I love when simple things–not to mention cheap–improve my life.

Dry brushing is definitely one of the simplest things I’ve done for my skin, and other than the $5 I spent on my brush at Target, it’s free. And, I can’t say enough good about it.

According to the Livestrong website, dry brushing has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to detoxify, exfoliate and stimulate the skin.

According to many alternative health care providers, dry brushing stimulates detoxification, prevents dry skin, removes cellulite, cleanses the lymphatic system, strengthens the immune system, stimulates hormone and oil-producing glands, tightens the skin, stimulates circulation and feels great!

So what’s dry brushing, you ask. It’s super simple. You simply brush your entire body with soft-bristled brush before bathing. Basically you’re loosening dead skin cells so they can be washed away when you bathe. Super simple, but pretty wonderful results.

I started dry body brushing about a year and a half ago after reading about it in Gorgeously Green–a great guide for ways to reduce toxins and stress to our bodies and the environment. I’ve been amazed at how it has improved my skin. Typically, I have very dry skin in winter, especially around my elbows and feet. This year (we’re talking five long months of winter so far) my skin is great. I have had no issues with dry skin despite not using lotion on a daily basis.

More recently, I learned of the detoxification benefits of dry brushing. (It was a recommended practice of CorePower Yoga’s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.) The skin plays a major role in eliminating waste and toxins from our bodies. Dry brushing supports elimination of toxins by stimulating lymph nodes and circulation. The increased circulation is also said to decrease lines and wrinkles.

Of interest to most of us women is the claim that dry brushing reduces the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.  Although one of my favorite sources of health information, Dr Weil says dry brushing can’t reduce cellulite, I beg to differ. (He also says the detoxing claims are false.) I know that the cellulite on the backs of my thighs has improved since I’ve been dry brushing. I am totally open to the possibility that it hasn’t reduced, but only looks better because my skin looks better. Exactly how it works matters much less to me than the fact that I am more comfortable in a swimsuit than I was before I started dry brushing.

So here’s the how to:

  • Use a soft natural fiber brush with a long handle, preferably one with a removable head with a strap for your hand. (Most nylon and synthetic fiber brushes are too sharp.)
  • Brush your entire body before bathing. (Most instructions I’ve read say not to brush the face, but I often lightly–lighter than I brush the rest of my body–brush my face and love the way it feels.)
  • Then simply bathe as you normally do and enjoy your skin!

 

Advertisements

Kathleen Thon Johnson, February 2, 1947-March 19, 2011

My family suffered a terrible loss yesterday. My 64-year-old aunt passed away unexpectedly. Other than what she thought was the flu, she wasn’t sick. There was no warning, no cancer, no non-fatal-wake-up call. Her children, her husband of 41 years, and the rest of our family are devastated.

She is already deeply missed.

Aunt Kathy was one of the most–if not the most–caring and generous people I have ever known. Her greatest joy was her family. She adored her husband–my Uncle David, her two boys, and her young granddaughters. She tirelessly cared for them, as well as the rest of our family, her coworkers, and countless pets, through the years. She was always willing to work extra hours to help out a coworker, and always willing to do whatever she could to make the lives of others easier.

Unfortunately, she didn’t take such good care of herself.

Like so many women, Aunt Kathy put her own health and well-being behind that of her family. She was conscious of Uncle David’s diet and medication (he has Type 2 diabetes), but not so much her own. She rarely took sick days or went to the doctor. She recognized the benefits of healthy eating and exercise, but didn’t make it a priority for herself.

She regularly fueled herself with coffee and cigarettes.

Like so many women, she intellectually knew that taking care of herself was important, but was unable to set aside the time and energy for it. Instead, she dedicated all of her time and energy to others.

So often we hear that taking care of ourselves improves our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. Taking care of ourselves allows us to share our best selves with those we love. And most of us understand that. We get it. Yet we still resist making our own health and well-being a priority.

Yesterday morning, Uncle David woke up to find Aunt Kathy lying dead in the hallway. Apparently she had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but didn’t make it. We won’t know what killed her until the autopsy is complete, but we suspect heart failure or a blood clot.

At any rate, she’s gone. And Uncle David and her boys are lost. The quality of their lives will never be the same. They are without their beloved wife and mother. The world has lost an incredible human being.

There’s no way to know whether taking care of herself would have given Aunt Kathy extra time. Even the healthiest among us can become ill or be injured or even killed in an accident.

But taking better care of herself certainly would’ve improved her odds.

Life is so very precious. Be well.

 

I am sick. For the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling pretty lousy. My head feels like a brick, my ears are plugged, my eyes are red, watery and scratchy, and I’m so tired!

But I’m not surprised.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the advice of  my body.

I firmly believe that there are four main ways we can keep our bodies healthy and able to fight illness:

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Adequate Sleep and Rest
  • Daily Exercise
  • Stress Management

I am generally pretty darned faithful to all four of these, but sometimes I slip.

On Friday morning I woke up with an ominous tickle in my throat. The one that unmistakably tells me my body is fighting something. Normally, I would respond by building extra rest and nutrition into my schedule and toning down my workouts. Unfortunately, my daughter’s figure skating club was hosting their biggest event of the year this past weekend. Between volunteering at the event and supporting Grace, I spent more than 24 hours at the rink over the weekend. Not so conducive to extra rest and sleep.

And, so by the end of the day Sunday, my voice was almost gone and I was feeling pretty yucky. Yesterday was worse (I cancelled most of my appointments) and today I had to cancel everything. I actually don’t think I’ve been this sick since before I had Grace (10 years ago).

In my personal experience, “pushing through” illness either lengthens the time you feel crummy or makes the illness worse (which is what I think is going on now). So I’m resting. And I’m going to get better. And the next time I feel that tickle or any other sign that my body is fighting a bug, I will heed my body’s advice and rest!

 

I am sick. For the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling pretty lousy. My head feels like a brick, my ears are plugged, my eyes are red, watery and scratchy, and I’m so tired!

But I’m not surprised.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the advice of  my body.

I firmly believe that there are four main ways we can keep our bodies healthy and able to fight illness:

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Adequate Sleep and Rest
  • Daily Exercise
  • Stress Management

I am generally pretty darned faithful to all four of these, but sometimes I slip.

On Friday morning I woke up with an ominous tickle in my throat. The one that unmistakably tells me my body is fighting something. Normally, I would respond by building extra rest and nutrition into my schedule and toning down my workouts. Unfortunately, my daughter’s figure skating club was hosting their biggest event of the year this past weekend. Between volunteering at the event and supporting Grace, I spent more than 24 hours at the rink over the weekend. Not so conducive to extra rest and sleep.

And, so by the end of the day Sunday, my voice was almost gone and I was feeling pretty yucky. Yesterday was worse (I cancelled most of my appointments) and today I had to cancel everything. I actually don’t think I’ve been this sick since before I had Grace (10 years ago).

In my personal experience, “pushing through” illness either lengthens the time you feel crummy or makes the illness worse (which is what I think is going on now). So I’m resting. And I’m going to get better. And the next time I feel that tickle or any other sign that my body is fighting a bug, I will heed my body’s advice and rest!

 

As I finished up CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse this past weekend, I found myself thinking about–you guessed it–coffee. No longer thinking about the fact that I couldn’t partake, but instead thinking about whether I would make it a regular part of my morning routine or remain caffeine-free.

Like so many people, I was stuck in the All or Nothing mindset. Either coffee becomes the start of everyday or I give it up completely.

Unfortunately, neither extreme sounded very appealing.

My body is no longer addicted to caffeine and I feel really good. I don’t want to feel as though I need my morning coffee to function. On the other hand, I really do miss it. And I really do get pleasure from it.

While struggling is probably too strong a word–it’s certainly wasn’t overtaking my life–I was devoting more thought and energy to the subject than it deserved.

I was stuck just like so many who don’t adopt healthier eating habits because they don’t want to completely give up the “junk” they love.

On about the third day of my internal debate regarding coffee, I told myself to snap out of it. Loosen up. Be more flexible. Find some middle ground.

I truly enjoy my morning coffee. It gives me real pleasure. But, I don’t need to drink it everyday and I really don’t want to be addicted to caffeine.

So, I compromised with myself. I am now a 2-3 morning per week coffee drinker. The other mornings I drink my cranberry tea (which I’ve actually come to enjoy–but not as much as coffee).

The best of both worlds: I still get to enjoy my coffee, but I’m not dependent on it.

Be well!

Yesterday was my first day back to eating solid foods after three days of only vegetable broth. I am now into the third and final phase of CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

The first phase was eliminating all processed food, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, meat and dairy for 5 days.

The second phase–designed to continue cleansing your system, restore the ph balance in your gut, and provide rest to your digestive system–was making and eating several nutrient-dense vegetable broths for three days.

The broth phase went really well for me and I didn’t feel at all overwhelmed with hunger. Unfortunately, the skies dumped almost 20 inches of snow on the Twin Cities so I wasn’t able to get the rest that is recommended for the phase–someone had to shovel the driveway (four times, but who’s counting). Still, I felt good.

Yesterday, as I started Phase III, I was back to hyper-clean eating. In Phase III, we begin introducing the foods we’ve eliminated back in our diets one at a time to determine whether any of them cause discomfort or other issues. Incredibly, I ate very little yesterday despite having not eaten solid foods for more than 72 hours.

I just wasn’t hungry. And, I recognized that.

One of the things many of my wellness clients have shared when we begin working together is that they don’t really know when they are hungry. They either don’t feel it or can’t recognize it. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject, and I believe the lack of hunger recognition has two main causes: 1) We, especially women, spend so much time thinking about how much and what we should be eating, we can no longer separate our brain’s messages from our body’s. Thus we don’t recognize our body’s hunger or cravings; 2) We consume so much stuff our bodies don’t recognize as food (food processed beyond recognition, preservatives, perticides, etc), that our bodies send mixed messages.

When I cut out most processed food several years ago and went back to eating organic whenever possible, I definitely noticed an improvement in my hunger and thirst recognition. It still wasn’t totally clear though. I have often recognized that I need water because of a headache or feeling tired rather than because I felt thirsty.

Since beginning the cleanse, I actually feel thirsty. And hungry. My body’s hunger and thirst signals are clearer than they have been in years. There is no questioning when I feel hungry or thirsty.

So last evening, even though I’d found what looked to be a fabulous recipe for slow cooker chicken chick pea stew that fit the parameters of the cleanse, I had some blackberries and a peach instead. I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat the stew. (Actually, I did take a bite just to taste and it was an amazing recipe–I’ve posted it below.)

The stew can wait. Be well!

 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Chick Pea Stew (from About.com)

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:

Coat a 3-4 quart crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine spices and sprinkle over chicken thighs. Add onions, carrots, and crushed garlic to the crockpot. Lay chicken thighs on top, followed by chickpeas and canned tomatoes.Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serves 4-6

Something amazing happened yesterday.

Well, actually it didn’t happen yesterday. It’s happened over many years, but I recognized it yesterday. While chatting with someone about the Wellness Cleanse I’m doing, he asked me whether I had lost any weight. At that moment it occurred to me that my weight wasn’t even a consideration in my decision to take on the Cleanse.

And that, my friends, is pretty darned amazing. While my weight stopped ruling my life several years ago, I find it amazing that it truly wasn’t even a factor in my decision to participate in CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

It’s amazing when you consider that for most of my life (I first believed I was fat in 2nd grade), almost all of my choices and behaviors were somehow related to my weight–either directly in an attempt to control or reduce my weight, or indirectly as I tried to manage my obsession with my body and my weight, and my disordered eating. What I ate, what I wore, which activities I participated when, whether I went to social engagements, who I spent time with, you get the picture. So this moment was truly amazing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to drop some pounds while on the cleanse. I currently weight just about 20 pounds more than I did just before I became pregnant with Grace almost 11 years ago, and I’d love to get back to that weight. But I’m not willing to compromise my health and wellness–physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal or spiritual–to get there. I have honestly learned to feel comfortable in my body and have developed incredible respect for it. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s beautiful. Wow, I just said that!

On a side note, I have weighed myself most days of the cleanse. Not because I am concerned with losing, but because during days 2-4 I felt really bloated and was curious as to whether I had gained weight. I wasn’t freaked about it, just curious. I had not gained. And today I’m at the bottom of my normal 5-pound range. I suspect I will lose weight on the cleanse, since I’m just heading into our 3-day broth phase, but I’m not concerned about it one way or the other. I know my body is getting healthier and that is truly my goal.

Speaking of the Broth Phase, I just finished chopping tons of veggies and putting them in the crock pot for the Alkaline Broth. I made the Bieler Broth yesterday. I’m looking forward to giving my digestive system a rest without depriving my body of the nutrients it needs.

In other good news, all of my aches and fatigue have subsided and I’m back to feeling energetic…and happy. For a couple of days there, as my body worked to release and then eliminate toxins, I felt pretty sad. And, perhaps most importantly, I found a morning beverage I like (not as much as coffee, but at least I’m not cursing every sip). Hot water with lemon, honey and a splash of 100% pure cranberry juice. It’s actually pretty good.

But I still miss my coffee. Be well!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Rita at Yum Yoga! for the photo of Bieler Broth.