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    • Loving Yourself When You Take Care of Others

      I have always admired those flexible women who are in such great shape and super healthy eaters. While I desire to eat & be healthy, my kids tend to be the driving factor in the reason it doesn't always happen like I hoped. My oldest boys are in school, and it's usually just me & my daughter throughout the day. You would think I would have all this free time and be flourishing with fulfilling every thing on my to do list and have extra time for my wishlist. That's 99.99% of the time not the case. I'm a working mom, and although my schedule is flexible and I can work virtually any hours I want when I can squeeze them in, I try to work as much as I can in every available minute. After all, bills have to get paid! But what about when I'm not working? I mean, we're a household of 5, keeping up with the laundry, dishes and cleaning alone is enough to tap me out (which is why I usually working through the night). So that's where my lack of nutrition and self care come in. I'm usually so exhausted in the morning that I'm barely getting the kids to school on time. Then when I walk in the door, all I want to do is sleep. So I snack on whatever leftovers the kids left on the table earlier that morning, then I try my hardest to convince my daughter to fall asleep so I can recover. Sometimes she's tired enough to go down for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, if I'm lucky. Then I try to lay down myself, but often get distracted by my phone (silly mobile games, social media, and sometimes work). Before I know it, the time flew by & my daughter's ready to play! In my therapy sessions, we've been talking a lot about taking care of myself. Sounds like such a foreign concept when society is constantly expecting moms to do everything! But, she's right. I can't take care of others if I'm not taking care of myself. So i think about it more, want it more, research it more... but months later, here I am still in the same cycle. Finally, I was done with being last. While, yes, it's important for my kids & husband to be first, it doesn't mean I have to be last. What I mean by that is that there are soooo many other things on my list that come after my kids that prevent me from being there for me. A lot of times, I really don't think of myself. I'm important. I'm valuable. I'm beautiful. I'm talented. I'm enough. It's OK to spend some time shopping, and I mean... for yourself! Not always what your kids want, or what your husband needs (but those are definitely important too). I mean, go down that aisle of women's clothing you so powerfully resist while grocery shopping. Take the time to do your makeup & hair in the morning, and do a face mask or your nails at night. Spend a few more minutes in the shower just breathing and relaxing. Go do that hobby or interest that you've been holding back from. For me, it's been yoga. I've been interested, even followed a couple Facebook groups and tried to follow some videos on YouTube & TV. But something always distracted me, or I had absolutely no motivation to actually do it. I haven't lost very much of my baby weight after my last daughter. I though for sure I'd be motivated now that we've decided we're done with kids. I mean, I get to take back body, how exciting! But no. It hasn't been like that at all. With all of life's busyness, and all of the many excuses I can so easily come up with, it's been postponed for a VERY long time. I finally decided, enough is enough. If I can't bring myself to do it at home, then I need to hold myself accountable someway. A while ago I had followed a local yoga studio. An event popped up for parents & kids yoga weekly classes that will be starting soon. Not only can I get my yoga in, but my daughter (or sons for that matter) can do it with me. Perfect opportunity!! Instead of just liking it, marking it as interested, I committed right then & there to do it. I signed up for the class & prepaid for it. My first class is coming up shortly & I'm prepping for it by shopping for everything I need to be ready. It's something so simple & we don't even do it. Commit to it, invest in it, and follow through. When you commit to it, you're setting that time aside specifically for that certain thing. So there's no excuse that I don't have time, I made time for it. By investing in something, we're now backing this up with real cash or items or whatever it may be, to actually do this. Otherwise, it'd be literally throwing dollars away. Nobody wants that! I want to get use out of what I'm investing in. Now here's the hardest part for most of us, follow through. But hopefully by committing and investing, it's easier to follow through. I've already marked it in my calendar. I've already paid for the class. Now I just have to get there and do it. So let's try to take better care of ourselves this year & every year. After all, we're worth it!

    • Are probiotics the answer to my problems?

      New year, new me? Maybe. I would love to be a whole new version of myself, but I understand that realistically it takes time. I am progressively making steps toward being everything I want to be, but they're small steps and... I'm ok with that. Like I mentioned before, I signed up and paid for my yoga class already (YAY!). Then to be progressive, I paid ahead for another week (woohoo). But the class hasn't started yet. So naturally I did some Amazon shopping and bought a yoga mat (I'm really invested!) But I also started looking into some other means of being "healthier". As much as I would love to be healthy, I feel like it's hard with kids. They want to eat macaroni and chicken nuggets and ice cream, etc... while I want sandwiches, salads, and smoothies with that green stuff they don't want to try. While searching for ways to incorporate healthier options in our families' lives, I discovered Cultures for Health. It's basically an all in one DIY base for all things cultured and fermented. Cultures, or probiotics, are live microorganisms (bacteria) that can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. Many studies show that the balance (or imbalance) of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to overall health and disease. Probiotics have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. (Skim through the section below if you're not interested in all the science-y things it can do for your health and just read in bold for highlights.) 1. Decrease the severity and frequency of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 2. Regulate the intestinal process to decrease diarrhea, by replenishing the "good bacteria". 3. Balance enzyme activity and speed up the process of digestion and excretion, soothing the uncomfortable affects of constipation. 4. Probiotics contain bacteria effective in lowering total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Probiotic bacteria absorb fiber from the intestines and as a result, they generate propionic acid. This particular acid has the ability to reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver. 5. Improved mood with its strong connection between the gut and the brain. People who were suffering from certain mental health conditions, like sadness, were given probiotics and they showed signs of improvement and a reduction in negative thoughts. 6. Strengthen immune system. Can also regulate the number of antibodies present in the intestines. With autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis, it can help regulate intestinal homeostasis, and even save your life. 7. Help produce weight loss and tackle belly fat. 8. Prevent and treat yeast infections, urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, as well as the more common yeast vaginitis. 9. When the gut flora is in balance, the body is able to absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins. This helps prevent chronic inflammation, which causes acne and other skin problems. 10. Increase nutrient intake by encouraging the extraction of beneficial nutrients from the food we eat so none of it goes to waste. Higher levels of these nutrients can positively affect the body in many ways, including increased bone health and blood oxygenation, and improved memory. 11. Recent studies have shown a link between intestinal bacteria imbalance, the immune system, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). 12. Less painful affects from lactose intolerance due to a strain of probiotics, which produce similar effects as lactase, and are able to break down and promote the digestion of lactose. Using probiotics does not eliminate the condition of lactose intolerance in individuals, but it can alleviate irritating and uncomfortable symptoms. What caught my attention about Cultures for Health is that they offer several starter kits to make your own versions of healthy and fresh fermented things like cheese, yogurt and kombucha. There were even VEGAN kits! It sounded kind of intimidating, but the more I browsed their website, the more confident I became. The starter kits give you every tool you need to start your fermentation journey. For example, in the Vegan Yogurt Starter Kit (this is the one I will be buying), comes with 1 thermometer, 1 cotton milk bag, 1 box of pectin, and 1 box of vegan yogurt starter culture for only $25.99. The only thing you need to supply is the pot & milk. And you can easily re-order what you need individually. Sounds hard, but it's really not! When you have a family like me, we avoid anything complicated, but trust me. I just watched the how-to video and almost laughed at how easy it was to make this. And once you have the kit, it'll be incredibly more affordable than buying the products you used to in the store. Not only that, but in my experience, there are very few selections for vegan yogurt. Now I'll be able to customize it with whatever flavor or type of sweetener I like (or none at all). It'll be a better, palatable, and more enjoyable taste for everyone (even little ones). And if you need more help, there's a large selection of articles in their "Getting Started" under "Learn More" area, and FAQ section. If you're still stuck, you can always call customer service. I believe in transparency and while this blog is not sponsored by Cultures for Health, I do earn a very small commission for any link clicks throughout this website that may result in purchases (please use my referral link if you do decide to buy). However, I would never partner with any company I don't 100% believe in, and here's why they earned my trust. It was created by parents who wanted to introduce the idea of eating REAL FOOD while working on sustainable living. With all the overly processed food in today's market, I completely relate. They are passionate about what they do, they believe in their products, and they care about you (not just your money). Not only is it easy, affordable, healthy and fresh, but you'll truly enjoy making your own creations. The best part, you're in control of everything!

    • Tart Cherry, The Fruit You Didn't Know You Needed

      I went "window shopping" in Natural Grocers the other day, in search of something new. Like I mentioned in a previous blog, I normally go straight to the health section and totally ignore the fact that there is an entire store available to me. I started to walk through every aisle with my husband & daughter (my older boys were in school), hoping to see something I might need that I never knew I could get. They had samples for Tart Cherry Concentrate by Stanton Orchards. The presenter asked us if we knew about the benefits of Tart Cherry, and I told her well yeah a little bit. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to try it just because of the name tart. Then she handed me a flier and boom. I was sold, and let me tell you why. What Is Tart Cherry? If you haven't heard of it before, this is actually different from a traditional juice. The most well-known type of tart cherry is the montmorency cherry—it’s the kind you get on top of your sundae or inside a cherry pie. They are a variety grown in the United States that have a slightly sour taste. Unlike sweet varieties that are typically eaten fresh, tart cherries are commonly enjoyed dried or as a concentrate. It comes in different forms such as liquid concentrate, capsules, softgels, powder, and gummies. When consumed as a juice, it is typically delivered in its pure concentrate form with no added sugar or additional additives. And yes, it is pretty tart in flavor as the name suggests, but not overly sour I'll admit. Benefits Ok so now that we know what it is, what does it do? Glad you asked! It has the richest anti-inflammatory content of any food. Full of immune boosting nutrients like vitamins A & C, quercetin, cyanidin, and anthocyanin. The most common anti-inflammatory drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with its many side effects. A study in 2004, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research , found that along with reducing inflammation, it also reduced swelling. Multiple studies show confirmation of reduced pain with continued use. It's also been found to reduce uric acid levels. High concentrations of uric acid are known to cause gout attacks, which result in intense swelling and pain. Cherry juice also reduces a biomarker of inflammation called c-reactive protein. Another amazing study in England published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that participants with early signs of hypertension (high blood pressure) saw a 7% reduction in blood pressure after drinking tart cherry concentrate when compared to drinking a fruit-flavored juice. The reduction was comparable to the level achieved by anti-hypertensive medication! Another study from 2009 and published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that regular tart cherry consumption can decrease abdominal fat, while also reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Rids body of free radicals, absorbing and deactivating oxygen radicals and detoxifying cells to help prevent cancer. Tart cherry juice is loaded with cancer-fighting chemicals, including ellagic acid, limonene, perillyl alcohol, and anthocyanins. These chemicals are particularly useful against skin, lung, liver, and breast cancers. What I've known tart cherry juice for is supporting insomnia. It's rich in melatonin (a sleep-regulating phytochemical) and has been found to improve sleep. It helps to not only sleep longer, but reduce time spent awake in the night. Results suggested that tart cherry juice has an effect similar to insomnia supplements such as valerian. With results like these, minus all the horrible side effects, it's hard to not consider giving it a try. It can be used to help prevent certain conditions, eliminate existing ones, before a workout, or after workout recovery. It's easy to use, comes in multiple forms, and can be used as often or as little as desired. Plus as a natural fruit, it's safe for kids. You know what I'm buying next!

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