self-care

2017: The Year of Self-Care

Happy New Year, everyone! As 2017 commences, I’m sure many of you are doing what I’m doing: trying to mindfully come up with a tangible wellness goal. My usual go-to is “I won’t drink any alcohol in January!” or “I will work out every day no matter what!”

But you know what? Those goals usually become stressful because they may not be realistic. And when your new year’s resolution doesn’t come to fruition, it can be depressing. Which starts the cycle of feelings of failure and disappointment!

Ugh.

So instead, this year, I’ve decided to focus more broadly on self-care. This means no hard rules, but it encourages me to remember that being mindful about all facets of my health is important. Here are 5 ways in which one can focus on self-care (and this is my personal plan; what I’ll be doing):

Eats

The first thing most of us think of when adopting a self-care routine is a diet tweak. And fair enough! I mean, you are what you eat, right? The fuel we choose to put into our body directly correlates with mood, behaviour, weight, aging, and more.

So what should we be eating?

I think the trick is to not be strict and deprive yourself. (Because most of us can’t stick to an all-or-nothing plan.) Instead, a healthy balance is optimal. In general, tons of fresh vegetables, lots of whole grain carbohydrates (like yams and sprouted grains), and lots of plant-based or lean protein.

Basically, anything that makes you feel good and gives you energy and lends to quality sleep and rest is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new healthy cookbook, try Vegetarian Comfort Foods!

Drinks

Water, water, water. That is all. (Haha…) Here’s the thing: we know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and affect mood. We know that sodas and juice contain way too much sugar, which spike our blood sugar and then leave us feeling sleepy after.

And more recently, I’ve discovered my go-to non-alcoholic drink of choice (club soda with lime and cucumber) makes me bloated because of all the carbonation. So I’ve come to the conclusion that water and herbal teas should definitely make up the bulk of what I drink during the day and night.

To find out how to make your own herbal teas, check out The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea!

self-care

Movement

Movement is so essential to our bodies and growth and development, and yet we forget to move! Most of us intentionally schedule in time for movement (which is great), but ideally, our bodies should be moving a lot more. Small ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives, include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking on the outskirts of the parking lot so that you’re forced to walk a little more, getting up from your desk and stretching every 45 minutes, and so on.

Think about what you can do to incorporate more movement into your life, and your body will thank you for it.

Sleep

Fresh off of reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (which I mentioned in a previous blog post HERE), I’m really beginning to understand (and I mean REALLY understand) just how much we should all be appreciating and emphasizing better sleep.

Our culture has somehow evolved to think of being busy and sleep-deprived as something to be celebrated or respected, and yet, being sleep deprived is basically the same as being intoxicated. Would you go to work drunk or drive home from a business meeting while under the influence?

I hope not, and yet we all do it in the form of being exhausted. Let’s start NOT doing that. Let’s just remember to place appropriate emphasis on sleep, and celebrate what it feels like to not be tired!

Mental

As in mental health, that is. Although everything that’s listed above contributes to better mental health, we can a couple more things to really give a final push.

  • Meditate.
  • Be grateful.
  • Say thank you.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Love yourself.
  • Try aromatherapy.

And that’s it. By committing to general improvements in your own self-care routine, you become more in tune with parts of yourself that you can’t possibly reach when you’re not as well as you could be.

Happy New Year, friends! Cheers to self-care, and to living life with intent and grace. Give yourself a break, and tune into YOU!

You deserve it. xo

Better Sleep

The Unanimous Cry for Better Sleep

We Need Better Sleep

A while ago, I read a blog post titled “Yoga Doesn’t Take Time; It Makes Time.” At the conclusion of my read, I remember thinking that it sounded like it made sense, but in literal terms, to do an hour’s worth of yoga meant that an hour was taken away from my work day.

So how could yoga ‘make time?’

Flash forward to yesterday. I was completely exhausted but I had a ton of work to do, and although I don’t ever nap (it’s been years), I fell asleep for about 90 minutes.

The result was this: instead of being tired and dragging my feet until bedtime, barely getting anything done due to my exhaustion, I woke up around 5 pm and did everything I wanted to do. I had renewed energy for every task I charged myself with, and it was because I let my body rest and restore.

So lately, there has been a huge movement towards publicizing the absolute need for better sleep. Pioneered greatly by Arianna Huffington, this cry for better sleep is becoming more and more relevant as we, as a society, try to take on way too much. (Her book is called The Sleep Revolution; I currently have it ordered from Amazon.)

Her theory is that sleep deprivation “has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.”[1] Arianna writes “Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.”[2]

I, for one, am fascinated. We insist that our children slow down before bed and get enough sleep to sustain them throughout the day. But what about us? Why don’t we place the same importance on rest, restore, and repair for ourselves as we do for our children? We forget that sleep is a necessity. Not unlike shelter, food, and water, proper sleep is not a luxury; it’s a basic need.

How to Get Better Sleep

So tonight, try to prioritize sleep. Some ways to help you get a better sleep include:

  • Read a book for an hour before bed; don’t replace that time with the TV and internet
  • Meditate
  • Take a bath with calming essential oil
  • Keep your bedroom clean, dark, and cool
  • Don’t eat or drink a lot in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Practice conscious breathing
  • Try light yoga, but not vigorous exercise
  • Don’t consume anything alcoholic within 2-3 hours before bed, or caffeinated within 10 hours before bed (try herbal tea)

Good luck! xo


References

[1] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

[2] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

In Defense of Juicing + Blending

It’s no secret that I love to juice and make smoothies.

In fact, it’s not unusual for me to go through the day with nothing but, then eat a solid meal for dinner. Some say that this is weird and unhealthy because juicing involves the removal of fibre, and blending means you’re not actually chewing food (which is necessary to keep good jaw health), and I’ve definitely encountered my fair share of naysayers, but here’s the reality: I’m busy.

Like, really busy.

And instead of succumbing to conventional fast food, I make my own or buy it from a great juice bar—and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I want to give you an example of what kinds of food make their way into my body from the time I wake up until dinner—all by juicing and blending.

I think you’ll be surprised!

The Menu

It’s not unusual for me to go through the following between the hours of 7am and 5pm:

  • Coffee with conventional full-fat cream (This is absolutely non-negotiable. Ask my husband.)
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Frozen fruit
  • Vega protein powder
  • NutraCleanse
  • Rolled oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp hearts
  • Cinnamon
  • Beets
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Homemade granola

*If I’m tired or feeling grumpy, add something I’ll regret later, like crackers and cheese.

So if this sounds like the menu of someone who’s eating unhealthily, I disagree! Because after all of this, I still eat dinner, which consists of (usually) a plant-based protein like chickpeas, along with salad, steamed veggies, brown rice or quinoa, grainy bread, and usually something stupid-spicy, like wasabi horseradish.

And what some people don’t know about me, is that I’m prone to major digestive malfunctions (honestly–I even wrote a book about it). I eat to feel good, and for me, that usually means consuming food that is very easily digestible.

So that’s it! As far as juicing and blending are concerned, I’m all in. If anyone has any questions, please contact me HERE. xo

 

The Launch of Vegetarian Comfort Foods + More

This week’s been crazy. Actually, honestly, this whole month’s been crazy. Or the summer. I don’t know…but the madness is both exhausting and exhilarating.

On August 4th, my second book was let into the world: Vegetarian Comfort Foods.

This seemed amazing to me. I was at my family’s cabin last year when I was negotiating the deal with my editor, and I was at the same cabin on August 4th when it was released just a couple of weeks ago. Wow. And because I personally love an excuse to throw a party, we conducted a formal launch at a cute little shop that also is brand new, called Wildflower Artisan Collective in Abbotsford, BC.

Fresita wine

Wine was kindly sponsored for the event by Fresita Sparking Summer Wine (this was the very first time I’ve dealt with obtaining a special occasion liquor license, so that was a special project in of itself), and tons of amazing friends and family came to get their copies signed by Yours Truly, and Tanya R. Loewen of Wild Honey Art House. (She took incredible photographs of all the recipes, and I am eternally grateful.)

Wildflower Artisan Collective

More

Aside from the cookbook launch, I handed in a fourth book this summer, (Baby Nosh), my husband and I went to San Diego for our 10th wedding anniversary, my kids grew about two feet each (something about lots of water and sunshine?!), and I began working on my most fave contract of the year: the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. To wrap it up, I will be doing a short segment for Breakfast Television Vancouver on the very last day of the month.

This is live TV people, and I’m me. Go grab yourself some popcorn and nestle in for a slip or fall or some accidental profanity.

Seriously.

Having whizzed by at warp speed, this summer has been one of my best EVER, and although I don’t want it to end yet, I’m looking forward to what autumn brings. (Probably more craziness.) I hope you all have had your own summertime adventures to commit to memory, and thanks so much for reading my blog!

PS- If you want a signed copy of Vegetarian Comfort Foods, I’ll be at Costco in Abbotsford from 12-4 on August 29th, and at various Bed, Bath, and Beyond locations throughout the fall. Stay tuned! xo

Are You a Dirty Vegan?

As Canadians and Americans increasingly make the move towards veganism, some are doing it right, and others are…not. It seems pretty straight-forward, right? Vegan equals no animal products. But just because you aren’t consuming animal products, doesn’t mean you’re making healthy choices that are synonymous with veganism.

Three Major Reasons People are Taking the Plunge

Health

Health

One reason people decide to cut animal products from their diet, is to reap the health rewards that come with eating mindfully. Those who view their bodies as temples and are reluctant to consume foods that harm rather than help, are more likely to give veganism a try. By cutting down on animal products, you automatically shave many processed foods (deli meat, hotdogs, pepperoni sticks, beef jerky), trans-fats, hormones, and unnecessary antibiotics from your diet.

Sustainability

Another reason to go vegan, is to stop contributing to unsustainable farming practices and the inevitable catastrophic results that occur from mass factory farming. The stats on land decimation caused by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is devastating, and the water used to hydrate food animals directly takes away from water that could be saving the lives of thirsty human beings.

The system doesn’t work, and more and more consumers are recognizing that.

Ethics

The third reason people explore veganism, is an ethical one. Why kill animals if we don’t have to? Sure, in some parts of the world, animal products are mainstays and necessary to the survival of that area’s inhabitants, but not in most of North America. (There are some northern regions, where the people living there rely on animal blubber and meat to survive.) Unnecessary suffering seems…unnecessary.

Since more people than ever before are becoming open to veganism, it’s interesting to take a look at their eating practices. Despite point number one above (health), many vegans are unhealthy people, and there are a variety of factors that contribute to one becoming a ‘dirty’ vegan.

Three Signs that You’re a Dirty Vegan

Dirty vegan

You consume A LOT of sugar.  As in, waaaaaayy too much. A bowl of saltwater taffy is definitely vegan (I think…), but it has zero nutrition. If you have a sugar addiction, don’t hide behind your new-found veganism—kick it to the curb with a fruit replacement, or, if you drink soda, convert to sparkling water.

You rely on processed foods. Again, a box of Oreos is vegan—this one I know for sure. But nutrition-wise? Another zero. Homemade granola or even grainy crackers are a better alternative. You have to be careful to not fall into the “it’s vegan—I’m good” trap. Just because it doesn’t contain animal products, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Don’t assume a processed veggie dog has the same quality protein as a cup of chickpeas. It doesn’t.

You’re unaware of your nutrient intake. Many may feel that a stellar diet might consist of consuming only apples and carrots, but that’s incorrect. Remember that we, as human beings, require carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, millet, and other whole grains, fruits, seeds), protein (beans, tofu, nuts, seeds), and fat (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts). Consciously consuming a great variety of the above foods as well as a plethora of vegetables and water is what makes your body happy and healthy, and that’s the main purpose of anyone’s intent when going vegan—to make the environment, animals, and ourselves happier and healthier.

So don’t be a dirty vegan. Remind yourself what your initial motivation was, why it’s important to you, what other amazing reasons there are for going vegan, and what your ultimate goal is.

Being dirty can be fun, but not at the expense of your health.

Better than Botox: 10 Hacks for Younger-Looking Skin

Beauty Skin Care

Maybe I’m writing this because my birthday is today. As each year goes by, I notice more and more fine lines on my forehead and grey in my hair. I also swore I would NEVER get botox, but I’ve caught myself staring into the mirror on more than a couple (or a hundred) occasions, physically pulling the skin on my face taut in order to see what I’d look like if I did have it done.

And not that this is even related to this post, but WHY do men only get better looking as they age? (Grey hair? Wrinkles? No problem–it’s hot!) Wtf?! Ugh.

Aging skin can be depressing, but here are 10 hacks that can make a massive difference to the youthfulness of your body’s largest organ, sans chemical peels, injections, and/or other invasive procedures:

Cucumber Water

  • Drink a TON of water. It goes without saying that hydrated skin is happy skin. It’s able to detox better, and people who stay hydrated experience less acne and dry skin.
  • Limit alcohol. Because it’s dehydrating. See how that works? Alcohol starves your skin of oxygen, and makes your face appear swollen and unhealthy the day after a bender. Consistent use can make your skin grey and listless, and enhance the appearance of wrinkles, tiny blood vessels, and permanently ruddy-looking cheeks.
  • Exfoliate your face twice a week. This is to remove dead skin cells, which is important for proper skin regeneration. If old cells don’t get whisked away, new ones are produced more slowly and then tend to build up under the old ones, which causes acne and a dull appearance.
  • Steam once a week. Your skin loves this! It forces the detoxification process, and results in healthier, glowing skin.
  • Use cold gel masks. This hack reduces swelling and tightens pores. You can also use cold cucumber and tea bags on the eyes for 4-5 minutes—it reduces puffiness in all the right places.
  • Don’t get sunburnt. Sunburnt skin is damaged skin, and damaged skin looks like crap. Just sayin’. I hate promoting sunscreen, because there can be a lot of crazy shit in there, so I’m just to advise against getting burnt, instead.

Beet Juice

  • Eat (or drink) your vegetables. Vegetables contain water, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your skin loves. They also encourage waste removal via the colon, which keeps the entire body healthy, including your skin.
  • Make use of herbs that contain silica. Horsetail, rosemary, sage, and yarrow are all amazing herbs for your hair, skin, and nails. You can take them in capsule form, or make your own tea from them.
  • SWEAT regularly. Again, sweating (via regular exercise) encourages the detoxification process, which leads to healthy, younger-looking skin. It also increases circulation, and gives your face that healthy glow that fit people generally have.
  • Get lots of sleep. This is more important that most people realize, but it’s easier said than done. Your body repairs and reboots when you sleep, and adequate sleep is vital to your health. Because stress and other factors may impede great zzz’s, it’s imperative to prioritize de-stressing and hitting the hay for at least 8 hours a night. Reading, meditation, and sex all help to power your brain down before you close your eyes.

So there you have it—hack away to younger-looking skin in no time. Happy Meatless Monday! xo

Green, Oolong, and Black Tea: What’s the Difference?

Green tea

For those of you who may not know, I’m currently in the throes of writing a book on medicinal tea. I’m deep into the research phase of the project, and stumbled across the answer to the following question: what’s the difference between green, oolong, and black tea?

If you know, and are pretty sure I’m an idiot because everyone else knows, keep it to yourself. I’m choosing to believe that no one knows this but a small, select few, and that my knowledge on this topic is fairly on par with everyone else’s.

Don’t tell me if I’m alone in this matter.

Anyway, the answer to the question lies in the fermentation of the tea leaves. Turns out, all three types of tea are from the same plant. The herb is called Camellia Sinensis.

Green tea

Green tea: This bevy is made with fresh tea leaves. It’s considered the most medicinally potent of the three, and is the official drink of Japan, even though its origins hail from China.

Oolong tea: It’s made with the same leaves as the green, but they’re slightly fermented.

Black tea: Same leaves again, but are fully fermented. This is the most pungent of the three teas.

Different countries specialize in the production of each type of tea, and they are marketed and sold in a way that would lead one to believe they are different plants. (Okay, I made that up. But I think that’s what they do.)

The primary properties of tea are called polyphenols or tannins, and they determine the tea’s color, strength, body, and ultimately, the taste. Fermentation changes the medicinal properties of the leaves, which results in each of the three teas yielding different health benefits. All three are considered stimulants.

Kombucha Tea

So there you have it. If you want more, you have to pre-order the book! (Which will take a couple of months to reach Amazon, I think.) It’s called The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea, and it’ll be a goodie. 😉 xo

5 Ways to Improve Gut Health TODAY

Key to healthy digestion

It’s no secret that if you want to strengthen your immune system (something we all want to do at this time of year), you have to start with your gut. Your intestines are the key to great health, and when you provide a good home to your good bacteria, you’re subsequently telling the bad bacteria to get lost, pronto.

While there are many factors that determine just how healthy your gut is at any given time, an ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria is essential. That is, you need more good than bad—and that can be difficult to attain at this time of year. Wintertime is full of bugs, booze, and baking: things bad bacteria thrive on.

So let me help you out. Here are 5 ways to increase the good guys, decrease the bad ones, and give your gut a great start to the New Year:

  • Begin taking probiotics. This is SUCH an easy way to increase the good guys. A daily dose of good quality probiotics can make a huge difference in your gut health. Tip: buy probiotics that are displayed in a refrigerator, and make sure to keep them cold at home, too. These supplements are full of living bacteria, and have a very short shelf life once they reach room temperature.
  • Stop consuming added sugar. Excess sugar depletes the immune system. It’s completely unnecessary, and over consumed by just about everyone. Food that contains naturally-occurring sugars are fine; things like fruit and whole grains. But abstain from candy, baking, chocolate, alcohol, fruit juice, and anything else that is loaded with added sugar. Believe me, you’ll thank yourself for this move: you’ll feel better, have more energy, clearer skin, and a much healthier immune system. (Not to mention losing a few post-holiday pounds!)
  • Eat less. This has nothing to do with losing weight. When you eat more than you need to, it creates strain on your digestive tract and throws your organs into a panic. For good bacteria to do its job properly, it needs to work what’s in its limits—and overeating on a consistent basis does not help these guys. If you want the good bacteria to thrive, then feed it what it can handle. Tip: Don’t eat until you feel full; eat until you don’t feel hungry anymore. When you reach 80%, stop. (This is also a good tip for those with IBS.)
  • Add fermented foods to your diet. I DO NOT MEAN BOOZE, PEOPLE! Fermented foods come in the form of sauerkraut, good quality, plain Greek yogurt, kombucha, organic miso, organic tempeh, and kimchi. By adding these probiotic powerhouses to your meal plans, you will increase the number of enzymes you consume, which will aid the good bacteria.
  • Make sure you stay regular. Yep—I mean in the bathroom. When you become constipated and stool backs up, friendly bacteria becomes completely overrun with the bad guys. Bad bacteria LOVE poop. Don’t let them have it—make sure you are using the toilet at least once a day to keep the bad guys in check, and the good guys happy. Tip: Upon waking, drink one liter of room-temperature water before putting anything else in your body. This will kick-start the digestive process.

There you have it! 5 ways to improve the health of your gut, ASAP. xo

Is 2015 the Year for Radical Self-Love?

Love

I attended a yoga class this morning, and, as always, benefited spiritually as well as physically. I was so thankful to have been granted the opportunity to make it to that class, and I wanted to share what I walked away with.

We all began by laying on our mats, on our backs with our eyes closed, and the instructor began to speak about resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are typically compiled in a tidy list of promises we attempt to make to ourselves. Usually, they’re about change. We want to work out more, lose twenty pounds, start reading American classics, or be a better parent.

That sort of thing.

We’ve all heard that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” right? Simply translated, we all have great intentions of making ourselves better people, but when we inevitably “fail” (don’t read, gain weight, persist in our habit of brushing off our kids), we become very hard on ourselves and it’s this by-product that we all need to try and avoid. Although the resolution was made with pure intent, it often results in guilt and varying degrees of anger or disappointment towards ourselves.

My yoga instructor today posed the question that instead of setting ourselves up for regret and negative self-talk and guilt, what if we all made 2015 the year for “radical self-love?”

What if we spent 365 consecutive days telling ourselves we’re perfect; that our wrongs can’t and shouldn’t be undone; that who we are today is because of those mistakes and errors in self-judgment and pride, and we just vowed to love ourselves and be gentle; to radiate warmth and compassion for those around us and ourselves?

What would the end of the year look like?

Love

Kindness and love is contagious, as is anger and frustration. Instead of wallowing in our own mis-steps and asking ourselves why we did what we did, or why we aren’t better, stronger, wealthier, or more successful, what if we made a pact to spread acceptance and forgiveness?

This is where we discuss the “trickle-down effect.” When you exemplify love, you receive it. When you show (not just tell) others how to be kind, you are breeding kindness all around you. So what if you did something bad or made terrible decisions in your past or have been collecting every reason under the sun to dislike yourself and give others reasons to dislike you, too?

Stop it.

By trickling down positive feelings instead of negative ones, we automatically offer the people in our lives the tools to do the same. How powerful is that? Instead of a My Little Pony, what if you could give your daughter the gift of self-love? Children model what they see and experience, as do the rest of us. If we all modeled self-love, self-respect, and self-worth, wouldn’t the world be an incredible place?

Forget the typical resolutions, and instead, make 2015 the year for love, kindness, patience, and above all, forgiveness; not just towards others, but towards yourself. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and make a conscious effort to move forward in your life by radiating empathy and acceptance for all you’ve done, and who you are right now. You’re already a perfect version of yourself—you just have to be willing to acknowledge it, and move on.

Happy New Year

Radical self-love. 2015. You can do it. Spread the word, and love, baby, love.

Happy holidays! xo