Health, Pretty Well

Trending Healthy

I walked out of the Indie Beauty Fair feeling more overwhelmed than encouraged. The process of fighting the crowd, going from booth to booth, and hearing about countless products left me exhausted. I wasn’t sure how I could possibly know which product claims were true and, ultimately, which products would work best for me. I’m analytical to a fault at times, and my trip around the Indie Beauty Fair brought out my need for things to be black or white. I flew back to Georgia the following day with many questions still on my mind.

Green, organic, clean, natural, non-toxic. They are buzz words of our generation. We are valiantly attempting to reverse the effects of mass production and consumption while working to provide our children with more simple and cleaner lives. Mindsets and companies are beginning to make changes. It’s encouraging to see changes taking place and the many voices advocating for clean living. Yet, navigating this landscape proves challenging.

I sat reading a few research articles and blog comments on cleaner living the other night. I was shocked to find an absurd amount of hateful talk and fingers pointing here and there about who is right and who is wrong. I closed my computer, looked over at my husband and said, “This is more complicated than I realized. There is confusion surrounding certain ingredients and companies with no definitive answers in sight.” I sat thinking about different arguments swirling around individual ingredients in products labeled as natural or clean, and on a deeper level, I couldn’t help but think about my own life and perceived contradictions.

Like the fact that I occasionally eat the really unhealthy cereals (okay, maybe more than occasionally) or that I take medication for my autoimmune disorder. There is also the fact that my family is involved in conventional farming. Does that disqualify me from having a voice in this area? Does that make my experience less valuable? I felt concerned about products on my blog, figuring it’s a matter of time before the Green Police start disagreeing with my decisions.

My mom is full of wisdom and she makes an effort to live a more healthy lifestyle, so I decided to bring up my thoughts to her. “It feels like there are no clear answers when it comes to living a cleaner and more healthy life. How do I help make a difference when the answers are not clear?” I asked her. She reminded me of the many women struggling with self-confidence and skin issues, and she also reminded me of my own struggles leading to this journey.

Like the time in middle school when I was crying in her arms as we stood in front of the bathroom mirror. My acne was horrible. Kids were mean. There was also the time we traveled to see a prominent esthetician. The results were horrible and made everything about my skin worse.

I also remembered people constantly telling me that I, “need to wash my face,” as if I wasn’t doing that and it would heal all my skin problems.

Most recently, I remembered my first autoimmune disorder related sun rash and walking out of the doctor’s office with the autoimmune disorder diagnosis knowing my life was forever changed. I promised myself that I would make changes in order to give myself the best life possible.

All of these moments and many more are part of my story. It’s so important that we not let confusion or opinions hijack our sense of purpose and passions on any journey. It’s important to hold your story in the forefront so you’re not easily distracted by the many voices lining the road.

I believe, for the most part, we are all living life the best we can with the information available to us–whether that is related to food, children, or beauty products. One of my favorite ideas is the idea of “trending toward” something. That is how I like to think of my life and clean living journey these days. I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to ingredients and products, and I don’t know that anyone ever will. I know that some things are a big “No” while others are still in question. I know that opinions vary on different companies. Most importantly, I know what works for me and what to avoid to prevent autoimmune flares.

I am trending toward making better decisions for my family and personal health one day at a time. My goal here is to help you trend toward a better life. A life where you are confident in your beauty, decisions, and health. Yes, the choices can be overwhelming at times, but this is a journey rather than a final destination. You simply have to start somewhere.

These days I am giving myself some grace and extending that to others. It has helped ease the burden I feel to make the absolute best, right, cleanest, most perfect decision possible.

-Jess

Pregnancy, Pretty Well

Pregnancy: The Best Surprise

The day I found out I was pregnant will forever be frozen in time. My first instinct was to walk laps around the inside of the house. I just started walking and kept walking as I processed what was ahead. This was not planned so it was such a surprise! My mind was filled with delight and hope and shadows of fear. Fear of the unexpected and a path I had never walked down before. Yet, I felt so blessed that I had been given such a wonderful gift. When you have an autoimmune disorder, you never really know how your body will respond to pregnancy. I often questioned if it would even be possible for me to have children. Here, on this day, I was met with that reality and resounding YES. Yes, it is possible and it’s happening right now! I called my doctor to make the first appointment and waited for what felt like years before the day came. But, then it came.

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Hearing that heartbeat for the first time brought me much peace. The fear whirling around started to settle after seeing our little one and talking with the doctor. My midwife along with my rheumatologist developed a plan for care, and things have been great so far for our baby and me. We are hopeful and excited for the next few months as I finish up the second trimester and finish out the third. The autoimmune issues have only tried to flare a few times, but it’s usually taken care of with a little extra rest. I’ve been proactive in taking care of my joints and preparing my body for this time. We also made the decision early on that we would celebrate this pregnancy and not fear anything to come or any “might-be.” It has made a huge difference for me. Instead of spending time worrying about hypotheticals or statistics, we have rejoiced and celebrated the little life we already love so much!

My Pregnancy Self-Care Routine 

  • Biweekly prenatal massages. Find someone who specializes in prenatal massages in your area.
  • Prenatal yoga (group classes weekly and at home). I cannot recommend this enough! It’s a great time to connect with other expectant mothers and learn correct form for practicing at home.
  • Walks outside. Vitamin D + low impact exercise for the win!
  • Vitamins. I went the longest time without taking my prenatal vitamins. I’ve recently started taking them and notice a difference.
  • Salt baths. Epsom salt eases aches and boosts your magnesium. Add some essential oils for added benefits.
  • Quiet time to reading and writing. I love flipping through magazines right now. I also have started a Bible study on the book of James. It’s a great way to relax if you have a busy mind like me,
  • Give yourself some grace to rest. Growing a baby is no easy task! I’ve had to learn to let some things go (hello wrinkly clothes) or allow my husband to help.
  • Be joyful; fear less!

Whether your already a mommy or hope to be one, I wish you well on your journey!

Faith, Health

The Autoimmune Journey

I’ve gone back and forth on sharing my health struggles since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder a few years ago. It was one of the darkest seasons I have walked through to date and it changed my life in so many ways. There are a lot of people suffering, often silently, with autoimmune conditions like Lupus and too many others to name. As I have opened up about my own struggle to individuals, I have learned about others walking down a similar path. Still, I find myself trying to sweep it all under the rug…continuing on with life as normal. Continuing on is fine (because you truly have to), but I think the sweeping creates an issue. It makes us feel isolated and alone in the diagnosis and the life changes that come with it. I hope to offer a story of hope as I share various aspects of life with an autoimmune disorder. So, I am making the decision to start sharing more.

I am technically diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. I have antibodies for Sjogrens but it symptomatically acts more like Lupus. The two are often closely related. I had not felt well for a large portion of my life, especially after getting ill multiple times in high school. I made it through college and a few years after college with a few symptoms. A lot started to change as I got older, and my husband (who I was dating at the time) encouraged me to go to the doctor. The story gets a little complex from that point, but I was finally able to get connected to great doctors and explore treatment options after about a year. I’m terribly stubborn and refused to take the medicine I needed for the longest time (thanks to my curiosity and the terrible stories online). I’ve battled the fear that accompanies this sort of thing. I’ve spent morning in tears because my joints ached so bad. I’ve gone from someone who loved a good tan to embracing paleness in the name of being well. I’ve felt guilty and lazy when clean eating plans have failed to make a difference. I’ve wondered if it would ever get better. And, guess what?

You adjust and life does get better. I have gotten better. I had to learn to let go of the past, of what used to be, of who I used to be. Things like this have the ability to change you. You either get better or you get bitter.

I’ve had to learn a new way of life, but that life is perhaps better than before. As I sat with my Rheumatologist for the first time, big tears in my eyes, she assured me that there would be a time of adjustment and transition. Honestly, I think knowing that was the most important part…giving myself and continuing to give myself the grace to navigate life differently. And, through it all, I’ve had to trust in the Lord’s plan for my life and his promises to protect me and watch over me. He has done just that.

-Jess