Best Gift Ever!

best_gift If you had told me that the best gift I would ever receive in my life would be an old-fashioned bicycle horn, I would have thought you were crazy! I received this perfect gift three years ago. It arrived in a care package from my sister and brother-in-law, designed to cheer me up as I prepared for my scheduled bilateral mastectomy. Of all the lovely, thoughtful, heartfelt gifts I received during that time, none could beat this horn.

Here James

Those early days after surgery when my body needed rest and sleep, my husband would sneak out of the bedroom early taking our Scottie dog Dolley with him, leaving me to rest and repair. When I would finally wake, I would reach for my horn (strategically placed close to me, as reaching wasn’t easy after surgery) and toot the horn until Randall and Dolley showed up. I enjoyed this SO much!! It made me smile just squeezing the soft bubble of the horn, and of course I loved that it brought the love of my life to my side!

This would go on for some time.

The surprising thing is, it would go on longer than I expected. I am constantly amazed at how the physical body can heal. I watched and documented in photographs, my entire healing process and there would be visible difference from day to day. I was in awe of my body for all that it was doing. The more surprising part for me was that all this healing and mending takes energy and I was obviously giving a lot of that up to this process. This meant that I slept a lot! This also meant that my horn became my best friend when I woke. Now, as time went on, sure I could have popped out of bed on my own and gone downstairs to find my husband…but that’s not nearly as fun as tooting a horn and having him lovingly appear!

Music to my ears

Never once did I hear Randall complain about the noise. He just kept showing up, cheery as ever. He would plump up my pillows and bring me a lovely cup of tea and this was my life for a surprising length of time.

Never could say goodbye

Three years later, and this horn still sits by my bed and I still use it on occasion…maybe when I need a wee lie-in on a Sunday morning to recharge. Mostly, I just love the comfort of having it there and all that it now symbolizes to me. So yes, as unlikely as it may seem, this horn was the “best gift ever” and if you should ever know anyone going through a similar experience, I would highly recommend it as a thoughtful, powerful and darned practical gift! Toot toot! email_signoff1  

Detox Your Skin by Dry Brushing: Get Your Glow On!

Dry_Brushing Get your glow on with this simple, quick, feel-good Daily Measure! Dry skin brushing will help you achieve softer, smoother skin, while also helping to cleanse the body – inside and out.

Give your body a helping hand.

Your skin is the largest organ in the body and is an organ of elimination. One third of your body’s toxins are excreted through the skin, and dry brushing helps to unclog pores so your body can remove these toxins more efficiently.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

Softer, Smoother Skin with Improved Texture Dry skin brushing exfoliates your skin, removing dead dry skin (and encourages new cell renewal), clears clogged pores and allows your skin to breathe! Practicing dry brushing regularly will leave your skin looking clear and feeling soft, smooth and supple. It also prepares your skin to receive more nutrients. Stimulates Lymphatic Drainage Your lymphatic system is responsible for eliminating cellular waste from your body. Did you know there are hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules in your body, which is responsible for collecting waste from your tissues and transporting it to your blood for elimination? This process is what’s referred to as Lymphatic Drainage. When your lymph system isn’t working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick, and worse yet, can lead to inflammation and disease. Dry brushing helps stimulate the lymphatic system and help the body with this vital detoxification. Improves Circulation Dry brushing increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste. Reduces the Appearance of Cellulite Cellulite is simply toxic material that has accumulated in your fat cells. Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. Dry brushing breaks down those toxins, allowing them to be removed from your body and therefore improving the appearance of cellulite.

The Basics

DSC_0330The brush. You’ll need a brush with all natural bristles (no toxic synthetic versions allowed). Choose one with firm (but not hard) bristles. A brush with a long handle will help you reach all areas of your body. It can be tricky to brush your back if your brush doesn’t have a handle, unless of course you’re the super flexible person in your yoga class! When? Ideally you should dry brush in the morning right before you shower. You’ll find this practice quite invigorating and energizing, so it’s a perfect way to jump-start your day! How Often? In an ideal world (which we know it’s not :) ) you’d dry brush everyday. Some people even recommend twice a day! I’m all about doing it as often as you can. If you can only squeeze it in a few times a week, it is still well worth doing and you’re still benefiting your body. Caution When starting out don’t brush too hard or too much in one area. Get used to the feeling, and how your skin reacts before you get carried away :) Skin should be stimulated but not irritated. A little pink is fine! If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis be cautious. Avoid any areas of broken skin and varicose veins. Do not Dry Brush your face unless you have a special separate brush for this purpose only. Brush Care Wash your brush with warm soapy water once a week and allow it to dry thoroughly before your next session.

Let’s DO this!!

  • Get naked
  • Stand in the shower or tub so as to contain the dead skin cells
  • With brush in hand, start on the soles of your feet and brush in gentle, circular strokes. Continue with long sweeping strokes up towards your knees. Circular strokes on the knees, and again long sweeping strokes up the thighs.
  • Brush multiple times, overlapping as you go.
  • If you’re working on cellulite, you might want to give a little extra time and love to the thighs and buttocks and throw in some good circular motion there too.
  • Brush the stomach in a gentle circular motion.
  • Move up the chest towards the neck (be super gentle with the delicate breast tissue)
  • Use long upward strokes on the back and short downward strokes on your shoulders
  • Move to the fingers and work up the arms in the same sweeping fashion.
  • Shower
  • Apply a moisturizer. These days, I am loving body oils. Argan oil and coconut oil are great. If your skin is extra dry, apply a lotion after the oil.

Tips

DSC_0314 Don’t get too caught up in whether you’re dry brushing perfectly! A good general guideline is to brush towards your heart, which is best for circulation and the lymphatic system. Do what feels right to you! Have some fun with it and make it your own. You can’t mess it up! You can spend 2 minutes or 20 minutes depending on the time you have available. If you only have time for a quick once over, that’s fine. Maybe on a Sunday morning you’ll indulge and take 15 minutes! It’s all good! Don’t dry brush at night, as it can be stimulating and give you energy (not what you want when you’re trying to fall asleep) but ideal when you want to wake up in the morning! This is a simple daily measure that you can add to your morning routine just like brushing your teeth and brushing your hair…now you can add in brushing your skin! It just feels SO good and your body will thank you!! Do you already Dry Brush? What benefits have you noticed? Are you going to give it a try? Please share your results in the comments, we’d love to hear! IMG_3082

Shattered but Not Broken

shattered Today the unthinkable happened to me. I dropped a mirror and it shattered!! I gasped as I looked at it on the floor and of course my first thought went immediately to the superstition “that’ll be 7 years of bad luck”. A few years ago I would have totally bought into this, but not today! I quickly regrouped, picked the mirror off the floor and told it “You don’t have power over me”. It felt good to look defiantly at the cracks and see things differently. My next thought was, “where’s a ladder? I need to walk under one”! I used to be the queen of superstition. It’s so interesting how this has shifted and I didn’t even really notice it happen, until I was confronted by this incident.

When did this happen? Why did this happen? How did this happen?

I can only imagine that the past three-ish years of my life are responsible for many changes in me, some of which I’m only just finding out about. I have dealt with much worse than a shattered mirror and I’ve proven to myself that I cannot be broken. No superstition can scare me or control me. I have proven to myself that I’m in charge of my life, my health, my destiny. I am not a victim and I’m certainly not a victim to an old wives tale.

Damn, I’m feeling bold and powerful!

As small and silly of a thing as this seems, it’s just another marker in the progress I’ve made. I feel like my life has taken on a whole new dimension. I wake up everyday excited and ready to work on my passions; nutrition, prevention, health…and of course, my blog!

I am always looking forward.

And I have SO much to look forward to. I can hardly wait to begin my new Masters in Nutrition program in January. The very thought of all I can learn and the potential good I can then do with that information, makes me positively giddy. I was thinking just the other day, about the fact that prior to this blog, I’ve never really written before. I’m all too aware of the fact that I’m not “technically” a great writer and will never be classified as a “writer” as such. However, I’m perfectly OK with that because my desire was never to be a “writer” but a “communicator”. I see those things very differently. My goal is not to write the next great American novel, but to learn all that I can about health and nutrition and in turn pass this information on to others, in the simplest, most appealing way possible. So, I thank my broken mirror for yet another good reminder of the new, powerful life that I have. One that I’m grateful for everyday. It was a long, windy, bumpy road to this place but I don’t regret any of it. I am who I am because of every crack I crossed and all those cracks have brought me to a place of feeling whole. Are you superstitious? How does it affect your life? Would you like to try to leave those superstitious thoughts behind you and join me in my new found freedom? Please share, we’d love to hear. email_signoff1

Oil Pulling: What the heck is it, and why should I try it?

Oil_Pulling

What is Oil Pulling?

Well, it’s as “old as the hills” as they say. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine remedy dating back over 3000 years and is used to promote oral health and detoxification. Simply put, oil pulling is swishing a high quality oil in your mouth as you would mouthwash. Sounds weird, I know, but trust me, it’s worth doing! Oh, and it’s really not as gross as it sounds! This daily measure has experienced quite the resurgence in recent years and for good reason.

Why do it?

Our mouth is home to millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins (yuk!) and is essentially the gateway to the rest of our body. The oil pulls and collects these toxins before they spread throughout the body.

Benefits of Oil Pulling

Ayurvedic medicine boasts over 30 health benefits to oil pulling but here’s my TOP 6! Starting with a fun one, of course :)

Whiter Teeth

Keep your smile bright without the use of harsh chemicals and teeth whiteners. The oil possesses natural antibiotic and antiviral properties that clean and brighten teeth. Everyone is different, but you should see a great difference in about two weeks!

Better Oral Hygiene & Fresh Breath

Oil pulling helps fight gingivitis, plaque and microorganisms that cause bad breath While coconut, sesame and sunflower oil all have the same bacteria fighting benefits, coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid, which is known for its anti-microbial agents and therefore is more effective. There have also been promising studies done on the effect of oil pulling in preventing tooth decay. Oral health is essential for overall health as well because certain diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are linked with gum disease.

Clear Skin

Removing all these toxins from the body before they have a chance to do harm allows the skin to shine through. Oil pulling not only leads to clearer skin but help those with acne, rashes and other skin issues.

Less Headaches

Headaches can be nature’s way of saying, “give me a break”. Oil pulling can eliminate the bacteria that can contribute to the toxic stress that causes headaches. I have to mention here that I got a friend of mine hooked on this habit about a year ago. She has suffered from frequent headaches for years and now only gets the very occasional one – yay!!

Clears Sinuses

Oil pulling pulls congestion and mucus from your throat and loosens up your sinuses – aaah! So whether you’re dealing with allergies, a cold or a sinus infection, oil pulling will bring you some much needed relief!

Boosts the Immune System

Ayurvedic practitioners believe that this therapy detoxifies the whole body system by removing harmful bacteria and toxins so that the immune system is free to heal the body. It is important to rid the body of toxins and other invaders because the body responds to these with inflammation, allergic reactions and other symptoms, consequently over burdening the immune system. Ready to give it a try?

How to Oil Pull

It might be easier to think of oil pulling more as oil swishing. Types of Oil to use. Traditionally coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil are used. It is important to use high quality oil, ideally organic, unrefined and cold-pressed. I personally like to use coconut oil because I like the taste, plus it has some added benefits (which I’ll get to soon!). coconut_oil Swisheroo! Put 1 tablespoon of oil in your mouth and swish! Swish the oil gently around your mouth and through your teeth (although avoid letting the oil go back to your throat). The recommended time for swishing is 20 minutes. If you’re using coconut oil, the oil will soften very quickly once in the warmth of your mouth, so no need to melt it in advance. If your jaw gets a wee bit tired, take a break and just hold the oil in your mouth till you’re ready to start again. DSC_0094 My tip. The first time I did this, I didn’t last long! I suggest you start slow with just 5 minutes a day and with just a teaspoon of oil until you get used to the feeling. I was quickly able to build up my time and the amount of oil with practice. Another thing I did when I was building up time was to take a second spoonful and start again, so I could add minutes that way. At first I stayed close to the trash can in case I had to spit it out, but now I can swish while doing chores. You can make the bed, unload the dishwasher or take a shower and before you know it, your time is up. If you can only fit in 5 or 10 minutes, you will still reap some benefit. Disposal. Spit the oil into a trash can. DO NOT swallow the oil, as it’s full of the toxins you’re trying to remove. DO NOT spit it into the sink or you’ll end up with a blocked drain (been there, done that!). Finishing Touches. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water and then brush your teeth and floss as normal. Squeaky Clean! Your mouth will feel fresh and fabulous! When? Traditionally oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If this works for you – great! If not, please just try to fit it in whenever you can. It is much better to oil pull at a different of day time than not to oil pull at all. Frequency? 3 – 4 days a week is a good goal but if you’re working on a health issue or trying to get your teeth bright quickly, then doing it every day will get you there faster. If you can only fit it in on weekends when you have a little extra time, you are still benefiting the health of your mouth and your body, so it’s totally worth it! Are you already oil pulling? What benefits have you noticed? If you’ve never given it a try, let us know how you do and how you feel afterwards. Please share in the comments. email_signoff1

Reduced Visibility

Do you ever feel like you’re turning in on yourself?

As I looked out at the fog hanging heavily over my house this morning, the first thought I had was that it was going to be a blah, dreary day. DSC_0008

Fog used to be a BIG part of my life.

Scotland is well known for its foggy days and when I was growing up I never saw fog as a positive or beautiful thing. I think about the times we’d be driving around Loch Lomond and the fog would be so thick that we’d barely be moving and my poor dad would have the side window down with his head sticking out of it and trying to drive at the same time. Quite a challenge! Fog seemed to me to cause difficulty and danger. Sometimes I just thought of fog as something that blocked my view. I resented it for this. Why did it have to hang around and hide things? Over the years I’ve come to love and appreciate the beauty of fog in certain situations though. Driving though Glencoe I’m constantly gasping at the beauty of the mountains with the fog suspended between them. The sight of fog hovering over water is also hard to beat. Now I appreciate the haunting quality that fog brings to the land and seascape.

Today I had a new thought as I looked out at the fog.

I thought how nice it is not to be able to see too far way or too far ahead. How it was comforting to feel enclosed and cozy. Safe and sound. Surrounded and protected. I felt like the fog was giving me permission to turn inward. There is so much visual stimulation in our lives. Everywhere we look there’s something to take our minds off one thing and on to the next, or distract us in some way.

I felt as though I was being forced to look inward instead of outside myself.

When we are encouraged to look “in” instead of “out”, we have the opportunity to see something we may otherwise miss. Think about something we may otherwise not give time to. Ponder or solve a problem. Access our creativity.

I can see clearly now!

Fog can certainly change our day, but it doesn’t have to be in a negative way, the way I used to see it. Fog can actually help you see further than you ever thought possible. Further into yourself, your mind, your heart, your soul. So the next time the fog rolls in, I’m going to take full advantage of what might lie within, instead of what lies outside myself. How do you feel about fog? Are you a fan? How does fog change your day or how you feel? Please share below, we’d love to hear. email_signoff1    

Morning Sunshine: Why you should start your day with “Lemon Water”

DSC_0222 If you start your day right, chances are you will keep that theme going! This simple Daily Measure is a small change anyone can make to their routine, and one that comes with long-term health benefits. The first thing I do in the morning is to drink a cup of warm water with lemon. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and it has become an essential part of my routine. I know this habit plays an important role in my continuing good health and therefore I make it a priority! There are SO many benefits to drinking warm lemon water but I am going to focus on what I consider the most valuable. Here are my top 6!

Hydration

You’ve just woken up from 7-8 hours of sleep (I hope!) and your body is dehydrated. Warm lemon water is the perfect way to rehydrate, and get your body and mind going for the day. Warm water is kind to the system, and doesn’t shock your body awake like cold water does.

Liver Lover

While you’re sleeping, restoring and repairing, your liver is busy, busy!! Your liver is the main detoxing organ in the body and is responsible for so many vital functions that support good health, so it’s crucial that we give it all the help we can to do it’s job right! The liver can make more enzymes out of lemon juice than any other food. Lemon water cleanses the liver and stimulates it to release toxins and flush them out of your body. Bye, bye!

Digestion

The citric acid in lemons interacts with other enzymes and acids to stimulate the release of gastric juice, which aids digestion. Good digestion allows your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to operate at it’s best. It can also help relieve symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and bloating.

Immune Support

The vitamin C in lemons gives your immune system the boost it needs to keep you healthy and fight off infections. With cold and flu season upon us, this is a great reason to start this healthy habit now!

Skin

By supporting the body in detoxing and improving the digestion, lemon water can lead to clearer skin. The vitamin C in lemon also boosts collagen production to create smoother, healthier skin. The antioxidant properties in lemon help fight free radical damage, which is responsible for the symptoms of aging. (My personal fav!) 

Weight

Lemon water is an ally in maintaining a healthy weight and can aid in weight loss, when included along with other healthy habits. The pectin fiber in lemons also helps suppress hunger cravings.

Here’s how I make mine

Daily_Measures_Alison_Drake_lemon_water
  1. I turn on the electric kettle (which I cannot live without) but if you don’t have one, you can just boil water on the cooktop.
  2. I start with half a cup of room temperature filtered water.
  3. Squeeze half a lemon into the cup. I have several different lemon squeezer options in the kitchen because we use lemons all the time, but if you don’t have one, just give it a good squeeze with your hands and use a fork to help get all the juice out. This is how I do it when I’m travelling :) If you’re doing it this way, be sure to strain the seeds!
  4. Next, I top up the cup with the hot water from the kettle. This creates the perfect temperature for drinking and also allows your body to gain the most benefits.
My latest accessory (and I DO love an accessory) is the addition of a glass straw. I’ve read conflicting reports about how the citric acid from lemons can affect the enamel on your teeth. Some say it does, some say you would have to drink huge amounts for this to happen. So, I’ve decided to add the straw, just in case. Another simple solution to this potential issue is just to rinse your mouth with water afterwards.

Confessions

As I typed my “how to” a little spark of guilt arose in me, and I feel I must share how I really drink my warm lemon water MOST mornings! My amazing husband Randall makes me warm lemon water (to my simple recipe above) and brings it to me in bed. I know!! I must have done something pretty fabulous in a previous life to deserve this sort of treatment. I almost feel bad sharing this, and yet I‘d feel equally bad saying I make it for myself every morning! I DO make it on the occasional morning when Randall has a ridiculously early meeting and I need a wee lie in. Do you already drink warm lemon water in the morning? How do you feel it’s affected your health? If you don’t already drink it, would you be up for a 14 day challenge to add it to your routine? I’d love to hear how it goes and what benefits you see and feel! Please do share! email_signoff1