Blake Rebecca’s Birth Story

As I sit to type this story, I’ve got the most precious newborn baby girl napping on my chest. Fresh, healthy, and the sweetest thing to look at. Her smells and cute face bring me to tears daily it seems. But it was so hard to picture this moment before her birth, and even harder to see during labor.

Home birth

Jordy and I decided on a home birth somewhat early in our pregnancy. We’d had several friends go through the process at home and loved it. Giving birth in the peace of your own home sounded ideal to us, and we had a hospital nearby if needed! But we knew midwives had been delivering babies for centuries, and many other countries utilize midwives more than we do in the US. We trusted our care with Hearth and Home Midwifery, and they were incredible through the entire process…and it was a LONG process.

May 5, 2020 – Early labor

It was about 4 or 5AM when I started to notice the signs. Feelings of menstrual cramps and abdominal discomfort, coming at regular intervals. So I started to time them. Every 15 minutes I was getting a moderate contraction, and I knew I had to get as much sleep as possible…this could be it! The start the midwives were talking about!

All day the contractions persisted, staying at 15 minute intervals. We were in the middle of packing to move, so I rested and slept as much as possible to anticipate the impending workout of labor. By nightfall, no changes, so it was off to bed to get as much sleep as possible.

May 6th, 2020 – early labor progresses

1 or 3AM (I’m not sure, it was early)

Contractions start intensifying and getting closer. 9 minutes apart. I woke up and tried to use the restroom, mostly to see if these were contractions and not something else trying to pass. No relief. This could be the day!

All morning and afternoon, no big change. Contractions were now 6-9 minutes apart, growing more uncomfortable. After two nights of interrupted sleep, I knew I had to get some naps in if I was going to have energy to get this baby out.

Around 6PM

One of our midwives showed up to check dilation and my progress – 3cm dilated and my cervix was fully effaced! This was excellent news, the baby could be here in a matter of hours. We called our doula and my mom to fill them in on the progress. As they made their way out our midwife left and said to call when the contractions were between 3-5 minutes apart (I think, they gave my husband, Jordy, instructions).

The contractions kept intensifying, as Jordy and my doula, Katy, helped me with breathing and movement to handle the pain. Low-pitched hums and breathing, there’s no room to feel self-conscious or ashamed during labor, no matter what you do to find comfort.

Hours passed that night and still no baby, and the midwives had yet to be called as we continued to time contractions. We went upstairs because I felt the need to lie down and took a quick 10 minute nap, which seemed to slow contractions, so I got up. Side note: I learned there isn’t much you can do to slow or speed labor, but that the baby and hormones will ultimately come when they are ready!

May 7th, 2020 – The day our lives changed

1AM-ish the midwives finally arrive. My contractions are close, and very intense, and dilation was about 8cm! But my amniotic sac hadn’t ruptured and was putting major pressure on my cervix. My husband Jordy, doula Katy, mom Jan, and best girlfriend (and photographer) Kari were all there encouraging me and helping manage the continued rushes of contractions. Jordy was giving me water and small bits of food to sustain my body and energy. You can snack and drink all you need during a home birth since there aren’t any drugs or an epidural to consider. Katy and Kari were using oils and encouraging my breathing, as well as helping affirm my efforts alongside Jordy. My mom was encouraging and a steady presence, as she has been my whole life.

It all felt like too much – how long can these last? The baby has to be here soon. But the midwives were working and getting things set up, not concerned with a quickly approaching baby…I knew we had more time. We hadn’t even filled the birth tub yet! All I wanted was a sign that something was close…

A few hours later

I finally got into the birth tub and felt immediate relief – but the contractions continued. From there on, I don’t have perfect recollection of the labor and timing of events (though my birth team does). I labored in the tub, on the toilet, on the floor, in a squat, in the shower, standing, you name it. To put it bluntly, it just felt like one long, never-ending process. I’d love to talk about how strong and prepared I felt, but I want to be as candid as possible, I’d never wanted to give up so many times in my life. The birth process is incredible, beautiful, and so empowering, but I’ve also never felt so defeated by something I romanticized about my entire pregnancy.

Around 5AM

The midwives suggested Jordy and I rest if we could. I was worried this was taking too long, but my midwives assured me this was normal, and our baby’s heart rate was stable and strong. We were okay. We lied down in bed and tried to sleep for a couple hours, and my birth team rested as well.

7:40AM

I woke up with a huge urge to push. My amniotic sac still hadn’t burst and I had been 10CM dilated for a couple hours. The midwives could feel the baby behind what felt like a hyper-inflated water balloon. It was time to get that thing to rupture and get this baby out. So I returned to the toilet to push. On the second or third one, the amniotic sac ruptured. Jordy said he was lying in bed praying for it just as it happened – very grateful for that, because I was at the end of my rope waiting for this birth to progress.

During our three hours of pushing and changing positions and places of labor (tub, bed, shower, floor, toilet), the midwives kept noting our baby’s heart rate would drop in specific positions. They hypothesized the umbilical cord was either squished or wrapped around baby’s neck. We knew umbilical cords being wrapped around a babies neck isn’t always a medical emergency, but needs to be monitored before it becomes one. We weren’t afraid with the information but knew we needed to find a position our baby was happy in. And the midwives also wanted to start me on oxygen to get more to the baby. My mom later told me this was hard for her to see, but the whole time I had our baby in mind. If it needed to be done for the safety of our child, I’m on board.

As the baby’s head began to emerge, the contractions were coming on top of one another – I couldn’t catch a breath between pushes. Her heart rate kept fluctuating but stabilized when I got on all fours. Before I knew it, after what felt like a few more pushes, her head came out quickly followed by her body. It was a girl! Side note: Jordy and I were waiting to be surprised on the sex of our baby…but it may have ultimately been my decision.

10:45ishAM

Her umbilical cord wasn’t just wrapped around her neck once, but twice, and another time around her body (the cord ended up being 4ft long). As the midwives got her untangled, I stared in awe of this little baby we had been waiting so long to meet. In the next moment, they handed me our baby. Removing my oxygen mask they instructed me on giving her rescue breaths, just enough force to feel her chest rise with tension. One breath in both her mouth and nose. And another. After two breaths came the coughs and cries of our little girl. And tears. Those were from Jordy and I. Finally, the battle was over.

From her head presentation after delivery, the midwives could tell Blake took so long because of her positioning. She was brow facing, which put her in a difficult position to deliver quickly, but we did it. These types of birth will often end in a cesarean procedure, but if able to move and find proper positioning, the mother can deliver naturally. This was always a goal with home birth, a natural delivery if possible but if medical intervention is needed we were ready to transport. The end goal is always to feel empowered and at peace, no matter what route you decide for your birth plan.

Looking back

It’s hard to go through an event like this and immediately think about going through it again. Even looking at these photos the day after the birth brought me to full sobbing tears. Thinking about future children, the birth process, and the possibility of another long labor does intimidate me. Jordy and I both admit it was a lot harder than we anticipated, and we left feeling a little traumatized. One major source of light from this dark spot for us was our birth team. Each and every person there was incredible and we agreed they were the perfect crew to help us, and our girl Blake, get through it.

I couldn’t have done all of this without Jordy too. He was and is the perfect life partner. It brings me to tears thinking of how much he took on for me during that whole process. Being strong when he was scared, encouraging me when we were both feeling defeated, and staying calm and steady while I was falling apart. It’s not easy being that person when you have no control of a situation, and Jordy played his role with more courage than I’ve ever seen.

Our sweet little girl is the best thing that has come into our lives, and we didn’t know we had the capacity love another human this much. This home birth experience is something we won’t forget, and is certainly not something we regret. We understand being able to deliver her safely and naturally into the world was such a gift, and we are super blessed to have a healthy, beautiful baby. Next adventure to tackle…parenting!

3 Nutrition tips that REALLY work for weight loss

In a world full of diet plans, nutrition regimens, and weight-loss gurus, it’s hard to find the truth about nutrition in all the noise. We have family members that swear by specific diets, friends that have lost “X” number of pounds from a particular program, and others than can’t find long term success because a diet “didn’t work for them.” Any of these scenarios sound familiar?

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Then we ask ourselves, why does this all seem so complicated?! And why does everyone get so passionate about defending the way they eat as the single answer?

Let’s get into it from a perspective that isn’t fueled by emotion, confusion, and defensiveness. Because if we stick to the evidence, it’s hard to find one program that is the go-to. So, what is the truth about nutrition programs?

They all work.

Every. Single. One.

Each program (Paleo, Keto, Whole30, Atkins, Weight Watchers, etc.) has a poster child for weight loss, and they work…but it’s less about the regimen and more about the facts.

An individual will lose weight if they want to lose weight, if there is a reason important enough to change their behavior. It’s just like anything else in life that internally motivates us. We will go to great lengths to make sure we have the tools, education, the resources we need to get the job done!

When it comes to weight loss, sticking to these 3 principles will yield results. I added a fourth principle because I think it’s important to overall happiness, despite weight and body composition!

1. Eat fewer calories than you burn in a day

Nutrition in its rawest form is simple math. Many will argue it’s not as simple as calories in, calories out (we get to that in #2) – but this is the first place to start! We can discuss all other factors that influence metabolism in another blog post.

Here is the simple math:

1 pound = 3,500 kcal (calories).
For every 3,500 net calories consumed we will gain one pound.
For every 3,500 net calories burned we will lose one pound.

Throughout the day we consume and burn calories — our net calories are what determine our weight loss/gain. Sometimes we eat more than we should and don’t know, especially if we eat out. You may want to use a food tracker if you’re not sure how many calories you’re eating, there are plenty of trackers in the App or Google Play store. One of my favorites is My Fitness Pal.

Everyone has a different recommended daily calorie intake based on age, gender, and BMI. Click here for a calculated estimate of your recommended intake.

2. Eat nutrient dense food

Nutrient density refers to foods that are high in, well, nutrients! It also refers to foods low in “empty” calories.

Vitamins and minerals are necessary micronutrients our body needs, and complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats are all examples of macronutrients. Both types of nutrients we get from real food (and supplementation if necessary).

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Our body loves whole, real food – they are both made up of organic substances, so they work well together! The more we give it heavily processed, sugary foods the more it’s going to rebel against us.

See some examples of nutrient dense food here.

3. Move your body

The effects of our sedentary lifestyle are becoming evident in the epidemics we are seeing more of in America: obesity, chronic illness, and chronic pain [1]. All of these epidemics have been shown to improve with consistent, daily exercise. Furthermore, our mental health drastically improves with the addition of movement throughout our day!

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Think about it…a good amount of Americans:

  1. Sit in the car to get to work.
  2. Sit at a desk at work.
  3. Break for lunch – sit, relax, and eat.
  4. Return to the desk to resume work.
  5. Sit in the car to drive home home.
  6. Sit and eat dinner (alone or with family).
  7. Sit on the couch and watch Netflix, play video games, or whatever else to “unwind” after a busy work day.
  8. We lie down and go to bed.

EVEN IF we get an hour of exercise in, that doesn’t UNDO all the sitting we’ve done that day. Below #4 I’ve listed some tips to getting more active at work.

Some of you may eat lunch at your desk or never leave it because you feel that you have that much work to do. Your mental health, productivity, and job satisfaction will increase the more you move (and fuel your body with good food) throughout your day! Prioritize your health.

4. Love your body

This may be one of the most critical pieces in losing weight and maintaining it. It really has more to do with mindset than anything.

If you don’t love yourself (and your body), you will be more prone to self-sabotage and repeating patterns that get you stuck in a cycle of unhealthy habits. We may not like the way our body looks and feels all the time, but we have to respect it for all of the incredible things it does and helps us accomplish! Simply staying alive is an accomplishment!

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Think about it this way. If your best friend asks you for help, most of the time you’d drop everything to be there for them. You also don’t (maliciously) insult them, speak negatively to them, flake on every commitment, or constantly put them down – so why would you do the same to yourself?! Or maybe you do…in which case, you may have more to work on…

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The more you love your body, you will be more in tune with what it feels good eating (and what makes it feel terrible).

Quick note: If you feel you have a bad relationship with food or struggle with self-love, seeing a therapist or counselor may be an excellent resource to get to the root of the issue!

Tips that resonate and make sense to your life

While there is never going to be a “one size fits all” nutrition plan, there are always tips that resonate well with everyone based on their lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean everything that makes up the way you live your life: work schedule, priorities, family, social scene, etc. Think about these tips and if they could apply to you, or get creative and come up with your own solutions for success.

1. Meal prep before the work week.

2. Eat your meals at a stand-up table.

3. Go on a walk for meetings (one-on-one or phone meetings).

4. Walk on your breaks or at lunch.

5. Have bands or weights at your desk to periodically move and exercise.

6. If you know you shouldn’t eat a specific food, DON’T BUY IT OR KEEP IT IN THE HOUSE.

7. Go and see a therapist or counselor if you have an unhealthy relationship with food.

8. Shop the outside ring of the grocery store.

9. Have an accountability buddy.

10. Drink a cup of water before, during, and after each meal.

At the end of the day, if good nutrition and movement isn’t important to you, it will be evident and you may see the effects of it as time progresses. There isn’t anyone policing you to eat well and exercise – you have to care enough to show your body the LOVE it truly deserves. And if you don’t love yourself and your body? That responsibility lies with no one but you, so do what you need to take care of YOU.

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0095454308000420?via%3Dihub

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calrmr.htm

 

Nothing “Crumby” about these Apple Muffins

I’ve gotten so many positive responses from my latest blog post, where I discuss my adventure with high cortisol (stress) and an autoimmune diagnosis (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). It’s encouraging to know that my own wellness journey resonates with others — some have even gone to see their MD and get their hormones tested! Good for you for being the boss of you health, friends!

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While these diagnoses seem daunting, they should be the ones afraid of me. (muahaha) I’m coming at them head on, armed with knowledge and tools to get my body back on track. Including some bomb recipes made with whole foods that are #whollydelicious.

Now, onto the goods. I’ve been experimenting with some nutritious, simple, Fall recipes that I’m excited to share with you.

These muffins are inspired by another recipe creator I found, choosingchia.com. As usual, I added some of my own modifications to the recipe. And I won’t lie, I wanted to eat the whole batch of muffins when they were done…

All of the ingredients included are gluten, dairy and soy free, and delicious! Recipe can be made vegan with egg substitute listed below.

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Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup ground flax seeds (can also use quick oats)
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend  (can sub. regular flour, I like to use Bob’s Red Mill gf flour)
  • 1/3 cup honey (can also use coconut sugar)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (Or 2 drops Young Living Cinnamon Vitality)
  • 1 tsp ginger powder (Or 1 drop Young Living Ginger Vitality)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (Or 1 drop Young Living Nutmeg Vitality)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (or other vegetable oil, I really like coconut oil!)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs (Sub flax eggs to make vegan: 2 tbsp ground flax+6 tbsp water)
  • 1 cup almond milk + 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups apples, peeled and finely chopped

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 2 heaping tbsp pecans, chopped (you can use walnuts or hazelnuts as well).
  • 1 tbsp oats
  • 1 tbsp spelt flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or avocado like above)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

OPTIONAL

  • You can add your favorite glaze on top (as pictured above). Any of the following would be delicious:
    • Nut butter
    • Honey
    • Maple Syrup
    • Caramel (more of a decadent dessert topping)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin pan with muffin liners.
  2. If you’re making this vegan: start by preparing the flax eggs. Mixing 2 tbsp ground flax in 6 tbsp water and allowing to sit and ‘gel’ for 5 minutes.
  3. Next prepare your “buttermilk” by mixing the almond milk and 1 tsp of white vinegar together, allowing to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl mix together oats, gluten free flour, honey, cinnamon, ginger powder, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  5. In a separate bowl mix together the avocado oil, maple syrup, eggs (or flax eggs), almond milk mixture, and vanilla extract.
  6. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.
  7. Next fold in the chopped apples.
  8. To prepare the crumb topping, mix the chopped walnuts, oats, flour, oil, and sugar together in a small bowl until combined.
  9. Fill your muffin pan with the batter, and top each muffin with the crumb topping.
  10. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Try this recipe and love it? Tag me on instagram or Facebook – @jaydeeromick.

My main motivator is also my number one detractor

Out of everything that motivates me in life, I’ve finally decided one of them needs to go. It turns out my main motivator has also been serving as my number one detractor, and as time went on, the symptoms of this perceived symbiotic relationship started to get toxic.

It’s also not your typical “toxic” relationship, because it’s between me and myself. I found out my body had begun producing too much cortisol, and it was starting to have a drastic impact on my day-to-day life.

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And since we just recognized #worldmentalhealthday (October 10th), I thought today would be the perfect day to shed some light on stress and why our mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness. Because little do we know, they impact one another significantly.

My relationship with Cortisol: When too much of a good thing becomes toxic

Cortisol, one of our main “stress” hormones, is produced naturally by the adrenal glands on our kidneys. Normally a little bit of stress is a good thing. It helps our body become more robust – stronger from the presence of a little adversity! It also ramps up our sympathetic nervous system to avoid danger (you know, that whole “fight-or-flight” thing when we need to run from a bear).

But there comes a point when it wears out its welcome; when its presence starts to wear you out. Like having a friend sitting on your couch for weeks, eating all your food and watching marathons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians…there comes a point when it slowly starts to wear on you.

I’m not sure exactly when the cortisol started making itself at home, but I know the moment I needed to do something about it. (More on how I discovered cortisol was the problem below.)

The havoc stress was starting to wreak on my body

I didn’t realize how much stress was taking away from me because I was achieving so much in the process. Both academic and athletic successes never seemed to slow my achievement mentality and I was always going. Those that know me well know I don’t just chill. I never wanted to slow down or hang my hat on a single achievement because there was always more to be done. More people to help, more to build and create. I would go-go-go and then silently crash-crash-crash.

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Here’s a picture of me playing college softball; which can also serve as metaphor of my life – always running toward the next thing, with my eyes locked on shiny objects!

But it’s worth it, right? To a point, absolutely! I have had the fullest, most fun 29 years of life so far, full of irreplaceable memories and opportunities. Maybe stress was a good fuel source! At least it felt like it, until this last year. After receiving my doctorate degree and passing the national board exam, I hit a very solid wall…and I had no idea what was wrong with me.

  1. I started losing motivation, energy, and drive (and if you know me, I’m naturally operating on another level, hah!).
  2. I was gaining weight, but eating well and working out daily.
  3. My workouts weren’t energizing, in fact they were exhausting within minutes.
  4. Brain fog and fatigue were a regular occurence.
  5. Heart palpitations started catching me by surprise (specifically premature ventricular contractions).
  6. I was experiencing decreased libido and inconsistent mences. (Hey, I have to keep it real and honest for all the ladies out there who may be experiencing something similar!)
  7. But the scariest symptom? I was beginning to forget things. Not just misplacing my wallet (which I do often), but losing my train of thought and forgetting what I had just discussed with my husband the day prior.

As a healthcare professional I was feeling stripped of my identity to maintain my own health, so it was time to do something about it. So I put on my big girl pants and went to see my doc for answers.

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This is me, wearing the big girl pants I mentioned in the paragraph above. PC: @RoseMoonPhoto

Practicing what I preach and putting my health first…

This last summer I went to my incredible Nurse Practitioner, Dr. Kyle McAvoy, at Pearl Women’s Center in Portland (highly recommend her, local friends). She tested all sorts of hormones, from my thyroid, to my androgens, to my stress hormones — we left no stone unturned. Throughout my education I learned enough to suspect my hormones were the culprit, but which one(s)?

The results came back. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone were in check – sweet! But there were two concerning lab results:

  1. First, I had elevated thyroid antibodies, a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – which basically meant my immune system was creating antibodies to my own thyroid and attacking it. Once it starts attacking, a whole slew of symptoms emerge over time.
  2. Second, my cortisol levels were through. the. roof. This data was obtained through saliva samples every two hours throughout my day. Apparently every morning when I would wake up the levels are DOUBLE the normal value. Then, throughout the day they remain high and spike again every evening.

With these two (somewhat daunting) lab results I was actually relieved. I had somewhere to start!

Next steps…what now?!

I had so many questions. Why were these lab results so off and how do I fix them? Why was my immune system overactive and what was causing the release of so much cortisol?

I’ve been on a constant hunt to figure this out ever since, with guidance from my medical team of course. I was recommended the book The Root Cause, by Dr. Izabella Wence, Pharm D, and it’s been a useful educational tool! Along with other (safe & practical) resources and references from empathetic friends.

Outside of educating myself, I’m still working on making small changes in my wellness routine, and will keep you updated as I go! It’s been an adventure exploring some targeted nutrition and natural cortisol lowering supplements, getting rid of environmental toxins and chemicals, as well as finding my own peace and learning to manage my stress. So many changes, there could be a blog for each!

A work in progress and wisdom for the journey

Aside from learning about my own body and health, there are some other nuggets of wisdom I want to pass on from all of this! Especially if you’re looking to improve your health, longevity, and quality of life.

  1. Don’t be afraid to be an advocate of your own wellness! If you feel off, whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, etc., do something about it. Our world is plagued with chronic illness and disease, and many people are afraid to go to their healthcare providers or find the root cause. Which leads to my next point…
  2. Your health should be your biggest investment. Because without it? You have absolutely nothing. You can’t work, play, or do the things that fill your life with joy. Put time and money into what you value; and what has more value than years of life?
  3. “To get somewhere you’ve never been, you have to do something you’ve never done.” It’s hard to form new habits, make changes in your routine, or know where to start. And if you have absolutely no clue where to start, call and ask a local healthcare provider or one you trust. It is usually free to ask, and you can get directed to the appropriate place!

 

Cheers to putting yourself first, and to health and happiness. Thanks for reading, friends.

Love,

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Squash those standard vegan Brownies

It’s finally Autumn! In the Pacific Northwest that means it’s time for Pumpkin Spice everything, scarves, and rain coats. The start of Fall also means it’s SQUASH season! Which gets me more excited than the thought of drinking a PSL.

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About a month ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis; which sounds daunting, but basically means that my immune system is in overdrive, producing antibodies to attack my thyroid. Genetics can play a role, but finding the root cause can be tricky! So for me, nutrition has been key to reducing inflammation by avoiding any inflammatory foods….and there are a LOT of them. So what to do?

It was time to put on those positive pants and get creative! Below is a recipe I came across from Imperfect Produce and added some of my own modifications! More about that company and a sweet discount here!

All of the ingredients included are vegan, gluten, dairy and soy free, and delicious!

Ingredients

  • ¾ c butternut squash purée (or sub your favorite winter squash)
  • 1 c nut butter (I used cashew butter)
  • ⅓ c pure maple syrup (for a non-vegan version you can use honey!)
  • ¼ c + 2 Tbsp almond flour (or your GF flour of choice)
  • ¼ c + 2 Tsbp cocoa powder
  • Heaping ½ c vegan mini chocolate chips (and more to sprinkle on top!)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (I used muffin liners).
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine butternut squash purée, nut butter, maple syrup, almond flour, and cacao powder and stir until well combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Using a large spoon, divide batter between 12 muffin cups and smooth with the back of a spatula to even them out. Add chocolate chips to the top here (optional).
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until butternut brownies are firm to the touch and lightly browned around edges.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the muffin tin.
  • Refrigerate leftover brownies in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
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I drizzled extra cashew butter over the top and used extra dark chocolate chunks instead of chips!

Recipe Notes and Variations

  • How to roast winter squash:
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
    • Scrub the exterior of the squash with a brush under running water and dry
    • Halve the squash down the center and remove all seeds and pulp with a spoon
    • Rub the interior with a bit of avocado oil and bake face down for 30-60 minutes, depending on squash size
    • Watch squash closely after the 30 minute mark
    • Remove from oven, flip over, and allow to cool (scoop out the interior for use in this recipe)
  • You can also make these brownies in a regular brownie pan by using the same instructions and increasing the bake time by 5-10 minutes.
  • Brownie waste is a true tragedy, so if you’ve made too many, freeze them and reheat in the microwave in 30 second increments. Enjoy the stash for 2-3 months, if they last that long!

10 lessons for everyone who ages.

My twenty-eighth year of life was one for the books, but not because of accomplishments or anything tangible. As a 28 year-old, I completed a doctorate degree, passed a national board exam, started a new business (in addition to one I had been running throughout graduate school), celebrated three years of marriage to an amazing guy, and traveled to new places for work and fun.

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As a 28 year-old I also learned that my body is being fueled by high cortisol (the main stress hormone in our body), which helps me get a lot done but always leaves me feeling run-down and burned out.

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As I reflect on this past year, my work, adventures, and achievements pale in comparison to everything I’ve learned. And even though I’m only 29 years young, I know these lessons will serve me for the next 29! I wanted to share them in hopes that they may bless your life as well.

1. Invest in yourself.

This seems really cliché, but if we are honest with ourselves we really don’t do it enough. Our time is our most valuable asset…we trade money for it daily! If we aren’t learning and growing, and investing in ourselves, we are doing our future selves a disservice. Read, listen to podcasts, or find a creative outlet…which brings me to my next point.

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2. Respect yourself.

We all wish we had more hours in our day. The reality is, we will make time for what is valuable to us. So if we say that we can’t do something because we don’t have time, it really means we don’t want to make time for it because there are more important things we are prioritizing.

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3. Busyness is the death of creativity & productivity.

Our word is full of distractions and “obligations,” and studies show that in boredom we reach for entertainment – whether it’s our iPhone, computer, or TV. We become less interested in critical thinking and solving complex problems, or even pursuing our dreams!

We also have the need to pack our schedules and “help others” to make ourselves feel worthy, important, or maybe to not appear lazy. Plus, it feels good to help! But at the end of the day, are we respecting our own time and getting things done that we wanted to?

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4. Without our health, we don’t have anything.

This could be #1 on my list, and not just because I’m a healthcare professional. We don’t realize how important our health is until it’s taken away from us. Debilitating injuries, chronic illness, accidents, etc. can take away our livelihood in an instant. Value and invest in your health above everything and it will return the investment to you! This includes physical, emotional, mental…really all areas of health!

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5. You are the average of your closest community.

Who we surround ourselves with is extremely important. FACT: Input = output. If we are surrounded by negativity, complaining, gossip, and small minds, that is what we absorb. When we are surrounded by positive, encouraging, gracious, inspiring, and large minded people, we will absorb and emit GOOD energy!

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6. Put down the electronics and get outside!

We need Vitamin D to survive and thrive, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest! The sun is something we don’t get enough of, and influences our health and mood. So does exercise. No matter how “busy” you are, get outside and go for a walk.

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7. When social media is beneficial…

Social media is a blessing and a curse. It can be great for building a business or watching funny videos when you’re going to the bathroom (you know who you are!), but studies are showing it is making us depressed as a country. We get caught up in comparison, disconnection, and keeping up with the Joneses. We need to follow accounts that bring us up or add valuable content to our day!

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8. Stop consuming and start contributing

It is so easy to want to be constantly fed in American culture, both literally and figuratively! HA. We consume all day, everyday. Media, products, entertainment, etc. and want our needs constantly met (and get annoyed when they aren’t!). It takes a lot of energy to run around and consume.

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We ALL have something we can contribute to the world. Use your gifts, time, and energy, and get creative! And give your time in a way that’s meaningful and true to you.

9. It’s all about the little things.

Not everything in life has to be grand, perfect, or polished. It’s the little things that we remember at the end of the day. Write a friend a card, FaceTime with your mom, and connect over coffee with meaningful conversation.

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10. Aging should be celebrated!

Another year of life? YES PLEASE! You are only as old as you feel. Take care of yourself, you are the best investment you could make!

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“Chip Away” at this Guacamole.

In our home, we LOVE snacks. My husband, Jordy, is a huge fan of chips and salsa, which come with a ton of empty (enjoyable) calories but may leave you feeling heavy and bloated. He never seems to have a problem with it, but I LOVE finding alternatives that provide nutrients while also providing a good time!

Jordy has always loved making guac, so we’ve included our favorite homemade guacamole recipe.

These zucchini chips make a great alternative to tortilla or potato chips. Plus, in the summer months this vegetable grows out of control! So it’s nice to have another way to prepare it.

Note: For this recipe we usually use a food dehydrator instead of the oven and let our chips run overnight (or about 12 hours). It’s easy to let it run and leave it while we tend to other things.  The oven is quicker and more accessible to the majority. We also use a mandolin slicer for our zucchini – it makes the process much easier and gets us thin slices! Thinner slices ensure your chips don’t turn out soggy.

Recipe:

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Bake Time: 2 hours | Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes |
Serving Size: About 50 thin chips

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini (green or yellow)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or olive, avocado, etc.)
  • Sea salt (for sprinkling. Note: do NOT over-season your chips, they shrink and will get very salty.)
  • Pepper or favorite no-salt seasoning (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F (adjust based on oven power).
  2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  3. Slice zucchini into thin slices (1-2mm thickness) with sharp knife or mandolin.
  4. Dab slices with a paper towel to soak up excess water (this helps keep the zucchini from getting soggy).
  5. Line up the zucchini tightly on the baking sheets, try not to overlap as the zucchini will stick to one another as they shrink.
  6. Brush coconut oil (or other pressed vegetable oil) on the zucchini rounds. If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can place zucchini and oil in a large bowl and mix with your hands or a spoon.
  7. Sprinkle salt and optional seasoning over the zucchini.
  8. Bake for 2+ hours or until golden brown and crisp.
  9. Let cool before serving. Place leftover chips in an air tight container or jar. These will keep for a few days, so enjoy them soon after preparing.

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Our favorite Guacamole Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (we also love to use garlic salt in a variation of our favorite)
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh lime juice (or lemon juice)
  • (Optional) 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup of minced red onion or thinly sliced green onion
  • A dash of freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped

Instructions

  1. Cut the avocados in half. Remove seed. Slice and scoop out the avocado and place in a bowl.
  2. Mash avocados with a fork. Be careful not to overdo it, you’ll want some chunks left for the guac!
  3. Add salt, lime juice, and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped onion and tomato. Adjust amounts based on your taste!
  5. Cover container with lid to store in the refrigerator, if you have any left!