2016 Holiday Gift Guide for the Wellness Enthusiast in Your Life

JOW 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

  1. For Him: Beard Tonic Sampler by Herbivore Botanicals $22 - These highly nourishing, non-toxic oil based beard tonics from Seattle's own Herbivore Botanicals combine natural plant oils that promote a healthier looking beard while moisturizing the skin beneath. 

  2. Palo Santo Myst Bad Vibe Killer by Anima Mundi Herbals $18 - A potent anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, Palo Santo can help relieve sickness and expel undesirable microbes from your immediate space.

  3. Athleta Yoga Mat Tote $48 - This bag makes you look chic even when you're all sweaty after yoga.

  4. Suji Red Lip Whip & Lip Buff Duo $37 - I am OBSESSED with Seattle-based Kari Gran's Lip Whips and you will be too. This gorgeous, non-toxic, moisturizing red balm looks fab on everyone and can be applied to be sheer or bold depending on your mood. 

  5. Herbivore Botanicals Bath Salts Set $32 - This is a great gift for bath lovers. They smell divine and are non-toxic of course!

  6. Eco Travel Mat & Towel by Kriya Veda $58 - This ultra-lightweight travel mat fits into a tote, a fitness bag, or suitcase and doubles as a yoga towel. It's also washable, PVC free, Latex free, Rubber free, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and recyclable.

  7. HotLogic Mini $49.95 - This fully automatic personal portable electric oven perfectly heats or cooks your meal so you don't have to nuke all the nutrition out of your food or eat a cold salad every day for lunch. Fits a glass container up to 8.75″W x 6.75″L x 2.5″H.

  8. Liver Cleanse/ Daily Green Detoxifier by Anima Mundi Herbals $25 - This nutrient-dense, therapeutic green superfood supports your liver and gall bladder, helps jumpstart digestion, and contains tons of antioxidants known to promote healthy detox and organ function.

  9. Certified Reconditioned Next Generation Vitamix $349 - Don't let the word "reconditioned" deter you... these blenders are just as good as the standard ones but without as hefty a price tag, and they also come with a 5-year warranty if you're the nervous type. I got my first Vitamix last year and I can't believe how much time and effort I wasted on crappy blenders. And yes, it's OK to give your wife a blender if its this amazing!

6 Top Travel Tips for a Healthy Vacation

Tip #1: Plan and prepare. You wouldn’t go to the beach without making a list of essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, and a bathing suit, right? Get in the habit of planning and shopping for healthy snacks and food essentials before your trip too.

Tip #2: Pack healthy snacks. Flight delays. Traffic jams. Long lines at amusement parks. Travel is unpredictable and you don’t want to end up hungry without any healthy choices. That’s a sure-fire way to give into food temptations you might later regret. Pack a variety of healthy options. See the list of my favorites below. If you run out of snacks when traveling, look for a Starbucks in the airport terminal or on the road; you’ll usually find nuts or a protein pack with Justin’s nut butter or a hard-boiled egg and some fresh fruit or cut-up vegetables. These healthier snacks will give you the energy you need to enjoy without weighing you down!

Tip #3: Pick up fresh fruit and veggies when you arrive. Many people think because they are staying in a hotel that they can’t visit the local market. Not true! Many hotel rooms have mini-fridges, or you can keep a few snacks in the ice bucket! I love to have a banana or fresh blueberries on hand, as well as carrots and hummus – see my list below!

Tip #4: Stay hydrated. If you’re flying, bring a stainless or glass water bottle and once you’re through security, fill it up. The pressurized air on planes can dehydrate you quickly. Rule of thumb: drink half your weight in ounces of water every day – even more important when you’re in warm weather or traveling on planes.

Tip #5: Make good choices when dining out. Even when on a cruise, visiting a foodie town or staying at a resort, you can stave off food-related symptoms or weight gain by making savvy dining decisions:

  • Pass up the bread basket. If you want to have a healthier starter, ask for a fresh vegetable platter.
  • Order a side salad. It will give you fiber that will help you feel full and keep you regular, which can sometimes be challenging when traveling. Skip the creamy dressings and ask for apple cider or red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon on the side.
  • Ask for changes. Is the fish special fried? Ask for it grilled. Does it come with a side of potatoes? Ask for veggies. Is it covered it sauce? Ask them to use olive oil and lemon juice instead. Most restaurants these days are very accommodating to their guests’ health-related requests.

Tip #6: Walk it off. Or run. Or bike. Or hike. Or swim. Whatever you chose, it’s important to take care of your body by keeping it moving every day. If physical activity is not built into your day, try to book a hotel with a gym, and consider hitting it first thing in the morning, before your day is filled with other activities.

Take-and-Travel Healthy Food Ideas

Following is a list of some of my tried-and-true travel favorites. Some I pack no matter where I’m going or for how long – like protein bars, shakes, nuts and grass-fed organic beef jerky. Others I pack depending on where I’m going, how I’m getting there, what access I’ll have to fresh markets, and how long I’ll be gone. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to eat healthier and feel better.

• Individual chia seeds or flax packs. Traveling can disrupt your regularity. One of the best ways to “keep going” is to include healthy fiber in your daily meals. Stir flax or chia seeds into your smoothie, cooked oatmeal, soups or water.

• Amazing Grass Green Superfood. Superfoods powder on-the-go gives you great energy and a dose of greens. Just mix with water or add to a smoothie. If the “green powder” scares you, choose an appealing flavor like berry or orange and try it at home before you go. It might pleasantly surprise you!

• Fresh fruit that’s easy to eat on the road, such as apples, bananas, avocado, etc.

• Justin’s Almond Butter single packs. Delicious with a banana, an apple or spread on Flackers or Mary's Gone Crackers.

• Mary’s Gone Crackers, Sticks & Twigs and/or Flackers. These are my favorite gluten-free crackers.

• Q’ia Superfood Cereal. A mixture of buckwheat, chia seeds, hempseeds, almonds and cranberries. 

• Protein powder individual serving packets. I recommend Vegan Proteins+, Sunwarrior or your choice of a non-soy plant-based powder.

• Amazing Grass Protein Superfood All-In-One Nutrition Shakes in individual packets.

• Nut mixture. Combine your choices of walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and store in individual serving containers or bags.

• Bars, bars, bars! My recommendations include Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ Bars, Primal Kitchen Grass-Fed Collagen Bars, or InBars.

• Single serving hummus and raw baby carrots or apple slices

• Dry roasted Edamame or Chick Peas (Saffron Road brand)

• Primal Pacs organic grass-fed jerky

• Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee in single serve packets

Be sure to pack a shaker bottle to mix on-the-go protein drinks and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!

5 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Libido

It's hard to admit to yourself and even harder to talk about. But there it is: your sex drive has taken a dive and you don't know why. You're likely embarrassed, confused and upset. But don't be! Over the course of a lifetime, it happens to lots of us for lots of reasons and thankfully, there's a lot we can do about it.

Studies show that as many as 43% of women and 31% of men experience a drop in libido at some time in their life. Without a doubt, this has an impact on your overall physical and emotional health, as well as your relationship with your partner. Ironically, those same three issues are often the underlying factors in a low sex drive, which can be attributed to lifestyle and relationship problems, age-related hormonal changes, stress, physical disability, and certain medications. But there is help. Before venturing into unknown territory with a mass-marketed "quick fix," consider a variety of holistic approaches to help boost your libido.

Take Specialized Herbs. Several herbs have been studied for their positive impact on low sex drive, insufficient hormone levels, and performance problems, such as erectile dysfunction or inability to achieve orgasm. Herbs to consider are Panax Ginseng, Yohimbe, Maca Root, and Dong Quai. Each one works differently and some can interact with other medicines, so it's important to check with your doc or a pharmacist before adding any herbal remedy to your pharmaceuticals.

Get to the Point with Acupuncture. Shown to be a beneficial complementary therapy for sexual dysfunction, acupuncture can help boost libido by stimulating physiological systems in the body that are involved in sexual response.

Talk about Sex. Sometimes what's not going on in the bedroom has a lot to do with how you and your partner communicate. From the honeymoon period, to being together for decades, sexual needs can and do change. Have honest, open conversations and avoid be accusatory or defensive. If you find it too tough to navigate on your own, consider engaging the services of a sex therapist, who can guide you toward strategies that will lead to more fulfilling and intimate times together. And don't forget to make romance a priority in your life! This becomes even more important the longer you have been with your partner. After being together for years, or even decades, it's easy to take one another for granted and stop making those little gestures or planning date nights, but these little things make your partner feel desired, loved and appreciated.

Enjoy Forbidden Fruits. While there are few specific studies on the aphrodisiac effects of fruits, for centuries different cultures have touted the stimulating benefits of foods such as avocados, figs, pomegranate, dark chocolate, watermelon, and strawberries. The most likely effect of having these foods in your diet is that they provide vitamins and minerals necessary for peak performance of the whole body. Why not experiment with pomegranate wine and dark cacao nibs to get you in the mood?

Move that Body. Exercise improves circulation, creates sexy muscles, helps manage stress. and promotes positive body image. When you feel good physically and emotionally, you're more likely to be in the mood for love. Working out with your partner is also a good way to stimulate the sexual energy between you. 

Healthy lifestyle practices provide the best foundation for enhancing sexual prowess. When the body is unhealthy, it may not respond optimally to the use of holistic approaches, which are intended to work synergistically with your natural ebb and flow. So take care of your body with good nutrition and fitness and it will take good care of you. 

References:

  • Kotta, S., Ansari, S.H., & Ali, J., "Exploring Scientifically Proven Herbal Aphrodisiacs." Pharmacognosy Reviews (2013) 7:13, 1-10. Accessed on 10 June 2016: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731873/#sec1-4title
  • Meletis, C.D. "Nature's True Aphrodisiacs: Vital Health Factors For Men and Women." Alternative and Complementary Therapies.(July 2004) 6:4, 207-211. doi:10.1089/10762800050115176. Available from: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/10762800050115176?journalCode=act&
  • Murphy, L. L. & Lee, T. J.-F. "Ginseng, Sex Behavior, and Nitric Oxide." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2002) 962:372-377. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb04081.x Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb04081.x/abstract
  • Everyday Health. "Understanding Low Libido." Accessed on June 27, 2016. http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/low-libido.aspx
  • Cleveland Clinic. "How Integrative Medicine can help You Enhance Your Libido." Online Health Chat with Brenda Powell, MD, Integrative Medicine Physician, and Lead Acupuncturist Jamie Starkey, Lac. Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1351_integrative-medicine-can-help-you-enhance-your-libido-
  • Saw Palmetto: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/saw-palmetto/background/hrb-20059958
  • Bella, A.J. & Shamoul, R., "Traditional plant aphrodisiacs and male sexual dysfunction." Phytother Res. (2014) 6:28, 831-5. PMID: 25032254. Accessed on 10 June 2016: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25032254
  • Avey, T. "Why these 10 Foods are Edible Aphrodisiacs." PBS.org (2014). Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/10-edible-aphrodisiacs/
  • Bay, R. et al. "Effect of Combined Psycho-Physiological Stretching and Breathing Therapy on Sexual Satisfaction." BMC Urology (2013) 13:16. PMC. Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614470/
  • American Council on Exercise. "Studies Show Working Out can Improve Your Sex Life." Accessed on 12 June 2016: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/159/studies-show-exercise-can-improve-your-sex/
  • Penhollow, T. M. & Young, M. "Sexual desirability and sexual performance: Does exercise and fitness really matter?" Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (October 2004) 7. Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://www.ejhs.org/volume7/fitness.html
  • Sifferlin, A. "Scientists on Aphrodisiacs: What Works and What Doesn't?" Time online (September 9, 2015) based on a research report from International Society of Sexual Medicine. Accessed on 13 June 2016: http://time.com/3984196/aphrodisiacs-that-work/

Stressed Out? Yoga May Be the Answer

 Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

If daily hassles, constantly chiming cell phones, and past-due deadlines have you at the boiling point, simmer down to the yoga mat and find a little peace of mind.

I have to admit - I never used to find yoga appealing. As someone who grew up dancing and doing extreme sports I prefer higher intensity fitness like weight training or HIIT workouts, basically anything I can do to loud, fun, dancey music. But lately I find myself in a different state of mind and suddenly yoga sounds pretty darn good.

As an entrepreneur I tend to think about work all day, every day. I have to make a concerted effort each day to unplug, shift gears and actually stop working at a certain point because no joke, I could work 24 hours a day and still have more to do. Sound familiar?

As my practice has grown and I have a fuller and fuller plate I find myself longing for ways to check-out and enjoy some "me-time". Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that I'm helping more people get healthy and that my business is growing; but as a Wellness Coach I also need to be an example of good self-care while maintaining the emotional energy to guide and support my clients through their health challenges. Lately yoga has become a way for me to chill out, get in touch with my body and refocus on what's important. It doesn't feel as daunting as an intense weight workout does on days when I'm already feeling depleted, so I'm also more likely to do it. As I always tell my clients - the best workout is the one that you'll actually do.

The beauty of yoga is that it helps reduce stress hormones, of which most of us are producing far too much and too often. For those of us with stressful jobs and/or lives, yoga can provide a peaceful respite from daily life and help us handle stress in a more healthy way while increasing our strength and flexibility. Sounds like a win win to me!

Yoga is considered a "mind-body practice", combining physical poses (postures) called asanas, simple breathing exercises and guided meditation. And you don't have to be super flexible or athletic - anyone can reap the amazing benefits of practicing yoga, regardless of age or fitness level.

Benefits of Yoga:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower resting heart rate (so the heart works more efficiently)
  • Promote mental alertness
  • Better manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Reduce muscle tension, pain and stiffness associated with stress and chronic health conditions
  • Improve recovery after workouts

There are many 'styles' of Yoga for you to try. Styles vary in the number or poses and the intensity of how the poses are performed. Some styles are more intense like Bikram, Power, and Iyengar, while others such as Kundalini and Ashtanga are more restorative. All yoga styles originate from Hatha Yoga, which originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Hatha Yoga is a good choice for managing stress and chronic health concerns and is also ideal for beginners.

A typical yoga class begins with breathing exercises and gentle movements to clear the mind and limber up the body to prepare for the "active postures." Next, you'll move through a series of poses or asanas (standing, seated, and lying down). During class an instructor may use the ancient Sanskrit (Hindu) names and the American names for poses, e.g., Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Triangle Pose (Trikanasana). A certified instructor will also help participants modify poses to suit their unique needs, ensure proper form and prevent injury.

The focus of practicing yoga is not on how long or how perfectly you perform the pose. Nor is it competitive - so no making comparisons or judgments of yourself and others! Yoga is all about letting go of your mental chatter by focusing on the breath and allowing it to guide your body into a calm, centered state.

Yoga class concludes with a guided meditation or relaxation exercise. This may help you learn to be more mindful and aware of yourself throughout your day, not just during your time on the yoga mat.

References

Can You Actually Speed Up Your Metabolism?

Many people blame their expanding waistlines on a slow metabolism. But is that really what's keeping you from reaching your ideal body composition?

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is your body's method of converting calories, from the food you eat, into energy needed to power all the physiological processes that keep you alive and kicking 24/7. The minimum amount of energy your body needs to keep you going is called Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Calories in food - protein, fat and carbohydrates - fuel your BMR. Each of us requires a unique daily number of calories to maintain BMR so we can breathe, grow, think, sleep, digest food, and filter waste. Age and lifestyle are significant factors in calculating BMR. If you sit more than you move each day, your BMR is lower and your daily calorie needs are lower, too.

Calories In, Calories Out - Not the Whole Story

Losing or gaining weight is not just about energy balance (calories taken in - calories burned off). Sure, if you take in more calories than your body needs you'll probably gain weight, but it's not that simple. The food we eat acts as a chemical messenger that tells our hormones and other chemical compounds in our bodies what to do.

I always give the example of the doughnut and the chicken breast: both have about the same calories but the chemical reactions that occur on the body after ingesting each of the foods is drastically different. The combination of fat and starch in the doughnut will cause your blood sugar to spike and ghrelin, often called the "hunger hormone". So in short, the donut puts your body into fat storage mode, increases hunger and promotes insulin resistance.

The chicken breast on the other hand stimulates production of glucagon which enables the body to burn fat instead of storing it when insulin levels are low. The protein in the chicken also stimulates leptin production which helps suppress hunger. This is why most people could eat several doughnuts but would struggle to eat more than 1 or 2 chicken breasts.

Here's a great excerpt from this article by Dr. Keoni Teta that helps explain the importance of hormones in relation to body composition:

GLP (glucagon-like peptide) and GIP (glucose dependent insulinotropic peptide) are secreted by the endocrine cells of the small intestine.  They basically help the body sense the macronutrient ratio the incoming food. In other words, they taste the food in the small intestine and tell the body whether there is more fat and sugar in the meal or more lean protein and vegetables in the meal.  More fat and sugar in the meal cause the small intestine to release more GIP relative to GLP, and the more protein and fiber in the meal causes release of more GLP relative to GIP.  Think of GIP as fat storer and GLP as fat burner.

Eating more protein and vegetables influences a stronger signal of GLP relative to GIP thus helping to burn fat.

Your Genes are Not Your Destiny

Your genes (and hormones) play a role in metabolism because they can influence the potential you have to grow muscles (how dense and how big) and how your body stores fat. However, genetic and hormonal mechanisms in metabolism are extremely complex. There are no definitive theories. Yet, many people have lost and maintained a tremendous amount of weight despite their family history. Many health experts agree, "Your genes are not your fate."

Chances are your 'slow metabolism' has more to do with your diet and the type of exercise you are (or are not) doing on a regular basis.

If your exercise routine builds lean muscle, that helps rev-up your metabolism. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. This is why people with leaner bodies (a higher muscle to fat ratio) have a higher BMR. (Those are the folks who eat carrot cake that doesn't 'go right to their hips.)

Build a 24-Hour Fat Burning Body

The first key to revving-up metabolism is eating a whole foods diet: clean protein (organic, pasture-raised meats and poultry and wild seafood), anti-inflammatory fats and oils, fresh organic fruits and veggies, and drinking lots of water.

To really turn-up the heat on your metabolism, and your waistline, you'll want to try the muscle-building, never boring workouts listed below. These workouts help your body generate a 'post-exercise burn' that can rev up your metabolism for 2 - 24 hours after you finish a workout. Factors that determine the "afterburn" effect include your current fitness level and body composition, the intensity and duration of exercise, and type of exercise performed.

Just remember: Our bodies are designed to adapt; beginners to elite athletes both have to change-up their routine every few weeks to continue to see progress.

Circuit Training: Exercises all the major muscle groups in one workout (30-45 minutes) and may include body-weight movements, machines, dumbbells, and exercise bands. Exercises are performed for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets of each.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Rest-Based Training. These workouts alternate bouts of maximal physical effort with a rest (or lower intensity) period for set times (e.g., 40 seconds max, 15 seconds lower effort). HIIT principles can be integrated into a variety of exercise routines including walk/run, swim, weight training, and group classes. Research shows an increase in calorie burn for up to 24-hours post exercise. I take this a step further with what we Metabolic Effect folks call "Rest-Based Training". This means that you go as hard as you possibly can during a high intensity interval until you have to rest. You then rest as long as you need to until you can go again at the same intensity. This allows you to individualize a workout to your fitness level and achieve that afterburn effect in less time.

Metabolic Conditioning routines are highly intense and designed to engage different physiological "energy" pathways in the body. These workouts typically use a "suspension exercise system" (e.g., TRX) but can be integrated into other fitness activities. It's best to have a metabolic exercise routine designed and supervised by an experienced exercise specialist who can appropriately alter the intensity, reps, sets and rest intervals.

References

The Power of Walking

Walking just may be the best-kept health secret today! It releases stress, reduces anxiety, helps clear your mind, increases blood flow, improves your energy, helps with weight loss, enhances your mood, and – along with healthy nutrition - can reduce or eliminate a host of symptoms, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, stomach distress, and more! And with daylight savings time and spring just around the corner, this is the ideal time to put on your sneakers and get out for a walk.

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes of walking a day, at least five days a week (the equivalent of 10,000 steps daily) for the best health benefits. Here are more top tips to get the most health value from your daily walk:

• Make it your morning routine. Studies show that it feels easier to keep our commitment to exercise when we schedule it in the morning or early part of the day – before we are exhausted after work or get bogged down with other commitments.

• Eat a balanced dinner of organic veggies and anti-inflammatory fats to ensure your body has fuel for the morning. Make sure you stop eating two to three hours before bedtime, and skip the alcohol (which can interrupt your sleep cycle or make you feel sluggish in the morning).

• Prep the night before. It helps to have your walking shoes, bottled water, and morning smoothie ingredients (or a banana) ready to go.

• Include short, power walks as well as longer, more moderate-paced walks each week. Health experts have long recommended challenging yourself to keep a brisk pace, but that you should still be able to “talk and walk.” However, the latest research cited in Prevention Magazine, from studies at the University of Virginia, found that women who walked shorter, fast-paced walks three times a week PLUS two longer, moderate-paced walks “lost five times more belly fat than those who strolled at a moderate pace five days a week - even though both groups burned the same number of calories (400) per walk.”

• Take a moment! If you’re walking outside, take time to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, the flowers blooming, the blue skies, the birds chirping. Walking is not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind! If you have a favorite playlist – great! That can also be meditative and relaxing. Just remember to pay attention to your surroundings and look ahead for any uneven payment, cracks in the sidewalk, or holes in the ground to avoid injury.

• Warm up and cool down. Within the first few minutes of your walk, stop and complete a few easy stretches to protect your hamstrings, knees and ankles. During the last 5 to 10 minutes of your walk, slow your pace and complete additional stretches, ensuring your muscles and heart have a chance to recover.

• Replenish with water. Believe it or not, most of us are dehydrated before we even head out the door in the morning. I recommend that you drink half your weight in ounces of water every day, and on those days when you exercise more, you’ll want to drink more water. One easy tip: Start by drinking eight ounces of water when you wake up. An hour or two before your walk, drink another eight ounces. During your walk, replenish with water every 15 minutes. This will not only keep you hydrated, but will also help you maintain your energy during and after your workout.

One of my favorite tips is to walk with a friend! It helps me keep my commitment to walking, while giving us time to catch up and motivate each other. Who can you partner with to step up your walking workout?