Beauty · Health · lifestyle · Wellness

Clean Skincare Overhaul: A Phthalate Discussion

Happy Friday, everyone! I know it’s dreary and wet outside, but it’s the perfect day for snuggling up with a hot cup of tea and a book, or a great TV show. I firmly believe there are always perks to every kind of weather!

As I sit here sipping my power smoothie that I mentioned in my last post, I want to share my latest focus of achieving a healthy lifestyle with you all: non-toxic beauty and skincare. Until recently, my attention always landed on fitness and nutrition—I didn’t really think much about the skincare products I was using. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use Bath & Body Works lotions as moisturizer or anything crazy, but since I established a skincare routine more than five years ago that seemed to work well for me, I considered the case closed. Until, that is, I started playing around on the EWG app (Environmental Working Group).

I’d never heard of the EWG until binge-watching my favorite dietitian, Becca Bristow’s, YouTube videos, where she discusses her journey to a non-toxic lifestyle and a clean beauty regimen. I find all wellness information fascinating, but I really sat up and paid attention when Bristow began talking about the overwhelming use of phthalates in many commercial beauty and skincare products.

Now, I’ve known for a long time that phthalates should be avoided, especially when it comes to the hair care products I select. What I didn’t fully understand is just how bad they are, and how they often hide in our favorite artificial fragrances (yeah—Bath & Body Works candles, anyone?) Basically, any time you spray perfume, body spray, light a generic scented candle, or use a pleasant-smelling hand cream, you’re dousing yourself in endocrine disruptors (aka phthalates).

“Whoa—phthalates are endocrine disruptors? What does that mean?”

Simply and scarily, it means that we’re compromising our reproductive health.

You might be wondering how endocrine disruptions occur in the first place, and why phthalates cause such a colossal disturbance to the way our bodies naturally function. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences defined endocrine disruptors as the following: “…natural or human-made chemicals that may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system.” As women, that means that our monthly cycles might be constantly thrown off due to the amount of phthalates that permeate our lifestyle. As men, it means that sperm count may be much lower than it could or should be, which will lead to trouble conceiving.

I’m not a dietitian, but I am a well-informed and certified nutritionist, and everything I’ve heard and read about phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting substances makes them chemicals I stay away from. When it comes to food, that means eating organic as often as possible (phthalates are present in pesticides), looking for non-plastic packaging (phthalates are heavily-present in plastic, and often leach into food), and being selective about my meat (grass-fed livestock and fish caught in the wild are safest from phthalate exposure, as feed stored in plastic containers may be exposed to phthalates).

Quick tip: an easy way to drastically slash your phthalate consumption is by limiting the frequency you order takeout, since studies show that people who eat out often have phthalate levels 35% higher than those who prepare meals at home.

So, all of this is great and helpful for phthalate consumption, but what about phthalate ingestion and absorption? What about the products we use on our skin and hair? Phthalates have so heavily infiltrated the world of beauty that it’s overwhelming to imagine avoiding them completely. I get it—I’m right there with ya! That’s why, as I use up my current products one at a time, I’ve been switching them out with clean alternatives using the EWG app.

Here are all of the non-toxic products I’ve begun using in replacement of the chemical-infused items I was using before:

1) A DIY Cleanser (Castile Soap + Essential Oils)
I give FULL credit to the amazing Becca Bristow for introducing this DIY cleanser that has replaced my CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. Though I’ve only been using it for a short time, it’s already become a step in my skincare regimen that I greatly look forward to every day! The formula is super simple and even fun to make:

>1/2 cup fragrance-free Castile soap;
>A few squirts of Organic Rosehip Oil (I subbed out Jojoba Oil for Rosehip);
>5 drops of organic Frankincense
>Fill the rest of the dispenser with warm water.

Be sure to shake your soap dispenser well to thoroughly intersperse ingredients. Just one pump will produce a foamy, fresh-smelling cleanser that feels luxurious and smooth on skin! Best of all, with a 16 oz. bottle of Castile soap and a 4 oz. jar of essential oil, you can basically keep making more cleanser forever (I exaggerate, but you get the picture). 😉

Since the organic essential oils can be on the pricey side, I skipped Bristow’s recommendation to add lavender oil to the formula, as I felt that Rosehip and Frankincense were adequate to nourish my combination skin and dry patches. Feel free to throw other/additional organic oils into the mix, if you’d like.

2) Solara Suncare Clean Freak Nutrient Boosted Daily Sunscreen, Unscented
This gem of a product received a perfect score on the EWG app, so I swapped out my Eucerin Daily Protection SPF Moisturizer for this alternative, and couldn’t love it more! Containing SPF 30 for optimal sun protection, Clean Freak Sunscreen is also a great daytime moisturizer for my skin type, which means I can continue combining my moisturizer with my SPF. Super convenient!

3) MAKE P:REM Safe Me Relief Moisture Cream
Guys. I’m OBSESSED with this nighttime moisturizer. It goes on smooth as yogurt (it feels so luxurious!) and only contains 12 ingredients, all of which are basic and naturally-occurring. This miracle product also received a perfect score on the EWG app, and is safe for sensitive skin types.

4. Be Green Bath & Body Jojoba & Olive Hair Oil
Before I’m scolded for the “Bath & Body” delineation of this product, let me clarify that it’s not the same brand as Bath & Body Works. In fact, the only fragrance that this product uses comes from its few ingredients: Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Lavender Oil, Frankincense Oil, and Lemon Peel Oil. Compare with my former Argan Oil, which was anything but pure Argan Oil and was loaded with artificial ingredients, and this product gives the ends of my hair everything it needs and more. One warning: a little of this product goes a loonnngg way. With so many types of oil, it will weigh down light or thin hair. Use sparingly.

5. Hynt Beauty Duet Perfecting Concealer
Last on the list is the one and only cosmetic product I’m featuring here, since I haven’t yet ordered any other replacements for my current ones. Let me go ahead and say that this concealer is the BOMB. OMG. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from dark circles or eye bags, but nevertheless, I love the way this concealer brightens up my whole undereye area. After applying, I suddenly look alive! Best of all, it’s ranked a 2 on the EWG app, which is a great score (though not totally clean, as the above products are).

There you have it! Those are all the new non-toxic products I’ve recently incorporated into my skincare regimen, and I’m absolutely loving them so far. Comment below with some of your favorite clean beauty products—as always, I’d love to hear from you!



Health · lifestyle · nutrition · Wellness

The Strategic (& Yummy) Smoothie

First of all, guys, forgive the nearly year-long hiatus. Lots has been happening in my life — among other things, I’m now a published author, an entrepreneur, and a graduate student at Dartmouth College! In fact, for a while, I was so busy that I forgot all about this blog.

Now, I finally have a bit more time to blog again, and I’m more excited than ever to be back at it! My focus has totally been on health and wellness these days, and I can’t wait to share my grocery shopping tips, healthy meal/snack suggestions, and more with you again.

On to today’s topic: smoothies (did anyone else just hear Cameron Diaz yell “Smooothhiieesss!” in What Happens in Vegas? No? Moving on). Anyway, I’ll be the first to admit that when some of my favorite nutrition influencers/idols routinely mention smoothies as a diet staple, I’m quick to dismiss what often looks like vomit in a glass. I’ve ventured down the smoothie road before, but it never seemed to stick as a habit. Probably because all the recipes I tried just were not palatable, even if I tried to convince myself otherwise.

Recently, I’ve begun making eating for health a huge part of my food mentality again, and smoothies have surprisingly played a major role in how I accomplish my nutritional goals each day. Don’t get me wrong, I eat pretty clean most of the time, but have often fallen into traps of laziness where it was just easier to reach for something quick than to prepare a complex meal or snack. Now, I’m pushing past the laziness, no matter how much prep is required, because I genuinely care about sticking to my healthy lifestyle and fueling my body properly.

The good news: if you share this mindset — and the laziness pitfall — the smoothie recipe I’m about to introduce is an incredibly easy way to get all of your recommended fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and antioxidants in one sitting, no calorie surplus required. Best of all, it’s drinkable! Who would’ve thought?!

As a reminder, for years now, I’ve been paying close attention to product ingredient lists (rather than the nutrition label/calories). My rule of thumb is: if I can’t pronounce it, and I’m not sure what it is/what it does, I skip the product and look for a cleaner one. This happened to be another major deterrent for me when it came to smoothies: almond milk is a very popular base, yet most almond milk varieties contain foreign ingredients that I have NO interest in putting in my body. The almond milk used in this smoothie is the exception!

Ready for the recipe?

>1 1/2 cups organic kale + spinach mix
>1 cup frozen mangoes
>2 tbsp. organic Chia seed powder
>3 tbsp. dried organic Goji berries
>1 1/2 cups Three Trees Organic Almond Milk.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it. I usually add the almond milk last so I can cram all of the good stuff in there, and then I fire up my Nutribullet. The result is a full serving (or two) of leafy greens, Vitamin C, protein, fatty acids, antioxidants, Vitamins A, K, B6, calcium, zinc, and manganese. With just five ingredients. Super simple.

If your grocery store doesn’t stock Chia seeds (your source of protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids), or Goji berries (awesome source of antioxidants, even moreso than blueberries and raspberries), you can order these online. My almond milk may be difficult to find as well. If that’s the case, look for a brand containing few ingredients, or whole ingredients that weren’t concocted in a lab. I love Three Trees because they make their milk with filtered water, organic almonds, organic vanilla extract, and organic vanilla beans. Fabulous (and tastes delicious)!

Be forewarned that this smoothie isn’t Sweet City, because the ingredients are natural rather than sugary and artificial. That said, keeping your veggie serving below 2 cups and adding in the frozen mango helps eliminate any bitterness. The result is a mild-tasting, pleasant smoothie that packs the nutritional punch you need.

Do you have any recipes you’d recommend? I love this one, but I’d love to experiment and try some of your favorites! Comment below, and thanks as always for reading ❤

God bless,


Health · Wellness

‘Tis the (Cold & Flu) Season

Every year, despite the fact that I’m a hot-weather gal, I look forward to this time of year. Fall is my absolute favorite, especially with all of the fun holiday festivities (from Halloween through Christmas). However…my one pitfall every year, without fail, is that November is the month I get sick. It’s actually a guarantee for me, at this point.

Most years, I actually find myself sick for Thanksgiving, so it’s a small blessing that this year, I caught something early enough that I’ll probably be OK for Turkey Day (knock on huge slab of wood). Still, this morning when I dragged myself out of bed — peeling myself up looking and feeling like roadkill — I resigned myself to the fact that this was only the beginning of what’s probably going to be 7-10 days of congestion, fatigue, and low-grade fever (joy! Just the excuse I was looking for to lie in bed and re-watch the Twilight movies)!

What better segue, though, into discussing how to care for yourself this cold/flu season when it seems that everyone around you is falling prey to the “common cold?” (It sounds far less menacing than it actually feels).

1. Eat the proper nutrition to avoid immune system crashes.
You knew I was going to start with this one, but I actually think it’s the reason why I’m now sick. For two or three days, I’ve been slacking on getting all of the necessary nutrients I usually am very mindful about consuming each day for the sole reason that I got lazy (let’s be real, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare a salad, extra time to wash and chop fruit, etc.) As a result, I was probably far less equipped to battle this virus when I was first exposed to it. So remember — even on your cheat days — aim to still get 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies each day! Additionally, try to eat a cup of plain Greek yogurt each day not only for the protein component, but for the probiotic element it contains. Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria that fight harmful bacteria and regulate the immune system. If you don’t like yogurt, consider taking a probiotic supplement to fill this important nutritional need.

2. Some swear by rolling in germs…I say avoid them.
Am I right or wrong here? Some people swear by the fact that exposing themselves constantly to germs strengthens their immune systems, but these are likely also the same people who seldom get sick in the first place. If you know you’re more prone to catching colds, and if your symptoms always seem to be worse than the average person’s, take preventative measures — however drastic they may seem to other people. For me, this means spraying doorknobs, wiping my laptop with Lysol wipes when I bring it home from the office, sanitizing my hands before every meal I eat out, and placing my phone in a UV light cleanser like this cheap one on Amazon once I’m back inside for the day.

It might also be a good idea to begin asking friends and relatives whether they are healthy before getting together this time of year. To some people, colds are no big deal, but if you know that they seem to stop you in your tracks and are a huge hindrance to productivity and living your life, there is no reason to feel bad about asking whether someone is healthy before making plans. This practice will definitely save you a setback or two due to sickness.

3. Get active. Get outside.
Turns out, going for a run — or brisk walk — is good for more than just an attractive physique. According to a representative of the American College of Sports Medicine, people who exercise at least 45 minutes 4 or more days of the week take up to 50% less time off from work due to illness. Even more, simply getting outside for a brief amount of time each day is extremely good for your mental health, leading to an overall reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.

4. At the first sign of cold symptoms, be proactive.
By “proactive,” I mean do anything and everything you can to prevent your symptoms from progressing…or at the very least, from becoming severe. My doctor once told me that using an allergy nasal spray, such as Nasonex or Flonase, at the first sign of symptoms may help congestion from lodging in your sinuses. I also recommend using a Neti pot, which entails boiling some water, waiting for it to cool, and then pouring into a small plastic, teapot-shaped instrument with the salt that comes in the package. After mixing, tilt your head sideways, lift the spout to your nostril, and let the warm water flush out your sinuses.

At the first sign of symptoms, it’s also a good idea to pop some zinc. While the Vitamin C claim has been debunked in recent years (it actually does very little to nothing to ease cold symptoms, but can’t hurt, of course), zinc is still one scientifically-backed source that’s known to reduce the severity of cold symptoms, and even shorten the lifespan of a cold if taken on the very first day. You can take a supplement, or check out some zinc lozenges for sore throats. Be careful not to overdo it, though — you can overdose on zinc.

Some great sources of general nutrition for cold symptoms include chicken soup, black tea with honey and lemon, and blueberries, which are loaded with antioxidants. Chicken soup, especially, is beneficial for more than just its steamy nature — according to research published in the medical journal Chest, chicken soup inhibits movement of the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection, thereby reducing upper respiratory symptoms.

Lastly, go to bed early, or take a nap. Sleep is our most powerful weapon for strengthening our immune systems against infection, and your body will thank you for taking a day or two off from school or work to recuperate.

…I hope you all stay well as the holidays approach! Take care of yourselves, and be healthy.

God bless,

Health · nutrition · Wellness

Sweetening the Pot…with Sugar?

I am feeling pretty good about several things right now. For one, it’s Thursday afternoon, which may as well be Friday. Secondly, I’ll only be working half the day tomorrow before taking off on an impromptu road trip to New England with my best friend, where we’ll immerse ourselves in all things autumnal, including some PSLs for the drive (because yes, we’re shamelessly “basic” in our love of Starbucks).

Speaking of Pumpkin Spice Lattes…don’t those things contain more sugar than five candy bars?

…Yeah, something like that.

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with sugar. Sadly, I’m not one of those lucky folks who can say, “I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so it’s not a problem for me to avoid sugar.” The truth is, I LOVE sweetness, and while I’m not a fan of prepackaged candy bars (always tasted “fake” to me), I do very much enjoy ice cream and fresh baked goods.

I became more mindful about my sugar intake when I became more aware of the ingredients in prepackaged food, as well as when I started learning about the recommended daily limits of certain nutritional elements. When I learned that the maximum amount of a woman’s sugar intake should not exceed 25 g per day for optimal health, I really began studying the nutrition labels on the food items I use regularly to ensure I wasn’t exceeding this limit.

Because I only drink coffee, tea, and water, hidden sugar lurking in my drinks wasn’t an issue. However, two big staples for me are peanut butter and jelly (or jam), because I make PB&J sandwiches to take to work for lunch nearly every day. The peanut butter brand I’d been using for years ended up containing 5 g of sugar (with some added) compared with Woodstock’s natural 2 g (with no sugar added), while the type of jelly I’d been using contained 12 g — about half the recommended daily intake. An easy fix for this was simply swapping out this brand for Smucker’s Fruit Honey spread, which is naturally sweetened with honey. The difference was 4 g worth, which is not insignificant.

In addition to these changes, I also cut back on the late-night cookie raids (or at least attempted to), granola, and the creamer I’d been using in my coffee. Despite the fact that the ingredients for all of these were pure, with no strange additives I couldn’t pronounce, I was still eating unnecessary sugar.

Why is sugar the enemy? Well, for a few reasons. Aside from the fact that sugar is the culprit for most weight gain and obesity (and is linked to visceral, or “deep belly” fat), it’s also a driving factor of heart disease and diabetes, a catalyst for acne, one of the causes of skin and cellular aging, and is even believed to contribute to mental decline and dementia.

Let me tell ya…the fastest way to deter me from consuming or doing something is to tell me that it’s linked, in any type of way, to dementia. It runs in my family on my father’s side and absolutely terrifies me. Once I heard about the link between sugar and mental decline, it gave me just one more reason to reduce my daily intake.

Most of us probably know that we should do a better job of avoiding sugar, but are often not motivated enough or proactive about cutting it from our diets. The good news is that you don’t have to cut all sugar — just added sugar. I know, I know — added sugar is what the “tasty” stuff is made with. But natural sources of sugar will provide the same little “hit” that you’d get from consuming processed sweets with far fewer of the negative effects. Consuming your recommended 2 serving sizes of fruit daily, along with a teaspoon of raw organic honey in your tea or in your oatmeal, or perhaps even a few squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% dark or cacao) will go a long way to satisfy your sugar cravings.

My final recommendations to you are:

1) Focus on incorporating more fruit into your diet;
2) Start with the “simple” switch-outs that you’ll miss least (like eliminating coffee creamer, or that glass of lemonade with lunch);
3) Eat. whole. foods.

That last one, I will repeat until I’m blue in the face. If you just eat whole foods and cut out the processed or prepackaged food items from your diet inasmuch as you can, you will notice a huge difference in the way you look and feel, and you can bet that much of this will have to do with the fact that you’ll automatically be cutting way back on your sugar intake (without even having to try very hard)!

Eat mindfully, and save the sweet stuff for special occasions. It’ll taste even better when you treat yourself every once in a while ❤


Health · nutrition · Wellness

An Iodine Discussion: Table Salt & Anticaking Agents

It’s crazy that the more aware I become about nutrition, health, and what my body needs to function optimally each day, the more discoveries I’m making about things I’ve been feeding myself unknowingly for years.

Take, for instance, table salt. My dad’s so in love with it, he’d marry it if he could. While I’m not nearly on his level of sodium-crazed, I have absentmindedly sprinkled salt on my meat and veggies for years. After all, salt is fat-free, zero-calorie, and enhances or adds flavor to virtually anything you can fit in your mouth.

Then one day, I turned the salt shaker around and skimmed the nutritional label. What I found was the following:

“Salt, Calcium Silicate (an anticaking agent), Dextrose, Potassium Iodine.”

The first thing that occurred to me — aside from, why the hell is there sugar in my salt? — was that I was ignorantly feeding myself a preservative every day when I believed I’d worked to establish a diet that was free of them.

So naturally, I did some research. I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes prematurely write off foods with unnatural or added ingredients that sound like they’ve been concocted in a lab or fed to unfortunate rats (I know — what’s wrong with me?!), but what I found regarding anticaking agents — quoted from its safety sheet, no less — solidified my decision to find an alternative:

“Consult a specialist before handling this product, avoid skin contact, keep unconscious victims warm and on their sides to avoid choking if vomiting occurs.”

…What?! (I’m dying laughing right now because I kind of have a dark and sarcastic sense of humor).

Cool, FDA. I’ll just keep pouring this sh*t into my body because you deem it “safe” when used within certain parameters.

But seriously, even if I’m not going to keel over or succumb to a comatose state if I consume small or reasonable traces of this anticaking agent, do I really want to be putting something into my body that’s toxic or hazardous by definition? If it can cause external, topical irritation, such as to skin and eyes — and if it’s recommended that those who handle it wear a respirator — it’s probably best kept out of my body, where my internal organs live. Just saying.

OK, so now that we’ve established all of this after barely skimming the surface of the side effects/toxicity of this one anticaking agent alone, let’s move onto the nutrient we love to get from our table salt more than anywhere else: iodine.

Of course, because nothing is ever simple in the world of nutrition, there’s a dilemma: every type of salt I’ve found that’s manufactured without the use of anticaking agents also does not contain iodine, “an essential nutrient.”

Thanks, salt-manufacturing geniuses (sarcasm level at an all-time high today, guys).

There’s probably a scientific reason why it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a sea salt, Kosher salt, or Celtic salt (all of which typically do not contain anticaking agents) that contains iodine. Don’t ask me what that reason is, but do share if you know of any sea salts that contain this beneficial ingredient. Whatever the rationale may be, there seems to be a trade-off here, similar to the one we explored in my White vs. Brown Rice article: get the nutrition your body needs while consuming the toxins it’s been produced with, or find a less-nutritious alternative to avoid these toxins.

Make no mistake, iodine is essential in our diets. In fact, it is so seldom emphasized as a necessary nutrient that I never knew just how essential it was before delving into it. Iodine promotes thyroid health, manages overactive thyroid glands, treats thyroid cancer, greatly assists in neurodevelopment in fetuses during pregnancy, and improves cognitive function.

If you need a refresher on what functions your thyroid controls: “Your thyroid…regulates metabolic rate, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and bone maintenance” (You and Your Hormones)Moreover, “Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of iodine from your diet.”

So if thyroid health is crucial for our well-being, and it is primarily maintained by sufficient intake of iodine, we need to be getting the appropriate amount of iodine each day. What does that look like?

According to the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Dietary Supplements, most adults should consume about 150 mcg of iodine per day. While salt is the #1 way to accomplish this, there are other food sources — although the options are a bit limited — that will help you reach the recommended 150 mcg in a given day. These include certain types of fish (primarily cod, tuna [also a source of Omega-3’s], and shrimp); dairy products (especially yogurt and milk, though iodine levels depend on the iodine content in the cattle feed); cottage cheese; seaweed (also a fantastic source of antioxidants); lima beans, and eggs (but you must eat the yolk, which is where the majority of iodine and other beneficial nutrients are found).

Odds are, these (unfortunately) aren’t foods you eat every day, with the likely exception of eggs and dairy. Maybe you’re a seafood enthusiast and regularly prepare tuna and shrimp, or maybe you don’t mind the taste or texture of seaweed and cottage cheese. If that’s the case, good for you — you’re about five steps ahead of me, because I need to incorporate more of these iodine-filled foods into my diet, many of which I don’t particularly like.

Still, I refuse to go back to using table salt with anticaking agents to reach the recommended level of iodine — it’s a compromise I simply won’t make.

…To the grocery store I go for cottage cheese!



10 Things Jesus Reminds Me in the Blessed Sacrament

Recently, I’ve struggled more spiritually than I have in years.

My initial resurgence of faith, which occurred three years ago, came from the decision to break up with a boy I loved deeply because he discouraged my friendship with God.

When I chose the freedom to love Jesus as He deserved over my love for my boyfriend at the time, I was granted the most amazing consolations. I attended healing Masses on Friday evenings, prayed 54-day novenas, read Scripture…and spent an hour in adoration every day.

Since then, my Adoration visits have significantly dwindled. I actually reached a point recently where I didn’t feel like praying at all, because it seemed as though God had abandoned me in my constant prayers for certain intentions.

A few days ago, I decided to move past my feelings, suck it up, and just go pray before the Blessed Sacrament the way I used to. And inexplicably, all it took was that one trip – and a total opening of my heart – to remind me:

1. My Savior Lives.
I am set on fire with the knowledge that He is truly there, and that He is listening to me because he WANTS to hear what I have to tell Him.

2. I am a fighter.
I am not particularly strong, but God makes me a warrior. In Him, I am Joan of Arc, wearing “the full armor of Christ” as St. Paul describes. No matter my circumstance, my salary, or my relationship status, I am more than capable of living through any challenge, because God designed me to do hard and beautiful things in His name.

3. Christmas is a spiritual state.
When I think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is my family and me decorating the tree to BJ Thomas’s “Christmas is Coming Home” CD. I also see Midnight Mass; a jubilant choir singing “Joy to the World”; a baby – so small, so helpless – who would rule the hearts of all men. Who fulfilled prophesies, assumed the frailty of human nature, and came to save. Everything we encounter, no matter how difficult, Jesus also faced by His incarnation. Our God, who created us and asks us to bear crosses, bore not only the original cross, but all of the hardships that we deem “crosses” – and He makes Himself available every day in the Blessed Sacrament to help us carry them.

4. I am simultaneously nothing and everything.
My anxiety, my opinion of myself, and others’ opinions don’t matter when I’m sitting before the Maker of the universe. The world falls away as I talk to God, and He redirects my gaze to what’s important. I am insignificant, but I have infinite worth because I am His.

5. I am called to hope.
My faith demands that I have hope. No matter what mountains I’m asked to climb, I have hope in the Resurrection. God has promised me the plans He has for my life, and I will wait for them faithfully.

6. Love is the ultimate commandment.
No matter how wounded I am or how cynical I’ve become about the intentions of others, love conquers everything. Love is the motivation of saints, the root of the Commandments, the glue that holds families together, the peace that infiltrates our hearts with each “yes” to God, and the decision to resist temptation. Love is God, and He is the beginning and end of everything.

7. Nothing brings more peace than Jesus.
Long hikes, drives along the river, losing myself in a book or TV show, binge-eating…all temporary fixes. When I go to Adoration, I am graced with an Eden kind of peace, and I am transfigured by it.

8. Others are worth bleeding for.
Love is the only thing that makes life worthwhile. To have loved anyone, for any amount of time, is always a blessing…and then, perhaps, a cross. Still, Jesus chose the cross to cultivate relationships. His plan for the salvation of souls rests on the foundation of relationship. So it is that we, too, are redeemed through our relationships with Him and with others.

9. He is worth everything.
Jesus Christ, and the peace He promises, is worth it all. He is worth the people I walked away from because they didn’t support or nurture my love for Him; the “Good Fridays” of my life; the seemingly endless valley of “Saturday” – the day spent holding its breath in anticipation of the Resurrection. He is worth suffering, evangelizing, and sacrificing for. He is worth every heartache I’ve left at His feet.

10. …And I will adore.
“Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” ~Psalm 116:2

(Check out my book, Freedom to Loveto learn more about God’s design for the authentic love He’s destined for you.)

God bless you all,


Health · nutrition · Wellness

One Week of Clean Eating: Nonrestrictive, Energy-Boosting, & Delicious

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that clean eating does not mean dieting, counting calories, and limiting yourself to certain foods or food groups. Actually, these practices and mentalities are more unhealthy than many people realize. The consumption of food, like any other (healthy) pleasurable experience, is meant to be equal parts practical and enjoyable. It wouldn’t be healthy if you ate four cupcakes with no nutritional value in one sitting…nor would it be ideal to live only on a diet that consists of boring food you despise.

…Everything in moderation, my friends.

I’ll share a personal story with you: when I entered my freshman year of college seven years ago, I dropped thirty pounds in six months. To give you some idea of what this means for a woman of my stature, I am just barely 5’2”, and my ideal weight range is 99-120 lbs. At the time, I was 130 lbs. and was extremely insecure about it, so I – along with my roommate and our mutual friend – decided to lose weight.

We started by following the Military Diet, which promises a 10 lb. weight loss within a week of eating a very restrictive menu — specifically, foods like grapefruit, coffee and tea, cottage cheese, apples, tuna, toast, peanut butter, and ice cream, to name a few (ice cream, for Pete’s sake? Really? Why did we think this would work?)

Needless to say, it didn’t work. I only lost about two pounds worth of the promised ten, and those two pounds were only water weight. I quickly gained back what I’d “lost” within a few days of resuming my habitual eating habits.

After that, I decided to develop and follow my own long-term weight loss plan. I conducted my own research, created meal plans (centered around total calorie consumption), set monthly goals for myself, and lost the first ten pounds very quickly…followed by the remaining twenty. I reached my first benchmark of 111 lbs., then my “goal” weight of 105 lbs., and then another seven – just for good measure. I achieved this by burning around 600 calories per day at the gym, and consuming no more than 1,000 calories daily for several months.

The end result? I was 98 lbs. with a bony neck and a perpetually growling stomach. Still, my hipbones were noticeable, I had a “thigh gap,” and I was the thinnest girl in my sorority pictures. But I’d become obsessed with being skinny – not with being healthy. This was apparent by the fact that, at 98 lbs., I still found myself crying on the bathroom floor frequently, dissatisfied with the way I looked and vowing to lose AT LEAST another three pounds. I weighed myself every morning without fail – always after using the bathroom first – and freaked out when I gained even .2 oz from the night before. I allowed myself to “splurge” on a surplus of calories each weekend, but I was terrified of gaining the weight back for good. I felt guilty and wretched each Monday morning, when I felt like I had to start all over again.

…I’m pretty sure I was suffering from body dysmorphia, guys.

Eventually, I gained five pounds back as I began to rework my mentality about dieting, resulting in an overall healthier weight. The truth was, I secretly yearned to look as fabulous as Miranda Kerr…but she was a 5’9” model, and I was a college student who needed sleep, energy, and yes – calories. I came to terms with the fact that 1,000 calories per day was not sustainable long-term, and allowed myself room in my daily diet for more food.

My progress in developing a healthy, sustainable way of consuming food didn’t happen overnight. I’ve come a long way even from the time I decided to allow myself more calories each day, because I now understand that my relationship with food is about nutrition and wellness – not about weight.

Sure, there are cases where many of us could stand to lose some unnecessary weight. In those cases, you should always check with your doctor before restricting your calories substantially, or setting a potentially unhealthy weight loss goal for yourself. However, if you want to eat without guilt and consistently look and feel great without starving yourself, counting calories, or yo-yoing between your current weight, your goal weight, and back again (which really takes a toll on your body), here’s some advice that I hope helps you the way it helped me: eat real food in moderate amounts.

It’s that simple.

Eat whole foods – preferably organic – until you’re satiated, but not stuffed. Also, aim to eat the recommend serving size of 5-9 fruits and vegetables daily, and limit your sugar intake unless it comes from natural sources, like fruit or honey. I guarantee that if you’re cognizant of these few things, you’ll end up eating fewer calories and consuming the key nutrients your body needs for optimal wellness.

Curious about what this looks like? Good – because I’ve mapped it out for you! Here’s what a typical week in food looks like for me (I’ve managed to maintain a healthy and attractive physique with these meals over the last three years, with boosted energy levels and satisfied taste buds to boot):

Breakfast Options

>One free-range egg fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) on low-sodium Ezekiel 4:9 toast, with half an avocado and one cup of cherry tomatoes;
>Nature’s Promise plain steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon, chopped banana, and 1 oz. of walnuts;
>1 cup of Whole Milk Plain Chobani Greek Yogurt topped with ½ cup of berries and 2 tbsp. naturally-sweetened granola (recommendation: 18 Rabbits Veritas Granola)

Lunch Options
(Note: opt to pack lunch 9 times out of 10 for school/work. Saves money and calories!)

>Organic crunchy or smooth peanut butter and naturally-sweetened jelly on Ezekiel 4:9 bread (recommendations: Woodstock peanut butter, Smucker’s Fruit & Honey fruit spread);
>Butterball turkey breast on Ezekiel 4:9 bread, or on Vermont 100% Whole Wheat burger bun;
>Spinach and kale salad mix with 1 tbsp. of EVOO and Apple Cider Vinegar, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and other healthy add-ins;
>Side options: 1 organic apple, 1 serving of almonds or 1 serving of sunflower/pumpkin seeds, 1 serving dark chocolate (70% cacao or more for heart benefits)

Dinner Options
>Serving size of quinoa with roasted sweet potato and zucchini;
>3-4 oz. grilled or baked Wild Alaskan salmon with side of couscous, broccoli, and beets;
>3-4 oz. of turkey breast with side of string beans, corn, and carrots;
>3 oz. organic chicken breast with side of baked potato and Brussels sprouts;
>Serving of homemade lentil soup with kale, carrots, parsley, onion, and other healthy add-ins;
>3 oz. grass-fed steak or organic filet with 2 sides of steamed vegetables and wild rice

Post-Dinner Snack Options (aka the TV Munchies)
>Mango smoothie (1 cup water, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon lemon juice);
>1/2 cup of berries;
>1 sliced banana drizzled with raw organic honey and cinnamon;
>Lavender and chamomile tea with 1 teaspoon of raw organic honey

*Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of healthy food options, and that I am not a doctor or dietitian. Always consult with your doctor before boosting your intake of new foods, or restricting certain foods, from your diet.

I regularly consume these healthy foods, but it’s also important for me to tell you that I nearly always cheat on weekends. “Cheating,” for me, means that I don’t watch my sugar intake as carefully, and if I crave white bread over whole wheat bread, I’ll allow myself this splurge. Maybe I even feel like a few ounces of soda with my Sunday night dinner. If so, I’ll pour it.

What cheating doesn’t mean for me is that nutrition stops mattering. What I mean by this is, even if I allow myself a few goodies for a day or two, I don’t completely neglect fueling my body with healthy foods – I continue to be mindful about getting the recommended serving sizes of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and protein in any given day, even if those nutrients are accompanied by (gasp!) a Pumpkin Spice Latte, or a slice of apple pie (hello, fall).

The bottom line is: treat your body well, and the weight loss, glowing skin, and overall improved health and energy will follow.

What has your journey been like with weight loss and dieting? What healthy foods are staples in your diet? Do you have tips to share with the rest of us? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Be well. Be healthy.


Health · Wellness

Ah, October. Season of My Soul (& Mind)

“And just like that, summer slipped into fall.”

…Along with disorienting 90-degree days, but that’s beside the point.

For me, autumn has always been a time of introspection. I love long hikes through nature, bonfires, orchards…basically, anything that awakens my soul and provokes deep thought and reflection. After work today, I went for my usual long walk and tuned into my favorite podcast, “The Place We Find Ourselves,” hosted by psychologist Adam Young (he’s awesome, guys — check it out), losing myself in the vibrancy of autumn leaves and the ambiance of an October sunset. And I couldn’t help but wonder, “How do people not take the time to nourish their minds?”

I’ve been learning more and more about mental health these days, especially as it pertains to 1) leisure time and learning, and 2) becoming self-aware by being brutally  honest with yourself. Both are necessary for honing in on your passions and learning how to channel them, as well as experiencing true growth and healing from past wounds in order to fully embrace the future.

There is no better time to embark on this process of self-discovery than now.

Allow this change of seasons to inspire you to take a long, honest look at yourself, and ask yourself the following basic questions:

1) Am I happy with my life? What steps can I take to create a life I truly love (even if they’re small, at first)?
2) Am I sufficiently grateful for what I have while actively working toward what I want to achieve?
3) Where can I healthily improve myself — physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? Where am I off-balance in my life that I can work to correct?
4) Am I taking care of myself (i.e. with sufficient sleep, nutrition, physical activity, healthy relationships, meditation, therapy, prayer, learning and art, mental breaks/weekend getaways/spa days)?
5) Is there anyone or anything unhealthy in my life that is causing me distress or unhappiness? What steps can I take to remove the obstacle gracefully to restore peace and preserve my mental health?
6) Am I connected to the people who matter most to me? Do I make the time for them that I should?
7) Do I make time to grow my relationship with God in small ways each day? Do I stop to thank Him for what He’s given me?
8) Do I actively strive to learn new things?
9) Do I often feel down, anxious, or depressed? Are these emotions overwhelming to the point that they should be brought to therapy? (It NEVER hurts to try)
10) Do I forgive myself, and those who have hurt me, so that I can love fully and move forward with my life? If not, how can I work towards letting go of negativity and healing myself?

…these, and many other points of consideration, are important.

I know MANY people who believe that psychology is a load of bullsh*t, and these are usually the same people who don’t understand it well. They are also, uncoincidentally, the same people who are the most out-of-touch with themselves.

Friend, if you’re out there reading this, I strongly encourage you to make a list of all the things on your mind and heart that you want to address or do as the year comes to a close. More than this, I beg of you to take care of yourself, and give your health and well-being the time, attention, and energy that you deserve. Whether you’re a parent to young, rambunctious children, a full-time (or overworked) employee, or someone feeling overwhelmed by grief, trauma, or a mental illness, please give yourself the same grace, forgiveness, leisure time, and help that you’d encourage other people to seek out if they were in your position.

Happy fall. Enjoy the changing leaves, and all the seasons of your life.

God bless,


Food for Thought: White vs. Brown Rice

Today, I want to talk about the nutritional value of whole grains, as well as discuss my recent concern regarding brown rice that I feel is important to share.

You’ve probably heard (correctly) that if you want to make healthy carb choices, the simplest thing you can do is switch out white breads and pastas in your diet for brown, or whole wheat, options.

Allow me to provide a quick overview on carbs: whole grains are a nutritional part of a well-balanced diet, and it rubs me the wrong way when misinformed dieters adhere to the bogus blanket claim that “all carbs are bad.” True, carbs are a big contributor to weight gain if not consumed in moderation, or if the wrong carbs are selected. However, you need carbs to maintain optimal energy levels throughout the day. In fact, let’s revisit the food pyramid: don’t grains comprise the largest food group at the very bottom of the pyramid, with the recommendation of a whopping 5-7 serving sizes per day?

Having considered this, you definitely shouldn’t be afraid to satiate your craving for wheat and grains – it comes from your body’s attempt to fill a basic nutritional need! However, there is a world of difference between the two main types of carbs – complex and simple carbohydrates – and in the way your body breaks them down.

Of the two, it’s essential that you’re fueling your body with complex carbohydrates, because it takes much longer for your body to digest complex carbs than simple carbs. This slower digestion process is precisely the reason why complex carbs are the healthier option, as slower digestion means that the sugar from these carbs is more steadily released into your bloodstream over longer periods of time. By contrast, simple carbohydrates are more immediately converted to sugar during the digestion process, leading to spiked blood sugar, energy crashes, and cravings for junk food that emerge shortly after eating a bag of chips, or a large piece of white bread.

So, complex carbs are generally the way to go, but keep in mind that complex carbs don’t only cover whole wheat breads, cereals, and grains. In fact, complex carbohydrates are found across several food groups, encompassing options such as corn, potatoes, apples, bananas, spinach, quinoa…and rice.

You probably know that rice, like pasta, comes in either a white or brown variety. Given what we know so far about carbs, you’d be right if you assumed that the brown option is more nutritionally beneficial. What you may not know, though, is that rice contains high levels of arsenic, which in both its organic and inorganic forms is toxic and can cause lung, skin, and bladder cancer, if consumed regularly or in large amounts. Unfortunately, it is the brown variety of rice that contains the highest levels of arsenic due to the fact that brown rice maintains its bran, while white rice is contrarily stripped of its bran during production, resulting in lower traces of arsenic.

You’d be surprised how big of a difference the bran makes when it comes to arsenic levels. According to research compiled by Consumer Reports, brown rice on average has 80% more arsenic than white rice.

Granted, this isn’t an earth-shattering issue given that most of us don’t have rice-intensive diets. However, learning about rice and arsenic risks did make me think twice about which variety I’d choose for my Chipotle burrito bowl, or which version I’d prefer to occasionally cook for dinner. The question is: do the benefits of brown rice, as a nutritional whole grain,  outweigh the cons of its arsenic levels? Or should you opt for white rice the next time you’re faced with the choice? Another question: if the arsenic problem applies to whole grain rice, does it also apply to all other whole grains?

The majority of other whole grain foods contain negligible to significantly lower levels of arsenic than rice. Great alternatives include quinoa, barley, buckwheat, and even mashed cauliflower, which mimics the texture of rice without the concern of arsenic. In an article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine entitled, “Contaminants in Grain – A Major Risk for Whole Grain Safety?”, it is stated that: “The risk posed by contaminants from whole grains do not outweigh the known nutritional benefits of whole grain consumption,” and I generally agree.

…However, when it comes specifically to rice and the way it is produced, I’d rather stick with the white variety and get the nutritional benefits of whole grains elsewhere.

Comments? Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!



Annnddd…She’s Back!

Oh – hey, guys!

While it’s no secret that I’ve been inactive for quite a while on this blog, my passion for wellness, nutrition, and fitness has only grown over the last few years. In fact, I’m now in the process of completing an online Nutrition & Healthy Living certification program. Honestly, I don’t even have a clear end goal in mind pertaining to how I’ll use this certification, but I will say that even if I can only implement what I learn during this program in my own life, and in the lives of those I care about (and share it with all of you!), I will be more than satisfied.

Other fun and exciting updates since the last time I posted:

>I quit my gym membership ($400 per year) and began working out with even better results at home;
>I lost two inches off my waistline while maintaining my optimal weight;
>I’ve adopted a minimalist mentality when it comes to shopping and fashion, and haven’t been shopping in nearly a year;
>I’ve published three books, and my first novel is currently being considered for traditional representation by a literary agent;
>I released a full-length album of my original country songs (available on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play);
>I’ve actively been making progress on my bucket-list travel destinations, including driving the California coast, stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park, hiking the Smoky Mountains, and touring international cities and regions such as Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Budapest, Tuscany, Rome, and the Amalfi coast

…and probably a lot more, if I really took the time to reflect back on the last two years.

What I’m most interested in currently, though, is moving forward. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities that have been opening up in my life recently, and 2020 is going to bring some big changes that I’m simultaneously nervous and ecstatic about (and on which I’m also not elaborating, just yet 😉 ), but I’m more confident than ever that good things are coming. I hope life has been treating all of you equally as well, and that we’re all equally determined to make the most out of the remaining weeks of 2019!

Starting this week, you can expect some new “Say Yes to Your Best” blog posts in your future, covering topics such as how to pinpoint your ideal skincare regimen, whether you should be eating brown or white rice (it’s really not as clear-cut as you think), how to drastically reduce unhealthy sugar from your diet, easy steps you can take to look great and feel more energized in the morning (especially if you’re not an early bird), and more.

I apologize for my long absence, but I’m so looking forward to developing some new content to share with you all! If you have suggestions, tips, or ideas, I’d absolutely love to hear from you. Just drop me a comment 🙂

God bless,