Going through life, one practice, one breath, one day at a time.

Dark Under Eye Circle Solutions

We all have something about our physical appearance that we’d like to be a little different.

Heck, there’s a reason the beauty and makeup industry rakes in billions upon billions of dollars each year. They thrive on the knowledge that people are always looking for ways to brighten their appearance, fight wrinkles, boost their glow, cover this, accentuate that, etc, etc.

For me, the problem area is my eyes — specifically the dark circles under them.

I’ve always been convinced that, to some degree, they’re hereditary and I’ve tried everything, I mean everything, to cover them up. I’ve tried expensive creams, cheap creams and just about every brand of cover up at Sephora, department stores and MAC.

Lately, they’ve gotten worse, so I’ve been doing some research to figure out the causes and some potential treatments.

There are the obvious solutions:

  1. Get 8 hours of quality sleep.
  2. Drink 8-10 glasses of water.
  3. Cut back on salt, caffeine and alcohol.
  4. Put down the fried and fatty foods.
  5. Increase your intake of iron rich foods.

Considering I do these (at least most of the time) and don’t see a difference, I decided to do a little more research.

There’s the theory that the skin is thin and blood vessels showing through. Some solutions for that:

  1. Preparation H hemorrhoid cream (seriously). It constricts blood vessels and supposedly makes the hue a little lighter. 
  2. Vitamin E, which regulates vitamin A
  3. Vitamin K, which works on damaged capillaries
  4. Vitamin A, which has anti-aging properties and works on the skin around the eyes
  5. Steeped and cooled green tea bags or cucumbers on your eyes
  6. Almond oil

Being not overly excited about these options and preferring to get to the root of the problem which I generally believe comes from something going on inside and just manifesting itself on the outside,  I wanted to see what Chinese medicine says about the purple tint under my eyes.

Chinese medicine teaches that darkness under eyes is related to the kidneys – usually some sort of deficiency. Chinese medicine doctors don’t actually use the eyes as a diagnosis of kidney issues, but the two seem to go hand in hand. A weak kidney is often the result of exhaustion and when the balance is off, you need to take steps to even things out.

Certain foods are known to support the kidneys. These include:

  • Complex carbohydrates including whole grains like brown rice, millet and oats
  • Dark leafy greens (which, let’s be real, seem to come into play for just about any ailment!)
  • Root vegetables
  • Kidney shaped foods like black beans and kidney beans
  • Dark fruits such as blackberries and blueberries
  • Seaweed, spirulina and kelp
  • And, for animal protein eaters, eggs, oysters, squid and sardines

There are also foods the kidneys don’t particularly like. These include cold foods and raw foods – even raw vegetables. If you suffer from kidney deficiency, you want to lightly steam them.

On top of the foods that can help, I came across  few anecdotes about people who turned to kidney support supplements and saw actual improvements in their dark circles within a few weeks or months. From what I can tell, these generally include some of the following ingredients:

Milk thistle, dandelion, marshmallow, artichoke, cornsilk, horsetail, burdock root, parsley, and uva ursi leaf.

Unfortunately, like just about anything else that requires the body to come back into balance, none of this is likely to be a magic bullet and work overnight and will require patience.

I intend to give some of these options a try – starting with a kidney support supplement or tincture – and will be sure to let you know if I find any success!

Do you have a solution that’s worked for you? I would love to hear about it!!

 

Coconut Crystals … Another Sweet Idea

In my posting from this weekend, I mentioned that a trip to Rollin’ Oats was not only about the only social interaction I had all weekend, but it was also incredibly enlightening!

One lesson was my introduction to the many ways to use psyllium beyond just taking a capsule with a glass of water.

But, that wasn’t the only discovery I made. Standing in front of the coconut oils and reveling in the fabulousness of the magical substance and its many uses, I began talking to a woman who, I soon came to learn, had lost about 150 pounds — and she did it the healthy way, simply eating better foods and getting moving.

As I shared with her my not-so-secret secret about a Tampa-based coconut oil company, Kelapo, she told me about her little guilty pleasure, coconut crystals!

coconut crystals

Rollin’ Oats had the brand Coconut Secret. I didn’t know much about it. My new, and smaller, friend from the oil-aisle told me she uses it like brown sugar. Her one suggestion was using it on roasted, mashed squash. From what I can tell, you can also use it like any other sweetener in tea, dessert recipes and on cereals. Supposedly it is more sweet than coconutty but it sounds to me like it’d be amazing in oatmeal and possibly even my morning pleasure…  coffee.

It’s important to note here that when I changed my diet, there’s one of the common practice of vegans that I refused to fall into – and that is finding substitutes for unhealthy foods that just happen to be vegan — translation, foods that may not be made with animal products but are still made with a whole lot of ingredients not found in nature, i.e. all those fake chicken-like products you can find in the freezer section, etc. The same goes for sugar and sugar substitutes. Most of the time I would rather eat something less sweet than add a sweetener that’s just going to send me looking for more and more sweets. It’s no secret that eating sweet foods send us down a slippery slope of wanting more and more sweets. Granted, sweeteners with a lower glycemic index temper this slightly, but it’s still a practice I would rather avoid most of the time.

But, of course, the grocery store conversation still piqued my interest, which meant coming home and doing a little more research.

The crystals are made from the sap of the coconut tree and are sometimes called palm sugar and it DOES have some health benefits.

In addition to its low-glycemic index (GI 35) which makes it diabetic-friendly, the crystals are chock-full of other nutritional benefits including:

  • 17 amino acids
  • High levels of vitamin C
  • Broad-spectrum B vitamins, including inosital which has a calming effect along with reducing blood cholesterol
  • Nearly neutral pH.
  • It also is high in inulin which means it’s digestive friendly.
  • Now, I can’t speak for all brands, but this particular one is supposedly also good for raw foodies. The makers of it say it is enzymatically alive.

The other aspect of coconut crystals that is especially appealing is that it is not artificial like so many sweeteners out there. It’s not even a by-product of sugar like so many of the sweet-things out there today. Instead, it is an all-natural, whole food that just gives a little oomph to other foods – and to your body!

In the sake of full disclosure, I didn’t end up buying coconut crystals this weekend, but my order is in with Vitacost.com (the lowest price I could find) so I’m excited about getting my canister and trying it out.

I will be sure to report back with any updates!

In the meantime, here are some links to the various brand pages and where to buy.

A Lesson at the Market: Psyllium

I’ve known that there’s something a little odd about the fact that when I’m bored, one of  my favorite activities is to go to Whole Foods or some other local organic market and wander around. A few years ago I used to actually have a routine on the weekend where I would go to a produce market and 2-3 organic markets to get all of the foods and treats I enjoy because no one store had them all. It would take me hours to complete the shopping circuit, but, oddly, it made me really happy!

At the time, I would chalk this somewhat odd behavior to at least being productive since I was buying foods that would last me a while and my diet was much stricter than it is now.

Well, today I realized something. I’m officially a health food geek. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a title I wear with a great deal of pride.

I spent most of this lovely Saturday wandering around aimlessly, even stopped to get a bite to eat at a restaurant/bar that has both good food and good outside atmosphere. Since I wasn’t exactly feeling it, I decided to head out and stopped at Rollin’ Oats on my way home to pick up some roasted veggies from their pre-made food section.

But, did I stop there? Of course not! And I learned a few interesting food facts along with way.

The many uses of psyllium.

The many uses of psyllium.

One was about Psyllium Husk.

Psyllium had come up in a conversation with a friend recently. She was looking for something to keep her ‘regular’ and psyllium supplements were at the top of my list of recommendations. But, I was only familiar with pysllium as a capsule.

Today, I discovered you can buy psyllium powder and the entire husk to use various ways — including in recipes. And there it was in the bulk food section right below the nuts all along. Despite all of my research into health food and, especially digestive supplements and high fiber products, I had no idea until I heard a gentleman asking about it for a friend of his who is coming to visit him.

For those of you unfamiliar with pysllium, it’s a source of serious fiber. I sort of envision it like a sponge. This is probably more than a bit of a simplistic explanation, but I think of it like a dry sponge/brillo pad in your intestine that absorbs water and expands as it moves through, scraping up and dragging all the gunk in the intestines with it, and, well, not to be gross, but then disposing of all that at the other end.

Being the nosy person I am and always overhearing conversations and piping in my two cents, I took this opportunity to ask the man about the psyllium powder and husks and how to use them. Unfortunately, he didn’t share a whole lot trade secrets, but it was enough to send the research part of my brain into overdrive when I got home.

Here’s what I discovered…

First, on top of the fabulous benefit of keeping you regular, because it’s so high in fiber (70% soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber) and because it expands the way it does, it can help with weight loss since it fills you up. I’ve read that it’s also highly beneficial in helping to treat IBS and even fights the risk of stroke in obese individuals.

And, here’s the part I really didn’t know before today…

  • You can add psyllium to a juice or some other drink, just be sure you drink it quickly before it thickens up. 
  • You can add psyllium powder to baked goods to increase the fiber content without adding calories or flavor
  • When combined with water psyllium works as an egg-replacement to bind ingredients in gluten-free baking!
  • It makes smoothies thicker and decreases levels of the hormone ghrelin (a Dr. Oz favorite). Ghrelin is what tells you that you’re hungry, so by decreasing the levels, you  feel full faster.

So, there you have it! The many uses of pysllium. But one really, really important note — Drink LOTS of water! Since psyllium absorbs all that water, if you don’t replace it, you will very likely end up dehydrated! You’ve been warned – from the girl who is so terrible about drinking water that I had to put an app on my phone to remind me.  🙂

Of course, you know what this means! Guess who’s going to be back at Rollin’ Oats tomorrow!

Healthy Food vs. Healthy Diet

Diet is a funny thing. There’s healthy food. And there’s a healthy diet. But the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Admittedly, I’m a prime example of that. I’m pretty sure my body has been screaming that fact at me for some time now. I’ve just refused to listen.

Of course, the great irony here is that my whole quest to eat healthy started because I wasn’t feeling good. I took out all the foods I knew to be “bad” and then the foods I thought to be “bad” out of my diet. That left, in my mind, only healthy and clean foods — with a few select exceptions, i.e chips and guacamole, sweet potato fries, and alcohol (don’t judge! A girl’s gotta have some vice!). But even my not-so-healthy foods I’ve managed to justify as being okay to eat because they’re not laden with ingredients that I can’t pronounce and all sorts of additives that are created in some creepy lab somewhere. They’re also, in my mind at least, void of processed sugar. So, that’s good, right?

Unfortunately for me, I’m also hyper-aware of the foods my body likes and doesn’t like, among them, foods that are highly recommended for most people, i.e. flax, salads, many fruits, agave, etc. With all that taken out, it doesn’t leave a whole lot, especially for someone who is often too impatient to cook and is anti-microwave, which means a hot meal at work has an added challenge.

Suffice it to say, with so many ‘rules’ in my diet, what should be a completely healthy diet, turns into a diet void of nutrition. Okay, maybe not totally void, but certainly not exploding with nutrients like you might expect. And, every so often, I realize the impact this is having on my body. I’m tired. I can’t concentrate. I become irritable.

Any of this sounding familiar??

Newsflash. It’s because your body NEEDS nutrients! No, really! It does! And, all the clean eating in the world won’t change that. The body cannot function on oatmeal, rice and chips alone. Even a bag of almonds from Starbucks, yummy and full of protein they may be, aren’t enough to keep your brain in top shape. And that protein shake… it’s a great start, but, again, still not enough to keep your body going when that’s all the protein you give it in a 24-hour time span!

As a general rule, 10- 15% of your caloric intake should come from protein. So, what does that mean? If you eat 2,000 calories a day, 200 – 300 calories should come from protein. Or, put another way, you should get 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 120 pound woman, that’s 54 kilograms, or 54-ish grams of protein.

Now, let’s take that a step further to putting it in bite size, digestable information – specifically for the vegetarians among us.

  • A can of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup has 14 grams of protein. (hint – you’ll need 3+ cans for your daily intake!)
  • A can of Amy’s chili (can you tell I like Amy’s??) has 30 grams of protein. (MUCH better)
  • LightLife tempeh (1/2 a brick, which is about how much I eat/serving) has 19 grams. Not bad…
  • Chip and Guacamole. Sorry… not so much
  • Broccoli has 3.6 grams for a cup. Not bad… but that’s a whole lotta the green stuff
  • Almonds have just over 7 grams per 1/4. Translation, you’re going to end up with an upset stomach if this is your only source

Coincidentally, I found this posted on Facebook today for a few more ideas.

vegetarian sources of protein

So, to conclude… the good news: You CAN get enough protein in your diet, but you ARE going to have to think about it and it IS going to take a bit of effort on your part.

And, more importantly, it IS worth the effort.

Take Action – It Matters

One of the aspects of taking classes with amazing teachers is the little nuggets they share during class that just manage to hit home.

Sometimes it’s the intention-setting talk at the beginning of class or a poem read to seal the practice. But, other times, and seemingly even more often, it’s something the teacher says off the cuff in the middle of class, not really knowing that one little comment is going to have a profound impact and stick with someone, be shared with others, or serve as a light bulb that sparks additional thoughts and epiphanies for days or even weeks and years to come.

That line for me this week was by Marc Holzman on YogaGlo. It was a class about action. This was the third in a series of classes he did a few years ago about focusing on the three A’s of Anusara. Attitude, Alignment, Action.

I’ll paraphrase (mostly because I can’t remember exactly what he said and I’d hate to totally butcher his powerful message).

Basically, he said…

Thoughts and intentions without action might as well have never existed. 

It’s a theory I’ve thought about many times but have never really expressed quite as eloquently as Marc did, and, admittedly, I have never been very good at putting into practice — which is the bigger problem.

Call it a lack of self importance or some other feeling of intimidation, but for as long as I can  remember, I always had really good intentions and would think about friends or loved ones often, but then I turned into the kid who just wouldn’t go to a birthday party, or play after school, or send a birthday card… always just thinking I wasn’t that important and that it wouldn’t mean much if the gesture in my head never happened.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I realized how those little things DO matter. And they matter just as much whether you’re talking about someone you’ve known for years, or someone you saw in Starbucks or in yoga class.

And, here’s the really important part … those thoughts in your head… I know this may come as a surprise, but people can’t read your mind. Unless you actually open your mouth and utter the words – in other words, TAKE ACTION, they have no idea what you’re thinking! I know! Shock! Right?? You might as well have never had those complimentary thoughts, because they’re living just in your head and not having the positive impact they could be having on someone else.

Think about it in the reverse. Think about the last time someone gave you a compliment that really made you feel good. It could be someone at work,  a friend, a significant other, or someone you just saw while you were out one day who complimented your shoes. Think about how that made you feel. Probably pretty good. It may have even turned your whole day around. Now imagine if that person just kept those thoughts in his or her head. There’s a chance your day might have gone in a totally different direction.

There’s a reason people say pay it forward, and there’s a reason Marc Holzman talked about action. Action matters – and action matters most when it has a positive impact on another human being.

So, I encourage you, next time you think about someone in a positive way, let them know. Give them a compliment. Send them a card. Drop them an email. Let them know they’re on your mind, and, I promise, you will do something positive for their mind.

Postures for Anxiety Relief

Have you ever been lying in bed and suddenly think, ‘I’d like to be doing half moon right now.’

Or, sitting  on the couch just watching tv and think, ‘A handstand would feel great at this exact moment.’

Or, how about sitting at work and suddenly getting the urge to get into a forward fold.

I don’t know about you, but it seriously happens to me all the time. Then it occurred to me, since I really cleansed my internal body and eat only pure foods, any cravings tend to be a sign of what my body is lacking. Is it possible the same relationship translates to yoga. When you’ve trained your body about the power of yoga, does the mind crave certain postures that it knows would ease whatever is ailing you??

With that theory, I started thinking about the different postures I was yearning to do and the benefits of each, then sought the common denominator. And, lo and behold, not that it was any surprise, but they all have been praised for their benefits of easing anxiety.

In addition to the ones above

  • Standing forward fold
  • Half moon
  • Handstands

here are a few other ones:

  • Bridge pose (lay down, bend your knees, lift your hips)
  • Cat/Cow
  • And, of course, the mother of all calming poses, seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana)

Now, because I’m often the master of the obvious, I’ll point out that just the postures alone won’t do the trick. Just doing something may get the ball rolling, but then there’s the breath and really focusing on the pose.

WHY THEY WORK

The way I see it, Cat/Cow, Half Moon and Bridge, share the element of heart opening. The more open your heart, the more you’re able to breathe deeply, which then creates a sense of calm.

And the more you focus on opening and breathing, the more effective the postures will be. So here are a few tips to get the maximum opening benefits…

Cat/Cow:

  1. With the wrists under the shoulders and the hips over the knees, focus on elongating the  spine from the heart to the crown of the head and from the heart back to the tailbone.
  2. As you lift your chest for cow, think about sliding the shoulder blades down the back and pulling your heart through your arms while you inhale and fill your lungs. Keep the neck pulling back and the crown of the head reaching for the sky. Keep the arms active energetically drawing towards each other and the thighs rotating inward to open the hips.
  3. On the exhale round your back and draw the tailbone and crown of the head toward the earth. As you do, keep your shoulders away from your ears and expand the back body. Your arms should still be drawing towards each other energetically and the thighs internally rotating.
  4. Continue with deep inhales and exhales.

Half Moon

  1. It’s always easiest to get into this from Trikonasana. Jumping ahead and assuming you’re in the posture, starting on the ground, ground all four corners of the foot. You might find a microbend in the knee of the standing leg will help with stability.
  2. Moving up the body, stack the hips on top of each other as if you’re standing between two panes of glass.
  3. The leg in the air should be in line with the hip as if you were standing on the wall. Keep the foot flexed and engaged. Despite there being nothing actually to push against, imagine you are standing at a wall and pushing against it. That will engage the entire leg.
  4. Moving back up the body, once again lengthen the spine – heart to tailbone and heart to crown of the head.
  5. Now, the part for me that’s most powerful, opening the body and heart…. Reach the hand you’re not using for balance toward the sky to brighten the pose. As you do this, keep turning the heart to open the body. Make sure as you reach the fingers skyward, that you’re keeping your should engaged in the shoulder joint and shouldblade is moving down your back. You will feel so much more room to breath and continue to expand the body.
  6. It’s easy to let the side of the body closer to the floor to shorten, don’t forget to continue lengthening the side body too.
  7. TIP: If you’ve never tried this with your floating foot against the wall, give it a shot. It’s surprisingly awesome – and with the extra support, you may just get that bottom hand off the ground too!

 Bridge Pose

I always forget how great this feels, until I do it in a class.

  1. It’s so easy to just lift your hips and then do nothing, but then the benefits will be, well, nothing! One key for me, the shoulders. Wiggle them under the body, and, if you can, clasp your hands. Continue to pull your shoulders under you to open the chest.
  2. Don’t forget, there’s another half of your body too that needs attention. Keep the thighs engaged and pulling towards each other. They’ll naturally rotate internally by doing this, which means more room for the tailbone. Tuck it under.
  3. Then there’s the feet. No duck feet here. Keep them straight on and pushing into the earth.
  4. TIPS: If you have any concerns about your neck, put a folded blanket under your shoulders.
  5. AND, try a block between your legs, you’ll be forced to squeeze them together to keep the block in place, making the posture incredibly energetic.

So, next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, get off that couch or out from behind the computer and try one of these postures.

They work. I promise.

Have it your way: Tips for getting what you want when you eat out

Burger King was on to something when they started the slogan “Have it your way.”

If you can have it your way at Burger King, why not have it your way at anyother restaurant?

I find that most people are afraid to ask for it their way. When I started being pickier about my food consumption, especially during my days of being a raw foodie, I had no choice but to ask for what I wanted. I became a master at scouring a menu to see what ingredients they had available on various dishes and then combining them to a dish that worked for me.

Take for example a salad. Let’s say you find a salad that sort of works, but then when you take off all the toppings you don’t want, you basically have lettuce and tomatoes. But, search a little deeper, see those fish tacos with black beans and avocado? They can probably put those much more satisfying toppings on your salad.  Or what about the walnuts that are on the ‘other’ salad? There’s no reason you can’t have those too! Or, did you see the sun dried tomotoes that they put on the fish? Why not ask for those to add a bit more flavor to your otherwise seemingly rabbit food?

I can’t say these requests haven’t led to a look of confusion on more than a few servers’ faces, but they usually oblige. Now, to be fair, I also usually give them a bit of warning before I start ordering just to let them know, in a self-debricating way, that I’m going to be difficult. Once they have that warning, they usually go along with my whims.

Even the other morning, I met a friend for brunch. They had an option on the menu that included fruit, yogurt, and granola served with a side of home fries or grits. Well, I just wanted fruit – and my guilty pleasure of home fries. And I wanted more than the tiny bowl that they serve as a side of fruit.

So, I asked. And, despite the server being a bit confused seeing that she was used to people ordering french toast covered in crushed Cap’n Crunch, she ended up bringing me exactly what I wanted and in the most economical way she could surmise.

Of course, I can’t say I have 100% success with this approach and there are times I leave restaurants not completely satisfied, but more than not, I get it my way.

All it takes is:

1. Start with a smile — and a warning doesn’t hurt either
2. Go into it knowing that your special request may end up coming with a nominal upcharge
3. Search the menu to find something close to what you want
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you DON’T want
5. Scour the menu to find what you DO want and ASK FOR IT!
6. The more specific you can be and the more confident you are, the more likely you’ll get exactly what you want

Enjoy having it your way!