My Story

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BlogUpdate:  The giveaway is over & Vix Willis was the winner!  Thanks for reading & celebrating my anniversary w/ me!

Today is my five year blogging anniversary and I'm celebrating with a giveaway!!  I started blogging in 2009 about my family's life overseas.  We lived in Guinea and Sierra Leone, two developing countries in West Africa.  It was a crazy adventure, made all the more crazy by my undiagnosed autoimmune diseases, not least of which was Celiac.

Those stories are no longer public, but to celebrate my anniversary, I decided to share a video tour, on my Facebook page, of the tiny kitchen I called home in Sierra Leone.  I thought showing you a piece of my life from the early days of my blog would be a fun way to mark the day.  Being so sick, with an unidentified illness, in a place with almost no medical care was NOT awesome.  However, it has been just over two years since I returned to the United States and in that time I've reflected alot on what I gained during my time in Africa.  It may seem strange, but the adjustments of that period have been HUGE in my ability to make the best of my diagnoses and happily adapt to the AIP lifestyle.

A bit about the video . . . at the time I was making little videos about our life and home for my niece and nephew back in the U.S.  Don't mind the "baby" voice.  It was a very small kitchen, in fact, my bedroom closet today is the same size!!  I worked every single day in that kitchen with my beautiful friend and housekeeper, Nancy.  We managed to make lots of delicious food, both American and African, despite limited space and resources (adapting to the restrictions of AIP was actually not that hard for me after adapting to what is/is not available in a typical West African supermarket.)  And for those of you that will note it . . . YES!  Having the propane tanks right next to the stove is VERY dangerous.  Sometimes life there required a person to get pretty cowboy!

Now the important part . . . the giveaway.  To bring things full circle, my blogging anniversary giveaway is all about my life right NOW.  I am giving away a one hour health coaching consult with a 30-minute follow-up!  This is worth over $200.00!  We'll meet over phone or Skype and talk about your health, concerns, and goals.  Then we'll put together a very basic plan for you and two weeks later we'll meet again to chat for a half hour about how things are going.  The winner will be chosen using a random number generator.

Here's how to enter the giveaway:

1)  If you haven't liked my Facebook page, go give it a like.

2)  Watch the short one minute long video about my tiny African kitchen & leave a comment there about interesting food circumstances you've had to adapt to in your life.  Bonus points if that circumstance occurred in a foreign country.

3)  The giveaway ends at 6 AM EST on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  Check back on Facebook for the winner announcement tomorrow.

Thanks for being here!  This blog adventure has been life changing for me!

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Tomorrow is my birthday.  Ever since I turned 21 I've taken time around my birthday each year to write something about what I am like at that age.  I've lost many of those scribbles, some are tucked away in keepsake boxes, and some of them are here on this blog.

The year I turned 33, I didn't write anything.  I was so sick at this time two years, that I felt like turning 33 was nothing to celebrate and reflecting on it was not worthwhile.  I was literally just weeks away from my Celiac diagnosis, but I felt a deep sense of hopelessness and dreaded trying to move forward in a declining body.  (That's right, my two year diagnosis birthday is right around the corner.  Stay tuned for that update.)

Last year at this time I was in a whole new place and I was excited to reflect on who I was at 34.  This year I am in an even better place, even more excited to reflect on who I am at 35.  Two years ago I could not have imagined my life now.  So here are three things about a 35 year old:

1)  I am about to become a Certified Health Coach!  In under a year I have taken on a MAJOR career change.  (I can hardly believe that I've had the energy for a transition that huge.  I know it is due to a Paleo approach to diet and lifestyle changes.)  I will be precertified as of February 3rd and start seeing clients as I move into the last part of my program.  This is a dream job for me and I am so, so excited to be able to get up each morning and use my day to help other people find the health transformation that I have found since my Celiac diagnosis.  I think I am uniquely qualified to help, 'cause I've been through the ringer too.  It turns out all those years of illness and despair gave me buckets of deep empathy and a special education all their own.  I can't wait to walk with my clients on their journeys.

2)  I am more and more aware of how important relationships with other women are to my personal growth.  In the last year my relationship with the women behind the other major Paleo autoimmune blogs has grown and deepen (check them out here).  It has been incredible for me to connect with Sarah, Mickey, Christina, Whitney, and Eileen.  I know these women truly understand how frightening and lonely autoimmunity can be and also how empowering it is to take your healing into your own hands.  They've encouraged me when I was down, helped me troubleshoot when I had health issues, and motivated me to go further than I ever imagined with this blog and my Facebook page.  They remind me that sharing my story is a great way to help others (especially women) keep looking for their autoimmune breakthroughs.  They aren't the only amazing gals I've connected with this year though.  There has also been my farmer, Nora, my classmate and peer coach, Erika, Anne of The Paleo Autoimmune Breakthrough, and of course, the special women from my past that have stood by my side through TONS of ups and downs.  (All those notable ladies know who they are.)

3)  I totally have for real gray hair.  LOL!  I've had a few stray grays for years now, but this year they got a little wiry and noticeable.  I'm pretty proud of 'em actually.  After all, I earned them.  Getting to 35 wasn't that easy with multiple autoimmune conditions and figuring out how to turn those lemons into lemonade was even tougher.  If you've got some grays, I think you should celebrate with me!

Thanks for being here with me readers.  Knowing you are out there makes me want to keep writing and sharing.  I've been blogging since 2009 and this year, at 35, I plan to keep going for a long time.  My goal is to put enough "data with soul" out there to help you figure out how to turn around your AI story and make your birthdays a happy moment of reflection too.

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I had such an awesome year!  A really, really good year. (If I'm not sounding real enough, see the bottom of this post.*)  It is impossible for me to truly convey how grateful I am for this past year, but I can start by saying, "I was healthy."  I had the first year in as long as I can remember without a single cold or flu.  No strep throat.  No bronchitis.  No sinus misery.  I stayed well the entire year.That doesn't mean I had totally perfect health.  I struggled some with glutening and a rise in my antibody numbers early in the year.  I battled with SIBO.  I found out I have the MTHFR genetic defect.  Still, these things didn't really phase me, 'cause I feel so darn prepared to fight now.  I KNOW how to heal myself!  What the heck?  I am so grateful for this year.

So, first, let me do a little recap.  Last year I posted five goals I had for becoming optimally WELL.  You can read about it here.  It didn't go flawlessly, but in general, I made consistent progress.

1)  Supplementation-  I did finally get this ironed out for myself, but it took me until around late October, early November.  I am noticeably reaping the benefits, but it was not easy or cheap.

2)  Exercise-  Uuuum.  I had a great walking routine for part of the year and then it turned into a so-so routine for part of the year and in the last month things went doooownhill.  Overall, I am happy though.  I do feel like I have more stamina and a bit more strength, but I'm recommitting for better results.

3)  Sleep-  I was way better with sleep in 2013, then in 2012, but I've still got some tweaking in this department.  Overall, I got much more restful sleep this year.  I have decided that this trumps almost everything though and I'm recommitting.

4)  Stress Management-  I am really, really happy with my progress here!  I sorta' had a stress attack this month (holidays, school, etc), but the rest of the year I really handled my stress levels well.  I didn't freak out, I didn't overcommit, I stopped doing tons of things I just did not WANT to do, I handed over a few responsibilities, and I took time to meditate, pray, watch birds, and have fun.

5)  Personal Care-  I loved the No Poo Method, but late this fall I started getting very, very dry scalp from the baking soda cleanser.  I am now doing "Low Poo."  I continue to use the oil cleansing method or Dr. Bronner's for my facial wash.  I'm still playing with deodorant options.  I also need more work on body moisturizers.  Overall, I am so happy I worked on getting the poisons off me.

So that's the update, now what are my 2014 goals?  It is much more simple this year folks.  Here's my list:

1)  Become a certified health coach.  (I want to help other people have the best year ever too!!)
2)  Move my body, so I can get strong.  (I'm going to try weight training.  Yikes!)
3)  Sleep like it is my J-O-B.  (I don't even feel bad about it.  Who wants a nap?)

What are your goals for the New Year?  Are you starting Paleo or AIP?  Are you further perfecting it?  Maybe you are still searching for a diagnosis?  Maybe your goals are a completely different set of objectives . . . whatever they are, share them.  Put it out there in the universe & see if the thought starts to become an action.

*Does this seem too good to be true?  Good for Angie, she had a great freakin' year.  Good freakin' job.  I'm going to tell you guys the truth, 'cause that is what I do here . . . connect by being vulnerable.  I had some very big fails this year, but the epic one was with this blog.  I geared up for a major revamp (you can read about my intentions here ) in March and was planning to finish it by June, but I didn't get ANY of it done.  I totally did NOT nail it.  I'm really, REALLY intimidated by the process of taking this blog to the next level and I let "perfect" paralyze me and get in the way of progress.  I'm going to keep trying and I hope you guys will cheer me on.

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I am sorry I ate that Bagel…

There I am…I am a simple guy. I eat well and try to treat myself well…

My wife makes sure of that. I picked up the club and loincloth of the Paleo world to support her healing journey. If you are reading this blog you probably know she is battling a trifecta of AI diseases, like the Paleo warrior queen she is. To say I am proud of how far she has come in only a short time would be an understatement. That being said, I have not always been the best partner in her explorations on the fringes of health care and did not always understand the full extent of her health problems. It is only in the past year that I have truly become the Lewis to her Clark while we work together to heal.

There I am…I am a simple guy. I eat well and try to treat myself well…

I even have a little bit of self-control, believe it or not. But at 6’6”, 240 lbs, that self-control is not easy to come by. Especially, when there is free food involved. It is easy for me to stay caveman when my hard earned money buys the food I put in my mouth, but put a plate of free food in front of me and my will power goes out the window. And for some reason there is always free food at my work. Everything from chicken Caesar wraps and tortilla chips at lunch, to muffins and bagels left over from some morning meeting or workshop. My weakness is that bagel and cream cheese. I almost feel that through divine intervention this treat has been presented to me and it is my right and obligation to eat it.

But…then I think of my wife and most importantly (to me anyway) how I can eat this bagel and kiss her later…when can I brush my teeth? Will brushing my teeth even make my mouth safe for her lips? How can I say, “Honey, sorry I ate that Bagel?” when she greets me at the door when I get home from work.

There is my wife…She is a simple woman. She MUST eat well and MUST treat herself well…
 
She has the most amazing self-control of anyone I have ever known. But at 5’5” and less than 110 lbs, I sometimes wish that self control would let her have that bagel or for that matter a pizza topped with a giant milkshake.

You see…the difference is…I have a choice and she doesn’t. I can eat a bagel and feel more or less okay. Okay so I might be a little more inflamed in the gut than before or maybe more gaseous as my lactose intolerance kicks in from that cream cheese, but in general I will survive. But she can’t EVER make that choice.

To cheat for her is to end up with symptoms so severe she will wrestle with the inevitable trip to the emergency room. A trip she’s made way too often, at all times of the day and night, in many different countries, with and without her daughter, and with and without any support. And one fact that is for certain…is that there will be nothing that emergency room can do for her and there will be no one there that understands what is happening to her.

But that never happens anymore. See...she has self-control. All she needed to know was what the problem was and now she never cheats. She stepped out of mainstream medicine and chose to find a new way of healing through food. She has given up that bagel for me and the kid. She has chosen her health and her sanity over those foods that hurt her. Ever since the day she discovered Paleo and AIP we witnessed a transformation. Even though we had already eliminated gluten from her diet, she was still getting sicker and sicker. But within 72 hours of going AIP her anxiety all but disappeared. Then slowly but surely she started looking and feeling more healthy. By the end of her first week we knew that going back to the Standard American Diet (SAD) was a path we would never choose. She was a new woman, or more to the point, the old woman I asked to marry me. The one I vowed to love in sickness and in health.

For all us non-AIers, it is about time we admit that same food that hurt her, is hurting all of us too. I know that since I have joined Angie on her pursuit of health, I have realized that I feel better too. No more stomach cramping, no more low energy days, and my crabby old guy attitude is slowly disappearing. Not to mention, I have lost over 15 lbs and have the energy to do my old, intense workouts at least three times a week. To say this has improved our marriage and life together would be another understatement. I think she just really likes the new biceps and the slowly disappearing tire that used to be around my waist, but I even feel like I love her MORE now that I feel better TOO. I didn’t even think that was possible.

There is a wife and husband…They are a simple couple. They choose to eat well and choose to treat their bodies well…

Together we make sure of that. We eat well for each other now…we eat well so that we both heal and we both live long healthy lives for ourselves and each other. It’s not so much about disease anymore, as it is that we know what health looks like now. We know the visible change that happened when she dropped the SAD foods and big pharma products. And for me, I know I have given up so much in this journey, but I have regained the woman I married and my best friend. Not to mention our whole family is healthier and more conscious of real nutrition. The fringes of health care are no longer fringes to us. They are the foundation. We stand on that foundation and look out together with wonder as we continue to explore the profound impact food and our health has on our lives and our love for each other. That is until I come home from work on occasion and have to say, “I am sorry I ate that bagel …”