Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Traveling Yogi Must-Have: inflatable SUP!

I absolutely LOVE my new inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard! My friend owns local, San Diego-based company Isle Surf and SUP and last summer (2013) they introduced this cool inflatable  paddle board to the market. I fell in love with Stand Up Paddling back in 2010 and have been obsessed with it ever since. As a yoga teacher, my first thoughts were - I wonder what a down-dog feels like on the ocean? So, my friends and I spent countless sunny days on the sea, flipping upside down, viewing the world from a different angle and creating yoga and fitness classes on paddleboards. I've taught weekly SUP Yoga classes for the past 3 years, with two of the my favorite memories: being teaching at Yoga Journal Conference San Diego in July 2012, and leading a group of 13 adventurous women down to Punta Mita, Mexico in April 2013 for our SUP Yoga Teacher Training retreat.

The time spent on my paddleboard has brought so many great things to my life, including: new-found courage, strength, focus and a true love and connection to the ocean. I've had so many amazing memories being on a paddleboard - it's the perfect addition to my yoga-girl life. I love paddling out with my girlfriends and chatting about our day, taking my dog out with me and enjoying some chill time with my hubby as we cruise along the sea. :)

 For work and for fun, I travel frequently to different parts of the world. One of the biggest challenges is finding good quality paddleboards in far-flung places and airline board bag fees have gotten out of control these days. I think that's what most intrigued me about the inflatable paddle board concept. You can wear it as a backpack (even the paddle breaks in half!), then easily pump it up and cruise around the Mediterranean, the Sea of Cortez, the islands of Indonesia...wherever you can fly, you can now easily take your own paddle board!

A lot of my friends love the idea of an inflatable paddleboard but have so many questions! So I put together this little outline of my first day using the inflatable board. Fresh out the box! I hope this answers any questions you may have....

Here she is! The cute little box she arrives in...
(easy for me to carry, only weighed about 25 pounds)

What's inside the box: all the equipment you need!
pump - paddle - board - fin - instruction manual

It comes with a hand-pump and says that it takes about 210 hand-pumps to fully inflate the board. Devin, who loves tent camping, frequently blows up his air mattress from his truck, thought of the genius idea of plugging it into the aero-bed pump and blowing it up that way. Only took about 4 minutes and saved us the arm workout :) 

He made me do the last few pumps manually to make sure I could make it work on my own. 
Definitely easier using the air bed pump, but not a bad option to get a little pre-paddle workout in :)

Here she is! All blown up and ready for her maiden voyage at our local spot, Windansea Beach.

Happy as clams, paddling off into the sunset :)

So here are the facts you need to know about this particular inflatable SUP made by Isle:

10 feet long, 31 inches wide (about the width of a yoga mat), 24 lbs when inflated, 
currently sold online for : $699 (includes free shipping, paddle and pump)
*watch this video to see them take the board all around Costa Rica

To me, this is absolutely the best deal I've seen on the market. Having used probably 10 different brands of SUPs, I do love and appreciate a nice, shiny, glassy beautifully hand-painted board, but nothing bums me out more than accidentally dropping it or dinging it up and not being able to take it out in the water until repaired. I'm over the days of baby-ing my boards. For my busy, traveling yogi lifestyle, this is the ideal situation for me. You can drop it, bounce it on the ground, even drive a truck over it and you're all good. Here's the owner of Isle, Marc Miller wearing the SUP backpack, checking the surf in La Jolla...

*full discolsure - I have not been compensated for my recommendation of this board. 
These are my genuine thoughts and appreciation for an awesome product on the market. Namaste! :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Yogi's Tribute to Bob Marley

Yesterday, February 6th marks what would have been Bob Marley's 69th birthday. I was lucky enough to grow up with his lyrics swimming around in my head from the time I was about 9 years old and on. Some of my favorite memories of growing up in Puerto Rico were the Sundays when my mom would light incense and spend all day cleaning the house listening to Marley's many albums on repeat. His wisdom crept into the crevices of my soul way back when and took up residence in my heart. They always bring me a sense of calmness and inner peace. Now, well into my adulthood, I am still continually inspired every time I hear one of his lyrics or familiar guitar strums and am honored to be able to bring his teachings and musical stylings into my yoga classes to share with my students. Whether it evokes a sense of nostalgia, a change in perspective or just a friendly reminder that every little thing's gonna be alright....everyone is moved by Marley in some way. 

Here are my top ten favorite lyrics written by the legend himself, accompanied in bold by the lesson we can take into our lives from his simple, yet oh-so powerful words.
1) Be Loyal
"In high seas or in low seas, I'm gonna be your friend. He said, "I'm gonna be your friend." 
And, baby, in high tide or low tide, I'll be by your side, I'll be by your side."

2) Believe in Magic
"There's a natural mystic blowing through the air. If you listen carefully now you will hear."

3) Remember your Roots
"Good friends we have, oh, good friends we have lost. Along the way. 
In this great future, you can't forget your past; So dry your tears, I say."

4) Stay True 
"Don't gain the world and loose your soul, wisdom is better than silver and gold." 

* This is probably my all-time favorite song lyric of Bob's. It's from his song "Zion Train" which is on the last album he ever released called "Uprising" in June of 1980. Marley died in May of 1981 and many believe his last album to be his most profound and most reflective of his deep Rastafarian beliefs at the time. To me, his message in this song is a reflection of the success, fame and prosperity he was experiencing at that point in his life and the internal struggle he felt to keep reminding himself to stay connected to his roots and remember where he came from. Surrounded by money, celebrity and greed, he was clinging tightly to his true sense of self and trying to not get swept away in the sea of materialism. This lyric really resonates with me as I too live in a world that's so focused on material possessions and constantly acquiring more and more. It can seem overwhelming  at times. I too have that same internal struggle to stay connected to my soul, spend time in nature and keep perspective on what's truly important in life.

5) Relax, Life is Good
"Rise up this mornin', Smiled with the risin' sun, Three little birds Pitch by my doorstep 
Singin' sweet songs Of melodies pure and true, Sayin', This is my message to you-ou-ou.
Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right." 

6)  Don't be a Hater
"Who are you to judge me and the life that I live? I know that I'm not perfect and that I don't claim to be. So before you point your fingers, be sure your hands are clean, Judge not before you judge yourself. Judge not if you're not ready for judgement- Woah oh oh! The boat of life is rocking and you may stumble too, so while you talk about me, someone else is judging you."

7) Choose your Thoughts Wisely
"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."

8) Karma
"You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

9) Take Time to Reflect
"Open your eyes and look within, are you satisfied with the life you're living?"

{and lastly, not a song lyric but a beautiful, wise quote about relationships and how to work it out with your man.}

10) LOVE HARD, when there's love to be had....

“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. 

He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. 

Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. 

Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Year of the Horse - Giddy Up!

Yesterday, Thursday January 30th welcomed the SECOND new moon of the first month of the year. The first new moon was on New Years Day (January 1) and brought lots of fresh, positive energy and a chance for new beginnings on the first day of 2014. This second new moon is a chance for a second beginning. Many of my students and friends (myself included) have felt like 2014 didn't get off to the start they would have preferred. Now, the universe is giving us that second chance! Another fun fact about these two new moons of January is that they are both considered "Supermoons"
. . . a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth. By this definition, a new moon or full moon has to come within 361,863 kilometers (224,851 miles) of our planet, in order to be a supermoon.
This awesome occurence of TWO Supermoons in one calendar month won't happen again until January 2018. Wow.... just imagine how much will have changed and shifted in our lives by then!

This current New Moon is ruled by the air sign Aquarius. According to my favorite astrological reader, Rebekah Shaman....
The Aquarius moon gives us permission to dream a better world into being.  It is pragmatic, logical and objective enabling us to see things in a more truthful light. This is the moon to start thinking outside the box to change those things you are not happy with. Over this humanitarian moon, we become more aware of the bigger picture, rather than get caught up in our separate dramas and issues. We also naturally feel more sympathetic and compassionate, as this moon wakes us up out of our slumber and we see the injustices that are happening around us. This is a good moon to take some time out in Nature, or the wilderness. Remember to take your shoes and socks off, so you spend some time barefoot on the ground. Plant your feet firmly on the earth and feel the electro-magnetic pulse of Mother earth enter through the soles of your feet, and flow around your body.  Let its natural creativity inspire and stimulate you.

Today, Friday January 31 marks the first day of the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year in which we welcome the Year of the Wooden Horse! 
punta de mita, mexico ~ photography by janalyn yanover of horizon light photography

In Chinese astrology, the Horse represents a surge of new energy - picture a horse charging out of its stable - expected a year that is very animated and extroverted with lots of forward propelled motion! Giddy Up!

According to Karen Abler Carrasco of the Western School of Feng Shui...

The Horse energy inspires powerful INTUITION and an indomitable surge towards freedom in every aspect of life. This is a year to follow your inner voice like never before, for it will have a universal cosmic ch’i within it.  Higher guidance is with us every step of the way.  Reach for the sky, call up your vision, fuel your plans with vision boards and creativity, find a fresh path and pace yourself well.  This yang Horse year has the potential to channel the powerful new upthrust of Wood’s Ch’i through the Horse’s Heart energy of Fire and into every project we start, every desire we reach for.  It will keep our eager plans from being dominated by too much “head” and not enough “heart.”

Step up and out of any old clutter, stored memories, should-have-dones or regrets.  The time to deal with that is over for now.  Untangle your thoughts quickly and get clear on what it is that you truly desire in this lifetime.  Your trusty steed is here, full of vibrant health and tremendous stamina.  It should be quite a fast ride, so grab a fistful of mane, hang on to the reins, cast your old cares to the wind and let out a whoop of delight – Yeeehaaw! Upward and onward we thrive!

january 2014 ~ playa pascuarito, sayulita, mexico
Yoga teacher and astrologer Diane Booth Gilliam of Yoga Journal magazine has some great insight on how to harness this year's Horse energy to benefit yourself and your yoga practice....

Horses are heroic because historical battles were won (or lost) based on the brawn and agility of these majestic creatures. Harness the energy of this Horse year by using yogic practices to stay strong, and you’ll be ready when opportunity knocks. Some suggestions:

High Lunge: With one foot back, and the opposite knee forward, this asana gives one the appearance of being ready to take off, out of the starting gate. That could be why some schools of yoga call this Horse Rider’s Pose. Use this pose to strengthen yourself for the wild ride of 2014.

Natarjasana (Lord of the Dance): The new moon’s transit through Aquarius highlights the ankles, while Capricorn correlates with the knees. This pose focuses on both these joints, which keep us steady and stable—important qualities to embody as we’re exploring exciting new things. Lift the back knee high, then reach back and grasp the ankle (instead of your calf or foot). Feel balanced, and trust your innate ability to make smart choices.

Camatkarasana (Wild Thing): You make my heart sing—and as your chest is expanding in this deep back-bending pose, remind yourself that freedom and power are yours for the choosing during Horse year.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Goddess Mantra

You know those days when you just don't feel so great? Today is one of those for me. I woke up with a sore body, a tired mind and a deflated spirit. I can't quite pinpoint anything in particular that led to me feeling this way, but just an overall feeling of "bleh" was hovering around me. I marinated in that lacklusterness for a while, then took a long walk down to to the beach with my dog. I stepped out of my own head for a few minutes and tried looking at myself from the outside. I had a little "a-ha!" moment, right there, mid-dog walk, when I realized - I'm not my body and I'm not my mind. I'm so much more than that. I am PRANA. The beautiful, divine, sacred life force of energy swirling around inside of me - inside all of us. I'm not my bloated-feeling body or my distracted, wandering mind - I am pure, divine energy flow. And that energy is connected to all life forces around us. The birds, the trees, the ocean waves as they crash on the shore, tickling my toes - all these energies moving individually in their own sacred ways without human intervention. There's a harmonic universal energy connection that even my negative thoughts and bad habits can never penetrate. There's something bigger happening all around us.

And sometimes we just need to get out of our own way in order to be reminded once again of the beauty of it all. 

Here's a mantra I wrote today for myself, and for all my Zen Girls out there, to remember that first and foremost, we are divine Goddesses, daughters of the Universe, put here to spread light, love and joy to all we meet. May we never forget our purpose.

[ photography by the ever-so-talented Janalyn Yanover of horizon light photography ]

I am a divine Goddess, full of light and love.
The prana flowing through me is positive and powerful.
There is an abundance of joy that lights up every cell of my being.
There is so much love, joy and positivity within me that it overflows onto those around me. 

*repeat this over and over again until you believe it to be true. :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How to Pack for a Yoga Retreat

In two days, we leave for our yoga retreat to Sayulita, Mexico! The weather will be in the mid-80s during the day and mid-60s at night, so we'll be traveling on the lighter side -- my favorite! Teeny bikinis, breezy beach cover ups and boho-chic accessories are the only necessities. It's the third year in a row that my friend Heather and I are leading a yoga retreat to Sayulita, so we know this hippie surfer village really well and have this packing thing down to a science. A few things to keep in mind when you pack for a tropical yoga retreat:

1) ditch the lululemon: there's no need for spandex and luon in paradise. tightly fitted materials actually get super uncomfortable in hot, humid climates so cotton-based fabrics for yoga wear are the way to go.
2) it's not a beauty contest: unlike at home, where sometimes we are tempted to do our hair & make-up for class, this is vacation. leave the mascara and cover-up and rock it all natural. salt and sand are nature's best beauty secrets.
3) "travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light." - this famous saying by yogi bhajan is my mantra for every retreat. leave the heavy baggage at home - physically and spiritually. don't overload your suitcase with crap that weighs you down. lighten the load on your spirit so you can properly recharge and re-ignite your spark. be open to meeting new people, embracing new cultures and spread positive vibrations where ever you land. 

Here's what I'm packing for our upcoming yoga escape to paradise...

my favorite sunscreen: raw elements organic eco formula spf 30 - burt's bees lip balm with spf - tiny devotions mala beads (I take this beauty everywhere I travel) - aviators - passport - pesos

"Life is a Dance" Sayulita Gypsy beach bag - boho cover up - ocean-inspired beaded necklace, and
my favorite all purpose big flowy scarf: use on the airplane, as wrap and as a make-shift towel.

long flowy dresses and a hi-low skirt for moonlit parties on the beach

after the morning yoga sesh, it's straight to the bikinis. top by despi; bottom is vitamin a

black top: billabong; pink bottoms: rip curl.
blue top: vitamin a; blue bottoms: luli fama

on day 3 of the retreat, i'm teaching a stand-up padleboard yoga workshop. these roxy outdoor fitness pants are made out of wetsuit material but are super light & stretchy. green sports bra is also from the roxy outdoor fitness line. cheapie sunglasses are a must! don't take your expensive shades out on the ocean :) 

my beach reads on this trip: meditations from the mat by rolf gates - may cause
 miracles & spirit junkie by gabrielle bernstein - yoga & ayurveda by dr. david frawley

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I AM...

Affirmations are super powerful. When we make definitive statements out loud, we confidently tell the world - this is what I'm going to do. This is who I really am. We take ownership of who we are and why we are here. 

I AM a purveyor of positivity, possibility and potential.
I SEE only the best in others. 
I USE my gifts to bring out the gifts in others.
I WILL push myself everyday in the direction of my dreams.

This is who I am. Or rather, what I have the potential to be.
Who are you? What potential lies within you?
Speak it, write it, commit it to the world. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Detox with Mandy on January 11th

I am so excited to present this workshop on January 11th at Bird Rock Yoga! Over the years, I've been working in group settings and one-on-one with yoga students, friends and family members to help them adapt the lessons learned on their yoga mat and apply them directly to their lives. A big lesson we all come across is facing fear - whether through attempting a handstand or learning how to sit still and be alone with our breath - fear comes up A LOT in yoga. And also in our lives! With each new challenging yoga pose we attempt, we cultivate bits of courage and strength that can be applied to other areas of our lives. This courage and strength helps us break through negative patterns, self-doubt and fear, so that we can start to pursue goals and dreams and start living our best lives. I hope you'll join me this Saturday! 

Be the happiest person you know in 2014! Detox your mind, body, and soul with this 2 hour purifying experience. Mandy Burstein will guide you through a powerful 90 minute yoga practice, followed by delicious green smoothies and a 30 minute goal setting session to teach you how to visualize and create positive manifestions for the year ahead. 

Cost: $20. Please note: This special event is taking place in lieu of the 11am class, so 
please reserve your spot online here: 

Please bring a pen. All other supplies will be provided :)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013: Lessons Learned

Looking back on 2013, there are so many lesson to be learned. This year was full of growth, adventure and getting comfortable with change - whether I liked it or not! Here are some of my biggest take-aways from 2013....

1) When creativity strikes, let it flow. Growing up, I was sooo not a creative person. I despised the obligatory art classes in school and grouped myself in the "definitely NOT an artist" box. But, somewhere along the way, out of the necessity of having to create all my own marketing materials for my yoga teaching business, creativity came pouring out. Sometimes, in the shower, a brilliant idea about an article would come to me. Lots of times, at 2 in the morning, I would wake up with words or images spinning in my head. For this reason, I always keep a journal on my nightstand. Whether you are in a creative field for work, or want to cultivate a more artistic side of yourself for personal reasons, whenever it strikes - don't stifle it. Often, it will come at inconvenient times, but even if its 7 pm and you should be making dinner but are being called to paint or re-decorate your bathroom - go for it! Creativity is like a snowball effect, the more you nurture it, the easier and more often it flows through you. 

2) Daily wellness rituals: This year, I started to incorporate some wellness rituals into my life  My favorite are: green juice/smoothies in the morning, a warm bubble bath on cold nights and occasional Thai massages. I love starting my mornings on a healthy note - it definitely shapes my entire day! Find little ways to pamper yourself throughout the day and save up for a big monthly health splurge. You deserve it.

3) Books can be your best friends.
When I was little, I used to get lost in novels for hours, days at a time. I hadn't felt that way in over a decade, so I decided to get a library card and wander aimlessly down the aisles until something grabbed my attention. Pretty soon, a collection of books piled up on my nightstand and I was lost in storytelling once again. Reading so much this year has, without a doubt, made me a better writer. I have a re-inspired love for the written word and have learned so many lessons from these books. In the age of blogs, articles and 160 character twitter quips, don't be afraid to pick up a good-old fashioned book. There is so much to be learned when we sit and read and get lost in story for hours on end. 
4) Be impeccable with your word. This ties right into that last bit about books. I learned this powerful affirmation from reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz at the beginning of the year and it stays in my heart almost every day. In the book, Ruiz talks about making a few very important agreements with yourself in order to create more love, peace and happiness in your life. This first agreement is pretty straightforward and to the point: 

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

5) Travel is so good for the soul. This year, I had the privilege of traveling to some beautiful places around the world. Some for work, some for play -- and all really, really amazing for my soul. In chronological order, here is where the path took me in 2013: Tulum, Mexico, New York City, Punta Mita, Mexico, London, UK, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Paris, France, Biarritz, France, Miami, Florida, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, Virginia Beach, Virginia, New York City, La Paz, Mexico.

Each of these experiences was sweetened by the wonderful people we met for the first time along the way, and by our awesome friends and family who met us along the way. In Miami, I reconnected with my childhood best friend Naomi who I hadn't seen since we were 12 years old and in Punta Mita, I met my Mexican twin soul sister Fatima - literally, it feels like we were separated at birth! While picnic-ing in the south of France with Arlene and her husband who flew from Poland to meet us, I was reminded once again how small the world really is and how important it is to explore it all. There are so many lessons to be learned on the open road and the best gift you can ever give yourself to to let yourself blow in the wind from time to time. 
6) "Stress is caused by being here and wanting to be there." This quote by Eckhart Tolle is a constant reminder that while dreaming about travel and going to the next place is good, being present - right here, right now is truly the best. With a year full of global adventures and living out of suitcases, exploration was constantly on my mind. I tried to always be conscious enough to be grateful for my experiences without hoarding them or immediately planning the next one. Non-attachment, right?! :) It's a work in progress, but I keep reminding myself that being home and sitting still can be just as exciting as being on the open road. 

7) Less is More. In order to travel as much as we did in 2013, we made a conscious commitment to live under our means while at home. Not only living within our means, but spending way less than we could have and saving way more than we technically needed to allowed those adventures to come into fruition. When it came time to get me a new car, we purchased a Toyota - not a Mercedes. By not buying every hot new tech gadget, purse or pair of shoes, there was money left over to play and create these wild trips to far off lands. Not only that, but our small beach house didn't fill up with unnecessary crap. "The things you own end up owning you" was pretty much our motto -- and we plan to keep this minimalist lifestyle going as long as possible!

8) Technology is cool, but nature is better. Whether we like it or not, gadgets have taken over our lives. Even as I sit here and write this on my laptop, my cell phone is nearby and buzzing with texts, my husband is watching a surf contest on the iPad and streaming it live through airplay to our TV. So much for our technology-free weekends! While we can't escape the gadgets, we can all try a little harder to unplug and disconnect more often. This year, I've tried especially hard to make sure I take long walks to the beach with my dog without my phone. It sounds so simple, but every time, like clockwork, about 20 minutes in, I see some really cool pelicans and I wish I had my phone to snap a photo. Or, I realize that there was an important call or email I could have followed up with while on my walk. But, I try to keep reminding myself that the down-time without technology is important. Not everything needs to be documented. We don't need to be plugged in, or even accessible 24/7. Some of my most creative ideas come to me on these long walks without distraction, just looking around at nature and admiring it's beauty. Inspiration is all around us. If we can unplug long enough, we can breathe in fresh, new air and view the world with newly focused, present eyes. 

Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses toward growth. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mind Over Matter: How Changing My Thoughts Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds

Mind Over Matter: How Changing My Thoughts Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds 
Editor's Note: This article was written by my best friend, Arlene Crews, of last year's 30 Day Yoga Challenge. I am so proud to share her story! xo, Mandy

When I announced to my family and friends that I would be moving to Poland this summer, one of the most common responses I got was, “What do they eat there – meat and potatoes?” I fought really hard to debunk that stereotype, but every menu I looked at, every Polish person I asked, every ex-pat article I read all said the same thing – meat and potatoes. With our upcoming move to Poland, and our knowledge that the local cuisine would be much heartier than we’re used to eating, my husband and I decided to make a drastic change in our diet. The combination of our new environment and decision to make a change led to a breakthrough that I never thought possible. After 3 months of living in chilly Eastern Europe, I lost 20 pounds! I would love to share a few tips on how I was able to accomplish this goal. *Spoiler alert – points 1 and 2 are great, but point 3 is the most important one!

Practicing my yoga headstand alongside the
Danube River in Eastern Europe, Summer 2013
1 – Eat fresh and locally

I am absolutely amazed by the amount of fresh and local produce that is available out here in Krakow. What I love most is that it’s “local and organic” without all of the bells and whistle, like in the States. There’s no extra charge for being organic – it just is! And because fresh produce is widely available, there is no rush to “stock up” on anything. The size of the average European refrigerator (aka, super tiny) represents a different lifestyle. There is no need to stockpile week’s worth of food in one refrigerator; there will always be more (and fresher!) food available tomorrow. 

By embracing this practice, we manage to only keep the freshest food in our refrigerator and don’t have room to let things sit forgotten in the back shelf. We are in turn eating cleaner and fresher food, with less preservatives in our diets, and wasting a lot less!

2 – Eat simply

If my former self were to read the menus on the restaurants in Poland, or look at the food that we now serve on our kitchen table, I would have scoffed at the boringness of it. Grilled chicken and broccoli.  Ham and eggs. Grapefruit and cottage cheese. BORING!....I would have said. Where is the hollandaise sauce? The parmesan cheesy sauce? Or the chantilly cream? I realized that the fancier the name, usually the more additives, sugars, fats, and of course, calories were present. We took the lead of many of the entrees we saw on the menus here and stuck to the major food groups – proteins, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. By sticking with basic and simple food items, we were able to ensure that less mystery fillers were being added to our food. When in doubt, I would look at a food item and ask myself “Can I pronounce every item on this list of ingredients? Moreover, do I know what that is?” I decided xanthan gum, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and hydrogenated soybean oil were ingredients that I could definitely live without.

3 – Let go

The simple truth is that you can eat fresh, locally, and simply and still not lose any weight at all. If your mind is not really made up to take the big leap of changing your dietary habits, you won’t ever get there. You’ll do what I’ve been doing for the past 5 years and make excuses and find loopholes for every deliciously unhealthy food item you want to eat. The bottom line is that YOU need to decide that losing weight and leading a better lifestyle is your choice, and then it’s only a matter of keeping yourself motivated and focused.

For me, my journey began in February 2013 when I finally admitted to myself that I had an unhealthy relationship with food. Traditionally, every Spring for Lent, I give up something that I really like for 40 days. Chocolate, meat, cheese – have you noticed all of my items are food? Not television, alcohol or shopping sprees – it was always food that would give me the greatest pleasure. This year I decided to give up something different – I gave up my emotional attachment to food. I forced myself to recognize the unhealthy relationship I had with food and eating. I would let food control my daily schedule and my emotions. I was one of those girls they described in the movie Mean Girls who would “eat their feelings.” I’m pretty sure the term hangry (hungry/angry) came about after someone saw me deprived of my dinner. Once I started recognizing all the signs in my life that proved this addiction, I realized that I didn’t want to be that kind of person. Letting any sort of physical attachment dominate my life was not inline with my religious or my yogic beliefs. 

Put simply, I had to let go.

I found that the mental process is a lot slower than the weight-losing process itself. I started my mental shift in February but couldn't find the motivation to apply that new belief system to my diet until July – 5 months later. The big move to Poland helped because I was able to adopt a new diet and lifestyle and leave my old habits behind – all at once. I still love food. Cooking with my husband, grocery shopping, and trying new restaurants are still among my favorite things to do. But now instead of food dominating my life, it compliments my life. I can enjoy a delicious meal for exactly what it is – a meal – not the ends and means to making my life worthwhile and satisfying.

Here I am at a party in London this past month.
Feeling so much lighter - physically and mentally!

I hate to pick the corny and obvious metaphor, but losing weight really is a marathon and not a sprint. Just like training for a big race, you have to condition your body, watch what you eat – and be committed mentally to the challenge. Another thing to remember is that what works for one person may not be the solution for the next. I’m really thankful to share my story, but I want to encourage anyone who is looking to make a change in their lifestyle to figure out what their personal roadblock is. Mine was making the commitment to detach emotions from food, for others it could be finding the time to cook healthy meals, or committing to an exercise schedule. At the end of the day, it's YOUR journey and you need to find out what roadblocks are standing in the way of you and your healthiest life. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

My #1 Natural Remedy This Winter

Turmeric is my go-to spice, especially during these chilly winter months when our immune systems get compromised and we are prone to getting sick. If you only have one spice in your spice drawer, it better be this magical one! Turmeric is an orange-colored spice grown in India and other tropical locations. It's part the ginger family and has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years. Turmeric is considered one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory agents available today and for that, is affectionately referred to as the Queen of Spices. For Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners, turmeric is the natural remedy for clearing infections and inflammations on the inside and outside of the body.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the father of modern Integrative Medicine and brain behind the popular True Food Kitchen restaurants....

“Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help counteract the chronic inflammation that is a root cause of many serious diseases, including those that become more frequent as people age. It is a way of selecting and preparing foods based on science that can help people achieve and maintain optimum health over their lifetime.” 

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Turmeric's many benefits include: Cancer Prevention, Arthritis Reliever, Diabetes Control, Heals Wounds, Alzheimer's Disease Prevention, Improves Digestion, Natural Liver Detoxifier, Maintains Ideal Body Weight, Reduces Cholesterol Level, Boosts Immune System

There are a few different ways to consume Turmeric:

  - Root form: put a chunk in juicer to compliment your favorite green-juice recipe

  - Powder form: sprinkle on food as you are cooking
(at least one big, heaping tablespoon)

  - Liquid form: herbal tincture; use dropper to add to your tea

  - Capsules/Supplement form: take with your other vitamins to decrease internal inflammation

My favorite Turmeric recipes:

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this awesome article: 22 Surprising Uses for Turmeric, which includes some totally unexpected uses like teeth whitening and remedy for swimmer’s ear.