It's been over two years since my elimination diet, and I want to share what I learned through that experience.
Starting in late 2017 and throughout 2018, I felt like I was constantly getting sick. Anytime I caught a cold, I’d start to get better and a few days later catch another cold. I also struggled with major fatigue, a crazy sinus infection that caused horrible vertigo for about 5 months, and continuously felt like I was on the mend. My body was sending some VERY clear signals that something wasn’t right.
During this time, I learned more and more about the importance of gut health. I remember when I first put together:
Now don’t get me wrong – there are LOTS of things that impact your immune system and your gut health, but I had already been interested in taking steps to explore potential food sensitivities. I do want to mention that I am NOT a doctor – I’m not making any medical claims. I am only sharing my experience.
Long story short, I ended up trying out the at-home food sensitivity test from a company called EverlyWell. My results showed that I reacted to 33 of the 96 foods they tested. While I know there’s some debate about the accuracy or effectiveness of these sorts of tests, I decided to use these results as a starting point.
I removed all 33 of those foods from my diet for 30 days – this included foods like blueberries, garlic, gluten, dairy, and black pepper. I knew removing these foods was going to be challenging, but the fact that I was traveling for work every week added an extra level of complexity.
Let’s move into where I’m at over two years later. While I’ve ended up keeping many of the “reactive” foods in my diet, I try not to eat them all the time or in large quantities. I feel like I’m able to make more balanced and informed food choices because of my elimination diet experience. For instance, garlic was on my list of reactive foods, and I found that too much garlic throws off my digestion. However, garlic is in all sorts of meals and it can be pretty tasty. Having it in small quantities doesn’t give me any noticeable issues, but I know there’s a chance that my gut may still react negatively to it. When I eat something with garlic in it, or anything I found I was reactive to, I try to be more mindful of the other foods I’m eating that day and try to avoid eating additional foods that will aggravate my gut.
Were there any foods I decided to completely eliminate? YES. To my surprise, I’ve eliminated all foods with gluten. When I first started this journey, I was desperately holding onto gluten – I’ve always loved bread, pasta, and pretty much all baked goods. Foods with gluten were what I craved most the first week of my elimination diet. I finally got used to life without gluten. When I tried reintroducing gluten, I had horrible brain fog and could barely stay awake during the day. Because it made me feel so awful, I decided to remove it completely from my diet moving forward. The crazy thing is I don’t crave it at all anymore, and I think a big reason is because I know how it makes me feel.
What are some of the things I’ve learned through this experience? There are 2 key points I want to call out:
I'm happy to report that my immune system is SO much stronger than it was a few years ago. I also have a much stronger relationship with my body. I'm working with my body rather than against it.
There are a lot of us right now who are having to work from home due to the coronavirus, and working from home is likely new to a LOT of people. I’ve worked from home nearly every Friday for the last six and a half years and wanted to share some of my own tips and tricks for working from home effectively.
1. Aim to wake up at the same time every day
To start the day off, aim to wake up at roughly the same time every day. I like setting my alarm for 6am so I can have a couple hours of quiet time with Alex and my dog, Bucket.
2. Establish and maintain a routine
In our case, Alex is usually the first one to start tackling chores such as cleaning the counter, emptying the dishwasher, or folding laundry. While these are all things that could be done later on, it’s nice to knock them out first thing in the morning AND they’re good activities to help wake you up!
3. Clean yourself up and get dressed
Clean yourself up and get dressed - don’t stay in your pajamas all day. You’ll feel more productive and you’ll save yourself from being embarrassed on any video calls. And washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc. will make you feel a little more human.
4. Have a designated workspace with natural light
Okay, let’s move into the actual work part of the day. First and foremost, make sure you have a designated workspace with a good amount of natural light. When I’m working from home by myself, I’ll usually work in a few designated spots throughout the house to follow the natural light throughout the day. Since Alex is working from home as well, I’m spending more time in my office than I’m used to, but it’s a fair compromise since Alex doesn’t have an office of his own.
5. Move around throughout the day
Do you ever have trouble sustaining energy (or motivation) throughout the day? You'll be surprised how helpful taking a walk, doing some pushups, playing with your dog in the backyard, or any activity to move your body can be. I aim to get up and move around for a few minutes every hour.
6. Eat foods that make you feel good
Eat foods that make you feel good and agree with your digestive system. Not only will indigestion likely cause some distractions and discomfort later on in the day, but it’s especially important for us all right now to keep our bodies healthy and happy.
7. Alternate between sitting and standing
My home office has everything I need to get stuff done and it’s also set up for me to alternate between sitting and standing. I try to alternate roughly every hour, and it helps reduce the stiffness and discomfort you often get from being in the same position all day.
8. Do something that’s not work related during lunch (but make sure you’re still available
If possible, do something that isn’t work related during your lunch break. Bonus points if you can get outside. I absolutely love going on walks with Bucket during lunch, but it’s also important to keep in mind that you generally have to be extra responsive and available when working from home. While I’d prefer to be “unplugged” during lunch, I bring my phone with me so I can make sure I don’t miss any unexpected calls.
9. Coordinate breaks with your partner or roommate if they’re also working from homeIf you’re at home with your partner or a roommate that you want to spend some time with, or even if you want some extra time alone, talk through each other’s schedules and try coordinating your breaks to meet everyone’s needs. Communication is KEY.
10. Be aware of your posture throughout the day
If possible, try to keep your computer at eye level so you’re not hunched over your computer. It’s also important to be conscious of your alignment and to aim to keep your ears in line with your clavicle.
11. Be aware of distractions
I think this point in the day is important to share because you can see how much more distracted I am! Alex and I are talking to each other, Bucket is running around and being fun, and I can’t seem to get comfortable. This is the reality of working from home, and it’s important to accept that you’re going to get distracted throughout the day.
12. Get outside
I briefly touched on this earlier, but try and get outside for at least 30 minutes during the day. I’ve found this particularly helpful when I feel myself losing steam or if I’m starting to get tired and grumpy. Not only will getting outside put you in a better headspace, getting enough vitamin D is more important now than ever because it helps support your immune system!
What other ways have you improved your "work from home" experience? I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have!
For those of you who don't know, I've been working as a business consultant for over six years. Unlike a "normal" job where I go into the same office day in and day out, I work on different projects for different companies (clients) that may or may not be in the city I live in. Every project I've been on has had me travel nearly every Monday through Thursday. Fresh out of college, my first project required me to travel to Northwestern Arkansas (NWA) every week. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the importance of redefining "home."
When I first heard I'd be traveling to Arkansas, I was not excited. At this point, I had made new friends, discovered new hobbies, started dating the man (who eventually became my husband) and was finally feeling settled - I felt like I finally had my place in the Houston community. I was afraid of the change that was about to take place in my life. My personal time would become dictated not just by my work hours, but also my flights and when I was physically in Houston.
My first week at the client site was a mess. I flew from Houston to Dallas, and then Dallas to Arkansas. My connecting flight to Arkansas got cancelled last minute, but thankfully I was able to fly standby on a flight 3-4 hours later, which got me to the client site after 5pm. What a wonderful first impression! The next two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) were a blur. My team sat in the basement of the client's corporate office, and the only time I saw sunlight was during my lunch break. By the time my Project Manager allowed us to leave each night (anytime after 6:30pm), the sun was already down. Meanwhile, I had no access to the client's systems, nor could I really conceptualize what I was going to be doing on this project. To top off an overwhelming week, everyone was told to re-book flights for Wednesday night rather than Thursday due to an approaching ice storm. Luckily I was able to get out of Arkansas, and the ice was so bad that we couldn't travel in the following week. Boy was I glad!
Once the holidays were over and I got into the swing of things, I almost liked traveling every week. Key word: almost. I felt like an adult - I was already beginning to accumulate travel stories, frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and (of course) great work experience. However, I felt like I was losing my sense of "home". I felt isolated and alone. Rather than dwelling on that and feeling miserable, I decided to do something about it.
After taking a little over a month to get acclimated to the project and the travel, I began to branch out and explore. I found a small yoga studio close to work and decided to give that a try. The people I met in the classes I attended were incredibly welcoming, and the teacher went above and beyond to make me feel like I was part of the community. For a number of weeks she even let me borrow her blender so that I could make smoothies in my hotel room! And the classes themselves were some of the best yoga classes I've ever taken. Who would've thought I'd find such a powerful class and group of people in what felt like middle-of-nowhere Arkansas?! Discovering that class was a pivotal point for me, and it made me think, "What other gems can I find here?"
As time went by, I was moved to a different role and was no longer in the corporate basement. I finally experienced daylight on a regular basis and got to know more of my co-workers both on the client side and the consultant side. I ended up becoming great friends with a guy (Joe) on the client side, and after we got to know each other he said "you really need to meet my girlfriend - you guys are SO much alike." We set up a dinner where we could hang out and get to know each other more. His girlfriend, Alyssa, and I hit it off immediately. She studied psychology and sociology in college, and I studied business and sociology. How often do you come across someone who you can nerd out with about your favorite social theorists? Or someone who shares your love for the show Seinfeld? Or had an "excited" dance just like you?! She even cooked me dinner and amazing cupcakes for my birthday, and offered to take me grocery shopping when I didn't get assigned a rental car (I want to give her a huge hug just thinking about these things)! Even though they eventually broke up, my friendship with each of them continued to grow. I was definitely not expecting to come to Arkansas and make some of the strongest and most meaningful friendships I've ever had.
After a few more months of exploring and getting to know the area, I finally found the AcroYoga community in NWA. A few searches on Facebook led me to their group page, where I immediately posted looking for people to play with. Soon enough, I found myself attending a few jams here and there (whenever I had a rental car). I slowly started recognizing more of the faces and was able to teach people some new acro skills. I soon realized that the NWA acro community was fairly new, and I believed I could help support and bring new skills to the community. I eventually began teaching weekly acro classes at a local yoga studio for over a year! I could hardly believe it! I had a wonderful opportunity to share my knowledge with people I would have never met if it weren't for my job.
Instead of wasting away in my hotel room and missing all of the things I have going on in Houston, I made a life for myself in Arkansas. Making friends outside of work, helping grow the acro community, and simply doing the things I love made me feel at home. I've learned that "home" doesn't need to be a location. So much of “feeling at home” is determined by the people you surround yourself with. I can be home wherever I go! It took some searching, but it made all the difference finding my Arkansas friends and (acro) family that I could come home to every Monday through Thursday.