Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A juice a day...

As many of you know, I was able to make the trip to Connecticut over the weekend to say goodbye to my Grandma as well as meet most of my Dad's side of the family. I knew that my Grandma had been living with diabetes for quite some time, but I had no idea how prominent it was within the rest of the family as well. Come to find out, several other family members are also living with Type 2 Diabetes.  Not only that, my Mother's side of the family also has a history of diabetes.
Finding out this information brought me back to when I was in elementary school. I can't recall exactly how old I was, but I remember this one particular doctor's visit well. I was in for a routine check up, and it was no secret that I was overweight. I could hear the doctor telling my mom that I was on the borderline for developing diabetes. The weight of that statement did not have the effect on me then as it would today. Shortly after, we met with a dietician who gave us guidelines as to what I should be eating on a daily basis. I can remember logging everything I ate for the next couple of weeks to show my doctor on my next visit. Apparently, after a while of doing this I was in the clear because nothing ever came of it even though I was still overweight.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2012. At 22 years old I was at my heaviest, weighing 243 lbs. I noticed my left foot had become swollen, and I developed a dull ache in my entire leg up to my thigh. I hadn't injured myself so I was completely baffled as to why this was happening. The internet was my worst enemy because when I Googled my symptoms, it pointed to terrifying outcomes like a blood clot, or I'm sure you can guess it, diabetes. After a few doctor's visits and an ultrasound in my leg, I was diagnosed with a peripheral venous insufficiency.

What that means is:
"Your arteries carry blood from your heart out to the rest of your body. Your veins carry blood back to the heart, and valves in the veins stop the blood from flowing back. When your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to the heart, it is called venous insufficiency (VI). In this condition, blood does not flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in your legs."

The pooling of blood in my leg is what was causing the swelling and pain. I was told my options were to lose weight which would help the symptoms, or surgically block off that vein. This was my rock bottom. I knew right then and there things had to change. I started a diet program and successfully lost 40lbs. When I found Tone It Up in May of 2013, I was inspired to not only lose the rest of my weight, but to do it in the most healthy way I can.

This weekend was a huge reminder to me of one of the most important reasons that I need to stay healthy. I absolutely have no plans for developing diabetes, and I am going to do everything in my power to avoid it. I decided I want to challenge myself by drinking one green juice every day. Juicing is such a fantastic and delicious way to deliver a megadose of vitamins and minerals to your body. It combats illness and is a great way to facilitate weight loss as well. However, juicing isn't a quick fix-all solution to any problem. I fully believe that juicing combined with a plant-based diet and regular exercise will provide me with the health benefits that I seek.

What is your story? What kinds of ailments have you been able to overcome, or are on your way to overcoming with a healthy diet?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Breaking My Orbit

It is not even halfway through the first month of the new year, but change is already upon me!

Many of you who know me personally, know that I have been in the corporate life for a few years now. Instead of going to a four year school and getting a degree, I chose the route of worker bee due to my finances not allowing me to do otherwise. I was weighed down by financial pressures and felt I had no other option but to work full-time, sometimes two jobs. And I'm barely 23! You can imagine how stressful this can be, but I am very happy to say that is no longer an issue. With this new found freedom, and the support of my parents and boyfriend, I have decided to step down from my office job and go back to school full-time. Not finishing school has plagued me for some time now, and I'm absolutely thrilled to finally be able to have the opportunity to do so. I have never had one single passion that I knew I would pursue as a career someday, but I feel with health and fitness, I have really found my stride. I have discovered a love for encouraging other women, and sharing my experience with it all in order to help them succeed as best they can with their journey. I don't know where that will take me, or what opportunities lie ahead, but I know that I cannot continue any further without a formal degree.
It's terrifying because I'm basically tossing out all sense of security on the chance that I find something more suited to me. But I can't sit here at my desk and be proud of myself for staying safe. No one ever achieved their dreams by being comfortable. I posted something on Instagram a while back to the tune of "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable" and I didn't realize how much that applied to me until now.
I am confident that 2014 is going to be an amazing year for me. It has already brought forth so many opportunities that I would have never imagined, and for that I am very grateful. I'm excited to see what else is waiting :)

“We all want to break our orbits, float like a satellite gone wild in space, run the risk of disintegration. We all want to take our lives in our own hands and hurl them out among the stars.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Product Review: Lush Cosmetics

The last time I went on vacation I misplaced my facial moisturizer from Estee Lauder. I bought the jar several months back, and was devastated that I no longer had it.  Layering on the cool, fresh smelling lotion had become my favorite part of my skin care routine. Not only did it smell great and feel amazing on my skin, it was non-acnegenic, so it never made me break out. It was like the holy grail of facial moisturizers as far as I was concerned. I knew I immediately had to replace it, but felt that it was time for me to step away from Estee Lauder, and purchase a product that coincided with my new lifestyle and beliefs. AKA, I wanted it to be vegan. With the amount of cruelty free and vegan products available, it was hard to decide which one would be right for me. My initial trip to the beauty section of Whole Foods proved to be terribly overwhelming, and I left empty handed. I decided it would be best to conduct some more research on the products and return when I had a more solid idea of what I wanted.
Thanks to a great recommendation from a friend, I visited the website of Lush Handmade Cosmetics. They have products that are both vegan and non-vegan, so I made sure to use their filter on the menu to select only vegan items. I came across the moisturizer called "Imperialis" and the description basically summed up everything I was looking for: "If you’re not sure which moisturizer is for you, we recommend starting here. Imperialis is a finely crafted moisturizer that works with most skin types to ease and soothe irritations. Made with lavender infusion to balance the skin's sebum production, the lavender encourages dry skin to produce more natural oils and discourages oily skin from overdoing it. Orange blossom water brightens up dull looking areas and leaves you smelling gorgeous all day long."  Bingo! 

I took the first opportunity I had to go to the mall to try it out and get some more information from the employees. I told her I had oily skin with dry patches, and was also acne prone. Immediately she recommended the Imperialis moisturizer, stating that it also was beneficial for keeping the acne at bay.  At $24.95 it was definitely cheaper than the $48 I spent on the Estee Lauder moisturizer. I also ended up purchasing their 9 to 5 Cleansing Lotion, and Herbalism Cleanser to replace my salicylic acid cleanser from the drugstore. I like having two different cleansers, one for the morning, and one in the evening for removing makeup. 
I was so excited to use the products I bought the next day, and I was very pleased with all of them. The moisturizer was light, smelled great, and gave me that extra hydration without making my skin feel too heavy. It has been a few days now, and my skin honestly has never looked better. I'm sure it has something to do with the 5-day cleanse as well, but my skin texture has evened out tremendously. I haven't noticed any dry patches or flaking, which was a daily problem before, and I feel like I finally have that healthy glow. The best part of all? No breakouts! I'm relieved to have found a product I can feel great about not only because it works so well for me, but because it is totally vegan as well. 

Have you used Lush products before? What is working for your skin right now? Let me know!

The Blonde Vegan 5-Day Cleanse: Final Recap

The Blonde Vegan 5-Day Cleanse was a completely plant based, vegan cleanse developed by blogger The Blonde Vegan. I'm incredibly grateful to her for putting forth so much effort to make this cleanse possible, and provide all the cleansers with motivation and tools for success. I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend Jeff, and my good friend Lauren of Lauren Lives Healthy participating in the cleanse with me. We were all involved in a group email thread and got to speak with the other cleansers about their experience with the program. It was really interesting to read other people's reactions, setbacks and successes they had with the cleanse. I definitely felt a sense of community, and it was great to have that extra support from people going through the exact same thing I was experiencing.

I wanted to do a cleanse, especially after the holidays, because it seemed like the perfect thing to do to get rid of the holiday bloat and give our bodies and digestive systems a healthy reboot. We chose this cleanse above all the others out there because neither of us have done a cleanse before, and this one in particular involved solid foods instead of only liquids. (Plus, I'm a huge fan of The Blonde Vegan!)  I am a very new vegan myself, and I'm still getting used to incorporating fresh vegetables into my diet. This cleanse had PLENTY of vegetables, some I had never tried before, so it was a great way for me to get introduced to different ways of cooking veggies that I could enjoy on a regular basis. I tend to get weighed down by food because I overeat at times, or I don't eat the right things for my body. This cleanse had perfect portions (for me, anyway, Jeff disagrees)  and I was consistently satisfied with the food. Jeff recommended that for a bigger guy interested in doing the cleanse, he should consider upping the portion sizes a bit, or incorporating nuts and berries as a snack between meals to help hold him over. There were a couple of recipes we substituted with recipes from other days due to preference, but we both still felt we got the results we were looking for.

The hardest part was all of the prep work involved. Each night after I made dinner, Jeff and I chopped, blended, juiced and prepared all of our meals for the next day. This is very time consuming. By the time  we were done, it was close to bed time and I went straight to sleep. Now that I know what to expect,  next time I do the cleanse I will spend the Sunday before doing the preparation for all 5 days. This way, the only thing I need to do in the evenings is juice or blend everything together and be done.

The results were better than I was expecting! Even though the purpose for doing this wasn't about weight loss, I still weighed myself on the morning of Day 1, and again the day after the cleanse ended.  I lost about 4 lbs and noticed all of my bloat was gone.  Jeff said he was back to his pre-holiday weight, and felt his clothes were fitting better. Both of us felt amazing and energized!

Now that I have one cleanse under my belt, I am definitely open to trying others to compare. If you've done a cleanse before, or have any advice, let me know in the comments below!

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Blonde Vegan Cleanse: Day 5

We made it!!!!

5 straight days of a totally raw plant based diet. No caffeine, alcohol, meat, eggs, dairy, unnatural sugar, grains, corn, or beans. It was  a lot harder than I was anticipating, but I'm happy to say both Jeff  and I made it through successfully without cheating! ....Even though it was very tempting, especially yesterday!
Today's meals:
Breakfast smoothie was "Strawberry Fields" which was actually more of a green smoothie with strawberries. It didn't look very appetizing, but it tasted very good!
First juice of the day "Ginger Snap" it was a really simple and refreshing blend of carrot and orange juice.
Lunch was supposed to be fire roasted tomatoes and broccoli, but since I had to make everything beforehand and bring it to work I decided to make the "Figgy Berry-licious Salad" from day 1 again. Just as good as the first time :)
Juice #2 was "Green Elixir". Another take on a traditional green juice.
The dinner for day 5 was supposed to be a sweet potato kale saute, but seeing as I don't like kale, we decided to bake the sweet potato and roast Brussels sprouts and carrots again. We love sweet potatoes so this dish was a definite favorite.
I'm grateful there was some wiggle room regarding the meals. We were permitted to swap around meals from other days if that suited us better, which in our case, it did. I think that made us much more successful than we might have otherwise been. Especially if I had to eat raw kale soup!

Today I felt the best out of all the other days. I had a lot of energy, felt very light, and was simply in a fabulous mood. I'm sure some of that had to do with the premature excitement of what I'm going to eat tomorrow! I'm going to go to bed early tonight and in the morning I will share my thoughts on the cleanse as a whole, and let you know how I feel after the fact.

Hope everyone has a great Friday night :)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Blonde Vegan Cleanse: Day 4

Day 4 of the cleanse is done!
Today's meals:
Breakfast smoothie was the "Green Deluxe".  It had walnuts in it, which I've never had before in a smoothie. Both of us actually really liked it despite our morning struggle with temptation. (explained below)
The first juice was "Peachy Punch". Peaches aren't in season, so we substituted with pears; it was very fruity, and just sweet enough. 
Lunch was "The Original Garden Salad". Your basic greens with carrots, cucumbers, tomato and avocado. Honestly I knew I wasn't going to like this one too much because I'm not a fan of raw carrots, cucumbers, or tomatoes. I ate maybe half of it and then finished up lunch with a banana and almond butter. That definitely hit the spot!
Juice #2 for the day we accidentally messed up on. It calls for blueberries, but didn't realize we were supposed to add in the blueberries after the rest was juiced as a topping. The juice came out very tart and tangy, and was pretty rough to drink. 
Dinner was supposed to be a raw kale and avocado soup, but seeing as how I don't like kale at all, and our first experience with raw soup was terrible, we decided to make the "Veggie Party Bowl" from Day 2 again instead. I think this was my favorite meal of the whole cleanse so far and both of us chowed down on our veggies.
In summary, today was easier in some ways, but much harder in others.  I had a ton of energy all day and felt pretty great in every way, which was a welcome improvement from yesterday.  Work, however, was a challenge because my coworkers made a fresh batch of popcorn in the popcorn maker, and it smelled heavenly. It took everything in me to not sneak a couple of kernels.  Jeff said at home, my grandma had made bacon, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast. He could smell it all as he drank his breakfast smoothie.  (So proud of him!) On top of all that, come dinnertime I had lost all resolve and nearly threw in the towel. It is mine and Jeff's 5 year anniversary today, and we longed to have a nice dinner out somewhere. I even asked him if he wanted to just be done with the cleanse so we can go eat out tonight and have a normal day tomorrow. He was definitely tempted, but brought me back to why we decided to do the cleanse to begin with. Plus, we still have groceries we have to use! I am obviously glad I decided to stick with it, but trust me, it was not the easiest decision to make. Not today, junk food!! We ended up having a delicious dinner together and got everything ready for the last day of the cleanse.  We got done at a decent time too, a definite plus! Now we are relaxing watching Misfits on Netflix, and making anniversary plans for this weekend :)

I'll post the final update and thoughts on the cleanse tomorrow night! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Blonde Vegan Cleanse: Day 3

Evening all,

Not going to lie, this whole cleansing business is pretty exhausting. I work a full-time job Monday through Friday, so when I get home its make dinner, prep smoothie, juices, and lunch, eat dinner, and by the time I'm done it's 9 and I'm ready to crawl into bed. Maybe that is why we get such a good night sleep! We are so exhausted that we just pass out :)  On that note, we actually have been sleeping really well which is a bonus.

Today's breakfast smoothie was "Creamy Carrot Bliss" which had carrots and almond butter in it. I thought that combination sounded weird, but we were pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was.
The first juice was "Green It Out", your basic green juice. I put half the amount of celery it calls for and  I thought it was delicious and refreshing.
Lunch was actually not a salad today, it was butternut squash apple soup! The recipe calls for nutmeg but of course I forgot to buy some, so instead I put a bit of cinnamon and I thought it was very good. Probably not something I would make regularly though. After lunch I felt very drowsy. I could have easily laid my head on my desk and took a power nap, but alas, I have a big kid job where you just can't do things like that without consequence. (What job would allow that anyway?! Sign me up! Haha)
Juice #2 "Beet City" I couldn't stomach. It had a lot of celery taste, plus the earthiness of the beets was not a combination I could enjoy and I ended up not finishing the whole thing.
Dinner was better though, we got to roast Brussels sprouts, carrots, and enjoy it with a baked sweet potato. Very simple, but filling and delicious!  We also ended the night with a banana and some almond butter for dessert.
I mentioned I would get Jeff's thoughts on the cleanse in the last post, so here is what he has to say:
"To be honest I haven't felt any big changes, but I do feel "cleaner". I don't feel like I have any more energy than usual, however I haven't felt tired either."  He says he has felt pretty hungry throughout the day, and would increase the portions a bit to compensate for the weight difference between us if he were to do it again. So ladies, maybe if your man is going to do it with you, make sure his portions are slightly more and tell him to pack extra nuts for snacking on in case he is hungry? From the outside, he doesn't seem like he's having the best time, but we both know how beneficial this is for our bodies! I'll let you know how he feels about everything post-cleanse :)

I'm super ready for bed now, so good night !

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Blonde Vegan Cleanse: Day 2

Finally, a minute to relax!

I just completed Day 2 of The Blonde Vegan 5-Day Cleanse.
Other than a little tired from working all day and prepping again I feel pretty spectacular. My tummy is happy and so am I :)

Last night was the worst so far. The raw green vegetable soup for dinner did not satisfy me or Jeff. We could hardly choke it down and barely made a dent in our bowls. We ate as much as we possibly could, and then opted for a banana with some almond butter to help satiate us. I was pretty cranky last night also. I don't think the cleanse is entirely to blame because there are always outside factors involved. (In my case, my computer took a crap and I still have yet to solve the problem)

Today has been much better. I woke up without hitting the snooze button which is a miracle in and of itself. I had a lot of energy and I felt amazing! I was able to get in a HIIT workout before I juiced and blended my meals for the day, and even had some time to spare before I left for work.

On to the meals....
The morning smoothie,  "The Naked Smoothie", is one I have made several times and am very familiar with so I enjoyed that. Juice #1, "True Blood Elixir" was actually my first experience with beets in a juice and I was a bit wary of it,  but the other flavors complemented it nicely and it was pretty tasty. Lunch was another salad, very similar to yesterday's with a slight modification in the fruit variety. Still, it was equally as delicious as the first and I scarfed the entire thing. Juice #2 "Sunshine in a Glass" was just that. Citrus-y deliciousness. I remained satisfied until dinnertime when I started to prepare the "Veggie Party in a Bowl" as my last meal of the day. I have never been one to eat JUST vegetables. They have always been that really great supporting role to the rest of my meal, so tonight's dinner was different than anything I've ever had; thankfully it was in a good way! The combination of butternut squash (which I actually have never had before) with cauliflower, Brussels, and broccoli truly was a party. A delicious party for my taste buds!

I've already blended the smoothie and prepared our juices for tomorrow, so that way I have the bulk of the work done (and so I don't make so much noise, oops!) Jeff has been at school all day and won't be home until after I'm asleep tonight, so I'll get his thoughts on today's meals in the morning. I'm looking forward to the new recipes and will keep you updated on everything!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Blonde Vegan 5-Day Cleanse: Day 1


Today is the first day of The Blonde Vegan's 5-Day Cleanse program! (check it out here: ) The cleanse is entirely vegan and raw, consisting of one smoothie, two juices, a salad, and an entrĂ©e using only fruits and vegetables. This is actually the first cleanse I have ever done, so I'm excited to see what kind of results I will see by the end of it. I'm also super grateful that my carnivorous boyfriend will be participating on the cleanse with me! Just one more way he is showing his support for this lifestyle change :)
Yesterday I spent the majority of the day shopping at Whole Foods and Sprouts for all of the ingredients I needed. Thankfully, the cleanse comes with a shopping list which makes that task a whole lot easier. For the both of us I spent around $150, which is right in line with her numbers as well. (She said it would be around $70 per person) Then I washed and cut all of my fruits and veggies for the smoothie and juice and sealed them in a plastic bag so that this morning I could throw them in the blender and the juicer and save some time. I have an 8-5 job so I definitely needed to have these prepped and ready to take with me this morning for work!

Right now I'm on my second juice of the day, and I have nothing but good things to say so far.
My first smoothie today set the tone for the rest of the meals in my opinion: delicious! It contained strawberries, bananas, mint, and kale; the mint gave it an excellent flavor.
Next was the green juice. I typically have to choke down green juices (I think its the celery, yuck!), but the added ginger and lemon in this one really balanced the celery out and gave it a pleasant flavor. I won't say that I love it, but it was MUCH better than green juices I have encountered in the past.
Lunch was the most delicious salad I think I have ever had in my entire life. The mixture of greens, fruits, and nuts was so complementary, and I wish I had more of it!
My last juice today is really simple; just water, lemon juice and cayenne. I wasn't too sure how I would feel about it, but it is actually really refreshing and light.
Dinner tonight will be a raw vegetable soup. I am nervous for this as I have never eaten such a thing in my whole life, so it will be interesting to see how the boyfriend and I like it. He has enjoyed the juices and smoothies from today so far as well.

I will update tomorrow about how the rest of the night goes, but for right now I feel great! My energy has been consistent all day, and I haven't felt starved or unsatisfied at all. Tonight I plan to wash and cut all of the ingredients for my juices and smoothies for tomorrow so I can easily prepare them like I did for this morning's recipes.