When beauty is toxic.

EWG Skin Deep Toxic Cosmetics

Take a good look at your medicine cabinet, your make up bag and your shower caddy. Everything look normal? Are you sure? Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of your face wash or shampoo? Probably not, right. If you happened to glance at it, it’s impossible to know what most of those ingredients are.

Think about how we eat for a moment. There’s a major emphasis on what’s in our food and what we should and shouldn’t be eating. The nutrition labels on food packaging help us gauge healthy versus not. It’s unfortunate however that we spend so much time focusing on what we put into our bodies and not nearly enough time on what we put ON our bodies.

The skin is your body’s largest organ. Whatever you slap on it gets soaked up through your pores. When you apply products that contain toxic ingredients those toxins find their way right into your body, and let me tell you–they’re not just hanging out in there all nice.

How many cosmetic products do you use over the course of one day? Not just makeup! Think face wash, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, nail polish, perfume, lipstick, mascara…the list is long! Each of these products comes with a long list of ingredients (some healthier than others). Sadly, the cosmetic industry is very loosely regulated, which means that we have to be extra careful with what types of products we use! The Environmental Working Group, an incredible non-profit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, has done some really great research on the matter. Here’s a quote I pulled from one of their articles on why this is so important:

“…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.” (FDA 2012).

Does anyone besides me find this alarming???

Research is still being done on the harmful effects of exposure to the kinds of chemicals found in cosmetics, but so far it’s not looking good. I’m no expert and I don’t claim to be, but consider the number of women and people in general who have cancer nowadays. Why? What in our environment today is contributing to this? When you think about it, we live in a completely different world than our grandparents and their parents did. Everything today is so highly processed and manufactured. We keep getting further and further away from “natural” and “real”.

Now! What I REALLY want to share is how to take charge as a consumer. I give complete credit to my beautiful mother for sharing this tool with me. The Environmental Working Group has a database called Skin Deep, where you can search more than 70,000 products to find out just how healthy your cosmetics are. I have the APP downloaded on my phone and all I have to do is scan the bar code of my soap or face cream to find the dirt on it. They rank products on a scale from 0-10 in terms of their toxicity, and also break down the ingredients within the product by telling you which are harmful and what risks they pose. They don’t have every beauty product logged, but they have covered an impressive amount.

Quick tip: I’ve learned that nearly every single product containing “fragrance” or “parfum” always ranks high on the toxic scale, and should therefore be avoided.

I really hope you take a moment to look at Skin Deep and try out the database. You will be shocked at what you discover! They have some really amazing articles and research on their site as well.

Recently I’ve been getting into making my own beauty products (that way I know exactly what I’m putting on my body). Have you tried the avocado-honey face mask yet? Stay tuned for more DIY beauty recipes :)

Homemade Fruit n’ Nut Bars

Chopped Nuts for homemade power bars

So this was my first attempt at making homemade granola bars (second if you count DIY Larabars…honestly so simple, but I’ll share those another time). These came out looking exactly like KIND bars–if you can believe it! Taste-wise I give them a 10 out of 10. Overall my only issues with these were because I cooked them a little too long and the edges were a tad too crunchy/didn’t stay completely in tact when I tried cutting them up. Otherwise, I highly recommend this recipe! I put half of the bars in the freezer (should last for about 3 months), and put the other half in the fridge (should last about two weeks). I meant to calculate the cost per bar but alas, I threw out the receipt by accident. Next time! I’m positive though that making a batch of these will save you some cash if you’re willing to do the work. And by work, I mean spend a total of 30 minutes chopping, mixing and baking. Not too bad.

bar-ingredients

You can really make these bars your own by adding different dried fruits, nuts and seeds. All you have to do is keep the same measurements, but the rest is up to you!

rice-syrup

Oh, and I’ve heard sweeteners like honey and maple syrup don’t work as well as binding agents, so I would stick to the brown rice syrup if you want your bars to actually keep their shape!

bars1

Hungry yet?

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts and seeds…I used almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds (preferably organic)

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit…I used dried figs, raisins and tart cherries

1/3 cup puffed brown rice cereal

1/3 cup organic brown rice syrup

Coconut oil (for non-stick agent..don’t be shy with this!)

Go for it:

Line baking pan with tin foil and grease WELL with coconut oil.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour mixture into pan.

Flatten mixture by pressing a separate sheet of greased tinfoil or parchment paper on top until about 1/3 inch high. It helps if you shape the mixture into a square or a rectangle so you can cut into even bars later.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-17 minutes (or until edges are golden brown). Remove and let cool for 20 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy!!!

**This recipe was adapted from the book “Power Hungry”, an amazing power bar cookbook. I highly, highlyyyyy suggest checking it out if this recipe appealed to you.

A holiday toast.

Healthy Turkey Dinner

A friend of mine brought to my attention that I haven’t posted in a while–yikes! So bad, I know. Sometimes I need a little kick in the butt. I’ve been caught up trying to re-balance after Thanksgiving and have been fighting off a cold–no excuses, though! How was my holiday you might ask? Well, I can sum it up by saying it was filled with chocolate, wine, pie and more pie. Oh, and that turkey. It speaks for itself ;). My dad knows his way around the kitchen. But! I’m not about to go on and on about my “food sins” because they were delicious and I enjoyed them all. However, what I realized over Thanksgiving wasn’t how much self-control I apparently lack, but rather how much I love my family and how much I need them.

I really believe that you should learn to love yourself and be able to enjoy spending time alone. However, we work so hard to love ourselves and to grow to love new people, but often that kind of gratitude only gets extended towards your family in times of need or during the holidays. Your family is your built-in support system, and if you treat it as such it will only grow stronger.

Thanksgiving table set

My mother said to me over tea, “I don’t care what my children do as long as they’re happy and as long as they come home and want to come home and we all hug.” Cute, right? In that comment though she touched on the most important part of the holidays–it’s not about obligation to your family, it’s about getting to know them and growing to really love spending time with them.

So here’s a toast to family and healthy relationships. It’s never too late to get to know them. Whatever your goals or struggles may be, they can help you. It’s the holiday season and while most people are concerned about the food aspect–the dreaded weight gain that comes with overindulging and the excess drinking–I think we should be concerned with the people we’re spending time with. Focus on those you love and let go a little. Enjoy yourself and be PRESENT with your family.

Thankgiving dinner

I read somewhere that if you’re worried you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious you’re living in the future and if you’re at peace you are living in the present. Remember that :)

I’m on a cleanse, and it’s not horrible.

Juice Cleanse

I’ve done quite a few cleanses in my day. You know that wacky Master Cleanse that Beyoncé did that one time? Where you’re supposed to survive off of an elixir made from lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper? Did it. In case you didn’t know–it’s horrible for you. I lost 5 pounds in 5 days, but gained it all back and then some in the following weeks. I’ve also tried other juice cleanses like the ones from Liquiteria and Blueprint. To be honest, they’re incredibly difficult to get through and the juices more often than not were full of sugar. Some contained twice as much sugar as a can of soda. Keep in mind: Just because something is green or natural doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for you or without health consequences.

Currently I’m on my second day of the Urban Remedy Metabolism kit. This cleanse is different from the others because it involves real food that you can chew. Hooray for chewing! You really miss chomping your teeth on those juice-only cleanses. This particular program is only three days and consists of pre-packaged organic whole foods and juices.

Photo Credit: Urban Remedy

Photo Credit: Urban Remedy

I’ve got to say, the food has pleasantly surprised me. You never know what you’re going to get with these types of programs. I’ve been drinking diet tea and green juice in the mornings and eating salads and zucchini pasta for lunch and dinner. The afternoon snacks are an acai lemonade and the BEST KALE CHIPS I’VE EVER HAD. Really though, the sour cream and chive kale chips were a game changer for me. I’m feeling inspired to start experimenting with homemade batches, but I’ll save that for another time.

So far I’ve been a little hungry, but not starving. I only strayed away from the plan on the first night because I needed a little more sustenance before bed and added a few spoonfuls of chia seeds to my evening green juice.

I also didn’t weigh myself before starting this cleanse because I didn’t want the focus to be on weight loss, but rather on rebooting. I’ve been going overboard with the sweets lately and eating really clean like this for a few days usually helps get rid of bad cravings and pushes me back on track.

The kit is a bit pricey, but so far it’s the best cleanse I’ve been on.

One more day to go!

 

Change your mind and you’ll change your body.

Brunette wearing a fedora by an old car

The longer I work in the industry of wellness (in editorial and previously as a fitness instructor), and the more I experiment with my own practices, I’ve come to know just how dire your psyche is to your wellbeing and how closely it’s linked to your weight.

So many outside factors–some controllable, some not–contribute to your mindset. From sleepless nights, to stressful careers and tough relationships, it’s hard to keep your head up sometimes. When your mental state suffers it’s often reflected in your physical appearance. Our emotions manifest themselves a little differently on all of us, but at least for me stress = weight gain every single time.

Now, among my group of friends and acquaintances I’m known as “the fit one”, “the healthy one” or “the girl who doesn’t drink at da club” (which I have to tell you, does not bother me one bit). However, what most people don’t know is how much I struggle on a regular basis to maintain my health and positivity. We all have different body shapes and genetics. Some of us are naturally more slender than others. The fact remains though that living a truly healthy lifestyle comes easy for no one. 

Walking in New York City

Currently I’m adapting to a new lifestyle. I have more free, unstructured time on my hands and easier access to processed foods. Every single day I fight the urge to veg out and eat my favorite childhood snacks mindlessly. Yes, I’m talking about you Oreos and Goldfish. I can’t even begin to express how hard it is to maintain the same self-control I used to have over eating these kinds of things, and I know that temptation in one form or another exists like this for many of you.

The big problem here is not that I’ve lost my focus or commitment to healthy eating, it’s that I’m not paying attention to the root of my stress and am TOO focused on the consequences of it–a.k.a overeating. Rather than getting caught up in my indulgences, I’ve began to shift my focus to what is causing me to feel the way that I do. Why am I feeling anxious? What steps can I take to change that?

The solution here is to RE-FOCUS and to RELAX.

Walking in New York City

I’ve found a few things that help me, and may help you when you can’t shake your stress and fall into unhealthy territory.

Take a walk. A loooooong walk. 

Drink hot water with lemon. 

Turn the lights off, put some music on and take yourself through a few yoga poses (whichever ones you can remember or even look up online).

Drink green juice (if I’m really struggling to avoid junk, this helps reset my taste buds and often gets rid of terrible cravings. Who wants to post up with a bag of chocolate chips when you just gulped down the best stuff your body can have?).

Call one of your best friends (laughter is the best medicine time and time again). 

I also found this article on MindBodyGreen to be particularly helpful and inspiring on this matter.

It’s easier said than done–always. However, just being aware of the root of your anxiety or stress is the most important part. You have to take care of your mind if you want to take care of your body.

 

 

 

Homemade Pumpkin-Banana “Ice Cream”

Homemade Healthy Ice Cream

Never heard of banana “ice cream”? Well, it’s time we change that. You may have guessed from the quotes that this is not real ice cream–there’s no cream in it– and if I’m being honest, nothing will replace the heaven that is Ben & Jerry’s. However, blended frozen bananas create an incredibly creamy texture that resembles ice cream, and as a result can be used to make healthy, delicious desserts. I’m not kidding when I say this is one of the best banana ice cream’s I’ve ever had. I mean it–IT’S SO GOOD.

Skeptical? Try it out for yourself.

Healthy Pumpkin Recipe

Blend

2 frozen bananas

2 tbsp organic pumpkin puree

1 tbsp Siggi’s Pumpkin & Spice skyr

4 drops liquid french vanilla stevia extract (can substitute 1-2 tsp honey for this if you don’t have it)

2-3 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk

A few shakes of cinnamon

**Pulse the blender slowly when starting. Since the mixture is meant to be thick you may have to shake the container a few times while blending. You also may have to add more almond milk, but do so a little at a time. If you add too much liquid you’ll end up with a smoothie.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Once the ingredients have formed a thick, creamy texture, scoop the mixture into a bowl or your favorite mug and top with your favorite healthy goodies. I sprinkled some homemade toasted coconut granola on top of mine, but experiment and make it your own! Fresh fruit, melted peanut butter, shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips are all great toppings.

Pumpkin banana ice cream

Enjoy!

 

It’s time to start making better resolutions.

New Years Resolutions

Vowing to lose weight, get in shape or to just be better this year than you were the last are resolutions we all make, and are resolutions that most likely fail. We fail not because we are incapable of change or have no self-control. We can’t keep our resolutions because we’re (or at least I’m) setting horrible goals.

Of course I want to be a better version of myself this year than last, but what does that even mean? Yes, I want to finally lose the infamous ‘last ten pounds’…but how? Or why? Is that indicative of something I want more?

I’ve got to start making better resolutions, and I think a lot of people can benefit from doing the same.

I’m not going to wait until January to do it either.

Dancing

In this moment I want to…

Move my body in some way every single day–my body was created to move, and one day I won’t be able to  in the same capacity

Stretch for at least 30 minutes every day because I hate feeling so stiff and achy all the time 

Not hate myself for indulging, but rather just enjoy it so that it IS worth it

Get a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep at LEAST Monday through Friday

Eat something green at 2 out of my 3 meals every day

Better new years resolutions

These kinds of goals aren’t as intimidating as “LOSE MORE WEIGHT”. They’re small and easy to check off. In the end they’ll add up to something bigger. The real goal is to just feel better in your skin, in my skin. I know that if I incorporate things like this into my everyday I’m going to feel better and look better.

Creating a balance in your life is probably one of the hardest things to do. We’re all sleep deprived, overworked, and pressed for time when it comes to sourcing and making real, nutritious foods for our bodies. Don’t vow to completely overhaul your lifestyle, just take small steps and you’ll get there.

What’s that saying? “We are what we repeatedly do.” Can you see yourself eating a plain salad for lunch every single day? No. Do you think you can really get to the gym 6 days a week for an hour each time? Eh, after a few weeks that momentum fades. Pick goals that aren’t overwhelming and that you can see lasting beyond a measurable amount of time–a month, a year–and can become a part of your lifestyle.

:)

 

Chocolate-Cherry Kale Smoothie

Kale Smoothie Recipe

Today’s lazy lunch is packed with anti-aging & anti-inflammatory  superfoods and….CHOCOLATE! I’ve never made this combination before, and to my surprise it was even better than I expected. I HIGHLY recommend the vegan protein and superfood powder I use here–Philosophie brand. Their powders pack in so many delicious and healthy superfoods, cutting back on the cost of buying them all separately and also cutting down on the time it takes to add them into my shakes and meals. Definitely one of my favorite healthy food discoveries as of late.

Blend

1 frozen banana

1/3 cup frozen dark sweet cherries (pitted)

1 large handful organic lacinato kale (stems removed)

1 tbsp chocolate vegan protein powder (I used Philosophie Cacao Magic)

1/2-3/4 cup vanilla almond milk

Top with a sprinkle of chia seeds, and voila!

Enjoy.

 

xo

Natural Avo-Honey Face Mask

Avocado Honey Face MaskI have VERY sensitive, dry, acne-prone skin. I’ve learned through trial and error that the less ingredients (read: less chemicals) my cosmetics contain, the better my skin looks and feels.

Once a week I like to make this homemade avocado-honey face mask. The avocado is incredibly hydrating for skin due to its vitamin E content and healthy fats, and the honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which cleanse the skin and fight breakouts. Honey is also a humectant, meaning it creates a kind of barrier on the skin, attracting and trapping moisture inside. Together the two ingredients soften and brighten your complexion. I’ve found that my skin actually glows immediately after I rinse the mask off. Test it out for yourself!

Avocado face mask

Mash and Mix

1/3 avocado

2 tsp raw honey

Apply the mixture to your face, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

DIY face mask

XO