It’s National Yoga Month-Get One Week Free!

By Callie McBride

So, if you didn’t know already, check this out: the Department of Health and Human Services recognizes September as National Yoga Month, and Yoga Health Foundation is offering up one free week of yoga in celebration. Over 2,200 yoga studios around the country are participating, and all you need to do is type in your email address, find a studio, and sign awn’ up. Upon receiving your beautiful yoga month card, you get to choose one week in either September and October (they are extending the dates to accommodate those super busy folks) and visit a new studio (you can’t be an existing member) for a full week of lovely yoga! This celebratory month is meant to educate people on the incredible benefits of yoga and yogic healing. Let’s review, shall we?

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*increased flexibility

*better brain function

*better skeletal alignment

*strengthened joints

*weight loss/maintenance

*LESS STRESS!

*peace of mind

*mental focus and clarity

*deeper spirituality

*mind-body integration

*and so much more. From relieving PMS symptoms to correcting back aches to remedying an off day; the healing powers of yoga seem to be endless. Visit Yoga Health Foundation for more info, and head over to this link to get your Yoga Month Card now! Namaste.

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The Power of Ritual

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ritual

In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care.  Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.

In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds!  The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!).  Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.

Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness.  When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy.  The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation).  Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.

Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!

Morning rituals:Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up.  It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!MeditateSpend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffeeMove your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morningListen to musicRituals before a meal:Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.Rituals before meditating:Light candles or incense.Water your plants.Do some stretches.Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.TIP:  I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items.  I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.Bedtime rituals:Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bedSip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy timeTake time for a bathroom pampering ritualTake a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavenderSlip into something that makes you feel sexyRead a great bookOther self-care rituals:Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual.  Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home.  Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.What are your favorite healthy rituals?  Share them in the comments below!

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9 Herbs For Weight Loss

 

By: Stephanie Heino

Today we are drowning in supplements available to promote weight loss; most of them being dangerous and unhealthy. What people don’t know is that herbs can do wonder for weight weight loss, and they are all natural. Many are safe and effective in helping you lose weight without causing any side effects such as depression or other things that might occur with the processed pills available in the drugstore. But don’t think that solely consuming herbs will help you lose weight; they should be taken in conjunction with a nutritious diet and a sensible and regular exercise plan in order to succeed. Natural weight loss herbs contain tonics that boost your nervous system which makes you more capable of coping with stress and prevents you from emotional eating (one of the biggest culprits of obesity). Herbs make you feel positive and also give you the strength to exercise. They keep you feeling sated because of their high fiber content and since you don’t feel hungry, you aren’t tempted to indulge in snacks and junk food all day. Herbs therefore help you lose weight safely and effectively. Sounds amazing, right?

Check out this list of 9 natural herbs promoting weight loss to start your journey towards that beach body:

Guarana. Guarana is a diuretic that’s useful in helping you lose weight. It also stimulates the nervous system and helps you fight depression and cope with stress. Guarana thus helps you to avoid emotional eating, one of the chief causes of weight gain, but make sure to also include some meditation in your everyday life to deal with the actual cause of your stress and depression.

Guar gum. Guar gum is obtained from the Indian cluster bean. Since it contains lots of fiber, eating guar gum gives you a feeling of fullness that prevents you from overeating. It also decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) and helps control diabetes (amazing!). Make sure to pick up some Guar gum powder next time you go to your natural food store.

Ginseng. Ginseng increases stamina and helps you to treat fatigue. It increases your capacity to do physical activity, so you can no longer use the excuse that you’re too tired to exercise when using Ginseng. It’s also responsible for reducing blood sugar levels and helps you lose weight by increasing the leptin levels (the hormone that helps regulate body weight) which will lead to loss of body weight and decrease in blood glucose levels. Take a look at this guide on how to buy the best supplements.

Flaxseed. The seed of the flax plant has a coating that swells when exposed to water. If you soak whole flaxseeds in water and eat them, they act as bulking agents in your stomach and give you a feeling of fullness. They are neither digested nor absorbed by the body when soaked whole. By giving you a feeling of fullness, they prevent you from overeating and help you lose weight.

Ginger. Ginger (yes, it is an herb!) cleanses the body by reducing the stomach’s acidity and helps getting rid of the food stuck in the digestive system. This lodged food can cause weight gain, and the purging helps you lose it. I like to start my day with a lemon, ginger and cayenne shot to really get my body going!

Cinnamon. Cinnamon regulates blood sugar levels and cholesterol. The ability to regulate blood sugar levels makes cinnamon an important tool in the fight against fat. It also helps speeding up your metabolism!

Glucomannan. Glucomannan delays the absorption of glucose from the intestines and helps you lose weight. Glucomannan is a sugar (a healthy one!) made from the root of the konjac plant that has been used for centuries in traditional Japanese cooking as a thickener agent. Glucomannan creates a sense of fullness by absorbing water and expanding to form a bulky fiber in your stomach. The “bulky fiber” is then expelled from your body via the natural route. This cleansing effect has been said to help with a host of medical issues like reducing cholesterol, helping control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and constipation. I would recommend using Glucomannan powder which is practically tasteless, thus great for mixing into smoothies and other foods.

Laminaria. Laminaria regulates the thyroid gland and helps you lose weight that you may have gained due to malfunction of the thyroid gland. Laminaria is a type of seaweed that is native to Japan. Laminaria contains iodine, an element that the body needs to make thyroid hormones. It is also a rich source of iron and potassium. Laminaria is used for weight loss, high blood pressure and as a bulk laxative for constipation. It is also used for preventing cancer. Laminaria forms a thick, sticky gel when it comes into contact with water, and can also be placed inside the cervix to expand the cervix and speed up the onset of labor.

To figure out which herbs are best for your body, talk to your holistic healthcare practitioner, or schedule a session with Natasha!

 

{Image: Pinterest}

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How to Make Your Coffee Habit Work FOR You

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

It’s no secret that coffee is one controversial little beverage.  About 98% of my clients come to me with a pretty serious coffee habit, and of those over 3/4 are bona-fied addicted.

So what’s the big deal, you ask?  Coffee never killed anyone, right?

Well, let’s clear a few things up.

Caffeine is a highly addictive substance that can contribute to a whole host of health problems when consumed in excess (over 1 cup a day).  The most severe of these concerns include:

Disrupted absorption of key vitamins and mineralsIncreased risk of miscarriage and low-weight baby if consumed by pregnant womenHeart diseaseHigh cholesterolAnxietyRheumatoid arthritisGastrointestinal issuesAdrenal fatigueInsomniaStressChronic inflammationWeight gain

Basically, when you drink coffee, the neurons in your brain start firing uncontrollably.  This, in turn, causes your adrenals to produce adrenalin, which is what gives you that rush of energy.  Adrenalin is what puts your body and mind into a “fight or flight” mode — essentially, the biological equivalent of being chased by a bear.  This may help you power through your morning meetings, but it is certainly not doing your body any favors.  Not only are you more likely to experience higher stress levels, anxiety, and poor sleep, but you are also setting yourself up for inevitable withdrawal symptoms in the afternoon (hello fatigue, irritability, and cravings).

All of this equals a pretty intense roller coaster to put your body through!  And I promise you, in the long run, it’s totally not worth the short-lived boost of energy.

But fret not! Unless you’re pregnant, have anxiety, or suffer from chronic fatigue or sleep issues, you don’t need to get off the coffee completely! By following the steps below, you can make coffee work for you, and not against you, and you can take full advantage of it’s benefits (like decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and lower risk of stroke).

Step One: Break the Addiction

This means weaning yourself down to the point where you can take a couple days off of coffee altogether and not experience any withdrawal symptoms.  It’s the addiction to caffeine that causes the biggest problems for your adrenals, stress, fatigue, and anxiety levels, so breaking the addiction is key.  To do this:

Gradually replace 1 cup a day with black tea, then green tea, then herbal tea.Gradually get yourself down to one cup a daySkip a day a few times a week (or just have green tea or yerba mate those days)

Like magic, your addiction will be broken!  But as with any other drug (and make no mistake, caffeine is a DRUG), breaking an addiction takes time.  So be patient with yourself and take it one week at a time! I’ve had clients break a coffee addiction in one week, and others that have taken months.  Depending on the severity of your addiction (evidenced by your symptoms of withdrawal like headaches, irritability, and fatigue), this step may take longer.

Step Two: Time Your Coffee Right

Once you’re down to one cup a day, the key is to have that cup at the right time of day.  Drinking that venti on an empty stomach on your way to work is disastrous for your digestive system, your pH levels, and your adrenals.  So make sure you sip your coffee with  or after a meal (preferably breakfast) and not on an empty stomach.

To counteract the sleep disturbing effects of caffeine, make sure to switch to herbal tea after 3pm!  This gives the caffeine enough time to get out of your system, so you can sleep like a champ at night.

Step Three: Dress Up Your Coffee Like a Pro

What you put in your coffee can make it or break it in terms of the health benefit to harm ratio.  Here’s how:

Add coconut oil:  Have you heard of this new trend?  Well it’s pretty amazing and grounded solidly in nutritional wisdom.  Coconut oil helps to slow down the jittery adrenal effect of coffee, and maximizes the clean, healthy energy you get from your morning cup.  But here’s what’s even cooler! By giving your body a dose of healthy fats, you unlock your own fat burning potential and speed up your metabolism.  This means less cravings, and more healthy weight loss!  Pretty awesome, right?  Add 1-2 tbsp of virgin organic coconut oil to your morning cup and stir or blend.

Use non-dairy milk: Adding dairy milk to your coffee increases your risk of cancer, and exposes you to harmful hormones and antibiotics, which messes with everything.  The best part is, there’s a non-dairy milk for everyone! If you like skim, try organic rice milk, which is the lightest of the bunch.  Into 1%? Go for organic almond milk.  Love 2% or cream?  Shoot for organic coconut milk, which is the thickest and creamiest of the lot.  Just steer clear of soy milk whenever possible, since the estrogenic effect can be harmful.

Sweeten smartly: Adding sugar to caffeine is like sprinkling some crack on top of speed.  Both are super addictive, and both wreak havoc on your body.  And guess what? Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Nutrasweet are even worse!  If you like your coffee sweet, try stevia or agave instead.

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Fitness Trackers: Your New Fave Healthy Accessory

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

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All it takes is a peek at the wrists of your friends, coworkers and passersby on the street to see that fitness trackers are all the rage right now. And for good reason!

These unobtrusive bracelets track your steps, workouts, sleep, mood, food and more, and in the opinion of this holistic nutritionist, they can be an invaluable tool in understanding your body, setting and sticking with wellness goals, and getting (and staying) super healthy and fit.

For the last 4.5 months, my techie husband and I have been testing the UP24 Band ($127), and I have to tell you, it rocks.

The sleep tracker is top notch, better then most of the others on the market right now, in that it not only shows you how much sleep you’re getting, but also how much deep sleep and light sleep. I can tell you from UP Band experience, 8 hours of mostly light sleep can feel like getting just 3-4 hours of rest in a night, and leads to a very groggy, moody day. Whereas just 6 hours of mostly deep sleep can feel like a blissful, 9 hours of rest, leading to an energized, happy and productive day.

From tracking the detailed quality of my sleep, I can see how that 4pm green tea, late night Walking Dead marathon, big dinner out, or sedentary day at my computer effect my sleep, which gives me so much more insight into exactly what I need to do to ensure high quality, restful, energizing sleep. (Hint: no caffeine after 3pm; a light, veggie dinner; and being in bed by 10:45 with a great book are key)

The step and activity tracker is also awesome, and has really shed the harsh light of reality on what I thought was a pretty active lifestyle. On days when I work from home, I average just 4000 steps, wayyyy below the recommended 10,000 step goal that the program encourages. I now make sure to take my dog on longer walks, find myself taking the stairs way more, and yes, even dancing around my apartment or running in place during workday breaks to get me closer to my goal.

My UP Band has also transformed my attitude towards walking. Whereas before, I would count proximity and convenient above all else, now I don’t think twice about trekking the extra 7 blocks to the organic juice bar I love, or schlepping for 15 minutes from the train to a doctors appointment. If anything, I get excited about the steps I’m racking up, and eagerly await the positive reinforcement I receive from the app.

UP24 App on the Organic BeautyThe app does a great job of encouraging you to keep improving, with incremental increases to your steps, water intake, and sleep. It gives you great daily motivations, with health and nutrition factoids (most of which I actually agree with!), and comparative data on your past weeks. “You’ve walked 30,000 steps already this week, putting you in the top percentile for UP users in your age group! Keep up the great work!”

Perhaps the most useful tool in keeping me on track is the Team function, which allows you to share your feed and stats with other users you know. Though my team is just comprised of my husband and I, we’re a pretty competitive lot. Though he consistently beats my daily count by about 4,000-5,000 steps (he has a standing desk at work, and paces ALL day long — I swear!), knowing that someone else will know if I only leave the house once all day, and spend 8 hours straight in front of my computer is an excellent motivator to get moving.

We routinely leave comments and little emoticons of playful judgement or encouragement on each others feeds, making the whole thing so much more fun, interactive, and social.

The other features include a pretty comprehensive activity tracker, with tons of different forms of exercise and movement to choose from, as well as difficulty levels, and though I’m not into calorie tracking, it’s really interesting to see how many I burned off with that intensive yoga class, bike ride to Whole Foods, or dancing with my girlfriends.

The food tracker isn’t that great, admittedly. It has limited options to choose from, and although you can scan in bar codes, I find the whole process to be rather tedious. I much prefer taking beautiful Instagram photos of my food as a way to make sure that everything I’m eating is healthy and beautiful. But if you’re interested in tracking the nutritional value of your eating, the UP Band has you covered. It features a neat little breakdown of how your diet measure in terms of fat, sugar, salt, protein, carbs, fiber, etc.. Which can be super illuminating!

In short, I love my UP Band, and it definitely took my healthy lifestyle from great to supercharged. For anyone looking to make some measurable changes to their health, it’s an invaluable tool that makes getting healthy way more fun!

For a comprehensive comparison of the different fitness trackers out there,
click here.

Images: Pinterest & Pinterest

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Gel Manicures Increase Cancer Risk

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

The Skin Cancer Foundation just released the conclusion that the UV light emitted from lamps for gel manicures do carry risk, albeit low, of cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).  This form of skin cancer is mainly caused by chronic UV exposure, and is very common on the hands and around the finger nails.  Around 700,000 people are diagnosed with SCC every year in the US.  Women who get regular gel manicures are at risk!

In addition to the carcinogenic UV rays, gel manicures usually are loaded with all kinds of other cancer-causing ingredients like BHA and methyl acrylate.  We recommend avoiding gel manicures altogether. There are many non-UV alternatives, like a gel topcoat, available at salons.  If you absolutely must get gel manicures, apply SPF 15 sunblock to your hands beforehand to protect yourself against the harmful rays.

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation, March 7, 2013

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Organic Beauty 2013 Holiday Gift Guide!

Organic-Beauty-Gift-GuideBy: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ahhh, the season of gifting… For us, the gift-giving craziness lasts from Thanksgiving (my birthday), through Hanukkah, the hub’s birthday, to Christmas (which we now celebrate with smaller gifts in our post-nuptial tradition), to New Year’s (which is the big, gift-giving holiday in my Russian family). That is a solid month and change of gifts, so I am always on the look out for special somethings to gift to my friends and family.

Being, as I am, a lover of all things healthy, natural, sustainable, and, of course, stylin’, I try to give gifts that are in line with my ethos. Gifting something that promotes health, wellness, happiness, and relaxation is the ultimate gift and show of love to the people in your life. I’ve collected my favorite gifts to share with you, and am sure that you’ll find something for everyone on your list!

1. Flax Relax Eye & Forehead Soother ($14)

This is one of my favorite goodies for relaxation, de-puffing eyes, and alleviating headaches or pain.  The beautiful eye pillows are filled with flax seeds that retain heat and cold, so you can either freeze them (my favorite) or heat them up, depending on what you need.  The delicious lavender scent is relaxing and soothing, and the pillows come in a bunch of adorable fabrics!  Perfect for anyone in need of some relaxation.

2. The Desire Map ($22-$84)

This is hands down the most effective system for getting what you want out of your life and your career.  Danielle LaPorte’s approach focuses on what feeling you want to evoke in your life, and helps you figure out how to craft the career, the relationship with yourself, and the life you really want.  It’s game-changing and amazing.  I recommend creating your own bundle with the book, the workbook (totally vital), the daily planner, and the journal.  Perfect for all the searchers and creative souls in your life!

3. Avitalin Active Enzyme Peel ($40)

This delicious, gently exfoliating peel is made from all-natural fruit acids and skin brightening ingredients.  Regular use left my skin bright, smooth, clear, and radiant (check out our review of the line).  How is that for a magical gift of natural beauty!

4. Verita Argan Oil Perfume ($20)

These 99% certified organic perfume oils come in a whole bunch of amazing, mysterious, and feminine scents (I’m currently obsessed with Halcyon Hyacinth), and are made pure floral extracts.  The bonus amazing softening power of argan oil just sweetens the deal.

5. Vitamix Professional 200 Blender ($449.95)

The Vitamix is pretty much the holy grail of healthy kitchen tools.  Able to make juices, soups, smoothies, sauces, ice cream, dough.. pretty much anything.  With a ridiculously powerful motor, this puppy can liquify veggies and fruit in seconds, and turn nuts into nut butter in minutes.  A must-have for the healthy cook in your life!

6. Riotbar Organic Chocolate Gift Set ($24.99)

We can’t get enough of Sweetriot chocolate over here (check out our review) — and the ingredients in this organic and fair-trade chocolate line just couldn’t be better. The Riotbar gift set comes with the two bars of each of their most popular flavors: 85% Pure Dark Chocolate, 70% Dark Chocolate with Coconut, and 70% Dark Chocolate with Quinoa (my personal fave!).  A perfect, healthy gift for the sweet-lover in your life.

7. SEED Organic Wood Watch ($125)

These unisex watches are made from sustainably harvested wood and are the epitome of green style.  Perfect for the dapper mountain man in your life!

8. Kombucha Brooklyn Home Brew Starter Kit ($45)

Brewing beer is so last year.  This year is all about getting your ‘booch on.  Kombucha is an amazing, probiotic drink, and making your own is super simple, and way more affordable once you start craving a fix regularly!  This starter kit is on my wish list (hint hint!).

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5 Tips for a Healthy Inspiring Workspace

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Healthy Inspiring Workspace

Since I launched my own business several years ago, I went through several iterations of what it looked like to work from home.  In our little Brooklyn apartment, we didn’t have space for a proper desk, so I typically worked on the couch (not recommended), or at the dining room table (only slightly better). When we moved to our lovely new home in Santa Monica, I finally had a little corner dedicated entirely to my work, and I set about creating the workspace I had been wishing for.  What I found astounded me — a dedicated, healthy, and mindfully created workspace made me more productive, happier, and less stressed out during my work day! I actually looked forward to my work and settling down at my little desk.  The difference was mind-boggling.

So whether you work from home like me, have a traditional out-of-home office, or hunker down at a shared co-working space, there are definitely some important steps to take to make your work, in whatever form it takes, a more enjoyable experience.  After much trial and error and, of course, those failed attempts in Brooklyn, I’ve narrowed down these 5 key elements to creating a healthy, inspiring workspace aligned with how you want to feel throughout your day.

 

1. Get clear on how you want to feel while working.

When I set about creating my new workspace, I knew I had to clarify what feelings I was trying to elicit during my workday.  As always, I turned to my core desired feelings as a roadmap (check out The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte for more on this).  My CDF’s are calm, inspired, radiant, and luxurious — when I experience these feelings, at work or otherwise, I feel fulfilled, joyful, complete.  How awesome would it be to feel this way throughout the workday?!

From there, I used my CDF’s to create elements of my workspace. A few personal touches, some inspirational elements (see tip #4 below), vibrant colors (see tip #5), healthy tools (see tip #3), and a complete and total lack of clutter (tip #2) helped me to create a workspace that feels totally aligned with my core desired feelings, and which drastically increases the level of fulfillment I get from my work. Gaining this clarity allows you to customize your workspace to suit your unique needs, personality, and desires, which is a beautiful thing!

Action step: Write down 3-5 ways that you’d like to feel while working. Under each feeling, jot down a few elements that you can incorporate into (or remove from!) your workspace to help elicit those feelings.

 

2. Eliminate distractions.

The biggest reason why my couch-working antics were such a failure was that the couch faces the TV.  This meant that I always had the TV on while working… A big productivity suck.  Even when I turned it off, I was facing it, and sitting in my living room, where my husband and I relax and hang out together.  The energy was all wrong for being productive.  When I subsequently moved to the dining room table, which naturally had no drawers or storage for my work stuff, I was surrounded by papers, notebooks, and clutter.  This, too, created an environment in which it was super hard to get focused and inspired.

The biggest distractions in your workspace are clutter, non-work related items (the mail, magazines or catalogues), the TV, and anything that takes your attention away from what you’re trying to create or accomplish.  Find a place to stow these items, or position your desk in such a way that they are no longer in your direct view.

Action step: Identify the biggest distractions in your space and brainstorm some ways to get them out of there.  Can you stash things in a drawer?  Streamline your desk accessories? Add a magazine rack, bookshelf or organizational system to your workspace?  Do what you need to do to make your workspace about your work.

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3. Emphasize your health and wellbeing.

This one is huge, guys.  Most of us spend the majority of our work day at our desk or workspace, and if it’s not set up to maximize your health and wellbeing, well, you’re kinda screwed, aren’t you?  Enter the back, neck and headaches, the eye strain, the dehydration, the stress snacking, the fatigue… The list goes on and on.

When I worked at my dining room table, sitting on a lovely eiffel dining chair, I constantly suffered from a sore, stiff neck.  When I first created my new and improved workspace, I put aesthetics over my health, and kept the pretty white chair (it just looked so good!!), but lo and behold, the stiffness and aches followed me across the country.  I knew it was time to put my well-being first.

I replaced my pretty chair with an exercise ball, and let me tell you, my life has never been the same! I can sit on this thing for hours while still staying energized, loose, and aligned.  Even in my third trimester of pregnancy! Using an exercise ball as your chair helps you to strengthen your core, align your spine, and burn 4 times more calories per hour spent sitting!  Plus, it makes it a lot easier and more fun to incorporate movement and stretching into your day. (Note: If you suffer from a bad back, an ergonomic chair may work better for you.)

Mindfully creating a workspace that emphasizes your health changes everything.

The steps you take will be unique to your situation and body, but some general action steps are:

Upgrade your seating — I’ve used exercise balls in a chair base (like the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair) and ones just on a base (like the Incline Fit Anti-Burst Yoga Ball with Base), and have found that I personally prefer the latter.  The ball on a base allows me more freedom of movement (yay hip circles!) which helps me to stay limber and active while sitting. But it’s all a matter of preference!Keep water at arm’s reach at all times — I always have a tall glass of water and/or tea right next to me.  And every time I empty a cup (typically about once an hour), I have a great reason to take a mini-break to go refill!  So this practice also encourages you to stand up every hour — a double whammy!Bring in some natural light — being cooped up without natural light for hours on end leads to depression, fatigue, and generally hating your job.  If you can’t move your desk near a window, consider getting a sun lamp (especially in the wintertime) to use throughout the day — I like the Verilux Compact Energy Lamp, which is small enough to fit neatly on your desk.  Or, better yet, get off your booty and take a walk around the block several times a day!Improve your air quality — this is huge.  Stale or unclean air can contribute to fatigue and headaches, and is generally bad news.  If you’re near a window, open it to allow some fresh air in.  Otherwise, a small air purifier is a great option!  (Check out the Himalayan Light Natural Air Purifier, which works as a natural ionizer!) Some plants will also do the trick. Having plants in your workspace is very calming and can definitely boost your mood while working!Mind the snacks — stashing food in your desk leads mostly to one thing: stress eating.  Instead of surrounding yourself with food that you’ll mindlessly overeat while staring at your screen, I recommend carving out time in your day for a real lunch (not at your desk!) that will keep you satisfied throughout the day.  If you find that you get hungry later in the day, take a break, get up and walk to the kitchen to have a healthy snack like an apple with almond butter or some carrots with hummus.  The break will actually do you just as much good as the food, and will keep you from overeating! For more on this, check out Why Snacking Is Making You Fat.

 

4. Foster inspiration.

This is related to tip #1, but deserves a bullet all it’s own. Your workspace is where you create, build, lead, and connect.  With some mindfulness, the space itself can help foster more productivity, inspiration, and excitement for the work you do.  After you declutter all that’s distracting, messy, or disorganized, add back in a few elements that truly inspire you.  For me, that meant things like an inspiring print, my favorite wellness books, great office accessories (thank you Kate Spade!), a plant, candles, natural products I’m reviewing, and my big beautiful Buddha statue — all of which inspire me to create new and meaningful tools for my clients and readers to use in creating the joyful life they crave, and remind me to walk the walk and practice what I preach in my own work and life.  For you, it might also mean some family photos, music that gets your juices flowing, art, design objects, or motivational text.

Action step: Think about what inspires you in your work.  What excites you? What drew you to this career path in the first place?  Find some objects that you can add to your space that remind you of this and what you’re trying to create.

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5. Beautify.

No matter what you do for a living, a beautiful workspace will help you do it with more joy. Taking the time to beautify your space — with color, accessories, and your personal style — does wonders for your mood, energy, and inspiration.  On the other hand, a dim, dull, monotone, and purely utilitarian workspace can really suck the joy out of your work.  When you select items for your workspace, anything from your desk and shelving, to your daily planner, pens, and other accessories, don’t diminish the power of good design.  I can’t tell you how happy it made me to ditch my lame old stapler and file folders for beautifully designed and coordinated items.  Keep fresh flowers on your desk, upgrade your equipment, invest in your own happiness at work! When it comes to your workspace, it definitely pays to embrace both form and function… there’s no need to sacrifice!

Action step: Create a Pinterest board of workspaces that you love (here’s mine).  What do they have in common? Is there a particular color palette that attracts you?  What design elements can you employ? Give your space a makeover to reflect your own personal style.

 

Really taking the time to create and foster a work environment that let’s you be your healthiest, most productive, and happiest while working will drastically improve your quality of life and fulfillment.  If you’re looking for creative and inspiring spaces outside your home or company to set up shop, there are tons of amazing co-working spaces out there that have been mindfully designed to with these same goals in mind.  Check out WeWork, which has gorgeous locations all over the country (and even a few abroad!) that just scream “come create amazing things here!”


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Maty’s: Effective and Safe Products for Baby’s Skin

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Both as a holistic health practitioner and now as a new mom, I get so infuriated when reading the ingredients of common baby products found in drugstores, and unfortunately, the medicine cabinets of most American families.  Petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, tetrasodium EDTA.  Just one glance at the ingredient list of popular baby brands like Johnson and Johnson’s, Desitin, and A+D read like a list of who’s who of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals. And yet, many parents don’t think twice about applying these products to their baby’s delicate skin, exposing them to harmful toxins when they are most vulnerable.

Just as a walk down the baby aisle of the drugstore gives me heart palpitations, perusing the world of natural baby products gives me hope and makes me pretty giddy!  So I was super excited to discover Maty’s Healthy Products and their healthy, 100% natural alternatives to common baby products. And the story behind the brand is absolutely heart-melting. After founder Carolyn Harrington’s daughter was born with serious heart or organ defects, requiring several surgeries before the age of 5 (read her story here), she knew that using common toxic brands of baby products would be detrimental to her delicate immune system.  So after working with a naturopath and acquiring her own certification as a holistic health practitioner, Carolyn set out to create a line of products that supported her baby’s health and her own, and now we all get to reap the benefits of her journey and research.

When I was pregnant with our little girl, I took my commitment to all-natural, organic beauty, body and home products even more seriously than I did before, determined to do everything I could to support the beautiful little life growing inside me.  I only used products that were safe enough to eat (although, of course, I wouldn’t recommend snacking on body lotion!), and now that our little girl is here, I am diligent about maintaining my commitment with every single product that touches my baby’s skin, and finding healthy alternatives to common baby products has been a really fun undertaking!

Though I tend to avoid any chemical ingredients, the biggest, baddest three that top my list of things to keep away from my daughter are petrolatum, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrances or perfumes. All three of which are carcinogenic toxins, and unfortunately, all three of which are found in common baby products.

All of Maty’s products are free of these ingredients, as well as any other unpronounceable chemicals. Even better, their products are full of ingredients that are actually beneficial to baby, like natural oils of coconut, olive, jojoba, and sunflower, and natural plant extracts like eucalyptus, lavender and chamomile — all in dilutions that are appropriate for baby’s sensitive constitution.

Matys-Baby-Ointment We love using the All-Natural Baby Ointment ($7.99-$13.99) every night to protect baby’s delicate diaper area from moisture while she sleeps.  Formulated with natural oils, vitamin E and beeswax, it forms a moisture-proof barrier, while also hydrating and protecting baby’s skin.  I’m happy to say we’ve never had an incident of diaper rash, and our girl sometimes goes all night without a diaper change!  It’s a super safe and healthy alternative to Vaseline or A+D diaper ointments.

Matys-Baby-Chest-RubTo calm our little one and keep her nasal passages clear at night, I love using the All-Natural Baby Chest Rub ($7.99), loaded with natural essential oils in a healthy oil base. Not only is this a safe alternative to Vapor Rub, which has menthol that can be dangerous for little ones, but the oils of chamomile and lavender add a relaxing effect that help baby get a good night’s sleep, especially if she’s sick!

Although our little one isn’t quite old enough to use it yet, I can’t wait to try the All-Natural Children’s Cough Syrup (not that I’m looking forward to future colds!).

Of course, all Maty’s products are gluten-free, vegan, and not tested on animals.  And best of all they are totally affordable, and available at many major retailers! So this leaves you with absolutely no reason not to choose the healthiest, safest products for your precious little one!

Learn more about Maty’s on their website, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

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The Power of Ritual

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ritual

In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care.  Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.

In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds!  The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!).  Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.

Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness.  When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy.  The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation).  Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.

Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!

Morning rituals:Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up.  It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!MeditateSpend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffeeMove your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morningListen to musicRituals before a meal:Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.Rituals before meditating:Light candles or incense.Water your plants.Do some stretches.Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.TIP:  I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items.  I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.Bedtime rituals:Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bedSip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy timeTake time for a bathroom pampering ritualTake a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavenderSlip into something that makes you feel sexyRead a great bookOther self-care rituals:Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual.  Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home.  Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.What are your favorite healthy rituals?  Share them in the comments below!

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