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2017 Healthy Holiday Gift Guide

Twenty of my favorite things that are sure to please the health addict on your list. 

I've tried to include things that go beyond the holiday season - less "things" and more experiences or gifts that will impact someone's life beyond December.

Know that gifting doesn't have to be expensive - often times the most thoughtful gifts can cost nothing at all. Make an "I Love You Jar" for your sweetie filled with little heart papers on reasons why you love them. That will surely brighten their day far beyond the Christmas season.

Everyone in our family decided to cut it back this year. Fewer gifts, more quality time. Less money, more fun. My mother-in-law had a beautiful idea: Pick one gift for yourself, one gift as a couple (but more of an experience, trip, activity to do together), and then one family trip together. No sweat about money, just enjoy the holiday's and everyone's company. I love that. <3

Without further adieu, here are my top healthy picks:

1.      Jade Roller – Tighten and de-puff your face with this magic wand. This roller improves circulation, improved skin elasticity, and gets all the blood flowing in the face to make you glow girl, glow.

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2.      Essential Oil Diffuser – Breathe in those essential oils, exhale relief…. Ahhhhhhh

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3.      Spiralizer – Trust me – get a sturdy one. Zoodles for days.

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4.      Matcha - Use code “simplyrealhealth” from my girl Sarah Adler. This stuff is more expensive than others you can find in stores, but trust me, you get what you pay for.

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5.      Whisk –  If you’re looking for the perfect gift combo, matcha with a whisk (and maybe a cute mug too) is heaven on earth for your health-conscious friend.

 
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6.      Protein? - Maybe not the sexiest gift, bt I guarantee your health-concious friend will love it (Caution – you may get jealous of her glowy skin so you might want to buy two and keep one for yourself 😉)

 
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7.      Headspace subscription – https://www.headspace.com/login This one is on my list this year. If you have never tried meditation and want to get into it, this is my favorite way to recommend getting into it. Guided meditation is such a great entry point for those who are new to meditation. No sitting in silence trying to figure out if you’re doing it right – simply pick a track, put on some headphones, relax and follow the guide. It is seriously life changing.

 
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8.      Cookbooks – Some of my favorites I’m crushing on this year:

a.      Simply Real Health Cookbook – a no-fuss guide to eating simple, clean food

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b.      Nutrition stripped Cookbook – Whole food cookbook – vegan (but you’d never know it)

 
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c.      Body Love – Great for those who have struggled with food drama in the past

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d.      Slow Beauty – Self-care and slowing down in a busy world (a must for our generation)

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9.      A beautiful Art Print from my super talented girlfriend Natasha - She doesn’t boast, but she’s a pretty incredible artist. On top of that, she’s eco-conscious – all of her packaging materials are recycled, she gives back (donates a certain portion of her sales at different points during the year), and is just an awesome human. Go check her stuff out – it’s breathtaking.

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10.   Shoes – Can’t go wrong with shoed. Throwback New Balance? Yes, please. Slick new Adidas? Yep. Gym to street-style? Sign.me.up

 

11.   Classic Sweatshirt –guaranteed to never go out of style

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12.   Foam Roller - I personally love this one because of the varying sizes on the roller. Great for all areas of the body, and perfect to do while watching your favorite show.

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13.   Honest Co. Moisturizer - My fave pick of the season. #Glowgirl

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14.   Mortar and pestle – It has to be cute if its sitting on your counter, right?

15.   Solve for Happy – Written by a former Google Exec, Mo Gawdt breaks down the science of happiness from an engineering perspective. His fresh take on the subject is a must read, and is truly inspiring after you hear his full story.

16.   Dry Brush - I’ve started this ritual this year and have noticed such a difference in my skin. Its relaxing and perfect to add to your bedtime ritual.

17.   Sakara Life Tea Collection or if you’re feeling a splurge – The Sakara 5-day organic meal delivery service. I love this company, love their mission, and love, love, love their products.

 

18.   Thrive Market Membership – Seriously, their prices are unbeatable. Sorry, but #byewholefoods. For the same price as a Costco Membership you can get discounts all year round on organic, pure ingredients that cost way more in stores.

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19.   Spice Set – Great for the new grad or bachelor on your list. This spice set is the perfect starter kit or refresh for someone’s kitchen.

 
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20.   Honey in the cutest packaging - But also because we need to support the bees! We need bees in this world people! They are seriously endangered, so help the bee farmers out! You can eat the whole honeycomb so don’t be afraid to dig in!

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Secrets no one tells you about running a marathon

First year out of college, overly ambitious, obnoxious Type-A Amanda decides that a full time job (working 12 hour days 5 days a week - i might add), just wasn't enough. Nope, I also needed to be super fit and have the best body, which required me to lose about 15 pounds. After working out consistently in the gym for a while and not losing as much weight as I wanted (because my body is not designed to be 110 lbs and therefore was rejecting my efforts) I decided to sign up for a 15K race with a friend. 

I am not a runner. I was the last kid around the football field when we had to run the mile in gym class. Actually, I was the kid that was so slow that people lapped me, so I intentionally tried to stay back so it looked like I was on lap 4, when I was actually only on lap 3. Yea, that bad.

To be fair, I have since realized that school's do a TERRIBLE job of teaching kids how to actually run. Setting them off once a year to sprint a mile is not (in my humble opinion) a great way to get anyone to love running. I would imagine that if you were on the track team, the coach probably did a much better job explaining running, and how you aren't supposed to sprint long distances, and that it can actually be enjoyable. But, that's not what happened to me, so we're back at me sucking at running.

I think I signed up for a 5K in college because some people I knew were doing it. I suffered through, but I in no way enjoyed it. So signing up for this 15K was a really great idea for non-runner me.

This time, I actually decided to get on the internet and search for how to train. I got some tips, printed out a training plan, and followed it to a tee. To my surprise, running started to get easier.

Dare I say, I actually started to enjoy it?

The day of the 15K race was great. Running with a friend was super helpful, and she even commented that I was a great running partner. (ME??) We finished the race with a time we were both super proud of. I couldn't believe I did it! I ran the furthest I had ever run, with tons of people watching, didn't stop, and ACTUALLY ENJOYED IT!

This was a huge win in my book. I felt so accomplished. I wanted more.  Naturally I decided to normal progression from a 15K was a full marathon. Half marathon? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Hyped up on endorphin's and beginners brain - i started training for the marathon. I lived in Chicago and decided I would run there since it was known for being a good race. I start marathon training, which wasn't bad since I was already relatively fit from training for the 15K. 

Only problem was I still had the "diet" mindset. Deep down, my ultimate driver for running the marathon wasn't to feel accomplished. It wasn't to get fit, or beat a certain time. If I truly examined what my motive was, it was purely to get skinny. There, I said it. As awful as that is, I was sick of being the "muscular" girl. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't rail thin - and I wanted to be rail thin dammit! 

Anyone who knows anything about running knows that training for a marathon and dieting are two opposing philosophies. When training for a marathon, you need to fuel your body properly, and eat quite a bit more than you are used to. When dieting, you don't try to run 18 miles while cutting carbs, its just dumb. But that's exactly what I did. Training for a marathon and trying to get as skinny as possible was a recipe for disaster. 

I made it through half of the training before my body started yelling at me. I was STARVING. ALL THE TIME. I couldn't stop thinking about food, but i kept depriving myself. Finally, 4 weeks before the race I said F**K it, and started shoveling donuts, burgers and fries into my starved body. I couldn't stand being so hungry any more. I gained about 8 lbs right before the race, and it slowed me down significantly.  

I finished the race, and was proud of myself, but realized that I had no fricken' clue what I was doing, and probably should have gotten a coach, or at least trained with someone who knew what they were doing.

As some of you may know, I have also suffered from depression for most of my adult life. Running made me so happy. It released endorphins, made me feel accomplished, and kept me so busy that it was hard to be depressed. Little did I know that even normal people without depression can get the blues after completing a marathon. 

After the race, I figured I'd take a week off - let my body rest, enjoy some food, and not worry about training. I got bonked over the head with HEAVY depression and feel into a downward spiral. A week turned into a month, the month turned into two, then winter rolled around and there was no way I was running outside in the snow. The treadmill? Kill me before making me run on that death trap. Winter turned to Spring, and I vowed to start running again. I tried, I really tried, but my body was just telling me no. I would run maybe 500 feet and just HAVE TO STOP.

Looking back, it was a combination of things:

First, my body was completely rebounding. I had never really run before that 15K. I went from being a non-runner, to running a full marathon in under 8 months. That my friends, is not very smart.

Second, and I've said this so many times before, your MIND has to be in the right place. I kept telling myself I was a failure, I hated running, I would never be good at it. I just ran a freaking marathon and this is what I was telling myself?! This is how depression works. It makes untrue things seem so real that you believe them. It SUCKS.

A whole year went by, and I hadn't run more than .25 miles in a single jaunt. I kept telling myself I hated running - and guess what? I truly started hated running. Without even doing it! It's really amazing how much control your mind has over your body.

I finally decided to start working out again, slowly. I would do anything but run - bike, swim, lift weights, etc. After easing myself back into working out, my mindset started to shift a bit. I didn't need to LOVE running, but I didn't need to HATE it either. The more you tell yourself you don't like something, the more you will actually not like it. I've learned that about a lot of things in life. If you just open up your mind to the possibility of something, you might actually surprise yourself. You don't have to LOVE everything, and you don'd have to HATE everything either. Some things just are what they are. LET IT BE. 

I just wanted to share my struggles, because surely some of you have faced similar situations. It doesn't always have to be all or nothing. 

P.S. I'm back on the running train and can honestly say I kind of enjoy it. I've realized that I don't love running itself, but I love all of the aspects about running - I love how it makes me feel, I love being outside, I love getting lost in my music or a podcast, I love seeing new sights on foot and exploring new neighborhoods, I love running with my dog. When you re-frame a situation you view as "bad" into something you can perceive as "good", your whole world will shift. 

Tell me below: How do you feel about running? What's something in your life that you don't like doing that you could reframe as something positive? I'd love to hear your thoughts and struggles. 

 

Health, happiness, and maybe some running,

Amanda

 

Why a short workout is better than no workout

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You have a really busy day ahead and you know a hour long workout just isn't in the cards. Do you skip it, or do something quick?  

I used to fall into the first category, and would skip workouts the instant I knew I had less than an hour. The problem with this is it becomes a trend. Anytime you're busy you start to slip up, or just throw in the towel.   

You really don't need a full hour to get in a great workout. Studies have shown that even 15 minutes of resistance training was just as effective at boosting metabolism as 35 minutes. On top of that, 15 minutes can drastically improv you're mood!

The next time you are thinking of skipping a workout, commit to 15 minutes. My favorite quick exercises are circuits. They get you're heart pumping, can definitely make you sweat, and work so many muscle groups in such a short time.  

I make up workouts based on the following: 

1. Choose 2 resistance exercises based on a muscle group you want to work (arms, abs, legs, back, etc)  

2. Choose two cardio exercises (running man, mountain climbers, high knees, sprints, jumping jacks, jump rope, etc.  

3. Watch the clock, or set a timer. Do 30 seconds of the first resistance exercise, 30 seconds cardio, 30 seconds other resistance exercise, 30 seconds cardio. Rest for 30 secs and repeat. Do as many times as you want. I promise you will sweat.  

Some of my favorites: 

ARMS

1. Push-ups

2. Mountain climbers

3. Bicep curls  

4. High knees  

 

ABS  

1. Side plank dips

2. Running man

3. scissors 

4. Plank jacks

 

LEGS

1. Weighted squats

2. Jump lunges  

3. Alternating weighted side lunges 

4. Knee thrusts  < click for video

 

The possibilities are endless!  

You don't need a gym, fancy equipment, or the newest gear. 15 minutes in your living room and a little pump up music should do the trick!  

 

Let me know what some of your favorite combos are in the comments.  

 

How to Pick youself up when you feel like you cant

Depression is ugly. It lashes out in ways that defy common sense. Some days, despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to unfurl yourself from the fetal position. This is exactly the instant that you need to do something, because left untouched this can spiral downward very quickly. You need to recognize these days and implement SMALL, SIMPLE strategies to put you on the path UP instead of DOWN. 

Here are some simple things you can do to put you on the path to happiness instead of despair:

1. Take a shower, brush your hair, brush your teeth, put on REAL pants (yoga pants don't count) and maybe some purfume. The simple act of taking care of yourself in the smallest way tends to boost your self esteem. I don't know anyone that didn't feel slightly better after a nice, long, hot shower. 

2. Make a list. Write down all the things you need to get done around the house, or get from the store. Sometimes we feel depressed because we feel overwhelmed. Get everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Just getting everything onto that piece of paper will make you feel better. 

3. Take ACTION. Pick ONE thing from the list to do. Do the dishes in the kitchen need to be put away? Do you need toothpaste from the store? Great, Do that. Don't worry about anything else, just pick one. Too often we focus on ALL we need to do that we become paralyzed because we don't know what to prioritize. When you are feeling depressed there is no need to prioritize. Just do one small thing on your list, and the rest can follow. 

4. Play with a pet. If you don't have one, go to the animal shelter. Playing with a puppy or kitten is a sure fire way to squash depression. Seriously, how can you feel bad when a cute little thing is licking your face and begging you for attention. Pets make you feel needed, and sometimes, that's all we are looking for.

5. Call a friend. I remember feeling so alone when I was depressed. I would convince myself I had no friends, no one liked me, and no one would notice if I died. The hardest thing to do is realize someone cares. So make a call. If they don't pick up, LEAVE A MESSAGE, don't just hang up. Even if they don't call back for a few hours, it will still make you feel better once they do.

6. On top of just calling to chat, share your struggle with someone close. They don't have to throw a huge party to try and make you feel better, but it will allow them to be more compassionate and understanding. You need a tribe of people cheering you on. Don't do it alone. 

7. Exercise. I know, I know. Exercise is literally the hardest thing to do when you are feeling depressed, but it ALWAYS makes you feel better. Even if all you can muster up is a walk around the block, do that. Not only will you be getting in some exercise, but the fresh air always seems to refresh your spirit too. Bonus points if you go for a walk with a friend.

 

I hope these small, incremental strategies can help you the next time you are feeling blue. Remember, these are all suggestions. Focus on picking ONE and doing that. The hardest part is the first step. Once you accomplish one thing you are more likely to keep going. Don't focus on all that you could do, hone in on ONE THING, and JUST DO IT.