Category Archives: Health/Wellness

Low-Carb Dieting

For the second time now, I have entered the blackhole that is the ketogenic diet. I don’t think that I have a gluten allergy necessarily, but I can’t deny the fact that every single time a refined carb enters my body the results are less than desirable. Like clockwork, my blood sugar immediately crashes, my stomach hurts, my arms and legs tingle and I can no longer see my feet, thanks to my suddenly bloated belly, while being simultaneously met with an insurmountable fatigue and brain fog that makes work difficult the rest of the day.

These also happen to be some of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance1, granted they could also be signs of countless other medical conditions. The point is, many of us experience symptoms like this throughout our lives and come to see it as normal.

It’s no secret though, that the ingredients which makeup refined carbohydrates – flour and sugar – are extremely unhealthy, especially at the rate the average American consumes them. That is one reason why I’m back on the ketogenic diet.

Another catalyst for my diet change stems from the life-long pleas of physicians, psychiatrists and family members to undergo testing for thyroid problems, anemia, mental illness and various autoimmune diseases.

As a chronically sick kid, I was tested extensively for autoimmune diseases. As an energy-devoid adult with mild depression and anxiety, I drug myself to the doctor’s office to have my blood drawn and tested for hypo and hyperthyroidism. The results are always the same – inconclusive. If I had a nickel for every time a doctor told me to take more vitamin D and B12…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck like I am now.

The truth is, no matter how many vitamins I shove down my throat, my symptoms persist. It wasn’t until I reached an unbearable point of exhaustion, depression and anxiety that I started logging my symptoms, eventually linking them to my diet. It was so obvious, and yet, I’d never really given my food a second thought when looking for the culprit.

Once I saw the link though, I couldn’t help but notice the wave of garbage feelings – physical, mental and emotional – that washed over me and clung the rest of the day like Saran Wrap.

By that point, I’d already been a pescatarian (from 14-19 years old), a twice-failed vegan and a brief raw enthusiast who shaved her own cucumber and zucchini noodles with a mandolin slicer every night. I’d been experimenting with fad diets most of my life, but carb elimination terrified me. Partially because a carb-less existence seemed pretty meaningless.

I think the main thing that freaked me out about low-carb dieting though, is that it goes against everything I’ve been taught on healthy dieting: “Meat is bad/causes cancer. Dairy is bad. Fat is bad.” My father was even put on the cholesterol medication, Lipitor, in his mid thirties after a huge weight loss on the Adkins diet.

The popularity of the paleo diet is what changed my mind in the end. It’s hard to argue with the back to basics logic inspired by our ancestors, to whom today’s obesity epidemic would be nothing short of a Black Mirror episode – but I digress. It just makes sense to me. I figured I should at least try a low-carb diet before writing it off.

The first few weeks of keto were rough the first time around. I felt hungry all of the time no matter what I ate. My body, deprived of carbs for the first time, was in shock. All I wanted was some comfort food like mac and cheese, avocado toast, pizza or at least a decent side-dish.

But after I got over that part of the diet, I was almost never hungry. I ate once or twice and felt satisfied the rest of the day. My food cravings completely evaporated. The biggest benefit though was that my blood sugar stabilized, and while I wasn’t exactly the Energizer bunny, I had more energy throughout the day, felt less moody and my concentration improved significantly. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the improvement either.

I did that for a three or four months before I fell off the wagon. I don’t remember why, but I think part of it related to my lifestyle. I still wanted to go out drinking with my friends. The problem with drinking on a low-carb diet, aside from the fact that you’re not supposed to drink at all, is that you can’t soak up the alcohol at the end of the night with delicous carbs. Every time I drank on the keto diet, I regretted it…a lot. That led to cheating which led to quitting altogether.

Although I’ve seen quite a few people manage to do it, this diet isn’t always sustainable. I’m not even sure if it’s the best possible fit for me or as healthy as it claims to be either, but it definitely makes me feel great. I’m not going to lie though…It’s only been three days, I already miss pizza, pasta, chips, mashed potatoes, fries and pretty much every kind of bread.

Truthfully, I think it would be irresponsible of me to fully endorse a low-carb diet since I’m not a registered dietitian, doctor or nutritionist. I also don’t believe there is any universal diet that works for everyone. You have to do what feels right for you, and you should definitely consult a medical professional before significantly changing your diet.

I will say that there are different levels to food allergies and intolerance. Gluten alleriges, for example, are mostly determined through elimination diets despite available blood tests and biopsies. Beyondceliac.org’s article Blood Tests to Diagnose Celiac Disease Under Scrutiny, says, “The fact that celiac disease has been given a comprehensive evidence review indicates an acknowledgement by Health and Human Services that there is a need for increased celiac disease diagnosis.”

Low-carb diets, like the ketogenic and paleo diet, are essentially elimination diets. I certainly didn’t think carbs could effect so many parts of my life until I stopped eating them. Even when I gave up on the diet the first time, I still made better choices afterward because I knew how much better my day would be on a low-carb breakfast.

Now wish me luck resisting the carb sirens on Day 4, please. I desperately need it.


1. [Disclaimer: I don’t think everyone has celiac or the gluten intolerance level of one. If you’ve ever witnessed someone with celiac post-gluten consumption, you won’t need much convincing of this.]

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5 Ways to Break Your Anxiety/Depression Cycle

Getting stuck in a cycle of anxiety/depression is the absolute worst. Food, socializing and everything that normally gives you pleasure, suddenly feels like a chore. But there are a few ways you can break the cycle and start enjoying life again.

 

1. Stop thinking about yourself.

Some people think of others so often that they neglect themselves, and some people have the opposite problem. Once you’re there, it feels nearly impossible to break out of this introspective, anxiety-fueled cycle (see that one time you smoked too much pot in college). Taking small steps to put that thought power toward someone or something else can help you break free from overanalyzing and the negative self-talk.

2. Quit boredom.

As children we’ve had all sorts of fantasies about the future. But did you ever imagine that one day we’d all be walking around with little hand-held devices? Devices with the ability to communicate instantaneously, with internet access, or devices that allow us to play games anywhere at anytime?

There’s really no excuse to be bored, ever. But if you find yourself feeling listless, try to find out why in this world of endless capabilities you can’t find a single thing to occupy your time. Start reading, blogging, running, cooking, or [insert passionate hobby] again. Try something new or learn an unfamiliar skill. You will discover things about yourself you wish you’d known years ago.

3. On that note, just put the phone down altogether.

Anxiety and depression without an outlet is exactly what leads to boredom. And what do we do when we’re bored? Spend hours online looking at other people’s lives. You see some of your friends hanging out without you, and now you feel slighted and sad. You see that random girl from high school just got engaged, and she looks so damn happy. Next, you open your sad Tinder app, stare at the list of underwhelming strangers, and begin typing.

Try texting that group of “traitorous” friends instead. Or catch up with your parents, skype a friend in another city, plan a much-needed vacation or day trip you can look forward to. Find ways to redirect your energy towards something that will reap real rewards.

4. Exercise (I’m sorry!).

Personally, this is my least favorite way to break the cycle, but it is also the most effective. The reason I dislike this one, or at least in the beginning, is because I immediately feel how long I’ve neglected my body.

Me running all of a sudden:  Oh wow, yeah, I can barely run a mile without stopping or having an asthma attack in the middle of the street.

Me 2 hours later:  Oh wow, I feel great. I am an actual goddess. Watch me conquer the world. Endorphhhhhhins.

It hurts at first, which is why you should set realistic, achievable goals. You don’t need to come out of the gate with a 5k. Just take it one day at a time and keep building on the foundation you create. The only one putting pressure on you, isyou.

Eventually, you’ll find your anxiety and depression taking a back seat to the work you put in.  The important thing here is to create a routine and regimen you can stick with. If you have athletic friends, step outside of your comfort zone and ask to work out with them. More than likely they will be excited to see you making positive changes and offer guidance. Plus, the accountabil-a-buddy system goes a long way.

5. Get some sleep.

Sleep deprivation is the number one contributor to my shitty moods, that and a lack of routine. Without stability, your sleep schedule fluctuates along with your mood, which feels like playing the emotional lottery. Some days you wake up feeling great, others, you wish you could crawl under the desk with a human-proof shield. If you’re particularly prone to mood swings, depression and/or anxiety, it is crucial to get this part of your life under control. There are plenty of studies showcasing the effects of sleep deprivation on the mind and body over time, and it’s not pretty.

Exercise acts as a natural sleep aid. Turn off your devices, throw on the white noise or a meditation track, turn the air down, read for a while, and wait to climb in the sack when you really feel like you’re about to fall asleep. Once you fix your sleep cycle, your mood should improve significantly.

Self-Acceptance vs. Happiness

So many of us put pressure on ourselves to be perfect when perfection is something we can never achieve.  If I just do blank, I can love myself. If I lose weight. If I get that promotion. If. If. If.

There is a belief in Taoism that the only way we can find inner peace is by accepting ourselves the way that we are now. And that prospect feels impossible to many of us.

After hitting a rough patch a few years ago, I started going to Temple once a week. Counter to The Secret’s law-of-attraction concept popularized in self-help lit, here, I was taught to accept my thoughts – and therefore, myself – for the very first time, rather than trying to manipulate every feeling into something positive. The results were astounding.

After a few meditation sessions/sermons, I realized that every time I manipulated my thoughts, and inevitably failed, I felt worse for the failure, creating an endless cycle of negativity. I do believe that the ability to convert negative thoughts into optimism is useful to a point. But when you do not accept a situation or your feelings, you are merely patching a dam with a bandaid.

What I’m trying to say is that if you find it difficult to steer your thoughts into the light – it’s okay. No one is perfect, and the sooner you realize you are good the way that you are, the sooner you will find inner peace.

When you accept and view your thoughts, rather than push them away, you begin to realize you have set conditions for self-love and self-acceptance, which is futile because everyone and everything are in a continuous state of fluctuation. In a literal sense, each decade or so, every cell in your body is replaced with a new one. You will never be the same person you were yesterday or the day before that and so on.

Not to be confused with happiness, inner peace is a constant state of self-acceptance that equips you to handle most unforeseeable situations. Inner peace is not dependent on circumstance, while happiness is a fleeting moment of joy that is impossible to maintain. Through the foundation of inner peace, happiness is easier to experience and maintain but never sustainable. After all, how can we experience joy unless we also experience sadness, anger or misfortune?

Don’t beat yourself up over negative thoughts. Accept them and take your power back one day at a time.

Going Blonde

So I recently took it upon myself to go blonde without the help of a professional.

 
Reasons why I did this at home:

1. Salon’s are expensive.

Depending on where you live and the salon itself, you’re looking at $150-300 right off the bat. Aveda, for instance, charges $200+ for color and full highlights. Unfortunately, I just can’t afford to blow hundreds on my hair.

2. I’ve been dying my own hair for the past 12 years.

I followed in my mother’s footsteps and began dying my hair at home when I was still in high school. After you buy the essential tools – gloves, giant bottle of developer, mixing bowl, brush, etc. – you only have to purchase the dye itself, which is $4-6 a box. It’s also insanely easy to dye your hair at home.

3. Youtube made it seem easy.

During my research phase, I watched beauty vlogger after beauty vlogger make the transition without a hitch. Seemed simple enough.

4. No one would touch my hair. 

Okay, that’s not 100% true, but nearly every colorist I spoke with had reservations to the point where I finally just gave up. I’m not going to beg a stylist to do something they’re against because I understand that their branding is their livelihood, I know that they’re trying to protect my hair, and, frankly, I appreciate their honesty. So I was on my own.

5. Curiosity and a strong lack of patience. 

Impatient doesn’t quite describe me. Impulsive, perhaps? I mean I did wait about a month and half after the idea popped into my head so there’s that.

For the most part though, I’ve been consistently dying my hair dark red for the last several years. Before that I got highlights every couple of months. And before that, dark red for years. I’d been blonde for a time in college as well (also pink, teal, and purple), but it didn’t feel like the same level of risk back then when I had a pixie cut.

Still, I wanted it really really bad and nobody was going to stop me! (Noble last words.)

 

 

The Process: Color Stripping, 2 Rounds of Bleach, and Toning

All of these factors gave me the confidence to move forward (kind of), but with extreme caution.

I don’t know if you remember the earlier part of this post where I said I’d been dying my hair dark red for years? Yeah. That little detail became the bane of my existence throughout most of this process.

Having gone through so many different colors before, I already knew that red was the most difficult color to get rid of, let alone go blonde from. But what really freaked me out about the idea of bleaching was the process itself. Bleaching is completely different from regular dying, and it comes with a long list of possible adverse reactions I didn’t begin to know how to fix should something go wrong, which it did.

Mostly though, I was afraid of frying my precious locks off. With my traditional red dye, I could leave it on past the recommended time with zero consequences. Bleach was a new beast.

After watching about 12 tutorials on how to go from red to platinum, I decided to strip my hair first. Yes, I know this is bad. But, that’s exactly what my colorist did when I went blonde in undergrad. Frankly, I don’t know how anything would have changed without it though. Years of red dye, y’all.

After that, it was slightly orange, and not the cool pastel-unicorn-mermaid-cerberus-madeup-creature kind or orange. That was when I knew there was no turning back. Nightmares of my brassy undergrad hair, back before I knew what toner was, immediately surfaced. Blonde, I thought. You are going to be fucking blonde.

I was not blonde.

Knowing how harsh color strippers are, I did it once more and left it alone for a few days. I wanted to wait longer, but I still had to face myself in the mirror every morning, and go to work, and see my friends, and live life – as a carrot.

Thoughts at this point:

Bleaching your hair at home is like trying to eat cereal with a fork. You can do it, but you look really fucking stupid.

One benefit though is that you can do it at your own pace. When you go to the salon most of this is done in one go. I spread that process out over the course of a month and probably kept a good amount of my hair in tact because of this. Then again, salons have specialized products for this sort of thing so…who knows?

In any case, I chugged a beer and began mixing the chemicals together using L’oreal Quick Blue Extra Strength Powder Bleach and Salon Care 20 Volume Creme Developer. After another beer, I felt brave enough to start putting it on my head.

Even though I knew that you’re supposed to start from the bottom and save your roots for last, I had a hard time breaking the years of opposite application technique. I also had some thick-haired difficulties.

My hair was slathered in coconut oil from the night before to protect it during this process. Unfortunately, it caused my hair to become chunky. Every time I thought a tiny lock was slathered, I separated it again and again only to reveal more untouched hair – like babushka dolls but with fugly-colored follicles.

Due to the thickness of my hair, it took forever to go through all of it. I also had to stop and mix more bleach, not once, not twice, but three freaking times.

I realized during this ordeal that it would have been a two man job at the salon. I’m the kind of person they charge extra because it takes double the amount of product, time, and man power. And timing is everything with bleach.

Finally, I got through it and covered my roots. Not even 10 minutes later I noticed my hair was much lighter…maybe too light, and my roots? So much lighter than the rest of my hair. Unsure of what the hell was going on up top, I scrambled into the shower and washed it out.

When I emerged to look in the mirror, I couldn’t tell much besides the fact that my hair was wet and the roots were blonde. At least some part of me is blonde, I thought. Cut to dry(ish) hair an hour later: Still orange. OMG WHYYYYY.

Okay, it was less orange though, so I was making some progress. I was pleased to see that my hair wasn’t damaged either. A few days later I threw on some Wella Color Charm Permanent Liquid Hair Toner in T-18, which further counteracted the brassiness.

This is the part where I tell you that doing research for a month isn’t the same as being a licensed cosmetologist. Those motherfuckers are chemists. This. Is. Science. And I suck at science.

It was a week and half before the image of my own creamsicle hair disturbed me enough to bleach it again. I felt braver this time so I left it on slightly past the recommended time. As expected, it was less orange. But when I toned it a few days later, I finally looked like a blonde. Whoa.

 

What Happened Next:

1. Damage. 

After the second bleaching and toning, my hair was noticeably different in terms of texture, moisture, durability, elasticity, and overall health. Lesson: better to under-bleach than over-bleach.

2. Uneven coloring.

Because of the aformentioned thickness debacle, one side is darker than the other.

3. I stopped believing Youtube. 

I don’t know if I ever actually believed any of those tutorials so much as I wanted them to be true. Something I noticed after all of this though, is that every single one of these successful vloggers has thin, fine hair.

4. Money. 

Even though I haven’t bleached it since, my hair didn’t recover the way I thought it would. I became concerned recently after losing way above average amounts of hair over the last two months.  Ended up spending around $80 on 3 products, but the difference is noticeable. My hair has stop shedding at an alarming rate. Luckily, I started out with about three people’s worth of hair.

 

Recommendations:

 

1. Be real about your capabilities.

Most people can easily achieve their desired look at home if they have some experience already and if they’re going from a natural hair color to blonde. Again, red is the most difficult color to get rid of so don’t be rash. Frying most of your hair off isn’t worth it. Go to a pro if have any doubts.

2. Pay more for products that work.

In the end, I had to buy expensive products to save my hair from all of that damage, but they work really well. I went to Ulta and picked up two giant bottles of Redkin’s All Soft Shampoo and Conditioner. I also bought It’s a Ten Miracle Leave-In with keratin. Being cheap and all, I nearly had a heart attack at the register when the leave-in conditioner came out to $40! But I was desperate. And holy crap this stuff WORKS! I’ve only used it once and my hair has stopped breaking off, and it feels super soft.

3. Live life as a carrot if you can stand it.

The transition color is awkward, but the more you spread out the bleaching, the less damage your hair will receive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Garlic Lemon Chicken

One of my favorite fall recipes is a simple, baked, rosemary-garlic-lemon chicken.  The reason I love this recipe is that it only requires a handful of ingredients that are already in my kitchen.  Not to mention, the hearty taste of rosemary is exactly what I’m craving during these chilly months.  This herb gives the chicken a roast-like flavor, but chicken takes half the cooking time of a traditional roast and contains lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.  Whether you’re short on time or just trying to stay healthy, this effortless go-to will help you beat the cold.

Serves 4 

What You’ll Need:

4 chicken breasts, skinless boneless
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lemons
3-6 rosemary sprigs
3 tbsp olive oil
1 bag of red potatoes, quartered
1 lb. green beans
salt and pepper optional

9×13 baking pan
grater or zester

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Zest or grate 1 lemon and keep the rest. Cut both lemons so that they’re easy to squeeze.
  3. Combine your zest, rosemary, olive oil, garlic, potatoes and hand-squeezed juice from both lemons. (I use 2 because I love the taste and prefer citrus over salt, but you may need to tailor this to your preferences.)
  4. Lightly coat your baking pan with olive oil. Then place chicken, green beans, and quartered potatoes on top. Brush with mixture.
  5. Insert the pan into the oven and leave for 25 to 30 minutes. Before turning off the oven, make sure your potatoes are soft and that the center of the chicken isn’t pink.
  6. Enjoy!