67 inches

5 feet, 7 inches.

My height is 5 feet, 5 inches.

The total length of surgical scars on my body is now greater than my height.

That means, if I were to stack my scars on top of each other, the end result would be taller than me.

Almost six years ago, I wrote this blog post. It marked the beginning of a long, painful road I have traveled to accept my body in its new heavily scarred state.

For over half a decade, I have gone to great lengths to hide my scars. Avoiding shorts so they don’t peek out at the bottom on my legs; avoiding lower-cut tops so they can’t be seen around my chest and sternum; most recently, trying to wear my hair lower to cover the new scar on the back of my neck…but the scars I have struggled with most are those in my underarms. The wounds from my surgery had opened up at the time, so instead of healing in tight surgical scars that we’re used to seeing, they remained open until they healed from the inside out, which left giant, gaping scars that took up most of both of my underarms. I’ve been hiding them for so long, even going to the lengths of wearing cardigans with sleeveless tops in the high heat of summer.

For years, it has been such a battle. Trying to accept my body, hating my body, wishing I could change my body, feeling helpless and hopeless. In fact, in January of 2017 I had a sudden, suffocating, devastating realization that I was stuck with this scarred body for the rest of my life. The next day, I made an appointment with a therapist and eventually began treatment for anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

My parents have been equally desperate to ease me of my pain, both physical and emotional. They’ve offered multiple times to sell everything to afford extensive plastic surgery to cover my scars. When we have these conversations, I can feel the pain seeping from their cores, the desperation to make it all better. But I remind them that I will never undergo elective surgery. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, but because I have had to go under the knife so many times that I simply cannot do it and fight that fight unless absolutely necessary for my well-being. I’m too exhausted. I can’t give any more of myself to this awful disease.

A few weeks ago, I was planning on going to a friend’s wedding and had bought a sleeveless dress. I tried on several cardigans with the dress, then threw it aside in frustration because nothing looked good with it.

This moment was the catalyst I needed.

I reflected on my relationship with my scars, and I decided that I needed to engage in cognitive reframing. I needed to find a way to change my own perception of my scars. I needed to find a way to transform those feelings of shame into feelings of pride. To transform the idea of hiding into the idea of celebrating. How could I do this for myself?

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This was transformative.

Getting the tattoo was an incredibly emotional experience, and I was grateful to have a tattoo artist who both acknowledged it and allowed himself to become involved in the experience. He listened to my story and made sure that it was exactly what I wanted. When we were done, he called me a “tough old broad” and enveloped me in a warm hug.

On the way home from getting the tattoo, I cried tears of healing and renewal. I cried for the broken woman who wanted so badly to hide these scars she was ashamed of for so long. I cried for the woman she has become who is proud to show these scars because she has earned them. Each scar represents a battle that she has won, and many of those represent battles for her own life. She has conquered, is conquering, and will continue to conquer.

Because she is a damn warrior.

I went to that wedding and wore my sleeveless dress without a cardigan. I felt nothing but pride, celebration, and true joy when I got onto the dance floor with some of my closest friends.

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Posted in Anecdotes, Healthy, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, mental health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Potato Bites with Guacamole Cream

It’s no secret that I love the combination of sweet potatoes and guacamole. It’s basically my AIP-compliant peanut butter and jelly.

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Baked sweet potatoes with lazy guac.
Sweet potato toast (sweet potatoast) with sliced or smashed avocado.
Sweet potato fries with guacamole (this is my lazy dinner on the reg).
Sweet potato chips dipped in guacamole.
And now…

Sweet potato bites with guacamole cream.

These are the poppable, easy-to-make and easier-to-eat, tray-ed up, finger food of your dreams.

They come together in a flash and are a definite crowd pleaser. They’re perfect to make when entertaining because they seem so impressive and colorful but they couldn’t be more simple. But you can keep that secret to yourself and allow your guests to be impressed (that’s how I prefer to live).

They’re also perfect to make when you’re eating alone and just want a platter of delicious food that you don’t have to share…not that I know this from experience.

Not to mention that they’re kid-friendly and kid-approved.

Need I say more?? Go make these!

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Sweet Potato Bites with Guacamole Cream

Ingredients:

2 medium sweet potatoes, preferably long and skinny
2 tbsp avocado oil, olive oil, or ghee (not AIP if using ghee)
1/2 tsp sea salt

For guacamole cream:
2 avocados
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water

For garnish:
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 
  2. Slice sweet potatoes into rounds of ~1/4 inch thickness. You don’t want them too thin because they need to be sturdy enough to hold the topping.
  3. Toss with oil and sea salt.
  4. Place in a single layer onto a roasting rack.
    • If you do not have a roasting rack, place them onto a cookie sheet, but be sure to flip them halfway through the roasting process.
  5. Roast for 40-45 minutes, checking to be sure they do not burn. They are done when they are bubbly and beginning to brown.
  6. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the guacamole cream by adding avocados, red onion, cilantro, sea salt, garlic powder, lime juice, olive oil, and water into a blender and blend until completely smooth. You may need to add more water, but try to keep the consistency as thick as possible.
  7. Add guacamole cream to a Ziploc bag. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
  8. When sweet potatoes are ready, carefully remove them from the pan and place onto serving plate.
  9. Cut the tip off of the Ziploc bag filled with the guacamole cream, and pipe the cream onto each sweet potato round.
  10. Garnish with a healthy amount of chopped red onion and chopped cilantro.
  11. EAT THE WHOLE PLATTER.

Notes:
-Ways to make this come together more quickly if you’re entertaining:
—> Slice the sweet potatoes ahead of time, so all you have to do is roast them.
—> Slice + roast the sweet potatoes ahead of time, store in the fridge, then heat back up in the oven when you’re ready to eat.
-I do not recommend making the guacamole cream until you’re ready to serve because it will brown.

Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roasted Beets with Mint

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Roasted Beets with Mint

Ingredients:

Beets (any variety; I used golden beets)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Chopped fresh mint

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Trim stems from beets and scrub clean, then blot dry.
    • Tip: Save the beet greens and sauté them in some olive oil with sea salt for a nutrient dense, delicious side.
  3. Drizzle beets with olive oil and wrap individually in foil.
  4. Carefully place into preheated oven and roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
    • Test after this time. Remove one beet and pierce it with a fork to check its doneness. The fork should insert easily (like you’re sticking it into softened butter). If not, roast for an additional 30 minutes or as needed.
  5. Remove from oven, carefully remove foil, and VERY carefully peel beets (they will be extremely hot). I held them in place with a fork and used a spoon to peel them. The skin will come off very easily.
  6. Thinly slice and drizzle with additional olive oil.
  7. Sprinkle with sea salt and chopped fresh mint.
  8. Eat it all.
  9. Don’t share.
Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, Healthy, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, Paleo, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lemon-Garlic Cauliflower Rice

I recently started working at Provision Kitchen, which I am loving for a host of many reasons. I won’t go in to how wonderful the restaurant itself is and what our philosophy is at Provision Kitchen (click on the link to learn more about the beautiful establishment), but I will talk about a few things I’ve learned there so far:

  1. More people love brussels sprouts than I ever realized. I love them too, but I always thought they were a more polarizing food.
  2. Same goes for mushrooms.
  3. There are so many ways to repurpose kitchen scraps–vegetable stock, for example.
  4. Wrist strength is a real thing that you can build.
  5. Segmenting an orange is tedious and delicate, but kind of fun.
  6. Elevating the base on which you build your entrée can elevate your entire dish.

Let’s talk about #6 because I’m sure it sounds like gibberish. At Provision Kitchen, you build your entrée with a base of your choice, a protein, and a number of fresh plant-based sides. Before I started working there, I never really considered adding a base to my meals. Some soupier or stewier meals called for a base, but nothing besides that.

But since working there, I’ve begun exploring ways to elevate my own bases at home. Beginning with cauliflower rice, for example. Cauli rice is just fine, but it’s not really something I get jazzed up about. It can be kind of blah. I wanted to find a way to elevate it but keep it simple or neutral enough to be able to go with a number of meals.

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This recipe is simple, refreshing, and SO dang delicious. I’ve made it for several friends who have loved it; my recipe tester in Oregon really enjoyed it (she’d been looking for easy ways to make actually tasty cauli rice); and when I made it for my family, my brother requested that I make a double batch for him the next day. He’s since requested the recipe and makes it on a regular basis. You could definitely say this recipe is a crowd pleaser.

I’m going to think of more ways to elevate my bases, and I will post here as I successfully discover fun options. In the mean time, please let me know how you’re elevating your bases with the hashtag #elevateyourbase.

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Lemon-Garlic Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

12 oz riced cauliflower (I used a package of frozen riced cauliflower, no need to thaw)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. On a sheet tray, toss together all ingredients except parsley.
  3. Place into oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Broil on high for 2 minutes or until lightly browned (keeping an eye on the cauliflower so it doesn’t burn).
  5. Remove from oven and carefully toss with 1/4 cup chopped parsley.
  6. Inhale, devour, enjoy immensely.

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#elevateyourbase

Posted in AIP, Anecdotes, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AIP Broccoli Cheese Soup

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Part of being on the autoimmune protocol involves assessing whether you are reacting to any foods on the protocol itself. Because your diet is already quite limited, it’s often not too difficult to realize what may be causing problems for you. But it is hard to accept because you feel like you’ve given up so much already and have to give up yet another thing. All of this to say…I begrudgingly had to accept that I’ve been reacting to coconut milk.

This is really difficult on the autoimmune protocol because coconut milk is our main source of creaminess. Coconut is in SO MANY recipes, so omitting coconut can become a real challenge for those of us who react to it. I’ve taken it upon myself to find other ways to impart richness and creaminess, and I’ll be damned if I can’t find a solid replacement so that I don’t miss coconut as much.

Broccoli cheese soup is so comforting and delicious. It has always been one of my favorites. I knew I wanted to create a broccoli cheese soup recipe, and I knew I needed to impart creaminess without said coconut milk. In comes our new star: CAULIFLOWER!

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AIP “cheese” recipes often don’t taste like cheese at all, but I really think I nailed this one. It really does taste cheesy. It’s been approved by both of my parents (and my dad is a tough audience from whom to seek food approval–he’ll tell it to you straight), my dear friend/recipe tester in Oregon, and even a coworker who enjoyed some leftovers!

This soup is seriously so easy to make and comes together in a flash. Please try it and let me know what you think! I hope you love it as much as we do.

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AIP Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients

1 medium head of cauliflower
1 cup roughly chopped carrots (approximately 2 small/medium-sized carrots)
3 stalks broccoli
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups bone broth or any chicken or vegetable broth, or water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil
Sea Salt (as directed below)
Water

Directions:

  1. Break down cauliflower and wash, then put into a medium-sized soup pot with carrots. Add water until the pot is full to about an inch or so above the vegetables. Stir in a pinch of sea salt.
  2. Place pot onto the stove at medium-high heat. Once the water starts to boil, set a timer for 20 minutes. (Tip: Leave a wooden spoon in the pot, resting on the side of the pot, to keep the water from boiling over.)
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.
  4. Cut broccoli into very small florets (photo for reference included in notes). It should amount to approximately 4 cups of broccoli. Toss the broccoli with 2 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then spread onto a greased baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. When finished, set aside to cool.
  5. When the cauliflower and carrots are fork tender after boiling for 20 minutes (check to be sure and add more time if necessary), carefully drain the water from the pot.
  6. Carefully place the cauliflower and carrots into a blender. Add the broth, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Blend until well-combined and velvety.
  7. Rinse the pot used earlier to boil the vegetables, then heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the pot and sauté the chopped onions until they begin to brown.
  8. Add the broccoli and stir to combine.
  9. Add the blended cauliflower mixture and stir to combine.
  10. Put a lid on top, and allow soup to cook on low heat for about 10 minutes to soften the broccoli and let the flavors build.
  11. Add more water to dilute the soup to your desired thickness. I added about 1 1/2 cups water at this time, but it depends on your taste (my mom added more because she likes a runnier soup).
  12. Pour into bowls and serve! Optional: squeeze a little lemon juice on top.
  13. Lick your bowl clean.

Notes:
-This recipe comes together very quickly. I cut up the broccoli while the veggies were boiling, then put the broccoli into the oven when they were almost finished. While the broccoli was roasting, I blended the soup base. After that, I was almost done!
-The broccoli should be cut into very small florets. Here’s what mine looked like, for reference:

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Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budget-Friendly Crock-Pot Chicken

I’ve had many conversations with friends about how difficult it can be to eat well on a budget. It certainly can be, but it doesn’t always have to be. I love creating meals that are budget-friendly, healthy, and total flavor bombs. You’ll notice in my recipes that I never skimp on things that add or enhance flavor, and I’ll rarely include ingredients that are too expensive or difficult to find.

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This recipe is no exception! Chicken legs are incredibly cheap, and this recipe makes enough to eat all week. No oil, no broth, no BS. Just chicken, some things to add flavor, then set it and forget it (until 8 hours later). The bones release their own liquid, which is what the chicken cooks in to become flavorful and extremely tender. Bonus points for no shredding necessary because this chicken falls apart on its own.

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IMG_2622Budget-Friendly Crock-Pot Chicken

Ingredients:

12 chicken legs
10ish sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
1 head garlic
1/2 large onion or 1 small onion (any kind)
Juice + zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

    1. Thinly slice the onion.
    2. Peel and smash each garlic clove.
    3. Place all ingredients into the crock pot, tossing to combine.
    4. Cook on low for 8 hours.
    5. When the chicken is done, carefully use tongs to pull out the bones (they will have already separated from the meat), tendon pieces, and twigs from the thyme/rosemary.
    6. Use the chicken to top salads, make flavorful chicken salad, eat on its own with some veggies on the side, snack on because it’s delicious, etc.

Notes:
-Zest the lemon before juicing; otherwise the lemon will become too flimsy to zest.
-Chicken will stay good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator (perfect for meal prepping at the beginning of the week).
-For storage, I recommend taking the chicken out and storing in a glass container with enough liquid from the slow cooker to cover the chicken so it doesn’t dry out.
-This recipe can easily be adapted to accommodate more or less. Use however many chicken legs you have!

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Margo approves.

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Dear Mom, You Don’t Have to Hide the Pills Anymore

A year ago this month, my psychiatric provider asked me whether I was experiencing thoughts of suicide, and I said yes.

In the months prior, I had been diagnosed with PTSD for the trauma I had experienced regarding health and the destruction of my body years earlier (as well as the ongoing trauma caused by the disease). I had never truly dealt with the emotions from the traumatic experiences, so treatment for PTSD triggered depression.

After studying depression and mental illness for years, I can honestly say that I never truly understood depression or appreciated its grip on a person until I experienced it myself. It wasn’t something I could snap out of; it wasn’t something I could heal with deep breaths or yoga or nature walks; it wasn’t a choice. I felt sluggish, incapable, unworthy, and unable to do anything about it. I felt everything and nothing. I felt heavy all the time. I felt stuck. I spent all of my spare time on the couch. When I begrudgingly went through the motions of my life, it was as if the air was thick and took more effort to travel through. And when I thought of all the things I could do to make myself feel better, I couldn’t do them.

That’s the thing about depression–it’s not a matter of what you will or won’t do to make yourself feel better; it’s a matter of what you can and cannot do. It’s not that I wouldn’t go on walks or meditate, it’s that I couldn’t.

When I started experiencing suicidal ideation, at first it was a little voice in the back of my mind. You have chronic health issues, every flare feels unbearable, it’s put you through hell and will likely do so again…there’s only one way to guarantee you won’t ever be sick again. Over time, it evolved from the quietest voice in my head to the loudest. I went from quietly entertaining it as an option to having frequent moments in which I actively felt like I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I was tired of fighting a losing battle, and I felt ready to wave my white flag of surrender.

During this time, I largely have my education to thank because I knew what to do, and I have my people to thank because they responded and helped protect me. I told all of my closest friends and immediate family about my suicidal thoughts, and I asked each of them to check in with me on a regular basis. I had dear friends around me that I could call or text when I needed, and they would open their doors to me when I couldn’t be alone. I talked to my therapist and psychiatric provider, and we developed a safety plan. I knew where the closest Emergency Room was if I needed it. When I truly felt at my lowest, I removed access to means for myself–I took all of the pills in my home that I could overdose on and dropped them off for a close friend to keep for me. This all sounds quick when it’s summarized up, but they were the most agonizing few months I’ve ever experienced. Expressing to the people who love you most that you don’t want to live and asking them to fight for you is unimaginably painful.

When I moved back home to Oklahoma from Nebraska, I picked up the pills from my friend and gave them to my mom to hide from me, as well as any medicine my parents had at home. Honestly, the only thing that kept me from suicidal attempts was the thought of one of my parents finding me. I could not fathom the pain it would cause them, so I kept most of my painful thoughts to myself and tried to distract myself from them. The problem is, you can’t really distract yourself from the loudest voice in your head, can you? My parents painfully watched while I continued to drag my feet around the house, unsure of my future and unable to build motivation to do anything about it. I was still in so much pain. Many days were filled with crying to friends or family that I didn’t feel worthy of living, that I didn’t see the purpose of continuing. In December, I had another serious surgery, this time on my neck. It was yet another time that the disease had threatened my life. Recovery was (and still is) long and painful. I felt like living a life like this wasn’t worth it.

Last month, I started the autoimmune protocol (AIP). I didn’t force myself to start something to make myself feel better; I waited until I was ready. I waited until I was ABLE. I didn’t realize it at the time, but AIP was my way of taking back control over my life, physically and mentally. I had given myself time to heal, and now I could re-develop my sense of autonomy. I was finally doing something for myself. Through the protocol, I can see a future for myself, a life that isn’t full of suffering. It ignited my forgotten love for cooking, recipe development, connecting with like-minded individuals. It gave me my confidence back. My real confidence, not the confidence mask I put on in public for so long.

I don’t even know when it happened, exactly. But about a week and a half ago, I stumbled upon the pills my mom had hidden from me. And for the first time in a year, I felt nothing. They were just pills. They weren’t a means to achieve peace.

I realized that I was not suicidal anymore.

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This is not meant to paint a pretty picture of how I got my life back together. I’m still not back together. But I don’t think I’m falling apart anymore. And I can’t stress enough that I waited until I was ready. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it before then. I will have more posts in the future expanding on my experience with depression and suicidal ideation, but when I’m ready to write about them. I felt this post in my heart, and I knew I had to write it.

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Do you know someone who you fear may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings? Please, don’t ignore the feeling, and don’t be afraid to speak up about it. You can save someone’s life by speaking up to them. The words feel scary and wrong coming out of your mouth, but they need to be said.

Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings? Please reach out to someone, anyone. You are not alone. You can text GO to 741741 to chat with a crisis counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7 as well. Alternatively, you can go straight to your nearest Emergency Room.

Posted in AIP, Anecdotes, Autoimmune Protocol, Healthy, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, mental health, Paleo, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment