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Hair November 24, 2010

Filed under: Beauty — Rockingthehomestead @ 4:19 pm

I’ve never taken really good care of my hair.  I got it cut a couple weeks ago, it was the first time since August of 2009.  Not even a trim in all that time.  And before that, it had been about two years since I last cut it.  So the first thing I’m doing to try and make sure my hair is healthy for the wedding is get it trimmed every six weeks.

I’m also easing off the heat styling.  It causes damage, and most of the time it just ends up in a ponytail anyhow, so why bother?  Of course, I think I should probably do less ponytails.  And what about brushing?  Anyone have any good info on this?  I’ve heard too much brushing is bad because it causes breakage, and I’ve heard lots of brushing is good, because it stimulates scalp circulation.  Anyone have the truth?

I do a deep conditioner from time to time, which involves slathering my hair with oil (usually coconut), sleeping in it, then washing it out (which usually requires two or three shampoos) the next day.  This leaves my hair super soft and shiney for at least a week.  I want to try doing these weekly, in the hopes that it will really improve my hair.

I’m trying not to shampoo too often.  Your own natural oils are the best for your hair.  But if I go too long between shampoos, I get dandruff.  Some people I know swear by the no-poo method, which basically means they never, ever shampoo their hair.  That doesn’t work for me.  Other people I know just use conditioner.  That doesn’t work for me either.  I can stretch the time between shampooing by rinsing my hair with vinegar, but I can’t cut my shampoos down to less than two or three times a week.  I’ve tried.  I’ve tried alternative shampoos too – baking soda, Dr. Bronners, dry shampoos.  Dry shampoos (such as corn meal or corn starch) work alright in a pinch, but they aren’t a solution for long term hair cleaning for me.  I need to soap up my hair from time to time.

Shampoo and conditioner is one personal care item I splurge on, because it’s so hard to find a good one without nasty chemicals in it.  I justify my opulence in shampoo purchases by looking at how little I spend on every other cosmetic.  I also don’t color my hair, so that cuts back on expenses as well.  But times are tight and weddings cost lots of money, so I’m planning on purchasing cheaper shampoos and conditioners in the future.  The real chore is finding something that doesn’t contain parabens or pthaylates, because they mess with your hormones and reproductive system.

Basically, I’m just trying to be gentle with my hair, and maybe give a little extra boost every now and then.  I cut it short enough so I don’t have to braid it when I go to sleep anymore, for people with long hair, I highly recommend that.  It reduces tangles, so it reduces the likelihood that your hair will break when you brush it.  I used to have really long hair, and I lived by braiding it at night.  Or on windy days.  Or when I would be driving with the window down.  Etc.

I’ve also looked into supplementation to deal with the massive amounts of breakage I’ve got going on with my hair.  The amount of hair I lose each day in the shower and when I brush is insane.  You’d think I was balding.  So I’m giving a shot to some protein powder in my green smoothie every morning, raw wheat germ (which I hear makes hair super shiney), and a supplement called BioSil, which a woman at Vitamin Cottage recommended to me.  It tastes awful, but if you mix it with a little bit of juice, you can’t taste it at all.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.


Skin October 28, 2010

Filed under: Beauty — Rockingthehomestead @ 2:28 pm

I’m not really altering my skin care routine at all.  I have very good skin.  I didn’t always, I used to have very bad acne.  It changed when a read a book called The Truth About Beauty, by Kat James, when I was 21.  The thing that changed it?  I followed her advice and stopped using acne products.  My acne was gone within a week.

In fact, it was my quest to rid myself of acne that led me to the world of holistic health and environmentally friendly personal care products.  Now I spend less on skin care than ever in my life, my skin care products are totally organic, and my skin looks better than it ever has before.  Let me share my routine with you.

Diet – Luckily, everything I’m doing to lose weight, also makes your skin look fantastic.  The best thing you can do for your skin is eat a lot of fruits and veggies.  Fruits and veggies are jam packed with anti oxidants, vitamins and minerals that make your skin glow and slow down the aging process.  They also have lots of water in them, which helps your skin to stay firm, moist and glowing.  They also have lots of fiber, which helps to sweep toxins out of your diet.  It’s also important for the health of your skin (and your brain function, and weight loss) to eat healthy fats.  Not a TON of healthy fats, but throw in an avocado from time to time, some fatty fish like salmon or tuna, a dash of olive oil, even a little butter here and there (bonus points if it comes from grass fed cows or goats).  It makes food taste better and its good for you.

Washing – I wash my face once or twice a day with a washcloth and warm water.  The warm water cleans dirt, makeup and oil off my skin.  The washcloth exfoliates.  Now, I know some of you are saying right now, “What?  No Soap?”.  I never use soap on my face.  Unless I have something really crazy on it (say, face paint from a Halloween costume), I never put soap on my face.  The skin on my face is too delicate for the harsh chemicals that are soap.  Even the most natural soap in the world is a harsh chemical.  It’s the very nature of soaponofied fats (which is what produces the sudsy effect of soap).  It’s a very harsh chemical.  Its fat (traditionally, lard) mixed with lye.  Remember that scene in Fight Club where they were making soap?  Yeah, on a miniture level, that is what soap is doing to your skin.

I used to think I had really oily skin.  Now I know it’s the soap that made my skin oily.  When the soap stripped my skin of all it’s oil, beneficial bacteria, the acid mantle, etc., my skin would protect and heal its self by coating itself in more oil.  When I stopped using soap on my face, eventually my skin stopped the cycle of producing more and more oil to protect itself.  Now my skin is soft and shine free.  After a water wash, it’s even a little dry.

I do use soap on my body where I’m prone to have BO.  I also use it instead of shaving cream (because soap is cheap and I think provides a better shave, if you’re moisturizing afterward, there’s no need for an expensive cream).

Moisturizing – If you thought not using soap is crazy, you’re really going to think this step is crazy.  I moisturize my face (and all my body) with food grade oils.  My personal favorite is coconut oil, but castor oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter also make it into the rounds frequently.  Coconut oil is a potent anti microbial, and it’s very light and absorbs very quickly.  It also has a subtle SPF that I’ve found is enough for day to day sun protection.  Castor oil is very good for cleaning out pores (the stuff that clogs pores are made out of oil and dirt, so water has a hard time breaking it down, oil dissolves it because it’s what the clogs are made out of).  Shea butter (the pure stuff) is great on rough spots like your heels, elbows, knees and ankles.  I moisturize every time I get out of the shower (or at least I should, I’m working at getting better at this), and most every time I wash my face.  My favorite home made facial moisturizer: one part castor oil to five parts coconut oil.

You can go for a lotion if you want, but a good, clean lotion that doesn’t have any hormone altering chemicals which can interfere with weight loss and your reproductive system, not to mention cause cancer and other diseases, is significantly more expensive than oil is.  When you stop to think that lotion is just oil emulsified with water (it’s watered down oil!), it’s just a big rip off!  But a good, high quality lotion is just as good for your skin as oil is, if the oil idea freaks you out too much.  Read ingredients, and make sure that your lotion doesn’t have parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, or fragrance (unless it tells you specifically what natural source the fragrance comes from, such as essential oils).  All of those chemicals will be bad for your skin, and they may cause hormonal issues, reproductive issues, headaches (which is usually a sign of allergic reaction), weight problems, etc.

Sun – I don’t worry about the sun much, considering how burn prone I am as a fair skinned red head.  Actually, I find when I’m eating healthy and I’m well hydrated, I’m less likely to burn.  And, as I said before, my moisturizer has mild SPF properties.  Its important to get some sun exposure, because it helps your body to produce vitamin D, which may play roles in weight loss, preventing cancer and cognitive function, and it definitely plays a role in bone health.  But if you’re getting burned or over tanned, then you’re crossing the line from healthy sun exposure to dangerous sun exposure.  The sun is like healthy fats.  A little bit is very, very good for you.  Essential, in fact.  Too much can be deadly.  If you’re going to be in direct sun light for long periods of time, use a sunscreen.  Preferably one that follows the same safety rules I mentioned about lotion.

Makeup – I don’t wear makeup every day.  I don’t really feel the need most days, because most days I’m either at school, schlepping around my toddler son, working in the garden or kitchen or on some craft, covered in dirt or flour or paint or whatever.  I don’t do these things to look pretty.  But, to be honest, back when I had bad acne, I wore make up every day.  Lots of it.  Since I have started taking good care of my skin and solved my acne problem, I really just don’t feel like I need makeup.  I do wear it on occasion, to church, date nights with my fiance, etc., but on those occasions, I don’t wear much.  I also use a mineral makeup that is super expensive, but since I use it so rarely, it lasts me years.  Since it’s dry, it doesn’t go rancid and harbor bacteria the way liquid makeups do.  The only makeup I replace regularly is my mascara.  So what if my foundation costs me $29 bucks a pop.  One little jar of that foundation lasted me five years.  That breaks down to a little less than six dollars a year.  Seeing as how  you should replace liquid makeup every three months, that comes out to less than two dollars every three months on my make up.  The last time I bought drug store liquid makeup, I spent 9 dollars for a bottle of foundation.  I use Larenim mineral makeup.

The Oil Cleanse Method – every now and then, I want to give my skin an extra special treatment.  This is my treatment of choice.  It really cleans out my pores and leaves my skin super soft.  The website describes it better than I ever could, so check it out.

Apple Cider Vinegar – I use apple cider vinegar on occasion as a toner.  Its great for the few occasions when I do get a zit (it’s not very often, but no one is totally zit immune).  My Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies instructor raves about drinking ACV to clear up skin.  He says it’s the only thing that keeps his skin acne free.  He’s a good looking guy with good skin, so it’s worth a shot if you want to try it.  ACV is the best beauty secret in the world, I think.  I use Braggs brand, it’s the best out there.

Yogurt mask – another good facial treatment is a yogurt mask.  Get plain yogurt and spread it on your face.  Leave it for five to ten minutes, then rinse off with warm water.  This is cooling and can help reduce puffiness.  It also restores beneficial bacteria (the kind that prevents zits) to your face.  The acid in the fermented milk helps to restore the acid mantle and exfoliate skin.  The fat in the yogurt (if you use full fat) helps to moisturize skin.  You can also add honey to the yogurt for further moisturizing, emulsifying and some mild lightening effect (good if you, like me, have a million freckles on your face).

Avocado mask – this one is super moisturizing.  Mash an avocado.  Spread it on your face.  Leave it there for five to ten minutes then rinse it off.

Cucumbers on the eyes – this one actually feels fantastic!  Try it, it’s super relaxing.  It also reduces puffiness.

You can probably look up lots of other home facial ideas, these are just my favorites.  Books I love on natural skin care include

  • The Truth About Beauty by Kat James
  • The Perricone Prescription
  • Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox
  • The Coconut Oil Miracle

Also, everyone should check out the Cosmetic Safety Database to find out how safe your cosmetics and personal care items are.


Body October 22, 2010

Filed under: Beauty,Money — Rockingthehomestead @ 2:06 pm

I know it’s not exactly feminist to be talking about weight loss before the wedding, but it’s what I’m about to do.  I feel like I need to lose between 30 and 40 pounds, and I would like to do it before the wedding.  However, this is not just about vanity.

The number one reason why I want to lose this weight is so that next time I get pregnant I won’t get gestational diabetes.

I know, that might sound random and out there.  I didn’t get GD last time I had a baby (despite gaining a whopping 80 lbs during the pregnancy), so what makes me think I could get it this time?  Well, being over weight is a good sign that your pancreas might be working a little harder to produce enough insulin, and I am over weight.  If my pancreas is already working extra hard, then when I get into the insulin intolerant condition of pregnancy, my pancreas might be too worn out this time around to keep up.  That’s what causes GD.

Of course I know that sometimes people who are not overweight get GD, and people who are overweight do not.  But if there’s a chance that I’m at all insulin resistant now, I want to nip it in the bud before I get pregnant again.  And I do plan on having children with Jeremy some day.

I don’t want to get GD because it’s a big red flag that I’m on my way to type 2 diabetes, which I really don’t want.  It just doesn’t sound like a fun way to live, and if I can do something to avoid it, I’m going to.  And once you start thinking along those lines, you realize that there’s a lot of health issues that I don’t want to experience that is influenced by being overweight.  I plan on spending the rest of my life with Jeremy, and I want it to be a long one.

So, will I be glad if I am a size 10 (which I understand is a 14 in bridal sizes) again when I walk down the aisle?  Of course!  But in reality, what I’m trying to do here is about a lot more than just dress size.  It’s about my terrible phobia of gestational diabetes.

So, 30-40 lbs will put me between 150-160 lbs.  That’s not a bad weight for someone who is 5’8, if I do say so myself.  Here’s the plan:

I’ve lost large amounts of weight in the past (60 lbs in the Army – which, if you’ve ever eaten in an Army chow hall, you’ll know is no small feat) and what I’ve learned is that weight loss is 90% calories in, calories out, and 10% little tricks that help you along the way.  The basic framework of my plan is to watch how many calories I eat and exercise.

  • I’m shooting for between 1200 and 1400 calories a day.  It’s best to set your goal here even though 1600 is sufficient for most people to lose weight, because most people tend to underestimate how much they are eating by 20%.  So, if I think I ate 1200 calories, chances are I actually ate 1440.  I record everything I eat on, a really cool free site that lets you record your diet, weight, exercise, mood, etc., and then prepares reports for you so you can see your progress.
  • The best way, I’ve found, to keep your calories low and your tummy full is to gorge on veggies and fruits.  No one in this world has ever  gotten fat because they ate too many veggies and fruits.  No one has ever gotten sick from eating too many veggies and fruits (people have gotten sick from not eating enough of other things, but it was the lack of nutrients that caused the sickness, not too much veggies).  Plus, eating lots of veggies and fruits helps slow aging and prevent diseases and lots of other benefits.  You just can’t go wrong.
  • By typical American standards, I don’t eat much meat.  The amount I eat is right in line with the food guide pyramid, but most Americans eat two or three servings of meat at each meal, where as I eat two or three servings a day.  Today, actually, I only had one serving of meat.  When I do eat meat, it’s always lean, and mostly grass finished.  Grass finished, or pastured meat, has a higher proportion of Omega 3’s to Omega 6’s, which helps weight loss.  It also tastes better.  Trust me.  I also eat a lot of fish.
  • I pretty much only eat whole grains.  The only time I eat processed grains is if I’m at a restaurant or another person’s house and they don’t use whole grains.  I don’t eat a ton of grains, I had maybe four servings of grains today.  Between 2 and 5 servings is normal for me.  And I’m talking food pyramid sized servings, ie, 1 piece of bread is a serving, 1/2 cup brown rice is a serving, etc.  Most of my carbs come from fruits and veggies.
  • I’m doing cardio 5 days a week.  I just got done marathon training, and now I’m moving on to something a little less intense and more regular.  I will continue running two days a week, no more than three or four miles.  The other three days a week, I will walk (fast) on inclines or use the stair master at my gym, for at least half an hour, but I’m shooting for a full hour each day.
  • Two days a week I do personal training sessions at my gym.  This is all weight training, and it’s hard core.  I have lousy motivation when it comes to weight training, that’s why I hire someone to force me to do it.  If you can do it on your own, you should go for it.  Personal training is expensive.
  • Three days a week I take yoga classes at my school.  One day a week I take pilates.  At school, I park on the top level of the parking garage, so I have to climb stairs during the day.  When I go to the grocery store, I park in the back of the lot.  Every little bit helps.
  • Whenever I think about it, I do kegels.  Hey, it burns calories, maybe not much but every little bit helps.  Plus, I read that the PC muscle is connected to your inner abdominals, so hey, it might help flatten my tummy too.  At the very least, it will increase blood flow to my nether regions, improve sex, reduce the risk of urine incontinence later in life, and  help me to push my next baby out.

I might add, here, that I have been following this program more days than not for a couple of months now, and I’ve already lost 20 lbs.  However, I’m stepping up the game now, no more cheating on the weekends or after a stressful day.

Little tricks:

I don’t know if these are really working, or if they just have a placebo effect.  I tend to side with the belief that they really work, but I know more conservative people will tend to think it’s more the second idea.  For what they are worth, here are the little tricks I employ that I find helpful.

  • I take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before every meal.  I think ACV tastes horrible!  Like vomit!  So I mix it with apple juice in a shot glass.  Some people like it in water with honey.  Some people like it plain.  Some people (like John Travolta) sprinkle it straight on their food.
  • I take a number of supplements – 5HTP, Hydroxycitric Acid, Vitamin D, Damiana, Chromium, CoQ10 and Cod Liver Oil.  I also take probiotics and a daily multi vitamin.
  • I do not use products with parabens, phthalates or other hormone disrupting chemicals in them, as the hormone disruption can cause weight problems (amongst many other health problems)
  • I drink a lot of hot tea.  Green tea is supposed to help with weight loss, and I drink that in the mornings, but more often, I drink herbal tea.  It makes me feel like I’m indulging in something, and it helps me to hydrate.
  • I meditate, do deep breathing exercises, use positive affirmations and visualization.

Here are some books on diet, weight loss, health, etc. that I highly recommend.

  • In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (really, anything by him is great, but for weight loss and health, start with this one)
  • The Flat Belly Diet
  • Anything on The Glycemic Index
  • The Flexitarian Diet
  • The Secret
  • Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra
  • The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine

Also, if you’re looking for ways to add more veggies to your diet besides salad and steamed broccoli, check out the books The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious.  Both of these are about sneaking veggies into food you don’t normally find them in.  For example, I made a meat loaf the other night with several small zucchini and about a cup of spinach in it.  It was delicious, and filled with veggies that you couldn’t even taste.

Also, look into checking out vegetarian cookbooks from the library.  I really like Diet for a Small Planet.


First order of business

Everyone wants to look beautiful when they walk down the aisle, and most brides do.  The combination of a beautiful gown, fancy hair do and the glow of love tends to make every bride look amazing, in my experience.  But most of us are keen to do a little something to help that effect along.

From what I can tell from bridal magazines, the standard course of action is to undergo several extreme therapies a month or so before the wedding, in order to give the bride the temporary illusion of the media’s version of perfection.  This is preceded by months of crash dieting and an exercise routine that consists of two or three leisurely half hour walks a week.  As a bride, I am expected to drop a small fortune on this routine.

Well, I can’t afford all that.  I can’t afford microdermabrasion and teeth whitening and facials and seaweed wraps.  Even if I could afford it, I’m not sure I would want to undergo most of these procedures, as most of them involve products that contain phthalates and parabens and petroleum products and other nasty chemicals that cause cancer, hormonal problems, birth defects, and a slew of other health problems.  No thank you.

Isn’t beauty a reflection of health?  I mean, if you are in perfect health, you should radiate perfect beauty.  You would permanently be the most beautiful you that you could ever be.  It wouldn’t just be a trick brought on by injecting neurotoxins into your face that would fade over time.  It would be real.

So isn’t it in my best interest, health and beauty wise as well as financially, to invest some time into making myself healthy for my wedding, over the long-term?

Either way, it’s the only option I’ve got.

So I’m going to take you on my journey to improve my beauty for my wedding by improving my health.  Over the next few days, I will tell you what I’m doing to ensure that my body, skin, hair, nails and teeth look their absolute best on my wedding day, and every day there after.  It will be cheap, it will be green.