Sunday, April 13, 2014

My semi-Virgin Diet

So I started the semi-Virgin Diet on 4/1/14. I call it semi-Virgin because I did my own twist of JJ Virgin's "The Virgin Diet". First a little background...

I can't pinpoint exactly when I started feeling "weird" but it was sometime between December '13 and January of this year. I stopped losing weight (even gained a little), had a big dip in energy and stamina, noticed an increase in appetite, my sleep cycle was off, and my acne was flaring up. I've had issues with acne for over 10 years but it had gotten a lot better since I started eating healthier. However I was confused because I was eating pretty healthy and still wasn't feeling better. Plus the fact that my acne issues were back and I was beginning to notice red bumps popping up around my chest; it was starting to worry me. My other issues included feeling bloated, dry mouth and itchy skin.

So around mid-March I happened to catch the podcast of the Underground Wellness interview with JJ Virgin.  The timing couldn't be more perfect. I listened to JJ discuss food allergies and intolerance. I knew about food intolerance but didn't consider that as reason for the way I was feeling. I immediately checked out the book from my local library and discovered the most common food allergens. The book also opened my eyes to sneaky ways these allergens (especially corn and soy) are put in foods. Now every time I go food shopping I spend a ton of time looking at the ingredients with a fine toothed comb.

In the book she discusses what foods you should eat and what to avoid within the 3 cycles. The first cycle (21 days) is removing the allergens. The next cycle is a week by week experimentation process where each week you introduce a different allergen to see how your body responds. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Because I've been learning about what works/doesn't work for me I've been able to tweak her recommendations to fit my needs but if you're just starting out l suggest really learning for yourself about her recommendations. Most things I agree with her on, some things I just don't. For example, she's not a big fan of agave or honey (she does recommend raw honey in small doses), but instead recommends pure leaf Stevia. I cannot stand the taste of Stevia. I've tried many different brands and it tastes worse than artificial sweeteners to me. It leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I prefer honey (especially raw) over anything. But that's just me. You do what works best for you. There is no "one size fits all" way of eating.  I can say that an allergy-free diet is A LOT of work.  You have to really analyze every single thing you eat.  It takes a lot of patience and preparation to be successful with this.
My pantry
I decided to try an allergen-free diet for 21 days. JJ lists 7 food types to remove but I also removed shellfish so I have been eating foods which do not contain: gluten, soy, corn, artificial sweeteners and added sugar, peanuts, eggs, dairy, and shellfish. I'll share my actual meal plan in a later post. The first 6 days were surprisingly easy.  I was amazed at how I felt.  I really thought I would be hungry and cranky but I wasn't at all.  It was the complete opposite.  I ate and felt satisfied, and I also didn't have hard cravings for things.  My skin got noticeably clearer and I was feeling a lot more energized and motivated.

By day 7 of the diet (4/7/14), I don't know what happened.  I had a stressful week and my energy level took a huge dip. I found myself so tired at work and craving sugar.  I notice that between 1-3pm my energy and motivation are at 0.  Someone was passing out candy at work on Monday and I had 3 laffy taffys and a jolly rancher.  It helped me a little. I also added a little creamer to my coffee.  That week my emotions were all over the place.  I got restless, anxious, bored; thankfully I started reading a new book which helped me de-stress a bit.  I then gave in on Wednesday and had a croissant with butter in the morning with my coffee.  I needed something warm and comforting. I noticed I felt gassy and sleepy.

Oh no!  Gluten!
Last week was a very low-energy week for me.  I went to the doctor on 4/10/14 and he told me he suspects I might have hypothyroidism; I am getting tested this week.  When in doubt, seek medical advice and attention.  I am hoping that's what it is because I really need to learn how to tackle this problem. It really makes no sense to feel this weak when I eat well.  I am going to continue with this diet and I'll count today (4/13/14) as my day 7.  I've already prepped for the week; I'm also traveling this week and am going to make a conscious effort to remain allergy-free while I'm away. I will keep you posted!

P.S: I am going to read The Hormone Cure which I also heard the podcast for on Underground Wellness.  I would love to learn more about hormonal imbalances and their effects.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My first blogger conference!

So this past weekend (March 28-30) was the 4th annual Lifestyle Blogger conference in Los Angeles. I won a scholarship to attend free of charge so of course I had to go :)
This was my first blogger conference; I had been to many other types of conferences before but I had no idea what to expect for this one.

First off I do not have a car or drive. Having lived in NYC my entire life I had no need to learn how to drive. I took a bus from downtown San Diego to downtown LA with The roundtrip ticket was only $45. Unfortunately I could not find a friend to crash with, and the hotels were really expensive. Airbnb had some decent options but I found a great deal with Stay on Main. It's a hostel which has different rooming options. I chose a private bedroom with bath. The total for my stay including all taxes was $141. It is located right in downtown by trains and bus stops, and tons of restaurants and shops. I stayed on the 10th floor (room 1009) which was quiet. The room was small, comfortable for 1 person, and clean. I was a little worried based on some of the reviews I read, that it would be a horrible experience but a) it's an economical option and b) I could see how things could get weird if you share a room or bathroom, which is why I chose not to deal with that. If you can afford it, get a private room and bath; I think it'll save you a headache. They include towels and toiletries, as well as daily cleaning (if you'd like). They also have cable TV, free wifi (do not depend on the wifi though, it's very unreliable), computer stations, movies, games, and free breakfast every morning. I really feel I got a great deal, especially for the area. I took the metro blue line (which was about a 10 minute walk from the hostel) and took it to LA mart where the conference was to be held.

I was only able to attend the conference on Saturday.  They had a kickoff party on Thursday in Burbank, then the conference started on Friday the 28th until Saturday. I got to meet a lot of established bloggers and network with them. I even met one of my blogger heroes, Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista, who was on one of the panels. It was so interesting to see the business side of blogging. I'm still not really blogging for business; I'm a writer and just love to share my experiences and knowledge. I'm not sure yet in what direction I'll go with this blog, but it was informative to learn what others have done with theirs. I actually had a chance meeting with a friend of a friend, who also happened to be attending the conference. We had an instant connection and I can totally see us working together in the future.

I will say this about the conference - I don't plan on paying if I decide to go in the future.  Had I paid for this one, I would have been very disappointed.  I won't get into too many specifics but I thought the organizers could have been much more organized as far as informing the attendees of the programming and expectations.  There was really no "introduction" for first time attendees.  I felt like it was geared more for established bloggers and also bloggers who have attended their conferences in the past.  

As far as programming, while all of the workshops and panels had value in some ways, I think they were a little all over the place. I only attended on Saturday; the keynote was given by someone who is not a blogger. She had great advice for life in general but the conference is for bloggers. Same thing with the closing; the speaker is a great person but not a blogger. I think for the most part, bloggers aspire to have successful blogs. We want to hear and learn from the experts who will get us to that level, and also hear from the people who are at that level. If I wanted life advice, I could have read a self-help book.  I'm on the fence about attending future LALLBLOG conferences.  I am glad I had that experience though.

I want to mention that before I even headed out to LA I was presented with some self-created obstacles, the main one being not seeing myself as an "established" blogger. I felt like, "what am I gonna be there for?", as if to say I'm not good enough to be a part of the conference. I had a mini freak out moment the night before I left thinking about whether or not I would benefit from going. I went over the pros and cons, as if this wasn't a great opportunity. Thankfully I decided to just show up, free of expectations. I was also a little hesitant about going by myself, but in the end I refuse to miss out something because I don't have a companion to feel "comfortable" with. I learned a long time ago from Laura Yamin to just show up. All I have to do is show up, and that's it, nothing else. I remembered many moments when I felt like quitting before even trying and how just showing up made a world of difference. Every time I've showed up, I've never regretted it. This time I made an amazing connection, and learned more about myself as a blogger and writer. I also made myself proud by pushing myself to do something that felt initially uncomfortable; I think that's one of the secrets to success.

By the way, there were 2 earthquakes while I was in LA!!  Thankfully they weren't bad by where I was.  They were "rolling earthquakes", so it felt like I was on a boat.  It was BANANAS!  The first one I felt was Friday night, and then the second one was during the conference on Saturday.  It was a little scary.  I guess I was definitely shaking things up this weekend ;)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sometimes you just can't do it alone

If you're anything like me, you hate asking for help.  You ask for help once in a while, but you wait until you have no other options, or you wait until the very last second before giving in.  I learned the hard way, sometimes you just need to swallow your pride and ask for help.

It's easy for me to ask for small favors, but it's so hard for me to ask for help in the ways I need the most support.  Let's take writing for example.  Writing on this blog comes easily to me, but writing fiction is a B.I.T.C.H.  I have so many story ideas but I get stuck.  I've tried so hard to get myself unstuck, to unblock my inner Stephen King (or J.K. Rowling), but I can't.  And since I can't do it myself I give up.

But I never really give up.  Things that are meant to be don't just disappear because you are having a hard time with them.  My stories bug me.  They nag me to be written and I can't get rid of them. So I joined a couple of writing groups but didn't feel comfortable, yada, yada...bottom line is I set up obstacles to make the task harder than it needed to be.  Finally I decided to send out a few emails asking for a writing partner.  I was divinely inspired one day to do so (listen to your inner guides folks!). I sent one on Craigslist, a few messages on some Facebook groups, and one through my sorority's email list.  After a few responses I felt really good about working with one of my sorority sisters.  The best part is she pushes me to write more.  The challenge keeps me motivated, and you know what?  I've been writing more now than ever.  We're even working on a few stories together (coming soon!).

So what's my point?  My point is if there's something that's been nagging at you, something you can't get rid of; something begging you to be done, to be created--do it!  The best way to get started is by just starting.  I shared the secret to success in a previous post, and I've been incorporating the very easy and basic principles every day.  The hardest part is taking the first step, trust me I know. But if taking the first step is the hardest part, then in essence, the rest is easy breezy, right?  If you're not sure where to start, seek the guidance you need.  Follow the people who inspire you and learn from them; who did they learn from?  What resources did they use?  Your first step can be working towards asking for the help you need.

ANNND if you'd like to start by creating more positive shifts in your life, check this out.