Tag: health

Curly Hair 102 – Dangers Lurking in our Products

It seems that in the past couple of years, being natural and embracing ones curls has become the “in” trend. I happen to think that us curly girls were just too darn tired to keep straightening our hair and too broke to keep paying someone else to do it. I know I personally haven’t straightened my hair, personally or professionally, in 7 years.

On top of embracing ones natural state, it seems that being conscientious of the types of products we use is also a part of everyday vocabulary now. We went from using whatever was on sale at the grocery store, to selectively “canceling” brands because of their chemical components.

Recently, I have come to learn that even in our most treasured and talked about lines, there are chemicals lurking that we need to know more about and stay away from if possible. Now, before you go on that soap box and tell me about how some of these chemical compounds already exist naturally and we consume them in other ways, I have to say while you are right, if I can avoid even 1% more of that formaldehyde or other carcinogen, I will.

So without further ado, lets cover the top 8 chemicals that you should avoid when purchasing your next leave-in conditioner, hair gel, or styling cream…

  1. Silicone – This is pretty obvious and I am sure you are tired of hearing about it but just to cover the basics, silicones are found in a lot of different forms. This is a form of plastic and yes, you have heard of silicone breast implants, so why would you put this in your hair? It has some benefits like producing shine and slip (translates to easy to comb through) but it also weighs down your hair and produces a film that prevents other products from helping your hair including water and oxygen.
    Types of silicones: When reading a label, look for a compound that typically ends in “-cone” like dimethicone, methicone, cyclomethicone or sometimes a combo item like: phenyl trimethicone or dimethicone copolyol
  2. Sulfates: So if you have used a silicone, and as I just mentioned, silicones prevent water from penetrating, then you need some even more abrasive -enter sulfates. This is the chemical that is used often in shampoos and creates that lathering and bubbly effect. It works by lifting the cuticle of the hair and stripping it of any product or natural oils which results in long-term dryness, brittleness, and even scalp irritation. You know where else you find sulfates? In your laundry detergent or dishwashing soap. Would you wash your hair with a Tide pod or Dawn?
    Then skip a shampoo that has any variation of sulfates including, but not limited to: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, sodium cocoyl isoethionate, or
    disodium laureth sulfosuccinate. In other words, look for an ingredient that ends in “-ate”.
  3. Alcohol: I have to say that not all alcohols are bad, but think about the last time that you had a few too many drinks. How did you feel later on that night or the next day? Think beyond the headache to the dehydration. The same thing happens with your hair! Alcohols in hair products will help evaporate the natural oils in your hair leaving it dry and brittle overtime.
    Look for ingredients that end in “-ol” such as: ethanol alcohol, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, isopropanol alcohol. Even if the the “alcohol” word is not there, the base of the chemical is still an alcohol compound.
  4. Parabens: This is another hot discussion item but what exactly is a paraben? Parabens are chemicals that are added to extend the shelf life of a product. These are often also linked to cancer and serve as a harmful carcinogen.
    Look for ingredients that end in “-yl” like: methyl, propyl, butyl, or ethyl. These are also often overlooked or regarded as an alcohol.
  5. Urea: I know some of you read that as a bodily secretion of sorts but really it is another form of preservatives, like parabens, that extend the product’s shelf life. These types of chemicals are linked to skin irritation, flakiness, and even dermatitis. Worse yet is when this is aggravated through heat. When these types of chemicals are exposed to heat, which could be as little as your hair dryer when you diffuse, they break down to even more harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde.
    These are often easy to spot on an ingredients list: diazoldinyl urea or imidazolidinyl urea.
  6. Formaldehyde: I know when I first learned that some of my curly hair products had the same thing that is used when a person dies to embalm the body, I knew this was something I had to avoid. Formaldehyde is used for the same purpose as when it is used for a body – preservation. Yet another cheap ingredient like parabens or urea, this chemical has been known to cause cancer, heart palpitations, infections, and many other health conditions.
    You can find this on your ingredient list in many different ways including: formalin, formic aldehyde, methanediol, methanal, or methyl aldehyde.
  7. Mineral Oil: If you are Curly Girl Method (CGM) or even if you have followed me on IG or in earlier posts, you know that oil + curly hair = a great equation! BUT there are some oils that are actually damaging to your hair such as mineral oil. This is an inexpensive form of oil that does not live up to its name – it is not moisturizing and is often too heavy for hair and weighs the hair down so it is lifeless and greasy. It also causes a lot of build-up on the scalp. It may feel nice because it has a lot of slip but it will have a negative impact in the long run.
    While you will see “mineral oil” as its own ingredient, you may also see its sister compounds like lanolin or petroleum (yep, just like Vaseline).
  8. Perfume: We all want to smell good and usually are persuaded to buy products simply because it may remind us of homemade cookies, our tropical vacation, or what we project romance to smell like. However, putting on products that are full of perfumes is actually damaging to your hair for a few reasons. First off, many bases to perfumes is an alcohol, which as we already discussed, dries out the hair. Secondly, perfumes are often compounded to be concentrated in that 10oz container and if you have any skin sensitivity, you could experience scalp irritation, itchy/watery eyes, rash, dandruff, or other side effects very quickly.
    Typically the ingredient list will simply state “perfume” or “fragrance” in the list so if you can find something with natural scents, you are definitely better off.

So, that’s a long list but what prompted me to start researching and posting this is what I found in one product that I specifically used almost daily – DevaCurl Styling Cream

DevaCurl SUPERCREAM® Coconut Curl Styler

Ingredients:
Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycerin, Hydroxpropyl Starch Phosphate, Cetrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Laureth-4, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Protein, Panthenol, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Wheat Starch, Propylene Glycol, Ceteareth-20, Disodium EDTA, Aminomethyl Propanol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance.

While I enjoyed the fragrance component (it reminded me of sitting on the beach in the Caribbean), I need to be careful with my sensitive skin. However worst yet is the urea, especially since I often diffuse my hair with the hair dryer. Knowing that this breaks down into formaldehyde and knowing that this could cause unwanted health defects, I have stopped using this altogether and have decided to no longer purchase DevaCurl products personally. Why? It doesn’t stop at the styling cream. The shampoos and conditioners also have harmful ingredients like the No-Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser has diazolidinyl urea and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.

So moral of the story is that I am moving beyond DevaCurl for other brands that may have more organic and safe ingredients. And while I know I cannot avoid everything all of the time, if I can make one swap, and even save some money in the process, I will because my health is more important to me than perfect hair.

Have you heard about these ingredients before? Do you read the label of your hair care products before purchasing? Did it surprise you that DevaCurl had some less than ideal ingredients? Comment below and lets continue the conversation!

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Smoothie Recipes – Week 01

It is officially the end of week 01 of my smoothie series and as promised, I want to update you all on the recipes used, and since several of you have inquired, my protein of choice! I will add links to the every day items below if I can find it from Amazon but please know that some of these, like my protein powder, I get at Costco or other retailers. In fact, this month, Costco has a sale on my protein powder so you know I am stocking up!


Let’s start off with the products I use every shake. If you plan to make any of the recipes below, please do not forget to add these items!

Combat Protein Powder
Don’t be scared by the “cookies & cream” flavor because you do not taste it! This protein powder only has 2 grams of sugar which is one of the lowest I have seen in a protein that still tastes good. And over 25 grams of protein. It also have different types of protein which means it has a long lasting benefit.

AmazingGreen Green Superfood
One scoop of this is added to help me get my 3+ servings of fruits and veggies a day! It is full of organic greens, fruits, and other vegetables. It blends easily and tastes great! It is gluten free, organic, and does not add any additional sugar.

Collagen Peptides
I mentioned this is in one of my recent posts, but this is added every day!

Maca Powder
This is a new addition to my shakes, but there have been a number of intriguing benefits that have been uncovered by this root vegetable (think potato-esque). It has been consumed for years in Peru and has said to have benefits for both men and women including: increasing energy and stamina, helping balance hormones including during menopause, promoting athletic endurance and recovery, improving immunity levels, and boosting blood circulation.


So on to the weekly recipes including the top 2 favorites of the week!

Manic Monday*
Fresh Orange Juice, chia seeds, frozen peaches, fresh banana, cucumber, lime juice, celery, and flax. The liquid base is water.

Green Tuesday
Mixed organic greens (kale, spinach, lettuce), raw and fresh zucchini (3 slices), cucumber, dates (2), raw and unfiltered honey, and ice. The liquid bases are aloe water and almond milk (50/50).

Mint Chocolate Wednesday*
Fresh mint, cacao powder (think raw and unsweetened chocolate), fresh banana, matcha powder, old-fashioned oats, Greek yogurt, and flax. The liquid base for this is almond milk.

Thirst Quenching Thursday
Cucumber, baby organic spinach, lime juice, celery, fresh and raw zucchini, fresh apple, beets (this has to be steamed – do not add completely raw), frozen peaches, chia seeds, and ice. The liquid base for this is water.

Berries & Cream Friday*
Fresh strawberries, frozen blueberries, Greek yogurt, fresh banana, and honey. The liquid base is almond milk.

The top two favorites this week were: Berries & Cream Friday and Mint Chocolate Wednesday!

All of the ingredients included are customizable to your preferences and how much you are making. If you would like for me to be specific on exactly how much I include, please let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out my IG for day-to-day updates on the shakes of the week!

Do you have a favorite shake that you make? What are your preferences for ingredients? Do you prefer coconut milk or almond milk? Comment down below!

Amazon Favorites – April

So it is almost June and I am way behind! I had to take a couple of weeks off because of an illness (see last post for more details) but now that I’m back, I need to get on schedule!

Also, I will be rolling out two new series for my IG and blog! First will be my smoothie recipes and menu. I will post more about this during the week, but my smoothies are daily concoctions that I make for myself, my husband, and some of my friends and have seen amazing results! One of my friends has lost over 15 pounds with just the smoothies alone! The second series will be about skincare. I am not a makeup junkie, but I am all about taking care of my skin and my body. Every Sunday will now be Skincare Sunday and I will test and report on different skincare items; some may be first impressions, others may be tried and true.

But on to the Amazon favorites! I will link each product below, or the closest version if it is not currently available. Please 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.

This is one of my favorite investments for my small kitchen! If you know me, you know I love to cook, but sometimes cooking all weekend to meal prep is impossible and cooking every night is simply not going to happen. So purchasing this beauty (even though April’s purchase was a gift because I have 2 at home), has been a lifesaver. It has helped cut down on cooking time, keeps meats moist, and has made sure we eat out less because of “dump and cook” meals! I even make our doggie’s human-grade food every week and they have gotten so much HEALTHIER!
Click here for the 6 quart (currently $69)

Do you have curly hair or hair that tangles often? Have you been using a wide-tooth comb? Do you fear every time you have to detangle? Say no more! That was me too until I found this brush that I could have sworn was a gimmick until I detangled my curly hair – wet AND dry. This brush fits in the contours of your hand so it is easy to hold and with short/long bristles, it easily brushes out even the worst knots. And the best part is that it also massages the scalp without any damage. I barely have any fall out when I detangle too which is night and day from what I would be left with before.
Please do not hesitate and get this! Just keep an eye on the price because I got mine for $9.99 and it is now $16.

Once I started to hit the gym more for muscle building and not just weight loss, I needed something to help protect my neck and shoulders from the barbell and I came across this wonder! For only $12.49, I use this every time I do squats, pelvic thrusts, and any other exercise where the barbell is resting directly on my body. I keep this in my gym bag and clean it after every use. It provides a lot of cushion without disrupting the exercise.
It comes in multiple colors but I bought my black one here.

Available in multiple colors and sizes, I have bought this blanket 3 times over -once as a gift and twice for our master and guest beds. Every time someone stays over or we crash for the night during the summer months, this blanket is amazing! It is light weight but still warm enough that when the AC is blasting, you are not cold. It has a little waffle design on there so it is aesthetically pleasing while being functional. It is not warm enough for winter but we use it during spring, summer, and fall without any issues! It is great quality and washes easily in the washing machine and can be dried as well.
Each size and color is a different price, but I bought this one for the guest bed for $35.99.

Another item I have on Subscribe & Save is this collagen powder! This is a new addition to my daily protein smoothies that I make to help my bones, my skin, my hair, and joints. It is unflavored and will mix easily in any smoothie or shake. All you need is a scoop (included) and it makes a world of a difference. It is easy to digest too so there is no need to take 6 tablets or try and drink a flavored concoction. I purchase one every month.
You can give this a try too by purchasing it here.

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

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.

Hair Health: Righteous Roots

Many of you may know by now that I have curly hair that sometimes looks like 2C, sometimes 3A, and sometimes 3B… If you don’t know what that means, I have curly hair that sometimes is with a looser pattern and sometimes it looks like I wrapped my hair around a cork screw!

But one thing that you may not know is that I am the only one in my family with not straight hair. And no, it is not because I am adopted or switched at birth because I otherwise am a spitting image of my mother, but some genetic fluke decided that I would have curls instead of lustrous (and dare I say more easily manageable) hair. In fact, my mom has such straight hair that even if you try to curl it, pin it, put it in a ponytail, or really style it in any way, within an hour it is out and straight.

So what am I getting at? While my family and I do not have the same hair pattern (my husband leans towards 3C/4A which is tight curls to kink), we all have the same wants with our hair (well, maybe not my husband on everything). We want volume, definition, health, shine, and growth. We do not want to settle for hair falling out or dry, brittle, lifeless locks.

Yes, I do use a heck of a lot more products than my mother and I use different curly hair products than my husband, but there is some definite overlap if we want the same results and we want to use products that are good for us – not chalk full of chemicals than only a chemist could pronounce (even a biologist by trade such as myself cannot pronounce half of these items). We do not want parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, alcohols, silicone, or formaldehyde. And in my case, because I have sensitive skin, I want no or natural only scents – no perfumes!

One product that we are all using, daily, and have seen a tremendous change in our hair is Righteous Roots Oil ($15/bottle).

Ingredients (per the company’s website): COCOS NUCIFERA OIL (COCONUT), RICINUS COMMUNIS (JAMAICAN BLACK CASTOR OIL), OLEACEAE OIL (OLIVE), PERSEA AMERICANA MILL OIL (AVOCADO), VITIS VINIFERA OIL (GRAPESEED), SESAMUM INDICUM OIL (SEASAME), MENTHA PIPERITA OIL (PEPPERMINT), MELALEUCA ALTERNIFOLIA LEAF OIL (TEA TREE), SIMMONDSIA CHINENSIS SEED OIL (JOJOBA), ARGANIA SPINOSA OIL (ARGAN), ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS OIL (ROSEMARY)

This company blew me away when they were not afraid to list their ingredients on their website and on their product. The more I read, the more I realized this was all natural. And after I tried in on myself, everyone in the family was required to give it a try (with a nightly scalp massage of course). Low and behold, each member of the family (straight, curly, or kinky patterns) all noticed hair growth even in that almost annoying baby hair and length. Oddly enough our hair started to get darker too when it started to grow out. It detangled my hair with ease and smelled wonderful without irritating my scalp or rubbing off on everything around me. It also helps me break the cast formed by gels and leaves my hair looking shiny and healthy!

In fact, we ended up ordering 3 additional bottles after just breaking into the first one because we never want to run out! I only use 6 drops per night while my mom uses no more than 4, and my husband uses 8-10. We are just about to finish our first bottle.

Now my only caution is, especially if you have straight hair or are trying to go an extended period before wash day (I know we all dread that because it is a whole day affair for curly girls), is that this can start to coat your hair and leave it feeling oily. This happens to me around day 5 and for my mom around day 3. So how do you wash it – with shampoo like always, right? No. Not this time. There are two tricks on washing your hair when it is super oily albeit through the overuse of this hair oil or other reasons:

  1. Use your shampoo on dry hair. That’s right, do not jump immediately under the water when you are going to wash but rather apply shampoo to your dry hair. This will bond with the oil and allow it to be rinsed off versus the water “mixing”, or better yet coating, with the oil and creating an oilier situation. Once you rubbed the shampoo in, rinse, and repeat your normal process.
  2. Use apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a rinse. Using a bottle or bowl, depending how you want to apply the rinse, mix 1 part ACV to 2 parts water. Then you can rinse and massage this mixture in your hair before applying conditioner in the shower. I do not recommended shampooing after an ACV rinse because it will be super drying.

I am partial for the latter of the two when I have the time, because it helps my hair look and feel shiny and strong, but when I am short on time, the first option works well.

I will have some status photos up soon so you can see first hand on how effective this product is for all of our hair! But in the meantime, do not hesitate to buy a bottle of your own and try to carve out 5 minutes for yourself and massage a little but of Righteous Roots on to your scalp at night and I can almost promise you will see a difference!

If you take the leap of faith and give this product a try, leave a comment below and share your experience!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. Links and images are not my property and are not affiliate codes.

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!

Health: Weight Loss Check-In

I sincerely wanted to share an update on my health journey. There have been a number of changes just within the past couple of weeks!

First and foremost, while I loved OrangeTheory, the schedule wasn’t ideal for my workdays and I guess the word got out because the classes were always packed! Therefore I had to terminate that membership…for now. And since CycleBar started to become more like SoulCycle: The Teenie Bob edition, that member was also cancelled.

But locally we have a full fledged gym, similar to LA Fitness if you have seen those. I was fortunate enough to get a discount because of where I work and signed up myself and the hubster. This was one of the best moves we have made! We can go on our schedule and spend as much or as little time as we want. We can do cardio or machines or weights or participate in classes or swim… And even though we don’t have a trainer, YouTube has become a great way to educate oneself on exercises and regimens!

But more importantly than how I exercise is what I am eating. They say weight loss is 80-90% diet and 10-20% exercise and I believe it! I am not doing a fad diet or signed up for a coaching program or drinking detox anything. I am eating cleaner, more vegetarian and making myself my own smoothie every weekday!

I will update you more on the smoothies and new items that I introduced into my diet in my next post but I wanted to leave you all with photographic evidence that what I am doing is working!

In just my face alone my hair is more radiant, my skin is clear, and the shape of my face has slimmed down a lot! And before you try and call my bluff, these are both done with the same filter and in natural sunlight and yes I am wearing makeup in both photos. These are one year apart almost to the day and you can now see my cheekbones again and my jawline whereas before my face was more round that oval.

It isn’t easy and there are some days I look in the mirror and want to say it doesn’t matter or it’s not enough but that defeating behavior is what got me to balloon in weight in the first place. Down almost 25 pounds in a healthy way without giving up my vices or taking medication is arduous but doable.

And the best part is when I step on the scale, which is just one indicator in my health journey, and can say I hit my first milestone and each day gets better. And my support system has also made each workout or shedded pound that much more rewarding.

So here is to the next phase of the journey! Please let me know if you are interested is being a part of the journey too.

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 – Currently In Progress!

I want to preface that this is the first post of many regarding my fitness journey, but this is not the only thing my blog is about — there will be plenty of other goodies coming up!

Some of you may know that 2017 was a tumultuous year for me and my family. I started a new job with a very long commute, I got married, I postponed my honeymoon, I moved back in with my parents (and husband!), I survived my first hurricane with no power for a week, I relocated across the country in 4.5 days, I started a new job, and ultimately I had to give up some of my independence. So with all of that, the number one thing that took a back burner was my personal health!

I have always had some health issues and the past few years have been particularly problematic with medications and treatments. Those led to other issues and weight fluctuations which doctors wanted to start additional tests, treatments, and medications. Then I started a position that was extremely stressful which taught me just how taxing stress is on one’s overall health! Fast forward a couple of months and I am now driving across the country with my husband, two dogs, and a trailer which needless to say was QUITE stressful in itself.

Before I knew it, I stepped on a scale at my doctor’s office and hit 200 pounds. I had my blood work done and my stats were not at all ideal. It was at the point that I was gaining 1-2 pounds per week. My clothes no longer fit. I couldn’t sleep. I felt sluggish. I sat all day at my desk at work. I couldn’t wear anything other than flats and by time I got home, my feet were twice their normal size. Then I tried to take off my wedding band and it wouldn’t budge. That is when I lost it. I literally sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried. And cried. And then I decided I had enough. Enough medications, enough testing, enough doctor appointments, enough feeling sorry for myself, enough putting myself second.

So my husband and I, on April 13th, 2018, took measurements of our bodies as well as photos and decided that we were going to put ourselves first. He opted to use the gym in our complex and I enrolled at CycleBar to start spinning. Somewhere between sweating like I was in a sauna and being yelled at by the coach (she is amazing), I started to feel like me again – I found me.

Two months after starting spin, I decreased my 4x a week attendance to 2x a week and introduced Orange Theory Fitness. In the two months I had lost 16 pounds and wanted to start getting some of my strength back. So I opted to start going to Orange Theory 2x a week and push myself well outside of my comfort zone every time, but I know this is an uphill battle. In fact on July 7th I was able to jog on a treadmill for the first time in almost a decade!

Now I know that a lot of people say this but I really do not like to post photos of myself, especially in a bikini, especially when I was at my worst, but if I can prove to inspire just one person to get up, I know that this will be worth it. Ladies and gentlemen…the scale may not reflect the changes my body has undergone these past 3 months, but my non-weight victories are clear!

It is only the beginning, but through continuous physical activity, saying “yes” when my body wanted to say “heck no”, making some dietary changes (more about this in a future post), and wanting more out of my life, my health journey is clearly underway.

Now tell me… what health goals do you have? What questions do you have on exercise regimens? Comment below!