir consciously and sip gratefully.
One more thing I should mention, is that the Big Batch Golden Milk spice blend is not only delicious as a drink, but that it can also be incorporated into a number of your favourite recipes. Toss a teaspoon into a smoothie, stir some into your morning porridge or pancake batter, fold it into a basic cookie dough or cake batter, and even try it in curries, soups and stews. The flavour is warming and pungent, so use it anywhere you’d like a burst of sunshiny spice that is as good as gold.
Big Batch Golden Milk Spice Blend Makes approx. 120 servings
1 ½ cup / 200g ground turmeric
2/3 cup / 70g ground ginger
1/3 cup / 35g ground cinnamon
2 ½ Tbsp. / 20g ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. / 20g ground cardamom
scant 3 Tbsp. / 20g ground cloves
2 ½ Tbsp. / 20g ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp. 20g ground star anise
¼ cup 20g ground coriander
1. Combine all spices in a large bowl. Stir well, then transfer to a large jar or several smaller ones, and seal with an airtight lid. Keeps for up to 6 months.
Golden Milk Ingredients:
½ Tbsp. golden milk spice blend
1 cup milk of your choice (coconut milk is classic, but I also like cashew milk or hemp milk)
½ – 1 tsp. virgin coconut oil
½ – 1 tsp. sweetener of choice (I like raw honey)
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until just before it simmers. Whisk in golden milk spice blend until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil and sweetener, if desired. Enjoy!
If you want to make just one batch of my golden milk, here’s the single-serve recipe.
Single-serving Golden Milk Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. cinnamon
pinch black pepper
pinch star anise
I wish you all a super sweet holiday with tons of delicious food shared amongst family and friends, and that your 2018 is bursting with health and happiness. Much love to all out there, from my chilly, but cozy, little corner of the world to yours.
xo, Sarah B
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In wrapping up 2017, I cannot help but look on the Wild Heart High Spirit retreats with deep gratitude and pure joy. I had a strong vision for the endeavor from the beginning: gather women in a beautiful and serene space, teach them how to reconnect to their bodies through food and movement. But I never imagined just how deep these lessons would go, how profound the changes would be, and how much fun we would have! After three this year, I can confidently say these experiences are incredibly special, and I feel very lucky to work with such a talented partner to create them. Thank you to all of the women who have traveled from all corners of the earth to join us. We love you!
Here are some highlights from our trips to Bali, Ibiza, and Portugal. Click on the images below to see photos from each of our magical locations.
I have to start by saying how incredibly moved I was by the comments on the last post, and the emails I received from you guys – a deep, heartfelt thank you. I knew that opening myself up would spark a lot of conversation, but I never imagined the impact it would have, not only in regards to the incredible outpouring of support, but for sharing your own stories and struggles. Time and time again I am reminded of the power in vulnerability and open communication. I feel truly blessed to have a community of conscious and loving readers, and that we can all share our journey with one another. That is what makes us stronger, and certainly healthier human beings in every sense of the word.
Before I dig deeper into what I’ve been doing to eat for balancing my hormones, I’d like to just follow-up with the topic of orthorexia. Many of you expressed surprise at my struggles, thinking that because I do what I do, I must have had it all together. The truth is I thought that I did have it all together for a very long time, and creating My New Roots has been the most powerful catalyst in my healing. For the last decade, I’ve felt very grounded in my choices and excited to celebrate them with you. But like I mentioned in the last post, the experience of changing my diet has brought back many of the challenges, dark thoughts and feelings that I had convinced myself were gone forever. Putting new restrictions on myself made me to put food into “good” and “bad” categories. This probably doesn’t sound so terrible, but like I said before, this is a slippery slope into full-blown disordered eating for me. I see now that there is an incredibly fine line between caring about what I eat and caring too much. I believe that my relationship to food is something that I may have to keep in check for the rest of my life, or at least as long as I choose to use it as a tool to become a healthier person (so, like, forever).
In the last four months of tuning into what I need right now, and eating more consciously, I’ve really experienced a positive difference in how I feel, which is the biggest reward anyone could ask for! But I’ve also had bad days where I wasn’t prepared, and suddenly being at a wedding or a birthday party, or out for dinner with friends without much to eat in the “good” category, wasn’t so rad. My blood sugar would crash, I’d feel desperate, totally out of control and the voices would come back. What I’ve learned from these experiences is that I need to be as prepared as possible in these situations, but if I can’t, I simply have to let go. I cannot control everything and I cannot always be prepared, but that in order to move forward, I have to maintain flexibility, and stop being so darn hard on myself! I firmly believe that there is more strength in being fluid and forgiving, than rigid and judgmental. I am just a person, after all.
Since many of you were curious about the connection between food and hormone balance, I’d like to discuss it in more detail, and share what I’ve been doing to keep these miraculous chemicals in check, and keep them working for me, not against me!
Upping my fat and protein intake – but especially fat Fats are an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, and they are especially important for hormone balance. Fats actually create the structural components of hormones, and cholesterol specifically is responsible for our reproductive hormones; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The type of fat you choose however, is critical to achieving a positive effect, as the ones you consume become the building blocks for your hormones. Saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and ghee, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, eggs, and avocados are excellent choices and should be consumed responsibly every day. Cut back on or eliminate corn, canola, sunflower, safflower and soybean oils, and replace them with the aforementioned instead.
I’ve also increased my protein intake, and consciously replacing more high-carbohydrate foods with more protein-rich foods such as tempeh, hemp, sprouts, activated nuts, eggs, and quality protein powder has really made a difference in stabilizing my energy levels and appetite. Getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet is totally possible, but I find that if I’m not really paying attention, I can dip below the ideal 45 grams a day. Loosely (not obsessively) keeping track of my daily intake of protein has helped me feel my best.
Keeping my blood sugar stable It may seem totally unrelated, but blood sugar and hormones are in fact inextricably linked. One of the main functions of the endocrine system (the system that creates and transports hormones in your body) is delivering glucose to your brain, muscles, and heart. So if anything in that process isn’t working properly, than mismanaged blood sugar is the inevitable result. But what’s worse is that it creates a cascade effect whereby none of the other parts of your endocrine system will work either. Sheesh!
Walking the line between high and low blood sugar is something that I’ve really been focusing on lately, and it’s working well, but it is an ongoing process that takes some getting used to. Including more fat and protein in my diet has been a game-changer for me, since those macronutrients digest slower than carbohydrates – even the complex ones from things like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and chickpeas.
I try to eat a large and protein-rich breakfast within an hour of waking up (after the lemon water, of course!). Lunch is where I get the majority of my calories since that is when I need the most energy. I like eating roasted vegetables, avocado, eggs, and sprouted pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat. I snack in between meals when I’m hungry, but instead of reaching for a slice of rye bread or a rice cake, I’ll have veggies with a high-fat dip, or a handful of my Maple Cinnamon Grain-free Granola. Dinner is mostly grain-free these days and I stick to salads, soups and stews. I go to bed no longer than four hours after dinner so that I’m not hungry right before I hit the pillow. Then I like to have a break of about 14 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day, as my digestion does well on the rhythm of intermittent fasting.
Eating more vegetables (and less bread a.k.a. DUH) I almost always had a couple slices of rye bread at lunch. Not that there is anything “wrong” with doing so, but I’ll admit to feeling pretty foggy-headed afterwards. And because it filled me up so much, I had less room for veggies. Now I’m prepping raw and cooked vegetables ahead of time and keeping them on hand specifically for my big lunches. Some favourites to roast in the oven are cauliflower, sweet potato, pumpkin, red onion, zucchini, tomatoes, and broccoli. I’ve also started cutting up a big plate of veggie sticks in the early afternoon, before I even get hungry, so that it is there and waiting for me – no excuses. Right before diving in I douse it in freshly squeezed lemon juice, Maldon salt and Aleppo pepper. It’s honestly delicious.
I don’t have to tell you that vegetables are full of filling fiber, replenishing phytonutrients, and yes, protein. Especially dem green ones. Eat more plants.
Habits + meal prep I think this was the other big hurdle for me when it came to changing things up with my eating habits. I knew that if I was going to start eating food differently, I’d have to start preparing food differently too – and a lot more often. I already spend a lot of time in the kitchen (obvi) and I love it, but I am also a person who likes to spend her non-work hours away from the cutting board. Eating this way admittedly does take more time, and makes it more challenging to eat out, or just grab something on the go. Coming to terms with this was challenging, but I’ve realized that I have to dedicate more time to my diet if I want to be successful. No matter how you slice it, meal preparation is a very big part of sticking to your goals, whatever they may be. Of course there are times when it’s just not possible to do, and divergent days are fine, but the majority of your food you’re should fall into the category that helps you feel your best, however you define that.
Instead of prepping one day a week, which I know a lot of people like to do, I actually prefer to pepper it throughout the week in a way that is a little more fluid for me. If the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread is in the oven for instance, I’ll chop up a bunch of veggies, and put them in too. If I’m washing greens for a salad, I’ll do all of them so that they’re ready to chuck into a smoothie on a whim. Lee from America’s Fat Balls have also been a super snack these days. And like I mentioned before, having fresh veggies washed and sliced up for afternoon cravings is very helpful. I can prepare two or three day’s worth at a time and keep them in the fridge.
Mindset Instead of looking at food in terms of “good” and “bad” which I think is a dangerously judgemental way to categorize what we’re eating, I like to say “yes” to certain things, and the others fall into the “not-right-now” basket. For instance, I love brown rice to the ends of the earth and back, but I’m not eating it right now since it doesn’t make me feel all that great. And just because I’m not eating brown rice these days doesn’t mean I’ll never eat it again! This leaves room for flexibility and creates a far more sustainable way to look at one’s diet. Isn’t it relieving to know that if you are out for dinner and there’s only rice for example, that you could potentially eat it and not beat yourself up? Ahhhh…did you feel that?! What a relief, eh? Tomorrow you’ll get back on the horse, no big deal at all. Making changes should be fun, and keep those labels for tin cans! You’re a fluid being, ever-changing, so make space for that in your meal planning too.
Self-care routine, stress-reduction, exercise, and sleep I used to see self-care as something that only “people with time” have. Well, after totally hitting the wall a while ago, I realized that it just has to be a priority, respected as a part of a holistic approach to health, and something to actually schedule in the calendar. Staying active, sleeping, and treating myself to some yummy stress-reducing activities like spending time in nature, bodywork, and cooking (go figure) keeps me feeling happy and relaxed. Squelching stress doesn’t happen by accident: it is truly a daily practice and something to be mindful of. Listen to yourself. How can this moment be juicier and more relaxing? It’s fun to love yourself!
Keeping stress levels low means that your body will be relaxed and not producing hormones that should only be reserved for emergency situations. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Every time we experience a stressful situation we secrete this hormone into the blood stream so that our bodies can deal with the stressor at hand. Although cortisol is our friend in acute situations, our systems aren’t designed to be pumping it out ‘round the clock as we juggle and struggle with backlogged emails, fussy kids, and traffic jams. This is why chronic stress is so detrimental to our bodies: prolonged, elevated cortisol levels wreak all kinds of wrong inside of us, raising our blood pressure, causing unwanted weight gain, exhaustion, anxiety, impaired brain function, and weakening the immune response. All the more reason to take self-care seriously, and do the things you love more often. It’s actually healthy.
Sleeping 7-9 hours a night is another non-negotiable. Getting enough sleep helps us to control our cortisol production, balance our blood sugar, and put us back in line with our natural circadian rhythm. Turning screens off an hour before bedtime will help signal to your body that it is in fact, night time. Create a relaxed, cozy environment and spend the last hour before bed reading, stretching, or meditating. I still struggle with this one, as I love looking at Instagram right before turning out the light, but I’m becoming more mindful and doing my best.
Required Reading There are a few really amazing books out there that I recommend every woman reads, whether or not you’re seeking advice on a particular health issue. Understanding our bodies and cycles is the first step in helping ourselves become healthier, stronger, more connected women. Woman Code by Alisa Vitti has been hugely educational and supportive for me. Her book is a guide to figuring out what the heck is going on inside you, and how to correct it through diet and lifestyle. I appreciate her easy-to-understand language and humour in this book, because let’s face it: nothing is very funny when you’re hormones are raging! The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health by Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur has been and continues to be another excellent resource for me. This book is more of an all-round toolkit for lifelong health and healing, than specifically about hormone balance. I love the holistic approach to all conditions, and inspiring programs to get us back in touch with our natural cycles in connection to the earth. The third book I recommend is Hormone Balance by Carolyn Dean. Dean is a naturopathic doctor that utilizes both traditional and alternative solutions to help readers rebalance their hormone levels. Her writing is engaging and inspiring, and this book is full of ways for women to achieve greater overall health.
Oh man, I haven’t even talked about the tacos yet!
So. I got the idea for these this past summer when I was chopping up tempeh to replace ground beef with in a tomato sauce for pasta. It turned out so meaty, satisfying, and delish that I thought I could perhaps take that same idea, spice it up a little differently, and serve them in a taco. Woot! I knew that grilled veggies and red cabbage would help cut the richness, but that I would also need a boss sauce to put them over the top. During one of my retreats I made a raw queso in our cooking class and everyone went wild for it. It seemed like a natural fit! Topped with some lime, avo, pickled red onions, and cilantro these were the best tacos I’ve ever had. Ever.
And I’ve had a lot of tacos.
I know some of you are going to ask about the corn tortillas and probably remind me that corn is a “grain”. Yes, I am aware of that, and I’ll remind you that I am not grain-free, just cutting way back. I stick mostly to pseudo-grains and make sure they are soaked prior to cooking, and enjoy a treat like this once in a while. I only purchase tortillas made with sprouted corn, or from corn that has been nixtalmized (that topic is a whole other blog post!). I buy my corn tortillas from Hija de Sanchez here in Copenhagen. Their tortillas are made fresh daily using nixtamalized corn imported from Mexico, so they taste unbelievably good. Of course taco fillings are important to a good taco, but the tortilla quality should not be overlooked! It makes the dish. Go find the good ones.
Tempeh Tacos with Raw Cashew Queso Serves 3-4
Tempeh Taco “Meat”
250g / 8.8oz organic, non-GMO tempeh
1 medium red onion
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ – 1 tsp. chipotle or smoked hot paprika, to taste
2 Tbsp. tamari
2-5 Tbsp. water, as needed
1 medium zucchini
1 medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
a couple pinches of cayenne, if desired
12 small corn tortillas (try to find organic, non-GMO if possible)
1 batch Raw Cashew Queso, recipe below
1 ripe avocado
1 small bunch cilantro
pickled red onion or thinly sliced red onion
shredded red cabbage tossed with a little salt and lime juice
limes for serving
Cooking and assembly:
1. Start by making the Raw Cashew Queso (see recipe below).
2. Heat your grill or barbecue to medium-high. If not using a grill, simply cook everything in a skillet on the stove.
3. Finely chop or crumble tempeh into whatever size appeals to you (mine were rather small to mimic ground beef). Set aside. Mince red onion and garlic. Set aside.
4. Soak wooden skewers in water while you prepare the vegetables, or longer if you remember. If using metal skewers, skip this step.
5. Wash and cut the zucchini and onion into rings, the peppers into chunks. Place in a large bowl and toss with the salt and spices.
6. Skewer the vegetables so that their largest surface will lay flat on the grill (see photo). Alternate veggies until you’ve used them all. Place on the grill and cook until stating to char on the underside, anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on your cooking method. Flip and cook on the other side.
7. While the vegetables are grilling, cook the tempeh. Heat your cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt. Cook until starting to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add crumbled tempeh, cumin, chipotle, and stir well to incorporate. Pour in the tamari, followed by a couple tablespoons of water. Stir well and add water as needed – you’re after a moist mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Cook for a total of 10 minutes. The mixture should be golden brown, hot and delicious!
8. Warm the tortilla shells on the grill or in a pan over medium-high heat.
9. Spoon the desired amount of tempeh into each tortilla shell. Followed by the roasted veggies, avocado, cabbage, cilantro and pour on the Raw Cashew Queso. Enjoy!
Raw Cashew Queso Makes about 2 cups / 500ml
Ingredients: 1 cup / 150g cashews, soaked for 4-8 hours or overnight
1 red bell pepper
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
½ clove garlic
1 small piece fresh turmeric
ground cayenne, to taste
½ cup / 125ml water
1. Drain and rinse the cashews.
2. Put all ingredients, except water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend, adding water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If you want a thick cream, use less water, for a thinner sauce, use more. (You will not achieve a perfectly smooth sauce with a food processor, but it is still delicious!).
Before I go I just want to reiterate how wonderful it felt to be met with such open arms after the last post. I wish I could write back to every single one of you who shared their story with me, and everyone else here, but I simply couldn’t get to them all. I am moved beyond words that so many of you felt open and supported in this space too, and I will urge you to seek out help if you need it. And if you know someone who you think may struggle with disordered eating, reach out and help them in a loving, and non-judgmental way. We are all in this together.
In love and light,
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Dear friends! I am thrilled to share the location for my next wellness retreat in magical Comporta, Portugal, November 5-11, 2017. Join Mikkala Marilyn Kissi and I at Sublime Comporta for seven days of luxurious living, divinely delicious meals, inspiring cooking classes and nutrition seminars, yoga, Pilates, meditation, and breath work. Come press the reset button with me! Ride horses on the beach, dance under the stars, and cozy up by the fire. This will be a week to remember. I can’t wait to see you there! Click here for more info and tickets.
“It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.”
– Margaret Mead
Yup. Pretty much.
This entire shift began when I had a particularly gnarly couple of months with manic mood swings that rivaled my adolescence, acne flare-ups, bloating, low energy, night sweats, and all-round malaise. Knowing what I know, I looked at my diet first to see what could be adjusted. Everything was organic, whole, plant-based and totally “healthy” by most peoples’ standards. But it just wasn’t working anymore. I knew something had to give.
Delving in deeper, a typical day for me was a whole-grain porridge in the morning, topped with all kinds of seasonal fruit, homemade granola etc. Lunch was a couple slices of organic sourdough rye bread from the local bakery, with homemade hummus, avocado, sprouts etc. Dinner was often a mixed bowl, the base of which was brown rice, quinoa, millet or buckwheat covered in a rainbow of vegetables, homemade pickles, superfood-loaded sauce, and fresh herbs. I wasn’t eating sugar, drinking coffee, I was keeping up with my exercise and sleeping well. So what was the problem? In this case, I had a feeling it was a big ol’ grain overload.
The idea of cutting back on my morning oats, bread, and grain bowls was literally devastating to me. I cried. On multiple occasions, just talking about giving up muffins made me weep, and I felt like there was just no way I could make even more changes, or think about my diet even more than I already did.
I have had two serious experiences with orthorexia in my life. For those of you who don’t know what orthorexia is, it is defined as an obsession with healthy eating. It is considered an eating disorder, and one that is becoming more prevalent in Western culture as healthy eating becomes increasingly “trendy”. The first bout happened the year I moved out of the house to study at university. While many of my friends were bingeing on junk food and beer, I swung in the opposite direction entirely and took advantage of the incredible meal program that was offered at school, and fueled myself with enormous salads, delicious sandwiches and wraps, veggie-heavy soups and stews, and protein-rich smoothies. I also signed up for the free fitness classes at the university gym, got hooked on kickboxing, step aerobics, boot camp drills, and the weight literally fell off me. I lost about 25 pounds that year, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was in control of the way I looked. The sudden attention from guys – which I had never had before – further stoked the fires for my desire to be even thinner, even though my initial motivation to eat this way stemmed from a desire to be healthy. As my attitude towards food morphed from friend to enemy, I flirted with a full-on eating disorder at this point, playing games with myself to see how long I could go without eating, how many exercise classes I could fit in between classes and study groups, how long I could make my bean salad from lunch last (too long!). Eventually my energy levels dropped to the point where I had a very hard time getting out of bed in the morning and I couldn’t concentrate well in school. I realized that I had taken things too far and started eating in a more balanced way again. I put the experience behind me without giving it too much thought.
The second time this resurfaced was, ironically, while studying holistic nutrition. While I was learning all about foods and how my body worked, I became almost afraid to eat, toxifying my body, or “poisoning” it with sugar, gluten, dairy and the rest. I became obsessed with detoxing and subsisted only on “clean foods”; mostly vegetables. I was stressed, my hair started falling out, my acne came back and my energy hit an all-time low. Despite my obvious physical misery, I somehow felt validated since I wasn’t putting anything “bad” in my body. Eating as healthy as possible became obsessive for me and my classmates, and we’d all proudly bring our lunches to school, subtly scrutinizing each other’s Tupperware contents. Again, food had lost its pleasure, its joy, and had become something that I saw as more of an enemy than a friend. And that really scared me.
After graduating, I finally got a grip, and once again slowly re-established a healthy relationship to what I was eating. It is for these reasons that food is such a tender subject for me, and changing my diet dangerous territory. I spent so many years struggling to achieve a positive connection with food, and when I finally got there and it felt like such a relief. The prospect of having to go “back to that place” of thinking about food more than I already did felt unsafe for me, and slipping back into an obsessive place felt like an inevitability. Meanwhile, the negative self-talk voices were loud and overpowering, telling me how I was fat, flabby, weak, old – things that I KNEW weren’t true. But that’s the sad thing about internal monologues, they don’t need to make sense to play like broken records in our minds all day every day. It’s enough to drive a person insane. The cruel voices coupled with my extreme fear of reverting back to my old thought patterns and eating habits absolutely terrified me. I felt like I had hit a wall of hopelessness. And all I wanted to do to feel better was to eat a piece of eff-ing bread.
The reason I suspected the grain thing was because of the unique relationship that blood sugar has to our hormones. If we’re consuming carbohydrates at a faster rate than our bodies are utilizing them for energy, that extra glucose gets stored in the fat cells of the liver, which decreases its ability to breakdown excess estrogen, and allowing it to hang around in our systems longer than it should. This excess circulating estrogen causes a whole host of symptoms, including, you guessed it: mood swings, bloating, sluggish metabolism, tender breasts, fatigue, foggy thinking, PMS, and many more less-than-desirable issues. Now, these things can be exacerbated by stress (shocker), inadequate fat and protein intake, and environmental factors, all of which I was likely suffering from.
I set out by making a plan, since I know how hard it is to make positive changes without preparation. Instead of focusing on the all the things I wanted to reduce or eliminate, I focused on the foods I could have, foods higher in fat and protein, since I knew that those things would naturally elbow out the things I would normally fall back on (I’m looking at you, banana bread). I made a list that I could refer to when I was grocery shopping for ingredients. I cooked and froze things. I stocked the fridge and pantry. I was ready.
Within the first few days I already noticed a difference: my energy was incredibly stable, my emotions were in check, the bloating in my stomach dissipated, and I just felt good. As the days rolled on my compulsive urges to down half a dozen muffins subsided, and it was like I could clearly see that what I had actually been battling was blood sugar issues – not just “too many” grains or carbohydrates. It became clear that I had been taking my bod on a wild rollercoaster of high and low blood sugar for years, which had in turn been tossing my hormones around like a pair of sneakers in a washing machine. Stabilizing blood sugar is the first step in managing your endocrine’s system ability to do its job properly. I realized that if I was going to eat grains (or any carbohydrate-heavy food), I had to eat them in smaller amounts, balance them out thoughtfully with enough fat and protein, and make sure that I was actually using that energy instead of letting it sit around in my body. So far, things have been going incredibly well, and I am so darn proud of myself for not only identifying the issue, but actually doing something about it.
We are fluid beings with needs that evolve and change over time. Our diets need to reflect that, which is why it’s imperative to listen to our bodies and be advocates for our own health. No one knows your body better than you, and once you quiet all the noise out there telling you “how” to eat in black-and-white terms, you’ll be able to hear yourself, without judgement, and choose the way of eating that is just right for you, right now. It may be different tomorrow, and that is okay too. In sharing this all with you, I am trying to set an example, because you too have this intuition that is telling you just what you need to eat and do right now. It’s actually fun to be connected to yourself, your unique rhythms and needs. Learning about how you operate and designing a plan that caters to your exceptional self means that you can celebrate, instead of berate your body the whole month through, and experience pleasure in every stage of our cycle. I promise.
This is undoubtedly a huge topic, and one that I plan on chipping away at over the next few blog posts. Some things I want to reiterate here are, that I do not believe that grains or carbohydrates are bad. No natural food group should be vilified, just as no macronutrient should be either. If you’re thinking about giving up carbs, I’d advise you not to. Glucose, the sugar found in carbohydrates is your brain’s primary fuel source, and when consumed responsibly, carbs will help you on your wellness journey, not hinder you. I still stand behind each and every one of the recipes that I have created for this blog, the app, and both of my cookbooks, and I believe that they are appropriate for many people to enjoy. However at this stage of my life, some of the recipes do not serve my needs any longer, and I’ve had to make small changes to them, or put them on the shelf for another time. I’m okay with that.
Whew! Now for some notes on the recipe.
The base recipe for my Cinnamon Toast Crunch-inspired cereal is grain-free, but it does rely on almond flour, which can be expensive. If you can tolerate pseudo-grains, feel free to top up the base with buckwheat flour. This will bulk up the cereal considerably so you’ll have more for less money.
This cereal is r-i-c-h. You really only need a small amount to fuel you in the morning – not like the bottomless bowls of that we’re used to consuming in the morning without every really feeling satisfied, ya know what I mean? And paired with a luscious liquid like my Super Creamy Hemp Milk will keep you full for even longer, help stabilize your blood sugar, not to mention flood your bod with the delicate nutrients and powerful enzymes that store-bought, plant-based milk is missing. This recipe is dead simple and pretty much like cream – I shouldn’t even call it milk, since it’s so rich and thick. And since we’re thinking outside the cereal box here, don’t stop at breakfast…this milk is amazing in coffee and tea, in raw treats and baked goods, soup, smoothies, ice cream and popsicles. You’re gonna love it!
I made the cereal the first time with just almond flour and a full half-cup of applesauce. It was definitely delicious, but I loved it just as much when I cut this amount in half. If you don’t want all the sweetness, use just ¼ cup / 60ml of applesauce instead of the full amount. If you’re using buckwheat flour, you will need the full amount of the applesauce’s moisture to bind it all together. I haven’t tried a version without the coconut sugar, so if you’re not into that stuff feel free to play with the recipe on your own.
Grain-free / Gluten-free Cinnamon Crunch Cereal Makes 5-7 servings
½ cup ground flax seeds / 50g
1 ½ cups / 150g blanched almond flour
1½ Tbsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ cup / 35g coconut sugar
¼ cup / 60ml – ½ cup / 125ml applesauce (½ cup / 125ml if using buckwheat flour)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
optional: ½ cup / 85g buckwheat flour
1. Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C.
2. Combine the ground flax seeds, almond flour, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Then add the desired amount of applesauce and coconut oil, and stir to fully incorporate (you made need to use your hands if it gets too dry). Gather dough into a rough ball.
3. Place dough ball on a sheet of baking paper with another sheet on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as evenly as possible, about 2mm thickness (not quite paper thin). If you’re using buckwheat flour, you’ll need to separate the dough into two batches to achieve this. Remove top sheet of baking paper, and using a paring knife, score the dough into small squares of your desired size (mine were about 1.5cm / .5” square).
4. Place in the oven to bake for about approximately 25 minutes until turning golden around the edges, then turn the oven off and let the cereal sit in there until cool (this will help dry it out and make them extra crisp).
5. Once the cereal is completely cool, break up the pieces into squares and place in an airtight glass container. Store for up to one month at room temperature.
Super Creamy Hemp Milk Makes 1 liter / 1 quart
scant 4 cups / 1 liter water
¾ cup hulled hemp seeds / hemp hearts
Totally optional add-ins:
sweetener (stevia, dates, honey, maple syrup…)
raw cacao powder
1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high until smooth (this make take a couple minutes).
2. Pour directly into a sterilized bottle and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Initially, I was really afraid to come out about any of this stuff – the changes my diet is undergoing, the orthorexia, the internal voices! But I know in my gut that if I’m going through it, someone else out there is too. And the reason I wanted to start My New Roots in the first place was to create a safe space for everyone to share and support each other on our health journeys, so I have to be as transparent and honest as I feel I can be to set that example. I want to say a huge heartfelt thank-you to all of you who have stood by me all of these years and continue to do so. It feels pretty amazing to have you, and to be getting better all together.