Toxicity

When someone is first starting their “healthy living” journey, one of the first tips people tend to give to him or her is to become ingredient aware– to check out the labels of what you’re eating. If the product has a ton of added colors, preservatives, trans fat, corn syrup, pesticides, artificial sugars, GMOS and the like, the advice is to steer clear. Simply put, science says over time, these foreign substances stuck in our body can poison us, lead to cancer and other diseases.

Different sources may say slightly different things about the affects of chemicals on our bodies, but the main takeaway should be to find the most natural sources of our products and be comfortable and knowledgable with whatever we’re using or eating.

Over the years I’ve learned more, and through small changes, the process of choosing what’s better for me has become more normal/easy to do. It’s no longer a “I should”, but an “I want to” take care of myself.

At first the hassle seems like too much work, but as you start to make little swaps, you feel capable of greater changes over time, and realize you have more energy, are more confident, feel stronger, and quicker on your feet. I at least aim for the most “natural” groceries, organic protein without added hormones and stick to getting the dirty dozen organic as well.

Recently, I read the book the Super Life by Daren Olien, a nutritionist and superfood expert.

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As much as I had been focusing on good nutrition and exercise, my eyes were opened a little more about the importance of some of the other life-forces that affect our health like oxygenation,  alkalization, and (what this post is about) detoxification. Our systems are overwhelmed and overtaxed, and constantly processing all of the crazy stuff our organs weren’t meant to handle. The more overworked they are, the more vulnerable, the less strong our immune system is to fight for us against mutated cells and other sickness.

 

I had been working on step 1: what I fed my body, and after reading the information in this book, was ready to move onto step 2: what I allowed into my body through my skin and breathing in the air.

Things like shampoo, makeup, lotion, aren’t regulated and can get away with a lot more chemicals and not labeling what goes into their products. Your skin absorbs up to 70% of what you put on it, so it IS important to think about what is getting in!

OH where to even START?!

SO I started digging. Google can be a good friend, and so can other women out there who are way further along on this non-toxic journey than I am!

So just as I did the first time with my eating, I decided to start becoming ingredient aware of all the products I use daily. It wasn’t pretty… surprise!! It seems like everything is bad for you! 😛

Below are some suggestions for some slow changes I’ve been making over the last month. It was overwhelming at first to feel like I’ve been doing many things “wrong” for so many years, but just like healthy eating and exercise, it is never too late to get started doing things a little better to take some stress off our kidneys and liver.

All the items below are simply things to think about, and you get to decide what to implement and what you feel like is best for you to look into. Same with healthy eating, it involves weighing the price/inconvenience against the potential harm. I believe you just have to do your best with the information you have! That’s all 🙂 IF you’re interested in this stuff like I am, read on!

If you get overwhelmed like I did, maybe focus on making one category each month a little bit better. As you run out of a certain toiletry or product, research something new to try instead of your normal supply! A lot of times we just use something because it’s the cheapest item or our parents used it, but we don’t really think about if it’s healthy or effective. Don’t drive yourself crazy, just be aware 🙂 I’m no expert!

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{Deodorant}

This one actually started to learn about when I first found out I was pregnant this past April. The aluminum in antiperspirants, the parabens, and the “fragrance” in the deodorant were recommended as ingredients to avoid because of the carcinogens (cancer causing) and could cause birth defects. I didn’t know how much to believe this at the time, as I’ve always been a “sweater” and couldn’t imagine not having the SUPER protective antiperspirant. But if it meant I could reduce my chances of cancer and any other complications, I figure it doesn’t hurt to try it out.

I made a switch to Tom’s Deodorant. Not going to lie, it doesn’t work as well as the aluminum that blocks you from sweating. I have to reapply it if I don’t want to start smelling at the end of the day. If you want to get really ‘crunchy’ and you have the time, you could try to make your own and give your armpits a break from the chemicals that are potentially interfering with your hormones and let yourself sweat those toxins OUT. Look for products that say “aluminum free” when you can! Our sweat is part of our body’s detox system!

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{Meal Containers}

I was microwaving my lunch everyday at work in plastic wear. Now, even though some of the plastic  is “BPA free”, that doesn’t mean that the plastic isn’t breaking down over time and releasing chemicals, like dioxin, into my food that otherwise wouldn’t be there; chemicals that could cause reproductive issues or once again, cancer.  I thankfully had a Container Store gift card, so I purchased a few glass lunch containers, to take to work when we have something to microwave, and still use the plastic containers just for food storage. Baby steps.

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{Face Wash} 

Everyday, since probably high school, I have washed my face, then used Clearasil astringent, and then used an acne medicated lotion… morning and night. That’s a lot of product going into my pores! The ingredient triclosan in my face wash, can be toxic to reproduction and can alter the thyroid hormone receptor.

I switched to Witch Hazel as a natural toner for the “astringent” step, and Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for the lotion part. I’ve heard Rose Water is also a good option as well as different kinds of essential oils. Coconut Oil is a GOLD mine and has tons and tons of uses for your skin and digestion.

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{Body Wash}

 Dr. Bronner’s has a wide variety of uses, is 100% organic made with vegetable and coconut oils. I decided to make the switch to this instead of my generic Dove-type body wash which has “fragrance” and several other ingredient linked to developmental toxicity, allergies, and cancer. My body wash was going all over my entire body very frequently, so I wanted to be sure to find a sure non-toxic solution.

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{AIR}

We spent a lot of time indoors, unfortunately. To improve our air quality in our medium size apartment, we got a plant! A beautiful peace lily (it requires very little sunlight and watering so we knew it was best for us! haha). It topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common volatile compounds — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene. Basically I figured if we had sketchy things in the air, it could at least help clean it up a little bit for us without us even trying!

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{Cleaning Supplies}

This is usually the category that people start with I think… or at least the one I’ve heard most about. However, maybe I don’t use cleaning supplies often enough to have thought of them first! Having a multi-surface cleaner was key because I do frequently wipe down counter surfaces in the kitchen and the bathroom. I would usually use Clorox Wipes for this. There are plenty of cleaning concoctions you can make at home with water and vinegar and baking soda! Give pinterest a search if you’d rather make your own than buy!

 

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{Candles}

We go through periods of time where we have 3-4 candles lit at a time in our apartment. We love candles, the smell and the mood they create. SURPRISE. The fragrance amongst other things is bad for you. You can also find others made of coconut wax and beeswax. This is a small business brand I found at a used bookstore. They have an etsy store if you’re interested!

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{Linen Spray & Air Freshener} 

Turns out, it’s not that “fresh” after all. Don’t be fooled! We keep the febreeze in the bathroom, as I think most people have some kind of spray in there!  Turns out this is pretty horrible….  haha I also would spray linen spray on our sheets to keep them fresh in between washes, but turns out spraying the chemicals on our sheets was potentially getting in our skin as we slept. I found this DYI Linen spray that I’ll definitely be trying out instead!

 

Finally, I have to suggest this app called “Think Dirty”. You can scan in any of your products and it will tell you what ingredients are dangerous and why. It gives them a rating of how harmful they may be, and suggests alternatives for you to check out. Ask around your friends, someone is bound to sell brands like Ava Anderson, Shaklee, Norwex, several different brand of essential oils that can help with cleaning or be used as with an air diffuser  with plenty of health benefits. Maybe next I’ll tackle my makeup!

Good luck detoxing your life!! It’s tough work out there!

How to Travel with Your Meal Plan

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My Fall in Love with Fitness Accountability group is in full swing this week! These ladies are battling for time to take care of kids and ill family members, fighting sickness, waking up earlier to workout, preparing their meals in advance, avoiding their favorite candy and sodas, AND trying to stay healthy while traveling.

Life has a way of throwing a lot of curve balls in our direction, just when we are trying to focus on a new goal or mission! I’m so proud of these ladies for working so hard to achieve their goals, no matter rain or shine. Some days, they’re on point, and some days they fall down. What’s most important is that they don’t give up.

Though all of these obstacles are hard, I find traveling one of most difficult because it completely breaks your routine away from home, and often, time and food are a little more out of your control and you’re left with very few good options.

When I was traveling as Miss Virginia roughly 20 hours a week and trying to prepare for Miss America, I tried to put a lot of systems in place to keep me on track. When your job or family or schedule demands a lot of you, it’s important to be fueled well to have the energy to accomplish everything you need to! The first thing I realized is that traveling alone is boring, and made me want to eat for the entire trip. I tried to plan ahead as much as possible to avoid making a drastic decision to pull over at the nearest Wendy’s and inhale a frosty. Having good distractions like motivating podcasts, MP3 talks, a funky music playlist, or a phone call to a friend, helped to keep my mind happy and focused.

Planning ahead at least helps you have your mind made up in advance so when you’re attending that fancy work event and they pass around the giant pieces of chocolate fudge cake… your mouth waters, but you feel comfortable declining because you know it— A. has no nutritional value B. it will only take you further away from your goals.

–>The first thing I did was commit to only drink water. It will help keep you alert and full. You may stop a few more times to use the restroom, but at least your skin will be glowing when you arrive! Keep your water bottle with you at all times, or sometimes I’d have several full bottles so I wouldn’t have to stop to buy one or refill it.

–>This might be an obvious one, but packing snacks! Lara Bars are easy to transport and they just dates and a different kind of nut (which 21 Day Fix peeps can count as a purple and a blue.) Quest Bars aren’t technically totally “clean eating”, but they’re one of the cleanest protein type bars on the market. These kept me super full in between meals on the road, and are very low sugar and high fiber. Little baggies of almonds, turkey jerky, or an apple are also options that don’t need to be kept chilled.

–>Because I never knew what kind of options for meals I’d have wherever I was staying, I packed a couple meals, like chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes in a huge lunch box if possible. Most hotels have microwaves… I once stopped at a truck stop to heat up my food on a long trip 🙂 This saves so much money in the long run too! When I won Miss VA, a friend mailed me one of the best gifts: one of these huge 6 pack food prep carriers. It kept my boiled eggs, fruit, and full meals cool in the car in your specified containers. If you travel a lot, and you’re really serious about knowing exactly what you’re consuming, it may be a good investment!

–>If I needed to stop at a quick restaurant on my way somewhere, I’d keep my eyes peeled for a Chickfila. Usually, I would pick up grilled chicken nuggets, side fruit cup, and a yogurt, or chicken soup if I just was looking for a snack. Their chargrilled garden salad is also a good option for a healthy lunch! Panera is my second favorite option. The Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey is to die for, and the Fuji Chicken Salad is delicious as well. Dressing always on the side or ask for simple olive oil on top. Subway was third option because you can at least get a spinach salad and pick tons of veggies to load on top!

–>If you can’t control what you’re eating because someone else if providing the food, I try to just eat whatever meat or veggie they have (as long as it’s not fried) and eye ball the proper portion. As long as I don’t eat after around 8pm, I feel fine about eating what is provided. It’s important to be a respectful guest! Plus, a cheat or two won’t hurt you, so don’t stress! Take the opportunity to truly enjoy what is provided, but don’t feel obligated to eat every last bite. You’ll get back on track at the next opportunity. 🙂

–> It may also be helpful while you’re out of town to secretly TRACK! Try out MyFitnessPal, or the 21 Day Fit Tracker apps to be mindful of your target. It will also help you recognize if you went all day without any vegetables or fruit, or haven’t had enough protein. Maybe you imagine eating that giant pasta bowl is no big deal, until you look it up and realize it’s equal to your daily calorie allotment.

  • It of course depends on how serious you are about your goals and what you personally feel like you can withstand from temptations. If you know one cheat meal won’t send you on a downward spiral, go for it! I think that’s perfectly reasonable! You never want to end up feeling like your nutrition is super restricting. It should be empowering to feed your body with foods that actually make you feel good.
    When you travel, try to see it as yet another opportunity to search out the best for you, even it it means going the extra mile sometimes or asking the waiter to make some menu swaps for you. You deserve that.

Six in Sixty: Quick Ways To Improve Your Life

Want to improve your health but don’t have tons of time? Here are six 60-second ideas for improving your health—and your life!

1. Sit or stand up straight! Good posture is the key to confidence and a welcoming appearance. Not only do you speak more clearly and breathe better, you’re also taking pressure off your lower back and allowing your muscles to develop correctly. Taking a second to adjust your posture every once in a while can be helpful in reducing back pain in the future!

2. Do a plank and work the abdominals. This is a great “take with you anywhere” exercise; just drop down on those elbows and toes, keeping the back flat and the butt down. The plank is one of the most efficient and effective when it comes to a solid core workout for ab endurance and stabilization. Hold this position 20-60 seconds for 3-5 repetitions.

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3. Drink a glass of water. As you’ve probably heard, the average person should drink about eight glasses a day to help prevent dehydration. Yes, drinking water helps regulate your metabolism and your body temperature, but additionally it can give you younger looking skin, keep you from getting sick, remove toxins in the body, and boost your mood. Water is the ultimate medicine!

4. Compliment someone. It is the easiest way to spread a little bit of happiness and your thoughtfulness can go a long way. It’s a win-win for the other person and for the way you can also feel good, empowered, and kind. When we live our lives so inwardly focused, we can get down about our own problems and miss so much of the world around us. Making someone else happy might just make you happy, too.

5. Read the label. Ideally you want to look for food items with low sugar, high fiber, and high protein, and preferably nothing processed. Looking at the calories seems easy, until you realize that’s the calories per serving size and there are four servings in that container you just ate. The nutrition facts can be confusing on those labels, but understanding exactly what you’re feeding yourself can make all the difference in your health!

6. Floss. Your dentist tells you this at every six-month cleaning. It’s something so simple that most of us don’t care to do it or don’t even think about it. When we don’t floss, we’re leaving a heck of a lot of tooth unclean, susceptible for gum disease to set in and spread bacteria to the rest of our bodies. Fun fact: people who floss live six years longer than those who don’t.

Remember, healthy living comes in the consistency of our good choices. Take 60 seconds today to do something to better the life you live and make every step count.

Why am I so sluggish?!

You know the look on many days of the week, when co-workers come into the office half-asleep, or just can’t seem to get up enough energy to think clearly for a meeting.

We’ve all been there ourselves and it’s NOT fun.

Sometimes our long-term tiredness is a deeper issue, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Depression or a thyroid condition, but often times, it is simply a matter of our lifestyle choices. Take inventory of this list if you’ve been feeling sluggish to see what you might be able to get back in balance! You’ve gotta choose what’s best for the one body you’ve been given!

Sleep. DUH. The obvious #1. You’re not getting enough sleep! (7-9 hours) OR you’re inconsistent about it. 5 hours during the week and 15 hours a night over the weekend isn’t going to cut it. A crazy sleep schedule makes your body have a “hangover effect”. Try to get to bed within an hour of the same time each night, and not to look at your phone an hour before bed to keep your brain from feeling over stimulated. There is no shame in prioritizing your sleep when possible!

Your Nutrition is off. Lots of sugar spiking your blood-sugar? Simple Carbs not filling you up? Junk food putting you in a food-coma? Late night eating not giving your body enough time to digest during the night? Vitamin D or Iron deficiencies? These can ALL leave you feeling down. Try to eat veggies with at least 2 meals a day and not after 8pm to solve this. Your body will thank you for the nutrients, fiber, and protein to keep you energized. Think green: peas, spinach, brussel sprouts, and broccoli.

Your Liver is overworked from removing junk food toxic chemicals because of your diet. It’s totally singing “You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under…” Lack of energy, headaches, brain fog, can all be a result of the weighed-down CEO of your body: your liver. Don’t be so hard on it! Looking for an awesome way to DETOX for a fresh start? Check out this safe and effective 3 day refresh to kick start and clean up!

Water Water Water. Dehydration makes your blood volume thinner, so your heart has to work harder making you feel more tired. Think about drinking HALF your body weight in ounces! Have a water bottle with you all day. If nothing else, maybe having to pee will get you to stand up and walk around 🙂

Sitting all day looking at a computer screen can wipe you out. Then all we feeling like doing is coming home and sitting some more. This is totally my downfall! I know it’s awkward or inconvenient but for every 30 minutes you sit, you need to move for 5 minutes to get your heart rate up. My personal favorite is walking to the bathroom and doing some squats in there. Stand at your desk for 10 minutes. Turn the brightness on your screen WAY down to reduce eye strain that makes you tired.

Move More. Also maybe an obvious one! Exercise is proven to significantly improve the sleep of people who have insomnia. It improves circulation and oxygen flow to help you sleep deeper, and relieves stress to help you fall asleep faster. BUT, like anything, too much of a good thing can ruin it. If you’re exercising TOO MUCH, like really long hard cardio sessions every day wearing yourself out, your body may be depleted of minerals and/or calories and be in a constant state of inflammation that makes you feel sluggish. Proper balance is everything!

You’re overdoing it. We can’t all be superheroes. We can’t be ALL things in the same season of life. I hate to break it to you, but there are only 24 hours in a day…If you’re over worked, over socialized, over tasked, and under taken care of, you’ll break. It’s called burning the candle at both ends. The goal is to take time, even if it’s 5 minutes every morning, to FIND REST and PEACE. The world won’t fall apart if you’re not always in control. YES we have responsibilities, but we cannot fully accomplish them if we are functioning at 50% all the time. It’s okay to scale back, or even take a break just for a time. In this busy world, the art of saying “NO” is really helpful in getting a good night’s rest.

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What to do, When What You’re Doing Isn’t Working

This past week several friends have come to me asking, “WHY?!?! I’m eating less, working out more and still not losing any weight.” While this “eat less, move more” philosophy definitely can help with overall health or beginning weight loss, it may not be that simple for everyone. Each body is different! There can be a number of things to keep in mind when you feel like no changes are happening.

What to do? Remember:

  • Stick it out! Don’t lose heart! Changes take TIME. Make a decision to be committed and be relentless toward your goals. It WILL happen, just keep at it. Your body fluctuates several pounds on a daily basis just because of water intake, sodium bloat, constipation, and inflammation, that it’s impossible to get a good measurement if you’re weighing yourself too frequently.
  • Realize the other victories that are happening in your body. The scale may not always reflect it, but the time you spend exercising or being more disciplined with your nutrition is appreciated by your organs and muscles. You may be gaining muscle, more energy, better sleep, or more confidence. No steps taken toward improving your health are wasted.
  • You may not be accurately counting your calories (if you’re paying attention to them at all). Be honest, are you really eating as clean as possible? Are you still treating yourself to extra treats in your coffee? Are you eating after 8pm and not giving your body a chance to digest?? Maybe you’re over doing it even on healthy foods? You don’t need an entire avocado just because it’s a healthy fat for you or several protein shakes a day with tons of peanut butter in it. Some things our brain says we can have plenty of because it’s “healthy” is actually very caloric, and better served in smaller portions.
  • You may need to switch up your workout to high intensity, sprints, interval training, or circuit training with weights. Your body gets used to the same old 30 minute cardio session, adapts and becomes more efficient at using the fuel. You need muscle confusion to challenge yourself enough that your body will react to it and change. Lifting weights increases your metabolism and gives you more effective, long term weight loss. Cardio alone isn’t enough. Try switching it up with a fitness class, a home DVD workout, one of my challenge groups, or find a personal trainer!
  • Check in on your stress levels. Take a look at your lifestyle habits and see if you’re getting enough sleep or paying enough attention to your emotional/spiritual needs. Chronic stress releases a hormone called Cortisol that increases fat storage and the rate at which you store fat. It can also increase your appetite and raise your blood sugar. Excess exercise then may be contributing to the stress in your body, not helping. You may need to take it easy for a time if you’re over exercising, until your body is able to get enough rest and recover. Drink plenty of water to make sure you’re not dehydrating your body either!
  • Your body may already be below it’s set point. We are naturally designed to hold on to our fat, as our ancestors didn’t know the next meal they’d get. Take time to learn if you realistically are at a healthy weight and it is unsafe to lose any more. I know society can push push push on this topic, so just be sure you actually NEED to lose weight. If not, find a new goal: maybe exercise consistency, a measurable endurance or strength goal, or something fun and active to focus on. You may be able to measure your progress by goals, or how your clothes fit, rather than the number going up and down on the scale.

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Sugar is Killing Us

Dramatic, I know… but true!

A bowl of candy has been sitting on my office desk for 8 months and I honestly can’t believe this former sugar addict hasn’t had ONE piece (except when I have the occasional dark chocolate in there!)…HOW is this possible?!

 

Knowledge is power. Knowledge builds confidence in decision making. Confidence in our decisions lead to habits. You see, the knowledge I have that allows me to resist that jar everyday is the knowledge that makes my brain register that candy and added sugar as POISON. And poison does NOT appeal to me.

Maybe thinking of these few facts about sugar below will help you resist the sweet tooth every once in a while!

1. Leptin, the hormone that tells your body that it is full, is impaired when you eat sweets. Your brain tells you that you still feel hungry longer and tells you to eat way more than you should. This would also explain your cravings all day!

2. Sugar is quickly absorbed and spikes your blood sugar, which spikes your insulin levels and eventually can lead to diabetes. Insulin triggers fat storage and inflammation. Inflammation is the foundation of many chronic diseases. And because you can’t feel that you’re full (see #1), you keep storing more and more fat.

3. Studies show it’s more addictive than COCAINE. The brain lights up like you’re on heroin when you get your fix and you turn into a sugar junkie! Talk about out of control!

4. Sugar may give you an energy rush at first, but it triggers serotonin, the sleep hormone, and you end up having an energy crash. (which usually prompts people to eat more or have more sugar to try to get the energy back) SPIKE–>CRASH–> SPIKE–> CRASH

5. The sugar turns your liver on the bad cholesterol train which leads to fatty liver. No joke. Even for those at a healthy weight, who “look healthy”, may have a sugary diet that’s shutting down their organs on the inside!

Did I scare you yet?? I hope so 😉

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Is what you’re eating healing or hurting you? Reclaim and re-train your taste buds! Your body will seriously thank you! Try to make small replacements by incorporating fruit or dark chocolate into your diet when you find yourself reaching for the candy jar or donut box on your co-worker’s desk.