The Power of Healing Yourself with Food


I believe that with every action we take, every thought we think and every morsel we put in our body, we are moving towards greater health and vitality or we are moving towards faster aging, illness and death. What if we had thepower of healing and living at optimum health at our fingertips? I believe we do.

Our diets are a key component to the functioning of EVERY part of our body. I was thinking about the food I used to eat. I don’t think the food I ate as a child and young adult were much different than the average person in this country. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, bagels and cream cheese, homemade chocolate chip cookies, apples, grapes. As I became an adult, a few more greens, other veggies, whole wheat and other grains made their way into my diet, along with more variety (and a few more indulgences).But, along the way, my body began to break down, and it didn’t take long. I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata when I was 8 years old. Then as a young adult, I learned that I had an underactive thyroid and then Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which really turned out to be leaky gut syndrome (yes, its as bad as it sounds).

Unfortunately none of the many doctors I saw ever suspected my sugar, gluten, dairy, low-fat and preservative-filled diet could have had an impact. Diet and possible food sensitivities were never discussed.There are countless studies that point to the direct impact of our diets on our health. A recent paper inThe New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 diseases that can be caused just by eating gluten. Most people with a gluten or food sensitivity often attribute their symptoms to something else – not food.Not only does food have the ability to do damage, but it also has the ability to support our body in its natural healing processes.

After many years of symptoms, some obvious and some not so much, I’ve discovered the power of healing with food. Making dietary changes aren’t necessarily easy, even if the goal is as important as healing an illness. But it’s critical to add in the life-giving foods that our body needs to thrive — like fruits, veggies, healthy fats and water— and begin removing inflammation-causing foods, like gluten and sugar. At times it’s been overwhelming and frustrating. Why would I want to give up eating warm, delicious French bread in my favorite restaurant or my mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, that I’ve known and loved my entire life? Is it really worth it? As I began realizing the tremendous impact my diet has had on my health and the possibility of healing my body of the Alopecia Areata that I’ve had for 36 years, I’ve often thought, “Ok, I can do this. It’s not that hard.” That is, until I’m face to face with that cookie! More than once, I’ve said to myself, I’m willing to sacrifice a few hairs for this cookie. (Can you tell I like cookies?) Seriously, one cookie is not going to determine the growth of a single hair or my overall health. But it has never been just one cookie.

The truth of the matter is, in order to actually heal our body (yes, it is possible to heal our body even with autoimmune disease) we need to make our health and our diet a priority. It really is about everything we put in our body, and the many lifestyle choices that we make each day, each moment. Making our health a priority is about feeling good, having optimal function of every part of our body and wanting great health more than satisfying a momentary craving with our favorite treat. It’s also about balance and discovering new favorite foods that support our health instead of destroying it.It’s about being patient and allowing our body to heal. It takes time to heal.It’s about trust — trusting that sound nutrition and whole natural foods support healing and good health and our body has the capacity to heal.
And it’s about knowing that we can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results.Take back your power. Take back your health. You are the captain of your ship, the one and only one you’ll ever have. The time is now. 

By Jodi Briden at Mind Body Green

Non-Toxic Kids: 5 Toy Companies That are Toxic

With a niece and nephew who I love to death and another one on the way, the wellness of children is near and dear to my heart. Mislabeling and deceptive advertising of food are no surprise in today’s competition for our palates (keep an eye out next week for the science behind addictive junk food), but nothing infuriates me more than companies who deliberately or negligently put the health of children at risk. I came across this great post and wanted to share it with all of you.

As people are becoming more aware of the chemicals companies put into the manufacturing of toys, parents are looking towards alternatives to diversions. After all, we don’t want to purposely poison our children and we need to protect them at any cost. Toxic chemicals are the basis for a great deal of consumer products. A large portion of the time toxicity isn’t recognized at first and is truly accidental. Other times, it is the cost of materials needed to reduce expenses to make a greater profit margin.

1. Playmobil – Although focused on child development and educational toys, Playmobil utilizes a large amount of Bisphenol A. This organic hormone-like product can be very toxic to infants and toddlers. It just goes to show how an innocent idea for providing education can turn into a poisonous hazard.

Discoveroo, an Australian company, specializes in similar toys without the use of toxic chemicals and additives. Rattles, doll houses, tea sets, and more are available at this location and could be a good alternative for healthier entertainment for young children.

2. LeapFrog – A leader in educational electronics, LeapFrog has products on the market that have been deemed as being high in toxic levels. Toys such as the Leapster2 handheld device including the Wall. E DVD movie have been found to contain high levels of lead and arsenic in the carrying case. Even the device itself contains low levels of Bromine.

The Discovery store is filled with non-toxic educational electronic toys and games. Toys such as the Physics Solar Workshop can engage the child beyond what a handheld device can. A product such as this gives the child a chance to allow his or her creativity come into play as they learn more about the benefits of solar energy.

3. Geoffrey, Inc – Rated with the most toxic toy tested in 2008, Geoffrey continues to produce toys that can be deemed as dangerous for toxicity and choking. Although there are a great number of entertaining and safe toys produced by Geoffrey, previous track records still have parents concerned about future products.

Parents can answer the call of protecting their young ones by taking a closer look at These non-toxic wood-based toys, play sets, and furniture can give you the ease of mind from plastic poisons.

4. Disney – Who would have thought that Disney would be so irresponsible when it came to the toys of children? According to, three out of the 10 top toxic toys tested in 2008 belong to Disney under various suppliers. Although they may not have built the actual toy, they should have been more aware of the toys composition.

It’s hard to find an alternative to Disney toys since they revolve around the entertainment produced by the company. However, Planet Happy Toys has a wide selection of diversions, fashions, and even jewelry that are eco-friendly and safe to play with.

5. Imaginext – PVC is a very toxic plastic to young ones and Imaginext used quite a bit of it in reports from 2010. These toys enlighten the child’s imagination and can help develop relationship and social skills. However, at what cost should we put on development?

Lego is a PVC free toy that can exercise the imagination of a child. If he or she needs a star ship to attack the pirate base, they can build one. It is a toy that can become anything they want it to be.

Children don’t need extravagance in order to be happy. Simple parks can provide hours of fun for the child and he or she can experience the outdoors without having an iPod shoved in their ear. Have parents grown so accustomed to the utilization of toys as a proverbial baby-sitter? Engage your child without worry of toxic levels and live life to its fullest.

About the Author:
This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @

Gluten-Free Dining Out… Austin, Get Ready to Have Some “Finn”

I had the opportunity this week to get a sneak peak into The Domain’s new hot spot, Blackfinn Ameripub. With over 100 menu options, they have something for everyone.

    What does this have to do with Against the Grain?

    Navigating restaurant menus can be very intimidating and is something I spend a great deal of time with when working with clients. Most of the time I deal with selecting options that are supportive of fitness and wellness goals. Basically, “eat this and not that” and specifically, how to make substitutions without worrying about getting on the chef’s bad side. Believe me, this does happen all too often with over zealous chefs who tend to live by the ideal of “keep your lifestyle choice out of my restaurant”. Whether it be a lifestyle choice for those of us choosing grain free or paleo, or health related choices resulting from celiac disease or other inflammatory conditions, an attitude like that is the surest way to ensure Customers won’t be back or recommend the spot to others.

    Many restaurants are making an effort to cater to options like light fare and vegetarian, gluten-free is a whole different animal due to issues of cross-contamination and lack of consumer education on what lesser know ingredients may be in the other ingredients. Lesser known gluten containing items like soy, worcestershire and other sauces, bouillon, salad dressings, and even processed oils can make it downright scary to try and safely order in a restaurant. How many times have you been to a restaurant and asked a server what items are gluten free only to be met with those deer in headlight eyes and answered with “ummmm I need to go ask my chef/manager” because they haven’t been educated properly.



    Blackfinn has taken it beyond just educating the team members. They have come up with a way to clearly label gluten free items on the menu and have gone one step further. They are labeling which items on the menu contain gluten, but can’t also be prepared gluten free by the kitchen. No more guess work wondering “If I just order it without that, maybe it’ll be ok.” They have also taken strides to prevent cross contamination issues in the kitchen. No worries about the cook accidental grabbing the bottle of soy sauce instead of the gluten free tamari. They only use gluten free tamari. This pro activity is the future of dining out as these lifestyle choices move away from being looked at as being “alternative”, and very admirable of the creative team at Blackfinn.

    Blackfinn Grand Opening Party
    Be sure not to miss all the “Finn” this Friday night. Print, fill out and bring in the image below for VIP access and entry into a drawing to win 2 VIP Badges for SXSW!!! Under invited by, write Michael Dunlap/Against the Grain Fitness to be sure your entry gets in. I’ll see ya there at the party!!!


Learning the Art of Kipping


For those new to or have never experienced CrossFit, at first glance, kipping pull-ups may seem like cheating – or maybe even a spastic type of pull-up (Picture that scrawny little band nerd in gym class growing up, pretty easy for me because I was him)– but they’re not.

Kipping pull-ups allow more work to be done in less time, thus increasing power output and metabolic conditioning, (MetCon). It’s also a full-body coordination movement that, when performed correctly, applies more functionally to real-life pulling skills. Last but not least, the hip motion of an effective kip mirrors the motion of the Olympic lifts, adding to its function as a posterior-chain developer (back, glutes and hamstrings).

If you’re not convinced that kipping pull-ups hold reverence in the fitness realm, I challenge you to attempt running or jogging without the use of your arms. Running and kipping pull-ups are both movements in which the entire body should be used to perform work, and the results will speak for themselves.

This is one of the best videos I’ve seen yet breaking the movement down to the basics from the ground to the bar, or rings.

Against the Grain Living: Advice For My Kids…


Advice to My Kids

By Leo Babauta

I have six lovely children — one of them now an adult, and a couple more almost there — and I give a lot of thought to what I think they should know as they grow up and go out into the world.What could I best teach them to equip them for life? This is what I’d like them to know:

You are good enough. Most people are afraid to do things because they are afraid they’re not good enough, afraid they’ll fail. But you are good enough — learn that and you won’t be afraid of new things, won’t be afraid to fail, won’t need the approval of others. You’ll be pre-approved — by yourself.All you need to be happy is within you. Many people seek happiness in food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, partying, sex … because they’re seeking external happiness. They don’t realize the tools for happiness aren’t outside them. They’re right inside you: mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, thoughtfulness, the ability to create and do something meaningful, even in a small way.

You can start your own business. As a young man, I thought I needed to go to college and then be employed, and that owning a business is for rich people. That was all wrong. It’s possible for almost anyone to start their own business, and while you’ll probably do badly at first, you’ll learn quickly. It’s a much better education than college.Everything useful I’ve learned I didn’t learn from college … I learned from doing.

That said, I’ve had some amazing teachers. They’re not always in school, though: they’re everywhere. A friend I met at work. My peers online. My mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts. My wife. My kids. Failure. Teachers are everywhere, if you’re willing to learn.

Spend less than you earn. Thirty percent less if you can manage. Most people get a job and immediately spend their income on a car loan, high rent or a large mortgage, buying possessions and eating out using credit cards. None of that is necessary. Don’t spend it if you don’t have it. Learn to go without, and be happy with less.

Put away some of your income to grow with the power of compound earnings. Your future self will thank you.

Learn to love healthy food. It’s all a matter of adjusting your tastebuds, slowly and gradually. Learn to cook for yourself. Try some healthy, delicious recipes.

Learn compassion. We start life with a very selfish outlook — we want what we want. But compassion is about realizing we are no more important than everyone else, and we aren’t at the center of the universe. Someone annoys you? Get outside of your little shell, and try to see how their day is going. How can you help them be less angry, less in pain?

Never stop learning. If you just learn something a little a day, it will add up over time immensely.

Have fun being active. Sure, there’s lots of fun to be had online, and in eating sweets and fried food, and in watching TV and movies and playing video games. But going outside and playing with friends, tossing a ball around, swimming, climbing something, challenging each other … that’s even more fun. And it leads to a healthy life, healthy heart, more focused and energetic mind.

Get good at discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is very common, but a big mistake. Learning to be OK with some discomfort will change your life.

The things that stress you out don’t matter. Take a larger perspective: will this matter in five years? Most likely the answer is no. If the answer is yes, attend to it.

Savor life. Not just the usual pleasures, but everything and everyone. The stranger you meet on the bus. The sunshine that hits your face as you walk. The quiet of the morning. Time with a loved one. Time alone. Your breath as you meditate.


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are some of the best teachers. Instead, learn to be OK with mistakes, and learn to learn from them, and learn to shrug them off so they don’t affect your profound confidence in who you are.

You need no one else to make you happy or validate you. You don’t need a boss to tell you that you’re great at what you do. You don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend to tell you that you’re lovable. You don’t need your friends’ approval. Having loved ones and friends in your life is amazing, but know who you are first.

Learn to be good at change. Change is the one constant in life. You will suffer by trying to hold onto things. Learn to let go (meditation helps with this skill), and learn to have a flexible mind. Don’t get stuck in what you’re comfortable with, don’t shut out what’s new and uncomfortable.

Open your heart. Life is amazing if you don’t shut it out. Other people are amazing. Open your heart, be willing to take the wounds that come with an open heart, and you will experience the best of life.

Let love be your rule. Success, selfishness, righteousness … these are not good rules to live by. Love family, friends, coworkers, strangers, your brothers and sisters in humanity. Love even those who think they’re your enemy. Love the animals we treat as food and objects. Most of all, love yourself. And always know, no matter what: I love you with every particle of my being.

‘I Drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid ‘ by Bob Harper


When I was first introduced to CrossFit, I found it to be the hardest workout that I’d ever done. It wiped the floor with me, and I fell in love with it immediately. The results that I have seen in my strength and physicality have been unparalleled to any other things I have ever done in my more than 20 years in the fitness business. I drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for about 18 months now, and it all started because I was looking to try to bring something new onto my show for just one episode. There was a lot of talk about CrossFit, so I thought I’d give it a go. The rest was history. I walked into a box called Brick CrossFit in West Hollywood, and I got my ass handed to me. It was love at first burpee, and I’ve been hooked ever since, and now I incorporate this workout as my primary way to work out my contestants on The Biggest Loser.I believe in it that much.

Since I started CrossFit, I’ve read and heard about the critics talk about how unsafe it is, and my only response to that is any form of exercise can be unsafe if you don’t have the proper coaching, education and guidance. CrossFit is all about constantly-varied, high-intensity movements. And to do these movements, you have to have a certified coach to take you through this — or any type of physical activity.

I came from an endurance background of fitness that consisted of a lot of running, cycling and lighter resistance training. I created so much wear and tear on my body, not to mention that I was just getting bored with my workouts. I am 47 years old and am stronger than I have ever been with CrossFit. My metabolic conditioning is better, because I’m moving larger loads faster and for a shorter amount of time. There are some days that, with the exception of skill work in a session, my workouts can last only 10 minutes or less, and I love that.

I would tell anyone who is considering CrossFit as a workout option for them to make sure that the affiliate that they go to really has the knowledgeable coaches that are required to guide you through WODs (workout of the day) that consist of metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, Olympic lifting (my personal favorite) and power lifting. The CrossFit program is broad, general and inclusive, and most of all, the movements can be scaled down to any level of athlete. Just watch what I do with it on The Biggest Loser.

Image from Peter Lueders, from the April 2013 Issue of the Box Magazine, which features Bob Harper.

Tailgate Must Haves… Roasted Cauliflower Hummus


You can’t have a tailgate without some dips. Now, I do not stress the complete ommission of legumes from one’s diet provided they do not have any preexisting autoimmune or GI issues that coule be further exacerbated by malabsorbtion caused by the phytochems in chickpeas. But, the caloric load in traditional hummus is off the charts. I mean, have you ever taken a look at the suggested serving size on a hummus label before? 2 tablespoon, lol I eat that in one bite! Here is a very versatile alternative to lessen the guilt through 4 quarters of the snacking. Also its a great chance to get creative with flavors like roasted garlic, pumpkin, red pepper, chili n lime. Pick a combo and you can pretty much do it with this recipe.

1 Medium Head Cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 Clove Garlic
1/3 c Tahini
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Coconut Oil, if parchment paper is not available
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Lemon Wedges, Olive Oil & Parsley, for garnish
Fresh Veggies, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with coconut oil.
3. Toss cauliflower florets in olive oil and spread out on baking sheet.
4. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
5. Remove from oven and cool.
6. Combine cauliflower, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in food processor. Process until smooth.
7. Add water one tablespoon at a time for a thinner consistency, if desired.
8. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.
9. Serve with fresh veggies.

Against the Grain Lifestyle – Creativity…


Ever wonder what makes those wacky, creative types tick? How is it that some people seem to come up with all kinds of interesting, original work while the rest of us trudge along in our daily routines?Creative people are different because they operate a little differently. They:

1. Are easily bored

A short attention span isn’t always a good thing, but it can indicate that the creative person has grasped one concept and is ready to go on to the next one.

2. Are willing to take risks

Fearlessness is absolutely necessary for creating original work, because of the possibility of rejection. Anything new requires a bit of change, and most of us don’t care for change that much.

3. Don’t like rules

Rules, to the creative person, are indeed made to be broken. They are created for us by other people, generally to control a process; the creative person needs freedom in order to work.

4. Ask “what if…”

Seeing new possibilities is a little risky, because it means that something will change and some sort of action will have to be taken. Curiosity is probably the single most important trait of creative people.

5. Make lots of mistakes

A photographer doesn’t just take one shot, and a composer doesn’t just write down a fully realized symphony. Creation is a long process, involving lots of boo-boos along the way. A lot goes in the trash.

6. Collaborate

The hermit artist, alone in his garret, is a romantic notion but not always an accurate one. Comedians, musicians, painters, chefs all get a little better by sharing with others in their fields.

7. Are generous

Truly creative people aren’t afraid to give away their hard-earned knowledge. The chef can give you the recipe because she knows you won’t make it like she does anyway.

8. Are independent

Stepping off the beaten path may be scary, but creative people do it. Children actually do this very well but are eventually trained to follow the crowd.

9. Experiment

Combining things that don’t normally go together can result in brilliance or a giant mess. Trial and error are necessary to the creative process.

10. Motivate themselves

There does seem to be a spark that creative people share, an urgent need to make things. They are willing to run the inherent risks of doing something new in order to get a new result.

11. Work hard

This is probably the most overlooked trait of creative people. People who don’t consider themselves to be creative assume that people who are creative are magical, that ideas just pop into their heads effortlessly. Experienced creative people have developed processes and discipline that make it look easy.

12. Aren’t alone

The good news is that it’s possible for everyone to be creative. There are creative accountants, creative cooks, creative janitors, creative babysitters. Any profession or any hobby can be made into a creative pursuit by embracing and using creative traits.Do you consider yourself creative? (Say yes.) Finding something you’re really passionate about will help you take a chance and might just result in something wildly creative.

By Kim Phillips at