How Does Oil Pulling Work?

yogaimage-200x130Would swishing oil in my mouth make me more sexy to my boyfriend? Or help me be smarter at work? Or speed up my weight loss?

Claims like these seem to be all over the media these days, and I am receiving a ton of email questions about oil pulling. I figured I’d write up a quick post to help fill all you Freedom Junkies in on this cool Ayurvedic practice, and what its most likely benefits are.

In oil pulling, you swish oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes a day, typically with sesame or coconut oil. I prefer coconut oil as it is a bit lighter than sesame, but to each his/her own! Traditionally you can also use oil that has had herbs infused in it for a more medicinal effect.

Ayurveda seems particularly obsessed with oil – especially ghee and sesame oil – and in Ayurveda, we stick oil in all sorts of places – ears, nose, mouth…hey now!

So how can oil pulling have so many benefits other than making your mouth all smooth and silky-like? I mean, people talk about oil pulling helping with arthritis/joint pain, thyroid issues, and even diabetes and heart disease!

Dr. Douillard shared this quote from a traditional Ayurvedic text:

“Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of the face, maximum taste and relish of food. One does not suffer from dryness of throat, lip cracking and teeth become firmly rooted. The teeth do not ache or become sensitive and can chew the hardest food items.”

Nada about the rest of the body.

Modern studies have shown fairly good evidence for oral health with oil pulling – control of bacterial overgrowth that can contribute to gingivitis, as well as improved plaque control. Same as the ancient texts! And many people also claim whiter teeth.

We also now know the connection of dental health to the rest of the body. For example, over my career as a nurse midwife, it became cleat the oral health, and periodontal disease in particular, is linked to pre-term labor. We also know that when people with certain heart diseases like abnormal heart rhythms or artificial valves receive dental work, they need to receive antibiotic prophylaxis (prevention) because unhealthy oral bacteria can adversely affect the heart and cause grave consequences for those peeps. So if you think about it – even if you don’t have a heart disease or aren’t pregnant, there is a clear association between oral health and the rest of your body.

Which means the benefits of oil pulling on the rest of the body can make some sense, eh?

So why oil?

Well, Ayurveda LOVES using oil for detoxification because somehow, way back when, they knew that many toxins were bonded by oil and pulled out by the oil from the body. So it is smeared on the skin, swished in the mouth, and consumed in considerable quantities during active detoxification.

These days science has shown us that many toxins (like pesticides, heavy metals, certain hormones etc) are lipid soluble – so they will like to dissolve into/attach to oil in the body, like your fat cells (ew!).

Dr. Douillard of LifeSpa writes, “This use of oil as a detox accelerator or “pulling” agent has been recently studied. In one study, the external use of sesame oil in massage and the ingestion of ghee were found to reduce lipid peroxides or free radicals in the blood. The researchers concluded that the lipophilic effect of the oils helps pull free radicals and toxins out of the blood.” He also mentions other studies that support the same effect.

Translation: oil applied to the skin decreased levels of certain toxins in the blood.

Our mucosa – which lines our nose and mouth and GI tract, for example – is known to allow very good access to our bloodstream. Hence the popularity of snorting through the nose as an effective way to get drugs like cocaine into the system. In fact, in terms of delivering many drugs – recreational or not – the nasal and oral mucosa allow some of the most direct access to our inner bodies second to only injecting straight into the blood stream! So it makes sense that using oils and herbs like tumeric in the mouth can have decent access to our inner body and with pulling toxins from our systems, for fat-soluble toxins.

 How to Oil Pull

  • I like to do it in the morning after I scrape my tongue, floss and brush my teeth and drink some water.
  • You can heat up sesame oil by placing your bottle of oil into some hot water for a few minutes, or with coconut oil it melts easily in the mouth. You can use 1-3 tsp. of the oil. Coconut oil is lighter in texture than sesame oil.
  • Hold the oil in your mouth or actively swish it through your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Some people are actually able to meditate with the oil in their mouth. That would be awfully convenient, but I’d drool oil all over my face if I tried that. I tend to make tea, gather my belongings for the day, pick out what I’m going to wear etc as I swish the oil around.
  • When you’re done, you can spit it out, preferably into the trash so that you don’t clog up your drains with oil.
  • Rinse with water

If this is a bit much for you (some people get nauseated or just grossed out) try using less oil at first, or if you’re using sesame try coconut oil, of vice versa.

Oh – and BTW, if you are pregnant, you may not want to oil pull because you technically don’t want to release toxins rapidly when you are pregnant. Pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding are their own kind of detox alltogether;)

So there you have it! Pull on!

Have you tried oil pulling? What was your experience with it? Are you wanting to try it but are hesitant? Let me know below (and I’ll see if I can help you out if you have questions!!.

If you’d like to learn more about Ayurveda, detoxing, and oil pulling, check out my Ayurveda Spring Cleanse starting in April! It’s based around Dr. Douillard’s Ayurvedic Colorado Cleanse, which totally rocks! You can join us as late as April 7th, 2014, but we start prepping together April 1st – so come to the partay as soon as you can! Check out

Top 10 Reasons to Do a Cleanse

Fotolia_12980564_XS-200x133“When you fast, the Light will illuminate you and spread on earth.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.” ~ Hippocrates

Warning – I am about to brag…just a little, but it’s part of the story.

Something I have been hearing a lot of lately is, “Damn girl, you’re lookin’ good for being, like, 46!” and “I WISH I had as much energy as you!”

First of all, I just want to point out that you are not supposed to look shitty when you’re, “like, 46.” But that’s beside the point.

The point is that I don’t dye my hair, do plastic surgery, or have a medi-spa membership. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with those things, but I just wanted to let you know I don’t do them myself – yet;) Freedom Junkie truism: Never say, “Nevah!”

I also don’t drink coffee (it gives me panic attacks, which sucks, because I LOVE the flavah!), I don’t use “energy drinks,” and I don’t eat sugar (heaven help you if you’re around me on a sugar rush). I haven’t always had a lot of energy. In fact, there are days when I can be a downright lazy mo-fo. But that’s usually when I am not partaking in my usual energizing activities (more on those later).

I admit that once I had some sun spots lasered off my face, but after I looked like a leper for two weeks and then got sunburned doing a solo climb of Mount Shasta in the clouds (’tis true what they say about cloudy days) after which they immediately CAME BACK, I never returned for another treatment. I am meant to be spotted. Like the badass owl.

A few examples of what I DO partake in to boost my energy and youthful mistress look are regular exercise, a pretty damn good sleeping pattern considering I could stay up all night doing my passion work (and other passionate things, winky winky!) and have a little baby, yoga 5 times a week, and random kitchen dancing to old-school salsa and hip hop until I am dripping with sweat. Solo.

However, this article is about the one thing that I discovered after my cancer diagnosis (10 years ago!) that I am pretty sure has made the biggest difference of all. I believe it keeps me and many other people happy and healthy as ever – even though we’re, “like, 40.”

This, my friends, is {drumroll} doing a supah yummy seasonal cleanse at least 2 times a year.

My friend, Ajana Miki, N.D., lead the first cleanse I ever did, and it changed my life. I like to do “nutritive” cleanses in the Spring and Fall (and definitely if I am doing one in the winter). This means that unlike a lot of cleanses or fasts, I can eat quite a variety and quantity of food, including various types of high-quality of protein.

I mainly cut the bad boys out, like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy, etc., add pharmaceutical-grade organic supplements to detox and support my body, consume more superfoods, smoothies and green juices, and am more mindful about sleep, exercise, and meditation. The more intense cleanses and fasts I save for doing either one day a week, the final week of my 3-week cleanses, or for the summertime, when those more “extreme” cleanses feel more appropriate for my body – and the weather;)

Here are my Top 10 reasons to Do a Supah Yummy Spring Cleanse RIGHT NOW!

First, there are the obvious physical reasons:

1. Weight loss (and maintenance). Caveat: This isn’t about body image (although it might be for you). It’s about staying at a healthy weight where your risk for disease and premature death is lower, yo. This benefit is for realz. People often loose at least 5 pounds. I sometimes loose more if I’ve been on the – ahem – rather unhealthy side (read: too much wine or cheese or both). On the maintenance side, this basically means you are likely taking off the weight that accumulated while you started eating and drinking like crap after your last cleanse. And when you do them regularly, they can help you maintain your weight because you’re not waiting until your weight is way out of control before moving back to healthier eating habits.

2. When done regularly, cleanses provide a kind of re-set for your tasty-buds, training your tasty-buds (as my friend Shauna likes to call them;) and the rest of your body to like healthier food again. We train ourselves to prefer certain flavors, and fat, sugar, and salt are easy to become addicted to on the flavor scale. It’s just how we’re built!

Once you eat a healthier diet for awhile (say, for the length of a cleanse), you can train yourself to prefer the fresher and more subtle flavors of whole, real foods. This means you are re-setting your body to consume healthier foods with more vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, anti-cancer agents, and all that good shizzle – and LIKE it!

3. Allergy relief, often with less mucus, congestion, skin problems, and coughs. This is especially true for many peeps when eliminating gluten and dairy. I notice when I get massages on a cleanse, my nose doesn’t get all stuffy, most obvious when I am asked to turn onto my back and I am actually able to breathe. Seasonal allergies can improve (if not eliminated, they are often less severe), and people often experience easier breathing while exercising, as well as less coughing or shortness of breath, even if they don’t have an official diagnosis of asthma.

4. No matter how healthfully we eat, we live in an increasingly toxic world. The body’s defenses are made up of the liver, kidneys, colon, as well as healthy skin and immune system functioning. However, when we are continuously exposed to toxins and pollutants in the air we breathe, eating non-organic food, and drinking chemicalized or contaminated water, it puts a lot of stress on our defenses and detoxification systems as they struggle to keep up. Eventually, these toxins can build up and cause disease and the other big bummer known as low energy.

Add to this things like binge-drinking, prescription as well as recreational drugs, pharmaceutical grades of jet fuel coffee, and being a couch potato, our poor body is like, “Hey there! Can I interrupt your Bacchanalian fiesta of a life? I can sort of deal with this, and I am doing a pretty damn good job of it, but will you puh-lease cut me a break?!” This can manifest as getting sick easily (aka: forced rest), low energy, skin rashes, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and body pains, etc.

Cleansing helps you detoxify and gives your system a break so you can continue to kick ass for as long as possible on this gorgeous planet.

5. More energy. ‘Nuf said. Well, I’ll say a bit more: Cleansing also kick-starts your metabolism. After you cleanse, your metabolism becomes more efficient – it more easily creates energy and eliminates wastes that bring your energy level down. If you continue to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle for a bigger chunk of the year through regular cleansing, you will feel healthier for more of the year too!

6. You look better. Your skin glows, you carry yourself taller with more energy and confidence, your belly is flatter since it isn’t so bloated all the time and you’re pooping more regularly, and you just freakin’ RADIATE health. I can see it in others all the time. One of my yoga teachers, Melissa Cooley, was doing an Ayurvedic cleanse, and when we were in a workshop together (my Ziji Up! Mastery Program, in fact!), everyone kept saying to her, “You look so radiant! You’re glowing!” Yup. Da cleanse.

7. Your aches and pains can disappear. As you eliminate foods you are intolerant or allergic to, as well as stop eating crap food, toxins can more easily be eliminated from your body, and your inflammation levels go down – and you feel better in your body. Yummy;)

The following reasons are more subtle, and they have to do with the deeper shizzle, the emotional and spiritual levels of cleansing.

7. We are NOT our habits. Our habits are choices that we repeat over and over, and when we make the same choices over and over, we create a comfort zone, whether we like it or not.

It’s not called a “comfort zone” because it is necessarily “comfortable.” Being bloated and constipated isn’t comfortable. But the habit of eating things we have an intolerance for – like pasta and cheese – keeps us in the comfort zone.

More correctly, it is called a comfort zone because when you try something different from it, you are uncomfortable. And sometimes extremely so.

With this aspect of the cleanse, you directly deal with your habits, stretching beyond your comfort zones, and the way your habits may be masking some difficult truths.

** I believe it is THIS part of cleansing that is the reason most people avoid doing a cleanse at all. **

It’s not so much that they can’t physically do without their cheese. It’s that they can’t do with the emotional discomfort that arises without it.

In this part of the cleanse, you may become in tune with how stressed out your job makes you when you aren’t automatically unwinding after work with a class (or several) of wine. And that can be a sucky thing to realize.

You can become very aware of how depleted your energy stores might be when you finally aren’t having your regular coffee in the morning (don’t worry – there are versions of cleanses that allow some caffeine if that is a deal-breaker for you ;).

You might not know what to do when you can’t automatically munch on a bag of chips because you’re bored, or slam down the ice cream because you’re boyfriend pissed you off. And you bite your nails wondering why the hell you did this stupid cleanse.

8. Often, our habits are our way of self-medicating, and cleansing keeps you real with yourself. Cleansing make sure you are staying on your path, staying in line with your values, keeps you in integrity. It makes sure all of you is heading in the same direction = your dreams.

It does this by not allowing you to hide, even if its harder to face it all.

Even after all I’ve just said, you may still be wondering, “So…why go there?” Let me tell you this:

It is über-liberating (Hello, FREEDOM JUNKIES!), when, on day 9 of a cleanse, you fall asleep easily and effortlessly without needing your after-work martini; or when you meet a friend for lunch feeling clear and energetic, and and you haven’t even missed your morning coffee.

The Tibetan Buddhist nun who taught me to meditate when I was 18 years old, Robina Courtin, told me that what she loved most about quitting smoking was not needing a cigarette anymore. She was giving a teaching on attachment, and she went on and on about the freedom and liberation of not NEEDING something outside of yourself to feel good.

It was a very powerful impression.

9. Increased mental clarity. When we get rid of toxins and distractions, we have more time and space for seeing this clearly, for experiencing life as it is, with fewer filters of gobbledygook in our system that fog things up. This is particularly true on deeper cleanse days like juice fasts.

In this spaciousness, we have room fill ourselves up with connections with nature, to be closer to our Higher Power, or whatever else truly fills us up.

10. You become more in touch with your body. When you are more in touch with your body, you will be less likely to have unhealthy habits, you will more easily be able to tune in to the intuition that your body offers you, and you will cultivate a level of self-love that is much needed!

Whew! So now that you know how AWESOME cleanse is on the mind, body, and spirit levels- are you ready? There are a lot of cleanse books out there, but a cleanse that is über-easy and fun to start with can be found in Kris Carr’s book, Crazy Sexy Diet (it focuses on an anti-inflammatory diet). I’ll also be posting more details about the kind of cleanses I like to do on my blog this Spring – so keep an eye out!

If you’re a little nervous about starting a cleanse on your own, come join other Freedom Junkies for our Seasonal Cleanses! They happen every Spring, Summer, Fall and a shorter detox in Winter, just after the new year. In the Freedom School, we do seasonal cleanses together while we are also work on our jedi mindtricks. After all – it’s all connected, right? No one ever became enlightened eating Cheetos on a couch. Freedom School opens on December 1st. Go to when you’re ready. We can’t wait to have you in the tribe!

End Overwhelm. Slow is Sexy!

meditationgrass-200x133“Stop the glorification of busy” ~ Anonymous viral internet quote (ironically)

Let’s get this straight – you can kick ass, rock your life, have big adventures, AND know how to take it slow, savoring every moment.

In fact, if you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re going to need to learn, or else you’ll burn out before you ever get to truly enjoy the fruits of your blood sweat and tears.

Trust me – I’ve been on the fast train a whole lot, whether it was jetting around to 22 countries a year or practically living in the hospital delivering babies because I thought it was the coolest thing ever (it IS pretty cool;). I love to stay up late and create, and I love to dance and sweat under the full moon until the sun rises.

But I can’t keep it up forever. Especially now that I’m 40, and life demands more from me than in previous life stages – in a good way!

If you’re only in your 20s, don’t waive this off as something to think about “later.” Trust me: you need to get this now too. And better sooner than later, because that way you’ll be able to rock it more fully for longer!

Let’s take a look at the woman many people admire these days: She gets up at 5am and runs 6 miles before work, power-houses it at the Corporation whilst slugging down her green juice, squeezing in a lunchtime yoga session and munching down a salad, then comes home after an hour in traffic, makes dinner, pounds out a presentation for the deadline, and hits the sack at 11pm, thoughts spinning about the next day and feeling happy, healthy, and strong, albeit exhausted.

Or if that isn’t your style, maybe you admire the woman who is on the vagabond road, perpetually traveling and adventuring and making the most of every moment, never sleeping in the same place for more than one night, not having an address or even cookware because she doesn’t have a kitchen. Or a home. Or a consistent community. But man, she is doing cool shit. And drinking whisky while she’s at it. Her motto? Sleep when you die. And she is obsessed with never, ever missing out. On anything. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to the wazoo0ith degree. Yes, I made that word up.

Oh wait – that was me for few decades…

In any event, I bet these scenarios seem pretty sexy to a lot of you. This kind of sexiness sells. You’ve seen the corporate version of these “high-energy” women in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Bones, and The Good Wife. Angelina Jolie is a role model for many young women, and manages to look hot, save the world, fly a plane, and have too many kids for me to remember. And spend a ton of time in Africa and other exotic continents between sex scenes.

Go go go and WIN! It’s what our society admires – having it all. At full speed ahead. And there’s nothing wrong with that, per se

The problem is, this isn’t sustainable. And that’s OK too – it doesn’t need to be sustainable. For the most part, if you take care of yourself, you are able to handle bursts of manic creativity and adventure. But the operative phrases are “if you take care of yourself” and “bursts” (not years of it).

I know women like the ones described above, and obviously I’ve lived like that too. And guess what? It catches up. You get a bunch of colds. You feel “foggy-headed,” or groggy. You have less energy and are constantly tired. You feel like you’re always “fighting off something.”

Or maybe you really let it get out of control and you get an auto-immune disease. You become bitchy. You gain weight, become an emotional eater. Or you lose too much weight. Feel chronic pain. Your hormones get out of whack. You act impatient. You have digestive problems and feel bloated and fart a lot. You have trouble sleeping. Your skin breaks out. And if you wait until menopause to get this figured out, this “transition” will particularly kick your ass.

Or in my case, maybe you get cancer. Twice, because you didn’t figure it out the first time.

For those of you who have been following me for awhile, you may remember the posts in my FullOn365 blog. There, after a second cancer snafoozle, I aspired to live every day Full On for an entire year. You’d think it was an exhausting year full of adventure after adventure. But an important lesson was that it became more about being fully present, fully IN whatever it was that I was doing, that made things feel FULL ON. It was less about what I was doing and more about how I was being – capiche?

Can you really have it all? Well, it depends what you mean. I believe you can have it all – just maybe not all at the same time.

So how can you have it all and balance it so you don’t burn out?

Here are 6 Tips for Ending Overwhelm:

1) Balance out having it all by prioritizing what is most important to you.

We need to be clear about what we want and what’s important to us: get clear about what’s important. If you haven’t yet, download my free Ultimate Getting Clear Guide from my website – the form to receive it is in the sidebar. It’s a great place to start! Also, check out this article I wrote on how to prioritize.

If we want to travel the world and save up for a house, which is the most pressing desire right now? Choose that. You can have the other as well, just maybe in a bit. And in the meantime, you can create a situation where you can try to make money WHILE traveling the world and have your cake and eat it too. But if you travel and spend, the fact that you aren’t saving for your house will wear at you in the back of your mind and eventually lead to overwhelm, exhaustion, and low self-esteem.

2) Address your highest priorities FIRST in your day.

If you know that to stay healthy and sane you need to sleep 8 hours, meditate for at least 10 minutes, and get in 20 minutes of yoga at a minimum, you better be dammed sure you schedule everything ELSE around those three things. As the article here describes, its nice to have 3-5 very clear things that you make as your priorities each day. They don’t have to just be self-care things either. They can be a passion project or a hobby.

Hint: at least a few of those things should be self-care though;)

3) Use your best energy time-of-day for yourself.

That means that if your best energy is in the morning, you do your self-care practices in the morning. If you are at your best in the evening, you make sure to do something lovely for yourself then too. Your work and caring for other people also flow well when you are in your energetic “zone,” but you need to prioritize yourself as well during this time. YOU deserve your best first. This will pay off in the end, so you don’t half-ass meeting your soul’s needs – or the needs of those you care about.

4) Make yourself go to bed early. You need it to replenish your energy – even if it feels like you don’t.

By that I mean early enough to feel refreshed the next day – whatever that is for you. If you don’t wake up feeling alert and awake, you’re not resting enough (or you need to detox, but that’s another topic we’ll address as we get closer to our next cleanse). Unless you are one of those Tibetan monks who can enter Stage IV deep sleep while meditating and remaining alert of your surroundings, you do need to sleep, gorgeous. Seven to eight hours a night. Sorry;)

5) Take naps if you need to so that don’t need stimulants later in day.

Sleeping enough will also help with this. You can get in a 20-min power nap at lunch for in that afternoon slump between 2-5pm if you have to.

Being tired in our culture is funny. If we’re hungry we’ll eat, if we’re thirsty we’ll drink, but if we’re tired we wonder, “What’s wrong?” Nothing’s wrong! You simply need to rest. “I can’t nap!” you may think. Well, if you’re tired. Simply lie down because that alone helps your body rejuvenate.

6) Avoid decision overload. Create routines!

This can, and will be, a blogpost in and of itself. We make so many decisions – like 30 decisions in only 5-10 seconds of being on Internet. Where do I click, where do I scan the page, which article do I pay attention to, how do I close that popup? Just look at the decisions we make around food and how often we think about and plan for meals and snacks – let alone making decisions around what the people who will be eating with us will need!

Having routines decreases the number of decisions we have to make. Simplify your menus, have a regular bedtime, create a morning routine that is non-negotiable (for the most part;)

People who make good decisions formulate life so they have to make fewer of them. They set up routines and clear boundaries and have clarity about what they want – and don’t want.

Hint: Make decisions after breakfast and lunch because decisions use so much energy and glucose that we actually make better decisions after having eaten.

OK, peeps! That’s 6 tips for now. Let me know below what works for you to help end overwhelm. The more tools we can have – and share – the better!


Want more? Sign up for my free Jedi Juice call this month: Slow is Sexy – End Your Overwhelm and the Glorification of Busy

How to Slow Down and Chill Out


“In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“In the depth of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.” ~ Albert Camus

When I was studying Five Element Acupuncture, one of our assignments was to walk about in nature regularly, and simply take in what was going on during the various seasons – what the trees were doing, how the birds were sounding, in which way was the air was moving. Later, when studying Ayurveda, I received a similar assignment, and it didn’t surprise me that there was this similarity between the two health systems (among many other similarities). You see, these healing systems, which are thousands of years old, know a simple truth, the ignorance of which keeps us from living and thriving with ease: we are reflections and microcosms of nature, and need to follow its rules. Or else.

Or else what? Or else you will feel like shit, that’s what.

I know that’s kind of blunt, but it’s true. When we think we can live in a little bubble and never feel cold or heat or humidity or sunlight on our skin, or darkness on our mood, we are kidding ourselves! We are totally and completely affected by what’s going on outside, whether we have time to be IN it or not. So when we try to be and look and feel the same all year-round, we end up getting all whacked out! Imagine if any other thing in nature tried to do the same. They’d likely not just be uber-stressed, but they’d probably die.

Take a look at the trees around you – unless you’re in the tropics, they are likely showing evidence of the drawing inward that winter is famous for. Leaves are dropped, the energy is drawn in and stored in the core of their trunks and roots, and things are more still. Many animals hibernate, even big majestic ones, like bears. The sun rests more, and there is more darkness and stillness in each day. This is all for a reason, peeps! This is all so that we too can draw inward, do what needs to be done, and restore our reserves.

In Alaska, this change is particularly pronounced, and particularly necessary. In the summer, hardly any Alaskan sleeps much. The sun is out until midnight, the mountains are full of wildflowers and adventures, the rivers are pumping and people are out to play. Hard. We NEED winter to survive summer. We need to sleep long hours and be a little more still. Yet so many people don’t do this – they keep trying to go go go. Ski after work every day and go out to the clubs and hit up live music every week…

Some people feel this is what gives them energy in the winter. “It’s what keeps me going!” they say. But I often question this when the same people (myself as one of those in the not-so-distant past) are falling ill with colds and flus and coughs that last for weeks, or when they feel a wired buzz kind of energy instead of a steady, calm energy that s much easier to sustain.

If you’ve found you haven’t changed a thing about your routine since winter arrived other than your ski or snowboard wax, I’d like to invite you to try out these tips for aligning yourself with the season of Winter, and see what a difference it can make in your life – and in the way you feel on a day to day basis. You may find yourself feeling a little less overwhelmed and a little more grateful for the natural pause that winter creates. (PS: Please share with me your experience with these ideas below – that’s where the juiciness happens!)

12 Tips for Slowing Down and Chilling Out This Winter

1. Create a routine in the morning – Routines help us slow down and give our mind, body and spirit something to rely on – which allows us to relax on a deep level. I like to wake up, do a minimum of 10-20 minutes of yoga (10 when in a hurry), do some breathing exercises for three minutes, then meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes and an invigorating self massage for 3 minutes. If I have more time, I add more time and luxury to each of those (like more yoga or meditation, or using warm sesame or coconut oil for my massage before hopping into the shower). If in a hurry, the whole things takes only 20-25 minutes and I feel awesome afterwards! At first it annoyed me to wake up early enough (which meant going to bed early enough) to do these things, but now I crave them.

2. Make time for reflection, contemplation – Even just 5 minutes! This can even be a part of your morning ritual. Journal, meditate, or just sit and observe. As my friend Erin Rabke says, “Ground, Sound, Breath.” Focus on feeling your body and grounding down to the earth below you. Tune into the sounds around you, simply observing. And take some deep, full breaths. Simple, and kickass.

3. Avoid multitasking  – especially while eating! (Ironic, I know, as I write this while having lunch) I am afraid this is my weakness and I can’t offer much advice here. But I’m working on it;) What I DO know is that when you focus on one thing, you get it done faster and better than while multitasking, though!

4. Create an evening ritual to do before going to bed – maybe you take three deep slow breaths, or read in bed with your favorite book for 5 minutes. Or do gentle movement, like  2-4 gentle stretches, before bed.

5. Eat warmer, heavier foods with warm spices (ginger, black peper, cumin, coriander, “pumpkin pie” spices) and drink warm, spicy teas
6. Keep warm – Heat naturally slows us down and mellows us out. Think: lazy siesta on the beach. Sleep with a hot water bottle (yummm! you can even put it in bed before you get in to toast it up;)

7. Spend quality time with friends, where you actually get to connect and talk and listen, and not just shout above the sounds at the restaurant or make small talk at a party.

8. Try to sleep early, by 10 or 11pm at the latest. The sun will have been long gone in most places during the winter.  You’ll wake up more refreshed as you drop into the natural rhythm of the season.

9. Take an aromatherapy bath whenever possible. Baths take longer than showers. At first that might annoy you, but it does force you to slow down and chill out. I like lavender, frankincense, or rose oils for winding down (not together though!). But pick whatever suits you.

10. Drink herbal tea after work instead of having your usual cocktail or snack. Alcohol and sugar feel good at first, but usually have the opposite effect of over-stimulating you later.

11. Have regular periods of being unplugged EVERY DAY. Maybe you don’t check email at all during lunch and you just go for a walk and then read…

12. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed – create a “natural sunset” period to wind down (you can even literally turn down the lights!)

Ready to chill out? Go for it! And if you have more advice to add, please share it below. I’d LOVE to hear your favorite ways to slow down and chill out in the winter. The more tools in the toolkit, the better!

12 Things More Important Than Being in the Best Shape of Your Life

Fotolia_8429735_Subscription_L-194x130You know when people are about to turn 30, or 40 (or 50 for that matter), and they say, “This year, I want to be in the best shape of my life!”? I know I said it when I was turning 30…

What is that about, anyway?

It seems like many people with that goal are trying to prove they aren’t getting older. In hindsight, I probably need to admit that’s what I was doing. Like, “See! It’s just years! But really I am traveling BACK in time to back when I was in better shape than I am now…but even better than that, ya know?”

So they end up striving for – and maybe even achieving – that level of fitness. People can definitely achieve that goal – Supah Fit {Older-But-Improved} Badass. I remember a coach at a public school in Menlo Park, CA who ran a mile for every year of his life on his birthday. Yes, that means he ran further as he got older, and that guy was up to 62 miles or something when I last heard. That just seems mean – to your body.

But then what? What happens one you’ve arrived at that goal, if you ever do? Usually people aren’t able to sustain it at that level. It takes effort of epic proportions to travel back in time. And they are still 30, 40 or 50 anyway. In the end, you do get older, and your body can only take so many miles before your knees hurt, carry so many packs before your back aches or your muscles get strained. It’s part of this being-born-in-a-body thing. There’s only so much we can do. Sigh…

Having said that, you can feel great as you get older. That is a given, and it’s why I do yoga and move and treat my body well. But it seems that it really shouldn’t be about being in the best shape OF YOUR LIFE.

I heard humans may soon live to 120 or something. That means people will be playing this game in their 70s at some point. Seriously, peeps?

I understand the desire to have a fire lit under you to get in shape if you’ve let things slide. Most people move less when they are older because there are more things they have to do than go out and adventure and move – like clean the gutters, call insurance companies, mail packages, drive the kids to soccer practice or go to work and be inside for 1/3 of the day. In our earlier years we could play a lot more, and that kept us in better shape by default. Plus with increased stress we eat like crap and our body stores fat more easily, which doesn’t help the situation of not moving much.

BUT, if you’re one of those who wants to be in the best shape of your life, I challenge you to look at that goal from a different angle. For most, it doesn’t seem filled with much self love. It seems filled with criticism of who they are right now. That whomever they are right now is not enough.

And that is bad juju. Again, I am not saying to NOT have that goal, but rather I ask that you really look at the motivation behind it, because if you don’t have the self-love and self-ACCEPTANCE yet, nothing is going to make you feel better about yourself in a sustainable way.

Anywhooo…I almost fell into that trap. Hell, I used to be a climbing guide. I have that complex every freakin’ YEAR!

I actually had the time to achieve the best-shape-of-my-life goal this year. I only work 1/2 the year. And I live in Alaska where adventures and workouts – and the adrenaline freaks who egg you on – abound. But then guess what? I realized that turning 40 meant more to me than being in the best shape of my life. And I gave myself permission to feel that way.

I realized I have earned the wisdom to let go of all the crap that used to hold me back (yes, even after ALL this work, I still manage to get in my own way sometimes;), AND I earned the wisdom to want the things that will TRULY make me happy. Not just those things that prove I can travel back in time and beyond and have some mega-bod.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#ff00ff”]Here is what I’ve learned to want more than that[/typography] , because these things give me more FREEDOM – and that is what we’re all on this blog for, right?

1. Total love and acceptance of our body and of our being, who you truly are, the woman you’ve become, the mistakes you’ve made and the love you have shared. Your bitch-slap mode. All of it. Acceptance does not mean settling, though! (More on that another time) Letting go of guilt and Saying “No” falls under this as well. Guilt is a big freakin’ waste of time! Trust me. Don’t even argue. And when you can say “No” as part of loving yourself, no guilt is necessary. In fact, saying “No” helps you be more available and present to the things that really matter to you – like the people you love. So when you say no, it means you have more energy to say “Yes!” to something else.

2. Clarity and Ditching “Maybe.” If it isn’t a “Hell Yes!” it’s a “Hell No!” One of my coaches taught me this a LONG time ago. While it can be easy to turn away from things that obviously suck, it is much harder to walk away from a “Maybe.” Like a “maybe” relationship, or a job that “isn’t horrible,” for example. When we have clarity, what is a Hell Yes! to us becomes more obvious, as well as the Hell Nos! This makes decisions easier to make, and it is much more easy to flow into being in alignment in all parts of your life: your values, goals and dreams, the environment you are in, your career, your relationships…they are congruent with one another. This life alignment is what contributes to total and full happiness! And it starts with knowing what to say “Yes” to, and what to say “No” to.

3. Forgiveness Superpowers. The ability to forgive is so freeing! It pisses me off when I can’t forgive someone whom I know is truly sorry. This is a skill worth cultivating during your entire lifetime.

4. Low tolerance for toxicity  – Don’t put up with toxic people, places, thoughts, emotions, and things. I move away from these things more easily now.

5. Prioritizing my values and the people I love – and let the rest of life work its way around what is really important to me. When you prioritize the top 5-6 things that are truly important to you, you WILL have time for them all. Life will fall into place around it (read my blopost here about how to do this and why it’s completely true – I shizzle you not)

6. Healthy and passionate sex life. What can I say. It’s the glue that holds things together when the going gets tough. And when I don’t have that, I am in a very, very bad mood.

7. Connect with other people’s hearts, because otherwise I am pretty bored. I can go for a few months of just paying attention to myself, but eventually, I have to light up someone else’s life so that they can see how amazing it is to be ALIVE. Connecting with people authentically is a great way to light them up. Which brings me to my next point:

8. Authenticity as a mantra. This is me, baby. What you see is what you get. If I didn’t say I’m pissed at you, I’m not. If I say I am annoyed, you better believe it. If I say I love you, I mean it. I don’t throw that “love” phrase around. It means that in that moment, a huge welling up of love is happening, and I have to tell you or I just might explode. This authenticity means I cry easily sometimes. Well, a lot, actually. It means I cry when something is gorgeous, when something is devastating, when something is incredibly moving and blows my freakin’ mind. It means I laugh loudly and fully and you may want to wear earplugs. It means I am most honest with myself. (To get your Authenticity on, check out this month’s Jedi-Juice call).

9. Adventure and Freedom. Daily. I get bored otherwise. I can tolerate it coming every other day, but daily is ideal. That’s one of the reasons my soul mate is so amazing. He is pretty good at having adventures every day – big or small, inner or outer adventure – doesn’t matter to me. Just don’t let me get bored! And keep me excited and stimulated. Traveling is pretty good at fulfilling this need for me too;) And forget about having to ask permission to do things all the time. I want control over my time, money, and energy. I – like you – am a bona fide Freedom Junkie.

10. Movement and playing outside. More than being in the best shape of my life, I want to move. Move a lot. Play a lot. Move and play outside in the mountains, preferably. Move my body all sorts of ways, like when I do yoga, or do #6, or see a trail leading to somewhere new and I just need to peep around the corner…

11. Love fully, live compassionately. I sleep better that way. Live each day wanting others to be utterly ecstatic, and free from whatever is causing them suffering. Living compassionately means giving other the people the benefit of the doubt, even when it might be more convenient to chalking things up to them being an asshole. Trying to be joyful – instead of jealous – when someone manifests abundance in their life. This is part of becoming truly happy.

12. Healthy food and air and water and home. Because when I don’t have those things, I don’t have the energy to create all the things I’ve already mentioned above. It’s not about health – it’s about what health allows you to do! And be;)

Being fit is still important to me (that photo is me at 40! Heading off to climb the highest peak in Mongolia). But when I look at the milestone year of turning 40, it is not the utmost important thing on my list. And I certainly don’t feel the need to be more fit that when I was climbing mountains in the Himalayas. I’ve got some other mountains to climb.

If you still want to be in the best shape of your life, go right on ahead! I still exercise regularly and eat well and cleanse and work on my stress level … all that jazz. Just be sure to add some of the things I mentioned that may have resonated with you too, OK? It will be more…graceful that way. And be sure to love, LOve, LOVE who you are RIGHT NOW, no matter what. That’s the place to start.

What have you found to become more – and less – important to you as you’ve gotten older? Pray do tell below…


Freedom Junkie Tips for How to Stay Healthy On the Road

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. ~ Mike Murdock

If you’ve been reading my previous blog posts, you may know that when I returned from over two months in Africa this past winter, I felt – well – gross. I felt soft and squishy, low-energy, bloated, stopped up, and quite irritable.

I arrived back to the states utterly spent, and not in the I’ve-climbed-a-mountain-and-earned-my-gluten-free-beer kind of way. It was more like a, “Holy shizzle, my body hates me” kind of way.

I had spent tons of time on my butt (literally) riding on trains and in the back of pickup trucks and on painful plywood benches for hours on end. The parts of Africa I was visiting on this latest trip had minimal access to veggies and fruit, and I found mostly gluten and potatoes to eat. I had to treat my water with nasty chemicals if there wasn’t plastic water bottles (yuck!) to purchase, and drank a cold African beer (or three) daily to take the edge off the rough travel.

It wasn’t appropriate for me to hike by myself in many areas, let alone go running (my “exercise” of choice) when it was either 40 degrees Celsius or when I’d be prey for the lions. We got in some peak climbs and hikes, but as you know – it’s not what we do once in awhile that brings us health – it’s what we do daily.

Every day, amigos. It’s our habits and what we do every day that counts.

I had brought with me my greens powder, which saved my cells and kept my bowels a-movin’ on this trip. I also had digestive enzymes with me. But my body could only take so much before manifesting things like a rounder belly, softer muscles, less energy, a grumpy attitude, and jet lag that lasted an entire month.

We did amazing things and had epic adventures – that’s for sure (read here for blogposts about gorillas (primate and human kind) and other adventures there). But if you’re anything like me (which if you’re human, you are), then you need some basic things like exercise/movement and quality food to feel good in the long run.

And if you travel to places like I do, you know that most places you will be staying in won’t have gyms, and many cultures you are visiting don’t take kindly to westerners running around in skimpy clothes, profusely sweating on purpose – especially if you are a woman.

As I planned our next adventure to Mongolia, where we’ll be able to be more active while packrafting, hiking and the like, I came up with some ways to avoid coming back feeling like crud. I know better than to think that travel in a developing country won’t tax my body just because it’s not Africa, and just because we’ll be more active.

Yes, I did know a lot of these things before our recent trip, but apparently I forgot – or didn’t take the time to prepare more health-related things – because, well, I do stupid things like that sometimes;)

Here are my tips for healthy travel – and this applies for dirtbag  and budget travel trips where you are mostly camping and hosteling, as well as for those of you traveling a bit more on the plush side.

Note: I do mention specific products because inevitably I get a slew of emails asking which ones I prefer myself. So I’m just going to tell you up front! But do know that there are lots of options out there. These are simply the ones I have personal experience with. You should experiment with what works best for you too! And if you think of things not mentioned here, please add them in the comment below and keep us all in the loop.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#e31ce3″]20 Freedom Junkie ® Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road[/typography]

1. Pack a Greens Powder. This is super important. When traveling to developing countries or on a busy itinerary, eating fresh vegetablesgreenvibrancecan be challenging, or even sketchy. Bring a container of it – enough for a serving or two a day – in something lightweight like a plastic tub with screw top, or a bomber ziploc bag that you can also double-bag for security. I like Green Vibrance, and Hungry For Change has also come out with one that seems healthy too. Kris Carr raves about Amazing Grasses. They all taste…questionable, but I consider them medicinal anyway;)

While it looks questionable in a plastic baggie, I’ve never had problems with it at customs or at security.

2. Bring Digestive Enzymes. To go lighter weight, I like the Advanced Enzyme System by Rainbow Light because you only need to take one capsule with a meal (as opposed to two or three of the less-potent brands). I also like Advanced Enzyme Optima because it has probiotics and enzymes in one. These will help your digestive tract stay healthier and you’ll feel less bloated and gassy eating strange foods. Maybe;)

While Probiotics are awesome, it is admittedly hard to keep them cool enough while traveling. Ones that need refrigeration are out of the question, but even the ones that can survive room temperature won’t be able to survive the temps you may encounter on your travels – like when you have to put your bag in the back of the pickup under the blazing sun for 10 hours.

3. Have an exercise routine you can do in the space that a yoga mat would take up. This doesn’t mean you’d necessarily need a yoga mat (read further for more options), but it means you need to be able to move in limited space. That way you know you’ll be able to exercise between the two beds in your room, or on that small patch of poop-free grass near your camp.

Even if you will be doing some hiking or other activity on your trip, unless it is full-on expeditioning, you will likely be missing out on some major muscle groups, so it’s nice to have a daily full-body routine you can do no matter what. If I had to pick one, I’d say a flow type of yoga. But on longer trips, I also like to add in a few more creative things.

A good way to do this if you want to mix things up is to have workouts downloaded onto your iPhone or iPad/reader, which saves weight. Yes, even DVDs add up!

I prefer to have some options that don’t require WiFi or other internet access since that is still hard to come by most places I go. Some programs I’ve tried out and think would work well are:

P90X – The P90X-Fitness-Guide90-day program is about $130, and the optional iPhone App is about $4. Get to know the DVD workout before you go on your trip, then bring your iPhone with you for a varied workout every day. I like to travel lightly, so I wouldn’t personally bring the DVDs. However, if you are simply doing a weekend trip, the DVDs may not cramp your style at all!

Yoga Audios I downloaded these six classes from Baron Baptiste’s site and found them to be decent for not requiring internet access to watch them. There are single class audios you can purchase as well.

Yoga Journal just came out with digital video and audio downloads as well. I haven’t tried them, but Yoga Journal is pretty solid as a company and the instructors on many of the items are awesome.

If you have access to wifi/internet, try:

YogaGlo Has videos of real live classes from Santa Monica, and Jason Crandall apparently has a great travel yoga sequence posted as well!

My Yoga Online Classes from various studios around the country

Yoga Vibes Lots of Vinyasa classes

Those are just a few. Explore and see which you vibe on better. The ones above are the ones I’ve tried and liked. If you have more suggestions, please share them with the tribe below!

4. Did I say to pack light? Yes, pack light. My husband is king at this. In 2011 he went to West Africa a few weeks before I met up with him there, and when I dropped him off at the airport he had a small black nylon satchel, and that was it. It weighed maybe 5 pounds, and most of that was the Lonely Planet book. I followed after him with my own 8lbs (I get 3 extra pound for girlie stuff;), and I believe our shelter and small kitchen setup was about 4lbs on top of that. The pic of my pack is below, which weighed 12 pounds total.

my light pack for months in Africa
my light pack, sufficient for months in Africa

It makes the biggest difference, especially on hard travel days. Your Freedom Junkie back will love you for it, and when you are hot and sticky, nothing can bum you out more than having to schlep through a polluted town with a big ass bag on your back. And try running after a departing bus, or squeezing onto the back of a pickup with 20 other people with a beast on your back. Not fun.

And you’ll look funny.

It is much easier the lighter you can go. You’ll fit in more with the locals too, as they tend to also pack lightly, and you’ll be much happier in the long run. Plus, you won’t be as disheartened when you realize your guest house is 1 mile further than where you had the truck drop you off.

My friend Roman Dial, a lightweight guru, has been said to espouse three rules of lightweight packing:

  • need less. And I mean “need.” We all think we need things, but when you’re huffing it up a hill on a sweltering day after you’ve had diarrhea, you’re going to wonder if you really needed that hardcover novel.
  • share (even toothbrushes if you’re getting serious, yo!)
  • utilize technology (like titanium pots and pans, lightweight and high-tech clothing, dehydrated food)

And in that order.

sheltersystemthumbfCheck out Hyperlight Mountain Gear as well, which I think makes totally epic lightweight gear. Shazaam! Their shelters are amazingly light. Remember that you compromise durability with such extremely lightweight gear, so you must be vigilant about taking care of your shizzle.

One thing to keep in mind is that uber-light travel is much easier in warm paces (like West Africa). If you’re traveling to colder climates, use Roman’s guidelines above and do your best. When I worked as an Instructor for Outward Bound’s Alpine Mountaineering courses, I knew some instructors who could get their packs down to 35-40lbs, and that was with 10 days of food, a climbing harness, light alpine climbing rack (rock), helmet, cold-weather clothing, and other types of more extreme gear. I think the best I got was 50lbs…again, girlie-stuff allotment.

Or a need complex…

My friend Gordy says, “We pack for our insecurities.” Yup.

5. ToeSox and Yoga Paws These are AWESOME! I’ve tested them out and can vouch for these two brands. I like the Yoga Paws toesoxgripht_bathany_balancefor hands and the ToeSox for feet. The ToeSox with stripes are super-cute, and that helps me motivate;) You can do yoga on an indoor floor, outdoor hard floor surface, or a rock slab and have less risk for slippage. They wouldn’t be fun to use in dirt or grass, so just go bare for those.

6. Yoga mat? Again, because I am a lightweight kind of Freedom Junkie, I like to ix-nay the yoga mat. Hence, the items I mentioned in #5.

However, I had one lightweight mat recommended to me that I’ve used at home as a tester: the Manduka eKo Superlite Travel Mat. I dig it. It isn’t very padded (because it’s lightweight!),  but it is sticky. It still weighs 2lbs, so for me that is too much to take on a long-term trip. But I’ll be bringing this for weekend/week-long trips for sure! It folds up like a sweater.

7. Make requests for vegetables (or other specific foods) ahead of time. If you are staying at a guest house without veggies on the menu, you can ask the cook if they can please serve up some yummy greens for your next meal. Often they won’t buy vegetables without knowing someone will eat them because without refrigeration, they will go bad quickly. But if you make a request ahead of them, they just might be able to run to the market and grab you some yummy pumpkin greens!

Sometimes you’ll have to plan ahead for market days if you really want this to happen. I did really want this to happen, so I got the local market schedules wherever we went to try and find out when we could make special food requests. If we’d been offered only rubbery chicken for days, I’d ask ahead of time to please get some fish for us – then I’d eat fish as much as I could until we set off for gluten and potato and rubber chicken land again.

Don’t be afraid to ask for something not on the menu!

8. Nutrition Shakes and snacks. As you all know, I am a whole-foods advocate. However, when I am on the road, I find myself faced with poor food options a LOT, whether that is because of tight travel schedules, remoteness of location, or myriad other reasons.

When I am on a shorter trip, I like to bring along one nutrition shake a day/every other day for the times when I think I’ll end up eating crap just because I can’t find something healthier. I like Shakeology for their vegan version and for supplementing for workouts, and Isagenix for taste and as a more filling shake (this shake hands down tastes better). Both have super foods in them and are of excellent quality. Plus, they are better for you than potato chips, sistah!

Ideally, you can also pack some healthy snack like nuts and bars. While on longer trips, hauling snacks from home isn’t practical except for a few treats, but for shorter trips, they can be a lifesaver.

9. Handheld/small blender. This is obviously for those without baggage weight concerns. If you know you’ll be in a magic-bullet-blender-lrghotel near a grocery store – like the last conference I went to inMUSH Atlanta that was a block from Whole Foods – you can make your own smoothies in the hotel room. Be sure to pack the container in which you’ll be blending things too (lightweight is possible!). Toss in some greens powder that you brought along, and voila!

The Magic Bullet Blender is awesome, and Mush, the manual baby food processor from Boon, is smaller and comes highly recommended by the ladies in my Spring Superfoods Cleanse for mixing up your own simple shakes and smoothies (not for chopping, but for mashing up softer things and blending powders). MUSH doesn’t require electricity, but the Bullet does.

10. Natural bug spray and loose clothing. The natural stuff doesn’t work as well as DEET, but you won’t get cancer from it. Nuff said. Heinous bugs? Cover up with loose clothing and a mosquito head net (wear it over a rimmed hat to keep it off your face). That way you don’t have to use any kind of spray. This is my preferred way to deal with the bugs.

The best top is a tight-knit long-sleeve button down men’s shirts. I say men’s shirts because women’s are often too tight and the mosquitoes will bite through them. I buy my “bug shirts,” as I like to call them, from thrift shops. They can be found in uber-groovy colors;)

Note: If you are using the evil DEET juice,  be sure to use it on top of your clothes and never on your skin, and if you touch it, immediately wash your hands.

11. Go to the local market and buy yummy food – bring them back to the hotel/hostel/guesthouse IMG_0445and cook them up on your own, or ask the cook to make them up for you. If you’re going to eat raw, wash your veggies in a hydrogen peroxide mix or iodized water to avoid nasty stomach bugs.

12. Minimize the alcohol intake. Dehydration, excess simple sugars, hangovers that only beer from developing countries can muster… it isn’t worth it to be excessive on a regular basis.

13. Hydrate hydrate hydrate! This is also the antidote to #12. Drink lots of water when you can. Remember to pack your own water bottle (just make sure it’s empty before going through security) so you don’t have to rely on cabin service to hydrate! I like Ecovessel’s filtration water bottle to help me feel better about drinking tapwater no matter where I am – and it works for giardia and cryptosporidium too! Sawyer makes more hard-core filters.

14. Search out local yoga studios where you’re at. Just because you can’t go to class in your hometown doesn’t mean you can’t check out a new place!

15. Walk. Move. A lot. Like I said earlier, it’s the daily things we do that count, Freedom Junkies. Take every opportunity you can to walk, walk, walk. This means wearing comfortable and lightweight shoes while you travel. As long as I’m not mountaineering, I generally travel with a pair of flip flops  and a pair of lightweight running/approach shoes. It’s nice to have the lightweight flip flops to change into after the end of a long day, or to keep feet cool when it’s hot. I have historically brought Chacos or something, but these days they are so heavy, I have moved to my present combo.

I like Salomon’s Speedcross shoes as well as Brooks Pure Grit ultra-lightweight running shoes. They won’t hold up for long trips on gnarly trails, but both have lasted me months on the road while doing some hiking as well.

I bring one of those with a pair of flip flops. I dig Keen’s flip flops for the extra toe protection, which has TOTALLY SAVED ME from tetanus so many times! I know I can buy cheap flip flops overseas, but they have broken on me a bunch, and instead I can bring light ones with some semblance of arch support too.

If you know you won’t be hiking much and that you’ll be relatively warm, Chacos are still a good bet for a one-shoe option. Wear them with socks when it gets chilly or for some extra foot protection. Socks will also keep your feet from stinking in them sooner than later.

16. Stretch in the morning. This will help your back to stay supple and not cramp up on the long and awkward plan/train/automobile/camel/donkey rides you’ll be partaking in. It will loosen up your body, and the mind tends to follow. If you can add a bit of meditation into the mix, you’re golden!

17. Pack a resistance band. I especially do this when I think I’ll be relying on P90X for my daily workout, because there is a lot of resistancebandsweight/resistance work. You can do most all of the P0-X workouts and any other resistance/weight exercises you like with a resistance band, which is lightweight and portable! If you don’t have one, you can create your own “resistance” by flexing your muscles AS IF you had a weight in your hand. Try it and do a bicep curl right now like you are trying to arm wrestle Popeye – it works better than nothing! I like Black Mountain Products’ resistance bands.

18. Get adequate sleep. This is huge. The body repairs itself when you sleep, and if you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t repairing and restoring. It WILL catch up. Plan rest days and lounging around days. I ALWAYS bring earplugs because SO MANY PLACES in the world seem to have talkative nocturnal dogs or early-rising roosters. An eye mask is also nice if you think you’ll be needing to sleep past sunrise a lot.

19. Wash you hands. This is the #1 way to prevent getting sick. I travel with a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well, which is super helpful when you don’t have access to clean water, or if water is scarce. Wash before eating, every time. This will dramatically cut down your risk for getting parasites, colds, the flu and other annoying bugs that cramp your style.

20. Plan a few days when you are NOT moving locations. Be strategic about where you place these – use them wisely, like after two weeks of daily galavanting across the country, or after a full three days of just getting to your destination. In our nearly three months of travel in Africa last year, Thai and I stayed at a place in Malawi for 3 full nights. Whoa! Other than the time we spent working at the refugee camp in Uganda, that was the longest we stayed ANYWHERE, and boy, did I absolutely relish taking out my toiletries knowing I wouldn’t have to repack them for three days, and sleeping in because there wasn’t a bus to catch.

I understand that when there is limited time, we can tend to want to Go! Go! Go! and not stay in any one place for too long, lest we miss out on something cool (read more about being a Freedom Junkie with FOMO here). But you will certainly miss out on something cool if you’re pissy and grumpy because you’re burned out.

Remember that no matter what top 20 make it onto your list, the best thing you can do for your health is to FEEL GOOD. So take a moment to ask yourself, “What could I do right now that would help me feel better?” Then get on it!

Those are my top 20, and there are MANY more! So please do share below and let the tribe in on your healthy travel tips and secrets.

Note: Ana Verzone (Neff)  is a personal life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie ® She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Ziji Up! eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her blog posts stem from her commitment to live full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row – which she just couldn’t stop. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting

* Just so ya know: the links for P90X and Shakeology take you to my coaching site for them because you can get them both for less there than if you go direct to For full disclosure, yes, if you order through me, I may get some sushi money. But you certainly don’t have to use that site to make your purchase – just to save;) Also, I never affiliate myself with something I think sucks. Ever.

I Am a Pee Stick Addict

I had no idea there was a term for this funny thing I have developed about obsessively taking pregnancy tests. But after taking three today, I had to wonder if there was something a little off.

I am almost 40 and trying to get pregnant, after all, so in a way it makes sense. But in another way, it’s a bit obsessive;)

You see, 10 years ago, when I was 29, I was walking down the streets of San Francisco with a good friend talking about how awesome our lives were, and how we were pretty sure we didn’t want kids – at least not anytime soon. We went climbing in Yosemite almost every weekend and took epic lipstick roadtrips to Joshua Tree, and had wonderful adventures, all over the world. We were studying at the graduate schools of our choice, and we felt young, sexy, smart, and fucking badass.

As we reflected on our blessings, my friend said to me, “If I ever talk about getting pregnant, kick me.” I laughed. I think I even said, “Totally!”

I am less prone to saying words like “never,” so in this case I leaned more towards a gentler, “I can go either way, but I’m not going to stress about getting pregnant or make any decisions based on it” – like being with men just because I really, really wanted to have a baby, which so many of my friends were doing. And I definitely wasn’t going to lasso a guy into getting me pregnant because I lied about being on birth control. The idea of that scared me – I couldn’t believe people would sneak someone into fatherhood!

At that time, I was totally OCD about not missing one pill of my birth control. I did not want to have an abortion if I got pregnant at that time, and I did not want to have a kid at that time. I simply did everything in my power to not get pregnant – except to not have sex. That was not an option I was willing to entertain;)

As I got older, when I dated men who said they wanted to have a family with me, I found myself starting to think about what creating a family might be like. I discovered I would miss a few pills here and there. I wondered about what I’d do if I accidentally got pregnant.

I even stayed in a way-less-than-ideal relationship for too long, and I am pretty sure it was because he wanted to have kids with me and I rather fancied the idea. The idea. At least of me being pregnant. Not of him being the father.

I even found myself being secretly pissed as a midwife when I would need to care for women who were pregnant but didn’t want to be. It was a very interesting, and surprising, experience after being used to so effortlessly give my love and care and compassion.

Still, in the end, I knew I didn’t want to have a child unless I was with a man with whom I felt the journey of parenting would be an utter adventure and joy. I didn’t meet anyone like that for a long time. I was even married once and I knew I didn’t want to have kids with him, because he was not the partner with whom it would be an utter adventure and joy.

Then, over a decade later, Thai (my fiancée) and I allowed ourselves to love one another the way we always had, and the love of my life blossomed.

And I wanted to have kids. NOW.

He and I reunited when I was 38. While we wanted to, we couldn’t try to get pregnant them because of our trips to Africa and having to take anti-malarials, which cause birth defects. And when we returned from our recent Africa trip in December of 2012, I took three more weeks of the anti-malarials and then came off of birth control for the first time in 23 years. 23 years!

Let the games begin!

In hindsight, I still think I made a good decision by delaying pregnancy. If I had gotten pregnant before I was with my fiancée, I would have had a very different life. I’d have less flexibility to consider closing shop in the lower 48 and moving to a different state to live out of a yurt through Alaskan winters, for example.

I think about my exes and, while generally really good guys, one in particular makes me want to vomit when I think of what it would have been like to have to co-parent with him, because we would definitely not have stayed together despite having a kid. It would have royally sucked.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t taken anti-malarials and just tried to get pregnant ASAP. But malaria would have sucked too, and we were in places where it wasn’t a question of IF you get malaria, but WHEN. I went with statistics. I was WAY more likely to get malaria than to get pregnant at that time!

So here I am, about to turn 40 this summer, and so very much wanting to have a baby with my soul mate. It makes me cry just writing this. I never had the feeling of wanting to create a baby before this, and it is really, really beautiful.

Right now, it seems it’s not so much about being pregnant, per se. Rather, it’s about having a baby with Thai. And if I wasn’t with him, I don’t think I would want to have a kid. I decided long ago that being a single mother was a challenge I would choose to pass on. If I wasn’t going to rock the family thing with my soul mate, I had plenty to keep me busy and fulfilled.

But now…I want it really, really badly now. My moon is 5 days late and I’ve been testing every day since 10 days after I thought I’d have ovulated. I’ve mastered the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and I have my Woman Calendar App downloaded onto my iPhone. I sleep with my basal temp thermometer by my bedside, and I have months worth of LH strips from Amazon that would allow me to test for ovulation every day for months (read: WAY more than necessary). Along with the LH strips came 20 pregnancy tests and I have only 6 left (read: way too few).

Then there’s the worry. I know its normal for my cycles to be irregular after having come off the pills. I broke my rib right before I was supposed to ovulate, so I know that can throw things off too. But still – I can’t help but wish I am late because I am pregnant. I know I am not supposed to stress or worry about it. I know I know I know. Trust me. I know.

But I do.

I had one negative test today and re-read the instructions for this particular test and it said to use plastic or glass cups. I had been using metal. After two Master’s degrees, I figured I might have just slept through the part about how freakin’ important glass and plastic is to accuracy, so I took out another pregnancy test. It had a faulty absorbent area that was falling off but I used it anyway. Negative. Then I did another one because maybe it was negative because the absorbent part was messed up. Negative.

It’s a good thing these strips were cheap on Amazon.

I read the reviews for them because there was a weird line in the wrong place on one of them and I was looking for comments. I found out people were saying things like, “These strips are great for pee stick addicts! They’re so cheap!” There’s a blog for pee stick addicts. And an acronym POAS Addict (Pee On A Stick Addict). And a group POASAA – Pee On A Stick Addicts Anonymous. For realz.

A pee stick addict. Who’dve thunk it.

Alas, it’s a name I am willing to accept. I’m coming out;)

Wish me luck, tribespeople. I’ve had lots of good vibes from the Universe telling me not to worry, like the woman that cut my hair telling me she had her first baby at 40, unassisted, and now she was pregnant again, unassisted. It was one of those annoying, “I got pregnant right away once I came off pills!” stories, but still, it was cool that she was 42 and six month pregnant, and looking and feeling great.

In the meantime?

I’ve decided that for every month I am not pregnant, I am going to do something that I wouldn’t do if I were pregnant. Recently I dyed my hair for the first time in over 17 years. I know it is theoretically safe to dye your hair when pregnant. But I wouldn’t do it. So I got a Baliage highlight thing done. It’s fun;)

The previous month, I signed on for a Grand Canyon trip, which I’ll cancel if I’m really pregnant, so either way life is good. Next month – well, I won’t start focusing on what I don’t want. I teach the exact opposite here at Freedom Junkie – focus on what you DO want – because I know it works.

Now I have a new mantra to add to my repertoire: “I am pregnant with a perfectly healthy, happy baby.” Aho._______________

Addendum: I thought y’all would like to know that I got knocked up in Mongolia August, 2013 – approximately 3 days before my 30th birthday, while we climbed the tallest peak in Mongolia and another peak the bordered Russia, Mongolia and China, and packrafted 250km down the Tsavan Gol, a milky white river that took us back to the city of Olgii. It was there that I bought a broken pregnancy test (I didn’t know it was falling apart when I bought it). It came out positive but I wondered if it was broken.

So I bought 5 more. And they were all positive too;) She is due April, 2014…and I can’t wait for her to get here! Good thing there’s not a peestick for when you’ll go into labor;)

Days 118 to 125 – F*#! Cancer

OK Fuck Cancer. I am SO over it. Sometimes I want to yell at it and chew it out and get pissy at it and smack it in the face. And kick it. Then I get scared it will get mad at me and kill me. Then I also see it for what it is. A thing. And I realize maybe I am so pissed at it because I see it as this “thing” that means so many other things, when really it is just being all it is and just doing what it’s DNA is telling it to do.

This all comes from an instance when I was mountain biking this past week. On our drive back to Oregon from Colorado, we decided to hop out of the car and go for a quick ride to get the blood flowing near a pass in Nevada. I was enjoying the beautiful view. And then we came down this steep hill and I could see the steep uphill in front of us. I got ready, and pedaled pedaled and pedaled and then I just couldn’t do it. I was so tired. So I got off to walk the bike. That’s OK. I’ve had to do that. Then I could barely even walk it up.

WTF? I had just rode hours yesterday in Moab up and down all these trails, and I thought I was getting in better shape. I know I am in my own personal worse shape I’ve been in a long time, but I thought it was still better than the average American and certainly better than the beer-bellied dudes who were riding past me earlier in the week. So my only conclusion brought me to tears as I pushed the bike uphill, heavily breathing and not understanding why…

I started sobbing, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) looked back at me, put down his bike,  and as he was walking towards me he asked, “What’s wrong?” “I’m sad,” I said through my tears.

“Why? It’s OK. I’m tired too,” he consoles.

And he put his über-fit arms around me. Hummmph. I wish I was that fit.

I’m getting there.

“I’ve never felt like this. It makes me think I have metastases to my lungs…” I say to him with reservation, not sure if he’ll think I’m a freak.

Are you fucking kidding me?!!! (Sorry, I do swear my share, but even moreso when I talk about The Big “C” sometimes) I haven’t had cancer for years now. For those of you new here, I had renal cell carcinoma in 2004 and melanoma in 2009, I think. That’s right. I don’t remember off the top of my head and I refuse to stop and do math for the Big C. After my second cancer I kinda stopped keeping track of exact dates. Like I do with birthdays. Or AP History.

In any event, it is incredibly frustrating that when I breathe hard at altitude with a sport I’ve only done maybe five times in the last 4 years I think I have renal cell carcinoma or melanoma cancer cells that set up shop in my lungs.

Now that is messed up.

So I let it wash over me, and I cried and cried. I told him it was OK, that I just needed to let it out. He told me his lungs were burning too and that he was breathing really hard. And he has been super-cardio-fit forever and even he was feeling it. Whatever. I guess I believe him. At the very least, I love him for even saying that.

I told myself it was the allergies, the tall grasses and wildflowers, my mild reactive airway issues, and my late nights catching babies on call 5 days in a row several times a month all winter – and oh, yes, those Annie’s cheddar bunnies chock-full of gluten goodness that led to this panting fate.

And I tried to enjoy the ride down…and I dare say I actually did enjoy it.

Then last night I have this caffeine headache because I decided to stop caffeine since I am so hyper anyway, and I swear it just crept into my life unbeknownst to me and my coffeemaker. But it started while I was asleep.

And you know what I dream? That it’s a melanoma on my freakin’ head and no one noticed it so I am pissed that no one saw it and told me there was this massive cancerous crap on my head. And I know too much about medicine (thanks, UCSF) so I know it’s likely categorization/staging and I think FUCK. I really messed this one up. This is what I get for rarely combing my hair.

And I then realize I am dreaming. HOLY CRAP I AM DREAMING! YAY!!!!! And I decide to change the course of the dream, and wake the hell up.

I comb my hair.

I order “Crazy Sexy Diet, ” (written by the badass Kris Carr who wrote Crazy Sexy Cancer and lives with a rare “incurable” liver cancer for WAY longer than they thought she would…plus she’s hot) to be shipped via free 2-day UPS, and think, “Dang. I need to eat more greens. And maybe even a little less bacon. Done.”

We all have “cancer” in our lives. Its that thing that scares you, that makes you feel powerless. Something you want to get rid of. What’s yours? Let me know below…I’d love ya for it!


Note: Ana Verzone (Neff) is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie® She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Ziji Up!™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting