A Healthy Lifestyle: Is It Worth It? Where I’m at Right Now.

I think it’s fair to say we all, generally-speaking, desire to live a balanced lifestyle.  Though, sometimes it seems like maneuvering such a lifestyle walks a fine line between managing a routine and increasing madness.  That’s right, I said it.  A healthy lifestyle can be hard.  As simple as it may sound to “just eat more fruit and vegetables”, that isn’t always the simple answer. 

a healthy lifestyle cauliflower rice burrito bowl
Cauliflower rice burrito bowl with black beans, tomato, carrots, corn, red onion, and cilantro.

I hold the belief that the food, exercises, behaviors, and even the thoughts we have are what determine our overall wellness.  If you’re just doing the exercise part, or, you aren’t mindfully connecting the food that you eat as being valuable to your health, then you may be missing out on some key parts of wellness.  These four areas are interconnected and, together, provide optimum health possibilities for you.  Here’s the catch: they require constant maintenance!

Recently, I began reading Alisa Vitti’s WomanCode.  The guidance outlined in the book addresses hormonal imbalance in women that perfectly aligns with the areas that I previously stated are (in my opinion) essential for overall wellness.  In addition to information about what the causes and signs of hormonal imbalance are (spoiler alert: they’re actually a lot more common than you think), Vitti provides an outline for food, exercise, and lifestyle choices that will best support women throughout their monthly cycle.  So, the adjustments that I’m currently making to sync with my cycle are my attempts to improve my health.   

a healthy lifestyle cycle calendar
Moon calendar of June which is representative of the woman’s four cycle phases.

I do believe that our bodies are ever-changing.  The sugary treats I used to eat on the regular as a kid don’t feel as good now.  Heck, even on a day-to-day basis, my mood can change and the kind of workout I am up for varies.  As far as my status of health and wellness goes, I feel pretty clear about what I want in my life and what I don’t (though, other areas of life, such as career paths, are something else).  I prefer to exclude food or activities that are toxic to my body and mind.  Instead, I’d rather place my focus on what does serve me and listen to the messages my body and mind give me. 

I started this post by saying how hard it is to keep up a healthy lifestyle.  There are several areas to juggle and sometimes it is overwhelming to keep trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Along the way, it might require taking a break from exercise or over-indulging in a restaurant-serving of pasta.  #LIFE  Trial and error sucks but the learning experiences help me reinforce why I started my health and fitness journey in the first place: to feel like my best self.    

We weren’t designed to live in one constant state or rigid daily ritual.  Rather, each day is different and each day we can learn how to better ourselves. 

a healthy lifestyle

I actually got inspiration for this thought piece from Alexis over at Hummusapien.  She recently wrote a post about her decision to live intuitively day to day.  I admire her mindset and I recommend you go check out her post for another great perspective on the whole healthy living scheme of things.

Thank you for reading!  I don’t have all of the answers (though, I’ve never claimed to) so I appreciate you for taking an interest in my thoughts and sticking around this little blog of mine.  Does the ever-changing nature of your health and fitness journey confuse you, too?  Let me know.  I love reading your comments♥

1 Bowl GF + V Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookies

When I was younger, my mom used to bake up cookies every few weeks to feed the sweet tooth that my sister and I had.  As a kid, nothing was better than a glass of milk and a belly full of cookies.  YES.  I had no self-restraint and never stopped at just one.  Homemade cookies are best when fresh so I would eat 4-5 that first day…and the second day…and maybe just two or three after that…if there were still any cookies left.

pumpkin cookies

Sadly, traditional cookies have several cups of sugar, white flour, butter, plus additional sugary add-ins.  Yupp, I don’t know how young Melanie did it!  If I tried to recreate my old 4-5 cookies indulgence these days I would definitely end up with a stomach ache.  Nowadays, I don’t crave cookies in the same way.  Though, sometimes your girl gets a craving for healthified versions of old favorites.  Thus, I whipped up some cookies that I consider to be more nutritionally balanced.

pumpkin cookies

Ingredients breakdown:

We’ve got banana and pumpkin to soften up the cookies and a mere ½ cup of sugar to sweeten them up.  I am extremely cautious about my sugar intake and, ever since reading Woman Code, I try to avoid adding excess sugar unless absolutely necessary (sidenote: possible post on this in the upcoming future).  The fact is: cookies just don’t taste like cookies without some kind of sweetener.  These are just lightly sweetened with a mixture of brown and coconut sugar.  Of course, you could add an extra ¼ cup of sugar for sweeter cookies.  Feel free taste-test the batter 😉  Though, I think you’ll find there is something nice about the subtle level of sweetness in these.

Also, let’s not forget about fats.  I know there are some cookie recipes out there that might bake up with simply banana but I like incorporating healthy fats into my food.  Why, you ask?  Well, fat helps slow the absorption of sugar and keeps me satiated.  Not to mention, it helps make the cookies crisp up on the outside and stay fluffy on the inside.

In addition, you can include up to a cup worth of dried fruit, nuts, ALOHA brand chopped chocolate, or whatever you like.  I went with a small amount of chocolate and walnuts to add a bit more healthy fats and protein.  Speaking of protein, definitely try adding a scoop of your favorite protein powder, if you’d like.  Sometimes my family can taste the protein powder in baked goods so I went with an unflavored plant-based protein powder from The Natural Citizen.  That is totally optional, though.  The cookies will be just fine without!

pumpkin cookies

 

pumpkin cookies

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the pumpkin cookies:

 

GF + V Pumpkin Cookies
Print
Recipe type: Snacks, Dessert
Cuisine: Cookies
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mashed banana (about ½ a banana)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted warm coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of almonds, ground into meal/flour
  • 2 cups oat flour (blend from 2¼ cups whole rolled oats)
  • ½ cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 scoop plant-based protein powder, optional
  • ⅓ cup chopped chocolate
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, save some for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the banana and pumpkin puree. Then, stir in the sugars, baking soda, spices, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
  3. Use a food processor or blender to process the almonds to make a fine flour. Repeat for the oat flour.
  4. To the wet ingredients, add the processed almond and oat flour, along with the whole rolled oats.
  5. Next, fold in the chocolate chips and half of the walnuts. Use a large cookie scoop to drop dollops of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. Place a few walnut crumbs on top of each cookie.
  6. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes or until the tops have browned (don't under-bake). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before moving to a wire rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes more. Bake the remaining cookie dough until all is finished.
  7. I know cookies are irresistible out of the oven but if you wait for them to cool, they will be much better. They won’t be as fall-apart delicate and their flavor will be more visible.
  8. When cookies are completely cool, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.
Notes
Evidently, if any of the ingredients are cold, that will make the coconut oil clump up. Small specks are okay but large clumps need to be dissolved. You can lightly warm the batter in a microwave safe bowl and proceed with the recipe.
I ground my almonds because I enjoy the fresher taste and don’t normally store almond flour at my house. You could probably use store-bought but I haven’t tested that myself.

Cookie recipe adapted from Love and Lemon’s Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe.

As always, please let me know what you think if you give this recipe a try!  Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram.

 

May Wrap-Up: Favorites From This Month

may wrap up favorites

This month has been a long one but a slow one. I know that is quite the contradiction but maybe that is just life in general: long and slow. Ooh look at me being all thoughtful. 😄 Anyway, I thought I’d just whip up a post going over some favorites as far as things I tried and notable moments for me in this month of May.

First up, FOOD.  I received a package of some new product releases for 2017 at the end of April and have been slowly making my way through them. I’ve had the pleasure of trying some really inventive foods but here are a few standouts:

bRAW bars

Healthy bars can be hard to find so when I checked out the ingredients label on the bRAW bars, I was blown away. They are plant-based superfood bars filled with nuts, seeds, and gems like cacao nibs and gogi berries. They are soft, yet crispy from the texture of all of the goods inside them. These bars do need to be stored in the refrigerator but I found they were fine to carry with me in my bag if I consumed them within a few hours. Their store availability is limited but, fortunately, they are available online from their website.

braw bars favorites

Rolling Greens Millet Tots

rolling greens millet tots

The brand Rolling Greens has put a creative, healthy spin on the classic tater tot without sacrificing the texture and flavor that I grew up loving in traditional tots. Instead of white potatoes, the tots are made from the ancient grain millet. So far I’ve tried the Poblano Chili and Sweet Potato flavor, along with the Garlic and Basil flavor. There is also a plain sea salt one but I was too excited about these two flavors so I haven’t touched the plain yet. I’m sure it is as great as the two I’ve tried!
You can check out their gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan-friendly tots here. The Rolling Mills millet tots come frozen and are ready to eat after just 15 minutes in the oven! They make a fun addition to salads, roasted veggies, homemade hamburgers, or simply as a snack/appetizer with some zesty dip.

And I’ve got a couple of non-food favorites…

Love Real Food Cookbook

After over a year of reading Kate from Cookie and Kate talk about writing, revising, and developing recipes for her cookbook, Love Real Food, the pre-order finally happened in January. These past few months of waiting were brutal but, now that it is in my hands, I love it! The book perfectly captures the simplicity of her blog and the clean, plant-centered cooking method I love.  I predict each of the recipes will become favorites of mine because all of the dishes look so good! It’s not a cookbook just for vegetarians either–there is much to enjoy even for omnivores, gluten-free eaters, and vegans alike 😉

Follow me on Instagram to see what I cook up from Love Real Food and find more details about the book here.

Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins

Another book I’ve been into this month has been Lily Collins’ new release. Earlier this week I published a blog post on my thoughts about the book so I won’t overdo it with the review–see my post for that. I just love that each chapter has a positive and inspirational message. I did not relate to each one but many of the messages did touch me on a personal level.
unfiltered lily collins quote

TV favorites: Riverdale

This is the show I didn’t know I was missing! The neat thing about this CW show is that the characters are based on Archie Comics characters. Though, you don’t need to have read the comics to understand the show. The first season’s plot circles around a crime committed during the summer before the teens’ sophomore year of high school. The Archie gang is hot on the case trying to figure out who did it but anyone in town can be a suspect. At the same time, the tangled web of romantic relationships between the Archie gang and the Riverdale adults keeps viewers on their toes.  The show was just added to Netflix so catch up over there!

riverdale favorites

Yoga for Days

I’ve been practicing yoga on a daily basis for around 6 months now. Majority of the time I start my day with a video from Yoga with Adriene but occasionally I’ll practice in the evening, try another yogi’s video, or simply do my own thing. There’s lots of wiggle room for when, where, and how you can practice yoga. Notice the keyword: practice. I’ve long let go of the idea that I need to “do” yoga and instead I let my body be. That has allowed me to slowly build up to bakasana, or crow pose.

favorite pose bakasana
This was a really hard one for me back in December when I first started practicing. It has been my favorite to practice because it is so challenging! I couldn’t even lift a toe off the ground and now I can actually balance. My form is definitely not perfect but I’m proud of how far I’ve come. This little victory makes me really appreciate what my body can do.

Moment of Reflection

I spent the past few months feeling like I was in some kind of rush to get the right job, push my body to look a certain way, and overall be at a place I’m just not at yet. I’m not giving up on anything but I think the more I focus on what I don’t have, the more stressed I feel. And I don’t need that. Instead, I’m working on being present and taking care of myself right now. I quickly get caught up in a plan that I have/want for myself in the future but I don’t want to sacrifice enjoying the now to get there.

What have you guys been up to this month? Have you discovered some new favorites? Made any realizations? Heck, even if you just ship Bughead from Riverdale (no, especially if you ship Bughead) then I want to hear from you. Drop me some comments down below and I hope we can all leap into a happy month of June!

A Week Without Washing My Hair—Grease Training

Ever since Lee from America talked about how she was grease-training her hair, I decided that was something I wanted to try.  I would like to improve the health of my scalp and I am also concerned about my short hair drying out.  The elements and frequent washing can wreak a havoc on both so grease-training seemed like a great way to combat that.

Day 1 of grease training
Day 1 with fresh, clean hair. I showered the previous night and this is the first day in the second week of grease-training.
Day 1 grease training
Side view of Day 1 hair. I just straightened the front pieces to tame the baby hairs. The rest of my wavy hair was left to do its natural thing.

I’m still new to grease-training but basically, it involves taking time to let your hair and scalp develop its natural oils.

Before we delve into this any further, there are some things I want to mention about my hair texture: I recently cut my hair to as short angled bob but, when it was longer, it was easily frizzy and often wavy.  Now, it is somewhere in between wavy and straight, but with a decent fullness.  I usually style it with a straightener to smooth out the hair that frames my face or the rogue pieces at the back of my head.  Otherwise, au natural is easiest for me.  I’ve also got some Latina blood in me so that lends itself to hair with the potential to get majorly oily.

Day 2 grease training
Side view of my hair on Day 2. It’s a little bit flatter but my hair feels smooth without being weighed down.
Day 3 grease training
Day 3 hair doesn’t feel as bad as it looks. I brushed my roots so that the natural oils on my scalp would spread onto my hair and that flattened it out a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hair was ridiculously oily from over-washing.

For years my hair washing routine has been to shampoo every other day.  My second day hair will typically have a little more texture to it but the crown of my head is ready to be washed by the evening.  So, the first step in grease-training for me was to extend washing to every three days.  That felt uncomfortable to say the least.  After about two weeks of going through three day hair-washing cycles, I stepped it up.  I did four days with a hair rinse on day 2.  I’ll talk about rinsing a bit more but first, let me mention some tips I acquired tips from friends on Instagram who also don’t wash their hair frequently ( I won’t out you guys x D ) which I utilized during grease-training:

  • Dry shampoo was recommended and I know it can be a savior for many.  I used it a bit during the first two weeks but opted not to use it as I continued extending the days between washes.
  • Another tip I got was to wash my hair with only water and scrub it really well with my fingernails—I call this a rinse.
  • A final tip was to condition the ends of my hair during the rinsing time in the shower.

I tried all of these at some point but here’s the deal with the mid-point rinse: it helps get rid of the gunk that was building up on my scalp but that gunk just got shoved further down onto my hair.

Day 4 grease training
Day 4 hair feels thick. My mistake was rinsing it last night (evening of Day 3) because that seemed to only exacerbate the oiliness. If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone slathered texturing balm all over my hair.
Day 5 grease training
Day 5 and I’m feeling like I’ve done something wrong. It is REALLY oily and specks of sebum are present close to my hairline. Highly inclined to just wash my hair….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite how gross I felt, I pushed through!

The days following the rinse, I just accepted the “thick” look my hair had.  I mean, hey, at least it couldn’t get any worse.

I did two weeks of four day cycles with a rinse on day 2 and shampooed on day 4.  Finally, day 4 came around and I was like, why not try for 5?  Then on day 5 I said, let’s try to get to day 6 and then 7!  I jumped from washing my hair every four days to a whole week without washing.

Let me tell ya.  That first complete week of no washing was pretty damn greasy.  Especially because I squeezed some workouts in daily.  This week was also when I also rinsed my hair for the last time—it wasn’t working out for me.  My hair was an uncomfortable mess but I was optimistic it would get better.  The second time I tackled a week without washing, my hair lasted well for the first few days (see pictures) but needed some attention by day four.

Day 6 grease training
Day 6 hair has surprisingly less grease going on. My roots still feel oily but the texture of my hair itself is soft and full. It’s also getting back my natural waves.
Day 7 grease training
Day 7 and I want to hide in a cave. My hair has taken a turn for the worst and it feels like a greaseball.  Note: I didn’t take a picture of Day 8 hair but it looked something like this so I hid it in a ponytail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, it was screaming for attention.

My mom was disgusted when I told her what I was doing and told me I should brush my hair.  She reminded me that in the old days, when people wouldn’t shower often, ladies would brush their hair daily.  A daily brushing helpse to distribute the oils and keep their hair fresh.  I honestly never brush my hair but I decided to give it a go.  My hair felt really oily but it was no longer all concentrated at the crown of my head.  It felt like the oils were distributed through my hair but not in the thick way that my hair felt after rinsing.  I kept brushing the days following that until I finally washed my hair on Day 8.  For the record, I wasn’t aiming for eight days.  I just didn’t get the chance to wash it on the evening of Day 7.  My hair felt relieved, instantly clean, and featherweight.

As I write this, I am on my third cycle of a full week without washing (and second week without any rinsing whatsoever).  This week has definitely gone by much smoother and less oilier than last.  My hair actually felt great and looked fresh most of the week!  I attribute that to brushing it well on Day 3 and continuing to do so daily there on after.

My takeaway is:

Grease-training doesn’t happen overnight.  It took me a good month to build up to four days without shampooing my hair.  Now I can last a full 7 days and my scalp and hair feel decent.  More importantly, they don’t look like a greaseball.

Oily roots are the result of natural build up.  So, sure, you can spray dry shampoo on them but that doesn’t help the hair itself.  I opted to use the scalp’s oils as a conditioner for my hair when I gave it the daily brushing.

And the brushing—that makes the biggest difference.  I use a nylon bristle brush though a boar bristle brush would probably be most effective.  If that’s something you want to invest in.

It’s a bit too soon to tell if my scalp and hair are “healthier” but it feels good.  My hair is definitely not dry and I haven’t had to use styling products at all.  I like the way it naturally falls and it holds well in pontytails, buns, or braids.  As far as grease-training goes, it would be cool to be like Shailene Woodley and only shampoo once a month but I’m going to stick with my cycles of 7 days for now.

Understanding Hope: A Change in Perspective

I was just re-watching a Tea Talk video from Nikki Phillippi where she spoke with Instagram sensation, Tifforelie,  about how to find hope even in the midst of frequent pain or hardships.  You can watch the video here, if you’re interested.

Tiffany described her own hardships with careers, marriage, and finding her passion.  I have not been through the experiences that Tiffany has but I have been feeling frustrated with my own circumstances lately.  I understand how important outlook can be in inspiring personal change, betterment, or good fortune.  Thus, the discussion in the Tea Talk is a welcome source of inspiration.  I felt I could relate to a couple of points discussed in the video.  In fact, by the end of it, I was so grateful to hear that they, and others in the comments, share my same thoughts.  What particularly struck my interest was how Tiffany mentioned that she used to look at someone under hard times with judgmental eyes.  She would offer pity rather than optimism or hope to lift the person up.

I think instances of pain—especially pain that is unfamiliar to us—often receive that sort of reaction.  It feels almost instinctive to extend sympathy but that is not the kind of reaction I would want to receive.  Nor is it how I want to look at others.

The Tea Talk video gave me a lot of nice ideas to consider.  It all goes back to that saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated”.  Except…TIffany’s way of thinking advocates for extending hope and positive vibes by thinking positively of someone else.  Not just so that someone else will think kindly of you, but, to extend hope and positive vibes into the universe.  There is a deeper understanding of others, and ourselves for that matter, that we can tap into if we try.  I feel encouraged to reframe my perspective and think less critically about how others may be living their lives.  There is no reason to fill myself with negative thoughts of others or to waste time creating them.

A quote by Roald Dahl sums it up pretty well:

hope and positive vibes