The Quest for the Perfect Bra by lee tilghman

 BRAS BRAS BRAS

BRAS BRAS BRAS

Boobs are a blessing, but fitting them into bras can sometimes be a curse.

Personally, I've always found it difficult to find just the right bra. It seems like all the cute bras are too flimsy but all the "sexy" ones are too loud and follow such an outdated ideology of what's sexy in the first place. As someone with broad shoulders with a small to mid size chest, I kind of always felt like bras were never built for my body. I am technically an "A" cup but it fluctuates to a B during the winter, and I don't like wired bras since they dig into my skin and have read they can cause health concerns amongst women who wear them. But then the alternative usually offers no support with ill-fitting straps and boobs pointing in all directions like a distressed airport traffic controller. 

I've been on the hunt for a comfortable, minimally designed, feminine and supportive bra without padding, flowers, lace or wires. I took it as a challenge to find a bra for every setting. I tried on close to 16 different bras and narrowed it down to these eight. And here's why:

All styles: from the gym to the bar to the bedroom to the couch: there's a brafor every day in this post. 

Price Friendly: the bras on the blog post start at $22 and go up to $70

Inclusive Sizing: All the brands on the blog use real women with a wide range of body types, which was very important to me. So many lingerie brands use the same sized models and I want to support brands with more inclusive sizing

I mostly like triangle bras in neutral colors, so you'll find a lot of those on the post today. I hope you enjoy!

1. THE EVERYDAY BRA: EVERLANE TANK BRA - $22.00

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Hands down, this is my favorite bra to put on everyday. The style is cute enough that it feels feminine without trying too hard. You know those days you unexpectedly find yourself in a park and it gets sunny out and you want to take your shirt off to tan? You could totally pull off wearing this bra in public because of its sports bra, tank-style cut with just the right amount of coverage. It's so cute I would wear this as a crop. The fit of this bra is supportive and soft. While I can wear it with a t-shirt, its thicker straps make it a bit awkward to wear with more revealing tops and dresses, so that's something to keep it mind. 

Upsides: comfortable, cute, supportive, soft, affordable

Downsides: unadjustable straps

2. THE WORK TO WORKOUT BRA: KNIXWEAR LONGEVITY BRA - $45.00

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This bra is great for making a smooth transition from your workday to your workout. Most sports bras feel too constraining to wear all day long, but I found this one to be comfortable and incredibly supportive. The adjustable straps make it accessible to every body and boob shape, although the straps fit me sort of strangely. Some of the straps were loose, others were tight, but it didn’t affect the comfort levels, just the aesthetics. The material is SO soft like butter, and my boobs stayed in place in my HIIT class because of its supportive, snug fit. When I’m doing my burpees, I'm always a bit concerned about my nipples falling out of my bra (lots of those cute workout bras don't have enough coverage for me), but that’s not the case with this style. Readers can take 20% their entire Knixwear purchase with the code knixlee20. Valid through June 1, 2018!

Upsides: soft, supportive, “hug-like” feel, full coverage, no nip slip issues, comfortable to wear all day

Downsides: awkward length (is it a crop or a bra?), straps

3. THE SUPPORTIVE YET WELL DESIGNED BRA - WEAR LIVELY GEO MESH BRALETTE - $35.00

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This bra makes me feel sexy and makes me feel like myself. It's got a bit more coverage than most "sexy" lingerie, making it more comfortable and a wee bit more conservative. I love the simple design and the just see-through-enough material of this bra. Most of the sexy lingerie I’ve worn in the past has cut into my skin and makes my nipples feel like they are getting sawed off by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre villain, but this bra is comfy AF. I can wear it under a t-shirt without any chafing or digging. Though I’m not a huge fan of how thick the bottom strap is (it feels like I am wearing a belt around my chest) I still like this one overall. 

Upsides: comfortable, flattering cut

Downsides: thick bottom strap

4. THE BARELY-THERE BRA: WEAR LIVELY ALL DAY BRALETTE - $35.00

I don't feel like I am wearing a bra when I am wearing this bra. Does that make sense? It's so lightweight that I legitimately feel like I am not wearing one. I love the bra’s color combo, although the dark straps and bottom band are visible underneath a light colored shirt. When I wore it with a dark colored shirt, the shirt dye rubbed off onto this bra and now it’s stained. Kind of a bummer. Also, for my bustier girls: I don’t think this is the most supportive bra, it’s more of a lounging-at-home sort of bra.

Upsides: lightweight

Downsides: the toasted almond color stains after a few wears, poor fabric quality

5. THE VERY SUPPORTIVE FRIEND BRA - THIRD LOVE 24/7 SEAMLESS STRIPE WIRELESS BRA - $68.00

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Though not for me, I felt compelled to include this bra in the post because I think it is a good option for people looking for more coverage, support, and padding. It may be ideal for those with a bigger bust. It feels like a mother hugging your girls close and in place. Personally, I am not a fan of lining or padding as I like my girls to have more movement, but this bra would be great for those who want more support.

Upsides: color, very supportive (this could be good for some)

Downsides: too much coverage for me

7. THE CONSCIOUS CONSUMER BRA: THE PANSY CO. BRA - $48.00

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Organic cotton + simple shape + neutral colors = the bra of my dreams, right? I've been loving Pansy's bras for years, but one thing I can't get over is how the straps stretch, rip, and fall down after only five months of use. I know you have to replace bras often, but for close to $50 I want my bra to last at least a year! I do love how Pansy is a woman-owned small business and the bras are made in the US, but I want the quality to improve before I buy another one.

Upsides: organic, small business, aesthetically pleasing design, colors options, made in the US

Downsides: price, longevity, poor strap quality, fit

8. STRAIGHT UP SEXY BRA: CALVIN KLEIN UNLINED WIRELESS BRA - $35.00

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I love this bra (I bought it in Germany in September on a whim) and wear it when I want to feel femme. The bra has kept its shape and is sexy AF, but it makes my boobs look sag and become cone-like. There would be nothing wrong with that if my boobs were naturally cone shaped, but they're not. There's something about this bra’s lack of support that makes my boobs sag. I'll keep it and wear it around home, but it's definitely not a go-to bra for me. P.S. I got this bra in Europe, so I'm not sure if its available here in the US as it looks to be sold out most places.

Upside: design, color

Downside: no support, runs small

9. THE BEAUTIFUL BRA: NEGATIVE UNDERWEAR SIEVE NON-WIRE BRA - $55.00

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This bra just feels good in your hands, you can tell that it's well made. The sieve material is sturdy, SO soft, and feels incredibly lux. It’s my favorite sexy bra, hands down! It's adorable. While a bit pricier than the others, this bra is an investment piece. It's currently sold out, but if you join Negative Underwear’s mailing list you'll be the first to know when it’s restocked. 

Upside: craftsmanship, material, design, fit, color options

Downside: runs small


What is your current favorite bra and why?

How I Intermittent Fast, Why It’s Not Like Others, and Why That’s OK by lee tilghman

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this post is not meant to be a substitute for professional care. This post is based upon personal experience. As always, do your own research and speak to a medical professional (a holistic professional, if possible!) before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. This is especially important if you have chronic health issues.

What is IF?

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Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating where you consume your daily calories within a specific window of hours each day. Each style and timeframe of IF varies from person to person and changes as the body changes. While fasting, you give your body a break from digestion (one of the body’s most energy-sucking activities), which can help promote:

  • Cell regeneration
  • Better digestion
  • Regulated energy levels
  • Improved skin 
  • Lower glucose and insulin levels
  • Lower risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lower risk of diabetes

Though it may seem that IF is a trend, it’s not. People have been fasting for centuries for cultural, religious, and health reasons. IF is not new by any means, but in recent years it’s become a hot topic of debate. This is partly due to some big guys in Silicon Valley swearing by IF to help power through long days and keep their brains in tip-top shape and from (I think) the Bulletproof culture that has brought a high fat diet into the mainstream.

When practicing IF correctly, you are not hungry. Your blood sugar levels are stable, thus giving you energy. In short, this happens because when you fast you are giving your body a break from digestion (one of the most physically demanding things for your pancreas, liver, and gallbladder).  

There are many different ways of practicing IF, some do it for hours, days, or weeks. Everyone has a different eating schedule and amount of food they eat. Some people include ingredients (supplements, collagen, spices) while fasting that others do not. It’s all up to the faster, and we are all different.

Personally, I was hesitant to try IF because of all the content I had read and the theories medical professionals had told me that skipping meals is bad for blood sugar levels and can cause unnecessary weight gain and headaches.  As someone who once struggled with anorexia (10 years ago),  I was a little worried IF would trigger my old habits. At my treatment center, we were told that eating food at regular mealtimes was the only way to be healthy. Once trying IF, I realized that waking up and eating breakfast when I’m not hungry just because I’ve been programmed to do so doesn’t feel right either. How is THAT healthy? IF has helped me become so much more in tune with my hunger signals and many other things that I will get into below. But first, I want to share how I fast.

How I Fast:

It’s important to note that I don’t practice Clean Intermittent Fasting. Clean IF is stricter and allows for nothing but water during fasting periods to really intensify the ketosis period. No collagen, spices, supplements, or even cinnamon is allowed during Clean IF. Clean IF is for people who are concerned with ketones for specific health or disease related reasons. Personally, this is too obsessive for me and my body doesn’t like Clean IF. I found a fasting pattern that works for me, and I will share that below, but I urge you to do your own research, experiment, and play around to see what feels best for you and your body! My fasting schedule differs a little day to day and is dependent upon my schedule, but here is generally how I eat:

 My daily cup of matcha

My daily cup of matcha

  • I drink hot water with lemon each day upon waking up
  • I work out while fasted, before matcha, because I am not hungry
  • I drink matcha after my workout, between 7am-9:30am, with one tbsp coconut butter and one or two scoops of collagen (again, I don’t practice Clean IF and include collagen during my fasting period)
  • I eat breakfast around 10:30am, lunch around 2:00pm, and dinner around 6:30pm
  • I don’t skip a meal, I just eat my three meals during a set period of time
  • My eating window is 8 hours, with a 16 hour fasting period
  • When traveling, out of my routine, or on days that I am hungrier, I am much more relaxed with my routine, but I try to practice a 12 hour fasting window at the very least. 

How I Started Fasting:

I started slow. 

Before experimenting with IF,  I was eating around seven times a day. To be honest, it was pretty stressful. I was constantly thinking about food because I was never satiated. I’d get anxious if I had to leave the house without a little snack to munch on. And looking back, it wasn’t good for my body either. I had a feeling of dissatisfaction in my stomach and mind, and I struggled with gas, bloat, and constipation.

I was first introduced to the concept of IF when I did my first Clean Program in January 2017. The Clean Program encourages people to follow the “12 hour window”, which means you leave a 12 hour window of consuming no food for 12 hours each night (with the exception of water and herbal teas). If you eat dinner at 7pm, you eat breakfast at 7am, or anytime after that.

I was a bit scared of trying IF because I had been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In fact, the US government even has breakfast-pushing commercials to ram that into our heads. Then all of a sudden, we as a country fell so in love with the idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day, huge iHOP sized breakfast portions and breakfast burritos the size of small dogs became normal. Personally, eating a very nourishing smoothie or some coconut yogurt with nuts and berries for breakfast makes me feel the best. Eating too many carbs first thing in the morning is a NO for my energy levels since I have PCOS. This really negatively impacts my insulin levels and makes me feel crummy.

My first week of doing the 12 hour window was NOT easy. I definitely struggled with some anxiety about “not being able to eat” because I was so used to eating a bedtime snack around 9pm each night. Practicing the 12 hour window opened my eyes to the fact that I was eating a snack nightly at 9pm not because I was hungry, but because it was comforting and made me feel safe. In a way, I was using food to soothe my emotions.

Once I got accustomed to the 12 hour window, I was astonished how much better my digestion was. As someone who has struggled with IBS-C for well over 10 years, going poop every day was a foreign concept to me. Constipation had caused me a lot of discomfort, hemorrhoids, bloat, digestive pain, anxiety, and depression.

I continued following the 12 hour window for a year until January 2018 when I did the Clean Program again and was able to extend my fasting window to 13-16 hours a day.

Why I IF:

Digestion

As someone who has struggled with IBS-C most of my life, IF has been a game changer for me when it comes to producing quicker, easier, and more dense bowel movements. To get detailed: it can be hard for me to pass sometimes, but with IF, I experience little to no issues with getting up and going within the first 30-60 minutes of waking up! Throughout the day, I’m also less bloated and sometimes I even go #2 two to three times in one day. This was NEVER the case for me before I was practicing IF. 

Reducing PCOS symptoms

This one is interesting because many people think IF can worsen PCOS. I think it is very dependent upon your lifestyle, daily habits, and where you are on your PCOS recovery. I can only speak for myself, but IF has helped my PCOS in so many ways that I can see and feel. I think IF worked for me because I did not start IF until two years into my PCOS recovery after I had really worked to get my body, adrenals, hormones and emotions back into balance. I also made sure that I had my period for a year before I began IF.  This allowed my body to be in a place where it could truly benefit from IF. I now have boosted energy levels and glowing skin, and I’ve been able to shed the excess, stubborn AF belly fat that adrenal fatigue and PCOS gave me that wouldn’t budge. For many people, IF also can reduce stress and inflammation, other PCOS symptoms. However, IF can also be an additional stress on your body, which is why I recommend getting your body and hormones back into balance by reading WomanCode and using proper diet and self care practices. More information on my journey with PCOS can be found in my PCOS Guide.


Energy Levels on Fleek

Since IF-ing, I’ve noticed an increase in my overall energy level and focus. Because I am giving my body a break from digestion, I am sleeping deeper and thinking clearer. I feel so energized and happy throughout the day when I eat dinner a few hours before bedtime and then run on fats in the morning until I finally eat breakfast. IF also helps me keep my blood sugar levels stable so that I feel truly energized after eating. 

Intuitive Eating

IF has helped me become a more intuitive eater, funny enough. I eat when I get hungry and I stop when I am full. I don’t self-soothe with food as much when I am practicing IF because I feel better emotionally, physically, and mentally. Better mood and energy levels = happier Lee. 

Simplicity

I don’t stress about what I’m eating first thing in the AM because…well, I’m not eating first thing. I’m simply not hungry, so I spend that time doing other things: meditating, journaling, getting work done, or heading to the gym. My morning hours are precious to me, and I get all my most important stuff done before breakfast. This aligns well with Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, in which he recommends doing all of your important tasks before you even check emails (speaking mostly to freelancers/biz owners, I know not all people can do that!).

Who Shouldn’t fast?

While I have found benefits from IF, it’s important to note that IF is not recommended for everyone. Some types of people that are not recommended to practice IF include (but are not limited to):

  • Pregnant women should not fast as it adds extra stress to the body, which is already doing a remarkable thing (growing a baby)
  • Anyone going through an extra stressful period or adjustment stage (e.g. moving to a new city, starting a new job, a crunch time at work, or a long-term illness). Intermittent fasting IS a stressor. If you are not in a good place in your life, fasting may not be the best idea, as it can increase your cortisol and add to the stress and pressure you are already under
  • Those who are currently in, recovering from, or recently recovered from an eating disorder. How long after you are in a better place should you try IF? I can’t answer that for you…all I have to say is that you need to be VERY honest with yourself. If you aren't being honest with yourself, it’s all too easy to let IF transport you back into destructive habits and become a replacement for your ED. It helps to get clear with your intentions, have a solid foundation of self love, and a firm grasp on what’s best for you and your body to practice IF. You need to be able to stop fasting when your body asks you to stop, eat when your body asks you to eat, and honor your body in every single way it needs to be honored, 97% of the time. Why 97%? Well, nobody is perfect and with intuitive eating there will be days and times and weeks and months where we eat too much or eat too little or too healthy or too unhealthy. 

If you suffer from a chronic illness, It is especially important to speak to your doctor first. I recommend reading this article about who should and shouldn’t fast. https://www.marksdailyapple.com/who-should-and-shouldnt-try-fasting/

Common IF Questions

Does black tea/black coffee break the fast?

No.

Does almond milk or other nut milks break the fast?

Yes.

Does adding a scoop of coconut butter break the fast?

Technically, no.

Does collagen break the fast?

This is debatable, some advocate for it, some advocate against it. Some say a scoop or less of collagen doesn’t break the fast, while two scoops breaks the fast. Technically, the proteins in the collagen break the fast, so if you are practicing Clean IF for a therapeutic reason, collagen is a no. I don’t Clean IF, so I have a scoop or two with my matcha.  Read this forum for more opinions: https://forum.bulletproof.com/discussion/13003/what-can-i-put-into-my-coffee-while-intermittent-fasting.
Listen to this episode of the Intermittent Fasting Podcast to get more detailed answers: https://ifpodcast.com/2018/03/05/episode46/.

How often do you fast?

I fast for 12-16 hours, seven days a week, except for vacations. 

How do you know when to break the fast?

When I first started IF, I got some detox symptoms and it didn’t feel great. But as my body accustomed to it, I really started to feel the benefits. I know when to break the fast now when I begin to get hungry. It’s that simple. :) 

What can you break the fast with?

Something healthy! Just because you fasted doesn’t mean you should go out and get a cheeseburger to compensate for the time spent not eating. That would completely negate the whole point of IF. Eat a nourishing, healthy meal, as you normally would- whether it’s sweet or savory, listen to your body and what it wants to eat. 

Continue to make sure your meals are balanced and filling throughout the day. For me, a balance of healthy carbs, protein, fats, and tons of leafy greens is the best way to keep my body going and feelin’ good and to reap the benefits of IF. 

Can you take supplements while fasting?

If you are trying to practice Clean IF, many theorize you should not consume any supplements during your fast. If you’re a bit laxer, supplements are totally fine. Again, it’s what is best for you and your body.


IF has worked wonders for me, but it’s important to remember that it’s not for everyone and this is just based off my experience. If you are looking to begin fasting, I recommend getting really honest with yourself and your relationship to food before embarking. 

The best way to go about playing with IF is by testing, adjusting, and repeating. Kind of like with anything in life: you are your own best teacher and the answers are all inside of you. 

Do you practice IF? If so, what do you like about it? What do you not like about it?

Lee From America's Grocery List + Tips by lee tilghman

(5/17/18 10:15 AM PST) Editor's Note: in a previous publishing of this article, I included a link to a now debunked article regarding the validity of certain olive oil brands. The link has been removed and a new link for reference and information about olive oil is in its place. 

Today on the blog I’m sharing a typical grocery list that I take with me when I grocery shop.

 In my happy place, AKA, the frozen foods aisle. 

In my happy place, AKA, the frozen foods aisle. 

Utilizing a list like this helps ensure that I always have items on hand to make healthy smoothies, macro bowls, snacks, and soups. The possibilities are endless, and the combinations change with the season, my cycle, and my tastebuds. Consider these items the foundation of my diet.

Eating a diet that is built primarily on whole, fresh produce with some animal protein and plenty of healthy fats has helped me find balance and natural energy and has curbed my sugar cravings. I also find that following this list helps me stay within my budget. I don’t always buy 100% of these products at once. I shop mainly at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and the farmer's market, depending on my schedule,  budget, and the season.

As you will see, there are not many packaged products on this list. When using this list, you’ll find yourself strolling the perimeter of the grocery store, without going down the aisles. That’s because the aisles are where all the packaged products with added and refined sugars hide, and avoiding these products keeps our bodies healthy and our wallets happy. 

This is meant to be a standard guide for navigating the grocery store, but it doesn’t have to be used verbatim! Add or take out what you like, what is available, and what is within your budget.

See the notes below for more information on this list.

Produce

The key to shopping for produce? Buy it in season and organic when possible. But don’t beat yourself up for not eating 100% organic if it’s not within your budget. Stress is just as harmful as eating a nonorganic meal! Be realistic, and do your best. I recommend always buying organic berries and leafy greens, since they are sprayed the most. Produce with thick skin (citrus, avocados) are sprayed less often so it’s OK not to buy these organic if you are trying to save cash. 

Frozen Goods

This is where the smoothie goods come from! I love buying frozen organic cauliflower florets from Whole Foods for my smoothies. I just add a few pieces directly from the bag into the blender. Here is the recipe for my Blueberry smoothie that uses frozen cauliflower. Buying frozen organic blueberries in bulk (if available) helps shave off a few dollars. 

Specialty Items

These are “special occasion” items for me that I purchase once a month or so. I try to buy them when they’re on sale and usually move through them more slowly to savor them! Make sure to buy these items without added sugars or processed oils- they are items that some brands like to sneak sketchy ingredients into. Always read the ingredients list and be careful of items that contain canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cane sugar, agave, coconut sugar, barley malt, black star molasses, brown rice syrup, corn sweetener, palm sugar, dried oat syrup, evaporated cane juice, glucose, honey, simple syrup, maple syrup, and sorghum syrup.

Oils

You’ll want to be careful of which kind of oils you are using, and there is a lot of misleading conversation about the olive oil industry and its legitimacy, transparency, and honesty with its readers.  Check out this article for more olive oil information.  

My favorite EVOO brands:

  • McEvoy Ranch Organic

  • Omaggio

  • California Olive Branch

  • Kirkland Organic

  • Cobram Estate

Protein Options

This part of the list will be more specific to your individual dietary needs. Vegan? Canned black or garbanzo beans are amazing for your protein requirements. Into red meat? Buy some grass-fed beef! Other quality options of seafood to consider are canned anchovies in water and freshwater trout. It’s really up to you and your diet. I do recommend staying away from soy products due to their harmful effects of the female endocrine system (read WomanCode for more information on soy). 

Bulk Items

Feel free to get what you want- this list is just an example of different nuts and seeds that I like to have on hand. Pay attention to the different prices. For example, organic raw cashew pieces are $4 less per pound than their whole counterparts.Also, buying flax seeds whole and grinding them at home will save you money. If you can, buy your nuts and seeds organic, but do what’s best for you and your budget. 

Still looking for more? Check out my downloadable Meal Prep Guide for recipes using these ingredients that will give you healthy meals all week long!

 To save, simply right click on the list above, "Save Image to Downloads", then open from your downloads folder and print.

To save, simply right click on the list above, "Save Image to Downloads", then open from your downloads folder and print.

Tips for saving money while grocery shopping:

  1. Find and follow the sales. Period. Use coupons. It adds up if you buy a lot of food like me. 
  2. Stay away from the inner aisles.
    • This is where they get you! The inner aisles are not only where all the more expensive packaged foods are, but it's also where all the processed junk lives, even in the healthiest of grocery stores. I try hard to just shop around the perimeter of the grocery store (produce + 'dairy' sections) and avoid the center. 
  3. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
    • Spontaneous grocery trips are not exactly a budget-friendly way to shop. Over the weekend I like to spend 30 minutes flipping through instagram or magazines like Bon Appetit to get meal inspiration for the week. This helps me get a better idea of what I want to make and eat. 
  4. Take a list with you!
    • I always take a list with me to the grocery store. Even if its just a few items, it helps keep me from wandering around and getting tempted to buy everything in site. Also, a very important aspect of bringing a list with you is so that you dont have to go back to grocery store later in the week to get those blueberries you forgot. 
  5. Farmer's markets are your friend.
  6. Stay away from pre-packaged, plastic vegetables.
    • Buy the loose bundled herbs, the whole sweet potato (rather than the pre-chopped and peeled one) as they are usually $2-3 cheaper and don't come in icky plastic. Grocery stores know most people are busy, so they carry a lot of pre-cut fruits and veggies for convenience: pre-riced cauliflower, sliced Brussels, shaved + chopped butternut squash. While convenient and perhaps necessary for some, this is not the most price-friendly option. You're paying for the prep work and packaging. It's usually 50% more than the raw version. Yes, it takes more time to do it yourself at home but you'll save money and packaging. 
  7. Get your toiletries online.
    • They are always wayyyy marked up at the grocery store. 
  8. BYOB: bring your own bags! Whole Foods charges money for bags and now other grocery stores are too. Be nice to your wallet and the planet!

What are some of your favorite grocery store necessities? How do you grocery shop on a budget?

Lee From America's Guide to Chicago by lee tilghman

 A bean in front of a bean. 

A bean in front of a bean. 

Last month, I headed to Chicago to teach my Matcha Mornings Workshops.

It was magnificent to immerse myself in Chicago through my work and experience a place that I had been fairly unfamiliar with until that point. I encountered some of the sweetest, most genuine people during my time there. I also ate, drank, and shopped at some of the most memorable restaurants, cafes, and independently owned stores. Most people assume that all the happening cities are near the coasts: NYC, SF, LA, but Chicago really proved herself to be a buzzing, beautiful, clean, and cultured place.

I even snuck in some nature. I heard from a lot of locals that it’s impossible to find a good hike in Chicago, but I had a really beautiful walk along the Chicago Riverfront with my friend Ryan on evening that I will never forget.

 The self care goodies at Scratch Goods. Palo Santo, dry brushes, poetry, and foot scrubs. YAS.

The self care goodies at Scratch Goods. Palo Santo, dry brushes, poetry, and foot scrubs. YAS.

Where to Stay

The West Loop! I LOVED this neighborhood. Virtually everything is within walking distance: sweetgreen, Whole Foods, trendy cafes, healthy eateries, public transportation. I felt safe and I loved the structure and easy layout of the neighborhood. It was buzzing with other young professionals and has a good nightlife scene. Highly recommend.

Getting Around

I found the public transportation to be reliable, fairly easy to navigate, and safe. Mostly, I walked places and used Ubers for longer destinations, given I didn’t have much time.

The Guide

$: least expensive

$$$: most expensive 

Cafes

Hi-Vibe $$ - Hi-Vibe is a superfood smoothie bar located in the River North district of Chicago. It’s a far walk from the West Loop (more of an Uber or train ride), but I knew I had to come here because they don’t put sweeteners in their matcha blends or nut milks, which is a rarity these days! FYI, there are virtually no places to sit, it’s a ‘grab and go’ type place. Their menu is extensive and quite impressive. The staff is also super knowledgeable and they were more than happy to accommodate my substitutions. I got the Vanilla Matcha Vatte without xylitol, so it was matcha, brain octane MCT, coconut cream, lucuma, and vanilla bean powder. It made me feel energized AF!

 The beautiful insta-friendly Sawada matcha latte (with soy milk)...and no, I didn't drink this one. I got an almond milk one to drink and just took photos of this one. :) 

The beautiful insta-friendly Sawada matcha latte (with soy milk)...and no, I didn't drink this one. I got an almond milk one to drink and just took photos of this one. :) 

Sawada $$ - Sawada is a must visit in Chicago. It’s located in the heart of the West Loop. They are best known for their Military Latte, a matcha latte with a shot of espresso and their vanilla simple syrup (a form of cane sugar, which you can order it without). But beware, it’s still high in sugar even if you order it without the vanilla simple syrup. I came here in December 2017 and got the military latte, but have since removed processed sugar from my diet. When I came here on this April 2018 visit, I got a regular matcha latte with almond milk. I asked if the regular lattes were sweetened, and they said no. I took a sip and my tastebuds said otherwise! The nut milks they use must be high in sugar. I’ve cut out all processed sugar from my diet, so I could REALLY taste it. Additionally, if you want the nice latte art, you have to order your drink with soy milk. That said, I’d still recommend coming to this place if you are in town. The atmosphere is great, the people are nice, and the drinks are amazing. Just don’t be fooled- these lattes are treats!

Harvest Juicery $$ - Hot hint, this is the place where you can find Coconut Cult in the city. It’s a juice and smoothie bar with bone broth and other healthy snacks.

Restaurants

 The falafel at ema. 

The falafel at ema. 

ēma $$ - Go for the falafel! The falafels were definitely the highlight, crispy on the outside but soft and moist in the center. The staff was friendly, and most of the menu is or can be made gluten free. The chef was accommodating to my food sensitivities, and I enjoyed every bite.

 My custom salad at Bad Hunter

My custom salad at Bad Hunter

Bad Hunter $$$- Recognized as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, I couldn’t wait to try Bad Hunter, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my favorite meal in Chicago. Their herbal teas were a nice touch and tasted delicious. However, once I disclosed my food allergies (gluten, dairy, soy) to my server, the menu shrank to about two items. They were very accommodating for me, but just beware that most of the stuff that everyone says to get (e.g. their burgers) contain gluten or soy.

 Herby cauliflower steak with grilled ramps from The Allis

Herby cauliflower steak with grilled ramps from The Allis

The Allis $$ - The Allis was one of my most memorable meals in Chicago! Because of the on point service, divine food, lofty feel, smooth ambiance and stellar location, it's where I chose to have my private VIP dinner with the workshop students! I’m still dreaming about their cauliflower steak with herby cashew “ricotta”.  I could sit and people watch here for hours. I ate here for both dinner and breakfast and loved it all the same. I am already looking forward to my next meal here. 

Shops

Scratch Goods  $ - Think of this place as your self care epicenter! Scratch Goods is located in the West Loop and has all things self love. They carry dry brushes, jade rollers, palo santo, house made body butters, books of wisdom from Nayyirah Waheed and Rupi Kaur, and they even have a DIY face mask bar (such a good idea for bachelorette and birthday parties). I got a stick of palo santo here. I highly recommend checking it out, and it’s fairly price friendly for what it is. I believe they are moving locations, so make sure to double-check address.

 Alllll the feminist home decor and crystal nightlights at Humboldt House. Humboldt House is one of those places where you will walk in innocent and leave feeling like, "I really really need a $40 sage candle".

Alllll the feminist home decor and crystal nightlights at Humboldt House. Humboldt House is one of those places where you will walk in innocent and leave feeling like, "I really really need a $40 sage candle".

Humboldt House $$$ - This spot was *GOALS AF*. A bunch of you recommended I check this spot out and now I see why: it sells crystals, ceramics, feminist art, rugs, pillows, home decor, and more. I spent a good two hours inside this store; there is just so much goodness! It’s a female owned business and everything is made from local female artists. It’s a specialty store, as their price point is fairly high, but I recommend popping in for a gift or just some inspiration if this spot is out of your price range. A visit to Chicago is not complete with a stop at Humboldt House.

 My favorite mug from Humboldt House by Molly Anne Bishop.

My favorite mug from Humboldt House by Molly Anne Bishop.

Lost Girls Vintage $$ - This is a carefully selected vintage store in the back of Humboldt House, they’ve got beautiful bags, dresses, and shoes. I highly recommend popping into the back to check it out if vintage is your thing. 

Rider for Life $$$ - Another goals AF concept store, this one is located right in the West Loop. They carry lots of clean European beauty brands, candles, vintage jewelry, and designers.

Hotels

SoHo House Chicago $$$ - This hotel was everything! The rooms were incredible (look at this chandelier), with extra touches all around. The bathtub was the real star of the show for me, though. I highly, highly recommend checking it out if you are in town and need a romantic place to stay or want to treat yourself to a night of luxury.

 Luxin' it up at Soho House Chicago for a night. 

Luxin' it up at Soho House Chicago for a night. 

Parks

Humboldt Park (free) - Gorgeous park to check out if you are in area and want to get some fresh air. There’s a beautiful boat house and water. It makes you feel like you’re in Europe. 

The Bean (free) - You cannot go to Chicago without stopping by the Bean. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and there are tons of stellar people watching opportunities here. Afterwards, you can walk to the Chicago Riverfront and take a nice sunset stroll.

Chicago Riverfront (free) - Head here for a beautiful walk at dusk. You won’t regret it.

Workouts

Barefeet Yoga $$ - I didn’t have much time for exercise on this trip, but luckily I got to catch a class here. It’s a studio in the West Loop. I went to a heated morning vinyasa class taught by Maggie Umberger. I loved her teaching style, and everyone was very friendly.

 Soakin' up every second at ema.

Soakin' up every second at ema.

I hope you find this guide helpful, and I can’t wait to go back! Until next time, Chicago.Where are some of your favorite spots in Chicago? Comment below so we can help each other out! 

My Relationship with Booze, Partying and How I Broke the Cycle by lee tilghman

Before I get into it, I want to point out this post covers my personal experience with alcohol and addictive tendencies. I am not a medical professional. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism or drugs, professional help matters. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Association has a 24/7 hotline to speak with a medical professional at any time of day, free of charge. Go to https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. Don't wait until it's too late.


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I'd love to say I've been steaming zucchinis and waking up at the crack of dawn for hikes my whole life, but that's just not how life goes. Alcohol is something I’ve struggled with for more or less of my 20’s. From drinking too much of it, feeling pressured to engage with it, watching family members abuse it, to letting it almost take over my life, alcohol is something I have great respect for, but for now, choose not to engage with. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with partying or enjoying oneself. But when you struggle with addiction and are trying to fill a void with it, partying can turn from a fun social outlet to a downward spiral, and this is my story. 

Background

I wasn’t a huge drinker in my youth like most kids in my high school were. I come from a town where underage drinking, DUI's and substance abuse are rampant. I can name a few kids in my high school who were given DUI's before they even graduated high school. The appeal of booze to kids is fun. It makes you feel like an adult, social, and helps you forget about life for a few hours. But quite frankly, I personally was too afraid of the calories and too busy struggling with my eating disorder to really care much about it.

I remember when my parents picked me up from my inpatient eating disorder clinic in 2008. I had just spent 4 months straight in the hands of doctors and therapists, doing everything I could to heal my eating disorder, when I was finally healed enough* to be discharged. 

*I didn’t actually heal my eating disorder in 4 months. A long grown habit of self hate and control is kind of hard to break in just 4 months, but I digress...

    I said my lighthearted, optimistic goodbyes to the staff and other patients.  My therapist, Rosie, who I had formed such a special relationship with, came over and looked both of my parents in the eye. “Make sure you monitor her drug and alcohol use. I see about half of my patients switch between eating disorder issues to alcohol and substance abuse.” It was almost comical how she said such a bold, weighted statement in such a casual, nonchalant way. I rolled my eyes and hugged Rosie goodbye, thanking her for all that she had done. 

10 years later, I realize how right she was. 

My parents didn’t have much to worry about at first: after getting out of treatment I was an angel. I drank here and there in college but it was never really an issue. I didn’t really get into alcohol until after college when I moved to New York City in 2012.    

The drinking begins

 The summer after college graduation, 2012. 

The summer after college graduation, 2012. 

In NYC, I was working in the finance world where going out for drinks with coworkers was almost part of the job itself. Around this time, I started dating someone, a huge music lover. We went to a lot of live shows. Living in NYC at age 23, the city was just one big playground to me. There was always another party, gallery opening, concert, or new restaurant to check out. It was a very surreal time in my life, mainly because I didn’t care much for the consequences of my actions. I was living the life! Or so I thought. 

Showing up slightly hungover at work was normal for me. A big cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts would always do the trick. I’d struggle through lunch and think to myself, “Never again am I going out” and then once my hangover subsided by 4pm, the group texts would roll in.

“What r u doing tonite? Want to go to this show?”

I’d always cave in. 

There was something super addicting about going out to me. It wasn’t that I would black out and forget my name (I usually kept it together), but it just felt good to be young and crazy.  Dancing in a nightclub with all my friends and boyfriend at the time was an excellent use of my time. And man, did we have fun. Some of those nights I laughed so hard I’d pee myself.. no joke.

In hindsight, going out was slowly becoming another way for me to numb the same “stuff” I had been trying to numb during my eating disordered days. These uncomfortable feelings inside me were feelings I was just not ready nor willing to face. Going out was much more fun than facing them. I loved the feeling of buying a new outfit, getting ready with some music, pre-drinking with friends and then showing up at a bar or club and dancing until dawn. It was all fun and games for me until I broke up with that boyfriend that things began to spiral downwards. 

toxic relationship + alcohol = the perfect storm

The boyfriend I mentioned above and I had been toxic together. The relationship was emotionally turbulent and abusive. Manipulation, shaming, and humiliation were an everyday part of our relationship. Our love was built upon jealousy and possession rather than compassion and wholeheartedness. I believed his words when he said, “without me, you would be nothing.”

When it came to the point of my friends and family intervening our relationship for my concern, getting out of that relationship felt like I was diving off a cliff into a black hole of the unknown. He had used his words to beat me down to nothingness, and it worked. I was so far down that it was hard for me to see just how toxic the relationship was. It was not a clean break up. After we finally broke it off for good, I had to fill my void with something else, anything else to keep my mind off things. And that became going out. My little partying habit became more than just something to do on the weekends: it now was a lifestyle.

 I quickly became addicted to going out, hitting the town about 5 or 6 nights a week. That summer, I attended over 7 music festivals in a 3 month span. It was partly for my job (by this time I was in hospitality) but mostly it was just to keep me busy so I didn't have to think. My never-ending social schedule filled with drinking, late nights, and meeting new people covered up any negative feelings I had about myself. The partying got more intense and the drinking became a part of my everyday life.  I drank to get drunk, to loosen up, to forget, to let go. I also began experimenting with different drugs to further forget about life.

My decision making skills started to spiral. I made many decisions I am not proud of. From leaving the club with little more than strangers to taking drinks from people I barely knew, I just didn’t care. As long as I was going out and having a good time, it was fine to me. I was young and naive. 

I lost touch with my close, real, “non party” friends. I noticed some of my party friends go down the path of addiction. Their appearance and motives changed. No longer was it about going out and having fun, but about getting “f*cked up”. and I was hanging out with them. What did this make me? How far behind them actually was I? This was around the time my inner alarm system began to go off. 

Rock Bottom

 October 2014 at a warehouse party in Brooklyn..one of my last times "going out". Looking happy, but feeling lost.

October 2014 at a warehouse party in Brooklyn..one of my last times "going out". Looking happy, but feeling lost.

Emotionally, I was getting more depressed and losing control of myself. The “high” I got from going out was getting harder and harder to chase, and the effects of the drugs, alcohol, and late nights were starting to take a major toll on my mental and emotional wellbeing.  I was numb. Close friends expressed concern for me. One night, I got so "f*cked up" on alcohol and a few other substances in a club in New York City a few people came up to me while I sat on the couch, nodding off. They asked if I was alright. Consciously I was awake, but I must have looked very out of it. That scared the living crap out of me.

I didn’t realize how far down I was until I physically removed myself from the partying scene one weekend.

On Labor Day weekend that year, I decided to get out of the city with one of my closest friends.

I vividly remember sitting on that Long Island Railroad out to Montauk, staring out the window when the feeling that I had been trying to escape for so long set in: a dark massive void of emptiness, but also a very strong connection to my true self.

 One of my first "smoothie bowl" pictures from September 2014. 

One of my first "smoothie bowl" pictures from September 2014. 

It had been my first time without booze in months, and suddenly, I was alone with my thoughts and without a party to distract myself with. I felt betrayed by myself. My dreams, goals and aspirations were being trampled by booze, drugs, partying, and men. And I was letting it all happen. This was my rock bottom. 

I knew I had potential to do something fulfilling with my life (move to LA, do something with food) and this partying cycle was endless and frankly, getting me absolutely nowhere.

I thought back to the time when I came to grips with my eating disorder and knew the only way for me to get the change I wanted was if I myself changed. 

Drinking was like this glass ceiling I couldn't surpass. In that moment, I realized alcohol would need to be cut from my life if I wanted to achieve the things I wanted to achieve. 

When I returned back to NYC after that weekend away, I made some pretty enormous changes. I researched and joined a run club called Bridgerunners. I signed up for a half marathon. I stopped going out so much.  I had always been on-and-off with my relationship with my health, and knew how good I could feel if I gave it my all, so I decided to put more energy into my health journey. I started posting healthy food photos on my Instagram account as a way to share the recipes I was creating for myself. THIS is how LFA was born.  

And 5 months later, I left NYC and moved to LA to follow my dreams. 

My last few months of NYC had been spent mostly sober. I felt better and saved money for my move. Leaving New York City was like saying goodbye to old Lee. It was my way of establishing new boundaries and giving myself a second chance at life. But it wasn't all fun and games: I slipped up a bunch of times on my road to "recovery from partying". Moving across the country does not make your problems go away. Your problems follow you everywhere and the longer you ignore them the louder they get.

on a new path

I didn’t really know many people in my new city. Coming from NYC, I was eager to make new friends, but the only way I knew how to do that was by getting drinks with people, because that's what people do, right? At this point in my life, I was really wanting to cut alcohol out to heal my body and mind SO BADLY (this is around the time of my PCOS coming on strong), but I was having trouble adjusting to the social norms around alcohol and learning to say "no". 

The first few months of living in LA were dark and lonely. I had no friends, I wasn't passionate about my first job, and I felt lost and alone. Not to mention, I was not drinking and LA is much quieter than New York, so the silence really fell on me. I knew I was on the right path, working to heal my body, mind, and soul, but it was not easy. I was doing more yoga, eating more healthy, and searching for more meaningful friendships with people who also wanted to live a healthy life. But I stumbled.

One day, I headed over to the beach to meet a friend who was in town from NYC and some of her LA friends. I was excited at the prospect of making new friends. They were hanging out day drinking at a bar. I knew I didn't want to drink. When I showed up, they were all drinking mimosas. My heart started pounding through my chest and I had a moment of clarity. Why was I here? If I was trying to escape this old life of spending my days drinking, why was I surrounding myself with people who did that? It didn't make sense. 

They asked if I wanted to drink. I hesitated for a second, and then said no. And I felt left out. Everyone was loud, having a good time, laughing, smoking cigarettes and taking pictures. It was in this moment that I realized this life was very behind me, and I needed to make an effort to make new friends with people who saw more eye-to-eye with me. 

I even attended a few AA meetings when I first moved to Los Angeles 3 years ago, but I never really connected with them. 

As time went on, I got better at saying "no". I noticed that if I'd cave and have a drink, I'd actually end up feeling much worse about myself than if I had just stood my ground and said no. Not least because I was engaging in alcohol, but because I wasn't listening my own needs. I was projecting that I'd be making other people feel uncomfortable if I didn't drink. 

drinking just because other people were drinking lowered my sense of confidence and self esteem. surprisingly enough, saying "no" when i did not want to drink made me a feel stronger, more empowered, and true to myself. 

I never liked how alcohol was one of those things people need to always have a "buddy" to do it with. If you go to a bar with a friend and they order a beer and you get a water, people may get uncomfortable with that. It's not like if you go out to eat with a friend and they get a taco and you get pizza, they'd be weird about that. It's understood in society that people have different preferences when it comes to food. So what is it about alcohol that makes people so uncomfortable when they have to do it alone? Something to ponder. 

Making New Friends

As we know, we are social humans and we can't go through life alone. When one is transitioning from the party phase into a new phase of life, one of the most challenging aspects can be finding new friends and forming new connections with people who hold the same interests as you. It's kind of like the first day of elementary school all over again.  Wherever you live, there will be an alcohol and party scene. But what I also learned that if you search in the right places, you will discover many other scenes and communities to be apart of. They key is hanging out and engaging in activities you'd want your ideal friends to also be interested in! Sure, living in Southern California helps: its nice here all year long, the green juice flows like water and there are hikes across the city. But that didn’t make it 100% easy to make a new community! As mentioned above, I slipped up and drank when I didn’t actually want to, but felt like I had to, just because I wanted new friends. But with time, I made new friends who held the interests and hobbies. Their lives are full of hope and passion, and not just about the next time they’d get a drink. 

Things I did to make new friends:


AT WORK I started waiting tables at a local restaurant to help supplement my income as a new blogger. It was a great place to start and get an "in" into different circles. Whether it's a smoothie bar, boutique fitness studio, cafe or library, working and making friends at a place where you feel comfortable is a great place to start. 

IN COMMUNITY With this supplemental income from waitressing, I was able to join a local yoga studio and made friends through that safe space. I am a huge proponent for building friendships this way. The great thing about making friends through yoga/fitness studios/gyms is that you already have a bunch of things in common: you probably live in the same area, you both enjoy yoga and feeling good, and you most likely want to improve your life and take care of your body. Those are some solid foundations for friendship, if you ask me!


ON THE INTERNET I’ve made a handful of close friends through Instagram. Trying to be healthy and break off from drinking can be scary and hard because it can seem very isolating. Instagram is a great way to discover local people in your area who have similar interests. I even met a boyfriend online once! Of course, use your better judgement with meeting people from the internet. If something feels fishy or off, notice and honor it. I’ve thankfully never had any issues with it and won't let a few creeps online to ruin the opportunity of making some really solid friendships through it. 

REMOVE YOURSELF This was perhaps one of the hardest things, but over time, I HAD to separate myself from my party friends. I’m not saying that you should go out and ditch all the people you know and start living on a mountain in Tibet, but the truth is that we need people who uplift and support us to get through life. And when you do remove yourself, you don't have to be rude or mean about it. I let my party friends know that I was putting my energy elsewhere: my business and myself. You can be transparent and let them know you are trying not to drink as much anymore. It has nothing to do with them and you can absolutely engage in other non-drinking activities with them if you or they are still interested. If you are trying to break the party/drinking cycle and all the people you hang out with have no desire to escape it, it’s gonna be hard for you to make any progress. Be easy on yourself, and get honest. If you know you are about to enter a possibly toxic/triggering situation, just know that! 

A few notes on alcohol and dating…

Whether you are sober, just not a drinker, It can be be hard to communicate this to a new partner. I know for me, when I was going on dates and still struggling with my confidence and ownership over not being a big drinker, it would be a huge source of anxiety. Not anymore! Below are some tips I used for learning how to step into my choices, and my power. 

OWN IT You know yourself the best. Nobody else can make your decisions or life choices for you. If you know you don’t enjoy alcohol, simply own it. Why wouldn't you? Don’t apologize, make excuses, or try to explain yourself (that is of course you are engaged in a safe consensual discussion about it). The “pressures” we feel from peers are reflections of other people and have nothing to do with you.

MAKE IT LIGHT-HEARTED Shed some laughter and playfulness onto the situation. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. The energy you create around something is the weight it will carry. Crack a joke, make fun of yourself. “I’m a grandma, I don’t drink and I go to bed at 9pm. Love me or leave me”. 

IN REALITY IT’S REALLY NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. Of course, if you struggled with alcoholism and that is a huge part of your life, it may be a big deal that you don't drink and you should state so. However, if you’re trying to cut down or just aren’t a big drinker, oftentimes we make a bigger deal out if it than it actually is. It goes the same for when we feel so self conscious about our looks, when in reality nobody really cares because everyone is concerned with their own looks. All of our problems are magnified for us because we’re the main star in our own movies. Once I understood that

so where do i stand with booze now?

As I put that old Lee to sleep, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit ashamed of my dark past. As I got more into the world world I started holding onto these beliefs that any darkness, even a dark past of drinking, meant that I was not truly healthy or "pure" or whatever.  Now, I see it's all part of the journey, its all part of my story, and I have no regrets.

Will I ever drink again? I consider myself "sober curious". The last time I had a drink was January 4, 2018. Up until now, I drank on very few occasions. Maybe one day I'll call myself truly sober. I may want a glass of champagne on my wedding day, but I'm not betting on it, and below are the reasons why. 

Hangovers= cloudy mind Ever had a hangover? Then you know what it feels like to wake up feeling like you got hit by a truck. Sure, a fun night out with friends is great, but is it really worth it when the entire following day is wasted? When I was struggling with partying, my hangovers rendered me pretty much useless in bed watching Netflix all day, dreaming about my aspirations but certainly not doing anything about them. 

I don’t need booze to feel loosened up, I want to be myself. There was a point in my life when I turned to booze to feel loose, funny, confident, and sexy. But as I abstained from drinking, I started going on a “inner-journey” as one might call it. I was no longer abusing alcohol or drugs to feel good, instead I was feeling good just by being….well, me! This gave me the confidence to really show myself and know that I didnt need a drink in me to approach someone or feel relaxed. I have my own toolbox kit that I practice and none of them require a shot of tequila. 

Health: It’s no surprise that booze is a toxin. Alcohol severely dehydrates your body. It can cause inflammation and over stress your liver. It can affect blood sugar levels by effecting the functioning of your pancreas. It also effects your central nervous system, immune system, digestive system and your mood.

Addictive tendencies: By this point, I know myself pretty well, and I know I have an addictive personality. There are many different "theories" of addictive people, and though I'm not an expert, I know I'm an addictive person. Addiction runs in my family, and many believe "addictive personalities" are highly genetic, either by nature or nurture. At first it was an eating disorder, followed by toxic relationships, cigarettes, partying, then exercise. That's right, you can even get addicted to health and wellness and obsess over it (it's called orthorexia!). At this point, I am well aware of my behavior and that has been key for me to not take things...ANY things, out of hand. Just knowing I have the tendency has been life-changing for me in staying SUPER honest with myself.

getting help

I've been in and out of therapy for 10 years and love it so much. A trained professional is ideal for helping one recognize and change a destructive behavior. A support system is also vital. We can't do this all alone! Though in my story I never went through a 12-step program or in patient center for alcoholism, doesn't mean you should not. I was lucky to be able to pull myself out of it, but there is not shame in asking for help. 

Do you drink? Have you been able to break the cycle from booze and partying to a healthier lifestyle? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.

How to Camp Big Sur by lee tilghman

 Big Sur: one of those places that makes you go, "Dang, life is beautiful"

Big Sur: one of those places that makes you go, "Dang, life is beautiful"

The other week, I headed up the California coast to Big Sur, one of the prettiest places in the world. I first went here at age 16 with my family and was immediately enamored by its beauty. 

Driving along the US-1 highway is unlike anything my Connecticut soul has ever seen. It reminds me of the Spanish Riviera and Montana all at once, but with its own California vibe. Think rolling green pastures filled with sheep and cows, winding roads, cacti, and amber bluffs that caress waterfalls which descend into the deep vast turquoise Pacific. Big Sur is so cool and is pretty much the sole reason I wanted to move to California in the first place. 

 3 words when it comes to Big Sur: take me back. 

3 words when it comes to Big Sur: take me back. 

I put together a guide for those who are looking to experience Big Sur through the eyes of a camper. Of course, you can experience Big Sur many ways: there are airbnb's, retreats, yurts, hotels and motels, but camping is my favorite way. Why? There is no cell service in Big Sur, so it's much easier to disconnect, be present in nature, and feel more at peace. The nature is astonishing and always has me gasping by its sheer beauty. Sleeping outside underneath the stars really helps me appreciate all that nature has to selflessly offer us.

A camping trip to Big Sur is a great way to spend spring break, summer vacation, or a fall weekend away with friends. It's accessible, beautiful, affordable, and truly relaxing. Below are some of my favorite hikes, restaurants, and rest stops along the way to take some of the guesswork out of trip planning. 

Camping Notes:

  • Plan ahead. Many Big Sur campgrounds are by reservation only and they book up fast. Reservations can be made here
  • Plan your route. Depending on which direction you are coming to Big Sur from, road closures are still in effect after extreme weather mudslides.
  • Rent a car! Big Sur is called Big Sur because it's big. I'd say it's necessary to have or rent a (preferably 4WD) car that is safe to drive for the windy roads. 
  • Bring cash. Most places at Big Sur don't have internet, so they can't use credit cards. 
  • Go with a group. There is safety in numbers! Travel with friends. 
  • Use your intuition. While camping is fun and exciting, there are potential dangers and you are slightly more vulnerable. This shouldn't deter us from camping, but rather awaken us to our surroundings. If something feels off, pay attention to that and don't brush it off. That's your gut talking. 

We brought our own food on our trip and cooked 9/10 meals at the campsite. Cooking at camp is a part of the whole experience. It takes longer to prep and clean up so I usually planned about 2 hours around each mealtime to cook, eat, then clean. 

Our List:

  • Banza chickpea pasta
  • olive oil
  • lemons
  • Avocado 
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grain free tortillas from Siete
  • black beans
  • hummus
  • carrots
  • Bulletproof Collagen bars
  • apples 
  • almond butter
  • paleo pancake mix
  • blueberries 
  • red pepper 
  • swiss chard

And now...to the guide!

Limekiln State Park (3 mile, intermediate hike, $10 parking)

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We headed here for a scenic, forest-filled hike on our last day. There are not many beach views from this hike, it's more in the forest surrounded by big trees on mossy ground. Expect lots of crowds on this hike, it's a popular one since it's mostly flat. There are a few different trails to take, but I only did the Limekiln one before getting quite tired. There were also some really pretty campsites around the area and they also have showers on the campgrounds. $10 for day parking, cash only, no credit cards or checks. 

 A secluded beach off the Spring Trail on the Andrew Molera loop. Definitely worth the extra decline and incline back up to the main trail. 

A secluded beach off the Spring Trail on the Andrew Molera loop. Definitely worth the extra decline and incline back up to the main trail. 

Andrew Molera Loop (8 miles, seasoned hiker and willing to get wet! $10 for parking)

If you are up for this hike, I highly, highly recommend it. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime hikes that I will never forget. Beware: within the first 1/2 mile of the hike you have to remove your shoes to wade through a knee/hip-deep flowing river but trust me, it's so worth it! The water is refreshingly clean and will wake you right on up for your hike. Don't expect to see many people on the loop. Take a photo of the trail map before leaving the parking lot. Give yourself 3.5 hours to complete. We did this hike at sunset and it was stunning. You can see the cows in the distance and hear them MOOOOO as the sun sets. Expect gaping views of the Pacific Ocean, valleys of wildflowers, pastures of cows, eucalyptus forests and pine trees galore. TIP: The park enforcers charge $10 for day parking, but if you park along the US-1 turnout designated for the loop, it's free. 

 Takin' in the golden hour from the Springs Trail on the Andrew Molera loop. 

Takin' in the golden hour from the Springs Trail on the Andrew Molera loop. 

Plasket Creek Campgrounds (campgrounds, $20/night)

My friend and I stayed here and loved it. It's within walking distance to a great beach (Sand Dollar, listed below) which is a big plus. The campground is a hot spot for families so I recommend it for the early-to-bed and early-to-rise folks. Not many partiers head to this campsite. The campsite offers a fire pit for each site so you can enjoy some good 'ol bonfire time. The grounds also have a water spicket and closed bathrooms for campers.  No showers are here, but I say embrace the dirt and grit. It will make coming home and taking a real shower that much more enjoyable! In the summer months you can probably swim in the streams and waterfalls to clean off but don't use soap or shampoo if so. Campsite is $20 a night and I recommend booking ahead if you are trying to plan a weekend trip. First come first serve is fine for some weekdays depending on time of year and holiday. 

Sand Dollar Beach (free)

Gorgeous beach with a mini-hike in. This beach is not wheelchair accessible. The beach offers a large, curved sprawling beach for picnics, hangs, naps and walks. There are usually a few surfers here too. In April it was dog-friendly so obviously I made BFF with like 10 furry friends. It's free if you walk in. I think cars have to pay $10 for parking or something. Not sure though. 

Big Sur Bakery (restaurant, $$$)

This place has got the cutest Big Sur vibes ever. It's a cafe/bakery by day and an intimate, string-lit restaurant by night. It's family owned and they focus on local, seasonal ingredients. You can taste the heart and soul that they put into the food. Even though I love all the camping food, my friend and I ate here one night on our trip because #TreatYoSelf. Boy, it was delicious. We both got the vegetarian entree: 1/2 roasted butternut squash filled with sautéed hen of the wood mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, cabbage, walnuts, other veggies I can't recall all tossed in herb-y pesto. It was so good. 10/10 would go back. 

McWay Falls (scenic view, free)

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I mean... how can you not go to Big Sur and check out the famous McWay Falls?! It's a stunning picturesque location because it shows so many different ecosystems in one: pine trees, waterfalls, cacti, palm plants, the ocean, amber bluffs, and a desert valley. I suggest going here for sunset. You will be feeling *all* the feels. 

Henry Miller Memorial Library (bookstore/library, free entry)

To be honest, I haven't gone here in my 3 times visiting Big Sur, but it's at the top of my list for next trip. It's a bookstore/library in the middle of the Redwood forest. They sometimes have open mic night and offer free outdoor concerts as well. 

Have you been to Big Sur? What do you like about it? Also, would you be interested in a blog post dedicated to what to pack for camping trips?

April Playlist by lee tilghman

 A big gorgeous floral bush tree that stopped me in my tracks this past weekend o n my trip to Big Sur. 

A big gorgeous floral bush tree that stopped me in my tracks this past weekend on my trip to Big Sur. 

Happy April everybody!

I'm really excited to share with you this month's playlist

It's one of my favorites so far...with new music from Rhye, Moderat, Khalid, and Coastal. It's also got Miguel, Post Malone, Flo Morrissey. Some R+B, electronic, indie and ambient, so there's something for everybody.

I discovered a lot of new artists this month and I'm very excited to share them with you. I drove up and down the California coast this weekend with this playlist. I hope you like it!

Natural Cramp Remedies by lee tilghman

 Is this you on your period? Read along. 

Is this you on your period? Read along. 

Oh, cramps. They are one of the more common side effects of menstruation. For some, cramps are just a little bit annoying. But for many women, cramps can be so severe, so debilitating, that they interfere with life's everyday activities and can get in the way of relationships, work, and school. According to a static that I heard during Alisa Vitti's SXSW talk, cramps cause the US workplace to lose $2 billion annually. So yeah, they are kind of a big deal.

My personal experience with cramps has been varied: when I was a teenager, I rarely experienced them. In my late teens to early 20's, the cramps came on strong. I was still able to go to school, but I experienced discomfort and mild diarrhea. No one else in my family really experienced them, and I remember my mom saying "Cramps aren't a thing" and she kind of pushed me to just suck it up and take some Midol/Advil. I appreciate my mother's tough-love approach, but now I handle my cramps with much more tender-loving-care. 

I lost my cycle twice in my life: once from an ED in high school and then again in my 20's due to PCOS and imbalanced living (stress, exercise, diet, etc). Working hard to get my blood sugar levels, stress, and lifestyle in check, I've had a steady period since January 2017. Read more about my period story here.

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Now that I've got a much better handle on my lifestyle, the cramps are much more minor for me, but it's not rare for me to experience them the first 35 hours of my cycle. As soon as the lining begins to shed, the cramps come on just like clockwork. They are usually at a 4/5 on the pain scale (1 being the least amount of pain, 10 being the highest amount of pain). I can still go about my day, but I definitely don't feel up to leaving the house much or doing any strenuous activity. I try to rest as much as possible.

Though I feel thankful each time I get my period (given that it was non existent for so many years) the cramps are not always something to be so thankful for. 

Given that I'm all about those natural remedies, I've developed a system of tricks that help me remedy my cramps and put them all together in a single blog post. I've enlisted the help of my favorite period expert, Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP, women's hormone and functional nutrition pro, and best-selling author of WomanCode to help explain some of the scientific reasoning behind cramps and dietary statements. She also created the Cycle Syncing method and MyFLO (the app I use to track my cycle). But first, some background on cramps. 

Why do we even get cramps?

During your menstrual cycle, the uterus contracts to help expel the lining. Alisa Vitti shared with me that elevated levels of Prostaglandin E2 cause menstrual cramps. Prostaglandins are a group of fatty acid compounds with varying hormone-like effects. The most notable effect of these are period cramps.

How do we avoid cramps in the first place?

Personally, I find that when I'm really on top of my lifestyle: managing my stress, exercising according to my cycle, eating a balanced, blood sugar stabilizing diet (healthy fats, quality proteins, tons of leafy greens and the right complex carbohydrates), staying away from sugar/coffee/alcohol/gluten/dairy/soy, my cramps aren't so bad. I learned a majority of this way of living through reading Womancode and through self experimentation. 

Throughout the month, there are things I've noticed about my cycle. The strength of the cramps kind of depends on how I treated myself that month. If I am:

  • managing stress (self care, journaling, nature, meditation, technology breaks, exercise)
  • exercising according to my cycle
  • eating a blood sugar stabilizing diet filled with tons of leafy greens, complex carbohydrates, quality proteins, healthy fats like avocado + salmon
  • abstaining from alcohol, excessive caffeine (all coffee), and sugar, gluten/dairy/soy

then my cramps will be significantly less than if I hadn't. Now, this is just a personal observation and may not be true for all. I also know that when I travel, eat outside my normal diet, am excessively stressed, then I also experience other painful period symptoms like greater mood swings, acne, breast tenderness, etc. Keeping track of your lifestyle and then paying attention to your PMS/menstruation symptoms are a great way to get better in touch with your body so you can actually see the results for yourself.

Top Natural Cramp Remedies

Diet

In western medicine, many practitioners overlook this simple yet very effective way of combating most ailments: the food we eat. My favorite way of reducing cramps is by focusing on my diet and make sure I'm including plenty of the right healing foods during my cycle. Why? Because I have to eat anyway, so why not include foods that can possibly help lessen my cramps too? Win-win situation in my book. I learned a lot about which foods are good for menstruation from Alisa herself and her wonderful book and app, as well as from my acupuncturist (Dr. Kara from Aculand) who studied ayurveda. On top of including foods high in essential fatty acids, I try to eat more soups, stews, and warming foods during this time. Lots of roasted vegetables, pureed soups, curries, and more. Try making my bone broth, it's a wonderful thing to sip on throughout menstruation. It's warming, full of collagen and healthy fats.

Because cramps are caused by elevated levels of PGE2 as mentioned above, Alisa Vitti recommends eating the right fats throughout the month and during your cycle to get more PGE 1 and PGE 3. You can help elevate PGE 1+3 by adding more essential fatty acids into your diet during menstruation. Full list below!

Foods high in essential fatty acids:

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • flax seeds
  • chia seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • olive oil
  • oily fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies mackerel, tuna and freshwater trout

other foods and herbs to include during menstruation:

Alisa also recommends including:

  • seaweed (wakame, dulse. Eden Foods sells high quality seaweeds)
  • kelp (found in most refrigerated areas of health food stores near vegan items)
  • mushrooms (all types)
  • seafood
  • He shou wu (Sunpotion makes a great one)
  • Reishi mushroom (I have a fabulous Reishi mushroom latte posted here which is perfect for before-bedtime. It also helps reduce my night sweats that come along with periods)

it's especially important to eat these foods around the year, but try including them during your next period to see if they help with your cramps. 

Foods to avoid during menstruation:

Alisa recommends staying away from the following foods which will increase inflammation in your body, contribute to the manufacture of more PGE2 and cause you to have more pain during your bleed.

  • dairy
  • excessive caffeine
  • saturated fats
  • sugar
  • alcohol
  • too many raw, bulky vegetables (this was recommended to me by my acupuncturist as well!)
 This chart explains which foods to include when during your cycle. Taken from the book  Womancode . 

This chart explains which foods to include when during your cycle. Taken from the book Womancode

We already know excessive cups of coffee and pounding beers on the daily isn't ideal for a healthy lifestyle, but doing these things around your cycle can cause additional stress and fatigue on your body during this delicate time of the month. Eating sugar around this time of the month, though sometimes tempting, can actually worsen your symptoms, so I do not recommend turning to sweets during this time. No-sugar-added dark chocolate is a wonderful way to satisfy your sweet tooth. I love Eating Evolved Midnight flavor. Try to stick to only 1 cup of caffeine a day, and if so, make it a matcha.

essential oils

Essential oils are one of the first things I turn to during menstruation. From putting in baths to applying to body, they can become a huge part of menstrual wellness. I take them with me wherever I go during my cycle.

Clary Sage has been studied and known to help women lessen the pain of contractions, so it has the same healing effect on our bodies during their cycles. A few drops along with a carrier oil like coconut oil massaged onto the pelvis can help reduce some of the pain. Mountain Rose Herbs carries  safe Clary Sage. 

Saje Wellness' Moon Cycle roller is an easy application oil blend that uplifts and calms the body and brain. It has lavender, geranium, and rosewood oils and already has a carrier oil inside so you can just roll-on and go. I usually add this to my pelvis and gently massage in circular motions or wherever else I feel cramps. I also love adding this oil to my bath along with some epsom salt to help disperse the oils. 

You can also apply both of these oils on your lower back and inner thighs. 

Heat

Applying heat directly to the cramps is always super helpful for me. I picked up a $10 heating pad at my local pharmacy not too long ago, but before that I was just putting white rice into an old sock and microwaving it. You can also use a water bottle and fill it with warm water. I love taking long baths during my period. Contrary to popular belief, baths are 100% safe to take during menstruation. Do whatever feels best to you. 

Hydration

It sounds cliche, but water heals all, especially during our periods. Drinking water during your menstruation cycle helps replenish some of the liquids you are losing through your uterine lining. Dehydration worsens menstruation symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can also help reduce headaches, bloat, fatigue and other symptoms of menstruation. It's a simple, quick, and effective way to find immediate relief. 

Yoga

Though I don't recommend heading to a vinyasa class during the first few days of menstruation, there are some yoga poses one can do to help relieve cramps. Child's pose, happy baby, and camel pose have all been said to help ease some of the pelvic discomfort. Youtube has a bunch of wonderful, free resources for cramp reducing yoga postures. 

Rest

Lastly, the biggest yet oftentimes most difficult thing is to take it easy. In a fast paced world, it can be hard to give ourselves permission to cancel plans, push back deadlines or. And sometimes, thats not possible. But if you know you get cramps, it can be helpful to plan your schedule ahead of time. Finish deadlines the week before your menstruation cycle. Take a few days off from the gym or your training program. Try not to plan any social activities the first few days of your period. If there is ONE time of the month to take it easy, it's this time. Schedule in some reading time, bath time, journal time, nap time or Netflix time. Give yourself the gift of slowing down. Our bodies are going through a very intense process during menstruation, and honoring that is a form of beautiful simple self care. 

Do you get cramps? If so, how do you handle them?

All About Electrolysis by lee tilghman

  After:  About 24 hours after my last facial electrolysis session, March 2018. 

After: About 24 hours after my last facial electrolysis session, March 2018. 

Before we get started, I want to point out that I believe every person has the right to make the choice what to do with his or her own body hair. This blog post is not to encourage nor shame people to remove their hair if they do not choose to.

I think all bodies are beautiful and I really admire when people make the choice to do whatever they want with their one and only body. In the age of body positivity and acceptance, I want to make it a point here that I am aware I could have kept my body/facial hair. I hope one day, women with facial hair will feel free to rock their beards if they want to. However, this is just not the every day reality we live in. I remember feeling incredibly alone during the time when I struggled with male pattern hair growth, and I hope in sharing this blog post I can help remove the taboo unrealistic ideology that all women face at some point in their lives: we must be perfect, without defects, and anytime we aren't, there is something wrong with us. 

Let's get to it!

Electrolysis is a form of permanent hair removal. It works by inserting a very fine needle into each individual hair follicle where a light electrical current is applied to destroy the follicle. We'll get more into the technical stuff later, but first I want to explain a little about my personal experience with electrolysis, why I decided to do it, and some of the experiences I had.

The BEGINNING

I first started noticing some strong black, beard-like hairs growing on my chin when I was about 22 years old living in NYC. I am not talking about fine peach fuzz. These were THICK AF. There were just a few at first. It was manageable, but they'd grow in pretty quickly. If I didn't pluck or shave them off right away, they'd be visible and one could feel the stubble by touching my face. I was in a relationship at the time when this problem began and I remember resting my chin on my partner's chest, looking up at him. He'd lift my chin up and lovingly say "You have scratchies on your chin! Can I pluck them off?" it was all done lovingly (he was one of those intimate, love-to-pluck-and-pop-zits kinds of guys), but I was nevertheless embarrassed by it. But honestly, I didn't think very much of it. I knew a lot of women struggled with facial hair and it was just something we had to deal with. Over the next year or so, the more I tried plucking the hairs, the more they grew back with a vengeance.

  BEFORE!  A photo of my dark and thick chin hairs moments before going in for my last electrolysis appointment in March 2018. My chin used to be covered with these. It looks so much better now. 

BEFORE! A photo of my dark and thick chin hairs moments before going in for my last electrolysis appointment in March 2018. My chin used to be covered with these. It looks so much better now. 

Little did I know this was the first sign of PCOS and the beginning of my battle with hirsutism, or male pattern hair growth. Hirsutism is the excess of androgen hormones in the female body, causing thick course hair on lower back, upper lip, chest, chin, neck, cheeks, breasts, belly.

I started carrying tweezers with me everywhere I went, and would pluck my chin morning, night or anytime I had privacy at work. What first started off as a few hairs quickly grew into patches of beard-like hairs around my chin and jawline. It was getting too much for tweezing. At age 23, I discovered these facial shavers designed for face hair on women and it only made the problem worse.  I began shaving daily. It worked for a little bit. But soon, I had to shave at night too. My hormones were so out of whack that I'd get a 5'oclock shadow on my chin and jaw.  

This is when it started to get shameful.

I know what I need to feel confident, beautiful, strong, and sexy. I love embracing the feminine side of myself, and having male pattern facial hair doesn't make me feel so hot. 

The fact that I had to shave 2x a day left me feeling extremely humiliated. My confidence plummeted. I felt like I had a dirty little secret. I felt defeminized. Manly. Ugly. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me and I was too ashamed to even tell my closest friends.

It is safe to say my self esteem severely plummeted at this time. I was afraid to get too close to people, fearing that they'd notice the hairs on my chin and neck. I covered my face when talking to people or strategically place my hand over my chin when sitting across a friend at a coffee shop. I told no one of my secret. I was so embarrassed and felt so isolated.

The 2x/daily shaving game continued for a few years. It became apart of my daily skincare regime. The thick, course, black beard-like hair traveled to my upper lip and some parts of my neck. It also spread to the area between my breasts, areolas, and my happy trail. Again, we're not talking about peach fuzz here, I'm talking about full on, visible, male body hair on my female parts.

At age 25, I made the move out to Los Angeles and slowed down my life a little bit. I made it a point to prioritize my health and stop the partying lifestyle I was leading in New York City. This life shift is when I really began to notice the other PCOS symptoms that had made their way to to the surface (read more about my PCOS story here). 

Things were getting out of hand and the body and face hair just kept coming. When I went into my endocrinologist's office and showed her the problem, she took my blood but already knew the answer: it was PCOS.

Pretty soon, I laid my hands on Womancode, and educated myself on hormonal health and getting all my ducks in a row without going back on birth control. I decided to take my life into my own hands and make some MAJOR diet and lifestyle changes to give myself a chance at a better life. My self esteem and health were so low that I knew there was no way to go but up. 

Discovering Electrolysis

As I focused on healing, I knew that permanent hair removal was the way to go for me. At first I went in to a local place called New Look Skin Center in Glendale, California for laser since I heard that it hurt less. I went in for 1 laser hair removal appointment and they performed a 30 minute session on my face. After my session was completed, they told me, "Sorry, laser is not going to work on your face, you need to use electrolysis". They still had me pay for my laser. In retrospect, this is totally unprofessional and is a sign that a place just wants your money and doesn't necessarily have your best interests in mind. 

I went in for 30-60 minute treatments every 3-4 weeks for a few months. I was so desperate to remove my hair that I didn't care about their treatment of me as a person. And I have to say, the electrolysis was working. After each session, my skin would be a little red and I'd get tiny scabs, but it was nothing permanent or too horrible. 

The hair totally went away, but about a year later it re-surfaced, so I begrudgingly made a new appointment at the same place. 

a bad experience

In that year, a lot had changed at New Look. To my surprise, my old aesthetician was replaced with a different woman and a much different machine. As soon as we began, I could tell something was off. It felt much different than the first go-around. The pain was sharper, and the way my technician was handling me, my questions, and my skin just felt wrong. However, due to shame, fear, and feeling 'less than', I still didn't have the confidence to speak up and voice my opinions. I asked her many questions and she always seemed rushed, annoyed, and even said varying answers when I'd ask her about post treatment. Sometimes she'd say to use olive oil on my face, other times she'd say never to use it. When I said she was hurting me to the point of tears, my technician told me it was "supposed to feel this way" and kept going. "Beauty is pain" she said to me. HAH. 

Then I hit a point of no return. One time, we did the upper lip. She continued to work on my entire upper lip for 45 minutes, causing massive amounts of swelling, scarring and redness that lasted for weeks. I later learned from other technicians that such areas of the body should never be done in one session. It works much better and the chances of scarring and permanent damage decrease if they split the lip into thirds and do a portion each session. It's taken 5 months of really intense skincare to get the redness down, but sometimes it still shows itself off when my skin is dry. 

The above images are from September 2017 a week after a rough encounter with an in-experienced electrologist. As you can see, my upper lip is still swollen there is some scarring on my chest between my breasts. 

finding a better technician

In November 2017 I set off to find a better electrologist who understood my skin and needs better. Upon google and some light Yelp researching, I discovered Electroyogi in Highland Park in East LA. I went in for a consultation and immediately felt at ease: they promoted and used holistic/non toxic pre and after care, they had calming music on, they answered all my questions and even had essential oil diffusers around the office. This was my kind of place! After our first session, I was shocked. Not only was the pain a quarter of the amount from New Look's, but the swelling and redness lasted about 30 minutes as opposed to weeks.

In Summary

So far, electrolysis has been great for me. I have been doing treatments on and off for ~2.5 years. And the most important thing is, I feel better. Sexier. More feminine. Confident. I can go up to people and not worry about them noticing my hairs. But also, something has shifted within me in the past few months. I'm not so self conscious about it anymore if I have a few black hairs. Maybe its because I have publicly stated that I struggled with it, and that has helped me release some of the shame and false beliefs I was holding myself to before. Just talking about it with you guys has been extremely cathartic for me. 

 Me today: happy, healthy, but most importantly, confident in her skin

Me today: happy, healthy, but most importantly, confident in her skin

As you can see from the before photo above, my chin hairs are very sparse these days and I only go in for treatments when I need to. I am not exactly sure what spurs the hairs to re-grow after they've been dormant for so long. I do know that shaving or tweezing in between sessions is a big no-no, unless you are going in for a session shaving is recommended (see below for details and instructions)  I don't go as consistently as I'd like due to travel and other commitments, but at this time I am very happy with my results and my commitment to treatment. I continue to go to Nicole, the owner at Electroyogi to this day and have nothing but fabulous things to say about her practice. She has been in practice for 20 years and is so knowledgeable, and I asked for her assistance in answering some of the common questions about electrolysis below. 

The answers in quotations are from Nicole herself. Everything else written below is from my own experience and research. 

Q+A

Q: What is the difference between laser and electrolysis?

A: To get technical,  "Laser cannot completely destroy the follicle, nor is it painless. Laser treatments only cripple the follicles, allowing for a period of decreased growth, thus reducing the size and thickness of the hair in the treated area. Additionally, laser hair removal has not been evaluated for long-term safety of the skin. Lasers are not ideal for all skin or hair colors nor are they capable of selectively targeting individual hairs." (SourceIn short, "laser is not suitable for all skin types and hair color. The ideal skin type/hair color combination is very fair skin with very dark hair with high volume," Nicole says. Electrolysis is suitable for all skin types and is the only hair removal method approved by the FDA to be considered permanent.

Q: Does it hurt?

A: In short, yes. However, it should not be excruciatingly painful. It feels like someone is flicking your skin over and over (at least that's how it feels to me). Find a technician who works with you, not against you. Getting it done before caffeine consumption can help reduce pain. 

Q: Who can get electrolysis?

A: Electrolysis is the only hair removal modality that can be used on any hair color or skin type, and any hair color/skin type combination. "As long as the hair is visible, it can be removed" Nicole says. 

Q: What's the cost?

A: It totally depends on the studio. On average, a 45 minute session costs around $60-80. 

Q:What are some pre and post care treatment tips?

A: Pre care:

  1. Hydrate! This is the most important pre-care action that you can take. Make sure your skin is hydrated from the inside out and outside in. Drink tons of water the days leading up to your appointment and on the day of the appointment.
  2. Moisturize the few days before treatment. 
  3. Try to avoid caffeine on the day of treatment if you can as this dehydrates skin which can lead to longer healing times
  4. Shave the area 3-5 days before each electrolysis appointment to ensure your hair is in its optimal growth cycle. A hair that has not been shaved for months is not in its active growth cycle, so the electrical currents will be less likely to kill it. "Shaving also preps the skin for electrolysis and can prevent irritation", according to Nicole. 

Post care

  1. Keep the area out of the sun: try to avoid direct sun exposure for 24 hours. If you must go outside, use SPF50+. Make sure it's nontoxic! I love Coola, Manda, and Erbaviva sunscreen brands. 
  2. Face oils are great for after care- use them 2x a day to keep your skin super hydrated and protected.
  3. Colloidal silver, aloe vera, and calendula are also very beneficial for the face in the few days after treatment. Here is how I love to use aloe!
  4. It's okay to sweat/workout, but make sure you wash your face with mild soap or non toxic face wash right after your workout.
  5. Try to go makeup free for the first 24 hours. This will only help heal the skin faster.
  6. Continue hydrating with tons of water.
  7. Don't touch your face this alone is a big tip for keeping your skin free of bacteria, but especially so during post-electrolysis since your pores are already open. 
  8. Keep it clean.
  9. It's okay to take a bath, contrary to popular belief.

Q: What can I expect after I get electrolysis?

A: Redness and swelling are normal. It depends on many factors on how long this will last, but in general the swelling should go down within the first 24 hours. The first few sessions will be the hardest to recover from, since your skin is not used to this sort of treatment. Sometimes, there will be little red scabs for up to 5 days post treatment. This is normal too. whiteheads and sometimes even breakouts are normal as well. I've had all of these happen to me after electrolysis. 

Q: How many treatments does it take?

A: This depends on each person. It also depends on "what the person has done to their hairs, prior to treatment" says Nicole. Nicole also notes it takes on average "18 months in order for every hair to bloom and make its presence known". Hair grows in cycles, and 18 months is about how long it takes for each hair cycle to express itself. Nicole states on average, it can take up to 2 years to be completely hair-free if you are consistently getting treatment. It can take more or less time, this is just what she has found and tells her patients so they have realistic expectations.

Q: Are there things we can do to reduce facial hair in the first place?

A: If it's hormonal hair, Nicole says, it all comes down to diet and lifestyle. Below are some of her tips for hormonal hair problems. 

  1. Keep stress in balance
  2. Eating a healthy diet and balance your blood sugar correctly. Eating low glycemic foods like fish, healthy fats, lean protein and tons of vegetables are great for helping balance insulin. 
  3. Staying at a healthy weight

Basically, it sounds like keeping your hormones in check is the way to go to prevent hirsutism and other hormonal hair growth issues. Womancode is a great place to start for learning how to balance your hormones through food. You can also read my Top Tips for PCOS here. It's important to note some hair growth is not hormonal, but genetic or due to other lifestyle changes like pregnancy, new medication, menopause, puberty, the aging process. 

Q: Are there any longterm negative effects of electrolysis?

A: According to Nicole, there are none at this time. 

Q: What should I look for when looking at electrologists in my area?

  1. Make sure you are working with a licensed electrologist. In 17 states in the US, it is not required for them to have a license. In these states, look for someone who is licensed. This will ensure they have the sanitation, bacterial, and dermatological background for best treatment practices.
  2. Make sure they are using up to date equipment. Some electrolysis businesses have machines that are 40 years old! Ask your technician how old the machinery is. It should be as up to date as possible.
  3. Read reviews online from real people. 
  4. Go into the office for an initial consultation. Often, we can pick up vibes from a place that we can't from photos or through the phone. I definitely recommend chatting to your technician in person before your first session. Ask them questions. Hear her pre and post treatment care tips. Observe their office and systems. If possible, try to find an electrologist who is familiar with holistic treatment care.
  5. Trust your intuition. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. 

Have you had electrolysis done? If so, what were your experiences with it? ALSO, if you have a good electrologist in your city/area please comment below! I want all readers to find good technicians through this community. Please share them below! And, remember, this is a SAFE PLACE. Please, no triggering comments, criticism, or speech here. 

Chicago Workshop Announcement! by lee tilghman

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Chicago, I am so excited to announce that I am coming to your city for my Matcha Mornings workshop on April 21 or April 22 from 10am-1pm! There are 2 types of tickets you can buy:

1. A General Workshop Ticket grants you will admission to one of the workshops (either Saturday or Sunday, both are from 10am-1pm CST)

2. The VIP ticket offers you admission to the workshop day of your choice, plus a seat at an intimate, paid-for dinner with me on Sunday night. *UPDATE: VIP TICKETS SOLD OUT*

Read more about the ticket types below. 

General Workshop Ticket

Join me for a very special morning with matcha, fat balls, and a lifestyle discussion. The event will be held in a bright and airy loft in the West Loop of Chicago. Exact workshop location will be emailed to you privately before event, but it is in the West Loop neighborhood in case you are trying to make accomodation plans. 

We will start the day sipping my recipe for a creamy coconut butter adaptogenic matcha latte, using my favorite brands like Sun Potion, Vital Proteins, Cap Beauty Daily, Ippodo Tea Matcha, and Vitamix. I will be doing a step-by-step tutorial of the latte so you can learn how to make it deliciously thick, creamy, and frothy at home. Each student will be given a ceramic mug to sip their lattes from for them to keep. 

Next, I will demonstrate how to make fat balls, one of my all-time favorite high fat, low glycemic snacks. 

After we're fed and caffeinated, I will guide us through a lifestyle discussion, where i'll share some of my insights and experiences on topics like cultivating a self care routine, how to be healthy AND have a social life, food intolerances, gaining a healthy relationship with exercise, a brief intro into adaptogens, and more. This will be an interactive, engaging discussion where students will have the unique ability to ask me questions, meet face to face, form memories and build community. So, bring your questions and your notepad, empty bellies, and I look forward to meeting you!

All workshop attendees will be given an Outdoor Voices tote bag filled with gifts from my favorites: Cap Beauty Daily, A Question of Eagles, Sun Potion, Vital Proteins, Wowe Tongue Scraper, Bulletproof, Honest Hazel, Saje Wellness and more

VIP Ticket 

For a heightened, more intimate experience with me, the VIP ticket covers the cost of the workshop* (you choose if you want to attend Saturday or Sunday's workshop) as well as a seat at a private, 5-person dinner with me on Sunday, April 22nd from 6-9:30pm.  At this dinner, we will have the chance to go deeper into discussion about some of my favorite topics: stepping into your power, steps to cultivating longlasting unconditional self love, and adapting healthy rituals in every day life. VIP ticket holders will also each receive a signed copy of the book "Womancode" by Alisa Vitti and a GOOP Bath soak on top of the tote bag goodies listed above. 

The ticket cost covers a 4 course meal at one of Chicago’s best restaurants that is #LFA approved. There will be delicious vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free options for us to munch on while we chat and dig deep into some of my most favorite topics.

This will be an incredible experience to get to know eachother on a deeper level and connect with like-minded people. 

I look forward to getting to know you!

*Note: if you are buying a VIP ticket, you can choose to attend either the Saturday or the Sunday workshop. The dinner will be on Sunday, April 22nd from 6-9:30PM. The name of the restaurant will be sent to you privately before the event

Nut Free Fat Balls by lee tilghman

My coconut fat ball recipe was born almost 1 year ago to the week (my, how they grow so quickly!) It is one of my most popular recipes, and not least because they are fun to say.

They are low in sugar, easy to make, and delicious AF! Fat balls come in handy right before an afternoon yoga class, post dinner as a sweet treat, or even mid-morning as a I-can't-wait-till-lunch snack. They are portable, popable, and the flavor varieties you can make with the basic recipe are endless. I even made a pumpkin rendition. These first 2 recipes are full of nuts, and that's why I am super pumped to share a nut free version with all of you today. 

 Seen here topped with coconut yogurt and tahini. 

Seen here topped with coconut yogurt and tahini. 

These nut free fat balls are just as delicious, high in fat, and low in sugar as their nut-filled cousins. However, they are safe for those who are allergic to some of the main nuts in the original recipe (cashews, almonds).

It should also be pointed out that because they are nut free, they are also a bit more budget friendly. Can you say win-win?

Note: nut free fat balls are NOT tree nut free as they still contain coconut. If you have a severe nut allergy, please check the labels of the products you use to make sure they are not processed in the same facility as nuts!

Let's get to it!

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Nut Free Fat Balls

Yields ~17 balls (depending on size)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup coconut shreds
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 TBSP ground flax seed (if you can't find them already ground, you can grind them yourself in a blender, mortar and pestle, or spice grinder)
  • 2 TBSP cacao nibs
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened hemp milk (or any other seed milk)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP coconut oil, melted first then measured
  • 3/4 cup coconut butter, melted first then measured


Instructions

  1. Add all of your ingredients to a food processor EXCEPT cocoa nibs. 
  2. Melt your coconut butter and coconut oil. To melt, leave it in the sun for a few hours, on top of a warm oven, in a bowl of steaming hot water, or scoop some out and melt it in a saucepan over low heat on the stove. 
  3. Process ingredients in a food processor for 1 minute. You may need to stop every now and then to scrape down ingredients.
  4. The last 10-15 seconds, add cacao nibs. This will ensure they stay chunky and whole!

Notes:

  • You can use a high speed blender like a Vitamix for this, but I use a Food Processor. This is the food processor I use. 
  • When measuring out the coconut oil and coconut butter, make sure that it is melted first before measuring and adding to the food processor. Solid coconut butters/oils will not work in this recipe. To melt, leave it in the sun for a few hours, on top of a warm oven, in a bowl of steaming hot water, or scoop some out and melt it in a saucepan over low heat on the stove. 
  • The longer you blend them, the darker they get. If you want a lighter, creamier-colored ball, try not to over-process.
  • Switch it up! Add your own flavors like vanilla, cacao, cardamom, matcha, etc. to get different flavors.
  • Add 4 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to get a protein boost
  • Keep them in a closed, airtight container in your freezer. They can last a good few months this way.
  • Traveling with fat balls: I find that I can keep my fat balls in a Stasher bag or glass container without refrigeration for up to 8 hours and it still tastes delicious. After 8 hours they get kind of mushy and weird.
  • I will never include the nutritional content/calorie counting in my recipes because that can trigger some people into counting/obsessing over foods. If you want the calorie contents, you can do the math yourself but please do not share on here, this is safe, count-free zone!
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Qualities of a Healthy Friendship by lee tilghman

Friendships are one of the most gratifying parts of a full, rich life. 

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There's no doubt friends are special - they help us get through life. Moreover, a study by Harvard showed that friends can help us decrease anxiety, bounce back from sickness and disease more quickly, and may even extend our life by 15%! I mean, if spending more time with your bestie wasn't already justified enough, this article will definitely help you.

When I moved across the country from NYC to LA, I knew nobody here. I left all my besties and safe friends in New York and ventured to a new part of the world. It was frightening, gratifying, and confidence-boosting all at once. 

Today I'm going to share 4 important aspects of a healthy friendship with you, using my friendship with Alison Wu as an example. 

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Me & Ali's Story 

Nowadays, its not odd to make friends through Instagram. I remember seeing Alison Wu's smoothies on Instagram in January 2016. Yes, I was drawn to her work and aesthetic, but that was not all. There was something more to Alison that I was instantly drawn to. As we began direct messaging, I found we had a lot more in common. We had similar senses of humor and the same goofy, positive outlook on life. Soon, we were face-timing weekly. Then, we made the "big step" and decided to meet in person in March 2017. I wasn't even nervous, I knew that we'd get along just fine. Ali flew into LA to stay with me and we decided to meet at Whole Foods. We spotted each other for the first time, screaming and running towards each other in the citrus aisle. To say there was an instant connection is an understatement. It felt like we had known each other for years!

 Our first time meeting IRL! March 2017

Our first time meeting IRL! March 2017

 Hangin' in J Tree - February 2018

Hangin' in J Tree - February 2018

2 years later, and our friendship is as strong as ever. We've done events, worked on projects, celebrated holidays and birthdays together. Though Alison and I live in 2 separate states, we try to see each other 4-5x a year, alternating trips between California and Portland. We write letters, text, FaceTime weekly, and DM on instagram throughout the day to stay in touch. We cheer each other on, collaborate on projects, and talk about work stuff that only we can understand. It's really nice to have a friend in the sphere who I really connect with IRL.  I can really be my true 100% authentic self with her all the time, and man, is that a nice thing to be. 

All friendships are different and beautiful in their own way. But the sentiment is still the same: as I go through life, I realize how my friendships hold me up in ways nothing else in the world can. My friends offer me unwavering support, honesty, and call out me out when I am at fault. Most importantly, they make me laugh and feel loved when I'm in my darkest moments.

There are many aspects to a healthy friendship.  Below are just a few that Alison and I contemplated together that we believe to be helpful and beneficial in keeping up a healthy friendship. 

Communication

Every good friendship needs a solid base of communication. Just like romantic relationships, it takes clear communication on both parts in order to express the needs, desires, and boundaries. Checking in, reaching out. It can be so easy to lose touch with friends in the digital age, as sometimes we consider "following" someone on social media a way to stay in touch. But there really is nothing like a phone call, a deep Friday night FaceTime session, text, or even hand written letter to let your friend know that you are thinking of them and there for them. 

And with every friendship, there will come the inevitable disagreements. I can't stress how important communication is when it comes to getting over those (sometimes difficult) hurdles! Hurt feelings, overstepping boundaries, and disagreeing on things can sometimes be solved just by letting the other person know how you feel. It can be hard to have those conversations, but it's important if you want the friendship to last. Alison and I have had our disagreements and fights, and looking back, they came from a place when we were not properly communicating to one another. It's a process!

Vulnerability

I think vulnerability is another huge part of cultivating healthy friendships. It's not feeling the need to seem 'strong' and like you have your sh!t together everyday. Most of us already brave the world 99% of the time trying to seem like we have all of our stuff together. It's important to have a friend that you can just cuddle up with and be like, "I need you to know I'm struggling right now, it's tough, and that's ok". Whenever I talk to Ali, I know I can be my truest self, and say, "Hey. I'm not doing that great right now", or "Yeah, life's been tough lately and here's why." I've told Alison some really deep and personal stuff that I haven't told many because I am not afraid of her judging me. I know she has an open heart and the truest of intentions, so I do not feel scared or judged. That's a gem of a friend right there. 

Quality Time

Life changes, people move, we get new jobs, new relationships. But a good friendship involves both parties putting in quality time. Luckily in 2018, our best friend can live across the world and we can still keep in contact through channels like FaceTime and instagram.

What really builds up our friendship though is the in person time. We try to take a few trips a year together, just us 2, usually involving lots of matcha and nature. I always leave our weekends together feeling like a new person: revitalized, energized, inspired and confident. That's how every friend should make you feel. 

 my girl!

my girl!

Trust

Oh gosh, this one is so important. What is a friend if you can't trust them? My closest friends are on my team, no matter what. I know that they would never do anything catty or say mean things behind my back. This level of deep trust and knowing is incredibly enlightening and makes me feel warm and eternally loved. And at the end of the day, that's really all we can ask for. 

To read the rest of the post and hear Alison's thoughts on our friendship, head over to Wu's blog!

What are your favorite ways of maintaining healthy friendships? I'd love to learn and hear from you guys. 

Introduction to Face Oils by lee tilghman

Note: this is not a sponsored post, I am just sharing some of my favorite brands and info about these products. If a post is ever sponsored, it will explicitly state so in the post, blog, or story due to FTC regulations.

 My holy MV shelf.

My holy MV shelf.

Welcome to the beginner's guide to facial oils! This post will go over what facial oils are, what they do, and which ones I recommend. I even enlisted the help of Marie Veronique herself to answer some of the key question. Marie is a chemist and master at natural skincare. It's safe to say her products have changed my life. Head here to learn more information about Marie.

When I first heard about face oils, I thought, "Ha! Not for me". Growing up in the '90s, I was raised on "fat free" and "oil free" everything. From cream cheese to cleansers, the oil and fat free movement was extremely prevalent in everything from foods to skincare.  I grew up using oil free everything. 

I thought oils would clog pores and contribute to more acne. I even vividly remember Neutrogena commercials stating how 'oily cleansers can clog your pores!' and believing every word.

But just as your body thrives on healthy fats, your skin can too.

Facial oils are blends of oils that can fight the aging process, banish acne, moisturize skin, even complexion, protect your skin, and shrink pores.  I want to make a note that they are not the same as plain essential oils. 

Facial oils work by maintaining the lipid barrier function and diminishing dryness by preventing TEWL (trans epidermal water loss) and providing micronutrients and antioxidants in their natural form. 

A good face oil will contain Omega-3's and Omega-6's that are essential fatty acids. "Remember, essential fatty acids are called essential because we do not make them; we must get them from our diets. When it comes to skin, we need to choose a good oil blend that we can apply daily" Marie says. 

Oils can also be used for exfoliation since they can deep clean pores and remove dead skin without environmentally-damaging plastic "microbreads" or microscopic tears (which is caused by some of those microbes face washes Neutrogena sells). For some, an oil blend is enough of a moisturizer. But if you live in a extreme weather climate and your skin is dry or exposed to a lot of sun exposure, then additional moisturizers on top of oils can be helpful. Shea butter (below in the products section) is a fantastic natural moisturizer if your skin needs extra lovin'. 

My Experience With Scarring + How Face Oils Healed Me

I first started using oils in July 2017 after my facialist at Cap Beauty Daily used Marie Veronique Protective Day and Night oils on me. The first thing I was attracted to was their scent. I literally stopped my facialist in her tracks and said, "WHAT WAS THAT. WHAT DID YOU PUT ON ME. I NEED IT NOW". When I left, I felt like I had a filter on my face for the next few days - I literally could see my skin glowing. I was instantly hooked.

 A swollen red upper lip from a really bad electrolysis session on September 4, 2017. 

A swollen red upper lip from a really bad electrolysis session on September 4, 2017. 

I know how scarring, redness, and uneven skin can effect self esteem. I continued using Marie's oils after a skin problem I encountered in September of last year. I went in for my routine follow up electrolysis appointment and to my surprise, my previous electrolysist was gone and a new one was in her place. The company had also put in a new, stronger electrolysis machine in the former one's place. I had my upper lip worked on and it ended in severe redness, chapped skin, and puffiness that lasted for days. The electrolysist had over done it and my skin couldn't handle it. (Luckily, I found a better LA-based electrolysist, and a full electrolysis 101 blog post will be coming soon)

 You can see the scarring from my electrolysis, this was 10 days after the appointment and it was still red. 

You can see the scarring from my electrolysis, this was 10 days after the appointment and it was still red. 

My skin was subsequently red and scarred for months. I freaked out. I read forums online from people who have had lifetime scarring from electrolysis, and I remember thinking, "what have I done?" It was like I had to choose between having a beard or having red scarring. I was slightly traumatized.

My friends told me, "aw, it's not so bad! what matters is on the INSIDE!" and I thought to myself, that saying is so much easier said than done. Please no one ever say that to me again.

I continued to use the Marie Veronique oils and slowly but surely, my skin discoloration went down and the scarring cleared up. Through diligent application (2x/day for 3 months), minimum sun exposure, and healthy diet, my complexion *finally* evened out.

I went into the face oil game because I was drawn to the way it made my skin look and feel. I never loved the idea of putting on face moisturizer, no matter how clean the brand was my skin still felt greasy and I never knew how it was made and what was *actually* in it,

6 months into using the Marie Veronique face oils consistently, my skin has never looked better. My pores are smaller, I rarely get breakouts, and my complexion is even. As an unexpected result, the scarring from my PCOS hormonal acne days faded too.

Now, I use the Barrier Lipid Complex like makeup. I put it on and head out the door. It makes my skin super dew-y and glowy as you can see below.  I rarely find the need to wear foundation anymore, just sometimes if I'm feelin' extra. I think there's something to be said about feeling more confident in our skin, in whatever which way makes you feel better. It doesn't matter what other people say about your skin, it's what you believe to be true about your skin. 

 No filter. Taken on February 28, 2018- clear skin, even tone, no scarring, but most importantly, really feeling good in my skin. 

No filter. Taken on February 28, 2018- clear skin, even tone, no scarring, but most importantly, really feeling good in my skin. 

My Routine

Before going into the basics, I will quickly run down my skincare regime and what I use. I use all Marie Veronique products, and below is how I do it. At the bottom of the page you'll find a complete list of all the products mentioned in this post. 


When using the Barrier Lipid Complex, make sure you are not going ANYWHERE near your eye contour area. I cannot tell you how many times I put it near my eye and then an hour later my eyes started to burn.

According to Marie, the burning is from the cholesterol. I take special care in making sure I am not applying the Barrier Lipid Complex anywhere near my eye or eyebrows. 


My Marie Veronique AM routine: Splash with alternating cold and hot water, then apply serums, followed by oils. Soothing B3 Serum, Vitamins C+ E+ Ferulic Serum, Barrier Lipid Complex.

My Marie Veronique PM routine: Wash with Replenishing Oil Cleanser. If I'm wearing makeup, I use Lilfox Chamomilla Infusion makeup remover, and then apply serums, followed by oils. Vitamins C+ E+ Ferulic SerumGentle Retinol Night SerumBarrier Restore Serum, Intensive Repair Serum (once weekly or if I have a blemish), and the Barrier Lipid Complex.

Facial Oils for Acne

Face oils can actually be used in the treatment of acne and clearing up skin. Oils like krill, kiwi seed, flax seed and sunflower seed oil can help improve the barrier function and dissolve congestion below the surface. Less congestion means less acne formation, inflammation, and even some age-delaying effects. 

"If you have acne, breakout prone skin wants oils high in Omega-6 EFAs, because sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands) deficient in linoleic acid can clog pores. Good examples of oils for acne-prone skin are sunflower and safflower oil. Marie Veronique's Treatment Oil acid (Omega-3 EFA), especially oils with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) type Omega-3 fatty acids. Topical application of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly those of the EPA type, attenuate UV-induced photo-damage, extrinsic signs of aging, and inflammatory skin responses. It is great for adults with acne who have aging concerns," according Marie Veronique. 

What You Should Look For

Look for multi-oil blends. Just as you can't expect one food to meet all your nutritional needs, one type of oil cannot meet all of your essential fatty acid needs.

Oils rich in essential fats acid of the Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 type.

  • Omega 3 oils – kiwi seed, hemp seed, flax seed
  • Omega 6 oils – safflower, sunflower
  • Omega 9 oils – olive oil, macadamia nut oil, emu oil
  • Nutrient rich oils: high in A, C, E
  • Examples of oils to look for are argan oils, blackberry seed oil, rosehip seed oil. 

You can buy these products separately from qualified cosmetic retailers (Mountain Rose Herbs is a good one) to make your own blends, or you can buy them pre-blended from some of the other product recommendations I share below. 

Who Should Use Them

Aging adults, people who suffer from dermatitis, acne prone skin, dry skin, or uneven skin tone. Children need not use. :)

When To Apply them

I use oils in the AM and in the PM, occasionally by themselves but normally paired with a serum beforehand. Always apply oils before you apply your daily SPF. 

How to Apply

Put half of a dropper into your palm, and rub them together to warm the oil up. Using your palms and starting at your cheek bones, spread the oil upwards towards your hairline. Continue this motion all over your face until all of your skin is covered, except your eyes. And don't forget your neck! Apply the oil in an upward motion on it. 


So, there you have it. An intro's guide to face oils. Now that we have conquered our fear of "fat" in our foods, I think it's time we conquered our fear of putting "fats" on our face.

 Do you guys use face oils? If so, which ones do you use and what do you like about them?

Products mentioned

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Marie Veronique + Kristina Holey Soothing B3 Serum

$90

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Marie Veronique Vitamins C + E + Ferulic Serum

$90

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Marie Veronique + Kristina Holey Barrier Lipid Complex

$95

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Marie Veronique + Kristina Holey Barrier Restore Serum

$110

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Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum

$110

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Marie Veronique + Kristina Holey Intensive Repair Serum

$90

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Marie Veronique Treatment Oil

$80

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Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser

$40

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Wildcare Melon Facial Oil

$32

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Mountain Rose Herbs Sunflower Oil

$7.50

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LILFOX Chamomilla Infusion Make Up Remover

$28

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Sun Potion Shea Butter

$27

Seed Milk Recipes You Don't Need to Strain by lee tilghman

Making your own milk is easier than you think.

Let me give you some backstory on my relationship with DIY milks. I started making nut milk in high school at my job at the local raw vegan smoothie bar in my hometown. We made a lot of nut milk for our smoothies. Quarts and quarts of it a day.  Almond, Brazil, you name it. And I was in charge of it all. I felt like I was always either soaking, peeling, blending or straining. But the benefits of my childish labor paid off. The milk was freakin' delicious (and honestly enjoyed best warm out of the blender, plain) but the most tedious step was having to strain endless bags of almond milk pulp a day, squeezing until every last drop was out and my fingers were numb. 

 Seed milk party. 21+, please.

Seed milk party. 21+, please.

A few years ago, I was out of homemade almond milk and in my determination to make a quick smoothie on the go, I had to think on my feet. I had some hemp seeds on hand and had recently heard about hemp milk, so I popped a cup of hemp seeds into the blender with a a few cups of filtered water. I got my nut milk bag out, ready to strain the milk like I was used to, but the hemp seeds had completely blended into the milk. There was nothing to strain! I realized you don't need a nut bag. It was a miracle moment for me.

Luckily, there are many different seeds you can make milks with without the straining. So I wanted to show 3 different easy 1 step recipes for making seed milks. The below recipes can be used in anything from morning matcha to afternoon smoothies, or even as a base for a night time adaptogenic potion. I also encourage you to play around with the different flavors- try adding cinnamon to one, cacao powder to another, turmeric, matcha, or even blend the two and make a sunflower-pumpkin seed milk. 

No soaking or straining needed, so you are one less step away from achieving your seed milk dreams. They all last in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Just give 'em a nice shake right before you enjoy. More benefits of homemade seed milks below!

Cost Friendly

Buying nut milk at the store can get expensive. Especially if you are trying to go to for the higher quality, organic and unsweetened ones. When buying nut milks, you are paying for the shipping, production, and packaging. Cut out the middle man and do it yourself! Some of the ingredients I use below are significantly cheaper than other nuts, with sunflower seeds averaging out at about $2.99/LBS and pumpkin seeds at $7.99/LBS.

Nutritional Value

Keeping seed fiber in your milks increases the nutritional value and fiber content of your milks. Also, when you make your own milks you'll know exactly what's going in it. No weird additives, stabilizers, or funky sweeteners. 

Less Wasteful

Keeping the pulp and not straining is less wasteful.  You don't have to discard the "pulp" or frantically search online for a "nut milk pulp recipe". We've all been there. 😂

Better for the Environment

There is a pretty big debate going about almond milk and just how sustainable it is for our planet. 80% of almonds come from California, and because California has drought-like tendencies, almond milk is not always the most sustainable choice, though it seems to be the most common non-dairy alternative. If you are not living in California, and want to be more conscious of your carbon footprint, keep in mind you're drinking something that comes from pretty far away and takes up a LOT of water to grow. You could argue the same for other ingredients (do hemp seeds grow in NYC?) but the almond industry is under much more distress. Did you know that it takes 384 liters of water to make 1 liter of almond milk (source). LISTEN, I'm not saying to stop eating almond butter and almond milk just this instant (because I sure as heck am not!) but I do encourage you to try the below milk alternatives, which will save you time, money, and stress.

Why I Don't Soak 

You are more than welcome to soak your seeds in filtered water for 8 hours or overnight before making the below recipes. However, I don't soak mine. Soaking nuts and seeds prior to consumption can help in removing phytic acid, which in excess can cause intestinal distress. I don't have a problem with nuts and seeds, but if your tummy or gut is especially sensitive to them, I would recommend soaking them. Just be sure to leave yourself enough prep time if you will be soaking. 

 Pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp seeds make amazing nut milks without the straining step. 

Pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp seeds make amazing nut milks without the straining step. 

Sunflower Seed Milk

     Seperation is totally normal  AND  encouraged! It means the fiber is still in tact, making your milks more filling and upping their nutritional value. 

    Seperation is totally normal AND encouraged! It means the fiber is still in tact, making your milks more filling and upping their nutritional value. 

    • 1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
    • 3 cups filtered water
    1. Combine ingredients and blend on high for 3 minutes in a high speed blender like a Vitamix. You may use a different type of blender, but will find the best results from a high quality blender that can really macerate the seeds. 
    2. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Separation will occur. Shake before each use to mix ingredients.

    Hemp Milk

     Check that foam though!!

    Check that foam though!!

    • 1 cup hemp seeds
    • 3 cups filtered water
    1. Combine ingredients and blend on high for 3 minutes in a high speed blender like a Vitamix. You may use a different type of blender, but will find the best results from a high quality blender that can really macerate the seeds. 
    2. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Separation will occur. Shake before each use to mix ingredients.

    Pumpkin Seed Milk

     the prettiest of the 3, pumpkin seeds offers a sea foam green tint

    the prettiest of the 3, pumpkin seeds offers a sea foam green tint

    • 1 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
    • 3 cups filtered water
    1. Combine ingredients and blend on high for 3 minutes in a high speed blender like a Vitamix. You may use a different type of blender, but will find the best results from a high quality blender that can really macerate the seeds. 
    2. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Separation will occur. Shake before each use to mix ingredients.

    What are some of your favorite seed milk recipes and flavors?

    Lee From America's Guide to Stockholm by lee tilghman

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    Stockholm, Sweden is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen in Europe. From the waterscape views to the medieval cobblestone streets, it's a sure sight for the eyes. Think: quiet, windy roads, picturesque parks, steeplechase buildings, boats, cozy cafes and beautiful, clean parks!

    Stockholm is known for their keen sense of minimalism, fashion, design, and some bada$$ businesses that we are familiar with such as Spotify, Skype, Ericsson, and IKEA. Their cafe culture is unmatchable to any other city I've ever traveled to, so without a doubt below you will find plenty of delicious little healthyish cafes to check out. But first, some culture for ya!

    Getting Around

    The public transportation is really easy to navigate. I found it super easy to get around both by bus and by subway. I also felt safe while traveling solo during the day. Download the "SL" app from the Apple App Store, buy a day pass and you can use it for up to 75 minutes. The app also has a navigation page so you can type in your current location and where you want to go to find the quickest, easiest, and most efficient route! Also, dont be afraid to ask the public transportation staff for questions! Just make sure they are authorized and properly uniformed before asking. And always keep your wits about you while using public transportation, in any city!

    Culture

    I loved my time in Stockholm (I've been in both late summer and winter) but did find the dark winter a little hard to deal with.  I come from the land of sunshine so this shouldn't come as a surprise. But I'd recommend going in the spring or summer months where more people are outside and Stockholm is blessed with light pretty much all day long! How cool is that?

    Another thing: as a Los Angeleno, I'm also used to saying hi and acknowledging runners when they run by, and fellow hikers as we weave through the trails.  In my observation, that doesn't happen very much in Stockholm 😂 Just a bit different from here in LA! This was just my observation, not a fact.

    One thing I LOVED about Swedish culture is their philosophy of Lagom. Not too much, not too little.  My mom actually got this book for me for Christmas, so I read it on the plane. It goes into detail about Lagom and I highly recommend it if you are into Scandinavian living!

    This sentiment of balance really stuck with me because as an American, I am used to the go-go-go all the time. In Sweden, they really embrace the "in between," not going too fast or too slow. They also practice Lagom in all things: relationships, work, finances, friendships, food, and exercise. Something we in the US could probably learn a thing or two from!

    Undoubtedly, one of my favorite aspects of Swedish living is Fika. Fika is the art of taking a work break in the middle of the day, either with a friend or coworker, and grabbing a cup of coffee, tea, or other non-alcohol related beverage. Oftentimes, it is paired with food, like a croissant or kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon bun...more on those later). For me, this tradition has translated into a cup of herbal tea and a fat ball in the afternoon. Just taking 5 or so minutes to sit and relax helps me be more present and productive when I get back to work.  

    I definitely ate my fair share of sugary treats while in Sweden because I love to indulge in the local cuisine while I travel. And when I get home, I just hop back up on the bandwagon and pick up where I left off. Below is your guide to Stockholm including some of my favorite stores, cafes, museums, and parks. I hope you find it helpful! 

    The Guide

     Hanging at Pomflora. 

    Hanging at Pomflora. 

    Pom & Flora (cafe, $$) - Great spot for healthy-ish breakfast and yummy coffee! I loved it here. Very cozy vibes and a really nice oat milk matcha. Think: avocado toasts on rye, banana split yogurt bowls, chia seed pudding, acai bowls, and an assortment of pastries! They also have gluten-free options. Head in early to skip the line and snag a table. 

    Snickarbacken7 (cafe, $$) - Another favorite healthyish cafe in Stockholm, this spot is much bigger so there is usually ample room for groups. The food is amazing. It's a bit hard to find (it's kind of underground/in a dungeon) underneath a large city staircase.  I got a salad (pictured below) and I thought it used really high quality, fresh ingredients. They also have oat milk matcha lattes which are delicious. Check out their store within the cafe for beautiful blankets, ceramic mugs, bamboo charcoal toothbrushes and local art. 

     Salad with salmon, edamame, nori and lingonberries from Snickerbacken7

    Salad with salmon, edamame, nori and lingonberries from Snickerbacken7

    Paradiset (grocery store, $$$) - This is Stockholm's version of Whole Foods or Erewhon. They have the widest selection of healthy foods that I could find in Sweden. Gluten-free breads, granolas, coconut yogurt, oat milk, teas, lentil pastas, hummus. They also have a great clean beauty section!

    Vasa Museum (public museum, $)  - This museum is seriously cool. Head here for an afternoon of history and culture and to get some knowledge dropped upon you. The Vasa museum holds the oldest ship to ever have been rescued - and it is seriously COOL. Even if you are not into ships, I think you'll find this boat extremely interesting!

    Gamla Stan (neighborhood, FREE) - Really cute stoney streets hosting a plethora of shops, cafes, and bakeries, this little neighborhood's street is a must see. 

    Petrus Bakery $$ - How could I do a review on Stockholm without mentioning kanelbullar!? The best kanelbullar I ever did have was here at Petrus. We went here almost weekly, and one time we went in the early afternoon, and they had just come out of the oven. We got a cinnamon bun and a cardamom bun, and we ate in silence because they were THAT good. I distinctly remember thinking, "Is this the meaning of life?" LOL, but seriously go on and get yourself a bun from here.

     the epic Petrus cinnamon (top) and cardamom (bottom) buns

    the epic Petrus cinnamon (top) and cardamom (bottom) buns

    Amida Kolgrill (restaurant, $) - Come here for some really tasty, high-quality Turkish food. You really get a bang for your buck here! The meat was some of the most flavorful I've ever tasted, and the vegetables were so fresh and pickled with love! I swear they spiced the meat with like 100 spices. And they use a real charcoal grill so you get that smokey flavor. Oh man, my mouth is watering writing this review. Anyways, I need to go get a napkin. But highly recommend it if you're into Turkish food. 

     Saturn Cafe buns are the size of your face.

    Saturn Cafe buns are the size of your face.

    Saturn Cafe $$ - Adorable little French and Swedish cafe/restaurant near the Park Humlegården. It's very sweet inside and they are famous for their larger-than-life cinnamon buns. But save your buns for Petrus Bakery, which I mentioned above. For me, I recommend trying their lentil coconut curry soup! Head to the park down the street afterwards for some fresh air. 

    Falafelbaren (restaurant, $) - Amazing falafel joint that serves fresh falafel and kombucha (kind of hard to find in Stockholm) in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Södermalm. Their falafel plate with hummus and the works is amazing. Highly recommend it!

    Mariatorget Park (public space, free) - Nestled in Soldermalm (my favorite hood in Stockholm), this is a gorgeous park for people watching and noshing on a kanelbullar while taking in all the sights and sounds of Sweden. Gorgeous in the spring, summer, and fall, though quite empty in the wintertime. 

    So, there you have it! The LFA guide to Stockholm. I hope you enjoyed, and find it helpful! Please leave your tips/favorite spots for Stockholm below in the comments, I'd LOVE to hear from you!