Have a cup of tea, breathe deep and fall asleep

What better way to celebrate relaxation week (which I’m not actually participating in) than sleeping?

Psh. None.

(A good question is: “Where in the world did you read about this?” The answer: “I have no idea.” I found this bit of information buried in a stack of handwritten notes from forever ago. I’m not sure if this is weird… but I used to be SO into Ayurveda. I would be, but I’m not at all patient enough to practice. If you know where the following information goes, let me know, and I’ll post it. Right now, it’s just some good information about sleeping.)

Husband works eight-hour night shifts, five days a week. It’s like the “nine-to-five” only flipped upside down. Because he works nights, he sleeps during the day –obviously. We live in a purely residential neighborhood with schools and people and parks all around us, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Husband doesn’t sleep very well.

Ayurveda has sleep remedies for people like my husband –reverse insomniacs –and for poor sleepers and regular insomniacs. Each of these remedies is connected to a dosha within the principle.

If you wake up at 2 a.m. and have trouble getting back to sleep, vata is to blame for your sleep imbalance. Before going to bed, rub your head and feet with sesame oil or take a bath infused with fennel, orange and tulsi oils. You can also drink tea made from brahmi –an Ayurvedic herbal tea known as a nerve tonic. Or try hot almond milk, which is actually pretty tasty by the way, with any or all of these: chopped dates, coconut flakes, cardamom, ginger or honey.

Also, try a cooling Chandra Bhenda (Moon Breath) for five minutes. Breathe in through the left nostril and out through the right, closing the opposite nostril between each inhale and exhale. Follow this with 30 seconds of Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) by taking full, deep, loud breaths in and out through the nose, using your full lung capacity.

If you awake again, get up and drink chamomile tea –an almost universal remedy.

Pitta, the second dosha, insomnia is based on you having trouble getting to sleep or you wake up before 2 a.m. and cannot sleep again. Before bed, have a cup of brahmi tea or drink warm almond milk again. Put a few drops of sandalwood, marjoram or benzoin resin oil into your bath. You can also massage warm ghee –clarified butter –onto your head and feet. Then, do five minutes of Ujjayi Breath (close the root of the throat and breathe audibly through the nose). Follow with two minutes of meditation.

Kapha-based insomnia is rare. Make yourself a cup of tea: Mix a teaspoon of brahmi with honey and drink. Give yourself a head and foot massage with olive oil, olive and mustard oil or sesame oil, or mustard oil alone. Try putting a blend of marjoram, frankincense, rose and ylang-ylang essential oils into a hot bath. Practice two full minutes of Bellows Breath followed by one minute of meditation.

While I haven’t really tried any of these methods –mostly because I hate taking baths, refuse to spend money on essential oils and have no idea where to find brahmi tea in my area –I know deep breathing and meditation can calm the mind and induce a state of serenity (like Corpse Pose at the end of your yoga practice) and that warm almond milk tastes good, but I wasn’t trying to go to sleep when I drank that.

If you believe that any of these Ayurvedic sleep aids will heal your horrible sleep habits, give them a try. Nothing is poisonous (to my knowledge).

Sleep well friends!

Time for relaxation (because the stress is getting to me)

I’m super stressed. Ha! What’s new?

I need a pick me up to put me down (on a couch with a cup of soup and hot cocoa where I belong). Oh, I dream…

This week I want to talk about relaxation. While I can breathe my way out of a headache, I have not mastered the art of meditating my stress away. I envy people with this sort of concentration.

But stress can be relieved! I know it. I’ve seen it happen. Ayurveda is only one way.

Indian head massage supports the nervous system by alleviating stress; stimulates the lymphatic system, which encourages the elimination of toxins; helps break down muscular knots; relieves chronic neck and shoulder stiffness; increases oxygen uptake in tissues; and improves circulation.

It sure does a lot of stress relieving!

Head massage can also be used to stimulate hair growth, improve concentration and relieve migraine pain.

Begin by choosing an oil: sesame, mustard, almond, coconut and olive oils are common.

Massage the oil into your head by starting first at the sides and working toward the top. Work your way front to back. Gently massage the whole head with thumbs and fingers. Then, grasp fistfuls of hair at the roots and tug from side to side –keep fits close to the scalp. Squeeze at the temples with the heels of the hands and make slow circles. Look down slightly and massage the back the neck by squeezing and rolling the muscles. Begin at the top of the neck and work you way down, first with one hand, and then the other.

Place the thumb of your left hand under the left occipital area and the thumb of your right hand under the right occipital area at the base of your head. Relax tight muscles by using a rubbing motion to cause friction.

Place left hand on right shoulder near your neck. Using medium pressure, gently squeeze the shoulder muscle that starts at the base of your neck. Work your way out along your shoulder to your arm, and then to your elbow. Go back to the base of your neck and do this twice more. Repeat on the other side.

Finally, rub lightly with your hands all over the head; extend these movements to your face. If possible, allow a few minutes to relax (a lot of blood is moving).

Another fantastic treat for your scalp and hair is a coconut head massage. Try coating your head with flower-infused coconut oil. Lubricating your locks is an essential part of Ayurvedic care and is said to promote sleep and memory.

Massage the oil into the scalp, and then comb through to saturate all hair. Wrap head and hair in an old towel for 20 minutes. Then shampoo; it may take two rinses to get all of the oil out.

Make the Oil: Mix 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons rose water, 1/2 cup mixed-fresh rose, hibiscus, marigold or jasmine petals. Heat oil in saucepan, add rose water and petals; boil for three minutes, remove from heat and let flowers steep in oil for one day. Strain through a coffee filter into an airtight container before use.

While the thought of giving myself a massage sounds daunting, I’m sure I can find someone to pay to do it for me… or just ask Husband. If the TV’s off, he does a very good job. :)

Relax with me, friends; we need it.

Clean eating = healthy eating (don’t let them trick you!)

Because of my stomach issues (I still don’t know what’s wrong with me), I have to watch my diet carefully to keep from suffering horrible pain.

In hopes of finding some better cooking techniques, I turned to the Internet. I found many “don’t use butter, use applesauce” type advice articles to help me cut cholesterol and bad fat out of my diet. (Believe me, I need it!)

I also found an article (from Livestrong.com, of course) about “clean eating.”

According to the article, clean eating refers to a diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods low in saturated fat, added sugar, sodium, preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors. Clean foods include: anything high in nutrients and fiber and often organically grown and prepared. Well, this diet seems to be what I’m looking for! (But I’m not paying for organic.)

Many people are interested in clean eating (not just to avoid horrible pain) because it offers many health benefits, such as weight control and lowered risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases (and horrible pain).

Step One: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. (Well, duh.) A major tenet of clean eating is consuming plant-based foods.

Step Two: Choose whole grains instead of processed and refined grains. (Duh… again?)

Step Three: Eat lean sources of protein. While many clean-eating diets are largely or completely vegetarian (gross), many people LOVE meat and should focus on lean cuts of beef, low-fat poultry and fish.

Step Four: Refrain from processed snack foods and sugary drinks. No chips, candy, pastries or soda! Boo!

If you haven’t noticed, this diet sounds like the advice you get NO matter what specific diet you follow. Clean eating is another way of saying healthy eating.

However, since I took the time to read about it, I will add to it.

Joe Wilkes for Extremely Fit suggests five ways to get more fruit in your diet.

1.      Cut it! Instead of tackling an entire apple at a time, slice several apples into bite-size pieces and store them in an air-tight contain or zipper bag. If you toss them with lemon juice, you will prevent browning for at least a day. Plus, you know how the “apple a day keep the doctor away?” While that might not be true, apples are still totally good for you.

2.      Mix it! Getting sick of apples? Weirdo. However, mixing up the varieties of fruit you eat leads to consumption of a greater range and amount of nutrients. By far, my favorite fruit is a peach, and while I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of them, I might as well keep my options open.

3.      Dip it! I can dip something??? Yay! Mix up some nonfat or low-fat yogurt with a little cinnamon. Or dunk your fruit in some unsweetened peanut butter. (Blogger’s note: Unsweetened peanut butter is disgusting and has barely any flavor UNLESS you eat it with a sour, tart fruit like an apple –Granny Smith, anyone? –and then it tastes fabulous. It is a whole transformation.)

4.      Add it! Cereals with dried fruits are lying to you. Cut up your own apples or add your own fresh or frozen berries to your oatmeal every morning. The nutrient value is must higher.

5.      Freeze it or can it! Fresh fruit may taste better, but it doesn’t last very long with preservation techniques. Buying frozen or canned fruit is usually just as healthful as the fresh variety. Pear juice is a common canning juice and is not bad for you. (Pears are ripe forever.*) And frozen berries are perfect for throwing into anything! Good tip: Browning bananas are still good bananas. Peel them and store them in foil in the freezer.

The article would also like to make it very clear that “fruit juice” is not fruit. Fruit juice is loaded FULL of sweeteners and little nutrients. Generally, it’s bad for you. Sorry, kiddos!

Finally, here are five things you need to know about whole grains.

1.      They can be added to any diet plan because they are fabulous.

2.      A whole grain includes all three components of the kernel –the germ, endosperm (gross!) and the bran. When all three are together, the result is a powerhouse of healthy fat, protein, complex carbs, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. If you also hate the word endosperm, here is a little-known factoid: Refined flour is nothing but the endosperm, and that’s disgusting.

3.      Wheat bread is a good source of whole grains when the first ingredient reads “whole wheat.” However, with many wheat breads, the first ingredient is often “wheat flour,” and that’s not good.

Instead, choose breads that are chewy and dense, often called peasant breads and are loaded with whole grains. If seeds and grains are visible in the bread, you’ve got what you need.

4.      The Whole Grain Council actually exists. Awesome. They have their own stamp for certified whole grain foods!

5.      Your best bet (to get the RDA of whole grains as well as the health benefits) is to eat more than 3-5 servings daily of grains, such as barley, brown rice, quinoa and oats.

*Pears: Referenced from Eddie Izzard “Definite Article,” pears are ripe for half an hour. They are either a rock or they’re mush, but they are a “rock” forever, and that’s what I meant. I’m sure the preserved juice lasts much longer than half an hour. Please. Please watch Eddie Izzard.

Shout out to mylittlecelebration! (And a bunch of junk we SHOULD be eating)

I know my readership is down and not many of you will note this, but you should definitely check out my friend Dana’s blog, especially today.

Why? Well, it’s about loving your body. And we all know how spastic I am about my body. Fried food and couch potato (current) to extreme crazy dieting and gym membership (tomorrow… or Monday… I haven’t decided).

Turns out, Dana used to feel the same (well, a similar) way! And she’s like super awesome and confident and gorgeous. I mean… check out that pop can!

So, go read her blog. I’ll wait for you to get back.

I know. You don’t have to say anything. I was right. :)

But, lately, I have been very very wrong… :(

Today, we’re going to talk about all sorts of foods we’re supposed to be eating but don’t because Ramen Noodles are easier to prepare and potato chips require no preparation. That could just be me.

Instead of being lazy (like me), we should be eating a whole bunch of these…

Fruits are healthful snacks, or maybe fruits are not just snacks because we should be eating fruits (and veggies) throughout the day.

That’s not the point.

The point is that some fruits are loaded full of calories and sugar, which sucks. Luckily, not all fruit is good/bad for us, which is actually more of the point I want to make.

(Look at me go. Sigh.)

Raspberries, containing only 64 calories a cup, have the most fiber of all the berries (more than four slices of whole-grain bread and twice as much in the same about of blueberries).

I know, right? Who knew?

Women’s Health Magazine advises us to grab a handful, rinse them off and stuff our faces until we’re full. Awesome.

Grapefruits (gross) do not constitute the entirety of an actual diet. However, at only 82 calories per medium fruit, the grapefruit is low in sugar and high in fiber. Apparently, obese adults who ate half a grapefruit before each of their three daily meals lost three extra pounds over the course of 12 weeks.

(Maybe this will work for me? I’m almost down to my high school weight, which is not as low as my actual goal weight so… I might be eating grapefruit. Women’s Health recommends throwing them in Asian stir-fries. I can do that… just not three times a bloody day.)

APPLES! Who doesn’t love apples? Especially if they’re covered in something, such as caramel or peanut butter or chocolate or brown sugar… I could go on.

According to me, apples are like the cracker of fruit. They taste good with everything in every situation, especially in oatmeal.

While higher in calories at 95 per medium apple (medium??? apples I eat only come in gigantic), the fiber in apples takes longer to digest making you feel fuller.

Winning! (I had to, I’m sorry.)

More win? Green apple scent curbs cravings; and Women’s Health Magazine suggests eating apples with… you guessed it… everything.

‘Nanners (okay, bananas) at 105 calories per medium banana are not actually fattening; they contain “resistant starch,” which sort of sticks to your ribs in a good way. However, remember to eat the banana while it’s still a little green. Ripening turns starch into sugar and calories.

Women’s Health Magazine provided a neat-oh recipe: Slice a banana in half, and then cover each slice with half a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter (peanut, duh) and half a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Wrap in wax paper and freeze 10 to 15 minutes for a yummy dessert. (Even yummier? Add French vanilla ice cream. My favorite!)

Husband blends half a banana in his protein shake every day, or every other day… I don’t keep track. He also uses strawberries! Another fruit? Shocking. While the fresh version is more nutritious, we usually buy the frozen version because they last longer, are cheaper and come in larger quantities.

So sweet, tasty fruit sounds great, but what about the stuff that isn’t quite as sweet?

Example? Artichokes. Gross. I mean, they’re a member of the sunflower family that we put in creamy cheese dip and consume. Flowers.

Gross.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m not the biggest fan of artichokes, whether or not they’re good for me. However, I am a big fan of cabbage. Why? Because I’m insane.

Cabbage (22 calories a cup) is a rich source of vitamins K and C, manganese and fiber, and it last for DAYS. While my favorite cabbage is leafy green and roasted in olive oil, I’ll eat any kind in coleslaw. Yum.

Asparagus spears, much like cabbage, are in my edible arsenal. I love asparagus, except for… well, you know… the phenomenon. According to Alton Brown, that only happens to certain people with a specific genetic makeup. Neat.

Like apples, asparagus tastes good with everything, especially itself.

Women’s Health Magazine provided another brilliant list of all the food we should stop ignoring.

Beets: Gross. I used to love beets when I was a little girl; I used to eat them with my grandpa all the time. I am sorry to say that is no more. However, beets are a great source of both betaine and folate, which reduce heart-disease.

Cabbage. (winning!)

Dried plumes: Prunes. I know, right? Old people food. :)

However, prunes are full of neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, antioxidants that are effective at protecting against cancer growth. And with my… assets…. I’d like to stay cancer-free.

Goji berries:  Who can afford these things? Who can find them even? While gogi berries are uber good for us to munch, they are pretty hard to get a hold of. Just go to Smoothie King and ask them to add some to your mango mix.

Guava: What is a guava? I’ve had juice of guava and guava smoothies. I have never actually laid eyes on a guava fruit. Am I fail? No. Did you know you could eat the entire thing? Rind, flesh and seeds.

Purslane: Shocked that I’ve never heard of this? I would guess it’s a leaf. It’s not? It gets better? Oh, purslane is a weed! There is a field of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids with a mild, lemony flavor in my backyard. Want some? Hopefully, the German shepherd hasn’t used them as a bathroom.

Swiss chard: Iron Chefs cook with this stuff all the time. (I watch way too much TV.) Just like spinach, chard tastes great with a little olive oil. And who doesn’t love spinach?

And, now, recipes! Well, two recipes. I’m not going to do all the work. Actually… I didn’t do much work at all. :)

Oats ‘n’ Berries Breakfast (from Beachbody)

  • 1 packet plain instant oatmeal, prepared, with 1 scoop Beachbody® Whey Protein Powder
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 oz. roasted turkey breast
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate

631 calories, 62 grams carbohydrates, 47 grams protein, 21 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 10 grams fiber

The Wrinkle Fighter Smoothie (from Women’s Health Magazine)

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup ice

Makes 3 servings. Per serving: 153 cal, 5.6 g fat(1 g sat), 23 g carbs, 35 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 6 g protein

The Energy Booster Smoothie (from Women’s Health Magazine)

  • 2 frozen bananas, peeled and chopped
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp skim milk powder
  • 2 cup ice

Makes 3 servings. Per serving: 294 cal,7 g fat(2 g sat), 38 g carbs, 102 mgsodium,4 g fiber, 25 g protein

Now I want a smoothie. Yum… :)

My Workout Buddy

Livestrong is one of my favorite web sites –mostly because they have the greatest information that applies directly to my life.

For example, recently I received an article about Weight-Loss Buddies, and when do I NOT talk about my workout partner (often referring to her as my personal trainer) Ashley R.? That’s right. Never. Or always… You know what I mean.

According to the article, when you challenge yourself to change yourself, doing so with a friend will keep you accountable and motivated. I know this to be true. –Eddie Izzard

In a study conducted by Stanford University, highlighted in the article, the research showed that small amounts of social support can produce large and lasting gains (or losses). Other studies have shown that after eight weeks of regular exercise (I think I’m on week three), many people are able to settle into a long-term habit. Ashley R. has been a track star for a long while. It seems simple for her to fall into exercise, while it is difficult for me. (Remember, I haven’t really done anything regular since high school.)

The Mayo Clinic suggests choosing a person who will also listen to your concerns and feelings and share the priority you have placed on developing a healthier lifestyle. Ashley R. and I (in my opinion) have developed that sort of relationship –the kind where she’ll tell me how she’s feeling, and I’ll admit to her that I’m afraid of step aerobics, which now all of you know. :(

After you find your buddy (check!), you have to schedule accountability sessions. An accountability session is best done in-person and are times for you to follow up on each other’s progress. Ashley R. and I usually do this when we see each other at work or during the now rare times when we can work out together. She is a pusher, too. If I admit to snarfing bad-for-me food, she’ll immediately get on my tail about it in one of the nicest ways possible. She’s a pusher and a great motivator.

While the article suggests meeting once a week, I suggest meeting as often as possible. Once a week might keep you on track, but will you really be able to get the full satisfaction of having a workout buddy? No. Whenever Ashley R. and I can work out together, we do (and we both feel terrible when we ditch).

When you have a solid support system (even if it is just one other person), you will be able to make a lasting behavior change. (I’m still working on my behavior change, but my attitude toward weight loss is less “hate” and more “tolerate.” I think that’s a step in the right direction.)

And it’s all thanks to my workout buddy!

UNFORTUNATELY, she’s gone for spring break and my motivation levels are low to say the least.

MISS MY FRIEND! Hope you’re safe missy!

SPRING BREAK (but no break from my workouts)

It is finally here.

SPRING BREAK 2011!!!! YEAH! (I’m so excited I used multiple exclamation marks, which I usually hate.)

I could go on and on about how much partying and fun-having I will be doing for the next seven glorious school- AND work-free days…. (except Friday).

But it would all be a lie.

You see, my friends, I am not much of a “party girl.” In fact, it is actually very difficult for me to have fun in a party setting. I am more of a “get-together girl,” and that works for me.

Husband just calls it fun-hating. Boys…

I know, for a fact, that I will have on get-together with my friend Jo for an Eddie Izzard stand-up comedy marathon! We have to have it at her house because she has the “Netflix” and Eddie’s got a NEW SPECIAL! (You and I both know I’m thinking of adding more exclamation marks.)

What are my other plans for this glorious break?

Yard work.

I know, I am FAIL. But here’s the thing. It won’t ever get done while I’m at school all night and work all day so I better do it during the break. We have a LOT of weeds, dead leaves and weird rocks all over our yard. No fun. I want pretty.

Plus, yard work = good work out. Heavy lifting and stuff.

For example: Today I cleaned most of my house (everything but the noisy stuff) and swept my porch and front steps. Yay! I also set up the iron table and chairs In-Laws gave Husband and I. I finally have real outdoor furniture!

 

Outdoor Iron Table and Chairs
PRETTY!

What else?

 

Copious amounts of researching. Research, research, research. Hopefully, by the end of this most glorious week, I will have completed (if not partially completed) two of my four papers and at least two presentations. (Which is like cheating because I only have the ability to work on two of the presentations at this moment…)

…wow…

I am so FAIL.

BUT I don’t care because I’m going to be a smartie-pants AND and skinny-pants by the time I’m finished with grad school. Usually, only one of those things happens. :)

And…

!!!!!!!!

:)