You probably have no idea how to relax. I mean how to really relax – to actually remove stress from your life. But don’t worry – you’re not alone. Learning how to truly relax – how to not just sit around and take it easy, but actually actively removing stress from your mind and body – is a skill that most Westerners don’t take their time to develop.

You might be wondering what I mean by “actively” removing stress. Actively removing stress is actually taking steps – performing some sort of action – to remove stress from your life. You see, most people do nothing and hope that the stress will just disappear on its own. “Sit on the couch, turn on the TV and let your mind go blank” is what many people think relaxing is, but that isn’t relaxing – it isn’t even close.

Sitting Around Doing Nothing Doesn’t Get Rid Of Stress – It Just Doesn’t Add Any More

If you want to get rid of stress, you have to do something to remove it. You have to take action; I know that may not be what you want to hear, and may sound counter-intuitive, but trust me on this.

There’s already many things in your life actively creating stress, right?

  • Working a tough job
  • Paying non-stop bills
  • Taking care of pets
  • Taking care of kids
  • Dealing drama queens and kings
  • Going back to school
  • Falling home values
  • The crippled economy


The list goes on and on. With so many things actively adding stress to you life, you’ll never keep up if the only thing you do to get rid of it is sit around and wait for it to go away. Stress is very sticky, and doesn’t like to leave on it’s own. If you don’t try to take care of it, you may think that it’s left, but really it’s just sitting there waiting to rear its ugly head the next time your life gets crazy again.

Ways To Actively Remove Stress From Your Life

There are a lot of good ways to de-stress yourself and really let your mind and body heal. You probably already know what they are, but you’ve never wanted to try them for various reasons. Here’s a few of my favorites:

1) Take a hot bath

This is definitely one of my favorites. You can do it any time you want, and it doesn’t cost too much money. Feel free to pick up some bath salts and bubbles from Walgreens (it doesn’t have to be from an over-priced aromatherapy place at the mall) to make the most of your tub-time.

I like eucalyptus and any sort of mint to help soothe sore muscles, or if you’re not working out hard enough to really be sore then lavender is great for general relaxation. Pickup whatever is your favorite though.

Really do it up too. Try to take a bath when you’re going to have some peace and quiet in the house. I like to bring my iPhone into the bathroom and put on the “Spa” channel on Pandora for some soft music. Burn a candle too, and really get all your senses into it, and let stress melt away.

2) Get a massage

This one – if you get a good massage therapists – can be HUGE. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you know someone that can give you an occasional back rub, but it’s not the same. A real massage therapist can work out massive kinks and pains, will put you into deep relaxation, and will have a studio where everything is set to maximize your massage time.

If you’re not comfortable with going to a massage therapist, find someone that will work with you and your fears. A good therapist will let you keep as much clothes on as you want, and will do anything to make you comfortable with the experience. Soft music, pleasant smells, and warm sheets will all work to help you relax.

They can be expensive, so call around to get introductory offers. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on something that isn’t truly amazing.

3) Tea and a book

A cup of herbal tea and a good book can go a long way. Make sure its non-caffeinated though. I know, I know… I’m a caffeine-fiend myself, but caffeine stimulate your adrenal gland, which runs counter to what we’re trying to achieve here.

4) Meditate

Image by aclintonb on Flickr

I’ve never gotten very in-depth with this one, but Dr. Junger highly recommended it in the book Clean. From speaking with people who have delved into this art, it really isn’t necessary to sit cross-legged on the floor chanting, “Oooooooooooommmm….” in order to meditate.

Anything you do that lets your mind freely wander can be meditation. For myself, running is the best form of mediation I’ve ever tried. No other exercise really does it – I think it has something to do with the steady repetition. The bottom line is, find whatever works for you.

5) Try Yoga

Now, there’s a lot of types of Yoga out there, and a few of them aren’t right for relaxing. In fact, during a power Yoga session I hurt my back badly enough to be out of work for a week straight. None too stress-relieving, let me tell you.

I’d suggest finding a good Hatha or Iyengar Yoga studio. These two styles are much more meditative, and about deep breathing and flow of movement, which is exactly what you want. Many of them will even have a little guided meditation at the end of the session to help you fully relax and de-stress.

You’re going to want to stay away from Bikram Yoga, or anything labeled “hot” or “power” Yoga. These practices are wonderful – don’t get me wrong – but they’re not going to help remove oodles of stress from your life, and often times they’ll be adding some to it.

6) Add Heat

This is definitely one of my favorites. Sitting in a hot room – whether it’s a traditional dry sauna, steam room, infrared sauna, Turkish bath or a Native American sweat lodge – has been considered a healing practice for thousands of years.

Anytime people have been doing something that long in the name of health generally means there’s something to it.

I personally love the feeling of quickly going back and forth between a steam room or sauna, and cold, clear water. In many Scandinavian countries they have saunas on the shores of pristine, glacier-fed lakes. They’ll heat up in the sauna and then jump into the icy waters, back and forth, as many times as they need.

Since I don’t have access to a glacial lake here in Milwaukee (just Lake Michigan, which isn’t all the pristine, let me tell you…), I normally just hop into the shower to cool off. I go back and forth, clearing out my pores with buckets of sweat, and washing it away with cold water.

Normally after two or three times I feel like I’ve sweated out all the toxins in my body, and my whole week feels better after one of these sessions. Try it – you just might like it 🙂

Why People Don’t Try To Actively Remove Stress

There’s a lot of reasons why people don’t try to actively remove stress from their lives, but none of them are particularly good reasons. I’ll try to address some of the more common reasons I’ve heard.

1) There’s No Scientific Proof That It Benefits Your Health

This is one that is a personal peeve of mine. It’s true that many of the ways of relieving stress – such as taking a bubble bath or meditating – can’t produce measurable results, but not everything in life is based in science. Not to mention, there’s no scientific proof that taking steps to remove stress doesn’t help.

Far too often the medical community assumes something is false until proven otherwise, but that simply isn’t the case, nor does it follow the scientific method. Instead, the correct stance is:

Something is unknown until proven either false or true.

Until someone proves that taking bubble baths or meditating does absolutely nothing beneficial for your mind or body, or better yet, proves that they’re detrimental to your health, I’m going to keep being a proponent of them.

2) We’ve Been Convinced That Taking Care Of Ourselves Is For Wimps

Somehow, somewhere along the line, we’ve been sold a huge lie:

That it’s good to be tough, and being tough means treating yourself like crap.

I’m not sure how this came about. Maybe Hollywood sold us on this bill of goods from the likes of Dirty Harry and essentially every character Bruce Willis has ever played. Or maybe it’s from our distorted idea of success, seeing people throw the health of their bodies and minds down the drain in order to make more money and try to become a titan in their industry.

Whatever the cause for this ideology, it really couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, tough guys don’t go from eating burgers and downing whiskey shots at the bar, to fighting off three guys at once, followed by a 30 minute long pure action-sequence… No, in reality those guys get too excited watching a football game and die of a heart attack at the age of 37.

The reality is, tough guys take care of themselves. I learned this from my time spent in mixed martial arts. After one particularly tough workout, Adrian (the guy that owned the place) recommended people take a hot bath when they get home, or go for a nice stroll, or put on soft music and stretch.

This made a lot of the newer guys – including myself – chuckle cause we all thought he was joking. But every experience fighter there just nodded their heads in agreement. They knew what was up, and knew that he wasn’t kidding.

He’s had over 140 professional fights to his name, and there’s only one way to have that kind of longevity in such a physically demanding field – by actively removing the stress inflicted by hours of training every day for six or seven days a week.
He’s not the only one. Many people have heard the stories of Fedor Emelianenko – the winningest MMA fighter of all time – and his “Banya” (an ancient Russian sauna) rituals. To quote the great fighter himself:

“Just resting all weekend can’t help your body to recover, but banya does.” And as for going for a walk in nature to recover, he has this to say, “”The air is so fresh in the country, it helps to recover your strengths.”

And Just In Case An MMA Legend Doesn’t Convince You

Just think of it like taking care of your car. Changing the oil and spark plugs on your car doesn’t mean that it wasn’t well made, right? It doesn’t mean it’s any less tough of a vehicle just because you have to perform some maintenance on it, right?

As a matter of fact, I bet you that most race cars and off-road racers get WAY MOREmaintenance than your car does. And it’s obvious why that is: the harder you push the vehicle, the more maintenance it needs.

This is no less true when it comes to you body as when it comes to your car. The more stress you put yourself through in your life, the more you must do to remove the effects of that stress.

Hopefully now you have some real, actionable ways to remove all that stress that finds its way into your life. Many thanks to our reader Jenn for inspiring me to write this post!

Organic food is highly misunderstood in our society. Many people think it will somehow have added vitamins and minerals, or that eating only organic foods will keep you from becoming overweight. These ideas are far from the truth, and are certainly not the reason why eating organic food matters.

What is the point of organic food?

Organic food helps to keep toxic elements from entering your body. The benefits of this are probably self-evident (toxic=bad, right?), but a few of the especially problematic results of ingesting toxins are increased autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, eczema, and diabetes, to name a few.

Many now believe that since your liver is so busy with this increased toxic load, it can’t do one of its primary functions, which is to burn fat. The theory is that this is partially responsible for the huge increase in obesity.

Of course there are also the theories that many of the chemicals used in traditional farm practices are also to blame for increasing levels of cancer, asthma, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases as well.

These chemicals have never been tested long-term to see how bioaccumulative they are, and they’re also not tested at the end of the production process – i.e. they’re tested in small doses individually, but in reality the doses are much larger. They also come into contact with many other chemicals used on the farm, and other chemicals during the processing of the food. There is a massive potential for chemical reactions to take place, and it’s completely unmonitored.

For example,

High-heat and irradiation are both used to protect us from harmful bacteria growth – both are also catalysts for chemical reactions. When the pesticide used on GMO soybeans meets the sulfites used to keep the foods from spoiling, does it have a chemical reaction? Does it have one if heat or radiation is applied when they’re together?

No one has tested this for safety, and these interactions could be causing the dramatic increase in so many diseases.

What Exactly is Organic Food?

“Certified-organic” food is a huge, multi-level certification process that is too big to get into in one single post, but here’s the gist of it:

Organic food is produced without the aid of unnatural compounds such as herbicide, pesticide, fertilizer, soil-additives such as lime, calcium, or sulphur, growth hormones, or genetically-modified-organisms. It often incorporates practices that are beneficial to the soil and plants such as crop-rotation and planting a bio-diverse farm (a farm with more than one type of crop).

Obviously this becomes even more complicated when discussing animals raised for their meat that are certified-organic, since what they eat must also be free of pesticides, herbicides, etc., and I’m guessing you can now see why organic meats are so expensive.

Is Organic Food Actually Better For You?

When you stop putting so many bad things into your body, something amazing can happen. Your body can stop being on high-alert all the time, constantly trying to bail water out of a quickly sinking ship.

When you stop introducing all these toxins and poisons into your body, it can focus on doing what it was built to do in the first place.

All of your natural systems start to work more effectively. It’s a slight change for many, not too easy to notice unless you’re really paying attention to it.

But look at it this way: how many of you know what it’s like to be completely overwhelmed at your job? I think this is something many of us can relate to.

When your body is constantly bombarded by toxins, it’s similar to having NON-STOPemergencies at work. If you’re always putting out the fires, you have no time or energy to take care of the regular business, right?

And when this happens, you start to get backed up. You have a HUGE backlog of items to take care of (or toxins to get rid of in the case of your body) and it gets to the point where even if you have fewer emergencies for a day or two, you really get nowhere on your backlog.

However if your boss decides to get you some assistance and have them deal with all the new emergencies that pop up for the next 3 months, suddenly it becomes very easy to clear up that backlog, right? When you don’t have to run around dealing with huge issues constantly, it becomes very easy to take care of the normal things – the things your were hired to take care of in the first place.

That’s why it’s important to start eating natural, organic foods and stick with it. When your body stops being bombarded with toxins to remove, those natural systems can start to get rid of the backlog of toxins in your body – the bioaccumulative toxins that have slowly been building up for years.

Once that happens, your body gets back on track, and amazing things start to happen. You’ll have more energy, your skin will be clearer, even the whites of your eyes will be whiter. You’ll have more calmness of mind, and hopefully you’ll end up with a whole new lease on life. All from eating foods produced the new-old-fashioned way.

One of my favorite things to do is read tips and facts! Sounds weird, and maybe boring, but I just can’t get enough of them! Usually, they are about something so unrelated to anything in my world, but my brain sucks it up and I’ll remember it forever. So this time around, I put together a short, simple list of ten tips to help you lead a healthy lifestyle and become a better you. And trust me, I am trying these out as well!

1) Lemon Water

Add lemon to your water! By adding a slice of lemon to your glass of water, you can boost your metabolism by 33%. What the lemon is doing is detoxifying the liver which metabolizes fat. This is one my favorite tips, it is such a simple thing to do, and it really wakes up your water and yourself!

2) Raw Nuts

Keep raw almonds at hand – keeping any kind of raw nut close by when your stomach starts rumbling is a good idea. Raw nuts in a small portion can help keep your blood sugar stable. Almonds and cashews are my favorite!

3) Don’t Starve Yourself!

Listen to your hunger and don’t try to push through it! Many people are afraid of the word ‘diet’ and its restrictions – heck, even I am. But this is one tip that I am for sure going to be using. If you cannot commit to a diet, the simplest thing to do is EAT LESS! Boom! Easy! Just be sure to eat slowly and savor every bite of food rather than shoveling it down to the bottomless pit of your stomach.

4) Snack Often And Snack Well

Speaking of hunger, do not let yourself get too hungry. Even when on a “diet” or eating less, it is important to include healthy snacks. Snacking is good! If you include snacks in your meal plan, remember those healthy nuts. If you allow yourself to snack, you are more likely going to avoid those guilty food binges later in the day.5) Protein

Add protein to every meal! Protein is so important to us because it can help keep those hunger pangs away. And if you are anything like me, those pangs can be so unpleasant feeling. Add some meat, tofu or beans to any meal to help with the pangs.

6) Eliminate Sugary Drinks

I know this one can be really hard for people, it is for me, but sodas and juices (and even those Starbucks coffees) are loaded with unwanted calories. Remember, go for the glass of water with lemon; to me it adds enough sweetness to help that craving, and it is so much better for you!

7) Try New Recipes

Bet you didn’t think this could be a healthy fact, huh? But it’s true, healthy eatingdoesn’t have to be boring at all. Especially in your own kitchen, and I find by trying new healthy recipes in my own turf I am more likely to try and like the meal. After all, I did just put all that work into it, I’ll be hungry! So treat yourself to a new healthy cookbook, and be amazed at what is healthy for you.

8) Two Words: Greek Yogurt

Did you know that Greek yogurt has twice as much protein, less sodium, fewer carbs, is gut friendly and very versatile? It’s true, compared to American yogurt, Greek is the route to go. Also, Greek Yogurt makes a great substitute for other ingredients in baking and cooking!

9) Avoid Processed Foods

I know this one can be really hard, just because the grocery stores are LOADED with them, but if you can, always buy natural foods. Processed foods tend to be higher in calories, preservatives, and are lower in nutrients. Remember when going grocery shopping, stick to the outer aisles of the store. Produce, meats, dairy and other natural foods are going to be located here. Most processed foods are in the inner aisles!

10) Portion Size

Limit your portions! This goes back to the scary ‘diet’ word, just always serve yourself smaller portions, if you can. A good rule of thumb is the right portion size is no bigger than your fist. Remember, you can always go back for seconds, but listen to what your body is telling you – if you are full, stop eating!

Now Stick With It

So there you have it – ten easy to remember tips to help keep you on track with your healthy lifestyle goals. Just stick with them consistently and I’m sure you’ll see a change in yourself both physically and emotionally. Cheers to your health!

Coconut Oil is Surprisingly Healthy For You

Coconut oil is solid saturated fat. Coconut oil is a health food.  Are these two sentences in direct opposition of each other?

Definitely not!

Once you start to hear about the health benefits of extra virgin coconut oil, you’ll begin to understand why that is.

Many people mistakenly believe that all saturated fats are bad for you, but that’s really not true. The problems are man-made trans-fats, and if the fat-source you’re looking at has high amounts of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

In fact, Dr. Weston Price found that Pacific Islanders whose diets included large amounts of coconut had incredibly low levels of heart disease. (source)

Coconut oil is very high in lauric acid, a health-promoting compound with anti-viral/bacterial/protozoan properties. It’s also high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are smaller and easier to digest than most vegetable fats (long-chain triglycerides or LCTs).

These MCTs are easy for your liver to burn for energy – just like carbohydrates – but without the insulin spike. Once they get the fire lit, your body will keep burning fat for energy and will begin to use up stored fat.

Cooking With Coconut Oil

This is an important thing to note:

It’s not healthy to cook with olive oil.

Got that? Good. The reason why is this:

  • Olive oil and most other vegetable oils have low-smoke points. When a fat starts to smoke from heat, it is going through a chemical change. After this has happened, it becomes full of carcinogenic compounds and oxidants that are horrible for your body.
  • Most vegetable oils come from GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) which include soy, corn, and canola.

 

Coconut oil has a much higher smoke point, and therefore will not be damaged by heat and is much better for cooking.

As far as olive oil (virgin, extra-virgin, regular, organic, or any other variety) is concerned, there is a reason people like to use it as salad dressing, and that’s because it’s healthiest if never heated. It will serve you much better drizzled on top of your healthy and delicious meals.

Where to Find Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

It’s very easy to find it at your neighborhood health food store. Many chain grocery stores are starting to carry it.

You can also find it online, which I’d never done before but just gave it a shot and it worked out fine.

I just purchased a giant 1.6 liter (54oz) tub of it from Vitacost online for only $22. Here’s the link to it.
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You can also pick it up at Amazon , which is always convenient.

Hope this has helped you decide if using coconut oil is right for you.

I know you’ve had a bad smoothie before – we all have. When making smoothies, random lumps, clumps of unblended protein powder, and big pieces of greens can be gross enough to make you vomit – especially while cleansing, since your stomach might be upset while getting used to less food. This is why it’s important to get the best blender on the market for making smoothies. If your smoothies are gross, you’re not going to stay on the wagon.

The best blender for smoothies will completely annihilate food pieces into a creamy, luscious texture. Powders will be thoroughly mixed in, and even things like almonds won’t leave chunks behind.

Meet the Best Blender on the Market

I personally think the best blender you can get is the OmniBlend. It has all the features of the Vita-Mix and Blendtec, but at half the price. It comes with a 7-year warranty, a plastic tamper in case things need a push into the blades, 64oz BPA-free container, and much more.

I like it because at $250 it opens up the health benefits of a cleanse to people that can’t afford $500+ for a blender, and with a 3hp motor you don’t have to spend much time preping food you put in. I routinely put in whole apples and oranges and this machine doesn’t even blink.

When using a powerful blender like the OmniBlend, it will actually micronize any leafy greens, fruits, and veggies that you put in it. The cell walls will be broken, which releases more of the nutrients from the plants.

 

In fact, modern research is revealing that many beneficial chemicals only appear after the cell walls are broken; two chemicals from different cells meet and a reaction occurs (especially true for onions and garlic), creating new beneficial compounds. This only happens when using the best blender on the market, as the blades spin at very high speeds, breaking down the cell walls.

And let’s face it, you’re paying extra for those healthy organic fruits and veggies – you might as well get the most out of them.

Now, when you’re on the Clean Program, two of your three daily meals are going to be smoothies. They are the key to a healthy fast that will help you lose weight, feel great, and possibly (like myself) get rid of some chronic health problems.

Since they’re so important to the cleanse, you’re going to want your smoothies as good as they can be, right? No lumps, no pockets of powder, and as much micronutrients as you can wrangle out of your ingredients.

Your Health is the Most Important Thing

Lastly, buying the best blender on the market is an investment, and not just in your health. I was spending about $60/month on inhalers before my cleanse. I also put over $2,000 on my flexible spending account to pay for medicines and doctor bills.

It’s been 15 months (as of 7/2012) since I’ve bought an inhaler, meaning I’ve saved $900 in inhaler costs. I haven’t kept track of it, but I know I’ve only been to the doctor once in that period which is far less than in the past, so I’m saving money there too.

As for the OmniBlend, it will last you for the long run. It’s actually designed to have parts replaced on it – meaning it’s not made to be simply disposed of when it stops running. And that’s great news, because it has that awesome 7-year worry-free warranty.

My plan is to do a full cleanse once per year, with a smaller one-week cleanse six months later. I know I’ll be getting lots of use from this blender, and I know I won’t have to buy another for a long, long time.

This Cleanse Is Different

In the spring of 2011 I decided I needed a change. I was working far too much, was no longer working out or eating well, had multiple health problems, was overweight, and just didn’t feel good.

After reading an article in Outside magazine about Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program, I was intrigued. It didn’t sound like other cleanses I’d heard of, like the South Beach or the Master Cleanse (does that even improve your health? Just seems to make people cranky…;)

No, this cleanse sounded different. It was developed by an actual Western-medicine trained MD (who also had tons of Eastern-medicine experience), and designed to not take over your life. Sounded great to me, so I read the article.

I Quit those inhalers cold turkey – my asthma was gone!

The author was pretty dubious at first – after all, he’s seen more than his fair share of fad diets come and go. But slowly, as he learned more about it and as the days went on, he became completely convinced.

By the end of the article, he mentioned that chronic pain in his back was gone, he no longer needed coffee to get going or a drink after work to relax. His energy levels were way up, and he seemed to have a renewed outlook on life. So I decided I wanted to get in on that.

My Turn to Detox

I read Clean by Dr. Junger (the book that started the whole program), ordered the full detox kit, and gave it a whirl. It was difficult – a bit of a test, really – but in the end the results were nothing short of unbelievable.

I had developed asthma when I was 21 years old, and after buying inhalers every month for the last 8 years, I gave them up. I Quit those inhalers cold turkey – my asthma was gone!

The pain in my knees from old injuries completely disappeared – I could go running without having to ice my knees and take aspirin afterwards, the pain in my lower back was largely better, and my blood-sugar levels were no longer in the “pre-diabetic’ range.

After years and years of “maintaining” my health issues, they were all either gone or much improved. My experience with the Clean Program has been great, and I want to share that with others.

This site is dedicated to helping other people take charge of their health. I believe good health should fall equitably on everyone, not just the rich or lucky few. Please look around the site, learn, have fun, and most importantly, take action to make a change in your life.

Cheers!

Andy