Archives for posts with tag: healthy living

I had a great New Year’s post! It was clever and even had some photos! I spent a long time working on it. Guess what? I didn’t finish it. Then it was New Year’s and now New Year’s is over and the post is irrelevant.

So now I’m back. I don’t have anything earth shattering to talk about or share. But I’m tired of my procrastinating, perfectionist ways so I’M POSTING ANYWAY, DAMMIT.

Ahem.

Okay, I lied. I do have three things to share. None of them really have anything to do with the other, but nonetheless:

1) I found the best natural deodorant in the world!! This also had its own post, long unfinished, of course, but you don’t need the backstory! It’s a standalone, awesome thing! Suffice it to say, I tried many, many, brands of natural deoderant. Some of them were better than others. Some of them, at the end of the day, would leave you with lavender-scented BO. Mostly, they just leave you with BO, the main difference being if the BO started at 11 AM or 3 PM. I hate being smelly! As an active person, I needed something that could keep up. And everything I tried fell on its sweaty, smelly face. Until Truly’s.

*cue herald of angels singing

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This stuff! This stuff works! Yeah, it’s weird smearing the stuff on you or armpits at first, but you get over it. Find it here. Do it now.

2) Infrared yoga class. I tried this tonight for the first time. I was a little dubious, I will admit. There are a number of very crunchy health claims about the power of this heat (clean heat, detoxifies you, fountain of youth, yadda yadda). I can attest to this: it rules. If you’ve ever taken a traditional hot yoga class, this is very similar but without all the smells and the humidity. If you have access, get on that ish.

3) Frankincense oil. I got this stuff in my little essential oil starter kit. I read that it was great to use on your face. Anti-aging and all that miracle stuff. I thought, “If it’s good enough for baby Jesus, it’s good enough for me!” And oh, my. I got hooked on the stuff. I slathered it on every night. It smells a little funny, but I got right over that.

One day, I went to tip my little bottle and lo! It was empty! I skipped to the website to reorder it, and nearly shat myself.

It was a heart-stopping $75!! For a tiny, little 0.5 oz bottle!!

Before I go any further, let me tell you: there are oily purists out there and I am not trying to discredit them. I do agree that higher-quality oils are a better product. However, for $75 for a 0.5 oz bottle, you’d have to convince me that this product was being sourced from infant tears on the lip of an erupting volcano in deep Nicaragua. (Then I’d say, “What! Who would do that to an infant?! Away, you deviant!!” Of course. Also, $75 is STILL too much for that stuff.)

So I found an off-brand. Something that’s mixed with jojoba oil. And guess what? (Cover your eyes, oil purists!)

It’s rad. And for a whopping $4.99 for a bottle, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

That’s it! That’s all I got! Happy New Year from this ace procrastinator!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

I’ve seen the spinners at the gym. They’re the ones lined up a half hour before class starts, clutching two water bottles and a towel. They stand there patiently, shifting their water bottles from hand to hand, making quiet conversation. When the instructor arrives, they file into the room and proceed to pedal furiously on stationery bikes for the next 45 minutes while a slim young lady yells at them. LIKE A BUNCH OF LUNATICS.

Seriously, who does that?

Apparently, I do.

I recently joined the bike club here. In an effort to not embarrass myself on the first ride, I decided to try some spinning classes. While it’s not the same as riding my bike, it would at least get my leg muscles ready and add some much-needed cardio to my workout regimen.

It began easily enough. I shoved my feet into the pedal cages and tried a tentative revolution. Obediently, the beast sprang to life, whizzing the one non-fixed wheel with a satisfying mechanical purr. A knob at the base of the handle bars set the degree of difficulty.

The instructor, a perky brunette, cued up her music and climbed on her bike. “Hey guys, are we READY?” she yelled as a Lady Gaga song came crashing through the speakers at maximum volume. My fellow spinners whooped enthusiastically. I smiled nervously, wondering what kind of exercise class encourages battle cries prior to commencing. The instructor yelled out unintelligibly over Gaga. I caught snippets of what sounded like instructions, possibly important ones: “…then you…three positions….water…use your CORE…and then…stand UP…okay?”

“Okay!” we yelled back. I realized then I had passed the Point of No Return. There was no way of getting out of the class now without faking some kind of illness or injury. I hunkered down and grabbed the handle bars. “LET’S GO!” the teacher yelled.

We began spinning furiously. The first couple of minutes weren’t too bad, honestly. I spun happily along for the rest of the Lady Gaga tune. “HA! Who brings two water bottles to THIS kind of class?” I thought with very premature cockiness.

“Alright gang,” the instructor called out, “turn that knob a quarter up!” A quarter turn? No problem! I obliged, noting the slight increase in resistance. “Oh no! We’re hitting some wind!” she hollered, “Half turn up!” Some wind, you say? I laugh at you, wind! I cranked it up by a half turn. “Keep going,” she encouraged, “until it feels like you’re biking through wet sand!” The wet sand part was when I felt the smile evaporate from my face. My heart started to pound loudly and beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. I glanced down at my watch: Ten minutes had passed. TEN MINUTES ONLY.

“Keep it up, guys!” yelled the teacher. “Quarter up!” Again I complied, my thighs burning in protest.

“QUARTER UP!” the teacher screeched. “QUARTER UPPPPPP!!”

For the next ten minutes, I heaved my way though varying degrees of difficulty. Sometimes we were standing and pedaling. Other times she had us sitting. There was also this sadistic hybrid called “hovering” – not quite sitting but still, always, pedaling.

About halfway though the class, it dawned on me that no one was monitoring our bikes. WE set the difficulty. The instructor could sit up there yelling instructions at us all day long, but she couldn’t see how hard (or easy!) our bikes were set. Panting, thighs burning, I employed a life-saving technique I’ll call “the Phantom Turn”. When she screamed for us to turn the setting another “quarter up!”, I moved my hand, not the knob. Yes, it’s true, I was only cheating myself but I was okay with this.

By the end of the class, I noticed with a sense of rugged accomplishment that a few drops of sweat had accumulated under my bike. Looking around the room, though, I saw that most people (including and especially the instructor) had veritable pools of sweat under their bikes. I slid off the bike for the cool-down feeling fully humbled – just because I’m a fitness instructor I am by no means Master of the Gym Universe. In fact, if that class taught me anything, it was just how badly I need an ass-kicking cardio workout in my life.

I survived the class. I even felt pretty good afterwards. I still prefer riding an actual bike, outdoors, with no one yelling at me. But I WILL be there tomorrow, two water bottles and a towel in tow, ready to spin.

Imagine, if you would, a dystopian future where cheap, careless corporations pollute the water source for hundreds of thousands of people. These people first, of course, turn to government authorities for assistance. However, these authorities also prove to be cheap and careless and massively bungle aid efforts. This leaves these people quite without recourse and trust, but more importantly, without water.

Sadly, this is not the plot of my sci-if graphic novel, but my actual life. My life, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow humans who inhabit the part of West Virginia that is fondly referred to as “Chemical Valley”. Even though we were given the go-ahead to use the water normally last week, the water company quickly amended their statement to say that pregnant women should NOT drink or bathe in the water. Then a spokesperson for the statewide pediatrics association spoke up and added that small children should also stay away from the water.

Even though I, like most of my neighbors, gratefully rushed into the shower the moment we were given the go-ahead (the “pioneer days” novelty of bathing out of a bucket of cold water quickly loses its charm), I couldn’t deny that the water did not smell right. Even after flushing the system as recommended by the water company, it does not smell right. Everyone I’ve spoken to since we’ve been given the green light to use the water normally agrees that something is still not right about our water supply. People vary in their degree of reticence to use the water – some people are taking showers, others still don’t trust it enough to even bathe. I don’t know anyone who is drinking it.

That said, I’m certainly not going to cook with it. However, a person can only eat so many Amy’s frozen burritos before yearning for something homemade. I miss my green smoothies in the morning. Yesterday, determined not to live another day on burritos, I made my first foray to the grocery store since the spill. I was ready to cook, dammit.

But even cooking uses water in more ways than you’d think – simply rinsing vegetables takes on a new level of challenge. For this reason, I decided to stick with a couple old standby recipes that were quick, used few ingredients, and required minimal cleanup. Improbably, both of these recipes are for soup. I’m using bottled water! The combined eight cups of water the recipes call for will use only half a gallon of water, and will make enough food to feed the boyfriend and me for the week.

This black bean soup recipe is tried-and-true. The boyfriend loves it and it freezes very well. It’s vegan but a sprinkle of cheese on top is nice!

This cauliflower soup is excellent. Since basil is out of season, I use the blended cauliflower base to make a creamy, hearty potato soup. It’s a very fun recipe to play with.

The lack of potable water has been a very unsettling glimpse into what life is like for people around the world who don’t have regular access to clean water. While it sucks, it does make me appreciate how much we take for granted!

Wishing you all a fun, chemical-free weekend!

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As the title of this blog would suggest, I am not one to blindly jump on any bandwagon. 2013 ushered in some straight-up weird trends in wellness. While many of them piqued my interest, I couldn’t commit to trying all of them. Some of them couldn’t deliver enough promised benefit for the cost/time investment (hello, oil pulling). Others, however, warranted at least a go.  Here are some of the weird trends I gave a whirl in 2013:

1) Warm lemon water in the morning.  This is pretty low in the cost/time department, especially when you consider the (alleged) benefits: jump-starting your metabolism and balancing the pH levels in your stomach.

2) Tumeric! The list of benefits for this spice is long enough to entice me to find ways to incorporate it into everyday recipes.

3) Dried beans over canned.  I’ve read enough warnings by now to become wary of canned goods. Some things, like tomatoes, I just use too frequently to abandon cans altogether. But when possible, I have switched to buying fresh or dried items.

4) Tongue scraping. It sounds gross and gags me about half of the time. But I do think I have fresher breath and better overall oral hygiene thanks to the extra sixty seconds I devote to this every morning.

5) No processed foods! Well, not “no” processed foods. I’m certainly not churning my own butter or beekeeping, but I have cut back drastically on the amount of processed food I rely on. Hummus? I can make that! Bread? I can make that, too. I am very fortunate to have the luxuries of time and (a little) money to devote to exploring new ways to detach myself from the middle aisles of the grocery store.

So, what weird habits should I incorporate for 2014? There are so many to choose from!  If I took all of Mindbodygreen’s advice, it would take me about two hours to get out the door every morning (pre-shower dry brushing the skin, pre-tooth brushing oil pulling, meditating, yoga, affirmations, lemon water [before or after oil pulling??], green smoothie, packing organic lunch in mason jars, am I missing anything??), so I have to be selective. 

I think I will try to do at least one juice fast. I have a juicer and surely I could find three days when my boss is traveling and I could endure the eye rolls and head shaking of the Skeptical Boyfriend. 

I am trying to ramp up my meditation practice! The more experience I accumulate teaching yoga, the more I realize the importance of having a strong home yoga and meditation practice. 

Neti pot! This was part of my daily practice while in India, but I haven’t done it since and I miss it.  I think it will help with my allergy issues. 

I have other ideas, but none I’m willing to commit to writing.  Next weekend, I will be at a restorative yoga training! I hope to write about my experiences with that.  Until then, I hope 2014 is treating everyone well! Stay weird,

SY

The past week has been so crazy with holiday stuff and work travel, all of my smug wellness efforts have fallen to the wayside. Green smoothies? Haha! Kale salads? Nope! Raw until dinner? Not unless French fries are now considered a raw food! 

I have really been trying to stay as healthy as I can, but demands on my times have forced me to pare back to the ultimate bare minimum.  In the absence of time and access to groceries/kitchen, here’s what I’ve been doing to cling to some semblance of sanity:

Water! Drinking plenty of water is pretty easy, and honestly, sometimes it is the only healthy thing I can do in a day. It’s what holds me back from a complete slide into “I’m officially Jabba the Hut” self-loathing.

Yoga! Even if it’s just a couple of sun salutations, I try to squeeze in even the tiniest bit of yoga each day.  Lately, I’ve been teaching Restorative Yoga, and let me tell you: That sh!t is NO JOKE! Legs-up-the-wall pose! Have you tried that? Do it! Do it right now! Find a wall, face it, and sit like 6 – 10 inches away from it.  Gently lay yourself back and straighten your legs, sending your feet up the wall. That’s it. Stay there for three to five minutes. Get up. Dance away like Bob damn Fosse because you feel SO REFRESHED! 

Breathing! Yes, I realize this is involuntary but doing full yogic breathing isn’t.  At least for me, it’s not yet.  Periodically during the day, though, I try to check in with myself: Am I doing wimpy little chest breathing? (Yes, usually the answer is yes here.) If I am, I forced myself to take some full, deep breaths.  Sometimes I even go back to pranayama 101 and put a hand on my abdomen to make sure. No cheating!!

So that’s my little arsenal of tricks! I’m thrilled to report that, so far, I have been arrested zero times in spite of the sometimes homicidal rage that the “not enough sleep + crappy food + unrelenting stress” cocktail induces.

Happy friggin’ holidays! 

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m doing what I can to eat as “clean” as humanly possible.  See, I realize the caloric onslaught will be unavoidable (technically, I could avoid it, but that’s not any fun), so I’m doing what I can to minimize the damage.  One of my stop-gap measures has been having a green smoothie for breakfast.  It’s cheap, it’s pretty quick, and by God it feels healthy going down.

I normally prepare my smoothie shortly before I leave for work, after my boyfriend has already left.  Last week though, I had to be in early so I was in the kitchen blending away when my boyfriend was leaving.  He peered at the blender, a look of unmasked disgust across his face.  I was happily shoving another handful of spinach into the frothy green concoction.

“You know,” he remarked, “this process usually takes place inside the body.  It’s called mastication and digestion.”

“You know,” I calmly replied, “this process (gesturing to my blender) usually takes place when you’re already at work, so I don’t have to hear commentary from the peanut gallery.”

Zing! Hee-hee!

There are a million different green smoothie recipes out there. Mine is the down and dirty, cheap as sh!t version.  I can’t always afford to buy organic produce, so I’ve pared this down to ingredients I can reliably find for a reasonable price.

Handful or two of spinach

If you have it, maybe a little kale although romaine is a little more palatable

Two apples, cored and chopped.

One banana, cut into pieces.

Extras: juice of half a lemon, a stalk of celery, a pear if I feel fancy.

I chuck these into my blender a bit at a time with a good amount of water, and blend the crap out of them until it’s like a green milkshake.

Then I drink it.  Allllll of it.  It tastes pretty good, in spite of my boyfriend’s snarky comments (he won’t even try it, so what does he know!). The trick is to really blend it well.  If you have a Vitamixer: USE IT, fancy-pants!

Let’s raise a glass of green goodness to our health, happiness, and ability to zip our jeansgreen without pliers and prayer come January!

Xoxo,

SY

I know it’s not a good idea to run before my hip injury is fully recovered. It’s more a matter of degree – just how bad of an idea is it? I’ll find out tomorrow. I got home from work and ran 5.3 miles!

Back when I first started running, I was afraid to run outside. Once I got off the treadmill, though, I can’t imagine going back. I did 5 miles on the treadmill last Saturday because it was too snowy to run outside.  That last mile nearly killed me.  Today, though, I zipped right through it! I could have gone further, even!

Tonight I tried a recipe I have been VERY excited about. In New York, one of my favorite lunch places is Hummus Kitchen. They have great hummus – so fresh that sometimes it’s still warm. One time I decided to mix it up and tried their “Super Healthy Salad”. It. Was. Amazing. I really miss it, so I decided to try to replicate it.  It’s pretty simple:

Quinoa

Sweet potato

Dried cranberries and apricots

Walnuts

I didn’t have any apricots, but it was fine.  It was better than fine, actually. It was fan-freaking-tasitc. The dressing is the crucial ingredient.  After scouring the web, I found a great recipe for it here.  I made it vegan by replacing the regular yogurt with vegan yogurt. Also, instead of the honey/almond butter combo, I threw in some tahini.  I ended up adding some olive oil as well, because it just wasn’t blending (VitaMix owners, insert superior smirk here).  I would have taken a pretty glamour photo-Instagram snap of it, but I was too busy shoveling it into my face. Sorry!

I DID run into a bit of an obstacle on the ole Vegan Challenge today. I went to a lunch meeting at work.  I picked out my veggie sandwich and plucked off the cheese like a good vegan.  About halfway though, I noticed it had what appeared to be mayonnaise on it. 😦   In that moment, I had to made a choice:  Either make a big deal out of it, or live with it.  I chose to live with it.  In general, I take this route in my usual vegetarian life as well. Sometimes, stuff is made with eggs. Sometimes, without thinking, I eat this stuff. It happens. I get over it. Absolute perfection isn’t possible, and striving for it is an invitation for frustration.

Another observation about this challenge is the Eating Out Thing. I go out to dinner once or twice a week. It hasn’t been a problem for me so far, because I plan ahead. I check out the menu before I go and if there not something vegan (or something that can easily be made vegan without me being a huge pain in some chef’s a$$), I just eat beforehand. I should note, I learned this lesson the hard way. The last time I tried to go vegan, I went to a fancy pants fundraiser at the New York Public Library. There was virtually NOTHING I could eat all evening long. I ended up “dining” on red wine (which the servers refilled nonstop) and some green beans. Needless to say, I got VERY HAMMERED at this VERY UPPITY, proper event.  No bueno, kids! Nooo bueno!

Lessons for the day: Plan ahead! Don’t freak out if you accidentally eat mayo (unless you’re allergic, then definitely go ahead and freak out)! Make that delish salad with the amazing mint dressing!

I’ve taken a hiatus from this blog for a while as I’ve settled into life in Louisville.  BUT! It’s a new year, which means a fresh start!

I’ve got lots of goals this year. Lofty goals. One of them is to run a half-marathon. I’ve already been training for about 2 months, but just went down for over a week when an old Kung Fu injury flared up (true story). Tonight was my first night back, and ouch. Ouuch.

However, I didn’t revive this blog to complain about my creaky hip. I cracked it back open because, on Friday, I’m starting a new venture that I’d like to document for interested parties. I’m doing a 30-day vegan challenge.  I realize that blogging about 30-day vegan challenges has maybe been done before. Also, it’s not really thaaaat much of a challenge for me since I already don’t eat meat or eggs. Regardless, I’ll be posting some recipe ideas and thoughts about how it’s affecting my training.

Even though I start the challenge on Friday (which means tomorrow I SHALL DINE ON BRIE!! Yeah, only sort of kidding…), I am fixing something tonight that may end up on my list of go-to recipes, if it doesn’t suck:  Roasted root vegetables.  I spotted some beets when I was grocery shopping, and then felt a pull towards the sweet potatoes. Apparently my cravings have themes. So, tonight I chopped them up with some carrots, splashed them with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and shook some rosemary and sea salt on them before popping them into a 475 oven.

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Rooty heaven right here. Rooooty heaven.

I’d say it was a smashing success.  It took about 35 minutes for them to cook though, but they are really just what I wanted on this windy January night.

I wonder if anyone else is really trying to stick to their resolutions (GOALS! I’m purposefully calling them goals because sometimes I break resolutions just out of spite)..?