Tag: Brain Health

The Pursuit of Happiness: 3 Steps You Can Take to Retrain Your Brain

Every single thought you have creates a chemical reaction in your brain. EVERY. SINGLE. THOUGHT. This changes the physiology in your body.

Our negative thoughts, therefore, if left unchecked, will obviously takes us down a road toward anxiety, depression even obesity, violence, job dissatisfaction…etc. This is according to Dr. Amen, who I would consider to be a brain guru. He attributes our overall health and success to our brain health.

Now, before you get all carried away and think we all need to have a Pollyanna perspective on life, do understand that there is an appropriate amount of anxiety that is designed to drive us to make positive changes. If you are an individual who practices more of the “ignorance is bliss” way of life, and your responsibilities get lumped into what you ignore…this is absolutely the WRONG direction to go down. Or if you choose to stuff your feelings, so speak, rather than dealing with them…same outcome. It will lead to more UNHAPPINESS as you are not living in reality, letting problems mount and feelings fester. These things WILL come out someway or another {not to mention, people in your life tend to suffer from this way of living}.

If, however, you find yourself “stuck” in a negative thought pattern and you are able to be real enough with yourself to know that this steals your happiness: there is hope. There is a ton of hope, in fact.

Here are three very practical things that you can start doing TODAY to help retrain your brain <3 PROTECT YOUR BRAIN

Our brains are far more susceptible to damage than most people think. One reason for this is that we are used to walking around like this and the symptoms we deal with seem “normal” when in fact they are not. For example: sleep issues, mood disorders, problems with focus and brain fog, memory issues…just to name a few: these are issues that we attribute to age or stress, and some of that is true. However, we can do a lot to experience far better brain health and therefore, far better overall health than we give credit for.

Start with the obvious stuff: wearing a seatbelt, wearing helmets when appropriate, being careful with how sports are played (there is a plethora of information out nowadays regarding the brain damage football & soccer players in particular sustain and how it impacts their lives later on).

Think about what goes into your body: drugs, alcohol, too much caffeine, certain medications, smoking. Many of these substances reduce brain flow by a tremendous amount, which in turn decreases brain activity.

In addition to those things we take into our bodies, it is important to reduce your toxic load from the things we don’t mean to put into our bodies: Cleaning supplies, detergents, dryer sheets, fragrances, beauty supplies, pesticides… Research is finding that this toxicity is connected to ADHD, Autism, lower IQ, chronic inflammation and more. These issues are even being found in babies born to mothers exposed to environmental toxins

Sleep: too little sleep, or poor quality sleep will cause damage that can appear like heavy drug use or even chemo on your brain. Our brains repair during sleep. If you are chronically lacking sleep, you are depriving your brain of this repair.

Manage stress: this can be a hard one, with the fact that some stressors are unavoidable. However, consider ways in which you can reduce or better manage any chronic stress you currently have. This might look like counseling, adding exercise to your routine, perhaps saying “no” to some things and reducing the load you have on your “plate”, it might mean changing jobs… The bottom line is that chronic stress will cause stress hormones to build to the level that is toxic to the brain and will even kill brain cells.


Our brains thrive off of healthy fats and omega 3 fatty acids. Our Standard American Diet {SAD} greatly lacks in these areas and instead is extremely heavy in sugar and simple carbs which leave the brain deprived and us feeling, lethargic, craving more junk, moody, with blood sugar issues, with chronic inflammation, with brain fog. Diets like PALEO & the ketogenic diet are PRO BRAIN! It is important to get rid of old messages we have been taught about saturated fat and cholesterol {both things our brains NEED!!} and to let go of the “low fat” mentality! ALSO: eat your eggs, most importantly the yoke!


This takes some dedication, but it can do WONDERS!

“Research by Mark George, MD and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that happy, hopeful thoughts had an overall calming effect on the brain, while negative thoughts inflamed brain areas often involved with depression and anxiety.” Amen Clinic

How do you do this?? You can start here:

Consciously challenge your thoughts: rather than let your negative thoughts run wild and direct your day, your mood, your outlook, face them, challenge them and change them. Of course it won’t feel natural to do so and your mind will want to snap back to that comfortable negative space, but just keep doing it! “Fake it ’till you make it”! Get yourself in the habit if switching to a positive thought and eventually it will happen automatically.

So there you have it: three things you can start doing TODAY to change your brain from limping along and being unhappy, to thriving! I know the first step contained a lot of different things. So: cross off the ones that are not an issue for you. From what is left, pick one item and work on that one thing until you have effectively changed it and can move to the next thing.

DO NOT try to change too many things all at one time!! This is a sure way to fail and then feel worse than when you started.

If you are at a stage in life where you need some guidance along this journey, a health coach can be a great benefit to you. I am happy to set up a free 30 minute consultation with you and come up with a plan/program to help you become the happier, healthier, more vibrant person you want to be!

Set up a consult through email: jessica@healthwithjess.com

Beyond Your Jeans (and Your Genes)

If you would have told me even a year ago that I would be headed into my 5th month of following a ketogenic protocol I would have laughed.
Although I started out with a Paleo approach, I still really preached “balance” and that meant “all things in moderation…every day”. Because I was still keeping my weight where I wanted it, I felt that I could still have my ice cream, crappy coffee creamer and wine EVERY NIGHT and it had nothing to do with my sleep issues, hormone issues, blood sugar issues or adrenal issues {ignorance isn’t always bliss}.

Well, I guess the blessing in disguise was that life got more stressful for me and my body decided it would try to get my attention by putting on a few pounds and NOT LETTING THEM GO. Now, a few pounds {and literally I mean just a few} might seem like nothing to some. However, we all have our happy place, our set point, the spot where everything fits just right. And when you are a whole 5 feet 4 inches tall, a “few pounds” can quickly move you from that happy place. So, not sleeping well, PMS symptoms I hadn’t had since I started my period eons ago, sever adrenal issues and now the pounds. Cue the white flag! I surrender!

Isn’t it funny how things work? Just as I am surrendering and needing to find better solutions to my health issues, the ketogenic diet starts taking center stage in the health and wellness world. I don’t mean it just started showing up on facebook and in fitness magazines {which I don’t even read anymore}…I mean health professionals who I respect and follow started talking about it. People who base their profession on science were in the keto camp and I was astounded! My only impression of keto {which was super negative} came from the Atkins craze. I was not at all impressed and the word keto was a FOUR LETTER WORD as far as I was concerned!

What I didn’t realize, but thankfully took time to find out, was that a true ketogenic diet is not like Atkins. Atkins is higher in protein, doesn’t prescribe as high of fats and really allows far too many artificial ingredients. This is just some of what I don’t love about that plan.

So, imagine, this girl who was hardcore on the “low fat” train listening to all of this “high fat” stuff! But, wow, I was intrigued. What really gets me is all the neurological benefits and how much it can help reduce inflammation in your body overall. I really was not aware of how much carbs can contribute to brain fog…something I am all to familiar with. I think what I might have expected was some kind of caffeine induced kind of feeling when I got into ketosis…but that’s not it. I just feel…clear. Clear and like my energy is consistent. Having been on a blood sugar roller coaster for some time, this has been quite a welcomed state of being.

In addition to this mental clarity, something I was very drawn to when researching the ketogenic approach was how it can help with depression and anxiety. This stuff runs rampant in my family & I am pretty sure I am the only one in my immediate family not on medication. Now hear me out: I know medication can be super beneficial and NEEDED for some. However, I am not that person. I know that I can lean toward depression and anxiety genetically and have learned how to manage and maintain and not fall into those holes so deep that I can’t pull myself out {by God’s grace, truly}…but I have to remain aware and proactive. Not only do our brains love ketones for energy, but pushing glucose to the side really helps reduce inflammation in the brain {and throughout the body}. This is such an excellent thing when it comes to mental health issues whether it be mood disorders, attention issues, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.

So, although I appreciate the physical outcomes of the ketogenic diet, the things that happen beneath the surface are even more worth it!

If you have been contemplating the ketogenic diet, I would encourage you to check it out. However, a caveat: understand that you need to commit to this approach. The ketogenic diet is about switching from burning glucose to burning fat {ketones}. This won’t happen if you just “dabble” and don’t fully allow your body to transition. If you aren’t serious about it and don’t really follow a true ketogenic diet you will likely a) feel like crap, b) not lose weight, c) possibly gain weight {if you are eating tons of fat but also too many carbs and not in ketosis}.

If you are ready to check it out and would like some guidance, I am currently taking clients and am happy to schedule a 30 minute FREE consultation with you to chat about setting you up on a plan. I also run monthly private FB groups for women and that is another option! Email me for more information or to schedule a consultation: jessica@healthwithjess.com

Something seems a little fishy…

Omega-3. What’s all the hype, anyway? You see it everywhere. So eat more fish, right? Or take fish oil supplements? Why do we need this nutrient anyway?? Well….. I’ve done a lil’ research. Let me share:

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA…cute, isn’t it? PUFA…rhymes with loofah. Sorry. I get sidetracked). This is a nutrient that our bodies do not manufacture on their own. Therefore, we need to get it through our diet.

So just why is Omega-3 so important? A few things we know so far:

Heart health. Research suggests that fish oil can help lower triglyceride levels and aid in the prevention of heart disease, such as congestive heart failure.

Brain health. Omega-3 contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)…say that 10 times fast! Or…even one time slow. 🙂 In addition, it has eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Whew. Both of these are critical for healthy brain development at any stage of life. You will notice DHA & EPA on labels for baby formula as well as milk products, etc. these days. This is why. And, again, our bodies do not produce these on their own.

As I said, though, DHA & EPA are important at any stage of life. As the brain degenerates with age, DHA & EPA help boost brain health and therefore slow the process of degeneration. Also, studies have been pointing to the role omega-3s play in mental heath disorders such as depression, ADHD and other mood disorders, to name but a few.

Next questions: how much do we need? Do I need to eat salmon every day for the rest of my life? what if I don’t like salmon?

Ok. First of all, omega-3 fatty acids are found in highest concentrations in cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and cod. Here is a list of fish options based on their level of omega-3s: Fish with high levels omega-3.

We need around 1,000-1,500 mg of fish oil per day for optimal benefits. Yup. That’s a lot o’ fish. So….what if you don’t want to eat fish 5 days a week? Supplement.

You have to be careful with which supplements you choose. There’s the obvious “after burp”. Y’all know just what I’m referring too. Ew. But you also have to pay attention to getting a pure fish oil that is not highly processed as well as NO OMEGA-6!!!!

I will explain omega-6 in my next entry. Just understand that in our Western diet we get FAR TOO much and it is detrimental at such high levels.

For now, I will leave you with information on a wonderful fish oil supplement that tastes delicious! No joke. Even my seven year old who is as picky as they come asks for more. No “after burp” either!

Omega Swirl: yummy fish oil supplement. We like the key lime flavor, but there are also other flavors. I found mine at our local vitamin/supplement store. You can also order online by clicking the link and going to the Omega Swirl site.

This is the condensed version of the omega-3 story. There are many more benefits and research is learning more all the time. The fact that there is so much to gain in health from these fatty acids and virtually no side-effects…well…it’s awesome. More info to come…