Tag Archives: wellness

Give your face a natural glow

Unless you’re this girl*, you probably spend a lot of time trying to make your face prettier. For a variety of reasons that have to do with vanity, trying to impress others, self-esteem, natural instinct and societal pressures, most women feel compelled to enhance their facial beauty, and will pay big bucks for it.

You’ve probably heard the figures: the average American woman will spend over a hundred thousand dollars on beauty products over her lifetime, or about $100 a month. For the wealthy, that number skyrockets to cover Creme de la Mer ($150 for 1 oz.) and even more pricey creams and serums containing things like gold, exotic mushrooms from the Himalayas, seawater from the Mariana Trench, Japanese Koishimaru silk, royal jelly, and even the precious metal platinum (found in La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare, the most expensive facial cream in the world at $1,000 a pop).

They must work, because celebrities and trophy wives, although normally more attractive than average by default, maintain their glisten and radiance a little longer than us plebeians. Studies have shown that perceived facial attractiveness has a lot to do with the smoothness of skin, although there are quite a few other factors involved as well.

But is dewy skin something you have to pay hundreds for? Is it only reserved for the rich and famous? I think not. As evidenced by Lindsay Lohan**, it has far more to do with what you consume and imbibe and how you treat yourself. Nutrients, oxygen and feel-good hormones are the foundation for beautiful skin; many indigenous populations who ate a diet rich in fruits, seafood, nuts and proteins while living active yet carefree lives were noted for their picture-perfect skin. Here are some inexpensive ways to give your skin a glow:

1. Eat right. This is imperative. If you have skin issues of any sort (outbreaks, wrinkles, dryness, dullness) then consider this area. Sometimes it might take several weeks to see a difference. You know the drill: drink lots of water and cut out the soda; juice and eat fresh fruits and vegetables; cut out the refined salt and sugar; eat unprocessed whole foods without pesticides, preservatives, artificial ingredients, antibiotics and other unnatural additives.

2. Drink lots of water. Duh, right? But there are variations on this theme: drinking hot or warm water, especially in the morning, is very good not only for the digestion but for the complexion (the two are closely related). Water with fresh lemon juice is also very cleansing for the body and clears the skin. Herbal teas (my favorite is Passion from Tazo, which contains hibiscus, rosehips  and cinnamon, known relaxants) of many varieties are also beneficial.

3. Sweat. You can do this via exercise, sitting out in the sun (preferably in the late afternoon and not so long that you burn), in saunas, and by taking hot, steamy baths by candlelight.

4. Moisturize. But this doesn’t have to be super-fancy or super-expensive. For saturating, healing night creams, try pure shea butter, coconut oil, rosehip oil, almond oil, or even regular olive oil. For a light refreshing day moisturizer, try rosewater, jasmine, lavendar or plumeria spray (buy at Whole Foods for less than ten dollars or make your own by combining essential oils with water in a mister).

5. Relax. This is hugely important, not just for your looks but for your overall health, well-being and quality of life. You can counteract stress by meditating, taking long walks, basking in the moonlight, soaking in hot water and Epsom salt, and resting in the dark with classical music, candlelight and aromatherapy.

And what’s the single most important thing you can do to create a naturally glowing face? No, I’m not gonna say “Eat dark chocolate,” although I love me some dark chocolate and it wouldn’t hurt. The most important thing is to give your face some love. When you look in the mirror, look at yourself with love. Treat yourself gently. Think positive, loving, empowering thoughts about yourself and do not criticize yourself privately or publicly. What you think and feel can gradually become reality, and how you perceive yourself will affect how others perceive you.

You can even try this experiment. Spend several minutes repeating this mantra in your head “I am beautiful.” If you do this for half an hour or longer, then look in the mirror, you might be surprised that you actually do look more beautiful. You might also start getting different reactions from people. I have done this experiment several times myself, for example in a crowded airport. I will walk through seemingly invisible, with no one giving me a second glance. Then I will start repeating this in my head as I walk. Eventually, people will start to stare at me, and a few times they have even tried to approach me. One time a married flight attendant told me I stood out from the crowds and seemed to glow.

I don’t mean to say this in a bragging type of way. Indeed, these same strangers had been utterly unconcerned with me a couple hours prior. I do believe that thought can change reality, by some kind of unseen force. When you wash your face, touch it in any way, or put any kind of topical ointment on it, you should always send it loving thoughts when you do so. Your hands also can convey energy.

*This girl surely has a beautiful smile and a whole lot of cojones. While I personally wouldn’t choose to look this way even for religious beliefs, it takes all kinds to make a world. I’m just making a point that she is one of the very few women in the world who don’t try to enhance their appearance in some way, shape or form.

*Lindsay Lohan is gorgeous. I hope she can get back on the path to healthy living so her natural radiance can once again shine through, because she used to be one luscious looking redhead.

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Let the Games begin

Next week, all of us with middling BMIs, plastic trophies collecting dust in the attic and the inability to work out for even a few hours of the week will watch and marvel at those who have put in countless years for their moment in the sun. With our ass firmly on couch or chair, we will watch them with awe, admiration, national pride, respect, and perhaps a little bit of lust.

Yesterday I, like thousands worldwide (probably mostly men) just had to click on the alluring figure of a 19-year-old happily warming up before a hurdle race. What made her so appealing was not just her looks, but the context of the competition: she is obviously healthy, vibrant, youthful, energetic, enthusiastic, radiant, and above all, athletic.

But the sexualization of female athletes has long been controversial. There are two kinds of discrimination that women can face in sports: limited access to funding, resources, exposure, etc. and inferior treatment (like having to fly coach when the guys are going first-class) and the kind that focuses on an athlete’s physical appearance more than her physical prowess. This phenomenon is apparent when athletes who are not top-ranked in their fields get inordinate media coverage (and all the perks that entails) while the less photogenic champions are largely ignored.

In my opinion, women should have the same rights and opportunities as men in sports as they should in every area of life. But I can’t say that the glorification of their natural beauty is a bad thing — and even if it was, I don’t think that will ever stop our species from celebrating it.

In the original games in Ancient Greece, as you may have heard, the athletes often competed naked (imagine that!). Says this Wikipedia entry: “The festival was meant to celebrate, in part, the achievements of the human body. Olive oil was used by the competitors … as a natural cosmetic, to keep skin smooth, and provide an appealing look for the participants.”

In ancient Sparta, both men and women often exercised in the nude, and young women as well as young men may have participated in the Gymnopaedia (“Festival of Nude Youths”).[94][95] 

Glorifying healthy, natural beauty is hardwired into our genes. I myself find these representations of kick-ass chicks way sexier than the hard-partying, designer label-flaunting, makeup-caked versions we are usually bombarded with, the kind of skin-deep frivolity that is held up as the gold standard of modern women. I also like to see women in the spotlight for something other than auto-tuned pop music, Hollywood credits or getting knocked up at 16. Role models of successful, smart, do-gooding women of all shapes and ages are even better, of course.

But if a woman can throw a mean left hook, throw a javelin or complete a long-distance swim while still looking amazing, well, I think it’s just one more reason   to praise them. My husband brought home the latest issue of Maxim magazine and I was mesmerized by the two-page spread of gorgeous Olympians from around the globe who will be competing in London. Just wow.

A woman should not be defined by her looks, nor should they become a huge discussion (as they frequently do in politics) unless the said woman is a model. A competitor in the Special Olympics is just as, if not more so, worthy of recognition as a stunning tennis player. But I think part of a woman’s self-confidence comes from looking her best, on and off the field, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Whether you want to call it natural beauty or healthy sex appeal, we can all develop it by eating right, kicking detrimental addictions and working out a little harder.

I love a well-muscled woman and a health-conscious man, someone who obviously appreciates their body and treats it right, someone who can age gracefully, run a marathon, climb a mountain, kayak a river … a healthy, active, competent person is so much sexier than a couch potato who drinks too much and pops pills. And while I did feel a little prick of envy checking out these paragons of perfection, it was followed by increased motivation to get my ass in gear and try to be, like the Olympians, the best version of myself I can be.

Spice things up tonight

Spices are one of nature’s and God’s great gifts to mankind. Otherwise known as herbs, these medicinal plants offer amazing healing benefits. Whether fresh or dried, they help fight cancer, Alzheimer’s and aging and boost your heart, immune system, metabolism, and brain power. Basically, they keep you looking and feeling young, healthy and sharp. You can get their benefits topically in the form of essential oils, or you can use them to add that special something to your dinner. Listing all the different types of herbs and their uses and benefits would fill a book, and indeed there are many on the subject. Here are a few of the spices I use most frequently, along with a few of the great things they do (click on the source to read more in-depth).

Rosemary — Anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal and anti-septic; rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. (Source: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/rosemary-herb.html)

Oregano — Anti-parasitical and anti-fungal, effective Candida treatment (it also only kills the harmful fungi, without affecting the natural intestinal flora);  treatments of gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory illnesses and certain menstrual irregularities; rich in antioxidants. (Source: http://www.oreganobenefits.net/)

Basil — Exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein andzea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease process; Zeaxanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it found to filter harmful UV rays from reaching retina and help to protect from age related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly; Vitamin A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and to help body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers; Vitamin K in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays vital role in the bone strengthening function by helping mineralization process in the bones. (Source: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/basil-herb.html)

Parsley — Anti-cancer properties; antioxidant; boosts immune system; anti-inflammatory; vitamins C, A and K; promotes healthy heart. (Source: http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/6-health-benefits-of-parsley.html)

Cinnamon — Treats colds, indigestion, headaces and cramps and also believed to improve energy, vitality and circulation; lowers bad cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar; anti-fungal; fights leukemia; relieves arthritis; anti-clotting properties; boosts memory and cognitive function. (Source: http://www.organicauthority.com/health/11-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html)

I like to sprinkle rosemary on chopped yukon gold potatoes. I add olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika and bake in the oven until crispy. Great with ketchup and a healthy alternative to french fries. Oregano is good in meat sauce and on pizza, while basil is a must-have on pasta and caprese salad. My grandma always said, you can never have too much basil. Ah, basil, how I love you. Fresh or dried, I pile it on. It is so fragrant and enticing. Parsley is good on fish with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I also put it on my organic macaroni and cheese! Cinnamon is good in apple sauce and I ALWAYS put it in my coffee (along with raw sugar, almond milk and raw cocoa powder).

But there are so many more delectable options, each full of their unique tasty zing (especially if locally grown — try to cultivate your own!) and medicinal magic. Click here to read about more spices and their benefits (like garlic, sage and curry) and here and here to learn about what foods to pair them with.

Your mom is being targeted

Better Homes & Gardens is the third most popular magazine in the United States, bested only by AARP Magazine and AARP Bulletin (AARP is the American Association for Retired Persons; these publications are targeted towards the burgeoning Baby Boomer demographic).

Over 7.6 million American women are mailed a copy every month. And when you take into account all its sister publications (like Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Parents), all under the Meredith Corporation umbrella, you can deduce that over 75 million women are exposed to not only recipes, stress-reduction techniques, beauty tips and decorating features, but to targeted advertisements. Which, disturbingly, are often those of Big Pharma: Merck, Lilly, Pfizer, et al.

I became intrigued when I was flipping through an issue and was horrified to see page after page of prescription drug ads. In a recent issue, I counted six (besides others for over-the-counter meds and ultra-beneficial products like M&Ms, Campbell’s Soup, refined Domino’s Sugar, McDonald’s, Eggos and Cocoa Pebbles cereal). All except one were 2-3 page ads (the second and third pages needed to list all the myriad, horrifying potential side effects). They were mainly for bladder and cholesterol issues: Vesicare, Enbral (psoriasis), Livalo, Toviaz, Celebrex (arthritis) and Zetia.

Only the United States and New Zealand allows for television advertising of prescription drugs; and the United States — which makes up five percent of the world’s population — accounts for forty-two percent of the money spent on prescription drugs.[4] (sourced from rationalwiki.org).

Seeing an ad does not necessarily incite action. But when your doctor is pushing pills (because they get research stipends and other incentives for doing so) and you are seeing them in every other ad on the TV and in your favorite magazine, and you don’t know any better, you might just think they are a good idea. Taking these pills, I promise you, will cause much harm and very slight, if any, good.

Read a little more.

Drink up some passion

There are myriad delicious flavors of tea. Made with leaves and infused with herbs, spices, flowers and fruits, each variety is packed full of antioxidants and unique health benefits.

But one of my all-time favorites, and one I’d like to recommend, is Passion by Tazo. Caffeine-free, it is made with hibiscus flowers, passion fruit and mango, licorice root, orange peel, cinnamon, rose hips and lemongrass.

I am attracted to its sweet taste, but it turns out it is providing me with a mugful of vitamin C and countless other health benefits, everything from calming nerves to lowering blood pressure to enhancing cognition (click the links above to learn more).

I was reminded when I visited a wizened herbalist at the weekend farmer’s market that there are many natural spices/plants/roots/flowers that can heal. I would love to learn more about what each one can do and then apply them as needed.  Tea drinking is common in India, Japan and in other cultures, but I think many of us in developed western societies are unaware of the power of plants to heal and enhance and make well.

Perhaps you can explore these natural remedies, not only to heal but to prevent future ailments, refresh your skin and provide natural mood, energy and immunity boosts, in place of drinking coffee, artificial drinks (soda, energy drinks, anything with high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, etc.) and relying on over-the-counter pills and medicine.

A few years ago I decided to never take any pills or medicine again. But, I did take Advil for menstrual cramps. Recently I have discovered that there are natural remedies for that as well! Do some research and you will find a wealth of good-tasting, nice-smelling, pleasant ways to treat your body right. Now doesn’t that beat the two pages worth of devastating side effects on the ubiquitous ads for yet another toxic and expensive pill with a manipulatively clever name?

Listen to yourself

The U.S. health and fitness industry, which includes the weight loss industry, is worth $60 billion a year. There are infinite plans, pills and programs; many people struggle on a daily basis to regulate caloric intake and mindlessly go for anything with “Low Fat” plastered on it.

Interesting that before the Industrial Revolution, there was no such thing as ‘organic.’ Everything was grown in nutrient-rich soil, without pesticides, and all meat was free-range and untainted. There was also really no such thing as exercise, at least how it is now construed. People were naturally active on a daily basis.

I suppose my point isn’t all that profound: just that you don’t need any special regimen at all. You just need to walk and run and move more, every day. You don’t need to have a dietitian or a book or a celebrity or a commercial or a product package to tell you what to eat. You just have to use some common sense (just because an avocado is filled with fat does not mean it is bad; whole unpasteurized milk is superior to skim milk laced with antibiotics) and try to listen to what your body is telling you.

If you are free from addictions to MSG, salt, sugar and other processed foods and additives, then you can follow your cravings to what your body may need. For example, if you find yourself craving sweet potatoes, you may be deficient in vitamin A. If you love clam chowder, your body might be appreciatively gobbling up all that iron and zinc. Love tomato sauce-slathered pasta and orange juice? (Yes.) You may need to stock up on Vitamin C. Even wanting to indulge in dark chocolate means that your body may require a little burst of mood-boosting serotonin.

There are endless good things to eat and drink, each filled with unique and miraculously beneficial compositions of minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and/or nutrients. And to have them all on hand 24/7 at the corner grocery store — I know I have the Industrial Revolution to thank for that.

I would just like to point out that there is no need to pay for any person, program or pill, or to even count calories. It’s all about the quality of ingredients and if the food product is pure and unadulterated. If you eat only high-caliber, whole foods, and eat only when you are hungry, and follow your cravings, plus walk a lot more than you sit, then you should not have much of a problem with your weight, metabolism or health.