Red Meat, Butter and Vino, and Staying Lean?

Hope you all are having a fabulous week 🙂
I write a lot about implementing balance with our eating, and many of you resonate with that. But I think for some, there exists a small crumpet of doubt when we hear words like “moderation”, “reduction” and “treats.” We don’t like these words.

They are kiiiiiiind of not hardcore enough. They are a little wimpy. And they don’t really get results, do they? You might now be thinkin…what?? “I can eat my cheese, drink some wine and stay lean, seriously??”

Hee hee. Well, I get that. And I have poo-poo’ed the idea of moderation for a long time. I thought it was for Grandma and for those who had no willpower or who weren’t tough enough to hack the hard stuff. And agreeably, that’s actually not untrue … except for the fact that willpower and discipline eventually give out, and when they do, most of us end up binge eating like crazy. Im sooo guilty of this…
So in a way, throwing ourselves a few nutritional bones (…chocolate bones for me) ahead of time might actually make us more compliant in the long run, which (surprise!) DOES lead to overall sustainable leanness. Go figure! 🙂

In a previous blog, I talked about what I call Controlled Cheating -my strategies to keep indulgences sane. I break down tactics I use to feel less deprived overall and because of that, am less likely to binge, especially around my period (sorry guys, I had to bring this up). I sincerely believe strategic nutritional concessions can actually boost long-term compliance.

HOWEVER … this is where Skeptical Sally comes in. It’s all fine and well to indulge in small cheats here and there, but does that really get results???

I took the shot below (unfiltered) this week, the morning after dining out on the following meal: bison burgers, avocado slices, asparagus cooked in butter and 2 glasses of wine. No bread, no dessert, no extra starch. But yes, red meat, butter and vino. Is it competition-clean? No. But will it make me feel satisfied and satiated to the point that I don’t need anything else? Absolutely.

IMG_0137

Everyone will be different, obviously. And it has taken me close to SIX YEARS to begin to master the moderate approach. But honestly, I do think less about what I am going to eat. I try to eat to feel satisfied and limit stressing about it. I don’t want to get anxious if I don’t have my Tupperwares and ‘safe’ foods with me. I TRUST that I can make the best choice possible wherever I end up, even if, yes, it is veggies dowsed in butter 🙂

I’d love to hear where you’re at with this stuff. Are you still caught up in the “all-or-nothing” crash dieting approach, where you are EITHER on a strict diet OR you are eating everything in sight?

I’m not judging … I did that for years. But mastering moderation takes a leap of faith, a willingness to try a new way and then struggle your way through it. It’s rewarding and liberating and awesome. But it starts with YOU letting go of the illusion of control you think you have over your eating. Deprive-then-binge is not a fun way to live. It’s obsessive and controlling and a nutritional prison (not to mention an emotional one).
So what do you say? Gonna take steps toward the middle? Hit the comment button and send me a sentence or two on your own process!
Stay Strong – Amber

Posted in Nutrition & Supplements | Leave a comment

Why Diet’s Don’t Work … Especially After 40!

Pervasive conventional one-size-fits-all diets have tempted us women at least once in our lifetimes. You know the drill: calorie-restricted weight-loss approaches that make us feel like ATM machines that dispense with our unique, exquisitely intricate systems. These types of quick-fixes inevitably delude us, leading us to believe in the calories-in-calories-out weight loss method. Unfortunately, this grossly over-simplified model has appealed to and persuaded millions of us to try and buy into it. All too often, these diets have failed, and served no other purpose than to waste our precious time and money, and in the long-term, wreak havoc on our metabolisms. Poor eating habits also significantly contribute to the decline in restorative sleep, physical and emotional health, and our relationship with food.

The most devastating aspect of conventional diet stories and studies is that, in truth, two-thirds of dieters soon regain more weight than they ever lose (Blum, et al), and the more weight they initially lose, the greater their rebound weight (Braverman, et al). Any other model with such low success rates would be discounted immediately. As a result, we are disadvantaged, heavier, and more emotionally defeated. Unfortunately, the same women who fail time and again to lose weight also attempt an identical diet later on down the line, and become entangled in the “yo-yo effect” (Dulloo, et al).

Asking ourselves a couple of important questions will provide clarity:

(1)Why is it so much harder to lose weight after age 40 than when we are younger?

(2) How might “yo-yo dieting” affect our ability to lose fat now?

In considering these questions, we must keep in mind that years of weight-cycling can result in a host’s negative effects (Mehta, et al), just a few of which are listed below.

Chronic dieting — specifically where severe caloric restriction is required — depletes “feel-good” chemicals in the brain called “neurotransmitters.” 

How does this occur? Restriction diets cause multiple forms of physiological stress. In the brain, acute stress “burns up” our natural chemicals that act as sedatives, stimulants and pain relievers (i.e., endorphins). When we experience chronic stress (as often occurs during our peri/menopausal years, when multiple aspects of our lives and bodies are changing), our production and storage of these “feel-good” chemicals wane with the bodies correspondingly high demand for them. As a result, they down-regulate and make it seemingly impossible to achieve a state of calmness and equilibrium. Furthermore, when stress is high and we fail to manage it with restorative practices, myriad other potentially appetite-related issues can surface (e.g., cravings, binge eating), adrenal dysfunction and thyroid disease.

Caloric restriction impacts hormones

Women who chronically diet often avoid certain food groups, such as essential fats, in an effort to keep calories low; but essential fats from real food sources are vital to a healthy body, mind, and hormonal balance. For example, fats cover every cell in our bodies and brains. Note that fats allow us to feel satiated and full. When we do not eat enough essential fat sources, we are more likely to seek out sweets and starches, overeat, graze, and feel irritable, to name just a few related symptoms.

The brain is the fattest organ in the body, at 60% of its total makeup. Our brain on a very low-fat diet equates with mental instability and lack of concentration. Our nerves require fat to build their protective sheath that facilitates the transmission of signals between the brain and body. Diets that contain adequate amounts of fats keep the bowels lubricated and regular. Offsetting a common perimenopausal/menopausal complaint: constipation.

Fats are essential to the absorption and utilization of vitamins and minerals from our foods and from the sun.

In relation to peri/menopause, restricting certain foods, such as fats (and proteins that contain healthy essential fats) can cause nutrient deficiencies (e.g., zinc and vitamin B6). Together, they serve as precursors to our progesterone hormone production, which must be carefully watched and balanced, particularly during perimenopause.

Perimenopause often signals a decline in progesterone, rather than estrogen, in the system.

During perimenopause, women are more estrogen dominant. When we are deficient in progesterone and high in estrogen, our ability to lose fat dramatically decreases — especially when it comes to eliminating that muffin top. If our levels are too low, our bodies burn fifteen to twenty thousand fewer relative calories a year, and we experience increases of water retention, hence the bloated look and feelings.

Progesterone reductions also increase depression, anxiety, insomnia and the risk for osteoporosis (i.e., bone loss).

Conversely, if our progesterone levels are balanced in relation to estrogen, it will trigger the brain’s hypothalamus to increase core body temperature, thereby elevating our resting metabolic rate. This means that we will use more calories, even when we are less active!

Such are the weight-gain factors that women endure when entering or in perimenopause, beginning as early as age thirty eight and lasting one to ten years.

Restricting Calories Slows Metabolism

When we chronically restrict calories, we push our bodies into a more catabolic state, thereby breaking down our precious fat-burning, lean muscle mass. This can be devastating to our resting metabolic rates —and fertility prospects —because maintaining muscle as we age (i.e., from thirty-five on) becomes more difficult due to the natural loss of lean muscle tissue due to aging, known as sarcopenia. For example, a woman with a higher ratio of lean muscle to fat, as compared with those of similar weight and height with a lower lean-muscle-to-fat ratio, will burn more calories from fat throughout the day, regardless of activity levels or habits.

Ideally, a decade before perimenopause, clients should maintain as much muscle mass as possible by eating enough protein and through regular moderate exercise, so as to maintain a slimmer, healthier body through the change-of-life period.

Calorie-restriction Disrupts Thyroid Function

You may be surprised to learn, that T3 levels (T3 is the thyroid hormone responsible for raising metabolism), begins to drop within hours of calorie deprivation and continues to fall until we consume enough calories. This persistent “sense of starvation” can cause a permanent thyroid problem. As we enter our mid 30’s and 40’s, decreased T3 triggers what I call a “menopausal thyroid slump.” For most women, more than one factor causes the condition (e.g., genetics, unmanaged psychological stress, nutrient deficiencies from low-calorie dieting, eating disorders, poor gut health, and soy products). Although the most common cause is genetics, calorie-restricted and nutrient-deficient diets are also primary causes.

Early on during restricted dieting, the thyroid slows down to help the body hold on to nutritional resources until the famine ends; but chronic dieting further depresses the thyroid, which then creates an unending decline in multiple metabolic functions. The result of this permanent decrease/slowing of calorie utilization creates adrenal disturbance (i.e. stress regulation gland) and the familiar post-diet rebound weight gain. Until the thyroid begins to function properly again, energy, weight and general health cannot be optimal.

Be vigilant with your body and take action. If you believe you have a thyroid- related issue, you may have to request a full thyroid panel from your medical practitioner. At minimum, test the following: TSH, Free T4 and T3, Reverse T3, Thyroid Antibody Test, Vitamin D levels, and Ferritin levels (if you are experiencing hair loss).

Improving your health after years of yo-yo dieting may seem daunting, and in fact, it will not be a breeze; but in the long-term, when you repair your body and metabolism with a balanced, sustainable approach, you will begin to lose unwanted weight, without being attached to the strings of yo-yo dieting.

Stay Strong, Be Well! xoxo – Amber

REFERENCES:

Kenneth Blum, PhD, et al., “Clinical Evidence for the Effectiveness of PhenCal in Maintaining Weight Loss in an Open Label, Controlled, 2 year Study”, Current Therapeutic Research 58, no 10 (Oct. 1997): 745-63.

Eric Braverman, MD, et al., The Healing Nutrients Within (Laguna Beach, Ca: Basic Health Publications, 2003): 240.

Dulloo, et al., Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview, Obesity Reviews 16, S1 (2015): 1-6

Chris Kresser MS, LAc, Thyroid Disorders E Book.

Mehta, et al., Impact of Weight Cycling on Risk of Morbidity and Mortality. Obesity Reviews 15, no 11 (2004): 870-881

Posted in Hormone Harmony | Leave a comment

Good Sleep …A Step Closer to Perfect Hormonal Health!

Insomnia has reached epidemic proportions. It’s estimated to be the #1 health-related problem in America. More than 1/3 of Americans have trouble sleeping every night, and 51% of adults say they have problems sleeping at least a few nights each week. 43% of respondents report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their normal daytime activities.

These problems are getting worse, not better. The number of adults aged 20 to 44 using sleeping pills doubled from 2000 to 2004, and the number of kids ages 1-19 who take prescription sleep remedies jumped 85% during the same period. Prescriptions for sleeping pills topped 56 million in 2008 – up 54% from 2004 – with over $5 billion in sales in 2010.

Obviously we all know we need sleep to feel and look good, think clear, eat well, etc. So why don’t we do it? Or better yet, why doesn’t our body let us rest deeply? Let’s look deeper into this sleep subject. Starting with why sleep is important?

Long-term health depends on the regeneration that occurs during deep sleep. Growth hormone, or the “anti-aging” hormone, is secreted during sleep, which stimulates tissue regeneration, liver cleansing, muscle building, break down of fat stores and normalization of blood sugar. During sleep free radicals are scavenged in the brain, minimizing its aging. Many health problems are aggravated by inadequate sleep. Sleep gives us renewed vitality, a more positive outlook on life and energy with which we can become our full potential.

Here are some of the main symptoms of inadequate sleep:

You could experience drowsiness, fatigue, decreased concentration, impaired memory, reduced stress tolerance, mood changes, irritability, muscle tension, increased aging, changes in your body’s PH balance to more acidic, which increases health problems such as infections.

A basic but good protocol to improving the quality of your sleep would something like this:

1. Maintain consistent sleep and wake times. Do not push yourself to stay up past the initial signs of sleepiness. This can create epinephrine production, causing more difficulty getting to sleep later. It is good to have a “getting ready for bed” routine to relax and prepare your body for sleep. Avoid taking naps if you have trouble sleeping at night.

2. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only. Do not read, watch TV, eat, or worry in bed. Solve daily dilemmas outside of the bedroom. If you find that you’ve been lying awake in bed for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed. Do something mundane until you feel sleepy, and then go back to bed. Repeat this as often as needed.

3. Your sleeping environment should be quiet, cool and comfortable. The room should be clutter-free. Reduce the amount of ambient light as much as possible. Electronic devices such as clocks, stereos, TVs and computers generate electromagnetic fields that can disturb sleep for some people. Experiment with moving these into another room or using EMF shields. Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement, can be valuable in creating an optimal sleeping environment.

4. Exercise regularly. Exercising during the day or early evening decreases the time it takes to get to sleep and increases the amount of deep sleep obtained. Most people do better avoiding exercise late in the evening.

5. Exposure to sunlight early in the morning and late in the afternoon or evening encourages a strong circadian rhythm. The hormone melatonin, which helps create a sleep state in the body, is suppressed in light and secreted in darkness.

6. If you have problems with waking during the early hours of the morning, have a small protein snack just before bed to ensure consistent blood sugar levels throughout the night. Consistently get exposure to sunlight as late in the day as possible.

7. Improving overall health will improve the quality of your sleep. Work towards improving or eliminating health problems. Treatment modalities such as massage, acupuncture or cranial sacral will help to relax the body. Effective stressmanagement is essential.

Things to relax the body to prepare for sleep:

• Warm baths, adding Epsom salts (4cups per bath) and/or lavender oil enhance the benefit.
• Meditating for 5-30 minutes
• Progressive muscle relaxation (the process of contracting and then relaxing each
area of the body in succession) is extremely helpful.
• Any other means of inducing the “relaxation response”. Including meditation,
breathing practices, orgasm and relaxation visualization can be a wonderful part of a nightly ritual to enhance sleep given their ability to increase the relaxation response.
• Special acoustic recordings that increase specific brain wave patterns for relaxation and sleep are available and helpful.
• Botanicals treatments and aromatherapy using herbs and their essential oils (examples include chamomile, valerian, vervain (verbena), hops, lavender, passionflower, avena (oat straw), lemon balm and scutellaria (skull cap). Consult your physician for dosages and recommendations. Two of my favorite over the counter teas are Bedtime Tea by Yogi brands (2-4 bags in 8-12oz water) and Honey Chamomile by Tulsi brands (1-2 bags in 8-12oz water)
• Magnesium glycinate at 300mg 30 minutes before bed, can be very relaxing.

Sleep Interference:

• Although alcohol may make you fall asleep, the sleep obtained after drinking is fragmented and light. Avoid alcohol to enhance the quality of your sleep.
• The stimulating effects of caffeine may last up to 10 or more hours in some people. Avoid it in the afternoon if getting to sleep is a problem. Caffeine is present in coffee, green tea, black tea, chocolate and some medications (pain relievers, decongestants, thermogenic weight loss products, energy supplements, etc.)
• The stimulating effects of nicotine (first- or second-hand smoke) can last several
hours.
• Sleeping pills, aside from being highly addictive and full of side effects, decrease
the amount of time spent in deep sleep and only increase light sleep.
• B-vitamin supplements can increase energy that keeps some people awake, if
taken before bed. Take B-vitamins earlier in the day.
• Low blood sugar at night can increase the likelihood of stress hormone
production. Experiment with starchy carbohydrate timing at the last meal.
• To aid falling asleep a good rule of thumb is to eat closer to bed and eat more
slowly digesting carbohydrates at night (e.g. high fiber veggies/fruit) and add
fat to these meals (e.g. almond butter)
• To aid staying asleep eat closer to bed and make sure you eat more protein at your
last meal.
• If you wake in the middle of the night, a small snack or carbohydrate and fat can
aid returning to sleep (i.e. spoonful of nut butter and half a apple).

Finally, what I recommend to all of my patients with sleep issues – and what I use myself – is a breathing and gentle movement exercises during the day which help us relax and promote a good night’s sleep. The premise behind this, is that the most important factor in getting a good night’s sleep is managing stress during the day.

Most of us run around like chickens with their heads cut off all day, and then wonder why we can’t fall right asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow. If our nervous system has been in overdrive for 16 hours, it’s unrealistic to assume that it can switch into low gear in a matter of minutes simply because we want it to. Of course this is why sleeping pills are growing in popularity each year.

This technique and the tips above have helped me and my patients find ways to get the most of our time in bed. Sleep well my friends!

xoxo – Amber 😉

Resources
1. Clinical practice of Dr. Jade Teta, Keoni Teta and Jillian Sarno Teta.
2. Dement MD PhD, William. The Promise of Sleep. 1999. Dell Publishing. New
York, NY.
3. Jacobs PhD, Gregg. Say Goodnight to Insomnia. 1998. Henry Holt and Company.
New York, NY.
4. Ross DC, Herbert, Brenner Lac, Keri and Goldberg, Burton. Sleep Disorders. AlternativeMedicine.com, Tiburon

Posted in Nutrition & Supplements | Leave a comment

3 Things I Struggle With…

As someone who spends their week training clients, creating sustainable nutrition programs, and writing numerous blog posts each week, I sure do dish out my fair share of advice.

In fact, it’s probably easy to think that I’ve got it all figured out, right? (<—- ha!)

In all reality, I DON’T have it all figured out.  I do pretty well for myself in most areas of my life, but there are still areas where I struggle, and I think it’s important to share our struggles with others.

Maybe that’s why I have gotten such amazing feedback over the last 3 months as I’ve written about a lot of my issues and struggles?  Because it’s nice to see the “human” side of people.

In keeping with that theme, today I am writing about 3 things I struggle with, and what I am doing to fix them (or not fix them).

1. Sleep

Getting proper sleep has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. I can recall tossing and turning in my bed for hours as a young child because I couldn’t fall asleep. Then I would wake up the next morning and be miserable because I was so exhausted.

Unfortunately, this cycle hasn’t changed much, except since I don’t have a parent to force me to go to bed, I just stay up later working, watching TV or reading until I am tired enough to go to sleep. It probably didn’t help that I worked as a waitress at a late night bistro for 7 years through undergrad and would often go to bed at 3 am. Ugh.

What I Am Doing About This:

– Holding myself accountable – Recently I asked a friend to be my Accountability Partner/Life Coach.  At the time I asked her, I was routinely going to bed around 12 am. She gave me a bedtime, yes, a bedtime of 11 pm, and a wake-up call of 7:30 am every day. (I get up most mornings between 7:30 and 8, but since my schedule has some flexibility, some mornings I would sleep until 8:30 or 9 if I had been up late working the night before).

In fact, I have to text her when I wake up, and if I don’t, she will drive to my house. She also routinely asks me what time I went to bed, to ensure that I stay accountable.

– Trying to relax – I try to spend the last 30-60 minutes before bed reading, taking a bath, avoiding the cell phone, and just relaxing. This calms me down, and allows my brain to chill out a bit as well.

2. Saying NO to projects

Over the last 2 years, my plate has (luckily!) become very full with my personal blog, 2 businesses growing and many others projects and tasks. One of the best parts about being busy, is that you get a lot of cool opportunities. One of the worst? They can be impossible to say no to.

Taking on too many projects prevents you from being able to focus appropriate time and energy on any one project, and prevents you from doing things really well.

What I Am Doing About This:

– Finding a coach – I’ll be talking about this more in the future, but having a Life Coach, that really knows and understands me, was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. He has helped me get really organized and helped me prioritize my projects and tasks so that I can get more done in less time.

But even better, he has helped me recognize what projects will lead directly to my goals, and turn down or discard projects that won’t. He has also helped me learn that it’s OK to say, “No.”

– Therapy – So I didn’t start therapy to deal directly with this issue, but believe it or not, it’s helped. (Side note: I’ve been in therapy for 3 years now and I love it. I think every single person should go at least once a month.) What therapy has helped with is my tendency to be a people pleaser and not want people to be upset with me.

Whenever I struggle with saying, “no” to a project, I remember this quote (paraphrased):

Say ‘no’ more often so that your ‘yes’ has more power and meaning.

3. Artificially Flavored Gum

Yes, you read that correctly. Artificially Flavored Gum (yes, I chew this stuff…and it may one day be the death of me).

Anyone who knows me well knows that it’s an ultimate vice and obsession. I know that it’s not good for me, and yet I cannot seem to shake the habit. On a “good” day, I’ll have none or one peice. On a “bad” day, I might have 3-4. I have been working to reduce this further and further….so I have improved.

Thankfully, I don’t chew it while training clients, so I never spend a full day doing a jaw workout. Which is also not very attractive, kinda gross, and in my opinion, gives a client the impression that you don’t care as much.

And just to be clear, I chew Spry (a naturally sweetened gum). And I always drink water with my gum to neutralize the chemicals and preserve my teeth (which my dentist told me look awesome, so luckily, no worries there).

All I can say, is that I am a sucker (or chomper) for that long lasting chew that you can only get from the artificially flavored stuff. Occasionally, I’ll hit the hard stuff.

Once, I’ve even received gum as a birthday present before. Yup. It’s that bad. I gave it up for 42 days last year, and when that 42 days was up, my taste buds rejoiced.

Everyone teases me because I am such a stickler about what I put in my body. I eat as much organic, local food as possible, and I do my best to avoid chemical cleaners and beauty products at all costs. But that sweet-neurotoxic-flavored gift from God?

YES PLEASE, GIVE ME MORE!

What I Am Doing About This:

– To be completely honest, not much. I absolutely love the stuff.  No one can be absolutely perfect all the time (I’m not even close). And if they are, well… I don’t really want to hang with them because that’s just annoying.

– OK, so I guess it’s not entirely true that I’m doing “nothing” about it. Because I consume that junk, I am extremely diligent about almost everything else I put in or on my body. If I am going to minimize the amount of chemicals and crap I am willing to expose my body to, then I have to be diligent. It’s all a tradeoff, right?

What about you? What do you struggle with? What are you doing to change it, if anything?

Love to hear from you. xxx, Amber

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For the Love of My GUT

One of my favorite things to do is to experiment with my own health…in a positive, healthy way for the last 8 years. I would and never do recommend anything to clients or friends and family, unless I’ve research and tried on myself a certain health claim or product, ie. my N=1 experiments. We all hear about natural, organic, supplements that claim to make us super strong, smart, healthier, resistant to diseases or sexy, but do they work? Well that is up to us trying them out for ourselves. So, Im writing today about my latest personal health experiment. Today, Im talking about my love for my gut and how it has grown to become an “obsession” for me to maintain a healthy one with a real food diet (consisting of meats, real, unadulterated fats, colorful veggies and small amounts of fruit) and adding beneficial yeast and bacteria (ie probiotics) in the form of an ancient tea called Kombucha (a tea made with yeast and bacteria and some type of flavoring in the form of fruit, herbs, spices). My obsession with a healthy gut began years ago when I was researching on how our gut integrity and health play a major role in so many different aspect of our immunity, overall mental and physical health, wellbeing, and happiness. As of today, this has now become a full-on health and small business pursuit. So…about 4 month ago, while experiencing severe bouts of morning nausea (no my friends….Im not announcing that Im prego), I had a good friend recommend that I try G.T.’s Kombucha, Gingeraid flavor. From the first sip, I was addicted. If you don’t know what Kombucha is, this brief explanation is for you.
Kombucha is a ancient Chinese tea concoction made from a symbiotic, culture of live bacteria and yeast (ie. SCOBY-probiotics) which promotes healthy guts, skin, immune system, helps with hangovers, energy (stocked with B vitamins) and helps us digest food a bit better….and one thing is for sure, it’s becoming all the rage among the health-seeking crowd.

After I got over the initial vinegar-like smell, and the fact that I’d never tasted a tea or any other drink just like it, I began to experience subtle levels of benefits, almost immediately. My nausea went away, and within a 24 hours I had a successful poop, along with a few spurts of stinky gas. Totally, normal when you introduce a ton of health gut bugs into your GI track in order to restore it. 😉 Sorry, but I’m just being totally honest. Another thing I’ll be honest about is the fact that I just couldn’t drink one bottle and never return. I ended up buying another GT’s a couple days later….as the first bottle lasted me 2 days.

This gets me into the cost issue with drinking this wonder tea. If you don’t know anything about raw probiotic drink cost, let me tell you, they are expensive. It can cost as much as $5 per bottle. They average around $4 in organic speciality markets in NE Ohio. Not a whole pay check, but definitely a luxury item if drank daily. So, this year, my friend Debbie Nespeca and I began our very own Kombuchery (Kombucha Brewery). It all began by us wanting to have our own stash in the refrigerator at a lot less costs, with similar great flavors, but a more potent, non-pasteurized raw version. After sharing our drink with friends, and hearing great feedback, we decided to help afford them and everyone else the opportunity to enjoy and experience Kombucha. Below is a photo of one of our many beautiful SCOBYs.

One of our many beautiful SCOBYs we use to brew our home Kombucha Tea

One of our many beautiful SCOBYs we use to brew our home Kombucha Tea

We plan to release and supply an affordable, great tasting, raw probiotic tea, name brand called, Kombucha “For Life” with our local Youngstown, OH markets and restaurants starting in June 2014. We strongly believe in local commerce and see this whole venture as the best way to reduce our carbon footprint. So us girls are going to work.

We may have started with one SCOBY and a gallon of tea a week, but now after a few months in, and before we knew it, we are producing 4 at a time in Debbie’s kitchen.

About the flavor this gallon into single bottles with organic apples, grapefruit, lemon and ginger.

About to flavor this gallon into single bottles with organic apples, grapefruit, lemon and ginger.


Next up….another room full of tea and SCOBYs. 🙂 Check back here to get ordering and purchasing information in late Spring 2014. Can’t wait to share our love for our guts with each and every one of you.

In good gut health,

xo, Amber

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“Be Bold, and Love Your Body!”

I want to share with you an exercise I’ve recently been doing every morning that helps me love my body and connect to her more deeply.

-When you wake up, stand in front of the mirror in your underwear, or birthday suite.

-Put your hands on your body in some way – I usually rub my belly, stretch my arms overhead and touch my hands together, or sway my hips a little.

-Instead of picking yourself apart (which may be your natural inclination), just observe your body like a work of art, look for the details and intricacies.

Since I’ve been doing this everyday for quite a while, I notice things like how the shape and feel of my belly changes with my cycle and the tone of my skin changes with the seasons. I’ll notice a new freckle or how my muscles are changing shape or taking form.

Get to know your real self.

Once you get comfortable doing this practice, you can take it a step further by finding something new to admire on your body everyday. Even if it’s a small space like your collarbone, the space just above your belly button, your ankle.

All of it matters.

All of it is yours.

All of it is home.

Never ask permission to express your soul’s desire.

Exploding with love and gratitude,

😉 Xoxo, Amber

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Steps to Prevent Thanksgiving Food Comas

Well, it’s Thanksgiving in the states tomorrow, and if you’re like me, you’re already pseudo-stressing about how you’ll manage “the big meal” Thursday.

You give yourself a mental pep talk: “I will only eat turkey and vegetables.” You repeat the mantra: “I don’t need dessert to feel satisfied.” You reinforce your goals: “I don’t want to be a whale on January 1st.”

I get it. Me too! And good for you! But if only managing reality was not as easy as what we imagine in our heads.

SO. For you, I’ve put together a list of the actual steps I use for navigating any big meal. These are guidelines that I use for all holiday events and parties, and hopefully they can help you enjoy yourself, while also not adding inches to your waistline:

1) I do drink alcohol, but keep a 2-drink-max rule. I also only let myself drink red wine, Nor-Cal Margaritas (tequila/soda/salted rim and fresh lime) or vodka/soda with lime please.

2) I don’t eat starch or sugar. Period. This is a hard & fast rule for me. I don’t eat “real” desserts; instead I make and BRING my own healthy, low-carb version (i.e. “dessert defense”). I don’t eat bread, potatoes, cranberry sauce (unless it is real cranberries reduced down with fresh oranges, balsamic vinegar and stevia), rolls, crackers, etc. Besides, I’d rather drink alcohol than eat starch–and this, too, is a good rule of thumb. If you’re doing booze, you’ll need to curtail the starch.

The last time I was in a Thanksgiving food coma, I felt and looked something like this…

food-coma

3) I let myself eat as much fat, protein and fibrous veggies as I want. This includes butter and sauces on veggies, cheesy broccoli, cheese plates, (if I want to risk having a bit of intestinal discomfort from the lactose), fatty dark meat, etc. I don’t stress too much about fat (even saturated) because these foods make me feel more satisfied so I don’t need as much and I don’t reach for the sugary stuff (also I don’t feel deprived because I get to eat fat). If I want seconds, I usually add more protein to my plate.

4) I drink water like it’s my job, and I always drink AT LEAST 1 liter after the meal, before bed. With lots of extra sodium and alcohol, I always want to prevent water retention as much as possible. And one way is to drink more water. The fastest way to start SHEDDING water is to drink more of it. Sure, I might get up a few times to pee during the night, but that’s preferable, because it’s proof I am not retaining water.

5) I do an intense weight-training workout the day of the meal. I usually do a leg workout, or if not, I’ll do a full-body workout. The idea is to get as many muscles involved as possible and lift heavy to the point of failure. It is also to use the extra cals at the meal to push muscle building, not fat storage. Muscles are primed for growth in the hours immediately post-workout so I lift heavy & hard to ready them up.

My goal is to feel satisfied, but not blow it.

See what you think. Perhaps, try one or two of them, adjusting as needed. And remember, food will always be there, so the urgency of needing to try everything at this very meal loses its impact. My mantra: “I will not gobble til I wobble, but enjoy fellowship with family and friends.” 🙂

No stress! Do your best! You are always one meal away from being back in fat burning mode, so maintain perspective and don’t let your Thanksgiving meal turn into a weekend-long binge fest.

You’re amazing, never think otherwise.

Stay Strong, Amber

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Advice for Great Looking Skin

When it comes to having healthy skin, I’m ALWAYS learning. Moreover, I’m ALWAYS experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Not gonna lie: sometimes the results are disastrous. Sometimes, however, they’re fantastic. These are a few of those strategies that have yielded FANTASTIC results – for minimum investment.

I usually have a few healthy skin favorites that I’m incorporating on the regular, in addition to the core, foundational goodies. Sometimes, these change, but right now, I’ve got some new skin-care staples I want to share.

As always, the foundation for healthy skin is good nutrition and well-managed digestion. I talk about this LOTS with my clients, and I think they are pretty used to hearing it from me by now.

So I suppose this blog should be called “Besides the critical puzzle pieces of nutrition and digestion that lay the foundation for healthy skin no matter who you are, here are my three current favorite pieces of advice for great looking skin.”

Obviously, that’s too long for a blog title.

So here’s what I’m loving right now. If you have anything to add, tweet me or post a comment on this page!

Strategy #1: Dry Brushing

So far, I’ve found nothing more powerful in enhancing my skin’s glow than dry brushing.

Dry brushing isn’t just exfoliating. It can’t be done in the shower, as the effects aren’t the same (I know this from experience). It’s really a circulation booster, and I’ve found it not just invigorating, but also health-promoting. The directions are pretty simple:

Start on dry skin before bathing.
Work in gentle circular, upward motions, then longer, smoother strokes.
Always begin at the ankles in upwards movements towards the heart – the lymphatic fluid flows through the body towards the heart, so it’s important that you brush in the same direction.
Your back is the only exception to the preceding rule; brush from the neck down to the lower back.
After you’ve finished with the ankles, move up to the lower legs, thighs, stomach, back and arms. Be cautious of softer and sensitive skin around the chest and breasts, and never brush over inflamed skin, sores, sun-burnt skin, or skin cancer.
Ensure you shower to wash away the dead skin cells and impurities.
Tip: alternating temperatures in the shower from hot to cold will further invigorate the skin and stimulate blood circulation, bring more blood to the outer layers of the skin.
Then follow it up with a slick moisturizer to nourish the skin (personally, I use coconut oil).

Dry brushing daily for just a few minutes is an amazing way to start the day. Give it a go for 30 consecutive days and your body will love you for it! And while I don’t dry brush my face, it definitely impacts the skin of my mug. Observe my before-and-after:

Great Looking Skin
healthy skin

Just kidding.

Strategy #2: Do LESS.

Too often, we think we have to do MORE to have better skin. This is absolutely not true. It’s one of the reasons I don’t recommend exfoliation for everyone – for some, it’s too harsh and can hurt your skin.

You don’t have to have eighteen different routines conducted every waking hour, on the hour, to care for your skin. The less you can manage to do, the more your skin can go about the business of HEALING and becoming less sensitive and angry.

These days, I just do a quick cloth wipe-down to cleanse in the morning. (I like using a Norwex cloth, as the embedded silver keeps it from harboring any wonky bacteria, but any microfiber cloth will do.) When I’m not wearing makeup, this is often the entirety of my cleansing routine in the evening as well. While I still do my coconut oil cleansing several times per week, I find that at this point in my journey, I can do even LESS when it comes to cleansing. I dab on some oil-based moisturizer (always organic) and I’m good to go.

It sounds scary, I know – and sometimes your skin has to actually ADJUST to doing less. It’s often used to such frequent pressure, manipulation and abuse – even with “natural” skin care routines – that it continues to respond as if it’s being ambushed. This will pass.

Strategy #3: SLEEP, dammit!

Sleeping when it’s dark, and getting ENOUGH sleep, is key.

I KNOW how difficult this one is. We are all so busy, and life (and the new season of Eastbound and Down) keeps us up late. But proper sleep is a HUGE bugger to getting healthier skin. I see it way, way too often – even in myself.

It’s not always possible to get great sleep during normal nighttime hours, and sometimes we have to work pretty hard at it. While I DEFINITELY don’t advocate stressing about sleep management (stress is another bugger to healthy skin), I do recommend being proactive.

Have an earlier dinner, and record your favorite nighttime TV shows to watch early the following morning so you can wind down with the sun. Keep the lights low as the sun goes down. Whatever you like to do at night, see if you can do it as the sun comes up instead.

THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL-OR-NOTHING! ONE night per week of proper, good sleep is better than NO nights per week. You can feel GREAT about a single evening’s sleep hygeine! (I’m so happy I got to work in the phrase “sleep hygeine.”) Don’t get caught up in feeling like if you can’t do it 100% of the time, you can’t do it at all.
That goes for ALL of these strategies. Just do your best, when you can. Over time, everything becomes easier! Patience and long standing dedication are the keys.
All right – now it’s your turn! What are your tried-and-true, natural strategies for better skin? Please share.

Stay Strong! Xo, Amber 🙂

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Can Alcohol Fit Into My Healthy Lifestyle?

A cave man real food (and drink) diet doesn’t forbid us of alcohol. The key to successfully imbibing alcohol while living healthy is choosing the right adult beverages and consuming them in a responsible, intentional way. There’s an appropriate time to enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol to unwind or to celebrate. Aside from the positive aspects of socializing, some types of alcohol are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and they may also reduce the risk of infection with the bacteria that causes ulcers.

Here are a few key factors to help you decide whether you should pop a cork:

1. Alcohol is a toxin to the liver.

2. Alcohol is a drug, which means it’s addictive.

3. If losing weight is your goal, remember that your liver can’t help you with fat burning if it’s busy detoxifying alcohol.

Before you pour yourself a glass of something intoxicating, consider your health goals and overall eating habits, and then make smart choices about which type of alcohol you drink.

Steer clear of grain-based drinks that can also include gluten, such as the following:

  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Gin (some brands are processed with grain-based alcohol)
  • Grain-based vodka
  • Whiskey

To celebrate on special occasions, feel free to choose one of these:

  • Potato vodka
  • Red wine
  • Rum
  • Sparkling wine
  • Tequila
  • White wine

 alcohol and healthy lifestyle

To manage your body’s insulin response to the sugars found in alcohol, mix spirits, like tequila or vodka, with soda water, ice, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid fruit juices, which are liquid sugar; and avoid tonic water, which is also high in sugar.

When uncorking wine, choose the driest (least sweet) wines possible. The driest reds include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; the driest whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors occasionally let their hair down when they were exposed to alcohol by eating fermented grapes. But they didn’t sit around the fire doing shots. You can’t maintain a high level of health if you drink alcohol frequently or in large quantities. The pleasant buzz that alcohol provides also places stress on your liver, creates a strong insulin response, and dehydrates your cells. Enjoy your cocktails in moderation.

Stay Strong!  Amber, XXXX 🙂

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It Is Time To Ditch Your Fat Loss Timetable

One of the quickest ways to disappointment is to give yourself strict, rigid rules that need to be followed to perfection.

One way in which we set ourselves up for disappointment and even more DE-motivation is through setting a time in our mind by which we “need” to achieve a specific outcome, or else is means we’re a failure or we suck.

“Amber, but what about goal setting? Don’t we need specific goals?”

In my opinion, goals are worthwhile ONLY if your approach to them allows for you to be gentle with yourself if you don’t achieve them. You cannot hold yourself accountable to a rigid timetable and also give yourself the win. It’s either/or. And I would argue that the latter is much more important as it applies to your happiness, and ALSO because it’s more empowering in the long run. Goal setting works in the short-term, but when the motivation is external (e.g. the threat of having to step on stage in a bikini), it doesn’t last in the long-term.

Here’s what happens when we set up a random timetable when it comes to our physiques and lose perspective when it comes to time:

We mistakenly feel like results can’t come fast enough. If we lose 5 lbs in the first week, it should have been 8. If we lose 7 inches in a month (incredible results by any standard), it doesn’t seem like all the much. If we need to lose 20 lbs by October and we only lose 17, it’s not good enough.

What is the rush? WHY do we feel like it all has to happen so fast?

I will give you this one key insight about time: The faster it comes OFF, the faster it comes back ON. Truth.

And despite what you may think, fast fat loss is actually not what you really want. The reason being that sustained fat loss is the result of many, many days, months and years of practicing good behaviors. Fast fat loss is a result of intense, willpower-based practices that, by definition, must rebound. You literally have not had THE TIME needed to turn those white-knuckling practices into habits yet. So inevitably, once willpower wanes, the old habits are still there, ready to override any ounce of willpower you try to muster.

Here’s a timetable for you: Today.

Focus on that and only that. What will you practice TODAY? Don’t think about tomorrow, next month or your vacation this Fall. Today is all you need to effectively practice your healthy habits. Your next meal. Your workout today. Get through that. Practice that.

And begin allowing your arbitrary timetable of expectations to fade into insignificance. It’s liberating! Knowing you get to practice (not be perfect!) a healthy lifestyle forever is empowering 🙂

Ox, Amber

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