When I first wanted to heal my acne through nutrition, Google became my best friend. I honestly didn't know much about nutrition, and I definitely didn't understand how food affects our body and our skin. One of the first concepts I encountered while researching adult female acne was a vegan diet.
Vegan noun, a person who does not eat or use animal products.
While my cystic acne was at it's height in severity, I went vegan for many months. In the beginning I did notice some improvement in the appearance of my acne. However, in the end being vegan didn't win out for me. While my diet is still largely plant based, I don't eliminate all animal products. I want to share with you my thoughts on the vegan diet, specifically as it relates to acne.
The benefits of a vegan diet can be the large number of plants consumed. When you're not consuming animal protein, you need more fruits and vegetables to fill you up. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help fight inflammation in the body. Acne is a sign of too much inflammation in the body so, logically, it makes sense to consume more fruits and vegetables. The problem that often arises here, and the reason I put can be in italics, it's easy to be vegan and lose sight of nutrition. It's easy to become so focused on whether a not a food is vegan that you forget to evaluate nutritional value. Technically, Oreo's® are vegan. Although I don't think anyone would argue that eating these cookies will help clear your skin. I've seen many times, including in myself, where consuming a vegan diet quickly turns to lots of vegan baked goods, pastas and baked potatoes. These things are fine in moderation but they aren't the super-foods needed to boost our immune system, and can give acne a kiss good-bye.
The downside to a vegan diet is its neglect of healthy fats. When researching a vegan diet I was quite alarmed at how many proponents of this diet still had the low fat mentality that plagued the 90's. The concept of following a low fat/no fat diet is outdated information that was never actually correct. In fact, during the 90's when the low fat craze really took off, heart disease increased as people's waist lines grew. Why did this happen? Most likely it was due to high insulin levels. Instead of eating healthy fats, which keep you fuller, longer, people were eating low- fat crackers, highly refined pastas and low- fat yogurts. All these things spike our insulin levels which leads to excess belly fat, AND many people felt constantly hungry because the very thing that helps keep us full fat was removed from food. What I'm discussing here pertains to weight gain and heart health but, please make no mistake, it's also connected to the appearance of your skin. Warning signs of internal excess inflammation in the body, such as acne, should help us connect the dots: a low-fat/no fat diet won't give us the skin, or the overall health we want.
Vegan diets also eliminate the intake of wild-caught, sockeye salmon. I really can't overstate its benefits to our skin health. First, wild-caught salmon provides a hefty dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids simply means our bodies don't make these fats, therefore, we must get them from food. Omega-6's are also essential fatty acids. However, because of deficiencies in our food supply these days (such as eating grain-fed instead of grass-fed beef, or consuming processed foods containing unhealthy, shelf-stable oils) we are ingesting too much omega-6's and not enough omega-3's. The ratio of these oils should be 1:2 omega 3 omega 6. Unfortunately, our modern diets tend to have a ratio of 1:10 of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to omega-6 (inflammatory). [William Sears, MD, The Inflammation Solution,©2015]
Vegan diets also lack astaxanthin. Here we go again with salmon the prize winning fish! Astaxanthin is another reason to love this fish. Astaxanthin gives salmon its beautiful pink color. It's a nutrient that has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Astaxanthin paired with beneficial omega-3's in wild-caught salmon make this fish vital to our diets. Notice I keep writing wild-caught. It is important that you avoid purchasing farm-raised salmon. It doesn't contain the same amounts of the powerful antioxidants. In fact, farm-raised salmon may have pink color added, so it appears more like wild-caught. I also take a fish oil supplement and have noticed a difference in my skin, hair and nails.
Tip: On the days you enjoy salmon for dinner it's okay to skip your fish oil supplement. This will help you stretch your budget a bit farther as well!
Lastly, I encourage you not to place yourself in a "diet camp." What I mean specifically is avoid anything that promises weight loss as its single goal. It can lead to an all or nothing mentality, in which you feel guilty if you are ever in a situation that makes it impossible to eat and still stay within the diet's strict guidelines. What I do encourage, instead, is focus on real, whole-food nutrition. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Opt for organic produce and meats when possible. If unavoidable, be very selective in the purchase of processed foods. If you're curious what to look for when purchasing processed foods, you can read more here.
Have you ever tried, or are you currently following a vegan diet? Have you noticed an improvement in your skin, hair, and nails? How are you currently eating, and how does it make you feel? Please comment!
I've openly shared my life long struggle with acne. Battling cystic acne has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. What I haven't shared as openly is how utterly powerless I felt to stop it.
Here are a few of the things I have been told about my acne:
I recently read an article that struck a nerve with me. It was written by a fighter pilot and the topic was motivation and discipline. His viewpoint was that discipline trumps motivation every time. The fighter pilot said that when it's time to run head first into the enemy you don't feel motivated to do it. After all you're full of fear and would rather turn and run the other way. He said rather it's discipline that's so important at this moment. It's the discipline you've developed, your knowledge on the subject, the training and practice. You know what you have to do so you simply do it.
As I read this piece I felt immediately drawn to what he was saying and I realized that although he was referring to war time battle, the same principle applies to just about every area of our lives. In fact, for many areas of our lives if we only relied on how motivated we felt to do something, nothing would get done.
I see this all the time in my coaching business. Women come to me feeling motivated to make a change. They are tired of the way they look and feel. They know they need a change and at first the prospect of it all is really exciting. They feel motivated to do something different. But then reality begins to set in and the truth is changing the way you eat isn't always a straight, easy road. At this point discipline has to step in and take over. Otherwise you find yourself right back where you started.
When my adult acne was so severe and nothing I tried was working. I began to look at my issue for what it was. A sign of a deeper rooted problem that needed to be solved. This is when I began to change the way I was eating to bring restoration and healing to my body and therefore, ultimately heal my skin. Motivation didn't play much of a role during this process. Initially, I felt motivated by the prospect of clearer skin but that quickly faded. One thing to really understand about using food as medicine, is the results are not always immediate. Obviously, this can feel frustrating. More than that is what others around you see. Let me explain.
To my friends and family, the dietary changes I made, seemed extreme (although they really weren't). People wondered if I was nourishing my body properly. I began to feel a bit of a stigma because I wasn't eating what everyone else was. The biggest issue was that my skin didn't clear overnight and as it was healing it went through a few purging stages. You know the old adage, "Things get worse before they get better"? In my case I experienced this. Therefore to those around me it appeared that all my efforts were in vain.
During these times I didn't feel motivated to keep pushing forward and pursue my goal. In fact, at times I felt downright defeated. Was I completely crazy?! This entire process required discipline on my part. I knew what I needed to do or I would never know the real results. If I quit half way through I would never realize the truth. Worse, if I gave in to temptation or peer pressure to be normal and do what everyone else was doing, I'd have to start back at square one. I had to be disciplined everyday to follow the plan I laid out for myself.
Motivation is overrated. If you want to accomplish real changes in your life, you have to develop discipline. For many of us, this is a struggle to handle on our own. We need guidance and someone coaching us along the way. If you're ready to make a change in the way you eat and see real, lasting results I will help you develop the discipline needed to get there. Contact me for a complimentary introductory session!
What are your thoughts? Is motivation overrated? Is discipline more important? Leave a comment and let me know.
Here's the link to the article I referenced http://www.businessinsider.com/top-gun-pilot-dave-berke-discipline-2017-7
Here come the doughnuts! There goes my diet plan!
How many times have you begun a nutrition plan or diet only to have someone bring doughnuts to your office or home?
You have the best intentions and you're certain your willpower will hold out this time. After all your beach trip is only a few, short weeks away, and you want to look good in your swimsuit!
Usually this is where the bargaining begins. You have a debate with yourself. You reason that you've been so good on your diet so you choose to indulge a little. Everyone else is, why should you be the only one left out? So you take a delicious doughnut, or two, and decide that tomorrow is a new day and you'll eat perfectly tomorrow.
Does this situation sound familiar? Maybe it's not doughnuts for you but chips and salsa, or ice cream? Whatever "it" is doesn't really matter. What does matter how you feel afterward -- as a wimp with no willpower.
I'm going to share with you a secret: willpower has nothing to do with it.
In my days of constantly chasing weight loss and experimenting with different diets this scenario was common place for me. I see the scenario daily on social media. It's usually portrayed with clever memes or a gif but, nevertheless, the guilt-trip is the same - success comes from willpower, and if you only had more of it you'd be successful.
Why does this cycle happen and how can it be stopped?
Willpower is highly overrated. It's a word we frequently use and see yet, if asked, I'm guessing most of us would have trouble defining it. It almost feels like a mystical factor that needs to be harnessed in order to have power over food.
I'll say it again. A lack of willpower is not most people's problem.
Take the focus off of willpower and instead put it on decisions, habits and discipline.
Dieting doesn't work in the long run and I'm not a fan.
What if you never again had to use the word "cheat" when it comes to food? FREEDOM!
It's sad that over the years we've forgotten how to eat. We seem to know nothing about listening to our own bodies. We use words like "cheating" when it comes to what we eat. It's nonsense and, when I hear it, I hurt for the person who believes it.
The most recent statistic I heard is that the diet industry is a $72 billion industry. We live in a culture where people are obsessed with weight loss and quick fixes. The problem is it's easy to sacrifice your health in the name of weight loss. The good news is you don't have to do it this way!
You don't need to:
It's said that the average person gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That's a significant amount of weight!
How accurate these numbers are, and whether this actually starts around Thanksgiving (I personally believe it to start in October with Halloween), the fact is the holidays can present a struggle.
As soon as the weather begins to turn cold our bodies begin to crave more nourishment. Unfortunately, our first thought is not of dark, leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette. Warm, cozy, comfort foods are a more tempting choice and, during the holidays, they abound. That is not necessarily, however, a bad thing. There are plenty of delicious foods that are great options to eat over the winter.
The problem I've seen in my private coaching sessions are the number of events that surround the holidays: office parties, family gatherings, cookie exchanges . . . you get the idea.
The trouble all begins with the onslaught of your kid's Halloween candy that bag can be SO tempting!
As the holiday season comes to a close with Christmas and New Year's I'd like to share a few thoughts with you on how to manage the holidays.
When it comes to healing acne with nutrition, there is a lot of talk about what you can no longer eat.
The first things to leave your diet are gluten, dairy, processed foods and refined sugar. To a lot of women that is a bit overwhelming. However, it is true that these foods are inflammatory in the body, especially when eaten in excess, which we tend to do.
While it's important to reduce our intake of inflammatory foods, it is equally as important to increase our intake of foods that reduce inflammation and are full of antioxidants.
When I first began changing the way I ate to heal my skin, I almost fell into a state of depression around food. I knew the foods I shouldn't be consuming, but I didn't yet have a strong taste for the foods I needed to be eating. I longed for the comfort foods I grew up with. Because of this I oftentimes felt hungry, but didn't feel like eating.
This struggle left my body lacking a great deal of nutrition. In fact, my body was so nutrient deficient that my hair started falling out. Hair may be our crowning glory, but our bodies don't recognize it as being necessary for survival. Therefore, it's a go to place for the body to stop sending nutrients when necessary. It wasn't until I visited a naturopath (although not before I ended up with a bald spot on the side of my head) who informed me that I simply wasn't nourishing my body well.
The amazing thing about your body is you can teach it what foods you want it to crave!
The concept is simple. Feed your body the foods it should be having and thanks to metabolic reprogramming you'll be craving those foods in about 30 to 90 days. So cool, right? The old adage, 'you are what you eat' is correct. Your cells are literally made up of what you feed them!
Now that you know, the next step involves making a decision: Keep doing what you're doing while getting the same results or change the way you eat and possibly get better results.
If you're ready to start making some changes I encourage you to take small steps. Don't go buy a ton of produce you've never cooked with before. Start with the fruits and vegetables you know and are comfortable with. Find a few recipes that suit your tastes and build from there. I often eat the same few dishes for several weeks before I tire of it and find something different to add in the mix. I recommend you do the same.
I just saw an article discussing the relationship between indoor air quality and acne. Contrary to what you may think, indoor air can be five times more polluted than outdoor air. Common culprits can be dust, candles, cleaning supplies and also the particles that travel inside with you on your clothing.
"These are commonly known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs."
Frequently, these tiny, invisible particles lurk in things like paint, cleaning products,
candles, and air fresheners--and they can have all sorts of repercussions for your skin.
It's easy to think of acne as only an external skin issue. Having a proper skin care routine is extremely important to clearing your skin and maintaing that clear skin. However, it stands to reason that other factors play a role in the look & appearance of our skin as well.
Acne can be a deep rooted issue and it's important to get to the real source. Digestion, quality of nutrition, stress levels and quality of sleep all affect the appearance of our skin.
What about air quality? It's probably safe to say that many of us aren't focused on this part as much. However, there does seem to be a natural progression between improving nutrition and improving the quality of household cleaners, soaps, shampoos and makeup. Once we start changing the foods we put in our body, it's natural to begin examining the things our skin comes in contact with as well as those things we breath in.
I have made the switch from toxic cleaning products to safer alternatives. Before that I remember shooing my children away while cleaning the bathroom. On the days when I had to go in and scrub the tub, I'd come up coughing and eyes watering. Pretty sure that's a good indication that what I was breathing in wasn't great. Not only that, but the chemicals we use come into contact with our skin and may end up in our bloodstream.
Where to start?
Start small. Ditch plug in air fresheners and perfumed room sprays. My favorite alternative to this is diffusing essential oils.
Consider having a few house plants. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that indoor plants help improve the air quality. Plus, they are attractive and can be a natural part of your home decor.
Check out a quality air purifier. One thing to look for is how much square footage the unit covers. If you live in a small space one air purifier may do it. If you have a large home take that into consideration. If you cannot manage to cover the entire house, focus on the rooms in which you spend most of your time, including the bedrooms.
Awareness is the first step. It's easy to go through the "day-to-day" and not think about what comes in contact with your skin. If you have persistent acne it's certainly worth looking into.