Have you ever felt yourself stressing out about finances, your current career path or your professional value? Do those things make you instantly feel lost? Perhaps you’re shifting careers, trying to decide what industry to… More
I know, you’re thinking: “she’s crazy, right?” Well… I might be, but it worked! Yep, I’ve continued to keep this going past the one month mark and had no intention of doing so. After moving back to Seattle, I realized that coming off of a huge 6-month traveling tour took it’s toll on my gut as well as my mood. I’ve spent hours thinking about how food affects my body and mind and I soon realized that it wasn’t about cutting out cheese and butter. After reading a few books outlining the benefits of a diet with no sugar or simple carbs and an increase in healthy fat, I finally decided to commit to it. Just like that…commitment happened.
This new approach to eating began with baby steps. When I started to analyze my habits, I noticed that every time I’d drink wine or any alcohol, the rest of my diet would slightly slip. On nights I omitted the wine, I’d usually eat a delicious salad with hefty vegetables and sugar-free, healthy salad dressing for dinner. But whenever I’d drink even one glass of wine, I’d sit one my couch and start snacking on processed popcorn or ‘healthy’ chips. Then, that jolt of energy would kick-start my cravings for bread, chocolate, parmesan, pasta, pizza and everything else I was trying to avoid. I had never associated the two habits before, but once I paid attention, it made sense.
The first two weeks of cutting out alcohol were easy. My routines continued without issue: working out, lots of decaf tea and plenty of new books. But once social events began to fill the calendar, avoiding alcohol became far more difficult than I thought it would be. My friends and I would go to dinner and everyone would order a glass of something. But rather than sip on a cabernet or merlot, I’d just order boring old water and sip it begrudgingly as the rest of them cheered with wine soaked smiles. To add more to the struggle, I traveled to San Diego on a weekend business trip, which was filled with evening parties, networking events and business dinners. This is where the learning curve made itself even more known. During moments when I’d normally think nothing of a drink or two, I was suddenly glancing around the room like an ugly duckling with no social safety net.
I didn’t drink casually because I necessarily wanted to, but because it is a cultural norm. Conversation flowed more easily, happy buzzed vibes gave me energy and I’d enjoy a night out a whole lot more. When I stopped drinking, there was a constant, uneasy feeling of FOMO, (fear of missing out) on nights where everyone would go out to bars. It just didn’t sound fun to soberly watch drunk people laugh and spill their beers all night. ‘Why don’t we go to the park? How about a picnic? Laser tag anyone?’ I’d think to myself.
Noticing the social expectations of having a drink made me feel somewhat frustrated. I’m not an alcoholic, but it was eye-opening to watch how much of society revolves around drinking alcohol.
Soon though, something interesting and unexpected occurred. Once I set the standard for not drinking, I noticed my friends absorbing my actions. When I’d say, ‘No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight,’ they would say, ‘Oh, yeah I don’t think I want anything either.’ Then, we’d order hot water with lemon instead and guess what… we’d STILL enjoy each other! How incredible!
Kicking alcohol was just the start. The confidence I mustered during those initial thirty days led me into my next challenge: NO SUGAR. Cringe-worthy, right? I didn’t know what shutting out sugar would be like, but I wanted to discover what else I could accomplish.
Normally, I wouldn’t consider reading food labels because I usually eat whole, unprocessed foods, but once I started paying attention to what contained sugar, my habits again became even more obvious. Initially, I decided to cut all desserts. Yes, this was insanely challenging, but I remained bold and strict. (Even when someone brought Top Pot Doughnuts to work). Now THAT was excruciating. But every time I forced myself to walk away from those sugary foods, it got easier and easier. The first three times I nearly ruined my streak, but soon enough there wasn’t a question of whether I’d eat it or not. I just didn’t.
You’ll find that most items with heavy sugar content also are cakey, starchy, carbo-loaded foods like cookies, coffee cake, pancakes, pasta, etc. So cutting out alcohol led me to cut out sugar, which then naturally became cutting out simple and unhealthy carbs, all by association!
Fast forward to a month and a half later and I feel happier than ever with a clean gut and far less excess body fat. I don’t weigh myself because pounds aren’t important to me, but I still FEEL fifteen pounds lighter, which should be the focus of getting healthier. Throughout this time, I continued my workout plan of exercising five to six times a week, switching off between yoga and weightlifting. Cutting out all this crap has resulted in far more energy, improved mood and lightened spirit, all because I decided to take the plunge and risk being the ugly duckling at a gathering.
In order to give myself some inspiration to continue my alcohol free lifestyle, I tried having a glass of wine while working at a restaurant one night to see how it would make me feel. Immediately, my body spoke loud and clear. One glass of wine after weeks and weeks of a clean liver made me feel foggy, slightly dizzy and again, pushed me to order a cheesy french onion soup that I later regretted.
So what does this mean for you? Start small. If you aren’t someone who drinks at all, (good for you), this domino effect system will still work. Starting with something like caffeine, sugar or bread is just as good as alcohol. Test yourself to see what you can truly accomplish. This system especially works when you have a buddy doing it with you. My boyfriend was the one to initially suggest cutting out alcohol to be healthier and his partnership in the adventure helped immensely. In those moments where I was about to give up, I’d think of his dedication and successes, and find the strength to say no. So, to inspire you further, here are three books you MUST read:
Sugar Crush by Raquel Baldelomar & Dr. Richard Jacoby
Skinny Bitch by Kim Barnouin
Smart Fat by Jonny Bowden and Steven Masley
Eating well and regaining control of your diet takes small, intentional steps and patience. Upwards of 80% of fat loss can be credited to diet. Not only that, but mood and behavior is directly associated to what you put in your mouth. “Your mood comes from your gut,” my mother used to say. Cutting out something that is making your body sick, blended with activity and exercise will shove you into a new mindset, thus giving you the strength you need to be truly heathy and lose excess body fat.
Well, I definitely didn’t mentally prepare for winter in Banff. This place blew my mind and froze my face off! If you haven’t heard of it, you have to go there.
Banff was way colder I realized it would be and far more beautiful than I could actually pictured in my head. A few friends warned me about the temperatures, but you have to feel -10 degrees Fahrenheit to actually understand what that means. I’m not a pansy in weather either! So in order for you to rightfully prep yourself and have the most incredible experience possible, here are some travel tips:
1. Rent a car
There are shuttles that take you from Calgary International Airport to Banff, but if you want to capture the most beautiful photography at Lake Louise, Abraham Lake or in Jasper, you’ll need a car with all wheel drive. I can’t tell you how many front wheel drive cars we saw on the side of the road, stuck deep in about 5 feet of snow and ice. Make sure you get insurance for your vehicle to avoid that mess. I think its about $30 a day (Canadian). The best rental service as far as speed, affordability and availability was Alamo, located right in the Calgary Airport. We went to all the services trying to get the best rate and they beat out all the other companies. You can’t really walk very far in the winter, as it’s way too cold, so a car is definitely a must.
You can’t mess around when packing for Banff. Pack a ton of layers, long johns, hand
warmers, hats, high quality gloves/mittens, face mask for skiing, a fleece, snow jacket, multiple thick winter ski socks, Sorel boots (or similar), waterproof snow pants, all camera equipment (including a tripod), hats, long insulated snow jacket and a GPS. There’s spotty service in the mountains!
The first thing the locals told us was, “Make sure you have a face mask and goggles.” We didn’t prepare for it to be -15F at the peak of the slopes, so we had to buy those when we got there. My hands were throbbing and completely red with two layers of gloves on, so hand-warmers were completely necessary. You have to cover every tiny area of skin on your body with layers of clothing in order to feel comfortable in that kind of weather. Pack snacks and make sure you get to the slopes in the morning if you want to be on the mountain all day. For instance, Sunshine Village closed at 4:30pm, which felt somewhat early.
Rankings for ski resorts:
1st Sunshine Village – best variety of blues, greens and blacks, 25 minutes from the town of Banff
2nd Lake Louise – great option if you’re staying close to Lake Louise
3rd Mount Norquay – mostly blacks
4. Find the good food
If you’re going to stay in the town of Banff, make sure you take a walk through the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It was built in the early 1900s, is definitely haunted, has a secret Gold Floor, boasts a beautiful outdoor heated pool in the snow and has some of the best restaurants in the area. Samurai, located on the first floor, has really great sushi. It’s not super cheap but worth it! (And I’m a sushi snob.) The town of Banff has mostly pubs and your average Canadian comfort food so we kept choosing the Fairmont restaurants time and time again. There are 12 dining options to choose from there!
5. Be adventurous
Make sure you don’t simply go wherever the top spots to visit are. Lake Louise, of course isn’t something you want to miss, but get out there and drive a ways out of town to find remote places that you can make your own. We took a long walk into the woods, not knowing where we were going and it was a blast. There was a wolf warning (a first for us) at the time, so we were careful, but other than that it was perfectly peaceful.
Spots not to miss:
Johnson Canyon (there are two waterfall locations, both beautifully frozen in winter. Prepare for a 30-minute hike to the lowest point and a bit longer if heading to the upper waterfall. Can be icy, be careful!
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Fairmont Banff Springs
Leaving Banff can be hectic during the wintertime because airports and flights often get cancelled due to weather conditions. Our flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. It might be safe to save a day after your trip for potential flight issues!
Have you ever been caught in a creative lull? Perhaps you’ve been sucked into a negative spiral and can’t seem find your inspiration. Or – maybe you’re usually bustling with creative energy, yet it’s been weeks and you can’t seem to hold onto a good idea? We’ve all been there.
Some days are going to be better than others and we all get that. So how to you jump back on track? Well, it’s certainly different for everyone, but here’s a list to help you find your spark again.
1. Find your spot
I know when I need something to get my mind going, I search tirelessly for the most creative space I can find. Sometimes it’s a park, a library or a wine bar. Most of the time though, it’s a coffee shop with really, really good coffee. Sorry, no Starbucks for me. Getting myself out of my house or office, where I can people watch, daydream, sketch, and simply watch the world from a different perspective, helps fuel my artistic side. It’s the honest truth that I never blog while sitting on my couch; it just doesn’t happen. So find that place in your city or town that exudes good energy, often all you need is just some new vibes.
2. Break the routine
You have a specific routine. Everyone does. So when you desperately need to shift your stale mind, you must think differently and DO something different. What I mean by this is, when you have a go-to for inspiring yourself or a particular thought like,
“Oh, I’ll go read this one book and I know I’ll be inspired.”
Change it up. Rather than doing the expected, go ahead and have a glass of wine and relax. It takes opening our minds to get ideas flowing. You won’t get new ideas by doing the same thing over and over again. So go someplace new, text an old friend and meet up just to talk, or go to an art gallery and observe someone else’s creativity. Trust me, the next time you sit down to start working, you’ll have new images in your mind to work with.
3. Get away from your phone
Our phones are fun and all but our creativity shuts down when we mindlessly flip through other people’s amazing pictures. Not only that, but we tend to feel less confident afterward. You have to get outside and put your phone away to see color again. What I mean by color is the trees, landscape and beauty around you. I know vast landscapes always make me feel unstoppable. That, and a spontaneous road trip.
4. Use your contacts
TALK TO PEOPLE. Don’t be afraid to ask others to bounce ideas around with you. Even if you don’t tell them you’re seeking inspiration, just chat with someone who makes you happy. Matter of fact, find your most hilarious friend. When you laugh, you tend to be the most creative, unless you’re one of those genius melancholy artists who can always bust out something amazing.
5. Music choices
Music is everything for me when I’m working. Whether it be jazz, rap, acoustic, country or something else, each genre creates a different emotion within me, thus inducing completely varying reactions. Sometimes I throw on the Beatles in the car and I’ll have such a strong reaction that I’ll find myself daydreaming about traveling abroad and how I can get there. Then I’ll end up going. When it’s jazz, I feel more mellow and romantic. So think about it next time you throw on some tunes. Be intentional!
I hope this helps you brainstorm a few ways you can bring that fire back into your creative space. If you’re still struggling, this quote always helps me:
“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” — Albert Camus
The holidays are almost here! As much as we garner joy from this time of year, we also find ourselves dreading some of the hidden habits that we take on from October 31st to January 1st (or 2nd depending on how hungover you are.)
So how do we stay on track? Is it simply impossible? Should we just accept that we’ll fall off the bandwagon and deal with it later?
One of the most important aspects of staying healthy and lean is to not give yourself the option to dive off the deep end. I know that whenever I’m home with family, I’ll crave baking a pie or cooking with as much butter as I can get my hands on. But before I give myself the option to consider opening up that old school cookbook my mom’s had for 30 years, I remember that if the food is there, I’m going to eat it. I can’t handle the temptation. So how do we still enjoy this time of year without quitting our favorites cold turkey? I have one word for you:
Substitutions definitely work but take more thoughtfulness. Nowadays, there are so many foods that can help to stop your cravings and make you feel satisfied without having to indulge.
This is what I mean:
Craving sugar? Pie? Cookies? = chia pudding with almond milk, cinnamon, honey, shaved almonds, fruit or a cup of tea sweetened with honey or Stevia. Many times your sugar cravings kick in when you’re dehydrated. Take a minute to down a few glasses of water, wait 10 minutes and see if you still have the craving. I bet you don’t!
Want a big ol’ juicy steak? = often times we crave a burger or steak because we’re low on iron or protein. Our minds are wired to go there because the flavors are most abundant. But, there are so many vegetable dishes that end up satisfying us just like a burger would. I know that sounds crazy and you might be rolling your eyes right now, but give it a try. Here are some decadent vegetable recipes that will help curve that craving while satisfying you on all levels: Dig-in!
Need a buzz? = GO FOR WINE. Don’t slap the bag or chug it at dinner, but wine often helps with digestion. Still, don’t go crazy. Try having a glass of red rather than sugary, syrupy, goopy, Cinnamon Bailey’s, Egg Nog over-the-top holiday craziness.
Overeating = overeating is a common side-effect of the holidays. Everything is just so yummy so why not fill your entire plate twice because it’s so welcoming? Because you’ll die from the expanding digestive tract inside you. THAT’S WHY. Think about this: the day before everyone arrives for Thanksgiving and Christmas, drink as much water as you can. Drink water like it’s your job. The more water you drink, the less pain you’ll feel after the meal. You’ll be slightly full before the meal so you’ll eat less.
So while that turkey looks beautiful and indulging, think about preparing for the massive amounts of food and set yourself up for success. You’ve worked so hard to eat consciously, now keep yourself on track!
Do you ever experience that ridiculously full feeling after a meal? We’ve been told so many things about our diet and how it relates directly to digestion. Drink more water, eat more fiber, eat more of that, eat less of that, bla bla bla. It’s all so confusing and seems to change every five minutes. So rather than changing anything that we eat, here are 5 tips to boost your metabolism and make you feel better after a meal:
1. Eat slowly
This is my #1 rule. Eating slowly is so hard to do sometimes. Unless, you’re one of those people with the magic ability to NOT stuff your face. (That’s not me.) Eating slowly allows you time to enjoy your food. Our bodies digest food slower than we eat it and you’d be shocked how much less you eat when you take the time to put the fork down in between bites. Plus, the meal lasts so much longer, so the bliss continues!
2. Savor your food – feed your soul
One of the hardest parts of being a hard worker is that we tend to eat on the move. While eating in between meetings is alright once in awhile, try to remember to stop, sit and enjoy your meal. Don’t eat food that you don’t thoroughly enjoy, because sometimes you’ll forget how amazing flavor and texture can truly be. Take one bite, chew it slowly and think about what flavors stick out to you. Think about what you love about each ingredient. Maybe next time you’ll realize how good that sandwich was rather than cringe at how full you feel.
3. Invite friends to join you
Most of us eat alone these days. Especially in America, we work ourselves into the ground and end up eating alone on our couch with a glass of wine while watching our favorite show. Eating is a cultural, physiological practice, which is meant to be enjoyed with others. When you eat with a group of friends or your family, you tend to find more joy and comfort from your meal. So next time you’re driving home thinking of ordering Grubhub or Postmates alone, call up your mom or your best friend and invite them over. Have a party!
4. Carry around healthy snacks – so you don’t go into starvation mode
I know for me, whenever I don’t bring snacks with me to work, I get hangry and rush off to the closest taco stand. Instead of ordering 2 tacos, I order 4 and I eat them as if I’ve never eaten in my entire life. I let myself get far too hungry which simply becomes a stomach ache and instant regret. Yes those tacos were great, but I could barely taste them since it was apparently a race to inhale as much shrimp, salsa and guacamole as humanly possible. So don’t be me at lunch next time. Bring nuts, peanut butter, apples and maybe a raw protein bar to hold you over. We aren’t neanderthals!
5. Cook…all the time.
Cooking is not only one of the most enjoyable pastimes for many, but it is a way to understand what goes in to creating the meals we love so much. Humans began their existence by hunting, gathering, preparing and sharing their food in a slow, drawn out manner. Some cultures understand the social connection we are meant to have with food, but for some reason Americans tend to purchase and stuff, rather than cook every meal. When we cook, we have more control over the calories we consume, we can reduce stress and perhaps build relationships if we cook with friends. So pop open that recipe book!
Special thanks to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.
What if we love travel, but we wouldn’t dare to leave home by ourselves? It can be daunting to even think of going somewhere you’ve never been without a friend or family member with you. All I ever read in travel blogs are ‘must-dos’ before you settle down, and they often include a bullet for traveling alone. So why is that no one seems to do it?
Here are five tips to build up the courage to travel alone and to make it worth while.
1. Start your adventure in your own town.
Be a tourist in your hometown for a day. Take yourself on a date, don’t go to your typical spots and walk around without looking at your phone. See your hometown as if you’ve never been there before. Remember though, don’t look at your phone while you walk… take a look around and see how it feels to wander by yourself.
2. Find a place you’ve wanted to go for a long time.
There’s got to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Pick out a place that you would feel safe if you were there alone. For some, it’s Charleston, South Carolina, for others it’s Dubai. Don’t put limits on yourself!
3. Plan specific places to go.
Once you’ve chosen a destination, find some of the best spots to hit while you’re there. Whether it be certain beaches, museums, restaurants or hikes, find them and write them down. Don’t stop there though, investigate and document all the intricate ways to get there. Keep the directions in a journal so you can take it with you. (Use pictures and maps as well!)
4. Plan for problems.
Bringing extra money with you while you travel alone will help you relax in tense situations. If you lose your train ticket, you need a late night bite in a decent area, or you want to upgrade to a better hotel room to feel comfortable, allow yourself that luxury. Traveling alone can be stressful enough, so keep yourself packed with financial support. (Not with cash, but money in credit cards.)
5. Don’t be afraid to make friends when you get there.
Yes, being safe when meeting strangers is imperative. But there are so many incredible people who embrace lone travelers as if they were family. Find a cafe that matches your style, bring your laptop and get some work done. I’ve found that working in a bustling place encourages new friends to inquire about what you do. From there, you’re able to share who you really are with them and potentially create new relationships that could last a lifetime. Or – perhaps sit at a wine bar before the dinner crowd arrives and befriend the bartender. Bartenders seem to know all the ins and outs of a town. Start there!
Traveling alone is definitely for the brave. Luckily, you’re brave… so don’t wait for someone else to find interest in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Get out there and make life what you want it to be.
“Success is when preparation meets opportunity.”
This was what my mom used to tell me growing up. I always believed her, but I couldn’t rely on luck, so I chose to pave my own path anyway. I spent my childhood fighting to be the most well-rounded kid I could be. I was athletic; I was a dedicated theater performer; I was passionate about my education; I nurtured my relationships; I ate healthily; I learned lessons the first time; I tried to always make my family proud. Each day, I set an intention to remain happy, patient and always respect myself. This was how I was going to make my life exactly what I wanted it to be.
Despite my efforts, there were times when I would question my specific decisions, when I thought I needed to have more fun and stop trying so hard. People would often tell me not to take life so seriously. It wasn’t until others commented about it that I thought I was living a heavy, high-pressure lifestyle. It made me worry that I was wasn’t focused on the right elements of life. Watching all those other kids have a blast and not worry about their futures made me nervous that I was watching my life pass by.
But today is different. I spoke to my mom this morning about how each step I’ve taken up until today has led to this minute. I knew I had big dreams, HUGE dreams when I was young, but to think I’d actually accomplish them rarely crossed my mind. My focus
was on the path to getting there and enjoying that first… then maybe if that luck rolled around I’d catch my dream job. Well…sitting here today, thinking back on all of the frustrating piano lessons, dense theater classes, long study nights, impossible exams and tough moments of defeat, I can now say that everything was worth it. I can’t believe I get to say that! I get to say it because a few weeks ago, I landed got my dream job. I get to pack up everything I own, jump on a plane, hurl myself into the unknown with a really great friend of mine and get paid to do it!
My dream job is quite different than what most people picture. I hoped to blend everything I love into one particular position. But I was told that job doesn’t exist, so I was about to settle for second best. What is unexpected, is that this new job was carefully crafted to work out. Everything I did in my life up until today has led to it. The position isn’t even a job, it is an adventure. I couldn’t have created a job more perfectly aligned with who I am. A job that involves health, wellness, travel, cooking, meeting other people and television is all wrapped up into a perfect bow. Luck? Sure. But most importantly: preparation.
All the questions I lived with for so many years, about whether or not I’m doing the right things, have been answered. I am so grateful!