By Natalie Jill
Formats and Prices
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Methods for using food to combat cravings and hunger pains
Easy-to-follow meal plans and guidelines for any situation
Delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks — plus guilt-free desserts
7-minute exercises for a leaner, toned body
Success stories from people who have transformed their lives and bodies
When you decide you’re ready, Natalie will walk you through each step in your new unprocessed lifestyle. All it takes is 7 days to jump start a new you! ARE YOU IN?
ROCK BOTTOM IS A SPRINGBOARD TO SUCCESS!
“Excuses or solutions . . . YOU decide!”
A little more than fifteen years ago, I experienced horrible abdominal pain every time I ate. Although I exercised somewhat regularly and I appeared to be a healthy, fit, and energetic person, I was struggling. On good days, it was a mild stomachache, but more often it was painful bloating and intense cramping accompanied by excessive fatigue. What no one knew at that time, including me, was that my immune system was attacking my own body. I was seriously ill and getting worse every day.
My illness started with the types of symptoms that you try to ignore. I experienced excessive tiredness in the afternoons, extreme hunger all the time but bloated every time I ate, with intense stomach cramping after each meal.
I quietly tried to self-diagnose and self-medicate. I was drinking a bottle of Mylanta a day to deal with the cramping, swallowing Beano before meals to try to deter the bloating, and I drank caffeine every afternoon to stay awake. I had been eating a lot of antioxidant-rich foods, so I thought that maybe I had been eating too many vegetables, too much fiber. I rationalized that white flour products were supposed to be good for stomachaches, so I reduced my veggies and fruit, adding more pasta, bread, and other bland starches to my diet. Things only got worse.
In addition to the other symptoms, a strange pain would develop in my chest after every meal. I had read several articles about fatigue and heart disease. As my dad had died very young of a sudden heart attack, I started worrying that maybe it was my heart. I consulted with my internist, made an appointment with a cardiologist, and even went to the emergency room.
After all of these visits, they told me that what I was experiencing was normal and they all made me feel like a hypochondriac. I did begin to feel like this was really all just in my head. I mean, all of the experts said, and their tests confirmed, that I was fine. It took a toll on me, and a mild depression set in.
By this time, my lower abdominal pain intensified, and I thought maybe my OB-GYN could help me. When she saw me, she told me I might have polycystic ovaries and gave me birth control pills to help the pain. I thought I had my solution, but the pain continued.
As the weeks and months went by, my condition continued to worsen. My lymph nodes started acting up, and I would get pea-size lumps in my neck, my groin, and my underarms. Did I have cancer? What was wrong with me? I was getting scared and knew something was really wrong. As I had been focused on health and fitness from an early age after losing my dad, I knew I had to take control of the situation and find solutions!
I went back to the internist and, almost embarrassed, made him listen to all of my symptoms again. He still didn’t have a clue what my problem was, but because I mentioned that the chest pain normally would happen after eating, he did recommend that I go see a gastroenterologist. After ten minutes, the GI doctor told me it was heartburn and prescribed a drug as the solution. When that didn’t work, he gave me another drug. My stomach and chest pain continued to get worse, not better. I began losing interest in eating because, to me, eating was associated with pain. After several weeks, I stopped taking the medicine.
I went back to the doctor, who now told me it was stress. Relax, I was told. Well, maybe it was stress. Maybe I was making myself sick. So, I took yoga, I meditated, and I was committed to relaxing, but there was still no change in my symptoms.
There were more doctor visits; was it depression? An ulcer? An endoscope examination and a stomach biopsy showed no ulcer. I was diagnosed with IBS as well as “low pain tolerance.” Would this explain why my chest hurt? That still didn’t sound right to me, and these diagnoses added to the list from the previous two years—everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to polycystic ovaries, IBS, stress, depression. I decided I was done going to the doctor. Nothing was really wrong with me. It must all be in my head.
Then, two weeks after the endoscopy and biopsy, I received a phone call from a nurse. The biopsy showed signs of celiac disease. I had never heard of it. I looked it up online that night. I could not believe what I read—I was a textbook case for celiac disease! In a nutshell, a healthy stomach has little “fingers” called villi in it. In my stomach, it was almost as smooth as a bowling ball. Because I had celiac disease, the villi in my stomach were gone, and that was what was causing so many issues!
One of the hallmarks of celiac disease is that it is commonly misdiagnosed. What surprised me even more is that not one doctor I had been to had even suggested this as a possibility! I was accidentally diagnosed with celiac disease. They weren’t even looking for it.
To make matters even more ridiculous, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, and the tendency toward acquiring an autoimmune disease is genetic. Since many of my family members suffer from other autoimmune diseases, I wondered, how did all of these doctors miss this? It is because celiac disease was still not widely known or understood.
After my celiac diagnosis, my doctor’s advice sounded easy at first: “Just look for foods without gluten as an ingredient.” Turns out that was a lot harder than I thought. When you think back to the late 1990s, nobody knew what “gluten-free” was all about. There were no gluten-free sections at grocery stores or gluten-free labels on foods. I knew that gluten was the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, but I had no idea how many foods contained those ingredients. Obviously bread, pasta, and crackers were off the menu. But gluten works its way into all sorts of processed foods, including candy, preservatives, marinades, soy sauce, and deli meats, as well as many fillers and thickening agents. For this reason, it can be hard to spot all the different names for gluten. I found that the absolute surefire, easiest way to avoid gluten was simply to eat real, unprocessed food! Yes, it was that simple!
I thought that I ate pretty healthy before, but now I would be taking it up a notch and to truly eat healthy, as doing so was crucial to feeling healthy and pain-free. At first, I missed the foods I used to eat, but after just a few days of being gluten-free, it was no longer a concern, because every single symptom went away! I had forgotten how good feeling “normal” could be. And once I was feeling better, my whole life was different. I had renewed confidence, and I was excited to tackle each day. My relationships felt more like a blessing than a burden. It was amazing to know that I could be completely free of pain just by eating a certain way.
MY ROCK BOTTOM: SAYING GOOD-BYE TO MY DREAM LIFE
Several years after my celiac diagnosis, I was having a tough time. Not just any tough time, but one of those rock bottom times when everything that can go wrong, does.
It started when I was just about to have my daughter. Anyone who looked at me from the outside would have thought I had the perfect life. I had the nice house, nice car, nice job, nice husband, and I lived in San Diego with its nice weather. But all of that was just a facade. On the inside, I was miserable and things were spiraling out of control.
At the time, I was working sixty-plus hours a week as a national sales manager for a medical device company and was traveling weekly. I was on the road three to five days every week, and had been for years. I remember sitting at home on what should have been a relaxing Sunday afternoon, but instead I was thinking that I had to be up super early to get to the airport on time. Monday was almost here, and I was about to get on an airplane again. The last thing I felt like doing while eight months pregnant was travel cross-country on a six a.m. flight the next morning.
In addition to that, I was married to someone whom had been my best friend and who I did everything with, but those days had somehow disappeared and my marriage was falling apart. It didn’t help that my closest girlfriends and my family all lived three thousand miles away on the East Coast and I was out in California.
I had already gained 50 pounds on my 5′2″ frame and still had a month of pregnancy to go. I was living in a house I couldn’t afford with somebody I no longer felt connected to; I didn’t know how I was going to pay the bills or how I was going to escape the situation I had somehow gotten myself into. I was stressing about maternity leave and how my financial problems would likely get worse once I wasn’t able to travel each week. I probably would have to take a voluntary demotion to a position with less travel if I wanted to be there for my daughter. I was feeling lonely and afraid, and everything seemed so out of control. I hated what my life had become. Not only had I always been a positive, upbeat, happy person, but I had always been so excited about having a daughter. Now my greatest wish was coming true and everything else was falling apart all around me. I had never felt like this before in my entire life.
After my daughter was born, matters spiraled further out of control. I took that voluntary demotion at work so I could be home to raise my daughter. That meant I could no longer afford my dream home anymore, and the real estate crash had simultaneously wiped out my equity, something I had invested my hard-earned money in.
One day when I stopped to get gas on my way back from work, I got out of my car like I always did, slid in my credit card, and . . . declined. Never in my life had I had a credit card decline. I called the credit card company to see what the error was. Sure enough, they had cut me off. Even though I had never missed or been late on a payment to them, they canceled my cards because of the debt from my house.
I sat there in the passenger seat with the gas pump attached to my car, but I had no money to put in it. There I was, a grown woman who had always taken care of herself, calling my mom, bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t even put gas in my car. As somebody who had always prided herself on being financially responsible, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. After all, my dad was an accountant, and if I had learned anything from him, it was how to properly manage money.
My mom ended up wiring me money and co-signing on a new credit card so that I could at least have a working credit card. I went home and had an ugly cry. Yes, the ugly cry. The kind you do alone and that you hope nobody hears or sees. Where you ponder whatever mess you got yourself into and feel sorry for yourself.
With my credit cards being canceled and the stock market in free fall, the financially sound life I had built over many years was gone. My husband and I filed for divorce. I had to share custody of my daughter, which meant less time with the one person who meant the world to me. I was overweight, depressed, and more alone than I had ever been in my life, and I was only thirty-six. Everything I had been years before—confident, successful, positive, energetic, and happy—was gone. I didn’t know who that girl was anymore. The dream life and outside appearance I had worked so hard for had come to an end.
I was still eating gluten-free, but I was about 60 pounds heavier than I am today and suffering from depression, hunger, grumpiness, and hormone fluctuations. What had changed? I was miserable and ate terribly. I used food to comfort me. As much as I hate to admit it, trips to the drive-through for French fries and fudge sundaes became a regular part of my diet while I was pregnant. Things were so bad, it was like I lost a part of myself. So sad to think that my happiness came from two fast food items.
Not only was the fast food not helping, but due to increased public awareness about gluten intolerance, a whole industry of processed gluten-free foods had sprung up over the past several years. Convenience foods that were once off the table for somebody with celiac disease were again an option for me. It became very easy to rely on the gluten-free packaged foods that were now available at every grocery store. From gluten-free breads to gluten-free pizza and pasta, nothing seemed to be off-limits anymore.
So much for eating “real food” like I had when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Processed gluten-free foods were convenient, they gave me short-term happiness, and they kept my celiac symptoms in check. But they sure weren’t doing my body any favors. I had a suspicion the gluten-free cookies, muffins, and pizzas might have something to do with my weight gain, but for a period of time there, I was too busy having a pity party to care.
The lowest point of this rock bottom moment in my life was catching a glimpse of myself walking past the mirrored windows of a shopping center while I was pushing the stroller and walking my dogs, Bean and Cali. That was the final straw. I saw stuff hanging in places it never had before. I felt disgusting. I didn’t recognize myself. I had heard from so many women that once you have a baby, you just can’t get your body back, that you will always have the baby weight. But what I had gained was a lot more than just normal baby weight. That was not what I wanted for myself.
After some serious soul searching, I decided that doing nothing and continuing down this path was a guaranteed dead-end decision. It can be tough to really look at your life and take responsibility for things that might not have gone as planned, but that’s what I had to do. I aspired to be the person I once was and possibly even better. I was determined not to give up! I had to take personal responsibility for my situation, my life, and my future. I did not wallow in my excuses. I finally asked myself: “What is the opportunity in all of this?”
UNPROCESSING MY DIET AND CREATING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
It took some time, but I finally picked myself up. I thought back to when I was a sales director, and how I taught all the sales reps about setting goals and creating a vision to achieve them. The thing is, since my life had been pretty good, I never actually did the work myself. Now was the time for me to take action and take the steps I had helped so many others take. I had to get my life and my health back on track. I would finally do all the things I had been telling others to do for years. Yes, it took some effort, but it felt good to “do” instead of just to “teach,” if you know what I mean.
I knew that nutrition was key, so rather than continuing with a diet of gluten-free versions of bread, pasta, and other processed foods, I would give up gluten the way I had in the first place, by unprocessing my diet and my lifestyle. I knew that unprocessing my diet needed to be as simple, straightforward, delicious, and fun as those packaged gluten-free muffins and frozen pizzas. But when I looked to find books or other information on giving up packaged food or eating a clean diet, they were all about intensive overhauls that were too extreme and restrictive to fit into my busy life.
I knew that anything too restrictive couldn’t be sustained for the long haul, and I was in it for the long haul. From fat-free, sugar-free, low- and no-carb diets, to vegetarianism and veganism, I found their all-consuming approaches to clean eating overwhelming and intimidating. I figured most people were probably like me and had no interest in strict elimination diets that relied more on willpower than anything else, as they removed entire food groups or restricted certain nutrients, or in juice cleanses that practically meant giving up eating altogether! I wanted something simple that I could read and understand quickly. When I couldn’t find it, I decided to start putting something together for myself. As part of my transformation, I worked with these questions:
• What would happen if everyone gave themselves a chance to eat the right way?
• What if eating an unprocessed diet for a week was made easy and delicious for even the busiest of people?
• And what if you only had to commit to an unprocessed lifestyle for seven days to drop up to five pounds and jump start your weight loss?
Could it be fun? Could it be a life-changer? It sure was!
MAPPING OUT MY GOALS: BECOME A FITNESS MODEL AT AGE THIRTY-NINE?
Doing what I had taught others in corporate America to do for years, I first made a vision board to map out my goals and put my plan into place (read more about vision boards on page 24). I pulled out fit-looking people and fitness models, because I knew deep down that I could be a fit person again. I pulled out happy couples, I pulled out pictures of money, and I pulled out an ocean view. I put the words fitness model on the board.
Why? Because it was so far from how I was feeling. I was out of shape, but I knew deep down that this was possible. You have to get your mind believing in something if you have any hope of ever achieving it. I knew that getting my mind right would be the first step. If I could get my mind right and get that negative voice in my head in check, I could work my way out of this hole. I started looking at my vision board every night. I thought that if I could just move one step toward what I saw on it every day, maybe I could get somewhere.
I started telling my friends that I was going to become a fitness model. Most everyone laughed and told me I could never be a fitness model, especially starting at age thirty-nine. I didn’t let that discourage me. In fact, I told them I was going to be on the cover of three fitness magazines. At that point I didn’t really care what people thought. I had hit rock bottom. There was nowhere to go but up.
As time went on, I shared what I was doing on Facebook. I found people who would believe in me and support me along the way. As I was working out and getting in shape, I started sharing my story and posting what I was eating. I was surprised to find out how many people were hungry for easy-to-understand instructions and recipes to unprocess their diets and lives one step at a time. I had no idea that things would end up where they are today, with a huge social media following including well over a million followers just on Facebook. People were sharing the information I put out there, and it was genuinely helping them.
From my first posts, people would ask how I made my recipes, and next thing you know they were asking if I had a recipe book. So I gathered photos that I took with my BlackBerry (does anyone still have a BlackBerry?!), created my own website, and started selling my recipe book from the site.
People began asking for more. They loved the recipes, but they wanted to know how I ate each day and how to use those recipes. So I took some time and created what’s now called the 7 Day Jump Start—“The Plan.” It became a huge hit, not because it was a beautiful book or I had a big marketing plan, but because I just kept sharing and helping others while moving in the direction of success.
AN EARLY WAKE-UP CALL
WHILE my celiac diagnosis was a big catalyst in terms of taking charge of my health and unprocessing my diet, my interest in fitness and nutrition actually started in my early twenties.
I was twenty-one, finishing college, waiting tables for work, and getting ready to backpack through Europe for a month. I was young, happy, carefree, and excited about life. I wasn’t thinking about a future with family, kids, and a career down the road, and I certainly didn’t think about a future without my dad. My dad was my world, and I admired him greatly. He thought I was a “health nut” compared to him, and would tease me about my exercise and eating habits.
Everything changed the evening of July 2, 1994. It was a busy day at work, and I received a call from the office phone. All I heard was “Dad’s in the hospital . . .” I grabbed my stuff and off I went. By the time I got to the hospital, he was already gone.
No “he had a heart attack, now let’s change habits.” No warnings. Just boom! Gone. Done. No hugs. No good-byes. No last words. It was not an underlying genetic disease that got him. Like so many, his death was entirely preventable, as it was a direct result of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. He was only forty-nine. I was twenty-two, my brother was twenty, and my sister was only twelve. He left us without a dad, and he left my young mom a widow.
I miss him so much, and at the same time, I am angry that he wouldn’t listen. Angry that he didn’t think it was important to change his lifestyle so he could be with us today to watch his kids become adults and raise their own children.
I post “A Letter to Dad” on social media each year on the anniversary of his passing (www.nataliejillfitness.com/letter-to-dad/). One thing is consistent—the number of people who respond with stories of losing somebody they cared about way too early because the person didn’t take their health in their own hands before it was too late. I share this story to stress how important it is to follow a healthy lifestyle, not just for you but for your loved ones, too!
It really hit me how crucial it was to take good care of myself. I needed to maintain more awareness of my health, because I didn’t want to go down the same road my father had taken. As I look back, it’s clear that his death was the initial catalyst that started me down the path I am on today.
So please, stop the excuses for any habits that are self-inflicting, life-threatening diseases. The formula is not that difficult: eat clean, natural, unprocessed foods, and just move. Walk, walk, and walk some more. Be active. Don’t let a sedentary life become you. Remember that your decisions affect the lives of more people than just yourself, people who want you around for a long time, including people who might not even be born yet, like kids and grandkids. My daughter, Penelope, has three of her four grandparents, and always asks, “Where is grandpa, when is he coming?” or, “What happened to grandpa?”
I ultimately created my fitness and nutrition plans to make it easy for others so they could learn from my loss instead of having to experience it themselves. I want you to benefit from my wake-up call. Embrace a healthy lifestyle of proper eating and fitness habits, and the odds are on your side that you will live a happier, healthier, and longer life.
MAKING MY OWN LUCK: THE BIRTH OF THE 7 DAY JUMP START
All that plugging away and persistence paid off. I made my own luck! At thirty-nine I did become a fitness model, and I became a fitness, nutrition, and motivational mentor to so many people. I ended up on the covers of more than three magazines and built a thriving fitness business from a place where no one believed in me. Now in my mid-forties, I am in the best shape of my life and feel better than I did in my twenties. Once I had control of my nutrition, I got the healthy body I was after, and things became clear. I turned my problems into opportunities and found solutions that worked! Once I did this, everything else fell into place. All this came from my rock bottom place, which, as it turns out, is a great place to rebuild. As crazy as it sounds, when things are really bad, there truly is only one place to go . . . and that is up!
“I decided I could reinvent my life. I listed out my goals and started to act as if I already was the person I wanted to become. And it worked!”
Fast-forward a few short years, and I have literally millions of people who have been enjoying my fitness videos and lifestyle nutrition plans. Many of them have shared their weight-loss success stories and testimonials about reclaiming their lives, their identities, and their relationships by unprocessing their diets and everything else that comes along with it—you’ll meet some of them and read their amazing stories here. When people have more energy and are in shape, they look and feel better, and this has a positive impact on every part of their lives.
Since the beginning, one thing that a lot of people consistently asked for is more recipes—specifically, more delicious unprocessed recipes to help them to jump start their weight loss and create a foundation for a new, healthy way of eating for a lifetime. And they wanted it in a book—so that’s just what this book is all about! I can’t wait for you to try all my new favorites—from blueberry almond muffins for breakfast to eggplant lasagna for dinner and strawberry chocolate cobbler for dessert. Are you in?
WHAT IS CELIAC DISEASE?
A PERSON who has celiac disease has a body that does not recognize gluten and does not digest it. Every time a person with celiac disease eats something containing gluten, their immune system attacks their digestive tract (specifically the small intestine), which can significantly interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain essential nutrients. Celiac disease can affect men and women across all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
A 100 percent gluten-free diet (completely avoiding wheat, barley, and rye) is the only existing treatment for celiac today. There are no pharmaceutical cures for celiac disease.
- On Sale
- Dec 19, 2017
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books