Wellness Connection

Alicia Marie


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Chia Boom Boom Smoothie

It is already almost halfway through October—can you believe it!? Walking through my office last week I overheard people lamenting the grey Seattle haze. Come Friday the question “How are you doing” prompted more “Happy it’s Friday!!” responses. Not an uncommon response at the end of the week, but nevertheless, Fridays seem more welcome when the weather starts to turn blue.

Before you reach for that second cup of coffee, try a green smoothie. If it turns out a second cup of coffee is still needed afterwards, you can find peace in knowing you hydrated yourself and sloshed down antioxidants, tackled eating vegetables even if you didn’t feel like eating them and boosted your mood in the meantime. The mood and energy boosting properties in this Chia Boom Boom smoothie come from not only the chia seeds, but also the maca powder.

Historically both chia seeds and maca powder have been used by Native Americans for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. Maca powder encourages positive functioning of the endocrine system. In my post about hypothyroidism I talked about how your endocrine system is composed of all of our glands that secrete hormones and control sexual function, fertility, brain and nervous system physiology, digestion and energy.

Chia seeds are energizing and keep you feeling full longer. Those tiny seeds expand in liquid and adopt a jelly-like tapioca appearance.

Intimidated by the price and unfamiliar sounding ingredients? One tablespoon of chia seeds is three grams of protein and only 60 calories. They are sold for a reasonable price at Trader Joes but can also be purchased in bulk at Whole Foods.

Chia Boom Boom Smoothie Alicia Marie Health Blog

Chia Boom Boom Smoothie

1 C. Soy Protein
2 Tsp. Ginger

2 Tsp. Maca Powder

2 Tbs. Chia Seeds
½ C. Marionberries (or berries of choice)
½ Banana

1/2 C. Kale or Spinach
3 Ice Cubes
½ C. Almond Milk
Dust of Cacao Powder on top

The sprinkle of cacao powder on top really compliments the ginger in this smoothie. It gives the smoothie a punch from the first sip. Cacao powder is also a high source of antioxidants.

If you’re willing to indulge on any special ingredient in this smoothie, I would first purchase the chia seeds. You can add them to oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes–anything. Next, I would go with the cacao powder as it is a bittersweet chocolate also easy to add to everyday recipes. The maca powder although nourishing does have a slightly strange, bitter taste so I might save that one for last.

Quick update on my hip. In my last post I talked about my relentless efforts to find out what was wrong and finally settled on getting an MRI. I found out that I have tendonitis. I think resting will be the first step for healing this one. I’m doing Blogilates and Tony Horton videos. (Best surprise ever was that they made two videos together! Kicked my a**.) Occasionally I walk, but my hip has been so sensitive I hesitate to do much cardio. Fingers crossed that by mid-November I can start jogging or at least going on long walks regularly.

I would love to hear how you are doing! Fill me on in on your health journey. They are all so unique and inspiring. It can be so much fun to put our heads together to work through our different fitness and nutrition challenges.

Peace, Love and Happy Smoothie Drinking,

Alicia Marie Health Blog


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Turning Mirrors into Windows: A Reflection on Veganism

I have been enjoying my ride from vegan train’s caboose for a fresh five months!

I stayed true to this lifestyle through the holidays (minus a few cheat bites here and there-but in all honesty they were far and few between) and I will soon be arriving at my half year mark. As the season transitions into lovely springtime, I see this as a perfect time to reflect on my journey thus far.

I will share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. My honest observations are yours to digest and receive as you will. Enjoy.

Never once have I felt deprived or malnourished.

I think the most challenging aspect of a vegan lifestyle is hands down social. I mean that more in terms of your interactions with others than restaurant selections (which frankly are not usually ideal.)  There are going to be people who think you are crazy and who question your diet. You build a thick skin by overcoming this. Having your view challenged is really quite beneficial. It is good to take the time to research other perspectives and educate yourself as these questions/criticisms come along. It is valuable to have evidence-fact based responses, confidence and acceptance that some people just will not get it or believe it. (Not that it is a matter of belief…it is science 😉 )

As for cravings, I did not experience any uncontrollable or difficult urges to indulge in dairy or animal byproducts. BUT, after eliminating these foods from my diet, a massively negative aspect of my diet became apparent: I had a big sugar addiction. This craving magnified when I cut out dairy. My cravings were not simply for desserts, but for other sugar rich foods such as bread.

Thus for most of the past five months, I indulged freely in vegan cinnamon rolls, tea biscuits, brownies, and many, many more sugar and oil ridden pastries. Visiting my favorite bakery soon became a habit. (I shall reiterate from previous blog posts: it is entirely possible to be a fatty vegan 😉

Eventually I noticed how drastically sugar affected my emotions. As if I don’t have mood swings enough as it is.

My simple solution has been to make smoothies daily. They fill me up, give me more energy, don’t cause a sugar crash, and they are exceptionally wonderful for fueling work outs.

In fact, there were a few days when I drank one of those recently popular green smoothies and let me tell you, the difference was like night and day. I felt light, fit, and excited for chem class—now when does that ever happen!?

The only other negative side effect I observed was a blessing and a curse. My skin went into a somewhat of a detox process and I developed a bit of acne. I have not had pimples since I was probably 13, so that was not too fun, but I felt so happy knowing that my body was getting rid of all of this unnecessary waste that it was definitely worth it. I also noted that when I ate gluten I would develop a small rash around my neck and on my tummy in addition to that uncomfortable heavy feeling I get after eating gluten-rich breads. I decided to try to eliminate gluten as much as possible and eat gluten free breads instead and this experience has been wonderful. Who wants to feel bloated? Not me.

 

A Short List of Positive Changes Derived From 5 Months of Being Vegan:

  1. My gastroesophageal reflux disease & IBS symptoms have been 99% eliminated. (Example: No more heart burn or bloating.)
  2. I have reduced my carbon footprint.
  3. I have significantly reduced my risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and various other health ailments.
  4.  I have learned so much about the food industry, health, and people. (Secret: Sometimes I feel like an undercover cop. There is so much information out there that is hidden from the public, so many business/money driven motives that dictate the way we eat. Great article from the New York Times: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.)
  5. I have more energy.
  6. I feel lighter.
  7. My palette has expanded. I have tried a bazillion different foods I had never even heard of before becoming vegan.
  8.  I have a healthier relationship with food and have developed a deep appreciate for nutrition.
  9.  I am strengthening my culinary and baking skills.
  10. I am better fueled before workouts. Example: I do not feel like I need to grab a protein bar or a glob of peanut butter or egg whites before I go on a run.
  11. I recover faster from my workouts. (I ran 8 miles yesterday for the first time in a couple months and my body did not cramp up or get too sore.)
  12. I have already started to live my dream by inspiring and educating people to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices.

I will add more to the list as they come to me 🙂


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Identity Crisis

“So you run?” I ask it in excited anticipation. I’m practically salivating. I love hearing what drives my peers to take on what so many people consider to be a masochistic exercise regime. My colleague nodded and  described her fervorous commitment to running marathons and iron mans. She was able to  empathize and relate to my nasty deep-set hip flexor strain.

“It gets worse.” She warned. I wanted to shield my ears. Running injuries translate to rest and rest is precisely what runners fear. When you start to identify yourself as a runner, it is impossible to imagine a life without it. Behold a long and drawn out identity crisis that entails running when you absolutely should not and resting minimally.

It is amazing how hard it is to take on the challenge of resting when so many people choose couch potato status for a favorite pastime. I know that for me resting meant giving up the best way I knew to challenge my body and mind. As deeply disappointed as I felt about losing the physical results I had struggled to reach, the loss of that mental stimulation was just as stressful.

For me running is like a rhythm, every step and every stride feels like music. The rhythm is a therapeutic method  for facing my fears and figuring out unresolved conflict. It is also freedom to daydream. Focus. It is reaching the zone; that mental place where you are limitless. It is an achievement you strive to feel every day. That achievement breeds happiness and happiness becomes that high you always want to hold onto.

After facing the consequences of not resting and suffering an injury far longer than necessary, I developed some ways to cope with my injury and take advantage of the “rest sentence.”

  1. Read up and relate. There are people with injuries worse than yours who recovered and may have great advice in terms of everything from physical therapy exercises and stretches, to alternative workouts, and unique perspectives.
  2. Become a yogi. Yoga is a great way to teach your body to rest and to stimulate healing. It seems like injuries often stem from lack of stretching, yoga is a wonderful way to force yourself into that habit.
  3. Become a master at pilates. As an alternative to running, pilates is far more intensive workout than one would actually imagine. The workouts are challenging and strengthen your muscles, but they are not too rigorous for your body to handle when recovering. (Usually. Double Check with your health care provider.) My favorite virtual workouts are Pop Pilates instructed by Cassey Ho. Even Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones subscribes to her workouts! That’s not a workout you can feel bad about!
  4. Indulge. Pamper yourself. Take advantage of an excuse to be lazy. Take a bath, light some candles, read a book, revisit your inner artist and try painting or writing.
  5. Volunteer. A great way to distract yourself. Put your energy towards something that will not only feel fulfilling, but benefit your community.
  6. Learn. Another wonderful way to distract yourself. Use the time you would to run to learn a new language, read about the best foods to fuel your body and to heal your body, educate yourself and find your stance on current health, environmental, and social issues.
  7. Listen. Accept feedback from your friends and family. Chances are they are not surprised that you injured yourself. At times they may know you better than yourself. Listen to what they may have to say about your workout habits. This may be reassurance to give yourself a break.
  8. Stretch. If it is too painful to stretch, do not do it. When the time is right–don’t stop! Stretching is vital to recovery and to maintaining your body’s strength.

How do you choose to relax or cope with a restless mind or injury? This list could be never ending. Bring it on!


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Lessons From My Guru (The Run)

1. Determination

I found running in an unfamiliar place. For me it was an escape from reality, but above all it was a competition I knew I could win when I felt too much defeat in other areas of my life.

I started running on a treadmill in the corner of the gym where no one could see me. I would run for 25 minutes, step off my treadmill, and leave. My runs averaged at 5.6mph. Nothing extraordinary.

Gradually I became better and started running with the crowd, so to speak. Each day I  pressed myself  to run harder, faster, and longer than everyone around me. It became a game. I counted the girls who started and left before me. I scoffed at the guys who would run at a fancy, fast 7+ mph for a pathetic duration of ten minutes. I beat them. It was a race inside my head and I knew I was winning.

I did not have limits, I had goals that I would surpass every time I stepped onto my treadmill. Eventually I moved and began running outside instead of at the gym. I was able to plug in even more mileage running out in the fresh open air. I found an opportunity to run on the cross country team at my university. The idea of truly competing was too good to pass up.

I timed my runs and discovered that I could make varsity. But varsity was not enough. I wanted to be number one. Before the season had even started, I slaved away everyday beating the minimum time required to race at the varsity level.

2. Patience

The competition I placed before myself was harsh and dangerous, but I never would have accepted that at the time. To me, my training never felt adequate. I became paranoid about not running fast or far enough. I became nervous that my lack of precision when timing myself would mean that I would be less than prepared for what was to come.

In a way I was right. I was not prepared for what was to come. I remember the sunny, warm afternoon clearly. I sat down in my car, shifted my leg from the break to the accelerator and a searing pain came over me. It was like nothing I had ever felt. I turned my car off, moved my leg and the pain jolted through me again. Neither I, my physical therapist, or my doctor could locate the pain to determine what exactly had happened to my hip. It was a very deep set injury that would prevent me from joining cross country and that would not heal for another two years. I would later discover that it was a simple injury to my hip flexor, nothing more, and the only implications of my injury were that I needed to rest for a few months.

A few months turned into a couple years and that was my fault. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t rest. Running was my only outlet and I did not know how to deal with anything without it. I would rest for a month,  decide on a spur of the moment that I had rested long enough and proceed to go on a six mile hill run. The time it took for my body to heal was aggravatingly slow.

I came to understand the importance of knowing my body’s limits. In order to reap the benefits of my body’s strength, I needed to have patience in my body’s natural healing process. It was also critical for me to recognize that for everyone this process is different. Finally in running, I took the time to learn my body’s own healing process.

3. Appreciation of your Achievements

When I finally decided to let my body heal, running turned from an escape to a way for me to come to terms with the uncertainty that surrounded me and the barriers that challenged me. I was able to love my body for what it was and appreciate myself for each of my accomplishments at every level no matter how small. I did not need to run for a certain length of time or at a certain speed to feel achievement.

When I was training for cross country, my body became so worn down that runs were no longer enjoyable for me. After my runs, rather than feeling a healthy soreness, I was left feeling overly fatigued and weak for the remainder of the day.

Instead of loving my body for what it could do, I hated it for not doing more.

In the words of running advocate John Bingham: “You need to honor what you’ve accomplished, rather than thinking of what’s left to be done.”

4. Be Your Own Best Coach

Sometimes a little friendly competition can be rewarding, but at the end of the day I learned that my runs were for me and for my happiness. My happiness did not need to be dictated by skewed standards of success set by no one other than myself. Running is not school and running is not a career-there do not need to be rules–just guidelines if that. If I want to achieve a certain level of fitness, I will commit to running a certain number of days out of the week with a healthy meal plan that gives me enough room to indulge. I will not however, set a strict pace, distance, and time for my run every day. Setting guidelines allowed me to become more familiar with my body. I was able to recognize when my body had been pushed enough. I also became comfortable saying to myself “I know I can run farther, but this has been a good run,  my body feels challenged but not overly burnt out so I will stop running at Point A and commit to running tomorrow also.” Sometimes I still have days where I run down the street for no longer than 10 minutes during which I decide my body just needs an extra day of rest-and that is okay.

5. Respect

To this day, I swear I could practically get high off the feeling of running through a beautiful landscape and inhaling the crisp morning air. Running has taught me to respect my body (hence my decision to become vegan) and to respect the world around me. The natural environment contributes in part to what makes running feel so fulfilling. There is a pleasant familiarity with the smell of  summer barbecue, the winter fire’s chimney smoke, the sight of the setting fall sun that casts black silhouettes on the trees, and of course the vibrant colors of spring. Running has taught me to pay more attention to my surroundings and has helped me develop a deep respect for the beauty of our natural environment.

6. The Power in a Smile

One of the many rewarding aspects of running is its social nature. On my runs I receive so many kind greetings from complete strangers, sometimes even words of encouragement from other runners out enjoying (or fighting) the weather. Smiling is contagious and sometimes it can become the motivation to run at a faster pace or plug in that extra mile.