Holistic Health: My Road to Wellness

It's not exactly fair to blame Tahoe for my gradual shift to a holistic lifestyle in these past few months. In reality, I blame my peace love and understanding parents for weaving a natural life of teas and herbs to help tummy aches with cost-saving poison for dinner, consisting of Sizzleburgers and a mug of Tahitian Treat. I knew what McDonald's was but I also knew the difference between fresh carrot juice versus carrot juice in a can. When my mother started getting sick, she flew head first into homeopathy. Apple cider vinegar cleanses, juice cleanses, special diets, teas, supplements and herbs were a part of my growing up.

So now I would like to sing a love song to Yin Chiao and Evening Primrose Oil.

Reflecting on the past ten years (yeah, wow, woof) from 19 to 29, I've lived a terribly unhealthy lifestyle. A huge chunk of that time consisted of college life (no sleep, no money, binge drinking, female drama) and being a poor graduate student (all college life minus female drama plus existential crises and tweed blazers). Without meeting my basic needs of sleep and good food, it's hard to focus on bettering your health when you don't have the means. And now with more time, money and resources (I live in Northern California), nearing 30, I felt like it was time to make some major changes.

1.) First life change: I ingest enough chemicals. Time to cut out the daily extras.
I've been on birth control for 10 years, and besides a 4-5 month break in 2010 (see: poor graduate student), it's been consistent but varying forms of hormones. Then, in my first teacher year riddled with severe sinus infections that my doctor related to untreated allergies, I was put on a daily pill as I was "allergic to dust and pollen," meaning year-round allergies would plague me. When I did get the eventual sinus infection, it became rounds of antibiotics, strong decongestants to get through the day and codeine-laced cough syrup to sleep. But with rising costs in both birth control and daily allergy pills as well as severe side effects of being on "something" for a long time, I decided to just quit it all and see what my body would do. (Note: birth control has been linked to depression and anxiety. NO WAY.)

My allergies regulated quickly, but I got a mild cold about a week later. Nothing needing medical attention and now months later, I barely have any symptoms. The effects of coming off birth control have been a little more visible with oily hair and skin and more frequent breakouts.

2.) NO MORE decongestants, sleeping aids, "Day Quil" and minimal Advil.

It was funny how some sicknesses come on extremely fast, kind of like a really strong wind throws you sideways. It was my first time getting that sick here. I was at my second job and as my boss is in the natural health field, she immediately threw supplements at me, told me to go home and get some rest. "This is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, this is an immunity booster and this is a Chinese supplement that used to keep the ancient emperors alive."
Okay. I have learned to come at "weirdness" here (what is weirdness?) with a positive attitude. It helps to accept people, as they have a right to be whoever they are, without being labeled as anything but nice people. You should do the same.
The pairing of juicing in the morning for breakfast and a strict routine of oil of oregano between meals and Yin Chiao before breakfast and after dinner had me feeling 75% better within 24 hours. Paul started feeling sick a couple weeks later and found the same regimen had him nearly back to normal in a day.  And it's such a strange feeling to actually be able to feel your body working against infection. I'm so used to taking pain-numbing medication that just puts you in a fog until you're better, but taking supplements that actually help your body naturally fight is somewhat powerful. And I haven't been sick since.

Being sick here is altogether different. People take health seriously. If you're sick, you don't go to work, sometimes for days if need be, and that's what everyone does. There is absolutely no value in coming to work when you don't feel good and people think you're insane if you attempt it. Therefore, sickness is usually shorter as you are allowed to stay home at the first sign (allowed sounds weird). I've always been in a war with myself when it comes to time off, but as I have learned, your leader sets the tone. As she has taken off when she didn't feel well, it's easier to justify. And for the first time in my teaching career, I took a personal "mental health" day and didn't think twice about it. And it felt amazing.

3.) Juicing. Every day. For breakfast.

I had a million concerns: I'll be hungry in two hours! It will taste like dirty salad water! I like oatmeal (the food, and also the animal)!

But once I got into the rhythm, it not only saved time (didn't have to cook breakfast!) but also provided me more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamins (spirulina is BOSS) and protein to get me to lunch easily. It has also given me a TON of energy, has kept me regular (something I have never ever had) and I've dropped 2.5 pant sizes not to mention making my monthly cramps, aches, fatigue and headaches disappear.  I ALSO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I've had such bad sporadic insomnia since grad school and this has completely disappeared, which may be because of altitude as my body works harder just breathing up in these mountains. But either way, juicing is kind of a miracle drink. No joke. And when I have time to cook breakfast, I do it on those magical weekend mornings in my donut-patterned jams.

4.) Working out. Woof.

I have hated this my whole life, sans yoga and dancing. Besides the sporadic free yoga I attended in the summer, I haven't done anything. Once the days started getting shorter and hiking season started to wind down, Paul and I knew we had to start something to keep our mood and energy up through the weekday winter days (we'll be on the slopes on the weekend). So we started Insanity. Four times a week. I died the first week but it's become quite manageable and a fun way to boost energy in the evening. It also gives us another activity together which always rules.

Tahoe yoga is so great. Not only are there at least 4 yoga studios on the drive home, but nearly all offer a $30 for 30 days deal. Eve and I are starting a month session today and I couldn't be happier getting back into yoga. It's always been my favorite way to workout.

5.) Only coffee on the weekends.

Yep. I know. Me. The one who planned on getting matching coffee tattoos with Lindsay for years. I have been OBSESSED with coffee since my first cappuccino at 14. I love the taste, the way it makes me feel, the smell, the process of buying/making it and nearly all coffee-flavored food items. I even really love chocolate covered espresso beans. But I've known for an equally long time that it murders my sensitive stomach and before moving, I was drinking half a pot by myself in the morning and a diet soda for lunch, sometimes giving me tunnel vision, intense afternoon crashes and blurred thinking. So. Much. Caffeine. If I chose to sleep in on the weekends, I would be woken up by a really terrible caffeine headache. Just ridiculous.
My whole life has been dealt with in either/or thinking, so I've tried to quit completely and drink tea and it never worked. Instead, I'm drinking coffee on the weekends, but just yerba mate on weekday mornings. No more headaches, less stomach woes and nothing really lost. Win.

6.) Resist urge to get back on the pill and/or go to the dermatologist and start crazy acne meds.
It took a couple of weeks, but just like in 2010 when I came off the pill, I started having unusually oily hair and way more breakouts than I'm used to. My hormones have been regulated by a decade of birth control so it's no wonder why my body kind of doesn't know how to regulate all that stuff going on in there. It bummed me out for a while, so much so that I thought about trying another form of birth control just to escape the oil farm growing on my head.

But that's not what I wanted. So I did some research.

I found Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) on a holistic health blog. This lady had the exact same problem as me and began some natural skin care regimens while taking EPO three times a day. She had great results.

I started Vitamin A, Zinc and EPO supplements as well as switching to an all-natural tinted moisturizer. In three days, I see a marked difference. My hair is less oil-slicky, my breakouts are normalizing and I feel awesome. Some websites (like WebMD) state that there has been no medically proven benefits to taking EPO. Other (natural health) websites have pages of testimonials of women with more severe cases than me, praising the use of EPO and its effects on their hormonal balancing, skin, arthritis, eczema. So, go do a medical study on those ladies. Or me. Oh Western medicine.....

7.) Just fish. No meat.

If you know me, you know my love affair with vegan/vegetarian cuisine. I've called myself a part-time veggie when living in the Midwest and truthfully find eating animal flesh really gross. I only ate it out of convenience these past couple of years, with intermittent months of being vegetarian. But being here, in a place that almost always has tasty veggie/fish options and super affordable grocery store veggie options, it's so easy to live a pescatarian life. My meat-eating hus-friend has even embraced it more than part-time and can be seen eating more fish, veggie ground beef and black beans.

(Also, cows have best friends, chickens and turkeys are gross and pigs are smarter than dogs. I'm okay with eating fish because I know how to catch and gut them and I don't feel that bad.)

8.) I drink at least 74 ounces of water a day.

Altitude sickness happens fast when you're dehydrated so I drink more water than ever. It's helped all of the things including my longing for soda at lunch time.

So many easy, simple life changes has helped my anxiety, depression, stress, sleep and waistline more than any diet or pill ever has. But, most importantly, they all work together and affect everything. Juicing not only helps my appetite, energy, sleep and waistline but it also affects how fast I bounce back from a sore throat. Working out helps my sleep, my appetite (I crave salt and sugar WAY less) and my ability to climb mountains way better. Cutting out Advil and other pain-numbing meds has taught me that symptoms are your body's way of alerting you of a problem. Headache? Find out why. Maybe you're dehydrated or hungry. Fix the problem and it'll go away. Numb the problem and it'll likely come back. When I listen to my body, I have a better idea of what I need to give it in order to live in my best, most healthy body possible. And it's amazing how much stress and lack of sleep affect everything, from cravings to too much caffeine.

So maybe it's Tahoe's fault or maybe Tahoe just made it easier to get to this point, but I can't imagine my life any other way. I also haven't eaten at a fast food restaurant since June. That's probably Tahoe's fault as the nearest McDonald's is a 30 minute drive.....

How fantastic.