Whole 30: My Journey [Week 2]

You can’t ever really anticipate how difficult a change in eating habits is going to be. I mean, you think you know, but once you’re in it, it’s so much harder. Especially when, even though you live with someone, you’re ultimately on your own [my fiancé, who I love dearly, barely made it three days before deciding he could not go without grains or dairy].

The first week of Whole 30, I was strong. I was excited about the challenge of cooking meals without grains, beans, dairy, sugar and processed food. I started off with a major bang, and was on such a high from immediately feeling the positive effects on my body from cutting out all of these food groups.

The second week, though.. I felt like I’d hit my max on creativity. Even though I’d purchased the Whole 30 cookbook, I felt like everything was the same. The truth is, none of the recipes are even remotely similar, but because I was already getting burned out, I was getting lazy. It wasn’t too hard to avoid dairy or gluten, since I don’t eat much of either of those on a daily basis anyway, but avoiding all grains and even corn on top of that? That was difficult for me. In situations where I’d normally substitute quinoa or add a corn product for flavor, I couldn’t! Also, most of the recipes I found were calling for a slow cooker, which I don’t have [yet.. there’s one on my registry! – *hint hint* to those of you invited to my wedding :)].

Luckily, I know something about myself that will hopefully keep me going with this diet – I have a tendency to cop out when things get “difficult.” I give up, I throw in the towel. I fall off the wagon, if you will. But having a track record of this and having a resolution to have more willpower this year is what’s helping me to maintain my motivation to climb this 30 day mountain [of which I have 23 days left.. but who’s counting?].

In short – week two of Whole 30 has been hard. But I have to remember that it’s mind over matter. I have survived much more difficult obstacles in my life than temporarily cutting out certain types of food.

Any of you guys have recommendations on how to keep my momentum going with this diet [and continuing to eat healthy moving forward]? Would love to hear thoughts and recommendations!

Also, a little sidenote, if you’re considering doing W30, I highly suggest doing it in the winter! Almost all of the recipes are heavy and winter-y and, in my opinion, seem like they’d be way too filling and uncomfortably warm for the summer months.

Whole 30: My Journey [Week 1]

Earlier this week, I came home from a run with the dogs, took a quick shower, and, upon surveying  the current state of my body in the nude, had a full-blown meltdown to my fiance. “Our wedding is in six months! My arms are fat and my stomach is disgusting! I’m eating healthy, I’m working out, and nothing is happening! I don’t know what else to do.” [I know all you ladies can relate to this].

He, of course, thinks I look beautiful, and assures me every single day that even if I actually got fat [because, let’s be honest, I’m definitely not even close to “overweight” in any sense of the word], he would still love me as much as he always has. Of course it feels good to hear praise from your S.O., but let’s be honest – regardless of how many people tell you how good you look, you ultimately have to feel good to yourself. When I explained this to him, he threw out a suggestion, “Why don’t we do Whole 30?”

I’d heard of Whole 30 before. A couple of my friends had done it before and had huge success with it. I agreed to give it ago without doing any research beforehand. How hard could it be? I was pretty sure all you had to do was eliminate gluten and dairy. I could do that for thirty days, no problem.

It turns out it’s much, MUCH more than that.

When we decided to the Whole 30, I immediately went online and ordered the book and the cookbook, and start scouring Pinterest for any Whole 30 friendly recipes I could make in the meantime while I waited for the books to be delivered. I found three right off the bat that looked delicious, and prepped for the next three dinners of the week. My fiance [who really only ever eats dinner due to his work schedule and doesn’t actually need to do any sort of dieting], didn’t even last one meal without adding cheese and sauces that were on the no-no list. That was fine with me, as long as he was okay with me making the base of the meal, he could add all the crap he wanted. In my mind I was sure that I could make it 30 days without dairy and gluten NO PROBLEM.

The books finally arrived on the third day of my “diet,” and within the first two chapters of learning about Whole 30, I quickly realized there were a lot more things on the bad food list than I’d anticipated. Anything underneath the grain umbrella was restricted – including quinoa, corn and rice. All beans and legumes, peas, processed dairy and unnatural sugars were also not allowed. I immediately panicked. I’d anticipated cutting out two food groups, not FIVE. After reading a giant list of foods I couldn’t eat, I wasn’t even sure what I had left to choose from.

It turns out, there’s a lot more than I thought. Any type of meat, greens, eggs, veggies [minus peas], and potatoes are all on the approved list of foods. Pre-made sauces and dressings were out of the question due to added sugars, but I discovered plenty of recipes teaching you how to make your own. Instead of feeling disheartened, I started to see the fun challenge that the Whole 30 would bring for me. I had the opportunity to make fun new dishes with homemade sauces! And the first three days of trying new recipes had been extremely enjoyable for me, not to mention I had already noticed little changes in my body: I wasn’t waking up starving in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. I wasn’t having cravings, I wasn’t feeling bloated after meals, and I didn’t have an energy crash in the middle of the day. Even my mood had improved, despite it being my “PMS” week. I decided that if three days could make that much of a difference, ten times that could only be something short of miraculous.

With these feelings and hopes in the forefront of my mind, I am embarking on this new food journey with end goals, a plan in mind, and a new cookbook to boot. I would love to hear from anybody who has tried Whole 30 or something similar like a paleo or vegan diet [since there is a lot of crossover]! Part of my success will be learning what has worked for other people and what hasn’t.

Ten Best Practices For Having A Happy, Healthy Dog

You guys know I’m that #crazydogmom bumper sticker to a “T.” My parents and my fiancé think it’s ludicrous the amount of time and money I spend on my dogs. I’m big on research, trying new products, and overall providing the best possible quality of life for my fur babies. #noshame

I’m definitely not an expert, but I consider myself to be pretty in-the-know when it comes to dogs and what I’ve found to be most successful for mine. And for that reason, I’ve compiled a little list of ten things I believe will not only make you a great pet owner and doggy parent, but will fulfill your dog’s needs as well.

No matter what breed of dog you have, exercise daily is an absolute must. It doesn’t matter how big your house and/or yard is, in your dog’s mind, it’s just a giant cage. They need to get out of the house and get a walk, run or hike in every day. And I know for some people this isn’t plausible. Some of us work crazy hours, others of us live in places where the temps drop to unreasonable levels, but do what you can to make it work. Even if it’s just for ten to twenty minutes [45-60 is ideal, BUT, life happens], your dog will thank you. And it’s healthy for us humans to get out of the house as well. Having a dog is a great excuse to see outside of the four [ish] walls we live in.

Keep your dog’s food and water bowls CLEAN. I may be borderline OCD about this, but I scrub Bella and Otis’ water bowl with hot, soapy water 2-3 times a day. Yes, a day. They both drink a lot of water, so I’m already emptying it out and filling it up regardless, and still water that sits in a basin like that develops a gross pink bacteria which is definitely not healthy for your dogs to be consuming. I see people with those automatic water dispensers in their homes and it just makes me cringe. Your dog needs FRESH, CLEAN water every single day. And if your dog eats raw, you should be doing the same thing to the food bowl after every meal. With kibble, I’m not as diligent, but I do wash the bowl about once to twice a week.

Take out an insurance policy on your pet. You’ll be able to tell from a very young age if your dog will need one early on or not. I truthfully did not know that pets could even have insurance until recently, which is why I didn’t get Bella a policy until she was five-and-a-half. Although, truth be told, she really didn’t need one before the age of five. Otis, however, I knew right away that he would need a policy. He has no fear – from day one he was jumping off couches and chairs, trying to wrestle with the big dogs, and was getting into and eating every possible thing he could find. I’ve had puppies before, but none who had zero boundaries like this guy. The cost per month for insurance is way cheaper than any vet bills you’ll have to pay in the long run. [You can read more about it here on a previous post].

Be sure your dog is eating a high quality food. If you can’t afford to feed raw [most people can’t, it’s stupidly expensive in America], then research your little heart out until you find a kibble that’s somewhat comparable. And be economical about it – only purchase the smallest bags of food while you’re testing brands out on your dog. Petco and PetSmart have gotten much better about offering higher quality foods, but I personally still stay away from them when it comes to kibble. I really love the company FROMM – they make amazing quality kibble and they have a ton of different varietals to choose from for your pet [you can find places that sell it on their site]. Otis is on some weird brand that the breeder was feeding him, but once we run out I’ll be switching him to FROMM. I can’t afford to have two dogs on raw right now.

Get your dog microchipped! I cannot stress this one enough. It doesn’t cost much, and if your dog ever gets loose it is extremely easy to track down the owner. Fortunately my dogs have not put theirs to use, but I know people whose dogs have and it was a life saver for both the dog and owner.

Take ten to fifteen minutes out of your day, every day, to work with your dog. In only one morning session of about 15 minutes, I was able to get Otis from running circles around me, whining, and jumping up and down like a pogo stick during mealtime, to sitting pretty calmly next to Bella and waiting for his turn to eat [I say “pretty” because he’s an extremely food-motivated puppy who lives for mealtime]. Some dogs are smarter and more receptive to training than others, but diligence and repetition is all it takes. Plus, it’s amazing how setting rules and boundaries will trickle into other aspects of their lives. I’m not sure if it’s because of our hierarchy in the house or because he’s just a natural, but Otis does really well on a leash already.

Make your dog’s hygiene a priority! This means oral and physical. If your dog eats raw, then the raw, meaty bones are a great, natural teeth cleaner. No brushing necessary Bella has never had her teeth brushed and her teeth are extremely clean. Dental hygiene is also important because dogs, like humans, can get plaque in their bodies if their teeth get buildup. This is detrimental to their mouths [obviously], hearts, bloodstream, other organs and their reproductive areas. If your dog doesn’t eat raw, I highly recommend adding a RMB or two a day to mealtime, especially if your dog doesn’t like having its teeth brushed or you’re not diligent enough to do so. [Raw feeding tip: purchasing just the bones is much cheaper than converting your dog’s entire diet]. Because of Bella’s allergies to chicken and turkey, she gets duck necks or rabbit bones. You may be able to find these at a butcher, or you can order them online from a raw food supplier [read more about raw feeding here]. Cleaning your dog’s coat is important, too. Be sure to find a product that’s moisturizing and easy to rinse off [ie: doesn’t linger on their coat and cause product build-up and irritation]. My veterinarian recommended a brand to me called Pure Paws. In the dog show business, it’s what a lot of owners use on their canines. I have the shampoo, conditioner, and the moisturizing spray. She also recommended that my dogs be bathed once a week, but with Bella’s sensitive coat, too much washing dries her out, regardless of how moisturizing the shampoo. Unless she gets really dirty, she’s on a once-a-month bathing schedule, with wipe downs in between with doggy-safe wipes [I use Burt’s Bee’s].

Get your dog comfortable with your hands on it from as early on as possible. If you adopt a dog who’s older in age, this will be a little more difficult because often times you don’t know their backstory. They could have been abused, in which case hands-on will be a challenge [but doable!]. All it takes is some trust building. If you get a puppy, it’s important to handle its feet, ears, legs, body and tail from the moment it becomes yours. Also, cradling the pup on its back either in your arms or your lap helps to build a level of trust and submissiveness between you and your dog. It’s important for your dog to be comfortable being handled by humans – between the vet visits and people petting your dog willy-nilly, the last thing you want is a nervous or reactive dog that shies away or bites at the show of a hand.

From the moment you adopt a dog, whether puppy or mature, find a vet you absolutely love and stick to that one. There will be occasions where you have to see another vet whether it be on a Sunday for an emergency [my life lately with my two pups], or a specialization that your generic vet doesn’t practice, but overall you want a vet that knows your dog and its health history. And if you end up having to see other vets, be sure to have all records transferred to your primary so that they have all of your dog’s info on file. I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing vet here in Sacramento that I absolutely love; I will be so sad if/when she ever retires. To read more about her and the dogs’ acupuncturist [yes, they have one], click here.

My final tip to you is to be attentive, read and do research. Pay attention to your pup and find out what makes it tick. Dogs are pretty easy to read if we take the time to break it down. If there’s a lot of itching and dandruff happening, your dog is probably allergic to either its food or something in the environment. If it’s panting a lot and can’t settle down, it probably needs exercise or some sort of stimulation. Getting to know your dog and its breed [if it’s not a mutt in which case you wouldn’t really know] will help you out so much when you’re raising your dog. The internet can have some bogus information and a lot of websites can’t be trusted, but I’ve found that joining breed-specific or diet-specific groups on Facebook have been extremely informative and helpful in raising Bella and working with her in her transition to raw feeding.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to take on the responsibility of a dog, then you also need to own the fact that you’re taking on everything that comes with it. Exercise, rules, feeding, cleaning up after, training.. All of these things are important components in raising a healthy, happy dog. I understand we all have lives and stuff gets in the way that keeps us from being the best pet parents in the world every single day [I am guilty of not walking my pups every single day]. But it’s important that we at least try. Don’t be lazy! And dogs are amazing communicators – if they’re unhappy, they’ll definitely let you know by being annoying or destructive. If they’re happy and fulfilled, you’ll know!

If you guys have any other tips on things you’ve learned about your pets that have helped you be a better pet parent, I would love to hear them! I am totally open to expanding my knowledge of my dogs and how I can be a better owner for them.

My Journey With Scoliosis + Holistic Healing

Above: the aftermath of cupping. The darker spots indicate places that needed and responded more to the treatment than others. “Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.”

Remember that day in seventh grade during PE class when the school nurse came to the locker room and checked everyone’s spines for scoliosis? We all giggled and tittered nervously because we had to bend over in front of her with our shirts off and it was just an awkward moment for a tween. At the time, I didn’t really understand what that little test was for.

Two years later, I definitely understood.

I don’t really remember why my mom ended up taking me to a spine doctor when I was 14. Undoubtedly it was for back pain, but I can’t say for sure. At just 14-years-old, I found myself receiving x-rays of my spine, and being told I had scoliosis. Even after the diagnosis, I still didn’t really understand what that meant. “Your spine is curved,” is what the doctor told me. “It’s too minor to do surgery on, but you can do some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it.” And he sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a list of moves to do every day that would help stretch and strengthen my back.

Psh, yeah right. What 14-year-old girl is going to do physical therapy for a back condition she doesn’t know anything about and doesn’t really effect her life in any way?

Of course, now I wish I would have taken his advice, because my condition is currently 16 years chronic. And basically I’m in constant pain, every day. It hurts to sit for a long time, it hurts to stand for a long time, it hurts to walk for an extended period of time. So essentially, I just hurt.

On the flip side, I’m very fortunate that the actual condition itself hasn’t worsened in the 16 years that I’ve had it. My spine has stayed in exactly the same awkward curve all that time. And the pain that I feel is mostly a dull, constant ache, no shooting pains or tingles. What that means, though, is that all of the muscles in my body have slowly lost their purpose.

When I say all of the muscles in my body, I pretty much mean all of them. From head to toe. The funny thing about scoliosis is, it isn’t just a spine condition. It effects every inch of you. Something that I recently discovered.

I’m really against taking pain medication for anything other than a headache. That’s literally the only time I’ll take them. Because in all honesty, they do not work. And putting foreign entities into your body is extremely unhealthy. Which is the main reason I’ve turned to holistic healthcare to aid in my ailments.

When I started going to acupuncture a little over a year ago, it was for migraines and stress. My acupuncturist also knew I had scoliosis and tried to relieve the pain, but unfortunately the needles did little to rid me of my aches and pains [it worked wonders for everything else, though! Read about my experience here]. To be fair, with a condition as chronic as mine, there was little she could do. Acupuncture is wonderful for so many things, but my scoliosis pain was something that was too deep-rooted for acupuncture to fix.

I continued to live with the pain for another eight months or so, but knowing we had a trip to Europe coming up and I’d be walking and standing a lot, I wanted to start seeking treatment again. My fiancé directed me to a chiropractor friend of his. I’d always been afraid of going to a chiropractor – I had a major fear that a correction would go horribly wrong and I’d be paralyzed for the rest of my life. My fiancé reassured me that Vince practiced a different, more modern form of chiro and would barely do any adjusting at all. He was right.

Dr. Vince Hoffart practices a form of chiropractic care called Active Release Technique. He does do some adjusting, but it’s mostly a lot of centralized muscle release. Instead of adjusting the bones in your body, he works on the muscles around them. Instead of a quick fix, he focuses on getting to the root of your issue. [In my case, the scoliosis has caused all of the muscles in my body to create a backwards support system. Instead of the muscles around my spine supporting my spine, they are trying trying to keep my spine from twisting. So other muscles have taken the place of those in order to support my spine.] It’s pretty amazing, actually. The first time I saw him, he dug around in my hip bone and the inside of my leg to try and help ease the tension in my back. A truly eye-opening experience to learn that other parts of my body could be worked on in an effort to aid my chronic scoliosis.

I’ve been seeing Vince for three months, and while the pain in my back hasn’t lessened, he’s done wonders for my neck and hip/glute, which both were aching and ailing me due to the unnatural curvature of my spine. The scoliosis is still a work in progress, but I have high hopes for this type of treatment.

In addition to chiropractic healing, I’ve also been seeing a massage therapist who practices a style of massage that focuses more on the nervous system and fascia. Her belief is that when you don’t use your muscles properly, over time the fascia [tissue between your muscles] glued them together unnaturally and constricts your range of motion. It’s a painful, yet oddly relaxing, form of massage. My first appointment with her, she worked on the muscles and fascia in my armpits [I know, weird], chest and between my ribs and rib cage. Her hope is that by releasing tension throughout the body, one section at a time, my back will eventually loosen up as my muscles remember their original purpose. She also performed cupping on my back and shoulders in order to release tension and toxins from my muscles that her hands and fingers could not do.

Jury is still out on whether this will work or not. Although I will say that I could breathe so much easier after she worked on my rib cage. It actually felt like a weight had been lifted off of my chest. I am looking forward to seeing if this form of massage therapy will work for me. The fact that I had no idea how much tension had built up in just my chest cavity means that every inch of my body is likely experiencing the same tightness and pressure.

Only the future knows how my body will respond to these holistic treatments, but I am willing to put all of my money and effort into finding out. Even if it doesn’t help my back, other little parts of my body and soul are starting to feel better, and that is just as, if not more, important. I also think it’s good for the human body to let its guard down every once in a while. Even if you don’t believe in holistic healing, having someone spend so much time and effort [they’re literally so passionate that they make a living doing it!] to try and help you is truly an amazing and beautiful thing. People helping people. There are still kind and humane people out there who just want to do right by others. And that – that gives me hope. Hope for myself, hope for my health, and hope for the health of humankind.

“Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.”

Diet + Exercise. They’re Just Four [And Eight] Letter Words.

You know those people who just absolutely love working out? Like, they freak out if they don’t get a workout in every single day? They hit several group workout classes a week, they do cardio every day, plus they go to the gym and do strength training.

Yeah, I’m definitely NOT one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love to run. It’s very therapeutic in the sense that it burns extra energy and allows me to get my head on straight [writer’s mind makes you a little extra loco at times]. The actual physical act of running, though? So not my fav.

I truly envy those of you out there who have such a passion for working out. I have honestly made a solid effort to become one. I commit to these workout challenges [Tone It Up, for those females out there that are interested – actually love their programs, the timing of them just never works well with my life], I set my alarm to run before work. I’ve even been seeing a personal trainer since February [MAPT Fitness, for those fit folk out there who want an awesome trainer who acts like your brother and best friend and doesn’t treat sessions like freakin’ bootcamp – if I wanted to join the military I would have] to try and make a habit out of working out. And literally NONE of it works for me. I get so burnt out, and life gets in the way.

I’m also not somebody who can commit to eating healthy for every meal, every single day. To be completely honest, trying to work out and worry about what I’m putting into my body is freakin’ EXHAUSTING. It’s a full-time job [maybe this is why people hire other people to do it for them – personal trainers, dietitians..]. I, for one, do not have the time or energy to put into meal prepping and planning workouts every day.

Let’s be real for a sec. Does anybody actually believe that your body will be absolutely RUINED if you have “cheat” meals, cocktails, miss a workout, etc? You guys, you will be FINE. And look, I get it – I know exercise and nutrition are super important. Especially in this day and age with all the genetically modified food that’s sold at our grocery stores, and how polluted our earth has become. I totally get it. But we only get one life! We can’t be so obsessed with these two things that we forget to just enjoy living.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a meal, overeat, eat poorly. Don’t feel guilty for needing more sleep one morning instead of going for a run. In this day and age, it’s all about enjoying the little things in life. Indulge yourself. We get so caught up in keeping up with the Jones’, pushing ourselves to be the best that we can, spreading ourselves too thin because we have mortgages, utility bills, car payments, children, pets.. Give yourself the okay to let your guard down every once in a while. A weekend [or even a week!] off from your obsessions won’t kill you.

For some people, I think there’s a fear that if they step off track for even one second they will fall off whatever wagon they’re on. And THAT is unhealthy. Using exercise and nutrition as a crutch for other things in your life is not good, and if you are one of these people then you desperately need a vacation far away from your daily life. Like, STAT!

You guys, I am obviously by absolutely no means a professional at anything I talk about on my blog, especially diet and nutrition [seeing as I literally just stated that I cannot stick to either one for very long]. But, that said, I do wholeheartedly believe in doing things that are good for you. I believe it’s healthy to unwind, put your walls down, indulge, relax – I’m sure you work hard, so spend some of that well earned cash on a weekend away. YOU DESERVE IT!

As Donna and Tom would say, “Treat yo’ self!” [Parks and Rec – if you haven’t watched it, it’s on Netflix, and it’s hilarious].

Organic Antidotes

There few things I despise more in life than needing medication to feel better.

Truly. I don’t believe that there’s ANYTHING good in pharmaceuticals. Just because something seems to help.. Well, it’s probably just masking your symptoms with something horrendously bad for your body.

I don’t even like to take over-the-counter pain pills like Advil – mainly because they never seem to actually work, but also because it’s a drug and a foreign entity to the body.

I get that there are some things that we need medication for. Certain infections, for example, require antibiotics. I totally get that! And I strongly suggest medication for those types of health issues [because, honestly, to my knowledge, there really isn’t anything else that will make an infection go away].

A few months ago I started getting migraines. For the first time in my life! Now, as far as migraines go, I’m pretty positive that they are mild compared to what some of my friends have struggled through. I definitely haven’t seen spots, or been bedridden, or felt nauseous [some people actually get sick!]. No, mine have been relatively manageable. But they’re bad enough that the pain is distracting and keeps me from concentrating on work and keeps me from being able to work out.

Since I’ve never gotten migraines before, I found it odd that they came on so suddenly almost the moment I turned 29. So I delved a little bit in to my memory bank and tried to pinpoint what exactly may have triggered them.

After wracking my brain, I finally attributed the migraines to stress. Which, funnily enough, I haven’t been managing well at all the last several months. Imagine that.

I relayed my symptoms to a girlfriend of mine who had been having similar symptoms a year or so before. “Oh, just take a Xanax. That always calms my mind down.” I was so freaked out by the thought of taking it that I immediately nixed the idea without even a consideration. There had to be another way.

And that’s when I stumbled across the idea of acupuncture.

It actually just so happened that my boyfriend had started going to a masseuse shortly before I decided I couldn’t handle the stress or migraines anymore. We were lying in bed one Saturday morning, and he was in so much back and hip pain [he’s a chef so he stands for 12-15 hours every day] that he could barely get out of bed. I told him he needed a massage, and he said, “I need something that isn’t just a regular massage.” So I Yelped it, found a place, and booked him an appointment for that Monday.

Post massage, he had almost no more back pain, and had already booked an appointment for the next month to have his masseuse work on his hips. I went to check out the place online to see if maybe I should get a massage there, and that’s when I saw that they also offered acupuncture. And when I saw that they treat headaches, stress and anxiety, I knew I had to try it.

I had no expectations going into my first appointment. I know people that have had acupuncture [my boss, my best friend, my dad], but nobody can really tell you what to expect. Looking back, it’s probably best that I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no reason to have any fear [although, I did have a little – my entire life I’ve had a horrendous fear of needles (I was 18 when I finally got my ears pierced)]. I did have excitement, but that was in the hope that acupuncture would help relieve my stress and headaches.

One of the things that I liked about my acupuncturist prior to meeting her was that, not only did she have an education in Chinese Healing [more specifically, acupuncture], but she also earned a business degree from UCSB. For me, that was a solidification in my mind that she actually knew what she was doing [oddly enough, because I don’t have a degree myself].

When I arrived at my appointment, I had to fill out a first time client questionnaire and health history survey [pretty standard for any doctor’s office]. Once completed, we sat down for a consultation – she asked me questions more specifically regarding what I had marked on my survey, and also inquired as to what may have triggered the migraines and stress [lifestyle, events, etc.]. She suggested cutting out caffeine, as that may be contributing to the anxiety and the headaches.

Once the consultation was over, it was time for the treatment. I got settled on my back on a table similar to that of a massage table, comfortably adorned with a soft “mattress” and pillow, and a prop to go underneath my knees. She wiped down several parts of my body with a cleanser, and then she began inserting the needles. She warned that there may be a quick pressure but that after the initial pin prick, I should feel no pain. Once she had completed with the needles, we did a breathing exercise to help relax me, and then she turned a heat lamp on over my feet, dimmed the lights, said, “I’ll see you in 25 minutes,” and left me be.

I honestly don’t know how to describe the feeling your body gets during acupuncture. I know that it’s different for everyone – some are more sensitive to it than others. For me, I became so relaxed that I felt like my body was melting off of the table. I found that I was unable to lift my legs [nor did I want to]. I had zero control over my body and my limbs. I could actually feel my blood shifting and moving inside my body; I could feel the pressure of stress being moved upwards through my body and out at my head. Odd, yes, but even more so, relieving.

Before I knew it, the 25 minutes were up. She gently plucked the needles out of my body, scheduled me to come back a week later, and sent me on my way.

Three weeks later, and my stress and headaches are still at bay. I did as she suggested and cut out caffeine, which, much to my surprise, has helped me to feel so much better! I no longer get energy crashes in the afternoon, I don’t find myself getting overly worked up at stupid things – I’m sure some of that is coffee-related, but I like to believe a lot of it has to do with my body getting its balance back.

I know acupuncture may not be for everyone, but if you have ailments and haven’t tried it yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. I can truly say that it has helped me and has changed my health for the better.

Fit Tip Tuesday

There is nothing like a three-day holiday weekend when you’re taking a break from alcohol to get you motivated to get back in the gym.

Until recently, a sunny, 75-degree weekend would most likely always lead me to a mimosa brunch followed by a booze-filled day of drinking. Fun, right?!

And then a ridiculously rough day back at work following said bender. This part = not so fun.

It wasn’t until I actually rang in this new year sober that I realized that I really didn’t want to waste my two precious days off every week muddling my brain and wasting away anymore.

Not to totally hate on day drinking and having fun – I think it’s fine, or, rather, necessary to let loose every once in a while. Sow some wild oats and all that.

BUT, I also believe that there are other, healthier ways to let loose on a more frequent basis.

I realize it’s a bit hypocritical of me to start blabbing about the importance of exercise when I literally just got back into it after taking several months off [truth: honestly can’t remember the last time I went to the gym – it’s been years, at least].

However, that said, now that I’m back into the full swing of things, I’m becoming what some may refer to as a gym rat. Or maybe not necessarily a gym rat, but exercise and staying fit has become very important to my routine. And, actually, it’s something that is important, nay, VITAL to Miss Bella’s routine, as well.

So why the three-day weekend as the starting point [or any weekend, really]? Most would consider a weekend the worst time to start a new system. Generally, we’ll pick a Monday to add a new regimen of some sort. First official day of the work week – it just makes sense in our minds to add something else we aren’t all that thrilled about to an already scheduled day. Well, I already had to suffer through an eight-hour day at the office, might as well schlep my ass to the gym.

With that kind of mindset, that is absolutely not the right time to add fitness to your daily routine.

Exercise produces natural endorphins, but it’s hard to appreciate those endorphins when our brains aren’t looking forward to the task of obtaining them.

With nothing but free time and gorgeous weather on my hands, I felt that this last weekend was the perfect opportunity to boost my exercise regime. Bella and I started every day with a run [I’ve been tracking my progress with MapMyRun – love this app for those of you who are trying to get into running! It keeps you motivated.. I am always trying to beat my previous distance and time], and then cooled down the morning with a little hike on a trail close by. I found myself bored to tears mid-afternoon, and thought, What better time to go to the gym than now?

Truly, the best time to go if you’re trying to get back into it is on the weekend in the middle of the day. There is nobody there. I literally had the place to myself, which was wonderful. For me, there is literally nothing worse than going to the gym at six pm. Aka social hour. No, I am actually not here to work out my vocal chords. My hair is up, I’m sweating and I have no make up on – I MEAN BUSINESS, PEOPLE. #sorrynotsorry

If you’re worried about cost, shop around a bit. I go to Crunch [a) because it’s right across the street from my apartment, and b) because it’s only $10 – that includes classes – and all of the machines are brand spanking new!] Just because a gym is inexpensive doesn’t mean you’re getting what you pay for.

If you just hate how meticulous the gym can be, try something else like OrangeTheory or The Dailey Method.

OR, if you’re really against spending money to get fit, GET OUTSIDE. Outdoor fitness is FREE! Running, cycling, yoga, SUP. And the best part about all of that is that you get to be outdoors. You really can’t beat that. Not in my mind, at least.