Category Archives: Wellness

Feeling fancy, not guilty

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I found myself roaming around downtown Seattle with a belly full of french fries and wine (the result of an early happy hour with a friend), heading in the direction of Nordstrom’s flagship store.

Fortified by my dutch courage, I confidently sidled up to the glowing beauty counters and demanded serious answers to one of life’s greatest questions: how do you prevent your make-up from sliding off your face and looking like an oil slick by the end of the day? Life-shaking stuff. Truly.

But the nice beauty-counter lady seemed to understand the gravitas of the situation and told me my “shinies” could be blotted away with this wondrous powder by La Prairie.

Brilliant! Hand it over!

My “confidence” didn’t let me blanch when she revealed the price tag. Of course getting rid of my shinies makes any price worth it. But by the time I walked away from the comforting warmth of lipstick tubes and La Mer lotion, my pinot glow had deserted me and I was beginning to feel those tiny needles of guilt just where my french-fry-wine-laissez-faire had been a moment ago.

Readers, I had just spent $100 on a jar of fairy dust powder.

I have never spent anything close to that on one beauty product. I still remember my very first purchase with my own money at the Clinique counter: pastel eyeshadow that cost $20 back in 1998. Twenty dollars! That was big money to this teenager.

But here’s the funny thing with this La Prairie purchase. The guilt didn’t grow, it dwindled.

I use this fabulous fairy powder every day. And not only does it 100% prevent my afternoon shinies, I feel like a goddess when I sprinkle it on my face.

The powder is a lighter, fluffier consistency than any powders I’ve used before — and it has this beautiful light scent that makes me feel like I belong in the pages of a glossy magazine.

I’m now convinced that sometimes a bit of luxury (even if purchased after a glass of wine) is totally necessary.

Talk about “sparks joy,” this powder does the trick. I’ve also noticed that since November, I haven’t once caved when browsing the drugstore make-up aisles when I feel I need a pick-me-up.

Buying better, but less wins again!

Quality over quantity?

One minimalist maxim is idea of buying “quality over quantity.” The idea of saving up for one really good thing rather than lots of cheapie versions of that same thing, totally rang true to me when I started curbing my consumerist habits.

Now after nearly five years of being a more conscientious shopper, I still agree with the idea, but I’ve changed my expectations a bit. Let me explain:

When I first heard the idea of buying less, but buying better, I had visions of myself wisely shaking my head “no” to every overpriced but cheaply made Urban Outfitters or F21 purse. Instead, I would magically save my money and be blessed with the ability to purchase a Celine bag — or at least a classic, well-made and hand-made leather carry-all that would last me for years, maybe even be passed on to future generations.

But just because I love the idea of buying better (and knowing the origin of a purchase) doesn’t mean I now can afford an expensive bag of my dreams.

A large part of this is due to my own priorities: I much prefer to save up to travel or spend more time with my far flung family than use thousands on a bag. But it’s also partly to do with coming to terms with what kind of consumer I was and am.

Even if in the future I have much more disposable income, I think I will still have a problem with spending thousands of dollars on one item (even if it’s “timeless” and will “last forever”). Apart from indulging in really expensive smells (see soap photo at top of post or my bottle of Le Labo perfume tucked in my drawer), buying things isn’t my favorite way of spending my hard-earned cash.

I know some people love bags and love shoes, and to them, spending money on those things is the best idea. I’m just saying I’m surprised I’m not doing the same! In my 20s I really enjoyed shopping things and getting them at a discount. So I assumed in my 30s I would be doing the same, just buying less, but better versions of the same things. Apparently, I’m not just changing how much I buy but also what I consider important enough to spend it on.

This realization is so freeing! It made me realize that not only do I not really need or want those cheaper purses, I also don’t really want the uber expensive one either. Just because you can afford the cheap version of something isn’t an indication of actually valuing the more expensive thing.

Maybe that seems obvious, but it really didn’t to me. And again, this is no judgement on people who love to use their “quality vs quantity” money on bags or shoes or fancy kitchens. Things are great too (again, see expensive soap above)! But knowing that it’s not always about the thing in the first place helps me make better purchasing decisions now.

I can’t stop looking at trees

leaves1

leaves2

leaves3

Seattle is the first place I’ve lived in more than a decade that has a real autumn: where the skies are a sparkly blue and the leaves blush crimson and glow golden. So every time I leave the house, I’m the crazy lady standing in the middle of a busy urban sidewalk holding my phone over my head taking photos, and then more photos, of leaves. And. I can’t. Stop.

Because it’s beautiful!

And because I kind of relate to them. (Warning: I anthropomorphize everything — I’ve been known to project feelings onto a pair of old slippers). They (the trees) just seem so joyous — and vibrantly so. I feel exactly that way too when I look at them.

Instead of worrying about my job search or feeling like an unrooted nomad, staring at the trees I feel not just calmer but surer of things. Maybe change or hardship in your life isn’t something that needs to be endured with gritted teeth and white knuckles, but should be joyous even if your gut reaction is to think “when will this end — this is so uncomfortable!”

It reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert’s interview in the Atlantic where she talks about Jack Gilbert’s poetry. Here’s the snippet from his poem “A Brief for the Defense” that I think rings so true for Ms. Gilbert, for me, for trees, for you, for this season:

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.

I feel like the trees get that, and I’m going to follow suit. Or at least keep taking photos until I do.

What I Eat to Feel Good

green juice

I started changing what I ate about four years ago when my endometriosis was getting more severe. Before I made the change, I remember thinking that being a vegetarian was really tricky. How can you eat every meal without meat?! Fast forward four years later and I eat a mostly vegan and wheat free diet. Old me would have been picking her surprised jaw off the floor looking at new me (and then had another cronut once she got her mouth closed). I seriously never thought I could (or would have to) give up my foodie ways.

Before I made the change, I thought I was pretty healthy because I liked fruit and wasn’t opposed to a veg or two on my plate. But I never tried to consciously change my diet just because I had put on 10-15 a few pounds since my early twenties. Loosing weight was never a good motivator for me, but pain was. When my endo got more severe I looked for ways to combat the debilitating pain. The pain motivated me enough to think if giving up hamburgers and beer could help me, let’s give it a go.

I started by reading Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy, Diet. I also started following the endo diet as closely as I could. Green juices, big bowls full of kale and broccoli and beans and brown rice became the norm for my meals. I cut out all refined sugar and most fruit too (and replaced the fruit with lots of veg). It was hard, the first two weeks I felt miserable. And then I felt really, really good.

It shocked me to find out that I felt stronger and more awake on a vegan, wheat-free, sugar-free (and alcohol-free) diet.

Sadly the diet didn’t do much for my endo pain even though it made me feel better overall. So about a week every month I would still be in agony (too painful to do anything — even sitting hurt). But I stuck with the diet because it helped me feel stronger the rest of the month.

And I’ve stuck on the diet on and off again the past four years. Any time I veer off the diet for two long, I begin to feel sluggish, achey, more anxious and my digestion gets wonky. Although it doesn’t seem to have much power against my endo, I’m really lucky that my second surgery has helped me feel so much better. I also think it helps keep my body in balance overall, and that should help keep the endo monster humble (Take that, endomonster! You’re getting more broccoli!).

So without further ado, here is a general list of what I usually eat during the day. I often have cheat meals where I don’t stick to the diet, but I try to keep those to one or two a week. As you can see, it’s not completely vegan (I do eat organic eggs), but there’s very little refined sugar, dairy, wheat or alcohol.

fancy-oatmeal

Breakfast:
Oatmeal is one my most favourite foods in the whole wide world. I’ve always liked it, but since coming to Scotland (and learning to add a pinch of salt to it), I’ve fallen in love. During the week I’ll just throw in a few dates and chia seeds because I’m usually in a rush. But on the weekend –oh the weekend! — there’s time for pecans, bananas, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, maple syrup — the whole works.

buddha-bowl

Lunch: Buddha Bowl
Steamed broccoli, avocado, tomato, garlic and quinoa, sprouts and and an egg. All sprinkled with some lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

sprouts

Lunch #2/Snack
Steamed broccoli with lemon juice and sprouted, wheat-free toast with green pea hummus and sprouts.

mocktail

Mocktail
I’m not always great at sticking to my teetotal ways. My job involves tasting a lot of delicious boozey drinks. But I do try to keep it to one or two nips of alcohol per month. If I go to a fancy bar, I’ll ask the bartender to make a mocktail that doesn’t have much sugar in it like the one above. You obviously don’t get a buzz from gingery bubbles and mint, but alcohol usually is one of the triggers to make me feel lousy even after a few sips. Enough motivation to keep my intake to a minimum.

daal

Dinner
I usually have something with brown-rice and beans and lots of veg. This is my new favourite. Endo Diet’s daal — sooo good! Even if you don’t eat vegetarian or vegan, this recipe will blow you away. I added chickpeas and lots more garlic and ginger and topped it with a healthy sprinkle of parsley.

healthy-frosty

Dessert: Healthy Frosty
I have such a sweet tooth. I’ve cut out almost all refined sugar, but I do still eat fruit and . delicious, healthy smoothies! This one is based on Wendy’s frosty but is much healthier: one frozen banana, a big spoonful of cacao (not cocoa — that usually has sugar added to it), a cup of almond milk, a healthy spoonful of almond butter and a dash of maple syrup if you need it. Seriously, I don’t crave other sweet things when I have this and the only sugar is from the banana and a bit of maple syrup.

If you are looking for more recipe inspiration (because I know the idea of eating veggie/gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free can seem so daunting), here are some great resources:

Tara eats
Kris Carr recipes
Endo Diet
Detoxinista
Greener Resolutions

Even if eating this way most of the time doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I strongly recommend trying it for a week and just to see how you feel cutting back on some of the foods that do tend to cause inflammation in the body (dairy, red meat and sugar). And let me know how you feel! I love hearing other people’s adventures in trying new ways to eat — if you’re a foodie or paleo or are an almond-butter junkie like me. I love to hear it all. Happy chomping, guys!

3 Things

I would really like to meditate. And I’ve tried. And I’ll keep trying. But I find it really, really hard to work-out my meditation muscle (i.e. your brain?). My thoughts run rampant and wild and trying to convince them to all just stay quiet while I breathe in two-three-four and out two-three— they are already up and running around and tumbling over each other and pushing each other out of the way vying for attention. My breath has no chance against the monkey brain.

When I’m finding it hard to quiet my brain, and very tempted to just drown out the noise with a Netflix binge, I turn to other things that pull me outside of myself (and away from the unruly monkey brain thoughts): enter illustrator Maira Kalman, poet Mary Oliver and art historian Sister Wendy. They always make me realise there are bigger and better and more wonderful things happening away from the dull roar of unnecessary (and sometimes petty) thoughts running amuck in my noggin. Here’s just a taste:

Maira Kalman

MairaKalman 1

MairaKalman 2
Images from Maira Kalman’s blog posts in The New York Times

Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Sister Wendy

Ommmmmm
These ladies are good.

Let me know what works for you when you need to ground yourself a bit and stop the go-go-go. What are the bananas for your monkey brain?

My Favorite Post-Workout Smoothie

I can go for days (ok, weeks) were I consistently eat a not-so-great diet, but no matter what, after I workout I always crave something healthy. Maybe not green juice or salad healthy, but something healthier than cookies, chips and other crap.

This protein smoothie has been my go-to post-workout snack for a while now. There are no artificial anythings in it, plus it’s filling and delicious.

Protein_smoothie_ingredients

I originally found this smoothie in Kimberly Synder’s The Beauty Detox Food book. I’ve been making it for so long that I might have changed a few measurements along the way. For the most part it is pretty much the same as her recipe:

2 Cups almond milk
1 Frozen banana
1/2 Acai smoothie packet
3 Tbsp hemp protein powder
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 Tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
3 Drops of Stevia

Throw everything in a blender on high and blend until its smooth.

You can find all the ingredients at Whole Foods. I use the Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro Fiber powder. For those of you who live in Atlanta, the Sambazon acai smoothie packets are also available at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market.

I have a Vitamix blender, which I love so much. Vitamixes are incredibly expensive. I purchased mine on QVC because I could pay for it in five installments, which is much more doable than forking over $450+ at once. It’s absolutely worth the money. I use my Vitamix at least 3 times a week.

I got Lar hooked on this smoothie a few years ago. Just writing this post is making me crave it. I might go make myself one now. . .

 

Insta Inspiration: Kayla Itsines

instagram inspo

On those days that I really, really don’t feel like working out and I need some added motivation, I always turn to Instagram. There are a handful of fitness gurus who constantly inspire me. You guys might be familiar with Kayla Itsines — especially if you use Instagram for fitness inspo too. She’s an Aussie with a massive following that swear by her Bikini Body guides.

I think she, and her followers, all look amazing, but I don’t follow Kayla because I want a “bikini-ready” body. In fact, I haven’t used her guides as of yet (and keep waffling about the idea). I follow her because she also has endometriosis.

I admire anyone who works out and aims to be healthy (because we all know how hard that is), but just having a lovely set of abs or pretty pictures of green juice wouldn’t do it for me. Knowing there are others who work through additional pain and health problems gives me strength to workout even when I’d rather not because I don’t like thinking about my own scars (both physical and emotional) from endo.

I know endometriosis isn’t a universal problem (thank goodness!) but everyone has something they battle with that makes working out harder than it needs to be. We all have our own pain and barriers that make an already arduous task, that much harder. So when you need a little extra encouragement — not to get a bikini body, mind, but to just get your body moving — I highly recommend checking out Kayla if you haven’t already.

Oh and I also follow Kayla because she loves puppies!

A puppy-loving, endometriosis warrior. Double-tap.

Working out at home: my favourite 10 Minute (HIIT) workout

In my last post I talked about going to the gym and my former gym-phobia. I have had an official gym membership for nearly eight months now — and that sounds so weird still! Going to a gym (any gym) is still new to me. And I still find lots of certain aspects of working out tricky.

For instance, if it’s a cold, rainy, windy evening in Edinburgh (the usual spring/summer weather here), the idea of gymming it after a long day in the office sounds about as appealing as rubbing chili seeds in my eyes.

So I found what works best for me is to go to the gym during the weekend and do some workout at home during the week. My favourite one at the moment is this high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. I know 10 minutes isn’t that hard-core, but I feel really proud of myself when I make it through this. Though I have to say, I’m so very glad I can do this in the privacy of my own home. By the end of most of the sets I can barely lift my legs off the ground and my arms go all wobbly — I look a bit like a turtle trying to do a handstand. It is heeerrrrd!

Speaking of my hermit-like tendency during the week, I should be completely honest and tell you that I also still get a bit overwhelmed at the gym if it’s really busy. After work is usual peak time at my local gym and I found it hard to stay focused with tons of people running and cross training all around me.

Another bonus for doing some at-home workouts? I work different muscles than when I go to the gym. I tend to stick to a routine at the gym (2 miles on the elliptical, a few wights and then yoga) and I know I won’t get Michelle Obama arms just doing the same thing over and over.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I used to detest working out. It’s still not my favourite thing, but I’ve been very motivated by the Endo Monster and it really helps to blog about it. So hope you guys don’t mind me sharing what I do from time to time!

x Lar

Why I Workout

workout

Before October of last year, I’d never set foot in a gym. And I was obnoxiously very proud of that fact. The idea of row upon row of shiny, fit people running on treadmills made me smirk knowing that I had never participated in such mindless, rote activities.

What I snob, I was! So judgey! A mindset that 100% came from being intimidated by the idea of a gym.

I knew that working out was a good thing, but the thought of those clanky and complicated looking weight machines and intimidating, sweaty people in spandex made me uncomfortable. So even though I’ve been horribly out of shape for years, I never gave the gym a second thought.

But, like nearly everything in my life, things have changed since learning to live with endometriosis. After my first surgery two years ago, I spent half a year still feeling like my body had to knit itself back together. After that, I did a bit of tentative tai chi and yoga, but was really scared to do anything else.

Being afraid of my body because of both my endo and the subsequent surgeries, is not something I ever thought would happen. It’s strange to feel so uncertain of your body. Cath and I trained for 13 years to be ballet dancers. As a dancer, your body is your instrument and you feel you have absolute control over it — put in enough hours of practice and training and you know exactly how to make your body move how you want it and withstand exacting and punishing positions.

But even with this new fear, endo is actually what also propelled me to the gym. I wanted to feel strong again and in control of my body (as much as possible with a capricious, poorly-understood chronic disease). I’d also learned that working out would help keep my hormones leveled out better (women with endo usually have too much estrogen).

So even though the idea of spending an hour with the whirring treadmills and clanking weights of a gym doesn’t make me jump out of bed in the morning, I feel so lucky to get to do it! Since October I’ve felt so much better (thanks, endorphins, you are the bestest!) and my body has more muscle than its had in nearly a decade. I do get some pain in my pelvis once in a while if I go too hard, but I try to listen to what my body needs and pull back when I need to.

I’m still a newbie at working out (which sounds kind of ridiculous at 31 years old), but I plan to make this part of my life. Working out for me will never be about loosing weight or gaining muscle (thought I’m so glad those both happen), but to stay healthy and hopefully keep kicking the endo monster in the butt as often as possible. Getting stronger is a good motivator, but the thing that motivates me most, and also makes it hard to do, is having endometriosis.

So I spend way more time than I ever thought I would googling new workouts to try and half of my instagram feed is fitness gurus that keep me inspired on those days (most days if I’ve being honest ;)) when I don’t feel like working out.

This is all to let you know that you’ll be hearing more fitness-y related things on this blog. Which is weird because I think one of the many reasons why I never wanted to go to a gym was because I felt like there was a smugness about people who worked out. Again, that’s my judgey-ness coming through. But I don’t want you guys to think I’m ever posting pics of myself in the gym because I feel smug. It’s all to foster a holistic approach to staying healthy, whether you are working through health problems too or just want to be a bit more healthy.

Phew! Sorry for that lengthy babble. I promise to keep my next posts short and sweet! There’s just a lot of baggage I carry around with working out, and I wanted to let you guys know about it before I just started posting about fitness and health-related things.

I’d love to hear what you guys do or if you’ve had gym-ophobia too.

x Lar