What's with the name?

What's with the name? In my mid-twenties, I had essentially gone through one kind of life and am starting to enter another. The people that are probably going to read this blog know exactly what I'm talking about - but for those who don't know, here's a brief rundown . Cheers to Chapter 2! A journey in health in many ways, and to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. I am also a blogger for GreenMommas.com. This is my blog.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

SITWI Begins and 5X5X5 Challenge

This month I realized that being on a healthy eating schedule and working out regularly makes me better at all other areas of life. I'm a happier, mostly stress-free person - and a harder worker. I got promoted last week, and then thought about when I really got on my 'SEO game' - it was Spring last year when I made it my mission to go the extra mile, above and beyond for my clients. Is it a coincidence that is the same time I started eating much healthier and exercising 5 days a week? No. The benefits of this healthy lifestyle - while plentiful - have extended far beyond the physical for me. I'm just having a year where I feel like I'm acing life, you know? I've never felt that way before. Pretty cool.

Month one of our Slim it to Win it challenge at work (the second one for me). I've been asked to be on a panel about sustainable weight loss, so others can ask questions about how I 'did it' (or in my eyes, continuing to work towards a healthy goal). Who would've ever though I would be asked to be on a panel for healthy, sustainable weight loss? It boggles my mind. I lost a reasonable amount of weight this month - 4lbs so far. I hit a really big milestone in March, though. For the first time since high-school, I'm under 200lbs (actually well under right now). The even better thing about this, though, is that I've been under 200 before, but NEVER as strong as I am right now.

Total, I'm 75lbs down Here's what that looks like:

 Now, you're probably wondering what the 5X5X5 challenge is. I had already signed up for four 5Ks in May (the Maple Street 5K running series) and then I found another that peaked my interest ColorSmacked is a 5K that you dress in white and have colored powder thrown at you throughout the run. So, I've challenged myself to complete five 5Ks in the fifth month of this year (5X5X5). I'm planning on doing this on top of my workout routine too, which should make it extra challenging.

More exciting things coming up! A friend of mine convinced me to finally do a cleanse. This is something I've been considering for a long time because although I am a pretty 'clean' eater right now, I lived off crap food for a long time. When I has lost weight in highschool, bringing me to a 'healthy weight', I was living of package meals like Lean Cuisine and breakfast shakes, flavored like Strawberry or Chocolate. This three week intensive cleanse will flush out any toxic build up out of my system that has built up in the last 28 years. I'll have to quit coffee and booze for three weeks and for the first week my food intake will mostly be organic fruit/veggies, lentils and wild rice. After the three weeks you can start to taper other foods back in to your diet like meat, gluten and dairy. This allows you to evaluate how they effect your body. I am half completely scared and half really excited for this journey. I'll start this process when back from San Diego in April. I'm pretty lucky to have a buddy that will be doing it with me, though!

Looking forward to many more fantastic experiences on this journey...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Initial Findings on a Chemical-Free Lifestyle

This blog has made it's way around lately and I've been getting a ton of questions on what or how I've attempted to make my life 'chemical free'. I start to explain and people are really surprised how easy (and inexpensive)  it is. So I figured it would be helpful to put all of my findings in one place, so you can see how crazy (but not really) I am when it comes to the 'products' I keep in our house.

First, let me explain what prompted me to get rid of everything I thought was supposed to clean me and my home. I started reading the labels on everything, and it's something I recommend every one should do. Many companies make this hard to find, or will generalize ingredients like 'fragrance' or 'natural coloring'. Look at the labels on everything and anything you use to clean your house, wash yourself with, eat, drink or comes in to contact with your skin. You may have that initial freak out that I did, especially when you research the 'ingredients' that you can't even pronounce. Now once you've done this, remember that your skin is really good at absorbing things, that's part of it's job after all. Once I started to think about it I didn't want any of it anymore - on me, in my house, on my son, etc. Thinking deeper you may realize that these 'products' many people use on a daily basis are probably a large contributing factor to terrible diseases - actually many of the ingredients in everyday household products, food and beverages have been proven to cause cancer/heart disease etc.  Before we dive in, here's a full disclaimer: I am not the master of all things natural. I am not an expert. I did my own research and picked things that worked best for me. It's a good idea for everyone to do the same. I started with cleaning basics:

1. Vinegar
*Get yourself a gallon of distilled white and a not-so-large bottle of (raw) Apple Cider Vinegar ($6 for both)
Here's what you can do with vinegar, ready?

  • Clean everything!
    • Use 1:1 ratio of water & white vinegar for a multi-purpose cleaning spray. I use this (in a recycled spray bottle) to clean my kitchen, glass, my bathrooms. If you want to be fancy you can put an essential oil in there that has disinfecting properties. I have been using orange peels to infuse my vinegar too for a nice scent and extra cleaning power. I just let the peels sit in the vinegar for a few days or longer in a glass jar!
  • Clean your floors!
    • Using same solution, clean wood, laminate & tile floors. I use a recycled swiffer mop and cut old bath towels to size as a 'Swiffer pad'. Start with a damp towel, spray on surface and wipe
  • Apple Cider Vinegar : A lovely skin toner
    • Apple cider vinegar, while I did try it as a digestive aid (the raw stuff is just too potent for me) works really well as a facial toner. With a wet cotton round, put a few drops of it on and swipe over face
  • Dishwasher rinsing aid
    • Just put a small amount of white vinegar in your rinse-aid dispenser and it will help keep water spots off your dishes
2. Coconut Oil - The magical all purpose moisturizer ($8 - $15 depending on the brand & size)
  • Trust me when I say you can throw all your lotions and potions away and replace almost all of them with this stuff. It's absolutely nuts to pay $10 and up for a crazy, chemical lotion that ladies can use to make their skin look shimmery, tan, or otherwise not normal. Healthy skin is the best look! I use in it's solid state and just rub a little on my fingers to apply. 
  • Facial moisturizer - great for under and around eyes (better than the $18 cream I was using) and other dry areas on the face
  • Any dry skin - use a small amount as a lotion
  • A deodorant base (see recipes below)
  • For hot oil hair treatment - do research on this there are many other oils you can use. I use just coconut with rosemary & lemon essential oil.
  • I also use olive oil to remove make up, works well and makes your lashes really healthy and thick
3. Honey + Baking Soda - the best face wash you ever had
  • The best way to do it - scoop out some raw honey in the shower, sprinkle with baking soda. Mix and apply to face for a cleansing and moisturzing everyday wash that smells fantastic.
4. Borax & Washing Soda ($4 each) - The way people used to clean things
  • Dishwasher detergent (recipe below)
  • Laundry soap (recipe below)
We've covered the products, many you can just swap out for what you're using. For those that really want to dive in (and by dive in I mean taking an extra 15 min of your time to mix some stuff up), let's get in to some recipes. 

DIY Deodorant (No I'm not kidding)
  • Why DIY? Commercial deodorant is perhaps the most offensive stuff out there. Aluminum, parabens and many of their ingredients can cause cancer (see http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/AP-Deo). No joke. Get rid of this stuff but don't be smelly! When I tell people I make my own deodorant, they think I'm nuts, gross, or both. Most people don't believe it works. But I promise you it does, all the time, and there is no cancer-causing crap in it.
  • Take your jar of coconut oil and bring to a liquid state. If it's in a glass container, you can set in a saucepan and surround by water. Heat until it's a clear liquid
Now Mix
  • 5 TB liquid Coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cornstarch (we're working on substituting Arrow Root powder for this - cheaper and more natural)
  • Add 10 - 20 drops of essentials oils (I use lemon & orange but please DON'T use lemon in it if your armpits are going to be exposed to the sun).
This will become a deodorant-like consistency once it reaches room temp again. I keep in a recycled yogurt container and just grab a pea-sized amount with my fingers and apply. The coconut oil will work with your body heat and apply nicely. If it's too messy for you save one of your old deoderant containers, wash it out thoroughly and pour the mixture in there (however if you're going to do this I wouldn't recommend keeping it in a room above 75 degrees).

DIY Laundry Soap (not detergent)
  • Why DIY? I had to really dig, but here is an ingredient sheet for Tide detergent : http://www.pgproductsafety.com/productsafety/ingredients/household_care/laundary_fabric_care/Tide/Tide_Liquid_-_Original.pdf. They make you go one click further to even find out what 'fragrance' actually means. That ingredient list is even scarier. Detergent frangrance is the one that bothers me the most now. I can smell the artificial fragrance on clothes from a few feet away, or in the gym or wherever I happen to be. There is definitely an element of the detergent that lingers in the clothes and comes in to contact with your skin. Also the price of tide is ridiculous - last time I checked it was $14 for a month's supply with just three people in our household. The following recipe costs about $3 to make and will last for likely 3+ months. It's cheap and easy, so you should at least try it!
  • This is the recipe I ended up with -  I use only castile bar soap with it that has a natural (read : not chemical) fragrance. Dr. Bronner's Lavender is my preference here. This soap only has 5/6 ingredients, mostly fair-trade, organic oils.
1 gallon + 32 oz water
2/3 bar grated castile bar soap (or liquid castile soap, homemade if you're savvy)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda 

In a very large sauce pan, heat water and bar soap until bar soap is completely dissolved in water. Remove from heat then add borax & washing soda. Stir just until mixed and let cool overnight. This will turn in to a thick pudding consistency. This is not going to be exactly like the detergent you're used to. You may have to shake it up each time you use it. Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup per load. **Update - we made a batch of this recently with our homemade liquid kitchen soap (soap made from scratch with oil/lye) and let me tell you, the consistency is really nice and it works very well! I'm thinking you can probably use Dr. Bronner's liquid castile too, which will make a much more liquid soap. 

Dishwasher Soap

  • Why DIY? The dishwasher detergent I was using contained many ingredients, one of which is Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Here's a wikipedia article on that : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_laureth_sulfate, which states "Some products containing SLES have been found to also contain traces (up to 279 ppm) of 1,4-dioxane. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that these levels be monitored.[7] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen". More cancer-causing stuff, on your dishes, that you eat on. I also read a really great article on the Crunch Betty blog about a child who had eaten homemade dish washer soap, which the poison control center explained was way less toxic (almost non-toxic) than Cascade, Dawn, etc.
  • If you've made the laundry soap, you have 75% of the ingredients you're going to need already anyway. 
Mix :
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup citric acid (available on Amazon).

*Add a pinch or rice grains to keep this from solidifying (the citric acid causes this). Add a small scoop to each load of dishes.
*This is not perfect with glass, you may have to hand-wash your clear glass things every few loads, still working on this one!

So there it is, in a very large nutshell. Does it take a little bit of extra time? Yes. Is it going to save you money an have a healthy impact on you life? Yes! But it' pretty nice if you're out of laundry soap to just make a batch of your own and not have to depend on the store to provide it for you. Noah and I joke that a chemical-free lifestyle is a tiered process. This is tier one for us. Noah has dived in to tier 2 and is perfecting making his own soap (which is amazing already I think, btw) and we're growing a ton of Lavender that may or may not end up in some of the soap products. Tier two for me will probably be investigating making my own natural make-up. I use a lot of mineral-based makeup which is OK, but not great.

The whole task of trying to live this lifestyle can seem overwhelming at first, but we started replacing 'products' one by one until we found an appropriate solution for (almost) everything.

Please give me your thoughts or suggestions, now that I've fully unleashed my 'hippie-ness' upon you. I'd like to know what others have found useful or successful. I'm always trying to find better solutions, most of these work really well but the consistency of the laundry detergent could be better.