Posts in Personal Growth
Year End Review

I love this time of year. The holidays have run their course, the rush to shop and fit in all the holiday parties has subsided, and the promise of a bright, shiny new year is on the horizon. I always feel a unique combination of nostalgia and anticipation as the days of the current year dwindle down. 

New Year’s resolutions are a controversial topic and if you’re a Questioner like me (where my Gretchen Rubin fans at?), January 1 can seem like an arbitrary date that gets way too much credit. [Seriously, who picked dark, cold January to be the start of the new year?? What about spring where everything is bright and happy and blooming? I digress…] Whether you pick an intention or set specific SMART goals, I do think it’s important to reflect on the progress you’ve made throughout the year.  The intentionality of evaluating what you want to bring with you and grow in the new year and what should be left behind helps set the tone for moving forward. 

Today I’m sharing the review I’ve done for the past three years to get me in the right mental space to take on a new year. Pick and choose what speak to you or go all in, but whatever you pick make it your own and be honest with yourself. This is purely for you and I promise you the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. So, get cozy and light yourself a candle, pour a cup of tea and get out your favorite pen and some paper. Let’s dive on in. 



I like to start with what I call Keep, Stop, Start to get the juices flowing. Take out a piece of paper and make three columns. Don’t think too hard about it and just brain dump your thoughts onto the page. 


KEEP - What actions, people, habits, hobbies, and events were important to you in 2018 that you want to bring into 2019? Maybe it was how you started going to yoga consistently or you started putting your health first – whatever it is that you thought benefited you in a positive way, stays with you in the new year. 

STOP – What held you back this year from being your best self? People, habits, energy investments, finances, negative self-talk, anything that feels incongruent with the lifestyle you are trying to live. These are the energy sucks that no longer need to consume your time in the new year.  

START – What habits will bring you closer to your best self? These are the new opportunities, the big ideas that keep you up at night, the people who deserve your energy, the adventures you want to take. Throw it all on the page, brainstorming whether it’s a super specific goal or a general intention. 



Now that you’re feeling inspired and excited for the possibilities of 365 days, lets tease out the highs and lows of 2018 of the past year and see what we can learn from it. If you keep a planner or a journal, I like to go back over each week to remind myself of all that happened.

·     What were your favorite memories of 2018? 

·     What were your biggest wins?

·     What challenges shaped you?


Now it’s time to get focused. You have another year of experience under your belt of what worked and didn’t work. Take stock of where you are right now.  

·     What specific goals do you have for 2019?

·     What could stand in your way of achieving those goals?

·     What would it take to make 2019 a “success”?



Create a strong visual of where you want to be. Spend some time thinking how you will feel when you achieve your goals and where you want to be when you’re reflecting on 2019 a year from now.

 ·    My relationships are …

·     My finances are ….

·     My career is …

·     I am … 


This is my favorite part of the review, because you are picking a word that serves as your intention and motivation for the next year. I like to choose something I am in need of in my life. Two years ago my word was “healing,” when my health was at it’s absolute lowest and I was about to start the Autoimmune Protocol. Every hard day, every decision I made I would ask myself, “will this bring me closer to healing?” Last year I picked “joy” when I was struggling with moving across the country away from my family and friends. I made some big decisions this past year, including welcoming my pup Lola into my life who has brought me immeasurable joy. 

What do you need more of right now? Look back on what you’ve written in your review. What themes are sticking out to you? 


I am ecstatic for this new year of growth for you, love. Let me know your word for 2019 so I can support you in your journey. Cheers to you! 

xo, Mel.png
You've Been Diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease... now what?

Go ahead, babe. Take a deep breath.

I know you’ve been living in pain and shame, trying to find answers and relief. Maybe you’re still looking for a diagnosis or maybe you just heard those fateful words from your doctor “autoimmune disease.” You’re likely feeling overwhelmed with how you’re going to move on and what the worst case scenario involves. Or anger that you have to shoulder this burden and wondering why it had to happen to you. Or an intense wave of sadness that none of your hopes, dreams, and goals will ever come true and you’re doomed to spend the rest of you life like this. You’re wondering if chronic illness really means like, forever. And maybe a smidge satisfied that you’re finally validated with a diagnosis after years of trying to explain your symptoms.

Whatever you’re feeling, feel it. Don’t try to push it down or muscle through, because these emotions tend to bottle up and can get in the way with your healing process. There’s probably a lot of advice and two-cents being thrown in your direction. There’s a lot to unpack and you should take the time you need to

It’s still extremely painful for me to think back to the time when I was given my autoimmunity diagnoses, Psoriatic Arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome. I was in so much pain and deeply unhappy. While it was validating to be given a diagnosis it wasn’t followed up with solutions that sounded like they were going to do much good. The only option the doctor played out for me was a pharmaceutical drug that I would have to take for the rest of the life - that might work in reducing my pain. The scary list of side effects was so overwhelming to me and I knew in my gut there had to be another way.

So I took some time and that’s how I found the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), the healing diet that helped me live a life without pain. From my initial diagnosis to when I changed my diet and adopted a healing lifestyle, I took six months to research and grieve and while my condition did deteriorate I felt that taking that time to get clear on what I wanted from my life was key in me being able to start AIP and never look back. 

I still have my bad days and I tend to flare after periods of high stress (hi finals) or travel, but my life is radically better since focusing my energy on my health. I hope you find some comfort in these lessons I learned through my diagnosis and share your own below so we can all support each other on this journey.

Graduation Day May 2016. I was in so much pain and inflamed. My feet were swollen in my shoes and I felt so uncomfortable in my body. I would be diagnosed two months later.

Graduation Day May 2016. I was in so much pain and inflamed. My feet were swollen in my shoes and I felt so uncomfortable in my body. I would be diagnosed two months later.

Feeling healthy and happy two years later. Inflammation has decreased, pain is minimal, and most days my autoimmune disease is an afterthought.

Feeling healthy and happy two years later. Inflammation has decreased, pain is minimal, and most days my autoimmune disease is an afterthought.



The pain and symptoms you are feeling are real, no question about that. But our minds also play an important role in the way our symptoms manifest. If we believe that we are sick and there’s no chance we are going to get better, even with all the healing magic progress will still be delayed. You know I’m all about feeling your feels and allowing yourself the time to grieve and be angry. In the midst of that, allow yourself to feel hope. Start each day with a positive affirmation “I am healing” or “I trust my body to tell me what it needs.” It’s amazing how shifting your perspective from one of discouragement to optimism can reap physical benefits in the body. 

2017 was the year I started AIP and I called it my “year of healing.” That whole year any time I was making a decision I asked myself “will this bring me closer to health?” and if the answer was no, I put myself first. I said no to social plans, I quit my job, I applied for a masters program to learn more about holistic nutrition - all things that helped restore my health by adopting the mindset of healing.

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I found it really helpful to fully understand my disease and what it meant to have an autoimmune disease in general. I highly recommend consulting books or scholarly articles instead of Dr. Google. Without fully understanding what is happening, it can be really scary and anxiety inducing. Find a doctor that you 100% feel is in your corner and supportive of the path you choose to take to heal. I feel so supported by my doctor so much so that I’ve continued to see her via Skype from Portland after I moved from  North Carolina. Find a doctor that is patient and answers all your questions, who educates you on all the treatment options and allows you to make an informed decision, and who empowers you to take charge of your health. I definitely give credit to the diet recommendations, supplements, and protocols she has had me on to improve my health, but the encouragement my doctor gives me helps me to keep going on this path. You can find a functional medicine practitioner in your area by searching

If your budget allows supportive therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, or counseling this can be a comforting way to receive care in between visits with your doctor or for more immediate pain relief while you’re trying out new protocols. Build yourself a team and remember to always go with your gut.

Some of my best friends who helped me get through the first year of my diagnosis. They kept my spirits up, tried all my AIP baking attempts, let me pick the restaurants we went to, let me cry, put up with my crankiness, and were simply there for me through it all.

Some of my best friends who helped me get through the first year of my diagnosis. They kept my spirits up, tried all my AIP baking attempts, let me pick the restaurants we went to, let me cry, put up with my crankiness, and were simply there for me through it all.


Find your people and lean into them. I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment as a 22 year old being diagnosed with arthritis and the last thing I wanted to do was tell my friends who were all living seemingly normal, fun social lives that I was struggling. But that’s exactly what I needed to do. I found my tribe, the people who were really there for me and understood the best they could what I was going through. Friendships shift and it’s important to include the people in your circle who support healing and want the best for you.

If you feel totally isolated and that no one understands you, look to social media. We live in an age where we are no longer limited by our geographic location to the friends in our lives. I’ve loved being able to connect with people all over the world who are on a healing path with autoimmunity. Some of my favorite hashtags for finding fellow are #autoimmunewarrior, #autoimmunepaleo, and #autoimmunedisease. 



This one is important. Life will be different, but it will still be beautiful. You might need to give up something you love and trust me, I know how hard that can be. Before I was diagnosed, I was a group fitness instructor and it was an identity that I held close to my heart. I was teaching 4-5 times a week high impact, high energy classes and I loved it. With my arthritis, that type of exercise makes me flare and I’ve had to let that part of me go. I was angry about it for a long time but I was able to find yoga which I now also love. Life changes and our obstacles sometimes end up pushing us to find other ways to find joy in our lives - we just have to let them. I now count my autoimmune disease as one of my biggest blessings. It gave me the chance to reevaluate my life. I changed my life from stress, pain, and anxiety to one filled with balance, energy, and contentment. The struggles truly make us stronger my friends, this is only your beginning




The Paleo Approach - Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

Autoimmune Wellness Handbook - Mickey Trescott & Angie Alt

The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook - Mickey Trescott 

He Won’t Know It’s Paleo - Bre-anna Emmitt

The Healing Kitchen - Alaena Haber & Sarah Ballantyne

Nourished - Racheal Bryant


Autoimmune Wellness

Unbound Wellness

Grazed and Enthused

The Paleo Mom

Grass Fed Salsa

You are never ever alone on this journey, love. Hit the comment button below and let me know how you’re doing - have you recently been diagnosed or have any advice for someone who is just beginning their healing journey?

xo, Mel.png
Six Tips for Easy Breezy Mornings

Oh, mornings. You know those annoying chipper people who enjoys waking up at the crack of dawn, the ones who don’t even need a cup of coffee before they dive into soliloquys of deep thoughts and maybe even… workout? If you had told my college self that I would be waking up at 6 am now not to quickly finish a paper to submit but for pleasure I would have laughed while downing my fourth coffee of the morning.

I’m definitely not Miss Sunshine when I first wakeup but there is something so sweet to me about getting up before the rest of the world and having time just for me. I don’t race into my mornings - I savor them and have developed a morning ritual I look forward to each morning. I love sipping a warm mug of matcha while walking my crazy pup around the neighborhood. I read a few pages of an inspiring book and journal while eating my breakfast. I make sure I always have enough time to enjoy my mornings before getting dressed and ready for the work or school day.

My advice is to start small when you’re changing your routines and set the alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier. You can add one new habit at a time and see how you feel for a week with this change. A simplified morning brings a simplified mind. You have the rest of the day to rush and do work, you deserve to start your day with a little peace so you can bring your best self to everything that you do.



I’m always amazed how much of a difference this makes in freeing up precious time in the morning. It’s always the mornings that you need to be on time to an appointment that your dog throws up or your alarm doesn’t go off. Take fifteen minutes at the end of your night to set yourself up for the next day. Packing your lunch ahead of time means you can just grab and go after your alarm sounds and you’re heading out the door. For ideas of meals that travel well, check out my post Simple Lunches for Life on the Go. Give yourself the simple gift of hustle-free morning. The less things you need to do in the morning the less stressed you’ll feel falling asleep and waking up, knowing you have a blissful morning ahead of you.



After a night of fasting, breakfast helps our body refuel for the day ahead. Protein, fat, and fiber make for a delicious and satiating trio. Try an egg scramble loaded with veggies and topped with avocado or a sweet potato, kale, and ground chicken skillet. Bonus points if you can put the phone down and engage in mindful eating, paying attention to the tastes in each bite. 



Are you one of those people that says “I don’t have time to read” and has a shelf of books you’ve promised you’ll get to? I feel you. With so much screen time reading, studying, or working it feels like we’re reading all day and we just want to turn on Netflix and turn the brain off. Reading is an amazing gift because we are able to learn about new cultures, stories, and ideas without ever leaving our couch. You never know what sentence you’ll read that totally changes your concept of the world and speaks to your soul. If ten pages seem too much or too little, just set a fifteen minute timer. Education doesn’t need to stop when you graduate, invest time in your learning.

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I love starting my day with a pen and paper and writing down something I’m grateful for. When you approach the day with a loving heart, it’s a lot easier to have patience and empathy for the people around you that might normally grate on your last nerve. No matter the hardship you are facing there is always something that makes life beautiful and this simple activity helps shift the brain from seeking out the negatives.  



Coffee, tea, warm lemon water, hot chocolate, whatever your thing is I’m sure you reach for it each morning. There’s nothing better than a warm mug to coax you out of bed. I can always tell the difference in a day I had matcha in the morning from the days I didn’t, it’s just not the same. I love adding MCT oil and medicinal mushroom powders for some added brain fuel for my day. For recipes on how to take your morning mug game to the next level check out my FREE resource Healing Mugs for Every Morning.



I wear the same makeup nearly every day, if I wear it at all. I wear my hair in a top knot or leave it down after air drying it. I wear jeans and a nice shirt to school. I do this so my brain doesn’t need to waste time making decisions, leading to less fatigue in the afternoon. When your brain begins to automate tasks it has more endurance for the tasks it’s really needed for. This is my baseline - less time on the excess, more time for nourishing my mind and body.

Those are some of my easy tips for stress free mornings. I’m a firm believer that the tone of your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. Hit the comment button below and tell me, what would you add to this list?

xo, Mel.png