About Me

Thursday, January 01, 2015 Alanna Figueira 19 Comments

Welcome to my blog!  My name is Alanna.  I have been interested in health for what seems like my whole life. I started my journey studying dietetics for 3 years but never followed through with my internship due to a combination of personal reasons and I was not happy with the education I was receiving.  I moved on to a more holistic health oriented path after realizing I disagreed with a lot of the mainstream information I learned in college.  I studied Chinese medicine and acupuncture afterwards and learned more about health and nutrition in one or two classes than I did in 3 years of dietetics. While having babies kept me from pursuing either path, it has also also taught me more than any school and my love for holistic health, nutrition and REAL food has never been stronger.  It took me a long time to figure out how to properly nourish MY body.  I'm still working on it.  I'm a perpetual college student turned stay at home mom and master mixologist in the kitchen. I've been eating paleo for a few years now and love grain free baking.  Food is my passion and my hobby.  I'm excited to share my recipes here.  You're not going to hear about low fat, egg whites, low cal, or diet anything here. I eat upwards of 2,500 cals a day. I hope to inspire, and be inspired too!
I am not a doctor, registered dietitian or personal trainer.  I am only sharing my personal experiences with food here. This page is to help others by sharing my experiences. Believe it or not this is the shortened version of all this. I had the rare experience of experiencing both a vegetarian pregnancy and a paleo pregnancy. There are so many details that I will spare you, I really just want to get the main points across. 
I get so many emails and messages about paleo and pregnancy and nursing.  I've created this page to direct people to when they ask.  I am a mother of 2 and a HUGE advocate for (full-term) breastfeeding and home birth.  So I'd love to share my story with you all, and tell you how this lifestyle came about for me and how I maintain it with kids.  This is personal, please keep all negativity to yourself.  
I feel like a need a timeline for this story, but I'll do my best not to lose you. When I became pregnant with my now 3 1/2 year old I was a vegetarian and had been for 10 years.  I swore I would never eat meat.  It was a moral decision for me.  While I didn't have any health conditions I was aware of, I had an unpleasant pregnancy.  I was tired all the time, I was extremely nauseous, had chronic migraines, horrible reflux and acne. I have had headaches my entire life, but these migraines were something else.  I had to nap with my son every day  for all 9 months just to be functional.  I not only felt horrible, I looked horrible.  I gained almost 60 lbs and was completely bloated from head to toe.  I couldn't stop gaining weight and I wasn't eating anything crazy- in fact I was trying to eat what I believed at the time to be healthy- whole grains, dairy, veggies, fruit.  I attributed all of these things to hormones.  I was using a midwife for my prenatal care and was planning for a home birth.  She warned me about vegetarianism and pregnancy; that it wasn't ideal and she has experienced nothing but problems with vegetarian mothers.  She told me about a vegan mother that she assisted that had many complications and a very low birth weight baby.  I insisted that I would get all the nutrient I need through my vegetarian diet. 
From month 1 of pregnancy I experienced strange cravings for roast beef. I would crave it all day long and be grossing myself out at the same time!  I had no idea why this was happening.  When it came down to blood work time, I was determined to be anemic.  I thought, ok, I'll work on it and get my iron up by time I'm ready to give birth.  No problem. I was only 3 months pregnant at the time.  My midwife said it would only get worse, the baby would start leeching from me.  I aggressively attempted to get my iron up.  I took prescription iron, I took floradix; an herbal iron supplement, I took spirulina and ate all high iron foods.  I researched.  I ate seaweed, I drank blackstrap molasses, you name it  tried it.  I was re-tested around 5 months and it was much worse.  I was severely anemic at this point.  My midwife sat me down and told me in the kindest way possible that if I wasn't able to get my levels up, I wouldn't be allowed a home birth.  I was now high risk.  I was devistated.  She told me it would get worse!  I researched like mad.  All the different types of anemia, I started taking vitamins to increase absorbency... I got a prescription for folic acid, supplemented B12.  7 months it was worse yet again.  My midwife kept saying "can't you just try a grassfed steak?" 
I said f- it.  I'll try.  If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this.  I'm going all out.  The most iron rich meats are liver and oysters and I ate just that.  I threw up from the liver so I decided to start a little easier and went with the roast beef I'd been craving my entire pregnancy.  I had a roast beef sandwich.  I re-tested 7 days later and my iron had skyrocketed.  All of a sudden I was in the clear.  And guess what? I felt better, my energy was up.  It was the most bizarre thing ever.  But I only had a piece of the puzzle solved.  I was still eating grains and my body was disagreeing but I didn't know that yet.  But this changed the whole way I viewed nutrition.  Bioavailability is a concept we look over when making food choices.  A lightbulb went on for me.  You can eat all the iron rich cereal in the world and your body will never absorb it.  I'm not going to get all scientific but there are 2 types of iron- heme and non-heme.  Heme comes from meat, ONLY, chicken, beef, fish.  Non-heme comes from vegetables, legumes, grains etc.  But you can't properly absorb non-heme iron without the presence of heme iron.   And without meat, I can't see how heme iron could possibly be present.  It is only available in meat. 
I had my son naturally at home at 41 weeks.  He was 7lb 9oz and the sweetest little thing ever.  He developed jaindice day 1 and by day 3 needed to be hospitalized.  I kept him in the sunlight, breastfed him as much as possible but his case was severe.  He was so lethargic he couldn't nurse.  His billirubin level was 20 when he entered the hospital- if you know about jaundice you know this is dangerously high.  He spent 24 hours under the lights and 24 under observation mad was ok to go home.  He was an extremely fussy baby. He was very gassy and unhappy quite a lot.  Not colic, but he was definitely uncomfortable daily.  He would cry inconsolably and many times I contemplated taking him to the emergency room.  It wasn't until he was 4 months old that I figured out he was dairy sensitive to cow milk proteins in my milk.  It took a pediatrician, chiropractor and gastroenterologist to figure it out!  After I eliminated dairy he was a new baby.  This is when I started to seek a new dietary lifestyle.  I started working with an amazing chiropractor.  He insisted that no dairy, gluten, soy, or sugar be in my diet while I'm nursing my son.  This is when I finally started losing some weight.  Let me back up a minute and say that all that weight I gained during pregnancy did not go away when I gave birth!  After my son was born I was bigger than I'd ever been in my entire life.  I had gained 60 lbs and obviously lost some when he was born, but could not lose a pound for the life of me!  My midwife assured me my body was carrying extra weight for breastfeeding reserves, and that was enough to simmer me down.  But I didn't feel good.  I felt huge and uncomfortable but chose to focus on my new baby rather than my body.  
When (I thought) it was time to start solids with my son we had a whole new set of issues.  I started with vegetables at 6 months.  His first food was butternut squash.  His system was so sensitive that he would break out in eczema each time he ate anything.  So we determined he wasn't ready and held off until he was 8 mos.  He still got eczema.  He was and still is so sensitive, and I believe it started in utero and the daily assault on his system from milk protein weakened his gut.  He is still sensitive to food.  He is prone to diarrhea and eczema.  His gut needs healing.  When he was 1, I started introducing gluten free grains.  This was a mistake. Some babies don't even develop the enzyme to digest grains until 2 years old! Can you believe that?  So why are we starting babes on rice cereal? That is a whole'nother post!  In any case, I was further weakening this poor child's gut.  
Somewhere around this time I stumbled into paleo.  Bear with me for a flashback moment.  I was introduced to Weston A. Price Foundation and Nourishing Traditions by a professor in grad school for Oriental Medicine.  I hated this professor but I know now that we crossed paths in life for a reason.  At the time, I was a vegetarian and ignorant to her information.  I put my hands over my ears and refused to hear what she was preaching.  Looking back she taught me more than I ever learned in Dietetics.  Flashback over.  I started reading everything. I started baking grain free.  I read Nourishing Traditions. I started making bone broth and taking fermented cod liver oil.  I went grain free.  I read The Primal Blueprint and It Starts With Food.  I started following Mark's Daily Apple and other paleo blogs.  I started blogging my recipes.  I'm still transferring recipes from my old blog to this one now.
I found a raw milk source that I will not disclose, as I live in NY and they would get shut down as ridiculous as that is.  I started lacto-fermenting.  My kids have no reaction to raw dairy and raw milk products. Surprise surprise.  I still choose not to eat dairy except for raw butter. 
When my son was 2 our home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and our lives were completely thrown upside down.  We stayed with family for almost 2 months. I was stressed out and I slacked on our diets because I didn't have a kitchen, we were eating out a lot and eating foods prepared by others.  We moved into a temporary apartment for 8 months and eating got better but not perfect.  I was pregnant now and feeling out of control with the move and not knowing when we would have a home again. The summer went by and I was eating completely paleo but my son was still having the occasional bagel and treats.  His eczema was flaring and he was getting very sick back to back at the end of the summer.  Christmas and the holidays came and it got worse. He had three back to back ear infections.  I knew something was very wrong.  Something was assaulting his body and I was determined to figure out what.  I met with my chiro.  He described his little body like a cess pool.  His pool was full and his body was reacting.  My chiro told me ear infections always start in the gut; he needs a detox.  I detoxed him feeding him only meat, vegetable, fruit, raw butter, bone broth, fermented cod liver oil and probiotic (1 tsp sauerkraut juice per cup of broth) every day.  Very strict and no exceptions, I was sick of him being sick.   He has not been sick since then.  His behavior is better, he is more open to foods.  The amazing thing is that while he was eating crap and getting sick he was so picky.  Kids are picky.  Right? Let me stop a second and say he was never eating crap on a regular basis- it was a bagel a week, a treat at a party on the weekend etc, but to a food sensitive leaky gut kid this is all he needed to trigger a reaction. It's not that "all kids are picky". No, his gut was so weak that nothing appealed.  He refused to eat almost everything.  The second he started healing, and I'm talking about 1 week after we started detoxing, he was open to new foods.  All of a sudden he was eating plain chicken in broth, something that would require ketchup in the past.  He had a new appetite for food.  
Now I am strict.  I am that mom.  Because I know my kid.  A slice of cake at a birthday party is not worth diarrhea for days, behavioral upsets and flaring eczema.  People judge me.  I don't care.  I know what's right for my son.  Food is everything.  Especially in small children, they should only receive the absolute best quality food there is available.  Judge that. Judge me for sounding judgmental.  I don't care.  My pediatrician told me one time to expect 8-9 illnesses that winter.  Fuck that.  Try zero. We had zero. I follow my maternal instincts.  My kids have never had any type of medicine besides quality essential oils and holistic care. I hope this helps someone. People have this innate need to feed children crap.  What is that? They always want to win them over with a cookie or a lollipop. No.  Win them over with love.  When grandma insists she's just a kid and it's not going to kill her guess what? Grandma won't remember in 30 years but the integrity of your kid's body will.  I say no every single time.  I bring treats to every party we go to.  He is not deprived.  He is food sensitive.  He's not "allergic" to anything. He tests negative for all allergy tests.  Just because he's not going to die from it does not mean his body doesn't disagree, particularly if you have leaky gut.  If he eats any commercial dairy he has diarrhea.  Organic included- organic is still pasteurized, homogenized and processed dead food.  If he eats wheat he gets bags under his eyes and eczema.  These are signs I will not ignore because some stupid test says he's not allergic.  
Here's how I get by. I always send him fed.  I always make him a smoothie for the car ride.  Full fat coconut milk, fresh veggies, fruit, a scoop of nut butter- you try eating the chicken fingers and fries after that!  I'd literally rather him not eat than eat kid crap.  I always pack a ton of his favorite snacks and emergency treats.  This is usually a banana, a grain free muffin and a bag of nuts and seeds.  Emergency treats- freeze dried fruit, raisins, trail mix, fruit leather, grain free cupcake, and an organic lollipop for absolute emergency situations- like every kid has a lollipop and he's just standing there all sad.  It's all about being prepared.  People will talk shit.  Let them.  They're not there when your kid gets sick from a run down immune system.  They're not cleaning up diarrhea.  When you're in an absolute situation and kid needs to eat and this is where you are- stick with protein, veg and fruit.  Grilled chicken, eggs (hard boiled being best as if won't be soaked in veg oil).  Real butter.  Every restaurant uses crap oils. Avoid all dressings, dips and prepared foods. Soy is in everything.  
Now let's switchback to my 6 month old and my paleo pregnancy.  I was eating paleo plus raw butter when I became pregnancy with her.  I had a paleo (with raw butter) pregnancy.   I did a whole30 during it that was more like a whole90 because I started way before day 1 and I kept going way after day30.  I had the most amazing pregnancy ever.  None of the crap from my vegetarian pregnancy.  Here's how I know eating is why.  In the very beginning I was real nauseous and I took a paleo break and ate gluten free grains because it was all I could tolerate.  I had aversions to many paleo foods- sweet potatoes, avocado, all meat, I promised myself the minute I started feeling better I would go right back to strict paleo.  And I did just that.  Once the aversions subsided I started eating right again.  My acne cleared up my reflux went away.  Now you're probably thinking that would happen anyway, after week 12 most women start to feel better. This is true, but with my son I had the reflux, fatigue, nausea and acne the entire pregnancy.  I gained only exactly baby weight.  25 lbs.  I'm not perfect, I slipped here and there and every single time paid for it with a breakout, reflux and migraine. Every. Single. Time.  
I had zero bloat, great energy, never napped, walked 2-6 miles a day and felt great.  I went into labor at nearly 42 weeks and had a 2 hour start to finish labor and my perfect baby was here in 1 push.  When I went into labor I thought it was early labor like my son (14 hr labor) so I was very casual about it and when my midwife arrived I thought I'd have hours- no it was baby time! It happened so fast and so peacefully.  She was born 8lb 4 oz and perfection.  Nursing like a champ immediatley.  She started showing signs of jaundice around day 3, but nursed her way through it with no problem.  My kids will always be prone to jaundice due to something called ABO blood type incompatibility.  This has nothing to do with what you eat. But I believe in Jing. It's a concept I learned in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It is the essence; an energy passed from parent to fetus.  I believe she was stronger from conception.  
I lost my pregnancy weight almost immediately.  I don't know why, I just did.  I didn't feel like I'd just given birth, I was on my feet immediately.  I know, second pregnancies are easier, but this was unreal.  Of course I still had a little belly pouch, but I did not look like someone that had just given birth.  


My daughter was happy from day 1.  The most relaxed baby I've ever met.  No gas.  Always content, And growing like a weed.  Around christmas time I strayed off paleo, I wanted to see if I could re-introduce cheese. Very quickly she became a very fussy baby.  I ate a lot of foods I hadn't prepared at this time- I'm not talking Taco Bell, but my mother was visiting and it was the holiday season and I was not eating paleo.  And it was 100% evident in my daughters behavior.  She was all of a sudden gassy, waking up crying at night... January I did another whole30 with a group and it was just what I needed to get back on track.  She was happier right away.  She was also all of a sudden drowning in breastmilk, like the early days of breastfeeding if over supply!  Not that I had a low supply, but I know this way of eating increased my supply.  I also know my milk is fattier during strict whole30 eating.  I continued on through February.  
I also started writing this blog in February when everything seemed to be really making sense to me.  It was all coming together.  I think part of my life mission is to share these things as corny as that sounds.  I have been on a mission for something for many years and I know that motherhood is one of the things I am here for but my passion for food, holistic health and nutrition and always needed some sort of outlet.
I know that every pregnancy and every child is different, I get that.  But I had experiences within each individual pregnancy that lead me to believe food plays the biggest contributing role.  The same goes for nursing.   

Today I eat paleo almost 100% of the time.  I'm nursing a 7 month old exclusively and I eat A LOT of food.  I drink almost an entire can of coconut milk a day, an avocado a day, and eat huge meals.  I have a sort of "set point" weight that doesn't budge as long as I am eating this way. 
I know that some people view "paleo" as another fad diet where people just eat meat on top of their meat. This couldn't be further from the truth.  I eat more vegetables now than I ever did as a vegetarian.  My gage for sugar is so different now that fruit is sweeter and I eat much more than I ever had.  I don't think paleo is some cool fad diet or the way everyone should eat but it works for me and my family and my son and I need it.
If you have any questions, please ask, I love hearing from you!


19 comments :

  1. Alanna! I am so so so glad that @mama2crew told me about your instagram and this blog! I cannot believe I didn't know you were @planksloveguacamole lol I am so glad that I read this whole thing! Henry's excema and reflux were so bad the first 6 weeks, when I went to whole30 last month he didn't have reflux once and barely ever spit up! I just finished my 7th round yesterday. Was thinking about taking off until summer but I think I should just do it again with your all! Thank you for sharing your recipes and story. You are such an inspiration! I didn't know you went through all that this past summer in our whole30 group! You're a champ!
    <3 @bruinsmama aka Crystal :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been following you in Instagram lately for inspiration during my whole30 and finally made it over to your blog. Thanks for sharing all of your insight. We are hoping to start a family sooner rather than later and I am constantly thinking about how my health will affect my future children. I appreciate your openness!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Everything you just said about feeding kids. Yes. Yes. Yes. I've been that Mom for nearly 6 years since we went all natural, and 3 years since we went Paleo. It's tough sometimes but more than worth it. Love your blog. I plan on being a regular reader now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing your story! I have recently shifted to a Paleo diet after years of diet experiments (including vegan and vegetarian) to alleviate my health problems. I know that I am finally starting to heal eating this way. I wish I had know about the Paleo diet when I was pregnant with my now 2 year old. I wonder how my pregnancy would have been different and if I would have had the same problems with milk production. I did have a great home birth experience, though!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for all your awesome posts! I just brought home baby #2. He is a week old and already having horrible gas issues. I feel so bad for him. He has been jaundiced as well. I have dabbled in Paleo for two years. I am thinking I have to get serious and cut out the dairy and gluten. No more cheating. I sure hope it helps. I am also giving him a probiotic. I have upped my probiotics and am eating my fermented sauerkraut. I was also wondering if I might be experiencing some yeast die off and if he could be gassy from that as well. Any tips or advice or other info you can direct me to? I am going to make a lot of your breastfeeding friendly recipes. I just have a hard time staying committed, but know that I must do this for my baby.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi M, first of all, congratulations! My advice would be to immediately get ALL and ANY dairy OUT! It is the most common offender. It can take up to 4 weeks for all dairy to leave your baby's system so don't expect immediate results but do stick with it! Good luck <3

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would love to know your thoughts on alcohol (not in relation to breast feeding or children) but in terms of diet/ keeping weight off/ inflammation down. I recently found out I have leaky gut and I haven't eaten gluten in over a year. I just finished a whole30 in May and eat pretty much the same since. I love a glass of wine or a fresh margarita here or there and would love to know your thoughts.
    Thanks! - Kathryn

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love you already! It's like you're telling a version of my story. Thank you for sharing this and for being so straightforward. It gives me the courage to stand up for our health decisions more adamantly. I just switched to a pediatrician 40 minutes away because our current one changed their vaccine policy. They were becoming so aggressive and bullying about it that even if i did want to catch my kids up on their vaccines, I would still have left. There is so little respect for parental instinct and decision making. Thanks for being an advocate for us all!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is amazing! I'm slowly trying to cut out dairy because it messes with my sinuses horribly (minus back in the day when we got raw milk straight from the farmer, too). I'm still a long way from having my own kids, but I want it to be the healthiest pregnancy possible. And I'm terrified of my parents loading them up with sh*t while I'm not there. It'll be some strict parenting guidelines going down for real! :) Anyway, thanks again, and keep up all of the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  11. At some point I stumbled upon your method to boiling an egg, but I cannot find it. Can you help direct me?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I really like the fresh perpective you did on the issue. I will be back soon to check up on new posts! Thank you!
    Dog Walking Standish

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog. Its amazing how interesting it is for me to visit you very often.
    Dog walking

    ReplyDelete
  14. thank you for the time and effort you put into your blog...
    I was surprised to read your comment on not to use olive oil for cooking purposes..
    in most articles I read it states to use olive oil for cooking as nut oils have a low heat point... what is your reasoning for not using olive oil for cooking??????

    ReplyDelete
  15. I wanted to thank you for this great blog! I really enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.
    DoggiYoggi Video

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks so much for pointing out that paleo isn't just a fad diet for eating meat on top of meat. My aunt was considering doing a paleo diet but she has heard a lot of stuff like that from friends and colleagues, so I'm sure she will love to read this blog about it. Maybe you should consider looking into a food sharing app as another way to share your experiences with this diet and your food choices. I don't use any myself, but I've heard there are apps out there nowadays designed to let you share a lot of the same stuff you shared here. I think I'll tell my aunt to look into those too to get more ideas. http://chowdr.us/

    ReplyDelete