It's a New Year. What Is Holding You Back From Being Healthy?

Can I tell you something?

There’s something I didn’t realize when I first started working with people who want to make their health and wellness a priority, people who are sick of feeling less than amazing, and people who are confused about who to listen to for advice.

Here it is:  Most of us already know the basic things we can do to improve our health!

There is a lot of information (and mis-information) about the foods we eat. Just look at the variety of books in the ‘diet’ or ‘health’ section of your local bookstore. But when it comes down to it, we still know the basic things we should be doing to improve our health.

In fact, when I ask my clients “What are three things you think you could be doing to improve your health?” I get similar answers each time:

  1. Be more active
  2. Stop eating _______ or stop drinking ________ 
  3. Eat more vegetables

While I will add more items to that list, the point is that we intuitively know how to make ourselves well. But when it comes to following through? That’s where we fall apart. I know! I have done it too.

journal

For the next week, I’d like you to think about the obstacles that are stopping you from living your healthiest life. Think about it, journal about it, reflect on it.

What obstacles are standing in your way? Maybe you work long hours and cooking a healthy meal seems too time-consuming, or maybe you feel that the price of healthy food is too high. Perhaps you're just overwhelmed with all of the health dogma out there (I know, there is a lot of it).

Knowing your obstacles, habits, and patterns will help you figure out how to work around them!

Here's to a healthy new year!

What I Loved in October ...

I often get asked about products I use and love, whether they are food, lifestyle or beauty related, so starting with October, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite things each month. Hope you enjoy!

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1. Phillips Wake-Up Light: As the temperatures fall and the sun rises later in the morning, I find it harder and harder to wake up and get out from beneath the comfort my flannel sheets in the morning. Can you relate? Enter Phillips Wake-Up Light. I'm OBSESSED. 30 minutes prior to the time I want to get up, light slowly starts slowly filling my room. It starts as a dim yellow and gradually increases to a bright yellow to stimulate my body to wake up naturally. At the time I've set my alarm, birds start chirping and I feel ready to get up. Granted, I still don't want to leave my flannel sheets ...but this light has made a significant difference in getting my booty up in time. Check it out here.

2. Beautycounter Charcoal Mask: Facial masks are fun, but as I've become more educated about harmful ingredients in products, it has been hard to find any that are safe AND effective. Typically when you find a skincare product with really powerful actives (meaning the ingredients that are doing the tough work), they are put into a base of preservatives that we don't want on (or absorbed into) our skin. With this mask, Beautycounter has done an amazing job of using very powerful actives (salicylic acid and charcoal) in a very cooling, soothing and safe base.

I typically use the mask once per week for 10 minutes. Once it goes on, the salicylic acid gets to work. It really cleans out your pores, exfoliates and dissolves gunk without leaving your face red and irritated. The charcoal binds to toxins and impurities to detoxify the skin and it also contains green tea extra extract to make it soothing for the skin. Each time I use it, my skin immediately feels smoother and looks brighter. And as I've continued to use it regularly, I have noticed progressively clearer and smaller pores. Check it out here.

3. Collagen Peptides Sticks: I put Vital Protein Collagen Peptides in my coffee every morning, but when I'm traveling or not able to make my coffee at home, I usually skip my collagen because it can be messy to pack. And I don't like to skip my collagen!

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s found in muscles, bone, skin, and connective tissue like tendons... it basically holds the whole body together, providing strength and structure. It’s important for healthy skin, hair, nails, and teeth; maintaining healthy joints and helping to heal a leaky gut. Collagen production naturally declines as we age which reduces the structural integrity of the skin. When that happens, it can lead to sagging skin, formation of lines and wrinkles, and the weakening of cartilage in joints, making you less flexible and making bones weaker. See why I don't like to miss my collagen?! That's why I was THRILLED when Vital Proteins came out with single serve collagen peptide packs. They're great for travel or when I'm just in a hurry to get out of the house; I always have at least one in my purse. Check them out here.

Take Action to Protect Your Health

My mission is to empower people with information to protect their health. 

Why?

Because my heart has been broken too many times.

Broken by cancer. Reproductive and hormonal issues. Heart disease. Diabetes. Parkinson’s disease. Too many diseases that leave a piece of my heart forever broken. However, it's that part of my heart and my hope for the future that fuels my mission.

Have you ever said you’re "just not going to think about” what’s in the food you eat? Or in the products you use?

I know it can feel overwhelming, but you need to start paying closer attention to what you put IN AND ON your body. I say that with total love. It's important.

Your health is your greatest asset and over time, we've all be asked to compromise it. From processed foods to toxic ingredients in our cleaning and beauty products, we are compromising our health everyday.

It’s time for change. And we need to start taking a stand for ourselves and our loved ones.

Three-ish years ago I started studying nutrition. Over those three years, I spent hundreds of hours learning how the human body works, how a lot of the food I had been eating impacted my body’s ability to work at an optimal level and the negative impacts some foods had on my health. Today I am empowered and empower others to make choices that fuel their body for optimal health.

Two-ish years ago I started transitioning many of the products that I use in my home and on my body to safer products. I tossed cheaper products in the trash, used some until they were gone (they were expensive!) and pushed hundreds of dollars of other products into the back of my closet (largely because it felt very wasteful to throw them away, but I knew I shouldn’t be using them).

Over the last two years, I’ve tried a lot of “clean” products. I’ve found some that I’ve loved and some that I’ve hated. 

I’ve learned that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful in the products we put on our bodies every single day. And if cosmetics are found to be unsafe, the U.S. law does not not provide the FDA power to ask for safety data or issue recalls of unsafe products.

I’ve tried making my own products so I knew exactly what was in them because when manufacturers buy bulk ingredients from suppliers, they are often getting an already-preserved raw ingredient and the end product doesn’t need to list those preservatives. That means a preservative-free or paraben-free product may contain those chemicals after all.

I’ve spent a lot of time and money searching for safe products that actually work and have sometimes been so frustrated with (the lack of) what I found that I’ve pulled out those products I shoved in the back of my closet and used them while I continued my search for safer products that actually worked. Bad call, but I was frustrated! 

It’s been a journey. And I love and learn from every step.

The most recent step I’ve taken on my journey is to join Beautycounter.

Beautycounter’s mission is to get safer, high-performing products into the hands of everyone. 

That’s a big job to do. And, I’m ready to help because I align with their mission, love the products and trust the safety of the ingredients in them.

Did you know there are over ten thousand ingredients commonly used in all personal care products; of which approximately only ten percent have been tested for safety on human health? Many of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues and hormone disruption. It makes my stomach turn.

The reality is that we are putting hundreds of chemicals and ingredients on our bodies every single day. Even in small doses, chemicals can have a lasting and negative impact on your body.

We need change.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has not passed a major federal law to regulate the ingredients in personal care products since 1938. But Beautycounter executives and consultants are taking action, spending time on Capital Hill to effect legislative change and have more rules in the cosmetic industry, so we can protect our health.

Over the last two decades, the European union has banned nearly fourteen-hundred toxic ingredients. The US has banned only ELEVEN. Beautycounter has banned over fifteen-hundred ingredients and there is not one ingredient that isn't disclosed.

All of this said, I invite you to follow these three simple steps and start to make change today. 

  1. Review this Never List. This is a list of ingredients that will never be used in Beautycounter products because they are linked to cancer, reproductive issues, organ toxicity and severe skin sensitivity.
  2. Look at the ingredients of one of the products you use every day. Maybe it’s your shampoo or moisturizer. Make sure that NONE of these ingredients are listed. If they are, please consider transitioning to a different product that doesn’t contain those ingredients.
  3. Repeat step two and review all your products

Don't feel overwhelmed by this exercise. Start by taking a look at one product per day and start to transition your products as needed. At the end of the day, we need to take a serious look at what we put in and on our bodies and take a stand to protect our health.

If you want to transition to a Beautycounter product, it’s a great time! I’m running a promotion to incent change in moving toward safer products and will personally send you a Face Protect Stick Sunscreen if you make a purchase of $60 or more through July 31, 2016. Just make sure to use my link so I can see you’ve made a purchase and send your stick! The face stick is easy to apply and very compact so you can always have it with you. 

We need change now more than ever and I am committed to providing you access to information so that you can make better choices not only for you but for those that you love.

5 Tips To Ditch Sugar And Live The Sweet Life

I was honored to write this guest post for The HSS Feed and wanted to share it with you here as well.... hope you enjoy! xo

Life sure is sweet, isn’t it?

Unfortunately when it comes to our food, it’s too sweet.

SUGAR. IS. EVERYWHERE.

Cookies. Muffins. Donuts. Cake. Obvi.

Protein Bars. Yogurt. Salad Dressing. Pasta Sauce. Not so obvi.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re right. From the obvious to not so obvious sources, it can seem nearly impossible to hide from sugar.

Even with everything I know about nutrition, I can easily fall into the sugar trap. The struggle is real. Sugar is addicting.

When we eat sweet things, dopamine (a neurotransmitter that delivers signals to and from the brain) is released. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers; it is released for many healthy reasons such as exercise and physical touch but also in response to the consumption of certain substances like caffeine, narcotics and sugar. 

The dopamine response you get from eating sugar sends signals throughout your body that encourage you to continue to seek that pleasurable feeling. It creates an addiction. And (sadly) food marketers know it. Which is why, without even realizing it, we’re downing sugar by the pound in foods like tomato sauce, bread, cereals, deli meats and so much more. In fact, the average American eats approximately 150 pounds of sugar per year. It’s time to break the addiction.

While sugar gives us a pleasurable feeling that we all desire, it is also responsible for mood swings, acne, PMS, unrestful sleep, depression, anxiety and PCOS. If that wasn’t bad enough, more and more studies are showing that sugar plays a pivotal role in the development of many devastating illnesses — heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

The good news? Each one of us has the power to do something about it!

Here are 5 tips on how to break free of sugar: 

  1. Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to it’s original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and veggies are balanced by the fiber, enzymes, vitamins and other properties which slow sugar digestion. 
  2. Try to incorporate protein and fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels and will keep you satiated longer. As a baseline, you should be eating 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. Tweak those ratios based on your body’s needs and make sure you’re getting healthy sources of each.
  3. Drink water. Lack of hydration can feed into your sugar cravings. If you’re craving something sweet, have a big glass of water. If your craving fades, there is a good chance you were just dehydrated. Ideally, your weight, divided by two equals the amount of water in ounces you should be drinking per day. If you’re 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water per day.
  4. Read labels. Although I encourage you to eat as few foods as possible that have labels, I know it’s hard to avoid so educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be on that list. Food manufacturers often use multiple sweeteners in an attempt to hide that there may be more sweetener in a product than anything else. Don’t be fooled. Here are some sugars to look out for: aspartame, saccharine, stevia, sucralose, agave, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fruit juice and xylitol. I could go on and on.
  5. Get enough sleep. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to use sugar for energy to counteract exhaustion. Feeding the need for energy with sugar, however, boosts energy levels for a very short time and can often lead to a major blood sugar crash. The crash results in a need for another boost, which often leads back to more sugar. This becomes a never ending cycle. Aim for seven hours of sleep per night at a minimum.

Let’s kick sugar to the curb so we can live a sweet life for years to come.

The Magic 9-Letter Word

Did you know studies show that this one thing can make you 25% happier? It boosts your immunity to anger, disappointment, and frustration.

It's even been shown to heal pain and illness in your body. It can certainly heal relationships, especially with your beautiful and miraculous body.

That one thing is GRATITUDE, and amazing things happen when you integrate it into your day.

Since I have been mindful in integrating gratitude into my day, I have noticed an overall increase in happiness. I know this can sound a little "woo woo" at first, but we spend a great deal of time focusing on what went wrong in our day over what went right and that negativity has a big impact on our wellness. Being mindful of everything we have to be grateful for can only lead to greater happiness.

Here's a fun exercise to try:

1. Think about five things to be grateful for on this day. It may be the way your dog greets you when you come home from work or that nice person that let you have the parking space in the crowded lot. It could be catching up with an old friend or even seeing the sun on a winter day. Just let the images flow in and notice the feelings they give. If an unwanted image pops in, let it pass like a random car on the road. If it is important, you can think on it later.

2. Now, see the people you are grateful for and express thanks to each of them. 

3. Remind yourself that whatever you focus on expands. When you focus on gratitude and positivity, you will get more of that in return. 

My beautiful sister (for whom I am forever grateful) gave me a gratitude journal when I was going through a trying time in my life. I began writing in it nearly every night about five things I was grateful for that day and it really re-focused me on what is important, how beautiful life is and how much I have to be grateful for. It's now a regular practice that I look forward to because it makes my heart feel very full on a daily basis.

What you appreciate, appreciates.

Be mindful that you will attract more abundance, love, and health by being grateful for your current state in these areas. Your body, your health, and your relationships can only be improved by honoring where they are in this moment.

Eat to Avoid the Midday Slump

It’s coming. You can feel it. You’re trying desperately to will it away, but, inevitably the clock strikes 3:00pm. Suddenly, you’re exhausted. The thought of striking the letters on the computer keyboard seems like a daunting task, not to mention you can barely keep your eyes open.

Ugh! When this happened yesterday, you swore it wouldn’t happen again. As you walk to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, you wonder how to avoid this midday slump tomorrow. Here’s the good news:  there are steps you can take to energize your body throughout the day and avoid this feeling. Let’s talk about breakfast, water and snacks.

Breakfast: The is the best place to start. Before we even talk about what to eat, we need to recognize that it’s important TO EAT breakfast. Your body has been in a state of rest, relaxation, and recharging for several hours. It needs fuel in the form of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat to get going in the morning. Some quick and easy options are: whole fat yogurt with nuts and blueberries, hard boiled eggs and avocado or chia pudding with a side of sausage.

Water: It’s so important to remember to drink water throughout the day. Dehydration is certain to cause sleepiness and fatigue (along with a number of other issues, but I’ll save that for another post!). Each day you should be drinking half your body weight (in ounces) to stay hydrated + more additional water to supplement any coffee, alcohol, packaged fruit juice or caffeinated teas (which will all dehydrate you).

Snacks: Snacks can really make or break you, so don’t forget to give them some thought. You want to be sure to stay away from bad carbs and sugars, which are in candy bars and most packaged food. The sugars will provide an initial spike, but then you’ll feel the afternoon slump as you come down from the sugar high. Take a few minutes at home to prepare trail mix with almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and Goji berries. For sweetness, you can add some cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips (I prefer Enjoy Life brand because their products are free of common allergens).

The midday slump doesn’t have to continue. You can control how your body feels by nourishing it with healthy food (and water) throughout the day. 

Why Sleep? Your Adrenals Need a Break

The “fight or flight” response. It’s usually accompanied with the image of the saber-toothed tiger dashing after a hunter. You often get into this situation, don’t you? Ok, we’re not literally in that frantic position, but our bodies are often reacting as if we were fighting for our lives. Our adrenal glands, located on top of each kidney, are forced to work overtime in an effort to deal with stress from all sources:  injury, disease, work, family, finances, environment, etc.

It’s hard to imagine these small endocrine glands, essentially the size of a walnut, are responsible for the manufacture and secretion of vital hormones such as cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. The cortisol production is crucial for the body to combat stress. Whereas thousands of years ago the stress was a finite amount of time – you either outran the predator and survived or you were eaten – nowadays, stress seems to be a state of being for so many people.

Although not getting along with a boss or missing a bill payment are not life-threatening like the saber-toothed tiger, our bodies react to the stressors in a similar fashion. The body starts to feel unsettled. More and more cortisol is produced because the body believes it needs massive amounts of energy to run for its life. This happens over and over again throughout the day:  you hit the snooze button too many times and get out the door late, traffic is a mess, you spill your coffee on your skirt, your late afternoon meeting runs over and you run late to dinner with your boyfriend...again. And all this is going to happen again tomorrow!

Here’s the problem: chronic stress can overload the adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion. For some, the fatigue will become overwhelming and the adrenals will no longer function properly to provide the energy and resources the body needs on a day-to-day basis. When someone is exhausted, a natural suggestion is to get more sleep. That’s not always easy with adrenal problems because insomnia is a common symptom. There are, however, steps you can take to prepare yourself for sleep, which is certainly one of the best ways to refresh and rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit.

For better sleep and to heal your adrenal glands:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night between 10-10:30pm.
  2. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar in late afternoon/evening (or remove them completely from your diet to avoid any rollercoaster-like blood sugar surges).
  3. Keep a gratitude journal near your bedside. Every night (or morning), list three to five things for which you are grateful. Remind yourself that even though you may feel fatigued, there are wonderful aspects of your life and many reasons to heal. 

 

 

What does your gut have to do with your mood?

Your gut has been proven to be your bodies literal "second brain". For years, the medical world has been trying to figure out what causes our moods to change and what causes common problems that most of us face like stress, anxiety, and even depression. These are common problems, and we know they are linked to serotonin, but did you know that 95% of serotonin isn't even produced in the brain? Serotonin is actually produced in the gut.

What we eat is directly related to our emotional health. Our gut consists of bacteria and we need that bacteria to have a healthy balance. Your gut and your brain work together, so if one is out of balance the other will be also. Have you ever had an upset stomach because your mind was stressed? Well, think about it, if it works one way it works both ways. There have been many scientific studies that have linked mood problems to gut problems and vice versa.

The recipe for a healthy gut and a healthy mood is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. Some symptoms of an unhealthy gut include gas, bloating, nausea, sugar cravings, and more. The best way to make sure your body has healthy bacteria for your gut is to feed your gut healthy bacteria (probiotics). Probiotics can be in pill form, or you can get them right through your diet. Excellent sources of probiotics include kefir and fermented or cultured foods and beverages. Some of my favorites are:

  • Ginger Beet Kraut from Farmhouse Culture (I get mine at Whole Foods)
  • Spiced Apple Kombucha from Brew Dr. Kombucha
  • Strawberry Serenity Kombucha from GT’s Enlightened line

Keeping a healthy gut in check will help you to digest food properly, absorb vital nutrients, and maintain a healthy state of mind (aka your mood).