Nourishing My Soul – Healthy Hormone Series!

So one of my biggest challenges on the journey to recovery from amenorrhea is understanding what specific foods to incorporate into my diet. One GIANT lesson learned was in relation to soy – soy products mimic estrogen, so they can help boost your estrogen levels, but they can also be detrimental to your thyroid function. I have learned to strive for balance when it comes to incorporating foods into my diet.

Here are my top 5 foods that I make sure to incorporate into my daily diet, in moderation, to make sure that my hormones are happy and healthy. Please not that these foods have several other health benefits, but I will be focusing on how they augment your hormone function:

1. Brazil Nuts

Hormone Benefits: Brazil nuts are a great source of Selenium, which plays an important role in healthy thyroid hormones and function.

Nutrition: 1 kernel has 33 kcal, and is an excellent source of good fats (just what your amenorrhea needs to heal), omega-3, and magnesium.

Use: I suggest eating these raw, or even chopping them up to sprinkle over a salad, or add to a wrap – I really like how they taste with chicken!

Brazil nuts| nutrition facts and health benefits

Image Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a3/63/19/a36319875ec034b814a36249d193b1dd.jpg

2. Pumpkin Seeds / Pepitas

Hormone Benefits: Pumpkin seeds help lower your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and can help balance your Progesterone and Estrogen levels.

Nutrition: 1 tbsp has 56 kcal, and is an excellent source of good fats (just what your amenorrhea needs to heal), iron, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

Use: I have started replacing my granola with 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds, but you can also eat them raw or sprinkle them over a salad / wrap. They add a delicious crunch to grains, like quinoa and oats, as well.

Image Source: https://www.ourskinny.com/media/blog/post/Blog_Pumpkin.png

3. Cacao Nibs

Hormone Benefits: cacao helps lower your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and can help balance hormonal mood swings.

Nutrition: 1 tbsp has 60 kcal, and is an excellent source of omega-3, iron, antioxidants, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

Use: I usually add 1/2 – 1 tbsp of cacao nibs to my smoothie bowls – both acai bowls and greek yogurt berry bowls.

Candied Cacao Nibs

Image Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b6/4c/8a/b64c8ae483a8e0319d21e933c533ac68.jpg

4. Dark Chocolate

Hormone Benefits: like cacao, dark chocolate helps lower your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and can help balance hormonal mood swings.

Nutrition: below is my NEW FAVORITE brand, Pascha 85% dark chocolate, which has 125 kcal in 5 pieces (the image below shows the chocolate chips bag, which I am desperately looking for. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of omega-3, iron, antioxidants, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

Use: I usually snack on this plain, but I recently combined a few pieces with a KIND Caramel Almond Sea Salt bar and it was HEAVENLY. One of my coworkers also sprinkles some dark chocolate on her Greek yogurt!

5. Bee Pollen

Hormone Benefits: bee pollen has a whole host of health benefits and is often used for allergies, but it is fabulous for fertility and aids in balancing your reproducing hormones, especially estrogen.

Nutrition: there are 15 kcal in 1 tsp of bee pollen. If you want the added benefit of an allergy remedy, then be sure to source your bee pollen locally. WARNING – some people have bee pollen allergies, so test out a few grains first, or check with your healthcare provider.

Use: I usually add 1 tsp to my smoothie bowls – both acai bowls and greek yogurt berry bowls – but I recently started sprinkling them over plain bananas, and they add a great texture to the fruit!

Those of us who suffer seasonal allergies will definitely be giving bee pollen a chance! How Bee Pollen Could Cure Your Allergies

Image Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/0f/40/97/0f4097dac0f39cf15f652d11e7bb60dd.jpg

Note: I buy all of the above foods organic, and try to source locally when possible (and if it’s not too much more expensive).

Let me know if you end up adding any of these to your diet and enjoy them – I personally found that I have a lot more energy after incorporating these foods into my daily diet.
Happy healing!

Girl Guilt-Free

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Recovery through healthy indulgence – my ethnic food fiesta

I am an avid foodie, and this was the reason why I was extremely overweight for the majority of my life. In an effort to lose weight, I found myself giving up a lot of the foods that I loved. Eventually, I just stopped going out to explore new cuisines and restaurants – I had a fear of overeating, so employed the “all or nothing” mentality and just boycotted eating out.

My journey to recovering from HA has taught me a lot about self control and really listening to my body – this is called intuitive eating. Because I am no longer depriving my body of calories and nutrients, I am able to enjoy the foods that I am craving without over-indulging. I still track my calories, only because I want to prevent the tendency to binge!

For all you lovely ladies on the road to recovery, indulge in some middle eastern delights for fresh tasting, flavorful, and nutritious foods. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Lebneh – this is a delicious yogurt dip that is packed with protein, healthy fats, and calcium. It is also packed with probiotics to keep your gut healthy!

Image Source: http://food52.com/blog/4547-homemade-labneh

2. Tabouli – this parsley – based salad is super refreshing, and parsley is a herb that is often used as a natural remedy to treat amenorrhea!

Tabbouleh is a refreshing salad made with bulghur wheat, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and mint. If you haven't tried it yet you're missing out! It's delish!

Image Source: http://food52.com/recipes/29842-my-mother-s-lebanese-tabbouleh

3. Hummus – this olive oil and chickpea – based dip is a great tasting source of healthy fats and protein!

Image Source: http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2011/03/spicy-chipotle-hummus.html

3. Babaganoosh – this is an egg plant-based dip, and I recommend ordering the yogurt based version (if available), which packs in a healthy kick of calcium, protein, and probiotics, along with phenomenal flavor.

Grilled Baba Ghanoush

Image Source: http://food52.com/recipes/6574-grilled-baba-ghanoush

Porridge of Champions!

Today, I have my first follow-up session with my doctor since my diagnosis (in March 2015). I am nervous, but a little excited – I hope that all of the lifestyle changes I have made have truly increased my estrogen!

Before the visit, I was sure to power up with a nutritious and delicious breakfast:

– Masala chai latte with organic nonfat milk (the version I make at home only has 52 calories, and is deliciously spice – comment if you’d like the recipe)

Nana-Nut and Seed Porridge

– Organic steel cut oatmeal (1/4 cup dry, cooked in 2 cups water so it is a little creamy)

– 1/2 medium banana, sliced

– 6 organic, raw almonds

– 1 tsp organic coarsely ground flax seeds

– 1 tsp chia seeds

– 1/2 tsp organic ground cinnamon

Breakfast Total: 374 kcalC: 59g, F: 11g, P: 17g, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 19g (all natural, from fruit)

Would pictures make my posts more interesting? Let me know! I was too busy devouring my breakfast to stop and take a photo this morning, haha.

Happy healing!

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free

Sometimes, you’re just hungry, and that’s OK!

Over-Snacking?

So I am trying my best to not constantly think about food, and one of my ways of doing this is to reduce how many times I eat in a day. I had got up to eating about 8-10 times per day. In doing so, I was trying to minimize my caloric intake at every meal. I did this because I was constantly afraid to be hungry and overeat at any given point in a day. I figured that eating smaller, more frequent meals, would help me curb my frequent hunger. The drawback? I began to constantly think about food; I was continuously planning my next meal, and this was because I would never fully satisfy my hunger.

Wholesome Nutrition

I am now making an effort to eat about 6, more wholesome meals in a given day – this way, I hope that I will stop thinking about food all the time. Food is an important component of our lives, but it certainly should not be on our minds all of the time. This is how food and eating become unnecessary stress. That being said, given that I am still tracking calories, I sometimes stress about eating closer to 2000 calories, and have caught myself feeling guilty if I exceed 1900 calories. It is important to understand and accept that on some days, we are just more hungry. I am trying to transition to a healthier mindset around food – if I am eating filling and nutritious foods, but my body still wants more, then I am going to listen to it and feed it up to 2000 calories a day. Who knows, I just may not be as hungry the next day, or the next week.

Guilt-Free Feeding

This is certainly a work-in-progress for me, but here’s a plug to, collectively, let-go of the fear and guilt associated with food. I catch myself, scared to gain weight, worrying about letting myself eat up to 2000 calories a day. “What if my body just gets used to 2000 calories and starts to want that every single day? That would put me at 1400 calories more per week than if I were eating only 1800 calories per day.” Well you know what, no one knows what tomorrow holds – if I feel just as hungry tomorrow, so be it, and if I don’t, so be it. Here’s to just letting go and not feeling guilty about eating the 2,000 calories!

My Typical Monday

One thing I wished more HA bloggers talked about is what their typical day looks like, in terms of food. After all, a huge part of the recovery process is rooted in nutrition. So here is my typical Monday:

5:00 AM (before heading to the airport): I woke up super hungry, and decided that I couldn’t wait till I got to the airport to eat breakfast, so I ate 1/2 cup of Nature’s Path Flax Plus cereal with 1/2 Cup whole Foods Unsweetened Soy Milk (108 kcal).

6:20 AM (at the airport): Organic steel-cute oatmeal with blueberries, and 1 cup of black coffee (228 kcal). I also had my multivitamin, fish oil, and biotin (18 kcal).

9:20 AM (in-flight): Kit’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar (190 kcal).

12:45 PM (keep in mind, I had a +2 hour time zone change at the airport): Starbucks Tall Soy Misto and Subway 6-inch turkey on wheat with guacamole, lettuce, spinach, tomato, cucumbers, and peppers (420 kcal).

2:30 PM (in-flight): KIND Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond Bar (200 kcal).

4:30 PM (in-office): Medium organic pink lady apple, and an earl grey latte using the Tassimo Cappuccino creamer (140 kcal).

7:00 PM: Nonfat Greek yogurt with about 1.5 oz of mixed berries, and 6 raw almonds, all organic (160 kcal).

8:00 PM: Grilled 4 oz salmon with approx. 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/2 cup sauteed green beans, and a little local honey (473 kcal).

9:30 PM: I was craving a little chocolate, but wasn’t super hungry and didn’t want anything too sweet, so I had 5 Somersault cookies (50 kcal).

Daily Total: 1,987 kcal

Happy healing!

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free

Nourishing My Soul – Travel Series

I am constantly on-the-go for work, but I need to be mindful of nourishing my body, specifically with healthy fats and wholesome foods, within the 1800-2000 calorie range. I typically request a refrigerator and a microwave in my room, and do a Monday morning grocery store trip so that I can stock up on snacks and frozen dinner for the travel week.

A lot of blogs dedicated to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recommend eating much more than this, and doing no exercise other than walking. As I’ve mentioned, I have been working closely with a doctor and nutritional therapist, who have advised me to maintain my weight, and not gain. 🙂

Exercise and Restrictive Eating

As I mentioned in an earlier post, extreme caloric increase, ceasing all exercise, and sudden weight-gain may end up causing your body more stress, and your hypothalamus will continue to freak out. The key to recovery is achieving a balance, so that your hypothalamus has confidence in you, and hopefully kick-starts your hormones. This is achieved by establishing and modifying a routine that your body is comfortable with. For example, if you are used to strenuous exercise, you may not want to stop working out all together. Just work to tone down your exercise routine – if you do a lot of heavy lifting and cardio every day, focus on working out no more than 3-4 times a week, and switch up your exercise between spin, hot yoga, weight-training, and barre, for example. I still recommend stopping your running routine though!

Here’s is a typical travel day for me (food-wise):

Breakfast, 7:00 AM (422 kcal): Starbucks Tall Soy Latte (130 kcal), Steel-Cut Oatmeal (200 kcal), Mixed Organic Berries (50 kcal), 6 Organic Raw Almonds (42 kcal)

Snack, 10:00 AM (200 kcal): Kit’s Organic Bar / KIND Bar (

Lunch, 12:30 PM (343 kcal): 2 oz Turkey / Chicken Sandwich with Whole Wheat / Rye Bread, Tomatoes, Lettuce / Spinach, 1/4 Small Avocado

Snack, 3:00 PM (200 kcal): Black Coffee, Kit’s Organic Bar / KIND Bar

Snack, 5:00 PM (100 – 140 kcal): Apple / Grapefruit / Somersault Dutch Cocoa Cookies (available at Whole Foods and Fresh Market)

Image Source: https://thewindsorwriter.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/193852_10150128455571297_5497249_o.jpg

Dinner, 7:30 / 8:00 PM (260 – 320 kcal): Luvo (available in the frozen section at Whole Foods and Fresh Market) Chicken Chile Verde / 9-Grain Pilaf

Image Source: http://luvo.tetherinc.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/meal-healthy-frozen-chicken-chili-verde.jpg

Image Source: http://luvo.tetherinc.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/meal-healthy-frozen-nine-grain-pilaf1.jpg

Dessert, 8:30 / 9:00 PM (200 kcal): KIND Bar / Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries and Almonds / Somersault Dutch Cocoa Cookies and Tea (Women’s Moon Cycle or Healthy Cycle)

DAILY TOTAL: 1725 – 1825 kcal (I usually end up snacking some more, or add some more toppings to my sandwich, to hit a minimum of 1800 kcal) 🙂

Happy healing!

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free

Nourishing My Soul – Bedtime Series!

I travel A LOT for work, which means that I pack a ton of snacks for me to graze on both during the day, and (most importantly) before bedtime.

I try to find a balance of comfort and nutrition, and focus on getting higher fat and whole carbohydrate snacks (low sugar) in before bed. Part of this is to do with the hormone healing process – I want to nourish my body while it’s resting and healing overnight. Here are some delicious bedtime snack ideas:

1. KIND Bars (<5g Sugar Series) – these delightful treats are packed with good fats, all-natural ingredients, and less than 5g of sugar without any compromise to taste. My two favorite flavors are Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond, and Caramel Almond Sea Salt, but I encourage you to try them all – they are delicious (though I must admit that I was not a fan of the Cashew Ginger flavor). Most of their bars average around 200 calories, but product-specific nutritional information can be found on their website.

Image Source: http://images.qvc.com/is/image/m/34/m44334.001?$uspdlarge$

2. Kit’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut – I am obsessed with this brand! They literally taste like a brownie (I usually microwave them for 10 – 20 sec and eat them with black coffee or hot tea), but are made with organic dates, organic peanuts, organic unsweetened dark chocolate, sea salt, organic almonds. Dried fruit, like dates, not only boost estrogen but are also a delicious source of iron and magnesium, as is dark chocolate! I will say that this snack is high in sugar, but it is all-natural sugar from fruit, which is why I let it slide.

Image Source: http://images.clifbarstore.com/imagesEdp/p208788b.jpg

3. Kashi GO LEAN Cereal – I LOVE this cereal with some steamed nonfat, almond, or cashew milk before bed. It has the perfect amount of sweetness (not too much), and the protein swigs are soy-based so you get a kick of phytoestrogens to support your hormones.

Image Source: https://www.kashi.com/image/pim/desktop/402_NakedShot.jpg

4. Steel-Cut Oatmeal – Jamba’s oatmeal is my favorite, and they use soymilk so you get your phyestrogens in. I will say that it is pretty sweet though, so I usually just make my oatmeal in water, and top it with some delicious blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and almonds. I sometimes do walnuts and bananas as well, and add some ground flax seeds (again a good estrogen-boosting food), cinnamon, and nutmeg for a nutritious kick!

Image Source: http://www.jambajuice.com/menu-and-nutrition/menu/tasty-bites/oatmeal

5. Greek Yogurt with Steel Cut Oatmeal, Berries, and Almonds – this is a perfect treat for summer, and would be a delicious breakfast too. Here’s a recipe (and photo) I found on The Cottage Market’s blog. I typically cook 1/8 cup organic steel cut oats (usually I have some left over from breakfast, which I refrigerate), and a 5.3 oz (80-90 calories) pack of organic Greek yogurt, which I top with 1/4 cup berries (usually blueberries and blackberries), and 6-7 organic, raw almonds. This recipe calls for sweetener, but I find that the natural sweetness from the berries and yogurt suffice.

Oatmeal-1

Let me know what you all think – do you have any other bed-time favorites?

Happy healing!

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free

Nourishing My Soul – Morning Series!

So a HUGE part of this journey is going to be my diet. My doctor and nutritionist have advised me to eat between 1800-2000 calories per day, and incorporate good fats in to my diet. These fats will hopefully help boost my estrogen levels, as fats are the building blocks of hormones.

Despite the myriad of blog posts about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, and how to overcome it, I found it particularly challenging to find a lot of posts that were specific to boosting your estrogen, LH, and FSH hormones through food. In fact, a lot of Google articles talked about ways to decrease estrogen levels. This is not surprising, as very high estrogen levels increase your chances of breast cancer.

Anyway, enough context, let me get to the point – here’re the top 5 products I consume as a part of my regular diet, usually as breakfast or a morning snack. Estrogen-boosting ingredients are bolded in pink (in no particular order). Be on the look out for the Supplement Series, Snacking Series, Lunch Series, and Dinner Series of estrogen boosting foods!

Good Morning Happy Hormones

1. Chocolate Nut Butter – I am obsessed with Nutzo’s crunchy chocolate nut butter (in fact it is all I can think about eating right now). It is packed full with a nutritious and delicious blend of organic peanuts, organic cashews, organic almonds, organic Peruvian dark chocolate, organic flax seeds, organic hazelnuts, organic brazil nuts, organic sunflower seeds, and sea salt. With all this healthy fat, it packs in all the wonderful fatty acids and protein your hormones need. TIP: I recommend measuring how much you eat – 2 tbsp packs in 180 calories. It is certainly very rich, but that hasn’t stopped me from eating half a jar before LOL! Eat it out the jar, or scoop it on to toast, a banana, or your morning oatmeal.

NuttZo Crunchy 70% Dark ChocolateImage Source: http://www.nuttzo.com/products/crunchy-dark-chocolate/

2. Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Flakes – bran cereals and flax seeds help boost your estrogen levels as they are both rich sources of phytoestrogens.

Image Source: http://www.vitacost.com/Images/Products/1000/Natures-Path/Natures-Path-Organic-Flax-Plus-Cereal-Multibran-058449770503.jpg

3. Coffee – here’s a caveat: a recent study showed that coffee, or caffeine affects women’s hormones in different ways:

“Moderate daily caffeine intake—about two cups of coffee or 200 mg a day—lowered estrogen levels among white women, potentially offering protection from diseases linked to higher estrogen, such as reproductive cancers. On the other hand, Black and Asian women who drank the same amount of caffeine experienced elevated estrogen levels.”

So, I am an Asian woman, so I am happy to use this as an excuse to fuel my love for coffee! Here’s an instant brand that I like a lot. I wish I had the time to use my French press, but the high-stress nature of my job makes it pretty tough.

Image Source: http://www.vitacost.com/Images/Products/1000/Mount-Hagen/Mount-Hagen-Organic-Coffee-Caf-757922116141.jpg

4. Soy Milk (BE CAREFUL AND DON’T OVER-DO IT – SOY CAN LOWER THYROID FUNCTION, T3, AND WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT) – that’s right, soy provides you with a lot of phytoestrogens! Per my nutritionist’s advice though, don’t go overboard with the soy products. Your goal with healing your hormones is to take you mind and body out of shock. If you don’t consume soy on a regular basis, adding a ton of soy based products is only going to stress your body out. Start out slow – maybe a soy latte, or soy milk in your cereal once a day. I buy 365 organic unsweetened soy milk (from Whole Foods, but couldn’t find a nice hi-def photo) because soy tends to be genetically modified a lot.

Image Source: http://www.organicvalley.coop/uploads/tx_ovproducts/soy_hg_unsweet_ip.png

5. Kit’s Organic Dark Chocolate Walnut Bar – Oh my heaven these are seriously AMAZING! They literally taste like a brownie (I usually microwave them for 10 – 15 sec and eat them with black coffee), but are made with organic dates, organic walnuts, organic unsweetened dark chocolate, organic almonds, sea salt, organic vanilla beans. Dried fruit, like dates, not only boost estrogen but are also a delicious source of iron and magnesium, as is dark chocolate! This is a phenomenal on-the-go breakfast, which I usually eat on my way to the airport, or on the plane.

KIT's Organic Dark Chocolate Walnut
Image Source: http://www.clifbarstore.com/product/kits-organic-dark-chocolate-walnut-12-barsbox

Happy healing!

Lots of love,

Girl Guilt-Free