DIY Health

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Do you know how people talk about putting on a few "love pounds?"  How when you just become so happy, and feel so fulfilled, you stop worrying so much about what you weigh, and before you know it, you can't fit into your jeans?

This really is all your fault, you know.

I know this is a blog about DIYing furniture, but at the heart of it all, I believe we are simply DIYers in general.  We DIY dinner and kids and solutions to all life's problems, whether it's with a saw and a drill or with whatever's in the fridge or whatever you can remember your Mom telling you.  We do things ourselves, and that's what brings us together.

And while I've been DIYing furniture, helping with the Momplex, and everything else that goes along with being a Homemaker, I've been quitely DIYing something else: my health.  

If you are one of those lucky people who never have to worry about your health and weight, know that you are indeed lucky, and that there will be lots more furniture plans posted - you don't have to read this.  I myself have been going back and forth for months now on whether or not to share with you my health journey, as it is deeply personal and revealing, but in the end felt that if just one person can improve their life from my experiences, it is worth it.  

For as long as I can remember, I've always been gaining and loosing weight.  It's been a constant struggle for me to stay in shape.  I've done just about every diet out there, spent months running on tread mills, tried pedometers and even went 14 days without eating a single carb.  And it was torturous, somedays I'd be so hungry I couldn't fall asleep at night, dreaming of food.  And then would come the fateful day where it would all become too much, and I would gorge myself on junk food, and gain it all back again.  This was the vicious, excruciating cycle of gaining and loosing the same 10-15 pounds several times a year.  For years and years and years.

Then along came you.

When I started blogging, two things happened.  One, I started sitting.  Alot.  And two, I became so fulfilled and happy, with friends that accepted me for who I was inside, that I stopped caring as much about my weight.  You couldn't see what size jeans I wore, and nor did you care.  You made me feel valuable, regardless of my size.

With the support of my beautiful family, a job that fulfilled me and that I loved, and new friends that accepted me, I made a very bold decision.  I decided that I was no longer going to worry about my weight, and just focus on being happy and healthy.  

For a year, I did not weigh myself.  Happy and healthy was the goal.  I skipped the donuts and ice cream and instead ate lots of whole grains, brown rice and fat free foods and took daily walks.  I ate vegetables and oatmeal, never skipped breakfast, ordered skinny lattes with sugar free syrup.  I ate less for dinner, said no to desserts, and enjoyed an occasional glass of organic red wine.  Never did I let myself go more than a couple of hours between meals, never letting myself get hungry.  

I did what all the experts say, followed the pyramid to a tee, and this is what happened to me:

When I first got on the scale, I did not believe the number that showed up.  Unconvinced, I went to my neighbors house and weighed myself.  But the scale was not broken.

I gained 20 pounds.  

At first I was in disbelief.  I thought, how can this be?  I've been doing everything right.  I eat healthy.  I exercise.  Is this the weight I'm supposed to be? Is this my normal?

Unwilling to go back to torturing myself with diets and punishing workouts, I decided to accept my new size and continue to focus on health and happiness.  My weight was still in the "healthy" range, and I decided to love myself regardless of my size.


So I got a new wardrobe in larger sizes, started fixing my hair and smiling more, and kept focusing on happiness and health.  I kept eating whole grains, religiously ate breakfast, hungry or not, and watched my fat intake. 

This was in April of 2011.  By July of 2011, I decided to get back on the scale and see if my healthy habits and positive attitude had paid off.

The number on the scale shocked me.

I had gained more weight.  I was now knocking on the door of becoming overweight.  What was next?  Would I gain 20 more pounds next year?  And every year after that?  

And I was doing everything right.  

Or was I?

My goal was to become happy and healthy.  But was I?

I was tired all the time, sleeping sometimes twelve or more hours, but still waking up tired and grumpy.  I had headaches all the time, and had trouble focusing.  My skin was covered in pimples even though it was dry and required moisturizer constantly. I was irritable and disorganized, my days a blur of brain fog, doing the bare minimum to survive and get to a spot where I could lay down and nap.  I did not feel good.

And as I looked around my house, it did not look like the home of a happy healthy person.  Dishes were piled in the sink, clothes molding in the washer, piles of paperwork left unsorted, toys scattered everywhere, nothing put away or organized.  I could only do the housework that had to be done right now.  I had no extra energy to do a single thing more.  

I was not happy and healthy. 

A few days later, I can remember being at my sister-in-law's house one late afternoon, and watched as she mopped floors with her baby on her back.  I could not remember the last time I mopped my floors.  I simply did not have the energy to even sweep or pick up to get to the point of mopping.  I felt lazy watching her.  When she finished, she grabbed an apple, and started eating, and said, "I haven't had a chance to eat all day, I've been so busy!"

And I looked at her, thin and full of energy, organized and clear thinking, and thought, You mean you skipped breakfast????  How can that be?  Thin healthy people eat breakfast.  They never skip breakfast!  They have oatmeal and fresh squeezed orange juice every morning!

Or do they?

Once I started questioning what a healthy diet is, I started questions everything I had learned about health.  If I eat the healthiest whole wheat bread ever, on a sandwich made of veggies, hold the mayo, and end up with a headache so bad I have to take a nap ... is that sandwich good for me?  If I'm not hungry, but force myself to eat breakfast anyway because the happy smiling people in the oatmeal commercial tell me to, and I feel lightheaded and irritable, is that good for me?  If I do everything the experts say, and find myself overweight and tired and unhappy, am I healthy?

As confused as ever, I decided to just go back to basics.  I decided to eat the foods that made me feel good afterwards.  Meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.  I reasoned that these were the foods we were intended to eat, not processed or packaged.  

And I started listening to my body.  I started asking myself, am I hungry? What am I hungry for?  What food will give me the most energy?  How did that food make me feel?  Am I full or do I need seconds?  Am I thirsty or hungry?

I found my diet took on a simple pattern:

Coffee in the morning

An apple or grapefruit for mid-morning snack.

A light lunch of salad, leftover dinner, always with lots of veggies.

Homemade dinner of meat and vegetables.

Because I was trying to shed the twenty pounds I gained, for a couple of months, I avoided sugar and starch.  And always, I avoided any processed food.  Yes, sugar, flour, oatmeal, cereal, even milk and dairy - these are more processed than meat or fruit or vegetables. 

Most importantly, I avoided gluten.  It started with a suggestion from a friend that I may have a gluten intolerance, and I suddenly noticed whenever I ate gluten, I was immediately rewarded with a giant headache and overall feeling of tiredness and brain fog.  I also noticed most grains, with the exception of rice, had this same effect on me.  Yes, the whole grains that had been the basis of my diet for the last year were the worst of the worst.

My body responded by shedding the twenty pounds within a couple of months.  But it wasn't the pounds that inspired me the most.  With the new simple diet, I was most startled by the mental change in me.  Suddenly, the brain fog and headaches were gone, and I could wake up early and think clearly.  You probably noticed I started writing my posts in the morning about this time because I could think so clearly.  My skin cleared up and my hair became shiny and thick.  I was alert and felt good for the first time in as long as I can remember.

With the headaches gone, I could do more than the bare minimum around the house.  I found myself not just doing the dishes, but organizing them as I put them away.  The house was suddenly clean and organized all the time.  Laundry was folded and put away.  My car was clean.  When I worked in the garage, I didn't just put the tool down.  I now had the energy to put the tool away.

As I emerged from years of being burdened by health issues, I could suddenly see how bad it had been.  It was almost like I had ADHD issues my entire life.   

Over the next year, I continued to avoid processed foods, choosing natural whole foods.  I ate to appetite, and listened to my body.  Sometimes I had treats like cheesecake and ice cream on occasion (and chocolate probably more often than I should!) but there was no way I was going back to feeling tired and sick all the time.  And it occurred to me that I could stick to this new lifestyle because I was motivated to be my best self, the best mom, wife, and friend I could be, rather than trying to simply loose some vanity pounds.  

But guess what?

Here's I am a year later:

The weight has not come back.

But more importantly, it's how I feel. I'm alert and happy.  I have so much energy, I can't sit still.  My house is clean and organized.  Dishes are done, laundry is put away, floors even get mopped (once in a while) and I no longer feel overwhelmed and tired all the time.  

I know this is a terrible iphone picture taken by my six year old in poor light, but I wanted to show you a picture of me in the same dress for contrast.

When my birthday came around last fall, my family asked me what I wanted.  And guess what I said?  

I asked my family (Jacob and Grace) if they would eat like me for three days.  You see, for a year, I had been making separate meals for us.  My family continued to eat as I had previously, and it was alot of work to make two separate dinners every night.  And I wanted them to experience how difficult it is to fight this battle alone.

So for three days, they ate like me: meat, fish, vegetables and fruit - and nuts and healthy oils.  And after three days, my husband was convinced, and stuck with it to go on and loose ten pounds himself and feel dramatically better.  We also noticed a marked behavior change in our daughter.  Now we eat as a family, and maybe I do get a little complaining on why we are eating cookies made with squash or the meatloaf is full of vegetables, but everyone understands the importance of what we put in our bodies.

With my family on board, things changed.  When I was just cooking for me, I ate simply.  But Grace and the Ram, they wanted cookies and brownies once in a while, and I honestly wasn't ready to say I'm done baking for the rest of my life.

I tried the gluten free mixes, did some gluten free recipe googling, but it seemed when they take the flour out, they replace it with weird ingredients, chemical additives, and you guess it: sugar.  And it just tasted terrible.  Grainy and gummy and artificial.  And I decided if we are eating junk food - it better be good, and it better be at least somewhat good for you. 

Somewhere in this new quest to develop a lifestyle that our family could live with for the rest of our lives, I stumbled on the Paleo Diet and baking with Almond Flour.  This really was the game changer for my family.  Suddenly I could make chocolate chip cookies that were the best EVER, so delicious and moist and chewy that everyone (even outside our family) loved them, but made with ground up almonds instead of white flour.  I could make cupcakes and brownies; for the first time in a year, I could make a blueberry muffin and eat it myself!  I could have battered fish and pancakes, made with a superfood!

So why am I writing all of this?

Well, plain and simply, I feel cheated out of 15 years of my life.  If someone could have told me what I know now 15 years ago, I'd have spent my late teens, twenties and early thirties awake and alert, excited about life and happy and healthy.  But instead, I've had a headache and brain fog for 15 years.  It's like I've had a hangover for 15 years ... without the partying.  I know I'm still young, but I still can't help but feel cheated that my youth was wasted by being so darn tired and yuck feeling All. The. Time.  

If this one blog post helps just one person out there, battling the same issues I had, it is definitely worth my time to share.  And if you are a mom like me, controlling what goes in the bodies of your growing children, if I can share anything that will help you feed your family better, it is worth it to me. And hopefully, my openness (trust me, it's painful to share that before photo of myself) is valuable to many of you, because I'd love to share some of my recipes and ongoing healthy lifestyle journey with you as well.  



Great story. Inspiring. I can relate to the fact that personal health reflects in how organized, energetic, efficient and happy we live and work. Great read. Thanks a lot

Hi Ana,
Thanks for your post, and your blog in general. I have never built anything in my life, but your website has inspired me to try!
I'm curious, what are you using in your baked goods instead of sugar?
All the best,

I love this post! You are truly amazing! You are so inspiring me! I want to do the same with my family! I have the same issues that you had and I pay for it a lot when I cheat and eat gluten or processed foods. It's really not worth it and I want to be the best mom and wife. Plus, I want to have my house and life and everything organized and happy. You should share some recipes! I'm always up for new, healthy, yummy recipes! Thank you so much for this post! You have come such a long way and I can relate to you! This is a new year for me to finally do whats right for my family and especially me!

Wow, and thank you foe being so transparent. Today or yesterday I should say I was telling God I needed something that would really work for me in order for me to work. I saw a dish on facebook about Halibut with Mango salsa with cilantro sauce, and I was immediately drawn. Come to find out it was on a site about paleo living, and then I remember watching Steve Harvey show with a Diet Challenge and the one that stuck out to me was the Paleo Diet. Then I stumble on your site about a daybed and then I read your personal story, and when you described your life I'm like is this my white twin sister, clearly you are. Well thank you for paving the way I feel like The Lord is truly leading me, I feel free and I haven't even began but there is a solution to my suffering. Girl God is so Good and may he bless you, like his son the Carpenter. Take care

Same story. Removed grains - best decision of my life. I ran 2 half marathons last year, this year I'm going for 5 plus a toughmudder. My house is cleaner, asthma and allergies, energy and mental focus better. Coconut flour, almond flour, coconut sugar or honey for baked goods - meat and veggies nuts and seed for everything else. Worth it. I'd rather live a full life than eat a traditional diet. Good for you. Love your blog, we've built several projects, keep up the good work!

Ana, I, too am gluten intolerant, and discovered Paleo about a year and a half ago. People think I'm strange...but I feel so much better. I dropped almost 30 lbs. So hang in there and do what feels good for you! Thanks for sharing your story!

Hi Ana,
Missed this post the first time. I've got in and out of "paleo" type for a couple years, depending on what our family is going through. You've probably read Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions? It's a good one, esp the first 60 pages. Otherwise it's basically a paleo cookbook. :)

I've never used almond flour, but I like spelt! :)
Also use real maple syrup in place of sugar if I have to do some baking. I have some articles on its superiority somewhere.
There's actually a chiro in Anchorage I went to visit to consider working for him that preaches this and can desensitize allergies, treat health conditions with certain supplements, but the basis is always this diet. Without it, the other thing don't fall into place.

Thank you so much for posting this! I have had these troubles as well and have suspected food issues (mostly dairy, maybe gluten). As of the new year, I didn't get rid of all the bad stuff necessarily but I added a lot of good foods in (fresh fruit and veggies) and I've already been shocked by the lifting of the brain fog!

I get into trouble though, because I am a vegetarian, when I start thinking too hard about food...because I WANT to be vegan and gluten free and organic, but then my choices get so restricted...and I'm a single mom with little time to food prep...I get so bogged down in food restriction that sometimes I just throw my hands in the air, order pizza and call it a day. LOL. Anyway, again, thank you!!!!!

Hi Ana,

I'm wheat-intolerant (though not fully gluten intolerant). When I eat wheat flour my brain gets cloudy, I get sleepy and eventually I have digestive issues. Cutting out wheat is tough, but I am so happy for you that you found out what made you feel so icky.

Thanks for sharing!

Thank you Ana, I have always envied your slim figure and thought you were just one of the lucky ones. I was thin in high school and over the years of eating "healthy" have just gained more and more weight. Even my nursing school nutrition class kept telling me to eat the way the USDA recommends and all the bad things about fats and cholesterol from animals. I have been on a similar journey after discovering food allergies. I have recently convinced my family to go gluten-free and I try to make paleo meals for them too. You are such an inspiration in all you do. I feel very blessed to have stumbled across your blog years ago. Your plans and encouragement have helped with my depression too because I can finally be proud about my projects. Keep doing what you're doing and know that you continue to touch lives every single day.
Loraine from Oregon

Hi Ana!

I've been to your website a few times to get ideas for furniture (currently building a variation of the loft bed). Saw the 'not much' link and decided to check it out. As many have commented, I had no idea of your health struggle. Take it from a guy- you are a gorgeous woman even in the 'before' picture! But the real issue is health and vitality. Very glad you found the 'cure' in a revised diet.

A couple more things for other readers, including those who have commented that the Paleo diet did NOT work for them. Check out a book called 'Nutritional Typing', which explains that different people have different metabolisms, thus different ideal diets. My neice cannot look at a carb without gaining weight, whereas I am more a 'mixed' type who needs to eat carbs and proteins. A very in-depth website for all things health related is Highly recommended!

For those of us who live in Alaska, getting enough FRESH fruits and veggies can be a challenge, especially in winter. Also, vitamin D is especially crucial, and if you take a D supplement, the kind you take matters greatly. The best source is the D your body makes via UV rays. Do some research on whether UV is really as bad as many claim (hint- more cancer cases occur in northern states, which have LESS sunlight).
The upside is our available game meat and salmon, which provide superior nutrition. To those eating beef- look for 100% grass fed beef or bison. Look up CLA, a super nutrient from that type meat. Wheat grass juice is also a super nutritious supplement, especially if it's fresh pressed.

A couple other books- Nourishing Traditions (by Sally Fallon), which is both dietary info and cookbook, and Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (by Dr Weston Price) are excellent and thought provoking guides to health and nutrition.

Thanks for a great and fun website!


Hi Ana,

First of all, i would like to appreciate your efforts for loosing this much of weight. You have done a lot of hard work really. This post of yours is an inspiration for all others getting over weight. Thanks.

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Hi Anna,
I registered just so I could respond to this post. Am I the only one who thinks you were just beautiful in the first and second picture? I know we have ideals for ourselves, but I think you are one of those people who looks absolutely stunning with a little more weight as opposed to a little less. Feeling your best is the most important thing, but you rock in that first picture and in that second picture. You may not have felt it, but you did! I don't hope you get to any particular weight, but I do hope you feel the way you want to feel about yourself. No matter how you feel, I just want you to know that you are beautiful!

I've been following your blog for a couple of years now, and have been eating pretty strictly Paleo for the last year, and was surprised to see that you've gone Paleo too! Eating Paleo has been a life-changer for me. Not only did it help me lost the 20 pounds I gained from a hormonal rollercoaster ride, but it helped me gain muscle, and keep my out-of-whack hormones in check. It's one of the best things that's happened to me in the last decade -- that's just how much it's changed my life for the better! I appreciate you sharing your story because I hope it will convert some people! (As for the person who asked above about sweeteners: After not eating sugar for a long time, one's tastes adjust. Almond-flour cookies sweetened with banana are sweet enough, for example. Dates are another good choice.)

You know, I was already excited about this website. I've shown it to my partner and my parents since I found it a couple of days ago, when I decided that $3000 was just TOO MUCH to spend on a loft bed for my new apartment in town. See, the bedrooms are small, and I'm going to need some serious desk space for studying. So I'm currently working on plans that merge the How to Build a Loft Bed frame with the Dresser Bookshelf support and the Camp Loft Bed stairs. Meanwhile, every free moment is being spent looking through more plans, more finishes, whatever catches my eye. And in the sidebar as I'm browsing, I see a mention of paleo, so I click it.

That really did it for me. I've somewhat recently (the past year or so) come to the hard realisation that Celiac really, REALLY means no gluten. Really. I thought I could cheat. I thought I was getting away with something. Wrong. All I did was cheat myself out of feeling healthy at all. I'm tired, foggy, I hate waking up in the morning, no matter how much I sleep. I could kick myself. And even when I eat gluten-free, I still eat a lot of rice, a lot of dairy... and that seems to make me feel lagged as well! So the next grocery trip is going to be paleo-only, and we'll see what we can do with that. I'm so excited for you and your new-found health (and your weight loss), Ana! Hopefully, I'll see some of the same improvements in myself! :)


The hubby and I tried the primal/paleo thing a couple of years ago and had great success with it healthwise, but I never was able to get a handle on the meal preparation. My very-picky kids didn't respond well to the changes, so I ended up fixing different food for them and myself, and I just couldn't keep up. To make matters worse, I myself am very picky and found pretty much every cookbook to be full of a bunch of foods that I can't bring myself to eat.

I want to eat properly--I am sick just about EVERY day. I have ulcerative colitis, endometriosis, and experience headaches, dizziness, and fatigue all the time. When my husband and I were eating better, I had virtually NO symptoms. I would like to feel that way again, but I'm not sure where to start again as it was such a difficult process the first time around.

Do you have any suggestions for paleo websites/cookbooks that are family-friendly? I need a WIDE variety of recipes to pull from since our current tastes are so limited. Eliminating carbs and dairy, which I know is what we NEED to do, pretty much gets rid of everything we currently eat.

Congratulations on the weight loss! I know exactly how you feel-I lost 95 lbs, but you're so right, it's not (only) the look, it's how you feel.
I have gained all the weight back after 2 kids and some bad disc & physical issues, and actually would LOVE to look like your BEFORE picture! I've had an artificial disc replacement in my neck and almost half my problems are gone :) but ever since I found out gluten intolerance isn't just a digestive problem, I've had a feeling I needed to get rid of it. The kids and I have moderate allergies, my 3yo & I are on 24hr allergy medicine all year long. And now we've pretty much confirmed our youngest (10m) has a digestive gluten sensitivity (& soy, & milk, & egg-our son has an intolerance to milk & egg too) we should just get rid of it! The almond flour sounds like a deal clincher for our family-the boys love their pizza! Thanks SO MUCH for posting this :)

Hello Ana:

You are such an inspiration. Thank you for all you do! I just bought a house (moving mid-june :) ) and am looking forward to creating all the plans I have pinned.

Your story here about your journey in weight sounds parallel to my story and probably to so many other girls. I am DIY healther; began my career in nursing and then changed to education. If you haven't already checked her out, I love Zuzana of Zuzka Light, She was the original co-founder of and now has her own workout program. She is amazing. All workouts are posted for at home use and are free. Her moves are insane and you will work your body! :)

Hello Ana:

You are such an inspiration. Thank you for all you do! I just bought a house (moving mid-june :) ) and am looking forward to creating all the plans I have pinned.

Your story here about your journey in weight sounds parallel to my story and probably to so many other girls. I am DIY healther; began my career in nursing and then changed to education. If you haven't already checked her out, I love Zuzana of Zuzka Light, She was the original co-founder of and now has her own workout program. She is amazing. All workouts are posted for at home use and are free. Her moves are insane and you will work your body! :)

Wow, I did not know.  I agree with what you are stating. My wife is enjoying following your projects and seeing me make them,  She wants to to start making them Now I guess there is another reason.  With the projects she is needing to learn patience with the process and not rushing,