What does an IBS flare up feel like?

What does an IBS flare up feel like?

 For Super Bowl weekend I was looking forward to eating chicken wings with celery, blue cheese dressing, and sweet potato fries. Then I woke up Saturday morning with a pit in my stomach knowing it was going to be “one of those days.” I can often tell when I wake up if I’m going to have and upset tummy that day. Typically, it starts with a lame bowel movement (sorry if that’s TMI) then it’s followed by low-grade discomfort and occasional nausea.

How do I know it’s a flare-up?

For me (Lucy), it’s been years of learning to listen to my body, tune in to my symptoms, and make adjustments. Most people feel awkward talking about their bowel movements (aka poop); however, that can often be a good indicator of how things are going in your digestive system.

Did you ever watch when Oprah would feature Dr. Oz who introduced Americans to what our intestines look? I’ll never forget, I was a sophomore in college and my mom called me geeking out because Dr. Oz was on TV talking about poop. At that time, this had become a regular topic of conversation because part of learning about food and nutrition is also learning about what comes out the other end.

Anyway, after 2012, and the unfortunate stomach virus, my digestive system changed and so did my poo. Also, one of my initial symptoms included sharp stabbing pains in my gut after I ate almost anything (thank goodness for oatmeal). Nowadays, in a flare-up I feel puffy, bloated, and extremely full after eating even a small meal. Sometimes I get a low-grade headache and nausea. Mostly, it’s just plain uncomfortable. It may take away the desire to eat regular meals and snacks.

By the way, IBS cannot be self-diagnosed. It is a functional disorder that primarily effects the bowels and includes various symptoms including irregular bowel movements, bloating, and/or nausea. There are also tests that can eliminate other potential diagnoses, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. 

Every body is different.

The other day while discussing IBS-like symptoms my client, Susan*, talked about the “ickiness” of discussing this problem in public. Susan had decided to do the low FODMAP diet to find out which foods were triggering her symptoms. She recognized most people don’t want to talk about what’s happening at the other end of your digestive system. Susan mostly referenced the pain and discomfort that comes with eating trigger foods. She also talked about her own symptoms, which are different than mine, and included a “gurgle-y stomach,” which was her first indicator that something that did not sit well in her gut.

Start with noticing

If you are suspicious about irregularity or other pain and discomfort in your digestive system we recommend starting to notice when, how often, and what the symptoms are. If you’re so inclined, I always recommend food and symptom journal to start to give you a better idea and understanding of how food and symptoms may be connected.

If you’re tired of feeling crappy and ready to find out ways to get on the path of healing contact us. We’re happy to help 🙂

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Is your helping voice really helping?

Is your helping voice really helping?

You know that little internal conversation you have when staring at the buffet table, open bar or other indulgent food (or beverage) choice?  There’s often opposing voices or thoughts going through our minds such as “it’s not that bad, “or “you know, you really don’t need that…”

You are normal

The good news, you are not crazy if you are hearing voices too! In fact, most of us have an inner helping and sabotaging voice. I think of it as friends versus an accomplice. Our friends help us when we feel down by saying comforting words that are uplifting and encouraging like this exchange with my best friend, Gretchen:

Me: I have a craving to quit my job, eat icing out of a plastic tub, and drink a margarita. Apparently, I’m feeling stressed…
G: Is it weird that we have all the same stress things? LoL
Me: Hahaha no, makes me feel less strange. And probably just confirms the soulmate best friend thing 😛
G: What’s got you so stressed?
Me: It’s the story I’m making up around people canceling or rescheduling last minute (clearly appointments with me don’t matter… Yada yada yada)
G: I’m sorry babe. I know that gets to you. You are amazing and important. Everyone overbooks and overdoes this time of year. That’s all it is.

See how Gretchen affirmed my feelings and gave me a chance to process through my negative thoughts? On the flip side, my thoughtful office mate, Richard, is more of an accomplice. When I told him that I was stressed out and craving sugar and/or booze he offered me animal crackers with icing and a beer or wine from the mini fridge. Not that he was purposely trying to sabotage me! On the surface, it sounds like those external stimulants or numbing agents are the cure to our problems, but we typically feel worse about ourselves after using comfort foods to “feel better.” 

The answer is in you

I can tell you in moments of stress nothing outside of us can make what’s going on inside feel better. Sure, the chocolate may light up some happy hormones in your brain which could temporarily take away the sadness. However, often when we turn to food or a drink to deal with negative feelings those choices cause guilt or shame, which leads to the downward spiral of making more unhealthy choices.

Recently, while speaking with the client, she mentioned when she eats ice cream with her son in the evening or on weekends her sabotaging voice will say “it’s OK, you’ll do better tomorrow.” I asked, “what does your helping voice say in opposition?” She responded, “I tell myself ‘you know you’re already gaining weight and you don’t really want to gain more weight’.”

Did you notice her helping voice sounds super judgmental?


Is that helpful?


Instead, I asked, if her friend called and explained she was feeling upset and was about to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream “what would you say to a friend you know is trying to lose weight?” She had much more supportive words for her friend that did not include justifying or shaming her choice to eat ice cream.

Food for thought

What kind of stories is you’re sabotaging voice telling you? When do you notice yourself reaching for food or a drink to soothe your negative emotions?

How can you respond to these cravings as a friend instead of an accomplice?

Looking for a friendly dietitian to help you sort out your food cravings? We can help 🙂

How to eat well while traveling? A permission slip to be picky

How to eat well while traveling? A permission slip to be picky

Did you know approximately 1 in 5 of American’s have IBS and 40% of the population is living with a chronic condition?
This is a good reason to be nice to ourselves and nice to others because we don’t know what they are going through. It can be especially challenging to know how to eat well while traveling.

In January, Kristen and I went on our first international Well Balanced adventure to Costa Rica! It was an incredible trip coordinated by our new friend, Amanda Chay, with Wonderment. Needless to say, we had a lot of new experiences such as repelling down the side of the canyon into surprisingly cold water and discovering my new obsession with papaya!

As many of you know, I (Lucy), have been managing and coping with IBS for several years now. Click here to learn more. Anyway, whenever I travel, I get a little extra anxious around the lack of control regarding my food choices. In our small group of seven, we had 80% of the meals preplanned and catered to us. Normally, this sounds like a dream come true! However, when you have food sensitivities it can be more like a nightmare.

How I stay routine and regular

On our first morning in San Jose, Costa Rica, while I scooped up a small bowl of oatmeal my fiancé told our tour guide leader, Amanda, that oatmeal is a daily ritual of mine. She laughed and said, “well you can enjoy a break from that because I don’t have oatmeal on the menu for our breakfasts this week.” I laughed, I looked at Andrew and said, “isn’t she so funny?“ What Amanda did not know is I had packed six portable oatmeal packets and mini almond and peanut butter packets in order to continue my routine, which helps keep other things routine (*wink *wink).

So often, while talking about setting up healthy habits and sticking with them I hear clients say “but I don’t want to be picky or difficult.” For instance, if someone has a digestive and sinus issues they may greatly benefit by going dairy-free; however, when going to a friends house or out to eat they decide to just be polite and eat all the things despite knowing the negative effects of eating dairy products.

Change takes effort at first

Two years ago, when I did the big IBS elimination diet, I found my brain consumed thinking about “what am I going to eat at my next meal??” We’ve learned between 80 to 95% of everything we do is subconscious – think about last time you took a shower… did you think about every move you made? It takes time and energy to make conscious changes to our dietary choices, but it is possible. First, we must become aware of what and why we want to change. Then, we can make a plan and take action.

It doesn’t take that long to start feeling a little better and for your brain to pick up on new habits if you stay consistent. Some people will tell you it’s only 21 days; however, we learned from the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin that on average new habits take about 66 days.

Your permission slip…

If you’re in the midst of making dietary and lifestyle changes or you already know what works for you, remember it’s OK to be picky and know that on occasion we might slip up and put cheese on the salad with ranch dressing because after all, we are human.

If you’re ready to feel better and determine which foods may be triggering inflammation and pain in your body, let’s chat.

3 steps to Stay Healthy Through a Sugar-Coated Holiday Season

3 steps to Stay Healthy Through a Sugar-Coated Holiday Season

If you’re wondering, “how can I be healthy through the holidays?” You came to the right place! Today we are bringing you three steps to staying healthy this holiday season.

Step 1: Decide how you want to feel now and on January 1st.

The holidays are full of opportunities to savor food, friends, and fun. Be in the moment and enjoy what matters to you. But don’t forget about your future self. Do you want to wake up the next day feeling bloated and tired? Do you want to wake up in the New Year feeling like you have to start a diet or detox program? 

Instead, grab a journal or scrap piece of paper and decide how you want to feel through the holidays and on January 1st.  Maybe you want to feel energized, healthy, joyful, confident, or empowered. By writing it down, you direct your inner compass to make intentional choices all season long. Think about what matters most to you this holiday season, savor and enjoy that and let the rest go. Sharing time with loved ones baking cookies may be a cherished activity, but the store-bought cookies at a work party with a lot less meaning may be easy to pass up if you think about it. 

Step 2: Know your triggers!

These are the foods, situations, or a time of day that we tend to make our least healthy choices. Have you noticed you crave a sweet treat around 3 PM or 9 PM? That could be a trigger time of day. Or every time you walk by the break room, there seems to be another holiday goodie sitting out, and your brain says, “just one bite won’t hurt!“ These situations may be a trigger for you.

After you’ve determined what triggers your not-so-healthy choices, you can start to set yourself up for success by finding better afternoon or bedtime treats, such as these yummy gingerbread bites or a piece of fruit with nut butter. Also, consider the occasional permission slip. That’s the permission to enjoy that special treat as long as you do so mindfully and sitting at a table (versus hiding in the pantry eating cookies – yea, we’ve been there too!).

Step 3: Eat Well-Balanced Meals

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get out of a healthy routine during the holiday season. That means continuing to eat regular meals and snacks if snacks are a part of your routine. Skipping meals increases our stress hormone levels, causes us to make poor food choices, and sometimes leads to overeating at the next meal.

Well-Balanced Day:

Breakfast: 1 small baked sweet potato + 2 scrambled eggs + 1/4 to 1/2 avocado
Lunch: 1 cup vegetable soup + 4-6 oz roasted chicken + 1 whole grain roll
Snack: a handful of cashews
Dinner: Spaghetti squash + sautéed onion and peppers + turkey sausage
Snack: 2 dates + 1 Tbsp. your favorite nutbutter

Food for thought:

Which step do you need to focus on to feel GREAT in the new year? 

Need help getting started? We’re happy to chat and help you reach your health and wellness goals. Click here to talk to your friendly dietitians!

Gingerbread Bites

Gingerbread Bites

  • 1/4 cup organic oats
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dates (pitted)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients, minus dates, into a food processor and blend into a fine flour consistency.
  2. Add 1/2 dates* into food processor and chop until thoroughly combined. Repeat with remaining dates until mixture becomes like a thick dough. *Add water, as needed, for a sticky dough-like texture
  3. Form dough into bite size balls. Sprinkle with coconut flakes (optional) and serve.
  4. Store leftovers in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Grinch Fruit Snacks

Grinch Fruit Snacks

  • 1 small bunch green grapes
  • 1-2 ripe bananas
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • Yogurt raisins (or mini marshmallows)
  • Toothpicks
  1. Prepare ingredients:
  2. Wash & remove grapes from the stem.
  3. Slice banana into 1/4 inch round slices.
  4. Wash strawberries and remove the green top.
  5. To assemble:
  6. Start by sticking 1 yogurt raisin on the tip of the toothpick
  7. Next slide the strawberry on the toothpick (top faced down)
  8. Then add 1 banana slice
  9. Finally, add the green grape to complete the Grinch.
  10. Enjoy with friends or family at your next holiday party!

Where are you on the diet spectrum?

Where are you on the diet spectrum?

You know how there’s a new diet or nutrition news article coming out every day?! It’s overwhelming and confusing for most people – especially those of us trying to be healthy and make better choices.

For many people, diet is a 4-letter word (literally and figuratively!) that makes one shutter and recoil. Here’s the thing, diet is simply the kind of foods a person eats habitually. It’s often shaped by our culture, environment, and upbringing, which may explain why some of us struggle to make healthier choices. 

At Well Balanced Nutrition, Kristen and Lucy make it their mission to stay informed and up-to-date about the plethora of information on nutrition and wellness.

It’s important to remember that each human body, while similar in many ways, is also vastly different in our chemical makeup, including how we metabolize foods, how our bodies respond to stress, and so forth. It’s personal and each of us may require different strategies on the journey.

The Diet Spectrum
To bring more clarity to this conversation, we created a visual guide to help individuals figure out where they are on the spectrum. 

On the left, we have our “highly structured” eaters. This includes individuals strictly following a diet, such as Whole30, Paleo, gluten-free, etc. This is not including the 2-week crash diets, but more long-term.

Next, on the far right we have the our “loosey goosey” eaters. On this end, there is almost no structure, boundaries or plan around what someone is eating each day.

In the middle, you find balance. This does not mean someone on a gluten-free diet for medical purposes needs to start eating wheat bread to be balanced. It’s simply a tool to check in and determine where you are on the spectrum.

Where are you on the Diet Spectrum? 

Do you find yourself planning what you are going to eat each day before you get hungry? Or are you waiting to decide what you want in the moment day-by-day or meal-by-meal?

To become highly structured may be useful for setting new habits. Sometimes pressing the reset button with a highly structured diet plan can change how we think about or relate to food.

The question is, what do you need to change to create more balance in your diet? For some it may include more boundaries. Yet for others it may include a permission slip to eat off the plan every so often.

Eating balanced feels different for each of us. Letting go of the shame means embracing our slip ups and planning to do better next time. 

Food for thought

As you go throughout your day or week, ask yourself is this choice Well Balanced? We find it most helpful to plan ahead! That way the decision is made before we get bombarded with too many choices.

Do you want to find more balance in your diet and lifestyle? Let’s chat!

4 Mindful Strategies to Manage Your Sweet Tooth and How To Ward Off Cravings Before They Start

4 Mindful Strategies to Manage Your Sweet Tooth and How To Ward Off Cravings Before They Start

It’s rare that I meet someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Some of us struggle more than others with sweet cravings. How do we choose to indulge our sweet tooth (or not to) in a healthy way? Here are 4 mindfulness strategies:

Mindful Pause

Often times we crave sweets because of some underlying thought or emotion that drives a desire for something comforting. When the craving hits we must take a mindful pause to become aware of our emotions, senses, and actions. We may be frustrated, stressed, tired or bored and looking for an escape from those uncomfortable feelings. Unfortunately, we all know those feelings won’t go away by eating chocolate (although, that would be awesome!). Yet our brain seems to think it will work every time.  A little mindfulness and a full toolbox of ways to soothe yourself without food can go a long way when it comes to managing that sweet tooth.

Sort Through the Craving

Ask yourself do I really want this or is my primitive brain just craving it because it’s there, free, tempting, etc? If we always follow that primitive drive to indulge, we could end up far from our goals. Having a way to sort through a craving can help. I like to ask myself, is this special? Does this help me meet my needs? Is it going to make me feel good or lousy? Is the experience going to be worth it? For instance, the candy from a jar at work… although delicious, probably not very special. I might devour it as I walk to the water jug without actually experiencing it. But a melt-in-your-mouth s’more when you are on a family camping trip or a decadent homemade pie you only get once a year around the holidays that you sit down to savor with people who mean the world to you… those are the kind of treats that I call worth it. Simply putting a little thought into your decision can help you decide to pass or go on a sweet treat.

Give Yourself Permission

When food is off-limits, it gains power. It’s always your choice to honor a craving or ride it out and let it pass. When you take a mindful pause and sort through it, you can then consciously ask yourself if you still want that food. Give yourself permission to say yes without any judgemental thoughts (like I’m being bad or I’m cheating). Once you do, ironically, it will be a lot easier to say no if you want to. 

Love What You Eat

Cravings can come on for various reasons, but being too restrictive or eating bland food can definitely trigger more cravings. If you aren’t enjoying your food maybe it’s time to look at how to put more joy and flavor onto your plate. This is different for everyone. Perhaps this means adding a bit of honey and cocoa powder into your morning smoothie, making a flavorful sauce to go on top of your meat and roasted veggies or ending your meal with fruit or dare I say, chocolate sometimes!

How can you combat cravings before the start?

Eating Well Balanced Meals can help you stop cravings before they start.
If you are not getting the right combination of fat, protein, or carbohydrates at each meal, this could lead to cravings. Schedule an appointment today if you’d like help in this area.

Food for thought:

What food(s) are truly special to you?

What foods do you crave when you are stressed, tired, lonely or sad?

How will you use this mindful activity to help you manage your cravings? If you like these ideas and want to learn more, we’re happy to help 🙂

Sometimes a diet is the answer… How IBS changed my life

Sometimes a diet is the answer… How IBS changed my life

Why me? It’s not fair. How did this happen? For 1 in 5 American’s suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these are common thoughts and questions that cross the mind. Maybe after a weekend of eating out and enjoying food with friends and family suddenly, cramping, bloating, and discomfort takes over the gut and all you can do is curl up and wait until it passes.  

Most of my life I was blessed to eat anything I wanted – I joke that I grew up on Ramen noodles, Pop-tarts, and a lot of chicken casseroles (including broccoli and cauliflower!).  

Then came 2012

For 7 years prior to 2012, I was practicing a flexitarian diet, which for me included eating mostly plant-based foods such beans, tofu, peanut butter, and I even started eating lentils. Unfortunately, in November 2012 I contracted a stomach virus. It included a lot of pain and bloating for about five weeks and I lost weight, which at my size was not healthy. When that was over I tried to resume my normal diet. This consisted of salads, plenty of broccoli, apples, and other delicious colorful foods. The problem was some of those same symptoms I had during the virus stated to crop up unexpectedly in the middle of the day or after dinner. More pain. More bloating. But no more virus. I spoke with a good friend (also a dietitian) who recommended I look at eliminating the FODMAP foods – stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. For anyone unfamiliar these are foods that have a particular kind of naturally occurring sugar, which are linked to some cases of IBS. She was right! When I stopped eating apples I stopped feeling awful after lunch, at least for a little while. Then by May 2016 while traveling up to Michigan to see my honey I hit a wall (not literally!), but I got fed up with feeling awful. I decided it was time to find out once and for all what was causing my gut issues. I went on an anti-inflammatory elimination diet. These come in all shapes and sizes – I gave up many common culprits including grains, dairy, fermented foods, and legumes. Gasp! At this point you might be thinking “what did you eat?!” For anyone that has done a Whole30 you know that fruits, vegetables, and meat/seafood become the bulk of what you are consuming. During that time, I discovered almond butter isn’t so bad and coconut flour is very versatile and delicious. Otherwise, I started to recognize and address my emotional relationship with food. Turns out, a lot of IBS symptoms are heavily influenced by the gut-brain connection and can be affected heavily by stress and hormones.

So many pity parties

During the first elimination I only committed to 21 days because I knew it was going to be challenging. I learned a lot about my habits, but I did it didn’t give me any conclusive information about what was causing my symptoms. Luckily, my lovely brilliant business partner, Kristen Norton, introduced me to MRT or mediator release testing option, which I did in February 2017. This blood test shows the inflammatory response your body has to 170 foods/chemicals. The test revealed some surprising information, which lead to a significant change in my diet and lifestyle for the next 18 months (and counting). In the beginning, when I first got my results I cut down to eating from a list of 30 approved non-inflammatory foods. Considering on average we consume 700 to 1000 foods and chemicals each week this was a very creative time for me. Who knew all the different ways you could prepare rice, sweet potatoes, tilapia, and carrots?
After the MRT results I was informed that alcohol is a huge trigger for IBS symptoms or flare-ups and was advised to stop drinking at least for the first month. Oh, the pity parties. I quickly learned that Friday was a huge trigger for having an alcoholic beverage. I kid you not, it wasn’t until October 13, 2017 that I was finally journaled my first Friday in 8 months that I didn’t crave an adult beverage on Friday night. I promise I don’t have a drinking problem, it was a groove in my brain (aka habit) formed starting in college and apparently became a way of life for the following decade. Not to mention, some of my other favorites I needed to stop eating like lettuce, soy-products, and Duke’s mayonnaise (darn paprika and lemon juice). I cried a lot those first several weeks. Yet, I was finally able to truly empathize with my clients who are doing even harder things in the name of their health and well-being.

What’s the lesson?

While this is still a hard subject for me to talk about, I feel so much better now than I did when I was eating in a way that wasn’t serving my body. Our mission at Well Balanced Nutrition is teach, empower, and connect women that want to feel confident in their food choices and bodies. My body was telling me that my old flexitarian diet was no longer serving me. Our bodies are talking to us all the time. The trick is learning to tune in, listen with compassion, and sometimes swim against the stream to make changes necessary feel our best.

Food for thought
What is your body telling you? The first step is tuning in. Next, I encourage everyone to spend time thinking about what better feels like. How will your life change when you feel better?
Lastly, you don’t have to do this alone. We can help.

Clearing out the cobwebs out of the mind | The first step to happiness

Clearing out the cobwebs out of the mind | The first step to happiness

The other morning I was reading a great book by Kate Northrup titled Money: A Love Story. This is not your typical financial planning book. Instead, it’s an opportunity to take a mindful journey to understand and develop a healthier relationship with money. Northrup goes on to explain there are a lot of feelings and emotions around money and anybody that says otherwise is not being truthful with themselves.

Kristen and I would venture to say the same thing about food. When somebody is having issues making a change their diet, I have to tell them it’s rarely about the food. For instance, if you find yourself craving comfort foods, we may suggest that you are in need of more connection and/or love (or a good nights sleep!). We tend to seek comfort in the form of food if we feel isolated, disappointment, sad, overwhelmed, etc. Other healthier coping tools would include volunteering, calling a friend, playing with your furry or not-so-furry child or taking a walk.
As I continued reading and journaling, as prompted by Northrup, I suddenly had the urge to check my bank account. That is when I realized all the money for rent was still sitting in the bank account, which means I was at least two days late paying our rent. *palm to the face*  Luckily, I was in full fledge observation mode and just started journaling my thoughts in that very moment. Do you know what I’ve discovered? I am a jerk face to myself! I was instantly telling myself that I’m an idiot and I should know better. So it was demoralizing and unproductive.

As a person who fancies herself as self-aware, it was incredibly surprising to have this bombardment of negative self talk flood my mind. Soon there were tears and I felt even more ridiculous for crying over $50. Seriously.

Fast forward to a few hours later and I’m walking through the woods.… Catching cobwebs. It got me thinking that these negative thought patterns are kind of like cobwebs in our minds. We’ve built them in without even realizing that they are making this journey to happy and healthy a lot less pleasant.

The first step

Today I’m encouraging each of you to just notice when you have a negative thought run through your mind. Anything such as, “you idiot!” Or “you should have…” Or “you know better. Why do you keep making the same mistake?!”

We now know that this is self shaming and as Brene Brown reminds us shame corrodes the part of the brain that believes that we can change. In short, shame does not help you do better. In fact, it will probably perpetuate the same negative behaviors. When we notice the negative thought patterns we can start to change them. I often teach friends and clients to try Cancel. Cancel. Cancel. when they first notice the negativity. Then create a helpful mantra or affirmation to replace the thoughts. Sometimes it can be as simple as repeating “release.” Or as Northrup mentions in her book, “I am pure, calm grace.” Important note: the affirmation needs to resonate with you. That means when you find an uplifting quote or phrase make sure it is speaking your truth. Do you believe and embody it?

Food for thought:

It always seems easier to help others recognize these negative thought patterns. Do you have a friend or loved one that you trust that could help you see where you might be allowing these negative thought patterns and cobwebs of the mind to hold you back?
Kristen and I are happy to help you clear the way and make a more enjoyable journey into your happy and healthy – let us know how we can help?