Category: Blog

Thank You

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you. Just yesterday, after having some personal doubts, I received an email that I hit my 50th subscriber milestone! While it may not seem like a lot for some, this is a huge accomplishment for me. This blog started out being a personal outlet for self-care and health promotion. And the more I wrote, the more time I wanted to invest. The next thing I knew I was investing money into it. Then I started to dabble in my creative side again. Then I started to feel like myself again.

Months passed where I was feeling like a different person – a partial person. I was spread thin and just incurred so many life changes some of which were personally inflicted while others were environmental. Regardless, I was starting to look in the mirror and not recognize who that was looking back at me. That was when I realized that I had to make some changes or I would lose myself for good. It started with reclaiming my health. Then it became sharing my journey to keep me accountable. Then I was told I was inspiring others and that was when I had an epiphany – I was not just doing this for myself. There are others like me in the world -others that were just maintaining the status quo but were unhappy.

And now I am here today. I am sharing, learning, and collaborating with so many bloggers and friends. Even if we haven’t met in person yet, you are allowing me into your life and for that, I am eternally grateful. I appreciate every comment and like because I get to engage with you. I am humbled that I get to share this journey with you.

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Recipe – Egg White Omelettes

Apologies for the late post! It has been a bit of a hectic weekend but I am getting back on track! Tomorrow’s post will be week 02’s smoothie recipes.

Recently I posted on my IG my weekend indulgence – my organic and vegetarian egg white omelettes. I call it my guilty pleasure on weekends because it is full of cheese – all different types of cheese, but cheese nonetheless. Sometimes I think I spent too much time in a laboratory environment and had some of my wires crossed with a mouse…

Anyway, I wanted to share my recipe with you all as my alternative to my weekly breakfast/lunch smoothies.


Ingredients:

AllWhites Egg Whites (1 32oz container is good for about 5 omelettes)
Shredded Cheese – I prefer mozzarella and pepper- or Colby- jack mixed
Onion Powder (2 Tbsp per omelette)
Garlic Powder (1 Tbsp per omelette)
White Pepper (1 tsp per omelette)
Himalayan Salt (1/2 tsp per omelette)*
Turmeric Powder (1/2 tsp per omelette)
Butter (1 Tbsp per omelette)
Crushed mint (optional)
Soyrizo (optional)

Soyrizo
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) or Avocado Oil
Baby Spinach (optional)

Mix the egg whites, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and turmeric powder together until slightly fluffy.

Heat frying pan (or omelette pan if you have one) and use one the butter to coat the bottom of the pan (you can also use coconut oil).

In a separate pan, coat the bottom with EVOO or Avocado oil and start cooking the soyrizo (it does not come pre-cooked although it may look like it). It needs to be cooked till browned, like a grounded meat.

Add the egg whites and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes depending on the heat of the pan. You will need a spatula to keep the egg from sticking to the pan and to keep moving the liquid egg to the bottom.

Once all of the liquid egg has cooked, add the cheese, soyrizo & spinach in a line on one side of the omelette. Using the spatula, fold the omelette in half and flip to the other side.

Cook for another 1-2 minutes so the omelette is golden brown and plate. Let it sit for 1 minute before serving and garnish with mint.

Enjoy!!

Comment below if you are going to try this and how it turns out for you! Do you add anything extra to your omelettes?

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Recovering!

Some of you may have wondered where I went these past few weeks and some of you may have scooted over to my IG and saw some photo or message…

Well, for the past couple of weeks I have gone dark because I was sick. And by sick I mean I could not eat, drink, sleep or do much of anything without being in crippling pain and having to pray to the porcelain gods. I even went to the ER at two of our local hospitals on two different days! And if you know me…hospitals and I are not friends. But after two weeks, I finally found a physician that would HEAR me -not just listen and I am on the road to recovery. Below is a little insight on to where I was and I promise I will be back to a full schedule next week!

April 20th – Picture this. My in-laws had just gotten to town the night prior and we (my husband and I) had created a whole schedule of outings and menu (Yeah, I’m a Type A)! I woke up with a migraine (typical for me) and my stomach was out of sorts. After some medicine, I thought I was fine and we loaded into the car to head out of town and visit new-age wine country! Alas, not even 1 hour into the drive, I was done. I was a mess and could not sit in the car for more than a few minutes at a time. Cue in a Target run for meds and voila – I was fine! Or so I thought. That night I took a turn. 101º fever. Chills to the point my body locked up on me. Nausea. Pain. I was in bad shape.

April 22nd – First hospital visit. What. A. Nightmare. I had never been to the ER in Cali but this was quite an experience that I wish upon no one. Waiting rooms at full capacity. No beds. No where to sit. Hours of waiting for medication. No fluids. No follow up. Barely anything more than a quick blood draw.

April 24th – I took a turn for the worst. Not even 6am and we were in the waiting room at the ER (hospital #2) and this would be the beginning of a 12+ hour day. I had to beg for medication…twice. But at least they ran tests – mostly because I asked. Yet I still walked out at the end of the day with a prescription for medication and no answers – just pain and hunger.

April 29th – I was still not eating but I had to go to work. I lost 10 pounds. I looked frail. I felt worse. I just wanted to sleep. Thankfully I work with an amazing team and one of my physicians made a few phone calls and I had an appointment for the 2nd. Prayers and crackers was all I had.

May 2nd – Two doctors appointments -the first being one of the most awkward visits I had ever had and the second was a dream come true. We sat for over 1 hour and discussed what was wrong, how to treat it, what I could try to start eating, what my limitations would be, and what would be my next steps. I went home with medication that was actually effective for what I had -not making me worse- and started recuperating THAT NIGHT.

So why am I sharing all this? Well, for the sake of oversharing, I really want to hit home that you have to advocate for yourself. Health care is here to help you but there are a lot of hurdles and obstacles in providers’ way but also in yours. While I do not expect everyone to have a doctorate degree or read the ICD10 code book, you need to be your own advocate.
For example, at hospital #2, I only received fluids because I asked for it -mind you this was almost 5 days without being able to really even keep water in. I was then given pain killers but was still in pain so I wanted more answers and more help – ask number 2 and cue the additional testing that uncovered an abnormality that 3 other tests did not show. You cannot rely on your health care provider knowing everything, especially since he/she does not know your body better than you.

Ask questions! Do not settle for the baseline or textbook answer. Ask for help. And if you can…take someone with you. I personally felt like a burden to my family but I am blessed that I was not alone throughout the whole ordeal.

Amazon Favorites – March

This has been a trend on YouTube and while I am still working on that adventure, I am not yet quite equipped to handle that road just yet. But it got me thinking that as an almost too avid Amazon shopper, I could make this a series for my blog! So at the beginning of the month, I will recap some of my top purchases from the prior month!

Ready to see where all my money goes?? I will link each product below with the price I paid (though please remember that Amazon prices are subject to change! Also, for the sake of transparency, each link is an affiliate link but it does not change the price or cost you anything.

First item is one of the biggest changes I have implemented to my workout routine.
I add this to my water bottle (1.5 scoops for my 40oz bottle) and it has helped me replenish my muscles to the point that I am able to go longer and harder without quitting! The science behind branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) has been increasing but I can contest that it does help.
Think of this as a Gatorade replacement but tastes a heck of a lot better and is better.
There are multiple flavors, but I am impartial to the mango and watermelon. The price changes but I bought it for $22.99.
Click here to check it out!

This one is on auto-delivery!
If you ever had some trouble falling asleep, these little gummies pack quite a punch without the groggy feeling.
The primary ingredients are melatonin, L-Theanine and other botanicals like chamomile and lemon balm. These combined help me fall asleep calmly and stay asleep unlike many other melatonin-like products.
There is some sugar in these as they are gummies, but it is minimal and I always take them before I brush since they do take time to start working.
The “sleep” version only comes in one flavor but it is not overly powerful. I bought mine for $11.89.
Click here if you are interested!

One of my secret ingredients for my daily smoothie is this amazing powder!
Let’s be realistic…getting in all your fruits and vegetable servings is not easy. So I add one scoop of this to my smoothie, plus all the other good stuff (more to come on these) and I just got 3+ servings!
This is a bit pricey but worth it since you are adding only one small scoop and it is estimated for 60 servings. I paid $29.66 for this and it is now on auto-delivery. Or you can buy the smaller one (30 servings) for $14.95.
If you are interested in upping your fruit and veggie intake, click here.

If you have never heard of dry-brushing (there will be a post on this shortly), you are certainly missing out!
Dry brushing has a number of benefits including improving blood circulation, shedding of dead skin, and in some cases, helping reduce the appearance of cellulite. I do this 2-3x per week while my skin is still dry and before I hop into the shower. And I have already noticed a difference on my legs and torso.
There are several varieties but I like that this one is a smaller size and the bristles are not too rough or too soft.
This product is relatively inexpensive; I bought mine for $9.95. You can click here to purchase yours.

Reducing our sugar intake has been a vital component in losing weight. While I personally do not consume a lot of artificial sugar, every morning I add 2 teaspoons of agave to my coffee until I realized how many calories I was drinking before my day even began!
So I had to find an alternative that was not sucralose, fructose, or another like variation. I wanted to be able to cook with it and it could not have an aftertaste (which is why stevia does not bode well with me). Which is how I found this amazing gem for $10.99.
This is a sugar alcohol with a 1:1 breakdown which means it passes through your system with minimal absorption and no aftertaste.
Those are doing keto or are diabetic can have this sweetener without a glycemic issue because it does not get absorbed.
It is now my coffee additive for 0 calories and I have even been able to cut down the sweetness to 1 teaspoon!
Click here to try it.

As a part of my skincare regimen, I always apply a toner after I wash and before I apply any serums or moisturizers. However I noticed that my witch hazel astringent was actually drying out my skin so no matter how much moisturizer I put, my skin was peeling within the hour!
So I sought out to find an alternative that did not cost a fortune but still provided benefits like skin clarification, control oil production, reduce the appearance of pores, and promote some collagen production. Hefty list for the prince range I wanted to stay in but low and behold the amazing Thayer’s alcohol-free toner!
I bought this for $6.99 and it works like a charm! It does not have an overpowering smell and does not try out my sensitive skin. It has helped actually tone my skin and even out some of the discoloration in a matter of a few weeks applied twice daily.
Click here if you are interested to try!

And there you have it! For the month of March, most of my expenses were to help me take the next step in my health journey but I am still testing the benefits of those items so they will hopefully be showcased in a future post!

So tell me… have you tried any of these products? What is your opinion? Are you using something that I should try? Comment below!

March 2019: Check-In

I appreciate all of your patience and understanding during the past few months but it is time for me to come back to my blogger roots and really deliver!

I have written elsewhere under pseudonyms. I have watched *countless* hours of YouTube videos and envied each vlogger on their ability to express themselves. I have spewed information on to others offline and learned some new tips & tricks! But that is not what this is all about… It is truly time for me to reinvest my time and my energy for my readers, followers, and myself.

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I am starting back with a check-in for the month of March.

What have I been doing all this time? Well… I have been working on creating a schedule for what will become post series and been brushing up on some HTML and other blogging tips which I will share with you all as well along the way! I have been testing some new products and posting on IG. I will also begin posting some live videos on IG shortly and trying my hand at YouTube as well though I am certainly no expert there! I even hope to have some interviews in the near future on some topics that are normally outside of my knowledge so that this blog will be engaging for all.

I have also had some family health issues arise in the recent past which took a lot of time away from work and school. In fact I even opted to take a quarter off from my doctorate so that I could focus on my family. Now that everyone is on the mend and stability is returning, I am able to refocus my attention.

Then there’s me. I had been very neglectful of myself and it showed. I ballooned in weight and was yo-yo’ing with losing it. My skin was in shambles. My hair looked either like straw or limp spaghetti. I was having trouble sleeping. I lost motivation. I was depressed. I knew what I needed to do but doing it seemed impossible until I realized I was heading too far down the rabbit hole and I needed to get help and get back up.

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So that’s what I am doing. Getting back up. This is just the beginning but I am really looking forward to what is to come.

Here we go!

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Something New(er) for Nails

I was that girl that always kept her nails short because of how brittle they would get. They would break at the corners so whether or not I wanted it, I ended up with coffin looking nails. They would also split like tissue paper! And this is also taking into consideration IF they would even grow… And nail polish. C’mon now…who are we kidding. That would last a day if I stood there with my hands up like I was waving at every passerby.

So just like the fad, I started to do gel manicures. And just like that I had nails for the first time, but there was going to be a catch. These manicures that are supposed to last for 3+ weeks would last 1 and some change. My nails, believe it or not, got even thinner. Then the polish would ultimately peel off like a bad 1990s polish for kids. What a waste of money that became so I had to stop the “pampering” and revive my even more brittle nails.

These were my go to steps and products which helped me build some strength back into my nails and ultimately got me to where I am today with long nails that are strong and healthy and yes, regularly manicured!

First the polish came off and I decided that I was not going to go for another manicure till my wedding day which gave me a solid 3 months. I took the polish off at home without acetone but a lot of patience. Step 1. The second step was to invest in a little polish I got from Sally’s to help fill in the ridges that the constantly filing left behind Then I decided to introduce cuticle oils into my life because I wanted a way to help my nail before they even grew out – so I started at the root! I would massage the oil in every night. I would then drench my hands and wrists with lotion to keep not just the cuticles moist but my hands moisturized as well.

So superficially I was already investing in some time to bring my nails back to life. But I needed to do more internally as well. Cue in the water and supplements. I started logging my water intake and realized I was super deficient. I was drinking only about 32oz a day when I should’ve been closer to 85 (you can calculate your ounce intake as well by taking your weight in pounds and dividing it by 2). I then introduced Hair, Skin, and Nails from Costco to help supplement my diet.

I also stopped and relaxed. Stress has so many negative side effects – well beyond any pharmaceutical on the market. Stress can cause weight gain, hair loss, acne, insomnia and so much more. So this is when I first started to dabble in meditation and yoga. I am not a yogi by any means and cannot tell you downward dog from crow or a sun salutation but I tried. I took time away from the PC and the phone and truly relaxed.

So fast forward a year and this is what my nails look like now after a fresh manicure:

The best part is that I have also found a type of manicure that not only is pigmented and lasts for 3 weeks. But also is loaded with vitamins and is done without any UV exposure. My salon, Venus Nails, calls it Healthy Nails but it is essentially a dip powder that is sealed with treatments of polishes. I had no idea this was a thing because I had only seen ads on FB or IG for this stuff you could do at home and I chalked it up to a fake ad! But alas it is real and every three weeks I go in and get a new application and color. The only downfall is how much it makes my nails grow so if I do a dark color like the one above, I have to get it fixed or you can see the growth!

So the next time you go in for a manicure, please ask for the dip powder polish and give it a try! You won’t be sorry!

Hair Coloring FAIL!

When you have curly hair like I do, getting ANYTHING done to it is very time consuming and often way out of budget. So when I decided I wanted to try something new and lighten my hair, I researched any option I had and came after hours of hunting and millions of IG ads, I came across Madison Reed. Madison Reed is a “do-it-yourself but better” home hair coloring kit. It is not a box kit that you can buy at a grocery store or Ulta, but rather an online company with licensed stylists and colorists on call. They use healthy ingredients and I watched a multitude of YouTube videos including @biancareneetoday who also has curly hair and did their highlighting without damage. Since my hair was healthy and my old highlights lightened so much that they were almost white, I decided to take the assessment and give it a try -it’s only hair right?

After answering several questions, which are the same questions that my stylist would ask, I was presented with a brown that was supposed to be a lighter shade but would still match my overall color. I hesitated but I took the plunge. The kit was about $20 in total and there were multiple guides, videos, and like I said, colorists on standby. After about 3-5 days, my box arrived!

Once Saturday’s workout was complete, I washed my hair and prepped it for coloring. The following day, I started the coloring process. There was step-by-step instructions which I followed to a “T”. When I mixed the ingredients, I noticed the color was very dark but the experts knew what they were doing, right? I have to say that there was no smell which, in my small bathroom, was amazing. I was able to part my hair and color my whole head without running out and waited the time indicated in the instructions. I was so nervous but excited –something new and lighter to match my new Cali life while getting rid of my over done highlights from years past.

After what felt like forever, but was really only 30 minutes, I rinsed out my hair and immediately I knew something was wrong. My hair felt dry and brittle. I added the conditioner which helped a tiny amount and thought I just needed to add my products and it would be fine –or at least that’s what I told myself. Fast forward to the next day when it all finally dried and my hair was BLACK.

I freaked out. This is NOT what I wanted or expected. This is not the color I picked or was “expertly assigned” as per the website’s picture -this was literally black. After the tears were done, I immediately contacted Madison Reed for help and started to research any way to fix this complete flop!

Almost 48 hours later because of time zones and all that, I heard back from one of the experts and was told to buy the glaze and they’d send me a new color for free. Wait…buy another product? I made sure that Madison Reed had a good guarantee when I purchased the initial color because I know my hair is, well, it has a temper of its own. So when I was told to buy another product and then apply another color, I knew I was on my own to fix this.

I have to say though, that the customer service at Madison Reed is on point! They ended up refunding my original purchase after I declined the “fix” and apologized for any issues.

That is when I turned to home remedies, which I have to say actually work! Ever heard of the Vitamin C mixture to remove coloring? Neither did I till I frantically researched options which led me to CVS and purchased 100 tablets of vitamin C and Head&Shoulders shampoo. I crushed up 40 tablets of vitamin C and mixed in enough shampoo to make a thick gel-like consistency. I applied that to my hair and rubbed like there was no tomorrow. Slowly, slowly the color began to turn the soap-suds into a brown color and after 3 washes, my hair started to lighten.

Today, my highlights are returning and my hair looks more like dark chocolate than midnight black. However, my hair does not feel the same ever since the coloring. Could it be the color? Maybe. Could it be the vitamin C? Definitely doesn’t help as the vitamin C does dry the hair. Either way, I have been working diligently to resuscitate my curls with masks, deep conditioning, and gentle shampoo. And my lesson? Save a few bucks every month and get a REAL professional to do my hair coloring…at a salon…correctly.

So tell me … have you had an at home hair color horror story??

Living with Migraines

When you look up the word “migraine” in a medical textbook, my photo appears…along with almost every symptom that I experience from light sensitivity to nausea.

Though I have been told many times by family, friends, and even licensed professionals that I am “too young” or “too healthy” or “too naive” to be a migraine-sufferer, I have had migraines almost all my life. I am all too familiar with the difference between headaches, cluster headaches, tension headaches, sinus pressure, and migraines. I have been plugged to machines that have mapped my brain and been told that there was nothing wrong. I have been given anti-seizure medication, migraine pills, and other pharmaceutical remedies to treat what they still put on file as “headaches”. I was told to log when I got a migraine to see what the trigger was and was always thought to be dishonest because no pattern could be determined. I have done home remedies, omitted foods and drinks that “aggravate migraines” and taken countless OTC remedies all to no avail.

This is just a part of my life that I have learned to deal with and though it does cause issues on day to day living, I have a few tricks that help ease some of the pain. Nothing has been 100% fool-proof and I still continue to get migraines, but these are some methods that help me cope.

  1. Acknowledge the pain. There were a few years that I would try and ignore the warning symptoms that a migraine was, well, for a lack of better terminology, brewing. I did not want to admit that I had to deal with this and most likely the remainder of the day would be shot. However, just denying the pain would not make it go away. I had to accept it and come up with ways to deal with it.
  2. Cool showers. When it is too hot or after extraneous exercise, I am more inclined to get a migraine, so when I feel the beginnings of one, I take a cool shower to help regulate my body temperature and ironically clear my head.
  3. Turn off electronics. Blue light has been increasingly known to hurt our eyes which is also a contributing factor to the onset of migraines. Blue light is emitted from many of our favorite electronic devices from our computer monitors to our cell phones. When my migraine is creeping in, my cell phone is put away, the laptop is closed, and my tablet is shut.
    To help prevent the blue light from causing a migraine in the first place, especially since 8+ hours of my day is spent in front of a computer screen, I wear orange tinted or anti-blue light glasses (which can be bought on Amazon for about $12.99).
  4. Block out light. I use an eye mask to help me block out any ambient light that may irritate my eyes beyond a computer screen. My favorite is one that I also leave in the refrigerator so it helps with the puffiness and blood flow that usually cause my temples to look like they are speakers in a Jersey shore club. I bought mine on Amazon for about $10 (click here) at the time and it did need to be aired out upon receipt but after a day, it became my go to eye mask.
  5. Stay cool. My body temperature fluctuates tremendously when a migraine sets in and I can go from boiling hot to freezing cold. However when a full blown migraine hits, I force myself to lay down with a light blanket and the ceiling fan on. This constant flow of air helps the pressure and prevents me from sweating!
  6. Medicine. Yes, there are times where my migraines are too strong and homeopathic methods are simply inadequate. While I do not like to take medication regularly, I also realize that this was all developed for a reason and suffering will only make matters worse. So I will take Excedrin Migraine or other ibuprofen options to help at least take the edge off.
  7. Eat or drink yogurt. Another way I help regulate my internal body temperature as well as help calm an irritable stomach is through the consumption of yogurt. A quick bowl of yogurt is one way or I drink “tahn”. “Tahn” is an Armenian drink  which is simply yogurt mixed with water and some salt -trust me it tastes better than it sounds. Other Middle Eastern countries have their own name and variation for this drink like “ayran” in Turkey, “lassi” or “majjiga” in India, “kefir” or “doogh” in Persian. If I cannot have either, I will at least consume some acidophilus which will help calm my stomach.
  8. Find quiet. Like light, sounds tend to make my migraines worse so when one is developing, or already full-blown, I will make sure that I find some solitude even if that means using ear plugs.
  9. Hydrate. I am not able to eat or drink much of anything when I have a migraine because even toast makes me nauseous. However, dehydration makes my migraines even worse so I will start off with sipping cold water and then make my way to a coffee or tea for the added caffeine. Caffeine, though a dehydrating chemical, helps dilate my blood vessels making it easier for blood to pump and again, not feel like Jersey shore club speakers. I limit this to one cup though and will continue to drink water until my migraine has subsided.
  10. Steer clear of fragrances. So again, like light and sound, strong smells make the migraine worse and will often make me extremely nauseous. I have been known to wash my hands if I just happened to put on lotion with a scent or will lay down on a towel if my sheets have any added fragrance boosters.
  11. Eat minimally and light. Once the worst of the migraine has passed, I know that I need to eat something. I tend to opt for some toast, cereal, or chicken/turkey. Once I know I am able to consume that small amount of food, I know I am on the mend and will eat more. I will not, however, eat anything raw, dairy, or any other meat until the next day as all of those are harder for me to digest and can aggravate my migraine.
  12. Take it easy. After a migraine subsides, I want to make up for lost time and act like everything is fine. But I have come to learn that doing that will only make things worse. Once I start to feel better, I have to take it easy, often for the remainder of the day, because I feel fatigued and overall weak. Trying to do more than my body will allow will only make me feel worse and often will mean that I will be stuck in bed till the next day.

Headaches suck. Migraines are deplorable. But when you have them, finding your tried and true ways to cope will help. I am also very fortunate to have people in my life that have either experienced migraines themselves or been around other people that have had them, so they truly understand and help me when needed.

So tell me…do you suffer from migraines? What do you do to deal with them?

Healthy Journey – You Are What You Eat

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question which started a 30+ minute conversation and then got me thinking that maybe I should make a post about this… We chatted about how I am working on my health and losing weight and regaining my life back. She was very happy for me and asked me what I changed in my diet to support the weight loss because it is common knowledge that weight loss and fitness is more than just exercise and it in fact starts in the kitchen!

While there is more to my fitness journey than food, like supplements and vitamins, no one wants to read a 20-page blog post (I’ll save that for my dissertation). Below is a view into what my diet consists of and why.

Breakfast

This is always drilled into us as the most important meal of the day and the skipping this is detrimental. Well, I have to admit that breakfast is almost never on the table (ha, literally) for me -weekdays or weekends. I usually wake up around 6:30am during the weekdays (and that is after hitting snooze a few times) and have to get ready for work and out the door in a little over an hour (yep, I push it close). So sitting down to have toast or cereal or oatmeal…none of that is on my morning list of things to do. So long as I have a few minutes to have my coffee and grab the headlines, I am good to go.

Now you could say I should wake up at 6:00am and make time for a meal but beyond time, I am also simply not hungry. I do not want, nor find the need, to consume calories when I am not hungry. It is almost like eating just for the sheer fact of eating and that is not at all necessary. In fact, the days that I eat breakfast like when I am on a vacation or at a conference, I feel sluggish and bloated.

So what do I have? I have my coffee with almond milk and agave, along with a few vitamins that I can take on an empty stomach, and I’m good to go. I gave up dairy milk about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back though I do consume dairy-based cheese and ice cream so this is not due to an lactose intolerance. I just simply did not like the taste of dairy milk nor did I like the treatment of cows to get said milk but that is for another day. I use agave over stevia or sugar or any other sweetener for a few reasons. Agave is a natural sweetener from the blue agave cactus so if you have ever had tequila, you’ve basically had agave. It has a lower glycemic rating than sugar and because it is liquid, it will mix better in hot or cold beverages. It has a slight earthy taste by itself but once mixed with my coffee, it cannot be tasted. I have tried stevia and have not liked the taste or aftertaste so I stopped testing the 1385 variations I found in the grocery stores. I don’t like other sugar alternatives because of the chemical compounds and eventual breakdown (equal and sweet-n-low have been linked to unsafe levels chlorine once dissolved).

Morning Snack

If I start to feel hungry, I will grab a handful of raw or roasted, unsalted almonds. Almonds are low in fat and have been recently linked to heart health when consumed on an empty stomach because it acts similar to fiber in pushing out that gunk. I may also have a banana to help with my potassium intake and my very small sweet tooth.

Lunch

This is always the heaviest meal of the day for me because I know I am going to be able to burn it throughout the day. I will make sure that I take the time to eat my meal too because a lot of times we are rushing through the day and scarf down whatever is available. I bring food from home that I cooked earlier in the week whenever possible and will make sure it is balanced with some sort of starch and some protein; when I have a salad, I will make sure to have a protein like tuna or chicken and a few crackers. This will keep me going throughout the day without feeling hungry. I also make sure to portion out my food and will usually only take one small individual-sized Pyrex with my whole lunch. Quick to heat and easy to eat.

Afternoon Snack 

When I feel a 3pm-dip coming on, I always have some sort of snack on hand that is not a candy. bar, a donut, or some other heavy food. Again, I tend to turn to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or dark-chocolate raisins. Sometimes on the weekends, I will have some string cheese and a few crackers since I know dinner will most likely be late. If it is going to be a long day, I may snack on a protein bar or a granola bar as well. I will also have a detox tea without sugar or honey -this just helps keep my tummy full and regular without bloat or gas.

Dinner

First rule for me is that I will not eat a heavy dinner. Second, 7pm is my cutoff. Why? Because I know I need to be in bed by 10pm and sleeping by 10:30pm — sleep is one of the other BIG weight loss and healthy actions for the body and I need at least 8 hours. So when I do eat, I tend to have a like protein like chicken or fish and always have to have some sort of vegetable -salad, corn, asparagus, broccoli…

When I do workout, because of my work schedule, it happens to be at 6 or 6:30 in the evening so when I do eat “dinner” it is always after 7pm. When that is the case, my “dinner” is almost always the same –a good-sized bowl of greek yogurt with granola that I buy at Sprouts or Whole Foods and I will add chia seeds and flax. The chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein while the flax is a fiber-source; the yogurt is full of enzymes that help regulate my digestive tract as well as, for women, help with our lady parts; the granola serves also as a fiber and expands in the stomach to help me reach that “full” feeling and not feel deprived. Sometimes I may change things up and add a few shakes of my “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s or a little honey for a hint of sweetness.

Dessert

Never ever deprive yourself of something because that is when you will fall off the wagon and spiral. Now I do not tend to have a sweet tooth but when I want something sweet, I have yogurt ice cream bars in my freezer which surprisingly are delicious (coffee flavored of course) or some fruit -cherries, watermelon, figs and peaches are my favorite when in season.

Water

Now this is what I like to call my secret weapon since I refuse to count calories, cut carbs, or heaven forbid drink those disgusting and useless shakes. Water is the staple for our bodies since we are over 70% water and every organ and system needs water to sustain operation. I actually have an app on my phone that reminds me to consume more water so on my days when I have horse-blinders on and forgot to even eat, I will always remember to drink my water. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day and when I have a workout day, that is the bare minimum.

When I feel adventurous and have the time, I like to add some flavor to my water by adding fruit or herbs. This helps keep things different, adds some vitamins and minerals, and serves as motivation to drink more. It is amazing how adding a few strawberries to your bottle will make you want more water.

Water also helps keep me feeling full so I will always drink a glass before a meal and I will have at least one glass during my meal, whatever that may be.

Miscellaneous

As I mentioned before, I do not and will not deprive myself of the things I enjoy just to shed a few pounds faster because when you have a “cheat day” or a special occasion, you are essentially counteracting everything you do on your other days and may even feel depressed which is detrimental to the success of the journey.

So when I want a beer or some wine, I will consume it in moderation and will make sure to balance it out with my meal, my workout, and my water consumption. For example, if I have a bottle of beer with dinner, I will have a glass of water as well. If I have some popcorn or chips, I will make sure that I will go an extra 10 minutes or take a small walk. If I have some tempting gelato or pizza, the next day will be a salad and few extra ounces of water.

I also have to mention that I will not turn to meal supplements like SlimFast or shakes that promise to help you lose weight. I have done more than enough research and those are all a part of fad diets. I do have protein powder in my kitchen and protein bars at my desk at work. I will admit that I have tried quite a gambit of shakes and meal replacements in my day and they are not effective, especially long term. Yes, you may feel better the first few days, but the longer you deprive yourself, the worse it gets and the harder it is to stay on track. Also, if you want the vitamins and minerals that these powder drinks offer, you may want to look at actual vitamins that your body, based on your needs, will actually help.

So tell me, what diet have you tried that has helped you? What is your daily food regimen?

Healthy Journey – Catching Zzz’s

Before I started my healthy journey, I was barely sleeping 6 cumulative hours a night when I used to cherish my 8+ nights. This directly contributed to my stress levels which in turn led to my weight gain and kept the vicious cycle going. Additionally, the sleep deprivation had other consequences like communication issues with my husband and family, inability to focus, delayed reaction times, and so much more.

So one of the first areas I focused on making adjustments was with my sleeping habits. After some research, trial & error, and prior knowledge, I incorporated some key features to help me catch those elusive Zzzz’s. Below are the top 9 things I do to improve my sleep and overall well-being. I will try to link the products I use in case you are interested to give it a try for yourself – just remember that I am an Amazon junkie so most items are ordered!

      1. Clean my space – I cannot sleep when the room is full of clutter so I always have to make sure that the room is clear. For example, all of the clothes have to be put away, the shoes are in the closet, and any puppy toys that may have migrated in are put in their play box. A decluttered room means a room with better air flow and a simpler and quieter space.
      1. Taking my nightly vitamins – Some people think that the only time you can take vitamins are with your morning coffee. Now there are some vitamins that should not be taken together as they counteract each other and prove to be less effective or altogether harmful. However my rationale for taking some vitamins at night was to space out my vitamins but also because certain vitamins made me sleepy. For example, as far as I can remember, vitamin C acted like a sleeping pill for me – whether I took it as orange juice, a standalone vitamin, or as a part of a multivitamin ($11.10). I also take magnesium every other night to help my muscles and reduce muscle cramping. I bought mine from Amazon ($10.79)
      1.  Crank up my sound machine – This may sound silly for some but to clear my head and focus, I need to have my surrounding support my focus. Back in Florida, I had a sound machine that helped cancel out any TV sounds from my neighbors, the puppies trying to get attention, my husband typing away on his laptop, the fifth car alarm going off in the parking lot or the fire engine that just always seems to drive by when I was ready to call it a night. So when Amazon had a great lightning deal and I had the chance to replace the sound machine that I gave to my mom, I was thrilled! I did not have to use my phone anymore and could really disconnect. Mine was from Pure Enrichment and it is black and half the price of what I found is currently listed but it is a simple sound machine that takes up almost no space on my nightstand ($29.99).
      1. Color – Yep, you read that correctly – almost every night, especially after a rough day, I will take 15-20 minutes to color with my colored pencils and mandala book. Like my sound machine, this helps me clear my head and stop focusing on events from the day. Plus it helps me build my patience because I was always that kid that colored everywhere BUT in the lines.
      1. Pray –  I am not the most religious person but ever since I was a child, I always had my nightly prayers. Sometimes it was for a sick relative, sometimes it was in vain and was for a delay on a school test, but whatever it was for, I always took the 5 minutes to pray. Maybe it was the ideaology of being a part of something bigger than oneself, or maybe it was something else, but having that informal connection with God is always a part of my night.
      1. Complete my nightly skincare routine – I always make it a point to take off the day before I crawl into bed and prepare my skin for some TLC and repair. Though I will go into this into more detail in a future post, I always wash off all of my makeup, use a toner, apply a face oil, an eye cream, and a lip masque (especially now that I live in a. very arid climate).
      1. Complete my nightly dental routine – This is a given but I always make sure that I floss, brush, and rinse with mouthwash before going to bed. I also use my Invisalign guard but that is probably for another day. There have even been nights where I was so tired I passed out before brushing and will wake up, brush, and then go back to bed.
      1. Moisturize – So beyond my face, I always take a few minutes to apply a moisturizer to my body and typically it has a lavender or chamomile scent to help lull me into a deep sleep.
        SLEEP – Lavender and Cedarwood Body Cream
        I also have Keratosis pilaris which is more commonly known as chicken skin or permanent goosebumps. The moisturizer I use for my upper arms help exfoliate and reduce the inflammation. I have bought Amlactin ($12.59) from Amazon, Walgreens, and most recently at Costco (which is the best deal) and would recommend you buy the small bottle first to test it out before the full commitment.
      1. Set the room – I need to make sure that my room’s ambiance helps set the stage for a restful night so I draw my blackout curtains from Target (Rune Printed Heathered Blackout Panel) and fill the room with the scent of lavender which really helps me calm down and drift into a restful night. I have used the Febreeze brand with Mediterranean Lavender but recently switched to a more conscientious and inexpensive brand, Mrs. Meyers ($5.89):

        All of these steps or products have helped me get a better night’s sleep and made me feel more refreshed for the next day. Yes, there are some nights were I cannot go through my checklist of items like when I am traveling or simply too tired to give it my all, but I always make it a point to give a few minutes to myself at the end of every day to put the cell phone away, turn off the computer, and disconnect.So tell me…what do you do to have a restful night? Do you have any tips or tricks that you find particularly helpful?