How To Use Coconut Oil For Healthy, Glowing Skin

It’s been really cold and dry in Atlanta this week, and my skin has paid the price! Chapped lips and dry hands are no fun, so I’ve kept a bowl of coconut oil on the bathroom and kitchen counters, as a reminder to moisturize throughout the day. I also wash my face with coconut oil every night and morning, using only warm water to rinse. A little oil remains on the skin, along with a lovely glow.

I first tried coconut oil as a replacement for soap and lotion two years ago, when my friend Lisa (AKA The Charmed Yogi) told me that it’s a great practice for removing dirt, moisturizing, and leaving the skin refreshed. It seemed too good to be true, so I asked her to write about it for this blog. I was so inspired by the simplicity and wholesomeness of the practice, that I played around with it in the months that followed.

At the time, I was also experimenting with Retin-A, and a few other products that my dermatologist had suggested. Although the synthetic products did seem to brighten my skin, I didn’t like the idea of using all those chemicals.

When I first started cleansing my face (and eventually my entire body) with coconut oil, it felt strange, rinsing with water, instead of washing the oil off with soap. I was afraid my skin would break out, and I would feel dirty afterward. But, after a few weeks, I got used to the changes, and learned to love the light layer of oil that is left on my skin for protection.

I also love that my coconut oil regimen is simpler than washing with soap, and toning and moisturizing afterwards. It removes waterproof eye makeup in a snap, which is much easier and cheaper than using an eye makeup remover.

When I travel, coconut oil saves space in my suitcase. I used to pack a cleanser, toner, and mosturizer, but all I need now is a little block of coconut oil in a small container, to get me through a few days away from home (I freeze it before I travel and double bag the container to prevent leaks).

I know cleansing with oil might sound strange, but it not only works, it works better than anything else I have ever tried, and feels so much easier than my old routine. It has taught me that we don’t need all of those chemicals to stay clean, and it saves me hundreds of dollars each year.

Could you toss your commercial cleansers and switch to coconut oil skin care? You never know until you try, so give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

coconut_oilphoto:thechalkboardmag.com

100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 4

How did you do with the first three weeks of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy?

For the fourth week of our health challenge, we will continue with tongue scraping, warm water in the mornings, 5 sun salutations, core work, and a smoothie for breakfast. We will add a vegetable soup or vegetarian salad for lunch.

It’s always healthier to make your own soups, with fresh veggies and fruits, but canned or box soups are ok, if you need them to save time. When buying packaged soups, try to find brands with BPA-free liners (Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup, Black Bean Soup, or Chili are good choices), and add fresh veggies to boost nutrient content. When you have time to create your own, some easy homemade soups are gazpacho, cucumber soups, thai coconut soups, and spring veggie soups. Avoid meat and dairy, as they contain fewer nutrients than vegetarian soups. Look for recipes at Epicurious and on the The Whole Foods website. 

You may be tempted to eat the same soup or salad every day–try to avoid this, so you get a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (and also so you don’t get bored!) It’s much better, and healthier, to pick 5-10 vegetarian lunches to rotate through the rest of our challenge.

When having salad for lunch, it’s important to make your own dressings with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a vinegar of your choice. This is not as difficult as it may seem! Dressings are generally 2 parts acid (vinegar) to one part oil, plus spices and sweeteners. If you eat at a restaurant, ask the waiter for balsamic and olive oil, so you can make your dressing yourself–so much healthier! Mix it all up on your side plate, and add a pinch of each of the following: salt, pepper, sugar or stevia.

When preparing your own salads, try these quick and easy salad ideas:

Spring mix with strawberries, cucumbers, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic

Kale with avocado, red bell pepper, red onion, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon

Arugula with blueberries, walnuts, carrots, olive oil, salt, pepper and Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Muscat Vinegar

Kale with sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, grape seed oil, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar

Spring mix with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, jicama, sunflower oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar

Arugula with apples, grated parsnips, and candied pecans (make these in a skillet with maple syrup, sea salt, and a splash of oil)

Arugula with grated beets, walnuts, and jicama, grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar

Daily Habits For Week 4

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

4. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

To perform bicycles, lie on your back, and bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Move intentionally, and on the breath, exhaling as the elbow reaches toward the knee, inhaling as you release the crunch. Count every time you reach the right knee to left elbow. Do not let the knee come forward of the hip.

To perform toe touches, lie on your back, with legs straight. Stretch arms overhead, and then lift feet and hands to meet each other, keeping arms and legs straight. Move slowly and intentionally, and take breaks as you need them. Always exhale as you crunch and inhale as you release.

To perform planques, begin in Down Dog, then bring knee-to-nose, knee-to-elbow, and knee to opposite elbow. Shift your hips forward to bring shoulders over wrists. Hold each for 20 breaths (or two sets of ten breaths each), and make sure you do them on both sides of your body.

4. Drink a Crazy Healthy Smoothie for breakfast each morning. Crazy Healthy Smoothies are balanced meals, prepared with awareness and intention to fuel the body. We include pure fruit juice, sweet and sour whole fruit, greens, healthy fat, and protein, for an energizing start to our day. It helps to think about smoothies from an ayurvedic perspective: how many flavors can we fit into one meal? Mixing sweet and sour fruits with bitter veggies, pungent nut butters, and spicy herbs (think ginger and cayenne) can help us start the day off feeling energizing and ready to tackle the world. Learn how to make Crazy Healthy Smoothies here.

5. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack. Some examples would be celery with almond or peanut butter (organic if possible), bell pepper strips with hummus and organic olive oil, asparagus roasted with grape seed oil and sea salt, spring mix with avocado, lemon and sea salt, or roasted sweet potatoes with grape seed oil and sea salt.

6. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake. Consider Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Food Pyramid (below) when making your choices.

7. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are creating.

You can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle. Don’t think, just do. I’m here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy

This summer, my family and I will take the 100 Days of Crazy Healthy Challenge! Are you in? We will take 14 weeks and 2 days to get our crazy healthy on, adding a few new habits to our lives each week. If you join us before the middle of June, by the end of the summer, you will have created your own personal daily yoga practice, and learned how to incorporate a nutrient-dense, 90/10 diet into your busy schedule.

Here’s how it will work:

Use the search tool or category cloud on my blog to find the posts for 100 Days of Crazy Healthy. I’ve posted the first four weeks’ assignments early, so you can get an idea of how it will work. I will post the rest of the assignments once a week, beginning June 9th.

The work will not seem like much for the first month, and that is on purpose. Some of it may seem too simple to make a difference, and some of it will feel boring. You will feel resistance, and that is normal. Your brain will say,

I don’t have time.

I don’t like this!

This is hard!

It’s not that important.

This isn’t going to work.

Reject those voices and do it anyway. I promise, 100 Days of Crazy Healthy will change your life, if you just do it.

Who should participate:

Everyone! It doesn’t matter if you are really out of shape, or if you have practiced yoga for 20 years, you will benefit from this challenge. It will force you out of your comfort zone, and breed curiosity about what is possible. I am going to do it with you, and I already know it will make me uncomfortable. The way I will teach you to exercise and eat is derived from my experiences getting healthy, but it’s not how I live today. It’s more basic and more repetitive. This will be hard for me, because my yoga practice and eating habits are more intuitive, than structured, these days. But I will do it, every day, because I know that getting back to basics will raise my awareness, and reveal new opportunities to be healthier.

How much time will it take?

Not much. The self-care and nutrition habits are incremental, taking only 1-5 minutes per day. The yoga practice will start out at 5 minutes, and build to 30-45 minutes (it will be up to you to decide how long you stay on your mat). Preparing meals may take a little longer at first, but you will learn to create efficiencies over time.

What do I need to participate?

All you need is a yoga mat, a music player (speaker, etc.), a blender, some coconut oil, an open mind, and faith that this challenge will change your life.

What are the rules?

1. Do whatever it takes.You must complete your weekly homework assignment every day, before you go to bed. It’s best to do your yoga first thing each day, but it’s ok to do it at night as well. Even if you forget, and only remember after you’ve turned off the light at bedtime, get back up and do your practice. If you miss a day, double up the next day. If you miss three days, triple up when you remember.

2. Trust the struggle. Listen to the stories in your head, and reject the ones that prevent you from completing the challenge. There is no legitimate reason you can not complete the homework (unless you are seriously ill or injured), don’t let your mind make you think that there is.

3. Believe that this is what your body is supposed to do. To get healthy and stay healthy, we must move, breath, stretch, resist, nourish and reconcile–every single day.

4. Stop thinking, worrying and analyzing. Just do it. You have nothing to lose!

5. Be a leader. Tell your friends and family what you are doing, and let them see your efforts whenever possible. Don’t hide your crazy healthy!

How will it work?

Here’s the schedule for adding new habits each week.

As always, feel free to email with your questions, or if you just need encouragement. Nothing makes me happier than sharing this crazy healthy life with you! And feel free to post your photos on my Facebook page.

You may start any time you like, but it’s best to start in May, if you hope to finish by Labor Day. The first week’s habits are offered here.

#TBT: What Can We Learn From Our Past?

When I started this blog, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I just knew I needed to start sharing this incredible journey I have been on for the past twenty years. I learned so many lessons about overcoming common health issues all by myself, and it was hard. I hoped that by sharing here, I might spare others some of the pain and frustration I endured.

Since I started writing, God has been encouraging me, inspiring me, and leading me to keep digging deeper into the reasons behind my struggles, and what I learned from them. It’s been a process of refinement for sure, but it’s led me to exactly what I hoped to find: clarity about why we struggle now more than ever, to get healthy and stay healthy, and how I can help change the culture.

It’s interesting to me, to remember that more than one doctor along the way has suggested that my aches and pains were all in my head. It was laughable, to sit face to face with someone who claimed to be a healer, feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and be told that my pain was not legitimate.

My pain was very, very real. In a way, though, those doctors were partially right. Part of my problem was in my head. It was what I believed about healing, that stood between me and pain-free living. I believed that we healed ourselves by visiting doctors and taking medicine. A very linear and closed-minded perspective that is common in our culture, even today. It was only when I started looking at my challenges from new angles, that I found what I had hoped for all along. Yoga opened my mind, body and spirit to a multi-dimensional approach to healing and prevention that transformed my life.

Little by little, I started to see that most of my ailments were self-induced. I was allergic to much of the food I was eating, and I was not exercising. Living reactively, rather than proactively, and slowing digging a ditch that I would only escape through years of introspection, exercise, and healing foods.

I talked about the five undeniable truths that I discovered along the way, and how my family history affected my beliefs, on my Facebook page today. These messages are important themes in my book, and the stories of the women in my family help put it all in perspective.

And BTW, in case you are wondering where I’ve been…ever since I started writing my book, I have found it easier to chat on Facebook than write blog posts. Faster, less formal. Please join us there at My Crazy Healthy Life, if you haven’t already. I’ll be back here writing from time to time, but you will find me popping in on Facebook (and on Instagram at mycrazyhealthylife) much more frequently–as always, I’d love to hear from you!

Namaste,

Amber

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#tbt 1972:  Four generations of my family, each with a unique story about how societal “norms” affected their health. The crazy baby on the right is me. : )

My great grandmother Cora (middle) worked on a farm every day of her life, and was fit as a fiddle. My mom always said she was a saint (look closely, you will see the kindness in her eyes). They were poor, and struggled to make ends meet, but real food and constant movement enabled Cora to live a happy, faithful life into her mid-90s.

In contrast, my Grandma Lou sat behind a desk most of her adult life, and watched TV when she was home. I remember her as being very cranky and having a lot of health issues. She died much younger, in her 70s. Lou had a hard life as a single mom, in an era where it was uncommon to be a divorced mother. She graduated college and began work in the 1940s, just as convenience foods began to emerge in the marketplace. Her sedentary lifestyle and lack of proper nutrition led to diabetes, and later heart complications that ultimately took her life.

My sweet mama, Joy (right), was up and down her entire life. She tried to be happy, but she felt bad a lot. She also suffered more than her fair share of traumas. Like her mom, she relied on convenience foods, and rarely exercised. She was known for her red hair and determination (stories you wouldn’t believe, even if I told you). The one challenge she never seemed to master, though, was her health. Her weight fluctuated, and she had frequent headaches, insomnia, and depression. She battled cancer twice, before losing her life to ovarian cancer at the age of 56. I was 26 at the time.

And then there is me, pictured in Mom’s lap. I battled my weight, chronic pain, insomnia, and depression for two decades. Things got markedly better when I found yoga and became a vegetarian, but I still struggled. Six years ago, after having my third daughter in three years, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, and have struggled with it ever since. I am certain that the junk food I grew up on, and my lack of exercise as a kid (I watched a lot of TV) played a major role in all of my health challenges.Thankfully, committing to real food and yoga has taught me how to control my health naturally. I am profoundly grateful for what I have learned on my journey, and that it keeps getting better, day after day, year after year.

As I look at this photo, I can’t help but feel sad for what society did not know then, and hopeful for what we do know now. My parents and grandparents were duped by marketing, and took for granted what processed food and a sedentary lifestyle would do to their health. Today, we are blessed by the emerging awareness of how our food is produced, and how it effects our bodies.

If what we want most is to be happy, we must accept these undeniable truths:

1) We already know what to do, to get healthy–eat real food, and exercise every day.
2) The best things in life are always hard earned–trust the struggle.
3) Worrying gets in the way of our goals–we need to stop worrying about our weight, what we look like, and what others think about us.
4) We are leaders and we need to act the part–every choice we make informs the choices of the people around us.
5) Excuses get in the way of what we want most–do whatever it takes to be the best we can be, every single day.

This is what it means to be crazy healthy. It’s not easy to exercise daily and change how we eat–especially if you have autoimmune disease and chronic pain as I do–but it’s always worth it. My hope is that my kids will grow up knowing this, and pass it on to their children as one of the most important lessons in life. ॐ

Five Tips For Getting Healthy On A Budget

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Think eating healthy is expensive? It doesn’t have to be! Here are five simple ways to save money on a nutrient-dense diet:

1) Do your research. Learn about the nutrient density of foods, as well as when they are freshest, and prioritize your investments in food accordingly (check out what Dr. Joel Fuhman has to say, here). Loose carrots and leafy greens are generally more nutrient-dense than the pre-packaged kind, and also a lot cheaper. Packaged veggies take longer to prepare and transport for sale, which means they have been out of the earth for more days than those that are transported in bulk. They also have higher packaging costs, and that expense is passed on to the consumer at the store.

2) Buy flash frozen organic fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce can be just as healthy, and sometimes healthier, than fresh foods. It is also often easier to find non-GMO produce in the freezer section, than in the produce aisle. Certain foods, such as corn and soy beans, are healthier and cheaper, when purchased frozen. There can be significant differences in prices at different stores, so pay attention to where you get the most bang for your buck.

3) Buy in bulk. Create your own trail mixes and snacks in the bulk foods section at your local farmers markets and health food stores. You can also save money by buying packaged items in bulk. Did you know that Whole Foods offers a discount on items that are purchased by the case, and they will let you mix and match similar items? Consider stocking up on a variety of canned soups, fruits and vegetables (we love their canned sweet potatoes and butternut squash), and other naturally preserved foods. Amazon.com also offers savings on packaged items that are purchased by the case.

4) Shop more frequently, and buy only what you need. Shorter, more frequent trips to the store can save money in the long run. I have found that if I stock up on preserved items once a month, and make quick trips for fresh produce twice a week, I end up spending the same amount of time shopping, and a lot less on produce that goes bad before we can enjoy it.

5) Simplify your menus. One-dish meals, such as stir fry and mexican salads, can be just as satisfying and less costly than a protein and two sides. They can also save a lot of time in preparation. Avoid pre-cut veggies at the store, and use a food processor to save time instead. Your produce will be more nutritious, and much tastier, when it is served closer to the earth. If you do feel the need to serve three or four items for dinner, stick to simply roasted vegetables (toss with a high heat oil and sea salt, and roast at 400 for 10-15 minutes), fresh salads, hearty soups, and rice and bean dishes. They are richer in nutrients, simpler to prepare than complicated recipes, and less expensive than animal products.

It’s also important to remember that, even if your grocery bills stay the same, or increase slightly, most people ultimately save money on over the counter medications, doctor visits, and prescriptions, the more they improve the nutrient density of their diet. In my experience, the more we increase the nutrient density of our diet, the fewer medical issues we experience, and the happier and healthier we become.

Photo: intentblog.com

Dinner In 30 Minutes or Less: Ginger Lime Kitchari With Crunchy Veggies

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like spring can’t get here fast enough! Everyone in our house is longing for sunshine, flip flops, and the lightness that arrives with warmer weather.

This shift is becoming more and more apparent in my cooking, as I reach for lighter foods in the grocery store, and prepare more transitional meals for dinner. I like simple, convenient meals, which is why kitchari has become a staple for our family of five. It requires very little prep work, is ready in less than 30 minutes, and makes very little mess in the kitchen. Serve it up with roasted veggies, and we have a crowd pleaser for dinner, and leftovers for lunch the next day.

My favorite kitchari recipe is the one I learned from Ayurvedic Chef Meredith Klein at Pranaful, during her Spring Cleanse last year. It was a life-changing experience, and I highly recommend checking out her next cleanse, which starts on March 16th, 2014. Learn more here.

The best thing about kitchari is that my kids love it, and beg for seconds. As a mom, there’s not much better than serving comforting, medicinal foods that make my family happy.

If you have not made kitchari before, some of the ingredients might look unfamiliar. Mung beans are available in the bulk food section at Whole Foods, and at farmers markets. The spices should be available at most grocery stores, but if not, you will definitely find them at Whole Foods as well, or online.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as our family does! It’s delicious and nutritious. Just the thing to help us brighten up for spring.

Namaste,

Amber

Springtime Kitchari

4 T. coconut oil or ghee

2 t. cumin seeds

2 t. mustard seeds

2 in. piece of ginger, grated

2 c. drained mung beans (rinse & soak overnight before cooking)

1 1/2 c. organic rice

1 1/2 t. turmeric powder

2 t. sea salt

8 c. water

Juice of 4-6 limes

sliced avocado

chopped parsely for finishing (optional)

Sautee oil, mustard, cumin and ginger over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until seeds begin to pop (1-2 minutes). Add rice and beans, and sautee another 2 minutes.

Add water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and add turmeric and salt. Cover and cook 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice and mung beans are soft.

Add lime juice to taste, and serve with sliced avocado and parsley.

Serves 6-8.

Sweet & Sour Carrots

10 whole organic carrots, rinsed, dried, and sliced in the food processor

Juice of 2-3 lemons

1 T. local honey

1/2 t. sea salt

cracked black pepper (optional)

Slice carrots in a food processor, using the slicing attachment, or by hand. Transfer to a baking dish and add juice and 1 T. local honey. Carrots should be only slightly sweet. Roast at 375 degrees until carrots start to soften, but are still crunchy, 7-10 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Sweet & Salty Green Beans

4 c. french beans or regular green beans

1 T. maple syrup or organic coconut sugar

sea salt to taste

Rinse beans, and toss with syrup and salt. Roast at 375, until beans turn bright green, but are still crunchy, 7-10 minutes.

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The A-B-C’s of Raising Crazy Healthy Kids

1503293_10202971599273913_792128419_nI have three daughters, ages 6, 8, and 9, who love to dance, swim, practice yoga, shoot hoops, play soccer, and invent healthy snacks.  They know that food and exercise can be medicinal, and love to talk about our crazy healthy adventures, with anyone who will listen.

I think this is why people ask me all the time, “How do I teach my kids to be healthy?” The way they say it, it sounds like it’s the hardest thing in the world.

And with good reason, because it is hard to teach kids to be healthy. But not in the way you might think.

It’s not hard because kids don’t like healthy food. It’s not because kids don’t like to exercise. And it’s definitely not because kids resist change.

It’s hard because we often expect our children to do as I say, not as I do, and it almost never works. The reality is that, if want to raise healthy kids, we have to be the change we hope to see in our kids. We have to earn their respect by doing the things that matter, and remember that we are teaching them, with every decision we make.

While some might think this is bad news, I actually think it’s the best news ever. Because being the change we hope to see in our kids is as easy as A-B-C:

A. Practice AWARENESS. Pay attention to how you eat, what you eat, where you eat, and why you eat. Question your behavior a lot. Figure out what you enjoy about getting healthy, and practice it often! Because the truth is that kids learn more from our actions than our words. Remind yourself every day that you are your child’s role model, mentor, and guru, and you have to act the part, if you want them to believe that their choices matter.

B. Examine and share your BELIEFS about food and exercise. What do you think it takes to get healthy, and stay healthy? Are you sure? Decide what you believe, and then talk to your kids every single day about it. Not in an organized, “I’m going to teach you a lesson” kind of way, but in casual conversation. Share stories from your journey, both failures and successes. And ask their opinion a lot. What should we buy at the grocery store today? What percentage of our dinner came from the earth? Why does that matter? Most of all, have fun with it, and seek to understand what your kids enjoy about food and exercise.

C. Be CONSISTENT. Pick two or three healthy habits that you want your kids to embrace, and add them to your daily routine. For me, it’s drinking a large glass of water with lime when I wake, practicing yoga (even if only for 10 minutes), and eating lots of vegetables. It doesn’t matter what we do, as much as it matters that we do it every single day. Start small, pick goals that are reasonable, and stick to them, no matter what. Think about what you want your kids to say about you when they grow up: When I was a kid, my mom always _______. This is where you should start.

The truth is that it’s not easy to teach kids to be healthy, but it’s always worth it, and these ABC’s help a lot. As you work on yourself, enjoy the journey and trust the struggle, because what you want most for your kids, is waiting on the other side.

Have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Join our community for more insights, tips and conversations about this crazy healthy life!

Merry Christmas, Y’all


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Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the wonders of the season. Over here at My Crazy Healthy Life, we have been busy preparing for Jesus’s birthday party and Santa’s arrival. It’s a season that challenges my commitment to keeping life in balance, so I am using my normal blogging time to be still and reflect on what it all means.

I am not blogging right now, but I am chatting on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life. Check in with us there, and join the crazy healthy discussion. We’re talking about strategies that help us stay healthy during the holidays, healthy gifts ideas, quick and easy food ideas, and short yoga sequences (“power poses”) that can keep us on track as we wrap up 2013.

I’ll be back here writing soon, with some big plans for 2014. Until then, please know that I sincerely appreciate your interest in my blog, and I wish you and yours a very merry and healthy Christmas!

Namaste~

Amber

Under The Weather? Yoga Up To Feel Better Faster

lrgscalecoaster-I-hate-to-waste-sick-daysZiZi is home from school again today. I know, I know…you saw her miraculous recovery on our Facebook page yesterday, so what happened?

Well…it seemed like she was feeling like her old self last night, but she woke up this morning feeling awful again, and couldn’t pull herself together to make it to school. So, she’s back on green juice and yoga, until further notice. Her energy seems better this afternoon, than it did at 7 AM, so I am hoping to put her on the bus tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

It strikes me, though, that her sick days are so much different than mine were, when I was a kid. My parents told me to “rest up” and “wait it out” when I was sick. As a result, I grew up thinking that I was powerless against colds and viruses.

So, I’d park myself on the couch, with a box of tissues, a bowl of soup, and Brady Bunch reruns. And I’d wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, I would feel better, but it seemed to take forever, and I felt like such a victim.

Yoga changed that for me. The more I learned about this ancient healing practice, the more I realized that if I  “yoga up” and “stretch it out ” when I am sick, I can reclaim some of my energy, and I feel better faster.

Why? Because yogic breathing and postures of naturally expedite the healing process. When we increase our heart rate and respiration, it stimulates the lymphatic system, which is responsible for destroying disease-causing organisms.

Our circulatory and respiratory systems work automatically, but the lymphatic system needs a “push” to do it’s job. It relies on us, instead of vice versa. When we move, stretch, and twist, we stimulate the movement of fluid through our lymphatic vessels. As this fluid moves through our body, it picks up viruses and other disease-causing organisms, and delivers them to the lymph nodes, where they are destroyed.

This is why I always practice yoga when I am sick. I think of my lymph nodes as my partners in fighting disease, and I want them to be happy! I tend to them the way I tend to my children, with awareness, intention, and gratitude. I use yoga poses and breathing for prevention, as well as medicine, all the time, and especially when I am ill.

It might seem like yoga is the last thing you want to do when you are sick, but believe me when I say it will always make you feel better! ZiZi’s response yesterday is the perfect example. Twenty minutes of sun salutations shifted her energy dramatically…so much, that she was begging me to do handstands with her, and she was actually smiling for the first time all day.

Our lymphatic fluid stagnates when we stop moving, so I think that’s why she felt bad again, after sleeping all night, but she was definitely better today than yesterday morning, and she seems like a new kid this afternoon.

It may not be a miracle cure, but yoga does help releive discomfort associated with colds and viruses, and can expedite the healing process. Perhaps most importantly, it teaches us that getting sick does not have to be a deal breaker. We have more control over how we feel than we think, and we can still enjoy the holidays despite a cold or virus, if we commit to “yoga up ” and “stretch it out”.

Namaste~

Amber

Photo: http://images.esellerpro.com

Aside

‘Tis The Season…For Green Juice!

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I got a call from ZiZi this morning, asking if she could come home from school.

I’m in the nurse’s office and I feel awful, Mom. My nose is running, it’s hard to breathe, my tummy aches, and my throat hurts. 

My kids have not been home sick from school in ages–and definitely not since we committed fully to this crazy healthy life–so I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with her after I picked her up. When I was a kid, sick equalled Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Saltine Crackers and 7-Up. None of that flies in this crazy healthy life, so I needed a Plan B.

I thought about it on the drive to school. She needs to get better quickly. Her big performance in “Honk! The Musical” is only five days away, and she just can’t be sick. She needs an injection of crazy healthy.

Poor girl was looking pretty puny when I picked her up.

You need a great big green juice and a lot of water, sweet girl. Let’s go get you better.

We bundled her up, and off to the grocery we went. On the list? The makings of an immunity-boosting green juice: parsley, swiss chard, celery, lemon, ginger, carrots, apples and pineapple juice.

I ran it all through the juicer, and what came out was as green as the grass in our yard. Most of the juice was greens, but the apples, carrots and pineapple added enough sweetness to cut the bitter and balance the sour.  Of course, the sweeter foods did up the sugar content of the juice, but it’s a trade off I am willing to make, to make sure my kids are getting the phytonutrients they need, when they are sick.

When I set it before her, the look on her face was priceless…the juices I normally make for her are less green and more berry colored, so this was a big change. I told her that, when my kid’s sick, I don’t mess around. Leafy greens, citrus and ginger are the best ammunition we have to fight disease.

ZiZi didn’t exactly love the juice…it was “just ok”, but she drank it all, after I explained why it would help.

The greens will reduce the inflammation that makes it hard to breathe, the lemon gives you vitamin C to for energy and immunity, ginger will settle your tummy, and the vitamins and minerals in the apples, celery, carrots will help your body eliminate the virus. 

Coincidentally, Erika Miller, a reporter/friend/supermom in NYC who follows us on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life, asked a similar question about green juices earlier this week. She wrote:

“I bought a 20z “Hail to Kale” juice drink (120 calories) — only to discover it has 20 grams of sugar! Can you talk about how to make the decision trade off between calorie count and sugar count?”

The thing that struck me about this question was the focus on calorie count and portion size. Although I was a die-hard calorie counter in college and my early twenties, I honestly have not considered calories at all, in the past ten years.

Here’s why: practicing yoga has made me aware that A) my body tells me how much is enough, if I am mindful and intentional about food, and B) the way we treat food today is not the way God intended.

This is true for both calorie counting, and portion size. I try to eat as if we live in a time before food labeling, frozen dinners, and fast food. How did people eat 100 years ago? Most people didn’t know what a calorie was, there was no such thing as Super Size, and food was less convenient…it was harder to come by, and it took longer to prepare. People actually planned their meals, and ate on a schedule.

The cultural norms were radically different before processed foods, sodas and drive thrus became mainstream. A hundred years ago, people ate what was served, when it was served. They were more aware of what they were eating, and where it came from, and they were appreciative of the preparation and presentation of the food. Perhaps most importantly, they stopped eating when they were full, and waited until the next meal to eat.

I think this is the way we are supposed think about food. Intentionally, and with awareness and gratitude. The more we pay attention to how foods affect us, the easier it is to make healthy choices.

The other thing that struck me about Erika’s request was the question about sugar count, in relation to the portion size. Twenty ounces is, in my opinion, two servings, not one. Which means the sugar count is only 10g per serving, and I think that’s pretty reasonable for a green smoothie, especially if the sugar comes from fruit. Remember, fruit sugars are the good kind of sugars…the kind our bodies know how to process. It’s the refined sugars that cause the biggest problems, and should always be avoided.

That being said, it’s still important to eat more veggies than fruit. Too much of any kind of sugar can cause inflammation and put stress on our liver and kidneys.

In our family, we talk a lot about the idea that vegetables, beans and grains should be the foundation of our diet, and fruit, nuts and proteins are complements (we don’t need as much protein as Dr. Atkins and The Paleo Diet have led us to believe, in my experience). Serving fruit for desert helps my kids understand that fruit should be used in moderation, and when they have a pure fruit smoothie for breakfast or snack, they are not allowed other fruits for the rest of the day.

And when we get sick, we fill our bodies with veggies, and eliminate sugars and processed foods as much as possible, until we feel better. This easier for me than it is for my kids, but I think we do a better job now than ever before. As I have said before, crazy healthy is a journey, and it gets better ever year.

ZiZi seems to have perked up a little in the hour since she drank her green juice. I’d like to think it’s working already! We’re going do a little yoga and pranayama in the studio now, and that should make a difference, too.

Say a little prayer for her as she heals…so she can back on her feet, and on the stage by Sunday. And stock up on leafy greens, the next time you hit the market. That way, you can be armed and ready, if the next call from the nurse’s office is made to you.

How I Deal With Autoimmune Disease

I’m supposed to go to a cookie exchange in a few hours. Which means that, right now, I should be in the kitchen making cookies, or in the shower, washing my hair.

But instead, I’m sitting here, on my yoga mat, in a wide legged fold in front of my laptop, listening to Butch Walker, and wondering if I can pull myself together enough to get dressed and drive myself to her house, with or without cookies.

My autoimmune thyroid disease has reared it’s ugly head again today, and it’s taking everything I’ve got, just to get through the day. My eyes are puffy, my head hurts, I had to take a nap this afternoon, and I really want to crawl back under the covers again right now.

I don’t talk about my autoimmune thyroid disease with most people because my mama always told me that, if you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all.

It’s hard to think of something good to say about this struggle, but I think it’s about time I told you a little about it.

I have fought this battle for at least five years, maybe longer. I’ve learned a lot, but I still wonder: how do we make sense of the fact that our bodies attack themselves?

For me, it’s an internal battle steals my energy, and makes it hard to get the simplest things done.

Especially on days like today, when I am expected at this party, that is being hosted by someone who is really important to me. Missy is a good friend, and someone I care about a lot. I know she has gone to a lot of trouble to open her home to her friends, and in my heart I want to show up tonight.

It’s just that the divide between what my heart wants, and what my body is willing to do, is seeming too big to cross right now. I know, however, that this is an illusion, so I am going to get past it.

First, I am going to stop telling myself that I can’t, and believe that I can.

Next, I am going to spend 45 minutes on my yoga mat, working as vigorously as I can manage, to burn off the brain fog and joint pain. I’ll wrap it all up with a 5 minute meditation at the end.

Afterwards, a cup of green tea, and a green juice will help ease some of the inflammation and boost my energy.

A whole body coconut oil massage (abhyangha, as the yogis call it), followed by a hot and cold shower (5 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, three times) will give me energy and help my liver detox more efficiently.

And then I will put on my sassiest holiday outfit, pull my hair into a ponytail, apply a little bit of makeup, and walk out the door, whether I feel like it, or not. I’ll buy cookies on the way to the party, because I decided to get healthy instead of bake, and I’m sure Missy will understand.

Because the truth is that I can make it to this party. And it’s what I really want, even though it might not feel like it right now.

In the end, I refuse to succumb to autoimmune disease. I am stronger than this disease will ever be. I have beaten it before, and I can do it again. All it takes is a little bit of intention, and a whole lotta crazy healthy.

Wish me luck.

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Photo: http://www.yoga-online.ca

Ten Reasons To Love A Fall Cleanse

It’s Day 4 of the Pranaful Fall Cleanse, and I feel amazing, and profoundly grateful for Meredith Klein. This is the second time I have cleansed with her, and I love it and her, more than ever before!

Here’s why The Pranaful Fall Cleanse is so awesome:

1) I don’t have to starve myself. We drink a yummy green juice in the morning, and enjoy kitchari for lunch, and dinner.

2) The food is delicious. It took me a few days to acquire a taste for green juices, but now I actually crave them. They give me so much energy, and it just feels good to fill our bodies with nutrients, first thing in the morning. Similarly, kitchari was new to me last spring, but now I look forward to it. There is something very healing and comforting about Meredith’s recipe…so much so, that it was hard to break my kitchari habit after the Spring Cleanse!

3) It’s convenient. We can download the recipes and instructions for the cleanse, start whenever we are ready, and keep the materials for future reference. Meredith cleansed with her students last week, but it was not a good week for me, so I started this past Monday. The cost for the materials is only $40, with $5 off if we enter the code “crazyhealthy”. This is an amazing deal, and I expect the price will go up next time, as her business grows…so don’t wait!

4) I don’t have to worry about what I will eat. It is comforting to not have to think about what I will make for dinner. I prepare a big pot of kitchari (basmati rice, mung beans, ginger, cumin, tumeric, and a few other yummy flavors!) on the first and third days of the cleanse, and reheat portions at meal time. If I want to change things up, I can roast some fresh veggies to add to the kithcari, or make some of Meredith’s recommended (and delicious!) sauces.

5) I can still work out. My energy dips a little in the first few days of the cleanse, but not so much that I can’t practice yoga. Sweating helps the cleansing process, so I love that I can do both at the same time.

6) Cleansing reminds me that food is just food. Sometimes I get so attached to the foods I love, that I forget to keep food in it’s proper place. It’s empowering to identify those attachments and release them, especially as the holiday season begins. It’s so much easier to say no to Halloween candy, when I am fresh off a cleanse!

7) Cleansing creates new healthy habits. I had never made green juice or kitchari before my first cleanse with Meredith. These days, however, I make green juice at least twice a week, and serve kitchari to my family for dinner. Putting food in its place helps me keep my weight in check, and my energy levels high.

8) Meredith is a great coach! She is incredibly helpful, and will answer any questions you might have–just check the Pranaful Fall Cleanse page on Facebook for more insights, or email her with your questions.

9) The cleanse includes powerful meditations and insights. Recordings of Meredith’s conference calls and meditations from last week are included with the cleanse, and can be accessed online at any time.

10) I feel amazing, and inspired afterwards. Cleansing makes me really, really happy. The first few days are difficult, but when I trust the struggle, wonderful things appear on the other side.

You can still register for The Pranaful Fall Cleanse. Check it out, and let me know how I can help you be successful. Trust me on this…cleansing with Meredith will change your life in the most empowering ways!

Namaste,

Amber
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