Thursday, March 29, 2012

Living Healthy: 101

     Everyone knows that living a healthy lifestyle is the backbone of living a long, healthy life. That being said, we all know that none of us want to take the time to do so! We want to enjoy our years now, and disregard what our body wants and needs in order to have fun now; and pay the price later.  Personally, I have decided to take the time and make the required changes to living healthier and happier! I not only feel GREAT, but I have lost 20lbs in a matter of 6 weeks! Whats my secret? There isn't one! There is a large range of things that can be done to make your self a healthier, happier, you! Today, I want to share with you what I have discovered on my journey to a better me!
     I believe that the most important part of being healthy and happy is mental health! This is 100% more important than any other change you could make! Everyday is a new day, and a new start. This means to me, that nothing from yesterday, or earlier this week, will effect how I get through today. Everyone faces struggles. Whether our struggles are at work, home, with our friends, family, or even with ourselves - the only way to overcome the struggle, is to make the necessary changes, and move on from it! Come to terms with the negative things in your life, or change them, otherwise you will never be happy! I don't want to preach at everyone about this topic: but plain and simple - If you cannot love yourself, why would anyone else want to? Take that into consideration and hopefully you'll wake up much more cheerful than you did before! :)

     The next topic I would like to mention is the one everyone dreads: dieting. Now lets put a spin on this so that its not such a sore subject! I do not call how I live my life a 'diet', because diets are temporary, and are simply set up for failure. It is a proven fact that the majority of people who "diet" will lose weight, but gain it all back (and more!) when all is said and done. Get fit quick schemes are not the way to a better you! Everyone knows that fast food is bad for you, so I'm not going to waste time lecturing you on all of the terrible things that are out there; instead I'm just going to offer a few tips that have helped me along the way! The first corner stone is something my parents have been talking to me about for years, they refer to them as "push-aways". Meaning, push yourself away from the table! As terrible as it sounds, its a problem with all of us. Simply put: overeating. We eat when we are hungry, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are mad, we eat when we are bored - stop it! Just stop, seriously! You could be cleaning, running errands, or even doing a crossword puzzle.. find other ways to occupy that time!
     Second, if you think something is bad for you, that's probably because it is! We all have cravings, but I have found that when I have a craving, I simply eat whatever it is I was wanting. What I do differently: instead of eating a PINT of ice cream, I'll eat a cup of ice cream. Therefore, conquering my craving, but not totally ruining my day. Lastly, anything natural is great for you. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you need to eat nothing but raw organic super foods and never touch anything that has been processed or cooked.. because lets face it: that isn't something one can simply do. Healthy food is expensive, raw organic veggies..ick - I've said those things too! Let me tell you now, it is worth it. I still eat a bit of processed food, and I even eat meat and breads (my weakness) - but something as easy as substituting one meal a day with a salad, or decreasing the amount of calories your in taking, can make a world of difference!Adding in these super foods and raw organics will make a bigger difference than you can believe! Start small, a little/day, and slowly increase. You'll soon find yourself not even wanting the fatty foods you loved before (or at least i don't!)!

     Lastly, exercise! Some people are blessed with an active gene, where they wake up everyday wanting to hike, jog, or even just go on some random athletic adventure. For me, that is not the case. I am naturally a hermit. I like to stay home and make use of things indoors. Exercise is not only important in order for you to be healthy, it is also great for your mental health! Ever have one of those days where everything is going wrong? Spill your coffee getting in the car? Dropped a stack of papers at the office? Get pulled over on your drive home? Yeah, me too! We've all had one of "those" days. Nothing is more comforting for me, than a nice workout after a day like this. Not only am I benefiting from being productive, its an outlet for my anger, or even just a way to clear my head. Working out doesn't always have to be slaving in a gym around people you're embarrassed to work out in front of! We've all felt that awkwardness before. Go to the park and play with your dog, go ride a bike, or throw a football with some friends! For me, getting to the gym is the problem. Once I am out of my apartment door, I'm ready to go! Get out, have fun, and get healthy while doing so! 

     Find whatever it is that is holding you back from a better you, and conquer it! You are only as strong as you allow yourself to be! Make smart choices that effect the rest of your life, not today! Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Green Smoothie Love

   Are you desperately trying to lose weight or get into better shape? Do you lack energy and stamina, relying on coffee to get you through your work day? Are you looking for a cure for acne, irritable bowel syndrome, or even cancer? A simple smoothie could be your solution!
   Green smoothies have taken the health food scene by storm over the past few years. Celebrities are seen sipping the green concoctions from straws purchased in fancy cafes. No health blog is complete without at least one recipe or mention of the beverage. They are becoming so mainstream that Starbucks is even producing their own line of green juice and smoothies.
   Why the sudden craze to drink your vegetables?  Turns out, most Americans don't get enough of them! Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, are the most important foods that you could put into your body. One reason is that your body is made up of mostly water and guess what? So are vegetables! Only vegetables are also full of nutrients that your body needs to rebuild itself over and over again! Vegetables are nutrient dense, meaning, one vegetable has multiple of the nutrients that you need. You could literally get all of the vitamins and minerals needed per day by eating the right types of veggies!
   The problem in America is that most of the "foods" people eat are processed. By processing the foods you are depleting the original source of the nutrients. Then you add preservatives, additives, and flavorings to make the substance more appealing to the consumer, whether it be ice cream or chicken tenders. Instead of eating the fresh, wholesome foods our bodies rely on to produce healthy, happy cells, most people are eating a diet of essentially non food processed junk. This is where the green smoothie magic comes in! :)
   Green smoothies and juices have been used for decades to cure cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, among numerous other diseases. The Gerson Therapy uses the drinks as a part of their vegetarian diet and lifestyle plan. There are many documentaries on the health benefits of green juicing and following a vegetarian diet. A few that you can watch for free on Netflix (if you've got it!) include: The Gerson Miracle, A Beautiful Truth, Food, Inc, Forks Over Knives, Dying to Have Known, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,  and Food Matters. Another movie if you don't have Netflix is streaming online for free until March 31st from the makers of Food Matters. It's called Hungry for Change and you can watch it here!
   Now that you have the proper resources to further investigate these plant filled beverages, let me walk you through how to make one of these bad boys! I try to drink a green smoothie every day for the health benefits and because they make me feel great! My mind is clearer, my face is clearer, and I feel overall happier and more productive when I drink at least one per day! The days that I skip them? Well, let's just say they aren't my best. ;)
   To start with you need a basic fruit smoothie. I like to always have a banana for the base, though it's not completely necessary. (I feel like the consistency comes out smoother.) Then add whatever other fruits you love, these can be fresh or frozen. I like to use frozen fruit because then it eliminates the need for ice! Next you add green leaf vegetables and whatever extras you'd like to throw in! I always add a spoonful of both flax and chia seeds because of their supreme health benefits. Add whatever liquid you desire and mix to your heart's content! I usually use coconut milk, but have mixed it up on occasion with organic apple juice, green tea, or almond milk! (Still yielding terrific and tasty results!) So there you have it! A healthy, life changing beverage at the flick of your blender's button! Happy green drinking! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Treat Yourself on Laundry Day!

When I'm getting ready for the weekend, I always have to make sure I have my favorite outfits ready to go. I'm betting most of you do the same. So on this Laundry Day, I'd like to share my favorite laundry tradition: frozen yogurt and a movie. Specifically the frozen treat part.

The problem with frozen yogurt is even though it's usually healthier than ice cream, it's still kind of heavy on your belly and not very healthy for you. My frozen yogurt is simple to make and so healthy you can eat it for breakfast!

Banana Ice Cream

You'll need:
1 to 2 bananas, sliced and frozen
A few tablespoons of almond or rice milk (or water in a pinch)
Vanilla or almond extract
A pinch of sea salt
A tablespoon of honey or agave nectar

Put the frozen bananas into a blender or food processor (a food processor works better). Add about 3 tablespoons of liquid and blend, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides before blending again. Once it's mostly blended, add a couple drops of vanilla and/or almond extract, sea salt and honey. Blend again until completely smooth, then keep blending until it starts to look fluffy. If it's very difficult to blend, add another tablespoon or two of liquid, but do so with discretion so it doesn't get too liquidy. It's ready to eat now if you like, or if you prefer, pop it in a bowl and put in the freezer for 10 minutes to make it more solid. (Don't leave it too long or ice crystals will form on top.)

This is just a base recipe, but the possibilities are endless. For chocolate, add a tablespoon of cocoa powder while blending. For lemon sorbet, swap milk for a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. For strawberry, reduce the liquid and add 2 to 3 fresh (not frozen) berries while blending. Add a spoonful of peanut butter when it's done and blend for 2 seconds for peanut butter swirl. If you like your ice cream extra sweet, consider putting in a drop or two of stevia extract. Put it between two cookies and pop in the freezer for 15 minutes for an ice cream sandwich. If you want to try something new, any starchy fruit will work to create the creamy consistency. Peaches and mango work very well. Be adventurous and try avocado ice cream some time! Sprinkle cinnamon, sliced fruit or nuts on top, or drizzle with honey to finish.

The ingredients seem odd, but I promise it's worth it. And with trial and error you're sure to come up with some great variations of your own. Enjoy the coming weekend, and happy snacking!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Now You'll Know: What is SXSW?

     Every year I look forward to the week of Spring Break; not because I want to go to the beach, not because I want to go skiing, not even because I get a break from school... but because South by Southwest week is my absolute favorite time of year! Since 1987 (might I add, before I was even born!) people from all over the world gather in the heart of Texas. No matter what kind of background or group you come from, SXSW will guaranteed have something for you. The festival consists of all types of arts: film, music, graphic arts, and even the interactive events. Here, I'll tell you a little bit about it, and why its my "vacation" every year!

     The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. Even though Austin was not a Top 20 major market at the time, the background and character of our city made it a perfect location for the conference. Austin was considered a fairly cosmopolitan town for its size because of the University of Texas, which draws people from all over the world. As home to the state government and Texas Legislature it has also always been a popular party town, with a reputation that goes back to the 19th century when numerous nightspots and bars were populated by General Custer's troops after the Civil War. These nightspots are located in the same areas where the 6th Street and 4th Street club and bar scenes now exist.

     Austin's eclectic music scene goes back to early in the city's history (even from Mexican, German and colonial origins!) and encompasses a wide variety of music including country, folk, jazz, blues and rock. Central Austin boasts more original music nightclubs in a concentrated area than any other city in the world. If you know anything about Austin, its that 6th street is the place to be!
      The classic problem facing Austin musicians was being isolated from the rest of the world here in the middle of Texas (sounds boring, right?). SXSW was a way to reach out to the rest of the world, and bring them here to do business. To do that successfully, SXSW needed to appeal to people other than local artists whether they were from Austin, Ft. Worth, Chicago, Toronto, Munich or Tokyo.

      The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to over 16,000 registrants. As Austin has grown and diversified, film companies and high-tech companies have played a major role in Austin and Texas economies. In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component to accommodate these growth industries. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events together attract approximately 32,000 registrants to Austin every March.

      The original goal for SXSW was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or the internet. And Austin continues to be the perfect location for people of all different cultures to come together and share common interests.

     Austin has everything. No matter who you are, this is a place for you. Every year SXSW proves that to be even more so, by attracting thousands of people to come to the middle of boring ole Texas and enjoy common grounds with like minds! If you have never experienced the joys of walking 6th street, rather you're an Austinite or not, I would recommend everyone make some time to come experience SXSW. Not only do they offer wristbands with unlimited entry's, but Austin also provides a lot of free activities, too. Check it out for yourself, you wont regret it! Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Green Cleaning: For Your Household!

   Cleaning house is a messy job, but someone's got to do it! Why not make your routine as "clean" as possible? By getting rid of common household cleaners and replacing them with green alternatives you not only save a ton of money, but are also protecting your family (and the planet!) against harmful chemicals and additives.
   I will spare you the long, drawn out spiel of how dangerous and toxic these cleaners really are. You can, however, read about it at this wonderful resource. I do want to show you a few totally safe alternatives that you can use in ANY area of your home! There's literally a handful of products, some that you no doubt already have lying around the house, that will get your abode spic and span in no time flat!
   Let me introduce the wonder duo: baking soda and apple cider vinegar. These two powerhouses can clean anything! (As you've seen in my previous post they clean hair quite well!) I prefer apple cider vinegar because the smell is somewhat more bearable than regular, though white vinegar would also work just as well for cleaning. Another option if you can't stand the stink is to soak the vinegar in citrus rinds for a few weeks!
   Vinegar will not only thoroughly clean, it also disinfects, deodorizes, cuts grease, eliminates soap scum, dissolves mineral buildup, and even inhibits the growth of mold and other bacteria! Baking soda is a powerful abrasive that also has deodorizing and anti-bacterial properties.
   For deodorizing, I like to keep jars half filled with baking soda and a few drops of lavender essential oil, shaking every few days to "refresh." Sprinkle some in the bottom of your trash cans and the litter box to keep obnoxious odors at bay. Another option for keeping your home fresh is to fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Homemade Febreeze without the funk! :)
   The cleaning options are endless with these two! You can use apple cider vinegar (or regular) to wipe down common areas, disinfect your toilets, clean the stove and oven, mop floors, remove carpet stains, and get mirrors streak-free! Baking soda is great to scrub dirty dishes with stuck on food, as well as remove stains from coffee and tea! If you want to get really creative, why not concoct your own all-purpose cleaner?! Just mix a little castile soap with equal parts borax, vinegar, and baking soda. Then add some essential oils to your liking and spray away!
   Like I said, tons of cleaning solutions are at your fingertips with these gems of the natural cleaning world! There are a lot of other chemical free alternatives you can use to clean such as tea tree oil, lemons, and even salt! So the next time you find your home in need of a deep clean, please put down the Clorox and reach for something safe and natural instead!!!