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How to Get Better Skin in 5 Easy Steps

I’ve never been the makeup kind of girl. Every time I try to get really into it, I make a trip to Sephora, use my new toy once or twice, then I’m done. My makeup routines are usually reserved for days that my red skin is especially active, I’m having a breakout, or, for whatever reason, my skin looks dull.

What I do get obsessed with, though, is skincare.

I love taking care of my skin so that I can keep going makeup-free. But, still, I’m not one for long routines. I’m not going to have 10-step skincare regimen I have to do every morning and night. I prefer to take care of my skin with my lifestyle.

Way too many people forget all the factors that can have an impact on their skin. I’ve had so many friends blame genetics or the luck of the draw, then tell me al of the overpriced products they use to make their skin somewhat decent look.

Granted, genetics do play a big part. For example I get the redness in my cheeks from both sides of my family. But, I also get it from being overweight and working in a very stressful environment.  Pollution, diet, sunlight, age and so many other factors play into your skin’s radiance, as well. The good news? You can’t control genetics, but you can control your environment and your lifestyle in order to take control of your skin’s health.

  1. Get More Water – This one is huge. Adequate hydration not only helps your body function better, but also helps you look younger. When you’re dehydrated, your body will use water from wherever it can get it, including your skin. When your skin starts to lose water, fine lines, wrinkles and other “blemishes” are exaggerated, making you look older. I try to drink a gallon of water a day, but a good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water each and every day. If you’d like an extra kick in the metabolism, try drinking lemon water first thing in the morning.
  2. Catch Your Zzzz’s – Your skin’s repair mechanisms are hard at work while you’re fast asleep. Bedtime is when your proteins and melatonin are produced, and when other anti-aging activity occurs. Skin conditions and irritations are exacerbated when you’re sleep-deprived; that tired state can also accelerate skin aging, and cause breakouts as more adrenaline and cortisol are released. Sufficient sleep (7-8 hours) gives your body its best chance for optimal skin performance.Conture Green Tea
  3. Go Green – Green tea has anti-inflammatory properties that can be soothing to red or blotchy skin. Try to drink it cold, because hot beverages can worsen redness and other imperfections. In addition to soothing unevenness, the epigallocatechin gallate in green tea may help prevent the collagen destruction that leads to wrinkles, lines and discoloration. Try replacing your morning joe with some morning green.
  4. Protect Yourself – While you may put on sunscreen every time you head outdoors, did you know that UV rays can penetrate your windows? So, even if you’re safe inside, your skin could still be at risk of wrinkling and brown spots. Whether the windows are in your home, office or car—studies have shown higher rates of skin cancer on the left side of the face and upper body than the right—you’re at risk. Always be sure to apply sunscreen to your face and neck, and any other areas that are exposed, every morning to protect yourself whether or not you leave the house.
  5. Stress Less – I totally get it. Stress can’t be avoided. Between your boss, your kids, your spouse and everything else in your life, stress happens. But, how you deal with that stress has a huge impact on your overall health, and your skin in particular. Stress increases your production of hormones, like cortisol, that cause breakouts by making your skin oilier and less able to fight off acne-causing bacteria. Stress also impacts your sleep patterns, eating habits (Just say no to the brownie!) and mental acuity. Find a way to deal with your stress that works for you: meditation and yoga can help you recenter and find balance, whereas more active exercise like cross-training or running can help you get out your frustrations. Added benefits of these activities: reduction of skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.

What do you do to take care of your skin?

Why Lemon Water is SO Good for You

About a year ago, it seemed that everywhere I turned, social media, radio programs, tv shows, people were hailing the benefits of lemon water. Since then, I’ve repeatedly tried to make it a habit to drink it every day, but only recently have actually made it part of my daily ritual.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been more dedicated to my health than every. I do some form of exercise every day. I eat healthy probably 90% of the time. And, I drink 8 oz. of lemon water as soon as I wake up.

As a result, I’ve felt better, my skin is clearer, and I wake up much quicker. (Coffee doesn’t stand a chance against the instant-alertness you experience when chugging ice cold, tart lemon water.)

slicing-lemons-on-cutting-board

Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water

Lemon water helps flush out the body, which leads to clearer skin, and the innate vitamin C promotes collagen production for smooth and healthy skin. If great skin isn’t enough to sell you, consider these other benefits of drinking daily lemon water:

  • Helps digestion – drinking the concoction first thing in the morning can help flush the digestion system and rehydrate the body.
  • Boosts immunity – drinking lemon water when you wake up helps the body absorb the vitamin C and Potassium present in the fruit, helping the immune system and reducing the effects of stress.
  • Sheds weight – being properly hydrated helps increase your metabolism. Researchers in Germany found that, after drinking 17 oz of water, participants’ (both male and female) metabolic rates increased by 30%.

    Other theories on the benefits of drinking lemon water:
    -Balances pH levels
    -Detoxes the body
    -Prevents water retention
    -Boosts energy

lauren-cathleen-slices-lemons-for-lemon-water

To recharge your body with lemon water, follow these simple steps:

  1. Wake up and boil about 10 oz of water.
  2. Cut a lemon in half and juice–by hand or by press–into a glass. (If you weigh less than 150 lbs, only use half a lemon. If you weigh more than 150 lbs, use the entire lemon.)
  3. Pour your water into the glass and let steep for a few minutes. Feel free to use more water if it’s too strong.
  4. Wait 15-30 minutes after drinking your water before you eat breakfast.
  5. Brush your teeth! The citric acid in lemons can erode tooth enamel, so be sure to rinse your mouth after and/or brush your teeth.

Now, that’s what’s recommended. To be honest, though, I do not have time to boil water and let my lemon steep in it first thing in the morning. When I wake up, I have 15 minutes before I need to be out the door and headed to the gym.

So, every Sunday, I do all my lemon squeezing and water-mixing. I fill up two of these 34 oz. bottles from IKEA with the lemon water and store them in the fridge. When I wake up, I simply pour, chug and dash. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

bottle of lemon water with lemons on cutting board
Have you used this tried-and-true method? What are your thoughts?

4 Reasons You Should Work Out in the Morning

I’m a huge proponent of working out whenever you can fit it into your day, but there’s something special about a morning workout.

I know, I know. Most people snarl at the thought of setting their alarms for 5 just to go to the gym. But, once you do it for a few weeks, you’ve already formed a habit and it gets that much easier.

Why should you bother with a morning workout, anyway? I’m so glad you asked.

 

You’ll Actually Work Out

Be honest with yourself: if you’ve had a long, stressful, exhausting day at work, how likely are you to go to the gym after work? Getting in your exercise first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll actually do your workout. You won’t be able to give yourself the excuses of “I had such a hard day,” “I’m exhausted,” or “What I really need is a glass of wine.” Plus, if you workout in the morning, that glass of wine at the end of the day will be guilt-free.

You’ll Have a Better Day

Beginning your day with a workout starts you on the right foot. Hopping out of the shower after a hard workout at the same time most people are waking up will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment. You’ll have more energy and less stress, be happier and be more ready to take on the day. I can’t guarantee that working out in the morning will keep your boss from being an ass, but it will definitely make you less murderous. At least at first.

morning-yoga-lauren-cathleen

You’ll Be More Likely to Make Other Healthy Choices

On Saturday, I went to an 8:30 spin class. Typically, for me, Saturdays offer a little more flexibility in my choices. I sit around all day, we might go out to dinner for a break from paleo or I may enjoy a glass of wine. But, starting my Saturday with a hard workout where I burned nearly 700 calories made me want to make sure it didn’t go to waste. After I showered, I kept moving all day. I cleaned, I finally put away the Christmas decor, I did the laundry, I took the stairs instead of the elevator and, my crowning achievement, I chose a healthy, low-calorie snack box over popcorn when we went to the movies. When you start your day with a workout, that’s what happens. Your whole day becomes healthier because you don’t want to nullify all the hard work you did that morning.

You’ll Have More Time to Yourself in the Evening

I detest coming home after a stressful day knowing that I, essentially, have to work again. When I finish work, I’m done. I want to come home, decompress and have that glass of wine I mentioned. When I get my a.m. workout in, that’s exactly what I get to do. I have time to enjoy a long, relaxing bath, watching a few episodes of Star Trek with Stephen or work on my side hustle. Working out in the morning gives your more time to enjoy your evening.

You’ll Burn More Calories

There’s nothing like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, in the morning to jumpstart your metabolism. These types of workouts burn fat up to 50 percent more effectively than low-intensity workouts and speed up your metabolism so you continue to burn throughout the day. I know that fat and calorie burning aren’t the priorities of a lot of people’s workouts, but, for many of us, that’s certainly one of the goals. If you’re not concerned about burning calories, then I refer you to my earlier point that jumpstarting your metabolism will provide you with more energy for the day ahead.

 

Obviously, not all of these apply to every person. For some, evening workouts may be your only options. Others are straight up night owls. The important thing is that you actually are getting in your workouts every day, even when that workout is walking. But, for me, I’ve found the most assured way for me to get in a daily workout and to feel better in general, is to work out as the sun rises.

What are your favorite fitness tips?

Follow my fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

Why You Absolutely Need to Watch “Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian”

I’ve never been one to tout the Kardashians as role models, nor involve myself in their drama-ridden “reality.”

But, since Khloe took control of her health, I’ve found her, well … inspiring. Revenge Body is no exception.

Kelsey Miller at refinery29 was quick to condemn Khloe, those on her new show, and those who watch her new show. Miller — who is not, mind you, a health and fitness expert — is the mind behind “The Anti-Diet Project” and “Rational Fitness.”

Both programs seem to advocate utilizing happiness as an effective means of getting healthy. They’re basically the Joel Osteens of the health and fitness world. Miller makes some good points with these programs — killing yourself in the gym every day will only make you miserable; depriving yourself of every tasty treat will do more harm than good — but she never tells the whole story. She claims that taking a long, meditative walk counts as being active. I admit that those are excellent for overall health and are far better than sitting on the couch for a Netflix binge, but long walks do not a fitness regimen make.

When you want to see results, you have to push yourself. You have to get out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean train for a marathon if you hate running. That just means challenge yourself. Get your heart rate above 140. Load the bar a little more (safely). When you’ve gone as hard as you think you can go, go a little harder.

That, to me, is the point of Revenge Body. In the first episode, we met Will and Stephanie. Both were tested, and both proved to themselves that they were capable of so much more than they expected. Both were on the show to get revenge, against an ex and against friends, respectively, and both eventually realized that those people’s opinions don’t matter.

Each person found strength within themselves to get healthy, and that’s exactly what they did. They spent three months focusing on nothing but themselves, and they were better off for it.

Those of us who struggle with our weight often put others’ needs before our own. We take care of everyone else and neglect ourselves. We overeat. We don’t exercise. We eat our feelings. Then, we realize how much weight we’ve gained, feel guilty, and eat even more.

Revenge Body serves as a reminder that your health is about you, and no one else. If you want to get healthy, you have to make the decision to put yourself first. Take care of your needs. You need to make time to exercise. You need to eat whole, healthy foods. You need to get enough sleep, and you need to take care of your mind through plenty of rest and relaxation.

To Miller’s points, no, this is not a groundbreaking new health and fitness show that will give you the tools you need to lose weight. It’s a Kardashian show on E!, for Pete’s sake.

But, it is a show that can provide you that extra bit of motivation you need to get off the couch. It’s a show that will remind you that your social and mental problems won’t be fixed simply with weight loss. It’s a show that will prove that those people you’re getting “revenge” against by getting hot are just toxic and completely undeserving of your time.

If you’re like me and find motivation in seeing other people succeed in their weight loss and health goals, then Revenge Body is a great show for you. If you’re looking for tips and tricks and secrets to weight loss: look elsewhere. Little time is actually spent on the importance of healthy food choices and great workout regimens.

Regardless of whether you choose to watch it, remember that your health is about you. If some jerk inspires you to get healthy to get Revenge, then let that be your motivation. But don’t let that be your purpose. Your purpose is to get healthy for you. To show yourself what you can do. To ensure you have a longer life, more energy, and greater happiness over all.

If you are looking for tips and tricks to help you with your weight loss/health journey, these are some of my personal favorite resources (be sure to let me know yours in the comments!):

  • Whole30 Diet: http://whole30.com
  • Stupid Easy Paleo Recipes: http://stupideasypaleo.com
  • Self Magazine: http://www.self.com
  • Greatist Health & Fitness Blog: http://greatist.com
And, you can follow my personal fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

My Experience with a Cult

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I’d been thinking about it for months; hearing other people’s experiences and enlightenments tempted me, but still, I was hesitant.

I was confident I wouldn’t fit in. I would be an overweight, lumbering CrossFitter and weightlifter, wading into a sea of skinny white basics.

But, if I ever wanted to try SoulCycle, now was my opportunity.

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

I’ve been a member of an online workout support group-of-sorts for about a year. I join in the online discussions, “like” the other members’ photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram, and offer encouragement if someone seems to need it. But, whenever the topic of the monthly meet-up/workout is broached, I fall silent.

These women had become my sisters, my confidantes and my support group, but I was terrified to workout with them. What if I’m the biggest one there? What if I can’t keep up? What if, once again, I feel like the fat one out?

But I knew SoulCycle was dark and arranged in lines, so people were predisposed to not see you. The leader of the online group had managed to swing a free class for us, which rounded up the utter annihilation of my excuses.

I stepped through the glass doors, from the harshly lit, hot and humid Houston into the welcoming, cheerful – and somehow also serene – foyer. I was terrified, immediately surrounded by beautiful, fit people. But, they managed to put me at ease with smiles that offered comfort and inclusion.

I signed in, received my shoes, and headed down the white hall – passing the bright yellow Big Ass balloons that indicated a party was afoot – to the co-ed locker room. (Adjacent to the separate men’s and women’s bathrooms and showers. Phew.)

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

Amid the beautiful women (no really. Like, stupid beautiful.) in the, again, all-white, locker room, my fresh comfort and confidence began to waver. The Kool-Aid offered to me by the receptionist’s smile was wearing off. But, my cup was quickly refilled by both the veterans and the newbies who helped me find my locker and showed me how to operate it.

With my belongings in stow and my feet in borrowed shoes, I clacked, water bottle and towel in hand, back down the hall to the, thankfully sparsely populated, studio. I found my bike, situated my water bottle and climbed to the seat.

Oh no. 

The seat was too high, too far back from the handlebars. I tried to get off but the foreign shoe had clipped itself into the pedal, refusing to release me from the cult’s grasp. Panicked, I looked around frantically. Again, I was greeted with a smile. “Having trouble?” asked the friendly cyclist pedaling away caddy-corner to me. I managed a nod. “Don’t worry; they’ll set you right up.”

Her hand shot in the air. “It’s happening!”

Immediately a friendly face with a yellow SOUL tee was by my side, guiding my foot out of the locked position and showing me how to adjust the bike’s three components: the seat height, the handlebar height, and the distance between the two. She helped me up and taught me how to clip in (on purpose).

“Comfortable?”

No. I don’t think I belong here. I’m not a SoulCycle kind of girl. I’ve never been to a spin class. I’m sitting on a pole. And my clipped shoes make me feel like there’s no escape.

“Mhmm.”

The class filled up quickly and soon I was surrounded and being greeted by a voice that was trying to be soothing but was clearly meant to yell.

We began, guided by our leader, Catie, calmly saying “left, right, left.” According to her, with everyone on the same foot, the energy becomes palpable. Soon, the class became one. Our feet moved in unison left, right, left faster and faster. Did I have no control over my own body? My legs spun of their own accord, matching, spin for spin, those to my right and left. Left, right, left. Before I knew it, I was tapping it back.

Picture totally downloaded from soulcycle.com

Twenty minutes into the class I felt death approach. My mouth was filled with cotton balls, my Dri-Fit tank drenched. I reached for my now half-empty water bottle, and watched it fall from my fingers to the ground in slow motion. Oh no. 

Disoriented, I went to grab my towel and it, too, slipped from my grasp. I tried to unclip my shoes to pick up my manna, and I couldn’t figure it out. I was trapped on the bike from hell with no water and no towel. I’m going to die here.

With zero regard to my dire situation, Catie persisted. Left, right, left. So, I pressed on. Again, my body matched the tempo of those around me. We pumped together, up and down. Swayed together, left and right. Spun together, faster and faster.

“How’s my back row feeling?” Catie demanded.

A voice sounding suspiciously like my own responded, “Woooo!” Was that? Noooo. Was that me? Did I just woo?

I did. I woo-ed. I was – dare I say it – having fun. Mind you, a torturous, killer-cardio-driven kind of fun, but fun nonetheless. My thighs no longer felt like they were on fire. (Truthfully, they didn’t quite feel much like anything.) And I finally felt … home.

That’s it. I was home. There was peace here. Comfort. No judgement, no side-eyes. No one was looking at me differently for being big. I didn’t even feel big here. I felt new, sure. Not as great at cardio, duh. But I didn’t feel big.

In CrossFit, my size is both an asset and a hindrance. During the strength portions, I can lift on par with much more experienced women. But, during the intense workouts, I founder. My knees give, my form suffers and I steadily lose tempo with those around me. In both portions, though, I’m constantly aware of how big I am.

Not so at SoulCycle. At SoulCycle, I almost felt like I was one of them. Not a skinny white basic, but a person who enjoyed community and health. A person who wanted to better herself physically, mentally, emotionally, and, yes, spiritually, in one workout. A person who cares about her body but not its size.

Now that someone has helped me unclip my shoes (again), the endorphins have worn off, and I’m well-hydrated, do I feel like it was the soul-changing, spiritually awakening workout of legend? Not this time. But, I did just sign up for three more classes.

Want to find your SOUL? Use this link to get $10 off your first ride (and give me credit for referring you)!

How I Will Better Myself in 2017

I’ve always been a sucker for New Years.

As a child, I romanticized the notion of a kiss when the ball drops and fireworks illuminate the sky. (Frankly, I romanticized the notion of any kiss, hopeless romantic that I am.)

In college, the New Year provided me with a means to justify paying a ridiculous cover price at a bad bar for cheap champagne, dance-induced blisters and a drunken kiss with a stranger. (Sorry, mom.)

Now, though. Now, I just see so much life attached to New Years. It’s a chance to start anew, wash off the bits of the previous year you’d like to forget, and be a better version of yourself. New Years, to me, is filled with endless hope and a sense of being cleansed.

This year, I’ve decided to take that last bit quite seriously.

Cleanse and Renew

I love finding ways to better myself, even if the attempt at betterment only lasts a day. In 2017, I’m going hog-wild to cleanse myself of bad habits, bad people, bad environments and bad food. I’ve pledged to better myself financially, intellectually, nutritionally, friendshipally and fitnessally.

My New Year’s Resolutions:

Better myself financially. I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with money. Since I first started working, as soon as I got money, I had to spend it. Try as I might to save money with savings accounts, the envelope system and whatever else, I can only set aside money until I need a new pair of shoes. Unless, of course, the money is being taken out of my paycheck before it ever hits my bank. Thank you, 401K.

This year, I’ve resolved to get my credit card utilization below 30 percent and save enough to cover three months’ living expenses. For my credit, I like to use Credit Karma, a free resource that provides your credit score, credit report, credit card utilization and a ton of other factors, as well as how they affect your credit score and personalized tips and suggestions. And, no. Getting your credit score from them doesn’t affect it. For budgeting so I can save money, I’ll use Mint, another free resource that gives you everything you need to budget successfully.

Better myself intellectually. I’ve been trying to learn a new language for more than a decade. In high school, I took both Spanish and French, and in college I took Swahili. But, with each language, I didn’t dedicate time to practice or continue learning after class. What resulted is a weird SwaFreSpanglish that only extends to “Hello, how are you?” in each language. I’ve started improving my French with Duolingo, a free app that lets you learn a multitude of languages. My goal is to be able to annoyingly order in French at a French restaurant and have boyfriend roll his eyes.

And, I’ll be making an effort to read a little every day, because, as much as I love books, I never make time for them.

Better myself nutritionally. Back to the more literal sense of “cleansing.” In all honesty, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I love food, but, more than that, I love unhealthy food. That, combined with my tendency to emotionally eat have left me overweight and unhappy. While I always try to eat healthy, I find that the little allowances I give myself, the taco here or candy bar there, inevitably stunt and even reverse my progress.

I’ve resolved to get serious about my health and nutrition and am recommitting myself to the Paleo Diet. First, though, I’ll be doing The Whole 30 to reset my system, debloat, cure cravings and restore my body’s natural balance. I started today, am sincerely hoping this blog will be a little commitment to myself to follow through for the entire month.

Better myself friendshipally. I’ve lived in Houston a year and a half and I have exactly three girlfriends. Making friends as an adult is difficult, especially in a new city where you’re not really sure what to do. I’ve tried making friends on BumbleBFF, but I’ve fiercely decided that online dating … or online friendshipping, if you will … is not for me. This year, I’ll be making an effort to make friends through things that I enjoy doing, most likely through activities on Meetup.

Better myself fitnessally. I’ve been working out diligently for about six years, but I’ve always struggled to maintain a routine. While daily workouts at CrossFit gyms worked wonders, my weight gain has told my knees that’s no longer an option. This year, I’m firming a workout routine for myself to establish good habits and make sure I stay active. I like to think of that arthritis commercial to get myself moving: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” I’m resolved stay in motion in 2017.

Follow my fitness journey on Instagram: @laurencathleenfitness

A lot of these resolutions are pretty personal, and the posts to follow will be downright intimate. But, to me, that’s not only great motivation to keep going, and have that one person who reads my blog hold me accountable, but will also provide a chronology of my journey in 2017. And I’m so excited to have you on that journey with me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

*It should be noted that, although I link to a lot of resources in this post, none of them are sponsored or affiliate links. I just really enjoy them and legitimately recommend their services.