What I learned from Yogathon 2014

What I learned from Yogathon 2014

On August 16th and 17th, 46 cities around the world participated in the 3rd annual Yogathon. Thousands of people came together to deepen their practice of yoga while sending good vibes out into the world (all funds raised were donated to Care for Children, a program dedicated to providing free education to rural youth in India).

I haven’t shared much about my yoga practice here on the blog so before I go on to talk about Yogathon, I think I have to share more about how I found my way to yoga.

For my entire adult life I had always wanted to be a “yoga person.” In my mind, a “yoga person” looks something like a mix between Ani DiFranco (you know: funky, tattooed, and super hip) and the most beautiful, feminine long-haired goddess you can imagine. I do have a tattoo and I currently happen to have long-hair, but for many, many years I just couldn’t actually get into the practice of yoga. And believe me, I tried.

I tried every kind of yoga class there was at various yoga studios, gyms, and even using videos to practice at home. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I found yoga boring and torturous. I would spend the entire class whining in my head and looking at the clock, wishing it was over.

Then, last October, during a stressful transition in my life, I found my way to yoga. I joined a small studio around the corner from my apartment and began going four times a week, doing a mix of hot and flow yoga. For the first time in my life, practicing yoga felt right. Fast forward ten months and I can’t believe that I’m still practicing – and enjoying – yoga. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t always look forward to going to class and sometimes it still feels like a pain to be there, but yoga somehow allows me to connect with myself in a way that I haven’t before.

When I found out about Yogathon 2014 and learned that it was the first year Seattle was participating, I decided it was time to challenge myself. I had finally gotten to the point where I could comfortably make it through an hour and a half class, but the idea of participating in a 3-hour event with 108 sun salutations? That was a whole new level.

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How To Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet

How to Eliminate Sugar from Your Diet

Refined sugar is on the out right now – and for good reason. I feel like everyone I know is trying to eliminate refined sugar from their diet and talking about how sugar is evil.

Well, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have a sweet tooth and I really enjoy indulging in dessert from time-to-time, but I stay away from refined sugar.  My preference is to consciously eat something sweet when my body craves it and opt for treats like seasonal fruit or homemade desserts sweetened with dates, raw honey, or pure maple syrup.

Before we go any further, I want to address a question I know many of you have:

What’s the difference between “sugar” and “refined sugar”?

When we eat whole foods that contain sugar in the form of fructose - for example fresh fruit or carrots – the glucose is part of the whole food so it breaks down slowly in our bodies because it also contains fiber to slow the digestion of the natural sugars. The fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels and the whole food provides a range of nutrients. Sugar from fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t something to be too concerned about.

Instead, my concern is refined sugar. Processed or refined sugar comes from the sugar cane or beet plant, but the problem is that during the processing, the sugar cane or beet plant is stripped of all its nutrients except the glucose. This makes it nutritionally void, and as a result, it has a very different impact on our body and acts like a drug. For the purposes of today’s discussion, I want to focus on cutting back and/or eliminating refined sugar from your diet.

My hope is not to scare you into never eating sweets again (especially when there’s so many sweet options that don’t include refined sugar), but instead to help you to become more conscious about all the places you might be eating refined sugar that you aren’t aware of and try to eliminate it as much as possible. In my opinion, this is the scary part because sugar is in everything.

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Transform your relationship to your problems

Transform your relationship to your problems

I want to start this post by sharing a passage from one of my favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff And it’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson:

“Certainly some problems need to be solved. Many others, however, are problems we create for ourselves by struggling to make our life different than it actually is. Inner peace is accomplished by understanding and accepting the inevitable contradictions of life – the pain and pleasure, success and failure, joy and sorrow, births and deaths. Problems can teach us to be patient, humble, and gracious.”

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning at the moment is how to change my relationship to my “problems.” In the past, my approach went something like this: a problem comes up, find a solution to fix it, and move on until a new problem arises.

The downfall of this approach is that there are always challenges arising in life and when you spend your life focusing on fixing problems, it takes away a lot of your energy that could be used elsewhere. My experience is that this approach makes me feel like I have to get rid of all of my problems in order to be happy, and when I’m not able to fix everything, it ends up making me feel disappointed and less-than. Can you relate?

For the past several months there have been a whirlwind of new challenges coming in my life and it finally made me open my eyes to the lesson that I need to learn: it’s impossible to fix all the problems that will arise in your life, but you can use them to become a better, stronger person and use each challenge as an opportunity to create happiness within (instead of constantly looking for external sources/solutions).

I truly believe that hard times give us the opportunity to grow and challenge ourselves in new ways. And, as much as I don’t enjoy the bad times, they make the good times feel so much more pleasurable.

I wanted to share this with you in hopes that if you’re dealing with challenges of you own (as we all are), you know you’re not alone and perhaps this simple shift in perspective will bring a moment of peace to your life the way it has to mine. I’m also sharing this because stress impacts our health and we can’t always remove the stressors from our lives, but we can change the way we let them impact us.

What lessons have you learned about dealing with problems/challenges? And, what are your favorite ways to reduce stress?

The 3 Minute Rule For Better Health

The 3 Minute Rule For Your Health

Let me start this by saying:

1. Don’t be intimidated by that kettlebell.

2. No, this is definitely NOT a sponsored post for Nike (I just really like my cute new shoes).

Alright, before I tell you how to use The 3 Minute Rule I have to tell you the backstory for how I developed it. This started because I really hate doing dishes. No, really. 

The truth is I will do anything in my power to avoid doing dishes. I suppose this wouldn’t really be a problem except for the fact that I write a food blog and all and really need a working kitchen with clean dishes. Hmm.

Since I don’t have a dishwasher I’m constantly forced to do dishes by hand. And every time I would walk by my sink and see the dishes piled up I’d cringe. I then would add another dish to the pile, feel guilty, whine to myself, and walk away again. I finally told myself it was time to change my bad habit and this was how I created The 3 Minute Rule:

The 3 Minute Rule says that you only have to do an activity for 3 minutes. Then if you want to stop, you get to stop. But, if after 3 minutes the activity feels tolerable, you can choose keep going. 

It sounds really simple and it is, but for some reason, this absolutely changed my relationship to doing the dishes. Instead of avoiding it, whining, and coming back to an even bigger pile, I started committing to 3 minutes a day. And you know what? After three minutes, I’m usually halfway through the sink full of dishes and am willing to just finish it and get it done. How awesome is that?

I’ve been using a similar technique in my workouts for years where I tell myself that I only have to commit to 20 minutes and then if I’m miserable I can stop. Most often I find myself happily making it to the 45 minute – 1 hour mark, but some days, I really do stop my workout at 20 minutes and I’m really happy with it because I’m just proud that I showed up and committed to that time in the first place.

Some of my favorite posts on this blog involve sharing simple ways that we can be healthier, encourage others in our lives to be healthier, and support each other in our own health goals. I wanted to share this idea of The 3 Minute Rule with you because there are so many ways to apply it to better health, whether it helps you to keep your home cleaner and more organized, get more physical activity into your day, or eat a little better.

How will you apply The 3 Minute Rule to your life to create better health? Leave a comment and share below!

3 Simple Ways To Take Better Care of Yourself

Ingredients 9

Unfortunately I think there are times in everyone’s life when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. You’re hanging on by a thread. Totally overwhelmed. Stressed out to the max. And completely at a loss for how to deal with it.

If you’re in this place, you’re not alone.

I found myself in this place this week. I woke up in the middle of the night panicked, crying, and a completely irrational mess. All I will say is that it wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t fun.

When you find yourself feeling this way, it forces you to have to take a hard look at your life. It means it’s time to re-evaluate and re-prioritize. For me, I always come back to the basics, which means making sure that I’m taking the best care of my body that I possibly can. If you’re in the space, or even if you’re just looking to take better care of yourself, here are 3 simple ways to get started:

1. Drink a green smoothie. My favorite recipe is my fruit-free green smoothie because it’s high in fiber, low in sugar, and is incredibly nutrient dense. To put it simply? This means it’s going to make your body feel really, really good. Dark, leafy greens are one of the most important foods to add to your diet, especially if you aren’t getting enough vegetables already.

Make sure you stock your fridge with ingredients to make smoothies and then it’s easy enough to commit to 5 – 10 minutes a day to making a smoothie and drinking it. I always see a difference on the days when I drink my green smoothies and I can’t say enough positive things about how my body feels afterwards. And, if your’e really in  a time crunch? Then make a double batch at once and keep your extra smoothie in the fridge for tomorrow.

2. Get a little more sleep. Alright, I know you know this already: sleep is so important for our health and mental wellbeing. But, I also understand the reality that the majority of us struggle to get eight hours of sleep a night. Even getting 15 – 30 minutes more sleep a night can make a huge difference. Ready to take this sleep challenge? Check out my posts here for How to Get Better Sleep, How to Relax Before Bed, and How to Create a Bedtime Routine.

3. Get more movement in your day. Go for a walk. Do some squats while brushing your teeth. Do some yoga stretches for ten minutes when you wake up. Ride your bike to work. The point here isn’t what activity you do, the key is to pick an activity you enjoy and do more of it.

Contrary to popular thinking, I believe you don’t have to join a gym to be healthy (although I personally love my gym) – the point is that you need to get more movement into your life in general and if you don’t like going to the gym then don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of other ways to stay active and healthy even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

Now that I’ve shared my favorite three ways to take better care of yourself, I hope you can join in the conversation. Leave a comment below and share you favorite way to practice better self-care!

Warby Parker’s Home Try-On Program

Warby Parker's Home Try-On Program

Alright, I know this might seem a little strange at first. Why am I blogging about glasses? Just bare with me a moment and it will soon become clear.

Bad eyesight runs in my family. By the time I was in fourth grade I couldn’t see without glasses and I felt traumatized by them until I reached junior high and finally got contacts. Finally.

But most days, I really hate wearing contacts because I find them uncomfortable. (Apparently this is totally normal since you don’t blink as much when you stare at a computer screen for hours, but that’s besides the point.) I typically opt for wearing glasses a few days a week and contacts a few days a week. However, over the years as my eyesight continued to decline, this meant that I was getting my prescription updated yearly and new glasses can be really, really expensive. Even with health insurance benefits. In fact (and please don’t tell my mother this), there were a couple of years after college I wore the wrong prescription because I couldn’t afford new glasses and insurance only covered a quarter of the costs. Yikes.

Then one day a few years ago, I complimented a co-worker on her super cute pair of glasses and she told me about a company called Warby Parker. Warby Parker is an online glasses company based in New York that makes super cute, SUPER AFFORDABLE glasses. We’re talking about $95 a pair ($125 for me because I need special lenses). Holy cow. I immediately jumped on their website, picked out some frames, and signed up for the (free!) Home Try-On.

That was three and a half years ago and now I’m on my third pair of Warby Parker glasses. I love this company because they make high-quality glasses which are actually affordable and really cute! The other cool things is that they donate a pair of glasses for every pair that’s purchased. I love companies that care about doing good things.

Since taking care of your eyesight is part of taking care of your body and your health, I decided it was time to blog about my awesome glasses and this awesome company. My favorite part of ordering glasses from them is using their Home Try-On Program so I wanted to show you how easy it is and, honestly, how much fun it is to try on cool glasses! Let’s get to it!

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How do you treat yo self?

How Do You Treat Yo' Self? Easy ways to practice better self care.

These past couple of months have been a bit rough. With lots of professional changes as well as a ton of personal stress, it’s been a little crazy around here.  And that’s putting it nicely.

In light of this, I think it’s time we officially talked about Self Care. As in, healthy ways to nourish our bodies, minds, and souls during times of transition, stress, and just everyday life.

So, let’s talk about how you treat yo’ self…

For anyone who is a big Parks and Recreation fan (like me!) you might remember the episode where Tom and Donna have their annual “Treat Yo’ Self ” spa and shopping excursion (you can watch a clip on YouTube here). It’s hilarious and completely over the top in some ways, but I love the idea of taking the time to pamper yourself.

Of course, I also think it’s important that we talk about “treating ourselves” in a healthy way that doesn’t involve putting ourselves into debt, indulging in senseless consumerism, or eating a ton of unhealthy food.

I want you to take a moment and answer this question: When was the last time you “treated yourself”?  What did it look like? What did you do? And, how did you feel?

For many of us, food becomes a quick, easy, and cheap way to “treat ourselves.” Think about it: we don’t often reach for a donut or a cookie when we had a great day at work and just returned home from the most relaxing yoga class. No way. We reach for that sweet treat when we’ve had a stressful day filled with a long commute, no time for lunch, and a sleepless night the day before.

We’re only human and when we’re under stress, let’s be honest here… willpower just doesn’t work. In these moments, it’s vital that we find healthy and truly nourishing ways to treat ourselves that doesn’t involve sugar or destructive foods.  Click to tweet it!

Here are some of my favorite ways to treat myself and practice self-care when I’m under stress and life is crazy.

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The Trader Joes Healthy Meal Plan

The Trader Joe's Healthy Meal Plan: Recipes for Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, & Gluten-Free Diets

Let me start by saying that this is NOT a sponsored post for Trader Joe’s. :)

If I had things my way, I’d probably only shop at the farmers market and my local co-op, but with some recent career changes, life feels busier than ever. And you know what this means? It means a lot of shopping at Trader Joe’s.

A couple of times a month I get emails from readers with questions about how to make healthier decisions at the grocery store. I also frequently get asked to create meal plans with servings. This isn’t something I normally do, but since I’ve been focusing on my own food budget lately and doing a lot of shopping at Trader Joe’s, I thought this would be the perfect chance to create a Trader Joe’s Healthy Meal Plan!

In this post I’ll show you what my typical shopping list for the week has been looking like and the recipes I make. These recipes are a mix of some basic prep and pretty simple cooking. Since I’ve been tight on time lately, my goal has been to keep meal prep and cooking time under 30 minutes per meal so these recipes are definitely great for busy folks! Each section shows you the amount of servings along with the total price and price per serving.

I typically only shop and cook for myself so I will do 1 – 2 shopping trips a week and do batch cooking usually twice a week to make sure I always have fresh food on hand. If you are cooking for 2 or a larger family, you can adjust the recipes and multiply the items by how many additional servings you need for the week. Make sense?

So let’s get to it!

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