Category Archives: Healthy Body

Asian Fried Rice, without the Rice? How Paleo can reinvent the wheel.

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In my quest to continue cooking in the kitchen, I have been trying more and more recipes and personal “culinary” experimentations.  Something that keeps intriguing my taste buds is one of the latest trends in the health and nutrition industry, the Paleo diet.  I find numerous cookbooks, iPhone apps, and websites centered around this ideology.  I am always intrigued about new “diets.”  After reading the books about the Whole 30 program I wanted to dig deeper into the principles behind it.  To become “Paleo” means you eat foods lacking harmful additives and preservatives and have been minimally processed (close to the source).  Basically, you eat as our ancient hunter-gather ancestors ate (Fred Flinstone probably indulged in a few of Wilma’s Paleo dinners).  This diet includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, proteins, nuts, healthy oils and coconut derivatives.  The foods you avoid are all forms of dairy, grains (yes, even whole grain), legumes (think peanuts, beans, and peas), processed sugars and all foods containing additives of any kind.  So long and farewell to Hostess cupcakes and harmful food dyes.  So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind eliminating these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind cutting these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

Digestive inflammation is a leading cause of certain health issues.  The problem is many people walking around today don’t even realize they suffer from inflammatory reactions due to dairy (lactose) or gluten.  Simply eliminating foods that contain inflammatory triggers can improve someone’s health in a matter of weeks.  It has also been touted to help some people with their weight loss journeys or improve the autoimmune problems of others.  Paleo has also been linked with aiding some people with their weight loss journeys.  Foods that can trigger inflammation in the body can also add on pounds despite the person calorie counting or exercising every day.  Some researchers go on to say Paleo diets can also help improve cardiovascular health, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and certain autoimmune problems.

Whatever your choice may be, if you decide to go Paleo you will need to clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer and re-stock with Paleo-friendly ingredients.  You may also find yourself doing some cooking and whipping up things like paleo mayonnaise (extremely simple and delicious) or cashew cream (which can be made sweet or savory).   Eggs are also another large staple in the Paleo diet, but individuals with an egg allergy have to get creative on certain recipes.  Other must-haves are good cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or any other nut oil (no peanuts, please).  You will need to avoid things with soy or made with corn-based products (canola oil is a biggie), so be aware of what are in the condiments you keep in your fridge (think soy lecithin).  Just start label reading and you will get the hang of watching out for Paleo sabotagers.

If this all sounds too intimidating and time-consuming, there are more and more products coming out on the market geared towards a Paleo lifestyle.  Some items I use at home I found off Amazon or at my local health food store.  If you think this diet would be for you then I highly recommend browsing some good Paleo websites, cookbooks, and magazines.  Find a game-plan to make your major and minor switches in the kitchen easier.  Lifestyle changes are not always easy and these sources contain helpful tips and recipes.  One of my go-to apps on my phone is Nom Nom Paleo (nomnompaleo.com).  You can get step-by-step recipes ranging anywhere from desserts to main courses.

Tonight I made dinner from one of the recipes I thought looked tasty.  It is a new version of Asian “fried rice.”  How do you have fried rice without actually using rice?  The answer is cauliflower.  Put it through a food processor and your taste buds won’t miss this grain one bit.  Some grocery stores may even carry a packaged grated cauliflower that is easy to use in the recipe, which is what I ended up doing tonight.  Cauliflower plays a perfect second fiddle to its carbohydrate counterpart, just watch how long you cook it so the vegetable doesn’t become too mushy.  The meal tonight was new for my husband and I, but he was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted!

The actual recipe, with pictures and step-by-step instructions, for Asian Cauliflower Fried Rice is posted below.

 

If you wonder what it is you can and can’t drink on a Paleo diet, the options are actually quite good.  Besides water, there are plenty of healthy drinks available, so long as you avoid those bad sugars forbidden by the Paleo Police.  As for alcohol, well there is hope in that area too.  Vodkas made without potatoes or grains are absolutely fine, as are red and white wines (they are made from grapes) and brandy (made from wine).  Avoid things that are made using grain products, such as scotch or beer.  I would drink a nice white wine, maybe a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough region of Australia with the fried rice recipe.  Something that would match the lightness of the meal.  You can eat, drink and be merry all while fueling your body with healthy alternatives.

I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t before, you might be surprised at how easy and tasty going Paleo can be for you.  As I continue to research and experiment with Paleo I hope to let you in on helpful tips or pass on other great eats to make your own journey a little bit tastier.

Until next time, cheers!

 

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The “Whole” Enchilada

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After surviving my Anatomy and Physiology class I have finally rewarded myself with a much needed break.  It has been a long while since I have had a chance to read and research nutrition.  My books have collected dust on the nightstand next to my bed.  But now I am back in the game and I am loving what I am learning.  A couple of friends had told me about a new book and nutrition regiment called “The Whole 30.”  Based upon the book, “It Starts With Food,” Dallas and Melissa Hartwig address the idea how the food we eat each day is harming our body and could be the possible root to many illnesses and diseases ailing the general public.  It is not the first book I have encountered in my readings to hit upon this idea, but I always enjoy learning what each individual’s personal take is on the theory.

When I say the “food” we eat I mean the overly processed, meal-in-a-box variety that haunts a majority of our grocery shelves.  The need for quick meals and food at our fingertips began when our society grew and expanded decades ago.  Instead of growing vegetables, using local markets and eating “closer to the earth,” our society’s on-the-spot demand for products led to mass-produced quantities of canned this, dehydrated that, all carried large-haul shipments across the nation and around the world.  To preserve food, companies had to find a way to keep it from spoiling while traveling to your grocer’s shelf.  Begin the era of additives, preservatives and food dyes.  There is enough room to write about this phenomenon, but I am not going to boggle you down in those details.  It is worth research, though, just so you can be a more proactive consumer.

Today we are becoming more educated, mainly because our health has slowly deteriorated.  Although a lot of companies still use preservatives and such in their products, many are taking notice of what consumers are asking for and removing some of those harmful things.  But you still run into the problem of keeping food from spoiling, and this still requires some sort of preservative or less-than-natural additive in food.  And this is where much of the problem arises today.  I mean, how many of you have been to a restaurant and seen bottles of mayonnaise sitting on the tables instead of in the refrigerator? That is the stuff that makes my stomach flip a little and want to run the other way.

I have always been someone that tried to eat healthy, but ignorance was my enemy and I made a lot of mistakes.  I ate low-fat, store-bought foods and completely missed the forest for the trees.  Instead of looking at the ingredient lists of what I ate, I always payed attention to the calorie and fat content.  I am not saying those things are not of major concern, but they are definitely only a piece of the proverbial pie in today’s nutritional regiments.  Now I am more concerned about what a product has in it in addition to making sure it is not loaded with saturated fat, sodium and trans-fats.  But that isn’t really enough for me, and I want to go a step further and get closer to eating things with ingredients I can say.  I want to open up my refrigerator and see more condiments and food that I made with ingredients I want to use so I know it will be good for my body.

This is how I ended up becoming interested in The Whole 30 program.  So now I am setting out on an endeavor and trying to adhere to the 30 day eating regiment and see if I feel as great as others claim to feel.  I am excited to learn how to make my own ketchup, BBQ sauce and other food items with the ingredients I want my family to eat.  Today marks a full week on the program.  Was I perfect?  No, but I tend to not do well with really strict regiments.  I just love the process of flavors, textures and such when I cook.  But I will say I stuck with it until the weekend.  I had a few missteps in the form of Vodka, red wine (my ultimate indulgence) and a few birthday cookies.  But I was more conscious of what I was eating and why.  So I still feel the Whole 30 was in my head and working because I was being mindful of what I ate on the “naughty” list, and I took the time to enjoy each bite.  I never would have done that before this trial, diving head first into a delicious cookie without really tasting it.  Hope that makes sense, but it is truly how I felt when I sat and thought about my week.  I never felt guilt, I guess I just appreciated and sensed flavors better after having an entire six days with really good, whole foods that didn’t have a lot of additives, sugar or other stuff I can’t pronounce (or even type correctly).  I am A-Okay with that too.

I will check in again after going through another week of the program and trying out some new recipes.  I think once I get the hang of cooking in this mindset, I will be able to become more adventuresome in my cooking.  For right now, I am pulling things from the books.

The hardest part of this program is not being able to drink wine.  That is such a cultural thing for me, and I do miss all its pomp and circumstance.  So I am not going to beat myself up when I slip and have a glass, or two, of something fruity and fabulous.

If you are interested in checking out the Whole 30 program, I highly recommend reading the book “It Starts with Food.”  It gives you a lot of the  reasoning and science behind the program.  Those are two areas I am extremely interested in, so I read every single page and added lots of highlights.  If you are not into that and just want to find a good regiment to kick-start a healthy lifestyle, then just get the Whole 30 book/recipe guide online or at your local bookstore.

For any other information, just visit the web site at http://www.whole30.com.  There you can read a bit about the authors, their educational background and get insight from others who have adhered to the program.

Wish me luck as I continue on, and I promise to be open and honest about my progress!

Until next time,

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Miracle Worker: How fascia can make or break your body

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The start of a new year brings typical resolutions to eat better, work out more, etcetera and etcetera. With all these new “regulations” and “requirements” we put on ourselves, it is prudent to remember to start slow and give those tired-out, unused muscles a good stretch. I am not talking Stretch Armstrong stuff here—what I mean is by preventing injury, muscles feel the need to bend and pull a little before they are forced to go Mach 10 on a treadmill.

For a gym rat like myself, I am constantly surfing the Web or reading various fitness/nutrition magazines to learn new and essential things I can do for my overall health. It is always a goal for me to do what I can to prevent injury, disease and physical strain on this one body I have to live in. Which leads me to the subject of this article: fascia.

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What is “fascia?” No, I didn’t mean to type the word “facial” and just misplaced a couple of letters. For those who have studied the human body, you probably know what this miracle organ is, and why it is so important to our health. As for the rest of us laymen, fascia is the connective tissue that acts very much like a thin stocking over our bones, muscles and other connective tissues. If you think about peeling an orange, and the thin layer that covers the pulp, our fascia acts in a similar manner. It keeps all the important stuff in our body in one place. We all are born with fascia, but how we treat this little miracle organ creates the path to how our body responds to everyday stress and activity.

There has been lots of traffic on this subject, the fascia. Goop.com had a great article several months ago highlighting a personal trainer by the name of Lauren Roxburgh. Roxburgh lives and teaches in California and for over 20 years she has studied the body, mind and spirit (she has a degree in nutrition and exercise science and is also a structural integration practitioner, A.K.A. fascia expert). Roxburgh, now dubbed the “Body Whisperer” by some of Hollywood’s most elite celebrities, created a program that is dedicated to stretching and exercising the fascia. Her weapon of choice, you ask? A basic foam roller, the kind you see lying around in the corner at your local gym.

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Roxbourgh claims her classes give her clients the opportunity to lengthen the muscles, improve overall alignment and even alleviate pain. Roxburgh has a book coming out in 2016, and I plan to purchase it so I can read more about her methods with this fascinating part of the human body. If you want to do your own research on her, she is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pintrest. Or you can simply type in her name in any search engine and find pages of great information.

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After reading about this woman, and what she has basically spent her life researching, I wanted to learn more about the fascia and find out a way I could work on mine since the chance of having a private session with her is slim-to-none.

Aside from Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes getting their fascia worked over by Roxbourgh, it harbors the question as to what we can do in our own environment and time to help “work out” our own fascia. One thing to remember is fascia tends to be a fluid system that needs constant hydration. The less hydrated our body, and our fascia, is the greater risk for tears and ruptures. For example, I left a wishbone out on the counter the other day for my daughter and I to pull apart when she returned home from school. It sat on the kitchen counter all day, drying out and becoming brittle. When it was time to see who got to make the wish, my daughter and I both lost out because the bone was so dry it shattered into several pieces. Fascia can do the same thing if left without hydration, like a dried-out kitchen sink sponge. Remember everyone telling you to drink plenty of water? Well, there is still a lot of truth and necessity to that piece of advice.

If we know that working the fascia out like any other muscle group in our body is beneficial, what exactly do we need to do? For starters, switching up your workout routine is a great way to shake things up. When a certain body part is consistently used without proper training and stretching, it can become weak and susceptible to injury. If you are an avid gym junkie, think about alternating days for running, doing the elliptical or some other form of cardio workout. Take a few group classes to change the way your muscles move. It can be beneficial to the metabolic system as well as the muscular structure to change things up and make our muscles “think on their feet” so to speak. Ever tried yoga or Pilates? That is another area to get the fascia stretched and strengthened. A good friend of mine owns a yoga studio in the town where I live, and she is skilled and knowledgeable in various forms of yoga, body flows and vinyasa classes. Most recently she has started up an aerial arts program at her studio, which I have been a diligent student for the past six months. When it comes to working out my fascia, I now realize this woman sees it accomplished properly each week! And I thank her for it.

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I found on Breakingmuscle.com a great and simple checklist to help me better maintain my own fascia. Here it is:

  1. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  2. Vary your movement patterns (this means switching up your exercise routines)
  3. Keep in mind that with fascia, “it’s all connected.” Like the song we learned as kids about hipbones and leg bones being connected, so goes for fascia. When you get an injury in the foot, for example, and you have weak fascia, chances are you will eventually feel some pain in your hip or even the lower back. Left unchecked, you could see that pain work its way up the body. Ouch!
  4. Keep the spring in your step! Get physical every day, even if it means a simple walk or parking in the far end of the lot to have a longer hike into the grocery store.
  5. Fascia is the largest sensory organ in our body, greater than the human retina. We keep our eyes in tune with glasses, contacts or yearly examinations. Why not do the same for the fascia? Consider buying your own foam roller (Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls carry them). Find some stretching routines you can do for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day.

Perhaps I am a nerd for being so interested in this subject, but I have had plenty of injuries in my lifetime, and plenty of injections to help those injuries. So I completely buy into the idea of keeping this amazing organ functioning to its full potential. Had I been more conscientious of that a couple years ago, it may have saved me a few visits to the orthopedist office. For my resolution this year, here is what I plan to do. I am going to pull my own foam roller out of the closet, look up Rosburgh’s specific plan and start the stretching process. Because one thing is for sure, flexibility is a necessity to maintain a well-balanced life.

Of course I can incorporate wine into about any subject, and fascia is one of them. When I was thinking of the connection between this awesome organ and my favorite drink, it dawned on me the relationship exists between fascia and grape skins.

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For a winemaker, knowing when to pick the grape can make or break a harvest. Pick a grape too soon, and your wine can turn out too tannic and higher in acidity. Pick a grape too late, and your wine can turn out to be too flat in taste, smell and body. When it comes to making the perfect vintage, it is safe to say the skins of a grape can play a pretty large role, especially for red wine vintners. It plays a part not only in the color of the wine, but also in the taste. How a winemaker chooses to begin the fermentation process will determine how the skins are treated. Some winemakers, depending on the type of wine they are producing, will use maceration. This process, mainly used with red wine, allows crushed grapes to mellow with the skins, seeds and even branches. It can help bring out softer tannins and unique flavors. Much like the way our fascia plays an integral part in our physical well being, grape skins can affect how a simple piece of fruit can become something splendid and pleasing to the palate.

The next time you decide to have a glass of wine, whether it is white or red, think about what the skin served to help bring whatever flavors and aromas you find floating out of your glass. Some of the biggest triumphs and treasures can come from something very thin and very fragile.

Until next time, cheers!

To Brew or Not To Brew…

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As many of my close friends and family know, I am a big health nut.  I love learning about new healthy techniques to keep my body strong and as free of toxins as possible.  Last year my dear friend (she knows I am completely into anything “organic” or “detoxifying”) shared a bit of knowledge she learned from a close buddy.  It was about a beverage called Kombucha Tea.

Many of you have probably heard of this drink.  It has been the latest rage in the natural-living trend encompassing our society the past couple of decades.  If you haven’t heard of it, don’t let the name fool you.  This beverage is not your typical glass of Lipton tea.  Although its origins come from ancient China (research has found that people began making it some 2000 years ago), this “tea” is a result of fermenting a bacterial culture in a brew made of filtered water, sugar and usually a green or black tea blend.  But please don’t go into hysterics at the mention of drinking something that is a derivative of bacteria.  This particular bacterium is good for your gut!

When I first heard of this beverage I drove to my local natural food store and picked up a couple of bottles so I could give it a go.  Despite the steep price, I loved it!  First off, I used to be a diet soda addict.  I craved its tangy sweetness and carbonation.  The Kombucha I tried had similar qualities.  It was tangy, with just a hint of sweetness on the finish.  The tea was also carbonated.  Here was a total replacement for the beverage I grudgingly gave up last year.

I continued to go to my local health food store and pick up four bottles every week, cringing each time I forked over the money to the sales clerk.  I justified the price for all the great health benefits this tangy beverage provided for my body.  If you are wondering what the benefits are, you can do a google search and find mutltiple websites for it.  That is what I did when I first learned of it, and the more I read the more I knew this drink was something I needed in my daily diet.

For starters, Kombucha is considered to be a great probiotic, something we tend to need more and more these days thanks to a lot of the processed foods and chemicals we are willingly (and unwillingly) exposed too.  The probiotics keep the digestive track running properly, helping cleanse the body of those nasty toxins swimming around in our gut.   Having a healthy gut also helps keep your immune system running better, so you could attribute Kombucha to that as well!  Some people claim it has cancer-curing aspects or the B vitamins and detoxifying minerals help cure other diseases.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I figure a little of it in moderation definitely can’t hurt you.  So I keep on drinking.

Talking probiotics and fermentation, I bet you are wondering what is really in Kombucha?  Kombucha Tea comes from fermenting a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).  SCOBYs can have many names, such as “mother,” “baby” or just simply “culture.”  What you have to be aware of when buying a SCOBY is that the culture is sealed in a sterile environment with its starter liquid (which is just about a cup of Kombucha tea).  Don’t drink or make Kombucha from dried or dehydrated SCOBYs, it’s not good eats people.

Here is my healthy SCOBY that I have already used twice to make my own Kombucha:

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So how does one avoid paying the price (somewhere around $4 a bottle) on a weekly basis when we know this stuff is pretty good for us?  Simple, make it at home.  Once I did a little research online and talked to a few Kombucha-drinking friends, I realized that I didn’t have to set aside a separate trust fund to keep Kombucha stocked in my fridge.  I could just make it myself!

It is actually extremely easy to do, and after you get that first batch under your belt and work out your brewing kinks, you too can have Kombucha tea flowing freely in your home.  The best web site I have found, based on a friend’s recommendation, has been kombuchakamp.com.  This site is owned and operated by Hannah Crum, and she has been brewing Kombucha and educating countless other individuals on the benefits of this drink.  Her site is easily navigable and she even has a starter kit for first-time brewers, such as myself.  It is what I purchased before I made my first Kombucha brew.  Hannah offers lots of great video tutorials if you get stuck on something, and you can even e-mail or call her to get tips.  Her SCOBYs are 100% quality product, and she uses all organic tea blends and sugars in her kits.  I would definitely recommend visiting this site if you think you want to start making your own Kombucha tea.

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Kombuchakamp.com has easy, step-by-step guides to brewing the tea at home. Now we need to make sure you have the right equipment.  Here is what you will need to make your first brew:

–A 1-gallon glass jar, preferably with a wide opening

–Organic black, green or herbal tea blend (you can use loose-leaf tea or bags)

–A piece of cloth and rubber band, large enough to cover and secure to the top of your glass jar

–Organic sugar, turbinado is best (don’t use artificial sweeteners or “diet” sugars-it can mess up your SCOBY and interfere with brewing)

–I SCOBY with starter liquid

–A tea pot/kettle

Make sure you also have a warm, dark place to brew your tea.  Laundry room counters or the top of refrigerators are some great places.  You just need to be sure the temp is between 70-80 degrees and that airflow is consistent around the jar.

It might seem intimidating to think about brewing something that contains bacteria, but really it is very simple and if you follow the guidelines you will be successful.  If you haven’t tried Kombucha tea before, go out and buy a bottle to see if you like it.  And if you do, then save some hard-earned dollars and make your own at home!  You can also flavor your home-made Kombucha.  I like to use ginger, mint, fresh strawberries, goji berries, blueberries, even lavender.  The world is your oyster when it comes to flavor combinations.  Here are my two Kombuchas with ginger/mint/goji berry and POM juice/strawberry/mint.  Delish!

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To learn more about Kombucha, visit www.kombuchakamp.com

Now, for your wine tip of the day.  Kombucha is a very unique beverage, and its taste and carbonation remind me of one of my absolute favorite wines to drink:  Champagne!

Champagne may not have the health benefits of Kombucha, but I love how the tartness and bubbles remind me of this unique wine.  Not all sparkling wine is Champagne, but all Champagne is sparkling wine.  To be called “Champagne,” the wine MUST come from the Northeast region of France…the Champagne region.  Otherwise the bubbly beverage will be referred to as “sparkling wine. “

Champagne can be made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes, or it can also be made with from dark-skinned grapes such as Pinot Noir.  Many Champagne wines are a blend of these grapes, which gives vineyards their distinctive flavors.  Some will be sweet (Demi-sec or Doux), some semi-dry (Brut) and others will be bone-dry (Extra brut).  Depending on your taste for wine, you choose the level of sweet-to-dry ratio.

Many people only reserve Champagne for “special occasions,” such as birthdays, graduations or weddings.  But I love to just pop open a bottle on a random Wednesday night.  Why not?  Isn’t life worth celebrating every day?  Don’t put Champagne in a separate category that restricts your ability to drink it whenever you want.  It can be a great starter wine at parties before you open the heavy-hitter red wines.  Or you can have it to go with a light seafood or chicken dish.

There are many different kinds of Champagne out there, and lots of different prices.  But if you need a go-to label, I would search Roederer Estate.  I always keep a bottle of this around my house and it won’t empty your wallet.  The flavors are outstanding, much like a Dom Pérignon, but for around $25 a bottle.  I can even buy this at my local grocery store.  There are many big-name Champagne labels, such as Krug, Bollinger and the aforementioned Dom.  But to me, the wine can make just as big a statement without a hefty price tag.  So save the Dom for your “special occasion” and open the Roederer Estate to celebrate surviving a Monday.

Until next time, cheers!

Women: What is Our Self Worth?

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I have to vent a little on this post.  I said in an earlier blog this particular subject would come up again with me.  And now it has…such a dichotomy of thoughts on what I want to express here.  The subject is a woman, and the issue is our self-worth.

So where does one start with this?  History has shown, and still shows to this day, women are often valued based on “self-worth.”  Until the early 21st century, a woman didn’t have a true place outside the home and was considered “worthy” based on the amount of dowry she could bring to a marriage.  Thankfully most of that has changed in modern times.  We have seen the rise of women’s liberation, breaking the glass ceiling and even women holding high-ranking leadership positions throughout the world.  This being said, why do we, as women, still fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our worth?  Why do we focus so hard on the numbers on a scale?  Why do we care whether or not we look a certain way or play a certain role in our life?

It surrounds use everywhere, images of beautiful women on billboards, buses, in magazines and newspapers.  We see them on television, perfect visions of the ideal female body.  Perfect hair, teeth, clothes, you name it and these women have it.  But do they?  It is basic marketing and advertising to promote a product.  Sex sells, right?  Hasn’t that been the slogan of American advertising companies (including Hollywood pictures) to get consumers to buy products or go see a movie?  Catchy phrases and slogans are used to lure women and men into the marketplace to purchase the “next best thing.”  It’s a consumer’s world, and I truly love it all.  But you have to look at these things with jaded goggles.  You have to know which is fact and which is fiction.

I majored in communication studies at Vanderbilt, so I did a lot of reading and writing.  I loved this major mainly because it brought me out of my small town shell and into the real world of thinking and feeling.  My professors pushed me to really dive head first into the words I read in speeches (ranging anywhere from Washington’s Inaugural Address to Martin Luther King’s speeches-there are more than just THE ONE).  I loved hearing these individuals and all their ideals.  The moments that changed their lives and made them better people, better thinkers and better ideologists.  I loved these words because it helped me think more about who I was and who I WANTED to be in this world.

It brings me back to dealing with the mindset I find in my own sex.  The belief that, despite how strong we may appear on the outside, we still fall prey deep down in our psyche to numbers and self-worth ideals.  And I am just as guilty as the woman next to me in line at Target.

Let’s face it; I am a total consumer in today’s modern age.  I love gadgets, read tabloids and watch Entertainment Television.  I do admit reality TV is something I truly despise.  I can’t stomach watching people make complete fools of themselves and believe they are not acting out a pre-scripted role.  Reality?  Not hardly, especially when there is a camera following you around the room.  Think about it-when you get that sudden interview for a local news channel and the camera is shoved in your face, how do you act?  No way close to natural, right?  But I digress…

I have amazing friends in my life, and they all help me in one way or the other.  We support one another, hear the laughter and share the tears.  Yet each time we get together I can’t help but notice how the conversation always turns to the latest diet, what our weight is, or how we wish we looked this way or that way.  Lusting over body types and how much we want to fit “back into our old size.”  Talking about the latest failure in the kitchen (I ate a pan of brownies or devoured a sleeve of Thin Mints), it seems these women (myself included) boil the conversations down to how little we feel our self worth is in life.  And every time I leave a dinner or social gathering with my friends I find myself shaking my head and having to tell myself there is more to life than what came up in our conversations.  We are all strong, independent women with families and responsibilities.  Some of us work outside the home, which adds to the pressures faced each day.  Yet we all still boil down to numbers on a scale or feeling we should fit a certain “mold.”  It makes my heart ache a little to think it, even type it.

So that is what I am here to say in this piece-to remind each and every one of us (myself included) that our self worth is more than just a number on the scale, a size plastered on a pair of designer jeans or an image of what we “wish” we could be in life.  There are so many examples, so many instances where I want to shake the individual in front of me and scream to the person “You are more than this!”  But I don’t, and instead try and offer the most supportive advice and motivation I can.  I have dealt with that battle, the feeling of needing to measure up to the person beside me, to fit an ideal.  And I am over it.  Can I scream that now?  I AM OVER IT!  I know who I am inside and out.  I know my weaknesses and my strengths.  It has taken a lot of time and hard confrontations to realize this, but I am thankful for each and every one of them.  I have handled weight issues, eating “issues” and trying to fit into a certain mold.  But you know what, it really isn’t what matters at the end of the day.  What matters is the knowledge that my children are safe and healthy, my family is happy and that I am doing whatever is in my power to make sure I remain on this earth to take care of them all.  Not because it is what society expects me to do, but because I want to be there.  I want to share in the memories and pass on to my children whatever knowledge I have to offer.  This is what life is really about, making a difference outside of our “self” and fighting tooth and nail against what is typically expected of our sex.

I am not a radical person, just a realistic individual who is tired of the fight waged against my sex.  I am over the feeling that I am not “enough” simply because I don’t work outside the home or volunteer enough at my kids school.  I do the best that I can each and every day, and some days I make huge mistakes while other days I conquer the world.  It would be this way whether I had a 9-5 job or continue the “domestic diva” role I currently hold.  I guess what I am saying is I own up to what I do, find the things in life that make me happy, give fuel to my ambition and try to keep myself balanced.

I am over the feeling that I need to look a certain way.  I like my own style, bright colors and things that make me feel comfortable.  I don’t wear things to impress those around me; I wear things that make me feel GOOD!  If it is considered revealing or out of the ordinary, I don’t care.  It is my style, what I move freely in and what I like.  I know my body and I know my limits.  So I go with it and choose not to sweat the small stuff.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter because I get up the next day to see the sweet smiles of my babies saying “good morning mommy.”  I get a kiss or hug from my husband, and yes I bring him coffee every morning along with my own cup.  These are the things that really matter.

Sure I will have moments when I think a dress may fit a little too tight, or I should lay off the dessert for a few days and let my body recoup.  But I am finished with counting calories, analyzing every single thing that goes in my mouth because it truly makes life miserable.  As I have found, life it way too short to sweat the small stuff.  So here is what I want you to do, if you feel inclined.  Throw away the damn scale (go by how your clothes FEEL).  When you eat food, really taste its flavors and enjoy what it has to offer your palate.  How does the food make your body feel?  Listen to what it tells you and you will discover the things that make your own being function on a healthy day-to-day basis.  Forget trying to fit into a certain mold; instead find what makes you feel good about yourself; what makes your body run the way it should.

Some people may see me as a health freak, or weight-conscious individual who worries about appearances.  But really, I am not.  I do love going to the gym because of the mental release I experience, plus the challenge I can place on myself when I am there.  I need that challenge to exist on a daily basis.  I also love food and cooking.  I enjoy the stuff that isn’t so good for me because I know I also give my body enough of the things that make it feel good.  Balance-that is what I have FINALLY learned.  It has been a long, hard road, but I am getting it a little more each day.

So you see, I am not perfect, nor do I want to be perfect.  I am the person I want to be, I am getting comfortable in my own skin.  And it has been a long and arduous road to get to this point.  But I am so thankful to be here and hopefully can exude some of it on my fellow mates.

Those who know me know I love wine.  Wine is something I can never give up; it’s just a part of my individuality.  And I love learning about it each and every day.  In fact, my wine tip of the day comes from a great magazine article in the latest Wine Spectator.  The article is about Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the French matriarch of one of the leading vineyards in the world.  Her family has produced award-wining wines from their vineyards in Bordeaux since 1853.  If you haven’t had the chance to taste a Mouton-Rothschild or Lafite-Rothschild, I hope you get it.  The wines are outstanding and always hold up to the Rothschild standard of winemaking.

Interestingly enough, Philippine’s father, Baron Philippe Rothschild, did not believe women had a place in the world.  Yet, here is his daughter holding court over a multi-million dollar business for over 20 years.  She has helped the Rothschild name grow into the 21st century, expanding the family’s business interests across International Waters.  If you get a chance, you should read the article or do some research on this incredible woman.  Pick up the latest copy of Wine Spectator or search the Baroness and her wines online.  There are many subsidiary wineries and joint ventures that won’t drain your wallet but still offer the Rothschild quality.

And for further enlightenment on your journey, here are a few books that I have read along the way; hopefully they will make the same impact on you as they did on me.  Forgive me if I get the bibliography wrong.  I am a bit rusty and blowing the dust off my Bedford Handbook from college.

Bordo, Susan.  Unbearable Weight:  Feminism, Western Culture and the Body.

California:  University of California Press, 1993.

Bordo, Susan.  Twilight Zones:  The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J.

California:  University of California Press, 1997.

Sadeghi, Dr. Habib.  WITHIN:  A Spiritual Awakening of Love & Weight Loss.

Los Angeles:  Premier Digital Publishing, 2013.

Bradley Bayou.  The Science of Sexy.  New York:  Gotham Books, 2007.

Sloughing off Cells

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Recently my good friend asked me if I did “dry brushing.”  “Dry brushing?” I asked.  Hmmm, I had to think for a bit and remember if I had heard of this technique before.  Thinking, thinking…nope.  Never heard of it, and certainly haven’t tried it.  “So what is it?” I ask my friend.  She leads me to a few web sites and a YouTube video, allowing me to discover this little “secret of the spas” practice which claims numerous benefits ranging from detoxification to cellulite reduction.  Cellulite reduction?  Really?  I am SOLD!

So I start to delve into the world of dry brushing, wanting to know exactly what it is, the kind of tools used and if the benefits touted by practitioners really have some validity to them.

Here is what I have found after a little digging.  Dry brushing, most commonly used in spas, is basically the practice of taking an all-natural bristled brush and gently rubbing this DRY brush all over your body before hopping into a toasty warm shower. To dry brush correctly you should start at your feet and move up the legs and body in gentle, circular motions.  The idea is to move the brush towards the heart’s center.  And remember, be gentle.  Taking the top layer of your skin off is not the goal of this holistic practice. Proponents say to dry brush at least once, if not twice, a day.

Okay, now for the benefits.  As I mentioned earlier, cellulite reduction is SUPPOSEDLY one of the biggest benefits to dry brushing.  The other benefits (as if they matter, right?) include tighter skin, increased circulation (which aids in the detoxification process) and removing dead skin cells from the body.

In my web search I did find a few sites that insisted the benefits should be taken with a grain of salt, but there really are no harmful effects to dry brushing.  Which is why I went out and bought an all natural brush-you can find them at your local Wal-Mart, Target or some grocery stores-and started dry brushing.  I try and do it at least once a day. But remember, I have two kids, so sometimes it is hard to even squeeze in a shower for myself.  Have I seen any benefits?  Well, not really, but I do notice my skin is a lot softer than before.  I don’t think I have done it long enough to notice a reduction in cellulite.  But I am staying optimistic!

So if you feel inclined, give the dry brushing a go and see what you think.  If anything, you can slough off a few dead skins cells in the process.  But if you find your skin gets irritated from the brushing, I would stop and just stick to whatever skin regiment you did before.

For more information, you can visit the site I found informative on dry brushing.  Simply go to http://www.mindbodygreen.com.  And because I always like to know the good with the  bad, I found some helpful information on http://www.drweil.com.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “spa” I think of relaxation…which makes me think of grabbing a glass of wine.  So here is my wine tip for you readers.  If you are planning a trip to the spa, or just need a moment to relax and unwind, I like to open up something that is light and crisp.  For this type of wine, you can try a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.  One of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs is from Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, Ca.  But there are plenty of inexpensive labels out there with good flavors.  You really can’t go wrong with this type of wine.  If you are looking for an unoaked chardonnay, Mer Soleil’s Silver is unbelievably tart and crisp for this type of wine.  It is usually in the $25 range, and it comes in a really beautiful ceramic bottle.

For more information on these wines, visit http://www.raymondvineyards.com or http://www.mersoleilvineyard.com

Until next time, cheers!