Nov 21

Conquering Acne with Diet

2 Comments / Lifestyle & Health, Personal Growth

Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.

In my last post I talked about how I was winning my battle with hormonal acne through the right mindset. Becoming educated about how acne works and doing my best to maintain a stress-free state has proven to be a great foundation for the rest of my efforts to take care of the condition naturally.

I also mentioned that I was taking up a 30-day meditation challenge. I’m not going to lie to you: I did 30 days, then stopped, only to realize that I really needed to make a short daily meditation part of my daily routine. I openly admit that I can be a bit tightly wound, but meditating has made me more aware of that stress in my body while improving my ability to let it go with an intentional focus on my breathing.

I’m not going to suggest that simply meditating every day is going to make your acne disappear, but reducing stress also reduces chemical reactions in the body that can cause or aggravate acne. Even if you’re skeptical, there are no negative side effects to trying!

But today I want to focus on what I’m eating to improve my acne.

I’m far from perfect, but I do generally try to eat healthily. When I eat meat, it’s mainly poultry, and I try to plan my meals so that I’m only eating it a couple times per week. When I eat fish, I go for the wild caught stuff, and I always check for dyes (did you know a lot of places put dye in farmed salmon to make it look more appealing? Gross!). I also try to plan as many vegetarian or vegan meals as I can, but I make sure they are interesting, delicious, colorful things I’m actually going to want to eat. It helps that I enjoy cooking.

Reading “The Clear Skin Diet” was a tremendous inspiration for maintaining a healthy diet, since it talks about the acne-related nutritional benefits of so many fruits and vegetables. I have learned about so many foods, and it has inspired me to make some tough changes. Below is a list of some of the do’s, don’ts and notes for how I am eating my way to clearer skin:

DO:

  • Eat your fruits and veggies, especially purple and green ones. Fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and plenty of inflammation-fighting benefits have me on the hunt for all kind of colorful foods. I discovered purple sweet potatoes recently, and they are beyond heavenly. I highly recommend those.
  • Eat more fish. Especially varieties that are high in Omega 3s. “The Clear Skin Diet” lists mackerel, anchovies, and sardines as the most beneficial, although salmon is a good choice, too.
  • Go for whole grains. I personally go for oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat naan. Beware of labels that say “contains whole grains.” Sometimes these products are made mainly with enriched wheat products, which are missing important acne-fighting nutrients.
  • Drink tea! The power of green tea, especially matcha, is heavily emphasized as a helpful food for acne. I’m also enjoying a custom blended herbal loose-leaf tea with helpful ingredients like dandelion root, rhodiola, motherwort, and red raspberry leaf. Coffee-drinkers are safe here too, since your brew contains plenty of helpful antioxidants. Just skip the dairy and sugar laden cappa-frappa-mochas.
  • Try drinks with probiotics. I’ve been seeing kombucha everywhere lately, and I have become a big fan of it! Probiotics assist in the production of good bacteria in your gut, which studies suggest may be related to acne. If you’re a soda drinker, there are even kombucha sodas that can give you some fizzy satisfaction without the harmful ingredients.
  • Have some chocolate. What? Really? YES! But only chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. Dark chocolate good. Milk chocolate bad.

DON’T:

  • Don’t consume dairy. Apparently cow’s milk is the devil for acne. I really thought that giving up cheese was going to kill me, but the addition of so many flavorful, colorful and fresh foods have really curbed my craving for it. Of all the don’ts, I think skipping the dairy is the most vital – it has made a visible difference for me. Apparently, it is a major contributor to the inflammation associated with acne. The exception to this rule is yogurt, which is apparently fine for you to consume.
  • Don’t ruin your food with extras. I know it’s tempting to take shortcuts or just sprinkle a little something on top for taste, but every little bit has an effect. Skip the sugar on top, drop the processed foods, and ditch the salt. Instead, try to cook with ingredients and spices that are more flavorful naturally. I swear it’s possible.
  • Don’t give yourself an ultimatum. I know this sounds contradictory, but if you have a craving, either find a better way to satisfy it, or indulge in a little taste. Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself with a belly full of guilt and regret as you skim the bottom of a family-size bag of potato chips. It happens.
  • Don’t forget to plan ahead. For me, meal planning is essential when committing to a healthy diet. I think most people have a hard time because they just aren’t looking forward to eating a pile of steamed vegetables for dinner – I’m not a huge fan myself. If that doesn’t sound great to you, sites like Instagram and Pinterest are full of ideas that are actually appetizing. Figure out what looks good to you before raiding the produce section. I also recommend planning because – obvious statement – fresh things go bad. If you purchase produce without a plan, you’ll end up tossing a significant portion of it in the trash. That’s my experience, anyway.

NOTES:

  • If you’re a cheese lover like me, you’re just not going to make it without a replacement! Avocado has been a lifesaver. I put it on sandwiches, blend it into a creamy sauce for rice and pasta, and it’s excellent with hard boiled eggs for breakfast. It’s creamy, versatile, and guilt free!
  • For breakfast, smoothies are an excellent option. Mine usually consist of ice, spinach, a sweet apple, a banana, another fruit of choice, half of a carrot, chia seeds, flax seeds, wheat germ, and almond milk. The options are endless, so experiment and find what works for you.
  • Search for vegan options. There are some that might not get you salivating, but look around with an open mind. If you want to make a dish (specifically dessert) without the dairy, it’s a great way to find alternatives.
  • Target your weaknesses. Everyone has obstacles, whether it’s a hectic schedule or a craving that just won’t quit. If you know what is most likely to sabotage your diet, make it your mission to find a way around it. If you don’t have time, try recipes you can cook in batches. If you’re low on cash, stick to ingredients that are in season. Healthy doesn’t have to be an inconvenience.

If you’d like a little inspiration, you can peek at my Instagram to see what I’ve been cooking. I have a lot of delicious, acne-friendly recipes coming up, so I will undoubtedly post a roundup of my favorites soon!

If you have any other questions about helping your acne through diet, feel free to post your questions in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them, but I’d also like to reiterate my recommendation for you to read “The Clear Skin Diet” by Alan C. Logan and Valori Treloar. It is absolutely packed with essential information.

If you have some favorite healthy recipes, share them below!

 

Sep 24

It’s (Partially) in Your Head

1 Comment / Personal Growth, Reviews

"A head full of fears has no space for dreams." - Unknown

In my last post, I talked about how I am braving the world sans makeup. It’s not an ultimadum or some fad — it’s about breaking the cycle of chronic acne.

Instead of turning to pharmaceuticals and chemical products, I’m trying to find a more natural path to healthy, happy skin. Since this isn’t my first ride on the DIY skincare train, I already know a bit, but this time around is proving much more intense as I combat the side effects of coming off hormonal birth control. So in addition to my usual crunchy recipes, which I’ll get to in an upcoming post, I’m forming a much broader view of how I can change my lifestyle to help my skin find balance and heal.

I’m no doctor, but I think it’s safe to say that you’re more likely to make better decisions if you understand your condition and how it works. The more I read about acne, the more I realize that what I put in my brain — information as well as messaging — is very important.

Does that sound silly to you? I wouldn’t blame you if it did. But acne can have very real psychological effects, which in turn can have very real effects on the body.

My first line of mental defense against acne was getting educated about my diet and habits. I figured I was probably doing some things to exacerbate the problem, but the Internet is a big place with plenty of conflicting advice from people that aren’t worth trusting. I know I don’t want anyone to read my blog thinking I’m the final word on curing acne! But if you’re going through a similar struggle (or know someone who is), I want you to read my blog knowing you’ll be pointed to some high quality resources that have truly helped me.

If you’re looking to get educated about acne and what you can do to help it get out of your life, I strongly suggest reading “The Clear Skin Diet” by Alan C. Logan and Valori Treloar. I’ll warn you, this isn’t a puffball beauty read — it’s full of scientific studies and medical research. The authors do an amazing job of connecting the dots between the human body’s many fragile systems and conditions. Before reading it, I would have laughed if you told me that cow milk was evil and that acne had anything to do with diabetes. Logan and Treloar also make the material feel very accessible.

“The Clear Skin Diet” is not an outline of some fad diet that makes any promises, and the authors are very upfront about that, but it is a very thorough look at lifestyle choices you make that could be affecting your skin and your life. Reading it made me feel empowered to live my life in a way that is both enjoyable and good for me.

One of the most astonishing things I have read in the book discussed how some acne sufferers have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety more intense than those suffering from diabetes and even epilepsy. I know from my experiences that acne is more than some pithy, temporary surface affliction. It can have the power of a wrecking ball, tearing down your self image, relationships, and general social functioning.

That’s why I needed a second line of mental defense against acne: Stress elimination. Negative self-talk is like junk food. It’s easy to diminish ourselves, and it continues to be easier the more we do it. If I was going to make the commitment of cutting the junk out of my diet, I knew I had to cut the junk out of my inner monologue, too.

The enemy of negative self-talk is being present. All of those depreciating thoughts are in my head, so the solution is knowing how to get out of my head, right? My goal: More being, less thinking.

Meditation isn’t a simple solution, but it is an excellent one once you have the hang of it. I love using calm.com for my beginner-level meditative needs. With gorgeous backgrounds, relaxing music and refreshing nature sounds — all available for free — it’s an easy way to get started or form a routine. Try their guided meditations or just use their timer function while you realign your mind.

If you do feel the need to get in your head again, think happy thoughts! Write yourself encouraging notes, talk to yourself in the mirror, or do whatever you have to do to climb out of that self-pitying hole you’re digging! The change doesn’t happen overnight, but if you can manage to sprinkle a little positivity here and release a little stress there, you’ll find that your self-esteem doesn’t need to rely solely on the perfection of your skin. In fact, it mightn’t need to have anything to do with that at all. What a thought.

For the next 30 days, I’m challenging myself to meditate for at least 5 minutes in the morning. After day one, I can already feel the benefits, but I’ll be sure to report back on that soon.

What are your go-to methods for stress relief or positive messaging? How has adjusting your mindset helped you overcome something physical?

Sep 16

Daring to Go Bare

1 Comment / Featured, Personal Growth

What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. - Anna Quindlen

I am not perfect.

That may be an obvious statement, but writing it also feels like a confession. Despite my Type-A tendencies, I spend most of my time quite comfortable with the idea that I am a project in progress. But when I have to wear my flaws on my face, I turn into a totally different person.

I have struggled with acne since I was in middle school. Back then, the ugliness of it all was tempered by the fact that everyone my age was an awkward mess. It got worse in cycles through high school and college, which had predictable social effects, but I tried to buff my way through the worst of it with mounds of makeup. At that point, my poor skin was so inflamed that I knew I couldn’t fake my way to a perfect complexion, but I merely hoped that I could find confidence in blending in. All I wanted was to know that when someone was looking at me, they could see something beyond this red bumpy mask that hid who I really was.

Years of treatments proved effective only temporarily. In those reprieves, my confidence soared, and I felt like my whole life got easier. There was so much more time and energy I could direct to the things I loved, and when I stepped out into the world, the way I looked finally felt like a reflection of who I was. I stopped wondering what other people were thinking as they passed me on the street. I think I saw the world differently, too.

Ironically, when I decided to nix some elements of my lifestyle that didn’t align with my goals to live more naturally, my body went into another one of those terrible transition periods. As I try to make new friends and start building a life for myself in Seattle, I’m once again wearing that mask, hoping people will bother to see behind it.

I have been tempted to go back to my old medications, my old products, my old habits – anything to make the discomfort go away. Instead, I have committed even more deeply to a natural lifestyle, knowing that this transition is, by nature, temporary. Although it takes time, I know that I can help myself be happier and healthier if I just continue to follow through with my vision. Instead of pills and chemicals, I’m using diet and natural remedies to fix the problem from the inside out. In the short term, it doesn’t feel fast enough, but in the long term I will be proud of myself for finding a sustainable, natural solution I can incorporate into my daily life.

In the meantime, I make my confession: I am not perfect. In the meantime, I wear my imperfections on my face. Slowly, I build the courage to go out without makeup, knowing that trying to conceal my flaws doesn’t help them heal. Burying my flaws in makeup doesn’t make me like myself any more when I wash up for bed; it only makes me think that I couldn’t be accepted any other way.

Maybe first impressions will be a little harder, but I am resolving to limit my makeup use as much as possible. No one is perfect, and just like I don’t want to be defined by my acne, I don’t want to be defined by a false sense of perfection. When I hide my flaws, I am putting conditions on the love I have for myself. My fears are superficial and illogical: I am afraid that I could not be loved when I am so obviously imperfect, when the truth is that I cannot experience the love of others if I do not first love myself unconditionally – without the makeup.

Everyone has flaws, and we are all trying to find ways to heal. Sometimes we just have to bear our truth, and wear a smile while we fight our fight – whatever it is. Whether your challenge is something you wear on the outside or fight with on the inside, we can’t always keep it together during those terrible transitions.

Rock your flaws, accept yourself, and hold onto your vision. [Tweet this]

 

Sep 5

Beware of the Beige

No Comments / Personal Growth

don't-live-the-same-year

Technically, it’s still summer, but I can’t be the only one noticing the first changing leaves and those first crisp winds of fall. Labor Day weekend always seems to signal the unofficial shift out of summer by giving us one last long weekend of carefree fun before we slink into our favorite sweaters and seek comfort foods to warm us up for the season ahead.

After all of the high energy events of spring and summer, I get excited about fall because it’s a time to wind down and focus on fun traditions. Now, I in no way mean to suggest that carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds isn’t an awesome way to spend your time, but I am challenging myself and you to beware of “the beige effect.”

While researching a piece I’m writing for work, I came across an article that discussed how companies increase the “beige” by picking people who are like themselves or who can fulfill a long list of arbitrary requirements that don’t fit the real needs of a position. I started thinking about how we do this in other areas of our lives, too.

I think it’s so easy to get so caught up in our favorites, our traditions, and our little creature comforts that we let the world get smaller around us until we wake up one February morning hung over with cabin fever. When you crawl into those cozy habits, it’s like painting your life with beige.

You are way too interesting for a beige life.

Finding inspiration and energy to keep things fresh seems a lot easier when things are blooming and lush, but the saddest thing we can do is let the world seem so small that it’s boring.

Instead of falling into the beige, keep searching for ways to get out into the world to remember how big it is. Try out a new look, or tag along with a friend who has an interesting hobby, or just go to a new part of town and go for a walk — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just don’t use this weather as an excuse to retreat!

As for me, in full socializing mode. There’s no blanket comfy enough to deter me from attending random events on meetup.com, discovering every cafe in walkable distance, and learning how to overcome the alleged “Seattle Freeze.”

How are you fighting the beige effect?

Aug 23

Don’t Call It A Comeback

2 Comments / Personal Growth

let-go-or-be-dragged

In the case of Habitually Hopeful, absence has not necessarily made the heart grow fonder, but it certainly has grown guiltier. I can’t tell you how many times my heart sank in the last couple months. I was constantly mulling over all of my ideas in passing, but had no real time to give to the blog.

In my last post I wrote about how I was doing my part to support my significant other as he made a difficult but important transition. In addition, I took on most of the planning for our cross country move from Detroit to Seattle. I also officially started my own business as a writer and editor. After adding that to the normal obligations of everyday life and the pressure I felt to say goodbye to as many people as possible, I made a conscious decision to put down my blog for a little while. Instead of being weighed down by that guilt, I gave myself the freedom to do what was best for me at the time.

I’d like to say that I hadled the stress with absolute grace, but let’s be real. The process of tackling all these transitions at once brought out the best and the worst of me. I was simultaneously enslaved and saved by my compulstive list making. I was heartbroken but empowered by all the things were able to sell and give away. I overanalyzed how every penny and minute was spent. I had a breakdown when my car wasn’t selling, then had another when it did. If you’ve read “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown, I can sum it up by saying that every step towards our goal came with the overwhelming feeling of scarcity. There was never enough of anything, and nothing was ever enough.

Even though we had been planning to make this dream a reality for well over a year, I could hear that little voice in my head fantasizing about how much easier it would be to just save my time and money by staying in Michigan. The only time I could recall having so much stress was working on my senior thesis in undergrad. It was a very raw time.

Five years later, I noticed two major differences that allowed me to keep pushing through the doubt, the scarcity, and the fear. This time around I had awareness on my side, and because I was aware, I could communicate my way through the setbacks.

Luckily, the process of moving wen’t along without trouble for the most part. In the flash of a moment, we were in our new apartment starting a new life! The funniest part may be that I was expecting to be transformed somehow when I got here, as if breathing in Seattle air would bring my life to some new height. The reality is that things already feel normal.

Don’t mistake that for me saying that it makes no difference, because there are huge differences that I am so grateful for, but life goes on.

Part of my plans for life going on as usual includes updating Habitually Hopeful more often. So, I’d like to thank you for your patience, comments and shares in my absence. I’m so excited to share more thoughts and lessons with you along the upward spiral. :)

May 12

Find Your Inner Guru

2 Comments / Featured, Personal Growth

einstein-quote-intuition

Do you ever wonder how certain people always seem to give good advice? Some would simply call them old souls or suggest they are wise beyond their years, but I think it is a mistake to do so. Your trusted guru may have these talents for reasons that have less to do with who they are, and more to do with what they do.

I believe that we all have a deep well of inner wisdom accessible to us through intuition. The problem for most people is tapping into this resource, especially when our social world encourages us to seek the opinions and expertise of others. All of this input often amounts to little more than overwhelming noise. But looking inward instead of outward is just the first step. Probably the most difficult step in engaging our intuition is moving past our other internal workings. Of course we can’t expect to have a strong connection to our intuitions if we give heed to every temporary emotion or want, but it is the ego that poses the greatest threat to our ability to thrive.

Our egos are a source of rational distraction, defending us from the threat of pain and failure, but also effectively protecting us from our dreams. Ego is often that rational voice of fear telling you why something just won’t work, or suggesting a safer way to get at least part of what you want. I think the ego is almost like a sweat gland in the way it excretes rationalizations and fear when the heat is on. While the ego serves an undeniably useful purpose, we cannot always indulge it and expect to reach the greatest heights.

Sometimes, we just have to sweat it out.

While the ego tries to control uncertainty by keeping us safe and comfortable, our intuition allows us to be resilient to uncertainty. With intuition, we can move forward even when we don’t know the way; we can make decisions based on our core values and our own personal wisdom, tolerating the unknown to continue on a path of growth. Intuition shouldn’t be the only tool you use in your toolbox, and it cannot guarantee that we’re right or that we won’t fail, but making decisions that resonate with who we are is an empowering way to deal with uncertainty.

Sometimes when I think about the future, it seems like standing in front of a blank canvas. If you’ve ever done this, you know it’s an intimidating task. Somehow, who you are and what you want to create is supposed to come through in the finished work. But even when you get in touch with your vision, cultivating the necessary skill to bring it to life takes practice. Likewise, we can stand in the unknown of our futures and, with practice and skill, use our intuition to help design and carve a path forward.

1 2 3 4