There can be a dark side to all the Zoom happy hours and days that feel like Groundhog Day. I posted about it on social media, and then I started receiving lots of comments on my personal Facebook page, plus private texts and messages about how universal that slippery slope can be. So I thought it was worth re-posting here. And by the way, the recipe for the virgin margarita can be found here, and the spritzer was just half Belvoir cucumber mint lemonade and half seltzer, with a few slices of cucumber and a sprig of mint. Enjoy, and read on . . .
Can we talk alcohol for a minute? And bear in mind, this is coming from the wife of a man who works in the industry. But during the COVID-19 crisis, I have found myself pouring a glass of wine almost every night. Sometimes two glasses. And that is WAY more than I would like to be drinking, not to mention the fact that excess alcohol consumption has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and several other health conditions. And for me, a lot of the pleasure in a glass of wine is really about the ceremony, not so much the wine itself. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there’s a perfect glass of wine for certain meals. Sometimes, on a hot summer day, a cold glass of white wine or rosé just can’t be beat. And it’s Cinco de Mayo on Taco Tuesday during the coronavirus, for God’s sake. That just screams margarita! But today, I decided to introduce some new non-alcoholic options into my repertoire, so that I can still make a special drink after a long day of homeschooling and working from home. I even ordered some Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits to try out. So, let me know if you’re with me on this, and if so, share your favorite mocktails. And listen ... I’m not going to pretend I’m becoming a teetotaler, but I do want to be more intentional about how often I’m taking a drink. Are you with me?
I'm a lipstick girl. I grew up with grandmothers who'd NEVER be caught outside of the house "without a mouth." My paternal grandmother wouldn't even be caught inside the house without hers, and she had tubes of lipstick stashed all over her little house in Norfolk, Virginia. My father told me that after she passed away, they found lipsticks hidden all around her room and in her bed. I miss those women so much. My mother is also a lipstick girl. She has a big, gorgeous smile and even though her coloring is wildly different from mine, we discovered some years ago that we both loved a shade called Wine With Everything.
Well, there hasn't been much use for lipstick in quarantine. And whenever I put it on, I feel sort of garish, and the kids ask me where I'm going. But that doesn't mean I've let up on my other self-care routines. And of course, in this particular discussion of self-care, I'm not talking meditation and exercise and all the things that I really hammer y'all about. I'm talking, looking good at FIFTY self-care!
So here are a few of my non-negotiables.
1. Washing my face EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, no matter how tired I am. I use the plainest soap I can find. Good ol' bar soap works best for me, because I had oily skin until a few years ago, and I'm still prone to break-outs. Ah, menopause ... wrinkles and pimples! Yay! Sometimes I exfoliate with a gentle scrub. But I always follow with a mixture of retinol and vitamin C serum, all over my face and neck. It has made a huge difference, I wish I had started in my 30s. I have a lot of sun damage to my face. Again, retrospect. Kurt Vonnegut was right, kids, when he (actually never) said wear sunscreen.
2. Religiously flossing. Teeth, breath and heart health, guys ~ the inflammation in your mouth can contribute to heart disease. I'm not even kidding. So as gross as it sounds, I use a tongue scraper, and natural dental floss so I don't end up with PFOAs in my system (again, wishing I had figured that out before spending decades using Teflon pans). And I gargle with good old-fashioned eye-watering antiseptic mouthwash, because my dentist recommended it for preventing those yucky bacteria that can lodge in your tonsils. If your breath is routinely bad (or your mouth tastes yucky), think about (a) drinking more water and (b) cleaning your tongue and flossing.
3. Epsom salt baths. I love them ~ for sore muscles and because magnesium, both ingested and as a soak, has so many health benefits.
4. Tinted moisturizer and sunscreen every day. My other make-up choices are pretty optional. I'm addicted to the Nars Multiple stick, so I'll never give that up, but otherwise I look for makeup that's pretty clean by the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep app standards. I recently discovered Beautycounter, which was started by a friend of a friend, and I'm really impressed by the quality of the products and the company's values.
5. I upped my glasses game recently, because I'm in front of this computer so often with work, Zoom meetings and client sessions. I wear Caddis readers, again recommeneded by a friend, because they look so cool and filter out the blue light, so I have less eye fatigue. Although, with my little Chinese face and pointy chin, I look a little bit like that nerdy bird that follows Foghorn Leghorn around. Oh well.
6. Finally, Native deodorant, y'all! A gift from a friend and I LOVE it. Don't be putting nasty chemicals and toxins on your armpits, ladies, they're right next to your breasts!
So those are my go-to routines and products, and my point here is, keep doing these little things that make you feel good every day. Even if the only people who see you are the ones whining, "Mom, there's nothing in the house to eat."
This is how much I love you guys. I'm giving you a gallery of Ugly Exercising Face and my extremely dorky happy dance when weight training is over. My children would call it cringey and they'd be right. But I'm hoping it will help me make my point.
Let's back up a minute. This is the month that I'm really pushing a lot of clients and members to step up their exercise game. And I'm right there with you. I've been told by doctors that I need to do more weight-bearing exercise to increase my bone density. Then in October I attended an event where I got to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg's personal trainer. Y'all. She's pretty much the Coolest Woman To Walk The Earth, and by the way, she's a FOUR-time cancer survivor. She hired Bryant Johnson when she realized it was time to get stronger.
So I'm at this event, and remember, I'm a health coach, so I should know better, but I still asked: What should I do, because I HATE WEIGHT TRAINING and I hate the gym. And he told me like it is. He asked if I cared about my health. He pointed out all the things I do to take care of myself. And finally he asked, "Then why aren't you doing this?" (And then he gave me a big kiss and some free workout equipment! SWOON! But that's a story for another day.)
Since then I've downloaded a great app on my iPad to make it easier to get in some weight-bearing exercise. But I'm inconsistent with it. So this week, I made a commitment to practice what I preach. I put three weight-bearing workouts on my calendar every week. I'm keeping that promise to myself, and I'm making it work for me. Notice I'm working out in my bedroom. Nothing fancy. Me, some weights, some resistance bands, my app and, oh yeah, my autographed copy of The RBG Workout. Because he's right, if she can do, so can I.
New habits are uncomfortable, you guys. They just are. Keep going. Make a commitment to yourself. Make a promise to yourself. And just keep doing it. Do you know how long it took me to make that morning lemon water a habit? Months. Some mornings, it seemed insurmountable. Impossible. I was tired, and everyone was up earlier than normal and asking me for stuff. But I did it anyway. And it got easier.
When that reminder came up on my phone today to go do my weight workout, I didn't want to stop what I was doing. But I did it anyway. Because I know it will get easier. DO IT ANYWAY. Keep going. I'm right there with you.
Yesterday morning I sat down and opened up a new blog post with the intention of writing about what I’ve learned about the health effects of alcohol. I thought this would be a good topic because (1) alcohol is a heavily debated subject in the health and wellness space, and (2) one of my good friends recently asked me a kind of funny, yet meaningful, question about health coaching and wine. Then my morning got the better of me (ie., I had to pay attention to my children) and now it’s the weekend and I’m sitting down again to do this post. However, since then, I’ve participated in an exercise around beliefs with another student in my coaching certification program. And I decided that my post about alcohol is really part of a bigger issue: beliefs around food and health.
So let’s go back to alcohol for a moment. But bear in mind you could substitute other words for alcohol in the next few paragraphs. Sugar, for example. Cake. Deli meat. Processed food. Bacon.
So this friend and I were hanging out poolside while our daughters were at swim team practice. I love this woman, she’s the cool to my hot(flash). While I’m all drama and chattiness and hand motions, she’s all calm and efficient with her words and stillness. My best friend in life is the same way. Clearly, when it comes to good friends, I have a type. Anyway, we were talking about the health coach thing, and she asked, “Aren’t you worried about being under a microscope?” And I was like, huh? And she said, “You know, like people will be watching for a misstep. Like if you have one too many glasses of wine?” Now I don’t know WHAT she is talking about, I have NEVER had too many glasses of wine.
Right, so I basically responded that I don’t really care if someone is judging me for drinking wine, my whole shtick is about balance and moderation, avoiding extremes, progress not perfection, making small changes to get big results, building better habits, etc. etc. But it got me thinking.
I have actually spent a fair amount of time researching this issue over the last few years. The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and other organizations we generally trust have stated that there is a clear link between alcohol use and the risk of developing breast and other cancers. On the other hand, some of my favorite medical authors, Dr. Kristi Funk and the late Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, have noted that it’s a little more complex than that. How about red wine, particularly pinot noir, with its resveratrol and anti-estrogen properties (quite like the endocrine therapy given to most breast cancer survivors)? Look at that Greek island where everyone has wine with lunch and they're living longer than we are (of course they're also eating a lot of local veggies, herbs and fish, living in community, moving and resting). What if you just have one glass, with a meal chock full of cancer-fighting foods? Could there be some synergy there? Or as one oncologist pointed out, and I’m paraphrasing here, stress is absolutely a contributor to the expression of cancer, so three martinis on an empty stomach, probably not a good idea. But if a glass of wine with dinner is part of how a patient lets go of stress, then it’s probably not a problem.
Now listen, there are plenty of doctors and other medical professionals that would disagree with that statement. They may actually be right. Some medical professionals would also say you shouldn’t have any sugar. Or they’d point to the World Health Organization announcement that processed meats (hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage and some deli meats) are carcinogenic and are linked to increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
If a cancer patient consumed a fair amount of alcohol over the years, ate hot dogs in the summer, had bacon with breakfast on the weekends and ordered dessert from time to time, did he cause his cancer? That is a very polarizing question. There are some out there that will say his lifestyle probably contributed to his cancer, but that’s good news because he can also contribute to his healing by eating plant-based and anti-inflammatory foods, green tea, mushrooms and all the wonderful phytochemicals out there that act as medicine.
Okay, but what if someone has an unfavorable genetic profile? A predisposition to getting a particular type of cancer or some other disease? Then does it not matter? Bring on the Twinkies and sausage and tequila, he's going to get sick anyway!
But hold on, there’s some really cool stuff out there about epigenetics, the ability to actually change gene expression through diet, lifestyle and other choices. The breast cancer gene is there, but maybe we can keep it from “turning on” by making sure the terrain is healthy. In other words, feed the body and spirit in a way that boosts immunity and the body’s ability to kill off any pesky cancer cells before they become life-threatening.
Is your head spinning yet? Let’s go back to that glass of wine. Or the slice of cake. Crispy bacon. The cheeseburger. Food has power, but our beliefs around food can cause us to give it too much power. I’m actually taking this verbatim from something my friend and fellow coaching student said yesterday. She suddenly realized she had been giving food too much power. And we ALL do that. Especially women. If you think that slice of cake is going to make you sick, fat or both, your brain is taking that in and, I promise: it’s sending danger signals to every cell in your body. Do you know what IS going to make you sick, fat or both? Chronic inflammation from stress. If you obsessively worry that you have cancer (or you're going to get cancer) because you spent your twenties going out for cocktails after work, you’re going to fire up your fight or flight response, your body is going to release hormones and neurotransmitters that cause inflammation, and that will take its toll on your health. Stress is good, in short doses, when we’re really in danger. Not when we’re stuck inside our heads beating ourselves up for what we ate or drank. It’s a slice of cake, not a saber-tooth tiger. But your mind might be telling your body they’re equally dangerous.
So don’t get me wrong. I generally eat pretty healthy, I probably eat more vegetables than a lot of people you know, I get out and move when I can. Sometimes it’s a long bike ride, sometimes it’s just a quick walk around the neighborhood because I have 20 minutes before someone gets off a school bus. I meditate. I pay attention to stress (even if I don’t always manage it perfectly). But I also have learned that if I have a glass of wine or a treat, it’s part of enjoying life. And that’s all it is. To quote one of my teachers, it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both and more.
Beliefs are powerful. And so are you.