Good news on the health front, folks. I’ve found the perfect way to ingest the miracle food that is unsweetened Greek yogurt without gagging. Put that sucker in a smoothie!
I’ve been experimenting with different ways to eat Greek yogurt for a while - with various fruits, nuts, honey, etc. – but I can’t get over the taste. But I force it down because I know all that my insides are just loooving that good bacteria (it’s true), and for someone who doesn’t eat most meat and loathes milk, my body could sure use the extra protein and calcium.
So yeah, smoothies. Why didn’t I think of this before? I have a blender. I adore fruit. So this week, I decided to take a cue from all you smoothie fanatics and actually attempt to make a delicious and healthy concoction for hubs and I. It was a great success.
Here’s what I put in:
Strawberries (with the green tops!)
Pineapple (quite possibly the world’s most un-fun fruit to chop)
About 4oz of Greek yogurt
Lots of ice
Pretty basic, no? But grind it all up, pour it in a glass, add a fancy straw, and you’ve got yourself one fine breakfast if I do say so myself. That’s more fruit than the average person eats in a single day, and you’re slurping it down in less time than it takes you to fry an egg.
Plus, with all that sweetness from a nearly fruit-only smoothie, I could probably afford to sneak in a handful of spinach or kale and not tell the difference. I think I’ll try that next. That and some kind of protein powder, which kind of scares me, but I hear it’s just wonderful. Or perhaps some flaxseeds. The possibilities are just endless.
Do you have a fave smoothie recipe? Gimme the deets! Especially if it involves sneaking in weird-tasting-but-super-healthy foods.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and try to talk about something I know very little about – fitness. I’m what would be classified as “skinny fat” – thin enough to appear in shape, but out of shape enough to get out of breath after climbing a couple flights of stairs. I have zero muscle tone and my heart and respiratory system could stand to be challenged by a bit of exercise. But it’s just so hard to doooo.
My dilemma is the same as many – I work all day long, which leaves two options for bonafide exercise time – early am, or late pm. If you know me, you know I’m not an early riser. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get my sorry butt out of bed in the morning (the only thing that gets me up early is when I know I am going to drive some sweet cats to the vet for Kitten Rescue). And after a full day of work and a starving belly, exercise is the last thing on my mind as I come crashing through the front door with all my stuff I carry around (purse, laptop bag, sweater, coffee mug – I’m like a bag lady really). Plopping on the couch, cooking dinner, even cleaning are all more appetizing than going for a run or heading to a – gulp – gym.
I am no dummy, I know the physical (and mental) benefits of healthful living and regular exercise. My father is a martial arts instructor, my other father hits the gym every morning at 5am on the dot, my brother cycles, swims, and runs multiple times a week, even my mid-70s grandfather goes to the fitness center each and every morning (he’s a retired Colonel, die-hard and disciplined.) It should be in my blood!! But alas, I am lazy. And having a husband with a no-maintenance-required physique is not helping matters.
So what’s a girl to do? Something’s gotta give. It’s time for change. I’m concerned for my future 60 year old self, and my current 28 year old self, for that matter. I have no plans to quit my job anytime soon, so I’ve got to find a solution that works for my am-or-pm schedule. I’m thinking am. After all, I’ve always WANTED to be a morning person, I quite enjoy lazy evenings (and eating dinner at a normal hour). Plus, for the month I did a 6:30am bootcamp back in 07, I felt fantastic all day long and reveled in the fact that I could eat enormous breakfasts everyday.
So what’s my plan of attack? I’m the type of person who likes to lump changes together – therefore I think moving into our house is a great starting point for my ~*new fitness routine*~. Plus, we are moving to a much more run-friendly neighborhood (as opposed to the sketch-tastic Sunset Blvd and dreaded La Brea/Santa Monica corner), which should be great, considering I want to accomplish this:
Mon-Fri: wake up early (no later than 7am) and go for a run/walk, followed by stretches.
Supplement with yoga classes and/or hiking at least 1-2 times a week.
Buy a bike by the end of the year and go for regular rides.
We’ll start there. Yoga is a no-brainer, easy-peasy, solution – being a neurotic nut who tends to worry herself sick (literally), I am familiar with the emotional and physical payoffs of yoga. I even bought a great deal on Living Social this weekend – $45 fora month of unlimited yoga at Earth’s Power Yoga, a studio within walking distance of our new house. If only exercising were as easy as online shopping, right?
But running – this will be a challenge for me. I was that scrawny girl in high school who couldn’t run a quarter mile without dry-heaving (I actually joined track team in ninth grade and quit after a month, big surprise). But a couple years back, I watched my girlfriend Francesca complete the LA marathon and was mega-inspired. I wanted to be one of those people with that kind of endurance, that kind of discipline, with those kinds of sculpted legs! So I started running around my sketchy block in the evenings. At first, I couldn’t run for more than a minute and a half without having to stop, and after a mile I was so out of breath and light headed I felt like my ears were bleeding. It was fun I tell you. But after a few weeks, I was able to run 3 miles – not in one straight shot, but I got it done eventually. I felt great. I looked great. I was in a good mood.
Then I stopped. And anyone who has quit a workout routine knows that the longer you go without it, the harder it is to start back up.
My brother, who is used to me asking him for the “secret” to fitness motivation, recently shared a quote with me from one of his Air Force bootcamp instructors. When asked why he kept running if it hurt so badly, he said “I run because it hurts.” Get it? It’s about embracing the pain and letting that be your motivator to keep going. It only gets better from there, right?
Let’s hope so. Anyone want to join me?
Share your own fitness motivation or tell me your secrets for tricking yourself into waking up early and/or getting your booty moving!
Remember a while back when I posted that great educational animation about cosmetics and how potentially harmful and toxic they can be? Well, I recently got to discussing hair products with two of my female colleagues (specifically about how often we wash our hair – some of us daily and some of us once or twice a week) and was reminded of this wonderful little cosmetics database I found that can help clue us all in on how chemical-laden our cosmetics are. I’ve been meaning to share it with you so you can be enlightened.
It’s called Skin Deep, Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics safety database with listings for pretty much every product out there, each with a grade (from 0-10) based on how toxic they are. It also has a nice ingredients glossary so you can see why that particular product is harmful (it causes cancer, allergies, etc.)
A little experiment
To show you how simple it is to use, let’s check out the toxicity of my favorite tinted moisturizer by Laura Mercier. Ever since I found this lovely product over a year ago, I have completely depended on it. I’m not big on foundation, but this is a wonderful lightweight formula that achieves that nice balance between providing even coverage and being non-orangey or cakey. Needless to say, it’s a staple, and something I use often. Often enough that I would be thoroughly bummed if it’s full of nasty chemicals seeping through my pores.
So, I typed “Laura Mercier” into the database and found they have 21 product listings for that particular brand, ranging in toxicity from 2-8. That’s a pretty wide range, now I’m intrigued. And scared.
Opening up the brand page, I found a list of conditions that could potentially form from use of the ingredients found in Laura Mercier cosmetics – everything from developmental/reproductive issues, cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, and loads of more fun things. I also saw a nice little summary showing that the brand uses 266 different ingredients, has not signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, and is unknown for using animal testing. That last one is a big one for me, so I’m already turned off. But it’s better than being a blatant “yes” – right?
Moving on, I found the specific product I was looking for: Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20 (non-illuminated, which for some reason, has a lesser score on the toxicity scale). I was relieved to find the score was a 5, not an 8 like I imagined. But still – a 5? On a scale of 1-5, that’s not too great – according to the site, it poses a “moderate hazard.” That means I’m spending $42 a bottle to put only a “moderate” amount of chemicals on my face most days. And that’s just one product!
As you can see, it also tells me that 50% of foundations on the market have less toxic chemicals in them, and 56% of moisturizers have lower concerns (it also gives me a link to buy them. Hah.) Along with this disheartening information, the product page lists every ingredient, instructions for use, and package warnings, has user reviews (though no one seems to be using this – what a shame, it could be a great place to share safe cosmetics reviews), and more.
Though I’m not sure what my next move is re: Laura Mercier and her moderately hazardous tinted moisturizer, I suggest you all go take a minute to look up the products you use on a daily basis – not just makeup, but cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, the whole lot. I’m curious, though – what do you think your toxicity score threshold will be? Anything above a 5? Above a 3? I’m curious to know how much the average lady would be willing to potentially feed her body in the name of beauty.
Stuck in the eternal hell that is spending 3/4 of your day sitting in an office chair on the computer? Me too. Hey, we can’t all be kayak-instructors or super models, can we? The physical strains from being sedentary and staring at a monitor are endless, but one of the best ways I’ve found you can prevent sore muscles and keep the life blood flowing is to stretch for just a few minutes every few hours. It has profound physical and mental benefits. It even puts you in a better mood. I’m serious!
Now I’m no physical trainer, but I can promise you that if you twist or pull something the wrong direction too many times you’ll be in worse shape than you started. So do yourself a favor and read this helpful tutorial from Real Simple before diving into your desk stretching routine. It’s even got a video to show you the right way to do things – and I don’t even mind that the instructor has pit stains. See? Now you’re definitely going to click on it just to see them.
Other things that help the day go by more smoothly and keep me from throwing my computer out the window and going on an office-wide rampage:
Drink lots of water. It’s good for you AND means you get to take more bathroom breaks. (Buy yourself a reusable water bottle or I’ll send the plastic police to arrest you!)
Keep healthy snacks in your desk. I’m not talking M&Ms, because you and I both know that the post-binge sugar crash is not worth those 300 empty calories. Think nuts, fruit, granola bars, pretzels and peanut butter, really boring stuff like that. If you’re going to eat candy, at least eat dark chocolate. Also, eat breakfast.
Noise canceling ear buds. These will save your life and your productivity. Mine were only $20 at Best Buy and work like a charm.
Get good background music or a podcast. Music is a no-brainer, but some people work better with TV or empty noise in the background. Pod casts and radio shows are great for this and who knows, maybe you’ll actually learn something. My drug of choice is Dave Ramsey’s financial talk radio show. Yes, I am that type of a nerd.
Do something non-work related. Call your Mom. Color a picture. Clean out your purse. You need something to balance out the surely heavy amount of work you’re pumping out (right?) The law requires employers give employees a 15 minute break twice a day (plus your lunch break), so take advantage and get your mind off whatever project you’re doing.
Get off the internet. If you’re having a hard time focusing on your work and meeting your deadlines, shut down iChat and TweetDeck, remove Facebook from your bookmark menu (or delete it altogether like I did), hide your cell phone, and limit your email checking to once an hour. It’s amazing what you can get done without all these distractions. Plus, studies show your quality of work improves with less frequent breaks!
Go outside for crying out loud. I’m 99% sure God didn’t give us the sun so we could spend all day trying to block it from casting a glare on our precious monitors. Break from your spreadsheet or email for 5 minutes to go walk outside. Even if you don’t feel like walking (but chances are you could use it), just find a window and stare outside for a few minutes. Don’t bring your phone, that’s cheating!
This guy’s got the right idea!
Your boss is going to hate me for this one – remind yourself that IT’S JUST A _____. This is not to say you should be unmotivated about your career and/or the task at hand, but don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in whatever project you are doing that it is negatively affecting your health and well-being (not to mention that of those around you). If your workload is too much to manage – tell someone about it. Make a case for hiring an assistant, an intern, or a team mate to share your load. Don’t feel like you have to save the world all from those three walls of your cubicle – chances are, life will go on with or without this project launch.
Now share your tips for surviving cubicle-land! You might just save someone’s life.
Ick! Ick ick ick! Last week, I shared a video about the story of bottled water from Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff project. Her latest video has me squirming and completely grossed out, because it’s about something I (and you, too, probably) use every single day (except on days when I’m just too lazy). I’m talking about MAKEUP. And cosmetics in general, including shampoo.
I like to think of myself as more educated about this than the average person, seeing as my Mother owns her own line of handmade soaps and is always telling me what garbage goes into the national brands we buy at Target and what not. I started washing my face with oils, toning with witch hazel and moisturizing with Avalon organic lavender lotion long ago, but now I’m completely convicted about what else I might be putting on my face that contains potentially cancer-causing chemicals.
This is our SKIN, people – the same skin that sweats and is extremely porous, permeable and absorbent. It works both ways. Our skin pushes stuff out and it pulls stuff in. Maybe we should be thinking a little more about what it is we’re slathering all over it, right?
I feel dirty.
So what do you buy? This is a great place to start, it’s a very long list of cosmetics manufacturers that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. It’s updated frequently, this list is from March 2010. I was very proud to see that my Mom is on this list, by the way!
Oh how I love Annie Leonard and her educational video series The Story of Stuff. I just now caught this installment she did about the story behind bottled water. If you’re concerned about the future of our planet, your own health, your bank account, or your future grandkids, you may want to watch this video. It’s not long and it’s very easy to digest, so you have no excuses (especially if you’re reading this blog right now instead of working).
There! You’ve now been educated. So what are you gonna do?
My guess is that most of us who see this will still continue to buy bottled water out of convenience. I’m certainly aware of the horrible consequences of this behavior, yet I have one sitting on my desk at work as we speak. Yes, I’m guilty too, not at all preaching. But I’m eager to make a change, and I hope you will too. After all, the choices we make today will affect what kind of world our grandkids live in. So let’s suck it up and make some positive changes for their sake.
Well, I am afraid I haven’t been as “update-y” as I intended to be re: my gluten-free journey. I’m now 11 days into my 14 day anti-gluten trial and I have to say, the results so far are quite wonderful.
Changes I’ve noticed:
1. More energy. Overall, I’ve had a lot more energy than I am used to. This means I’ve been more productive and less ready to take a nap the second I get home from work in the evenings.
2. Better mood. I’m still a girl, which means the occasional mood swing is still in effect, but in general I have felt much more happy and personable. I’m pretty friendly as it is, but all-around I feel more pleasant.
3. Clear-headed. In a way, it kind of feels like the fog in my brain cleared out. This could be due to the increased amount of fruit and vegetables I’ve been eating, but it’s worth noting regardless.
4. Less sugar cravings. I’m still in love with chocolate covered caramels (which thank GOD are gluten-free), but I have been wanting much less sugar than before. I’ve also noticed that I am less prone to snacking on junk in between meals.
5. Different sleeping patterns. This is a weird one. I’ve noticed myself staying up later and waking up earlier with more ease. Monday morning, I was up bright and early at 6:30am, UNHEARD of for me. These past two days, however, it’s been difficult to wake up, but I think it’s because I’m fighting off a swollen gland and my body tends to ask for more sleep when that happens. I’ve read about some people having more restful sleep and less vivid dreams when giving up gluten, but my dreams are just as crazy as ever. I’ve always been an intense dreamer.
6. Much less tummy aches! Oh my gosh, totally a big one for me. Digesting food is soo much easier than it was two weeks ago. I no longer feel like I have a rock in my stomach after eating a meal (that was for Julian. “Meal. MEAL.” I hate that word.) and I don’t feel so bloated. That alone is worth giving up pasta and bread.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what I could eat, but was happy to discover that rice and potatoes were still on the menu. I have been careful to learn which ingredients are safe and read labels on all food I buy and prepare (no wheat, barley, oat, malt, etc), and got over my embarrassment of asking waiters at restaurants about gluten-free options. There have been a couple melancholy moments when realizing I can’t eat things like chicken fingers, waffles or crumb cake, but all in all, living without wheat hasn’t been that hard. Then again, I have been living alone and cooking for myself during this time, so that could be a big part of it. I am dreading the moment I have to eat at someone else’s house and can’t eat whatever it is they’re serving. How do you tackle THAT?
- I need to find more gluten-free snacks. It took me months after going vegetarian in 2006 to find “safe” snacks and meals that I didn’t have to think about in-depth. I’ve been eating a lot of fruit, nuts and vegetables if I need sustenance in between mealtimes, but I’d like to find more gluten-free options. I did find some great websites that listed common snack(and junk) foods that are gluten-free.
- I’m proud of myself for trying new things. I’ve never had quinoa before, but last night I made this AMAZING dish with quinoa, chicken broth, chicken, peppers, onions and garlic. It was SO delicious and get this – I found the recipe on the back of the box of Trader Joe’s quinoa. Did you know that it is basically a perfect food? It has all NINE essential amino acids. I also bought gluten-free pasta and crackers from Whole Foods but have yet to try them.
- I totally failed at the apple cider vinegar daily dosage. I haven’t even opened the bottle. I’m honestly scared because I imagine it tastes like bile. One of these days I’ll work up the courage.
- There are a ton of amazing gluten-free desserts. This has been one area where finding gluten-free options is not hard at all. Earlier this week, we celebrated my girlfriend Tracy’s birthday at The Little Next Door. French food = EXTREMELY HARD TO RESIST. Thankfully they had not one, not two or three but FOUR different desserts for me to choose from. I had the most incredible chocolate custard with caramel, almond and fig topping. Can you tell I like chocolate and caramel? Just FYI, creme brulee is also gluten-free. And flourless chocolate cake, of course.
So, will I keep it up?
I’m definitely going to finish out my two week trial. After that, I’m not really sure. I am definitely loving the way I feel, but I’m not sure if I’ll last forever. I’m not sold that I have a full-on wheat allergy, but I do think that it irritates my insides more than the average bear. I might extend the trial by a week or two and then eat a little gluten to see what it feels like after going through a detox. That will be the real indicator.
“Life is just a quick succession of busy nothings.”
- Jane Austen
What’s on your to-do list today? How about this week? If you’re like me, 95% of your thoughts are filled with remembering tasks you “simply have to get done” – changing the bed sheets, getting the ingredients to make dinner, finishing this project by 3, making an appointment, dropping that something off at the somewhere. In the big picture – how much do these things really matter? The truth is, not much. These line-items, as monumental as they may seem in the moment, are really quite trivial and menial in the grand scheme of things.
I invite you to ignore the calling of society to get busy and “crush it,” and join me as I attempt to reduce my to-do list and clear my mind of clutter that is prohibiting me from enjoying life the way we were designed to enjoy it – building relationships, experiencing new places, creating new things, helping others. Take a deep breath. Now take nine more. Close your eyes, and think – will the next 50 minutes really have that great an impact on the next 50 years?
I need to seriously limit my posts that contain the date in the title. It’s kind of irritating and not very pretty, one after another. So what’s on the agenda this weekend? A little BBQ with friends, finishing LOST once and for all (so we can get back to normal life), trying my hand at baking rolls from scratch, with a lot of errand-running and relaxing in between. Sounds like a plan! We love plans!
Summer in Paris – Ah, I already miss it!! I really hope to go back sometime soon when the weather is warmer. Despite our honeymoon being in mid-May, the weather was cold, cold, cold. And rainy. And cloudy. What’s the point of bringing cute clothes if you’re covering it up with a coat the whole time? These photos make me happy.
Ever stop to look around at your wonderful life and think, “something bad is definitely going to happen soon.” You’re not alone. Jon Acuff wrote this spiritually-driven piece about that belief and why we should stop worrying and simply enjoy the goodness in our lives.
American Migration Patterns – where are people moving to and from these days? These illustrations are awesome, and very interesting. Sidenote: I am jealous of all the people getting out of LA.
Why I Quit A Six Figure Job – don’t get any crazy ideas, I’m not quitting my job. But the pros & cons measured in this quick and to-the-point blog post do a great job at illustrating the benefits and draw backs of working for yourself vs. working for someone else. I want to add an important note here: the reason this guy COULD quit that job? He has two years worth of living expenses saved up. He also seems to live a pretty low-maintenance lifestyle, something most of us could try and imitate a bit more. (Thanks for tweeting this, Chris!)
4 Tips For a Less Stressful Morning – I could definitely take some of this advice! I tried the playing music bit and it really did help! So does taking a few minutes to do something that is totally not “getting ready to head to the office.”
THE LITTER BOX. This isn’t cool and/or pretty, but it’s still worth posting for any cat owners who have ever experienced their kitties boycotting the litter box. Seeing as this is one of the BIGGEST reasons people banish their pets to the animal shelter (or worse), it’s worth taking a look and seeing what you can to to rectify the situation before resorting to extreme measures. HINT: CLEAN THE DARN LITTER BOX MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK. Would YOU want to use a port-o-potty for a week straight? Thx!
Abandoned Hotel photos – before and after. This is so cool! I am obsessed with looking at old, abandoned (and might I add, sometimes hideously designed) buildings in LA and wondering what they looked like back in the 60s, 70s, or 80s (or even before!) when they were hip and happening. Even in a young city like this, there’s still so much history. So curious!
My girlfriend, currently living in Naples and about 17 months pregnant, sent me these PRECIOUS baby photos from a local photographer. If you don’t love babies and cute things, don’t bother looking. If you do, enjoy.
Conventional, Organic, Local, Whatever. Just eat it! Let me summarize this brilliant article for you – the benefits of eating product FAR outweigh any risk of contamination by pesticides. It beats the alternative, which is avoiding fruits & vegetables and snacking on chemically-ridden processed foods. (P.S. Thanks to my sister-in-law Jes for finding this one!)
Jacaranda Trees in LA – one of the little pleasures about living in this region. The bright purple flowers always brighten my day for these few short weeks.
I really, really want to do a juice fast after reading this article by Sarah Wilson. I’ve done the master cleanse in the past before, but given my lack of desire to make that surprisingly complicated lemonade everyday, I found myself tired and mopey every afternoon. I made it four days before throwing in the towel binging on french fries (my junk food weapon of choice). Had I stuck with it, I think I would have continued to enjoy the benefits of giving my digestive system a nice break and allowing my body to rid itself of gnarly toxins that have built up over the years.
The benefits of fasting and detoxing can be debated for days, but I am convinced that with all the nasty pollution, chemicals and all-around garbage we’re inhaling, ingesting and slathering on our bodies (both intentionally and accidentally), I’m sold on the concept. But which to choose? There are so many expensive fad detoxes on the market, specifically weight-loss oriented, but I just want a natural, easy, trustworthy detox. And don’t tell me just to start eating super clean all the time, either – I WANT A DETOX!!!
So, where were we? Yeah, which detox to choose. It would be wonderful to have someone deliver elixirs to my doorstep every morning (like the LuckyYou cleanse Sarah did), but let’s be real, I’m frugal. I have a farmers market. I have a Whole Foods. I can put in the effort to make the juice myself. I’m pretty sure. I’m at least willing to give it a shot. We even have a juicer!
Anyone out there had good/bad experiences with juice fasting/detoxing in the past? What has worked for you and where can I read about it?