<![CDATA[notsosugarcoated.com - Journal]]>Fri, 07 Aug 2020 23:55:14 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[5 reasons to hire a coach]]>Fri, 07 Aug 2020 16:07:47 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/5-reasons-to-hire-a-coachPicture
Finding a good health coach to help you might sound daunting and expensive. You may even be wondering what the heck a health coach even is so... in this post I’m sharing the 5 reasons you’d even want to hire a health coach and what we do! 

For those of you who don’t know my names Ashleen, hi! I am an Internationally Certified Health Coach who helps men and women with anxiety improve their gut health so they can finally start managing their mental illness and stop feeling frustrated and irritated all the time.

Been there, done that!

I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I learned everything there is to know about health and well-being in all areas of your life, not just in regards to food. The food we eat isn’t everything but it is a foundational piece in creating a clear and calm mind. I struggled with anxiety for a long time and never even knew because my anxiety manifested itself in binge eating, frustration and anger. To be frank, I was not so fun to be around. I figured this was just due to my surroundings and thinking ‘everyone was annoying’ except me [ha-ha!].

It wasn’t until I moved to the Cayman Islands after college that I realized it wasn’t my surroundings. I had planted myself in a beautiful place and didn’t have a problem in the world, even though I was still trying to find problems. It was like I just wanted to be miserable and take everyone down with me.

I finally wanted to know what the deal was because I’m sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the universe is literally handing me everything I could have asked for and I’m still complaining and being a major B. Time to do something about it, I thought. The next day I looked into cognitive behavioral therapy and started working on my health. 

Once I started focusing on my gut health, everything felt easier. I was more receptive, understanding, calm, I wasn’t so reactive and angry. Things that would throw me over the edge didn’t bother me anymore, didn’t even notice them but other people noticed the difference in me.

Everyone walked on eggshells as to not "wake the beast" and once they started pointing out the shifts I was making I knew I was on the right track. Now, four years later, I’ve dropped 20 pounds and kept it off for three years, my digestive system doesn't hate me anymore, I’m much happier, I can handle things being thrown at me with a lot more ease and grace and ultimately I’ve completely rid myself of that frustrated, overwhelmed feeling that used to feel so heavy on my chest. 

​I want that for you too, which is why I became a coach. I’ve shifted my own life in such a way and with really minimal effort that I needed to share it with others so they can feel the same freedom I do, now. 

 Anxiety and depression go hand in hand and they both are directly linked to your gut microbiome. I was so unaware of this before asking for help, but just that simple action of asking for help opened up so many opportunities for me and my physical and mental health. 

My new membership program, Gut Calm Blueprint, teaches the exact step-by-step framework I used and my clients have used to overcome anxiety and digestive issues. It's open for enrollment right now for a limited time, check it out here.

Still need more convincing? I knew I liked you. 

Here are the 5 reasons you should hire a coach:

1. Accountability

So many of us simply just don't do well on our own, even for things we really want! Usually we just need a buddy to help us keep going

2. Community Support
Having people around you that are going through the same things and can offer help, guidance in addition to an expert is such a game changer!

3. Not like a doctor
Coaches have usually been through it and understand - no prescribing here just help

4. Actually cheaper
Think about it paying medical bills, copays, going through insurance is a hefty bill and time waster and instead of sitting in a waiting room and only being seen for 5 minutes by the doctor you get real heart-felt support and understanding of what's going on with you as an individual not just a medication prescription after seeing someone for five minutes. 

5. There with you for the long term - at least NSSC is 
Coaches want to make sure you succeed and can help you on a more personal level. They are more invested in you as their client because they have more skin in the game.

<< There is no doubt you'll learn so much about yourself and get amazing results when you team up with a health coach! >>

If you’re ready to 
...feel confident in your skin 
...manage those anxious thoughts
...double your energy
...live an overall happier life

There’s no better time like the present love bug!

Join The Gut Calm Blueprint online membership today! Founding members [that’s you!] get an amazing discounted rate that is cheaper than your daily coffee!

Not only do you get the step-by-step framework for healing your gut health and easing your anxiety but you get all the bestie vibes; book club... Kombucha Thursdays... 

You come to get healthy BUT you stay for the fun!

What's are the biggest blocks for you when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Leave it in the comments!

<![CDATA[5 best practices for improving mental health]]>Wed, 29 Jul 2020 16:41:11 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/5-best-practices-for-improving-mental-healthPicture
Mental health is a hot topic these days and for good reason. So many of us put self care on the back burner and after a while it starts to take a serious toll on our mental health. Diagnosis of anxiety and depression are at record numbers these days and although people are trying to look after themselves a bit more it still appears to be a struggle on how to actually do it. We’ve all heard gratitude lists and as much as I love them if you aren’t consistent, like most things,  they’re useless. Today, I’m not going to give you the same old self care tips you usually hear and gloss over. I’m going to give you some real tangible tools to start implementing that won’t take up much time so you can actually be successful at it. Mental health is the farthest thing from an overnight fix but if you’re constantly anxious, agitated, overwhelmed or depressed you best be making it a priority if you ever want to be able to live free from the confines of your mind.

If you want more tips like the ones below make sure you download my free Ultimate Guide for Healing Your Gut, it provides you with all the strategies + foods to help you start calming your mind. 
1. You Have to Heal Your Gut
If you suffer from a mental illness you have to start looking at your diet. Your gut and your brain are directly linked and if one is suffering so is the other and it can exacerbate your feelings, symptoms and moods. This is the number one thing you can do to begin to calm your mind enough to start doing the hard work. It’s foundational, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle if you try to heal your mental illness without first looking at your gut health. Once I did this, all the other strategies came easy. I was energized, focused and motivated to do more and within only a year's time I had done a complete 180 from anxious and angry all the time to easy going and happy. It was the most beautiful thing and if I can help you with anything it would be to take this seriously! Anxiety and depression are a symptom of something in your life and if they’re a symptom they can be managed and treated. I know because I’ve done it and I’ve helped clients do it. In just 6 short weeks I had a client tell me that his peers were looking at him differently and actually listening to him he said he felt like he was more approachable to them somehow. Yes! It’s amazing what happens when you clear yourself of all the toxins it actually clears your mind and you can show up as who you truly are! Don’t think you have gut health issues? Take this quiz to find out

<< You can read more about how mental health and gut health are related here. >>

2. Identifying Your Cognitive Distortions
This one was a big one for me, to realize that your mind is practically playing tricks on you and that you could change it was huge. Identifying which cognitive distortions you may be dealing with and then getting aware of them as you go about your daily life will have a significant impact. Awareness is the first step in creating change. You’ll catch yourself in overgeneralized thinking which is when you say all encompassing statements like ‘everyone’, ‘no one’, ‘always’. These will definitely put a damper on your mental health if you use them often enough because they’re grouping things together in a negative light which will cause you to discount the positives - another common distortion. Your mind picks up on this and has difficulty showing you the other side of things aka the more positive side. For example, if you say, “everyone at work thinks I’m lazy” based on one person making a comment you’re making that statement to be true in your mind and you’ll have a negative feeling when you are at work even if it’s not with the ONE person who said something to you because now it’s ‘everyone’. Here’s a list of cognitive distortions you can look through and pick out which ones you might be identifying with without realizing. These are really detrimental to your mental health, once you knock this out of the way your entire world feels like it opens up!

3. Exercise
You knew I was going to say it. You may be surprised though, you don’t have to go run 5 miles to feel free from your thoughts. Taking a slow pace in a workout might be exactly what you need. Start with a super short 10 minute yoga session on Youtube and see how you feel or a really fun workout that doesn’t feel like a workout such as; rock climbing or bouncing on a trampoline. Just get those endorphins going, this is especially helpful for people who struggle with depression even if you don’t feel like it, commit to just 5-10 minutes when you first start. For people who struggle with anxiety it’s nice to let out that pent up anxiousness or energy so going for a run with some good music may be more beneficial for you. Check out this blog post for more on exercise!

4. Affirmations
Okay, when I said I wasn’t going to share tips you’ve heard before I may have lied a teensy bit but I doubt anyone has ever taught you how to actually create an affirmation that works for you so I think this is still worth sharing. Random affirmations you see on Pinterest might not do it for you and that’s fair, they’re generic and not custom made for you and your struggles that’s why they don’t work. First, start noticing negative things you say or think about yourself. Write them down on the left side of a piece of paper, think of as many as you can. On the right side of the paper you’re now going to flop that phrase or sentence around into something more positive for example, if I always look in the mirror and think, ‘jeez my arms are so flabby’ I’ll write that down and then change it into ‘my arms are strong, useful and beautiful.’ You may not believe what you’re writing - that’s okay. That’s why you are going to repeat it over and over every morning. Once you have your list of more positive affirmations specifically for you, just run through the list before bed and when you wake up in the morning. Just read through your list of 5-10 affirmations, ideally out loud and while looking at yourself but if not that’s fine too. Just read them, consistently. Consistency is key here and making sure they’re meaningful to you even if you don’t believe it at first, you’re training your brain. You have to exercise that muscle or you’ll lose it and stay in your negative mindset.

5. Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help, actually it’s highly recommended because the chances of you sticking with affirmations or improving your gut health or increasing your awareness around your cognitive distortions on your own is low. We, as people, aren’t meant to do things alone we’re a social bunch and that’s cool because there are plenty of people out there willing to help and who have gone through it before. Having people around you holding you accountable who actually know what you’re going through makes a big difference. It makes you feel safe, calmer, understood and motivated because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Asking for help is cool whether that be a therapist, a coach-like me or a friend that’s actually been there. Ask for help. 

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and are ready to get it under control once and for all because it’s a symptom that can be managed without harsh medications sign up to get on the waitlist for my membership program [coming August 6th] so you can get all the juicy details about what’s inside and how it can seriously help you. I know because I’ve done it myself and helped clients do it as well with my proven method - you can do it too!

What do you struggle with most dealing with mental health? Leave it in the comments!

<![CDATA[3 Tips for healthy grocery shopping on a budget]]>Thu, 23 Jul 2020 18:01:39 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/3-tips-for-healthy-grocery-shopping-on-a-budgetPicture
Shopping used to bring up all my anxiety at once. Fellow empaths will understand the feeling of feeling other people’s feelings - you know? I’ve had clients laugh at this, who haven’t shopped much before, and once they go they always call me and say, “Omg, I did not expect to feel so overwhelmed”. It’s a hectic place trying to hunt and gather your food off those shelves, I feel you! Throw in trying to figure out what’s healthy and what’s not while only having 100$ is a whole extra anxiety attack. Don’t worry, I know exactly the stress this causes and I know exactly how to combat it. It was 4 years in the making and now I can finally handle the grocery store all on my own without hand holding and without wanting to run out screaming. Now I can help you do the same! Success!

Before I begin I want to share with you my free Gut Health Grocery List. It’s a minimalistic, delicious guide to healing your gut without breaking the bank. Download it here.

Okay, let’s get this sh*t poppin’ shall we? 

Here are my 3 best tips for navigating a healthy grocery haul on a budget:
1. Frozen foods are your friend
*record scratch* what? I thought frozen foods were bad for you?! Not at all bud, they are your cheapest, freshest, healthiest option when on a budget. However, not all frozen foods are created equal - go figure. When purchasing your frozen items make sure to check the ingredients list [NOT THE NUTRITION FACTS]. The ingredients list will be under the nutrition label and it will literally say in bold, “Ingredients: ….” Read those. If the list is long put it back, if it says things other than the name of the food you’re trying to purchase, put it back.

Buying frozen works best for vegetables but there are some fruits that stay well frozen such as; mangos and blueberries. Frozen foods are flash frozen at their ripest time which means they’re probably more fresh than your fresh foods since they didn’t get picked and then take fourteen trucks to get to your local grocer.

Downside: The taste isn’t as crispy and delicious as it would be if you bought fresh due to the excess water in frozen foods but they’re still tasty and a great option when you’re on a budget. This can also be used just to offset costs, so you still buy fresh with a mix of frozen. Done and done.

Pre-made riced cauliflower and the premix California blend vegetables are my absolute fave and can be popped into the oven easily with your favorite protein of choice without all the prep work!

2. Organic Shmanic
I’ve come to realize people feel they absolutely need to buy organic and that if they do they’re somehow eating healthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth, organic cookies aren’t doing anything for you health boo. That’s a marketing ploy working its magic. Getting all organic fresh fruit and vegetables also isn’t necessary if you're on a budget. What?! I know.

Have you heard of the dirty dozen? It’s 12 fruits and vegetables that you’ll want to consider buying organic because they’re impacted the most by pesticides. I know once you get started you want to go full force on your health but doing what you can with what you got is going to make the biggest impact for you. Struggling to buy organic or using it as an excuse not to purchase healthier foods isn’t doing anything for your health. Just start by buying what you can! 

Keep to the perimeter
I know this sounds like an airport employee at the security checkpoint but staying to the perimeter of the grocery store also has its benefits. The foods on the four walls of the grocery store are typically where the main health foods are; meats, vegetables, fruits.  I can guarantee if you stick to the outside of the store and don’t find yourself in and out of those middle aisles you will save a couple bucks! Those middle aisles get you and they get you every time! From fancy health-snacks to chocolate aisles to cereal aisles they will bleed you dry with their devilish antics. Trust me, something will catch your eye. The more you can avoid these aisles the healthier and wealthier you will be! 

This isn’t to say never go down a middle aisle again but just being cognizant of how much time you spend in there and the foods you’re finding and purchasing - I’m telling you the more you can stay away the more moola you’ll have for those fresh fruits and vegetables. 

I’m going to add a fourth one down here but I think it goes without saying; go to the grocery store prepared. Knowing what you’re going to get, what you’re getting it for and getting out is the easiest way to not blow the budget or get overwhelmed. If you need help with your preparation make sure get on the waitlist for The Gut Calm Blueprint Membership

I share weekly & budget friendly grocery lists, meal plans and tips just like this in my Gut Calm Blueprint Membership. Get on the waitlist here if you want to feel confident in healing your gut and getting healthy once and for all without breaking the bank!

Happy Shopping x

What are your favorite grocery store 'tricks' ? Leave them in the comments below!

<![CDATA[5 Foods that Trigger Mood Swings]]>Thu, 16 Jul 2020 16:46:50 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/5-foods-that-trigger-mood-swingsPicture
By now you’ve probably realized that food plays an important role in leveling out your mental health. It may not cure your mental illness for good but it will definitely give you a fighting chance in managing it so it doesn’t take over. In this post I’m going to talk all about the common foods that can trigger irritability, anxiety, anger and frustration. I know because I’ve been there, 4 years ago I had no idea what gut health was and was often grabbing foods that tasted great and made me feel good… for a minute. Not too long after consuming these foods would I have insane stomach aches, diarrhea, headaches, anxiousness and crippling irritability. Ya’ll anything would set me off - that’s how I got my nickname in college “Hulk-Leen” not the best nickname to have but it definitely fit my character at the time. 

Luckily, I’ve healed my gut and no longer suffer from what I call “irritability attacks”. Once I healed my gut I was able to consume these foods in moderation without having an episode and it’s been life changing! *Cue calm, cool and collected Ashleen*  If you are often quick to snap at your hubby or feel overwhelmed easily it may be time to take a look at the foods you’re consuming and how they might be contributing to your moods. 

<< You can download this free FoodMood Journal to start tracking today. >>

Here are some common foods that may be contributing to your quick-to-be-irritated-self. 

1. Sugar
You knew this one was coming but just because it’s on this list doesn’t mean you have to cut it out forever or for good. Cutting back is all that is needed and you’ll see how much it really affects your mood.  Not all sugar is created equal in this blog post we're talking about added sugar. This is the sugar you want to look out for, natural sugars won’t bother you in quite the same way. Read more about how sugar can affect your moods and mental health in this post!

2. Caffeine 
This one hurts… I know. I love coffee as much as the next guy but it does cause a lot of hormone disruptions and throws your body out of whack, making you feel less than ideal and quick to get snippy. If you’re a two-a-dayer try making your second cup decaffeinated or switching it out for a lower caffeinated tea. Matcha, mate tea and mushroom coffees are also great alternatives to check out.  

​3. Alcohol
Ooooooh, lord knows I love my wine but overconsumption of alcohol can really trigger some moods - quite often ones you’ve been holding in for some time, know what I mean? Limiting your alcohol consumption to once a week is probably a great first step but if it’s particularly a problem for you it might be a good idea to trial a month of sobriety. If you can cut it cold turkey, more power to you!

4. Bread
*My french boyfriend is breaking up with me right now* All the white flour refined carb loaded foods can cause blood level spikes and crashes along with digestive issues which both trigger moodiness. These white carbs have a similar effect to added sugar on the body which is why they’re on this list! Feeding bad bacteria is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your mental health and well being. 

5. Trans Fatty Acids

Trans fatty what now!? This fatty acid is found often in fried foods and store bought baked goods. This fatty acid has been directly linked to increased aggression [this is why deep fried chicken wings and “Hulk-leen” went hand in hand].  This is because it, “interferes with the brain's ability to produce and use Omega-3 fatty acids - a nutrient shown by research to lower aggression.” (study linked here Trans fat consumption and aggression). Moral of the story, slow down on the fried foods and increase your intake of wild caught salmon, nuts and seeds. 

I never realized what an impact food had on my mood and how quickly it can be linked to aggression and irritability. Maybe you can relate?

Many women struggle with the quick-to-be-annoyed syndrome, as I call it. I suffered from this as well and always thought this just “is what it is” but in actuality it’s a hormone imbalance due to the foods you’re consuming and the lifestyle you’re leading. Making minor changes daily will significantly increase your odds of never having to be ‘that b*tch’ ever again.

Come over to the calm, easy side of things it all starts with healing your gut. Learn how in my newest membership program [coming soon]. Join the waitlist here to get all the juicy details about my step-by-step guide when it’s launched. 

What foods trigger you? Leave it in the comments!

<![CDATA[5 Things you didn't know about digestion]]>Thu, 09 Jul 2020 22:40:54 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-digestiondigestion, gut healing
Ah, digestion, everyone's favorite topic. Joking! But it is an important and essential part of your daily life. Having optimal digestion means your body can break down foods properly and actually absorb the nutrients you’re trying to give it. There’s a lot people don’t know about digestion and that’s what we’re going to dive into in this post. There’s also plenty of factors that can disrupt your digestion that you may be unaware of like stress for example but we’ll talk more about that below! 

If you struggle with indigestion, bloating, lack of energy, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or acid reflux you may have a digestive issue and these 5 things you didn’t know about digestion will help you to get rid of these annoying and painful symptoms. K, let’s dive in… 

1. Digestion starts when you look at your food
Your mouth starts salivating which is the first process of digestion. Weird right? Before you even put anything into your mouth you're already starting to digest it. Chewing is also a major part of the digestion process that gets overlooked and it is essential for breaking down carbs and fat. If you're feeling bloated after eating try slowing down, chewing for longer and taking a more mindful approach to eating your food.

2. Your body isn’t absorbing nutrients
You could be eating all the right things and still feeling pretty crappy. Why, you ask? Your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients you’re trying to give it. This is common when you’re experiencing leaky gut [read more about that here]. If you have leaky gut or “intestinal permeability” your gut lining essentially has some holes that are allowing undigested foods, waste and bacteria to get into the bloodstream. Yikes!  If undigested food particles are floating around in your bloodstream they definitely aren’t going towards nourishing your body and they’re actually causing an inflammatory response because your body thinks it’s a predator it needs to fight off. This causes a lot of problems and a lot of annoying symptoms. For your body to be able to absorb the nutrients you’re trying to give it you need to heal your gut - I teach exactly how to do this in my Gut Calm Blueprint membership program [coming soon] get on the waitlist here

<< Does this sound like something you might be dealing with? Find out if you suffer from leaky gut by taking this free gut health quiz! >>
3. Stress wreaks havoc on digestion
For your body to be able to do its job it needs to feel calm, relaxed and safe and if you’re stressed out or anxious your body is in a fight or flight mode meaning it doesn’t feel calm, relaxed or safe. It’s busy trying to fight off whatever it thinks is attacking it which means it’s focusing on something other than digesting food. As complex as the body is, it’s processes can be laid out simply - just like we all like to think we can multitask so does our body and we all know how that goes… you do a lot of things but sort of half-assed rather than doing one thing really well. Your body is the same, if you have it try and do too many things at once your digestion is going to take a hit. It needs to solely focus on digesting your food for it to begin to heal and work properly. Mindful eating comes into play here and this may sound woo-woo but it makes perfect sense. Take time eating your food, savoring it and enjoying the whole process while consuming. Take a few breaths to calm yourself and let go of any stress before eating, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel mentally and physically. 

4. Small intestine does the most work 
Many people think your stomach is the pain part of the digestion process using the acid to break down the foods but while it’s essential it’s not the biggest component. Your small intestine, of all things, is what’s doing most of the work. After you chew your food into smaller portions your stomach breaks down your food into even smaller portions and then your small intestine does the majority of the ‘breaking down’ process using  enzymes and then absorbing those tiny particles and using them as nutrients for the body. This is why that leaky gut conversation we had earlier is so important. If the lining of your intestines are allowing these small particles to just pass through then the food hasn’t actually been digested yet and your body can’t use it for energy or anything and it just floats around wreaking havoc on your system. 

<< Take this quiz to find out if you suffer from leaky gut [here] >>

​5. Fiber can actually cause issues with digestion
Fiber is known for keeping the digestive tract running smoothly but too much fiber can do the complete opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. If you suffer from an intestinal disorder such as IBS your doctor may recommend upping your fiber intake however, some fibrous foods can increase bloating and gas production. If your digestive tract isn’t working well to begin with, adding more fiber can cause constipation and gas build up which is not a fun combo. I'm talking knives-in-your-stomach kind of pain. You’ll want to be careful adding fiber supplements into your diet and if you do definitely start off slowly. The only one I recommend is psyllium husk in it’s plain form. This is the active ingredient in Metamucil but without all of the extra fake, chemical-like substances attached. However, you don’t want to rely on a fiber supplement and if your gut is out of whack they probably won’t help much. Healing your gut is the only answer for optimal digestion and getting rid of constipation (i.e. less than 3 bowel movements a week). 

​There you have it 5 things you didn’t know about digestion. These were common misconceptions I used to have back before I healed my gut and they caused me quite a few issues so I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes!

Leaky gut is an incredibly common problem if you’re living on the Standard American Diet [SAD] and it's fairly easy to fix if you’re following the right steps [I teach these steps in my membership program - coming soon - get on the waitlist here].

In the meantime, take this quiz to find out if you suffer from leaky gut. The quiz results will tell you if your gut is healthy, if it needs some work or if it needs a complete reboot and what to do about it.  Check it out here! 

<![CDATA[almond butter chocolate chip cookies]]>Thu, 25 Jun 2020 00:41:05 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/almond-butter-chocolate-chip-cookiesPicture
Flourless, paleo almond butter chocolate chip cookies YUH-UM. These are the cookies I make when I am seriously ready for some chocolate chip cookies but don't feel like having an upset stomach later on.

They're great to bring to parties, no one will even know they're healthy - I trick all my friends with these bad boys. Quick with simple ingredients is my baking style and these cookies are just that. 

Imagine this... You're sitting on the coach and you get a mad urge for some chocolate chip cookies. No? Just me? 

Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite thing on the planet but it's such a bummer the original recipe is packed with refined sugar which is okay every now and then but sugar makes mine and a lot of my clients stomach's ache and I mean like knives in the gut type pain not to mention the irritability and anxiousness that occurs the next day. So, even on the rare occasion of a cookie craving we don't always want to feel so yuck afterwards, ya feel me? 
Read more about how sugar increases your anxiety in this post

If you struggle with anxiety, depression or digestive issues these cookies were made for you, my love. Enjoy this delicious concoction guilt free.



1 cup crunchy or creamy all natural almond butter 
2/3 cup coconut sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup enjoy life chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place parchment paper on baking sheet
Add all the ingredients into a large bowl (except the chocolate chips) and stir until well combined
Fold in the chocolate chips and then roll out 1-2 tbs sized balls of cookie dough and lightly flatten with your hand

Place on baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges)
Remove from pan and allow to cool. 


<![CDATA[3 Ingredient hazelnut chocolate cookies]]>Thu, 25 Jun 2020 00:03:06 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/3-ingredient-hazelnut-chocolate-cookiesPicture
Who doesn't love Nutella and cookies? Put them together you got the sweetest treat! Unfortunately, many hazelnut-chocolate concoctions aren't ranked too high in the health department due to their high sugar content but never fear... I got you covered with this healthier, lower sugar homemade "nutella" cookie. It could also very well be the easiest cookie to bake when you're in a pinch. With only three ingredients, I think you're really going to enjoy this one! 

Before we dive into the recipe I want to explain why consuming too much added sugar can be detrimental to your well-being, mainly in relation to your gut health and mental health. Added sugar is actually an anti-nutrient so it isn't just wasted calories it can literally deplete your body of other essential nutrients like magnesium which many people struggle to get enough of and magnesium is extremely helpful in easing anxiety and improving your sleep. Poor sleep and mental health can really impact your gut negatively which will only keep the vicious cycle going. If you want to read more about how sugar is increasing your anxiety and depression make sure you check out this blog post. 

Okay, let's check out these lower sugar, healthier hazelnut-chocolate cookies! 

What you'll need:

1 cup organic hazelnut chocolate spread (I used Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter but you could make your own chocolate hazelnut butter - check out this recipe )

1 whole egg [I use VitalFarms]

1 cup almond flour [I use Bob Red Mill's]


Mix well in large bowl until well combined. Roll into 1-2 tbs of cookie dough and flatten with hand slightly. Place on prepared cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy with a nice glass of cold almond milk.

​How simple is that? A nice chocolate-y treat you can feel good about in less than 10 minutes! That's my kind of baking. If you try this cookie recipe make sure you leave a comment below and let me know how you loved them ;) 

Need more help figuring out what the heck to eat while looking after your gut health and mental health? Shoot me an email at hello@notsosugarcoated.com or check out my *free* Ultimate Guide to Easing Anxiety Through Food.

<![CDATA[Is your joint pain just poor gut health?]]>Tue, 23 Jun 2020 21:39:58 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/is-your-joint-pain-just-poor-gut-healthPicture
Poor gut health is often linked to leaky gut or “intestinal permeability”. Leaky gut is when the intestinal walls are damaged - Picture them like tight mesh walls and when they’re damaged the holes in the mesh get bigger allowing undigested food, toxins and bacteria to ‘leak’ out into the body and bloodstream. It’s actually pretty common in western cultures due to our diets and daily habits. You can find out if you may be suffering from leaky gut by taking this short gut health quiz [HERE].

I bring up leaky gut because it often explains a lot of hidden issues people are suffering from and doctors have a difficult time diagnosing. Leaky gut can be what’s causing many symptoms you’re experiencing such as; fatigue, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, skin issues, diarrhea, constipation, bloating AND the one symptom that convinced me I had it was... random joint pain / arthritis-like pain. I personally experienced this at 23, I had intense knee and finger pain and could not figure out for the life of me what it was and go figure once I started focusing on improving my gut health, it vanished. 

You might be wondering how the heck these things are even linked, fair enough, it seems like a stretch - but it’s actually closely linked. 

Joint pain is typically due to inflammation. Inflammation in your body is increased when you are struggling with a leaky gut because when the bacteria and toxins start leaking into your bloodstream that triggers an immune system response (to fight off these unknown threats). When your immune system is triggered like that, your tissues become ‘injured’ by the bacteria and toxins and therefore these damaged cells release histamine and other chemicals that leak fluid into the tissues which causes swelling i.e. inflammation. When this goes on for a long period of time you start having some serious issues. [Source: Medlineplus.gov

When this goes on for an extended period of time it turns into chronic inflammation which eventually starts damaging healthy tissue and is linked to many diseases such as; heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. [Source: health.harvard.edu

The good news is inflammation can be easily managed through a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy gut. There is a long list of anti-inflammatory foods mainly consisting of fruits and vegetables (go figure)! However, there are some seriously powerful ones that aren’t typically a part of daily diets such as; ginger, curcumin, turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids. These can be especially helpful in naturally reducing inflammation in the body. It’s important you figure out the source of your inflammation before treating the symptoms, you never want to rely on medication or a supplement to help you get through a day! Finding the source will help you to actually get rid of the issue so you can easily live pain free.

If you’re struggling with joint pain and you don’t know where it’s coming from take this quiz to see if you have other symptoms you might be unaware of that are linked to leaky gut! You’ll find out your likelihood of having a leaky gut and what to do about it! Check it out here.

Want to learn more about gut health and how it directly affects your mental health! Read this blog post. 

<![CDATA[Mango benefits for gut health]]>Wed, 17 Jun 2020 21:13:17 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/mango-benefits-for-gut-healthPicture
Eating fruits is a great way to improve gut health and today we’re going to focus on mangos! Here in the Cayman Islands it’s currently mango season [a very popular time of year over here]. I have to be honest, I used to dislike mangos until I got my hands on a fresh, juicy Caribbean mango and now I swear I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! 

If you aren’t quite as lucky to be able to pick them right off the tree in your backyard, frozen mangos from the grocery store are your best bet in getting the freshest pick. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often fresher than the fresh options at the stores (unless local) because they are picked at their ripest time and then flash frozen, preserving them at their best time for consumption. Click here to read more about how gut health affects your mental health. 

Alright, let’s get into the benefits of these babies. {If you’re looking for more gut friendly foods to pair with your mangos make sure to download my free gut health grocery guide

Roughly 20% of people living in the Americas suffer from constipation. Constipation is described as having three or less bowel movements a week - which may surprise some of you! If you are a part of that statistic or have difficulty going to the bathroom a mango may be the fruit for you. Mangos have been shown to be more effective than using a fiber powder in relieving constipation due to the combination of polyphenols and fiber - not to mention it’s the natural alternative. Many fiber powders have additives to make them taste better which can cause other issues especially if used for the long term.
We all know what fiber is and it’s benefits but you might be wondering what polyphenols are and why they’re so helpful. Polyphenols are a plant compound naturally found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and many other foods. It’s been said that regularly consuming polyphenols will help to increase digestion, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even increase your brain health! Sounds like pretty powerful stuff, right? Pair that with a good source of fiber and you are good to go - which is why we’re talking mangos!

​Mango season in Cayman is so popular because they are literally everywhere and they’re SO dang good. I’ve never seen such a variety of mangos before, my favorite being the ‘Julie’ mango. It’s not stringy and it’s a nice sweet flavor! If you’re from the Caribbean I hope you’re enjoying mango season as much as I am and if you’re in the States, go get yourself some mangos!

If you struggle with digestive issues, mental health issues like anxiety and depression or are simply even having a hard time sleeping your gut health is where you want to focus your time and it doesn’t have to be difficult or restrictive. Check out my gut health grocery guide to find out how easy it can be! 
Ready to really get your gut health in check so you can double your energy, ease your anxiety and get rid of those annoying digestive issues?! Get the 7-Day Gut Health Reset!

If you need more guidance shoot me an email at hello@notsosugarcoated.com 

<![CDATA[Get rid of bloating]]>Thu, 11 Jun 2020 19:29:33 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/get-rid-of-bloatingPicture
Ever wondered what’s been causing your bloating and how you can fix it? Me too, girlfriend. So many women [and men] struggle with bloating and think that’s just ‘how it is’ but not you! You’re here to find out how to get rid of it, you know there’s always an answer to your problems and that’s why I like you ;)  Let’s look at bloating; why the heck it pops up all the time and how to get rid of it without taking any medicines!

Bloating is typically gas that is trapped in your abdomen. It makes you feel like you’ve just eaten WAY too much and your belly is distended, feeling tight and full. This can be super uncomfortable and annoying. It's usually your body's way of letting you know that your gut isn’t very happy with what you’re doing and it’s time to figure out what it is. Read more on gut health HERE

Causes of Bloating

Bad news, there are plenty of reasons why you could be bloating. Good news, a food journal will help you identify what it is quickly (just 3 days!). Snag your food journal HERE.  
​K, now let’s check out all these causes:

-Food sensitivities/allergies (dairy being a big one)
-Eating too quickly
-Overconsumption of carbonated drinks
-Not drinking enough water
-Not enough movement
-Irritable bowel syndrome 
-Fructose (a kind of sugar hidden in many foods)
Most of these have to do with your daily habits which means they are easily fixable! However, if you find yourself also feeling weak, loss of appetite, vomiting or any other symptoms in addition to your bloating you should seek out a doctor to make sure everything is A-OK. 

You may have an idea already of what might be causing your bloating after reading that list but the worst thing you can do is put a bandaid on a problem and call it a day. You have to uncover WHY you are bloating in the first place. So, the last thing you’ll want to do is take over the counter medicine or prescription without finding out what’s really causing the issue in the first place. [Uncover the issue by using a food journal HERE]  You’ll track down your daily routine for 3 short days and you’ll quickly pinpoint what’s causing your bloating!

How to Stop Frequent Bloating

Okay, you’ve identified what’s causing your bloating - now what?! 

First things first, WATER. 99% of my clients don’t drink nearly enough water and then wonder why they have all these issues. If your bloating is caused by anything in the list above - water will be helpful - especially if your bloating is related to constipation and periods. A general rule for water is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs you will want to consume a minimum of 70 ounces of water a day [if you live in a very warm climate you’ll likely need to drink even more]. 

If you’ve realized your bloating is coming after a certain food (i.e. dairy, fried food, sugar, soda etc.) It’s time to experiment with yourself and eliminate that food for at least a week and then go back to your food journal and take note of whether or not you were still bloating. Trial and error is the only way to learn more about your own body so you can keep it in tip top shape. 

Lack of movement can really cause issues for your bod. I know most of us are still stuck at home with little motivation and movement [thanks COVID] so it’s important you make it a priority to find the time to move your body. Walks are low impact and very helpful for moving gas out of your system.

Yoga is also a great way to relieve bloating and gas - there are many specific positions that are designed to help alleviate these issues and support your gut health, give it a quick google search and do some of the moves for a few minutes.
Here’s a great 3 minute video to help. You’ll want to add low impact movements like this into your daily routine if lack of exercise is causing your bloating - if you only use exercise when you’re feeling poorly it’s the same as putting a bandaid on your problem. Read more about why low impact exercise is important. 

Mindful eating is another great way to reduce bloating especially if you’re a quick eater. It’s time to slow down and eat with intention. To mindfully eat, you put your phone down, turn the tv off and focus on the food. Chewing slowly and taking breaks in between, really savoring the it. Digestion begins the second you look at your food! Your mouth begins salivating and the digestion process is already occurring, don’t rush it. Your body will absorb the nutrients better, you won’t feel bloated after your meals and you’ll enjoy your food more! 

If you need more support identifying where your bloating or other symptoms are coming from and how to get rid of them email me at hello@notsosugarcoated.com 

Don’t forget to download your free food journal so you can understand your own body and what it’s telling you. It’s the only way to alleviate your symptoms and live an energetic life! 

<![CDATA[How Much exercise is too much?]]>Sat, 30 May 2020 20:15:29 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/how-much-exercise-is-too-muchPicture
You’ve got a workout routine, you’re eating well but you aren’t getting any results. You aren’t feeling an increase in your energy like everyone said and you’re feeling pretty exhausted wondering how anyone keeps this up?!

Sound like you? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the thought of “I must not be doing enough” but that mentality can actually be counterproductive when it comes to your health. All or nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion that causes you to think in black and white categories with no consideration for a grey area (aka balance).

For example, you’re in a workout routine and eating well and feel you need to keep it up 6 days a week leaving one rest day from diet and exercise (aka cheat day) and then after the cheat day you’ve indulged and now you’re feeling guilt and feel like ‘what’s the point, I’ve already ruined my progress’ so you don’t workout the next day and continue to indulge. Your brain is working in all or nothing. If you’re working out and doing well you have to keep that up all the time or you’ve “failed” so then you completely give up instead of creating a sustainable routine that makes sense for you.

Working out is a great way to improve your mental and physical health but like everything it can be overdone and many people don’t know when they’re overdoing it. So, let’s look into the symptoms you might experience if you’re going too hard or too frequently to the gym.
How to tell if you’re working out too much:

+ You’re workouts are no longer giving you energy

+ Having mood swings or more frequent irritability 

+ Feeling anxious

+ Getting injured

+ Unable to perform at the same level 

+ Trouble sleeping

+ Skipping commitments to work out

How it impacts your gut:

Exercise is very beneficial for your gut health but, like I said, not when it’s overdone. When you workout too frequently you can cause an increase of stress in our bodies and we all know we don’t need more of that in our lives. When your body becomes stressed it’s harder for it to function properly i.e. poor digestion, poor sleep, controlling emotions etc. which are all areas that benefit from good gut health. An increase in stress can actually weaken your gut lining which can cause bacteria to enter the body. No thanks! This causes a lack of nutrient absorption and lowers your immune system. Read more about that in this blog post.

We can also become dependent on the feeling the endorphins (chemical associated with positive mood) give us after a good workout. This can cause you to excessively workout, which puts your body in a fight-or-flight mode which again causes issues with digestion and when there’s issues with digestion you will quickly have issues with anxiety and depression because the majority of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood) resides in the gut! More on that in this blog post. 

You see the links? Our bodies are already put under more stress than they’re used to just from daily work tasks, politics, news, you name it. We don’t need to be adding on anymore stress by going too hard at the gym. Okay?
This is why rest days are so important. You need roughly 48 hours for your muscles to recover fully. Sometimes it feels hard to take these days because you think you won’t get back into your routine again, I’ve been there myself. Creating a schedule has always helped (at least in the beginning!). Plan to only workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or whatever days work best for you. Feel free to swap days and do an intuitive workout, if you don’t feel like running that day you don’t have to give up entirely, go for a walk instead or another low impact workout - more on that in a minute. Practice giving up the all or nothing mentality.

If you’re struggling with sleep, rest days will help lower your body's heart rate which will help you to sleep better i.e. it stops your body from being on high alert after a workout so taking a day or two to recover is essential for good sleep. 

What you can do:

Low impact workouts are a great way to workout without overdoing it and they’re great for your off-days or days you’re just not feeling a heavy hitter workout. Low impact workouts still provide great results and are easy on the joints and bones. Here’s a list of some fun low-impact workouts:

-using resistance bands instead of dumbbells
-rock climbing 
These are all fun simple ways to enjoy your workouts without really feeling like you’re working out or risking additional stress. If you’re just starting a workout routine these are great ways to get going. They won’t cause immense stress on your body which in turn will support a healthy gut and you’ll have fun doing them! If you’re a workout junkie already, try swapping one of your intense workouts for a more laid back low impact workout and enjoy a rest day - you deserve it. Your mind and gut will thank you!

If you’re curious to find out more ways to support your gut health be sure to download this *free*  Ultimate Guide! Your gut health is directly linked to your mental health, taking care of it will help make dealing with stress, anxiety and depression that much easier!

​Wondering if you even have gut health issues?! Take this free quiz!

Want to learn more, email me at hello@notsosugarcoated.com 

<![CDATA[Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies]]>Thu, 21 May 2020 18:32:05 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookiesPicture
I finally whipped up one of my very own recipes. Recipe testing here in Cayman isn’t very fiscally responsible so it’s rare I have a recipe of my own and I’m very lucky this one came out so well on the first try. PHEW! 

Before I share the recipe I just wanted to share a bit about how swapping out refined sugar with more natural sugars like honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup has made such a difference! Most of the time when I’m feeling something sweet I choose a paleo baked good, this isn’t because I am trying to lose weight or restrict myself but more so because they don’t make me feel horrible afterwards and it’s harder to binge on because they actually fill you up (cause they actually have nutritious value). 

Ever since trying to lower my sugar so I could balance my mood (read more about that HERE) I have been on a search for the most delicious healthier sweet treats and I’ve finally found some seriously good ones that I love sharing with people who are quick to think that they have to eat sweets that taste like grass if you’re trying to live healthier. I love showing them that you don’t have to give up flavorful foods and it’s even okay to enjoy a real chocolate chip cookie once in a while! It’s just nice to have these swaps around for when you’re looking for something sweet but don’t want to feel crappy later. 

With these swaps (obviously like everything else, without overdoing it) you will maintain your gut health and won’t be so impacted by sugar mood swings! If you don’t know what I’m referring to go read about my ‘Hulk-Leen’ story HERE. When you consume added sugar or refined sugars often you are at risk of quickly creating an imbalance in the bacteria in your gut and as we probably know by now… an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut completely wreaks havoc on your entire body and causes a series of unfortunate events such as; headaches, increased anxiety or depression, joint pain, stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, brain fog… the list goes on. 

SoOoOoO, that’s why I want to share this delicious recipe with you so you can enjoy a sweet treat without worrying about awful symptoms appearing afterwards! These cookies have crunchy edges and a chewy inside (my favorite)! They’re refined sugar free and gluten free and are irresistible :)
Makes 8 giant cookies (they spread a lot… what can I say I haven’t perfected my baking craft yet, but I don’t think you’ll complain too much once you try them!)

You’ll need:
½ cup ghee or grass fed butter
¾ cup packed coconut sugar
1 egg
1 cup almond flour
½ tsp of baking soda
½ tsp of baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup of quick oats
½ cup of “Enjoy Life” chocolate chips or raisins if you prefer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  1. Mix the butter/ghee, coconut sugar and egg together with a whisk until creamy
  2. In separate bowl mix almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and oats together
  3. Add them to the wet ingredients and mix altogether
  4. Gently fold in chocolate chips or raisins
  5. Place parchment paper on baking sheet and scoop tsp or tbs sized globs (depending on what size cookie you want) on the baking sheet
  6. Bake for 9-10 minutes
Let them cool slightly and enjoy! 

*As I said previously, these cookies spread a lot while baking so leave enough room in between each cookie or just enjoy a giant oatmeal cookie cake - do you boo!
If you want more recipes head to my Instagram @TheNotSoSugarCoated and check out my recipes highlight. I am one for B A S I C meals and treats so you’ll find super simple things in there and I’m working on adding more :)

If you want to read more about why gut health is so important for your mental health make sure you head to this blog post!

<![CDATA[My story & how I became a health coach]]>Fri, 15 May 2020 17:23:53 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/my-story-how-i-became-a-health-coachPicture
Hey! As you may know by now, my name is Ashleen. I am the co-founder of the Not So Sugar Coated which is an Online Health Coaching business. If you’ve known me before I moved to Cayman you might be asking me how the heck I even got involved in all of this and fair enough, my life has taken a complete 180 from where it was 4 years ago! Let’s get into how it all started… But before we do, if you want to get a quick little insight into all the magical steps, strategies and foods that got me here you’re going to want to check out this Ultimate Guide I created just for you! 

Let’s start with a little background about me! I was born and raised in and around Chicago, Illinois and it will always be one of my favorite places to go. My siblings and I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and then when high school came along we moved to a very small place in Northern Illinois called Poplar Grove. It was an interesting and more country type of town than what I was used to but loved it all the same. I’m definitely a person who enjoys change and I love that I got to experience all different kinds of life at a young age. I feel as though it made me more open and understanding to ALL walks of life! Plus I think of myself as a chameleon, I feel like I can fit and relate to people in any situation which I think is a pretty cool characteristic [if I do say so myself].

Where It All Began
After high school I ended up going to a small college in Wisconsin and was a Communication Disorders major with a Special Education minor so I could become a Speech Pathologist. I had no real reason to become a speech therapist besides the facts that I would have liked to work in a hospital and help people and somehow speech found its way onto my radar. So pretty random, but that’s me :) I absolutely loved all the classes and weirdly enough neuroscience and anatomy were my top favorites [obviously enjoyed learning about our bodies and it came naturally to me]. Funny side story; I originally wanted to be a medical examiner and was all geared up to go to Michigan State University to be one and last minute ended up choosing Whitewater, oh how funny life is. 

During college I worked at Hooters and then at Buffalo Wild Wings as a waitress. These two lovely establishments began my obsession for wings and beer and when I say obsessed I mean… every meal my friends and I were out seeking wings and beer. I never would have been labeled a healthy person during my college years or even my high school years. I frequently was up and down in weight as I played around with diet cycling as most of us do. In high school and college I frequently dabbled with weight loss pills as well which really messed with my body [obviously]. In high school there was a period of time I was only drinking Coke Zeros for lunch and a part of college when I took very strong diet pills for an entire Summer and lost almost 30 pounds [I only began at 140]. I basically didn’t eat for an entire Summer and only remember drinking fruit infused water for 3 months… what?! These pills were not safe [they’re off the market now thank god] and who even knows what damage they’ve done to my poor insides [at one point there was mysterious scarring on my liver, if that gives you an idea]. 

As many young girls have dabbled in the above, unfortunately my body wasn’t quite as resilient as most. I’ve always experienced some sort of stomach issues almost my whole life, in and out of hospitals for stomach pains that just turned out to be trapped gas or painful constipation and eventually I thought all these pains were completely normal. After I ate certain foods [i.e. fried, battered or oily] I would expect severe stomach pain and it just sort of ‘is what it is’. 

If you want to read more about how dieting is bad for your mental health read this post.

This was my idea of normal but it gets worse… in college I was also known for being a “hot head” I guess you could say. My nickname was “Hulk-leen” because most nights I’d end up in a bit of a rage or I’d be super agitated and irritable. How I even had and kept friends is beyond me [thnx guys]. To me, this was me, take it or leave it and as long as people basically accepted it for what it was it was fine and it just became a part of my identity. #NotCool

I was often angry and people would keep things from me as to not ‘wake the beast’. Now I want to be clear my personality has always been very giggly, light and fun but if any little thing happened I went 0-100. Which made things very NOT light a lot of the time. 

The Big Move
After basically pissing my friends off for 4 years and having a pretty negative outlook on life, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in ComDis. I chose not to go on and get my Master’s Degree [required to become a Speech Pathologist] and instead take a year off to save money and move to the Cayman Islands, a British territory off the coast of Cuba in the Caribbean. My mom had moved here 3 years prior so I figured why the heck not go join her for a bit. I found a job as a waitress and was gone within two weeks.

Once I arrived in Cayman I started my job and I was really excited to be somewhere different and new. I missed everyone at home but was also relieved that I got to do something on my own and start fresh - thinking this would get rid of my negativity. Turns out I was wrong, as most are about this, running away from your problems DOESN’T work… what?! Crazy. I know.  I lived and worked on one of the top 10 beaches in the world and was still a raging jerk and constantly complaining. BUT things started to look up… my friend from work found a job in the paper that talked about speech therapy and she told me about it. It was a Speech Therapist Assistant job for the public schools on island and it was exactly what I was qualified for! I immediately applied and ended up getting the job increasing my income by a whole heck of a lot and finally feeling like a real adult! I was so excited but this feeling was fleeting. It was popping in and out of my life all dependent on what was happening around me. 

Once I got that job, I had truly knocked out every single thing I was complaining about in my life that was “causing” it to suck. Finally, I felt like I had enough of feeling miserable when my life was working out more perfectly than I ever could have imagined [did I mention I also pulled the cutest french guy and made him my boyfriend?!]. LIFE. WAS. GOOD. But I still wasn’t. So, I got a therapist.

If I preach, influence, or share enough to get you to do ONE thing it would be to get a therapist. I listed off all my little ticks and triggers and the things that I thought were silly that I did [cause yes, I even annoyed myself with my own behavior sometimes] and it turned out a lot of those ‘symptoms’ were related to anxiety, I had no idea! I never would have thought or categorized my behaviors as anxiety but it made sense once it was labeled. 

The Change
Lucky for me, I also found a holistic therapist who also was well trained in nutrition and she quickly started to link my food behaviors to my mood. I had never eaten a proper diet, I hated water (lol what!!), frequently binged on sugary treats, hardly ever ate any vegetables and never cooked at home. The bingeing was especially alarming for my therapist and we worked on that first. Once I slowed down my sugar intake and began to eat more balanced I started to feel better physically but I also started to feel better mentally! I was more open to positive remarks, it was easier to catch myself being negative, I really started hearing myself more when I talked and my intense irritability and anger had significantly diminished! No more hulk-leen!! 

If you want to read more about how sugar is increasing your anxiety read this post.

I took therapy very seriously after finally feeling the effects of my work and began journaling and meditating every single day. I read my cognitive distortion list every morning and would try to catch as many as I could throughout the day. I retrained my brain. Eating better and calming my gut down had such an impact on helping me to do this! I could think more clearly about my actions, I didn’t feel like crawling out of my own skin and my social anxiety had even gone down because I could actually talk to people without forgetting what I was going to say or overthinking the conversation! It was INSANE, in the best way possible. 

If you want to read more about how your gut health affects your mental health read this post.

After doing this for a year I was able to do all this without much thought. My brain would reframe itself without me focusing on it and I just began being more positive without all the effort. I also started eating better just because I started craving that now because of the impact I saw. I enjoyed different foods and had transformed my taste buds. I felt amazing. 

Now, almost 4 years later I am still doing all these things with ease. It’s natural and no longer such a struggle. When I begin going back to old ways I am able to catch it before it spirals, I am way more aware and I’m motivated to keep what I have going because it’s such a huge difference! I even notice now that when I begin eating differently for longer than usual [hello, quarantine] I become irritable again, my stomach pains come back, I feel lethargic and exhausted, I start to pick out more negatives than positives again. This all shows me how important my nutrition is for my mind. It proves what a powerful effect it has! This doesn’t mean I never eat anything that’s deemed “bad” but now I can listen to my body and know when enough is enough. When I can enjoy the right amount to feel satisfied and not have to sacrifice feeling good.

How This Can Help You
You can have this too! Far too many people suffer just because they think that’s how they have to feel, but I disagree because I’ve felt the powerful effects of change. Sure it’s work but it gets SO easy, it doesn’t have to be a difficult or painful process. Sustainable health is an amazing and simple thing that people often overthink it. You don’t have to count calories or macros, you don’t have to watch every single thing you put in your mouth, you don’t have to give up everything you love. You don’t. You will get to your natural weight with ease, your mind will feel clear, your body will feel light and happy and you will be so happy you decided to make a change - I did it and I want that for you too! That’s how I got into Health Coaching. 

I NEEDED to share this with other people, to learn more about what impacts your mind and body. It’s so powerful and it’s often so overlooked. I went back to school to get certified at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition so that I could share this message with the world and now 3 years later I couldn’t be happier, I’ve helped people have the same mind-blowing experience I had and it’s been incredibly rewarding. 

If you are interested in learning more about how to do this make sure you download the [free!] Ultimate Guide for Easing Anxiety through Food. You’ll get 4 great strategies I used when I first started with my therapist and all the foods to improve your gut health so you can finally start feeling more open, light and free from annoying digestive symptoms like constipation [1-2 bowel movements a week], bloating, frequent gas, stomach pain, headaches, exhaustion [even after 8 hours of sleep], irritability … the list goes on!! You don’t have to live like this, let me show you how! Download the free guide here.

<< If you need more guided support, be sure to email me at hello@notsosugarcoated.com and let me know what you're struggling with! >>

Tell me a bit about your story in the comments!

<![CDATA[Fad diets are bad for your mental health]]>Thu, 07 May 2020 21:20:42 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/fad-diets-are-bad-for-your-mental-healthPicture
We’ve all done a diet or ten in our lifetime. Fad diets specifically are a tempting, quick fix for weight loss which is something we (“we” being western culture) have been trained to desire; however, they can be pretty detrimental to our physical and mental health if they’re frequently used. 

Fad diets are known for recommending nutritionally deficient foods or only eating one kind of nutrient dense food for a period of time all while promising fast weight loss and nonsensical health improvements. Think of things that read, ‘lose 10 pounds in one week by only eating eggs ’ and other silly claims that have little or skewed scientific evidence for working (like obviously eating 500 calories a day will get you to lose weight but you’re also hurting yourself).

When I use ‘fad diet’ I often refer to anything that will cause you to restrict nutrients for no other reason than weight loss which we should all know by now is the least effective motivator for getting healthy. Speaking of weight loss… fad diets can actually hinder weight loss because when your body is deprived of calories (aka the energy you need to live) it goes into a ‘starvation mode’ and holds on to the body fat you have in case it never gets fed again. Another way it hinders weight loss is that they aren’t a sustainable way to lose weight so you will eventually end up eating more later and go into a binge-diet cycle that is even worse for your health and often causes you to gain back even more weight than you originally lost.

Let’s get a few things straight before we dive in! I believe that your diet is incredibly important for how you feel and I DO think that people should learn about how beneficial food can be for your body and mind i.e. food as medicine. I DO NOT believe that this includes constant restriction (obviously depending on your medical background i.e. autoimmune, diabetes etc.). I am a big advocate for the 80/20 approach where you eat healthy 80% of the time and indulge 20% of the time but to get there you need to learn about your own body and it’s needs {more on this later}. 

How It Affects Mental health
Fad diets often restrict many nutrients from entering your body or they overload them with one specific nutrient e.g. protein only diet. {As we all know balance is the key to living a healthy life and getting to our natural weight.} When you restrict nutrients you aren’t feeding the good bacteria in your gut that help keep the bad bacteria from overrunning your body. This can cause digestive issues, fatigue, skin problems and can even contribute to dementia. An imbalance in gut bacteria can also cause significant issues with how your brain responds to stress as well as decrease our levels of serotonin and dopamine which will quickly cause mood disorders such as depression. Learn more in this post!

Our gut and our brain need a diverse set of nutrients to function properly which means no more restricting fruits and vegetables to cut down on your carb intake or only eating grapefruits for a week in hopes to lose 20 lbs. Both will cause you to starve your brain and gut of what it needs. Even though the grapefruits have nutritional value, you're overloading your body with one group of nutrients which means you’re starving it of all the others. 

Since gut health is so important in supporting our mental health, it makes sense fad diets that are extremely restrictive aren’t so beneficial in keeping us feeling energized, happy and clear headed. 

If you want to read more about how your gut health is directly linked to your mental health (i.e. anxiety and depression) read my blog post “Does Gut Health Affect Mental Health?”

Sometimes You Need a Special Diet
There is definitely a time and a place for specific diet approaches that eliminate groups of foods. A great example of this was when my sister was having difficulty getting pregnant due to increased inflammation that appeared to be linked to an autoimmune issue. The only way to find out what was affecting her was to go on an elimination diet. This proved extremely helpful in having her identify what foods were causing inflammation in her body which in turn allowed her to have her baby girl, get rid of her chronic hives and lose nearly 20 lbs of weight gain that was mostly inflammation! She’s also never been more calm, her body is reacting to stress much more appropriately now. I’ve seen this a countless number of times in others and myself and it’s insane what our diets can do and how food really is medicine. 

Changing your diet in an appropriate manner is what makes all the difference. Even when my sister was on an elimination diet she was still getting ample amounts of nutrients from diverse sources. Now that she has reset her health, in a sense, she is able to eat more intuitively (80/20 balance). She listens to her body, knows when she’s consumed too much of a certain food and what foods she needs to calm her body back down and ultimately she’s maintained a healthy weight with ease without working out endlessly or starving herself to death. 

Want to learn more about the impact your gut health has on your mental health? Read this post!

If you want to learn more about how to improve your gut health with a whole bunch of diverse nutrient dense foods make sure you download the Ultimate Guide to Easing Anxiety where you’ll get a grocery list that’s packed with foods that are great for supporting your gut which leads to decreased anxiety and depression.

<![CDATA[Does gut health affect mental health?]]>Fri, 01 May 2020 17:33:19 GMThttp://notsosugarcoated.com/nsscblog/does-gut-health-affect-mental-healthPicture
Gut health issues are extremely common especially if you are eating a Western diet. If you’ve ever experienced; excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, regular discomfort after eating, exhausted all the time for seemingly no reason, anxiety or depression, skin issues, weight fluctuations, poor immunity, hormone imbalances, brain fog, food intolerances and even autoimmune issues it’s likely you have or have experienced poor gut health.

Many of these symptoms are often confused as normal but they’re not and it’s important that you take the necessary steps so you can have optimal gut health and begin living a fuller, happier life! 

The two symptoms of poor gut health that interest me the most are anxiety and depression. You may have heard by now that your gut and your brain are directly connected or that your gut is your second brain. I also learned this and still didn’t link it with my anxiety until I started to feel the difference! If you’re ready to start improving your gut health and ease your anxiety make sure you check out my (free!) Ultimate Guide to Easing Anxiety through Food HERE.

The Link Between Gut and Mental Health

90% of your serotonin aka the “happy hormone” is made in your gut so it comes with no surprise that if your gut is out of whack you may have difficulty feeling joy, interest and energy aka depression. The second brain everyone talks about is actually called the enteric nervous system (ENS). This is what controls your emotional status and gives you those “butterflies in your stomach” and what causes your stomach to hurt when you feel upset. 

Harvard Health Publishing states, “A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.”

Since they are so closely connected it explains why when some people get stressed they also have IBS symptoms or how you start feeling nauseous when you feel nervous. 

This connection can work both ways. For example; when the gut is imbalanced it sends a signal to the brain that can cause feelings of anxiety or depression (depending on the imbalance in your gut) and vice versa when you’re feeling anxious your brain sends a signal to your gut and can cause stress which in turn causes unwanted symptoms. This is also why it’s so common for IBS and anxiety to come as a package deal. 
It has not yet been proven that your poor gut health can cause anxiety BUT it does significantly exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety which means if you improve your gut health you will also significantly improve your anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t ever really go away, you can only manage it enough to feel like it’s no longer affecting your day to day life.

If you suffer from depression however, it has been proven that your gut health can actually cause depression which means you can completely get rid of your depression which is really exciting. 

So, How Can Food Help?

Okay, now that we know how important the link between our gut and mental health is how can we begin to fix it?

Most people think of adding in yogurt or simply taking a probiotic but I do not recommend this as most of the yogurts that are found on the shelves today are not going to be beneficial for your gut health and will actually do the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. They are often stocked full of added sugar which is one of the first things you’re going to want to slow down on if you’re looking for an optimal bacteria balance.

Simply adding a probiotic will not do that much if you continue the same eating habits you’ve always had. You can’t supplement your way out of a poor diet. You want to make sure your body can even absorb what you’re putting into it first before supplementing (adding in) vitamins or probiotics. Otherwise you’re just spending a lot of money and aren’t reaping any of the benefits. If you are ready to start supplementing in a probiotic I always suggest purchasing a soil-based organism (SBO) probiotic like this one; SBO Probiotics

Packaged foods are also something you will want to minimize or swap out. These are also often full of added sugars and other not-so-amazing ingredients. If your ingredients aren’t easily recognizable and easily read (i.e. less than 3 syllables) ditch it and find a healthier swap. Packaged paleo foods are often a nice way to eat your favorite foods in a healthier way some great brands are Simple Mills, Siete, Primal Kitchen and Purely Elizabeth. 

Eating probiotic rich foods will be your first step. My favorite probiotic rich eats are fermented foods such as; kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut. These foods are naturally rich in good bacteria and will help your body get back to a more balanced state. You can find a comprehensive grocery list in my (free!) Ultimate Guide to Easing Anxiety Through Food.

Another great way to quickly heal your gut would be to add in l-glutamine to your diet. This is one of the most important amino acids for our intestinal health so this is one supplement you will want to look into. I swear you can feel it working and it quickly soothes your gut. 

Some non-food related strategies you can add to your routine would be meditation. It releases stress and lowers your feelings of anxiety by calming the brain. This one takes practice but the sooner you start the sooner you’ll start feeling the amazing effects. Remember… the gut and the brain are directly connected so when you soothe one you soothe the other.

*Even if you suffer from anxiety or depression that is beyond what your food can fix, it is still important that you eat a gut-friendly diet so as to maximize your attempts to feel better. That’s why I love to work with my clients in conjunction with a therapist. The results are insane when these practices are paired together. Which brings me to my next point...

Getting the Right Support

Like most things, getting support will be extremely beneficial in speeding up the process to feeling better. My first recommendation to everyone suffering from anxiety or depression is always to find a good cognitive behavioral therapist in your area. Cognitive behavioral therapy is more than just talk therapy and they dig deep and provide you with strategies that you can begin working on right away. It’s great and you feel much more successful in your attempt to achieve a healthy mind and body. 

My second suggestion is to then find a great health coach that focuses on helping people with mental health that can walk you through how to eat for optimal gut health which will speed up the process of achieving a healthy mind and body. Double win. Just like I said before when these two practices are paired together your chance of decreasing your anxiety and getting rid of your depression, naturally, will be practically guaranteed! 

If you want to learn more about how a health coach can help you to ease your anxiety and depression set up your free consultation call with me HERE.  Or if you want to get started right away download my (free!) Ultimate Guide to Easing Anxiety Through Food HERE