I Love Coconut Oil For Shaving

I have always been a fan of coconut oil, but before it was just for the hair on my scalp. I had really gotten into taking care of my natural hair about 4 years ago and coconut oil was one of the many oils raved about. I have now used it for the last 4 years with great results. It helps seal in moisture.

However, recently I discovered how wonderful it is to use for shaving. I was watching a video on YouTube about how a ballerina gets ready everyday and she had mentioned how she needs to shave everyday. My first thought was, “Wow that sounds like a lot of work, I can barely manage to shave once per week. Also what do you do to keep up with that while still taking care of the health of your skin?”. I was particularly interested because now I go to Yoga on a more regular basis and need to shave more often. So I decided to take her advice and try coconut oil rather than my usual shaving cream to see if I like it as I am trying to use more natural products and much to my surprise I loved it! I like that it is gentle on my skin. My razor just seems to glide right over my hair. Maybe the coconut oil helps to soften my hair, similar to what it does for my hair on my head. It is also great that the oil not only moisturizes the hair as I am shaving, but also my skin.

Now the next thing I want to try is to use Witch Hazel afterwards. She says this helps to prevent in grown hairs, which is such a problem for me. Since I have very curly hair, it seems inevitable that I will get ingrown hairs. I am willing to try anything that will help with that. I don’t really like to wax and even when I wax it does not necessarily guarantee that I won’t get ingrown hairs. So here it to using more natural beauty products. Let me know if you try coconut oil for shaving and if it works for you!

Snacking Made Me Gain Weight

I have been greatly disappointed with my recent weight gain. I thought I was doing all the right things. I stopped eating out and replaced the carbs in my meals with more vegetables, but to my surprise I was gaining weight. How could this be possible?

I stepped back and asked my husband what he thought I was doing wrong as he had lost 20 pounds in the last 4 months while I had started to regain weight. He pointed out a very important fact that I did not want to accept. I love to snack! I always have. I have been a snacker for as long as I could remember. I snack during the day and eat a huge meal for dinner. It is just how I prefer to eat. I am not sure why. I am usually not that hungry in the morning, but ravenous by the end of the day. I love to graze throughout the day and eat a hearty meal in the evening. Dinner is by far my favorite meal of the day. I am not hungry in the morning and get too sleepy after lunch.

However, this strategy had not been working out for me because I was not reducing my total number of calories throughout the day with the constant snacking and huge meal at the end. I was eating a calories dense large meal at the end of the day while still eating a million calories while I grazed the rest of the time. Yes, I was replacing carbs with vegetables in my meals, but then covering them in cheese or oils. I was adding a ton of fat to my meals. To make matters worse, I was justifying my increased snacking by saying I was eating more vegetables.

The math just wasn’t working out. I can no longer justify eating an entire bag of pop chips and pretzels because they aren’t “that bad” and I am eating more vegetables. The calories are adding up and this could be seen by the number on the scale.

So now I have to rethink how I eat. How can I possibly make this all work?

One place I’m going to start is to cut down on dairy. I love cheese, but I know this is not the best thing for me and makes me feel terrible after I eat it. I can work to decrease how much cheese I put on my food. Let’s be honest, it does not help my journey if I’m eating gnocchi cauliflower that is drenched in cheese.

I also need to be more realistic about how many calories I am getting from my snacks. I do not think I can be as strict as my husband and not snack at all because I do not think my body works that way. I am not a three meals a day kind of person. But I can be more conscientious about what I am eating between meals and set a cut off time for snacks. For example, I have decided that I can have a little dessert after dinner, but no other snacks. I am also trying to incorporate more plant based snacks and decrease my number of processed snacks. This is hard since I love all things chips, but the more fresh fruits and vegetables I can eat the better it will be for me in the long run.

So this is not to say I can’t snack, but I need to be more thoughtful about the way I snack including quality of the snacks I am eating and portion size.

Are you a snacker? If so, how do you deal with snacking in your life?

10 Must-Haves For The Gym

I try to pack light to the gym, but there are some must haves when I am about to head out to the gym. These are my top 10 favorite things to take with me to the gym. I would love to hear what you all take when you’re going to the gym.

  1. Headphones and phone. This is a must for me! A workout is just not the same if I am not jamming out to some music. My taste ranges anywhere from hip hop/R&b all the way to pop and soft rock during cool downs. My husband bought me Apple AirPods for Christmas and they have been great! I did not know how freeing it would be to have wireless headphones. They are not cheap, but definitely worth the investment if you can afford them. I can lift and run without being tethered to my phone.
  2. Water. Cannot do without this. Especially on my hot yoga days. I always have a refillable bottle with me. Must stay hydrated. I am much more likely to drink more water if I carry it around with me all day. If I wait until I get home, I do not drink nearly enough water.
  3. Towel. I sweat profusely. I am constantly toweling myself off during hot yoga or when I have an intense cardio day. I have this great soft microfiber towel that I love to use. It feels so good against my skin. It is very soothing.
  4. Ankle brace. I have had a lot of problems with my ankles and need support when I am running. The impact on my joints is quite difficult and I cannot do much without my ankle brace.
  5. Lip balm. This may sound silly, but I don’t like chapped lips and because I am dehydrated after the gym my lips can also get quite dry. So I always like to have some lip balm with me.
  6. Gum. This may sound weird, but I get a strange taste in my mouth after a workout. It’s almost like I get a little nauseated at times, but not quite. It happens a lot more during my morning workouts compared to workouts later in the day. I always like to have some gum to combat this awful taste in my mouth.
  7. Yoga Mat. I try to really invest in a good stretch at the end of a workout. With my yoga mat I can really get on the ground and do some deep leg stretches that I have learned through yoga classes. Plus it is more of an incentive to take the time to stretch because I made the effort to bring my yoga mat with me.
  8. Hair ties. So I am kind of guilty of not always remembering to bring an extra one. I do my best to put extra ties in my hair so that if I lose one I have others to use. It’s the worse when your hair is loose and getting everywhere during a HIIT workout.
  9. Jacket. I always like to bring something to wear over my clothes. This is because it is usually chilly on my way into the gym or out of the gym. Plus I like to have something over me that is not completely soaked in sweat. It helps me keep my body temperature from changing too quickly once I have stopped working out.
  10. Large bag. Last but not least I need a large bag to carry everything in. I have my favorite bag that I got while in Kenya made with traditional cloth. It is big and easy to carry around while not feeling that I am carrying around a gym bag.

This may sound like a lot to bring to the gym, but I feel prepared when I have everything I need with me.

I haven’t really gotten into bringing my own workout equipment like resistance bands or cable machine straps, but maybe as I get more involved in the gym these will become staples in my bag. Not sure I really want more things to bring with me….haha.

Skincare From The Inside Out

I have struggled with bad skin all my life.

I have always wanted porcelain skin, but have never had it. I would look at people with such smooth skin and wonder why my skin never seemed to behave. I would try product after product with no success. I could never replicate what I saw on TV. To some extent I am still like that. I am always on the hunt for new skin products and still hope that one day my skin will be texture free. I know this is unrealistic for me. My skin was just not made this way and I know that, but I still strive to make my skin look the best that I can.

I am starting to focus more on my diet and the impact it has on my skin. I have always worried about what I am doing from the outside with little regard to what I am putting inside of me. It’s much more exciting to find a facial cleanser that promises to clear my skin then it is to be critical of what I am eating. However, I want to try to analyze the foods that seem to help my skin and those that make it worse. This gets back to listening to my skin and trying to figure out what helps it. I have not sat down and tried to figure out what may be making my skin worst. For example is it the dairy I eat, gluten, or the sugars in my food. So now it is the time to do that.

To be honest, I do not know why I have not spent more time exploring the impact of my diet on my skin as I know how important my diet is and how it is reflected in all aspects in my life from how I feel to how I look. So now I am on a journey to really try to dissect my diet in a meaningful way and not just say with broad strokes that I am going to eat healthy.

One thing I know that helps my skin appear more supple is to stay adequately hydrated. I also have a sneaky feeling that dairy makes my skin break out. I love parmesean cheese and put it on everything, but the more cheese I have been eating, the worst my skin looks. Now I just have to figure out how I am going to bring myself to give up cheese. So my journey begins to truly take care of my body the way I should.

This is not to say that I have given up my multi step morning and evening skincare routine, but I compliment that with the foods I am eating.

Drink More Water

We all hear the importance of drinking enough water every day, but how many of us actually do. You need it to help digest food, eliminate waste, control calorie intake, cell function, and it even helps your skin look rejuvenated.

I am now on a mission to incorporate more water into my day. You would think I am a cactus with how little water I will drink in a day if I do not make a conscious effort. I now try to drink a minimum of 80 fl oz. per day. My husband is the exact opposite and he drinks close to a gallon of water per day. I am not advocating drinking a gallon per day, but he personally needs this much to function throughout the day otherwise he will pass out, which I unfortunately have seen him do.

Personally, I think you should find out how much you need per day to stay adequately hydrated. You should be maintaining clear urine throughout most of the day and going to the bathroom every few hours. Maybe even more. I think a good place for me is between 80-100 fl oz per day. This is when I don’t have headaches, lightheadedness, and misplaced hunger. I feel adequately hydrated and notice that my urine is clear. When I drink less than this then I know that I have not gotten enough water for the day.

On days that I have an intense workout or go to hot yoga I try to drink double this amount of water. I can tell if my weight goes down by 1-2 pounds by the end of the day that I have not drank enough and this always comes back to haunt me. I will get a terrible headache or feel especially tired and hunger the following day.

Drinking more water has helped me with my health journey. It has taught me to be more in tune with my body and to listen to what it needs. I now know when I am thirsty vs. hungry. I know when I need more water. I know when I have been good to my body for the day. There are a lot of recommendations of how much water you should be drinking in a day, but I think sticking with the old adage of eight 8 oz glasses per day (2L or 1/2 gallon per day) is a good place to start and then you can gauge from there how much you specifically need. Remember to always listen to you body. Fuel your body with what it really needs. Eliminate toxins and beverages that don’t provide nutrition such as overly sweetened drinks like soda and sweet tea. Your mind, body, and spirit will appreciate it.

Do you drink enough water per day?

What Is Hot Yoga?

So I have recently discovered hot yoga…

I am still not sure how I feel about it. Some parts of me think that it is very unnatural and others love the tremendous concentration, perseverance, and strength it takes to do hot yoga.

I have loved yoga for a long time, but have never really stuck with it for long periods of time because of class schedules and lack of discipline to do it on my own. It really helps me to focus on my balance, flexibility, posture, and strength. However, because I have not mastered meditation I find that my mind wanders or I almost fall asleep when the lights are out.

This is how I have come to venture into the world of hot yoga. So what exactly is hot yoga? The studio I attend is a hot yoga studio that performs various yoga practices in a heated room. This can range anywhere from 90-100 degrees. The reason I have been given for the heated room is to help warm up our muscles and help to release toxins both mentally and physically.

The forms of yoga offered are:

Hatha

The emphasis of the class is on alignment and stillness. Each posture intensifies with each breath. You are meant to increase your strength, flexibility, balance, and stamina. Great for first timers because you have time between each posture where you are strengthening and working on balance.

Vinyasa

This is more like traditional yoga where there is an energetic flow of postures. It is supposed to be a combination of stretch and strength. I must say this is a very difficult class for me and I often have to sit because I do not have the strength yet.

Yin

Great for relaxation and focus on meditation and breathing. Less movement in this class. Mostly sitting or lying on the mat. It is said to focus on your ligaments, bones, and joints. I really like this at the end of my week. It is a great break from the energetic postures and allows me to unwind my mind and body when I need it most.

Gentle Yoga

Still can get the benefits of yoga with alignment, core strength, flexibility, and relaxation no matter what your abilities.

They also offer non-yoga classes in heated rooms including TRX, Pilates, PiYo, and Barre. I haven’t had the courage to venture into these classes just yet.

It has been great introducing my friends and co-workers to the wonders of hot yoga. It is always an experience to say the least…

I still have not decided if this is how I want to continue to practice yoga, but I must say my back feels so great afterwards. I can say that I want to keep yoga as a central part of my life as much as I can.

Meal Prep/Planning Keeps Me Accountable

Meal prep/planning has been really important for my healthy lifestyle journey. If I plan what I am going to est for the week, I tend to have more self control. Do not get me wrong, I can still get distracted and eat things that I should not, but I can get back on track or remain focused if I know how many calories I am supposed to eat for the day and how I have decided to divide them up throughout the day.

I will give you an example below of what I like to do during the week. By no means am I perfect and I am still trying to improve. Let me know what has worked for you.

Morning workout: I start most mornings in the gym on an empty stomach. I have a hard time working out after a meal and find my gym sessions to be much better if I have fasted. I spoke about this in a previous blog – Why I Like To Fast Before My Morning Workout.

Personally I do not use BCAs, pre workouts, or supplements. I just drink a bottle of water before a workout and head out the door.

Breakfast: I don’t end up eating breakfast most of the time. I would not say that I am necessarily practicing intermittent fasting, but in general I tend to not be very hungry in the mornings. I think that my circadian rhythm has it that I tend to be hungrier in the afternoon and in the evening. So in someways I do intermittent fasting by eating dinner and not eating again until late morning/early afternoon, but this is because I listen to when my body is hungry, which I believe we should all be doing. Who came up with the rule that we have to eat three meals per day? If I do eat breakfast, I tend to stick to protein bars with coffee as I usually get hungry if it has been an intense workout and I like that the protein helps with building muscle and keeps me hungry for longer.

Lunch: I go through phases with my lunch. I can sometimes get bored with my meals and have to change things up quite frequently. I always pack my lunch since my days can get quite busy and you never know if you will have the time to pick something up. I like that I always bring something from home since I know what exactly I am eating, but this can cause a dilemma about what exactly to bring.

Since I was a vegetarian for a long time (over 2 decades), I tend to not be a heavy meat eater. I tend to only eat meat at dinner and this is not every day. So for lunch I will eat something like a morningstar blackbean burger or soy chicken patty without bread. I know soy is not great for you and these are very processed, but I like how easy they are and convenient. I have ventured into meal prepping my lunch on the weekends by making Nigerian jellof rice or a meat dish like pulled chicken, but I find these tend to be less healthy and I don’t like them as much.

Dinner: Number one rule that my husband and I have decided on is to not eat out during the week. We have such little time during the week between commuting and work that it is much better for us to cook at home plus we want to try to remain as healthy as possible during the week. It is nice to be able to spend time cooking together and know exactly what we’re eating. This may not exactly sound like meal prep since we’re making food each day, but we prep in the sense that we are planning for each day.

We make meals that take less than 20 minutes to make since that keeps us from spending too much time in the kitchen. For example, I spoke about my love of gnocchi cauliflower in a previous blog – Carbohydrate Alternatives: Add Vegetables to Your Meals Without Missing Carbs, which is very easy to make. He will also make lean meats like turkey burgers and tilapia for himself. None of these take a long time to make. We usually add a side of vegetables such as kale or a starch like sweet potatoes.

So this may not sound like meal prep because we are not making food in bulk, but it is meal planning and I think that is very important in your lifestyle journey. You have to know what you are feeding your body and the best way to do that is to make a plan for how you will tackle the week and know each ingredient that you are eating. It is easy to get lazy and find something convenient, but how is that treating your body as a temple, the way it should be treated.

Gymshark Energy Seamless Leggings Review

If you are anything like me, you are always on the hunt for reasonably priced athletic clothes that can withstand multiple washes. I go to the gym on average 4-5 times per week and quickly cycle through clothes. However, it is important to me that the clothes do not completely disintegrate as soon as I put them through a wash cycle. I am willing to spend a little more on gym clothes if I can get more wears out of them.

So I have ventured into the online fashion world. I do not normally support fast fashion, but I have wanted to be able to build somewhat of a fitness wardrobe that I can use on a regular basis.

One of the brands I discovered was Gymshark. I had been seeing many Youtube videos and Instagram images of their products. I wanted to give their clothes a chance to see if they could compete with popular brands such as Adidas and Nike.

What I bought from Gymshark includes two shirts and leggings.

These are my impressions:

1. Quality is not as good as Adidas and Nike, but also not that bad for what you pay. I have been able to wash the shirts and leggings several times without much loss of structure or deterioration in material. I will admit that I have found a few pieces of loose thread in the leggings. I have been worried that this marks the beginning of the pants falling apart, but so far they have withstood the test of time. I have now had them for about 3 months.

2. Lives up to advertisement. The leggings are said to provide compression and they really have. There are quite tight and seem to suck everything in. Not the most comfortable, but I do not think that they are meant to be lounge wear. You are meant to do significant workouts in these shirts and leggings. They work even during my high intensity cardio workouts and during hot yoga.

3. Durability. This goes back to the first point, but I think these have leggings have provided good use for the price. It is still early on so we shall see, but so far I am pleased.

4. Trendy. The clothes are trendy. You can find a lot of nice pieces with variety in shape and design. However, they tend to cater to younger buyers. Not that there is an age limit on what you can wear. We are all fabulous at any age.

5. Caters to women. There are definitely more options for women then men. The website seems to cater to women’s clothes, which seems to be the direction for many online fashion websites. However, I will give them credit for providing more options than the usual for men.

Overall, I think for the price the quality is pretty good and the clothes are trendy. Not sure if I would start buying all my workout clothes from them, but it is good to have multiple options out there.

Carbohydrate Alternatives: Add Vegetables to Your Meals Without Missing Carbs

I love carbs! They have been a staple in my life for several years. I was a vegetarian for over two decades and most of that time was spent eating carbs and less about vegetables. So you can say that actually I was a carboterian – if that is a thing.

I had to really stop and think about what I was doing to my body. I realized I was not providing my body with nutritious food and needed a change. I needed to find a way to incorporate more vegetables in my life, but did not know where to start. I do not generally like the taste of vegetables, but I think it is because I do not know how to cook them properly.

So while I try to work on my cooking skills, I have tried to add vegetables in less expected ways. Since I love carbs why not change some of those foods to ones that already have vegetables in them.

Here some examples of alternatives I have tried and my thoughts on them:

Favorites:

  1. Gnocchi cauliflower: I actually really love this! I already like gnocchi so it was bound to be a good fit. The consistency is very soft and doesn’t have the firmness of pasta gnocchi, but it still contains potatoes and interestingly cassava (the one I buy from Trader Joe’s). It is very filling without having as many carbs as normal pasta gnocchi.
  2. Zucchini noodles: these are especially good with stir fry sauce. I tend to buy the frozen ones and they have a high water content. Because of the water they tend to work better with sauces on them that are heated. They don’t neccessarily have the same texture as the dry noodles you may be used to eating, but aren’t a bad substitute.
  3. Lentil/zucchini noodles: these are pretty good. Again the texture like the gnocchi cauliflower is not that firm, but works with olive oil, spices, and parmesan cheese. They also tend to have a higher protein content because of the lentils. I sometimes struggle with getting enough protein in my day.

Not my favorites:

  1. Cauliflower rice: not my favorite. However, I am a rice snob. I love love rice. I can eat rice for every meal. I love any dish that contains rice. So there is probably no way that anything but the real thing would work for me. But the nice thing about cauliflower is that it does not have much flavor on it’s own. So if you’re not that particular about the rice you use then I think this could work for you. It definitely doesn’t have a the same texture or taste as rice, but if you are looking to add some texture to your meal this can work.
  2. Carrot noodles: these are not at the top of my list. They taste a lot like carrots. Well I guess because they actually are carrots. All I can taste in the dish is carrots and I am not a fan. It can be very overpowering. I would probably pass on these.
  3. Cauliflower mashed potatoes: not a complete flop. They actually can work for mashed potatoes.  I bought the frozen type and that might be why they were kind of watery. However, you can season them how you like and not notice that you’re eating cauliflower.

 

Let me know what you have tried and if there is anything you would recommend. I am always on the hunt for new foods.

Tips For Success

My motivation tips for the week.

Path to Success

1. Set a goal.
2. Make a plan.
3. Stay focused.
4. Don’t take no for an answer.
5. Persevere.
6. Believe in your dreams with your entire heart and soul.
7. Make mistakes. Learn from them.
8. Keep moving. Never stop. Momentum will get you up the hill.
9. Mind over matter. Think positively and attract the things you want in life.
10. Enjoy the journey.