Typical Day of Eats - Pregnancy Edition

I haven’t done one of these types of posts in quite awhile, but they’re always one of my favorites to read! On this particular day, I was home on “Christmas break” but this is typically how I eat on a regular basis — lots of fresh produce, protein, and fats. This day’s meals document what I ate at 38 weeks pregnant hence the random snack in the middle of the night. ;)

I sometimes post my meals over on my fitness IG account — I’m planning to get back into this after baby is born because right now I’m riding the carb train a little harder than usual. ;) Feel free to click on over if this is something that is of interest to you!

You may read more about my approach to nutrition in the following posts:
Typical Day of Eats (Super old post)
How My Diet Has Changed During Pregnancy
Eating Out
Typical Grocery Haul
Healthy + Simple Snacks
Healthy + Simple Meals

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2:30am - Snack
Lately I just can’t seem to make it through the night without a snack, even if I eat something right before going to bed. My go-to in the middle of the night is almost always a bowl of cereal and is usually whatever we have on hand (we switch it up from week to week). I go through spurts of buying “healthy” cereals and then the sugary ones — it just depends on the week. Honey Bunches of Oats was on tap this particular week and man, it hit the spot. I always pour some unsweetened vanilla almond milk on top since we really don’t buy milk except now that I say that, Andy has been on a Fairlife milk kick lately and has been using that in his protein shakes.

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9:15am - Breakfast
I had a horrible night of sleep (didn’t fall asleep until almost 4am) so this day was all sorts of off-kilter. I had breakfast around 9:15am when I woke up — I feel like waking up this late throws me off so much as I’m usually up by 5:30 / 6 am. Typically, I eat breakfast around that time and then will have a snack around 9:30am but since I had a snack in the night and then ate breakfast around 9, I skipped the snack on this day since I didn’t feel like I needed it. Breakfast consisted of a bunch of egg whites scrambled with one whole organic egg and a slice of organic colby jack cheese. I topped it with diced tomatoes, avocado, and S&P. I paired this with some fruit and a cup of coffee with cream.

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12:15pm - Lunch
I had just finished a workout on the treadmill and was starving afterwards so I sat down to this delicious salad. Organic spinach, diced cabbage blend, pineapple, blackberries, sesame seeds, almonds + cashews, and chicken from the crockpot. I mixed it with a little bit of Asian dressing and some coconut aminos (kind of like soy sauce without the soy). I had a pear on the side along with a huge glass of ice water.

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2:15pm - Snack
I had to run out the door to an appointment so I threw together a quick smoothie before getting in my car. Half of a banana, a handful of organic frozen berries, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder. I’ve been on such a smoothie kick while pregnant and this hit the spot! Normally I’d add a scoop of protein powder to this concoction but I’m still avoiding it due to pregnancy per my doctor’s recommendation.

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5:00pm - Snack
I had to run a few errands after my appointment and ended up swinging by Hy-Vee to grab dinner for Andy. I picked up a box of Outshine lemon popsicles on my way to the cash register because they sounded really good and I enjoyed one on the drive home.

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5:45pm - Dinner
I didn’t feel like cooking so I made a little snack plate consisting of celery, carrots, tomato, cucumbers, homemade pumpkin bread, organic colby jack cheese, crackers, olives, and an apple. Normally I’d add a scoop of homemade hummus to this plate but we were all out and I was way too hungry to make more before sitting down to eat. #reallife

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6:15pm - Treat
The doorbell rang shortly after I finished eating and my niece and brother-in-law had stopped by to drop off a container of Christmas treats. Oreo truffles are one of my all-time favorite holiday goodies so I ate two of those before putting the container away.

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8:30pm - Snack
I always have some sort of snack before bed and on this night it consisted of 2% plain Greek yogurt topped with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, melted peanut butter, and a sprinkle of organic unsweetened coconut flakes.

What’s your go-to snack before bed?
Favorite items on a snack tray?
I love cheese, crackers, and olives!

How My Diet Has Changed During Pregnancy

One of my biggest passions is nutrition, which I covered more in-depth in this post not too long ago. I always figured I’d continue to eat this way through pregnancy — and then once I hit about 6 weeks pregnant all nutrition went out the window for the first 12ish weeks. Thankfully, I didn’t really have a lot of vomiting episodes but I did have a hard time stomaching most foods that I used to love.

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My first trimester basically was a game of “keep the nausea at bay”; I only threw up a couple of times, but definitely felt that swirl of an unsettled stomach most days. During this time, I lived off of the following foods:

  • Baked potatoes

  • Organic chicken nuggets

  • Cereal (seriously, SO much cereal)

  • Toast with jelly

  • Crackers / Kettle chips

  • Pretzels

  • Frozen waffles

  • Smoothies

  • Bagels

Not glamorous, but simple carbs were the only thing that I could choke down. When my second trimester hit, my appetite came back and I welcomed all of the veggies and nutritional foods back into my life with open arms.

It felt SO good to be eating my normal diet once I hit month 4ish or so of pregnancy! We moved into our new house around this time and I was so excited to be able to cook in our new kitchen — I made lots of healthy homemade meals and snacks.

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Some of my favorites during second trimester were:

  • Roasted veggies and chicken

  • Salmon and veggies

  • Greek salads

  • Omelets (usually eggs, cheese, tomato, avocado)

  • Veggie wraps

  • Spaghetti squash with ground turkey and marinara

  • Stir fry

  • Soups

  • Flatbreads

  • Grapes

  • Raw veggies with hummus

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Towards the middle of my second trimester, I started having a lot of issues with low blood sugar (blacking out). I had a few conversations about this with my OB and after continuing to up my snacks and protein, this situation has improved SO much.

Before pregnancy, I ate about six small meals per day — breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Now, I eat about eight just to keep my blood sugar levels stable since my blood sugar tanks if I go longer than a couple hours without something to eat. I feel like this sounds kind of excessive but when I say small meals, they consist of things such as carrots with a side of cottage cheese.

I’ve lost a little steam since hitting third trimester — I’m still eating my normal diet but my meals have gotten a lot simpler due to the fact that I’m just really tired by the time I get home from work each evening. Below is a list featuring my current rotation:

  • Salad topped with buffalo chicken

  • Lots of oranges, pears, and apples paired with roasted almonds

  • Organic soups from Costco’s deli section

  • Cottage cheese with fresh pineapple

  • Homemade turkey chili

  • Greek yogurt topped with berries and almonds

  • Oatmeal with berries and peanut butter

  • Breakfast sandwiches (sprouted grain bread, cheese, and an egg)

  • Sprouted grain toast topped with cottage cheese and lots of black pepper (don’t knock it till you try it!)

  • Apples with peanut butter

In short, my diet is pretty similar to pre-pregnancy with the addition of more snacks and more protein so that our little guy can grow big and strong! I do find myself thinking about my food choices more than before and sometimes will force myself to eat something more nutritious than what really sounds good at the moment (aka making chicken and roasted sweet potatoes instead of eating a bowl of popcorn for dinner). :)

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As far as “eating for two” goes, I really haven’t abided by that mindset. I’ve mainly been eating my usual calorie intake (around 2k calories since I’m not on a rigid training schedule anymore) for the first trimester and a half, upping it slightly for the second half of pregnancy, and then just supplementing with extra snacks whenever I’m feeling hungry (my doctor agrees with this approach 100%). As part of a balanced diet, I enjoy a treat on the regular (usually a piece of candy or some sort of dessert) but haven’t been using pregnancy as an excuse to eat junk. It’s important to me to fuel my body in a healthy way that provides our little guy with the best nutrition so that he can develop and feel his best.

Are you a snacker or a three meals per day type of person?
Favorite healthy snack?

Healthy + Simple Meals

You guys know that I love living a healthy and active lifestyle -- it always makes me feel my best! I recently shared some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks and today I'll be sharing some healthy + simple meals! I'm also linking up with Sarah and Emily to chat about crock pot meals! 

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I prefer to eat a very fresh, simple diet -- most of my meals are composed of mixing a bunch of items I've already prepped (chopped veggies, cooked lean meats, etc.) rather than following complicated recipes. If there's something that I'd like to make -- take tomato soup for example since I just made that a few days ago, I usually just make it up as I go. I know that I like my tomato soups to have a little texture and have a lot a basil, so I roasted a huge pan of tomatoes, garlic, and onions, pureed it with veggie broth and tons of basil, and then seasoned it to taste (adding EVOO, oregano, and S&P) as it was simmering on the stove. 

For me, the key to making healthy + simple meals is meal prepping! I do this almost every Sunday afternoon to set myself up for success during the week. Veggies are washed and chopped, grapes are rinsed and put into a large container, sweet potatoes are sliced, and chicken / turkey / salmon (whichever is my protein of choice for the week) is cooked.

Below are some of the meals I've been enjoying lately -- they all were thrown together using items from my meal prepping and most don't take more than a few minutes to make.

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Deconstructed Greek Salad - leftover salmon from our Sunday dinner, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, homemade hummus, homemade tzatziki.

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Roasted Veggie Bowl - refried organic black beans, homemade hummus, roasted veggies: zucchini, roma tomato, brussels sprouts, red onion. I paired this with a whole grain flax tortilla with hummus to give this meal a little more staying power.

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Avocado Toast - Toasted Ezekiel or Dave's Killer Bread, mashed avocado, a tomato slice, and a fried egg paired with fruit on the side.

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Thai Chicken Flatbread - Whole grain flat bread, topped with cheese, Thai-seasoned chicken, red cabbage, red peppers, carrots, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and drizzled with a homemade Thai peanut sauce. We love these flatbreads (they're at Costco) -- they're great for making wraps, quesadillas, burritos, and flatbreads.

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Omelet -- Egg white omelet filled with cheddar cheese and fresh avocado slices with fruit on the side. I have weird things about eggs and if I think about them too much, they freak me out -- especially the yolks. Due to this, I prefer egg whites to eggs most of the time since they taste less egg-y if thank makes sense! :)

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Baked Salmon + Veggies - Baked salmon (I top it with butter or olive oil and S&P before baking) and roasted veggies -- usually something green, some onions, and grape tomatoes. This is a meal that we usually make on Saturday or Sunday evenings when we're at home.

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Stir Fry - Veggies and chicken or turkey mixed with General Tso's stir fry sauce and topped with chopped almonds or peanuts for some crunch. I usually pair this with some bread or rice so it holds me over longer. I love making these when I need to clean out the fridge -- any veggie is great to add to the mix! 

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Salad + Chips and Salsa - I like to always have veggies, some sort of fat (cheese or avocado or nuts), and a protein on my salads. Most of the time I make my own dressings -- either a honey mustard one or a vinaigrette made with EVOO, lemon juice, vinegar, S&P. This meal is perfect for hot summer evenings.

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Buffalo Chicken Flatbread - Buffalo chicken, cheese, onion, tomatoes, romaine, and a drizzle of ranch.

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Oatmeal + Fruit - Old fashioned oats with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, chopped peaches, and a sprinkling of almonds for some crunch.

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Homemade Pizza - Multigrain flatbread topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, sausage, and tons of veggies. Clearly we use these flatbreads all the time! 

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Packed Lunches - As far as lunches go, I almost always bring a wrap, soup, salad, or leftovers to work each day. Snacks for work always include a yogurt cup, a fruit, a veggie or two, and some almonds. 

Two of my blogging buddies are chatting about crock pot meals today and here's the thing -- I never use our crock pot! Ever! Andy uses it all the time to make a huge batch of chicken breasts every week, but I never use it. I don't eat a lot of meat and I haven't really experimented with crock pot recipes for other meals. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the other linked posts from today to get some ideas to try out this fall and for easy meals once baby is here! 

What are some of your go-to meals?
What do you usually pack in your lunch?

Healthy + Simple Snacks

I had a reader request that I do a post on easy and healthy snacks / meals and I was so excited to see this request come in! Nutrition is a huge passion of mine and I could seriously talk about this all day! I'm going to split this into two posts -- one for meals and one for snacks to avoid this getting too lengthy! 

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I also want to share a bit of background info about how my diet has changed throughout the years -- however, if you're just here for the snacks (I don't blame you!), feel free to skip to the second half of this post.

I was a 90s kid, which meant we ate the typical 90s fad diet -- lots of processed foods and low-fat everything. Breakfasts were usually sugary cereal during the school week and then my mom would usually make French toast, pancakes / waffles, eggs, etc. on the weekends. I brought a lunch from home most of the time and it usually consisted of a jelly sandwich on white bread (I was super picky and didn't like PB on my sandwiches), pretzels or crackers (Cheez-Its, Goldfish, etc.), a Yoplait yogurt, and maybe a couple Oreos or some grapes -- this was washed down with a Hi-C juice box every day. The best day ever was when I'd open my lunchbox and there would be a pizza Lunchable in there -- score! We ate dinner each night as a family -- I remember that things like tator tot hotdish, chow mein, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti being regular items on the menu. 

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Just for fun, here's a pic of me in 1st grade -- definitely rocking those 90s bangs!

Snacks were usually some sort of fruit snack, Chex mix, etc. after school. My absolute favorite after school snack was apples dipped in caramel sauce, which my mom usually made for us in the fall. I also remember eating a bowl of ice cream almost every evening before bed. As I'm typing this out, I'm realizing all I ate as a kid was sugar -- it's a miracle I didn't become diabetic by the 6th grade.

Fast forward to college -- I ate a lot of junk because hello, meal plan with tons of options and there was also a food court type place in the bottom level of the dorms that I lived in. This place served chicken strips, pizza, quesadillas, and a million types of ice cream treats -- plus it was all "free" because all you did was swipe your student ID to use your meal plan flex dollars. This was all fun and games until your new jeans feel a little snug.

I started eating healthier my sophomore year when I lived off campus (I lived with my grandpa and step-grandma and it was SO nice for my introverted (at the time) heart.) The dorm life was not my fave -- so much drama and no personal space. I lived at home my junior semester (I graduated early but that's a story for another day), and then got an apartment with a friend after I graduated that December. I started cooking more but didn't really have a concept of what was healthy or not. It wasn't until the following year that I started reading up on nutrition and began eating a clean and balanced diet.

This diet has evolved to what I eat today -- which is 90/10 clean eating. What this means is that 90% of the time my diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods, while 10% consists of treats (because hey, we all need an Oreo or four every now and then!). I stopped eating red meat in high school because the taste / texture bothered me and haven't eaten it since. I went vegetarian for the past year or two, but have recently brought chicken, turkey, and fish back into my diet.

Whew, that might be more than you ever wanted to know about my diet! Let's move on to some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks. I've always been such a snacker and tend to eat 5-6 smaller meals per day verses three larger meals.

Below are some of my favorites snacks that are in heavy rotation! 

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Energy Bites
I started making these last summer and I'm obsessed! They're cheaper and healthier than buying granola bars and it's so easy to switch up the recipe. Usually I stick with a PB, oats, honey, flax, chocolate chips version, but this week I decided to change things up a bit and did almond butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, peppermint extract, cocoa powder, oats, and honey.

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Fruit
I'd say about 75-80 percent of our weekly groceries consist of produce -- fresh and frozen are what we usually pick up (canned foods aren't my favorite).

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Veggies
I'm a million times more likely to eat veggies if they're already washed and cut -- it feels too daunting when you're starving to open the fridge and see the package of celery in there knowing it needs to be washed and cut. I also love pickles + olives, so a lot of times I'll throw a few of those in there as well. I prep a HUGE container of these every Sunday so all I have to do is grab a handful and toss it in a bowl or a little container to take with me.

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Banana + PB
This is a snack that never gets old -- I just slice up a banana and add a dollop of peanut butter. If I'm extra hungry, I'll put it on a piece of toasted Dave's Killer Bread or Ezekiel bread.

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Yogurt
I eat both the plain Greek variety and these fun little flavored cups, which have a good amount of sugar, but I figure that if this is the worst thing I'm eating all day, I'm doing okay!

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Homemade Popcorn
This has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a kid -- we use a popcorn maker similar to this one and it's super easy to make popcorn in the microwave (no oil needed!). I almost always top it with lots of pink Himalayan sea salt and melted butter.

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Nuts
We buy the big bags of pistachios and roasted almonds from Costco and they're the perfect snack! 

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Smoothies + Protein Shakes
These have endless combos -- some of my faves are:

  • Frozen strawberries + banana + almond milk
  • PB + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • This mocha powder + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • Frozen triple berry blend + splash of OJ + half of a banana + almond milk + spinach
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Healthy Dips
I love making homemade hummus, guac, or tzatziki dip for veggies! Definitely an easy way to sneak in some extra fat or protein! 

What are some of your favorite snacks?
Any topics you'd like me to do a blog post about?

Real Life: Balancing Your Hormones

Today's post discusses female health and hormones with a dash of TMI (if you know me, you'll know I'm an oversharer). If this isn't your thing, feel free to skip today's post and visit tomorrow to talk about planning for the holidays! 

Hormones are definitely one of those things that I haven't really thought about much and they ended up being one of those things that you don't realize how great it is to have them work properly until they don't. Kind of like how it's easy to take your health for granted and you don't realize how good it feels to feel good -- until you're sick.

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Due to a heck of a lot of stress (family, stressful job, and training for a fitness competition), my hormones got all out of whack beginning in May of 2014. At first I noticed some annoying symptoms -- hot flashes, acne all over my back and chest, and weight gain in my abdomen. The weight gain was weird for me because I've never really gained weight in my stomach before -- this was my first clue that it was hormonal.

I visited my primary care doctor and after some blood work, she said my hormones were a little off but nothing to be really concerned about since I was going through a stressful season of life.

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Long story short, the symptoms continued to get work as the stress increased. Along came insomnia, horrible water retention, and my hands, feet, and underarms were constantly slick with sweat. I was also experiencing irritability, constantly feeling frazzled / overwhelmed, and having irregular periods. I didn't sleep through the night for weeks at a time -- waking up at 3am almost every night and never falling back asleep. In addition, I felt so self-conscious because my hands were always bright red and burning hot / sweaty, as shown in the photo above.

Then, during a really hard month (August 2016), things hit their peak -- I was experiencing extreme fatigue, even more stress at work, and the worst part was that I had put on 17 pounds by Thanksgiving that year. I'm only 5' 3.25", so even just 5 pounds on my petite frame is very noticeable. I felt frumpy, fat, and gross. Oh, and constantly hot thanks to the hot flashes. I felt like i had nothing to wear and wasn't putting a ton of effort into my appearance because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. None of my clothes fit -- even my underwear were too small which was an awful feeling! I cried at the drop of a hat (and I'm not a crier!) and felt overwhelmed at the smallest things such as going grocery shopping. 

I found a new primary care doctor and during our first appointment, it was through tears that I told her I didn't feel like myself anymore. She diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and said I had also become estrogen dominant. We tried a conservative approach at first -- since my diet was already clean she had me focus on more rest, meditation, and this crazy regime where I'd sit in the sauna for 10 min, followed by a freezing cold shower for 3 minutes -- repeat 3 times a few times per week. There was zero improvement and by Christmas, I was so over it. 

In mid-January, I went back to her office and told her I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted my body, energy, and happiness back and was willing to do whatever it took. She wrote me a prescription for bio-identical progesterone cream and instructed me to really watch my stress levels. I started using the cream daily, while taking the week of my period off. After two weeks, I noticed that I felt like my head was more clear -- I didn't feel so frazzled like I had in the months prior.

I also took this and this which helped a little but I noticed the most success with the progesterone cream.

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A month later, I noticed that my clothes started fitting a little better. I went and bought a couple pairs of jeans before our spring break trip and had gone down a whole size. The acne cleared up and the hot flashes and sweating began to taper off.

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Not too long after that, I quit my job that was making me so unhappy. In the months that followed, the weight continued to drop off without me making any diet or fitness changes.

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This fall, the rest of the weight has come off putting me back at my happy weight -- the weight I was before all of the hormonal changes. The photos above were taken 9 months apart from one another -- hormones a mess on the left, and back to myself on the right! There is a 17 pound difference between these two photos, (which you can really see in my face), but the most important thing is that I feel like myself again! My confidence and energy / enthusiasm are back and it feels SO GOOD to feel like myself again! 

Here are the things that didn't work for balancing my hormones:

  • Working out like a madwoman
  • Constantly stressing over my body
  • Dieting

Here's what did work:

  • Implementing bio-identical progesterone cream
  • Managing my stress
  • Focusing on relaxation: meditation, essential oils, going for walks, etc.

Going through the past 3 years of having unbalanced hormones was so challenging and something that I wouldn't wish on anyone. If you're struggling with hormonal imbalances or have any questions, feel free to contact me! 

What's your favorite way to relax?
Ever overcome hormone issues before?