30 Day Yoga Challenge

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After two weeks of being plagued by illness (or as my boyfriend so eloquently stated, I was a succubus), and another week of being unnecessarily lazy, I decided I need a serious challenge to get this badonkadonk back in shape. I literally feel like my muscles have atrophied into oblivion.

Side note: I have an insanely busy schedule.

I work full-time in the mental health field and commute 2 hours each day. This means that 10-12 hours of my day are spent either at work or traveling to and from work. When I am at home, I have to cook, clean, and care for my three adorable kitty cats, all of which are on special diets, making even their feeding schedules time-consuming. Most of my phone calls to friends and family are conducted during my long drives, and whatever extra hours I have in my day goes towards exercising, watching reality television, and spending time with my extremely attractive boyfriend (boyfriend has a name, it’s Rand, and he is pretty awesome).

That being said, obviously I am considering adding more to this list…because I am insane.

After reading this blog entry, I was inspired. I always preach to my clients that they need to practice self-care, yet I certainly do not take my own advice. Rand always tells me I am a machine (I know, he really does have adorable, romantic nicknames for me, doesn’t he?). In fact, I have no idea how to relax. If I have absolutely nothing scheduled, nothing to do, clean, or organize, I am unable to just sit down and chill out. I always have to be moving around or doing something. At this very moment, instead of sipping my coffee and vegging out in front of the television, I am writing this blog entry…get the picture?

After all of this rambling, I guess I should talk about the challenge.

30 Day Yoga Challenge

  1. I will complete 30 consecutive days of yoga, which is pretty self-explanatory.
  2. I must complete a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga per day, including one day of yoga over 20 minutes.
  3. Yoga does not have to be completed in a class format, and can be conducted at home.
  4. I can try any level of yoga, but I must complete more than 3 poses in a sequence.
  5. Yoga can be completed at any time of day.

So there it is. You may be reading this and thinking, challenge? seriously? five minutes a day does not seem like a challenge, you’re a drama queen. Okay, so I am a drama queen, but this brings me to the second part of my challenge.

90 Day Exercise Challenge

  1. I will complete all 3 phases of the ChaLean Extreme program in 3 months (Burn, Push, Lean Phase).
  2. I will follow the class schedule as much as possible, and complete 5 workouts a week.
  3. I will continue to do 15-30 minutes of physical therapy for my lower back and hip, approximately 3-5 days a week.

A disclaimer for this challenge. I will not be angry or hate myself if I need to skip a day, life happens, and I will try my best. 

Before I got sick, I was following the ChaLean Extreme program religiously, and I lost approximately 8 lbs in a month and a half, with inches melting away like butta. I had only 2 weeks of the program left to complete before I got sick. Due to the succubus sabbatical I took, I felt I needed to start the program from the beginning, as I am pretty sure I pulled a muscle from lifting a 5 lb weight yesterday.

In my previous entry on Herbal Remedies, I mentioned my long history with knee problems. Well, due to these injuries and my awesome luck, I also developed a strange lower back and hip problem, causing my hip to just dislocate whenever it feels like it. This is where the physical therapy part of the challenge comes in.

So overall, I may be pretty insane, but this is my slightly neurotic way of practicing self-care and wellness. If I have problems just relaxing, well then, maybe that is exactly what I have to practice, and I feel yoga will be my path to understanding how to slow down and be mindful of my health. I am no yogi, and I am certainly very (I mean very) beginner, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Resources for the challenge

Yoga Journal Okay, so this website is amazing. Not only do they have actual yoga videos that you can follow, free of charge, but they also allow you to customize and build your own sequence. Did I mention that it is free?

If you love beachbody workouts as much as I do, check out ChaLean Extreme (unfortunately, I am unable to provide a direct link to the website…darn internet rules). If you would like a link to the customized workout sheets for the program, contact me. I may also provide information regarding the program in future posts.

So get off your couch, put down the cheez-its (why are they so amazing…why?) grab your yoga mat, and join me, April 1st, in this challenge.

Namaste.

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Herbal Remedies

I have always been extremely clumsy, accident prone, with a Ph.D. in the art of bad luck.

Now, before I sound like a complete hypochondriac, let’s briefly review a snippet of my track record, shall we?

In high school, I ended up in the hospital after my “friend” decided he would pick me up in the mall. The result? A dislocated patella. (Crazy girl side note: My kneecap ended up on the side of my leg, and despite the excruciating pain, I refused to let the nurse cut my favorite pair of jeans. I mean, how hard is it to find the perfect pair of jeans? Don’t judge me. It took me a year to heal and my knee was never the same).

In college, I ended up at the health center after an insane rash developed all over my body, only to be told by the doctor (and I use that term loosely) that I had scabies (which turned out to be untrue…how gross). I went to my primary care doctor, who was so shocked by the misdiagnosis that he literally knee-slap laughed in my face, all while bracing himself on the counter. I, in fact, was having my first allergic reaction in my life at age 18. Since that time, allergy medication has been my savior (I’m looking at you Claritin D).

Shortly after, I was attacked by my refrigerator (true story) in my dorm room. I will spare you the details, but that refrigerator was out to get me. After weeks of MRI’s and X-rays, I was eventually told my ACL pretty much no longer existed and I needed surgery. Lucky for me, this was the same leg I messed up previously, so it was proficient at being completely useless.

In short, I have a lot of hands-on experience being a patient. Let’s get to my point, shall we?

How many times have you gone to the doctor, handed over approximately 20-60 dollars for your co-pay (imagine how many cups of coffee you could purchase with that still in your pocket…), only to be told one of the following statements.

Here, take this Z-Pack.

Here, try this (enter any steroid, acne, skin cream here) and see what happens.

Oh, it is probably just stress.

Or my personal favorite…

If you still have pain in a year, come back and see me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know going to the doctor is a necessary part of life. I also know medication and medical research has helped improve the lives of many, heal those that need healing, and save the lives of loved ones. I don’t despise the medical profession, and I am not a liberal hippie cursing the corporate pharmaceutical companies for feeding the capitalist agenda (okay, so they are kind of  like legal drug dealers). In fact, my boyfriend’s mother is a doctor, who is extremely helpful, intelligent, kind, and always looking for an answer to any health woe that comes her way, whether through a natural cure or with the use of an appropriate medication.

But…a big but…

Some physician’s just straight up suck.

We have all been in a situation where a doctor prescribes you a medication because they have no idea what is wrong with you and pretends to care about your overall well-being, all while never making eye contact with you or taking the time to actually understand your symptoms.

In a way, I understand. We live in a culture where if you take a pill, your problem is fixed. Oh you’re depressed? Take a pill. Oh, you have acne? Here, try this prescription face wash. Oh, you need to shed some pounds? Diet pills are the answer! Even schools and some employers require a doctor’s note, forcing you to trek over to your primary care doctor.

In my quest to heal some of my health problems, I realized that not everything requires a pill or a visit to my doctor. For example, recently I learned that many health issues can even be correlated to allergies, forcing you to change your environment and even your diet (hence why I will be going gluten free, future posts shall follow).

Because I know many people in my life suffer from similar health problems, I thought I would share my top three herbal remedies that I use on a regular, and almost daily, basis. Please keep in mind that I am obviously not a doctor and before trying any of these remedies, do your own research. Some people have this misconception that because something is “herbal” “organic” “natural” that it is safe. NOT TRUE. Anything you put in or on your body could potentially have a side effect.

Turmeric

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Scientific name: Curcuma longa, Curcuma domestica

Turmeric is a miraculous spice that is grown in India and some tropical regions of Asia. The active ingredient in Turmeric is called curcumin. Not only is the color and taste of Turmeric used in food coloring and flavoring, but turmeric is also an antioxidant, and continues to undergo research for anti-cancer effects! How cool is that?

Why use it?

Well, besides the amazing superman cancer fighting powers, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help relieve inflammation caused by arthritis and muscle sprains/aches. Turmeric also protects against liver diseases, reduces cholesterol, and my personal favorite, is a remedy for numerous digestive problems including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis,  and Crohn’s disease.

Ginger Root

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Scientific name: Zingiber officinale

Mmm Ginger…If you are a sushi lover, you have encountered this delicious herb. Originally cultivated in South Asia, the underground stem, also known as the rhizome, is used for both its edible and medicinal properties.  Ginger has similar uses as my previous friend Turmeric. It is primarily used to treat various types of stomach problems, but there is also evidence it provides pain relief for arthritis and muscle soreness, upper respiratory tract infections, and back/chest pain.

Just like Turmeric, ginger is an anti-inflamatory. Just pop a little ginger in your mouth when you’re feeling nauseous, and in about a half hour you will be up and running. Plus, I am giving you an excuse to go out and eat more sushi. Now I want sushi…

Tea Tree Oil

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Scientific/medical name(s): Melaleuca alternifolia

The most mysterious of the three, and probably the stinkiest, not many people have heard about the wonders of tea tree oil. It is an exctract from a plant native to Australia. Traditionally, tea tree oil was used as a topical antiseptic and antifungal treatment.

Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne, toenail fungus, eczema, and even gum disease (all of those super attractive things).

One of the coolest treatments I have heard of is the use of tea tree oil to combat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is resistant to most, if not all, antibiotic treatment. Research continues in this area.

Word of caution: Although all of the three natural remedies listed can have side effects, tea tree oil can cause severe allergic reactions and should never be ingested. Also, keep out of reach of animals. Not only is it toxic for some animals, but the smell can make them cuckoobananas. My one bengal cat, Nala, goes absolutely insane when she smells it. One whiff of that stuff and she starts drooling, sprinting, and bunny kicking anything she finds.

Sources:
Wedmd.com
Cancer.org
My own miraculous memory storage of wonders

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

If you are like most people in the world, you are probably on a diet as we speak.

Losing weight is a simple mathematical equation. There are 3,500 calories in a pound. Essentially, if you were to eat approximately 500 calories less each day, you could lose a pound a week (note: this is not taking into account exercise/activity level or your maximum daily caloric intake allotted)

We all took math class, and most of us know how to subtract, so why is it so difficult for people to lose weight and keep it off?

“I’ll start my diet on Monday.”

This is the mantra that ruins it all.

Many people who diet, myself included, fall victim to the all or nothing mentality when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Let’s set the stage, shall we?

It is Friday night and you are getting ready to go out with your friends. As you sip on your one cocktail of the night (or so you tell yourself), your tummy grumbling in anguish from “banking” calories all day, you reflect on the many smart eating choices you made since Monday. All week you have denied yourself the right to indulge in those cupcakes that your boyfriend brought home from the store, you stuck your nose up at your co-workers as they greedily shoved their faces with bagels and croissants, and you exercised vigorously everyday to try and squeeze into those skinny jeans that have been sitting in your closet since last summer.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. After a full weekend of eating out, drinking, and getting fancy drinks from the Starbucks drive-thru to cure your weekend hangover, you pretty much threw your diet out the window. Like most, your Sunday probably consists of you being curled up in your bed surrounded by a pizza box, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and chocolate truffles, kicking yourself for not sticking to your diet that weekend. Suddenly, without fault, that mantra sneaks into your head… “I’ll start my diet on Monday.”

Before you know it, you traded in those skinny jeans for sweat pants, and your new best friends are the remote control and your refrigerator.

If you are serious about losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle, then repeating this mantra on a weekly basis is sure to send you down a sad road of self-hatred and an irrational anger towards your food.

The first step in eliminating this barrier in your weight loss journey, is to stop dieting. I know, sounds pretty crazy right?

Let’s take a second and look at the word diet. Take away the “t” and the word die pretty much sums up how most of us feel trying to function when being on one. It is important to look at healthy eating as a lifestyle, not a medieval torture device.

Here are a few simple guidelines that have helped me work towards a healthier lifestyle.

Stop Making Excuses
The number one reason why I choose not to exercise is because of lack of time. The truth is, I would LOVE to wake up at 10 a.m. and exercise, but that just is not realistic. I have work and well, a life. Exercise should be a priority. Hopefully you brush your teeth and shower daily, so why not put exercise on that list of being non-negotiable? Wake up earlier to make time.

Keep Track

As cumbersome as it might sound, write down everything, and I mean everything, that you put in your mouth (get your mind out of the gutter). You may not think a little bit of extra cream in your coffee or nibbling on that second cookie makes a huge difference, but if you were to “accidentally” eat an extra 200 calories a day, that totals 1,400 extra calories a week! Tip: Bring your lunch to work rather than eating out. Not only will you keep your waistline from expanding, but you will also save your wallet from shrinking.

Mix it up!

If you are someone who can run on the treadmill every single day, and still feel excited to workout, then good for you. I hate you (kidding…sort of). In my experience, I have found that when I mix up my workouts during the week, I tend to be more consistent with exercise, and I enjoy it more. It is important that you also incorporate weight lifting or some sort of resistance training in your weekly plan. Although cardiovascular exercise burns calories, lifting weights keeps you toned and enhances your physique. With more muscle, your workouts will become more efficient, meaning MORE calories burned overall.

Put down the bottle.

Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking Belvedere on a Friday (and Saturday…sometimes Sunday, sorry mom…) night. But alcohol can be the evil nemesis on your weight loss journey. One issue with alcohol is that it offers zero nutrition. It is essentially empty calories. Alcohol also lowers our inhibitions. Combine these two issues, and you have a recipe for disaster. Not only will you be hungry after a night out, but you may also become the next victim of a midnight madness binge in your kitchen (Helloooo there pizza, doritos, and oh wait, are those oreos!?). If you really want to go out and have a few drinks, add more cardio to your daily routine instead of restricting calories and “banking” them for later in the day.

H20

Drink. More. Water. If you are someone who enjoys soda or juice, try replacing those beverages with some good ole H20. Many people do not realize that feeling hungry can actually be a symptom of dehydration. Drinking water will not only make you feel less hungry, but it can also help reduce headaches and binge-eating behaviors. Tip: Try drinking a glass of water before your meal to reduce over-eating.

Break the Fast

Breakfast. Eat it. Enough said.

It is important that you find what workouts you enjoy and to stop depriving yourself of foods you love! Moderation is key and being honest about your eating habits is a must. The only person standing between yourself and your weight loss goals is you.