Courage and Caffeine

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I used to take pride in not being dependent on any substance. I never smoked at all, or drank alcohol or caffeine regularly.  I pitied those who became dependent on alcohol to have a good time, or caffeine to be productive.

Fast forward past college, living abroad for a number of years, grad school and nearly 5 years working in my field as a professional. Since starting my full-time job, I drink a cup of coffee more or less every morning. The days when I don’t drink coffee are few and far between, and when I don’t drink it, I miss it.

In part, it’s my routine when I arrive at the office and prepare a cup of hot, fragrant coffee.  I enjoy it as I sort my emails and get my papers in order to tackle my to-do list for the day. Or I step out after checking my email and get some Starbucks coffee from down the street. I enjoy walking with coworkers and catching up during this short excursion.

I like how the caffeine in coffee boosts both my productivity and seemingly, my optimism early in the morning. After my cup of coffee, I can do anything. I can do everything. And I can do it well, early, and under budget. I am invincible and amazing. At least, that’s how I feel with the drug flowing through my veins.

And let’s be real: caffeine is a drug. It is not harmless. Wikipedia has the following to say about it:

“Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class.[10] It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.”  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine)

Despite its wide usage and popularity, caffeine is still a drug that people use to support their productivity and lifestyles. For me, it’s now a big part of my morning routine both at work and at home.

Do you drink coffee? Does it make you more productive? Are you addicted?

 

Would I survive the 21-day Fix?

I follow a few healthy eaters on Instagram, and enjoy seeing their beautifully plated food and feel inspired to eat whole, good foods myself.  Since I’m now over 6 weeks into the P90X workout cycle, I’ve felt the need to make sure I’m giving the right fuel to my body.

I heard about the 21-day fix program on Instagram, so I read up briefly on it and did the calculation for myself to figure out how many servings of each food group I should be aiming for each day.  The calculation takes your body weight in pounds and multiplies it by 11, adds 400 to get your caloric needs and then subtracts 750 to get your calorie target.  If you want to maintain your weight, then skip that last subtraction.  If you want to gain weight, then instead of adding 400, add 900 and also skip that last subtraction.  The numbers you’ll come up with will fall into 4 categories, from 1200-1499 calories, 1500-1799, 1800-2099, and 2100-2300 calories.  (Round up or down if your number falls outside these categories.)

I’m in the lowest category, so that means I want to eat the following each day:

  • Vegetables: 3 servings
  • Fruits: 2 servings
  • Proteins: 4 servings
  • Carbohydrates: 2 servings
  • Cheese/healthy fats: 1 serving
  • Seeds/dressing: 1 serving
  • Oils/nut butter: 2 tsp.

So I decided to track my food intake for a week to see if I should make any changes.

My takeaways from this exercise:

  1. I love cheese and carbs.  If I was just choosing things to eat without having the goal balance of food groups in mind, I would automatically gravitate toward bread, cereal or pasta.  And cheese!
  2. Protein is essential and I probably don’t get enough of it.  Well-timed protein in the morning and after a workout keep my energy levels even. Neglecting this made my moods very uneven.
  3. Fruit and veg should both be more integral to my meals.  A good friend has a garden and recently supplied me with a ton of kale, which was a great excuse to learn how to eat this vegetable.  Stay tuned for recipes for two ways to use kale!
  4. Making it easy: My boyfriend reminded me the other day of how important it is to make things easy if you want someone to do something.  Want employees to not leave sticky food residue on your work area?  Then make them a nice lunch table where they’d naturally want to eat instead.  Want to not end up snacking on donuts and cookies from the break room?  Then make sure you have healthy, tasty snacks at your desk! I’ve made a point of finding some healthy snacks like lightly salted almonds and sesame sticks, and reaching for those when the mood strikes, instead of feeling tempted by the refined sugar that’s also readily available.

Overall, I think it’s a good idea to learn more about what the body really needs and try to balance everything so it’s getting that.  It’ll help you feel more energetic and in balance.  To answer my own question, yes I think I would survive if I committed to the 21-day fix, and believe that eating better will help me not just survive, but thrive!

Graze Box Review #10

Aw! I’m always sad when they don’t deliver my graze box to my mailbox and I have to pick it up from the post office, since that’s usually when the box gets mangled and the snacks show up half-crunched. 😦

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Zesty lime & red pepper salsa with wholemeal pita chips: TRASH I have been all about Mexican food lately but this salsa isn’t too exciting.  The chips are a bit blah as well.

Sweet Memphis BBQ: LOVE So good! I love the salsa peanuts, wild rice sticks and barbecue peas. Very nice, subtle flavors that play well together!

Peach Cobbler: LOVE I wasn’t excited about this snack but once I tried it, I was a huge fan! Huge! The slivered almonds are amazing by themselves, and the harmony between the amaretti drops, peach fruit drops, and the yogurt seeds is so pleasing.  Next time I get this snack I want to have a vanilla rooibus tea latte along with it for an afternoon tea break.

Sweet Rhubarb Jam: LIKE I always feel a little ‘meh’ when I see dried fruit in a snack, but this one is quite well balanced.  The rhubarb pieces are chewy like fruit snacks, the apples aren’t too tart, and the cranberries really sweeten the medley up nicely.

Strawberries and Cream Protein Granola Topper: LIKE I enjoy all of their granola toppers on plain yogurt as a mid-morning snack.

New York Everything Bagel: LIKE We’re planning a trip to Europe this autumn, and we’ll stop by New York both on the way out and on the way home.  I’m excited to try an authentic New York bagel!

Roasted Chili Honey Peanuts and Almonds: LIKE They’ve got a nice spicy kick to them but I really like how the sweetness of the honey mellows out the spice.  Nuts are a great healthy snack so having exciting ones like these make it interesting.

Forest Super Fruits: LIKE Again a purely fruit-based snack.  I usually prefer when the fruit comes with something else, like nuts or cookies or something.  If I hiked more I think I’d enjoy these dried fruits while I was outside.

Interested in trying out healthy Graze snacks yourself?  You can get your first and fifth boxes free by using my coupon code:REBECK4ZB. Click here graze.com to check out their snack descriptions, box options and other info. Let me know if you have any questions!

Natural Deodorant Reviews

For the past couple years, I’ve not used anti-perspirant and instead chosen to use a salt crystal along with a deodorant that doesn’t have the aluminum-based compounds that anti-perspirants contain.  These compounds plug up your sweat glands and prevent you from sweating.  I’m fine with sweating… as long as I don’t stink afterward.  Which is a tall order, given the nature of sweat. That’s why I’ve been on a journey to try to find the right product.

The products below are ones I’ve tried enough to summarize pretty well how they work for me.  I hope this is helpful for you, if you’re considering trying out such products.

Salt Crystal I’ve used this same brand of salt crystal the whole time I’ve used deodorant.  I usually apply this right after the shower, when my skin is still wet and the salt crystal can glide easily.  Getting a layer of salt on the skin helps to make it unattractive to bacteria (which are the source of the stink).

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Geo Deo I used Geo Deo for about a year and a half, using both the Island and Rainforest scents.  It worked pretty well, especially in the first half of the day.  The exception was when I had a meeting or presentation, when I’d sweat more, and this product would basically stop working. B

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Desert Essence The natural foods store in Honolulu where I bought Geo Deo said it was discontinued the last time I went in.  So I looked at what else they had in stock, and chose the Spring Fresh scent of Desert Essence.  And, after using it for about a week and a half, I agree with my boyfriend’s assessment (he got the same brand as well to try) that it’s “about as effective as lip gloss” as a deodorant.  D

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Honest Co. Given the situation with the Desert Essence, I was back on the hunt for an alternative pretty quick.  Whole Foods had a few choices and I chose the lavender vanilla scent from the Honest Company.  It’s a spray which I originally thought was odd, but since I’ve started using this product, I’ve been nothing but impressed with it.  Even during stressful days when I may sweat more than normal, it’s still worked well. A

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I hope this helps you, if you’re interested in trying any new deodorants.  Are there other brands that you’ve found to be effective that I should try?

Graze Box Review #9

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Snickerdoodle dip with cinnamon pretzel sticks: LOVE (snickerdoodle dip with cinnamon pretzel sticks) We’ve got this snack before a few times.  I am not ashamed to admit that I’d eat an entire bucket of this dip if I had the chance.

Creamy ranch kern pops: LIKE (ranch popped corn kernels)  I like how these aren’t too salty or strongly powdered. Half-popped popcorn has such a great texture, more substantial and satisfying than regular popcorn. I’m a fan!

Sesame garlic crunch: LIKE (garlic sesame sticks, oat bran sesame sticks and multigrain soy rice crackers) Pretty good snack; not exceptionally delicious.

Energizing almond, carrot and apple: LIKE (carrot and orange chews, raw almonds and soft apple pieces) The carrot and orange chews are like fruit snacks.

Cherries and berries: LIKE (cherries, lingon berries, cranberries and jumbo raisins) I basically inhaled these on a car ride so didn’t really notice the different types of cherries and berries included.  I could taste the lingon berry tang though!  Very refreshing mix.

Graze’s Grilled Cheese: LIKE (hickory smoked cashews, cheddar cheese bruschetta and mustard breadsticks) So good! It really does taste like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Peanut butter and jelly: LOVE (baked salted peanuts, raspberry fruit strings and vanilla fudge) I’d probably eat this every day if I could. But I guess that’s nothing new since I eat a real pbj basically every day…

Lemon almond cookies with Special blend black tea: LOVE (lemon almond spelt cookies with our special blend black tea) What a fun idea!  I think this combination is relatively new for Graze, and I just love it!  Their special black tea is very nice, and just perfect for my early afternoon tea time at work.  The cookies were tasty and just a little dry which was fine since I had the tea right there.  A+!

 

Interested in trying out healthy Graze snacks yourself?  You can get your first and fifth boxes free by using my coupon code: REBECK4ZB. Click here graze.com to check out their snack descriptions, box options and other info. Let me know if you have any questions!

Graze Box Review #8

 

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I broke it off with Graze only to be brought back into the fold with the lure of some discounted boxes. Their customer service is quite good, actually– they are responsive to concerns and apologize if they make a mistake (I once got a snack that I specifically ‘trashed’ so that I wouldn’t get it).  I mostly like their snacks and enjoy the variety.  So we’ll stay with them a while longer and see how it goes!

  • The cheeseboard: LIKE (cheese flavored cashews, cheddar cheese bruschetta and baked herb bites)  This snack is pretty good, not overly salty which I appreciate.  I like how they included the herb flavored crackers to make it as though you’ve got some amazing charcuterie platter.
  • Cranberry and hazelnut toasts with a rich cocoa dip: LIKE (dark chocolate with cranberry hazelnut toasts)  Very good little crispy toasts, but when I get a dipper I always have dip left over which is sad.
  • Vanilla almond protein granola topper: LIKE (oat and barley granola, almond slivers, vanilla pumpkin seeds and soy protein crispies) I like all their granola toppers, and always add them to some yogurt for breakfast.
  • Bountiful berries: LOVE (goldenberries, cranberries, green raisins and blueberries) So good!  I’d never even heard of goldenberries (is this a European thing?  Or do I just live under a rock? Comment below and tell me more about these!)  but enjoyed this mix a lot. So sweet and refreshing!
  • Cocoa and vanilla protein flapjack: LIKE (rustic rolled oat cocoa flapjack with mixed seeds) I’m kind of on the fence about their flapjacks. I’ve tried a few flavors and always struggle to finish a whole serving (which is only 3…) of these.
  • Kettlecorn kern pops: TRASH (sweet & salty popped corn kernels) I’m not a big sweet popcorn person, so it’s not surprising I’m not a fan of these.
  • Stars and stripes: LOVE (mini blackcurrant stars, raspberry strings and blueberry flavored cranberries)  Like fruit snacks.  Delish!
  • Deconstructed carrot cake: LOVE (carrot chews, cinnamon flavored raisins, walnuts and ginger fudge) I’m a fan of the carrot chews, and appreciate the generous, mostly half walnuts included in here. It really does taste just like carrot cake if you get all the elements in one bite.

Interested in trying out healthy Graze snacks yourself?  You can get your first and fifth boxes free by using my coupon code: REBECK4ZB. Click here graze.com to check out their snack descriptions, box options and other info. Let me know if you have any questions!

Graze Box Review #7 and Hiatus

Graze box for week of April 4th

An update on the Graze system: they only have an 8-snack option now (no 4-box option), which costs $12. You can choose which type (savory, sweet, mix, dietary-focused ones). They also have larger serving sharing bags of snacks.  They offer occasional 4-box specialty boxes such as their recent chocolate box. Here are the snacks I received last week:

Peachy Orchard: LOVE (rhubarb slices, pear and peach fruit drops) The pears, peach gummies, and rhubarb are all delicious. They have great textures and the pears and rhubarb are both a little tangy, while the peach gummies make it seem like I’m just eating fruit snacks.

Chinese Shiitake broth: TRASH (a mild mushroom broth, with sweetcorn, shiitake mushroom and rice noodles) The concept is pretty cool, having a paste and little corn bits and rice noodles and mushroom bits that you can make in a mug at work. But this one is too spicy for me, and the corn didn’t really reconstitute enough so the texture was off.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Topper: LOVE (cocoa granola, chopped hazelnuts, freeze-dried cherry pieces and soy protein crisps) I like these granola toppers, and usually top some yogurt with one for breakfast.  This one seems super decadent and the taste is on point.

Salted Fudge and Peanut Cookie: LOVE (baked salted peanuts, mini cocoa cookies, redskin peanuts and vanilla fudge) This is a repeat from an earlier box, but I’d eat this one every day if I could.  Lovely interaction between flavors.

Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake: LIKE (cranberries, mini cocoa cookies, strawberry fruit drops and mini vanilla marshmallows) This is a fun snack, although I doubt it’s really healthy, with all its marshmallows… >.<

Sour Cream and Garlic Crostini: LOVE (sour cream and onion flavored cashews with garlic crostini) This is a great snack. Not one to enjoy if you’re going to be close-talking to someone shortly thereafter– it’s very garlicky!

Italian Herb Foccaccia: LIKE (hickory smoked almonds, rosemary crostini, roasted pumpkin seeds and mini basil breadsticks) This was a great little zesty addition to a lunch of mild and creamy mushroom soup.

Summer Berry Flapjack: LIKE (rustic rolled oat flapjack with berry-infused cranberries)  I like the taste of these flapjacks, which is bright and sweet.

I’ve decided to take a hiatus from graze for a while.  The $12 per month cost is reasonable given the diverse and mostly healthy snack options you get.  I’ve had a few months when the package was delayed and arrived beat up, but that might just be the Post Office’s fault. I might be back as a graze subscriber– we’ll see!  I think it’s just time for investing my money in a different fun monthly subscription.  Stay tuned while I consider my options…