How to Shift Obstacles into Gifts

by: Nkechi Njaka, Msc.

What do you think– Is showing emotion a sign of weakness? Or strength?

How about when s/he doesn’t call? It means things are done. Over. Or s/he is simply busy?

You get constructive feedback at work. Your job is in jeopardy and your manager hates you? They want you to succeed and grow in your position?

You see where I am going. And I could go on. Our reactions to things like missing the bus, or a long line at Starbucks can easily ruin our day if we let it….That’s just it. If we let it. And let’s be honest, sometimes we do.

How to Shift Obstacles into Gifts | The Organic Beauty Blog

We let things mean things as though we have no control over our thoughts. Well, we do have control because it is a choice. Meaning is not found merely in people, places or things; meaning is what we choose to make things mean.

Therefore, everything is meaningless.

Yes, that is what I said. Nothing means anything, essentially. Sit with that. And don’t freak out.  Because any and everything can mean what we choose to make it mean. Feel empowered.

Our ego is an interpreter. One that first judges to make things right or wrong, good or bad. Evaluating, assessing, determining– creating little space for possibility and opportunity. This is especially true in a time of crisis. Fear, worry, anxiety, judgement and panic can prevent our minds so much that it is virtually impossible to think of what might serve us the most!

This became clear to me the other day. I was talking to my best friend on the phone and I was going over a date that I had the week before, and what I thought it meant for me and my future. Even as I type that, it is clear that I chose to make conclusions about one event to mean something about another, when I could simply just chose to make it mean something else. This is why she is my best friend.

She reminded me that what is important is that I continue to be excited about the things in my life that are so amazing and exciting (and there are SO many!). And that this one thing, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t mean what I told myself it meant. I need these reminders sometimes. Especially today, because I had an incredibly hard time shifting my perspective. ‘An incredibly hard time’ until I just made the choice to do so.

So how can we shift 180 degrees? On demand? There are 3 things that we can be in practice of to have this happen more readily. First is to ask ourselves this: What if wrong is right and bad is good and this obstacle is actually a gift?

If that question doesn’t open things up for you, then make these declarations:

  • This could me anything I want it to mean.
  • I can chose to suspend my judgement and not attach any meaning to this.
  • How I feel about this is not rooted in fact or can determine my future in any way.

Then identify one thing that you are truly grateful for!

Snacking Is Making You Fat (and moody, and bloated)

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Snacking Is Making You Fat (and moody, and bloated) | The Organic Beauty Blog

The whole snack-happy, “six-small-meals-a-day” dieting philosophy is one of the worst things to have happened to Western food culture, and is pretty much the bane of my existence as a nutrition counselor.  Basically, this phenomenon has created a nation of perpetually hungry, moody hypoglycemics, and although this is great for my business, it is terrible for the health of this country.  Allow me to persuade you that snacking is one of your biggest food woes, and to show you a much better way!

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Daily Acts of Self-Love = What’s Missing in Your Life

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Daily Acts of Self-Love = What’s Missing in Your Life | The Organic Beauty Blog

Daily acts of self-love aren’t just fuzzy, feel-good luxuries.  They are what is standing in between you and the body, life, and love that you are so desperately seeking.  They are a necessity, and their lack leaves a huge gaping hole in your life that you then fill with ice cream, TV, wine, unfulfilling sex, and potato chips.

I know all your excuses, I’ve heard them all before.  “But Natasha, I can’t afford massages!” or “I don’t have time for picnics in the park!”  That may or may not be true, but each and every one of us has some time and some money to dedicate to the fundamental cause of our own happiness.  So I’m doing the work for you!  I’ve compiled a list of daily acts of self-love that fit any budget, any schedule.  Make it a priority to pick one every day.. start small, and before you know it, daily acts of self-love, mindfulness, and joy will be a habit as natural to you as brushing your teeth.

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Fermented Foods: The Amazing Health Food You’re Not Eating Enough Of

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Fermented Foods The Amazing Health Food You’re Not Eating Enough Of  | The Organic Beauty BlogSome of the most exciting research in health and nutrition these days is around the vital role our gut flora (read: healthy bugs and microbes in our stomach) plays in our overall health, beyond just digestion.   Having enough beneficial bacteria in your gut is linked to healthy weight loss, better moods, less anxiety, stress, and depression, increased immunity, clearer skin, and better bladder and reproductive health.  Of course, fermented foods also make you more regular, eliminate gas and bloating, and relieve stomach aches!

Taking an effective, broad-spectrum probiotic, like NOW Dairy-Free Probiotic-10 25 Billion, is one great way of making sure you’ve got enough healthy bugs in your system.  But as with all nutrients, food-based sources are even better!  Fermented foods are naturally high in beneficial bacteria and they are the best way of getting more probiotics in your system.  Eating fermented foods every day has amazing, immediately noticeable health benefits, and unfortunately, none of us are getting enough of these powerful health foods!  Check out our favorite fermented foods below, and keep in mind that quality matters.  Typical supermarket brands of these foods are pasteurized and heated, which kills the beneficial bacteria.

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Enhanced Water Is Not Your Friend!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Enhanced Water Is Not Your Friend! | The Organic Beauty Blog

One of the first questions I ask my clients is how much water they drink.  And one of the most common answers I get is “well, I drink lots of tea and VitaminWater!”  Guess what guys, VitaminWater and other “enhanced,” flavored water-type beverages are NOT water, they are really no better than soda, and they have the same negative effects on your body!  Don’t believe me?  Pick up a bottle of Vitamin Water and read the ingredients.  The 2nd and 3rd ingredients are sugar!  With the additional additives of color, flavor, and “stabilizers,” you are drinking a beverage that is really no different from soda, no matter how many vitamins they add.

What about the other guys on the market? Mio Liquid Water Enhancer, Skinny Water, Propel Fitness Water, Dasani Drops are the watered down equivalents of diet soda.  Instead of sugar, they feature artificial sweeteners like sucralose, dextrose, or aspartame, which are linked to obesity, digestive problems, neurological issues, diabetes, and cancer.  These guys kill off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which wreaks all kinds of havoc on your system, and can lead to an overgrowth of candida (read more about candida overgrowth). They’re also loaded with a whole bunch of questionable ingredients that definitely don’t pass the basic food rule: “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”

So-called “enhanced” waters are yet another in a long line of marketing ploys designed to get you to poison your body under the guise of health.  Be smart.  Read your ingredients.  Don’t be a victim of false advertising!  Water — pure, filtered H2O, gives your body all the hydration it needs, and does not need to be a source of vitamins in your diet.  Eat healthy, and take some high-quality supplements if you need a vitamin boost!  (Check out our Basic Supplement Guide to find out which supplements you may need.)

So what do you do if you just aren’t a big water person?  There are definitely safer and more natural unsweetened, lightly flavored waters out there, like MetroMint and Hint Water, but the safest and healthiest option is simply to flavor your water yourself!  A squeeze of lemon or an infusion of yummy berries and herbs is delicious, and gives you control over factors like quality, organics, and intensity of flavor.  Check out our review of the adorable and eco-friendly Glass Water Bottle with Infuser from AdNArt.

How To Control Your Vices

By Callie McBride

How To Control Your Vices | The Organic Beauty Blog

For all the dedicated health foodies out there who devote large amounts of time and energy to maintaining a healthful and active lifestyle, it usually feels like its simple 90% of the time, and nearly impossible 10% of the time. For a number of days in a row you wake up early, eat a good breakfast, get a great workout in, and make a homemade dinner at the end of the day. Then, out of nowhere, you wake up one morning and find that it can be incredibly challenging to keep up consistency with exercising, or to find variety in the kitchen, or even the motivation to drink lots of water! You feel distraught that you’re craving trashy TV and a big bowl of cereal; you feel anxious that your momentary break from veggies and 6am yoga may throw you off track. You feel surrounded by those pesky little things called vices.

Do not fret; there is a solution!

Give In To Your Vices

In my own personal experience, trying to fight through cravings and vices never works. I attempt to go without coffee for a month, and suddenly my 5am wakeup calls become positively dreadful. I ban any sugar or chocolate from my diet, and magically I crave sweets as though they’re oxygen. I mentally order myself not to miss a day in the gym, and in effect my bed becomes that much more comfortable. It seems that all of the restrictions or rules we place upon ourselves only backfire and cause us to fall into bad habits or take less care of ourselves. This happens when we strive for perfection in our health and fitness. We aim too high and forget that we are only human! While it’s wonderful that we delight in eating right, staying active, and maintaining a lifestyle meant for optimal wellness, we can get too caught up in the midst of it all. This, in turn, leads to a temporary lapse that leaves us feeling lazy or uninspired. I’ve been there, and I know how upsetting it is to feel like your goals were thrown off by a long holiday weekend or an unnecessary TV binge.

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Instead of warding off all potential vices in our lives, I say we embrace them. Um, what!? Don’t write the idea off just yet. Accept your vices as they come, and learn to control them instead of let them overpower you. I, for one, have a strong vice for coffee. Though I am aware that it’s highly acid forming and addictive (not to mention costly), I cannot seem to give it up. Instead of steering clear of all Starbucks (an impossible feat in NYC) and vowing never to sip the drink again, I can allow the vice into my life in a healthy way. I hopped online, did some research, and found an amazing way to make your own cold coffee concentrate. Since no heating is involved in the process, it is much less acidic which leaves me feeling guilt-free and satisfied! Mixed with ice and some homemade almond milk, and my coffee vice has just transformed into a delicious pleasure.

raw-icecream

Another vice of mine, that I am venturing to guess could be yours too, is ice cream. Is it the devil? The angel? We’ll never know. Since becoming vegan a number of years ago, I was immediately excited to hop on the health train and learn all that I could about feeding my body perfectly and becoming as healthy as possible. There’s that word again-perfect. After I while, I grew exhausted from always “being good” and refraining from this nighttime snack or cool summer treat. I became nostalgic for the delicious taste of creamy, cold ice cream that always hit the spot. However, I still am not interested in a dairy-filled, sugary pint that is chock full of artificial flavors, fillers, or thickeners that don’t do anything for my body. Again, I turned my vice into a pleasure by taking the time to control the situation, instead of avoid the treat and eventually break. I discovered the Raw Ice Cream Company, which offers multiple flavors of cashew and coconut milk-based ice cream. Sold in half pints to control portions, this ice cream is entirely good for the body and the planet.

Whatever your particular vices are, I encourage you to accept them as a form of self-challenges. If you don’t have any, then I am convinced you are a robot. Imperfection is part of being human, so take these pesky habits and turn them into ways to further your quest for healthy living. Just as I can now enjoy my iced coffee guilt-free, you can also change your perspective on your own vices that get under your skin. Be creative, be resourceful, and be active in maintaining health and wellness as a large part of your lifestyle.

Willing to share your vices, and possible ways to turn them around? Comment below!

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How to Become a Morning Person

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

How to Become a Morning Person | The Organic Beauty Blog

In my holistic health counseling practice, the excuse I hear most often for why someone just can’t make time for a healthy breakfast, a morning workout, or meditation is “I’m not a morning person.”  I’ve got news for you:  That’s a load of hooey!  Any staunch night owl can become a super productive person before 9am if they want to.  I’ll tell you how I know this.. I did it!  I come from a family of night owls.  We stayed up LATE in my house, and mornings were a time to sleep until the very last minute, rush around getting ready, and frantically arriving late wherever we needed to be.  I kept up this M.O. well into my late 20’s.  And then I decided to change.  I craved calm, nourishing mornings.  I craved time.  I hate the feeling of rushing.  So if I can do it, so can you, if you choose to.  Here’s how:

1.  Get to bed at a reasonable hour (DUH!)

This is so obvious, but always overlooked.  If you want to wake up, totally rested, before your alarm, with time to get some stuff done in the morning, you need to get to bed earlier.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking you do ok on less than 7 hours of sleep. You don’t, and pretending is what’s making you a tired, grumpy zombie in the mornings.  Figure out when you ideally would like to wake up, leaving time for whatever you would like to accomplish in the morning (see below), and get thee into bed at least 8.5 hours before that time (leaving yourself a 30 minute buffer to actually get to sleep). If you have trouble getting to sleep, check out my article, How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

2.  Decide how you want to use your morning.

Morning is a perfect time for exercise, meditation, a healthy breakfast, and some chill time before work.  Figure out what your priorities are and set your intentions for the morning.  Figure out how much time you want to dedicate to these activities, and go to sleep accordingly the night before (see above).  Create a little morning ritual for yourself that incorporates everything you would love your morning to include.  A ritual is an amazing way to create and stick to a new habit, injecting it with calm and meaning (check out my article, The Power of Ritual!).  Here’s my morning ritual:  I wake up, walk the dog, feed him, take my morning vitamins, meditate for 15 minutes, make breakfast and watch the news for about 20 minutes… all before even starting to get ready for the day!  I set my alarm to leave myself time for my ritual, and make sure I get to bed at the right time to allow myself at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably 9 ; )

3.  Leave yourself plenty of time, and stay calm.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish in the morning, leave yourself enough time to do it all calmly.T he number one way to ruin your morning is to rush, or even just to feel rushed.  So always give yourself a buffer to account for any unpredictable events, as well as all the basics of getting ready.  The more time you feel  like you have, the calmer you will be.

4.  Save room for pleasure.

Make sure your morning includes something you find pleasurable (like meditation, checking your favorite blogs, or watching the news).  You’re not going to be motivated to get up early for your awesome mornings if they’re not pleasurable, or if they’re filled with more stuff you have to do.  Morning is an amazing time to start the day with some you time, which sets the tone for a more  enjoyable and less stressful day. So dig deep and connect to what you’re really craving in the mornings.  Maybe it’s tons of time to do your hair or pick out the perfect outfit.  Or sitting down at the table for a real proper breakfast.  It’s YOUR morning, so make it count!  The more enjoyable your mornings, the more you will look forward to them.  And, wait, what?  Suddenly you’re a morning person.

Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Yoga Practice?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Yoga Practice? | The Organic Beauty Blog

The amazing health, body, and spiritual benefits of yoga are no secret.  People with a regular yoga practice are on the whole slimmer, happier, less stressed out, eat healthier, have lower blood pressure, and experience less headaches, pain, swelling, anxiety, and hormonal imbalance.  I mean, if that’s not reason enough to get on that vinyasa train, I don’t know what is.  But, just showing up to class doesn’t guarantee those results.  There’s doing yoga, and then there’s doing yoga.  I see tons of people in my classes that bring their phones into the studio, half-ass their poses, don’t breathe, break up the flow of their practice with tons of fidgeting, water drinking, and other distractions, and then leave before shavasana. If you’re one of these people, you are robbing yourself of a truly impactful, effective, and meaningful practice!  Make sure you’re getting the most out of your practice by following the tips below.

1.  Try not to get wired before class.  

If you routinely grab a Starbucks or soda on your way to your yoga class, you’re going to make the mindfulness, deep breathing, and ultimately relaxation (if only just at the end) of a successful routine much harder for yourself.  Caffeine speeds up your breathing and heart rate, causes racing thoughts and can increase anxiety, which is pretty counterproductive for yoga.  If you need to have your coffee in the morning, have it 2-3 hours before class, or wait until after to get your fix.  Better yet, use yoga to help you break your coffee addiction!

2.  Put away your phone.

From the moment you set foot in the studio, try to put yourself in a focused, relaxed mindset.  Checking your email on your mat creates a stressful environment that makes settling into a mindful practice much more difficult.  Plus, it’s distracting and even stressful for everyone around you!  Your fellow practitioners are coming to yoga for a reprieve from their busyness and stress, and you being on your phone is a distracting reminder of everything they’re trying to put on pause.  So for the sake of your own practice, and that of everyone around, leave your phone in your bag and fully arrive in the space, mental and physical, from the moment you walk in.

3. Set an intention for your practice.

As with most things in life, if you go into your practice with a specific intention, you’re going to get a whole lot more out of it than if you’re just going through the motions.  Some great intentions can be “I’m going to do my best and push myself further in my practice today,” or “I’m going to focus on my breath and relaxation today… No stress, no pressure.”  You can dedicate your practice to someone in your life that’s in need of a little love and support, or to someone you are struggling with or in the midst of a conflict with.  Yoga isn’t just a workout.  It doesn’t need to be this whole huge spiritual, om-filled, flowery experience if you don’t want it to be, but completely eliminating the mindfulness component is totally selling yourself short and robbing your practice of the meaning that supercharges it’s effectiveness.

4.  Don’t be afraid to personalize your practice.

We can often get so wrapped up in the competitive, comparative aspect of a yoga class (“I can totally get my leg higher than her!”), that we short change ourselves on having a practice that fits exactly what we need on that given day.  Don’t be afraid to use props, rest for a moment in child’s pose, not take a bind, or otherwise make adjustments to poses to fit your needs, your body, and what feels best.  We often see props as a crutch or a sign of being a beginner practitioner, but B.K.S Iyengar said that “confidence and willpower are built up by props.”  Props allow you to progress in your practice and gain correct alignment in your poses, which is so much more important than how you look compared to the girl next to you.  Listen to your body.. If you need to take a break in child’s pose, that is always available to you, and knowing when you need to take that pose is truly the sign of a mindful practitioner.  But make sure to maintain your focus in your practice.  Stopping to fidget, fix your hair or drink water when something feels hard is not staying focused. These are the crutches.  Instead, breathe and listen to what your body needs.

5.  Never skip shavasana!

So many of my favorite teachers have repeated over and over again that shavasana, or corpse pose, is the most important part of a yoga practice.  And yet, every class, at least one person leaves before this crucial final pose.  Shavasana is what your whole routine is building up to.  The mindfulness, the exertion, the pushing yourself, and the breath are all leading you to the vital moment of peace and quiet meditation at the end of class.  To skip that valuable moment is literally half-assing your practice.  If you’re one of those people that has trouble sitting still or quieting your thoughts, use your yoga practice as a tool to focus and calm your body and mind, and use shavasana as a way to integrate all that amazing work into your body.  Focus on your breath and just relax.  If you’re still having trouble with racing thoughts, repeat a long ommmm in your head on every exhale to help you stay mindful.

Is Your Food Raising Your Stress Level?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Is Your Food Raising Your Stress Level? | The Organic Beauty Blog

Did you know that your food choices can have an impact on your stress levels?  I know, it sounds like a stretch, but your diet might be full of foods that are making you feel more stressed out throughout your day.  The foods below create inflammation in your body and cause your whole system to work harder to process it.  This makes you a lot less able to handle the normal stressors that come your way, leading to heightened feelings of overwhelm, overburden, and, yes, stress!   Avoiding these foods is not only going to help lower your stress levels, but it will also improve your overall health, improve sleep and digestion, combat anxiety, and improve your mood!

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How to Start Loving Your Body NOW!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

It is very difficult to make healthy choices for your body, take care of your body, and treat it well when you hate it.  Loving your body does not have to mean that you love everything about it, or that you do not want to change things about it.  But loving it, right now, just the way it is, is a crucial step toward getting healthy, happy, and losing weight!  When you love something, you want to take care of it, protect it, and make it feel good.  When you hate something, you abuse it, neglect it, and criticize it.   Which way sounds more conducive to healthy eating, lifestyle, relationships, and thoughts?  Here’s how to start loving your body right now:

1.     Determine where your body hatred comes from. 

We live in a society that deems openly loving your body taboo.  We have trouble accepting compliments; we feel the need to make self-deprecating comments; we bond with other women over hating our bodies instead of loving them.  Find the source of this habit for you.  Is it an attitude you inherited from your mother or a sibling?  Is it a product of your social scene?  Find the root, and vow to step outside it, be bigger than it.  Make a conscious CHOICE to start loving your body, right now.

2.     Loving your body does not mean giving in to what it looks like right now. 

The biggest reason most women give for why they don’t love their bodies is that they fear losing the motivation for change and weight loss if they accept and love themselves as they are.  But know this:  if you hate your body now, you aren’t going to magically be full of self-love when you finally reach your ideal weight.  In fact, you may even miss out on feeling amazing for reaching your goals because you are so mired with that self-criticism you’re so used to feeling.  Regardless of what shape they’re in now, our bodies allow us to live, walk this earth and experience all the pleasures in it.  That is a lot to love!  Having gratitude toward your body for all the amazing things it allows you to do and experience, and loving your body for that does not mean that you don’t want to be stronger, leaner, more flexible and sexier.  We can always be working on improving ourselves in some way, but when that comes from a place of LOVE, we will be so much more successful, and enjoy ourselves along the way!

3.     Prioritize feeling good. 

When you love something you want to make it feel good.  When you hate something, you deprive it of joy, affection, and pleasure.  Which way do you think leads to weight loss, happiness and fulfillment?  When you love your body, you can shower it with things that feel amazing.  Massages, yummy smelling natural beauty products, delicious and healthy food, dancing, sex, trips to the beach, beautiful clothes – all these things show love to yourself, make you feel SO much happier and taken care of, and yes, make weight loss a breeze!  But when you hate your body, you feed it junk food, cover it in frumpy clothing to hide it, keep it inside on the couch,  living a small life, and abuse it with alcohol, sugar, drugs, cigarettes, soda, and other horrible things.  I’ll tell you what, achieving a healthy weight and a happy, healthy body is impossible in that state of self-abuse.  Making your body feel amazing and taken care of should be your TOP priority in your health journey.  See what a huge difference it makes!

Loving your body is just a more fun, healthy, and pleasurable place from which to approach the work of transforming your diet and your life!

In the comments below, share how you are going to show your body more love, more care, more pleasurable experiences!

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