Beachbody LIIFT 4 Challenge Review

In 2018, I had a goal to lose 18 pounds. It matched the year well, but also with the amount of weight I gained during pregnancy.  While I was nearly back to pre-pregnancy weight almost immediately after delivering my 9.5 lb daughter, I gained it all back with breastfeeding.  I’d always heard from people that you should lose weight while breastfeeding from all the extra calories you burn- it’s not true for everyone!  This article does a great job explaining why if you fall into that group.

I was ravenous while breastfeeding, so it was hard to keep from eating. Even when I did practice self control with portion size or trying to cut carbs, my milk supply would tank so I couldn’t continue. When I weaned, I started trying to eat healthier to lose some weight, but my sugar cravings were huge. I would snack with my toddler and I still felt so hungry that it was difficult to portion-control. I needed a big change and when a friend shared with me about her results from Beachbody, I was ready to try it.

I joined an 8-week challenge and absolutely loved it, so I thought I would share with those of you who need something to get you motivated. Here’s what I loved:

liift4Exercise

Going to a gym or group workouts are not my thing. It doesn’t fit well within my schedule and I don’t feel comfortable. I loved the access to Beachbody on Demand- doing the workouts any time I want from home. For this 8-week challenge, I did the LIIFT 4 program. It is 30-40 minutes 4 times per week, which felt so do-able. The routines were HARD, but every exercise had a modification option too.

I discovered that I really like the mix of weight lifting and cardio and that it works really well for my body. I improved significantly in strength- starting out with 5lbs as my heavy weights and ending up with 15lbs. There is a weight tracker so you can track the weight you use on each move and see how you improve.  I feel so much stronger and have more stamina and better balance. I could barely do a couple of modified push ups at the beginning, and now I can do 30+.

The other thing I liked about this program is that every day is different. Weeks do not repeat, so it keeps things interesting.  Typically, one day would focus on chest/triceps, one on legs, one on shoulders and one on back/biceps, always ending with a couple core exercises. I saw inches lost in each area and toning all over, but especially in my waist (6 inches lost).

Since doing this LIIFT 4 Challenge, I did the 21 Day Fix work outs during December. They were okay but I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. I love that I have the flexibility to try out different styles and trainers, but I’ll be going back to LIIFT 4 soon.

Nutrition

Weight loss is mostly what you eat. I knew this would be my greatest challenge, but I was motivated to do it right. The program I did was part of the 21 Day Fix meal plan. You get containers mailed to you and based on your weight, you know how many containers of each food group you can eat that day: veggies, protein, fruit, carbs, nuts/seeds, oil.  Essentially, the focus is on veggies and protein.

I liked this model because it gave me some reasonable guidelines to follow. I never actually measured using the containers, but generally eye-balled the amounts and tracked how much I ate each day.  I was extremely strict about following the plan, BUT I did not follow it exactly when it came to healthy fats and fruit. I felt the program allowed more fruit than I really needed (3 servings), so I never ate that much. I also feel that it doesn’t allow for enough healthy fat. I didn’t hesitate to cook with coconut or avocado oil or to eat avocado or drink butter coffee or use as much Primal Kitchen dressing on my salads as I wanted (I didn’t go crazy like eating a stick of butter). Those healthy fats help us feel fuller longer and help us lose fat.

The other thing I like about the meal plan is that it allows for a couple of cheats. 1- three days a week, you can trade a carb container for a glass of red wine. I didn’t do it often, but it was nice to have the option. 2- you get one cheat meal each week, which I usually reserved for football-watching parties on Saturdays or date night. I would drink and eat what I wanted without worrying about it and always make sure I exercised the next day. Having this cheat meal to look forward to was helpful for me to stay motivated.

Ultimately, following the meal plan was most important to getting results- many people in the challenge group admitted to cheating multiple times per week and their lack of results definitely showed it.

The other part of this program is Shakeology. I was most hesitant about this because I am not a shake person. I am a big fan of “real food” and not using meal replacements. However, I looked into the ingredients in Shakeology and was impressed. It includes protein and dense nutrients, with only 7 grams of sugar, and is whole-foods based.  The nutrients include super-fruit antioxidants (to combat free radicals), adaptogens (to combat stress), a blend of super-greens, and pre- and pro-biotics and enzymes to aid digestion.

Beachbody makes the following benefit claims about Shakeology, and from personal experience, I would agree these are definitely true:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce junk food cravings – to me, this was the most important one and it is what kept me drinking it daily. I simply don’t crave dessert or sugar after drinking it.
  • Provide healthy energy
  • Support your digestion and regularity.

I personally use the Vegan Vanilla Shakeology (I avoid dairy as I’m not very tolerant to it) and like that it is flexible to drink simply with unsweetened coconut milk and ice, but also to mix with berries and/or a half banana for a smoothie.  I add collagen peptides and spirulina powder as well for an extra nutrient punch. I use it as a snack replacement mid afternoon when hunger or cravings kick in.

Motivation

I think we all know- it helps to have a friend hold you accountable. I had my friend as my “coach” personally encouraging me, but also was part of a Facebook group with everyone participating. There was a prize at the end for earning points throughout- points for posting pictures of the shakes, sweaty selfies after exercising and for checking in each Monday with measurements and other results.  It was encouraging to see others posting and know I wasn’t alone.

Results

At the end of the 8 weeks, I had lost 12 pounds and 20.5 inches. The challenge ended just after Thanksgiving.  Through December, I continued to focus on protein and veggies, resisting sugar but indulging when I really wanted to, and kept up a 4-day per week exercise routine. I lost an additional 5 pounds after the challenge, narrowly missing my goal.  While I gained back a few lbs from Christmas and New Year’s champagne + dessert, I quickly lost those and more during a 10-Day Sugar Detox I did starting Jan 2nd. Since October 1 when I started with the Beachbody programs, I’ve lost 20 pounds!!

I’m motivated to continue towards more weight loss and toning this year, so I’ll be starting another challenge later this month. If you are interested in joining me to start off reaching your goals this new year, let me know!

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What I Learned in Early Pregnancy

half-way-pregnancyThe idea of becoming a mother and the impending great responsibility of raising a daughter has made me quite reflective lately.  Here are a few thoughts of what I learned in the first half of my pregnancy that I hope can be encouraging to those of you expecting:

  • Focus on nutrition pre-pregnancy – If you know me or have ever visited this blog before, you know how important I think the right nutrition is.  I’ve done a lot of reading on epigenetics (one of my favorite books that explains it well is Deep Nutrition) and have been convinced that I have the ability & responsibility to impact the genes of my future generations by changing what I eat and my exposure to environmental toxins.  With all the health problems I have experienced in my lifetime, I really wanted to change my gene expression to give my children (and future grandchildren) the best chance at great health.  I’m confident that since I’ve seen benefits myself, that my diet and lifestyle changes over the past 5 years will be even more beneficial to this growing baby. And another reason to focus on nutrition pre-pregnancy is…
  • Giving myself some grace – Before I got pregnant, I thought I would be the type to continue exercising and eating the best possible foods, not giving into cravings much.  That all went out the window when I was hit with a wave of all-day nausea (the term “morning sickness” is a cruel joke) and lack of energy that made simply getting through the day an achievement. Going to work took everything out of me; 5 o’clock naps and 9 pm bedtimes became my norm and exercise was the last thing on my mind.  The thought of any kind of food repulsed me, so I was in survival mode- anything that sounded remotely okay at the moment is what I could eat.  Mac n’ cheese, PB&J, applesauce and popsicles became my go-to food items for the first time in many years. There are so many mom blogs out there that talk about doing crossfit during pregnancy or eating super healthy green smoothies and liver for nutrients.  Good for them, but that is not realistic if you are experiencing these symptoms- it’s not possible to just “push through” them. The nausea finally started to subside after Week 21 and I was able to add in some more protein and veggies, but I’ve had to give myself grace.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom or a bad blogger or unhealthy person; I’ll continue to do my best to be healthy in the remainder of pregnancy.  But, I’m just thankful I was healthy enough pre-pregnancy to pull me through this season.
  • How to rest – This may not be an issue for some of you, but for those like me who can’t go to sleep without doing at least one productive thing each day, it was a hard lesson to learn.  Sure, it was forced upon me, but I’ve learned the value of slowing life down and getting some rest.  I’m certainly not taking it for granted – I’m learning to appreciate lots of sleep and quiet weekends at home with my hubby, as I know those will disappear for many years after baby is born.  You’re growing a human and it takes a lot of energy- use this down time to read and pray and prepare for the craziness to come.
  • To start ignoring judgmental comments – I’ve seen this happen with moms I know that judge each other on breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, cloth vs disposable diapers, vaccines, or discipline and it’s terribly sad and disappointing.  I knew to expect it in motherhood, but wasn’t quite prepared to face it so early on in pregnancy.  As soon as I found out we were expecting, I began my search for a birth center with midwife care.  I knew that if I had a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital.  Personally, I’ve had terrible doctor and hospital experiences that make me nervous to even visit friends in the hospital, so I knew it would not be the most relaxing, comfortable location for me to labor. I have bad reactions to pain medication, so I don’t want to risk complications and I believe a place that focuses on natural childbirth will be the safest for me and the baby.  Women have been having babies without pain medication for thousands of years, and I believe I have the strength to do it.  Funny how the norm can become so alien to people now used to babies in hospitals.  I never bring it up, but people always ask where I’m having my baby and so I tell them the truth.  The response is almost never encouragement; rather, I usually get raised eyebrows and a sarcastic “good luck” or “good for you.”  Maybe some have the best of intentions or for whatever reason feel judged themselves, but it has continued to surprise me that moms want to encourage otherwise… “that’s why we have doctors/hospitals,” “you aren’t weak because you choose getting an induction/epidural/c-section,” “you have no idea how painful it is,” “you better plan for things to not go your way.” So to those of you mamas who want a natural childbirth- you’ll get no judgment here: you are strong and know what’s best for you and you can do it!
  • A new appreciation for the value of fighting for LIFE – While this pregnancy was planned, the news was a bit of a surprise (see this post).  Finding out you are pregnant can bring on all kinds of emotions (the surge of hormones doesn’t help); it is life changing and body changing and full of unknowns – My friend Emily wrote a great blog about the totally normal mixed emotions of pregnancy for those of you dealing with those unexpected feelings.  This season of life has made me even more compassionate for women who find out they are pregnant and don’t want to be.  It’s scary and uncertain and really, really hard.  Add the news of a baby to early pregnancy symptoms and it becomes even harder. I cannot imagine doing it without a lack of support.  I have the utmost amount of respect and admiration for the strong women who chose to believe their baby is more than a fetus, that he or she is a life worth saving and who decide give that life a chance.  It is incredible to see week-by-week how the baby grows and how developed they are even by the time you find out you are pregnant.  We heard the heart beat at just 8 weeks, but it was beating weeks before that.  Pregnancy is a miracle and all babies deserve a chance at life no matter what the circumstances of their conception are.
  • To Practice Thankfulness – Though this pregnancy has been really tough on me physically, I can never forget 1) that I wasn’t supposed to even be able to get pregnant and 2) that so many couples struggle for years with infertility, miscarriage, loss or go through the long adoption process to become parents.  No matter how hard the day, I try to focus on the fact that God has blessed us with the life of this baby girl and that she is healthy and so am I.  I’m learning to practice thankfulness daily by taking time in the evening and throughout the day to reflect on what I’m grateful for.

Pregnant?  What did you learn in the first few months?

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

BruschettaAs I’ve been planning our upcoming trip to Italy, I’ve found my cooking quite inspired by the cuisine. Last night, I needed a quick dinner and happened to find fresh baguettes on sale at Whole Foods for just 99¢, so I went with one of my favorite go-to 5 minute recipes: bruschetta!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package organic cherry heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 package organic mozzarella cheese
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon organic olive oil (my favorite brand is Kasandrinos)
  • drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

  1. Put tomatoes into food processor and pulse just a couple times until tomatoes are broken up.
  2. Cut mozzarella cheese into small pieces.
  3. Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix together. That was so easy, right?!

4 Easy Serving Options:

Toasted Baguette – the most traditional way to serve… cut a baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices and arrange on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle some garlic and ground pepper on top. Put in a 425 degree oven for 3-5 minutes depending on how toasty you like your bread. Top with the bruschetta and serve.

Pasta – prepare your favorite pasta (I recommend Organic Einkorn Grain Spaghetti for a more digestible form of gluten) and toss with olive oil. Instead of a sauce, top with bruschetta for a fresh version perfect for a hot summer day!

Grilled Chicken – for a healthier, gluten-free version with some protein, marinate some chicken with balsamic vinegar for an hour and then grill. Top with the bruschetta mixture and serve.

Salad – another gluten-free option – get your veggies for the day by serving over some mixed greens; plus, you won’t even need to add dressing.

Enjoy!

Buying Organic on a Budget

Where IAfter writing about how I’ve made the change to buying all organic foods, I’ve received lots of questions about how I’ve been able to make that happen within budget.  Purchasing all-organic groceries is only slightly more expensive than buying conventional and has also provided an extra cost-saving bonus: improving my nutrition with an organic diet has saved me money on healthcare costs too. Today, I’m sharing how I save money on organic groceries.

My 4 Grocery Shopping Rules:

  1. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. I’m a sucker for a good deal, so I have to resist temptation and be intentional about buying only what I need.  If I don’t follow this rule, I usually end up spending more than I planned.
  2. Check for coupons before you check-out. While I’m not much of a coupon-er, I do check for coupons at the store before I purchase. At Whole Foods, they have a wall of coupons to look through when you walk in the store. And many stores, like Sprouts and Natural Grocers, put their coupon ads on their website; I’ll look on my phone while in line or before I walk in the store. You can save even more by looking for coupons in the weekly mailed ads, especially if you create your grocery list around those deals. Most coupons are for processed foods, but I often find some for fresh items too at the stores I list below.
  3. Make a list and stick to it. Plan out your meals for the week and make a shopping list. Knowing what you need to buy keeps you from wandering throughout the store and buying things you don’t need. I also have a running list of always-needed items, like toiletries, coconut oil and dog food, that I look for regularly and buy when they’re on sale.
  4. Buy fresh. Processed and pre-prepared foods are always more expensive than the actual ingredients.  Stick to the edge of the store as you shop and load up with fresh items to cook at home.  The bulk of your cart should be filled with organic produce & meat, not cardboard or plastic packages.

Where I Shop for the Best Deals:

  • Whole Foods – This might come as a surprise with the common nickname “whole paycheck,” but Whole Foods has actually had to reduce its prices lately to compete.  I regularly shop at Whole Foods and find some great deals. The hardest part is staying away from all the yummy pre-prepared food they have available… just don’t go shopping hungry!
  • Natural Grocers – This store always has incredible sales throughout the store.  They get much of their produce directly from local farmers and since it doesn’t have to travel miles on a truck to get there, it’s usually cheaper. Plus, if you use your debit card, you can save 5% on your total purchase.
  • Sprouts – Sprouts coupons run Wednesday-Wednesday, which means that on Wednesdays, they have double the amount of deals available than any other day of the week.  If you happen to be shopping on a Wednesday, this is the place to save money.
  • Farmers Market – Buying direct from the source saves on overhead costs, which ultimately saves you money. The best bonus here is that you’re supporting local farmers and ranchers who are passionate about providing healthy food options to their community.
  • Thrive Market – Think Whole Foods meets Costco meets Amazon. It’s an online shop that offers wholesale pricing on non-perishable organic foods, toiletries, vitamins and more. And, you get free shipping on orders over $49. Thrive Market is also socially conscious: they use recyclable packaging and when you sign up as a member, Thrive will donate a membership to a low-income family so they too can have access to lower cost organic foods. Get a 30-day free trial membership and 15% off your first order by signing up here!
  • Instacart – If you have a hard time buying more than what’s on your list when you grocery shop (or just don’t have time/hate going to the store), you should check this site out.  Here’s the deal: You pick what you want online, an Instacart shopper does all the shopping for you and then delivers your groceries to your front door at the time slot you choose. Whole Foods is a store option and the prices are usually the same as in-store; the only extra cost is a delivery fee. Since this process let’s you see exactly how items are adding up as you shop, I feel like it keeps me to my exact shopping list and budget. PLUS, Instacart will shop at Cost-Co without you having a membership to shop there, so that gets you even more savings. Get $5 off your first order here!
  • Where do I not shop for organic foods? My regular local grocery store, HEB.  The organic items are always more expensive, sometimes even double the cost of a natural foods store. So, if you’ve been comparing prices and seeing how expensive that organic apple is compared to its conventional counterpart, consider that it may be the store you’re at.

Think you can make the switch to buying all organic groceries? Or have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Shopping!

What’s Your Dog Eating?

Raw Dog FoodWe all love our pups… they’re not only our best friends, they’re part of our families. We want them to live long, healthy lives as our companions; but, are we giving them the best chance at doing so?

Our family dog, a Wheaton terrier, had several health problems throughout her life.  It was heartbreaking and frustrating that we followed all the vet’s advice for raising a healthy dog and still watched her suffer. Ultimately, her life was cut short because of it all. When I got my schnoodle, Belle, I did a lot of research on everything I could do to raise her in better health.  The information I found lead me to make some dramatic changes, including what I feed her.  I focus so much on putting nutritious foods into my own body, why wouldn’t I do the same for her?

It’s a well-known fact that dogs share a very similar DNA with their canine relatives (like wolves), so, of course, we should feed them similar diets, right?  We see the pictures of meats and vegetables on the bags of dog food, but have you ever actually taken a look at the ingredient list?  You might be surprised by it.  Commercial dog foods today contain:

  • Questionable Meat – The type of meat that goes into dog food is typically the cheapest, poorest quality. And there’s usually not much of it to meet the high-protein needs of our canine friends. Many brands use “meal,” which is a highly processed form of meat.
  • Grains & Carbs – Many kibbles use corn or wheat as cheap fillers. Dogs cannot digest those foods well, leading to the big smelly poops you get in your yard, but also to a host of other problems… allergies (this is a BIG one!), yeast infections, poor dental health, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.
  • Preservatives – Filled with salt and other chemical preservatives to improve shelf-life, it leaves your dog thirsty and laden with behavioral and health problems caused by these toxins. Many of these additives aren’t deemed safe for humans.
  • Processed Ingredients – It’s funny how we are told to avoid processed foods for optimal health, yet we feed our dogs heavily processed food every single day, for their entire lives. No wonder they are begging for our kitchen table leftovers.

This all comes as probably a shock to you, as it was to me. Don’t these companies spend time and money on research to find what the best nutrition is for our pets? Their commercials certainly advertise that they do.  But check out the ingredients for yourself and you’ll find that even the “best” dry dog food raises some questions.

Kibble is nothing like the diets of dogs’ relatives and goes against everything considered “healthy” by humans.  So what’s the alternative? A raw food diet… exactly what a canine needs for proper nutrition.  What does that consist of?  Raw meaty bones, muscle meat and fish, organs, vegetables, eggs, and vitamins. Still not so sure? Here are a few of the questions and fears I had originally and the answers I’ve discovered:

  • How do I make sure my dog is getting the right amount of food and balanced nutrition?  The book Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog explains everything in detail and very simply. It explains proportions for each type of ingredient, gives sample “meal plans” with different meats and has a formula to determine the amount to feed based on your dog’s size and stage of life.
  • What will this do to my dog’s teeth?  Actually, it will help a lot!  Kibble is terrible for keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy… it creates lots of plaque leading to decay and bad breath. One of the most noticeable things about switching food for my dog Belle is that her teeth are getting whiter and her breath is much better.
  • Aren’t bones bad for dogs? Cooked bones are bad because they can splinter and be very harmful when swallowed.  Raw bones don’t splinter like this and dogs really enjoy chewing on them (which helps clean teeth even more!). If you are still really worried about it, the book above has some suggestions for softer bones to use or how to grind them up smaller.  Even small dogs like bones – my 10lb dog loves gnawing on chicken wings!
  • This sounds messy… is it?  Yes, unfortunately, it is messier than kibble. I now have to clean Belle’s face after meals, but she enjoys it SO much, it’s totally worth it!
  • How much time does all this take?  It depends. I’ve talked to people who say they prep their dog food when they do their own meal prep on Sundays, and it’s only an additional half hour a week or so.  But, I currently don’t do the food preparation myself right now. I’ve found an option that’s dehydrated raw food where I can just add hot water to rehydrate. It’s super quick and easy to make a bowl for her. Then I throw in a couple bones each week for her to chew on and an organ every once in awhile when I’m cooking a whole chicken.
  • Is it more expensive?  It depends on what you’re buying now, but it wasn’t for me.  A quick Amazon search shows that a 35lb bag of Purina Pro dog food cost $40.  When I was buying dry dog food, I purchased a GMO & preservative-free, high protein brand called Nulo for $55 for a 24lb bag. I now purchase I and Love and You Raw Dehydrated Dog Food; a 5.5lb bag makes 36 lbs of prepared food – on Amazon it’s $67, at Whole Foods it’s $60 and on Thrive Market it’s only $50. I’ve also purchased a similar option that uses free-range meat – The Honest Kitchen Free-Range Chicken Raw Dog Food – it’s a little pricier, but I buy if it’s on sale. If you go with preparing your own food, there’s many ways to save by buying meat & bones in bulk or getting unique cuts of meat no one else wants (dogs don’t care!) for a discount. I’ve asked the butcher for the bones they remove for their boneless chicken breasts & thighs and got them super cheap.
  • My dog is picky; will she like it? ABSOLUTELY!  Honestly, I was convinced by my research that this was certainly the healthier choice, but what sold me was how much she LOVES it. With her old dry dog food, I would put a bowl out in the morning and she would only pick at it a little throughout the day. And she’s always been picky with treats and sometimes even table scraps. Now, when I make her food, she scarfs it down. If we take too long to get out of bed in the morning, she will whimper and jump to remind us because she’s so excited to eat. Obviously, this food is the best for her. I’ll never make her go back to crumbly kibble.

When we started feeding Belle raw dog food and bones, I immediately noticed several improvements to her health.  To sum all this up, here are a few of the health benefits you can expect by switching your dog to a raw food diet:

  • Cleaner Teeth, Better Breath – gnawing on bones and meat helps remove plaque
  • Shinier, Smoother Hair – all the collagen in the bones and extra vitamins help
  • Less Allergies – I barely notice Belle chewing her feet anymore. Grains and toxic preservatives in dry dog food are the main cause for allergic reactions and inflammation.
  • Healthy Joints – I’m hopeful that Belle won’t have to struggle with painful arthritis in her old age like our Wheaton did. The bones & marrow contain glucosamine which is necessary for creating collagen and helps build and repair bones, joints, tendons and ligaments.
  • Easier Digestion – This is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen. Real talk… Belle’s poop is not nearly as hard as it used to be, which makes it come out much easier for her. I don’t have to express her anal glands anymore or risk them getting infected from becoming impacted. Her poo essentially dissolves in the yard in just a couple of days, which I think says a lot about what kind of ingredients she was eating before. It’s also less smelly.
  • Hydration – Raw dog food naturally contains lots of water unlike dry kibble.  I’ve noticed that Belle rarely goes for her water bowl anymore (only after a long walk or after barking at the neighbor dog on a hot day).
  • More Energy – you’ve removed ingredients that cause lethargy and replaced by those that give proper protein and nutrition for energy
  • Lean Muscle –  Belle didn’t struggle with being overweight like many dogs, but she’s definitely more muscular now.  If you’re dog does need to lose some pounds, this raw diet would be great to try.

Sorry for the super long post, but I hope this information helps you make a more informed decision about your dog’s nutrition. I’m so glad we’ve made this change for our sweet pup… the transition has been so easy and was definitely worth it!

What do you think? Is this something you’d be willing to try for your dog?

Magnesium Maybe?

Low energy, fatigue, headaches, stress, muscle tension and spasms, trouble sleeping, PMS, hormonal imbalances, nervousness, anxiety, irritability – any of these symptoms ring a bell? Or maybe a few?

You just might have a magnesium deficiency… and, you certainly wouldn’t be alone – 70% of women and 80% of men don’t get the daily intake they need, which means that most of us are quite lacking in this essential mineral.  Dr. Mark Hyman sums it up perfectly on his website:

Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.

This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues — but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.

Doctors are constantly touting that we all need to drink more milk to get more calcium for strong bones.  But, getting too much calcium without enough magnesium creates a dangerous imbalance that can cause numerous health problems. Plus, if your diet consists of a lot of salt, coffee, sodas, alcohol and sugar, you are draining your body of it even further.  Another problem is that only about 30-40% of the amount we eat is absorbed by our bodies (source).  Why? Our bodies require enough vitamin B6 (eat your veggies), vitamin D (hello, sunshine!) and selenium (meat, poultry, fish & eggs) in order to be able to absorb magnesium.

Luckily, increasing your magnesium intake is a super easy fix.  Here’s what I do to get at least 400 mg per day (up to 1,000 mg can be helpful depending on the severity of your symptoms):

  1. Diet – Eat a lot of leafy green vegetables like spinach & collard greens, avocado, nuts – almonds, cashews and peanuts top the list, legumes and seaweed.
  2. Supplement – Magnesium SupplementFind a whole food supplement with magnesium citrate or glycinate taurate (easiest to absorb).  Avoid the cheap supplements with magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide.  Since I take so many vitamins and minerals each morning, I like to mix it up by taking this one during the day – Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement.  It’s pure magnesium citrate and comes in lots of flavors; you add it to water and it makes a fizzy Emergen-C type beverage.  This is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up; since magnesium helps the body relax, it diffuses any of the stress I am feeling at work.
  3. Epsom Salt Bath – Epsom Salt BathEpsom Salts are pure magnesium and are recommended for relieving sore muscles. I mix up some lavender essential oil with my epsom salts in a glass jar and keep by the tub to add to my baths.  It’s super relaxing and helps your body absorb magnesium before bed, which leads to falling asleep faster and better rest.

Personally, since realizing that I was deficient in magnesium and increasing my intake, I have seen great results.  My afternoon headaches are gone, my energy has increased, I sleep better and my stress levels are down (though that last one may have a little something to do with this too!).

Are you suffering from any of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency? Think you’ll give any of the tips above a try?  I’d love to hear how it helps you!

Unwinding

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop on this cold, rainy day, drinking an almond milk latte and writing in the middle of the afternoon.  I am thankful for days like this… for days to relax, to do what I love and for being myself again.  I finally obeyed doctor’s orders and left my job;  I have a few more days off before I start a new adventure on Monday!  These two weeks have been wonderful; I have been tackling house projects, reading, traveling & finally getting a chance to completely unwind.

I’m hopeful for 2015.  Even though it’s only one month into the year, I’m keeping up with my goals and excited for what is to come.  I am loving how my new Jawbone Up24 is holding me accountable… I have kept a daily food diary since Jan 2 and I am taking my pup for a walk or run nearly every day.  In just the past week, I’ve lost 5 pounds – I’m sure the drop in stress levels helped quite a bit.  I’m also feeling the improvement in my health.  I’ve been on my new health protocol to bring balance to my hormones, vitamin D, iron & electrolyte levels for 4 months and really noticing how my body is healing itself.

During my free time, I’m hoping to write a few more blogs to share over the next couple of months.  While I have some topics in mind, I want to know what you want to hear about.  Help me out…