A Kombuchanary Fail

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Let’s be real, kombucha is seriously awesome. Incase you’re unfamiliar with Kombucha it’s a fermented beverage of black tea, a special colony of bacteria and yeast, and some sort of sugar (could be from fruit, honey, cane sugar, or other various sources) that becomes carbonated and contains probiotics, enzymes, b-vitamins, vinegar, and tons of other good stuff. It’s great for your gut flora and it tastes amazing, it gives you energy and an immune boost, it detoxifies and aids digestion, it’s basically a super-beverage.

Every time I have had kombucha, I have absolutely loved it and experienced many benefits from it… except for one thing: it made my skin break out the next day, every single time I drink it without fail. I knew that this side effect was simply the detoxification process beginning and my body getting used to these new bacteria colonies in my gut, but even still my vanity stopped me from consuming any kombucha – I avoided it like the plague for almost three years!

Recently I decided to do a little experiment on myself and see how long this negative side effect would stick around if I drank a little bit of Kombucha every day. I am happy to report that the subtle blemishes subsided in only a couple of days and I am now able to drink Kombucha in peace!

The moral of the story? Trust the process of detoxification! It has to happen somehow, and the sooner you let it happen the sooner you’ll reap the benefits. Happy Kombuching, y’all!

 

 

 

 

Juice Cleanses: Worth the Hype?

Everyone has their two cents to put in about juice cleansing. Is it great for you? Is it horrible for you? Does it serve a real purpose? Is it totally redundant since your body is constantly detoxifying itself? Who knows! All I know is, I love it. In moderation of course, as with everything.

The longest juice cleanse I have done has been 4 days of nothing but juice, water and herbal tea, so nothing extreme. More frequently, however, I have done 3 days, 2 days and even just 1 day. I have tried all 3 of the popular Pressed Juicery cleanses and I have also tried BluePrints 3 day cleanse, as well as Georgia based Arden’s Garden’s 2 day cleanse, and I have also put together my own cleanses using the juices available at the supermarket. So I’m no expert, but I do know a thing or two about the popular juicing craze and I’m here to share my ~juicy~ philosophy (or philoSophie, if you will):

I want to start by laying it all out there, my feelings about juicing for me and for everyone else, as well as my reasons for juicing and my personal connection to it.

I’ll say it again: I love juicing. Short term juice fasts are great for me for so many reasons; they help cut cravings, they flush me out, they give my sensitive digestive system some time off, they pump me full of nutrients, they clear my head, they force me to regulate myself and listen to my body extremely vigilantly, they’re basically just a big reset button for me. I have learned that sometimes my body just needs to take a beat, and this is the method that works for me.

That being said, I’m not under the impression that juice cleansing serves some overarching, pivotal, medicinal purpose or that it is something that my body couldn’t go without. I would never pressure anyone to juice with me or claim any kind of superiority over someone who doesn’t like to juice. My recommendation when it comes to juicing is to listen to your own body, and respond to it. Who knows, you might be like me and feel refreshed and rejuvenated. You also might feel irritable and deprived, no shame in that, just remember it’s not a competition so there’s no shame in quitting! Sometimes it feels like my body is begging for a day of juice, so that’s what I give it. Other times, it feels like my body is begging for a beer and a basket of fries, so that’s what I give it! Long story short, if juicing isn’t your jam then forget it, who needs it if it sucks?

To give you a more in depth history of my emotional relationship with juicing, I have to give you some back ground info. This may come as a surprise, or maybe it won’t, but I used to struggle with an eating disorder. All I ever thought about was food; when I would eat next, what I would eat next, how I could avoid eating, or how I would punish myself if I did overeat. Needless to say, I would find myself in some crazy psychological funks surrounding food. I knew full well that I needed to provide my body with nutrients in order to live, but I also had the eating disorder devil on my shoulder telling me to forget about that and to do whatever it took to avoid ingesting anything. At this particular point in time, it was finals week at my University so I needed to study and just take my mind off of food. Having juiced in the past (before my ED had become serious) and knowing that it worked for me, I decided to do a 3 day cleanse during finals week for the soul purpose of taking my mind off of food. And guess what? It worked! It was the first time that I felt truly “reset” by cleansing, and from then on it was a method that I employed very frequently when my ED would become unbearably overwhelming. Right or wrong, juicing was a tool that I used to help pull myself out of my eating disorder. As a result, it’s something that I feel strong gratitude for and that I feel very lucky to have found.

Lately, I have enjoyed cleansing for just one day here and there (I would say once a month or so) to reset my palette and apatite when I notice myself having lots of cravings or when my body just doesn’t feel right. I like to think of it as my way of hitting the reset button for my innards. Since I work right near two Pressed Juicery locations, that’s basically my go-to for juice. When I do my one day resets I choose the most advanced set of juices (pictured), which consists of 5 green juices and 1 almond milk. If I have an active day, I’ll stop by and grab a 7th juice or almond milk to keep myself from feeling deprived. Contrary to what you might think, these juices almost always last me through the day as long as I pace myself – I like to make a juice schedule when I start my first juice – and keep me feeling full and relatively satiated. They’re also tasty, especially the almond milk, and they have the ingredients listed right on the front so you know exactly what you’re getting!

After I finish a cleanse even as short as one day, I experience a multitude of benefits: cravings significantly diminish, bloat decreases if not vanishes, I sleep soundly and I wake up with ease, I can think more clearly, I don’t feel tempted to overeat, my senses are heightened, and those are just the benefits I can think of off the top of my head! Sometimes the benefits might seem to last longer or to be more or less intense, but no matter what I always feel overwhelmingly refreshed and reenergized.

On a more serious note, there are many stigmas attached to juice cleansing that brand it as some torturous, depriving, quick-fix weight loss tactic. I hope this post will serve to show that if done correctly it can be much more than that, and that it could be something to consider trying if your body or mind feel clogged or foggy. For a first time cleanser, the Pressed Juicery and BluePrint both have awesome beginner options (you can even get them delivered right to your door) – and don’t feel like it’s the end of the world if you need to snack on a raw almond or two while you’re cleansing. Ultimately, any type of cleanse you do is for YOU, so don’t let anyone tell you what’s wrong for YOUR body. Feel it out, and have fun with it!

So my conclusion? Juice cleansing is worth the hype from where I stand! We all stand in different spots, however, and I would love to hear new perspectives on this topic. Whether it’s a green juice, a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, cheers to listening to your body and doing what’s right for YOU!

Low Sugar, Low Calorie Smoothie Bowl Hack

I think we can all agree that the beloved trend of beautiful smoothie bowls is here to stay. There’s nothing as refreshing as a nice cold smoothie bowl packed with nutritious fruits and veggies to put some pep in my step, not to mention all the fun you can have with toppings! The options are endless when it comes to these magical meals. From all textures and colors of the rainbow, eaten for any meal of the day, and modified for every different taste and diet, new and exciting smoothie bowls are popping up in the kitchens of first time chefs and gourmet food stylists alike.

Lately, I have been trying my hand at concocting some equally nutritious, delicious, and easy to look at smoothie bowls. Health nut that I am, I tend to be hyper aware of the nutritional value of my smoothie bowls, which brings me to their downfall. There is no question that smoothie bowls are chock full of the best foods for your body, but unfortunately too much of anything can be a bad thing. As a novice smoothie bowl creator trying to get the perfect color, consistency, and volume in a smoothie bowl can lead to packing in unnecessary amounts of banana, avocado, nut butters, sugary fruits, or whatever ingredient you use to beef up your bowl. This process has the potential to yield a highly deceptive final product containing tons of hidden calories, fats, and sugars. Luckily, mother nature has provided us with some nutritious and low calorie alternatives to give your bowl that extra oomph without negating the nutrition or taste of your beautiful bowl:

Drum roll please…….

Zucchini and Cauliflower! Before you dismiss these as the perfect fillers thinking that they will ruin the flavors of your smoothie bowl, let me assure you that you can’t taste either of them at all. Seriously, at all. Since neither of these vegetables have particularly loud flavors, they are ideal for bulking up your bowl without altering the flavors you work so hard to achieve. They both have different and wonderful qualities that can add the perfect body to your smoothie in a pinch, so I like to keep tons of chopped up frozen zucchini and cauliflower on hand at all times.

Frozen zucchini makes a perfect base for a light, fresh smoothie bowl that won’t weigh you down or absorb and mask other subtle flavors. Since they’re mostly just water, you can toss in basically unlimited amounts of zucchini to make a high volume, low calorie smoothie bowl. I particularly like to use them for green smoothie bowls, or bowls where I am already including avocado or other creamy ingredients so that the texture is well balanced. Cauliflower, on the other hand, is the perfect counterpart for zucchini in that it builds a smoothie bowl to a thicker consistency that will balance out overpowering flavors. For fruity smoothie bowls, cauliflower is my go-to base even over banana because of it’s low sugar content that allows me the freedom to include more berries or flavor building, characterizing fruit.

Considering the terrific qualities that both zucchini and cauliflower bring into the mix (literally), I rarely find it necessary to choose between the two. More often than not, my smoothie bowls will include varying proportions of  both of them! Having both of them on hand is extremely convenient because it gives me the freedom to throw in a couple extra frozen zucchini slices or cauliflower florets if I want to alter or thicken my smoothie just slightly. Part of beauty of these two awesomely healthy smoothie bases is their accessibility, they are available at basically any supermarket year round! We all know that the proof is in the pudding (or the smoothie in this case), so go ahead and play around with these two magical ingredients and have fun testing out different combinations and consistencies! Keep it creamy or keep it icy, but whatever you do, keep it simple and keep it WHOLE 🙂

Cauliflower Based Strawberry Smoothie Bowl

Cauliflower and Zucchini Based Pitaya and Berry Smoothie Bowl

Cauliflower and Zucchini Based Pitaya and Berry Smoothie Bowl

 

Yogi Diaries: A Spiritual Journey Beginning with Yamas & Niyamas

At Yoga Teacher Training, we recently spent a few hours learning about the yogic philosophy and specifically the 8 limbed yogic path. The philosophy of yoga is very different from the organized religion and beliefs that I have grown to identify with, and in some ways I find it more applicable to my every day life. Normally, I wouldn’t bring up the topic of religion or share my beliefs on this sort of platform, but I feel that some background information on my spiritual journey is necessary here (don’t worry I’ll be brief!).

Growing up, organized religion was always an important part of my life and the beliefs that I was raised on are still a primary aspect of my life that I cherish. What might be considered unique about the spiritual aspect of my childhood, however, was that I was taught to always have an open mind and I knew from the start that ultimately my spirituality was my own to cultivate on a path separate even from my immediate family. My journey with the Divine is just that: my journey with the Divine. While some people choose to follow certain philosophies in their entirety, devoting their whole life to that philosophy and following every single rule or pillar, I’m not at a point in my life where I feel ready to pick one spiritual path and accept it as the only truth or way of life. Maybe one day I will be, but for now I am excited to welcome new aspects of different spiritualities into my life by taking what works for me and cultivating my own spirituality, letting it all be mutually inclusive. At this point so early on in my life, I am enjoying learning about new and different ways of thinking, and opening up my mind to many uniquely beautiful spiritual paths and beliefs.

Learning about the 8 Limbed Yogic Path  has been a very spiritual experience for me, and has given me a new lens to view my every day as well as my big picture through. Right now, however, I want to make an effort to start at the beginning of the yogic path and foster my own spirit and soul as well as my outward outlook and behavior. Before I explain how I want to go about focusing on these vital parts of my spirit, I want to briefly go into my (still very elementary and evolving) understanding of the beginning of the 8 Limbed Yogic Path, Yamas and Niyamas:

Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs of the 8 limbed yogic path; they form the base of the 8 branches of the yogic tree or the bottom two rungs of the ladder if you choose to view it as such. You must foster your Yamas and Niyamas if you choose to continue along the path or up the ladder.

Yamas make up what could be referred to as your moral compass. They are a set of five broad principles that guide your outward behavior towards your fellow earthlings. Here are the five guidelines, or the five yamas:

  1. Ahisma: Freedom from harming and from violence of any kind. This includes your thoughts, words, actions, and even your diet.
  2. Satya: Truthfulness, but not at the expense of ahisma. Keeping your words, actions, and thoughts consistent with one another.
  3. Asteya: Non-Stealing. This includes material things, but more deeply consider respecting others’ time and energy. Balancing the give and take portion of your life.
  4. Brachmacharya: Moderation. Avoiding obsession and overindulgence of any kind throughout all aspects of life, including sexuality and dominance as well as moderation itself.
  5. Aparigraha: Non-Hoarding: Freedom from over attachment to things that you don’t need, namely possessions and material goods.

Niyamas are what make up a more inward facing set of pillars for how you treat your self and go about your life, they come from a  more personal and individual perspective. Like Yamas, Niyamas are made up of five broad guidelines:

  1. Saucha: Purity and cleanliness. Consider your physical environment, personal hygiene and diet, information and social media input, and the people you surround yourself with. Ridding yourself of all types of toxicity.
  2. Santosha: Innate happiness and contentment in the now. Fill your life with gratitude, and look inward for a source of happiness, appreciating how things are in the present.
  3. Tapas: Self Discipline. Freeing yourself from bad habits and behaviors, and putting effort into cultivating good ones.
  4. Svadhyaya: Self study and self-awareness. Be conscious of your actions in the moment as they are occurring, and take time to reflect on them later. Ideally, incorporate journaling into your every day habits and get to know yourself on a deep and reflective level.
  5. Isvara-Pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power or being. Devotion of actions and of yourself to something outside of yourself, creating a heightened sense of purpose.

So, there you have it. The beginning pillars of a yogic lifestyle and the most basic guidelines for how to conduct yourself, both inwardly and outwardly. No matter which religion you identify with, Yamas and Niyamas are worth opening your mind to and reflecting on. Most of us have room in our lives to benefit from incorporating some of these principles into our day-to-day life, or at least to be aware of these principles as we go about our daily activities and routines.

Moving forward, my goal is to focus weekly on one of the Yamas and one of the Niyamas, working my way down the respective lists. Rather than attempting a complete spiritual cleanse and trying to incorporate focus on all of them into my life at once, I am going to carefully focus on and enrich each one on its own, taking baby steps towards a larger goal of self-improvement.

This means that I will be beginning this week with a special focus on Ahisma (non violence) and Saucha (purity/cleanliness). Working on my Ahisma, I hope to improve my actions towards others and consider ways that I could be harming the people and beings around me without realizing it or meaning to. In terms of Saucha, I have started by putting extra effort into keeping a clean room and a clean self and trying to use fewer curse words. This week, I’ll be reading up more on Ahisma and Saucha and making efforts to incorporate them into my life on even deeper and all-encompassing levels. Stay tuned to hear about my progress and transformations and for my intentions in the weeks to come. For now, keep it compassionate and keep it clean 🙂