Quick Tip: Freeze Extra Bananas

Happy New Year’s Eve! Can you believe another year has come and gone? Seems like just yesterday that I was coming up with my New Year’s goals (updates in a later post!) and starting Anatomy and Physiology 1. Then again, this seems like a long time ago.

Anatomy and Physiology skeleton

I wanted to share a quick little tip that I have used thoroughly this past year: freezing bananas. Now, I know this isn’t a novel idea in the least (who doesn’t have these in the freezer door?), but I wanted to show you a slightly different way of doing it.

Frozen bananas

 

First, you’ll want to unpeel each banana. This will make defrosting them should you need them for banana-something or as sweetener substitute so much easier. Second, break them roughly in half and place in a container. Then, put on the top or seal the container and place in the freezer.

Bananas in container

The next time you want to add some banana to your smoothie or overnight oats, they’re ready to go. Just take them out of the freezer, chop up some small bits, and add them to your desired item.

Frozen banana

Bananas in smoothie

If you do plan on using them for a banana-bread type recipe (as I did for these muffins), I would suggest defrosting them on the counter or in the microwave whole as you’ll most likely need to mash them. Another idea is to simply blend the frozen banana with a little bit of milk for a faux soft serve!

I know this isn’t an Earth-shattering tip at all, but I’m telling you, it has made my smoothies, oats, and other baking more flavorful and easier to make.

Questions: Are you a banana-freezer? Any other freezing tips? Speaking of freezing (as it will be here tonight), any New Year’s Eve plans?

Quick Tip: Get Outside!

Hi all! So happy to be back here again!

I wanted to let you in on a new healthy habit of mine: getting outside. More specifically, I’ve been spending my weekday lunch time outside. Not a revolutionary idea in the least, but it’s been a big change for me as I would usually spend that time writing blog posts, reading other blogs, and catching up on personal things that needed to be done.

Corner desk

Type, type, typing away…

It started when I was still in class this summer. I felt like I was missing out on some beautiful summer days, spending all of my time at work or inside doing lab experiments. I decided that instead of sitting inside, why not go outside? It was also nice to warm up from the chilly indoor air conditioning (yes, that blanket that I’m using in the picture above for padding is also used to keep me warm!).

While reading, I would make a point to be in the sun for 10-15 minutes to get some vitamin D. I’m glad I did this because I recently learned that even after over a month of doing this and also taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day, my levels dipped back down! Do you remember when I was able to get it up to 61 ng/ml? Now look at it! Back down to 38!

Vitamin D July 2014

I obviously have some vitamin D issues. Despite taking a multivitamin, an additional vitamin D supplement, getting sun, and having a healthy diet, it keeps trending down! My PCP told me to increased my dose to 5,000 IU/day, so I’m hoping that, combined with continued outdoor sun exposure, will keep it higher.

When class ended, I decided I would still go outside, and this time go for a walk. I love my BalanceBall chair, but sitting all day isn’t so healthy (and I do transition to a modified standing desk for a few hours most days). So walking seemed like a natural way to stretch out those hip flexors and get the benefits of some low intensity exercise.

Summer stroll scene

Scene from a weekday stroll

Though the amount of time I’m able to be outside for a walk varies, I am able to get out most days. A couple of weeks ago I got out every single day!

Daily walking habit

While going for one of our nightly walks a few weeks ago, I proclaimed to WHH that I intend to keep this habit throughout the year, safety permitting. Granted, I may balk at the idea when it looks like this outside:

Massachusetts polar vortex 2014

But I will try my darndest and push myself to do it. The fresh air, the sunlight, seeing nature (even if it’s just trees on a busy city sidewalk) are refreshing. We’re meant to be outside! We are not meant to be holed up in front of electronics all day.

Massachusetts walking path

Lucky to have this near my work

Questions: Do you try to get outside during your lunch breaks at work? Have you started a new habit lately?

Don’t Put Anything Smaller Than Your Elbow in Your Ear

Have you heard of this saying before? It just cracks me up, but it really and truly is true. I used Q-tips for the majority of my life after every shower to clean out my ears even though I knew it was bad. I even knew of a family friend who slipped while using one and ended up puncturing her eardrum, but still I persisted using them. And knowing what WH Brother went through dealing with his eardrum puncturing (not from a Q-tip) and subsequent surgery, it’s not something you want to go through.

Basket of Q-tips

Oh, so innocent looking

It just felt so rewarding to take a quick swab after my shower and see that I had cleaned something so thoroughly. And it physically felt good, like an itch I had to scratch. However, about a year ago I started having minor earaches. I surmised that the years of my Q-tip cleaning habit may have something to do with it. So, I experimented and decided not to use them. It was a hard habit to break and I felt dirty at first for not doing it, but I managed to stop using these little devils.

Q-tip in the hand

And guess what? They feel so much better now! It seems that my ears even produce less wax as a result. Before, when I was always removing it (something your body makes because it needs it!), my body was probably producing more than usual to make up for the amount I was removing, thus removing it was only making it worse. Now, my ears are quite clean on their own. My body knows how to handle itself and I should trust it more.

Of course, I do sometimes have what feels like a little extra or some that is about to fall out and I help it on its way out a little. I wrap my finger in a tissue and gently swap the outside of my ear. Outside is key–I was going way too far in before.

Removing ear wax safely

If you don’t believe me about the dangers of using those cute little daggers in your ears, check out this article in which Dr. Jennifer Smullen from the Massachusetts Ear and Eye Infirmary confirms what we already know: we should step away from the Q-tips.

So why do I still have a Nantucket basket full of Q-tips? For the rare occasion that I use eye make-up and per usual make a mess of it. Eye safety and Q-tips is a post for another day, though…

Questions: Do you use Q-tips in your ears? Have you ever tried to quit the habit? Do you feel dirty if you don’t clean your ears? Any ear horror stories?

Quick Tip: DIY Coffee Scrub

I love a life hack that allows me to save money, reuse something, and reduce my exposure to chemicals. What amazing thing could have all of these benefits? A coffee scrub!

French press coffee

My two loves: French press coffee and Game of Thrones

Whenever I shave my legs (and this time of year that’s way too often for my sensitive skin), I need to exfoliate so I don’t get ingrown hairs. Even if you don’t get ingrown hairs, it’s a good way to get rid of the top layer of dead skin to give you a closer shave.

So how do you make it? It’s super simple. First, get yourself some coffee grounds, used or unused. I use the ones that we brewed that morning and make sure to grab them before they end up in our compost pail.

Drip coffee maker coffee grounds

I’ll throw these in a bowl, or if it’s the weekend and we’ve made French press, I’ll grab the entire carafe.

French press coffee grounds

Note that depending on the type of coffee, the grounds may be finer or more coarse. Grounds for drip coffee are generally more fine, compared to the course grounds you need for French press. I haven’t found much of a difference, but the finer ones may go down your drain more easily.

Next, grab your choice of oil. I usually take olive oil or coconut oil as I already use these on my skin for a variety of reasons (more on that in future post). I find it easiest to put about 1/4 c into a plastic container so, 1. I’m not getting the container wet in the shower and, 2. they won’t break if I drop them (bare feet and broken glass is not a good combo).

Olive oil and coconut oil for skin care

Then, head into the bathroom. If you’re taking a bath or shower already, I suggest waiting to exfoliate until you’re done with everything else. The exposure warm water over a few minutes helps the skin and hair soften and will make it easier to shave (if you choose to do so at this time).

Once you’re ready to exfoliate, take a small handful of grounds and combine with as much oil as you like, then smooth over your entire leg. Yes, it will make a bit of a mess, but it cleans up easily. Just be careful not to use too much oil or the bottom of your shower will get dangerously slippery.

Have you ever noticed that caffeine is often an ingredient in cellulite creams and scrubs? This is because it tightens the skin, temporarily improving the appearance of cellulite. Bonus points for the added benefit! Another bonus is that since you made this yourself with only two ingredients and you didn’t buy a scrub, you’re saving some money and reducing you exposure to weird chemicals that may be lurking in conventional scrubs.

In running news, I’m hoping to head out this afternoon to do the final stage in my Return to Running plan this afternoon! I can’t believe I finally made it! Six months of being patient with my body has certainly paid off! I know I shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, but I’m already contemplating signing up for a race, doing tempo runs, etc. Finally some variety!

Return to running stage 18

Questions: Do you make your own scrubs at home? What are some of your favorite combinations?

Quick Tip: Let It Breathe

Okay, so this tip is mostly for the ladies, but it could apply to you gents as well. We’re about to get a little personal, but I hope you’ll stick with me because I love this tip, courtesy of a friend of mine. She told me about this about three years ago and I haven’t turned back since.

What’s one of the best things about getting into your PJs at night, ladies? Taking off our bras, right? I know not everyone does this (I’m looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw!), but I believe most women do.

Carrie Bradshaw wearing bra to bed

So then I ask you, why not your underwear as well?

Hear me out: many of us sit all day, have our legs crossed, wear underwear with synthetic fabric (great when working out, not so great after), have on tight pants (hello skinny jeans!) or tights. Think about the lack of air circulation. That’s prime breeding ground for all kinds of yucky issues we don’t want going on down there.

Woman sitting with legs crossed

Source

Forgoing underwear may pose an issue if you sleep in only a top. Or perhaps it’s no issue at all and you don’t have a problem flying free. I personally like to have something covering my lower half. It it’s hot and I’m only wearing a tank to bed, I will put on loose cotton underwear. In the winter or months I’m not sweating like a pig, I’m usually in pants or shorts, so no problemo letting it breathe.

Bedhead eiffel tower henley pajamas

My fave new PJ set courtesy of my mom.

Of course, you may ask about what to do during “that time of the month.” Sure, I definitely wear underwear on most nights as a necessity. But as soon as I don’t need to, they come right back off.

Thankfully, I’ve never been one to have issues down there, but I do feel this has made the whole area “healthier,” if you will. If you tend to have some issues, I believe this may really help. I dare you to try it. It’s as liberating as taking off that bra at the end of the night. 🙂

Questions: I won’t get too personal and ask if you currently do this (though feel free to share if you’re comfortable),  so let me ask if you would consider doing this. Do you love getting into your PJs at the end of the day as much as I do (or is that just a dumb question, because why wouldn’t everyone)? Any health tips you’d like to share for “down there”?

Quick Tip: Keep an Exercise Log

Good morning! I know this sounds awful, and I shouldn’t wish my days away, but I can’t wait until this week is over. My work schedule is 1.5 hr later than usual thanks to week-long off-site training, which throws off my workout and study schedule since I’m still getting up and going to bed at the same time for traffic reasons. In addition, this week’s homework includes two chapters of reading (vs the usual one), a test, a quiz, a dissection (sheep brain), and a lab report. Finally, and something I’m looking forward to, tomorrow is WHH and my MIL’s birthday and we have various celebrations throughout the weekend. Everything happens at once!

Tired bunny

Wilbur is tired just thinking about my schedule this week

One thing that helps me not only during my regular weeks, but especially during the crazy weeks, is keeping an exercise log. What can I say? I’m a planner. It helps me look at the week and plan my days off around known conflicts. On crazy weeks I give myself a break and aim to get 3-4 workouts a week. Most times, depending on intensity and other various factors (e.g., if I pull something), I aim for 5-6 days a week.

I made a simple sheet in Google drive that I keep updated throughout the week. I keep four weeks’ worth of workouts visible at a time to make sure I’m constantly mixing it up. Since I only do some workouts once a week (yoga and barre), it also helps to look at when I did it last week so that I’m sure to evenly space things out, if possible. Here’s what I’m currently looking at:

Exercise log

I’ve already tentatively filled in the rest of the week based on what I may or may not be able to fit in.

The thing I love about keeping an exercise journal is that not only does it help me plan (“If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!”), but it gives me a great sense of accomplishment of what I’ve been able to do over the past month. It also helps me see where my training may be lacking and helps me fill in the blanks. On days that I have no idea what I want to do, I’ll look at the gaps. Have I not done strength in a while? Running (not that I’m likely to forget that!)? Yoga?

Please keep in mind that this is meant to be one tool in your toolbox of healthy living tools that you can use, not something to obsess over or feel bad about. I didn’t feel bad about these weeks, for example, when I was clearly ill:

Off weeks exercise log

And I won’t feel bad this week if I don’t get in my usual workouts. I make an effort to be especially mindful of what I eat to “make up” for less physical weeks, so to say, but even if I’m not, it’s just one week. Not a big deal in the larger scheme.

Perhaps you don’t want to keep a nerdy excel-like spreadsheet as I do. You could also do the old-fashioned pen and paper. You could get a little fancier and buy an actual workout journal.

Workout Journal

You could use an app, such as my favorite MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal logo

You could find a free printable one online.

Source

Whatever it is, make it work for you. Perhaps you don’t need or want an exercise journal. That’s fine. I just wanted to share what works for me and how I keep myself motivated, accountable, and making sure I’m as healthy as I can.

Questions: Do you keep an exercise log? Why or why not? If you do,what kind? Are you a tracker and planner by nature?

Quick Tip: Store Natural Nut Butters Upside Down (updated 12/30/14)

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was a bit, well

Meh

I’m usually smooth sailing emotions-wise, but was in a bit of a funk yesterday. Thankfully it only lasted a few hours, there were only a few tears shed, and then I was back to myself. Makes me feel grateful I don’t feel that way very often. There’s nothing major going on. It was just the weight of everything going on and thinking of the future can overwhelm me sometimes. All good now. Nothing a little homemade mocha can’t solve.

Homemade mocha

I haven’t shared a quick tip in a little while and thought it was high time—especially since I have my (hopefully not too) lengthy month-end goal report coming up this week.

I can’t take credit for this one at all. My friend told me she saw it on Pinterest (where else?) so I decided to give it a try. Low and behold, it works!

Teddie peanut butter upside down

Store you natural nut butters upside down! What a simple idea! Anyone who eats any kind of natural nut/soy/seed/etc. butter knows how oily it is at the top and then once you get to the bottom, it’s all dry and unusable. Not a huge problem in the big scheme of things, but a simple solution for a simple problem!

Peanut and sunflower butter upside down

My peanut and sunflower butters at work for my afternoon snack. Here’s what it looks like when you open it:

Sunflower butter upside down

All nice and perfectly mixed. And one of the best parts that’s a bit of a bonus? You kind of get a built-in serving size in the cover!

Sunflower butter cover upside down

Of course, most days I do reach for just a little bit more since that looks like a bit less than two tablespoons, dontchathink?

That’s all for today, folks. Short and sweet, just as I promised!

Update 12/30/14: I’ve found this works best on the glass jars with metal lids, such as the Teddie peanut butter shown above. While the plastic jars with plastic lids generally work, they do occasionally leak the oil all over the place. I haven’t figured out if it has to do with the material leading to occasional leaks or if I tend to not close them as tightly. So, proceed with caution!

Oh, except, this one’s for 2 Cups ‘N Run. I’ve left adequate space in case you don’t want to see the monstrosity that is my runner’s foot.

 

Fair warning.

 

Seriously–hope you’re not eating lunch.

 

Last chance to turn back!

 

Okay, you asked for it.

 

I present you with: Whole Health Hammer Toe

Hammer toe pointing

And just for good measure, the black toenail I got over a year and a half ago after a Warrior Dash.

Runner's toe_black toenail

 

Quick Tip: Eat Every (3-)4 Hours

Happy hump day!

Today’s quick tip was a tipping point in my weight loss and general whole health. I’m sure you’ve all heard that we should be grazers, eating small meals frequently to keep our metabolisms humming. It seems to make great sense on the surface and I abided by this rule for a very long time, but it got me nowhere.

Eternal clock

c/o Robbert van der Steeg/Flickr

Then one day, while out for a run, during which I usually listen to a Jillian Michaels podcast, JM was doing a segment on dispelling common weight-loss myths. That’s when I heard her say we should only eat every four hours.

Why?

Eating around the clock prevents your body from burning fat. Whenever you eat, you release insulin. When you release insulin, your body is storing sugar instead of letting other enzymes in your body release sugar to break down fat. So instead of using your energy stores (and thus, fat), you’re using your most recent snack.

I’ve found that this not only increased my fat burn, but it made it easier for me to track my food. When you’re only eating four times a day, you know what you’re eating and when and also tend to eat more balanced meals. I also noticed that eating a bit more at each sitting has left me more satisfied. My original plan of eating every two hours left me even more hungry than when I started eating my snack!

Eat every 3-4 hours

A typical day for me consists of four meals about four hours apart: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. I start around 6:30 AM with breakfast. Though I’ve been experimenting with my usual yogurt parfait, I have to say that this has the best staying power.

Pumpkin yogurt parfait

Lunch is around 11:00 AM. I realize this is beyond the usual four hours, but I generally find it easy to keep myself distracted at work for the extra half hour. No one wants to eat lunch at 10:30 AM (plus, if I need to grab some extras for my lunch at my work caf, they don’t open until then!).

Salad for lunch

Next is my snack around 2:30 PM. Now this is obviously not four hours after my lunch, but I go with my body cues on this one. Sometimes it’s 2:15 PM and sometimes it’s closer to 3:00 PM. Closer to 3:00 PM is perfect timing as I often work out right after work, starting around 4:15 PM. This way my snack doubles up as energy for my workout.

Peanut butter and apple snack

Dinner times vary. We’ll eat anywhere between 5:30 PM and 7:00 PM depending on how long it takes to get dinner together and what else is going on that day.The later time is a bit better as it is closer to the four-hour mark. I definitely don’t obsess over it, which is why I say eat every 3-4 hours, with four hours being a bit more ideal.

Stuffed peppers with spinach

Dinner ends with little treat in the form of a smallish piece of one of these babies. Dark chocolate is my go-to dessert most days. Antioxidants and delicious!

Chocolate choices

My weekends tend to be less structred and I sometimes end up eating every two hours (and notice a difference in my hunger when I do–I feel like I’m hungry all weekend sometimes!).

Please keep in mind that this is not meant to be a hard a fast rule, but rather guidance on “best practice” as we say in healthcare. This is what I have found works for me and you need to find what works for you. 🙂

Questions: Do you agree or disagree with this? How often do you eat? Are you structured most of the time or wing it most days?

Quick Tip: Get the Short

Hi everyone! How was your weekend? It seemed too short (<– see what I did there?), as usual, but I definitely relaxed!

Since it’s Monday, I’m going to try to keep it short (can’t help myself!) and sweet with a Quick Tip. My brew of choice when I go to Starbucks is usually a tall bold coffee, black. Every once in a while, though, I like to indulge with a non-fat cappuccino, chai, or, once a year (usually on my birthday), a salted caramel hot chocolate. However, when I get a drink that’s not black coffee I order the short.

Note: I have a small hand so I’m making it look larger than it is (my FIL calls me “Doll Hands”)

Now, you may be wondering, “What the heck is the short?” It’s a size smaller than the tall and even thought it’s not advertised on their menu, they do offer it. It’s 8 oz., as opposed to the tall’s 12 oz. Not only will you save on calories, but you’ll save yourself a little money, too! I also like my cappuccinos strong as they were in Italy, so when I get the short, they naturally have to add less milk than they do with the tall, making it automatically stronger!

That’s all I have for today’s tip. In terms of my weekend and running…

Note: There are some graphic images below of the Body Worlds exhibit. Viewer discretion advised. 🙂

Friday night I went to see the Body Worlds exhibit at Quincy Market in Boston. I previously saw it about seven years ago when it was at the Museum of Science and loved it then. Body Worlds has traveling exhibits throughout the world showcasing preserved human bodies and body parts uniquely displayed to show a variety of systems and diseases.

It was a warm night for January in Boston (mid 30s), so it was nice to walk around a bit outside before meeting up with my friend.

Once inside Quincy Market, the second floor was jammed because it was the last day to use a Living Social deal. The line moved quickly given the size and we were soon inside. They let too many people in at once and it was hot, so we moved along quickly.

My friend is also a research coordinator, so we had a fun time comparing what we found interesting and discussing the specimens (nerd alert?). Like me, my friend is enthusiastic about eating well and working out, so we found some of the most fascinating pieces to be the comparison of a normal weight person to an overweight person.

I had a hard time getting good pictures due to the lighting, but here is a slice of the body, as seen from the side:

Body slice

Slice of the leg, as seen from top to bottom:

Leg slice

Look at all of the pressure being put on the body systems by the additional fat! This exhibit is a great visual for how important it is to keep your body healthy.

We had an unexpected storm here on Saturday. That is, we were only supposed to get a dusting and instead we got nearly six inches. I love how peaceful it looks when it snows.

Another winter wonderland

The roads were decent enough on Sunday for me to venture out for another stab at stage 6.

Layered and ready to go, dork style.

The time went by really quickly even though it was pretty cold. I tried to focus on my form (legs falling directly under my body, slight forward lean, relaxed shoulders). I went to a Chi Running clinic last February at a Greater Boston Running Company location and a lot of what they said stuck with me, particularly the forward lean helping you run.

I had a slightly slower pace than last week and my arch and heel felt tight, though no pain.

1-19 run

We’ll see how it does over the next couple of days. Perhaps even though it was tight, I can move on to stage 7? Here’s where I’m at with my mileage:

Mileage increase 1-19

I’m looking forward to seeing a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH, or, as it’s known to the medical community, “Man’s Greatest Hospital”) this week for an orthotics consult . My husband has an appointment as well the same day. Hot date, huh?

Questions: Do you like Starbucks? What’s your favorite drink? Have you ever gotten a short? Have you seen Body Worlds? Anyone else try Chi Running?

As always, I welcome all comments, questions, and suggestions!

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Quick Tip: Avoid Triclosan

I love receiving gifts that are a nicer versions of things I already buy on a regular basis, such as gourmet foods, fancy bath and body products, or even fun cocktail napkins. So naturally I was very excited when I received a Bath and Body Works hand soap for a stocking stuffer at Christmas. The one from last Christmas had just run out!

B&B Works Hand Soap

As I was washing my hands with my new soap, I turned it around to check out the description of the product and then I saw it: triclosan. 

B&BW back

(I want to note that in no way do I blame the gift-giver and am grateful for the gift; it was a very thoughtful gift!)

What is triclosan?  It’s an antimicrobial agent found in consumer products that I’ve been trying to avoid. It’s been around for a while, but perhaps you’ve heard of it more recently thanks to an official FDA Consumer Update.

FDA triclosan

Why is the FDA potentially worried about it? Use of triclosan may lead to antimicrobial resistance, much as our overuse of antibiotics is leading to antibiotic resistance.

Doxycycline, a broad spectrum antibiotic

Why is this a problem? Because the stronger bacteria become, the less responsive they are to the antibiotics we have available. These super bacteria, such as MRSA , spread through the community, introducing a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. Though new antibiotics are being tested, we only have so many different antibiotics we can use at the present time. Once we run out of new ones to give someone, that’s it.

At the hospital I work at, we use these hand sanitizers.

Avagard front

As you can see on the back, this hand sanitizer uses alcohol to disinfect. While there hasn’t been any strong evidence yet to link alcohol sanitizers with superbugs, they are incredibly drying, so I usually only use it about once a day, before I eat lunch. Otherwise, I use good ol’ soap and water since it’s just as good as antibacterial soap at getting rid of germs.

Avagard back

Additionally, there are some questions about whether triclosan is a hormone disrupter. Two strikes against this chemical is enough to make me want to avoid it.

So, what can you get instead when you need hand soap? I’d suggest the Method brand. We’ve bought the regular dispenser and then get the  Method Gel Hand Wash Refill in whatever scent is available. The product is affordable (the refill was only $5!), biodegradable, and naturally derived.

Method hand soap

Though I’m only talking about triclosan in hand soap, it may also be found in body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, kitchenware (such as antimicrobial cutting boards), clothes (such as industrial shoes), children’s toys, and other household and consumer products.

Have you heard of triclosan before? Have you been avoiding it or using in moderation? Are you afraid of superbugs?

Please note I am not affiliated with any of these companies and was not paid to discuss the products. This is purely my opinion.

*Doxycycline picture c/o Shorelander

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