Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Sleep Solution: How I Ended Insomnia Naturally!

Did you know that how you sleep can affect how you eat? Studies have shown that people who have trouble sleeping are twice as likely to eat sugary foods and simple carbs just to make it through the day. The reason being is lack of sleep plays a role in cravings and reduces your overall brain function by affecting your moods. You should  also understand is the science of sleep. When it gets dark outside, your body senses the lighting change and starts making the hormone melatonin, which communicates to your body that it is time to prepare to sleep. 

I once went to a health expo at my local convention center and spoke to a sleep doctor. He told me to implement a no screen time before bed (phone/computer/TV). My compromise was to not sit at my computer desk with the desk light on because sitting at such a bright desk told my body it wasn't bedtime (slowing down its melatonin production). I created a bedtime for myself- 10pm and set an alarm on my phone to be sure to be in bed by then. I tried my best to create the right kind of environment for healthy sleep yet still it took me a long time to fall asleep and if anything woke me up (like my phone) I couldn't go back to sleep. Not wanting to take sleeping pills, I decided to solve the puzzle of why I couldn't sleep and researched my options.

I'm going to share some popular natural supplements that may help you sleep. I've tried all of these and have had the most success with the last one. Everyone's body reacts differently so what might have worked or not worked for me could be the opposite for you. What I didn't include on the list are Montmorency Cherries (the juice and dried fruit are available at Trader Joes) which are high in melatonin but just have too much sugar in it for me. 

Melatonin - Is a hormone your body makes in the evening to help you sleep. As I explained your body signals its production when the sun goes down. That's why experts said don't sit in front of a computer right before going to sleep because it throws off your body's natural wind down clock. But of course if you have a shift job, your clock is going to be off. Children have a lot of melatonin, thus they can sleep for hours however it decreases with age. For many taking melatonin supplements helps them to fall asleep, but after awhile it stopped working for me. 

5-HTP – I have to get a little technical here explaining how your body makes melatonin and 5-HTP.  So the amino acid L-tryptophan (which is also in turkey) in your body is converted into 5-HTP, then 5-HTP is converted to serotonin, which is then metabolized to create melatonin. If you’re still with me here, serotonin is your feel good hormone that controls whether or not you feel happy. Thus 5-HTP is most commonly used for depression because it works like serotonin antidepressants. 
So putting it all together, the idea being if you take 5-HTP, it will increase your serotonins levels which then allows your body to increase its melatonin which will help you sleep. The pill form of 5-HTP comes from the seeds of an African plant. Trader Joe’s sell a combo melatonin/5-HTP  supplement for $15.

Magnesium Citrate is magnesium with citric acid, whose combo is considered the best magnesium supplement on the market. You don't hear much about magnesium, yet I read that about half of Americans are deficient in this important mineral. This is because our soil has been depleted of minerals and magnesium can be lost from your body from alcohol, coffee, black tea, calcium supplements and a host of other things.

When your body is deficient of magnesium, your melatonin is affected. (Melatonin is what makes you fall asleep remember.) Magnesium balances out your stress hormones so you can relax at night and not be up worrying about things. Magnesium loosens tight muscles, which I've found has really helped me after I took up running again. It also regulates important nutrients like calcium, potassium and vitamin D in the body, helps to keep bones strong, regulates blood pressure and sugar levels, supports the immune system, and helps your body to maintain a regular heart beat. Magnesium helps return the body’s pH balance and is a necessary electrolyte essential for proper hydration.

I read an interesting article that said that calcium does not build strong bones, that's just what the dairy industry wants you to believe. Rather most of us get enough dairy through foods but we need Vitamin D and Magnesium to absorb the calcium. Foods with high in magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts (brazil, almond, cashews), beans, soy (edamame), lentils, brown rice, avocado, bananas, figs, artichokes, and dark chocolate. However when you are chronically stressed, you can become magnesium deficient even if you eat these foods regularly.

As you can see, the fourth most abundant mineral in your body is very necessary for proper functioning and just about half of us are short on it. I used to have problems falling asleep but now that I’m taking magnesium at night my insomnia is gone! I take Magnesium Citrate with a little raw honey because honey has magnesium and helps to facilitate the action of Tryptophan (that I talked about before) which helps makes you sleepy and it totally knocks me out!  Insomnia is actually a common symptom of magnesium deficiency, which makes sense when you understand all that magnesium does for your body. 

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Color in Motion 5K Recap

This weekend was full of fun events with family, friends, comedy, food, and some running… all my favorite things!  The weekend started off bright and early on a chilly Saturday morning. I was worried about running in 60F degree weather but it turned out to be the perfect temperature. I took up running again a week ago and realized it's time already for new running shoes. What's I've learned through running is that I don't always want to do it, but when I do, I am so happy that I have. I feel better and know that I am mixing things up for my body and going to get better results from it. My thighs and abs were so sore the first two times I ran so I know it's working!

My first color run was the Color Me Rad race so I was curious to see how these two compare! If you don't know what a Color Run is it's a 5K race (3.1 miles) where you run through color stations where you are bombarded with blasts of color as you go along the course. The color is colored cornstarch and this idea came comes from the Holi holiday in India.

Everyone was given a packet of color and  before the race we threw them at each other and random strangers if we had a color they didn't have. It was so much fun!! Luckily my boyfriend was kind enough to pick up our race packets the night before so we didn't have to stand in the enormous line to pick one up the day of the race. 

The run itself was a bit challenging for me this time but having a running partner really pushed me to run the whole thing. Waiting to get the water station at the middle of the run was the hardest part. I ended the race totally covered in color and a blue tongue!  For my next race I definitely need to wear a fun costume! I saw so many people in tutus! The race was family friendly lots of kids and strollers. In fact one 6 year old was running faster than me and that pushed me to pick up speed! lol

Be sure to bring a t-shirt to change into and baby wipes to clean up with so you don't get your car dirty afterwards. If you're a blonde like me, be sure to put olive oil in your hair before the race which will allow the color to come out easily. I've never put olive oil in my hair before and was worried I would look like a greasy shiny mess. But it absorbed so fast immediately after putting it on I couldn't even tell I had put any on so I did a second coat just to be sure I didn't miss a spot. lol Some women wore bandannas. 
My Flipbelt was incredibly useful, you need one! 

The Color in Motion 5K is certainly a great race for anyone who has never run a 5K before, wants to take it slow, or is just looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday. However I was disappointed that there was nothing at the finish line besides water. Every other race I've done had granola bars or some kind of snack because you're famished! Plus there were no fun backdrops for photo opts. In conclusion, if you want to do a color run, don't do Color in Motion, pick another one. Color in Motion was pretty bare bones. 

Since this is the anniversary of the Boston Marathon tragedy Adidas is selling a line of clothing to support a charity that helps the victims. Natalie Morales is wearing the whole line in this pic, I think the orange is really pretty! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Baskets are not just for kids!

Easter is such a wonderful time of year just because spring is in full swing with daffodils and tulips blooming after a long winter. I can always expect a full church service on Easter with everyone dressed in their pastel best! Of course I look forward to Easter dinner with the family where Manischewitz wine is tradition. I really enjoy this holiday. In case you're preparing an Easter Brunch try this recipe.

I always joke with my mom every Easter that I don't remember getting Easter baskets as a child and I think she should make one for me now. lol One cold rainy day last month I ducked into Walmart so I could feel my hands again and buy a new umbrella as mine had died in the storm. Unfortunately they didn't have any but I decided to roam the aisles just to warm up again. What they did have was a whole aisle dedicated to Easter baskets! OMG they were so cute and cheap, you could get everything you needed for under $10. I started picking out a purple basket for myself complete with purple grass and metallic eggs then thought what would I do with this? lol

So, since I was in a creative mood and thought it would be better to do something nice for someone else,  I decided to make an alternative Easter basket for my thirty something significant other. I love making holidays special and finding little, simple ways to celebrate each one. Last year I gave suggestions on healthy easter baskets and my boyfriend is very health conscious so I didn't want to fill this up with boxes of candy. If you need ideas for what to put in your man's basket besides candy, you can put gift cards, grooming items, socks, protein bars, magazines or a 25 Things I Love About You list and use a box of beer as your basket.

Inside my eggs are encouraging Biblical quotes rolled up on tiny pieces of paper, coconut cashews and dried montmorency cherries. I figured it was a little healthier than jelly beans.

Since I love chalkboard everything, I was thrilled to see that someone made chalkboard easter eggs!

Inspired by Easter Eggs I'm wearing a pastel purple (Zoya Perrie) nail polish for Easter.

In the spirit of Easter I wanted to share some really great wisdom from my church. They just wrapped up a series on relationships and the pastors encouraged us to surround ourselves with positive people.

We all need: 1) friends that make us better, 2) friends who help us find spiritual strength and 3) friends that will tell us the truth. 

Just for laughs check out some of the finalists from the Washington Post annual Peeps contest!

Oscar selfie

Miley Cyrus

Olympics Ice Skating

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Running Essentials

When you go running you always have to carry a few things with you right? Iphone, keys, etc. I ran my first race with a purse in a plastic bag to protect from the color dust and thought how ridiculous is this. lol When you ride public transportation to your race you have no where to put all your stuff. So I started looking around for a stylish fanny pack to remedy this situation. 

Random side note, did you know that the word "fanny" in Australia means a woman's private parts, it's actually a very vulgar term for it! lol I giggle every time I say fanny pack just thinking about this. The Aussies call a fanny pack a "Bum Bag."

Anyway I found the Flipbelt, it's a simple yet ingenious solution! It doesn't ride up when you run and stay put on your lower hips. It has multiple openings and I've been putting my work ID and iphone in this when I run. Initially I was scared to put my iphone in it, but you know what it didn't fall out and no bounce! If you're tired of running with an armband try this out, it comes in a bunch of fun colors! 

When I was training for my last run I talked about how I needed a handheld water bottle. Well I found the perfect one!  Unlike a regular cylinder water bottle, the Amphipod is shaped to fit the natural shape of your hand. So it's very comfortable to run with because I hardly noticed I was holding it for the most part. And the zippered neoprene sleeve is perfect to carry my keys in.

When I run my hand isn't holding on to the bottle tightly at all, it's in a relaxed position. I only felt the 20 oz bottle when it's full because they it feels like a heavy weight in my hand, but once I started drinking the water it lightens up and I really do finish a bottle on an hours run. My hand does sweat a little so I switch the bottle between hands during my run so I would imagine the sleeve will have to be washed eventually. The bottom rubber band slipped out a couple times, not sure what I'm doing to make it do that?  My other complaint is the color, I wish it came in other colors or at least the neoprene sleeve did, a girl likes options!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

I signed up for my next themed run!

If you need a new goal to get you back into fitness or just want to have fun, there’s nothing better than a themed run! Whether you're into hot chocolate, ice cream, cupid undie run, zombies,  mud, tutus, color dust, glow in the dark, there's something out there for you! I can tell you from first hand experience that doing these themed runs is a fun time! And training for one gives new purpose to your workouts because you know you actually want to train to do well at your race.

I was never into doing a marathon, but these new crops of fun races are taking over, I see new ones every year. The 5Ks are only 3.1 miles which is very doable for a newbie runner. And you never know you might just run into Jesus at your next run, seriously! So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a themed run! Make sure your friends show up with awesome signs to support you!

I've always wanted to run a race with a tutu and I finally found the perfect company to order one from, Glam Runners supports the charity Girls on the Run which sponsors exercise and confidence-building programs for young girls.

Saturday is my race, sowish me luck! To prepare for it this week I started running outside during my lunch break at work with a co-worker which has been nice during this lovely spring weather! However my thigh muscles and abs have been so sore! My body is not used to running! Here's some great stretches you should be doing after your runs.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Healthy Saag Paneer recipe

I'm sure you've seen on Indian restaurant menus either Palak Paneer or Saag Paneer. It's actually never been my favorite, but then I found a recipe made with Kale and chickpeas and gave it a try and really enjoyed it! It made enough to be my lunch for the week at work.


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 10 oz of kale
  • ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can of chickpeas

  • Directions

    1. Saute onion on a large skillet for 5 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon if needed to prevent sticking. 
    2. Add the garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute. 
    3. Add the remaining spices and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium. 
    4. Stir in the kale and vegetable broth. Cover and cook until the kale is bright green and tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
    5. While the kale is cooking, put the milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste in the blender and puree until smooth. 
    6. When the kale is done, add it to the blender and blend until smooth. 
    7. Transfer blended mixture back to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  
    8. Stir in chickpeas and continue simmering about 10 minutes. 
    9. Add salt to taste and serve over rice.

    Nutritional Analysis
    5 servings
    173 cal, 9g protein, 7g fiber

    I served this one serving of wild rice and a 2 TB of Fage 2% Greek Yogurt. So the total calorie count came to 334 cal, 18g of protein, 9g of fiber

    One serving of wild rice has 6g of protein! While white jasmine rice only has half that amount. Likewise wild rice has double the amount of fiber, is high in b-vitamins and manganese.

    Recipe Source: Fat Free Vegan

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    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    California Dreamin'

    I booked my plane ticket for Los Angles this summer! Looking forward to spending the day in Santa Monica. Over the weekend I wanted to make a meal that reminded me of sunny summer weather. So I made some tempeh tacos served with bell pepper, sweet onion, greek yogurt, cilantro, plantains and sweet creamy Mexican Ataulfo mangoes. I grew up eating a lot of plantains. They're high in Vitamins A, C, B6, Fiber and Potassium. But they're also high in calories and carbs and fried in oil.

    The tacos are in a sprouted corn tortilla because I only consume organic corn, which I talked about in this post and I talked about the manufacturer of the tortilla in this post.

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