The “Benner Fits” of an Elimination Diet (with guest blogger April Norris!)

Guest blogger April Norris has joined us once again today on Benner Fit to discuss her experiences with elimination dieting! So excited to have her share! Remember, as with all diets please proceed at your own risk and pace yourself accordingly should you follow her plan. 


The Benner Fits of an Elimination Diet | Benner Fit with guest blogger April Norris


Tofu, egg whites, granola, whey protein, edamame, Greek yogurt… You might not realize it, but the so-called “health foods” you’ve been eating daily are potentially sabotaging your health. If you’re already a clean eater, as I’m sure many Benner-fitters are, this concept might be hard to wrap your head around. But trust me, the following information can significantly improve your life.

The current buzzword in holistic nutrition and integrative medicine is “inflammation”, and for very good reason. Research is finding that inflammation is the underlying cause of virtually all the chronic diseases we have in current society²: diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, obesity, arthritis, high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease, asthma… to name a few. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control reported virtually half of all Americans (117 million) had at least one chronic disease¹, and that number is expected to grow. Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a healthy immune response, in which your body protects your tissues in times of trauma or infection. But when an inflammation persists for a long period of time, the chronic conditions listed above can develop, thus crippling our society and medical system.

Do you or someone you know struggle with allergies, constipation, bloating or gas? How about that slow, confused, hazy feeling known as “brain fog”? Are you suffering from acne, uncontrollable mood swings, PMS or migraines? These are just a few symptoms that numerous people struggle with, which can be caused by inflammation and the foods we consume. And I’m not just talking specifically junk foods, or processed food. Your body can develop sensitivities to even the healthiest of foods, often those you eat daily.

Before I get any further into an elimination diet, and how it could help you, let me take a moment to tell you my journey and how I came to be a Certified Holistic Health Consultant. I was first introduced to the world of food sensitivities about 2-1/2 years ago, when my son, who was 6 months old at the time, began developing severe bronchitis, pneumonia and sinus infections. We saw a slew of pediatric specialists, all diagnosing him with different conditions: asthma, “chronic cough”, allergies, even probable eosinophilic esophagitis (Google it). After my son had a few invasive procedures done, and all results came back normal, I intrinsically knew something else could be done. There HAD to be another way instead of pumping him full of medications every day. I found a Naturopathic Doctor, and she told us to eliminate every ounce of gluten, dairy, and soy from his diet. Within two months, he was off all steroids, antibiotics, and blossomed into an exceptionally vibrant, rambunctious 2-year old! As the rest of the family went gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free by default, we all started noticing dramatic improvements in our health: my daughter’s chronic eczema and ADHD behaviors dramatically improved, my IBS symptoms disappeared and that stubborn baby weight finally came off, and my husband’s itchy legs and chronic knee pain vanished! I personally saw and experienced that food CAN and SHOULD be used as medicine. Our bodies have an innate ability to heal itself when given the proper nutrients. That is why I am so passionate about sharing my knowledge with the world and all you fabulous Benner-fitters.


Elimination Diet | Benner Fit with guest blogger April Norris


So what happens when you eat a food that causes inflammation? A little bit of anatomy is involved here, so bear with me. Imagine for a moment, the most ideal intestinal lining is like a crocheted blanket, with the yarn tightly woven together. But, when we eat a food we are sensitive to, the “yarns” of that gut lining develop microscopic holes as they become inflamed. These food molecules squeeze through those holes in your intestine and wiggle out into the blood stream. Perhaps some of you have heard the term “leaky gut”, and this is where the idea originates. These food particles “leak” out into the bloodstream and your immune system starts attacking these food particles like they would a virus or bacteria. Your white blood cells are on overdrive and the inflammatory response of your body ramps up in order to protect your tissues. Your body doesn’t react the same with a food sensitivity as an anaphylactic reaction. To my clients, I describe a food sensitivity reaction like water torture… a very slow and steady trickle of low-grade inflammation. BUT it’s enough to lower your immune system, increase your cortisol levels (because the body becomes stressed by fighting these “food invaders”), and starts to cause symptoms like migraines, joint pain, bloating, IBS, acne, eczema, you name it. When we remove these inflammatory foods, we can let the body heal and find out easier what is causing our symptoms. So instead of treating the symptoms, we find out the root cause, which is more often than not, food related.

When we do an elimination diet we cut out wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs. These foods are over consumed in the American diet and are present in a majority of processed foods. Our bodies have lost the ability to properly digest and assimilate them, so they end up causing irritation in the gut lining, which leads to these health issues we’ve discussed earlier. So by eliminating these foods that are difficult for the body to process and cause reactions, we allow the intestines to rest, regenerate, and renew the protective gut-lining, that is so critical to our overall health.

Usually, elimination diets should last anywhere from 7 to 21 days. The longer, the better, obviously, as it allows the number of antibodies to diminish and for your body to eliminate them through your organs. (We’ve also heard the old adage that it takes 21 days to form a new habit – time to start some new habits, peeps.) Now, I’m sure this elimination diet lingo sounds a bit overwhelming. “So what CAN I eat?!?”, many of my clients ask. I want you to focus on the foods that will nourish, replenish and rebuild your body. Don’t stew about what you’re depriving yourself of, or all the things you’re missing out on. Keep in mind that every single bite of food is sending informational messages to your cells. Give it good information so it can perform at optimal levels. This is a time to honor your body and discover how your body can heal itself.


Elimination Diet | Benner Fit with guest blogger April Norris


  • DO eat clean proteins (organic, hormone-free, grass-fed, lean beef, chicken, wild caught shellfish and wild-caught fish that’s low in mercury, legumes, raw nuts and seeds.)
  • DO eat as many vegetables as you desire! The fiber and water content will assist in ushering out the toxins from the processed junk and/or inflammatory foods.
  • DO embrace healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, ghee (clarified butter, non-dairy), coconut oil, flax and walnut oil.
  • DO get creative and find or make easy, nourishing snacks like seaweed, kale chips, apple chips, and protein balls.
  • DO eat gluten-free grains like quinoa, rice and millet. Oats have to have a gluten-free label because they usually become cross-contaminated on the equipment.

After 7-21 days of eating whole, unprocessed, wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and egg-free meals, you want to slowly reintroduce these foods, individually. For example, let’s pick dairy. You would eat some yogurt for breakfast, some shredded cheese on your salad, and some real butter on your vegetables at dinner. Monitor your symptoms throughout the day, and perhaps the next day if you are questioning the results. (Food sensitivities sometimes have delayed reactions, up to 24-48 hours after ingestion4.) Obviously, if you feel an immediate reaction to a food, then don’t continue eating more of it that day. Your body is your best teacher. It might be telling you “I don’t like yogurt! And to show you, I’ll give you a migraine!” – listen. If you go through 2 days and don’t feel any symptoms to a food, then add another single food, possibly eggs next. Continue doing this until you’ve tested all the usual suspects, and have drawn conclusions about what nourishes and builds your body, or what depletes and tears your body down.

As you reintroduce foods, a food diary is an essential component. This will help you become aware of the subtle physical and emotional changes that may occur after eating a specific food. Be on the lookout for fatigue, rashes, congestion, insomnia, bloating, itchy eyes, moodiness, increased stress, and trouble concentrating/brain fog. These are some of the more understated symptoms that you don’t often notice until they accumulate over time. Jot down a few sentences in your journal each time before you eat, and again after you eat. Although a food journal seems bothersome and mundane, this will be the greatest gift you can give yourself. You are experimenting with your body, and as any great scientist will tell you, you need good research notes.

Ultimately, the key to making any elimination diet successful, is to prepare. Go shopping, chop up veggies, have your recipes ready to go, make meals in advance and freeze them so you’re not reaching for something you shouldn’t…

Changing the way I ate and cooked for my family 3 years ago was undeniably intimidating. I hated to cook and dreaded being in the kitchen, but I had a sick baby and was prepared to do ANYTHING to get him healthy. Now, almost 3 years later, I actually enjoy experimenting with recipes, discovering various ways to make veggies taste good, and sharing my knowledge with my clients. I hope you’ll give an elimination diet a try… eat better, feel better, think better, live better.

1. “Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 09 May 2014. Web. 16 July 2014.
2. Daniluk, Julie. Slimming Meals That Heal: Lose Weight without Dieting, Using Anti-inflammatory Superfoods. United States: Hay House, 2014. Print.
3. Drake, Victoria, Ph.D. “Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health.” Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Oregon State University, 2007. Web. 16 July 2014.
4. “Food Allergies and Sensitivities: General Information from UNL Food Allergy Team.” Food Allergies and Sensitivities: General Information from UNL Food Allergy. University of Nebraska, Lincoln, n.d. Web. 16 July 2014.


Benner Fit | Guest Blogger - April NorrisApril Norris is a board Certified Holistic Health Consultant (AADP), Certified Pilates Instructor (BASI), hot yoga enthusiast, artist, and devoted student of natural health. April is passionate about helping clients eliminate food sensitivities and optimizing digestion in order to lead a life full of vitality. She provides workshops, teleclasses, seasonal detoxes, small group and individual nutrition counseling. Look her up on, follow April on Facebook at Optimal Vitality, Twitter at @optvitality, or Instagram @optimalvitalitywellness.

If you need additional help with an elimination diet, April offers a 15-day seasonal detox, or elimination diet plan. This is an easy, online program, done in the comfort of your own home. She will guide you step-by-step through this process, to help you find foods which your body will rejoice and provide you with boundless energy. April offers over 75 recipes, made from fresh, seasonal foods, a shopping list, and self-care tools designed to help you reconnect with your body and become more in-tune with what it needs.

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Must Haves

POPSUGAR provided us with a complimentary POPSUGAR Must Have box. The opinions I have shared about the box are my own and POPSUGAR did not tell me what to say or how to say it.




We recently became a part of the PopSugar Select fitness bloggers. If you don’t know what PopSugar is yet I just have to say check them out. It’s an endless weaving forum of sites ranging from fitness, to food, to pop culture.  They didn’t tell me to say that or anything – it’s just straight up, legitimately an awesome site which is why we paired up with them. They couldn’t just knock it out of the park in the blog/web world, that wasn’t enough amazing. So they also came up with a super fun and fantastic subscription service.

Let’s take a moment to pause and talk about my love for subscription services. For my birthday this year my sister got me a subscription to Birchbox, which got me hooked. This is when I learned getting things in the mail that aren’t bills or junk is a delight. Especially if they are fun grown up things to play with – like make up and clothes. It’s a good thing I’m on a tight budget over here or else I would be subscription service junkie. Instead I mostly admire them from afar, window shopping what my mailbox could potentially be full of.

PopSugar was so kind to send us a peek into their monthly subscription service known as their Must Have Box.  These will run you about $40 a month which seems a bit steep, however you get your money’s worth.

PopSugar Must Haves | Benner Fit


When I opened up the box the first thing I saw was Emily Giffin’s new book, The One and Only. I had been eyeing it on Amazon for the last month and got a little giddy when I saw a fresh hardcover in the box. (Also, hardcover books. It’s been a while. I almost forgot how magical you are to hold and smell.) I’m so happy to have a summer read on hand. I cracked it open just this evening and read the first few pages. Can’t wait to dive in further.

A gorgeous Turkish towel came tightly rolled up next to book - a perfect beachy compliment. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with a Turkish towel. It’s way too pretty to dry anything off with. The only source of moisture that I could come up with that this towel is worthy of absorbing is a little Ryan Gosling schvitz. But please, I’m open to other suggestions – feel free to comment below.

As I dug deeper into the box I discovered a silky citrusy lotion by Sachajuan and three adorable hair ties by Lollie’s Basics (the material is made of swimsuit wear so they won’t get stretched out and will dry easily if you take them for a dip, I imagine.)


PopSugar Must Haves | Benner Fit

The winner of best packaging in the box goes to You Smell. I mean, look at this box. (You can also read the top text which mentions unicorns and other things I adore on our Instagram feed.) Love the font, love the colors – all of this wonderful design for lemon flavored handy wipes. Creative packaging rocks my socks off.


You Smell - Pop Sugar Must Have | Benner Fit

To top off the box was a gift card to Native Union, which for a nerdy girl like me was a treat. They sell gorgeous iPhone cases and also classic phone handsets that connect to your cell phone via Bluetooth for extra ridiculous communication. I kind of want to walk down the street talking on one of these.

And finally, hidden in a protective sleeve were potato chips. Let’s be real. I dug into those chips ASAP. They were BBQ. They were delish. They were gone in two minutes. I didn’t have time to check if they were healthy. I’m sure they were. Totally healthy.


For a few more days you can get $10 off a free subscription with the offer code JUNESELECT10.

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Yoga Booty Burn

If you’re going to shake it like your hips don’t lie, you might as well have a perky booty. Let’s pep ours up with this circuit!


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10 Things I Wish I Knew at 22

Guest blogger and friend Alana Krigger wrote our very first post for our Wellness section!  So happy to have her share her wisdom with us today. 


10 Things I Wish I Knew at 22 by Alana Krigger | Benner Fit


As I approached the big 3-0, I reflected on my life and how I ended up being the person I am today. Heck, I contemplate life on the reg, but 30 seemed like a milestone and a great excuse to write something of substance. While I have no regrets and am happy with who I am, here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me 8 years ago. Would I have listened? Who knows! But perhaps this will help open someone else’s eyes.


1. Earn it.

I feel that Generation X experienced college and were perhaps led to believe that they could land their dream jobs immediately after. While that may be true for some, what about the others who do not always find their paths right away?

There’s definitely an expectation I had after graduating from college. I expected ‘x’ amount of dollars, a certain level of satisfaction with my job, and rapid upward mobility. I learned this may not always be the case. You have to establish your worth and take on the crappy jobs with the vision that this will all lead to something better. Plant the seeds of hard work and dedication – they’ll harvest and pay off later.


2. Suck it up.

Don’t complain. Okay, vent when you need to, but keep it to a minimum. There is only so much energy you have and wasting it by complaining only takes you away from the present moment, which is truly all we have. You are in control of your attitude, and often your attitude will affect outcomes. If a life situation knocks you down, stand tall and be RESILIENT. Further, don’t allow negative people to drain your energy either.


3. Stop chasing love.

Yeah, yeah, yeah this is a tough one considering the majority of us are motivated by love. Love is after all the core of our existence…the highest frequency. It’s hard because not everyone wants to face life alone and it’s more common than not to enter a relationship to seek someone else to fill a void. Focusing on yourself and finding what makes YOU happy first only leads to finding someone who is on a similar path. Then comes the fireworks and a special someone to share the WOW with. You deserve someone who compliments your life as opposed to complicating it. It’ll come. Whether you are 30 or 70, there will always be opportunities for love.


4. Karma is real!

One of the truest statements to live by is to treat others as you wish to be treated. It is told to us over and over again. Our greatest gift is the power to help others. When you help another, there is no doubt that the favor will be returned to you. Perhaps it won’t be by that particular person, but from someone else. Kindness is right up there too – check your ego and express acts of kindness without a hidden agenda and the fear of what others will think of you. And don’t play games with people, especially in affairs of the heart. Because that ish comes back. Hard.

Sure, situations in life are presented to us, which we may never understand the meaning of. When that happens, there is a lesson, however tough, that must be learned. But that is another blog.


5. Family ties are important.

As life gets busier, we can take family (or the people we have chosen as family) for granted the most because we feel they will always be there. Make the time and cherish them. Additionally, understanding your family is one of the best ways to truly learn about yourself and what makes you who you are. As products of our environments, our upbringing greatly affects us in our adulthood whether we like it or not.


6. Organic relationships matter.

Life is too entirely too short and precious for inauthentic relationships. Spend your time with people on a similar vibe that accept you for who you are. When you find these people, hang onto them and appreciate them. It’s these relationships that can help you the most in life.


7. You’re not all that.

Perhaps one of the biggest ego checks was when a former co-worker told me, “You’re not all that.” I only vaguely remember the context and was probably acting like a know-it-all over some project at work. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t going to matter ten years from now. Since then, it has stuck. It seems that we like to believe that we are meant to be something greater than we actually are. When at the end of the day, we are only human. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves and feel like we are not good enough when we are not where we think we should be. You are exactly where you need to be right now.


8. Live abroad. Learn a language.

Experiencing other cultures is huge- it teaches compassion, tolerance, oneness… Let’s be real here, most of us Americans choose to live in a stereotypical bubble. Finding a way to live in another country, especially in your 20’s can prove transformational beyond words. Bonus points for learning another language!


9. Get involved in your community.

Give a bit of your heart and volunteer. Participate in a team sport. Start an Adventure Club with friends and select an activity to do together once a month (thanks to Brooke!).


10. Slow down.

This was perhaps the toughest one for me, perhaps that’s why it’s last and I’ve been sitting on it for a couple of days now. In fact, I don’t even remember why I wrote it down in the first place. #slowdownforwhat

I guess it’s because we live in a world that is constantly “Go, go, go!” Taking a timeout can be viewed as a sign of weakness, when in fact it’s just the opposite. Sometimes it’s okay to settle for a slow down, especially after a major life event or to reassess our course and check in with ourselves. This can apply to various aspects of our lives, such as jumping from one relationship to the next due to a fear of being alone…when all you really need is you.

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Vegan Cheese Recipe by April Norris

Before I found out I was highly sensitive to all types of dairy, parmesan cheese was my old go-to. I'd use it on everything: salads, soups, dips, popcorn, steamed veggies… You can imagine my disappointment when I realized this delectable topping was contributing to my tummy troubles.

Over the past few years, I've tried to find a good cheese alternative, but there aren't many out there. A lot of the store bought almond or rice cheeses contain casein, a milk protein which can irritate the intestinal lining and cause mood disturbances. Casein is what makes the non-dairy cheeses melt and give it that ooey-gooey-goodness like real cheese. (FYI – “lactose free” is NOT the same as “casein free”!)

So, for us dairy-sensitive people, I've created a fun vegan cheese shake. For different tastes, you can vary the nuts and herbs in this recipe. Try walnuts, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, cashews or macadamia nuts. Change it up with rosemary, basil, garlic, dried onion, paprika, jalapeño peppers, black pepper, sage, turmeric or cumin. A dairy free life doesn't have to be boring, so “shake” it up!

Vegan Herb Cheese Shake


The day before, soak nuts 6-8 hours in filtered water to improve digestibility and proper nutrient assimilation.

Make sure nuts are mostly dry before using in this recipe.


1 small lemon, zested

2-3 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1.5 cups nutritional yeast

1.5 cup slivered almonds


1. Combine almonds and nutritional yeast in the food processor until it makes a fine powder.

2. Add lemon zest, oregano, garlic powder and salt.

3. Pulse until ingredients are fully incorporated and mixed well.

4. Shake on everything your heart desires!

Store in your favorite mason jar in the fridge. Will keep for about 3-4 weeks.


For more information on our guest blogger April Norris check out her website




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