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♥

What Happens When You Stop Exercising (Intensely)

the day I participated in my first ever race

I have been a longtime member of the Tone it Up fitness community.  The Tone it Up girls, Karena and Katrina, put together workouts, a weekly schedule, and structure it to help women achieve fit and strong, bikini-ready bodies.  I actually found their workouts during their 2015 Bikini Series.  I really enjoy them but a persistent health concern required me to take a step back.  So, I had been following their daily workouts for a while but, in January 2017, I decided to take a break from exercise altogether.

At the time, Tone it Up had an exciting 6 week workout challenge happening.  I was also doing a Yoga Revolution challenge from Yoga with Adriene.  Tone it Up involves heart-pumping workouts, weights, cardio, and more.  While I did decide to take a clean break from Tone it Up, I did keep up with the yoga challenge.  My intention was to finish the month-long yoga challenge and then stop that, too.  Along the way I fell in love with yoga and I felt that the light movements helped put my mind and body at ease.  I touch on that a bit more later.

Basically, there were a couple of things that I did notice throughout the time I was not doing intense workouts:

The change in routine sucks

The first week of not exercising intensely was tough.  I was used to waking up each morning, strapping on my sneakers, and turning on a workout video.  My workout would usually last about an hour, then I’d top it off with around half an hour of yoga.  My muscles would be warm and yoga would help cool me down and stretch out my muscles.

As someone who enjoyed lifting weights and feeling that cardio high, it was something I did not want to give up.  Admittedly, I used to go about my day with a total body soreness that would not leave.  I would feel proud of each of my workout accomplishments but the persistent pain in my upper back was something I started to learn to live with. That pain completely went away two weeks after I stopped my intense exercise routine.  I still kept up with yoga which, at this time, became my sole workout.  My body began to crave yoga as a time to move and other simple activities like walking were pleasant.

You want to find that “high” somewhere else

I made sure not to let myself get obsessive and stack on several yoga videos just to make a “good workout”.  I would follow one video a day and have that be it.  The Yoga with Adriene videos that I followed (and still follow) are varied lengths but each one is fulfilling on its own.  It came to a point where I wasn’t looking to stay limber or fit from yoga but actually tuned in for some self-loving spirituality.  Though, that isn’t what this post is about.  So, let’s just say that it had a beneficial impact on my mind, body, and spirit—particularly at a time when I felt sad about giving up my previous workout regimen.

Muscles don’t just disappear

Over the course of a year with Tone it Up, I built up some pretty cute biceps that I am happy to show off in a sleeveless top.  I was genuinely scared that I would start feeling like a noodle (and looking like one, too) but my muscles have not abandoned me.  Perhaps, they are not growing like they would when I was challenging them with dumbbells but they get used in everyday activities.  I use them in downward dogs and planks in yoga, carrying grocery bags, and opening those really tight lids on jars.  In all seriousness, you can maintain a certain level of strength off of body-weight exercises and household chores.  It isn’t going to help you win a body building contest but it is good enough for me.

nutritious food doesn't need to be boring
kale salad with miso tahini dressing, lentils, roasted brussels sprouts + red onions, and chopped almonds.

Nutrition is crucial to wellness

At one time, I had the mentality that I was only working out so that I could afford to eat the sweets and desserts that I loved.  I would do some extra cardio just so I knew I burned enough calories to make that slice of cake after dinner well-deserved.  I was in a messed up place as far as my education on proper nutrition.

Thankfully, since switching to a mostly plant-based diet in fall of last year, I value everything that goes into my body.  I make healthy meals and snacks for myself, not because I’m trying to diet but, because I feel good when I fuel myself with nutritious food.  Meals filled with wholesome ingredients have kept me thriving.

I do not feel like a part of my routine is missing when I’m not participating in the kinds of workouts that I used to because my natural energy is usually pretty darn great thanks to my lifestyle choices.  I do appreciate the addition of higher intensity workouts and weight-lifting but it isn’t crucial to my well-being.  It has taken a long time for me to come to that conclusion.  I felt uncomfortable without exercise but it can be done.  I’ve survived!

So, if ever you feel like beating yourself up over missing a workout or even desire a break—you will be fine!  If you value your health, you will make decisions that align with your goals for overall wellness.  There’s different ways to approach that but I’m here to say exercise isn’t the only way.

 

Glyphosate in the Food Industry and Switching to Organic Produce

Delicious Seasonal produce

Lately, I hear more and more reasons why we should make the switch to organic food.  The organic label is thrown around a lot so I used to place little to no importance on it.  I figured it was good enough to be buying produce and eating as many colorful foods as I can.  Though, recent articles and news about glyphosate and its manufacturer have caught my concern.

Glyphosate is a chemical, known to most Americans by its commercial term, “Round Up”.  Agricultural industries used the chemical to combat weeds and also dry out certain crops.  Check out this article at Nature’s Path Organic for the full story on glyphosate and where it is used.

Sidenote:

Nature’s Path Organic makes delicious cereals and granola and they also have a wonderful blog.  It is filled with weekly articles on a number of plant-based nutrition, health, natural living, and other topics consumers should be aware of.  Even if you don’t buy Nature’s Path Organic brand products, you can still enjoy their educational blog posts and resources.

Anyway, there is a major problem in agriculture and the food industry when many crops are reliant on glyphosate.  Another recent article elaborated on the attempts Monsanto, a large manufacturer of glyphosate, has made to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to label its product as safe.  Vani from foodbabe.com, goes on to showcase some leaked email communications between Monsanto and the EPA.  It is scary to think how many scientists have categorized certain products as safe for human use but are actually dangerous for us.  According to the same foodbabe article, glyphosate is a probable carcinogen that has become so ubiquitous in our environment that it does not stay on just GMO crops.  Glyphosate is sprayed; it goes into the air, possibly travels to organic crops, and suddenly there it is in a ridiculous number of products that we wouldn’t expect to find it!

The uncomfortable part is that, like I mentioned at the beginning, simply buying fruits and vegetables may not be enough.  Health is my highest concern and I make it a priority to nourish myself with only wholesome ingredients.  It is hard to hear that the bulk lentils that I buy or the whole grains in my favorite bread may have glyphosate traces.

It is likely that certified organic produce should be mostly-free of the chemical but is it even possible to go full-on organic for everything?

Personally, I have opted for organic in products (like tofu) that I know stem from major GMO crops (soy).  Still, it is difficult to make a change to buy all organic produce.  It can cost almost double to buy organic apples vs. regular apples but, in addition, there is a limited availability of organic produce.  Many grocery stores have an organic section that is a small fraction of the rest of the produce.  A limited budget and limited options make this consumer very concerned about how to proceed.

Had you heard of the glyphosate ordeal prior to reading this post?  What are your thoughts on organic produce?  Please share any thoughts in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Five Healthy Habits That I Practice

Happy Friday!

My daily activities may vary but there are some parts of my routine that I consider essential to my well-being.  I have practiced the following healthy habits almost daily for several weeks now and I can confidently state that I have seen positive changes since implementing them.  I notice great differences in my energy, mood, and overall health.  Read along to find out what my favorite healthy habits are. 😀

1. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

I find a lot of inspiration for healthy recipes from the Tone it Up Nutrition Plan.  One thing that the plan vouches for is the benefit of drinking apple cider vinegar in the mornings to jumpstart your system.

You can take between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of ACV and add it to some lemon water, a bit of fresh squeezed juice, or drink it as is.  You’re hardcore if you go the latter route.

The most important part is to take it in the morning.  You can read up on the nutritional benefits of apple cider vinegar elsewhere but I will name some changes I’ve seen in myself:

  • My metabolism seems to run more efficiently and steadily than pre-ACV.
  • My digestion process is smoother and faster.
  • I find myself cravings sugary sweets less.
  • My overall system feels better!

Organic apple cider vinegar is best but if you have plain apple cider vinegar on hand then give that a try.  Both will be effective and if you like the way ACV starts to make you feel then give the organic version a try.

I refill this 20oz water bottle 4-5x per day

2. Chug That Water

Okay, I promise not all of the items on this list are beverages but I could not write about my essential healthy habits without mentioning water.

I once heard that we should all be drinking at least half of our body weight in water DAILY.  If you have ever measured the amount of water you drink in a day then you might be surprised by how far you may be from that number.

When I first decided to try to reach half of my weight in water intake in a day, I literally felt like I was forcing myself to drink water.  I felt like I was not thirsty but after a couple of days I started to willingly reach for my water bottle—and frequently!

To begin drinking more water, you’ll want to have a reusable water bottle handy.  There are some reusable water bottles that you can buy with oz measurements listed on the exterior of the container.  Alternatively, you can measure out a couple of cups of water into your favorite clear bottle, or container of choice, and add tick marks with a permanent marker at every 8 – 10oz point.  If you can remember how many oz your bottle holds, you could also skip over the marking part but just make sure to refill it immediately after finishing it.

3. Break out the Foam Roller

The foam roller is not just a piece of equipment for runners or athletes.  Anyone and everyone can benefit from rolling out their muscles at the end of the day.  It helps to alleviate muscle tension built up in various parts of the body.  There are tutorials on YouTube that demonstrate how to properly use it though it isn’t difficult at all.

Foam rolling is the one thing on this list that I may not do every single day but I do use it at least 4-5 days out of the week.  My favorite part to roll out is my upper back and the backs of my thighs.  I especially like to spend anywhere from 5-20 minutes rolling before bed.  It relaxes my muscles and also encourages a more restful sleep.

4. Practice Gratitude

I can remember what it feels like to have a bad day and think that the world is against me.  I do still have bad days sometimes but what is different now is my perspective.

Oftentimes, I start my day with yoga.  That personally helps me feel centered and open to appreciate what the day will bring.  It is an activity that I find uplifting but there are other ways to go about creating gratitude.

If you wake up in the morning and dread the day ahead, I challenge you to think of one thing you are grateful for.  Just one.  It can be the love you have for a family member, your pets, the sunshine outside your window, heck—it can be the overnight oats you’ve got waiting for you in the fridge.  What? Is it just me who gets excited for oatmeal?  Well, basically, I’m saying you just need to recognize one thing you are grateful for.  It is a great way to start the day: with appreciation.  At the end of a particularly trying day I will also dig through my mind for a subject of gratitude.  All may not have been well in the day but there is still ________ .  Fill in the blank with whatever you are glad to have around or glad to have experienced.  It can be anything at all!

5. Find a Moment to Relax

I realize that time to relax sound like a luxury to some.  Moments of relaxation do not necessarily need to be time-consuming.  I like to find small moments throughout the day to do things I enjoy.  Some relaxing activities for me are: reading a magazine article or a chapter in a book, watching a video on YouTube, freestyle stretching or yoga, and my favorite—sitting down in a chair and simply taking 10 deep breaths.

These are just a few of the activities that I practice several times a week.  The only thing on this list that is 100% necessary to do daily is drink water.  I cannot stress the importance of drinking water enough.

The other items also make my days much more pleasant when I keep them habitual.  I feel like a happier person now because everything I do is for the betterment of my health.
Tell me: do you practice any of these habits?  If you have some other healthy habits that you’ve found to be helpful, please share them in the comments.

Xoxo,

Melanie