Why Traveling is Good for Your Health

Why Traveling is Good for Your Health

Jungle HottubI know, I know. You’re going to tell me about “the worst food poisoning you’ve ever had” from ceviche in a foreign country. There’s plenty of things that can happen while traveling that aren’t good for your health. But, when you look at health from a holistic standpoint (body, mind, stress, emotions), traveling is great for your health, even if you fought with your spouse the whole time, drank the water (it’s true what they say, for the love of god, don’t drink the water!) and missed your connecting train because no one spoke your language. Here’s why:

Reason #1: It gets you out of your comfort zone.
Traveling can be frustrating sometimes. You’re faced with weird food you’ve never seen. (What on earth is that fuzzy red fruit that looks like an eyeball inside? Or the stinky spiky thing? Or the chicken feet soup?) You’re often surrounded by a language you don’t understand, and customs that you are unaware of. (Why is that man mad at me for putting my feet up near his alter?)  Rambutan fruit
Because of this, traveling can feel uncomfortable. So why is this good for your health? Because it’s so healthy to get out of our comfort zone! So many of our daily habits are subconscious actions that we’ve been enculturated to believe are normal. It’s so good to realize which things are cultural, which things are habit, and which things are truly you.

Why is this important? For one, you get to know yourself even better. You learn what are your true passions, and what things are just habitual, and which areas of life you didn’t realize had other options. Also, it gives you the opportunity to make healthier decisions. For example: You’ve always eaten cold cereal for breakfast. (The worst thing to start your day with, but that’s another article). You’re in southeast Asia, and they’re eating Miso soup for breakfast! What??!?! That’s not a breakfast food! (Our culture says). So you try it, and maybe you feel a million times better. I’ve picked up a ton of healthy habits traveling that that never would have crossed my mind.

Reason #2: It’s great for stress

“But traveling can be so stressful!” I hear you arguing. Yes, but even that can be good for you! Even if you have a crazy stressful trip…you’re shocked by poverty you’ve never seen, you don’t have hot water in your hotel, and then you get pick-pocked by a 10 year old. Why would that be a good thing? When you return home, you have the opportunity to be grateful for what you have. And recognizing gratitude daily has been proven to relieve stress and increase happiness.

In my experience, most of the time traveling is fun! New foods, new people, new adventures. And if you’re off work and just living in the moment, that can do wonders for Costa Rica Treehouseyour overworked adrenal glands. When I lived in the Caribbean, I used to back-float in the 90º water and just close my eyes. It felt like I was floating, and I could feel any muscles aches and irritations melting away. We all deserve that feeling! And sometimes it means we remove ourselves from our daily stresses to feel it. (And when you go back to normal life, you have a place in your heart to return to.)

Reason #3: We move more!

This is not always true (there are people who sit in sun chairs and drink margaritas all day when they travel), but for the most part, we move more when we travel. I usually end up walking everywhere, swimming, biking, hiking, and just generally moving. And there’s no time spent sitting behind a computer! So our bodies get a vacation from their usual habits.Yoga Vacation

Reason #4: Enjoying Your New Comfort Zone

Once you’ve pushed boundaries, tried new foods, new experiences, and have a new stock of amazing memories, you get to go home and enjoy your new comfort zone. What Comfort Zonredoes that mean? Well, there could be a lot of things that make you uncomfortable, or things that scared you. Once you face your fears, it’s no longer a fear or discomfort. Are you self-conscious alone at a party? Well once you sit at a bar alone with no one that even speaks your language, that shouldn’t be as scary! Freaked out by new food? Once you’ve checked out the roasted insect vendors, curry should seem pretty tame. Nervous dancing in front of people? Once you’ve been dragged into a salsa dance in front of locals and looked pretty silly, but laughed with them, a club should seem like nothing to fret about.

The less things that cause us La Guajira Colombiadiscomfort, the less stressful and more fun life can be!

 

Tips to make travel as healthy as possible:

  • Instead of an “all-you-can-eat/drink” cruise, take a yoga vacation or sports trip.
  • Instead of staying at American chain resorts, stay in a local place and try the local, homemade fair. (Chain hotels usually served canned imported food.)
  • Don’t just hangout at the hotel, go out and explore and meet new people!
  • Don’t drink the water. Please. Just don’t.
  • Be wary of raw vegetables. Fruits with a peal are usually fine, but salads and such can be a danger zone for travelers. (Raw meat even more so.)

And if you’re looking for something that has it all, come join me for a yoga vacation to Peru! Daily homemade meals included, professional guides, daily yoga, hikes, wildlife viewing, fresh air and all the fun you can think of.

Amazon Tour

Peru Machu Picchu Yoga Retreat

 

Amazon and Macchu Picchu New Year’s Yoga Retreat!

Amazon and Macchu Picchu New Year’s Yoga Retreat!
Yoga Retreat in Peru

 

Register Here

Come join me in the rainforest and the Sacred Valley of Peru. Traveling is one of my favorite things, and South America is my favorite place. I’d love to share my South-American adventures with you, and I have 12 days of pure awesome planned. Check out the information on my retreat page.

New Year Yoga RetreatWe will start the trip with 5 days in the Amazon Rainforest. We’ll be taking boats down the Amazon, to see fauna and wildlife that only exist here. WhereAmazon Yoga Retreat else can you feed and swim with pink dolphins? There’s also monkeys, sloths, fish, and “pre-historic” birds. We’ll also get the rare opportunity to visit an indigenous tribe, seeing how they live their life on the river, while meeting with their Shaman. This will culminate in a  Amazon New Year’s celebration!

After, we will fly to the Sacred Valley, where you can see history everywhere. (Since I studied anthropology, I really go crazy for this stuff. The origin of gold as a currency? Ancient cities high in the Andes? A fountain that was been flowing for thousands of years? Structures only viewable from the air???? Ahhhhhhhh!!!) We will visit the famed Machu Picchu, and exploNew Year Yoga Retreatre the ancient Pisac ruins. We will visit a local market, and explore the streets and history of the awesome city of Cuzco.

And I forget to mention…all of this unforgettable travel experience, plus a daily yoga practice! We will explores all the wonderful structures of our body, while learning techniques or self-healing. Everyone will get their own “Yoga Tune Up” massage balls, which you can take home with you along with tools for structural maintenance. If you weren’t convinced by exploring the Andes or seeing tree-frogs, then the education of your muscles should be worth it in and of itself. : ) New Year Peru Holiday

So please feel free to contact me with any questions! And view my official retreat page for detailed information. I look forward to seeing you in Peru!
Machu Picchu Yoga Holiday

Hip-Opening Yoga Sequence

Hip-Opening Yoga Sequence

As a continuation to my yoga video series, this video focusing on the hips! Tight hips can be the cause of many other pains, and many muscles are connected to our very mobile hip joint. The hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, and all the glute muscles (glute min, glute med, glute max and piriformis) are connected to the hip and pelvis. So here are 9 simple hip-openers that you can do at home. (Or at the office, maybe you can inspire your coworkers!)

So find some relaxing music and follow along:

 

Beginner Friendly Yoga Routine

Beginner Friendly Yoga Video!

Not everyone can get to a yoga studio or hire a private yoga instructor. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to do yoga in the comfort of your own home! So here’s a beginner friendly yoga routine in my youtube video series. This one is great for beginner’s or advanced yoga practitioners. I give several options for classic poses, since an injury or tightness may mean a certain pose is not optimal for you.
Some of the poses covered are:

  • downward dog
  • dolphin/dolphin supinate
  • cobra
  • plank
  • turbo plank with active serratus
  • crescent pose
  • runner’s lunge
  • bridge pose
  • yogic breathing
  • spinal twist
  • cat-cow
  • bird-dog
  • core work
  • child’s pose

So find some relaxing music, and follow along!

Booty Workout Video!

Booty Workout Video

For my series of workout videos, here is one that is close to my heart: a strength workout for your booty! I love love love glute activation for many reasons; it’s an important element for men and women. The added benefit is a balanced, well defined butt. : )

There are many benefits of proper glute activation. When the glute muscles are used properly:

  • It takes pressure off your low-back, reducing low back pain.
  • It takes pressure off your knees, since it stops the “quad dominant” walk.
  • It helps for knee/back issues when walking, climbing stairs, etc.
  • A workout that balances all of the glute muscles can balance out your hips. Having properly aligned hips is very important. An entire host of issues can come from unbalanced hips, including walking gate issues.
  • You can make better strength gains, especially for squats and deadlifts.
  • It makes your butt look great! (As a woman, I can say that I appreciate great glutes in a guy. So this is not only for woman.)

So please turn out your favorite workout music and follow along. The exercises in the video include:

  • Glute bridges
  • Clamshells
  • Reverse Clamshells
  • Sideways Leg-lifts
  • Split Squats
  • Hip Thrusts

Enjoy your new glutes!

At Home Full-Body Fat Burning 12-Minute Core and Legs Workout

At Home Full Body Fat Burning 12-Minute Core and Legs Workout

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile, but that’s because there’s been doing some exciting new endeavors! I’ve teamed up with Larry from The Natural Guide to bring you professional quality workout videos and yoga videos.

Here’s our first one! Work your core, obliques, legs and butt; made for anyone as you can choose your intensity level. I give options for advanced, moderate, and beginner. Just choose for favorite music and follow along!

 

 

Paleo vs Vegetarian

The Paleo Diet versus the Vegan diet and Vegetarians:

As you may have noticed, I do not “promote” any specific diet on this website. I post science-based nutrition, cover all the diet-types, and try to keep a neutral stance whenever possible. I believe that every body is different, every mind is different, and every person has their own needs and limitations. (Especially since the mind plays and even larger role in how our body reacts than just the chemistry from food.)

That being said, I am pretty sick of being bombarded by proponents of the Paleo Diet. Since I work in the fitness world, I get to hear about it day in and day out. I also get randomly accused of being “unhealthy” because of my compassionate stance towards animals, just because someone sees what I’m eating for lunch.

I don’t like to push my personal dietary choices on other people, but I got to say, I’m pretty sick of everyone pushing there’s on me. So, I decided to talk about the Paleo diet from a anthropology perspective. And I wanted to show some awesome vegetarian and vegan athletes. So enjoy, and let me know what experiences you have had!

Should I eat a low-fat diet?

 Should I eat a low-fat diet? Is saturated fat bad for me?

The low-fat diet has been around for many decades, and I still hear nutritionists touting it as a the main way to lose weight. But does a low-fat diet really help you lose bodyfat? Is saturated fat evil? Will low-fat yogurt fix all of my problems?

In short, the answer is…no. But that’s a bit too simple.

And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting a high-fat diet. or at least not a diet filled with fried foods and cheeseburgers. You can go overboard with anything, and I’ve seen some meals that could cause heart palpitations by sight alone. (Creamy Alfredo with bacon, ham, and butter, anyone?) But except for extreme overuse, integrating fats into your diet can be incredibly helpful, it’s really the source of the fat you need to worry about.

Fat can help make us feel more full, and keep our sugar cravings and low-blood sugar attacks at bay. Our body uses fat for various repairs and energy; and I actually lost a lot of weight when I stopped my low-fat habits. It’s been proven that there have been more heart problems and fat-gain once the low-fat diet gained popularity.

coconut oilThe video below describes the simple chemical make-up of the different types of fat. I’ve also written an article with similar information giving the chemical make-up of the different fats, and another article about the dangers of vegetable oil. Start there to get an idea of the science behind it. But here are my basic suggestions:

Saturated Fat:
Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap, but it’s actually an important part of our diet. Our brains use it, and our cells use it for elasticity. Like any calorie, it’s also a form of energy. And it’s actually easier for our body to convert fat into energy than it is to convert protein into energy! So I purposely make sure that fat is included in most of my meals. I prefer saturated fats from vegetable sources, since the medium chain triglycerides are a quick source of energy, and most vegetable sources have other benefits (coconuts are magical). But fat is very “dense” in calories, so don’t overdo it. If you eat animal protein, you’re automatically getting saturated fat, and I wouldn’t suggest adding any more. There are various amounts of saturated fat in most oils and plant foods, the percentage just varies greatly. I’m only listing the sources that contain a large percentage.
Here are the common sources of saturated fat:

  • Meat of any kind
  • Dairy (cheese, milk, butter, and all other forms of dairy).
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil

Monounsaturated Fat:
Monounsatured fat is found mostly in plant sources. (Olives, nuts, seeds, etc.) The most common source is olive oil. Saturated fat is the most stable, but monounsaturated is the second most stable. Unsaturated molecules are “empty” and are open to becoming rancid or destroyed by heat. If unprocessed and unheated, then this fat is very healthy. In monounsatured fats there is only one molecule that is “unsaturated,” so the rest of the fat is stable, and it will only get partially destroyed. This is safe to eat raw, or at a very low heat. Most plant sources have both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, but they have a varying percentage of each. Here’s the ones that are high in monounsaturated and low in poly:

  • Olive Oil
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Hazelnuts

 Polyunsaturated Fat:

Polyunsaturated fat has several unsaturated molecules. This makes it very unstable, and easily susceptible to damage. In a raw, unprocessed form, these fats can be very good for you. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both polyunsaturated fats. But…most of these oils can be damaged just in the processing to make them, so they’re often already destroyed by the time you buy them. I never cook with polyunsaturated fats, and I use them more as a supplement (like cold-pressed chia seed oil or flax oil.) You also get these fats when you eat nuts, seeds, or other plant products. There are even trace amounts in animal fats, although it’s usually destroyed by cooking.
Here are some common polyunsaturated fat sources:

  • Safflower Seed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Chia Seed Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Sunflower Seeds

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free, Vegan, and Peanut Free!)

Salted “Peanut Butter” Cookies (peanut free)

Sunbutter Cookies I had a baking session with my good friend Aaron Ribant from Seriously Ripped Abs. (Really, though, you have to check out his abs.) We were making a healthier, starch-free version of peanut butter cookies. He’s also a photographer, so I was excited to get some gorgeous photos, and I wanted to perfect the recipe for a dinner party. Then I got the email from a attendee: “Just to let you know, I have a serious peanut allergy. Like, peanuts = death.”Oh no! My dessert plans were foiled. But not to fear, for sunflower seed butter came to my rescue.

When you have a loved one who’s allergic to peanut butter, (whether it’s a sensitivity or eminent death), it’s challenging to find an alternative. Almond butter is good in its own way, but it really doesn’t satisfy a peanut butter craving.

Sunflower Seed ButterLuckily, I have discovered the magic of sunflower seed butter (aka sunbutter). It’s got such a great flavor and smooth texture, and it’s the closest thing to peanut butter than I’ve found.

Sunflower seeds are also very nutrient dense, so much so that I’ve done an entire article on them! See my food spotlight for nutritional information on sunflower seeds.

These peanut butter cookies are also gluten free, vegan, paleo friendly, and delicious. Let me know if you come up with any fun variations! And check out the normal recipe with peanut butter on Aaron’s blog.

Ingredients:

½ cup almond flour*

½ cup cashew meal*

¼  teaspoon sea salt Sunbutter Cookies

coarse salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup creamy sunbutter (or peanut butter, if you’re not worried about allergies).

¼ cup honey/agave nectar/maple syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil or vegan shortening**

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Cashew Meal/Flour has recently become available, and I find that gluten free cookies come out creamier and sweeter when used. But, if you don’t have any available to you, you can just use almond flour instead. Trader Joe’s seems to be the cheapest place to find these ingredients, but you can also order them in bulk on Amazon.

**If using peanut butter, increase to 2 tbsp.

Directions:

In a food processor or a bowl, place all ingredients. If using a food processor, blend until smooth. In a bowl, use a hand blender or a whisk until ingredients are completely mixed. (If mixing by hand, mGluten Free Cookie Batterake sure that there aren’t any clumps or “pockets” of certain ingredients sticking together).

Take spoonfuls of dough (about 1 Tbsp) and scoop the onto a well-greased or parchment-lined pan. Use a fork to flatten in a criss-cross pattern, similar to a peanut butter cookie.

Bake at 350° for 5-9minutes until golden around the edges

While the cookies are still warm, sprinkle the coarse salt over the top of each cookie. You won’t need much.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TOUCH COOKIES UNTIL COOL. Once they’ve cooled off, the cookies hold together nicely. But when they’re fresh out of the oven, they will fall into a pile of crumples if you attempt to remove them from the pan too soon. To expedite the process, I will place the pan on a pot-holder in the fridge for 5 minutes.

Once they’re cool enough to be solid, carefully remove from the pan and enjoy!

Sunbutter Cookie Recipe

Quick Easy Meals: Carbs

The most controversial element of a modern meal: The carbohydrate. In the last decade or so, the dreaded “carb” has become a macronutrient of dispute. (Previously, the most demonized macronutrient was fat.) The Paleo folks love to tell me how our caveman ancestors just ate meat and vegetables, and that carbs and grains are the cause of all modern ailments.

I hate the pull the “credential” card, but I do have a degree in Anthropology. I’ve read books upon books of pollen samples, indigenous garbage heap study, and bone/tissue testing. I’ve also stayed with tribal people, and read countless reports from field anthropologists. And you know what all of these studies have in common? That the food of tribal life was centered around a main carbohydrate source. (The only exception being the Inuits of Alaska/Cananda, since they spent much of the year in winter. But this is such a tiny tiny percentage of all tribal people, they are the exception and not the rule. They also showed signs of aging faster than almost all other tribes.)

Healthy CarbohydratesCarbs are a great energy source; our body uses them more efficiently than protein or fat. (Our body uses fat more efficiently than protein, protein is the least efficient source of energy, and our body has the most difficult time converting it to energy. That does not mean that we shouldn’t eat protein, but that shouldn’t be our prime energy source.)

But I digress, because the point of the video below is not to argue why you should eat carbohydrates, but how you can cook them quickly and easily. When tasks are simple and time-efficient, it’s more likely that you will follow through and eat home-cooked meals more often. If something is too difficult, most people will choose an easier option (like the drive-through or eating out.)

This video will give you some ideas, and I will follow up with quick meal ideas for protein and vegetables.

In summary:

Cook a large amount of a healthy carb on an afternoon off. Choose a designated day and time each week, and block off your schedule for your cooking prep day. I choose a different carb each week, so that I’m eating a variety of food. (Choosing seasonal food has bonus advantages.)
I’ll boil a bag of colored potatoes, a big pot of brown rice, or a large amount of gluten-free pasta. (Remember, for carbs, show-release carbohydrates that contain fiber will be healthier than quick burning white starch. So brown rice is better than white flour.) I refrigerate (or even freeze) the weekly carb, then come up with different dishes I can make with that.
For example: for brown-rice pasta, I can make:
*A oven-roasted vegetable pasta dish
*Eggs/cheese/mushroom pasta scrample
*Asian-style sesame pasta with tempeh and enoki mushrooms.

So the possibilities are endless….you can do the same thing with some organic, colored fingerling potatoes:
*Shepard’s pie
*Breakfast scrample with roasted turnips and cauliflower
*Olive oil, rosemary, and veggie oven roasted potatoes.
And since the potatoes/rice/pasta is already cooked, you just have to heat it up with the veggies! My meals take me an average of 15 minutes, since I have everything prepped ahead of time. A couple hours on a Sunday can save you tons of time and money the rest of the week!