One of my intentions for the year was to become a daily tea drinker.  I want to be one of those people who enjoy several cups of tea each day.  Having discovered the numerous benefits of drinking green tea, I decided that becoming an avid tea drinker would benefit me long term.

So far, I’m enjoying my new habit. I have to admit that I skip a few days here and there.  But, I’m ready to take my tea drinking routine way more seriously now that I learned of one type of tea that can help us stay young forever.
Well, maybe not forever. But it has been shown in studies to help prevent collagen breakdown in the body.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to learn this.

As you all know, I’m an avid fan of collagen supplementation.  If you’re over the age of 20, you might want to listen up.  Collagen, the stuff that keeps our skin firm, plump, and smooth, starts to quickly deplete the older we become.  The goods news is that we can do something about it.

The first plan of action is to supplement with collagen ASAP.  Back in the day, the consensus was that taking collagen supplements was futile but new information supports the idea that collagen taken orally is actually absorbed and utilized by the body.  Don’t take my word for it, there are hundreds of people online who’ve shared their positive experiences after incorporating collagen into their routine.

Supplementation helps to build some of the lost collagen but I’ve just discovered a tea that can help to slow down the breaking down of collagen in our body.  Yes! By drinking a cup of tea a day, we can actually help to halt the aging of our skin.

The magical tea I’m speaking of is white tea.  Yes, by enjoying a cup or two of white tea daily, you’re helping to maintain youthful skin.  According to this study, white tea outperformed over 20 other plant extracts in slowing down the deterioration of skin.  Basically, white tea was shown as a superior fighter in the war against elastase (the enzyme that breaks down the elastin in our skin).

That’s all I needed to hear. Now my collection of teas will consist mainly of bamboo, green and white tea.  Bamboo tea will support my hair & nails, white tea will keep my skin firm and the green tea will help promote a healthy weight.  Seems like I got all of my bases covered.

White tea has some other benefits beyond collagen protection.  In studies, white tea has been shown to prevent the formation of fat cells while boosting metabolism.  Some have even said that white tea provides cognitive benefits as well.  I’ve never been more excited to incorporate something into my regimen as I am now with white tea!

Working for myself from home has been absolutely amazing.  But, there is one drawback that was kinda unexpected.  If I’m not careful, I can easily pack on pounds that seemingly come out of nowhere. 

To get to the root cause of the issue, I did an experiment where I logged all of my calories and tracked my daily activity. Over time, I noticed patterns forming that served as information that I could use later on.  Once I discovered the pattern, I realized that I could eat pretty much anything I wanted without the fear of putting on too much weight. But this strategy only worked if I applied it strategically.

Recently, I reintroduced this principle in my life again and I quickly lost a couple of pounds.  Since summer is on its way, I thought I share this simple technique with all of you to help you reach your weight goals. 
It all began when I watched a vlog of some random fitness YouTuber.  While taking us along as she filmed her day, she mentioned that she was going out to dinner later with friends so she would be “saving her calories for dinner.”  I didn’t exactly know what she meant but quickly figured out that she was simply taking a strategic approach to eating.  So instead of eating a high-calorie breakfast and lunch, she ate sensibly throughout the day in preparation for her heaviest meal. Because she proactively ate low calories meals all day, indulging in a high-calorie dinner wouldn’t throw off her weight management efforts.

I quickly realized that this applied to me as well.  Because I’m a short, petite woman, the number of calories I can eat in a day without putting on weight is limited.  One highly indulgent meal at a restaurant could provide all the calories I need for the day. After logging my weight for a while, I figured out a way for me to eat high-calorie foods without putting on weight.  All I had to do was be strategic.

On days when I’m home all day, I’m pretty sedentary. The amount of steps I take a day is pretty embarrassing.  Sometimes, I’m busy at home all day and, instead of making dinner, I pick up take out.  This is a huge mistake if my goal is to maintain or lose weight.  Low activity + high calories is a recipe for weight gain.

Then there are days when I go out for walks or visit the gym.  The additional activity raises my calorie requirements.  On those days, we can afford to take in a few extra calories without packing on the pounds.

 Whenever I watch reality shows where women meet for lunch/dinner.  Almost 100% of the time, they order a salad.  I almost never order a salad at restaurants because I want to try the specialties on the menu.   Once I went out with a couple friends for lunch.  Both of the women were heavier than me. Of the three of us, I ordered the fattiest meal.  Secretly, they may have classified me as one of those people who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain a pound, but this is definitely not the case.

The difference between us was that I recognized that I would be eating a caloric rich lunch that day so I managed how much I ate for breakfast and dinner.  As a matter of fact, I asked the waiter to cut my burger in half so I could split the calories between 2 meals (lunch and dinner).  Of the 3 of us at the table, I was the only one with a to-go box. As we talked during lunch they also discussed where they were going for dinner later that evening.  If I would have ordered yet another heavy meal at dinner, I would have certainly set myself up to gain weight that day.

Eating out more than once a day is not a good idea if you’re being strategic about your eating.  Eating out multiple times a day might be necessary if you live a busy life or if you’re on vacation.  If this is the case, you have to raise your level of daily activity.  So if I’m eating a bunch of junk food, I know I have to get moving, choose healthier options, or risk putting on weight.  When I traveled for work, I fell into the trap of using my meal travel budget to it’s fullest. But I soon found myself carrying an extra 10 pounds.  Most of the time I traveled to attend meetings where I would be sitting in a room all day.  There was no need for me to eat so gluttonously.  I was giving my body all these extra calories (units of energy) that it didn’t require.  Once I realized what was happening, I opted to buy salads or sandwiches on days when I was in all day meetings and ate heavier foods on more active days.  The weight easily came off without much effort.

Once I figured out strategic, activity-based eating, life became so much easier.  I felt like I could still enjoy indulgent foods (in moderation) without being afraid of putting on too much weight.  On my uneventful days with low activity, I scale back and eat reasonably. Or, if I have the choice of eating a high-calorie lunch vs. dinner, I opt for lunch because I have time to burn some of the excess calories during the remainder of the day.  If you want to try this for yourself, I recommend you first understand how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight. Once you have this covered, you can play around with the timing on when you eat more or less than the typical amount calories you need to maintain your weight.  Let’s not eat mindlessly when we can take the strategic approach to help us keep our weight in check.

A few years ago Salma Hayek stated in an interview that she doesn’t have much time to work out to maintain her lean figure.  Instead of sweating it out in the gym, she holds her body in a way that “activates her muscles” all day long.

When I first heard of this, my mind immediately wanted to dispell her “fitness secrets” as a big fat lie.  Shortly after giving the interview, a bunch of news outlets published articles to dispell the myth that holding your body a certain way to maintain a toned figure is possible.

Over the years, I’ve really reflected on what Salma said and now I realize that she may actually be on to something.
Part of the reason why I couldn’t just dismiss her claims is because I’m fully aware that certain “exercises” don’t require gym equipment to provide solid results.  All we have to do is engage them properly to enjoy the benefits.

I’ll give you some examples.

Most women are encouraged to do kegel exercises for the sake of strengthening their pelvic floor.  Kegals are simply a series of contractions that can be done anywhere, anytime.  By pulling in your inner pelvic muscles you strengthen that area.  If any of you have consistently practiced your kegels, you know that they really do work! Some will notice a difference in strength within weeks.

The other movement I know that offers muscle toning without traditional exercise movements are transverse abdominal exercises.  Basically, these exercises target our inner corset (the transverse muscles).  Back when I was serious about creating a toned/fit waist, I invested a couple minutes a day contracting the deepest layers of my core.  The results were astonishing.  All I did was pull in my tummy as much as I could while holding the contraction.  That movement created enough tension to activate the muscles in a powerful way.

Salma Hayek wearing a corset to help snatch her waist while maintaining good posture.

Planks are another (more advanced) version.  Again, all you have to do is “hold your body a certain way”  (parallel to the floor) and you activate and strengthen your entire core muscle group.  There’s no contraction involved (unlike sit-ups) but they still tone the core in a major way. There’s something to be said about contracting a muscle to help it maintain it’s strength. Obviously, exercises that involve a full range of motions is ideal.  But, we can discount the potential of simply activating our muscles.

I remember the old workout videos from the 80’s.  At the end of each set of reps, the instructor would urge everyone to hold and squeeze the muscle to feel the burn.  And burn it did.  This was often the most difficult part of the workout.  All we were doing was holding and squeezing.

Again, simply contracting and hold the muscle doesn’t create an ultra-toned physique. But, we can’t completely reject Salma’s technique of holding and activating her muscles all day as nonsense.  Because it kinda does make sense. At the very least, we know that by contracting and holding, we activate the flow of blood to that area.  This brings more oxygen to the muscle and that’s a good thing. More blood to the muscle means we create more energy (ATP).

Sitting or standing in a natural, fully relaxed position, requires little to no effort.  But the simple act of focusing on our posture, or better yet, contracting and engaging our muscles requires a bit more effort.  This could this could result in burning few extra calories per day.  Heck, if you simply stood up while working on your computer versus sitting, you could burn up to 50 extra calories per hour.  No extra movement involved.  Imagine the possibilities if you coupled standing with kegels and transverse exercises while squeezing the glutes.

At the very least, I believe we should be conscious about engaging our bodies and maintaining good posture at all times.  Most everyone slouches but if you focus on being poised, it helps you stand out.  I’m sure Salma still works out, she probably incorporates this technique as a supplement for those times when she can’t step for in a gym.  By keeping her muscles engaged, she probably retains more muscle tone than if she were to go weeks or months without working out.  This fully won’t replace your gym visits for gaining muscle but it certainly can’t hurt to try.

My tummy has always been my problem area.  Not only do I store a lot of belly fat in my midsection, I’m also prone to bloating.  Recently, I decided that I’ve had enough.  Instead of sitting back and hoping the bloat would go away, I implemented what I call the “bloat protocol” to massively reduce my daily bloating.

My tummy is rarely ever completely flat.  The culprit is a combination of excess belly fat and bloat.  Because I was bloated most of the time, I couldn’t accurately assess the amount of belly fat I was dealing with.  In order to get to the truth, I had to eliminate the bloating once and for all.
I created a regimen of sorts to directly fight the bloating.  For me, it wasn’t as simple as removing a specific food from my diet.  I had to attack it from multiple sides.  This is what worked for me.

Fight the Stagnancy
I hypothesized that a root cause of my bloating had to do with stagnancy.  The approach I took was to utilize multiple tactics that promote healthy circulation in the midsection.  I noticed that the bloating was the most obvious when I was drinking the least amount of water.  Sometimes we think that consuming a bunch of water will contribute to bloat.  It may, but only for a short period of time.  In the long run, water is an ally in the war against bloated bellies.  Water is a must because it stimulates the colon and promotes toxin removal.  When you’re dehydrated, digestion is put on hold. For this reason, adequate daily water intake is key if you want a flatter belly.

When I get really serious about bloating, I transform my water into a detox water simply by adding lemon and apple cider vinegar.  This helps stimulates the gut even more than water alone.  I’m now realizing that I’m prone to bloat and that I have to enjoy a lemon water tonic on a regular basis.  I can’t just take it reactively when the bloating gets bad. I have to make it a regular part of my routine.

The other way I attacked the swelling of my belly was to engage in a daily routine of walking.  This was done to also counteract stagnancy and promote circulation.  Walking for 20 minutes or more after a meal (or on an empty stomach) really stimulates the midsection.  Whenever I felt sluggish and bloated, I knew it was time to for a walk.  One hundred percent of the time, I feel better after walking because some of the discomfort related to bloating is lessened.

Water, lemon water, and activity usually helps a lot.  But when I really want to promote a flatter tummy, I need to implement phase II of the bloat protocol.

This is where I address my eating habits.

If I want a flatter belly, the most effective strategy I can take is to manage what I eat and how I eat.  There were only a few instances when I had an effortlessly flat tummy.  One of those times was when I practiced conscious eating.  Basically, that’s where I chewed eat bite thoroughly (between 20-30 chews per bite).  Doing this made me eat much less than ever before.  I got full from the tiniest meals.  Eventually, the size of my tummy adjusted my new food intake levels.  And because I consumed fewer calories, I lost weight naturally.   Conscious eating actives the digestive process early on.  All that chewing preps the stomach to easily digest the food. By the time the food reaches the belly, much of the work is already done.

It’s a good idea to nix the food that your belly doesn’t like.  For some people, it’s dairy, meat, or high carb foods.  Pay attention to what you eat and how your tummy reacts.  I know that if I eat 3 large meals a day, I’ll get bloated.  There’s no getting around that.  My best bet is to counteract it with lemon water and frequent walks.  It also makes sense to stay on top of your probiotic and enzyme consumption to keep your tummy healthy.  For example, if I eat a lot of meat, I make sure to take this.  Once you know your bloat triggers, you then have to make a choice if you’re going to keep consuming those foods.  If so, you should also develop a strategy to counteract the ill effects of those foods.

When I consistently follow these rules, my bloat is a non-factor.  After managing the bloat, I could actually see how much belly fat I actually had.  This is super helpful because then I could move on to my belly fat elimination protocol (which I’m currently working on).  Once I have that down pact, I’ll be sure to share.

I was scrolling through reviews for a liquid hair supplement the other day.  I then came across a comment that immediately caught my attention.  The reviewer shared her disdain for the product. She then went on to say that taking probiotics and other vitamins gave her better results.

Probiotics? What do probiotics have to do with healthy hair growth?  At first, I thought this woman was sadly mistaken. But then I did some digging and realized that probiotics might play a major role in healthy, shiny hair growth.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered the connections between a healthy gut and thriving hair.  The two are very closely related in several ways.

Before I go into detail, I want to remind you how crucial it is that we have a healthy gut biome.  We have about as many cells in our gut as the rest of our entire bodies.  This part of our health cannot be ignored.  Optimal health can’t be obtained without a strong focus on healthy gut bacteria.

While searching for the truth, I found a study that determined feeding probiotics to older rats gave them “a glow of health.”  These changes produced characteristics typically found in younger mice during their peak.  One of the most obvious side effects of probiotic supplementation in older mice was the growth of “luxuriant fur.”  This was in obvious contrast to the control group of elder mice who didn’t receive supplementation.  Somehow, probiotics produced shiny, healthy fur in these rodents.  The difference made by taking probiotics is like night and day.  Take a look.

Not only did their hair get shiny, their skin actually thickened as well.  A healthy gut biome also lead “robust hair growth” in mice of both genders. 

Why was this happening?

The reason why eating probiotic yogurt made such drastic changes is because probiotics stimulated their hairs to enter the anagen phase of the hair cycle.  This is the phase where the hair strands are growing and happy.  That’s exciting news, but do the same benefits translate to humans as well?

When I did a little digging, I found a testimony on a forum where the person talked about their experience taking probiotics for acne.

“It seems that when I take probiotics I get a lot of vellus hairs growing on my temples where there was no hair before. I haven’t been able to find any info on how probiotics could be related to hair regrowth. Although my hairloss isn’t caused by the usual reasons, it was caused by a drug called Accutane.”

In some of the responses, a huge piece of information was revealed regarding the link between gut bacteria and hair growth.  Probiotics produce biotin. Yes, the same biotin that we purchase to stimulate growth is produced naturally in our bodies with the help of probiotics.  Our friendly bacteria also produce folate (folic acid), vitamin B12, and panthenol (B5) just to name a few.  Each of these ingredients can be found in all of your favorite hair vitamins. 

When our gut bacteria is compromised, we potentially lose out on the natural production of these hair-healthy nutrients.  You might say to yourself, “no worries, I’ll just take hair vitamins instead.”  Yes, you can…..and you should.  But, if your gut isn’t healthy, don’t assume that your body will properly assimilate the nutrients.  If you want to maximize the absorption of all those wonderful hair vitamins you’re swallowing, thee absolute best way to do it is to focus on improving the health of your gut.

A lot us don’t even think about probiotics as a “healthy hair supplement” but it is.  Perhaps this is why that woman who left the Amazon review experienced such wonderful benefits.  She addressed the root cause.  If your diet hasn’t been that great or you’ve taken antibiotics over the winter, loading up on probiotics should be your priority.  If you’re currently working on your summer body, don’t forget to include probiotics as part of the plan. 

Probiotics are the answer to everything.