Easy + Effective Health Hacks

I haven’t done a post about health and wellness since my Whole 30 experience, and a lot’s changed in my routine since then. I generally try to adhere to the 80-20 rule now, where 80 percent of my diet is clean, whole foods and 20 percent is more splurge-y items. Healthy weekday habits help get me to that 80 percent mark, and then I most definitely go balls to the wall on the weekends.

Speaking of the weekend: Last weekend was CMA Fest, a wonderful and exhausting four days of country music concerts, lots of walking, lots of beer, and little sleep. To kick off the weekend, my brother was in town for a night on his was to Bonnaroo, and I thought it would be a good idea to show him and his friend downtown Nashville (that place with a hundred honkytonks and live music and late nights where I also spent the following four days). So, when I said I “generally adhere to the 80-20 rule,” last week did not count whatsoever. I pretty much lived on Michelob Ultra for those several days, and I am feeling it now.

So, a good sit-down about health could not come at a better time, since I really, really need some of that in my life ASAP. Prior to Beer Fest 2017 — or, I mean CMA Fest — I had started incorporating several new wellness tricks into my weekly routine. Many of them come from blogger/everything goals extraordinaire Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential. (Do I mention her in every blog post? It feels like I mention her in every blog post. Again, because GOALS.)

Most of them are easy and only require a quick trip to the Internet wonderland that is Amazon. These hacks mostly revolve around food and diet habits, but I also strive to get a few weight-lifting workouts, yoga classes, and jogs in throughout the week to balance everything out. Here are my most recent favorites.

1. Put it in a smoothie. I recently bought a blender, and it has changed my entire (breakfast) world. Pretty much every day, I’ll throw a banana, a handful of frozen mango, a cup of spinach/kale OR a half avocado (something for greens), some coconut milk, a spoonful of peanut butter, a quarter cup of raw oats, chia seeds, and a scoop of collagen powder into my Ninja.

I used to make eggs and toast or Greek yogurt with fruit and granola every morning, but I love these smoothies now as an everyday thing because I can kick off the morning with just about everything I need– protein, complex carbs, fiber, good fats — and I can drink them on the go. You can put almost anything in there (I’ve seen people put charcoal powder in them for hangovers, among other supplements), and I love these travel glasses and these reusable straws from, you already know it, Amazon.

2. Speaking of collagen, this one from Vital Proteins has been a savior for my skin. I have had breakouts since I was in high school; they were horrific back then, and although they’ve tamed some since, they would still pop up on a weekly basis. Even though I care way less about what someone might think of a zit on my chin than I used to, it’s still annoying. But, I swear, since eating collagen every day, it has almost completely cleared up any acne and reduced some of my scarring. It also reduces joint pain; strengthens nails, hair, and teeth; boosts metabolism and muscle mass; is anti-aging; and improves liver and cardiovascular health. It’s magic. You can also mix it into your coffee or tea if you’re not a smoothie person, too.

3. Suck it up (literally) and drink your ACV. A shot of apple cider vinegar is worse than a shot of whiskey, and I will not take a shot of whiskey — EVER. ACV is absolutely revolting, but it’s so, so good for you that I’ve been forcing myself to down it almost every day. I’ve heard you can mix it with honey, water, and a little lemon juice, which I did the first time I tried it and still dry-heaved. So, now, I have to mix it with a pure, no-sugar-added fruit juice and some water to be able to stand it. There’s a good beet-strawberry juice from Trader Joe’s that I’ve been loving as a mixer.

Apple cider vinegar, no matter my love-hate relationship with it, has so many health benefits: It helps with acid reflux, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss, clears skin, helps with stomach issues, boosts energy, helps control blood sugar, and way more. Tip: Even if you can stand it, don’t drink it plain because the acidity by itself is so strong that it’s bad for your teeth and throat.

4. Take your vitamins. Ever since I overdosed on biotin when I was a sophomore in college and woke up covered in giant, burning hives (good times, good times), I haven’t been able to find a women’s multivitamin with a low enough dose of biotin/B vitamins that doesn’t make me feel itchy. (Side note on that: taking three times the suggested amount on the bottle, in fact, does NOT make your hair, skin, and nails three times better, to my dismay. Instead, it can create an allergic reaction to the buildup of biotin in your body, leaving you at an urgent care getting a steroid so you can go to class not looking like a diseased freak the next day. Fun fact!)

I guess I’m extra sensitive to that vitamin since then, but I recently started taking Vitafusion gummies, which don’t make me itchy or hive-y but get me all the good stuff. Score. I also started taking a probiotic, which helps with gut health, and a joint supplement that I found at Trader Joe’s, which has gelatin in it to promote joint strength. As a former dancer in high school who hyperextended my hips and knees on a way-too-regular of a basis, I’ve noticed I already get hip and lower back pain. I don’t want it to worsen over the years, so a joint supplement is the way to go. (Plus, gelatin is also good for skin and hair, too, so double-win!)

Let me know if you already do any of these or have different, simple tips to incorporate in my week. I’m all about adding fast and effective tricks to my routine!

This post was not sponsored by Amazon, but I sure wish it was. Yo, Amazon, wanna work together?

Easy DIY Christmas Gift for Anyone & Everyone

*Note: If you’re my grandparents, mom, or siblings, you might want to skip this post to avoid ruining your Christmas presents. Merry and happy!*

I’m usually one to go ALL OUT for Christmas gifts. Like, break the bank, in-debt myself to Visa, and practically sell my soul to get the very BEST gifts for people… You know, in true Christmas spirit. Really, though, I genuinely love and get so much joy from getting personalized, interesting gifts for each of my family members and friends, and nothing makes me happier than watching someone I love open something they’re crazy about. However, as discussed in a post about BUDGETING a few weeks ago, I no longer have limitless funds (aka credit cards) to spend willy-nilly for the sake of holly and jolly.

So, this year, I had to get a little creative.

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Morning Water

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Health and wellness trends pretty much mean nothing to me. Plain old health and wellness, period, are super important in my world, but it’s trends themselves that I’m skeptical about. I’ve jumped on board to plenty of them in the past (juice cleansing, Bikram yoga, juice cleansing, carb cutting, and juice cleansing, to name a few), but I usually end up burnt out or frustrated or on the verge of insanity (is this normal?) from a lack of results.

Speaking of juice cleanses, if you’ve ever done one, you know what I mean by feeling frustration by the end. There is nothing more downright ANNOYING than depriving your body of solid (beautiful, delicious, decadent) food for three-plus days while drinking fruits and vegetables in the hopes of slimming down and detoxifying your body.

I always came out of a cleanse feeling extra-toxic, ironically, from the hangriness that had been stewing inside me for those few days. Plus, any weight I might have lost by starving myself from real nutrition always came back immediately, and then some…

Because obviously you need to treat yourself with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for making it through a juice cleanse.

 

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From Vegetarian to… Non-vegetarian: An Entirely Too-Long Post to Answer Your Questions

The question I got for six years: “Why are you a vegetarian?” The new question I’m getting: “So why do you eat meat…now?” 

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Until a couple weekends ago, I’d been a vegetarian for nearly seven years. SEVEN. Actually, I was technically a pescatarian for the majority of the time (which means I still ate seafood but no land or air animals). Occasionally I’d feel pangs of guilt toward sea creatures, though, and would stop eating them, too, but that never lasted long. (I really love sushi.)

Most people didn’t care about my lack of meat-eating — except for friends and family in the Midwest who loved to give me a hard time about it. My paternal grandparents made their living off a pig and livestock farm, for crying out loud! So I was basically an alien to everyone up there.

No one else seemed to mind, though, even my Texan, hunting-loving boyfriend. So when I came to the decision to give up vegetarianism about two weeks ago, I made the choice myself, without outside influence. And — this might seem silly — it was really hard.

I stopped eating meat the day after Thanksgiving when I was a junior in high school after a conversation with my brother’s then-girlfriend about her refraining from eating meat products. She told me it was weirdly easy for her to give up, which made me think, Maybe I can do that. I’ve always been a crazy animal lover (can you tell?), and didn’t eat meat too often to begin with, except for occasional burgers or bacon or chicken. I figured it was okay to not be eating most of those foods, anyway, so I quit meat cold turkey.

Except for the first month — when I’d have days I REALLY wanted an In N’ Out burger — it was mostly easy for me to stop eating meat. Sure, certain things would smell good, but never good enough for me to need to try them.

I’ve also always had issues with self control around food, too, so I think this was a way for me to taper certain cravings in a healthy way. Instead of ordering the cheeseburger and fries at a restaurant, I had to get the vegetable dish. It was a dietary restriction that didn’t feel too much like a restriction. After all, I could still have ice cream or cheese or bread — you know, all the important nourishments. (We won’t go there with the one time I tried veganism, which ended tragically quickly after two days of torture.)

For once, I had to choose animal-friendly options and consider what I was putting in my body more than I ever did before. Did I have enough protein today? Is this going to keep me full long enough? After a while, I had a routine down, and it was fine. Great, even. It worked well for my life for nearly a decade, but like many routines, it began to get boring.

My boyfriend will tell you I’ve been boycotting any kind of baked, sautéed, or pan-cooked fish for a couple months now. (I think it’s annoyed him since he only had so much to work with when making dinner with me — and I chopped out most of our options by refusing fish.) I’m honestly just tired of it! I still like seafood, but for easy, nutritious weeknight meals, I was running out of ammo. You can only eat baked salmon so many times.

And so, slowly, a few months ago, the idea of eating meat again crept up on me. At 24 years old, I feel more secure in my health habits than I did at 17. I no longer feel like food controls me like it did when I became vegetarian.

And, like everyone, my palette has changed. Things like a chicken salad, which I used to feel indifferent about not eating, now looks freaking amazing. Don’t even get me started with the smell of bacon. (Things other than meat have become alluring in the past few months or year, as well, like olives… Just so we’re clear I haven’t become this ravenous, meat-craving freak or anything.)

But even though my food attitude has improved, and my palette is different, there was still the whole guilt thing to approach. When I told John I started considering eating meat again, he got so excited and asked if he could make my first meaty meal in celebration. That made my stomach turn. I know he was just being sweet: He loves to cook, and I’m sure he’s dreamt about a day when I might eat meat again. But for me, I didn’t want to celebrate my failure of saving animals! (I understand that one person being a vegetarian does little to save animals or negate cruel slaughterhouses, but still, guilt is guilt, and I had it big time.)

I’m still wrestling with that part of it, but for now, I plan on eating grass-fed, ethically-raised, pasture-raised, organic, hormone-free (you get it) meat. At least as much as I can help it. I don’t see myself eating meat at many restaurants, either, unless I know it’s a place that really cares about the quality of its fare. (Side note: if anyone knows the best grocer to get the most ethical and pure meat, please let me know! I’ve only hit up Whole Foods so far.)

There you have it: my weird, entirely too-long story about going from a longtime veggie to a full-blown carnivore, with standards. I’ve had a lot of questions about both choices — the choice to become a vegetarian way back when, and now, the choice to not be one — but if there’s anything I didn’t address, please reach out! I’m happy to answer and open a discussion in the comments below (or email me at audrey@frecklesandfigs.com).