In 2013 my stomach was at its all-time worst. Without going overboard with TMI, I was bloated all the time and couldn't go to the bathroom—you get the idea. On top of that, I lacked energy, my skin was horrible, and the list goes on. I was self-conscious, didn't want to leave the house most days because I felt so sick, and just knew something had to change. I was working out regularly at that point and not eating as badly as I had in the past, so I was at a loss in terms of what could be going on.

I had stumbled upon information about inflammation, foods that trigger it, the gut, and how they all work together, so rather than heading to my doctor, I decided to eliminate some foods and see how I felt. I cut out gluten and dairy and fairly quickly felt significantly better. I wasn't at 100 percent yet, but I noticed a marked change. Throughout the course of that year, I experimented with eliminating a variety of inflammation-causing foods and taking supplements and began truly healing my body through a nutrient-dense diet that nixed processed and inflammatory foods.

I was finally learning to listen to my body and give it what it really needed.

Through this process, I have learned so much about my body. I have achieved my lifelong goals of sustainable health and happiness by making informed food choices. I always tell people these changes won't happen overnight. The process will take time and effort. But you will feel fabulous. And if you don't, well, nothing has to be forever. My philosophy is all about finding what makes you feel your best and happiest every day.

Whether your diet tweaks are a result of potential food intolerances or sensitivities, or you just want to have more energy and vibrance, that starts with a strong foundation. Here are some tips to set yourself up for success in the kitchen:

1. Clean out your pantry (and take no prisoners).

Ditch processed foods (and/or any food with ingredients that you can't pronounce) and replace them with nutritious snacks and foods. It's the only effective way to remove temptation. When you hit the grocery store to load up on the good stuff, stay on the perimeter of the store, where you'll find the good stuff—and opt for fresh produce whenever possible. Clean eating doesn't have to break the bank, either. A great way to get access to fresh produce without going broke is by joining a local CSA.

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2. Get your prep out of the way on your days off.

It's nearly impossible to stick to an economical, healthy eating plan if you try to prep and cook meals after a full workday. Prep leads to success. Dedicate a weekend day (or your day off) to shop for and cook meals for the week, so you're not ever desperate enough to resort to the vending machine. Portion out leftovers into separate meals for easy grab-and-go dishes throughout the week.

3. When in doubt, reach for the agua.

Up your water intake. A lot of the times we think we're hungry, but we're actually just thirsty. The majority of people don't drink enough water throughout the day. It helps flush out toxins, keeps your body running optimally, and precludes that afternoon "am I hungry or am I thirsty?" debate that almost inevitably leads to an extra snack.

4. Keep calm and give yourself a break.

Take little steps to success, and don't punish yourself for having an occasional indulgence. Balance is important. Think about building sustainable habits over time.

5. Make reading labels your new religion.

You'll find that so many products have added sugars and ingredients that you don't want in your body. Reading labels is a critical step in success and gaining knowledge about the food you are eating. Check out this article for more info on what you should be looking for on your labels.


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