Going Gray at 40: My Transition Story

Going Gray at 40: My Transition Story

Going gray at 40 isn’t all that uncommon anymore but when I made the decision to ditch the dye seven years ago, gray hair was not considered as chic as it is today.  

In fact, many around me were horrified by my decision to go gray so young and begged me not to do it, especially because my daughter and only child was only four years old at the time.

I was warned I would look older, become invisible, and be mistaken for my daughter’s grandmother. I knew all of this was a possibility but spending entire Saturdays in the salon every four weeks and hundreds of dollars on dual process color while using box color for touch-ups in between was wearing on me.

My decision to go gray came at a time when I was already fed up with the endless maintenance so when it became a health issue, I was ready.

Ditching the dye and going gray was already on the horizon in early 2012 when I woke up one morning, stepped out of bed, and could not put weight on my foot; it felt broken. I took some time wiggling it and flexing until I could walk but I was in serious pain. When it went away the next day I shrugged it off as a shoe issue: I used to love cute heels and didn’t mind sacrificing function for fashion. But when the pain kept moving through my body I knew it wasn’t my shoes.

To make a long story short, after a thorough examination, many vials of blood, and tests, and a series of X-rays, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It is severe and aggressive (I already had permanent joint damage in my toes) so thankfully, my doctor took an aggressive approach as well. I did my research and realized I could help make living well with this disease possible by making several lifestyle changes. These changes all revolved around making healthy changes and this included leaving the dye behind and going gray: it was the push I needed. You can read about my dietary changes here and my switch to safer personal care products here.

 

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I committed to going gray in March of 2012.

As you can see in the series of photos below, I started by cutting my hair short. I had color and highlights at the time so frequent trims helped the transition as time went by. I had in mind what my color would look like as it came in, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

Interestingly, when I started the gray transition, my hair was not nearly as silver as I expected it to be.

As you can see in the photos above, even when fully transitioned in 2014, it was obvious I had gray hair streaking through but it wasn’t the bright silver I was expecting when I fought so hard to cover them up each month for so many years. It was more of a steel gray. Also, there was less than I expected! Those grays really stand out next to dyed hair so it can be deceiving.

My stylist suggested many, many times that I wasn’t gray enough to have a successful transition and tried to steer me back to color the entire time. I sort of agree but looking back it actually made it easier because I didn’t have a stark demarcation line to contend with, but rather a few streaks here and there and mostly gray at the temples.

My Gray Transition Strategy

Although I didn’t have a skunk stripe (I wish I had!) to cover because my gray wasn’t very bright, I did need a little help to make the transition go as smoothly as possible. For instance, I started by cutting it short to get most of the color off. To help blend as time went on, I did get low lights a few times. Adding darker strands helped the gray pop more and blurred the line of dyed hair grow out. I had regular trims to continue to ride myself of colored hair. I also used this toning shampoo to help remove any brassiness and relied heavily upon this classic to help my steel gray appear brighter. It was so helpful!

If I could do it all over again and go gray today:

Option 1:  If my color was the same as it was back then when I started I would use a safer, non-toxic semi/ demi-permanent color until the gray was completely grown in then let it fade away.

Option 2: If I was as gray as I am now when I started I would pixie super short and just let it grow (Man, I love pixies and the women who rock them look fabulous) or honestly, I would just let it go at any length. These are some of my favorite transitions to follow because of the clear line of silver versus color. Amazing.

I am jealous of those who have a full head of gorgeous silver coming in as they begin their gray transition. It took a few more years for my silver to show up.

My silver has come in pretty nicely since going gray back in 2012 and I have no regrets.

Have I been mistaken for my daughter's grandmother? Yes, a couple times, but we just laugh about it. I have grown to care very little about stranger's perceptions of me.

I certainly do not feel invisible and do not feel like I look any older than I would if I was still coloring. Age is an attitude, and my attitude is young. LOL. Actually, I think women look younger with gray because it is the color nature intends for them at this point in time. A dark dye can look so harsh.

Now that I have fully transitioned to gray, I just try to keep my silvers healthy (you can check out some of the products I use here) and shining bright and have embarked on a new journey: converting my natural waves into curls!

You can follow my journey on Instagram, where I have found a virtual support group of sorts made up of many inspiring, silver and curly-haired women, connect with me in my new Gray is Gorgeous Facebook group, and keep in touch by subscribing to my weekly newsletter.

I'd love to hear about your journey, too!

XX,

Asa

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Post Autoimmune Diagnosis: Adjusting to your “New Normal”

Post Autoimmune Diagnosis: Adjusting to your “New Normal”

autoimmunr diagnosisYour “new normal” post autoimmune diagnosis is my why behind writing this post.

Helping others adjust to a new way of living brought about by necessity is the focus.

Making sense of your diagnosis can be a complicated, frustrating journey.

Everyone I have met with an autoimmune condition has struggled with their new normal post diagnosis and has grappled with the same questions:

  • What should I eat?
  • How should I exercise?
  • What are the best ways to manage my symptoms?

It will take some time to figure out what personally works best for you, but you will, and It’s going to be okay.

Realizing your life will never be quite the same as before diagnosis is terrifying. I know. I’ve been there.

When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013 I was completely overwhelmed. My symptoms came on suddenly and aggressively. My daughter was five years old at the time and I was distraught thinking what this might mean for her, much less for me.

It will take time, patience, and persistence to learn what food sensitivities you may have, what causes your flares, and what your body needs most to start healing.

As a teacher, I am a researcher by nature, so after my autoimmune diagnosis, I scoured the internet for answers to my questions: What do these test results mean? What are healthy alternatives to pain medications? What are the side effects of (insert medication of the week here) and most importantly, what is the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis?  I read many books and articles on this particular topic and wound up more confused than when I started. I found stories of people bringing their disease into remission with vegan diets, Paleo diets, and keto diets, diets full of nightshades and others nightshade free. I love reading success stories, but they can be frustrating when you just want a quick answer.

Unfortunately, there is no quick, one size fits all answer.

I have read countless books and articles with contradictory information and have come to this conclusion: autoimmunity is complex and what works for one person may not be the answer for another- even with the same diagnosis.

After my autoimmune diagnosis, I had to figure out what would work for me. You will, too, and you need to give it time.

I floundered for a while, trying various natural approaches while simultaneously cycling through three different biologic drugs in an attempt to find one I could tolerate. There were a few highs, but many, many lows. My doctor didn’t believe in the diet/ disease connection, so I searched on my own for answers. I gave up gluten and dairy to start (a suggestion I would recommend to anyone as a starting point).

 

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There will be ups and downs on your journey and you will need to make many changes.

Thankfully, these changes will improve your quality of life.

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psot autoimmune diagnosis

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If what you are doing isn’t working, you need to try a new approach.

I changed my diet completely based on what I had gleaned from past experience (you can read about my diet here) and started exercising differently as well. I modify almost every program I try.  Gentle yoga and sometimes Barre is what I found works best for me. I have also worked hard to get rid of as many chemicals in my daily routines as possible since 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbed within 26 seconds. I have enough problems without adding additional hormone disruptors and carcinogens into my bloodstream.

You might find your lifestyle in need of an overhaul, too.

This can take time as well. We all have food sensitivities of some kind and one exercise that is perfect for one person may be too challenging or not challenging enough for some. There are some athletes out there rocking it with RA- and they are truly inspiring.

You might need to change your mindset as well. Don’t let negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of viewing autoimmunity as an end to life as you knew it- think of it as a new beginning.

Your mindset and a positive support system can make all the difference.

I tried online support groups, left those that focused on long-term disability and hopelessness and started a public Facebook page (click to like my page)  as a place to share my journey and inspire others to make positive changes as well.

During this process, I realized that a positive community of like-minded individuals is incredibly powerful. I am so inspired and empowered by the men and women who have joined me.

Everyone needs a tribe.

Your new normal might surprise you (in a good way).

Once you slow down and really make your health a priority and follow a diet and exercise program that supports your needs, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised with some of the positive changes you see in yourself. Maybe you are on your way to becoming one of those athletes I mentioned earlier!

This is a journey.

Working on improving your post autoimmune diagnosis “new normal”  will be a lifelong journey. We change, and our needs change. Aim for progress, not perfection. Your happiness and wellness will depend on your ability to adapt, grow, and forgive yourself.

I still struggle sometimes but I have lowered my medications significantly and improved my blood work. I still work full time and am able to engage in gentle exercise. I have improved my quality of life and I genuinely feel better. I am certainly not perfect (Hello, tortilla chip addiction! Margaritas, anyone?), but I do pretty well and can honestly say I am living well with autoimmunity. My new normal is one I am proud of and I would love to help you with yours.

Please reach out to me anytime and please be sure to subscribe to my email list by clicking here, as I will be sending out helpful information, new anti-inflammatory recipes, and freebies designed just for you.

 

 

 

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Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a Wellness Journey

Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a Wellness Journey

My rheumatoid arthritis wellness journey began four years ago when I was diagnosed with a severe form of the disease.

It came on with frightening speed: I went to bed one day feeling just fine and woke up the next with such intense foot pain that I was barely able to walk. At first, I thought it was cute, but impractical shoes I loved wearing, so I invested in a few new pairs of comfortable flats. But when the pain kept moving to different parts of my body and I noticed that my toes were literally shifting, I made an appointment.

My doctor ordered many blood tests and based on his initial examination told me it could be as simple as a vitamin B deficiency or as complicated as rheumatoid arthritis. As I waited for my results, despite his insistence that I stay off the internet (he knew me pretty well),  I Googled rheumatoid arthritis. After reading all day and well into the evening about autoimmunity and looking at pictures of deformities caused by this disease I prayed for a vitamin B deficiency, but deep down I knew I had rheumatoid arthritis.

My blood work came back with all of the hallmark markers for rheumatoid arthritis: positive rheumatoid factor, super high anti-ccp antibodies, and an elevated sed rate.  The diagnosis was swift, for which I was grateful, and I was on my way to a rheumatology appointment within a week. As relieved as I was to have a diagnosis though, I was overwhelmed.

This diagnosis was terrifying, devastating, and life changing for our family.

Within a matter of weeks, I went from taking weekly Zumba classes and competing in daily Just Dance dance-offs with my then 5-year-old to barely being able to walk from my bed to the bathroom each morning. Sometimes I even needed help getting dressed.

My rheumatologist took one look at my hands and feet and said he wouldn’t even need to see my blood work to diagnose RA. He said the damage had already begun, so we needed to act aggressively. He elected to skip the usual starting point drug, methotrexate, and went straight to the biologics and Prednisone.

Finding the right medication took some time.

While I went through the agony of finding a biologic medicine I could tolerate (I tried Humira and Enbrel first, discovering that I was allergic to both), it took all the energy I had to make it through my workday. I had nothing left for my family at the end of the day, and my weekends were spent in bed recovering. Feeling like a neglectful mother and wife was exceedingly difficult and this, paired with the emotional side effects of Prednisone affected my emotional well-being to the extent that I needed anti depressant, anti anxiety medication to pull through.

Once I found an RA medication that I was not allergic to and also alleviated my symptoms (Actemra), and identified several flare inducing foods, my physical and emotional state improved to the extent that I would bet those around me had no idea that I was still struggling. But I was still allowing this diagnosis to define me.

 

rheumatoid arthritis wellness

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I felt fragile, powerless and often hopeless. I went through my days on autopilot and put on a happy face.

I probably would have continued on that path if an opportunity for change had not presented itself.  After much discussion, my husband accepted a job in Indiana in 2014. This meant a new job for me and moving to a town where we did not know a soul. He moved in November with the plan that we would finish out the school year in New York and join him in July. I tried not to think about it much during those first few months because change is frightening.

But somehow I very reluctantly researched schools and filled out applications and was more than pleasantly surprised when I was hired after a phone interview at one of the top high schools in the state. It was what I needed to shift my mindset and ready myself for change. Instead of letting fear paralyze me I took the advice I give my students at the start of each new school year:

“If you aren’t happy with the outcome of last year, look at this new year as a fresh start and as a chance to reinvent yourself.” Aren’t we all students of life? It was time to reinvent myself.

I decided, new job, a new town- new life! Let the reinvention begin! I wish I could say it was a smooth transition, but when I got to Indiana my rheumatologist in New York refused to refill my prescription because I was no longer in his care. I had just seen him two weeks prior, so I had no idea this would happen. STRESS!

Stress should be avoided at all costs when managing inflammatory conditions.

This brought on a nasty flare that left me pain stricken and horribly depressed. I moved to a new state from a four bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment (we were trying to figure out where we wanted to live), tried to keep my then 7 year- old entertained and happy, attempted to be a decent wife, and started my new job (full-time English teacher) medication free.

I went without meds for two months while I waited for an appointment with a new doctor here, waited for the blood test and x-ray results, and by this time, approval from my new insurance company.

Thankfully, I finally found a new doctor, started back on my medication and had another added to the mix for muscle pain: Plaquenil, the Prednisone did its job, and I started feeling like myself again.

But the stress and time without meds had taken its toll. I needed an overhaul. I was bloated, exhausted, crabby, highly emotional, and just unwell overall. I decided I was ready to get serious about my nutrition and needed to start exercising again. I knew I couldn’t do it alone though so I recruited several friends from all over the country to join me in a private Facebook accountability group. The impact was phenomenal. I achieved the results I could never have alone and I realized in the process that I really enjoy leading accountability groups.

rheumatoid arthritis wellnessThis led me to the diet and exercise programs I currently follow, and an overall better quality of life. I feel great most of the time now.

My rheumatologist is shocked at my dramatic turnaround and how well I am doing now. She even cried happy tears once. Recently she said, “just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. It is working and you look great.”

You can read about my autoimmune diet here.

From the start of my journey to now, I have made progress with my rheumatoid arthritis I am proud of, although I am still hoping to do more.

you can read more about me here

Here is my medication progress to date:

  •  60 mg of Prednisone to none (this took almost three years to do though as one must taper slowly)
  • 162mg of Actemra injected once per week to once every two weeks
  • 400 mg of Plaquenil to 200mg per day
  • 300mg of Wellbutrin to 150mg per day

This is a journey. I am a work in progress. I still struggle with my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms at times but I am making great strides and am taking my life back. I am the hero of my life story, so I’m going to make sure I’m the one writing it!

I’d love to help you do the same.

I hope to connect with you soon!

 

 

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My Autoimmune Diet: How I Manage My RA Symptoms with Food

My Autoimmune Diet: How I Manage My RA Symptoms with Food

Are you curious about diet and autoimmunity? You’ve probably read or heard that there are no proven connections between diet and autoimmune symptoms, but countless testimonials and personal experience tell me otherwise. I’ll share my autoimmune diet below.

I have tried many dietary approaches over the past four years. I started by eliminating gluten and dairy. When that wasn’t enough to improve my autoimmune symptoms I looked into the Paleo diet, AIP, Whole30, and Primal diets because they kept coming up during my research. Read my post on how to tell the difference and how to choose which one might be best for you.  I explain my autoimmune diet further in that post as well.

I avoid gluten, grains, dairy, beans, nightshade vegetables, refined sugars, and processed foods. So essentially, I follow a modified Paleo diet.

Changing my autoimmune diet has made all the difference in my autoimmune symptoms. My disease activity is minimal, I have very little inflammation, and my energy levels are back close to where they were pre-diagnosis: I can actually work out again.

Because of this, I thought it might be helpful to show you what a typical day on my autoimmune diet looks like. You’ll see how easy it is to follow a grain, gluten, refined sugar, and low dairy diet without losing your mind in the process.

Through this post and others, I’ll show you how I make following my autoimmune diet for symptom relief doable. This is real life, after all.

I am busy, a little lazy, frequently exhausted at the end of a long workday, and very human, so I eat many of the same foods repeatedly. I do this to simplify my life and because I have many food sensitivities; on my autoimmune diet I eat what I know will not increase inflammation and other autoimmune symptoms.

Also, I am not a food blogger and my food is shown “as is” on this blog, meaning there is no fancy plating going on around here. Well, sometimes I attempt it- but you will see what I mean. HA!

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BREAKFAST

I KEEP IT SIMPLE AND AM A CREATURE OF HABIT

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This is my weekday breakfast on my autoimmune diet

Almost every weekday for the past two years I’ve started my morning with a shake.

I start with coconut milk and/ or sugar-free almond butter and a frozen banana or berries, but I ALWAYS add chocolate Shakeology and collagen powder.

 

anti-inflammatory smoothie maker nutribullet

Some might tire of a breakfast routine like this, but on my autoimmune diet, I have come to rely on simplified menus and routines as a way to better manage my disease activity.

I love starting my day with something so healthy and simple. I never have to think about breakfast, it takes about 30 seconds to whip up in the NutriBullet, and I drink it in the car on my way to work each day. The fact that it’s crazy delicious makes me pretty darn happy, too.

I also always have a cup of organic coffee with coconut or almond creamer or Nutpods when I have it and sometimes a drop of liquid stevia (chocolate is my favorite!). I am an addict, for sure.   


the coffee i drink on my autoimmune diet

On the weekends I eat later and have brunch instead.

Eggs with bacon or quiche made with an almond flour crust are favorites.

I make sure to drink lots of lemon water throughout the day because I never drink enough during the week. This is something I am working on, for sure!

Some people’s autoimmune symptoms are aggravated by eggs. I eliminated them while on AIP and am happy I am able to tolerate them and have them as part of my autoimmune diet.

 

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LUNCH

USUALLY LEFTOVERS OR SALAD- SOMETIMES A BIT MORE EXCITING

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Lunch is almost always leftovers, a salad, or leftovers and a salad.

It rarely changes because I am not one to prepare a new meal at lunchtime, and during the school year I pack my lunch every day (actually my husband packs it for me because he’s awesome like that) so it needs to be something quick.

I actually work leftovers into my weekly meal planning for this purpose.

One of my favorite salads is simply two handfuls of baby spinach, a few chopped strawberries, a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds, and a  simple balsamic vinaigrette. On the day I took this photo I was out of pumpkin seeds, so I just went with the berries and spinach.

Sweet Potatoes and steak are two of the foods we eat often. I usually roast the sweet potatoes and anything we can grill is also a go-to especially for the summer months.

Sometimes I just skip sweet potatoes and toss the steak right on my salad!

Voila! A perfect lunch crafted from leftovers. 

How I Meal Plan

customized meal plans

Snack

Because who doesn’t need a few snacks from time to time?

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I love snacks and I have a sweet tooth.

This is tough when trying to avoid refined and artificial sugars.

I love hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, a handful of almonds and almond butter with celery or an apple will sometimes work their way into the mix when I am especially hungry.

I also keep RX BARS on hand for emergencies. They are delicious. RXBAR makes whole food protein bars with simple, all-natural ingredients.

DINNER

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Dinner usually consists of a high-quality protein and plenty of vegetables.

The grill and Instant Pot are my best friends.

Cauliflower is a frequent flyer because I could eat mashed cauliflower every day!

I also try to eat as many green vegetables as possible. green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and brussels sprouts (roasted only) are the usual picks.

We use leftover veggies in a frittata. A big slice of frittata with a salad is one of my favorite lunches.

I like to prep more than I need each time to make dinner time easier during the week.

A typical dinner for us: grilled steak, sauteed zucchini and mushrooms,  and mashed cauliflower.

DESSERT

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I cannot think of a better dessert than fresh berries topped with coconut whipped cream (I use this). It’s simple and satisfying.  I try to stick to organic for the Dirty Dozen whenever possible, but I don’t obsess about it. I just wash everything really, really well. We do our best, but we aren’t perfect by any means.

So, as you can see, if you keep it simple, following a Paleo-friendly diet can be quite doable, not to mention beneficial.

I hope you will give it try if you’ve been thinking about it.

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Be well,

Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a product through one of my links, I receive a small commission, and the price is still the same for you! To learn more about this, click here.

Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.

HI, I’M ASA!

I believe one should never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee or the perfect glass of wine and that beauty is ageless.

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