Finding Peace With My Pits by lee tilghman

Let’s face it, it’s very rare to hear someone say, “I love my pits. Have you seen them lately? Look how CUTE they are!”

Our armpits are one of the most neglected parts of our bodies. For starters, they are not particularly known for being “beautiful”, “easy”, or even “sexy”. People call New Jersey the “armpit of America” as a way to criticize it. For a long time, we’ve shunned and bashed our own armpits because they smell, they grow hair, and they get rashes and bumps. They’re just dirty. I even know women who are self conscious of their armpits. We wax them, shave them, pick them apart, buy shirts that hide them. Even the word “pit” is pitiful. 

My Pit History

my Shaving history

When I was 12, my older sister, who was 14 at the time, began shaving. I looked up to my older sister more than anything. Because she was shaving, I wanted to. Could you blame me? I wanted to be a “grown up” more than anything. My mother resisted.

“You’re too young” she’d tell me.

 Barcelona, 2003. 13 years old and rocking the Ralph Lauren tees H&M skirts, and hairy armpits. I had boycotted shaving already.

Barcelona, 2003. 13 years old and rocking the Ralph Lauren tees H&M skirts, and hairy armpits. I had boycotted shaving already.

Like every clever yet stubborn pre-teen, I eventually wore my mother down enough with begs, pleads, and whines until she caved. But then, as soon as I was “allowed”, shaving my armpits lost its allure. It’s almost as if I wanted to do it strictly because it wasn’t really allowed. I didn't really see the point in shaving. A rebel at heart, always and forever.

When I was 13, I went with my family on a European road trip, starting in Barcelona and driving along the coast to Perpignan, France. Before the trip, my mother told me how women didn’t shave (such a blanket statement by the way).

So in the weeks leading up to the trip, I stopped shaving my pits. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want it to be a big deal. I just knew I didn’t want to shave anymore. I also wanted to feel care-free and “liberated” on my trip to Europe, not bogged down by razors or societal norms.  At 13, I was already boycotting shaving for myself.

But, during my trip, my family (lovingly) poked fun at me for my one inch of pre-pubescent black, wiry armpit hair. They thought it was funny and kind of gross. They were lovingly teasing me, but I was uncomfortable with all the negative attention the lack of shaving brought me. I began shaving again when we returned back to the States and thought nothing of it again until my late 20s. 

my Deodorant history

I grew up using regular pharmaceutical antiperspirant/deodorant, switching between brands like Secret and Dove, and even going through an Old Spice stage (that sh!t works, y’all). I’d spend hours coasting through the CVS aisles, sticking my nose into each unused deodorant. I chose my brand solely based on the scent. I loved how I smelled like a cherry blossom when I walked through the halls of my high school, or a dewy mountain waterfall while running laps at field hockey practice.

When I turned 17, I noticed a little lump in my right breast, close to my armpit. It was small, just a little bump, but I knew it wasn’t right. A few months later, the lump started to hurt every time I’d move, so I got it checked out at my OB-GYN.  

Thankfully, the lump was an inflamed lymph node and not cancerous, but because it was causing me pain, my doctor recommended we remove it. 

When I asked why it happened, my OB-GYN informed me that it was probably caused from shaving and applying antiperspirant. Huh? This was the first time I learned that this combination could be bad for me. I was so confused- how could performing general, basic hygienic activities cause me harm? My doctor told me the cycle of removing hair and applying antiperspirant caused the swollen lymph node and recommended that I stop using conventional deodorants with ingredients like parabens, aluminum, triclosan, fragrance, and phthalates in them. These ingredients pose potential harm to the endocrine and reproductive system. 

At 17, I stopped using the toxic antiperspirant and switched to more natural brands.

Fast forward to today in 2018, at 28 years old. I’ve stepped away from using toxic products on my underarms, but was finding little solace in my options. I’ve been rotating through different natural deodorant brands for over 10 years without sticking to one brand for more than three months at a time. I’ve found that deodorants either give me a rash or generally stop working all together after my skin gets used to them, and its only a matter of weeks until I start to smell again. Or, I’m in a workout class and my armpits start itching and burning from the sweat reacting to my natural brands. Even when using the brands with three ingredients or less, my pits just were not happy.

If you watched my natural deodorant rant last month on IG Stories, I was fed up with the natural deodorant world. Essential oils, a homemade blend of coconut oil, extra sensitive baking soda free, cow lard, I’ve tried it all. I think the biggest issue I had with my 11-year-long deodorant saga was how each brand stained my clothes with oil, or with a creamy white residue like a sheet cake at a grocery store.

 
 Most of my clothes look like  this  after I apply deodorant.

Most of my clothes look like this after I apply deodorant.

 

Also, unlike my 16 year old self, I no longer wanted to smell like a green apple orchard or a raspberry shortcake. I wanted to smell like ME.

I had been trying for 11 years to find a scent or blend that would work for me and none of it was working. It occurred to me that it was time to try something drastically different.  I had heard of people training their armpits not to need deodorant, just as you can oil train your hair to last longer between shampoos. I was intrigued. 

 
 28 and finally finding relief.

28 and finally finding relief.

 

New Armpit Rituals

Apparently, I was not alone in my struggles. Many of you guys are dealing with the same pit crisis. But there is hope!

Upon further research and recommendations from a majority of my readers, the Thai Crystal Deodorant stone paired with a pH-balancing probiotic spray seemed to be an award-winning, cure-all combo for many. A Thai Crystal Deodorant stone is the most natural alternative to deodorant sticks that would not mess with my natural body odor or stain my clothes. And the probiotic spray is to help restore your body’s natural pH levels. After some research on the best probiotic sprays, I ended up going with Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist

 This is the Thai Crystal Stone.

This is the Thai Crystal Stone.

Thai Crystal Stone

The Thai Crystal stone helps reduce bacteria. It’s made from crystallized natural mineral salts that kill odor causing bacteria. It contains no harmful chemicals, oils, perfumes, or emulsifiers. It’s also free of aluminum chlorohydrate, chemicals, oils, perfumes, and emulsifiers. This is not by any means a new trendy solution, it has been around for longer than 40 years. My father even used one in the ‘90s.

This product does contain natural aluminum, but no studies have shown it to be the harmful kind. The product comes highly recommended from both doctors and EWG (Environmental Working Group) as a safer option than some of the other deodorants on the market today for both our bodies and the planet.

The product is low cost and one stone lasts up to a year. It’s also easy to travel with and does not stain clothes. Win-win? I think so. 

The first time I tried applying this thing, I only swiped the stone underneath my arms a few times. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and I smelt like BO within an hour (thank you kindly, Southern California summers) I did a bit more research on forums and found that you needed to apply up to 40 swipes in order for it to work. 

Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist

Now for the mist part. A few of you told me to pair the stone with a probiotic mist, so I chose Mother Dirt’s because they had the best reviews on Amazon. Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist is said to improve skin’s clarity, tone, and smoothness, and helps fight the body’s dependence on deodorant. It also restores balance to the skin’s microbiome, which can get lost to modern hygiene- i.e. SLS (sodium laurel sulfate - an ingredient that harms our planet and our bodies that is found in most mainstream body products) and other common toxins. Plus, it's non toxic and safe to use on all areas of the body (some use it on their face to control acne, between their legs, or on their feet!) According to the Amazon reviews, 60% of users who use this product regularly were able to stop using deodorant all together. Are you kidding!? This was music to my ears.

Side note: Because the mist has live cultures, it is important to keep it in the fridge. If you keep it refrigerated, the product can last up to six months, versus if you keep it on shelf, it’ll only last four weeks. It arrived safely with ice packs so it wouldn’t heat up in the summer sun. The product stretches over a long period of time, so it’s worth the investment. 

You could use the AO+ mist without the crystal deodorant stone to see how it works for you. 

I started this new regime in June, and it is now August and I am very pleased with the results. 

 
  Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist  - I use this to help balance out the bacteria on my armpits.

Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist - I use this to help balance out the bacteria on my armpits.

 

The Results

Since using these two products, I’ve noticed a significantly lower amount of smelly sweat coming from my pits.I’ve seen my rashes disappear, as well as redness and itchiness. I have not had a rash since I stopped using creamy or oil-based deodorant. But best of all, my clothes are not stained anymore. I also still sweat, which is good (you never want to not sweat, since sweating is a healthy normal bodily function).

My New Pit Routine

  • After I shower, I dry brush my body (including my pits).

  • Then, I apply 2-3 sprays of the AO+ mist to my armpits, then rub the Thai Crystal on my armpits about 40 times (Yes, 40. I did lots of reading on the best way to apply it and 40 swipes per pit seems to be the magic number. Any less and it may not target the odor-causing bacteria as well). The crystal or the skin needs to be wet for the application to work, so a few sprays of the AO+ mist does the trick alright!

  • I let ‘em dry a bit and then I get dressed and off on my day.

Detoxifying Mask

Another way to care for your pits is by using a detoxifying mask 1x a month. Using a bentonite clay mask on your armpits can help soften the skin, calm it after rashes, and reduce odor and the amount of odor-causing sweat. Any bentonite clay product will work for this. Simply mix 3 tbsp of the dried clay powder with 1 tsp of distilled water, apple cider vinegar, or hydrosol (lavender and palo Santo are two of my skin favorites) and apply on your armpits with hands or a brush.  Leave on for at least 10 minutes but no more than 15 minutes, as clay can severely dry out skin. If you can, lay down on the floor and keep your armpits up so that it dries properly and really gets in there. Rinse off in the shower or wipe off gently with a warm washcloth. 

If you do this regularly, you will find yourself with softer armpits. If you are finding yourself in a particularly smelly time of your life, feel free to repeat 2x weekly until you see results. 

 
 I use  this dry brush  to brush my underarms a few times a week.

I use this dry brush to brush my underarms a few times a week.

 

Dry brushing

You guys already know the power of dry brushing (see my full video tutorial here) but don’t forget to dry brush your armpits! Dry brushing your armpits helps drain the lymph nodes where there can be clogged pores. Women especially have a large amount of glands in the breast tissue and surrounding underarm and chest area that need to get flushed. Since our skin is our body’s largest organ, dry brushing has a very positive effect on the overall function of our bodies. Our lymph nodes are the body’s system for detoxifying internal waste and lay just beneath the surface of the skin.  When dry brushing under the armpits, flow from the arms towards the breast and heart in a circular, clockwise motion. I use this brush from CAP Beauty Daily


How do you care for your pits?

This post is sponsored lovingly by Mother Dirt. Thank you Mother Dirt for making Lee From America possible and helping my pits reach their fullest potential. 

Lee From America’s Guide to Swimsuits by lee tilghman

Shopping for bathing suits can be stressful and relentless. Where to start? Where are all the cute ones? The ones that are well made and that I feel GOOD in? I believe in splurging on bathing suits, which is why you’ll see these on the pricier side ($100+). I want to feel good in my suit, and I love a good, high-quality suit. I also find that the higher price tag from these brands equals higher quality, meaning they last 3+ seasons. Luckily, it’s the end of swimsuit season soon, so be on the lookout for good Labor Day Weekend sales. Join the following brands’ mailing lists to be kept in the know about flash sales if you like any of the bathing suits you see!

Below is a list of my favorite brands, and the styles I love the most.

Zulu & Zephyr

zuluandzephyr.com

Brand background: This Aussie-based brand has been on my radar since I first discovered them on Instagram a few years ago. With high-quality, thick material that give way to unique cuts, their suits are one-of-a-kind. I’m very into their high-rise styles. Their sizing is oftentimes a bit complex and inconsistent, so before purchasing make sure you use a tape measure and properly use their conversion rates. 

Bend Bikini

This bikini style has a fun fit and I love the high-waisted curved legged bottoms. Beware of sketchy tan lines with the one shoulder cut.

 
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Babs Skinny Harness Bikini

A simple, minimal bikini in a peachy tone and ribbed material. Though it may not be the best suit for rough oceans (it's not very form-fitting), it's a perfect suit for tanning or lounging around the pool. 

 
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Solid & Striped

solidandstriped.com

Brand background: My #1 swimsuit brand. All their swimsuits and cuts are so flattering, girly, and flirty. They never go wrong. Sizing is fairly true to size. 

The Jaime

This suit reminds me of Taylor Swift for some reason. It’s classic, cute, fun, comfy, and goes great just about anywhere. Plus, you can wear the top as a crop and the shorts as a bottom. I just love it. So '50s. 

 
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The Anne-Marie

With a name like Anne-Marie, you cannot go wrong. A classic one piece style that can go anywhere. I love the deep cut of the back, it shows *just enough* skin. 

 
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The Annabelle

The polka dots, the high rise 80’s style bottom, the simple strapless band top. This is a statement suit and a showstopper.

 
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The Milly 

This suit screams feminine in all the right ways. The frills along the edges, the navy and white stripes, the deep V-cut, I’m in love. 

 
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The Bailey 

A higher-coverage suit with side cuts to accentuate the waist. I love this suit; it always feels flattering, plus it’s very comfortable and stays in place.

 
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You Swim

youswim.com

Brand background: This one-size bathing suit company is revolutionary. They sell one style meant to fit sizes 0 to 14. It’s the most comfortable bathing suit I’ve ever worn. I loved the ribbed material, it feels very nostalgic. It looks adorable paired with denim cut-offs and stays in place while playing in the rough ocean. I also feel it’s appropriate for swimming laps and exercise- it’s form-fitting, compressive, and keeps things place, if you know what I mean. 

The colors are also gorgeous. My favorite colors are sage and marigold.

 
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 What are your favorite bathing suit companies?

Editor's Note: In a previous publication of this post, I used the term "one size fits all". this has been adjusted.

Athleisure by lee tilghman

It’s not a big surprise that your girl loves athleisure. I have been known around town to go a full month without putting jeans on. I think my longest running time is five weeks. If you just heard a hint of pride in my tone, you are correct. I consider this record to be one of my greatest feats. 

 
 Just me in my  Tech Sweat.

Just me in my Tech Sweat.

 

Some may say it is because I work from home- or maybe that wearing cute athletic gear actually makes a person want to workout- but I’ll be honest, and I think I speak for many here, I love to rock a yoga pant even when I have absolutely zero plans of actually doing anything even close to resembling a downward dog. 

Whether I’m lounging around my apartment on a Sunday morning, cooking for a friend, or going on a “hike” to my local Whole Foods for some sauerkraut- the following brands are my favorite for feeling sporty, looking cute, and actually getting some exercise in. 

In this list, you’ll find brands with neutral coloring, flattering cuts, functional fits, and minimal styles that can go from your CrossFit class to your hip hop dance class to your hike on the PCT. Some are even eco-friendly, too. Athleisure on! And don’t forget, watering plants totally counts as movement here folks. 

Live the Process

Legging price: $138

 
 In my knit crop bralette + boy short. No, I don't work out in these clothes. I  lounge  in them.

In my knit crop bralette + boy short. No, I don't work out in these clothes. I lounge in them.

 100% Made in LA.

100% Made in LA.

 

Designed in LA and ethically made in the US (from design to manufacture), this sort of brand is a rarity these days. As I become more conscious of my carbon footprint, I know it can’t just be about banning plastic straws and recycling our bottles anymore (though these things are great). Other areas of our lives, such as the clothes we wear and how we consume and cycle through them, need to be looked at for their environmental impacts. Fast fashion brands like Zara release up to 50 cycles of fashion per year, unlike the traditional model of fashion of two a Spring/Summer line and Fall/Winter one. Zara, though adorable, accessible, and affordable, negatively affects our planet by use of cheap fabrics, toxic chemicals for coloring fabric, water pollution, and textile waste that ends up in landfills. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture.

Fast fashion focuses on speed and low costs in order to bring the trendiest styles to stores the minute they become “hot”. And a week later, the style is gone and the next one is in place. If you’ve ever been to Zara twice in the same week, you’ll know what I mean. What was there on Monday is gone by Friday. Some clothing is purchased, but some styles they actually remove from the store and slash with knives so they become unwearable. It’s a tragedy. 

So what can consumers do? We have all the power, folks. Choosing to purchase products that are made in the US is one of the best ways to ensure a smaller carbon footprint- as well as choosing brands that use recycled fabric, eco-friendly fabrics, or organic cotton, or have high ethics, such as Live the Process.

Enter Live the Process. All of their clothes are made here in the US. They also use recycled materials, recycled packaging (yas!), have a carbon neutral shipping program. Plus, their styles are just adorable. Retro, sweet, girly without too many frills, and very minimal with basic colors. It’s like your ballet leotard from the 90’s got a sexy, classic makeover. I’m in.

Favorite styles:

  • Knit crop bralette - Pair with jeans, a denim skirt, or wear to a barre class. Light support.

  • Knit boy short - So cute for cozy Sunday summer mornings. I wouldn’t necessarily workout in these babies though. They sexy AF.

  • Corset bra, black - Great for yoga, walks, hikes, barre, ballet, pilates, or light cardio.

  • Tuxedo legging- Form fitting, comfortable, not too compression-y.

Girlfriend Collective

Legging price: $68

 Made from recycled plastic bottles, but feeling like a diamond.

Made from recycled plastic bottles, but feeling like a diamond.

 High rise compressive leggings - soooo comfortable.

High rise compressive leggings - soooo comfortable.

 A view from the back!

A view from the back!

Girlfriend Collective is another eco-friendly brand that is killing the game. They use post-consumer water bottles from Taiwan to make the softest leggings you’ll ever try on. Literally, when I tried these on, I just thought of the word “butter”.

They call themselves a “slow fashion” brand because of how their product is made- from water bottles to yoga pants. But it doesn’t stop there- their dying process is also eco-friendly. They go very in-depth on their site about their ethical labor practices, how they do not engage in child labor or forced labor, and how they prioritize the health and safety of their factory workers. They even talk about the working hours of their factory workers. Now that’s what I call transparency. 

Favorite styles:

Outdoor Voices

Leggings price: $85

 Tech sweat from the back

Tech sweat from the back

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 Tech Sweat is better for high intensity sweaty workouts like spin class, or working out in humid climates.

Tech Sweat is better for high intensity sweaty workouts like spin class, or working out in humid climates.

I’m a huge fan of their pieces. Outdoor Voices and their infamous color-blocking legging style took the athleisure trend by storm, and for a good reason. It all started with a young female lady named Ty Haney dreaming up an athletic brand that was geared towards regular people, not athletes, and that shows in their campaigns. I love how Outdoor Voices uses models of all shapes and sizes in their campaigns. They even use models with disabilities, to portray how their gear is for all bodies. It’s really nice to see girls who look like me and others. It feels more normal and accessible.

 
 I prefer the Textured Compression for matcha dates, errands, hikes, light yoga, barre, and light jogs.

I prefer the Textured Compression for matcha dates, errands, hikes, light yoga, barre, and light jogs.

 
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Personally, I love the fit, feel, and look of their leggings. Not every single one of their styles feels good for my body, but I do love the Springs legging style and find it very flattering and comfortable.

Keep in mind that their different leggings styles all fit and feel very different. (i.e. the Dipped, the Tri-Tone, the Springs), so try out a few different styles until you find one that suits you. Fair warning, Outdoor Voices releases new colors quite often, which is great for your wardrobe but not-so-good for your wardrobe. They only release a limited number of their color styles, so you kind of have to act fast.

Favorite styles:

  • Tech Sweat 7/8 Legging & Tech Sweat Crop- Best for sweaty workouts like spin, long runs, hot yoga. I love the Tech Sweat, and I have them in nearly every color.

  • Textured Compression- best for HIIT, weight lifting, vinyasa yoga, grabbing coffee, chill days at home, walking the dog, and hikes.

  • Athena crop- medium to light support. I wear this top to yoga, barre, and HIIT classes.


What are some of your favorite athleisure brands?

Seed Cycling by lee tilghman

Last year when I spoke publicly about my love for cycle syncing, someone DM’d me on Instagram asking if I cycled my seeds. “I draw the line here. That sounds too woo-woo” I thought to myself. I already cycle synced…and now I had to cycle my seeds, too? Good lord…what was next? Soon will I be cycling through different temperatures of water to drink to balance my chakras? (jokes, jokes)

However, I can't lie. My interest was definitely piqued. 

Seed cycling is similar to cycle syncing in that you rotate different seeds into your diet at different times to support your menstrual cycle and to maintain an "optimal hormonal equilibrium" aka...hormonal bliss or better yet..hormonal balance. 

 
 My seed cycling smoothie bowl :)

My seed cycling smoothie bowl :)

 

I’m a true believer that we can only go so far in our health journeys at one time. Too much change too quickly can overwhelm us, leaving us feeling depleted and perhaps making us want to quit altogether. This is why so many major “diet plans” fail. Long story short, last year I wasn’t in the mental space to begin seed cycling because I was already juggling other things. I needed to get stronger and create space to introduce a new practice into my routine. 

Fast forward to this year, I was finally ready to give seed cycling a try.

Why seed cycle?

Proponents of seed cycling say it may help balance hormones, lessen PMS symptoms, trigger a period (for those with amenorrhea), and help the release of certain hormones. Others say it helps them combat hormonal acne, abnormal bleeding, fatigue, infertility, sleep issues, and irregular periods commonly associated with imbalanced hormones. 

It goes a little something like this:

Days 1-13 (the first day of your period): eat 1 tbsp daily of either flax or pumpkin seeds to boost estrogen. 

FLAX - Contain lignans, which help to bind excess estrogen so that it can be eliminated from the body. They are also known to protect against hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.

PUMPKIN - High in zinc, which support progesterone.

Days 14-28: eat 1 tbsp daily of either sesame or sunflower seeds to boost progesterone.

SESAME: Contain lignans to block excess estrogen.

SUNFLOWER: High in selenium, which is good for hormone balance.

I've created a handy infographic for your fridge, pantry, or phone wallpaper so you can always remember which seeds to eat when. 

 
 Download and print this image and hang it on your fridge!  Right click and save to downloads, then open it up on your computer and print it out.

Download and print this image and hang it on your fridge!

Right click and save to downloads, then open it up on your computer and print it out.

 

Days 1-13 are your menstrual and follicular phases. Day 1 of your cycle is considered the first day of your menstrual cycle, when you start bleeding. Flax and pumpkin seeds may boost estrogen which helps support these phases.

Days 14-28 are your ovulation and luteal phases, which is when your body is looking for a progesterone boost. Sesame and sunflower seeds are great for this. 

The whole theory behind seed cycling is that consuming certain seeds at certain times of your menstrual cycle can benefit the body. These seeds carry certain vitamins, oils, and nutrients that can apparently help the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. (Source)

This is not to say that seed cycling will heal all of your hormonal issues, but it may help support your journey to happier and more balanced hormones. If there’s a possibility that a seed could support the bod, lessen PMS symptoms, balance hormones, and increase fertility, why not give it a shot?

Does it really work?

Although there are no studies showing the direct correlation between the pattern of seed cycling and improved hormonal balance, a study in 1993 found that women taking 1 tbsp of flax powder daily lengthened the luteal phase (latter half of the cycle) and resulted in fewer anovulatory cycles (months with no ovulation).  (Phipps et al., 1993). Women with shorter luteal phases are sometimes associated with infertility. Read more about the studies here: https://www.livestrong.com/article/523346-flaxseeds-and-menstruation/

In a later study, women who consumed a daily muffin with 25 grams of flax seed for three months had significantly reduced breast pain at the beginning of the menstrual cycle (Goss et al., 2000).

Some studies have shown a reduction of hot flashes in women using flax seed, although other studies have shown no benefit for menopausal symptoms.

Lastly, some say that flax seed may help limit cramps during menstruation by providing omega-3 fats that slow the release of prostaglandins, which are responsible for cramping during menstruation. 

 
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How I seed cycle:

Like with anything health related, I'm not militant about any rules, plans, or guides. I find its much easier for me to stick to things longterm when I practice flexibility, fluidity, and grace. So if I am in my menstruation phase and I forget to eat the right seeds, it's totally ok. I don't stress about it. In general, I just use this as a guide for extra support when I feel called to it. It's not a bible or something to live by. Stressing out about the seed cycling will only cause more harm to your hormones than forgetting to eat a tbsp of pumpkin seeds, if you catch my drift. 

My Tips:

  • I store all my seeds in glass jars in the fridge.

  • I eat 1 tbsp of the appropriate seeds each day, either whole, ground, or in their ‘buttered’ form.

  • I grind my flax seed before eating. This makes it much easier for the body to digest them. I buy my flax seed whole and grind them myself in my Vitamix because buying them whole is generally more cost effective. I grind them on high for about 30 seconds until they are ground up finely. Be careful not to overgrind, or you might end up with flax seed butter. I find it helpful to grind about 5 cups at a time and leave them in a Weck jar in the fridge.

  • I buy all my seeds raw, unsalted, and in their whole form. Other seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame do not need to be ground in order to be digested.

  • If I choose to toast the seeds, I do it myself on a cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant or golden brown.

  • You can also eat the corresponding seeds in the form of seed butter. Pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, and tahini are all fantastic sources of the vitamins and minerals needed to support your hormones.

Ways to add your seeds to meals:

  • Flax seed go great blended into smoothies, mixed into hot cereal and yogurt bowls, sprinkled on top of chia pudding, or baked inside homemade bread recipes.

  • Sunflower seeds are delicious when toasted on top of salads.

  • Pumpkin seeds taste wonderful on top of yogurt bowls.

  • Sesame seeds can be enjoyed in salads or sprinkled on top of macro bowls/roasted vegetables. Sesame seeds are the main ingredient that makes up tahini, which is an incredible spread on toast, drizzled across a baked potato, mixed inside a smoothie, or eaten alongside an apple or banana.

 
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What It’s Done For Me

Though I used to struggle with regular periods during my PCOS days, I have a pretty normal cycle now (it varies from 28-34 days) and ovulate regularly. However, I do get cramps sometimes during my period, and consuming 1 tbsp of ground flax seed each day during my luteal phase and during the first few days of menstruation does help lessen my abdominal pain and menstrual cramps. 

I’m turned onto the idea of seed cycling for a few reasons: I am prone to hormonal imbalance with a PCOS diagnosis and insulin resistance and seed cycling may help balance hormones. The studies about flax seed helping hot flashes, cramps, and ovulation excite me beyond measure because I do sometimes get cramps during my period. And lastly because it’s another way to expand my diet and rotate the foods I’m eating.

Have you ever been stuck in a food rut or keep eating the same thing because you feel uninspired and bored but you’re too lazy to try to find something else to eat? This is me, all the time LOL. Rotating seeds weekly helps to eliminate this issue. If I’m feeling unsure of what to eat for lunch, solely glancing at the seed cycling poster on my fridge gives me instant ideas for what I want to eat.

In general, I think seed cycling is a fun way to rotate foods, support my hormones, and lessen my period cramps. I use it as a guide to keep a rhythm but don't follow it all day every day, similar to the way I practice cycle syncing.

Do you seed cycle? How has it helped you?

July Playlist by lee tilghman

Happy July Everybody.

Kickin' off the month (and the new week) with some new jams. Gorillaz, Ari Lennox, Drake, Brandy, Sylvan Esso, the list goes on and on. As always, its a mixture of hip hop + R&B, electronic, dream pop and throwbacks. 

Whether you are BBQ-ing, road tripping, or sitting at your desk at work freezing your butt off in A/C, I hope these tunes soothe you as much as they do me! 
 

Enjoy!

Collagen Q+A by lee tilghman

Note: This post is based off my own experience with Collagen. I am not a medical professional, doctor, or scientist. Take all of this information with a grain of salt, and do what feels best for you!

Welcome to 2018, where we take rides from strangers and it’s not weird (I'm looking at you, Uber), we’re sending cars to space (Elon Musk, nice one!), and we’re putting collagen in our lattes.

 
 Just a little Earl Grey Collagen Latte. Recipe at the bottom of this post.

Just a little Earl Grey Collagen Latte. Recipe at the bottom of this post.

 

Collagen is seemingly everywhere. It's trending on your newsfeed and it’s in your local health food store’s supplement aisle. It boasts incredible benefits like glowing skin, long hair, a healthier gut, and joint/muscle pain relief. But does it really work?

Collagen is one of the top three topics people ask me about. As someone who’s been taking collagen for almost 2 years and thought they could never be the type of person to incorporate daily supplements, I figured I’d put together this little rapid fire Q+A post for you guys so you can learn from my experience. My hopes is that sharing my history with collagen will help you make an informed decision on whether collagen is right for you.

What is collagen? 

Collagen is the cement that holds your body together. 30% of the protein in the human body is from collagen. 

Technically speaking, collagen peptides are short chain amino acids. It is the main structural protein found in skin and connective tissue. The two most well known forms of collagen for human supplemental consumption are marine collagen and collagen peptides. Marine collagen is derived from fish, while collagen peptides are derived from grass-fed cows. 

Can you taste it? Does it change the texture if you add it to liquid?

Personally, I can’t taste collagen. It does have a particular smell when you stick your nose in the powder, but no noticeable taste for either varieties.

If you’re a texture person, don’t fret: it doesn’t noticeably change the texture either. The only times I notice a textural difference is if I blend it into a hot or cold drink in my Vitamix. It makes drinks more frothy. I like that about collagen.

Why is collagen trendy AF?

I think people are really intrigued by the fact that ingesting collagen can change the appearance of skin. No longer is injecting collagen a trend as it was in the 80’s. People are looking for easier, more affordable, and less intrusive ways to keep their skin looking young and bodies feeling good. Enter collagen.  

How has collagen helped you?

Collagen has helped my hair, skin, and nails. My nails grow faster and they are stronger. They grow so fast that 2 weeks after a mani,  my nails are already grown out and I need a new one. My hair is shinier and skin is more "glowy", as one might say. All these byproducts of taking collagen are all just dandy, but they are things I could live without. Most importantly, I think collagen has helped rebuild my gut lining so that I can now tolerate more foods. My naturopath in 2016 suggested I begin incorporating collagen to help my detrimental bloat and gas issue. I was vegan at the time, and collagen was the first animal product I incorporated. Certain foods that used to make me bloat, constipate, ferment in my gut and cause nasty gas and skin rashes are now possible in small amounts. It took some time, but I truly think collagen has helped make my leaky gut and IBS symptoms more manageable. I'm looking at you, garlic and onions. 

How soon did you notice changes after taking collagen?

It took 2 months to see changes. I took it every day for one year and noticed a huge difference in my skin’s appearance, but most noticeably my nails. 

  Vital Proteins  is my go-to collagen brand.

Vital Proteins is my go-to collagen brand.

Which brand do you like?

I take Vital Proteins! Always have, always will. I’m loyal to that brand.

What is your collagen routine?

I’ve been taking collagen every day for nearly two years. Once every other week or so, I will skip a day or two to keep my body guessing. Food intolerances can develop from over-consuming the same thing. I like to avoid food intolerances and don’t believe eating something everyday is good for me, no matter how healthy it may be. 

I take one to two scoops a day, depending on what my body wants. An average serving is 15-20 grams a day. I started off with a little less than a full scoop to ease my body into it.

I usually take my collagen in the powder form in one of my matcha or earl grey lattes in the morning. It’s easiest for me to take it daily if I include it in a ritual, which is my morning potion routine. That way, I don’t forget, and it’s done.

What is the main difference between marine and peptides? 

Marine collagen is made from fish. Peptides are made from cows. Peptides have 20g of protein per serving, while marine only has 12g. Nutritionally, though, they are very similar.

 
 Left (teal): marine collagen Right (blue): collagen peptides

Left (teal): marine collagen
Right (blue): collagen peptides

 

Where are the Vital Proteins marine and collagen peptides sourced from?

It’s always a good idea to know where your animal proteins come from. Vital Proteins' Collagen Peptides are sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine from Brazil. The Marine Collagen originate from wild-caught, non-GMO verified red snapper scales from the shores of Hawaii.

Should you switch it up between types of collagen?

 This is the marine collagen from Vital Proteins. I switch it up between the two types. And no, it does not have a fishy flavor for me.

This is the marine collagen from Vital Proteins. I switch it up between the two types. And no, it does not have a fishy flavor for me.

I certainly switch up my collagen types to keep my body guessing. For example, once I’ve gone through a marine collagen container, I’ll switch back to peptides and vice versa. This helps keep the chances of becoming intolerant to an ingredient down. I’m not sure if people get intolerant to collagen, but I love it so much I’m definitely not taking my chances.

Pill or powder?

It’s up to you! I prefer powder, as its easy to incorporate into my drinks, but it’s just a personal preference. The Collagen Peptide Capsules are great for people who don’t have time to make lattes or drinks or who travel often. 

How should I consume collagen if I do not drink smoothies or lattes?

No latte, no problem. You can add either type of collagen into a hot herbal tea without any odor or clumping. You can also mix it into any fresh pressed juice, lemon water, or iced tea. Additionally, you can add collagen into my fat balls or Shut The Kale Up's CBD balls. You could even get your collagen fix by sipping on a steaming cup of warming bone broth. Yum!

Can I take collagen while pregnant or breast feeding?

Talk to your doctor before incorporating any new supplements if you are pregnant or breast feeding. 

Why do I get bloated after collagen?

When I first began incorporating collagen into my diet, I noticed a bit of a belly bloat. This lasted about five days and went away. I did not let a little bloat deter me and I’m glad I stuck it out. I’m guessing the bloat was from introducing a new food into my body. It subsided quickly and now collagen doesn’t make me bloat one bit. 

Note: A small percentage of people may be allergic to collagen. If you feel discomfort after taking it, it is recommended to start with 1/4 scoop and gradually increase until you work yourself up to a full sized serving. 

Does collagen affect cramps?


Collagen is known to help relieve achy joints and muscles. Because cramps are technically a contraction of the muscles around the uterus, collagen is not likely to worsen period cramps. If anything, it could make them better! This is on a case-by-case basis, of course. Listen to your body and if it feels good, go with it!

Is there such thing as plant based collagen?

This is a tricky question, and I’m not a scientist or a doctor. There is varying information online about different supplements you can take to help boost collagen in the body without having to take the animal protein. The biggest question scientists have is if those vegan versions boost the same qualities and benefits as the animal-based counterparts. It’s up to you to find out for yourself! I’ve never tried a vegan version of collagen, so I can’t say. 

What is the difference between collagen, gelatin, bone broth, and even liver?

I asked Vital Proteins to answer this one, and here’s what they said:

“Our pasture-raised Collagen Peptides and Beef Gelatin have similar amino acid profiles and offer very similar nutritional benefits. Both are virtually odorless and tasteless, making them extremely versatile. However, they are quite different in application.

Collagen Peptides: Our peptides are gelatin proteins broken down into their constituent peptide chains through an enzymatic process. This allows our collagen peptides to not “gel” in cold liquids. Heating them will not alter their nutritional value. The peptides have the advantage of mixing well into both cold and hot liquids without them "gelling." However, you cannot use them in recipes that call for gelatin. You may add our peptides to cold and hot beverages alike, such as a smoothie, juice, water, tea or coffee, as well as a variety of foods like pancakes or oatmeal to boost the protein content.

Beef Gelatin: Our gelatin will “gel” in cold liquids. As a result, gelatin is ideal for hot preparations, and is a staple in many recipes. Our gelatin may be added to soups, broths, sauces or gravy as a natural protein booster and thickener, or used when baking. They can also be used to create a delicious homemade mousse, ice cream, pudding and yogurt -- even omelettes and meatloaf, or use them to make nutritious fruit gelatin and healthy gummy snacks. You may also enjoy them in hot beverages like herbal tea or frothy butter coffee. Health wise, the gelatin has the advantage of taking slightly longer to digest and coating the small intestine, which is beneficial in gut healing diets like GAPS, AIP or SCD.

Liver: With an abundant amount of micronutrients including B12, copper, folate, choline, and hyaluronic acid, beef liver plays a vital role in the body, ensuring healthy skin and hair, strong bones, collagen synthesis, and a healthy immune function.”

earl grey latte

 
 

Ingredients

  • 1 serving collagen (I used @vital proteins collagen)

  • 14 oz already brewed hot earl grey tea

  • 1 tbsp coconut butter

  • Dash vanilla powder

  • 1 tbsp tocos

Instructions

  1. Make your earl grey tea. If using tea bags, I recommend using 2 to get that nice earl grey flavor.

  2. Blend all the ingredients in a high powered blender for 2 1/2 minutes, until very frothy. Pour into mug and feel the hug of love. Top with edible cornflowers to get fancy.

More questions? You might want to check out My Beginner’s Guide to Collagen, which goes into greater detail about some of the topics. 

Thank you Vital Proteins for supporting Lee From America, sponsoring this post, making amazing products myself and others can benefit from, and for making my job possible. I'm grateful.


Do you take collagen? If so, how have you seen it help your body?

All About Bruxism by lee tilghman

It all started in the spring of April 2018. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with extreme pain in my jaw. The soreness would continue into the day, then it spread to my back molars. Within a week, I was experiencing a constant, dull headache all day long. It all happened very fast, and I knew it was all related. With a few googles, intuitive check-ins, and a visit to my acupuncturist, I knew I was experiencing bruxism. 

Bruxism is the involuntary or habitual grinding of teeth, usually during sleep. One of the leading causes of bruxism that I will be focusing on in this post are elevated levels of emotional stress and anxiety. Unexpressed emotions or thoughts are believed to sit in the jaw (where you should be expressing them) and can cause energetic buildup, hence the clenching. This is a prime example of how our emotional wellbeing has a profound, direct impact on our physical health.

Bruxism is genetic, so if your parents clench, you’re 50% more likely to experience bruxism as some point in your life too.

My Bruxism Story

In 2013, I was told I had bruxism by my family dentist. Dentists usually detect someone’s jaw clenching first by erosion of the teeth. My dentist didn’t give me a solution to the problem, but instead told me my only option was to wear a custom $450 night guard in my mouth while I slept. It was plastic, uncomfortable, and even though it was “specifically fitted for my mouth,” it did not fit me at all and would make my teeth hurt all day long. On the nights I’d sleep with it, I’d spit it out of my mouth during my sleep and wake up with that damn night guard on my pillow. I threw it out a few weeks later, $450 down the drain.

After that period, the jaw clenching somehow lessened, or wasn’t as bad, because it went away and my dentist never mentioned it again.

But then it popped back up this April, right as I was working through some past trauma with my life coach and breaking up with my then-partner, all at the same time. It was a terribly stressful time for me emotionally and mentally, and it was ALL manifesting in my jaw. 

How does emotional stress manifest in our jaw, you ask? Many studies have shown that we clench and grind our teeth during stressful times, even throughout the day. Next time you’re in traffic, under a deadline at work, or concentrating while peeling a potato, check your jaw to see if you are clenching. 

After the bruxism diagnosis, I realized I was clenching not just in my sleep, but during the day as well. I clenched while exercising. I clenched while driving. I clenched while working. I even clenched while cooking! The tiniest little stressor or activity that required focus in my daily life caused me to clench.

The plastic night guard wasn’t actually an option since I *don’t* have dental insurance right now (freelance life, forgot to enroll, oops!). But this was a blessing in disguise, since I was forced to get to the root of the problem. 

Getting to the Root Issue

I have come a long way in my health journey since 2013, and I look at each of my health issues differently now. Instead of asking “What can I do to quickly fix this?” I ask, “How did this begin?” and "Why is it even happening?”

From this perspective, I saw a night guard as a bandaid. Instead of relying on a temporary solution, I had to figure out why I was clenching.

It didn't take a detective or even a doctor to figure out why I was clenching. The clenching began as I was going through my breakup and simultaneously working together with my life coach to get through past sexual trauma that happened when I was younger. This was bringing up tons of repressed emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and stories that I had been holding onto since I was a small child. The work my life coach and I were doing, though necessary, was affecting my sleep, stress, and emotions in very visceral and intense ways. It was work that needed to be done so that I could move on. 

When I took an honest look at myself, I realized I was holding back on unexpressed desires, thoughts and feelings. I was keeping stuff inside, and it was coming out in my jaw clenching. Once I worked up the guts and spoke my truth in my relationship, the clenching began to lessen.  It may seem overly simplified or perhaps even woo-woo to some, and trust me: I’m not saying that it’s easy to speak our truth. But if you’re currently struggling with bruxism, perhaps it’s worth asking yourself if you are keeping something inside when you know it needs to be expressed.

Doing this inner-work, along with the help of some facial massage work as I’ll describe below, completely dissipated my bruxism. Once again, I was reminded of the strong mind-body connection and how deeply our emotions affect our physical health. 

Simultaneously, I was connected to Sadie Adams of Take Care LA, an esthetician who conducts jaw tension relieving classes around LA and also performs holistic facials. Sadie is a presence. She is calm and intelligent, and you can’t help but slow down when you meet her. I saw her one-on-one for a facial, and as I laid down on her table she immediately noticed I was holding onto stress around my neck, head, and jaw (before I even told her anything about my jaw issues). “Even laying down, you can’t relax” she said. She asked if she could fix it, and I begged her to. She put a glove on and stuck her fingers in my mouth and around my gums to help release some tension.

Learning the Techniques

I immediately felt more space open up around my mouth. It was like a few inches had opened up and the tightness reduced. I felt calmer and more grounded. Not to mention, some of the pain I had been carrying around subsided. Sadie’s fingers were pure magic. I later learned that touching your body in this way releases a flush of stagnation and offers more clarity in the lymph nodes. 

A few weeks later, I signed up for one of Sadie’s workshops and showed up with my journal, pen, recording device, and all. I was so ready to take notes and absorb every word out of her mouth so I could learn how to promptly fix my bruxism because the headaches were not going away. But I was in for a big wake up call. The most helpful aspect of the workshop was not necessarily the words, but the actual, put-your-fingers-into-your-mouth exercise that we performed on ourselves. Sadie taught us how we could release and relax our own jaws.  

We pressed our fingers all around our face very slowly and calmly. We stuck our fingers into our mouths and massaged out our cheeks and gum lines. I had never actually taken the time to settle down, sit, and mindfully touch my body in this way. At first I was using firm pressure,  then Sadie said something like, “try a lighter hand, see how it goes,” and the lighter pressure seemed to take away my headaches immediately. 

At one point, a girl in the class asked, “How do we know how hard to press?” Sadie’s response? “Your body knows. You already have all the answers inside of you.”

I just loved this response. Instead of giving the girl the exact measure of how hard she should push onto her own body, Sadie granted her the permission and gave her the confidence that she needed to figure it all out on her own. It made me realize that we are already equipped with all the knowledge we need on our health journeys. It’s just a matter of giving ourselves permission to embody whatever we are seeking. 

After learning these techniques from Sadie, I incorporated them into my nightly routine. What helped me the most was doing this massage nightly during the depths of my emotional stress period. I also worked on staying aware of when I was clenching or grinding my teeth during the day. As soon as I noticed myself clenching, I’d stick my tongue in between my top and bottom teeth to relax my face. It helped me a lot.

How to Perform a Relaxing Facial Massage

In the video below, I share the facial massage techniques Sadie taught us to help ease muscle tension in your face. Keep in mind that this video is sped up to be one minute per Instagram’s guidelines, but in real time, I spent five minutes massaging out my face. I recommend doing this sort of massage for at least five minutes each night for two weeks to see how it helps you.

More Information about Bruxism

Other causes of bruxism may be: (answers adapted from Sadie’s interview in Chalkboard Mag)

  • Too much caffeine

  • Favoring one side while sleeping or sleeping without proper alignment and support

  • Grinding or gripping with teeth and/or a misaligned bite

  • Scoliosis, trauma, or injury

  • Repression and suppression

  • Unexpressed thoughts, feelings and emotions

  • Unprocessed experiences that can create holding patterns in the jaw, as well as physical strain and emotional stress

  • Stress, which can trigger excess hormone production and lead to various imbalances, including muscle tension and acne

Why is bruxism bad?

Not only can constant clenching and grinding erode your teeth, it can also lead to nerve damage, tear fragile ligaments, deteriorate enamel, and cause migraines. It will also surely drive up your dental bill, as bruxism is known to cause cracked teeth, damaged crowns, and fractured roots.

Other bruxism tips from Sadie:

“When shampooing the scalp, one can spend extra time massaging the muscles, in order to drain accumulated fluids around tight areas. I suggest taking one’s time and being sensitive. Approach this from a place of wanting to support and cleanse. This allows one to hear the timing of the tissue and what is needed to release tightness and stagnation.

Be mindful of alignment while walking, working and exercising. Noticing and correcting forward head carriage and unnecessary holding in the jaw while engaging in day-to-day activities requires attention and commitment, and will support the health of the joints.

Fully resting the weight of one’s head on the pillow before sleeping can be a way to tell your body that it doesn’t need to take the stresses of the day into the night. Feel the fluids inside of the head registering gravity and space. While actively yielding the head, soften the TMJ and release any perceived tension in the facial muscles and tongue.

Self-contentedness leads to happiness and fluid-membrane balance. Choosing gratitude and contentment can greatly decrease tension. A regular meditation practice can cultivate presence and peace, in body and mind. Meditation and breath awareness are powerful and empowering tools help to dramatically reduce day-to-day tension and stress.”

Sadie Adams is the founder of Take Care Face & Body in New York City, Take Care Center for Body Mind Regeneration in Los Angeles. Her studies in anatomy at the school for Body-Mind Centering™ and in Ayurveda and yoga therapy at the Ayurvedic Institute have led her to focus on regenerative therapies. Sadie has been sharing her insights on movement and consciousness over the last 20 years, calling on science, technology, ancient wisdom and intuitive awareness to support healing and increase human capacities.


Do you struggle with bruxism? How do you handle it? Do you notice that it pops up during more stressful periods of life?

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 - LIVELY GEO MESH BRALETTE - $35.00

 
IMG_0278.JPG
 

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: 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

 
IMG_0279.JPG
 

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

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”. 

It’s really not that big of 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?