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Health & Nutrition Popular

5 Health Trends That Actually Work

With so many new health and wellness trends popping up everyday, it’s hard to know what actually works and what is complete BS! Luckily, I’ve made it my job (literally) to try all of these trends and report back to you what I learn along the way.

I’ve been at this now for more than two years! So don’t worry, I got you covered.

In this post, I am going to share my top five health trends I’ve tried, that I believe are actually worth it! 

But before I reveal my top five wellness picks, I need to make something clear:

If we truly want to be healthy, it is super important to be prioritizing the fundamentals and basics of wellbeing first and foremost. It’s the simple stuff we hear all the time: eating real, whole foods, exercising, stretching, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, meditating, and spending time with the people you love. Basic stuff, but super important for overall health. 

Now on the flip side, sometimes it can be really overwhelming to feel like you need to get all of these things right all the time. It’s nearly impossible! So in no way am I suggesting that we all need to be perfect in every single part of our health. But, if we can try to make better choices every day in all of these different areas, we are on the right track.

A lot of people hate on health “trends” or “fads,” and I would agree there is a danger in just hopping on the bandwagon of the latest diet or health trend and always searching for a “magic pill.” Because it does not exist. We even know through plenty of research now, that most diets fail and are not sustainable. However, from my experience trying out a lot of these different “trends,” some are actually quite useful and are a trend for a reason.

If something is “trending,” usually that means it’s working for a lot of people and gaining hype because of it. So if something is working for so many people, then maybe it could be of use to us. If anything, getting people to think more about their wellbeing and get excited about it, is a major win for the world! 

So here ya go! These are my top five favorite wellness trends I’ve tried so far: 

  1. Intermittent Fasting

When I first tried this out, I had a hard time adjusting to it, but I noticed so many benefits from doing it consistently and it’s become way easier over time.

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you fast for a prolonged period of time each day and shorten the window of time you are actually eating. Intermittent fasting is a great way to manage blood sugar levels, increase energy, and overall it’s a huge benefit for your body to take a break from digesting food so your cells can focus on clearing out toxic waste and rebuild themselves.

I generally fast every day for about 12-14 hours, and as an active female with a delicate hormonal system, this is perfect for me. I am not strict or rigid about it and the times that I start and stop eating generally fluctuate, but now it’s sort of just part of my lifestyle and works really well for me. It’s actually allowed me to feel a lot of freedom with food, which is something I struggled with for a while. 

All of our bodies are so different and respond differently to various ways of eating, but I truly think intermittent fasting is universally beneficial for most humans, and it’s not that hard to implement. 

  1. Celery Juice

People have all sorts of opinions about this trend, but from my experience I absolutely love it! I noticed a lot of benefits from drinking it consistently, especially for my skin and digestion. Celery juice also seems to be helping people with all sorts of issues, everything from eczema to gut problems, and autoimmune disorders.

I don’t drink celery juice every single day anymore because it’s a bit expensive to do that and it’s a little tedious juicing it, but I have it about 3-4 times per week. One really cool thing it does is help me curb cravings. I notice when I drink it that I tend to reduce my cravings for sugar.

  1.  The Wim Hof Method

Ever since I trained with Wim Hof this past winter, people ask me all the time if I still practice the Wim Hof Method… and the answer is overwhelming YES! This method has truly changed my life in so many ways and completely changed my relationship with both the cold and my own inner power and mental strength. Before this experience, I honestly hated the cold so much.

But after overcoming it, I actually sort of crave it now. I still take cold showers every day and get in an ice bath whenever I can. Luckily I have some friends in LA who have ice bath setups in their backyard and we will have little breathwork and ice bath parties with friends and this is one of my favorite things to do. Both the breathing and the ice baths allow me to release a lot of stress and anxiety and it brings me right back to my own strength and inner power. It’s a total endorphin rush and I love it. 

  1. Digital Detoxes 

I’ve made a lot of videos about digital wellness and how we can develop a healthier relationship with our phones and social media. One way that I do this, is by taking a digital detox at least every 3-6 months. During this time, I turn my phone off, put it away, and usually I go without any technology at all, not even my camera.

I’ll go somewhere in nature and spend anywhere from 24 to 72 hours or more disconnecting with the digital world to reconnect with my inner world. The amount of presence that I feel when doing this is so beautiful and taking these digital detoxes has become a game-changer for my mental and spiritual well being. 

  1.  Cacao

In its purest form, ceremonial grade cacao is one of the most powerful superfoods on the planet. Cacao is extremely high in hundreds of nutrients including iron, magnesium, and calcium. It’s been amazing for my gut health and has helped me eliminate pretty much all stomach issues and sensitivities I was having. It’s also fantastic for the brain, so it allows me to feel calm but energized while I’m working. 

Preparing and drinking cacao involves a very meditative, mindful practice that comes from thousands of years of Mayan tradition, so implementing this ritual in my life every morning changes my entire day. Cacao is also considered a “heart-opening” plant medicine, which sounds a bit spiritual, but actually it contains a chemical called anandamide, which is the “bliss molecule,” named after the Sanskrit word “Ananda”, which means “bliss.” This molecule binds to the same receptors in the brain as THC and creates a blissful, joyful feeling. 

The one thing to be aware of when it comes to cacao is making sure you are getting a really high quality one. Many on the market are non pure-grade or ceremonial. My absolute favorite is Legacy Cacao, which comes from an indigienocus tribe in Guatemala who use an ancient Mayan recipe. The cacao is sustainably farmed, stone ground, and blessed by the priestess of the tribe. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s so worth it! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak7MtYVFHKQ&t=80s

So there you have it! Those are my five favorite wellness trends so far. Again, always remember to prioritize the basics of wellbeing before going overboard with all the trendy stuff, but if you feel called to try any of these trends, I urge you to go for it! You never know what might have a huge impact on your life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_QjJ6ZfFEY&t=135s

Categories
Mindfulness

5 Days of Meditation Apps

Meditation is something I have been practicing for several years now. I began practicing yoga about 10 years ago, which is how I discovered meditation, and it’s truly changed my life.

Even though I love meditation, I am very sporadic with my practice. I go through periods where I meditate every day and then I will fall off the wagon when life gets “busy.” And usually it’s the moments when we “don’t have time” to meditate, that we need it most. 

Recently I was going through a little bit of a slump. I had low energy, my mindset was off, and I wasn’t feeling like myself. I decided I wanted to do something that could help me get back on track. Since there are so many cool meditation apps out there that I’ve been wanting to try, I decided that I would spend one week trying them all and meditating every single day.

The scientific research on meditation 

Meditation is an ancient practice that’s been around for thousands of years, and is now finally validated by scientific research. We see the benefits of meditation across multiple studies.

A 2008 study published in the academic journal PLOS ONE, found that just 15 minutes of meditation each day can actually influence gene expression. This study showed a change in the expression of 172 genes that regulate inflammation, circadian rhythms, and glucose metabolism. The researchers also found that consistent meditation resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the participants’ blood pressure.

We see again and again in the research that meditation positively impacts both our brains and our bodies and how they work together. 

My 5-day experiment

My goal with this challenge was to meditate for just 10 minutes per day using a different app each day. Hopefully I would find one that I could use to continue with a more consistent meditation practice. 

Headspace 

The first app I tried was Headspace. Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps out there. I absolutely loved the design and user interface of the Headspace app. It’s very well designed and organized, making it easy to find exactly what kind of meditation you’re looking for. I also loved the animations that it includes, which offer educational information about meditation and different techniques, in an easy-to-understand way.

I think that Headspace is particularly helpful for beginners or anyone looking for a way to easily add meditation to their life. You can even choose meditations that are just three minutes long, which surprisingly can have a huge impact on your day. 

Calm

The next meditation app I tried was Calm, another popular app on the market. Calm is particularly helpful for sleep, with an entire library dedicated to meditation for sleep.

Calm also had a whole section for mindfulness at work. I loved that Calm has 7-day programs such as “7 days of gratitude” and “7 days of self-esteem.” 

Insight Timer

Insight Timer was so cool because of the community-oriented nature of the app. As soon as you open it you can see how many people around the world are using the app and meditating alongside you. This made me feel really connected to a larger global community of meditators.

Another great feature of Insight Timer is that meditation teachers that can upload their own meditations for users around the world to follow. They have so many categories as well, everything from meditation for depression, anxiety, confidence, and motivation. 

Unplug 

What I loved most about the Unplug app is how connected I felt to the teachers on the app who are guiding the meditations. It was also organized really well with a wide variety of topics. I liked that you could sort by the length of time of the meditation.

I did feel that their design could use some work. The app was definitely not built for mobile viewing and could definitely use a tech update and better user interface. But the meditations themselves were really nice.

10% Happier

Even since hearing the story of how this app was created, I’ve been excited to try it out. 10% Happier was created by this guy named Dan Harris who is an ABC news anchor. He actually had a panic attack on live television during Good Morning America and was motivated to find a way to address the build-up of anxiety he was feeling.

After this experience, he tried meditation and found that it helped him immensely. He has now made it part of his mission to spread meditation with others. He wrote a book called 10% Happier and later created an app as well. 

The app is not only providing guided meditations, but also educational interviews with different experts, so you can actually learn about meditation and apply it to your practice.

10% Happier says it’s a meditation app for “fidgety skeptics.” So if you’re someone who feels like you can’t meditate because you’re too “fidgety” or skeptical whether or not it will actually work, this is definitely the app for you!

My Favorite App 

I enjoyed all five of these meditation apps for different reasons and would definitely recommend any of them to try. 

However, I’d have to say that Headspace was definitely my favorite. When it comes to design, user interface, the meditations themselves, and overall effectiveness, I think Headspace is the clear winner. Also, you really can’t beat the guy’s voice who guides the Headspace meditations. It’s one of the most calming voices I’ve ever heard! 

If you are looking to try meditation for the first time, or you want to make it a more consistent practice in your life, I definitely recommend trying out Headspace. It makes it super easy to learn how to meditate and it’s perfect for all levels of meditators. 

Categories
Health & Nutrition

30 Days of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular health trends over the past few years. Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence suggests that fasting has major benefits for the body and mind. 

I’ve been curious about intermittent fasting for a while, and after reading several articles and watching a plethora of videos about its benefits, I wanted to put it to the test to see if it could work for me.

Before my experiment, I decided to interview a medical doctor and fasting expert named Dr. Jason Fung, to learn more about the science and research on intermittent fasting.

Dr. Fung is the medical director of The Fasting Method, and uses fasting and intermittent fasting protocols to help his patients reverse Type 2 Diabetes, lose weight, and overcome other health issues. 

First, Dr. Fung cleared up some of the misconceptions about fasting.

“When you’re fasting, you are not actually shutting down your body,” he clarified. “Your body is actually pumping you full of energy.”

Dr. Fung explained that intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting does not restrict the types of foods you can eat or the amount of calories you can consume, it simply restricts the times of day that you eat.

Generally, an intermittent fasting period is anywhere from 12-16 hours, but can also be practiced for longer periods of time. Fasts that are 24 hours or more have also been shown to have massive benefits, because of a process called autophagy, where old damaged cells die and new, healthier cells reform. 

Dr. Fung explained that when we fast, our insulin levels decrease and we get a surge of counter-regulatory hormones including growth hormone.

“Everyone thinks that if you fast you are going to lose muscle,” he said. “That’s actually not true because growth hormone increases during fasting. When you start to eat again, your body will start to build proteins at a higher and more efficient rate.”

My 30-day experiment

I had already tried intermittent fasting for one week previously with my friend Eduardo for another video, so this time I wanted to try intermittent fasting for a longer period of time to really measure how it would affect my mind and my body. 

I want to make it clear that intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. It’s a scientifically proven method that has helped many people with various health issues. Although intermittent fasting can definitely help with weight loss, it has also been shown to have several other benefits, including more cognitive clarity and focus. For me, I wasn’t necessarily looking to lose weight, but I was curious to see if intermittent fasting could help me increase productivity and overall energy. 

Week 1 

Going into this experiment, I was definitely a little nervous about how my body would react. I tend to get really hungry, especially on days when I workout, so I had to gear myself up mentally to take on this challenge.

I decided to stick to a 14-hour fasting period, which means I would have a 10-hour window where I could eat during the day. It’s very common for people to skip breakfast when they intermittent fast, but that doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes, I don’t feel hungry for breakfast, but since I like to workout in the morning, I needed to make sure I was eating afterwards to replenish and refuel.

I decided the best strategy for me would be to stop eating earlier in the evening around 5 or 6 pm, so I could hit an early workout and then eat breakfast afterwards around 8 am. Although it was a little tough not eating at night, I felt like this really improved my sleep and I woke up feeling way more refreshed and energized.

Week 2

One challenge with intermittent fasting is the additional time and effort it takes to schedule meals around the fasting period. My day-to-day schedule is never the same, so I had to be extra deliberate about when I was eating and what kind of food I was consuming to make sure I was satiated enough.

Although I was starting to get used to my new eating schedule after the first two weeks, the thought of keeping it up for another two weeks was a bit daunting. 

Week 3

During this week I definitely ran into some challenges. One day I went to hot yoga in the morning but had to wait another two hours afterwards to eat and found myself feeling really hungry and depleted. 

Socially, I also found this challenge a bit difficult,  because if I wanted to go out to eat with friends in the evening, I would have to wait even longer to eat the next day.

Week 4

By the end of this challenge, I was definitely getting the hang of this. Once I had my schedule down, intermittent fasting became way easier. 

What was the most surprising to me is how much this challenge actually helped me find more freedom with food. I found that I had increased energy and mental capacity because my body and mind were not as focused on eating and digesting food.

This challenge also made me super grateful to have access to good quality food! I am very lucky and realize that a large percentage of the population has to be concerned about  where their next meal is coming from. This experience definitely made me think more about the magnitude of what others might go through in regards to food scarcity. It felt a bit silly for me to complain about my hunger, when so many people around the world are dealing with actual hunger every single day.

My results after 30 days

At the end of my 30 day experiment, I did notice a change in my body. I felt great, and also saw physical changes as well from my before and after pictures.

Intermittent fasting pleasantly surprised me. It allowed me to appreciate food even more than I already did, and develop a healthier relationship with food. This is definitely something that I plan to continue and implement in my life regularly. 

All of our bodies are completely different, and are going to react differently to different things. If you want to try intermittent fasting, I encourage you to do so, but make sure you go into it with clear intentions, and be open-minded to what you might learn through the process! 

Categories
Self-care

How I Hacked My Sleep in 5 Days

Sleep is something that I frequently struggle with. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love sleeping, but so often my sleep feels all over the place.

It’s now clear from a plethora of scientific research that sleep affects everything from our metabolism, to hormone production, our mood, and cognitive functioning. And after learning more about the research on sleep and how important it truly is for pretty much every part of our lives, I decided my sleep really needed an upgrade! 

So I spent one week trying out all sorts of sleep hacks to see if I could take my sleep to the next level.

My Sleep Hacking Experiment

For this experiment, I interviewed Dan Pardi, a sleep researcher at Stanford University, about the science of sleep. Then, I tried various sleep hacks based on Dan’s science-based recommendations. 

“Over 50 percent of Americans are getting unsatisfactory sleep,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are going to influence our sleep. Probably the most important is light.”

Dan explained that light affects our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s natural 24-hour sleep/wake schedule. Depending on the type of light we are exposed to, our circadian rhythm can be thrown off, especially in a world where blue light from technology is so invasive. 

Dan told me that according to research, blue light actually inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain that increases at night in order to help us sleep. So when we are on screens at night before bed, we are actually tricking our bodies into thinking it’s daytime, which will prevent melatonin production, disrupt our circadian rhythm, and prevent us from getting good quality sleep.

Hack #1: Controlling Light 

According to Dan, the key to good sleep actually starts in the morning. He recommended I get direct sunlight upon waking up. Because I normally wake up before the sunrise, I purchased a special alarm clock that imitates the sun as it wakes you up. I usually use my phone as an alarm, so having an actual alarm clock allowed me to remove my phone from my room before bed. 

In addition, I turned off technology an hour before bed to minimize the absorption of blue light. Upon Dan’s recommendation, I also wore blue-light blocking glasses throughout the day to mitigate the effects of staring at a screen for so many hours. I have never needed glasses, but I’ve always secretly wanted them because I think they are super cute, so this was a great excuse to wear these adorable glasses from Felix Gray! 

Hack #2: A Nightly Routine with Essential Oils 

Dan stressed the importance of developing a nightly routine to help the mind and body wind down and prepare for sleep.

During my nightly routine, I drank chamomile tea, journaled, read, and used my essential oil diffuser with pure lavender oil for relaxation.

I asked Dan if there was any science to prove the effectiveness of essential oils for sleep, and he explained that there is scientific research to show that smelling an essential oil does in fact affect the part of the brain known as the amygdala, which controls our parasympathetic nervous system, or our rest and relaxation response.

Another thing I love to do before bed is use my crystal face roller. I’ll put it in the freezer so it’s nice and cold and then apply some rosehip oil to roll out all the tension in my face. It feels amazing and is such a great way to wind down before bed.

Hack #3: Meditative Breathwork 

The next sleep hack I tried was breathing exercises before bed. Dan suggested the box breathing method, where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold again for four seconds, repeating for about 2-5 minutes. This breathing method worked so well and completely put me out like a light!

Hack #4: Controlling Body Temperature 

The next sleep hack that Dan recommended was controlling my body temperature. He told me to take a warm shower or bath in the evening before bed. He explained that this actually helps lower body temperature after getting out, which is optimal for sleeping. It has also been shown that sleeping in cooler temperatures promotes better quality sleep, so I opened the windows at night to let in the cool air. In the morning, I took a cold shower to wake myself up.

How does alcohol and cannabis affect sleep?

Because so many people use alcohol or cannabis to fall asleep, I was curious to know the effects of these substances on sleep quality.

“Both of those substances are problematic,” Dan said.

He explained that the consumption of alcohol affects the neurotransmission of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain and cannabinoids interfere with the neural repair that happens during sleep as well as mitochondrial function, which is critical for energy. 

Hack #5: Weighted Blanket

The last hack that I tried was not one that Dan recommended to me, but something that I had been wanting to try for a while. Sleeping with a weighted blanket is supposed to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality, so I got a COOLMAX weighted blanket from a company called Weighting Comforts, which is designed to keep the body cool and dry throughout the night.

Right off the bat, I noticed that the weight of the blanket made me feel safe and relaxed. I ended up sleeping fantastic with it and woke up feeling so well rested! 

My Results

About halfway through the week, I noticed I was feeling more restful and less tired throughout the day, whereas normally I feel exhausted between 2:30-4:30 in the afternoon. By the end of the week, I was feeling so rejuvenated and was shocked by the results I saw in just five days.

Overall, this was a successful experiment with some pretty great results. I learned so much about sleep and felt my sleep improve in such a short amount of time. 

If you are someone who struggles with sleep, I know how frustrating it can be. I hope that you can try some of these hacks and experiment with what might work for you!