One of my resolutions for 2018 is to remove excess sugar from my diet. Sugar is added into so many packaged foods – sauces, dressing, cereals, and 98% of the PB I find in stores. I don’t buy much packaged food, but make sure the PB I buy is only peanuts and salt (no added sugar or palm oil!!) and I have made the switch to unsweetened almond milk for coffee and smoothies. Although I’ve removed a lot of the added sugars from my diet, I still have a major post dinner sweet tooth to keep in check.
I saw these coconut fat balls on Lee From America’s instagram and knew I needed them in my life. Full of fat and protein, but low in sugar, these are the perfect post dinner snack. I would also highly recommend them in the morning with coffee, after a workout, or really whenever hunger strikes.
I closely followed Lee’s recipe, but made a few adjustments, here’s what went into the blender:
1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut butter (if you have not tried this before, you are MISSING out!)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup cashews (I did salted)
1/2 cup almond slices
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 cup almond milk, plus a few extra splashes to keep things moving
One of my favorite parts about living in San Diego is the abundance of National Parks within weekend-ish distance. This year, I took advantage of the couple extra days off of work over Thanksgiving to make the mini trek out to Zion National Park. The drive is about 7 hours from San Diego (no traffic) and a fairly easy drive as you’re mostly on one highway the entire time. We took off early Thursday morning and arrived at the park mid-afternoon. Here’s a breakdown of my favorite hikes from the weekend 🙂
Angel’s Landing: This trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 4 hours in Zion’s trail guide. Round trip, with photos and snacks, it took us about 3 hours but we were definitely pushing the pace a bit on the way up. This hike starts with switchbacks going up and down the side of the mountain called “Walter’s Wiggles” that will give you a solid glute workout. After the switchbacks, it is a fairly easy hike with a slight elevation gain till you get the Angel’s Landing. This is where the trail gets fun.
If you aren’t someone who enjoys heights, you could stop here and still get some great views. I’m not the fondest of heights, but can say the trail forward looks more treacherous than it actually is. There are chains to hold onto along the way and a few spots where you have to scramble over the rock, but for the most part the trail is a steady elevation gain with enough rock to get a solid footing. The views at the top are beautiful and there are lots of flat rocks to sit on, have a snack, and soak up a little sun before heading back down. Overall, Angel’s Landing was the most unique hike because of the challenge of having to wind your way, somewhat precariously, over the cliff.
PRO TIP: get up early and go first thing! I thought it was busy as we were going up, but coming back down there were major lines building up to go across. The ridge has a bunch of pinch points where only on person fits so if the trail gets busy, these points back up real quick.
If you are up for a bit of a longer hike, I would highly recommend Observation Point. The trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 6 hours in Zion’s trail guide. It took us about 3 and a half hours, including snacks and photos at the top. While I think we had a good pace, we were definitely making a point to go slow(ish) and enjoy our journey up and down. I think you could safely budget 4 hours for the hike. Similar to Angel’s Landing, the hike starts with switchbacks going up the side of the mountain.
From here, the trail carries you back through the canyon, then wraps around to Observation Point, which summits at 6,507 ft. Higher than Angel’s Landing, I think this hike gives the fullest view of the park. I found the trail up to Observation Point to be the most diverse and I think the section that goes through the canyon is just so cool and worth the hike in itself.
PRO TIP: Again, go early. This trail was quieter than Angel’s Landing but still starting to fill up as we were making our way back down. Also, bring layers. In the morning and in the shade it is much colder than in the sun. It gets pretty variable depending on if you’re in the canyon or on the ridge. I took on and off my hoodie at least 10 times throughout the hike.
Weeping Rock: This is a super easy, quick walk from the same trailhead as Observation Point. Water that has filtered through the sandstone formations is forced out of the rock here, creating a waterfall of sorts. There are also “hanging gardens” along the side of the rock. Quick and picture worthy stop.
Pa’rus Trail: By the time we arrived to the park the first day and checked in, we didn’t have a whole ton of time to hike so we opted for this trail as we didn’t have to worry about being back before sunset. The whole trail is paved and is more of a walking trail than a hike. The path winds through the valley with mountains on either side of you. You’ll likely see mule deer along the side of the trail who are (at least compared to the white tail deer I’m used to in NY) very unafraid of people. I saw one just a few feet away from me off the trail. Really pretty views along the trail and a nice, easy walk to end your day with.
Lower and Upper Emerald Pools: These were the least thrilling hikes for me. Combined I think it is 2 miles to the upper pools with fairly easy, small sections of incline. The pools are pretty and have mini waterfalls similar to Weeping Rock. These trails can get busy as they are more accessible to families or those looking for a shorter hike. If you have the time, worth going. We did these trails after Observation Point and found they were perfect to end the day with.
Kayenta Trail: After the Upper Pools trail, instead of retracing our steps, we took the Kayenta back to the trailhead. Kayenta adds a couple extra miles onto your hike, mostly of paths that wind along the side of the mountain, providing incredible views of the valley and the Virgin River. I feel like I’ve said there are incredible views a lot, but there really are. The whole park is stunning.
Overall PRO TIP: if you are going to Zion anytime in the near future, beware that they are redoing the main road going in and out of the park. Traffic can back up for up to 30-40 minute waits on either end as you often have to wait for cars to clear out from the other direction. We stayed in the center of town and were able to walk to the entrance and avoid this madness. I loved not having to drive the whole weekend 🙂 Check the road status before you go and plan accordingly!
Packing PRO TIP: Bring snacks and water with you as there’s not anywhere in the park to get food aside from the lodge at the beginning. Wear layers and sunscreen. Bring hand sanitizer.
Last PRO TIP: As you take the shuttle through the valley, keep an eye out on the side of the canyon for rock climbers. We were lucky enough to see a group of climbers scaling the mountain as well as a guy ON A TIGHT ROPE between cliff edges.
Also, because hiking makes you HUNGRY, here are a few of the places I recommend:
Zion Canyon Brew Pub: Right by the entrance to the park, we stopped here both days after hiking for a glass of wine/beer and some fries. #hikinghunger
HooDoo’s General Store: Good place to grab any food you forgot to pack for your trip. Great soy lattes and a variety of wraps or sandwiches for a quick bite.
Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon: When going to a bar in the middle of nowhere Utah, I wasn’t exactly expecting excellent Mexican food. Count me wrong on this one because they had amazing burritos, fajitas, and spicy margs.
Apologies I have zero food pictures. We chose to leave our phones at the lodge for all dinners. This was part of a conscious effort to disconnect during the trip.
For the majority of the trip I was pretty phoneless. I brought it with me for the hikes in order to take photos, but left it on airplane mode all day. For meals, the phone was left behind. I really tried to not have it be present, which was SO rejuvenating. The more I take conscious breaks away from my phone, the more I move away from the need to consistently check it, the more I tell myself I don’t need to instantly respond to messages, the more I feel my stress levels decreasing. I recognize in today’s world that our phones are pretty critical, BUT, if you have an opportunity, like a trip to a national park, a day hike, or even just a dinner, turn it on airplane mode. Let the messages wait. Disconnect. Be present.
Still left on my Zion hikes to do: the Narrows. Waiting for warmer weather for that one!
I made Minimalist Baker’s vegan lasagna this week (slightly modified) and wanted to share it all with you because it is SO easy and SO good. Her pictures are way prettier than mine (definitely not a food stylist here) but it was delicious all the same.
The whole thing takes only 20 minutes to put together, requires less than 10 ingredients, and only dirties a couple dishes. It really doesn’t get easier.
I followed her lasagna recipe but instead of using macadamia nuts for the ricotta filling, followed her tofu ricotta recipes from her eggplant roll ups. Other than that I made a few tweaks for personal taste preferences.
Here’s what you’ll need:
3-4 medium zucchini
jar of your favorite marinara
12 oz block extra firm tofu
heaping 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 lemons juiced
3-4 tbsp EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
vegan parmesan cheese
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Using a cheesecloth or towel, squeeze any extra liquid out of tofu.
3. Add tofu, nutritional yeast, oregano, basil, lemon juice, EVOO, handful of vegan parmesan, and salt and pepper to blender. Blend until semi-pureed. You’re looking for a ricotta esque texture. Add more nutritional yeast or vegan parm to up the cheese flavor.
4. Thinly slice zucchini lengthwise.
5. Spoon sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 pan, enough to cover. Begin to layer zucchini on top to cover. Scoop spoonfuls of ricotta over the zucchini. I left mine in globs but you could spread evenly out if you wanted to 🙂
6. Continue to layer sauce, zucchini, and ricotta. Finish with a top layer of zucchini, thin layer of sauce, and sprinkle of vegan parm.
7. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 min. Turn over to broil and bake for 5 minutes (makes cheese golden and crispy).
8. EAT & ENJOY!
Would you try vegan ricotta? To weird? Or freaking delicious? LMK.
Alright friends, it’s here: my favorite yoga mats to practice on! I got a resounding YES from you all that you wanted recommendations. There are a LOT of yoga mats on the market and I’ve gotten to try out a bunch. These are my personal preferences, broken down by the type of yoga & its eco friendliness:
Lululemon: This was the first “nice” mat I bought for myself and it was kinda a big deal for me. I had only used cheap $15 mats from target before so this was quite the upgrade. If I had to pick one, the Lulu mat is my favorite. It’s nice and thick so my knees and joints always feel cushioned throughout practice, has a great grip that holds even in the sweatiest classes. I’ve used this in hot yoga before without a towel, and been fine! Lululemon uses trademark Luvea rubber that is natural, sustainably sourced, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and is PVC free!
Joi Yoga: Joi Yoga mats are made of 100% sustainable rubber, are PVC free, and have a microfiber top layer that acts as a yoga towel – perfect for hot classes! I also like this mat for traveling because it’s lighter than some of the other mats. I brought this mat with me to Bali and it did wonderfully in the sticky heat (re: sweaty yoga). Bonus: these mats can be rinsed clean or thrown in the laundry machine.
Liforme: Easily recognizable with their AlignForMe system, the Liforme mats have markers on the mat to help yogis find correct alignment in the posture. These mats have great grip even during a sweaty class. They are PVC free, non-toxic, and biodegradable in 1.5 years in a landfill. I received this mat when hosting a challenge and became a fan of it right away. I love this mat for a power yoga class! I also love that their company really runs on the values of being eco-friendly and ethical. They also give back to various charities!
Manduka: If I’m being fully honest (which I am, duh), I’m having a hard time with this one because I love my manduka Pro mat – it has been my favorite mat for at home practice, with good cushion and enough grip (but not too much – too much grip and I feel like I don’t have to engage my muscles as much), for my day to day yoga. The Pro mat is made to last a lifetime, meaning you won’t have to replace it (less production) and it won’t be dumped in a landfill for a long time. However, the mat is Oeko Tex certified emission free PVC – meaning it you won’t breath in PVC emissions, but it does contain PVC and won’t break down in a landfill. If I was getting a new mat, I would go with Manduka’s eKO Mat that is made from sustainably harvested tree rubber and is PVC free. While I do love the Pro, I prefer a mat that is PVC free and biodegradable.
Other Eco-friendly Mats:
These mats I haven’t tried, so I can’t speak directly to them, but they were recommended to me and I wanted to share with you all as they are great eco-friendly options!
Yellow Willow Yoga: These mats are made from 100% recycled materials, are PVC and latex free, and are biodegradable! Definitely a winner if you’re looking for an earth friendly mat. They also come in really pretty patterns J
Tiny Yoga Company: I shared these mats on my stories after the owner reached out to me to share her product. I so appreciate her hustle and love that she’s created a product that is eco friendly (100% natural rubber), biodegradable, vegan, and affordable! This mat has the lowest price point will still checking all the eco-friendly boxes!
I spent the first half of November traveling solo around Bali. It was magical, blissful, invigorating, and rejuvenating. I love to travel and while there is something so special about traveling with a friend, partner, or family and getting to create and share memories together, there is something really empowering and relaxing about traveling solo.
I know for many people traveling solo can feel a bit overwhelming. I’ve gotten many messages on Instagram along the lines of “You’re doing that alone?!” or “I could never do that!”If traveling solo holds no appeal to you, read no further. But if it’s something you’ve thought of doing but aren’t quite sure if that’s too far out of your comfort zone, keep reading, I’m sharing my tips for making traveling solo accessible and most importantly – FUN!
I’ll start with saying I didn’t wake up one day and decide my first solo trip would be halfway around the world to Bali. I’ve been traveling abroad since high school when I decided to take Spanish for a year so I could spend the summer in Cadiz, Madrid, and Seville. In college, I went abroad twice, first to Australia and then to Copenhagen, and since then I’ve traveling both throughout the States and abroad as much as my bank account and vacation days allowed. Getting comfortable traveling takes time, and like anything, the more you do it the easier and more natural it becomes.
Leading us to tip 1: start small. take a day trip to a nearby town you’ve been wanting to visit. wander around, take yourself out to eat, see the sights of the place. Then maybe take a weekend trip a few hours away, then maybe fly to a different state, etc. etc. Whatever feels accessible to you right now, start there. As you get more comfortable traveling in general and on your own, expand your horizons and the distance you go.
No matter where I am traveling to I like to have a plan in advance and do a bit of research. The less I know a place, the more I prepare. For Bali this meant reading up on the culture a bit, reading blogs to find out what other people enjoyed or didn’t, searching for restaurants, researching hotels and Airbnbs, and noting all the sight seeing or activities that I wanted to do. There is so much information out there in the digital age, with a bit of patience and time you can find everything you need to know! Once I have my favorites I save them in a list on google maps. These points stay available even when I don’t have service so I am able to navigate to and from places without worrying about roaming or Wifi. Before I leave I have a rough outline of what I plan to do each day. This also helps me to fit more in because I’m not spending time on my trip trying to figure out where to go or what to do.Tip 2: Do your research. Pin your favorite places.
Contrary to Tip 2, Tip 3 is to deviate from the plan as necessary. A plan is great but so is spontaneity and being flexible. Opportunities may arise to do something new or you may feel incredibly jet lagged and taking a nap sounds way better than a strenuous hike. Let your plan provide the framework, from there go with the flow. Traveling is your vacation time after all, the less you worry about changes along the way, the more you will enjoy your time.
While you’re traveling solo, keep in mind that that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Tip 4: ask for help! If you need a recommendation of where to go or how to get there, just ask! Hotel concierges and Airbnb hosts typically know the area well and can provide great recommendations of where to go. Or ask a stranger. I’ve only had positive experiences with asking people. Be kind, courteous, and grateful, but definitely reach out when you need to!
Tip 5: Be safe; Trust your gut. I operate on the theory that all people are good people and that the universe will keep me safe. That said, no matter where in the world you are traveling, the later you are out at night and the more you drink, the more likely you are to get into an unsafe situation, get lost, etc. When I’m traveling solo (and honestly really all the time) I’m back home early and avoiding the club scene. If going out & drinking is something that you want to include in your travels, be mindful and careful just as you would in any city. Along with some caution, trust your gut. If something doesn’t sit right with you – listen to that, don’t do it. I’ve canceled Airbnbs and plans because something felt off to me. There might not be a concrete reason but if my gut tells me no, I head that.
And lastly, make the most of the time to yourself. Not only does this mean you get to determine what the day holds for you, but it’s really precious time to take to reflect, journal, meditate, and simply be.
Have other questions about traveling solo? Leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you 😽
Bali has amazing, endless cafes and vegan eateries full of delicious food. If you are looking to eat well while on vacation, Bali has you covered. The places below are some of my favorite ones that I ate at during my trip and therefore can speak directly to! I listed my recommended orders but they all have extensive menus with TONS of options. If you’re looking for more options, I highly suggest Lonely Planet or searching your favorite travel blogs. At the bottom I also listed a few additional places I wanted to try but ran out of time for 😭
Shady Shack – This vegetarian food cafe looks out over rice fields and has a menu full of delicious bowls, tacos, and smoothies. Our group tossed back a round of the Immunity shots (#wild) and ordered tempeh bowls and the burger!
Order the: tempeh bowl, a spritzer drink, and a juice shot.
Crate Cafe – This open air cafe is an right off the main road in Canggu and full of amazing breakfast options. Their servings are big, so come hungry!
Order the: chia bowls, açaí bowls, or mega stacked toasts!
Earth Cafe (also in Ubud) – This was one of my favorites places; I went twice in two days and wanted to try everything on their menu. Both locations also have a small health food and goods shop!
Order the: raw burger and one of their juices!
Kynd Community – This place was made for instagram with palm tree walls, a cute swing, and gorgeous food. I love that they stress the message of “being kynd” through eating a plant based diet and being mindful how our actions impact the planet.
Order the: açaí bowl with writing on it, whole coconut, brekkie salad.
Coffee Cartel – This was one of my favorite lattes from my entire trip in Bali – the creamiest almond milk and incredible latte art made with their Ripple machine.
Order the: latte with the “ripple” if you want yours with your name on it!
Ku De Ta – This restaurant and bar overlooks the ocean. You can hang out at the pool or on one of their daybeds loungers while you enjoy your food and drink!
Order: anything. I got a green juice but they have a great array of cocktails. Come for an amazing view of the beach at sunset!
Batik – I went here for dinner one night and absolutely loved the place. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and has lots of outdoor seating. I recommend outdoors for dinner because the heat of the day is gone and you get prime people watching seats.
Order the: One of their curries 🤤 I got a green curry here that was amazing!
Revive – this cute hipster cafe recently opened just on the outskirts of Ubud. With cozy velvet seats or tables to sit at, it is the perfect place to post up and do some work or enjoy coffee with a friend.
Order the: amazing, frothy golden lattes and vegan chocolate covered coconut balls!
Nu Hype – I stumbled upon this place on my way to Alchemy and had to try it. This is a classic Instagram friendly cafe. Come for a picture in the swing chair, try one of their smoothies!
Alchemy – A must go place for every plant based foodie.
Order the: the entire menu. Make sure to check out their dessert cooler filled with raw balls and amazing vegan desserts.
Sage – This space is beautiful and has one of the best plant based menus. It is a bit outside the center of Ubud but worth the trip!
Order the: cauliflower fritters (slightly spicy but SO good), the nourish bowl, or the jackfruit tacos. Also anything and everything with the tempeh; it has a bit of spice to it that I loved. Make sure to get some of their chocolate chip cookies on your way out – amazing!
Seeds of Life – This restaurant makes raw foods fun and delicious! If you’ve never tried raw foods, this is the place to go. They have everything from raw lasagna, to pesto burgers, to desserts.
Order the: try a tonic if you’re looking for a health indulgence. I got one of their bowls and loved it!
Mudra – everything here looked AMAZING. This was one of my favorites places. Mudra’s food is sourced locally and based on ayurveda. I got the veggie wrap as I wasn’t too hungry.
Order the: smoothie for breakfast or poke bowl for lunch (the party sitting next to me got these and RAVED about them).
La Pachamama – If you are craving mexican-style food in Ubud, try La Pachamama. Great place for dinner with a group of friends.
Order the: buffalo cauliflower for some comfort food away from home. Or try a margarita and tacos for a Mexican kick.
Kafe – cute cafe with lots of breakfast options at the center of Ubud.
Order the: almond milk lattes with a tasty pastry on the side!
Elephant (views) – I got the green brekky here and to be completely honest wasn’t thrilled with it. It was tasty, but nothing special. The views here are worth a stop. Enjoy your meal looking out over the Campuhan Ridge.
Clear Cafe – This place is well known for their decorated stairs, Clear Cafe also has great vegan, vegetarian and raw options.
Order the summer rolls and a fresh juice for a light meal!
Alex and I are headed off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow and as I started to pack I thought it might be helpful to share with you what my packing essentials are for any National Park or hiking trip we go on.
Comfy Clothes: Comfort is king when you’re on the trails all day. Look for soft, breathable materials that will feel good to move in. I like to bring layers with me as I am 1) always cold and 2) elevation changes can have a major impact on temperatures. For Bryce I am packing these cozy green leggings and tank made in collaboration by Beyond Yoga and Parks Project. Bonus: each product supports conservancy projects in National Parks.
Hiking Boots (not pictured): Depending on where you are hiking and the type of trails you will be on, trail sneakers may be enough but I highly suggest hiking boots if you have them or the budget to get a pair. Hiking boots are more durable than sneakers, provide good grip on trails, will help keep your feet dry, and will prevent injury. I got mine at REI (I think, its been years honestly). Sierra Trading Post tends to have great deals if you’re on a budget!
Backpack: A good backpack is necessary to carry all of the below items and most importantly SNACKS. I got this Fjallraven backpack last year for a trip up to Washington State and love it! It’s not too big but holds everything I need for a day hike. I will caution that the side pockets are on the smaller side and don’t fit large wattle bottles.
Sunscreen: If you’re outside all day, especially on open trails, sunscreen is a MUST. I like Bare Republic’s sunscreen because they are biodegradable and reef friendly, made without chemical additives, synthetic fragrances, or parabens, they protect your skin (UVA/UVB) and the environment.
Water Bottle: This is common sense really but worth noting that the amount of water you bring with you should be in line with how many miles you’re hiking, how hot it is outside, how humid it is, etc. Better to be safe than sorry – always bring more than you think you need. And always bring it in a reusable bottle 😉 I love my Faucet Face bottles that I won in one of the first Instagram yoga challenges I participated in. Made of glass, these bottles feature fun designs on the side and donate a portion of all proceeds to clean drinking water charities.
Journal: I like to bring a journal to jot down the hikes we did, any anecdotes, stories, or things to remember. This helps me to remember the trip more vividly and is always fun to look back on.
Camera: I am SO excited to finally have a DSLR camera to bring with us on this trip. For former trips all photos were taken with my iPhone, which was completely fine, especially when a nicer camera wasn’t in the budget. Alex and I recently sprung for the Nikon 5300, which is a good, entry level DSLR camera for beginner photographers.
Face wash: I wear very little makeup regularly and basically none while hiking (I always wear mascara because I feel like my eyes disappear without it). I like to keep my skin routine as simple and gentle as possible when traveling. Natura Culina is one of my favorite skin care brands; their products are paraben and sulfate free, non-toxic, and cruelty free. They have a chamomile face wash that does a great job cleansing the skin without drying it out. You can get 10% off your order with my code “julia”.
Chapstick: I’ve forgotten these a few times and regretted it so much. Between the sun, being outside all day, and hiking, my lips need some TLC. I love the Hurraw chapstick. They are vegan, cruelty free, and super nourishing.
Compass: This is either the most or least necessary of the list. Most likely you won’t need a compass at all and it’s just a fun add on to bring with you but JUST IN CASE, it never hurts to have one. Phone batteries die, compasses don’t. I think it is kind of fun to think about navigating with one of these too.
That’s it! Did I miss anything you always bring with you on your hiking trips?
These brownies came about as I had some VERY overripe bananas in my fridge that needed a purpose ASAP or they were getting tossed. A quick google search brought me to Gimme Delicious‘s blog. This recipe is almost too good to be true. It is SO simply and quick to make but SO tasty.
The brownies come out super fudge like. If you’re looking for fluffy cake brownie, this isn’t the recipe for you. If however, you want some dense and delicious fudge goodness, I have you covered. I added an extra peanut butter drizzle on top of mine (because there is no such thing as too much PB) but you could also add nuts, chocolate chunks, or any additions of your choice!
Made with only four ingredients, these brownies are not only incredibly simple to make, but also a really healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth. These brownies are vegan, gluten free, paleo and has no added sugar. Basically meaning that they are totally acceptable to eat any time of day. I highly suggest having one with your morning coffee 😉
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking dish or skillet well. I used coconut oil to grease my cast iron pan and has no issues with sticky brownies 🙂
Mash your bananas up well in a large mixing bowl, then mix in the peanut butter. Stir till well-combined.
Add in protein and cocoa powder; stir well.
Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for 15-20 min.
I baked my brownies for 17 min and they turned out just right however I suggest checking them a bit earlier, everyone’s oven is different! They will still be soft and fudgy but the toothpick should come out clean!
These make a great healthy dessert or a delicious morning treat!
I always love seeing your photos, if you make these, tag me!
Monday through Friday I work a typical 9-5 cube job, meaning, like so many people, a lot of my day is spent sitting. While I am lucky enough have a stand up desk which allows me to move up and down throughout the day (this is seriously the best invention) I still spend WAY more time sitting than I’d like to. One complaint I hear all the time from co-workers is how their bodies ache from sitting all day.
Sitting compresses our hip flexors, causes us to hunch our shoulders over our keyboards, and has been linked to a whole bevy of negative health impacts. Coined “the new smoking”, studies show that office workers may be sitting up to 75% of their waking day. Such a sedentary life is linked with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the body, sitting for such extended periods of time can also lead to joint stiffness, low back pain, and tight hips.
So, how to combat this?
Get up and MOVE throughout your day. Take walks during your breaks, walk over to someone’s cube instead of sending them an email, look into if your company will support a sit/stand desk, or stand when appropriate during calls or meetings.
Try my top yoga poses to counter cube life! These focus on getting mobility into the joints, opening up the hips, and creating movement and strength in the spine. I’ve also included a few poses to counter the keyboard hunch by opening up across the chest.
Forward Fold – Forward fold stretches the backside of the legs, the hamstrings down to the calves. This pose also helps to keep the spine strong and flexible. Remember to keep as much bend in the knees as you need, you want your focus to be on creating length through the spine.
Spinal Twists – Twisting poses help to maintain mobility and range of motion in the spine. If the natural motions of the spine are not used, the joints start to harden. Spinal twists can be taken reclined (laying on the ground), seated, or in an energizing pose such as chair or crescent lunge. For all twists, first create a long spine with each breath in, then find a deeper twist with each exhale.
Crescent Lunge – This pose is amazing for stretching the hip flexors. You can also add a gentle backbend to open up across the front of the body. Be careful to keep the front knee stacked over the front ankle and not to let it track any further towards your toes.
Three-legged dog – From downward facing down, lift your right heel high to the sky and then stack the right hip on top of the left. Continue to press down into your right palm to keep the chest square to the earth, and begin to draw circles in either direction with your knee. Repeat on the opposite site. This brings mobility into the hip joint.
Warrior 2 – This powerful pose will open up the chest, stretch the hips and inner thighs, and can help to relieve low back pain. Keep the heart lifted, extend long from fingertip to fingertip, and press down through both pinky toes.
Lizard Pose – Lizard pose is great for stretching out the hamstrings, groin, and hip flexors. This pose also opens up the hips and creates length in the spine. Let your hips be heavy towards the earth, keep the spine extended long, and let the head fall easily towards the mat – releasing any tension in the neck.
Yogi’s Squat – Malasana, or Yogi Squat, helps to open the hips and groin, stretches the ankles, and is keeps the hip joint healthy. This is one of my favorite preparatory poses for deeper hip openers. If your hips are feeling tight, place a block beneath your sit bones for more support.
Camel Pose – Camel pose aids in opening up across the chest; focus on the lift through the sternum in this pose, as if a string was gently tugging your heart upwards. This pose is also a deep stretch for the hip flexors, extending them long after a day of sitting in flexion.
Pigeon Pose – Pigeon pose can help ease low back pain, open the hip joint, and release stress or anxiety. This pose is advance and an intense stretch for the hip; you can always take this pose lying down: start with knees bent and both feet on the earth, then cross the left ankle over the right thigh and begin to draw the right knee towards your chest. Repeat on the opposite site.
Habits are a tricky thing. If you follow me on Instagram you know one of my intentions for the month of May was to shed old patterns and expand my horizons. Part of that is breaking myself out of habits that have turned into ruts. A habit can start as a commitment to ourselves to set a positive pattern in our life, but over time, when the habit becomes routine, it can also stunt our ability to grow and learn.
For example, imagine you never go to the gym so you decide that four mornings out of the week you will get up an hour earlier to make it to the gym to work out. Great! You’re getting exercise, you feel great, and you’re getting stronger. This is a great habit to set! But what if six months later you’re still doing the same routine at the gym each day? Are you still challenging yourself in the same way that you were when you first went to the gym? Of course not.
Habits can be a wonderful tool to help us set positive, new patterns in our lives. They can also be a great way to automate things that we should be doing daily but don’t necessarily need to dedicate new thought to (brushing our teeth, taking vitamins, etc.). So before I tell you why you should break your habits, let me tell you why you should form habits to begin with:
Set yourself up for success: Good habits can help you build the life that you want and move towards your long-term goals. Habits build the foundation towards realizing a larger goal. Each bigger goal (running a half marathon) can be accomplished through setting habits to achieve smaller goals along the way (start jogging 3x a week).
Healthy habits, healthy life: Getting in more movement or eating healthier isn’t always easy. Habits such as meal prepping, walking on work breaks, or getting to a yoga class each week help to create a healthier life.
Streamline your life and your mind: Habits for every day activities helps eliminate excess time. If you have the same morning routine for skincare and don’t need to decide what to do each morning, you remove the decision time and free it up for fresh thought. In this way, habits can also lower stress levels because the routine reduces what you need to actively think about and act on.
Get stuff done: Creating habits and routines makes it easier to check things off our to do list. A more scheduled day means less time for procrastination; each task has a specific time when it is completed each week (i.e. Saturdays are for cleaning and Sunday mornings are for grocery shopping). Blocking out time for tasks ensures they get done and is one less thing to worry about.
Habits are a tool for creating order in a busy life and an amazing way to help establish a healthy lifestyle. However, their strengths are also their weaknesses. By creating routine and removing the active thought around the action, habits can quickly stunt our growth as individuals. Automating action so we don’t have to think about it is great for efficiency, but horrible for being in the present moment. To be present is to be fully aware of each action, thought, and breath. In habits, we are able to move through action without thinking.
Habits establish routine, which can set us up in positive patterns, but once the routine is mastered, can stunt our ability to continue to challenge ourselves. By breaking out of the habit (always jogging for 30 min at the gym) and creating new patterns (trying yoga, spin, and boxing classes throughout the week), we not only challenge ourselves in new ways physically and mentally, but are forced to be more present because there isn’t a set pattern for our brain and our body to follow.
I think habits are best used as a way to start a new, positive design in our lives. But they need to be re-evaluated regularly to make sure that the habit is still serving us. When the habit starts to feel too comfortable or too easy, it is time to shake things up a bit – to either adjust the habit to create more of a challenge, or set a new habit to build upon the established one. For example, if your positive pattern is getting to a yoga class each week, once that becomes an established habit, switch it UP. Try getting to two or three classes. Try different styles of yoga. Try going with a friend. Try yoga outside. You get the idea 😉
Here are two ways I am breaking habits:
One of my positive patterns is the commitment to my yoga practice, getting to yoga classes or spending time on my mat each week. But I began to realize that my body was getting comfortable in this and that I wasn’t challenging myself in the same way anymore. This month I am working in more cardio, circuits, and trying new yoga classes.
I eat a plant based diet and love to meal prep to help prepare me for the week. I have a pretty good line up of all my favorite, easy recipes that help me to eat well throughout the week. While meal prepping in one habit I want to keep, I am building on this habit by also choosing one new recipe a week to try, normally on Sunday nights when I have the most time. This both helps to keep the foods I’m eating more interesting but also expands my cooking skills and my arsenal of recipes
What are some habits you have that are positive patterns in your life? What are some ways you could expand upon these habits to keep challenging yourself?
I have a notoriously sensitive digestive system, reactive to certain foods and even more sensitive in times of stress. over the past year I have learned a lot about what foods do and don’t (dairy, gluten, heavily processed foods) work well for my system.
I’ve also learned to supplement my diet to keep my gut healthy and happy. here are a few of my go tos:
1. kimchi: a fermented cabbage, kimchi is a Korean dish made from lacto-fermentation. Kimchi is packed with enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin C, and contains probiotics. I typically eat it right of of the jar but it’s also great in a buddha bowl 🤤
2. kombucha: a fermented tea, made from a “scoby” or the mother bacteria and yeast, kombucha has active bacteria, or probiotics that absorb nutrients and support your immune system. healthade is my go to kombucha and their lemon ginger is my ride or die ☠️💛 they are brewed in super small 2.5 gal batches, only in glass jars 🌍, and are FULL of probiotics and healthy acids!
3. lemon ginger tea: I find this super soothing when my stomach is upset or to help with digestion. Lemon ginger tea is full of antioxidants, has immune boosting effects, and can even boost your metabolism! I like mine w a little raw honey 🍋 🍯
4. yoga and/or meditation: while not a food, yoga and meditation help to keep my stress levels low(er) which is key to keeping my stomach happy. even just 5-10 of meditation or breath work makes a huge difference 🧘🏼♀️
have you struggled with digestion? what tips and tricks have worked for you to get a happy belly?
After a few weekends of eating more indulgent foods than I normally do, I am trying to make a real effort to cut added sugar where I can. When sugar creeps into my diet I feel more sluggish, have trouble sleeping, breakout more, and overall don’t feel my best.
In the spirit of springtime and because carrot cake is by far my favorite cake, I made these carrot cake energy bites. These bites are vegan, gluten free, and have no added sugar. Plus they are super simple to make and require no baking! Win win. I worked off of Happy Healthy Mama’s recipe and made a few tweaks.
¾ cup raw walnuts
¼ cup raw pecans
5-6 pitted dates
½ cup raisins (golden are my preference if you can find them!)
1.5 – 2 cups carrots
1 cup rolled oats (GF)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ tsp cinnamon (heaping)
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
+ unsweetened shredded coconut to top
Blend walnuts, pecans, raisins and dates together.
Add in carrots and blend.
Stir spices, oats, and flour together. Add to mixture and blend until combined.
Roll into balls. Top with shredded coconut.
Freeze for 5-10 minutes to harden slightly, then store in fridge.
Eat + enjoy!
These bites are not only tasty but also loaded with nutrients: Carrots are high in beta-carotene, Vitamin A, C, K and B8. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants. They have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, improve brain health, and boost moods. Pecans contain potassium, calcium and magnesium. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, reduces the risk of heart disease, and is anti-inflammatory. Like cinnamon, ginger is anti-inflammatory and also helps with digestion. Dates are a great source of fiber and contain calcium, iron, and magnesium.
As I do not have a food processor, I used my Ninja blender and did the nuts and dates separately at first before combining all together. Depending on the strength of your blender / food processor, blending in batches may work best.
As written, the recipe has no added sugar and is definitely more on the savory side. For more of a “cake like” taste, add sweetener of your choice (honey, raw sugar, maple syrup, etc.).