Update on The Joy of Less

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Day 15: Off the Rails Banana Bread

I tried to make this 30-day Transitional Cleansing as easy as possible, but I guess it wasn't easy enough. I tried to be strong. But the devilish sugar demons called to me. They didn't whisper. No, they screamed like banshees, pounding on my brain with both fists. (Do banshees have fists? What IS a banshee???)

To make a long story slightly shorter, I gave in. Instead of fighting the good fight, I threw in the towel. I could blame my hormones. I could go full T.M.I. right now and describe the situation with my uterus. And other related, nearby organs. But these factors are really no excuse. Bottom line: I caved.

I've never had a problem with alcohol. I could never drink again for the rest of my life and I'd barely even notice. But SUGAR! My addiction remains strong.

Yesterday, the bunch of bananas on my kitchen table begged me to turn their ripening bodies into banana bread. Excellent idea, I thought. I have a recipe on this blog for Grain-free Banana Bread. No flour, no sugar, totally compatible with my Transitional Cleansing. I pulled out the ingredients and started to mix them together.

How did that jar of honey get on the counter? I must have pulled it out by accident. Only about a cup of honey left. Might as well use it up. (Yup, a whole CUP of honey went in!)

And on top of that, I didn't have enough almond flour, so I added some white whole wheat flour as well. Now my banana bread is no longer Paleo. In fact, it has turned into a very sweet treat. A heart-stoppingly delicious dessert. Swoon-worthy.

If you're trying to avoid flour and sugar (and let's be honest: honey is just another form of refined sugar. Refined by bees, but not much different from white sugar) this recipe is NOT for you! This banana bread is super yummy, but this is not diet food. I apologize for my weakness.

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup honey (or less!)
1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. salt
1 cup almond flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray loaf pan with coconut oil. Mix ingredients in order given. Once dry ingredients are incorporated, stir gently then pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes. Test for doneness with toothpick. If not cooked fully, turn off oven but leave bread inside. Check every 5-10 minutes and retest. When toothpick comes out clean, remove loaf and cool. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dry Skin? Get More Moisture!

It may not be news to you that as we age, our bodies tend to get drier. Our hair may become brittle or thinner. Our skin may become wrinkled, saggy, and thinner. Our nails can also become more brittle. Is all of this inevitable? Is there anything we can do?

I'm on a quest to bring more moisture into all my cells.

I've never had a serious problem with dryness. Some people tend to have more natural oils in their skin and hair. But even those folks might begin to dry out when menopause rolls around. (If you are a guy, this might happen during MANopause, as my husband likes to refer to it.)

Hormones like estrogen help our bodies stay moisturized. When estrogen levels drop, we can start to dry out. But certain foods, supplements, and other tweaks can help to restore the moisture to our cells.

First off, how much moisture are you losing each day? We lose water through our skin, through breathing, through urination, through sweating, through elimination. If the weather is hot, if we're exercising, if we spend a lot of time in the sun, if the climate is very dry, we lose extra water. Alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and many prescription drugs also dry us out by causing the body to eliminate water. Low carb diets like Atkins Induction can cause the body to excrete more water than usual. These factors will determine how much water you need to drink. About 10 cups of water per day (80 oz.) is a good place to start.

If you are exercising or sweating for more than one hour daily, you might need to take in electrolytes in addition to plain water. These are minerals, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. When you sweat, you lose minerals in addition to water. If you only replace the water, but not the minerals, you could end up feeling sick, dizzy, nauseous, and even need to go to the emergency room for IV treatment. I like to use Salt Sticks--a mineral supplement that will protect you from dehydration when you're exercising in hot weather and sweating profusely.

Additional supplements you might consider for adding moisture to the body include fish oil, flax seed oil, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C. Foods like wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, apples, and celery all are excellent for your skin. Make yourself a Waldorf salad!

I'm a big believer in moisturizing the body from the inside out. Just slathering moisturizers on the skin does nothing to change the underlying condition. However, massaging a natural oil like coconut, almond, or olive oil into the skin cannot hurt. Just watch out for products that contain various forms of alcohol. Believe it or not, lip balms often contain a form of alcohol called linalool. This ingredient further dehydrates already dry skin! Thus forcing the consumer to use MORE lip balm in a vicious cycle that ends with peeling lips. (Yes, I know this from personal experience!)

If you find other products that help alleviate your dryness, please share them below! Thanks for putting in your two cents.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Go Greener

Everyone wants to go green, right? And even if you think you are already pretty green, I bet you can go greener.

I thought I was green. I've been composting all my biodegradable waste for 30 years. I obsessively turn out lights when I leave a room. In the summer, our A/C is set to come on at 80F during the day. In the winter, we turn the thermostat down to 65F. I recycle everything from cardboard and newspaper to plastic and glass. Nothing goes in the trashcan at our house. Nothing! If anyone throws anything in the trash, I immediately rush over, pull it out, rinse it off, and recycle it. Or build something out of it.

In addition, I am the queen of greens. I eat fresh, organic baby spinach and arugula daily. Not to mention: kale! I grow every variety of kale known to man in my garden. (Unfortunately the grasshoppers are devouring it as I type this...) When I say I am green, I'm not referring to my thumbs, however, which are both definitely brown.

If you'd like to go greener, the answer is simple. Just take a trip to your local Trader Joe's. When you shop there, it becomes easy to go greener. Here are some of the products I've been using lately to up my green factor:

1) Bagged, pre-washed greens. This is a no-brainer. Grab yourself a few bags of fresh organic baby spinach or power greens. You can throw them into a salad, a smoothie, a bowl of bone broth, you name it. Quick and easy.

2) Guacamole. I prefer the individual sized packages (I know! Too much waste!) because this prevents any guac from turning brown when exposed to air. Guacamole is not only green, but chock full of healthy fats.

3) Green tahini dip. New this fall to Trader Joe's, I use this spread on my sandwiches to add another layer of green. The dip could be served with chips or veggies, too. It's full of fresh green herbs, including dill, parsley and cilantro. Tahini offers a delicious base with more good fats.

4) Frozen green veggies. Again, the convenience factor cannot be overemphasized here. I love the Brussels sprouts the best, but you can find fantastic frozen green beans and broccoli at Trader Joe's, too.

5) Kale chips. When you need something crunchy, but it has to be green. Trader Joe's kale chips are so yummy, you won't remember you're eating something healthy.

These are just a handful of the green things I've been enjoying lately. Share your favorite green products and tips below, if you feel so motivated!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hot Date!

My husband and I went out last night. Yup, we had a hot date. Literally.

We have talked about taking tango lessons together for ages, but we just can't find a class that is close by and fits into our schedule. I was scrolling through the Parks and Rec website, and I came across a Qi Gong class. The location is convenient, the day and time fits our schedule, and I've always wanted to try it. So I signed us up.

Last night was our first class. We arrived at the TINY studio a few minutes early. I brought an extra long-sleeved shirt in case the air conditioning was blasting, like it is in all the studios where I teach. Let me tell you, that was NOT the case here.

There were only five of us, plus the instructor, in the cramped space. Thank God for small mercies. Although it was not outrageously hot outside, the temperature inside this room was soaring. Qi Gong is not aerobic; it is slow and meditative and very similar to Tai Chi. Despite the gentle pace, we were all sweating like hogs within about two minutes. About halfway through the hour, one woman started to pass out and had to sit on the floor. We got her some water and she bravely continued, albeit mostly seated on a blanket.

Even with the oppressive heat, the lack of ventilation, and the small space, I found myself enjoying Qi Gong. The movements are flowing, matched with the breath, which is exactly how I teach yoga. I feel that the two practices could easily be combined. By the end of class, I was calm and relaxed, although almost as sweaty as my husband.

If you're looking for an activity you can do with either a girl or boyfriend, spouse or friend, qi gong might be the ticket. Although my husband was the only man in this class, there is nothing particularly feminine about the practice. In fact, the movements are similar to Tai Chi, which derives originally from the martial arts.

Like yoga, qi gong has been the focus of recent studies proving its medical benefits. For example, this practice has been proven to lower blood pressure. In addition to making it a great date night option for couples, it's also great for your health!

I'm hoping when we return to class next week, the instructor will have sorted out the air conditioning and ventilation issues. I love a hot date, but not quite that hot!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Are You Doing RIGHT?

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this morning, as I do almost every morning, and Facebook shared a memory with me. It was an article I posted one year ago today. I remembered it vaguely, which I considered excellent for my iffy memory. But I decided to reread it, as I recalled it being helpful to me at that time.

And I found the article had a lot of worthwhile reminders for me. Not new ideas, but a conglomeration of many old yet important pieces of advice to help one make each and every day productive and joyful. But as I read on, I ran into many ideas that I "knew" but had dropped from my daily routine.

For example, I gave up on writing a gratitude list each morning. Although I am a huge fan of gratitude as a practice, the daily list went from ten things, down to three things, and I still wasn't feeling it. Now this is not because I'm an ingrate. And it's certainly not because I don't have PLENTY to be grateful for. No, I dropped the practice because it began to feel empty and devoid of true meaning and emotion. For me, the practice became rote. Quite the opposite of how it should be. I think, for me, doing this every single day is too often.

Instead of instituting a new spiritual practice to start my day, I fell back into checking email and scrolling through Facebook. UGH! Mindless and reactive. Not proactive!!! BAD! This article I just reread reminded me of all the things I am doing WRONG.

The other gift the universe sent me this morning was a book. In the snail mail. From the editor-in-chief of the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise. The title of the book is Simply Happy. After skimming the table of contents, I had a new thought: I am doing a whole hell of a lot RIGHT.

So I decided to start my day today by writing a list of all the things I am currently doing right. I easily got up to 15 and probably could have continued to find at least that many more. And suddenly I felt a LOT better.

I am not perfect. At times, I actually suck quite royally. I tend to be hard on myself, and focus on the things I am screwing up. I wish I never got angry, or fearful, or selfish, or greedy. I wish I was always loving and kind and generous and patient. But I'm a flawed human being and not an angel.

Even with all my imperfections, I'm still doing a lot of things right. My diet isn't immaculate, but I do eat fresh, organic greens every day. I'm not skinny, but my body is strong and it works. I've raised two daughters who are smart, independent women. I have a wonderful marriage--although I have to give my husband most of the credit for putting up with me for 30 years. I take excellent care of my two dogs. I read a ton and I write almost every day. My dental hygiene is the stuff of a cavity's worst nightmare.

And I would bet the same is true for you. It's easy to kick yourself when you are down. Maybe today would be a good day for you to remind yourself of all the things you're doing right, instead. Make a list! I think you'll find it's pretty damn long. There is much for us to be proud of. Let's all keep that in mind.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 7 of Transitional Cleansing

What can I say? I'm sticking with the program. Am I loving every moment of this cleansing? Um, no. No, I am not.

I had a headache for several days in a row. Ibuprofen took the edge off, but I still had that ghostly pain behind my eyes for at least 48 hours. But when you are detoxing, this is what you get. Symptoms emerge. This doesn't mean something is wrong, or bad, or broken. It just means you are going through the process. When you come out the other side, you will be stronger. Healthier. More energetic. Sexier. (Hey, a girl can wish!)

Oh, and did I mention the cravings? I could have KILLED for a hunk of dark chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache frosting and chocolate shavings on top. To be honest, that still sounds pretty darn good, but I'm hungry at this moment. After I eat, I'm sure the lure of highly processed, refined, sugary baked goods will diminish...

I have started sleeping better, and waking up with more energy. I feel more alert, less foggy and tired. Overall, my mood seems to be improving. Little things are bugging me less. I also have fewer aches and pains. My joints feel better.

So, do I plan to continue with this cleansing? Can I complete 30 days without alcohol and junk food?

Yes. I can do this.

Could I do it if my husband wasn't supporting me? Could I do it without whining and complaining to him nonstop?

Um, probably not.

So there you have it. My 7-day check-in. If anyone out there has joined me, please know that I appreciate your struggle. Let me know if you need some one-on-one support or a mutual gripe session.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Indoor Bootcamp Class

You might already know I run a private bootcamp at Alpha Ridge Park in the summers and during my breaks from my Howard County Rec and Parks classes. Now I'm looking to start up a bootcamp class at Roger Carter Community Center on Tuesdays from 10:30-11:15am. This new class will run through Rec and Parks, starting on October 18 for an 8-week session. To make it happen, I just need students!

I'm calling my new class FUN AND FRIENDLY BOOTCAMP! The title is designed to draw in folks who might not normally be attracted to a "bootcamp" workout. In my style of bootcamp, there is no drill sergeant shouting in your face. The only word I ever shout is "YES!" when I see someone doing a great job or learning something new. My bootcamp is designed to make you feel GOOD about yourself, no matter where you start. Everyone can do this!

Bootcamp is an AWESOME way to get in shape. If you feel intimidated about body weight exercises like pushups, planks, and burpees, this bootcamp will teach you how to modify until you gain more strength. Everyone can get stronger, no matter what your age or situation.

My 45-minute bootcamp class will begin with a thorough warmup for all your joints. Then we will progress to various aerobic exercises, skill drills for agility, strength training, a full body stretch, and abdominal exercises for a flat tummy. Each class will work the entire body.

If you live in Howard County, Maryland and would like more information about this FUN AND FRIENDLY BOOTCAMP, please leave a comment below! I am also available for one-on-one personal training if you'd like to explore that option.