It’s the Little Things

sticky- on track

I’ve never been into those cheery, inspirational posters people hang on their dorm rooms and office walls. You know the ones, with a kitten clinging to the branch of a tree and the words “Hang in there!” across the bottom. Or “TEAMWORK” scrawled under a bunch of guys rowing a boat. Because, you know, they gotta row in the same direction, like a team. Ahem.

But I am a fan of Post-it® notes. Thank you Dr. Spencer Silver and Art Fry for making them possible. Anyone who has ever been in my home or office, and sometimes even my car, has seen a rainbow of notes containing shopping list, passwords, directions, and tasks.

sticky- to do

Nowadays people put all that on their phones, but old habits die hard and my sticky note habit started in the pre-phone era. Hard to believe I’m that old, I know.
So when I was looking for a way to stay on the right track with my diet and exercise goals, I stayed in my comfort zone. My wheelhouse, if you will.

I went right to my little buddies and asked for some help.

sticky- move
Little friendly messages strategically placed throughout the house remind me to eat less sugar, eat more nuts, and to move my butt. And while some days I just gaze right past them, over time I think they’re helping. Looking at them every day, the messages have seeped into my brain.

sticky- eat nuts sticky- no sugar!

How do YOU stay on track?

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Getting more zzzzzzzzs…

Big Yawn

What your sleep says about your health

I’ve always loved sleep. Like, really loved it. I’d sleep for ten or eleven hours a night, regularly. Or until my mother came in and opened the blinds. At least on weekends and summer break. During the school week, and later work week, I’d stay up reading until eleven or twelve, and then struggle to wake up in time for the bus.

What I didn’t realize was that my excessive sleeping was my body’s cry for help.

Sleep is super important. It helps sweep away waste and repair cells and muscles. It helps our brain clean up and repair. It allows our heart and lungs to rest. But most people can do all that in 6-8 hours. I needed 10.

I eventually learned that I was, in fact, sick. All the time. My food allergies were messing up my whole system. When I finally stopped eating the bad stuff and recovered, I needed less sleep. Funny, huh? And when I slip and eat some bad stuff now, I pay for it the next morning. Or the next couple of mornings.

What if you have the opposite problem? What if you can’t get to sleep? What if you sit there staring at the numbers on your alarm clock, watching them change every sixty seconds?

I’ve been there too. Much less frequently. Usually the night before something big. An important presentation. The first day of a new job. Meeting someone important. An early morning flight. These all mess me up.

If this happens to you occasionally on the night before a big day, you’re in good company. Its nerves, plain and simple. If this happens all the freakin’ time, you need to do something about it. Without sleep, you’re kind of screwed. It’s a form of torture, right? Lack of sleep can mean memory loss, lack of concentration, reduced reaction times, decreased performance, and mood swings.

You’re sleepless nights could be caused by poor food choices, using stimulants like caffeine and (I’m sorry to say) chocolate, your mental state, a lack of physical activity, too much screen time, and electromagnetics, which sounds a little woo-woo but trust me, there’s something to this.

I got all excited writing a presentation for a sleep talk, and I created my own 5 Steps to Better Sleep.

5 STEPS to Better SLEEP

  1. SOOTH Your Mind
  2. LISTEN to Your Body
  3. EAT well
  4. EXERCISE
  5. POWER Down

Se what I did there?  Pretty snazzy, right?  Yeah, baby. All mine.*

Here’s the breakdown.

STEP 1: SOOTH Your Mind

  • Screen out noise and block light. That one’s pretty obvious.
  • Keep the room cool and well ventilated. Your body sleeps better when it’s cooler.
  • Turn off electronics – wireless, cell phones. Not only are they distractions, but the electromagnetic waves could be activating your brain.
  • Find a comfy mattress and pillow. They wear out after five or so years.
  • Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine. Doing something ritually, like drinking chamomile tea or reading or lighting a candle, sends a signal that it’s bed time.
  • Examine medications for sleep warnings. Take the stimulants early in the day, and the ones that say “don’t operate heavy machinery” near bed time.
  • Racing mind? Write problems down—and then put them aside. Still racing? Try a daily journal. Get it all out!

 STEP 2: LISTEN to Your Body

  • Go to Sleep When You’re Truly Tired. Don’t make yourself wait until a certain, later bedtime if you’re dead tired. Go to bed early. Waiting it out could make you overtired, and then you’re done for. Like a toddler who misses her nap and gets all cranky and won’t fall asleep.
  • Don’t Be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher. If you cannot sleep, get out of bed and go do something else for a bit. Maybe have a snack, some protein and carbs. Then try again.
  • Use Light to Your Advantage. Keep it very dark at night and expose yourself to light right when you wake up. Make sure your alarm clock has red numbers, they don’t register as light in your brain.
  • Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule. This trains your body, and mind.
  • Note how you feel when you wake up – if you’re not refreshed, you’re not getting enough sleep.

STEP 3: EAT well

  • Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, Excess Sugar and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
  • Balance Fluid Intake. Get your main water in earlier in the day, and just take sips after dinner. That way you won’t have to get up to pee in the middle of the night…
  • Lighten Up on Evening Meals. They can be stimulating, and the need to digest a big meal can lead to an upset stomach. Eat your bigger meals at breakfast and lunch.
  • Get Proper Nutrition. If you’re not getting enough fiber, or essential minerals, that’ll mess up your system too. And too much of the bad stuff can mean you need more sleep than you think to recover.
  • Take probiotics. They’ll help your digestion, which will help your sleep.
  • Detoxify with fresh juice, turmeric, seaweed. Getting out the bad stuff reduces the need for regeneration.

STEP 4: EXERCISE

  • Promotes restful sleep.
  • But… cortisol activates the alerting mechanism in the brain. Exercise almost every day, but do it earlier in the day – at least three hours before bed.
  • Nap Early—Or Not at All. If you nap too late in the day, or nap too long (an hour or more) it robs your ability to sleep later. Keep your naps short, or wait and give yourself a better chance of sleeping later.

STEP 5: POWER Down

  • Reduce screen time before bed. Your TV, laptop, tablet and smart phone send a lot of information per square inch into your brain. A lot more than you can process, often. It’s very active information. Declare a curfew on screen time, at least one hour before bed. Read a book, listen to music, do a puzzle. Something in the real world.
  • Reduce electromagnetic exposure. This sounds a little crazy, but think about it. Your wireless network, your cell phone, your cordless phone – they’re all throwing out electromagnetic waves all over your sleep space. We don’t know for sure that they are screwing with our heads, but we don’t know for sure they are not. If you having troubles sleeping, what have you got to lose? Turn ’em off for a few nights and see what happens.
  • Look for “leaking” lights. Those twisty florescent bulbs are especially leaky. Take them out and use LED lights, and see if that helps.

And a special Bonus Step….

Follow Through

  • Stick With It!
  • If at First You Don’t Succeed…
  • Not all sleep problems are easily treated – for example apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.
  • If your sleep difficulties don’t improve, consult a doctor or a sleep specialist

Sleep Resources — don’t just take my word for it, consult the experts.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you’d like help getting better sleep. I’d love to work with you.

Rest well, lovely readers.

xoxo,
Sondra

 

* Though to be fair, I found all the advice on the internet and just organized it in a snazzy 5 steps.

Open Hearted

reishi mushroom tea growler

Last weekend I picked up a growler of Reishi Mushroom Tea from Ascended Grounds at the Issaquah Farmers Market.

That sentence makes me so happy on so many levels. Let me deconstruct the ways:

  1. Reishi mushroom tea! Something I learned about in nutrition school but never actually saw in the real world
  2. Issaquah Farmer’s Market – one of the few markets I’d never hit up. I wish I had a punch card, I’d be that much closer to winning the prize for visiting them all.
  3. A growler! It’s what the cool kids call a to-go jug, ya’all. Usually used by micro brews to take home fresh beer, but we’re seeing it now for cider and other home brewed beverages.

Anyway, back to to the tea. Reishi mushrooms have been said to combat aging, treat arthritis and other forms of inflammation, detox and fortify the liver to fight allergies, and – despite being a fungus – anti-fungal. (That’s like coal being cleansing, right?) They are also beneficial to the cardiac system, the respiratory system, the liver, and to the production of bone marrow. (I got this all from the Ascended Grounds website, check it out.) And it tastes good, in an earthy, woodsy sort of way. Very hearty, like a vegetable broth.

Um, yes please. I’ll take some of that.

Now here’s the weird thing. The owner, James, said that drinking it would open my heart. He told me about a lady who brought her growler back and said she needed to take a break from the Reishi tea because it was making her cry too much.

That was a little scary, to be honest. But I liked the idea of an open heart, and I like to think that pain is purifying, and good to get out of my system. Better to feel it then let it fester and hide. So I gave it a try.

And you know what? It did make me cry. But not in a bad way. Not in a “woe is me” or “boil the bunny” kind of way. More in a “poor little lamb for past hurts” and “my life is so full of goodness today”, gratitude-laced sort of way.

Want to know what’s in your heart? Pour in some Reishi mushroom tea and see what comes out. It may surprise you. And fortify your body while it’s at it. Two for one!

Happy drinking.

xoxo,
Sondra

Come on out and see me this month!

CC collateral

There’s nothing like new marketing materials to make an enterprise feel legit.

Say “hello” to my new brochures! Don’t they coordinate beautifully with my business cards?

I’m so excited to share them with the folks who come to my four community events this month. Maybe you’ll be one of them? Here’s where to find me in June — first one is tomorrow night!

Tuesday June 3, 6:30 – 7:30 pm
Guest speaker, Gluten Free Support Group
Vitamin Life, 15830 Redmond Way, Redmond, WA 98052

Wednesday, June 11, 7-8 pm
Getting More Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs……..
Vitamin Life, 15830 Redmond Way, Redmond, WA 98052

Thursday, June 12, 7-8 pm
Guest speaker, “Gluten Free… Now What?”
Flying Apron Café and Bakery, 16541 Redmond Way, Ste E, Redmond, WA 98052

Thursday, June 26, 7-8 pm
Leading book club discussion on Salt, Sugar, Fat
Flying Apron Café and Bakery, 16541 Redmond Way, Ste E, Redmond, WA 98052

Hope to see you there!

xoxo,
Sondra

Walking the Walk

new juicer

I’ve been preaching a lot about the wonders of fresh squeezed green juice. I’m loving the effects of juicing on my body and mind, but not so much on my wallet. And to my shame I did not have a juicer of my own.

Until now.

I am the new proud owner of a retro chic Jack LaLanne Power Juicer that I found on Craigslist for $30.

It’s not the juicer I set out to buy. It’s been well used. It’s named after a retro fitness guru. (Although I do own a George Foreman Grill – maybe they can lift together.) And I need to use chopsticks to remove the blade because the former owner lost the tool. But the price was right, and now I have fresh juice whenever I want it. And for a lot less than the $6-7 a pop most juice bars charge.

There are a bewildering number of juicer options out there – masticating, single gear, twin gear. Spendy, super spendy, and “cost of a small car”. They all have benefits and drawbacks. Some work quickly and are easy to clean, but don’t get all the juice from your veggies. Some are very efficient but painfully slow. And some are just too far outside of most people’s budget.

In nutrition school I learned that the best juicer for you is the one you’ll use.

For $30, I know I’ll get my money’s worth from this little guy.

Welcome to my kitchen, Jack LaLanne!

xoxo,
Sondra

Little Miss Lemony Sunshine

lemony sunshine

I have never been what you’d call a morning person. All through my school years I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make it to the bus on time. In college I avoided morning classes like the plague. And as soon as I can swing it on a job, I migrate to a mid-morning start time. Like, 10:00 AM.

I am Queen of the Snooze Button. One time. Two times. Sometimes even three times I’ll hit it and fall instantly back into a heavy, dream filled sleep.

Until recently.

In what seemed to be a cruel twist of fate, last month I took a morning person job. I’d been warned going in. It was the best job I’d been offered in all other respects – good pay, reasonable expectations, a good match to my skill set, nice people. But I have conference calls as early as 6:00 AM. Every. Single. Day.

For the first few weeks this was torture. Dragging myself out of bed. Splashing cold water on my face. Stumbling downstairs to my desk. Turning on my PC. Making some green tea. Day after day, trying to turn my brain on in time for the call.

Somewhere around three weeks in I decided to cut back on caffeine.Even green tea. It was taking more and more each day just to get going. I needed to reset.

Someone—make that everyone—suggested hot water with lemon. And when I say everyone I mean everyone with an opinion about living healthy in the media. Martha Stewart talked about it on Dr. Oz. Gwyneth Paltrow wrote about it on Goop. It was on  Livestrong.com and Mindbodygreen.com. You get the idea.

Hot water with lemon is a natural detox. It cleanses your liver and gallbladder, purging toxins and helping you process fat more easily. It provides a nice burst of vitamin C, chasing away icky cold germs. And it – ahem – moves things along in your digestive system, which is oh so helpful after a bit of indulging.

But what I didn’t expect is that it’s turning me into a morning person. Something about it, maybe the vitamin C, gives me a natural burst of energy—and a surprisingly pleasant disposition. Even a 7:00 am. (Not at 6:00 AM. I mean, come on.)

I am even starting to wake up *before* my alarm. It’s, well, alarming. I mean, who am I?

Give it a try. It is super easy. Just boil some filtered water, squeeze the juice of ½ lemon into your mug, and pour the hot water over it. Sip it throughout your morning, before you’ve eaten anything. That’s all there is to it.

Maybe you’ll become a morning person too!  Or, at least, a little less crabby in the mornings.

Hey, that’s a win, right?

xoxo,
Sondra

When you grow, you gotta leave some things behind

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Learning new things and finding new interests is good. Great, in fact. They stimulate the brain and keep us young.

It can be a little sad when you realize that something that used to make you happy isn’t doing it for you anymore. But it’s also exciting, because (unless you are depressed) it’s a sign that you’ve grown. Moved on. Found new things to make you happy.

Take shopping. Please. Shopping used to be a big deal for me. I considered myself a black belt. Retail therapy as a reward for meeting a goal. Wandering the aisles at Target as a way to decompress. Researching the season’s new trends and finding them at the best possible price. Memorizing the locations of bathrooms in my favorite malls. Victory was finding that perfect striped top or casual sandal, on sale, in my size. It fulfilled a primal hunter-gatherer need in my psyche.

But lately shopping isn’t as exciting for me. Not for clothes, not for housewares, not for makeup – not even (gasp) for shoes.

With one exception. My hunter-gatherer tendencies are now funneled in to healthier living. Which includes, I realize as I write this, shopping for health-related products.

But the shopping for health stuff isn’t really the same. It’s a means to an end – getting healthier – and not an activity in and of itself. Though I do know where the bathrooms are in many of my favorite health food stores, and a sale is still a win.

Growth is good. There are tradeoffs, to be sure, but it’s totally worth it.

What are you leaving behind as you take on new interests?

xoxo,
Sondra

* Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unspoken Needs

teeccino 2

Wanna hear something weird? There’s a company that makes fake coffee out of herbs, grains, fruits, and nuts. Kind of like people used to drink during wars.

Wanna hear something even weirder? I like it!

I didn’t know this was a thing, and I certainly didn’t go looking for it. I profoundly love the smell and taste of coffee, but I can’t handle the acid and caffeine. Even decaf coffee makes me jittery. A decaf espresso after dinner will keep me up until 1:30 AM.

But how I love the smell! Given a choice between meeting up at a coffee shop or a tea shop, I will usually pick a coffee shop. Just for the vicarious thrill.

Back at Expo West I met the rep for TeeChia. They are riding the oatmeal-hybrid trend with an oatmeal/chia seed breakfast line that looks pretty good. They sent me some samples to write about, and I’ll get to that eventually. But the surprise at the bottom of the box was samples of Teeccino, “America’s #1 coffee alternative”.

teeccino 1

Two of the flavors are gluten free—Dandelion Dark Roast and Dandelion Caramel Nut. I’ve tried them both. And dang it, they fill a hole in my heart that I didn’t even know was there.

Trust me when I say I that I was not swayed by getting a few free teabags in the mail. Don’t get me wrong, being taken seriously as a blogger by a food company was pretty cool. Career affirming. Ego inflating. But I’m not going to sell my integrity down the river quite that cheaply. Now if someone wants to send me a Tesla… But I digress.

The Dandelion Dark Roast was a little strong. It satisfied my coffee jones, but I didn’t fall in love. But the Dandelion Caramel Nut is another story entirely. Smooth, sweet, buttery tasting, with a roasted undertone. Really satisfying. I want to drink this all the time.

Dandelion tea was a big trend at the Expo. All the major tea houses are doing it. Dandelion is detoxifying and provides a nice, dark, full bodied tea without the caffeine. But this was far better than the others. It’s got carob, chicory, dandelion, dates, almonds, figs, and “natural caramel nut flavor”. I’m not quite sure about that last one, but everything else in it is organic so I’ll let it slide.

They sent a bunch of other, non-dandelion based flavors to try, but unfortunately they all contain barley, which contains gluten, so I’m going to pass on them. Local friends—they’re up for grabs! You know you want to!

Scratch that itch you didn’t even know you had! Enjoy coffee, without the coffee.

xoxo,
Sondra

Diary of a Health Coaching Student, Q2

ID-10092105_Stack of Stones

Finding Balance

For the last three weeks I’ve been struggling to find my footing. Between work, school, and building Curvy Chick as a business, I’m a bit off kilter. A week after passing my Q2 exam with a gratifying score of 97, I rejoined the workforce with a full-time contract role at Microsoft, and held my first nutrition workshop as a health coach.

The challenge is to not to let myself get wrapped up in the drama and politics of the workplace, and instead just to get my job done well and get out each day with energy to handle the rest of my life.

My schoolwork has been a surprising source of inspiration. It may take me until the weekend to get to it, but when I do there’s usually at least one speaker that really resonates with me. Especially the psychology sessions.

I’ve always been leery of self-help. Growing up watching Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley defined my outlook with his catch phrase “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Snarky Despair.com, those clever spoofs on Successories affirmations, put the final nail in the coffin.

So I was skeptical of some of my school’s speakers. People like Harville Hendrix make their living reassuring people, well, that they are good enough, smart enough, and that people will like them – if they just do “x”. Listen more. Trust in themselves. Practice self-care. All reasonable things. I just wasn’t raised to believe that if you think good thoughts, good things will happen. But week after week that’s what I am being told. And doggone it, I am starting to believe it.

Giving in and letting those good vibes wash over me is surprisingly therapeutic. More therapeutic than years of therapy. And a heck of a lot cheaper.

So don’t despair. Whatever you are going through, you can handle it. Because, like Stuart said, “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”

xoxo,
Sondra

Image courtesy of lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunburn—a Cautionary Tale with a Silver Lining

kukui oil_lavender

A few weeks ago I spent a glorious day in the California sun in a black V-neck t-shirt and my creamy white skin. And no sunscreen. I got swept up in the warmth after weeks of Seattle chill and rain and I forgot all about it. Rookie mistake. So of course I got burnt.

Of course I didn’t have aloe or heavy moisturizers with me. But I was on my way to the Natural Products Expo the next day, so I figured someone would have something useful. It would be embarrassing to show up at a conference where I’m passing myself off as a health expert who clearly does not practice what she preaches. But I decided to play the pity card and look for a great burn cream.

In the meantime I had a secret weapon – Lavender essential oil. Since I started selling doTerra essential oils I always carry a variety of sample bottles. Peppermint for headaches and achy muscles. Lemon for infections. Lavender for anxiety and – little known fact – burns! It’s a great help for cooking burns. Rub a little on the burn immediately and the pain goes away quickly, and if I keep rubbing it on for a few days the burn mark disappears completely.

lavenderPlant

So that night I slathered Lavender oil all over my face and neck. It did help with the pain, but I was still bright as a cherry. I followed it with my usual moisturizer, but that wasn’t nearly enough. I was both dry and oily in the morning. But—and here’s the big win—very little pain! The Lavender oil had sucked out the heat, or something. So while I looked like a hot mess, I didn’t feel like one. Winning! And after my shower, some of the red came off on my white hotel towel. So the Lavender was clearly helping.

I slathered on more Lavender oil and then carefully applied the BB lotion with sunscreen that I should have worn the day before–and every day, until I die—and headed off to the show. Well, after a beach detour. I mean, how often am I in California in March?
Eventually I made it to the Natural Products Expo and hooked up with my friend Katie at Love Grown foods. She gave me the lay of the land, heading me off in search of skin care booths.

I was right about playing the sympathy card. I had strategically covered my cleavage, but my neck and face were on full display so there was no hiding my shame. Even before I spoke up, staffers were quick to point out their sunscreen offerings. But no one had anything for burns. I could see the lightbulbs going on over their heads, so next year that could be the new trend. You heard it here first!  But for now I seemed out of luck. Until one nice lady thought about it, and sent me to a competitor in another part of the show floor to ask about Kukui oil. She’d heard it was a Hawaiian oil that was good for sunburns. I figured if it was good enough for people who lived in endless sun on a tropical island, it was good enough for me.

kukui oil

Kukui oil, also known as Candlenut, was a godsend. A staffer took pity on me and gave me an entire bottle from Life-Flo. I went right into the bathroom and applied some on my neck and chest, and I could feel my skin saying “Ahhhhhhhh.” That night I slathered both the Lavender oil and the Kukui oil all over, including my hands, feet, arms and legs, and in the morning I felt like a whole new person. Still a red person, mind you. It didn’t go away over night. But my skin felt soft, the oils had entirely absorbed, and I looked more sun-kissed than sun victim. I used both oils morning and night for around three days, and by then my skin was close enough to normal to start using my usual products again.

But the funny thing is, I didn’t want to. The Kukui oil is really beautifying – I have a healthier glow than I’ve had in years, and my skin is really soft. So I’ve adjusted my skin care regime to include Kukui oil at night, and sometimes before my shower in the morning. Better nourished skin is allowing all of my products to work better.

I guess that’s the silver lining!

xoxo,

Sondra