Thursday, August 28, 2014

Be Kind to Yourself, You Are Beautiful

A few things have crossed my path in the last week or so that have made me think about women; our perception of self, of beauty, of each other and our insecurities. The concept of beauty remains to be this unattainable entity that every woman strives to achieve, yet never fully feels they get there, even when verified by others. Women hold themselves to incredibly unfair standards, constantly comparing and judging others, and more harshly themselves.

I went to a remote island with a group of friends last week. It was perfect day. The sun was shining, the water was cool and clear. We had the entire beach to ourselves. It was spectacular. There were women, men, a bunch of kids and a dog. It was a sand-sun-filled day. As I enjoyed the obvious beauty and freeing nature of an island beach all to ourselves, I noticed something else; women covered head to toe, sweating in the sun, more concerned about their bodies than enjoying the day. This broke my heart. I will take any excuse to be in a bathing suit. Maybe it is because I grew up on a beach and a beach to me means free, clothing-less happiness and lots of swimming. I just assume everyone has the same enthusiasm at the first hint at a beach day. But then I realized the reality is more like anxiety for most women around a beach day.

The perception of our bodies is completely unfair, media and Hollywood culture lead us to believe we should stay covered up unless we have perfect chiseled muscle definition and no extra fat anywhere, but the reality is most of the women in this world aren't like that. We are busy women, moms, career women, moms with careers and houses to maintain, mortgages to pay, an insane amount of responsibility to maintain our lives, that fitness gets bumped down on the priority list, naturally. Hollywood women and women depicted in magazines are paid to look like that, that is there full-time job to work that hard to look like that. It is completely unrealistic that the everyday woman compare and judge herself to that perception of body image, it is like comparing apples and oranges. So stop.

I came across The Expose Project, Shedding Light on Collective Beauty, these beautiful photographs of real women. Women who we can relate to because they look like us. Women of all shapes and sizes, because that is what is real, women like you and me. We should not judge each other on our rolls or stretch marks, we should not judge each other at all, because the reality is we are all just living our lives and trying to find our own individual happiness.

I loved clicking through the images of The Expose Project because the women looked happy and comfortable in their own skin; and beautiful. The beauty came from the twinkle in the eye, the huge smile and the ability to bare it all regardless of the potential judgment. I love how liberating that looked and I suspect felt.

Back to my day on the beach. I was surrounded by beautiful women, mostly moms, who refused to take off their clothes. This meant not digging in the sand with their kids, going for a swim in the cool water, playing football and bocce ball in the sand or trying the paddle-board out. But it made me wonder what if we were all easier on each other and subsequently ourselves. If we all cared a little less about what others thought and willingly showed our bodies, extra rolls, stretchmarks, cellulite, 6-pack abs, thigh gap, or lack thereof, showed it all, #loveyourlines we would all start to actual see what real bodies look like. We would start to see real as beautiful rather than having this skewed sense of reality because we only see "perfect" bodies in bathing suits. And even then by the time we see those images in magazine they have been so re-touched that the realness of the model/actress is entirely removed. We need to learn to love what our bodies are, not what they aren't so we can help others and especially younger girls know that there is no shame in wearing a bikini regardless of what your body looks like.

By not taking of our clothes, society doesn't see that are other definitions and images of beauty. By covering up we are claiming silently that there is reason to be ashamed. Young girls around us get used to seeing only magazine bodies uncovered, not mom's or auntie's or grandma's and they instantly compare and question why. If we all wore our bathing suits with pride, the illusion of perfect bodies would diminish because we would all see that we are all beautiful in our own right. Our bodies are what allow us to move and live on this Earth in this form. For women it allows us to bare children and create new life. We all have stories to tell, inner strength and a beauty that if more people would see, would start to see the real you, not the image of the you you struggle to portray; holding your breath, covering up and sucking your stomach in for others to not see what you judge so harshly.

Men are not concerned by judgement or fat or paleness or stretchmarks. They take it off and run around with pride. Men always can look at themselves and find strength and pride to be a man. Women should and can do the same. Find something to be proud of that makes you a woman. I think we can all learn from men, they willingly take their shirts off at a moments notice and they aren't ashamed to show their bellies, hairy chests and backs, moobs, pasty-whiteness. If they can do it, why can't we?

As uncomfortable as it might be, the next time you go to the beach with a group of friends, bring your bathing suit and actually let people see it. If one of you is gutsy enough in the group to bare it all, eventually others will too. It is a domino effect. We see other women, normal women, having fun, enjoying the sun and the water, enjoying the whole point of being at the beach that you stop noticing her cellulite and stretchmarks, but instead notice the beauty from within of having fun, smiling and participating in life. We can't just let our lives pass by covered up. Think of the message that perpetuates to the younger generation of girls. We are getting further and further away from allowing them to find beauty in self if we insist on portraying that we are not beautiful, involved and loving life, because we are too concerned about what our bodies look like in bathing suits.

So suit up, put on your sunscreen, head out to the beach and have no shame. At first you might be self-conscious and nervous, but as soon as you start digging in the sand with your kids, or killing it at football in the waves, or even just laying and reading your magazine feeling how nice it is to have the warm sun on your rarely exposed skin, you will forget that you are indeed in a bathing suit, but instead will notice how beautiful the day is and how beautiful your life is.

And if you need one last bit of encouragement, look at all the beautiful photos of The Expose Project as a reminder that beauty comes in all packages. We could all be a little bit more confident and less apologetic like the beautiful women in these photos. Thanks Liora K and Jes Baker for shedding light on the real beauty each woman is born with, by showing us the beauty in others, so we may see it in ourselves.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cleanse Complete

I decided to go 5 days with my juice cleanse. 5 days felt right and sufficient enough to purge my body of the last month of debauchery, well not quite debauchery, but definitely more than normal of everything for me.

Today, first day after the cleanse I feel great. I don't feel bogged down or lethargic. I feel light and clearheaded. My skin is clear and body feels good from the inside. My bowel movements are a little irregular, but that is to be expected with a cleanse. I can already feel them normalizing again. On my cleanse the schedule was not that erratic, just less volume. I still had my usual morning and mid-day movements.

The last 2 days of the cleanse I added 1 small meal to the day. It was either a bowl of fruit or a salad. Although I wasn't feeling poorly, I was more or less sick of juice. By day 5 morning juice I found myself gritting my teeth and sipping my juice slightly gagging each time, like enough already.

I did yoga each day of my cleanse and some paddle boarding yesterday. My practice was less intense than normal and I really let my body lead each practice. Some days my balance was horribly off, other days inversions made me lightheaded, so I just moved slowly and paid attention to what my body could handle. What I found amazing was my centering and focus. For my 1 hour or so of practice each day, my head was silent and all I could focus on was the position I was holding or transitioning into. While my body did not feel weak, I was mesmerized by the stillness of my mind. Part of the reason I love yoga is because it, and any form of exercise with intent really, calms my mind. My mind is always busy, always planning or making to do lists. I love the forced silence of yoga, but doing yoga while on my cleanse was a whole new level of stillness. I usually find my mind wandering during my normal practice and I have to consciously refocus. These past 5 days however, I had no wandering, just complete and utter focus on calm breathing, balance and transitions. So cool! If fasting gets me to that level of silence, I may do them more often than every few months, maybe even once a month.....

I always do juice cleanse when I feel the need to. My body just doesn't feel "right" and no matter how clean I eat or consciously I consume, there is a focus that a cleanse always reestablishes. I also like the time after a cleanse, hunger is not as obvious and I can consciously identify real hunger verses boredom. Also I consume much less, portions are smaller and less food fills me up. I like this sense of  body/mind control around food. We forget how much of our day and thoughts are focused around food. It is neat to remove that energy around food. It is a test of will and self control, but also a priority shift away from our food driven lives.

As with any cleanse do not want to immediately jump into eating everything. You should ease back into your normal diet. Restrict portions (which your stomach will naturally do for you) and eat mostly veggies, fruits and whole grains. You will notice that you get fuller faster, but also I would highly recommend staying away from simple carbs, sugar, excessive amounts of dairy, meat and definitely alcohol. You don't want to shock your system after it has been so nicely purged. Use your body as your guidance, as always listen to what your body tells you, often you will feel "off" if you jump into eating something to quickly. Always start with a small amount of something from the list above, don't go eat a whole steak dinner, you will not be a happy camper.

I would highly recommend a juice cleanse, with guidance, to anyone. Always start with only 3 days and as you get used to the way your body responds you can ad more time with each new cleanse. Many cultures fast and I think there is an interesting mind-body-soul connection that comes with a fast. In a world where we over consume daily and are guided by advertising, agribusiness and food conglomerates in our eating choices, a forced separation is quite liberating.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cleanse Day 3

Breakfast smoothie day 3 

Almond, banana, date, cinnamon, almond milk smoothie with the usual healthy suspects: sunflower seeds, chia seeds, bee pollen, grapefruit seed extract, liquid minerals, spirulina, flax, psllium #drinkyourbfast #healthyeats #juicecleanse #feelinggood

Lunch and mid-day juice. 

Green one = "gazpacho juice" kale, garden toms, celery, cucumber, parsley Orange one: carrots, apple, sweet potato, cucumber, celery, ginger 
Both super delish!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cleanse Day 1

Breakfast smoothie
Fresh Maine blueberry, spinach, almond milk smoothie #drinkyourbfast #blueberryseason #local #healthyeats

Tons o Maine blueberries - fresh (other 50 lbs going in the freezer)
1 banana
handful of org spinach 
Greek yogurt
bee pollen
sunflower seeds
chia seeds
flax seeds
liquid minerals
grapefruit seed extract
pysillium husks
ice to make it cold - because room temp smoothies, especially with almond milk are Nasty!

Lunch was an everything-green-in-my-fridge pressed juice, which I failed to take a photo of. I added some fresh squeezed lemon and ice to help ease in on the first green juice of the day.

Helpful hints:
If you don't add fruit to your fresh pressed juices, like me, just greens, then add a half a fresh lemon and/or some ice, it helps cut the "green" flavor

Mid-Afternoon Juice

10 carrots
1 inch ginger
5 springs fresh mint
1 apple

This one had some bite. But very refreshing.


I had a hankering for curry. Curry powder, turmeric, cardamom and ginger are great for cleanses. They aid in circulation of your blood, purification of your internal organs, help with inflammation and aid in the inevitable flatulence that comes with the first day of a juice cleanse. So instead of a juice I made a veg soup. Pureed it all, so it is still a liquid. Juice-like right? I find it really interesting that when your body isn't busy digesting continuously throughout the day, what it asks you for. Today my body asked for curry and turmeric and ginger, lots of it, which leads me to believe I need the cleansing that those spices offer. I listened and delivered. My soup is very satisfying and clearly something I needed. Rather than focus on the hunger pangs on the first day of a cleanse, focus on what your body is telling you. You may be surprised.

Roasted Cauliflower Squash Curry Soup (with a dollop of greek yogurt for pizazz)

As with any juice cleanse, drink plenty of water. You should juice up to 5 times in a day, drinking throughout the day and sipping each one. I added a Braggs apple cider vinegar drink to my day, something different and to aid with my intestines.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Fiinnnneeee.....I'll Listen....It's Time....

It has just been one of those months, long work days, busy weekends, fun celebrations, a mini-vacay and some travel thus resulting in every aspect of my health-wellness balance being thrown off. Try as I might, week by week, day by day, my good habits get pushed to the wayside due to time, fatigue or just plain fun.

I think we all ebb and flow in our wellness, sometimes we are just too busy in life to focus on eating right and working out daily, finding time for centering and balance. I know I am guilty of it, but the reality is it takes work. Eating well, being a conscious consumer, practicing with intent and purpose, finding focus and center, all take time and energy that in the summer I would rather devote (although temporarily) to beach days, taking the boat out on the water, hanging out with friends, enjoying a few too many summer cocktails and enjoying these brief few months of beauty we get here in Maine.

It amazes me now how little time and how very minor deviations from my norm effect me tremendously. Sure I haven't been eating as clean as I should, I am not practicing yoga daily, but if I think of in comparison to before I became a gf, lf, meat-free, conscious consumer, it is a wonder I ever felt good. Such minor shifts from my norm now, are so much more noticeable to me than when I was a gluten lactose eating hound.

Now I get a few days of crazy and every part of my existence is thrown off kilter. I don't sleep as well, I don't feel rested and energized throughout the day. I eat weird things, although my "weird" is entirely subjective now. It amazes me that I have found what "good" and "normal" feel like simultaneously for me, I instantly know when one starts to slip.

Sure I have been enjoying my past month, we bought a boat, there has been ample celebrations, hey it is the summer and with that comes cook outs, hang outs and weird foods. And it was my birthday! All of this comes with foods I almost never eat like meat, copious amounts of dairy and sugar and of course alcohol. There is something about the summer and ice-cold cocktails that go hand in hand and cocktails and celebrations go hand in hand too (hey I'm allowed one vice right?! I don't get many options). It is only after repeated weekend celebrations, where I feel sluggish and groggy which almost never happens for me; even when I cut out coffee, I always have boundless energy. Alcohol although yummy, especially this new found passionfuit blended mojito I recently found, has it's limits and if you are aware enough your body tells you when to cut back.

Lately, I have been having restless sleep, groggy mornings that are hard to shake, irregular and inconsistent bowl movements, absolutely no desire to workout (which comes hand in hand with not having enough energy), craving weird foods and making poor food choices. And now, a stress mark I get when I am super stressed, typically at work, has reappeared because my body is stressed. My insides have been telling me for a few weeks now, take it easy, back off, and I have knowingly been ignoring this little hint, pounding my wheatgrass, acidophilus, L-Lysine, B-Complex and Vitamin C, but still the little scaly dry patch appeared. Damn! OK, OK, I surrender, body that insists on making it perfectly clear that I can no longer ignore what it is has been telling me for the last few weeks. ::grumble, grumble::

I keep finding an excuse to not do a juice cleanse, but the wait is over, I can no longer deny what my body is telling me, so I shall start my long awaited juice cleanse this week. I like juice cleanses because they force to you to focus on your health and well-being. They ask so little of your body, yet so much of your mind, but the focus, centering and discipline that comes after a good cleanse re-centers every part of me. I am actually looking forward to this cleanse. I have gotten to a point where I just feel icky and no amounts of working out, drinking a daily green juice or copious amounts of water can fix.

So I stocked up on tons of local organic greens and fruit yesterday, join with me, or follow along, I am thinking 5 days this time, 3 just doesn't feel sufficient to counter the month long extravaganza. For more on juicing see my post on Juice Cleanses in February. Juice pics to follow.