Tuesday, October 26, 2010

digestion and your complexion; why pooping is good for your face!

As you may have read in a previous post, puppy poop makes me happy. What you may NOT know is that I have equally warm and fuzzy feelings about people poop. SERIOUSLY! We don't talk about it, but pooping is actually a really important part of our day. Our poop can show important indicators of when our health is failing, and pooping is our bodies BEST method of eliminating nasty toxins from our system. The health implications of a malfunctioning digestive system are numerous and epic; if you ever want to read a book that will blow your mind and crack you up, check out "What's your poo telling you?" by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth MD.

Although there are a myriad of health issues I could talk about as they relate to digestion, today I want to talk about the links/similarities between healthy pooping and the clarity of your skin! While your face and butt are, admittedly, located on opposite ends of your body, we (as holistic and health savvy people) know that EVERYTHING in our body is connected. All of our systems interact with one another in a fluid, overlapping, wonderful, beautiful process of living! If one of our internal functions is on the fritz, the rest of our body reacts; usually in an attempt to repair and rebuild the failing system, and compensate for it while it's not working. Sometimes we don't even REALIZE when we're out of whack; things can be wrong for YEARS before we get those valuable physical signs that something is wrong. By the time we understand the damage we've done to our bodies, it may be necessary to take drastic measures to remedy the situation. Which brings me to why poo problems and skin problems are simply awesome!

Our skin is our largest organ; what's fabulous about our skin is that it's also the only organ we can see! (unless we look in a medical book or watch a discovery channel special or something...) Often, what's going on inside our body is reflected on the outside. Although some people are wonderfully blessed with beautiful skin that doesn't break out no matter what they do, their ailments will most likely be expressed in other ways physically. However, the vast majority of people who are exposed to stress (whether it's emotional stress, physical stress, or mental stress) will end up showing it in their skin. In my (unprofessional) opinion, it's not possible to have broken out skin and have a truly healthy system. One or two breakouts every once in a while are understandable, but if we have serious, ongoing skin issues, it's a good indication that something isn't right inside our bodies.

I'm not speaking from inexperience; for years and years I suffered from serious skin problems, and it was really tough to deal with. I remember wishing that I could just hide in my room so no one would look at me. I was so embarrassed to meet new people because I thought they would think I was dirty or gross. I often went running at night so that when my makeup came off from sweating people wouldn't be able to see my face in the dark! I've been on so many medications, put so many lotions and creams on my face, bought so many different types of makeup, washed my face over and over again...and most of it made my skin worse! Looking back on all those years, I WISH the dermatologists and doctors had the knowledge and good conscience to look into what the CAUSES of my skin issues were, rather than treating the symptoms. After doing my own (extensive!) research I've been able to clear up my skin problems naturally, through wonderful, fun, calming, and rejuvenating diet and lifestyle changes, and it (sometimes!) makes me grateful that I did have those external signs telling me that I needed to take charge of my health and well-being.

What does pooping have to do with skin clarity? LOTS! Of course, to be honest, I'm not talking ONLY about pooping, but rather digestive health in general. I know, I know you thought it was just about pooping from the title. It just sounds cooler when I get to use the word "poop" over and over again :P So...both digestion and skin are great indicators that something is wonky with your body. If you're experiencing stomach issues (acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, gas, or just feeling like you need a nap after most meals) AND your skin is red, irritated, broken out, or is yellow-y or grayish in color, it DEFINITELY means your body is having troubles eliminating all the toxins from your system. If your body isn't properly getting rid of all the garbage in your body through sweat or pooping, all that junk ends up STAYING in your body, circulating in around in your blood stream, muffing all your internal processes up. Gross.

There are a bajillion reasons our bodies can have problems eliminating toxins. One of the biggest culprits is dehydration. If we're not hydrated NOTHING works like it should; digestion, sweating, kidney function, joint lubrication, and brain function are all aided when we get enough water! If our system isn't properly hydrated, our skin (which is constantly eliminating toxins through our pores) won't be able to properly excrete all the bad stuff that accumulates in our bodies; it get trapped in our pores because the water didn't lubricate it's pathway and viola! Hellooo breakout! Water is our best friend. Gotta love that water.

My FAVORITE way to clear up my skin, help digestion, and make me a happier person in general is to eat lots of scrumptious fruits and veggies in the place of processed foods! Fruits and veggies are water-rich (and we know all about the importance of water) and they have antioxidants, which help repair our damaged cells and reduce inflammation caused by everyday stress! Antioxidants are like our bodies tiny little security guards (I like to imagine that they look like Chuck Norris), fighting back disease and aging and inflammation, and they totally rock!

On the other hand, the WORST thing we can do for our skin and digestive system is eat lots of processed, icky, sad-face food. Boo for junk food! Junk food has lots of chemicals and foreign substances in it that our body doesn't recognize; it creates free radicals (the arch-enemies of our Chuck Norris antioxidants) which promotes a lot of stress and inflammation in our systems. While our little antioxidant heroes do their best to fight off and neutralize free radicals, they can't effectively undo the damage if we overwhelm our systems with too much refined sugar, processed food, and fried food. Additionally, our body works overtime to reduce the harmful effects of this nasty food, and other processes, such as digestion and skin regeneration, take a backseat to damage control. There are many people high on the medical food chain (such as Dean Ornish and T. Colin Campbell) that have tons of studies showing that eating junk food ages your body faster than eating antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and veggies.

In summary: a healthy digestive system is a good indicator of overall health. The clarity of your skin is also a great indicator of whether everything internally is going well or not. If you find yourself suffering in either of these ares, don't just try to treat the symptoms! Look for an underlying issue; are your hormones out of whack, are you eating food that's causing inflammation in your body, are you stressing out? Seeking a holistic solution to these problems is is a much healthier (and permanent!) avenue to healing yourself, rather than relying on pills or topical solutions. When we starting treating ourselves right and being KIND to our bodies instead of fighting against them, we begin to experience increased quality of life, greater health, and (yay!) more happiness!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

RAWbstacles; things to keep in mind when considering a raw foods diet

When I first heard about raw foodism, I was intrigued. I started my raw inquisition shortly after becoming vegan; I read about a vegan bodybuilder who subsisted on nothing but fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I hadn't realized such a lifestyle was possible, especially for an athlete. I googled raw foodism and was inundated by countless accounts of people reversing disease, increasing energy, losing weight, curing serious digestive ailments, and essentially looking RAWmazing. From my totally non-expert analysis, the basic theory supporting a raw foods diet is that when you eat food in it's most natural state, our bodies are better able to take on and digest those nutrients. Not only are the raw foodies adamant about eating unprocessed food, but they are proponents of eating uncooked foods. Interestingly, raw food CAN be heated, just not above a certain temperature; either 115F or 105F depending on who you talk to. The hypothesis is that once a food is exposed to too much heat, the nutrients and digestive enzymes are destroyed and we're depriving ourselves of all the nutritional awesomeness we want and DEFINITELY deserve. Basically, the raw foods lifestyle sounded RAWsome.

However, there are many things to be aware of if you're considering experimenting with a raw foods lifestyle, and I found out many of these things through extensive trial and error and research over the past few months. When you're unprepared, navigating your way through a lifestyle of raw foods can be a figurative RAWbstacle course. Because I don't cook very often (Aaron is the AMAZING cook of the household, I steal bites of whatever food he creates mwahahah) becoming a raw foodist sounded ridiculously easy. All I had to do was not heat my food! Right? Wrong. I was so. Very. Wrong.

COLD food does not equal raw food. That fact alone sent me into a tailspin. Clearly, I'm no great chef, but it really blew my mind when I realized how many COLD things I could eat that I THOUGHT were raw, but weren't! Example: My typical breakfast used to be steel cut oats, frozen blueberries, unsweetened cocoa powder (don't judge! Who doesn't want chocolate for breakfast!) and a glass of brown rice protein powder (blerg). If I was feeling a bit saucy I might even add flaxseed meal or almonds. Anyway, my RAWsumption was that since I had to COOK my oats in the morning to get my bowl of creamy chocolately blueberry goodness, it meant that when I bought my oats they were raw! So in order to follow the sacred raw commandments, I soaked my oats overnight to get them mooshy and ate them uncooked like all the other raw foodies do. Or so I thought. Apparently when oats are first harvested, they're kind of spherical or cylindrical, and then they're flattened out by machines until they look like what we buy in the store. Get this: When oats are pressed, they're simultaneously steamed so they're more pliable and can be squashed by the massive roller dealy-bob. Because they're steamed, they're not raw. Oats=cooked=evil. After 2 years of eating oats every morning (literally) for breakfast, I quit cold turkey. Lord help me, the first few days were hard. I went through some serious oat withdrawals.

Clearly, my oat misinformation was just a single example of the many foods that aren't raw that I thought were. Obvious foods that aren't raw include bread, soup, anything processed, meat, dairy (unless you have it special ordered), beans, pasta, tofu, and protein powder. Less obvious foods that aren't raw: coconut oil (unless it's cold pressed and specially ordered), olive oil, dried fruit (unless it specifically says raw), a lot of the more common spices, any kind of sweetener, and yes....my beloved unsweetened cocoa powder. We'd been through a lot, me and my decadent chocolate love. My Hershey's cocoa powder and I had been through a lot together; it carried me through numerous cravings, low-energy days, emotional traumas, and "girly" moments. I gave it up for the cause...but it wasn't pretty. It's possible to buy raw versions of these "non-raw" products online or from specialty stores, but it can get expensive, and for me was ultimately not worth it. I just gave them up and made substitutes.

One of the challenges to eating raw is the inevitable integration of "exotic" products into your diet. Raw cacao nibs. Raw energy bars. Raw coconut oil. Lots of nuts. Lots and lots of dates. Food processors. Dehydrators. Juicers. Depending on how much "uncooking" you want to do as a raw foodist, it can get intense. I read the new raw gourmet movement. There are a surprising amount of world-renowned raw chefs; and since that's their passion I can understand them shelling out money on equipment, but personally, I can't foot the bill. I have a blender. And my mom mercifully got me a food processor for my birthday. But that's it. The full spectrum of raw foods won't make it into my kitchen because I'm too cheap.

What surprised me more than anything was the wide range in beliefs that come from raw foodism. When I first looked into it, I guess I just assumed raw was raw was raw. Much the same way I assume people think vegans eat like all other vegans. Which, of course, is like assuming all omnivores eat the same. I shouldn't have been so naive, but I guess I thought that raw foodism would be the end of my never ending quest to find the "right" way to eat. I wanted the absolute and final word on what was THE healthiest way to eat. I drove myself crazy with research.. and never found it. In fact, the more I looked into it, the more confused I became. The range of raw food theories is phenomenally wide: some raw foodists theorize you should eat 80 percent carbs, 10 percent fat, and 10 percent protein. Basically your entire day revolves around eating serious amounts of raw fruits and veggies. Some gourmet foodies, like Ani Phyo, advocate eating hearty portions of fat because vegetable fats in coconut oil, avocados, and nuts are the "good" fats. She states that these fats are nourishing for your body and that you won't gain weight on them. Some raw foodists believe in subsisting almost entirely on smoothies. Some advocate "sprouting" your food because it's "living" and more nutritionally complete. Some people eat ONLY fruit! And no one can prove what the "best" way to eat is.

For now, I'm surrendering. I give. I can't find the answer. Maybe there isn't one. If there is, I don't know if (for me) it lies in raw food. Maybe I'm not doing it the "right" way, but I know that the more raw food I eat, the colder my body temperature tends to get, and it's been bothering me for the past few days. I'm afraid of the implications of eating a raw food diet in Colorado in the winter, and I'm slowly backing away from the raw foodism bandwagon. Truly, I might be going about everything wrong, and maybe that's why I'm feeling slightly lightheaded and cold, but it's enough to scare me into eating some cooked food tonight and seeing how I feel. It's not something I've totally discounted, but I'm not sure if it's perfect for me at this point in my life.

Of course, I'm not like eagerly sprinting towards vegan pizza, pastries, and cookies right now (not that I ever liked those things very much anyway!) it just means I'm taking a step back from my previous commitment to a month of eating only raw foods. I'm still fascinated by many things the raw foods movement suggests. I'll definitely continue to stay away from processed food as much as possible. Also, I've started to look forward to my amazing green smoothies in the morning, and have been drinking them for lunch and dinner whenever I crave them! I don't go bat-crazy over cocoa powder any more, and I feel like that's a great thing! Overall, I'm returning to anywhere between 75 and 90 percent raw, mostly because of my deep love for fresh fruits and vegetables. If I feel inclined to eat more raw, I'll go for it, but I'm sure I won't be buying a dehydrator any time soon. I won't be making raw brownies. I'll just continue along the nutritional path that feels right, and hope to grow through my experiences.

Albert Einstein once said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

Monday, October 18, 2010

From failure to inspiration; how I plan to not suck at running marathons

Last weekend= massive hole of suck and desperation. I never want to feel that way again. And while I can't guarantee that I'll NEVER get that nervous for the rest of eternity, I'd like to reduce the overall anxiety level in my pre-race running world. Especially since I'm trying to conquer this 26.2 mile race I've heard so many great things about lately. This year the available spots for the Boston Marathon filled up faster than ever before; background info about the infamous race flooded my computer screen while I checked my usual slew of running websites. Naturally, this being the day after my half-marathon epic fail, the increased traffic about the original race (at least in the US) forced me to contemplate my own ambitions of glory and distance victory.

As I considered my optimistic desire to tackle long-distance racing in stellar fashion, I realized that it might take a little more planning than I'd anticipated. Fortunately, I'm a HUGE planner, and love coming up with this kind of stuff. I make plans for everything else in my life...but I've been running for so long, it never occurred to me to make plans for the running part of my life. I think my confidence in my abilities are really what did me in; I've been a consistent casual runner, but have I ever, really, honestly, truly been good with competition? NO! It's amazing what we learn about ourselves when we start to question beliefs we've always held to be true. SO here it is, my plan in all it's shining glory..

How I plan to not suck at running marathons:

1) Run Faster- To me, this is a given. Incredibly, I've managed to run for years and years without actually improving my times. Recently I've run farther, which is cool for building endurance. But have I gotten faster? Not so much. In fact, as I take on longer distances, I've begun to run slower. A lot slower. Which is fine when I'm trying to increase my distance... but it's considerably less fine when I carry that glacially slow pace into shorter runs. My plan is to attack my "speed deficiency" from several angles; work on form (I'm a heel striker, my stride turnover rate is seriously low, and I don't engage my core when I run. I'm reading a book on Chi Running and have a Chi Running Clinic coming up November 13th in Denver! Ahh so excited! Stay tuned for further raving about what I love about the Chi Running concept) Incorporate plyometrics and interval training into my shorter runs, and use the micoach to keep track of and stay on pace in my longer runs. Any other suggestions on how to get faster would be GREATLY appreciated...so far this is all I can think of.

2) Research running like I used to research nutrition and health- Most of the books I read about running aren't technical; they explore the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly impossible obstacles. I love that stuff. I can't get enough of books like "Born to Run", "50/50" with Dean Karnazes, and "Marathoning for Mortals." I'll skim books on the physiology of running, but I'll rarely, if ever, bring any of the exercises or training plans into practice. It's time for me to get serious about the training aspect of running, and start experimenting with technique and pace! :) Yay new obsession...

3) Enter races. Complete Races. Repeat.- Clearly, all the training in the world won't help me if I don't make it to the starting line. So I'm going to sign up for shorter races and plow through them, just to get in the habit of racing. I've heard great things about an upcoming Turkey Trot 10 miler and a sweet winter race called the Colder Boulder 5k. I've always celebrated holidays with a nice morning run, why not a morning race?

4) Own the half marathon- I think I've been taking the 13.1 mile race too lightly, like it's a casual stepping stone to the "real" race. I'm realizing now what a huge mistake I made by not taking the half-marathon training seriously enough. Being able to Run 13.1 miles at a decent clip is no joke. I think I need to respect the distance, get fast, and kick some serious half-marathon booty. After which, I'll try take that training dedication and knowledge and apply it to training for my first full marathon *hopefully* at a decent pace. I'm at the point right now where I don't just want to FINISH a marathon...I want to do feel proud of my performance! I'm tired of being slow. I don't WANT to be slow any more. I want to be a superfast MARATHONER! Woohoo :)

5) (Looking to the future) Qualify for Boston. Move on to running fame and glory. Rule the world. Be eternally grateful for the embarrassing "Rock and Roll Denver 13.1 Incident of 2010" and the fact that it motivated me to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hating myself right now.

Projectile vomit. Massive amounts of projectile vomit. That pretty much sums up my Saturday. Remember yesterday when I wrote about how I'd woken up nervous for the race, but then worked I it all out with myself and was fine? Around 2pm that stopped being true. I felt more nervous, scared, and nauseous than I have for any other race. I felt so anxious..it's like there was a brick in my stomach. Several hours later, I felt like I'd regurgitated a brick. By 5pm I'd decided I was too sick and tired and defeated to run the next day. So I didn't.

And I hate myself for it right now. I can't believe I bailed. I don't get any take-backs, and I feel like that was a really stupid mistake for me to make. Clearly, I need a new strategy for handling pre-race nerves. That's the worst it's ever been.

After realizing my massive error in judgment, my initial instinct was to google the dates for the next half-marathon available and run it (even if I had to fly out of state to do it). Obviously, that plan wasn't realistic, and all dreams of redeeming myself quickly fell through. At this point, the most mature thing I can do is accept responsibility for my screw up and move on. Additionally, I'm going to figure out WHY I was so much more nervous for this race than the others. I'm not particularly excited about doing a bunch of soul-searching to find the answer; stuff tends to get messy when you go digging around your head for cosmic truths like that. BUT I'll do my best to figure it out, and let you know if I uncover something brilliant.

In the meantime, I plan to console myself with all the deliciousosity and yummyness that food has to offer. Only I suspect I'll be using a fairly unconventional method of comforting myself through food. Since I have a little over a month before I officially start marathon training, I feel like I can afford to play around with my diet a little bit and not suffer any serious performance/energy consequences.

As you probably know I'm a vegan... but what you might NOT know is that for the past few months I've been slowly transitioning to a more and more raw foods based diet. A raw diet basically consists of eating fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and other unprocessed foods that haven't been heated above 115F. Supposedly, 115F is the magical number where the digestive enzymes and the other nutritional goodness in food starts to get destroyed. The general theory is: The more raw food you eat, the healthier you'll be.

I MAY have previously mentioned my intense never-ending quest for optimal health, and I may have also mentioned that I promised to quit my abundant internet research on foods and practices to help me achieve it. And I have! I will continue to do so! (continue to quit...is that a grammatically correct phrase?) There's this wealth of knowledge already in my head that I'm dying to try out. Maybe I'm just rationalizing because I need to have a definitive goal before I start training for another race. Maybe I'm trying to console myself after a crappy couple of days. Either way, I've come up with a plan, and I'm going to go through it.

THE PLAN: (dun dun dun...)
Attempt to maintain a completely raw food diet over the next month and see if I get all the amazing health benefits that have been promised as per the raw food experts (potential benefits include but are not limited to: clear glowing skin, more energy, weight loss *not really an issue*, improved digestion and improved overall health.) I doubt I could ever eat an entirely raw diet long term, but I'm interested in knowing if the health claims are true. Since I don't know any raw foodies firsthand, I'll just have to be my own personal guinea pig and see what happens.

There are a bajillion raw food websites out there, but this one gives the best brief synopsis if you're interested in learning more.


Have a great day! I know I'm not, lol :p Hopefully you'll hear tales of my amazing energy and happiness within the next few days, what with my dry-brushing (see previous post) and raw food diet, with no scary race to make me sic for months and months :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rock and Roll Denver tomorrow!

Tomorrow I run the Rock and Roll Denver half-marathon. I haven't written about it much, mostly because it interferes with my infamous denial tactic (see my Lazy Person's Guide to Starting and Maintaining an Exercise Program post). Going to the race expo yesterday to pick up my packet actually got me really excited for the run! Booths for all the races in the Rock and Roll marathon series lined the walls, and it took some serious willpower not to sign up for a few right then and there. Aaron and I found some sweet minimalist shoes; Vibram 5 Fingers for him and a pair for me that I'm sure I'll rave about later. The expo almost felt like a party; the music was pumping, everyone was laughing and having a great time, and I wasn't nervous at all. Or rather, I didn't REALIZE I was nervous until last night.

All night I was haunted by nightmares illuminating my imminent failure; visions of collapsing at the 2 mile mark, dreams of accidentally lining up with those running the Rock and Roll 100 miler (note: this race doesn't actually exist, it's just a figment of my wildly paranoid imagination.) I envisioned myself getting horrifically lost on the course, while "helpful" people along the sidelines offered instructions in foreign languages that ultimately led to me running in circles. This morning I woke up gasping for air, my heart pounding like a jackhammer. "What if I can't do it?" I whispered into the darkness. That's when I started to get mad at myself.

CAN'T is the most frustrating word in the English language. It's such a defeating statement. I hate when people tell me they CAN'T do something; they CAN'T seem to get into shape, they CAN'T relax, they CAN'T quit drinking. CAN'T is just a fancy way of saying, "I don't want to put in the time and effort to do (whatever it is they want to do)." CAN'T also sneakily hides it's meaning in phrases (I call them excuses) that don't actually use the word, but the meaning remains the same. How many times have we heard (or said, or thought), "I want to work out, but I just don't have the time." Or, "I want to stop doing (whatever addictive behavior) but (insert phrase blaming something or someone aside from ourselves here.)" When we use those expressions, we ultimately say, "I don't want to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to a higher level because it's scary; I'd rather stay in my secure/miserable box rather than make the move towards change and improvement."

Goals can be tough to reach. But we absolutely CAN do it. And if we think we CAN'T do something, maybe we don't WANT it enough yet. I once read that people put off making positive changes in their lives until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain and discomfort of allowing ourselves to grow. So this morning, when I asked myself, "What if I can't do it?" I was really wondering, "What if I don't want to experience the discomfort and nervousness that comes along with race day?"

Admittedly, there are challenges that come along with a big event like a Rock and Roll Marathon. Runners have to be at the starting line at 6:55, which means I have to leave my house around 6, which means I want to wake up around 4:30 to make sure I get in a good breakfast, drink lots of water, employ bodily functions to make sure I'm rid of any excess food and water that may decide to make an appearance mid-race. Also, it's supposed to be cold on Sunday (48F) so that's a major discomfort for someone like me who freezes until it's 80F and sunny. There's the stress of finding a parking space, figuring out where to line up, and making one last trip to the port-a-potty for last minute emergencies (this seems to be a key issue with long distance races. Makes me want to start running 5ks instead..) And all this comes BEFORE the gun goes off.

After that, I have to somehow figure out how to get through the race relatively intact. My main goals tomorrow are to a) not puke on the course b) not die c) not get injured d) not curse in front of little children who might be in the vicinity.

Why would anyone ever want to compete, right? Why don't I just scrap the race, put in a movie, baby myself with junk food, and call it a day?

Because in my heart I know tomorrow is going to be AWESOME! It'll be my third half-marathon, and no matter how nervous I felt before my first two, I was so grateful and proud when I made it to the finish line. I don't train with competition in mind, but I'm always amazed at what I learn and feel during a race. When I attempt to describe why I keep training for events even though it scares the bajeezus out of me, I can't find the words. I know I love it. I know it makes me happy. Until I figure out a better way to express those feelings, I'll have to postpone a definitive explanation.

At the very least, I know I'll have something interesting to write about after tomorrow :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The most pain-free, innocuous detox you've ever done in your life

Yesterday I wrote this incredibly emotional post, describing some of the more difficult times in my life. I wanted to give you a little background information on me, some of my past experiences, and how it led me to be who and where I am today. Of course, by the end of the post, I was so wrapped up in what I'd been writing, I felt really emotional and bummed out! Maybe I'm not ready to share those things with the world yet! I woke up this morning in mini-funk, mulling over things beyond my control. I hated that my well-meaning blog led to a) my NOT posting and b) making me feel bad about things beyond my control. I needed a mind detox! So I've been deep breathing and counting my blessings, drinking tea and shamelessly browsing zenhabits.net and crazysexylife.com to give me some perspective on life. I also have a hot date tonight with my favorite Rodney Yee yoga dvd, and I feel much better just anticipating our upcoming relax sesh. Honestly, I'm pretty rusty at the whole zen/calm/meditation thing, and don't feel like I have any expert wisdom on mind-detoxing that I can dispense.

I DO however, have some pretty awesome tips on how to rid yourself of those nasty toxins that accumulate AFTER stressful times. There are lots of things that can cause a build-up of toxins in our system, and stress is one of the main causes. We also accumulate toxins when we experience physical stress by eating overly-processed, sugary and fatty foods. Also, if we eat too MUCH food (even healthy food) our digestive system can't handle it, and this results in bodily stress. If we have too much caffeine in our system, if we don't drink enough water, if we lead a sedentary lifestyle, and when we don't get enough sleep, we are contributing to the physical stress and buildup of toxic yukkies in our body. Additionally, there are even MORE catalysts in our daily routine that stress us out and leave our systems overwhelmed! Our bodies are fabulously, amazingly designed to get rid of all these contaminants, but when we put too much strain our cleansing system through improper nutrition or an unhealthy lifestyle, it can't handle all the buildup that's accumulated!

When our bodies are overworked they can't properly regulate our systems and we end up feeling lethargic, cranky, headache-y, and crave-y. We tend to gain weight, have dark circles under our eyes, and get blemishes and blotches on our skin. All of these things are signs of stress and incomplete elimination of all that gross gunk hanging out in our systems! Nasty. The majority of the time, if we eat right and maintain a healthy lifestyle while keeping our anxiety in check, we can demolish those negative symptoms of stress and toxicity. But there are certain times we allow life to overwhelm us, or we do things that aren't great for us, and it's time for a detox.

I'm not talking about one of those poop-your-brains out detoxes or an extreme liquid "elimination" diet! Maybe I'll change my perspective someday, but to me those sound super extreme, and downright scary. Now that I've kept you in suspense for the past three paragraphs, I'll tell you about my FAVORITE bestest most awesomest detox method in the world: Dry Brushing!

Dry brushing is a great way to stimulate our lymphatic system, which is one of our bodies natural systems of junk elimination. You know how people get massages to encourage circulation and remove all the crap building up in their system? Dry brushing is essentially the same thing, only cheaper! Obviously, it's slightly less fun...massages are an indulgent special occasion treat, while dry-brushing is perfect for daily relaxation and wellness :) Dry brushing also claims to: remove cellulite, cleanse the lymphatic system, remove dead skin layers, strengthen the immune system, stimulate the hormone and oil-producing glands, tighten the skin which prevents premature aging,tone muscle, stimulate circulation, improve the function of the nervous system, and help digestion. I just started dry-brushing recently, so I don't know if all of that is true, but I know it's fun, relaxing, and makes my skin super-smooth! I'll have to update you if the rest of the claims turn out to be true. If you want an in-depth explanation of what rocks about dry-brushing, or instructions on how to do it, this is where I found my info:

Happy Brushing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why puppy poop makes me a happier person

I have to be honest; my dogs have been TERRIBLE this week. Our beloved living room couch has significant new chew holes in it, important papers and receipts have been viciously shredded to pieces, and the overriding scent of the apartment can only be described as, "Eau de dog urine." As someone who loves order, this drives me batty. Before returning home from school I can safely assume that there WILL be puppy pee and poop on the floor, all furniture is fair game for fresh chew marks, and there's always the bonus probability of puppy puke if they've ingested anything particularly exciting in my absence.

Every morning it's like a game; Aaron and I try to locate and prevent all potential furball-related incidents. All cords and appliances are stashed away. Books are tactically placed out of the "puppy district." This morning we even removed the couch cushions and stashed them safely away from puppy teeth, claws, and excrement zones. Naturally, I came home to find the box-spring of the couch demolished, its stuffing spread across the hardwood floor like freshly fallen snow. Toby (the youngest of the mischievous duo) popped his little nose out enthusiastically and panted in satisfaction at his newly created fort. Nugget (my slightly older, significantly more spastic puppy) wagged his tail, jumping up and down at my arrival. "NO!" I scolded them, "This is Bad!" Tails wagged more rapidly. "Bad. Bad bad bad." Wagwagwag. I shook my head, half in admiration, half in disgust. They did a pretty good job at destroying the apartment with the few resources they were given. Well played, young pups.

As a general part of my personality, I have a hard time staying mad at anyone. This is particularly true with my puppies. Yes, they've been ungodly destructive lately, and yes they've each gotten Giardia 2-3 times since we've gotten them, costing several hundred dollars each time we've taken them to the vet (FYI it costs $25 to get and test a stool sample. Seriously now.) But, all things considered, they're one of the great joys in my life. They can be complete boneheads about some things (they magically forget how to "sit" unless I've got a treat in my hand, and their favorite times to bark are late at night, early in the morning, and when I'm trying to study) but there are some aspects of life I think they've got figured out. They teach me invaluable lessons on life, and I'll be forever grateful for them. Of course, they teach me patience, responsibility, unconditional love...but I don't want to sound too much like an ad for "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul" here. Today I realized the importance of puppy poop in my daily routine.

In addition to being somewhat of a clean freak and an exercise fanatic, I'm an avid studier. I wasn't always like this. My experience in the military molded me into what I like to call a "learned type-A" personality. This doesn't happen to everyone, but it certainly stuck with me. Anyway. These past few weeks I've had mid-terms in several of my classes. Additionally I've been planning and organizing things for my role as a mentor for Team in Training. Also, I'm determined to start blogging again, after some motivation from one of the inspirational figures in my life. Because I've got all these new activities on my plate, and because I'm still figuring out how to manage my time around them, I've been spending a lot of time at the computer, typing away like a madwoman. Inevitably, my puppies decide they need to pee, or poop, or sniff the grass every hour or so.

If I KNEW that they only wanted to sniff the grass, I might let them sit at the door for a while when I'm occupied with a project. But because they're still puppies and don't have great control of their bodily functions yet, I never know when that ticking time-bomb is set to go off and they're ready to release the infamous "stinky chocolate soft-serve" in the house. So I have to treat every situation like it's an emergency; clip on their leashes, rush them outside, let them sniff the grass, and wait for them to do their business. This process can take a while. Sniffing is kind of a big deal with Beagles. It's like the most fun thing they can do aside from destroying our furniture. So I stand outside with them while they smell every tree, try to eat the rocks, roll in the grass, and generally have an awesome time. I want to rush them along, but what can I do, really? Squeeze their bellies like a tube of toothpaste and stay out of the splash zone? All I can do is wait.

Which brings me to why I'm grateful to my little furry buddies. If I don't HAVE to take a break from studying, I won't. I'll just grind myself into a textbook induced oblivion, stopping when only when my brain begs me for mercy or ceases to function. When I'm standing outside, waiting for that puppy magic to happen, I remember to take the time to look up at the sky, admire the clouds, and sometimes investigate what the little guys find so interesting. I talk to them all the time, and I'm sure my neighbors think I'm crazy. They'll walk by while I'm asking important questions like, "What did you find guys? Is that a good bush to pee on? Looks good to me!" Nugget and Toby make me wonder at their endless enthusiasm for bugs, plants and interesting scents. I think we could all use a little more of that curiosity. My puppies remind me that life is seriously awesome, even the little things like tasty clumps of leaves and smelly dirt clods. They make me laugh without even trying, and I think that's the greatest gift I could ask for from these tiny little bundles of love.