Monday, December 28, 2009

Holistic Vanity has moved!

We wanted to upgrade this blog so we are now at - but if you wait a minute or two, this page will automatically redirect for you. See you there in three..two..

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holistic Holidays!

I usually post every Friday - but as it is xmas, I have decided to take some of my own advice and relax.

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 18, 2009

I've Been Watered Down and Fully Grown!

Its finally over!
For those of you who know I've been doing a 30 day water-intake challenge, you know that getting down at least 2 litres a day has been quite the endeavor (lots of moaning and lots of bragging). For the rest of you...well you may be able to tell from this week's blog title that I was a bigger fan of chick rock band Veruca Salt in '97 than I let on.

But giant water gulps and gnarly guitar riffs aside, this is a natural beauty blog. Let's get down to business as report on my results. How does my skin feel? How does my body look?

Well, I am happy to announce (as I predicted) that I look and feel much better. Now, it isn't just that my skin is more hydrated - which was what expected, but a variety of new beauty changes.

Firstly, I have less water-retention. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very conscious of my puffiness. It sort of runs in the family. My mother tracks her puffiness like Ben track the Liverpool scores. I even remember distinctly when she first learnt about rap mogul Puff Daddy aka. Puffy, she exclaimed "Puffy?! Who wants to be Puffy? I try my hardest to avoid being called puffy?!". I still laugh.

But while may people think water-retention is from too much internal water, it often is caused by dehydration. Our bodies hoard and store water when there is a lack of it in our systems creating emergency hydration reserves. So, very early into my water challenge, I found that I woke up in the morning significantly less swolleness in my face - which really brightened my day.

The second positive change I experienced was that I could sleep better. During times of stress (which is often), I usually wake up in the middle of the night for a few hours. This is due to excess heat caused by mental aggravation and excess Pitta in the liver. But because I was drinking a lot of cooling liquids infused with alkalizing chlorophyll, my body felt less internally inflamed allowing me to get a better night's rest. This of course helps everything - your acid level decreases, your bowels work better and you absorb nutrients easier. Your skin reaps the rewards of this overall balance by becoming more vibrant and glowing.

So, with this motivation, I have continued to consume an increased amount of water each day even after the challenge has been completed (Sunday). Nothing promotes change like results. Just the other day, I told a cheese-loving client who struggles with chronic whiteheads and congestion: "Try avoiding dairy for two weeks. When you see your skin improve, it will be like Havarti what?"

I find when we experiment with new challenges it is best to set goals with a set end in sight. A light at the end of the tunnel makes these lifestyle changes seem less daunting, and if we look and feel better, we will fall into a new habit .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Combating a Cold: How Kristen Got her Groove Back

I am officially sick. For the last few days I could feel it creeping up on me, sneakily waiting for just the right moment to strike me with a runny nose, sore throat and sinus ache - but today was the day it made its move to pounce, and pounce it did.

Now, I like everyone else hate being ill. But with Canada's bitter winters, its hard to avoid a cold or flu as the saying "its going around" is almost like a seasonal credo. And its not just the fact you feel awful and are frustratingly unproductive - but its really difficult to maintain poise and exude your usual glamour when you are coughing up excess mucous. A good friend of mine once said "Being sick really cramps your style." And right now my style has been rumpled and crumpled more than my bed linens I am wallowing in right now.

So, in true Pitta form, I believe in strategizing a combat plan - and below is an outline to how I intend to get well with natural, Ayurvedic remedies... How Kristen's gonna get her groove back.

Ginger, Ginger, Ginger: The first thing my mother insists on when she hears I have a cold or flu is a pot of ginger tea. Ginger is excellent as it is both warming and antibacterial. It helps disinfects the throat as you drink it and boosts your immunity. And getting as much of this down as possible is important. This coincides well as I am still on the 30 day water drinking challenge, so I have no excuses and a quota to answer to. But besides drinking ginger tea, I am also going to take a ginger bath. Using organic ginger powder in the bath is an excellent way to support weak immune systems and Dr Lad of the Ayurvedic Institutes recommends this to those who are prone to illness. When doing this, be generous - tonite I will probably be putting in a good 2-3 cups in my bath.

Healing Herbs: If you are quick on the draw (unlike me), you can bypass getting sick at all by taking high amounts of echinacea and golden seal when you feel a cold coming on. But alas, I was not religious about this and fell prey to my own lack of discipline. Now, I will be taking an unorthodox amount of Immune Support from Banyan Botanicals. These caps are simply a blend of different peppers with echinacea. Hot pepper, like ginger is heating and therefore germ-fighting. I have also taken oregano oil in the past - and to those of you who also have taken this, you know that the burning sensation you feel upon taking it indicates that it too is heating. The ever-popular, Don Cherry endorsed Cold FX (How Canadian can you get eh?) is simply ginseng another hot herb.

Another important thing to think about it taking herbs and supplements which move the bowels. Keeping the bowels clean and free of toxins helps the body not accumulates congestion in general. It is also easy to become constipated when sick because you often also become very dehydrated. This is why I also like Immune Support, because its main function is to increase the body's immune function, but its secondary purpose is as a mild laxative.

Sweat it out: Lastly, I think its important to keep the body active and sweat it out. The ginger bath will help this, but more effectively, a hot yoga class will finish the job. Hot yoga is excellent as intensive cardio can be taxing when you are under the weather, but the sheer heat will purge kapha mucous and congestion brought on by colds and flus. After the class, it is imperative that you bundle up despite feeling warm all over as losing your qi and heat after exercise will make you even more ill. Of course, I am very conscious to put my mat in my own secluded corner to stay away from other participants, and if the class it too full to do this, I would forgo participating out of respect for others.

Friday, December 4, 2009

10 Foods for Increasing Skin-hydration

So, as I move through my 30 day 2 litres of water per day challenge, a question I am asked often is "Don't you have to pee all the time"? Well, the answer is: "Yup". But this is due to my body's low kidney energy and compromised system. But I have been finding it actually getting better as I drink more water. Also, I want to emphasize that we cannot drink a litre in a sitting - but sip throughout the day so our bodies can gradually absorb this moisture. I am quite happy with the results of this challange, and those taking it with me have even commented on how their skin feels more hydrated already.

But for those of you who choose to very slowly increase their water-intake to ease themselves into this hydrating habit, I advocate starting with increasing the water content in your diet. Because it is not just about how much water we drink, but how much hydration we absorb. how much we hold onto and how much we get from our foods as well.

Now, my family has been eating water rich foods for as long as I can remember. And being expensive is no excuse not to eat healthy (you would be surprised how often I hear this - and fast food is actually pricier than a trip to the fruit and veggie market). As newly landed immigrants, my grandparents had to find cheap ways to eat fresh foods. I remember my grandmother steaming ice berg lettuce (a lil spice and sesame oil drizzled on this actually makes for a delicous dish). And if you see my grandfather who is well into his 80s springing around, you will see the benefits of water-rich foods. Well, he also does have a flip phone with dangley heart-shaped cellphone charms on it - so I think being young at heart has something to do with it. Nonethless, below are my top ten foods for increasing skin hydration.

1. Celery - I could eat celery all day. Its refreshing and has that little bit of bitter that really cools my heat. Dehydration not only comes from a lack of water, but an excess of heat in our bodies. The heat burns up the water according to Eastern Medicine. Celery, because of its high water -content, also has been said to encourage weight loss as it takes more calories to digest and process than it contains.

2. Watermelon - Watermelon ain't called "water" melon for no reason. This melon is packed with moisture. But those with high kapha need to limit their watermelon consumption (though its hard!) as its high sugar increases Kapha.

3. Flax seed oil -We cannot just think of fruits and veggies which increase our hydration, but oils are also important. Like with our skin creas, oils help protect as a barrier against water loss and also lubricate our digestive track to help us elminiate and detoxify hardened toxins. Cold-pressed flax oil is especially good for our skin. I used to travel with caps of flax seed oil as it helped me prevent eczema break outs triggered from airplane flights. They were a lifesaver.

4. Beansprouts - Another cheap, cheap veggie. Beansprouts are not as rich in nutrients as other vegetables, but their water-content can't be disputed.

5. Bell Peppers -I love using red, yellow and orange bell peppers in my cooking as they give dishes a beautiful rainbow of colour. According to many holistic nutritionists, you should be eating at least three different coloured fruits and vegetables a day to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients.

6. Strawberries -Strawberries are not only excellent for hydration because they are full of moisture, but also their seeds are fantastic for encouraging the movement of our bowels. Keeping a clean G.I tract is important for absorbing moisture and nourishment.

7. Cucumbers -I have posted that I put slices of cucumber in my water to make water tastier. But you can also eat them with a squirt of lime and sprinkle of cayenne. Remember, we want to increase foods which have cellular hydration and decrease foods like wheat and red meat which are dehydrating. If you are going to eat a lot of starch, I recommend eating rice. Rice is more moist as it is grown in water as well as cooked in water - making it naturally more hydrating.

8. Pea Sprouts -These sweet sprouts cook in less than 3 minutes or can be served raw and give dishes a great crispness. They are high in vitamin A and C and also have an abundance of folic acid (which is especially important for women).

9. Cilantro -Cilantro is pacifying for Pitta (internal fire) and I started to drink crushed cilantro leaves in water as it is a natural blood cleanser and helps the body purge heavy metals. Of course, I also use it in my cooking. It is the key ingredient in making a mean guacamole.

10. Rooibos Tea -Last blog I raved about Rooibos as it is an anti-inflammatory for our digestive systems and has a natural sweetness to it. I was given a bag of green rooibos blended with other sweet herbs to make a carmel-tasting tea for my birthday which was a new take on my old fav. Nothing is more loveley than a cup of hand blended herbal tea! But I am also suggesting Rooibos because it is a great alternative to caffeine-laden beverages. Tahlia, an esthetician at our Pure + Simple Yorkville location and nutritionist, told me last week that she suggests that her clients who are addicted to caffeine to at least opt for some tea in the morning instead of coffee. "At least they should start their day hydrated and not begin it by dehydrating their body".

My cousin next to my grandpa (in his 80s) looking youthful (and pretty hip) after years of a healthy, hydrating diet and regular Qi Gong.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Veggies in a Bottle: Putting some flavour into this challenge

I'm halfway through, and I keep on with my water-drinking challenge. But like a diet without spice, this drinking challenge without teas or infusions is painfully boring. Remember, I'm dating an Englishman - I know what spiceless food is like (oh, jab!).

Anyhoo, I vowed that my challenge includes no caffeine and no sweet drinks, so in my need to find some tantalizing flavours to keep me motivated, I found some delicious water-alternatives...

Balancing Chlorophyll: If for no other reason, drinking chlorophyll water is a conversation starter -especially in my futurismo Voss container. Add a bit of this green matter found in plants to your water, and its like getting your veggies in a bottle. I personally opt for chlorophyll in liquid form rather than powder (more easily absorbable - and less Vata) which also has mint essential oil added to it for a (bit of extra zing). Drinking this all day makes keeps you refreshed and it alkalizes your body.

Semi-sweet Rooibos: This African red bush makes a lovely tea with a slight sweetness to it. Not POM juice sweet (love those reusable bottle/cups), but I'll take what I can get. Rooibos is a great anti-inflammatory for your digestive system and its reduction of heat seems and soothe your entire body. Pure + Simple makes a Rooibos blend with dried berries, lavender and chamomile petals - which clients also have told me is excellent for calming the skin topically (using compresses). I also am a fan of Rooibos in Chai instead of the traditional black tea base - you can get this from the Yogi Tea brand. This is great for those of you, who like me, who are sensitive to caffeine. "Sensitive" is actually an understatement, "makes me coo coo bananas" is probably more fitting.

Cool as a Cucumber-Lemon infusion: If you aren't in the mood for tea - another option is to throw some fruit or vegetables into your water. Slice some oranges, limes, apples, or chop up some cilantro and simply add it to your water. The water becomes laced with the lovely light favour of whatever you put into it which isn't overpowering and really wholesome tasting. A spa staple: water with lemon and cucumber slices. This not only looks really pretty, but reminds me of fluffy white robes and cozy slippers. Lemon and cucumber provide the perfect combination as lemon is also a liver detoxifier and cucumber is pitta pacifying.

Powerful Peppermint tea: I heart peppermint tea. On the go, when you really crave that sweet in the mid-afternoon, peppermint tea is the only tea which has potent enough flavour to appease this. But a word of warning to those of you drinking hot fluids while running around- last week I went to the Starbucks for a "Refresh tea" (Peppermint tea) and ended up with a nasty burn. Now, I'm very cautious about my tea drinking and order a Venti with half cold water, half hot. Well, they didn't have their A-team on that day because they didn't make the modification and I realized this as I poured it down my entire front side. Of course, as usual, you're always a klutz in the most awkward places, and I was on the Dundas streetcar sopping wet. To the surprise of my fellow streetcar riders, I began squealing like a pig and stripping off my scalding hot clothes - down to my undershirt.... I was really upset with both the Starbucks staff and myself, freezing cold from my wet clothes, and had to cab it chez moi to change making me really late for the HIV Legal Network fundraiser that evening. And still, with a bit of a sniffle and full of self-pity for my sore skin, in the taxi home I made a point of drinking what remained of crumpled cardboard cup for fear of not making my daily quota. If that isn't a show of devotion to this challenge, I don't know what is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Drinking more water: its all in the packaging

So, its been a week since the initiation of this challenge, and let me tell you -- it ain't easy. Its been done, but man has it been a chore.

But I must say, the magic is in your water bottle. It really is a pesky little task to keep track of how much you drink throughout the day, so with the help of a good bottle you can avoid those days where you end up getting wrapped up in work and forgetting about hydrating yourself. A good bottle forces you to monitor your intake as the remaining water quote stares you right in the face. Its also much more simple, and armed with a 1.2 litre water container, I know I simply need to drink two bottlefuls to know I have reached my daily target.

Personally, I opted for a Klean Kanteen myself, as it is stainless steel, and unlike the popular Siggoi bottle, it does not have a patented lining on an aluminum body. The Siggoi manufacturer keeps this patented lining's content top-secret and there has been talk that it is made up of plastic containing bisphenol-a. And while these trendy designer bottles come in many groovy patterns, I opt away from being exposed to endocrine distrupters.

I heart my Klean Kanteen mostly because it is so light in weight. As I drink up, it only gets lighter, and I no longer feel like I am carrying around a 5 pound weight (another incentive to drink that H2O). Mine was $25.95 CAN, and I ended up purchasing two allowing me to alternate them so I can ensure I always have a sterilized bottle. (I'm a bit of a germaphobe and clean anything which holds aqueous solutions for long periods of time with a swish of water and iodine or run it through the dishwasher's heat. This is what happens when you work with natural skincare for years and see how easily plant waters mold.)

But for those of you who don't want to spend more than fifty bucks on water containers, you can simply buy a bottle of Voss water. This Norwegan water company puts their water in a a glass bottle which is super space-efficent, as it slips perfectly in any bag due to its perfectly cylindrical shape. Its only $5.95 (I read online that you can find it even cheaper) and holds up to 800 ml - but is much heavier than the Klean Kanteen because of its glass make up. But the sleek design may be worth it, move over Evian and Perrier, the bottles from the future are here. I feel like I should be putting a scroll in them and sending them down a pipe.
But when the weather is cold (like it was this week in Toronto) some of us prefer to consume warm liquids. I myself am a big wimp when it comes to the cold; and drinking cool water in this weather repels me from drinking water even more.

According to Ayurveda we really should never be drinking cold water as it is bad for our digestion (agni). Room temperature is as cold as our drinks should get, and hot water is best as it is anti-kapha and melts internal toxins. But I cannot find a good litre large thermos. The Eco Flask is too small, and the best I could find was a Starbucks refillable which was just under 500ml.

Ah well, because I work in many different locations and always on-the-go, I don't have the luxury of an office kitchen, so it works out that I get something that Starbucks will service me through. I tried filling my Klean Kanteen with warm water at the beginning of the day, and the heat with the steel almost burned my hands. Duh. While I may be more hydrated, I will say that it has not made me any more alert.