Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Read: Craving

Why do we crave food when we're not hungry?  Why do we take that sip of alcohol or puff of smoke, when we know it is detrimental to our health?  Why are we unable to say "no" to certain behaviors that leave us unhappy in the end?  And, more importantly, how can we modify our brain and behavior to overcome these compulsions and lead happier, freer lives?

These questions, and more, are answered in the brand new book CRAVING: Why We Can't Seem to Get Enough by Omar Manejwala, M.D (Hazelden Publishing, 2013).

Available on Amazon

Sure, it's got a catchy title and attention-grabbing cover, but this book is packed with science, research, and useful insights about cravings.  Manejwala defines "craving" as a "strong desire that, if unfulfilled, produces a powerful physical and mental suffering" (p. 2).  Throughout the book, this definition is shown to include food cravings, nicotine cravings, shopping cravings, OCD, and addiction to alcohol and drugs.  As Chapter 1: Craving: Why it Matters explains, cravings for these things can become very serious and really hinder and harm a person's life--and the lives of their loved ones.  For that reason, this book is not limited to a certain audience.  Anyone who either experiences or is close to someone who has experienced cravings or addictions has something to learn from this book.

I certainly thought I could learn a thing or two, so when the author and Hazelden Publishing kindly offered me a chance to read an advance copy of CRAVING, I accepted without hesitation.  He pointed out that conquering cravings is one way to become healthier, so it's a dare worth exploring.  According to the press release, some of the questions Manejwala covers in CRAVING are:

  • How and why do our brains drive our behavior?
  • What are the warning signs that a craving is evolving into an addiction?
  • Why is craving the most difficult component of addiction to address?
  • How can we change the parts of the brain that fuel our cravings?
  • What are some beliefs about cravings that recent research has disproven? (For example, it's not necessarily true that we want what we can't have.)
  • What simple steps can we take that can aid in the longer-term process of living without constant craving?

These questions sounded interesting, so I dove headfirst into the new book.  Read more to learn what was inside....

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Dare you to LIFT!

No, I'm not talking about weights, although you should be doing that, too.  I'm talking about the smartphone app called LIFT, which helps you achieve your goals--whatever they are!

Upfront, I'd like to say that this is not a sponsored post in any way, shape, or form.  The folks at "Lift" don't know who I am, and the app is FREE for you and for me.  I just think it's a fantastic tool for ANY goals you're looking to achieve or habits you're trying to establish... whether they're in the realm of health, hobbies, work productivity, hygiene, taking time for yourself, for family, doing chores in your home... you name it!  Lift can help you do it.

First, you select what behaviors you'd like to establish.  You can choose from the many listed habits that others have committed to, or create your own.

Next, you check in!  Every time you perform an action or take a step toward your goal, you tap to check it off.  Each time you check off an item, it turns green. Yay! Instant feedback. And then, of course, you want to turn the whole screen green.  Otherwise that one little item is left on top, so you've got to finish it off:

Additionally, the Lift app keeps track of how many check-ins you've performed ("Meredith checked in for the 103rd time..."), both for each individual habit and altogether.  It tells you when you're on a STREAK (wooohoo), so you'll be more motivated to keep it up.  There's also an optional setting to receive notifications--gentle reminders that it's time to perform a certain task.  For example, I have a 10pm reminder to floss, because I like to floss before brushing my teeth at night. Makes my mouth feel extra clean! (This has been extremely effective. I've actually run out of floss.  I don't think I've ever had that problem before this year.)

For extra motivation, you can make "Friends" on Lift, commenting and giving "props" to fellow Lift-ers.  Strength in community!

I learned about the app when the folks at Greatist posted a full review.  It sounded good, so I decided to give it a try when the new year rolled in... and I have been using it since!  I admit, it's rarely 100% green like above (although I had a good streak in January), but I do always take a look throughout the day, especially before bed, to see what I have left to do.  Some of the above are things I've already been doing for a while, but others were new.  (And--I just added an exciting new one that I'll be talking about soon.  Stay tuned!)  Lift is a great way to establish a new habit!

You can change your habits at any time.  Some I've kept, but others I've removed and replaced since January, depending on what habits I'm trying to establish at the time!

So whatever new habits you're hoping to establish, Lift can help you make them routine.  Pick a just one or two habits to start and give it a try.  I dare you!

What habits would you start with?  What would you like to begin doing? What behaviors have you successfully made routine?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Look for the Good

There are simply no words to address the cruel tragedy that took place on Monday, April 15, 2013.  What should have been a joyous, triumphant day was instantly transformed into a nightmare.

However, I was warmed to learn about all the brave, warm-hearted, generous individuals in Boston who immediately responded to the crisis: running in to carry injured away, racing through the finish line and directly on to the hospital to donate blood, opening up homes and restaurants to those in need of a meal, a shower, a computer to contact loved ones, or a place to stay.

A Mr. Rogers quote was floating around Facebook and the Twittersphere the following day: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Image via Huffington Post/Getty Images

And this is just what we must do to stay sane, to overcome fear, and to keep looking up.  I personally suffer from mild anxiety, and events like this spark a great fear inside me.  The only way to quell this is by focusing on the good that emerged from the rubble.

Another quote, originally stated as applying to literature, came to my mind:  "Evil often triumphs, but never conquers."  On Monday, an evil certainly saw a minor victory, claiming 3 lives and injuring over a hundred, but in no way did it win.  The marathon runners and spectators, Bostonians, Americans, refused to be conquered.

This is evidenced by this awe-inspiring video from the Bruins-Sabres game, where the strongest singing of the National Anthem I've ever heard took place.  Rather than half-heartedly listening and eagerly waiting for the game to begin, the Boston-based crowd joined in with booming voices.

My reaction, every time, is tears---pride streaming from my eyes.  We will not be conquered.  We are united.  There are always helpers.  There is still plenty of good in the world.

I dare you to focus on the good.  Look for the helpers.  Take heart, and have faith that there are always people doing good.

Online, runners have showed off their marathon shirts and running sneakers in support of the Boston Marathon participants and victims.  People have been tweeting with the hashtag #RunforBoston and others, again proving that we will not be conquered.

Pavement Runner wants us to run, together, one week after the Boston Marathon Bombing.  He set up a page where you can connect to others in YOUR local city together on Monday, April 22, and RUN, united and strong. Click here for details and to join in.

You can also log miles that you #RunForBoston here.

Want to donate to help those affected by the tragedy?  Many are stuck not only with hospital and rehabilitation bills, but also suffer the loss of their career due to limb loss.  Learn how you can donate here, and learn more about The One Fund.

Update 6:35pm: Just learned that Active Accessories is also selling Active Hair Band Bracelets, and, for the next month, $2 of every set sold goes to benefit those impacted via The One Fund.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Checking in: Meal Prep and Body Beanz Contest

Just checking in, on this Monday morning!

If you've been keeping up with me on Instagram, then you know I just took part in the "Spring to Health" 14-day challenge, hosted by Amber, Jill, and Mari.  It was fun having a different task to complete or document each day!  Check out my Instagram feed to see the lot.

Lately, I've been slacking on the Sunday food prep that I'd started doing in the fall, and as a result, I've been running out of food or having to buy things last minute.  Time to get back in the habit, to make sure I've got healthy, tasty meals ready for the week!  Last night, I did just that.  I prepared a few different food items and made sure I had on stock everything I'd need to pull together meals.

Last night's prep yielded...

Zucchini Carrot Egg Bake

Savory Chicken

Roasted Vegetables

Those, combined with some greens, sweet potato, banana, baked salmon, and Greek yogurt... yep! I'm well on my way.  No roadblocks, this week!

What else is new?

I was recently contacted by a new company called Body Beanz, which takes naturally powerful whole-food superfoods and packages them into nutrient-dense "beanz" to replace your current vitamin/supplement regimen.  The whole point of this new product is that they are not made with any chemical ingredients like other brands; they are made from entirely plant-based formulas.  In each daily dose, you get antioxidents, omegas, probiotics, and fat/sugar digestion aid.

They are launching in early May 2013, and to get us ready, they're hosting a contest!  If you upload photos or videos that represent their tagline--"Happy Body, Happy Life"--, you could win...

  1. A Breville 850 watt juicer for making healthy smoothies
  2. $100 gift certificate to the spa of your choice
  3. A Karuna premium yoga towel
  4. Two months of free Body Beanz

Go to the Body Beanz Facebook Page to learn more and to enter, when the contest goes live at 8am PST, TOMORROW!  (Tuesday, April 16)

I have not yet tried Body Beanz for myself, but they did share the ingredient label with me, and I was fairly impressed. It looks nothing like any other vitamin label I've seen.  Nothing scary.  I'm a fan of anything that goes in the direction of less man-made, more natural.

Lastly, with the warm weather starting to intermittently appear, I dare you to get outside, get some fresh air, and walk!! Do it. Spring is here!

That's all she wrote. Have a great week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Moisturize Naturally

Go find your lotion.  Face lotion, body lotion... whatever it is that you apply on a regular basis, take it out.  Turn it over.  Look at the ingredient list.  Count the number of ingredients you recognize.  How many words do you understand?  How many words can you pronounce?  How many of the listed items do you think came from nature?

How many do you want seeping into the largest organ of your body: your skin?

If you're cool with rubbing all that garbage into your body, that's your choice.  To each, his own.  Personally, I'd rather ditch the man-made chemicals for something nature made, something my skin might recognize as naturally moisturizing.  I also don't want something that will actually dry out my skin and make me become addicted to the lotion.  But, again, that's just me.  If you feel similarly or simply want to try another, more natural approach to moisturizing, read on!

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil

Today's dare: Swap your daily lotion for coconut oil.  

I was a little skeptical at first, but why not?  Most lotions on the shelves tend to tout that they're "made with" some kind of natural oil, be it coconut oil, jojoba, lavender... So I did it.  Result? It seems to work just as well!  My itchy legs and waist stopped itching, and my skin seemed to respond well.  It's been 2 months, and I'm still satisfied.

Step 1: Open coconut oil.
Step 2: Take a small amount into hand.
Step 3: Rub on body.

See? So simple! Just like your old lotion, but with one ingredient instead of 25.  It's a similar principle to that behind paleo nutrition, focusing on the whole ingredient from nature, rather than the man-made, disease-causing chemicals injected into the products that line our grocery and drugstore shelves.  So instead of buying a lotion that is "made with" (aka, a tiny fraction of it contains some) coconut oil, just use coconut oil!

Note: Liz Wolfe notes that some people may find their skin doesn't respond well to the coconut oil, so they may want to try jojoba oil.

Also, one time when I was traveling and didn't have coconut oil, I did have access to olive oil and used that instead. It was NICE.

So, my review of the transition experience?

Fact: It feels nice.
Fact: It does leave you, well, glistening for a while. Don't overuse it; you don't need that much. It spreads nicely, so just a small amount will go far.  I don't generally use it when I need to be out the door quickly, because I like (and need) to leave my skin time to absorb and dry. 
Fact: I now know what's going on and into my skin, and I like the idea of it being edible.  Is that weird?

In fact, I like the idea of anything I put on my body/face/teeth/hair being so natural that I could safely consume it.  This is a new trend I've been exploring, and I'll be getting back to you with the details.  Right now I've got some new products and homemade concoctions, and I'm beginning to confuse what goes in my kitchen and what goes in my bathroom. It's a process, and I'm getting there step by step.

Remember last year's spring cleaning quote?  "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"?  Well, right now, I'm in the "use it up" phase of my old personal care products and moving into the world of natural beauty and hygiene.  I'm actually pretty far on my way, and am really excited about the results I'm seeing!  I won't scare you away with the details yet, but it's been an interesting process.  If you're interested in learning more about natural skincare, check out The Skintervention Guide for the how-to on gorgeous, healthy skin, or Primal Life Organics to purchase natural personal care products.

But no need to jump into the deep end, yet!  It all began with swapping my lotion for coconut oil.  Interested in seeing how you like it?  Dare you to give it a try.

What's in YOUR body lotion?
Have you ever tried moisturizing with pure oil? Like or dislike?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Features

Spring is here!  Well, almost.  Now that the sun is shining and it's (maybe?) getting warmer, I dare you to go outside Get some sunshine!  Make yourself some vitamin D!  Have fun!

I've got a LOT coming up on the blog for this spring/summer, and although I'm SO eager to share with you some new dares I've taken on, I want to make sure I do 'em right and gather sufficient information for you first.  Sooo... For now, there's TONS of interesting stuff, as always, to learn from on other websites.  The last "features" post was a bit nutrition-heavy, so this one will be more diverse.  Enjoy!


Speaking of going outside, taking your routine outside could benefit your workout!
The New York Times "Well" blog describes studies suggesting that getting outdoors
could help "reluctant or inconsistent exercisers."


One way to take your elliptical/biking workout outdoors is with a Street Rider!
MizFit demonstrates the learning curve required to use a Street Strider.  
Her short video is an amusing display of persistence leading to success! 


Did you know that research has found links between religion and health,
both in mental and physical well-being?


Confused about CrossFit?  Lindsay at the  Lean Green Bean Blog breaks it down for you.


So you've heard of, and maybe even tried, hot yoga, but did you know there's
such a thing as COLD yoga?  The Greatist team recaps its experience.


The SocialPace Blog tells you how to warm up for any workout.


reminding us that many supposedly "healthy" companies are actually in cahoots
with Monsanto, GMO producer.


There is an outrageous sale going on at Paleo Plan
where 30 different books, meal plans, magazine subscriptions, and discount codes, 
worth almost $400, are being sold for a mere $39.  
Ridiculous?  Yes.  
You'd better take advantage of the Primal Life Kit deal, 
before it ends on Tuesday, April 9!


A reminder that it's not too late to join the DIY Health 30-day challenge, hosted by Greatist on Social Workout.  Join HERE!!

There's also a cool two-week challenge hosted by Amber, Jill, and Mari, to help you #SpringToHealth!  They've got a different fun task each day, reminiscent of last fall's October Photo-A-Day Challenge, and if you document your accomplishments, you'll be entered to win some great prizes!  Learn more here.