I had an interesting realization recently that showed me how important all this chemical free stuff really is. If you haven’t heard of an organization in Spokane called ‘Beyond Pink‘, well, you’re missing out on something so important.
So much of what we consume these days can lead to the development of cancer. Sugar, chemicals in our household and personal care products, processed meats, fragrance – all of these things have links to cancer. While it’s hard to avoid all of them all the time, it’s important to be aware, and make changes as necessary.
Recently, I was attending an event with a group of women who have set out to inspire others by sharing their struggles. The stories we share are compiled on the BuildU Girl Gang blog that is free to view. Our hope is to reach as many women as possible, and that they find something that resonates with them and provides hope for the future. I was introduced to Charlie Brewer, one of the founders of Beyond Pink, at this event. She spoke softly, but with an obvious passion for her mission. She spoke about Thermography and the mission of her organization. At the end of her introduction, she said, “Now I’ve seen all of your faces, so I better see a grant request for every single one of you tomorrow morning!”
Thermography is a medical screening device for breast cancer and other breast disease using infrared detectors, commonly called infrared cameras. This procedure is non invasive and does not use radiation. It is complimentary to mammography and causes no harm to the patient. Beyond Pink is dedicated to providing information on breast thermography, risk assessment, early detection, prevention and ultimately the preservation of the breast and the survival of women. (Source: beyondpink.net)
One thing to keep in mind is that Thermography is not a stand alone examination and cannot diagnose or rule out the presence of breast cancer regardless of the risk rating assigned. It is a fantastic addition to standard breast screenings and diagnostic examinations. When interpreting the images, they look for unusual patterns of blood vessels and warming that can suggest inflammation or unusual vascular activity. Inflammation or unusual vascular activity may suggest risk for the presence of breast cancer or risk for developing cancer in the future.
To say the least, I was intrigued. As I filled out my grant application, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was inspired by Charlie’s call to action, and figured there is really nothing to lose! My grant was approved within a week of application – these ladies are really on top of their stuff! I scheduled my appointment, and patiently waited to see what this thermography thing was all about.
The appointment for my imaging was… a little awkward. I should have known what to expect, but for some reason, I wasn’t prepared for my tata’s to be hanging out for an entire hour. Karla, the technician and co-founder of Beyond Pink, made me feel comfortable and totally at ease – she has done this hundreds of times! In order to ensure the best images possible, you’re first asked to disrobe from the waist up and allow your upper body to cool down. This process takes 15 minutes. Once your body temperature has dropped a bit, they begin the process of taking images. To conclude your appointment, Karla completes a thorough breast exam. After the one hour appointment, Karla prepares your images and sends them to the Beyond Pink provider of your choice to interpret the results.
As part of the grant, each patient receives a 30 minute visit with a qualified Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes the prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage self healing. Unfortunately, western medicine does not practice around the idea of prevention. I love that Beyond Pink partners with these types of professionals – you would likely never hear a medical doctor promoting the types of preventative measures that a ND recommends.
When I arrived, we sat down and started discussing my results. Based on the images, you are given two different ratings – Thermal Risk Rating (TH) and Estrogen activity. The TH rating describes the level of inflammation and blood vessel activity in your breast tissue. A higher rating can contribute to your current and future risk. This rating is scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 behind the highest risk. Elevated estrogen levels have been identified as a significant risk factor for breast cancer. Your results will show your estrogen levels on a scale of 1-4, with four being the highest risk. These two ratings, along with the temperature patterns in the left and right breast, can provide valuable insights into your current and future risks for developing cancer.
The later half of the appointment is spent discussing prevention. The ND will discuss your current lifestyle, and how you can improve in your every day life to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Reducing your environmental exposures can have a significant impact on your overall health. Cleaning up your personal care products, like make-up, deodorants, and discontinuing the use of fragrance are the first recommendations that are made. Talk about affirmation of everything I’ve learned! It was surreal talking with a professional about the true risks of these types of products on long term health! The ND will also recommend a set of dietary guidelines. Limiting alcohol, caffeine, soy and GMO consumption, eating organic, and daily exercise are all important to consider, especially if you’re thermogram shows your high risk. On top of that, considering natural cleaners, glass food containers, and dumping your fragrance plug-ins and candles will help to limit your exposures at home. If you’ve been reading my blog, you can see why my mind was literally blown!
If you have never heard of Beyond Pink, or you have and you have NOT had your Thermogram, I would encourage you to go to their website and complete the grant application! If you are over the age of 20, yes 2-0, they recommend you have one. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, I urge you even more to go have this done! It is free, unless you feel you can contribute financially to the fee. These women are professional, and passionate in their mission of helping women take preventative measures against breast cancer. You will not regret your decision to do this for yourself.
Weight loss is hard, amiright? Health and fitness is truly a lifelong battle, and one I struggle with daily. To be successful, you truly have to make an appointment with yourself every day, and make your fitness a priority. Lately, I have been struggling to do that. I went from a very regimented, consistent schedule, to not knowing what to do when I roll out of bed. By the time I am ready to go to the gym, my clients are getting off work, and I am cancelling my scheduled appointment with myself to accommodate them. I LOVE my clients, and my job, but this is a sign of my lack of discipline, and I am not sure how to build that up anymore.
When I was young, I played softball. That activity kept me in relatively good shape until I quit as a Sophomore. Once I stopped playing softball, I took up weight lifting. I am SO grateful that I took those classes in high school. Without that experience, it would be very difficult for me to approach fitness in my adult life. Of course I never considered myself skinny or fit, although, I was probably in the best shape of my life.
Between the ages of 19 and 20, I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I was wearing clothing I would never have felt comfortable to wear in high school. I felt confident for the first time really, ever. My favorite jeans at the time were these low-rise True Religions, a size 29. They were skin tight, super comfy, and made me feel really sexy. At this same time, I was obsessed with Abercrombie & Fitch, so I wore a lot of their t-shirts. They were also very form-fitting. I don’t recall a time prior to this where I actually felt good in my clothes.
Looking back, I wish I had appreciated my body, and this time in my life. My husband and I had just moved in to our first apartment. We were so young, and just learning how to live life together. Life was simpler then, and I feel like I didn’t enjoy it like I should have. My negative body image really played into my happiness. I felt like I had gained so much weight since high school. None of my old jeans fit, but again, I was in better shape than I am currently so…
During this time, I left my job as a barista and entered the corporate world. Leaving my incredibly active job for something more sedentary had major effects on my body. Coming off of some pretty traumatizing life experiences, I was soothing myself with yummy, and incredibly unhealthy foods. The weight quickly packed on, and within three years, I would say I gained 50+ pounds. I hardly recognized myself, and was quite frankly disgusted by my reflection.
Knowing I wasn’t ready to take the steps to change my physical appearance, I tried to keep my complaining to a minimum. I continued to grow out of my clothing, bras and underwear. As I felt those things happening, I never once said I was going to get in the gym and change it. I wasn’t motivated to. The last thing I wanted was to get a gym membership, and abandon my plan within 30 days. So I waited… and waited.
At the end of 2016, Conrad and I told ourselves we were going to get back into shape and start eating healthier. He grew up in a home where he ate a lot of healthy foods, foods I honestly wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. It wasn’t unusual for him to eat chicken, rice, and asparagus for any given meal. I grew up eating a lot of frozen foods, and hamburger helper, so it was particularly difficult for me to create healthy eating habits.
In the midst of my weight gain, I spent a lot of time studying healthy eating habits. I knew exactly how to train in the gym for my goals, but food is a completely different beast. I looked up tons of different recipes on Pinterest, I follow more than a handful of fitness influencers on instagram, and tried to wrap my head around what it would look like to create healthier eating habits. Macro counting came up often in my research, and seemed like something I could tackle. Macro counting involves eating an amount of calories that are sustainable for your specific weight, and fitness goals. When you ‘count macros’, you are tracking the number of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins you are consuming. While I didn’t strictly count macros for very long, I gained so much knowledge from this practice. If you don’t already, I would highly encourage you to look at the labels of the food you are consuming, and learn what portions of those foods are an actual serving. It’s incredible what an actual serving of rice, or peanut butter looks like if you have never weighed it out before. Taking it one step further, I would encourage you to purchase a food scale. For a short time I actually weighed out everything I ate – I know, it sounds extreme. But it helped me to be more precise with my food intake, and I learned a lot from it!
This brings us to February of 2017. I finally made a commitment to get a gym membership, and clean up my eating habits. It was a small commitment – five to six days a week of doing just 30 minutes of cardio a day, that’s it. I also exclusively ate fruit and protein smoothies for breakfast, and chicken and vegetables for lunch and dinner. I never expected to stick to this plan or even see results from it. Three months later, I had lost 25 pounds. I remember putting on one of my workout tops, and it was seriously a dress. One of my favorite pairs of leggings was falling down while I exercised. My bras were getting to be too big. I was addicted, in a good way.
At that point, I joined an online fitness challenge. It provided me with free workouts, and nutrition advice. I felt ready to step back into the weight room and train the way I really wanted to. I felt so insecure walking into that room. All the mirrors all over the walls just reminded me how far I had to go. But I stayed the course. By the end of the summer, my reflection was a lot different than it was a few months earlier.
This momentum carried me into the beginning of 2018. I was eating the same foods daily, and working out consistently 4-5 times a week. By my one year anniversary, I had lost 60+ pounds. I felt good, I was happier than I ever remember being before I started living this healthier lifestyle. Buying clothing was exciting, and I was constantly updating my wardrobe. All of my clothing that was too big was donated. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did it. It feels like something someone else did. There’s no way that is MY accomplishment. I am so proud of my weight loss. My outlook on life was completely different as a result. I truly believe it’s the reason I decided to leave my job and become a full time Realtor. The sense of accomplishment that experience provided me made me feel like I could do anything I set out for.
Unfortunately, when life changes occur, it’s easy to lose sight of your other goals. As 2018 came and went, I gained about 10 pounds. Now, most people would say that really isn’t a big deal, but it is for me. As hard as I tried to keep my health goals in sight, it was incredibly difficult. My visits to the gym became less frequent, and I am fairly certain Conrad and I ate out more than we ate at home. This has had an incredible impact on my mental state. Some of you know the severe anxiety I tend to suffer from, and I know a gym routine could help ease that. It’s just not that easy when you’re in it though. You know what’s logical, but that logic doesn’t always help you to see through the fog.
In my line of work, mindset is everything. Any business owner can probably attest to the fact that if you don’t feel good about yourself, your business struggles. Well, we can’t have that now, can we? Even when I mess up, I try to wake up the next day and make better choices. When I find myself sitting at home doing nothing, I try to get motivated to get into the gym. If I can start my day off right with a high protein breakfast, that usually helps tremendously with staying on track during the day. But I certainly have my days. I literally just threw away a cookie as I sit writing this, so that tells you where I am at.
If you are one who struggles, I am right there with you. If you are having a hard time getting started, just keep trying. I really don’t think I could have lost the weight if I wasn’t really ready but keep it a priority and set yourself up for success. Don’t buy the foods that tempt you. Put your workouts in your schedule. Visualize yourself losing the weight; buying new, smaller clothes; feeling more confident. Even when it feels like it’s impossible, just know that you can do it. My best advice of all? Find your WHY. Why do you want to be healthy? Is it for your kids? Is it for your husband? Do you have health risks to be mindful of? For me, it was for my health and my husband. I don’t want to be 60 and unable to do the things I love. I want my husband to be proud to call me his wife. Every day I try to remember that I’m not just working out and eating healthy for the physical aspect. It’s so much more than that for me.
Ultimately, your health journey will bring more joy than you initially set out for. As you scratch and claw to achieve your goals, remember that your return is going to be so much more than you hope for.
If you feel like this resonates with you, I’d love to have coffee! Or if you feel like an accountability group might be something you could benefit from, I’d love to try and put something like that together for those interested!
Anyone ever had that moment where you make a decision, once proposed by your husband and you subsequently ignored him because he was being ridiculous? That moment that follows months or years down the road. He says the words, “I told you that a long time ago”. This happens to me quite often. I love my husband so much, but there are many times where I don’t take his advice to heart. He is so wise beyond his years, and incredibly talented. I guess I have this need to find things out for myself? Who knows.
This not so uncommon occurrence happened recently when I replaced all of our plastic food containers, for glass. Conrad has always HATED plastic containers. They seriously gross him out so bad. Me? I LOVE them. They’re cheap, stack together for easy storage, and I can store all my meal prepped food in them. I can also throw them out if something questionable has been stored in it for way too long. I grew up using plastic containers. It’s an easy choice for me.
Conrad loves to use gallon Ziploc bags to store everything. Yes, it seems like a better alternative because you use it once, and you throw it away. Totally bad for the environment though – not a fan. He just hates that you can literally see the food left over from an overly used plastic container. Conrad whined for years that he prefers glass. Time and time again, I would say, “No, because I have to clean them, and it’s a pain!” Of course, since he wasn’t doing the dishes, we never made the switch.
Then, one fateful day, I watched the documentary The Devil We Know on Netflix. Want to continue life as you know it? DON’T watch this documentary. I question everything I once believed after learning some of the staggering facts about the ingredients used to create plastic and non-stick products.
Yes, I switched all of our plastic containers over to glass Pyrex containers (my husband won!). I will soon switch all of my Teflon coated pans to stainless steel as well. Many companies still utilize BPA (Bisphenol A) in the production of their plastic goods. BPA has also been found in the inner lining of aluminum cans, and many other consumer products. Constant heating of a plastic food container can cause chemicals to seep into your food or beverages. “Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure.” (Source: Mayoclinic.org) Maybe this doesn’t sound risky to you, but the switch for me was simple, and why not do it just in case?
If you’re concerned about the possible effects of BPA, you can reduce exposure by:
- Using BPA-free products. Manufacturers are creating more BPA-free products. Labels will now indicate if something is BPA-free. If there isn’t a label, keep a lookout for plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 – they may be made with BPA.
- Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin. I have seen some cans that now claim they are BPA free – especially organic products, so watch out for that as well.
- Avoid heat. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
- Use alternatives.Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.
The Devil We Know touches more on the scandal surrounding the DuPont Teflon plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia and how they covered up the risks of exposure to humans. The major story with Teflon is regarding a chemical that is emitted in it’s production, PFOA. Even the smallest exposure to this gas has been shown to cause birth defects, cancer, and even death. Not even being over dramatic. The small town of Parkersburg called Dupont out on dumping chemicals into their water supply, causing farmers to lose 100’s of cattle, among all of the other health effects above. Meeting minutes between Dupont leadership shows that they knew about the contamination of the water supply, and they did nothing to stop it. The chemical is so prevalent, the CDC states that 99.7% of Americans are born with PFOA in their blood streams.
You guys, I’m not joking. This stuff is REAL. I say it every time – I sound like a psychopath. This documentary is no joke though. It’s not some type of biased opinion about something political. These are cold hard facts about a company literally putting millions of Americans in harms way, just to make a buck. Don’t even watch the documentary. Look up PFOA, or Dupont, or Teflon scandal. The information you will find is incredibly alarming, and the stories of deformities, cancer diagnosis, and death are way too real.
I haven’t dished out the cash for my new pots and pans yet, but when you’re buying pots and pans, whenever possible, choose items made from safe, non-toxic materials like carbon steel, ceramic, lava rock, porcelain enamel, or tempered glass. Cast iron and stainless steel are generally okay, though they too can leach heavy metals – iron and nickel respectively – into your food, so it’s generally a good idea to stick to other materials for long-simmering dishes or recipes that contain a lot of acid, such as tomato-based foods. (Source: https://www.organicauthority.com)
See these links for information about Teflon and the health risks they impose.
Moral of this whole story, listen to your husband. He is usually right, you’re just too blind to see it.