The Vagus Nerve and its Keys to Wellness


The vagus nerve may be the most subtly powerful part of your body that you’ve never heard of. Nicknamed the ‘wandering nerve,’ it originates in your brain stem and extends through your ears, tongue, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and sex organs— among other organs— connecting them and creating a body-wide network of influence (the nerve splits as it descends through the body, enabling its extensive reach).

The vagus nerve is a part of your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, which promotes calm, hormone balance, positive mood, anti-inflammatory effects, immunity, and benefits to so many wide-ranging aspects of your health. I’ve been fascinated by the influence of the vagus nerve since I found it to be key for activating a calming response in my own autonomic nervous system, which has for years been disregulated by Lyme disease. And during my research and experimentation, it’s demonstrated itself to be powerful for beauty and wellbeing at large.


Stimulating or activating the vagus nerve helps switch on your parasympathetic nervous system and normalize the influential HPA axis. It influences your blood pressure and heart rate (both directly through the heart and via the kidneys) along with a spectrum of bodily functions, including digestion and feelings of satiety. I find it particularly amazing that the 90% of vagus nerve fibers send signals up to the brain from the digestive tract. And 10% of its fibers send brain signals to your gut relating to the secretion of stomach acid and enzymes. It’s a true illustration of the gut-brain axis communication!

You might reason that stimulating the vagus nerve can help you stay healthy, balanced, and calm— and you’re right. But I find the advice around how to stimulate the vagus nerve to be a bit confusing and overwhelming. You see, there are dozens of ways to stimulate it. Almost too many to keep track of. My advice would be to pick just one or two methods and practice them consistently.

Here are a few of my favorites, all of which I find inherently calming (perhaps because of their effect on the vagus nerve!):

  • Singing, humming or chanting.

  • Deep breathing from your abdomen, with a long, slow exhale.

  • Yoga.

  • Foot massage.

  • Meditation.

  • Increasing the beneficial bacteria in the gut (via fermented foods & probiotics!).

  • Acupuncture- especially ear acupuncture points.

  • Laughter.

I was also intrigued to see that OSEA just released a Vagus Nerve Oil meant to be applied to the back and right side of the neck to stimulate the vagus nerve and support vagus nerve health. I’ve been using it on my neck, as well as applying it to the center of my stomach (just beneath my ribs to above my bellybutton), where I can feel a calming effect from massage pressure. The blend of juniper, chamomile and lavender smells very grounding and is meant to diminish anxiety & stress and promote relaxation while stimulating positivity and wellbeing in the mind and body. I love discovering beauty products that have such a deep, holistic effect on my body and beauty— well done, OSEA!


Over time, stimulating the vagus nerve can help you achieve what is called ‘higher vagal tone,’ which improves blood sugar regulation and digestion, lowers blood pressure and inflammation, and can reduce migraines, depression and anxiety. Some treatments have gone so far as to implant a device that stimulates the vagus nerve with the goal of improving inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. One 2010 study found that higher vagal tone was linked to the cycle of positive emotions, physical health, and positive social connections— something we all strive for when it comes to wellness and beauty in our lives. And a 2018 study found that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) could be an important therapy for a range of conditions in the years ahead. I’d encourage you to think about your own vagus nerve health and the effect it could have on any inflammation, digestive issues, anxiety, or depression you might experience. Use some of these therapies consistently, and see how your own body responds to the calming effects.


The Vegan Dish Your Instant Pot was MADE for

For meals in minutes, the Instant Pot lives up to the hype. I added one to my kitchen about a year ago and right away I loved that it would effortlessly cook staples like dry beans and grains that would otherwise take a lot of time or attention on the stovetop.

Butternut Squash Risotto.JPG

What DOESN’T live up to the hype, however, are Instant Pot cookbooks. Not to be overly critical, but without fail, Instant Pot cookbooks seem to be peppered with recipes that require you to turn on the stove, the oven, a blender, or a food processor to make other components of a dish while your Instant Pot is working. That, to me, defeats the purpose of the Instant Pot!

The best Instant Pot meals happen right inside the pot (meaning they don’t require you to cook anything else simultaneously), and significantly reduce the time you’d typically spend cooking the same dish on the stove or in the oven. That’s not too much to ask, right?

This is exactly why risotto is such a winner in the Instant Pot! It takes way less time, essentially zero minutes of attention or stirring (typically the aspect of risotto that intimidates most cooks), and even uses substantially less broth (saving more for another recipe!) to achieve the same creamy, comforting effect. If you own an Instant Pot and haven’t tried risotto yet, here’s a place to start. Once you see the basic formula, you can add your own favorite veggies and herbs to suit your cravings.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Risotto

This dish makes a cozy side dish or vegan entree and it comes together so effortlessly in the Instant Pot!

Serves 6-8


  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved, seeded, and roasted (this can be done several days ahead)

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, minced

  • 2 cups arborio rice

  • 4 cups broth

  • unrefined salt

  • ground black pepper


First of all, if I’m planning to make this recipe during the course of a week, I roast the butternut squash ahead of time while I have something else in the oven. I usually do some roasting on Sundays (beets, sweet potatoes, etc.), so I halve and seed a butternut squash (no need to peel!), put it on a tray and bake at 350-400 for about 30 minutes, until you can stick a knife in it and it pierces easily. Roasting requires little effort or attention. Once the squash is done, let it cool and store it in the fridge until the day you need it for this recipe. You don’t even need to reheat it before adding!

When you’re ready to make your risotto, this recipe will come together in 30 minutes but requires less than 10 minutes of your attention.

Turn your Instant Pot onto the SAUTE function, heat the olive oil, and cook the onion and garlic until it becomes aromatic— just 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and 1 Tbsp rosemary and saute for 1 minute more. Pour in the broth (if your broth is unsalted, add a little unrefined salt), cover and lock the lid in place, and set the Instant Pot to 5 minutes at HIGH pressure (make sure your lid is set to SEALING). After your risotto is done with its 5 mins at high pressure, let the steam release naturally for another 10 minutes (meaning, don’t release the steam via the pressure release knob). Use this time to grab your butternut squash from the fridge and scoop the baked insides out into a bowl. After 10 minutes, turn the pressure release knob to release the rest of the steam, stir the butternut squash chunks into the risotto, and add another sprinkle of chopped rosemary. If desired, you can add a little more broth for looser texture and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Spiced 'Skin Glow' Smoothie


Autumn foods like sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, squash, and greens are packed with nutrition that just plain makes skin glow— which is a great thing because this season of detox and transition can be tough on our complexions. These autumn foods are particularly powerful sources of beta carotene that helps increase cell turnover for smoother skin, balance oil production, speed up skin cell renewal, and protect against UV damage. If you’re looking for a place to get more of this amazing beauty nutrient in your diet during the fall and winter, try this smoothie, which also balances blood sugar with that key combo of healthy fats, protein, and abundant veggies (but still tastes sweet!). This recipe can be made with roasted sweet potato, pumpkin, or winter squash— and it’s delicious in all of its forms.

Spiced ‘Skin Glow’ Smoothie

This antioxidant-packed smoothie delivers the protein and healthy fats necessary to stabilize your blood sugar in the morning, while also targeting your skin’s seasonal need for extra healing and repair with beta carotene-rich pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato.

Serves 1


  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (try coconut, almond or hemp)

  • 1/2 cup filtered water

  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin, sweet potato or winter squash puree

  • 1/2 banana

  • 1 serving plant-based protein powder (1 to 2 scoops)

  • 1/4 cup raw pecans

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

  • 1 tsp Eat Pretty pumpkin pie spice (p.137 in Eat Pretty) - or sub cinnamon

  • 1 tsp blackstrap molasses (optional for depth of flavor) 


Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and process until smooth.

Nourish & Detox: Sweet Autumn Soup

Ready for a sweet and comforting fall soup that will supercharge your skin with its beta carotene content and support natural fall cleansing to prepare your body and beauty for winter? This simple soup is the recipe for you. Kabocha squash is one of the most delicious types of squash, and it’s naturally sweet. The addition of apples to this recipe lends it even more sweetness along with detox properties, making this soup perfect to complement a savory dish. Or you can eat light and fill up on the soup by itself—if you do, try adding avocado chunks for extra healthy fats.

Sweet Autumn Soup


Serves 4-6


  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 2 organic apples, cored and chopped

  • 1 tsp fresh minced sage

  • 1 quart broth (I prefer vegetable broth in this recipe, but you can use whatever you enjoy)

  • 1 cup pure water

  • 4 cups roasted kabocha squash (about 1 medium)

  • unrefined salt

  • ground black pepper


In a large pot or dutch oven, melt coconut oil and sauté shallot over medium heat until golden. Add apples and sage and cook until apples begin to soften. If foods starts sticking to the bottom of the pot, go ahead and pour in a little broth to loosen it. Add remaining broth and water, as well as the roasted squash, and simmer 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a high-powered blender in small batches.

For more beautifying recipes, see the Eat Pretty books and my recipe page.


Kabocha Squash. Kabocha squash is a perfect beauty food for your eyes, thanks to its fabulous content of healthy vision nutrients, from vitamin A to the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. The major dose of vitamin A from this winter squash variety continues to support the skin cell renewal and growth that your skin needs this season, while balancing dry and oil spots. It’s a powerful food for radiance! You’ll also get B vitamins (key for gorgeous, strong hair) and iron in your kabocha squash. To roast, cut your squash in half, remove the seeds, and place on a rimmed baking sheet greased with coconut oil. About 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven gives you super-soft squash that you can use in smoothies, puddings, muffins, soups, or mashed as a side dish. You’ll want to eat it straight from the oven with a spoon.

Apples. The pectin found in apple flesh helps the body eliminate waste more effectively, making it a must-have food for natural detoxification and even lowered cholesterol. Apples support healthy digestion in other ways, by supporting a healthy microbiome, which is essential for clear skin, immunity, good moods, and maintaining a healthy weight. The skins of apples (try to eat them and leave them on in recipes as often as you can—and try to buy organic!) are concentrated sources of beauty nutrients, including one phytochemical that stops the formation of wrinkle-causing AGEs and another that reduces allergies.

How to Keep your Body and Beauty in Balance when the Sun Doesn’t Shine

Fall is the season of letting go. And of all the things that we say goodbye to at this time of the year— alfresco dinners, beach days, an abundant garden, longer evenings— the sun is the thing I miss the most. I truly am a solar-powered creature. I feel deeply, deeply connected to the sun and to the earth, yet fall and winter gradually force me to retreat indoors, away from those life-giving aspects of nature.

Does this sound like you? What’s the best way to stay in balance in spite of reduced exposure to solar rays and lack of barefoot moments in the grass and sand? Here are a few of my top recommendations for fall and winter habits to keep your body and beauty in balance in the months ahead, if you live in a place that also lacks sunshine. I’ll be practicing these right along with you:

Prioritize morning light. Get 15 to 20 mins of light exposure every morning, outside if possible. It won’t always be sunny, but even a clouded sky in the morning is enough to balance your circadian rhythm and boost your mood. The light from a computer screen doesn't count! The more bright light exposure we have during the day, the more sleep-supporting melatonin is produced at night, studies have found. (Cool side note: melatonin may also impact gut health) Some people swear by a light box or sun lamp in the morning to mimic bright AM light, but I haven’t found this route easy to incorporate into my day. I’d rather aim for some time outdoors or near a window every morning.

Supplement vitamin D. I like a liquid D3, and I boost my dose significantly in the fall and winter to make up for lack of sun exposure. Talk to your doctor about your D level and the dose that will keep you feeling good, with strong immunity this season.

fall leaves.jpg

Bring nature indoors. I like to incorporate elements of nature in my home all year, but in fall and winter it feels like a must because I don’t get outside into nature as often. Pinecones, pine boughs, pumpkins, fall leaves, and branches are natural elements that also work well inside at this time of year. I also love decorating with pretty stones, and any green plants that can’t survive outside that I want to preserve until next year (it makes my home and my south-facing windows feel a bit like a greenhouse!). See what other natural objects you can bring indoors during the fall and winter to boost your connection to the earth.

Know the dos and don’ts of lighting. Sadly, you cant simply turn on more lights around your house or your workplace and get the same physiological boost that you get from the sun. In fact, turning on lots of bright lights later in the evening can prevent your body from adequately preparing for sleep. Your pineal gland begins secreting melatonin, which helps you fall asleep easily, when the sun goes down in the evening, but LED lighting and devices that emit blue light (think TVs, smartphones, tablets) actually interfere with melatonin production, making it harder for you to get restorative beauty sleep.

Get infrared light. The infrared sauna, which uses infrared light to heat the body at lower temperatures than a traditional wood sauna, is rather new to me, but I plan to use it all winter long this year. Infrared saunas emit the same warming-from-within infrared rays given off by the sun, but without the ultraviolet light that we use sunscreen to block. A fire in a fireplace or firepit also emits infrared light that warms from within, so you could plan to get cozy around the fire more often this fall and winter too.  

Rely on other ways to support your immune system. Adaptogens like reishi, chaga, tulsi and astragalus, extra sleep, vitamin C, grounding root vegetables, extra zinc, turmeric, ginger and warm lemon water, manuka honey— there are so many amazing immune-boosters to incorporate at this time of the year to make up for the sun’s immune-boosting effects.

Embrace, rather than resist. Digging your heels in and resisting makes this natural transition even harder for your body (take it from me). This, too, shall pass and spring will of course arrive again. And the sun-filled yang months of spring and summer wouldn't be as balancing without the dark, damp, cool yin months that lie ahead. So I’ll be focusing on the autumn and winter things I enjoy, and staying warm as best as while I let nature take its course in the cycle of the seasons. And I will be following every sliver of sunshine that enters my windows, drinking hot teas, eating warm soups and stews, taking steamy baths, eating grounding foods and spicing them to create inner warmth. How about you?

For more inspiration that will help you stay in balance in autumn and winter, check out the Eat Pretty book series— each of which incorporates the shift of the seasons as it relates to beauty and health. Writing about the wisdom of the seasons and living my own advice has helped me embrace all 4 seasons for their own inherent beauty!

Do you live in a place where the sun shines less in fall and winter? How do you make up for the lack of sun exposure?

The Eat Pretty Formula for Easy Packed Lunches


For some of us, the arrival of fall means a return to the lunchtime grind. For others, that lunchtime grind goes on Mon-Fri, 365 days a year, making it easy to lose steam and creativity. Whether you’re packing lunches for your school-aged children or yourself, getting confident with a basic, Eat Pretty-approved formula for the meal you assemble is a key jumping off point for (no exaggeration) thousands of lunchbox variations. Once you know the formula, you can get creative and listen to your body, knowing that there’s pretty much no way to mess up! And heads up: this is essentially the formula I use for every meal, every day, and one that has helped me to rebalance my hormones, find my healthiest weight, and enable my skin to glow. It’s also helped so many of my clients to do the same. So, here we go!

My Eat Pretty-Approved Lunch Formula

Ready to make lunch?

Here’s the formula: veggies + protein + healthy fat + bonus foods.

No question, more than half of your plate (or lunchbox) should be colorful, antioxidant-packed veggies. Roast them, steam them, eat them raw, dice them, spiralize them— it doesn't matter what form they come in. This part of your meal is super nutrient-dense, delivering fiber and phytochemicals that keep you glowing. Rotate these ingredients according to color, season, and/or cravings.


Your lunchbox also needs protein. It can be plant-based or clean animal-based, depending on your body and your preferred diet. Aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein to help you feel full, burn food slowly for sustained energy, and deliver the building blocks of skin, hair and nails that is essential to your body.


Now make sure that your lunchbox has some form of healthy fat. Fat nourishes strong cell membranes (locking in youthful moisture), and is an essential building block of your hormones (hello, better moods and clear skin). Think avocado, raw seeds or nuts, a drizzle of olive oil or a healthy fat-rich dressing.


As a bonus, you can add something special that brings it all together and makes the benefits even more amazing, like fermented pickles or sauerkraut, dulse flakes, gomasio (check out the recipe in Eat Pretty Every Day), nutritional yeast, etc. If you’re packing lunch for kids or you’re going to be in a crowded place where you want to make sure your lunch doesn’t stink too much, leave out the smelly stuff. But this category can be an important bonus on days when you want to feel and look extra amazing. And if you know your goal is to eat more fermented foods every day for better skin and overall health, pack some in your lunch!

If you’ve used the Eat Pretty, Live Well journal, you already know what an Eat Pretty plate looks like. If not, here’s the visual:


Your Lunch Style

I find that everyone has unique preferences when it comes to lunch style (hello, bioindividuality). I prefer a salad to a sandwich. During the warmer months, I prefer greens over grains as the base of my lunch, but as fall and winter arrive I turn to grains and warm lunches that need to be reheated. What’s your style?

Foundations (start with these and then pile ingredients on top)

  • Greens

  • Quinoa, buckwheat or other GF grains

  • Shredded brussels sprouts

  • Beans

  • GF pasta— try chickpea or lentil pasta for extra protein

  • Lentils

Colorful Veggie Examples

  • Any roasted veggies you have on hand (I love broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots)

  • Cooked beets

  • Chopped raw peppers

  • Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers

  • Radishes

  • Steamed green beans

  • Cooled cooked potatoes- white or sweet potatoes

  • So many more!

Clean Protein Examples

  • Hard-cooked pastured eggs

  • Wild salmon

  • Beans- lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans are all amazing

  • Shelled hemp seeds

  • BPA-free cans of wild salmon, sardines, naturally smoked oysters (I like the Crown Prince brand for sardines and oysters)

  • Clean animal proteins that fit your diet

  • Quinoa

  • Plant-based protein powder 

Healthy Fat Examples

  • Avocado

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Hemp seeds

  • Olives

  • Dressings (see below)

Dressing and Sauce Ideas:

  • Turmeric dressing

  • Classic Balsamic

  • ACV dressing

  • Green goddess dressing

  • Romesco- red pepper and almond, parsley

  • Lemon and olive oil

  • Persillade

  • Chimichurri

  • Olive tapenade

  • Pesto

Bonus Food Examples:

  • Fermented pickles

  • Kraut

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Gomasio

  • Dulse flakes

  • Nutritional yeast

 A few past recipes that fit the bill:

Seeing Beauty Salad

Chopped Chickpea-Kraut Salad

 Miso Broccoli Lentil Salad

Notes for success:

Keep track.

Along the way, you’re going to find meal combinations that you love (and some you don’t). Make sure you write down the combinations that are winners to your body and your palate. I keep a list on my fridge of meals that I want to remember because inevitably when it’s time to grocery shop my brain draws a blank. As the seasons change, it’s also easy to forget meals that you aren’t cooking because ingredients are not in season. So next time fall rolls back around, you’ll remember exactly what meal you loved to cook with your butternut squash, figs, pumpkin, etc.

Shift your mindset: Instead of ‘I have to,’ choose ‘I get to!’

This is big- changing the way you approach making lunches can make all the difference. Instead of “Packing my lunch is exhausting. I’m too busy to do this for myself. I don’t have time.”


Think: “Cooking is empowering, strengthening, even a rebellious act to some degree. I can make a little time. A little investment can change the way I feel day to day, and the trajectory of my health and appearance.”

So, what’s for lunch today?

Opening Up About Chronic Illness: My Late Stage Lyme Journey

The subject of chronic illness is a major departure from the content that I’ve shared on this site for the last 9 years. But as I’ve grown more deeply connected to my readers and forged meaningful relationships with others in the beauty and wellness world, my work has become more personal, and less private.

What invisible illness looks like.

What invisible illness looks like.

Still, I’ve waited nearly three years to share what my daily life really looks like— partly because I’m at heart still a super private person and partly because I spent more than 2 of the last 3 years seriously ill and utterly dysfunctional, without a diagnosis to explain my symptoms, and unable to find a path to healing. I share this story with you today, hoping that it will help someone else to get well or to keep pushing through a dark time, and also with the hope that it will allow me to be more open about my journey as I continue to heal.

I know now that I’ve likely had Lyme disease present in my body for years, but it became active essentially overnight in 2015, following a stressful period. At the time I had a 1 year-old child, had just finished writing my second book in one year (Eat Pretty Every Day, a book that’s very dear to me!), had just stopped breastfeeding (this is important because big hormonal shifts can open up the door for infectious diseases like Lyme to take hold), my son was experiencing a stressful, unexplained health issue, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted from it all. I went on a work trip across the country and woke up feeling 100% like I would die, alone, in my AirBNB. I remember looking down at my abdomen and watching it pulsate, along with my heart that was rapidly pounding out of my chest, while dealing with terrifying physical weakness, inability to breathe, and gut-wrenching nausea. I steeled all of my physical and emotional strength to make it through that awful day and get myself on a plane home, to rest and get well. Yet for more than 2 years after that nightmarish morning, I continued to wake up the same way every single day— abdomen throbbing, heart racing, unable to take a full breath, painfully nauseous, weak, and in the throes of a panic attack— just from the act of waking up. It felt like something out of a movie, so I called it the Groundhog Day from hell.

Months and months and then several years passed while I pursued treatment and answers, holding out hope that someday I’d recognize my body again. I kept looking back, retracing my steps, and asking, where did my healthy body go? What went wrong? At first, it was my nature to keep up a positive mindset. I’d figure it out and be better soon. Just had to be patient. Life moved on, but my nightmare persisted. Optimism started to feel like a desperate tug-of-war match in my mind, instead of the default setting it had been before. Then, after 2+ years of related diagnoses that didn’t quite hit the mark— including mold toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, prediabetes, adrenal fatigue, candida, parasites, dysautonomia, gut dysbiosis, MTHFR, and Epstein Barr, plus pursuing endless treatments for those issues that made little to no improvement on my symptoms—I received a THE diagnosis, the one that explained it all: late stage neurological Lyme disease and coinfections.

What Lyme Looks Like

I thought I was familiar with the symptoms of Lyme disease, but still marvel at how much I didn’t know. Fatigue and joint pain, classic hallmarks of Lyme, weren’t my biggest struggles. In my body, Lyme manifested in serious cardiac and central nervous system dysfunction that for much of the last 3 years has left me essentially homebound. At various periods of time, walking one block down the street, going to the post office to mail a package, or picking up a few groceries have not been possible for me. Let alone the responsibilities that come with career, motherhood, and life at large. I’d work up the strength to go to Target or the grocery store as my single daily goal, and once inside I’d find myself completely disoriented and my nervous system reeling — the overhead lights feeling so bright I’d have to squint, sounds too loud, pulse racing, struggling to take a full breath, too weak to push a cart or bend over to pick up items on lower shelves. Even writing about that feeling makes my eyes fill with tears, because I have endured dozens and dozens and dozens of such moments, even in my own home, lying in my own bed, in all the spaces I used to feel safest. I’ve been woken in the middle of the night by panic attacks and sudden bouts of tachycardia that made me question whether I’d survive to see another morning. I’ve watched my body go from healthy and strong to weaker than I could ever imagine. That is my Lyme.

For the last three years I have tried my best to get comfortable with the fear and isolation that comes with unexplained chronic illness and inhabiting a body I didn't recognize. One of the most helpful things I’ve heard during my chronic illness journey was that ‘getting comfortable with the uncomfortable’ was one secret to thriving. I made that my goal. However, as much as I’ve tried, getting comfortable with cardiac and nervous system issues is something I still struggle with daily. The stress of being seriously ill for years without an explanation is also something that I can’t put into words. If you’ve been there, you know. Certainly it tested my marriage, my relationships, and my mental health. It reduced my work output to baseline survival mode, and led me to decline incredible career opportunities and bow out of professional roles that I loved. Always, I’ve believed I’d find a way out, and trusted implicitly that my body wants to thrive and heal. But this has been the fight of my life.

Because Lyme is an invisible disease, there are few people in my life who are aware of my experience, and an even smaller number of those who have even a partial understanding of how sick I’ve been. My husband is the one person who has been the closest to this experience, and he’s had the difficult job of being present through the hardest days, yet feeling powerless to help. I’ve said before that if some kind of late stage Lyme simulator were invented, and my friends and family could experience it for even 2 or 3 minutes, they’d be completely horrified at what it feels like to live in this body 24/7. Yet it’s completely unseen. And Lyme is by no means the only invisible illness out there. This experience has at many points felt like the plot of a horror film— you wake up inhabiting a body that is so dysfunctional that you don’t know if it will possibly survive the day, yet you look perfectly normal to everyone around you.

1,000 Days

Not too long ago, I realized that the end of August marked 1,000 days that I’ve fought through active Lyme disease. Every single day I count as a massive victory. So very many mornings I opened my eyes and felt crushed by the weight of the hours I knew I would have ahead of me, just getting through normal tasks. So I’d get up, take things minute by minute, and play the role of the person I used to be, as best as I could. I’ve kept social media far from my chronic illness experience, because, well, these years have been unimaginably hard. In my work I’ve always sought to inspire the best in others, and sharing the most brutally difficult days of my life felt wrong – and too raw. Looking back these years have still had wonderful moments. The bright spots have come from my son, who was only 22 months when Lyme took over my body. Although caring for a small child while having a chronic illness was incredibly tough, on so many days he forced me to keep fighting. In those early months, getting out of bed and taking care of him and myself during the workday while my husband was away was my single goal. Sometimes even that was impossible and for a time we lived with my in-laws so I could be around other functional adults. No work got done— only if I pushed myself, often lying on my stomach on the floor while answering emails or taking calls to lessen constant nausea. If I had 20 minutes of down time, I’d need to spend it resting my body, or I’d use it to research my symptoms with the hope of figuring out what was happening to me. Other bright spots have been truly slowing down for the first time in years, and my reconnection to spirituality, something that didn’t get much attention when I was well and busy being a mom and health coach and author. Faith that this dark experience will clear the way for something even more beautiful in my life has given me the strength to get through daily moments of trauma. Prayer has helped me feel seen and heard in a way that invisible illness does not allow. Publishing Eat Pretty, Live Well and Eat Pretty Every Day while I have been sick has been a challenge— and has kept me from traveling, speaking, and connecting as I would have liked to— but getting daily messages from you all about how much the books were inspiring you and bringing beauty and health into your lives brought me joy during unspeakably hard moments. Those messages, photos, and stories kept me creating and doing as much as I have. You will never know how grateful I have been for your messages on days when I felt like I had lost myself completely.

Finally receiving a Lyme diagnosis was validating, but not a relief, as treatment for late stage Lyme is a giant grey area. Everyone has a different opinion on how to approach treatment, and no one seems to have proven answers. I feel as if I’ve explored every angle of Lyme treatment, tried countless alternative therapies, but in the end my cardiac symptoms were serious enough that long term antibiotics were the path I felt compelled to take. Riding to meet my new Lyme doctor this past February, my body was so weak and dysfunctional that I felt like I was taking a last-ditch effort to survive. I was fighting to stay alive for so many reasons, most of all my 4 year-old son who needs a mama and would hurt the most if I weren’t around. It was the rock bottom of all the rock bottoms I’ve had over the last 3 years. And now, 6 months into antibiotic treatment, I am slowly beginning to feel my body return. Each month we increase the antibiotic dose, producing a Herxheimer reaction that makes me sick for 2 ½ -3 weeks, then on week 4 I begin to feel good and then we start the cycle again. On one hand, it pains me to be destroying the microbiome that I know is so integral to health and (ironically) immune function. But in this situation, it was a choice I felt forced to make, and I feel lucky to have had it. Every day I fortify my body with high-dose probiotics and fermented foods in addition to colorful, fresh, whole foods with a constant emphasis on detox and thus have tolerated this strong course of treatment relatively well most of the time. When my Lyme is in remission, I know I’ll be able to use all that I know about rebuilding the microbiome to nourish my body back to strength, step by step.

I’ve learned that when it comes to Lyme disease my experience is not uncommon. One big irony is that because I took such good care of my health, I remained functional with this disease for many years before it became truly disabling. (I can trace my first Lyme symptoms back to 2009, when I developed an ‘idiopathic’ (unexplained) cardiac arrhythmia seemingly overnight). And if I hadn’t had such a clean diet from day one of my active illness, I honestly don’t know if I’d be here today. Nourishing my body well has helped me survive, physically and emotionally when there was little else I could find to help myself. But in my experience nutrition alone doesn't cure late stage Lyme. Neither do positive thoughts or truckloads of expensive supplements. For the first year of my active Lyme experience, I was on a grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet. I ate clean protein and vegetables ONLY. Yet none of my symptoms improved. Honestly I would’ve eaten ANYTHING and followed any diet to feel even slightly better, but even that strictly clean diet along with nearly two years of functional medicine treatment was not enough to kickstart healing from a disease that had taken up residence in my body for almost a decade.

The Future

But things are finally changing. In just the past few weeks I’ve been able to take walks around my neighborhood and in nature with my family. I’ve been able to take my son to the park and feel well. I helped do some long-overdue pruning work around our yard. I’ve spent the day with friends and talked openly about where I am in the healing process. And I wanted to share openly here too. I had to wait until it was the right time for me. But I am ready to begin to release this experience so I can move on and support my emotional body even as my physical body recovers. Experiencing my body coming back to life is enough to reduce me to tears every time I stop to process it.

There are so many aspects of this journey that I could write more deeply about. This post just scratches the surface. I never know whether to share what’s so personal. But, in keeping with my goal to inspire you and help you feel your best, going forward I’ll be sharing just a little bit of what I do day to day to continue to heal and thrive. That will keep things authentic for me, so I don't feel like I’m hiding a giant monster in a closet from all of you. And in my heart I know that sharing openly will be healing for me too. So many of you have asked me when I’ll have another book to announce. And after several almost-books, I sadly still don't have one officially on the way. But I believe that the book I’ve been trying to share with the world— inspired by the intersection of beauty and healing— is going to be a big part of my healing journey. I’ve found that the questions around how to optimize healing look a lot like how to optimize beauty. And happiness. And to me it’s profound. I already have chapters written and can’t wait for the opportunity to bring it into the world, because this experience has given me so much new perspective.

I am certain that many of you reading this post will be going through dark days of your own. I’ve learned is that you never know what someone else is going through behind closed doors. Whether or not you choose to share, today or in the future, I send you my love, strength, and most sincere hope for healing, in whatever form you may need. Be kind to yourself, and try to look for the light coming through. So often we feel the need to reflexively say ‘fine’ when someone asks how we are. But expressing what you're really feeling to those you trust can be a powerful part of the healing process. I understood this even before chronic illness, but I feel it even more now: this is life, it’s full of unimaginable beauty and unimaginable pain, and every day that you have is a gift.

Be well.

In beauty and health, Jolene


Things to know about Lyme:

Every experience is different, and you might find one person who is completely symptom-free after a short round of antibiotics, and someone else who’s been fighting the disease for decades and is still seriously unwell. It’s just not possible to compare any two Lyme experiences.

Along with Lyme disease (borrelia burgdorferi) comes a spectrum of other infections (called coinfections) that take up residence in the body. I’ve been told that I have babesia, ehrlichia, and rickettsia coinfections in addition to Lyme, but my current practitioner feels that it’s the coinfection bartonella that has taken the biggest toll on my body and my central nervous system. My current antibiotic regimen is tailored toward the bartonella coinfection.

Testing is notoriously unreliable, so Lyme is truly a clinical diagnosis (based on symptoms). My Lyme blood tests are still negative (Elisa) or CDC-negative (Western blot). My Igenix Lyme test is only a weak positive. During my sickest days, my cardiologist and general practitioner gave me a clean bill of health— what?! Yet I have textbook symptoms that can be clearly recognized by a doctor who specializes in Lyme.

If there’s mystery illness present, explore Lyme just to rule it out. Lyme manifests differently in everyone, based on the individual body and the coinfections involved. I never saw a tick bite or a bullseye rash (most don’t). But in many ways, I am a classic Lyme and bartonella case. The cardiac and neurological symptoms I experience (panic attacks, heart rhythm issues, air hunger, nervous system disturbances, memory and cognition issues, etc.) are exactly what Lyme looks like in many bodies. Yet in the 9 years since I was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia out of the blue, Lyme did not enter the conversation— not even when I became chronically ill. I live on the East Coast of the US, where Lyme is prevalent, but you don’t need to live here or have spent time here to become infected.

If you know someone with chronic Lyme disease (or chronic illness in general), rather than asking them how they are feeling— ask them how they feel today. Right now. Is it a good day, or a bad day? I’ve learned that with chronic illness you take life one day at a time.

Basics that have helped me through chronic illness:

·      Naps. At least one 15-min nap a day if I can manage it, to get through the day.

·      Being kind to myself. Promising myself over and over that I’d crawl out of the abyss of this experience one step at a time, one day at a time.

·      Visualizing healing. Actually picturing it and feeling it in my body. I truly believe that your thoughts become your reality, so thinking positively has been key.

·      Great nutrition. Fresh, colorful, whole food is the foundation of health and I was never willing to give up food that made me feel good, even when it was so difficult to sum up the energy to cook.

·      Acupuncture. I found that regular treatments helped reduce shortness of breath that I’d been struggling with daily for years.

·      My home and its green space. We moved from the city to the suburbs during my first year of active Lyme, and my home, garden, green grass and closeness to nature have brought me so much healing energy.

·      Basic comforts. A cozy robe, a homecooked meal, snuggling with my son or laughing with my husband.

·      Pur gum in Spearmint. Chewing this aspartame-free gum has helped my nausea and the mint enables me to breathe better when my shortness of breath is the worst. I’ve had it on autoship from Amazon for the past several years.

·      Natural Calm Magnesium Plus Calcium powder. Supplementing magnesium allowed me to breathe easier and helped to calm my body to some degree.

·      Faith. And reconnecting to a higher power and purpose for my life.

·      Good days. They‘re the promise of what could be, and a link back to the life you remember.

·      Hot Epsom salt baths. This is my place to relax my nervous system, forget worries at the end of the day, and prepare for sleep, which can be really hard with Lyme.

·      Sleep. The escape from reality that also helps me strengthen my body.

·      Green smoothies. I make these daily and load them up with medicinal foods— big handfuls of detoxifying cilantro and parsley, organic barley grass, adaptogens (see below), marine collagen, plant protein, avocado, loads of greens, wild blueberries are staples.

·      Adaptogens. Especially chaga mushroom for my immune system, Lion’s Mane mushroom for brain health, ashwaganda, schisandra, fresh turmeric.

·      Simplifying everything, from dinner to dressing, without shame.

·      Liposomal vitamin C. This has been wonderful for my immune system, especially during winters, but I take it year-round.

·      Liposomal glutathione. Incredibly helpful for detox and Herxheimer reactions.

·      Mega-doses of probiotics. In addition to homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut and probiotic chia pudding, I have relied on probiotics by Prescript Assist, Hyperbiotics, Biohm, Jarrow, and Inner ECO.

·      Little pleasures. Like caring for my skin with a beautiful natural cleanser, mist and serum at night after a long day. It’s always amazing to me that beauty products have the ability to make you feel like a queen for a moment, even if things may be falling apart around you. And there are so many wonderful people creating beautiful, healthy, healing products today.

·      Sharing stories. Connecting with a few women I know who have Lyme has been one of the most cathartic things I could imagine. And at the same time, talking about my experience with a few wonderful people who know me well. I’m so grateful to them for listening.

·      Crying as hard as I can when needed. At times crying has been such a massive emotional release for me when, not being able to be physically active, I had few other ways to release stress. I highly recommend it; you’ll feel like a new person afterward.

·      Love. Isn’t that what gets us through all of our struggles? Remembering that nothing else matters, that everything else can crumble, but love will keep you going somehow.

Have you experienced illness that's chronic, or unseen? I'd love to hear your own story, here or via email at

How Snacking Helps Your Beauty— plus a Simple Office Snack!


Did you know that snacking can actually help you reach your beauty and weight loss goals? It's true; snacking often gets a bad rap, but it can be a delicious route to your best skin and your healthiest weight. The trick is to know how to snack well, to be well-versed in what to eat, and to plan ahead. The type of snacking that's best to avoid is the graze-all-day, munch-whenever-you-feel-like-it approach. It's quite taxing on your body to be digesting all day long, you miss out on the natural cleansing of your digestive tract that happens between meals, and you don't ever get to truly feel satiated (or actually hungry?) when you snack too often.

Snacking becomes a beauty essential when you have a long stretch between meals, and when you're training your body to maintain steady blood sugar for longer and longer periods of time. A snack at 4:30PM, when you've had lunch at noon and are waiting on a 7PM dinner reservation, can prevent a blood sugar crash, support healthy metabolism, and keep you from ravenously overeating late at night. I think far too many women still equate weight loss, or maintaining their ideal weight, with long periods of fasting. Can fasting help you lose weight? 100% if done in balance with good nutrition and steady blood sugar. See the current intermittent fasting trend. But quite often fasting is not sustainable, nor does it correct existing issues with blood sugar balance and cravings.

Many (most?) of the clients who come to me with weight loss goals end up eating more food during our time together. They also lose weight in the process. We work on blood sugar stability, and eating complete meals that help your body feel satisfied and free of cravings. I recommend snacks when you're going a long stretch without food; better to have a beauty-friendly snack than to end up hangry or scarfing a candy bar. Also better not to feel restricted, which amps up your cravings!

Ideally, you'll reach for snacks that include a source of protein and/or healthy fat to fuel steady blood sugar. A raw trail mix, hard boiled pastured egg, apple and almond butter, wedge of avocado topped with sea salt and seeds, or a low-fruit protein smoothie are all classic choices. But I know you're always looking for new ideas. Below is a simple snack recipe that is packed with skin-healing, hormone balancing zinc from sesame seeds, plus chia for fullness and great digestion, tons of healthy fats and just enough sweetness to satisfy a craving. Shake it up in the morning and take it to the office to avoid the vending machine!

Sesame-Date Pudding

Shake up this pudding in the morning and store it so that you'll have a snack to tide you over on long afternoons or late nights at the office. Top it with a generous drizzle of tahini, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or a chopped date or two for extra energy.



  • 2 Tbsp tahini paste, plus more for topping
  • 3-4 pitted dates (depending on size and your desired sweetness), plus more for topping
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds


In a high powered blender, combine tahini, dates and water until fully blended. Transfer liquid to a jar and add chia seeds. Close jar and shake to combine. Pack in your bag and store in your office refrigerator until you're ready for an afternoon snack (will take about 30 mins from the time you shake it up to fully thicken— in case you plan to eat it right away)! Shake or stir once more before serving.

How to Sprout Mung Beans

Sprouted food, including fresh sprouts, is so often viewed as a hippie-crunchy food trend. I think that sprouts really couldn't be more relevant right now, when so many of use are in need of easily digestible foods, and plant-based protein is more popular than ever. If you're wondering what protein has to do with sprouts, marvel at this: one cup of mung bean sprouts has 14g of plant protein! Why mung beans? These are a great starter sprout for novices, or those who want easy, high-nutrient, foolproof sprouts fresh from their own kitchen.

Some other amazing nutrition facts about mung bean sprouts:

  • Mung bean sprouts are highly alkaline foods that support healthy pH balance and skin glow.
  • They're easy to digest, and offer ample enzymes for your body.
  • Mung beans are an amazing source of folate, with 100% of your daily recommended dose in just 1 cup.
  • They're packed with high levels of key beauty minerals like skin-clearing zinc and calming magnesium.

Ready to sprout your own? Get familiar with these simple steps and you could have fresh sprouts in your kitchen this spring, and year-round:


Step 1: Assemble your Equipment

Here's all you really need for sprouting mung beans:

  • dried mung beans (Bob's Red Mill offers them bagged, and you can also find them in bulk bins— bagged, from a high quality source can be better for avoiding contamination.)
  • sprouting bag (you can also use a jar or bowl, but I highly recommend investing in a hemp sprouting bag for ease of use and proper air flow that ensures your sprouts don't spoil or grow unwanted bacteria. You can reuse it again and again, and it's so simple that you will thank me!)
  • Water and a bowl

Start by measuring out about 1/3 cup or less of dry mung beans (I prefer to sprout just a little at a time because sprouts only last a few days and this prevents waste).

Step 2: Rinse & Drain

Pick out any bad beans and rinse the leftovers in a bowl, draining afterward.

Step 3: Soak

Cover beans in water a let sit 8 hours or overnight. The beans will swell slightly.

Step 4: Transfer to Your Sprouting Bag

Drain soaked beans, transfer to your sprouting bag, and cinch the top of the bag. Immerse the bag in water for a few seconds, until it is soaked through. Hang the bag to drip dry on a cabinet handle or hook.

Step 5: Rinse Sprouts Twice Daily

In the AM and PM, immerse your sprouting bag in a bowl of fresh, cool water. Swish it around to rinse the sprouts inside, and hang to drip dry once more. In 2-4 days, you'll have fresh sprouts! You can sprout them shorter or longer time frames, depending on what you prefer.

Step 6: Keep Sprouts Fresh

Store your well-drained sprouts in the fridge. They'll last just a few days, so enjoy them quickly, It helps to store them with a paper towel that can absorb excess moisture that will cause them to spoil more rapidly. These sprouts are amazing in salads and smoothies, and as a crunchy topping to stir frys and other, unexpected dishes (nachos!).

Spring Product Obsessions 2018

Alleluia, it finally feels like spring on the East Coast. This season is a natural cue to detox, and that includes cleaning out the products that are old or just not serving you. It could also mean experimenting with something new. Today I gathered up the natural products that are my latest springtime loves, from a very extra new deodorant to a milky serum to a travel version of a product that I’m betting you already rely on. Maybe one of these six winners will be your next healthy beauty purchase…

Vapour Aer Next Level Deodorant, $24


Next Level Deodorant— such an amazing name. And it speaks the truth; Vapour took things to the next level when they created this product, from the formula to the delivery system to the statement-making natural scents (are you more Palo Santo Blood Orange or Lavender Myrrh?). It took the company 5 years of lab time to perfect Aer, and I have to say, while I was not in the market for a new deodorant for my own routine (still in love with my fave Meow Meow Tweet Grapefruit Baking Soda Free deo), I can’t find a single flaw here. I got my Aer Deodorant in the Beauty Heroes April Limited Edition Beauty Discovery Box, featuring Vapour. If you hurry, you can get one here (this will sell out fast), or you can always grab the product itself in the Beauty Heroes store. Switching to a natural deodorant from a conventional formula often feels daunting, but I tell you there’s never been a better time to make the switch.  Conventional anti-perspirants contain ingredients that you don't want on your skin or next to your breasts every day (aluminum and synthetic fragrances are two), and they block one of your body’s major detox pathways. Aer is a natural deodorant (read: not anti-perspirant), and it worked for me from Day 1. Now, on Day 20, it’s still working well and I have yet to experience any irritation from the “just a pinch” of baking soda in this formula. If you’re baking soda sensitive, you might actually find that you’re okay here. The cream-to-powder formula doesn't feel wet and cold under your arms after you apply (one reason I usually avoid cream deodorant sticks like this one) and you only need a tiny amount, so this stick will last you at least 2 months— likely far more. And the scent— let’s just say I never expected to have palo santo-scented pits, but I’m kind of loving it. Thank you for working so hard to hit the mark on this, Vapour!

W3ll People Bio Bronzer Cream Stick, $23.99

I was thrilled to discover this cream bronzer-in-a-stick just as the weather started to warm. The stick delivery system makes it easy to swipe anywhere, and the cream formula blends in quite well, so that the tiniest dot mimics the effect of sun on my face. I’ve found that a warmer bronzer shade like this one (mine is Natural Tan- 01) looks even more realistic on my skin than pink-toned blush. For spring/summer, I’m keeping it close at hand. W3ll People, a green beauty pioneer, has perfected its formulas, so you can’t go wrong with any of their natural makeup— this one especially. It also comes in a small pot ($11.99), in case you prefer a tinier size.


Coconut oil is just about everyone’s multipurpose beauty and health staple, and this eye-catching tube makes it so easy to transport. I use coconut oil regularly for oil pulling, and have always loved it for makeup removal, and recently was shocked to find that I can toss this tube in my bag without fear of leaks! It’s designed for travel, and made with Fair Trade, cold-pressed coconut oil. Each purchase also feeds one child a meal through Feeding America food banks. If you’re a coconut oil devotee and you travel a lot, you absolutely need to give this pretty tube a try.


Confession: I haven’t worn foundation since my wedding day, almost 7 years ago! After living with acne for almost a decade and clearing my skin with changes to my diet and lifestyle, I live in as little coverage as possible. My daily staple for sun protection and barely-there coverage is Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Tinted Face Sunscreen. But I got curious about Ilia’s new True Skin Serum Foundation— a mix of skincare and makeup that sounded too good to pass up. The pros at Aillea helped me match my skin to shade F1 (I thought there was no way I could be the lightest shade, but even though the formula looks extremely pale in the bottle the match is great), and I have to say that I really love this formula! It’s loaded with nourishing ingredients like baobab, rose hip, and jojoba oils, in a base of aloe and coconut, and that seems to ward off any chalky dryness. Dimethicone also helps it apply with a silky finish (a feature you don't want to compromise on for your base makeup). It’s buildable and light enough that I don’t feel like I’m wearing a heavy foundation. This one is a new staple when I want a little more coverage.


de Mamiel Intense Nurture Antioxidant Elixir, $135

I was introduced to this exquisite skin treatment in the April Beauty Heroes Discovery Box, which has long ago sold out, but I had to share it again here because it continues to impress me as I use it. De Mamiel’s founder and formulator, Annee de Mamiel, is an esthetician, aromatherapist, and licensed acupuncturist trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her products are inspired by the needs of her clients and she truly practices slow beauty— sometimes taking years to develop, trial, and perfect her products, which work on the physical, emotional, and cellular levels. This would be beautiful in theory alone, but in practice I can tell you that my skin truly glows after using her Intense Nurture Antioxidant Elixir— a milky serum that protects from environmental damage and stimulates regeneration and repair. Using both first and second generation antioxidants (including the powerful ferulic acid and superoxide dismutase), as well as incorporating principles of vibrational beauty, this formula continues to work over time, with continued use. Though de Mamiel’s handmade products (made in the UK) may be a true skincare splurge that’s not in the budget at all times, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to use this elixir and its Beauty Heroes sidekick, Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar. Beauty Heroes has introduced me to some amazing brands, but this one might be my most favorite new discovery!


CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion, $14.50


I have long loved this natural lotion, and routinely recommend it to clients with eczema and sensitive skin that is healing from a number of conditions— including radiation irritation. Its combination of anti-inflammatory reishi mushroom, turmeric and bisabolol, as well as calendula and beta glucan, does wonders for compromised skin. You will see a difference in your skin’s condition after one application, and continued use heals skin (if you’re experiencing eczema or skin rashes, this lotion helps skin heal topically while you are working from the inside out to change the root cause of the skin issue). Had to share it again this spring— the season when we start to bare more skin, and of course want it to be clear and healthy.

NOTE: If you purchase a Beauty Heroes subscription, or a product from the Beauty Heroes store, I will receive a small commission on behalf of Beauty Heroes. My honest review and experience with Beauty Heroes and these Vapour and de Mamiel products was in no way influenced by my affiliate status.