Good, Better, Best...Always Get Your Rest

I have not been getting enough rest! I have been sleeping off hours and during times where I am usually productive like on weekends and my train commute to work. I have become the human bobble head, sadly yet comically nodding off infringing on the space of the passenger next to me. Last week my nodding off got so bad the woman next to me got up and moved seats; I suppose she didnt appreciate me using her shoulder as a bolster for my head (lol).

My pursuit to get it all done and to be on top of my game was in conflict with my wellness. When I don't get enough sleep my tolerance is lower, my focus is off, I eat mindlessly and I dont have the same vigor and energy for my workouts and life in general. Thankfully my body cannot go but so long that way before it waves the white flag and surrenders which usually means becoming a little ill or so incapacitated that I sleep like the proverbial lump on a log.

I appreciate the moments when my body speaks up and out and I am forced to realign with nature. Sleep is our bodies way of regenerating. It is in those times of being rested and shut off that our brain can be recharged and our bodies renewed. I am learning that when I honor my bodies natural rhythms I am even more productive, efficient and well. When I am getting enough sleep I awake with a sieze the day attitude instead of begining the countdown, before I even get into the shower, as to when I will be back home and back in bed. My mind is not only clearer but I am more creative and dare I say sexually expressive.

This week I used the power of no to prioritize myself and to get more sleep and I was actually able to wake up early this weekend and get quite a few things checked off my to-do list which make this wellness warrior very happy.

Are you well rested? If not how can you make sleep a priority?

Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Set a bed time and stick to it. Set your alam in your phone, pda or clock to remind you it's bed time.
  2. Make your bedroom condusive to sleep by dimming the lights, eliminating clutter and only using your bed to sleep and have sex.
  3. Enlist help. If you know you won't be able to pull yourself away from tasks to get to bed on time ask a partner, friend or family member to be your accountability partner.Let people know your goals for getting more rest and request that you are not called, texted, bbm'd, skyped, emailed etc... after a certain time in the day.
  4. Turn off distractions like your phone, computer and television.
  5. Create a ritual around sleep. Light a candle, meditate, stretch, or use aromatherapy to get you in the mood to rest peacefully.
Try one or all of the suggestions but more importantly get more sleep which ever way you can, your wellness depends on it.


The 'N' Word

Though small, consisting of just two letters and one syllable, there is immense power in NO.
It lands differently than the hiss of the 's' of yes and quite often gets overshadowed by yesses accolades. No gets associated with 'terrible twos' and negative connotations and has been treated like yesses evil fraternal twin, but truth be told my experience with yes is that it is the black sheep in the family of people pleasing and perfection.

When no eluded me I misused yes and have been burned one too many times. Yes was suffocating me, sucking the life out of me and altering my wellness; the very wellness I work so hard for. Yes only sounded good.

I have decided to stop dating 'yes' and wed 'no'; to have and to hold from this day forward, till death do us part. I will honor our bond and wear its power like an amulet around my neck to ward off energy zappers, health detractors and stress inducers.

I will no longer mistakenly interchange the two. I will say 'no' when I mean it and choose wisely when I say 'yes', my wellness depends on it.

What do you need to say 'no' to in order to say 'yes' more powerfully in your life?


Running For Empowerment

 Momentum is a heck of a thing! After being challenged to go back to the gym after a long hiatus I have to say I feel good in my body(after suffering injuries), I'm stronger, better able to deal with the drama of work (though that is a work in progress...lol), thankfully taking my stress out on the machines and not my loved ones,working muscles that have been on vacation for a little bit, standing a bit taller and feeling a whole lot better. I even made a commitment to run a 5K on Christmas Day.

I am proud of myself and am happy that I have something to work towards. The challenge of running a 5K makes my workouts more meaningful and help push me when I am tired and feeling less than eager to go to the gym. I would encourage anyone who needs motivation to workout to sing up for a run, walk, bike tour or some other fitness event because when the going gets tough you will have a larger goal in sight to remind you of why you are pushing yourself as hard as you are. Also the sense of accomplishment once you are complete will fuel you to do more and encourage those around you to perhaps do the same.

Empower yourself to do more and let me know what fitness challenge you have either signed up for or have done in the past that has fueled your sense of accomplishment.



Are You Setting Yourself Up...For Success?

As a way to manage my stress and to have more peace (both in my home and in my mind) I joined the gym again (thank you corporate rates). I began November 1, 2010 and took on a co-worker's challenge to go to the gym everyday for 30 days. Our deal was that I would work out everyday and she would give up drinking alcoholic beverages for the same time period.

I set my intentions for this challenge, made a plan and visualized my success (something I do regularly when setting goals). I am prideful and I had no intentions of losing this challenge. I realized  keeping the why or reason I was doing this in the forefront of my mind, packing my gym bag at nights, mapping out the times I would attend the gym and having a schedule of exercises to do helped me immensely and kept me on track. With my plan I had no room for excuses.

That being said, I did miss one day due to illness (vomiting + diarrhea= stay at home). I was initially disappointed but realized I had successfully attended the gym for 29 days, 29 more days than I had in a long time. One day could not take away the greater accomplishment. I am now more committed than ever, and the best part is that I have continued the challenge but this time, the challenge is with me, for myself. I am ready willing, and able and am more empowered. Those 29 days were a warm up for the journey and I am happy to say I have begun. I know things may happen that will set me of course (like illness), but for the most part with my intention, a plan and expectations of success, I am clear I can successfully accomplish my goal of maintaining my mental, emotional and physical wellness.

What are some goals you have? How are you setting yourself up for success?


It's a New Day!!!

Life is a journey,
Not a destination,
There are no mistakes,
Just chances we’ve taken
Lay down your regrets cause all we have is now

Wake up in the morning
And get out of bed
Start making a mental list in my head
Of all of the things that I am grateful for

Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes new dreams new ways
I open up my eyes and
I open up my mind and
I wonder how life will surprise me today
Early in the morning
It’s the dawn of a new day
New hopes new dreams new ways
I open up my heart and
I’m gon’ do my part and
Make this a positively beautiful day.......

- A Beautiful Day, India.Arie

The lyrics to this India.Arie song inspire me. They remind me that when we reach a place on our journey when we feel scared, frightened or stuck, to remember that we can still receive everyday as new and beautiful. Our outlook is everything. We can all get over the hump, start a fresh, learn from the many lessons on our journey and recreate our own understanding of beautiful.

It doesn't matter how many times we have stumbled, tripped or fallen, what matters is that we look up, get up and begin again. It doesn't matter if we cheated on the diet, or stopped working out, gained a few pounds, had a bout with depression, found ourselves in another loveless relationship, or at another dead end job, we can begin again, no regrets...It's a New Day!!!

How are you getting over the hump and beginning again?


Body Appreciation

Do you appreciate what your body does for you? Do you thank it for for housing all your vital organs?

 I was listening to a seminar given by a dear friend Ashley Mui, known as the Gratitude Guru on Gratitude last night and she explained a ritual that she does every time she's in the shower. She basically thanks every body part she washes. How wonderful!

It made me think about my level of appreciation for my body and rituals that I can create around appreciation as a wellness warrior. I decided to embark on a new relationship with my temple/body. I want my body to know I appreciate all it does for me, especially after surviving a few car crashes, one near fatal. I thought about how after breaking bones, stretching ligaments, tearing muscles and bruising soft tissues I am blessed to be able to walk, run, stretch, lift and jump.

My body is resilient but I don't tell it so. I don't say I appreciate you body for running 3.5 miles, getting me through a 40 mile bike, for allowing me to walk around my neighborhood and for simply being my body.

My new ritual; appreciating my body and thanking it verbally everyday for hanging with me through the thick and thin, through the break ups (literally) and the healing, for continuing to house my organs, my mind and my spirit and doing a great job all these years.


I would love to hear ways in which you appreciate your body.



Reward Without Sabotaging

Working out is a great way to maintain or improve your overall health. Whether by increasing cardiovascular capacity, bone density, reducing cholesterol levels or keeping ailments at bay; physical activity is a very necessary part of the wellness triad of mind, body and spirit.

The benefits of working out can however be thwarted when the purpose of doing so is to negotiate consuming huge portions of food or not so healthy options. Individuals work out intensely and then 'reward' themselves with a rich chocolate brownie or a bag of salty potato deliciousness, using the fact that they were on the precor for an hour or did some crazy interval on the treadmill as the justifier.

I caution against using this irrational logic. More often than not you end up consuming way more than you thought, superceding the caloric deficit you believe you've made during the workout with foods laden with unhealthy fats and sugars and devoid of any fiber or nutrients.

The more reasonable option would be to treat yourself to moderate portions of occasional indulgences to ensure that you stay on track. By scheduling your indulgences you will be less likely to go over board because you have something to look forward to. Remember your reasons for working out and what your goals are and reward your hard work with non food items, such as a new article of clothing, a manicure, movie tickets or a much needed massage which can help you to feel good without sabotaging your efforts.



For Some The Holidays are Not So Happy

The holidays are a time for family and friends, laughing, gift giving and merry making, at least on TV. While the holidays can be a wonderful experience for some, for others the thought of the holidays bring up emotions such as dread, grief, fear and sadness.

It can be quite difficult for those individuals to reconcile those feeling amongst the merry makers. Remember not everyone has a family to celebrate with, be considerate or invite them to spend time with you and yours. Others are not in good relations with their families and choose to stay away for peace's sake, or may want to commune with a chosen family with whom they feel safe.

The holidays can be particularly rough for people who have lost jobs, loved ones, or have gone through some other trauma so when you are saying what you are grateful for this year take a second to think of those not as fortunate and count your blessings and send them your love and light.

BE WELL and Happy Holidays!


Avoid This Common Recipe If You Want to Remain Healthy

Cartoon of a Woman saying "Under Stress Me"Recipe For Stress, Sickness and Burnout

1cup lack of sleep
2cups long hours at work
1cup not asking for help
1tbsp taking care of everyone else
1tsp eating on the run
a sprinkle of perfectionism
1tsp not saying no
a dash of serious multi tasking
1 tsp pretending you got it all under control
1 fake smile (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together making sure they are thoroughly blended and then wait for disaster. Makes for all types of sickness, stress and burnout.

Don't Enjoy!!!


The Happiness Factor

I was listening to Dr. Brene Brown, an expert on authenticity, courage, shame, fear and vulnerability, lead a TED talk and I was blown away when she made the statement, "we are the most addicted, medicated, obese and in debt adult cohort in human history".


Why is that? 

I've come to the conclusion that we are living a dream not our own. We have been programed to believe happiness and success are contingent on external things; and believe that those external things bolster our self worth. The result is self medication with drugs (illicit or prescription) and food or rack up debt trying to buy happiness through material items. We are numbing ourselves to the reality of dissatisfaction.

Our true sense of self is wrapped up in living OUR passions and dreams, whatever those may be. When was the last time you did an evaluation of whether your life is in alignment with your passions? Whether or not you are doing what you love and loving what you do? That sort of evaluation is integral to happiness and health.

Perhaps if more people were experiencing TRUE happiness, the kind that comes from living authentically there would be less prevalence of addiction, medication, health complications and debt...just maybe.


Stop Shrinking and Start Shining

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not- Anonymous (a re-post from Pushy Dreamers)

Shhh, did you hear that?...there is goes again..that voice in your head that says, "Who do you think you are", "You're not all that". I encourage you to stop listening.

Listening to the voices in your mind leads to spiritual death. When you don't show up everyday in the fullness of who you are and stretch yourself toward your highest potential you might as well not be living. Life is waiting for you to live it in it's fullest capacity, to break the molds and recreate what is possible.

Feel the fear of being your best self and move forward. Marianne Williamson said it best in her poem Our Deepest Fears, " ...Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine..".

Are you shining? Are you living the life that you imagine for yourself? If not re-evaluate what is blocking you. Stop shrinking and start shining.

Your wellness depends on it!



Protective Boundaries

Are you the go to person in your circle of family or friends? The one that everyone wants to lay there burdens upon; whose ear they want to borrow? What a wonderful blessing. What an awful curse. Any way you look at it you there needs to be boundaries set. Healthy boundaries protect you from absorbing too much and becoming overwhelmed. Healthy boundaries protect your mental health and peace of mind and keep you safe. If you find that you are taking on too much or feeling fatigued look at whether or not you set the appropriate boundaries and make the necessary adjustments. Your health depends on it.



Are You On The List?

I do believe that to whom much is given much is required but I also know that when one is giving too much and too much is being required that burnout and illness are following closely behind . Too many of us are going, going, going, like the energizer bunny but unlike the energizer bunny we are not recharging our batteries.

Are you prioritizing yourself , your goals and your needs? Are you making certain to get enough sleep, drink enough water, meditate, pray and get exercise? You CANNOT be your best self if you have given yourself away to everything thing and everyone.

Take back your life and reduce your levels of undue stress. Take a minute to breathe, relax and regroup. Make a list of all the things that make you happy and fulfill you. Make a promise to yourself to check off the items on that list and incorporate them into your daily to do list. Everyday should be a day where you do something for you. Giving is great just make sure you are on the list to receive.


Grateful to be in Agreement

Thank you don Miguel Ruiz for your gift of the Toltec Wisdom  outlined in , The Four Agreements. I take up the charge to: Be impeccable with my word, not to take anything personally, not to make assumptions and to always do my best.

 Since reading (and re-reading) the book I am finding it harder to judge myself  as I am  reminded  not to make assumptions and to be impeccable with my word. I am cultivating deeper levels of compassion and setting better boundaries in my life. I am laughing more and giving myself permission to have the same level of integrity in my play as I exude in my work. I am becoming more forgiving and honest and find I have to apologize less.

Living the agreements can be a challenge but when I find I am not in alignment I am able to assess the situation and implement the proper agreement to re-calibrate. I am grateful and wanted to thank you for allowing me to add to my emotional, spiritual and mental wellness.



Slow Down and Chew.

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When eating with my partner Gerald I often find myself done way before him; eating quickly because I am trying to multi task, while he eat savors every bite. I end up with indigestion and he is left with a wonderful memory of all the flavors and tastes of the meal.  I know I am supposed to eat slowly but who has the time?

I am finding out the hard way that I better make the time. I am so wrapped up in doing so many things that I eat at my desk, never taking a real lunch break, standing up as I cook meals and sometimes while I am walking to and from the train station. I know better, so I am outing myself for promoting health while I am not making the time to really savor all the healthy food I eat.

A major component of eating healthy food is actually being able to digest that food well. If the food is not being chewed properly, the digestive process is hampered and indigestion can occur as well as the inefficient release of nutrients from that food. So it doesn't matter if the food is locally grown, organic or grass fed, if you are scarfing it and not chewing slowly.

After suffering from indigestion one too many times in the last couple of months I have taken on the challenge of eating slower, in a quiet, no stress environment, so I can savor the life giving food I am eating and not have to contend with gas and bloating.

I encourage you to chew slower and really digest your food for optimal health.

Tired of being Perfect?....I Know I Am!!!

I am guilty of the Perfectionist complex as are many of you reading this blog. I recently read the article, Want To be Happy? Stop Trying to be Perfect by Brene Brown who has spent the last decade studying courage, authenticity, shame and vulnerability and authored a book titled, The Gifts of Imperfection. Her article struck me and I wanted to repost it here.

The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can't turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like "Never good enough" and "What will people think?"
Why, when we know that there's no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No -- the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.
We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.
We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never ___ enough (you can fill in the blank: thin, beautiful, smart, extraordinary, talented, popular, promoted, admired, accomplished).
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it's a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.
Living in a society that floods us with unattainable expectations around every topic imaginable, from how much we should weigh to how many times a week we should be having sex, putting down the perfection shield is scary. Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from "What will people think?" to "I am enough," is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this:
What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think -- or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?
So, how do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough -- that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy? Why we're all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known. Why are we so paralyzed by what other people think? After studying vulnerability, shame, and authenticity for the past decade, here's what I've learned.
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.
There are certainly other causes of illness, numbing, and hurt, but the absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering.
As I conducted my research interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It's as simple and complicated as this:
If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.
The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.
So many of us have created a long list of worthiness prerequisites:
• I'll be worthy when I lose 20 pounds
• I'll be worthy if I can get pregnant
• I'll be worthy if I get/stay sober
• I'll be worthy if everyone thinks I'm a good parent
• I'll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together
• I'll be worthy when I make partner
• I'll be worthy when my parents finally approve
• I'll be worthy when I can do it all and look like I'm not even trying
Here's what is truly at the heart of whole-heartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.
Letting go of our prerequisites for worthiness means making the long walk from "What will people think?" to "I am enough." But, like all great journeys, this walk starts with one step, and the first step in the Wholehearted journey is practicing courage.
The root of the word courage is cor -- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.
Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn't get braver than that.

Toxins, Toxins, Everywhere!!!

I found this on CNN Health and wanted to share. I was astonished by how much we all are affected by chemicals in almost every aspect of our lives. Please read this article the information it contains is truly informative.

CNN) -- A growing body of research is linking five chemicals -- among the most common in the world -- to a host of ailments, including cancer, sexual problems and behavioral issues.
We encounter them every day -- in plastic bottles, storage containers, food wrap, cans, cookware, appliances, carpets, shower curtains, clothes, personal care products, furniture, television sets, electronics, bedding, cushions and mattresses. In short, every room in almost every house in the United States is likely to contain at least one of these chemicals, many of which did not exist a century ago.
They are bisphenol A, or BPA; phthalates; PFOA; formaldehyde; and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PDBEs. Tests reveal most of us now carry them in our bodies, but are they putting our health -- and the health of our children -- in jeopardy?
Here's what you should know about:
BPA - Bisphenol A
What it does: BPA is a building block of a lightweight, clear, heat-resistant and almost unbreakable plastic called polycarbonate. It's also used in epoxy resins.
Where it's found: Water bottles, baby bottles, reusable food containers, plastic tableware, infant feeding cups, linings of infant formula cans and other cans, jar lids, CDs, electrical and electronic equipment, dental sealants.
How we're exposed: Eating food or drinking liquids stored in containers containing BPA. Infants and small children may also be exposed from hand to mouth contact with materials containing BPA. BPA also migrates from dental sealants into patients' mouths. Fetuses are exposed in the womb by their mothers. Almost everyone has been exposed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 93 percent of the people it tested.
Special Report: Toxic America
Health effects: The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, says exposure is so low there are no ill health effects. A new five-year Kaiser Permanente study of Chinese factory workers found higher BPA exposure linked to reduced male sexual function. This research joins a growing body of research on animals that suggests BPA poses a potential cancer risk and may mimic the female hormone estrogen and disrupt the extremely sensitive chemical signals in the body called the endocrine system. According to the Food and Drug Administration, these studies suggest BPA could affect "the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children."
Regulation: BPA is an Environmental Protection Agency "chemical of concern," one of five substances the agency has targeted for increased scrutiny and potential new regulation. (The others are phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, PBDEs, and perfluorinated chemicals including PFOA.)
The Food and Drug Administration allows BPA in flexible food packaging.
What you can do to reduce exposure: Buy stainless steel bottles and glass food storage containers. If you buy plastic, check for the recycle number on the bottom. If there is a number 7, assume the container contains BPA unless it explicitly says otherwise. Switch to fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. Other precautions include not microwaving or putting hot liquids in BPA plastic containers and throwing away baby bottles and feeding cups that are scratched.
What they do: This family of chemicals softens plastics. They also are used to bind chemicals together.
Where they're found: Shampoos, conditioners, body sprays, hair sprays, perfumes, colognes, soap, nail polish, shower curtains, medical tubing, IV bags, vinyl flooring and wall coverings, food packaging and coatings on time-release pharmaceuticals.
How we're exposed: Absorbed into the body through personal care products, ingested in drugs, on food, in water and dust. Infants can be exposed through infant care products like baby shampoos, lotions and powders. Fetuses are exposed in the womb. Virtually everyone is exposed to phthalates.
Health effects: A new study by the Mount Sinai Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research found a statistical association between prenatal exposure to phthalates and incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder years later. Phthalates are considered endocrine disrupters, and studies have shown a statistical association between phthalate exposure and male sexual development. Research has also shown phthalates disrupt reproductive development of male laboratory animals.
Tell us: Is your town toxic?
Regulation: Phthalates are an EPA "chemical of concern." The FDA allows for plastic containing phthalate in flexible food packaging. The U.S. government last year banned or restricted six phthalates for use in children's toys and children's products.
What you can do to reduce exposure: Avoid shampoos, conditioners and other personal care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient. These may contain phthalates. (Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in their scents, and the industry says this phthalate is safe.) The federal government recently ended one source of exposure, banning the sale of toys containing any of six phthalates.
PFOA -- Perfluorooctanoic acid (also called C8)
What it does: PFOA is used to make Teflon and thousands of other nonstick and stain- and water-repellent products.
Where they're found: PFOA is present in Teflon and other nonstick or stain- and water-repellent coatings as a trace impurity. These coatings are used on cookware, waterproof breathable clothing, furniture and carpets and in a myriad of industrial applications. PFOA can also be produced by the breakdown of these products.
How we're exposed: Inhaling contaminated air, eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water. Some researchers say nonstick pans give off PFOA vapors, which contaminate food.
Health effects: Almost everyone has PFOA in his or her blood. PFOA causes cancer and developmental problems in laboratory animals. The EPA concludes research on PFOA is "suggestive of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential."
Regulation: PFOA is an EPA "chemical of concern."
What you can do to reduce exposure: The EPA does not recommend any steps to reduce exposure to PFOA. You can reduce potential exposure by using stainless steel or cast iron cookware. If you use nonstick cookware, do not overheat, which releases toxic gas.
How toxic is your air?
What it does: Formaldehyde is an ingredient in resins that act as a glue in the manufacture of pressed wood products.
Where it's found: Pressed wood products such as particle board, plywood, paneling and fiberboard; also, glues and adhesives and durable press fabrics like drapes.
How we're exposed: Breathing "off-gassing" from products containing formaldehyde. Car exhaust and cigarette smoke also contain formaldehyde.
Health effects: Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, causing cancers of the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract. Formaldehyde fumes can also cause nausea, skin irritation, watery eyes, or burning eyes, nose and throat.
What you can do to reduce exposure: Buying furniture free from formaldehyde eliminates much of the exposure we face from the chemical. One option to reduce "off-gassing": purchase "exterior grade" pressed-wood products, which emit formaldehyde at significantly lower rates. If you have wood products containing formaldehyde, increase ventilation, reduce humidity with air conditioning or dehumidifiers and keep your home cool.
PBDEs - Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
What they do: PBDEs are a group of chemicals used as flame retardants, meaning they reduce the chance of something catching fire and slow how fast it burns when it does catch fire.
Where they're found: PBDEs are found in televisions, computers and wire insulation, and furniture foam. Over time, televisions and other products shed PBDEs, which accumulate in dust. More than 124 million pounds of PBDEs are produced annually worldwide and they do not break down easily.
How we're exposed: Swallowing PBDE-contaminated dust and contact with this dust are the primary routes into our bodies, where they collect in fat tissue. We can also be exposed through food and water. Breast-feeding infants are exposed to PBDEs through their mother's milk and have the highest exposure compared to their body weight, followed by infants and toddlers, according to the data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Levels in humans have been rising rapidly since PBDEs were introduced in the 1960s and '70s.
Health effects: PBDEs accumulate in the body. Toxicology tests show PDBEs may damage the liver and kidneys and affect the brain and behavior, according to the EPA.
Regulation: In December, the EPA named PBDEs "chemicals of concern."
What you can do to reduce exposure: Try to find products without PBDE flame retardants and be sure to sweep up dust.

No Gimmicks Here

It always baffles me that people eat junk food, remain inactive and expect not to have waning health. It takes the doctor diagnosing diabetes or some other life threatening ailment for most people to make any sort of change in their lives.

One of the funniest things to me is when people say they are going on a diet, I say funny because this "diet" usually is unreasonable and for the most part unsustainable. I don't believe in diets. I believe in lifestyle changes. Whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian your diet should be healthful and have moderate portions.

One of the worse things people can do is to try gimmicky "diets" to lose weight. These lose weight fast schemes only set people up for failure and alter self esteem. The key to health is simple: eat less, move more, drink water, eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and decrease red meat.

Stop with the gimmicks and start making healthful choices, your life depends on it.

What choices will you make today to sustain your health?


Got Cramps?????

If you have ever had cramps you know they are no fun so if you get hit with the monthly menace and feel like like popping ibuprofen or other pain killers is the only route, I would like to present you with some natural remedies I've come across (and tested out).

According to About.com: Alternative Medicine, the top natural remedies for combating menstrual maladies are:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids*

*(disclaimer: Because I am vegan instead of using fish oil I use flax seed oil, which contains the same Omega-3 Fatty acids)

Here is what the article had to say:

What are Menstrual Cramps?

Also known as: Dysmenorrhea

Menstrual cramps are known medically as dysmenorrhea. They typically feel like a dull pain in the lower abdomen before or during menstrual periods. The pain sometimes radiates to the low back or thigh area. Other symptoms may include nausea, loose stools, sweating, and dizziness.

There are two types of menstrual cramps: primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea, which usually starts within several years after your first menstrual period, involves no physical abnormality. Hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which are produced naturally in the body, are thought to cause these menstrual cramps and be responsible for the pain and inflammation.

Secondary dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, has an underlying physical cause, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, or uterine polyps.

Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps

If you are experiencing symptoms of menstrual cramps, it's important to see your doctor to be properly diagnosed. Although certain natural remedies show some promise, there hasn't been enough research at this point to conclude they're effective. Here are some of the more popular natural remedies for menstrual cramps.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. They are also available in fish oil capsules, which may be the preferable form because many brands filter out any pollutants in fish, such as mercury and PCBs.

At least eight studies involving a total of 1,097 women have investigated the relationship between diet and menstrual cramps and have found that fish oil intake seemed to have a positive effect on menstrual cramps.

Animal studies suggest that the two compounds in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may decrease prostaglandin levels.

In one small study, 21 young women took fish oil (containing 1080 milligrams eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 720 milligrams docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and 1.5 milligrams vitamin E) daily for two months followed by a placebo pill for two months. Another 21 young women took the placebo for two months followed by fish oil for two months. The results suggested that the women experienced significantly less menstrual cramps when they were taking the fish oil.

Fish oil capsules are sold in drug stores, health food stores, and online. Look for the active ingredients EPA and DHA on the label.

Fish oil capsules may interact with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin. Side effects may include indigestion and bleeding. To reduce a fishy aftertaste, it should be taken just before meals.


Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It is also available as nutritional supplements. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels and is needed for normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immune function, blood pressure, and for bone health.

In 2001, researchers with the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed three small studies that compared magnesium and a placebo for dysmenorrhea. Overall, they found that magnesium was more effective than placebo for pain relief and the need for additional medication was less with magnesium use.

In the studies, there was no significant difference in the number of side effects or adverse effects between the magnesium and the placebo.

High doses of magnesium may cause diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and confusion. It can interact with certain medications, such as those for osteoporosis, high blood pressure (calcium channel blockers), as well as some antibiotics, muscle relaxants, and diuretics.


Acupressure is a traditional healing practice that is based on the same principles as acupuncture. Instead of applying needles to acupuncture points, pressure is applied

A point that is often recommended by acupuncturists for menstrual cramps is called Spleen 6. Although there are only preliminary studies on acupressure for menstrual cramps, it is a simple home remedy that is often recommended by alternative practitioners.

To find the point, acupuncturists suggest feeling the bony point of the inner ankle. From that point, draw an imaginary line up the lower calf from the inner ankle. The point is approximately four finger widths from the inner ankle. It isn't on the shin bone, but just beside it towards the back of the calf.

With your thumb or middle finger at a 90 degree angle to the skin, apply gradually increasing pressure. Hold for three minutes. The pressure should not be painful or uncomfortable.

Acupressure to the Spleen 6 point should not be done if you are pregnant. It should also not be done over broken or infected skin.

Other Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps

Try out the remedies the next time 'Aunt Flow' comes to visit and see if they make a difference.


Naturally Beautiful Skin

Recently while at a work event a colleague waves me closer with a sense of real urgency. "I have to ask you a question", she says in a voice that lets me know I better move in closer and brace myself. I got closer putting my ear almost all the way up to her mouth waiting to hear this burning question, "what do you use on your skin, I mean it always looks so good?". I had a good chuckle, thanked her and felt guilty that I didn't have an extensive list of lavish products to rattle off. My response sounded more like a first aid check off list, " I use Castille soap, aloe vera, vitamin e, baking soda and a little tea tree essential oil for those times when I am having a hormonal breakout". She looked at me a little surprised.

I'm no Covergirl, but I do want my skin to look and feel great. I live by the rule if I can't put it in me, I won't put it on me. Whatever we use on our skin gets absorbed into our bloodstream so I encourage people to really know what's in the skin creams, face washes, body splashes and lotions they put on their precious skin.

See the list below for some Peta approved products:
  • Baking soda- I use it in my hair as a pre shampoo clarifier as well as a facial scrub and to brush my teeth
  • Aloe vera- facial moisturizer and for any cuts, bruises or burns
  • Corn starch- I mix it with essential oils and brush it on as a wonderfully scented body powder
  • Lavender, Rosemary and Sage- I mix these essential oils with pure water and spritz it on me as a body splash or as a skin and loc freshener.
  • Cocobutter- I use it to moisturize my lips and on any dry patches of skin
  • Shea butter- I mix this with olive oil in the winter months to prevent having scaly skin
  • Olive Oil- My go to moisturizer, I use it all over my body to keep my skin supple
Great skin is healthy skin. What natural products have you tried on your skin lately?


One Night Only, That's All You have To Spare

Want to eat healthier, have more time to yourself, a less messy kitchen clean up and save a little dough??? Then why not try Meatless Monday's, a trend in introducing more veggies into the average meat eaters diet as well as reducing meat's impact on the environment. Going meat-less for even 1 night a week has so many positive implications that it is a wonder more people aren't doing it. 

For one it decreases your carbon foot print; meat production uses up a lot of energy due to the farming methods used by cattle farmers not to mention the energy used to transport the meat. Going meatless also improves your health as eating more of a plant based diet can reduce the propensity of diabetes, heart attack, high cholesterol and blood pressure by lowering your consumption of saturated fat. Meatless meals for the most part are quick to prepare and will have you out of the kitchen quicker. I know I enjoy not having to scrub meat encrusted pots. In 30 minutes or less you can have a delicious meal of sauteed veggies atop quinoa leaving you more time to relax after a long day of work. Meatless meals are also cheaper to prepare and can save you money at the market, leaving you more cash in your pocket in these recessionary times.

As a vegan I am a proponent of eating vegetables and would love for more people to be eating healthfully through plant based diets even if for one night.

I challenge you to reduce your meat consumption for one night. Try Meatless Mondays and let me know your experience.

Don't Be Too Sweet

Do not be fooled by all these artificial sweeteners that claim to be better for you than the real thing. Many of them lure people with there advertisements of being low or no calories and promise not to spike your blood sugar levels like the real thing. Natural sugar comes from the sugar cane plant and while not healthy in large quantities it is still better for you than the other stuff.

Hear me out I am in no way encouraging that people eat cane sugar any more than I would encourage eating a high fat diet, I am saying however that if you are going to to eat sugar it might as well be one that is naturally occurring on earth and not created chemically in a lab. Many of the artificial sugars on the market cause cancer and death in lab rats. While humans are not rats I am still wary of anything that can potentially cause harm to any life form.

If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for less harmful sweeteners I encourage looking into these:
  • stevia
  • agave
  • maple sugar
All the above mentioned sweeteners are plant based and naturally occurring unlike 'corn sugar' aka high fructose corn syrup (but that is a whole other blog for another day).

Please know that having a 'sweet tooth' and indulging yourself in candy, cookies, pies, soda and refined carbohydrates can very well lead you down the road to 'diabesity' (diabetes and obesity). Limiting your sugar intake is wise, as sugar is addictive;the more you have it, the more you want it. While I know it's unrealistic for most to swear off sugar in any form I do encourage natural sources of it and small quantities.


I like My Hummus Preservative Free Thank You!!!

There is definitely a reason I choose to cook all my own food and rarely eat out. The longer I live a vegan existence the more efficient my body becomes at recognizing insidious invaders like preservatives, additives and pesticides that may unintentionally pass my palate.

I recently discovered a certain brand of hummus (that shall remain nameless) in an effort to extend shelf life (I assume) has added a preservative that my tummy didn't like, and let's just say I paid for the hummus twice. My very attuned body also broke out in hives. 

The take away message here is: eat food that is as natural and close to its original state as possible and don't think because a food is 'healthy' that the company that is packaging it cares as much about what goes into it as you do. Food companies unfortunately are in the money making business and not in the keeping you healthy business. I admonish you all to read labels very carefully even if you have been eating a certain product for years you never now when there might me an ingredient change. If you have the capacity to cook for yourself, definitely take the time to prepare your own meals; your connection to how you nourish yourself is extremely important. Needless to say the next time I eat hummus it will be made by me and preservative and additive free.