One of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced is a heel spur. I hobbled in to the podiatrist after months of a stabbing pain in my heel, thinking it was just plantar fascia from baby weight gain. After a foot x-ray it was revealed that I actually have a heel spur, a calcification of the bone on the heel, causing what looks like a cowboy boot spur on the ball of the foot. Yowch! The doctor’s advice was to 1) lose weight, 2) avoid high impact exercise, and 3) wear supportive shoes with insoles. While he initially suggested I get custom insoles, my insurance wouldn’t cover them and I wasn’t about to spend $500 on insoles. Sorry, feet.
Then, along came Soul Insole. I received an inquiry to my blog and eagerly offered to do a review in exchange for product, as the Dr. Scholl’s insoles just weren’t cutting it. I’ve used the Soul Insoles for about two months now, and I think they’re excellent, and here’s why:
- They have just the right amount of cushion: they gentle support your foot without feeling like you’re stepping on grapes.
- According to Soul Insole’s website, “It utilizes the existing structure of the shoe to increase support to your arch. As it is flexible, it will feel different in a shoe that has no support vs. a shoe that already has some arch support.”
- It’s washable! A lot of my other insoles get super nasty from just being with your feet all day. You can easily take out soul insole and give em a rinse to help fight off any funk.
- It doesn’t slip. I always get annoyed by other insoles and having to move them back into place, but the texture of the soul insole keeps it grippy right where it needs to be, which is especially helpful when I’m chasing a toddler around the park.
I had taken beautiful pictures and then my computer croaked… and all before I transferred to my back up disk, sigh, but you can see what they look like in this photo from Soul Insole’s website:
I’m thinking about walking the 3-Day again this year, and if I do, you can bet I’m gonna have a fresh pair of these in my shoes to keep a pep in my step. If you want to try custom-feeling insoles without breaking the bank (they’re just $29.99), give these a try!
In early December, I was lucky enough to go to Shiftcon in New Orleans as a volunteer. During the conference, I bounced from session to session providing back-up photography, but I also got to help lead two Twitter parties, where I gave away tons of prizes from Shiftcon’s amazing sponsors. April went to Shiftcon in 2014, and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to go. Leah, the founder, is a friend of mine (and my favorite chicken lady), and I’m so proud of the huge community she’s brought together. Want to know five things that will happen if you attend Shiftcon in 2017?
- You will meet awesome people from all different walks of life. Here’s me with Tracy, who I clicked with instantly when we joked about the hotel hallway feeling like the hotel from the Shining. Dark sense of humor? Check. Passion for blogging? Check. Mutual friend of Leah? Check! You will also connect with people you may have met before, and enjoy an awesome bloggy-friend reunion.
- You will learn something. I learned more about obesogens, Instagram Pods, and how to run around an exo hall taking live photos while also giving away prizes during a massive live Twitter party.
- You will come home LOADED with swag… even more than you get at BlogHer, which used to be the grand-daddy of all free stuff. My favorite Shiftcon swag I’m still using from day to day? My BeautyCounter lipstick and a bunch of delicious goodies from Bob’s Red Mill.
- You will be well-fed. And you’ll be well-fed with food that is locally sourced, non-GMO, organic, and often, gluten-free. We had freshly shucked oysters, a locally raised cow, sandwiches, yogurts with granola, roasted veggies, salads, pudding… We were *very* well-fed between the sponsored breaks, expo hall, and hosted lunches and receptions.
- You will enjoy the sights and sounds of Shiftcon’s location for the year. New Orleans is one of my favorite places on earth, and it’s a city that comes to life in its rich music, stunning wrought iron and brick, and vibrant local personalities. This year, Shiftcon will be in Orange County, just a jaunt down the highway from my place, nestled between the majestic ocean and theme park mecca. There will be something for everyone, no doubt!
So, whadda ya say, friends? See you in February next year? 🙂 Stay tuned here and at ShiftConMedia.com for all the latest about everything ShiftCon. This is one conference you won’t want to miss! (And trust me – I go to alot of ’em. I’d definitely go back!).
Imagine a small town nestled in between rolling golden hills and tall, green mountains. Natural rock formations jut out of the scenery, and the land you’re in has a rich Indian heritage, with citrus groves dotting the scenery. This quaint little town is just an hour and 15 minutes north of Los Angeles; seemingly make believe, a peaceful respite away from sirens and smog, a stone’s throw from the glistening coast in Ventura. Welcome to Ojai!
I had the pleasure of being invited to the Oaks at Ojai Spa for a long weekend, and I attend October 7 and 8th. Initially, I had some concerns about attending a “Weight loss spa” for the first time. I had visions of Biggest Loser style challenges, being surrounded by platters of junk food that I needed to psychologically resist, and carrying giant packs of heavy stuff up a 15-mile mountain. Thankfully, the Oaks at Ojai is not like any stereotype of a fitness or weight loss spa, and it is instead a safe haven of serenity for those looking to relax while improving their health.
My childhood best friend Katelyn drove up from Sacramento be with me, and we checked into our adorable little casita. It has a private patio with lounge chairs and a table for outdoor dining. Inside the Spanish style door, the decoration was clean and classic, with a gigantic Talavera style bath tub that I couldn’t resist posing in a picture for. There are even organic bath soaps and shampoos! We settled in and then headed over to the dining room for our first health-conscious meal.
I was super pleasantly surprised at the way the food was made. The Oaks at Ojai uses almost no salt, so if you’re a big salt user, you may at first feel like everything needs salt. I admit at first I wanted to grab a salt shaker, but there wasn’t one – and the home-grown spices helped. The Oaks uses herbs grown onsite for their blends. How’s that for farm to table? There are a variety of spice blends, including vinegar, so if you feel like flavor is lacking you can jazz things up to your liking. I especially liked the salsa that was served several times throughout the weekend; it just had the right touch to add a little heat.
Let’s talk portion sizes. Of course, the portions must be made for someone the size of a mouse, right? Nope! The portions are generous yet healthful. You’ll never go hungry at the Oaks, and I felt like I ate more (but more healthfully) there than I did at my own home. Between meals, there are broth breaks, with potassium rich broth, set out between exercise sessions, and then a vegetable break, too. The veggie break was my favorite as there were three different types of dip, including a beet hummus and a garlic hummus. Yummy! I also was obsessed with the unsweetened iced teas that were constantly available, including this incredible Meyer lemon iced tea that I should have gotten the brand of, because it was so flavorful. There was also always spa water (Water with fruits or veggies), so I was always hydrated. You even got a popcorn break after dinner for a little post-dessert nosh!
Of course, health means more than just eating well, so the Oaks offers you a robust daily schedule of many different kinds of exercise. The best part is you get to choose what you want to do: so there’s no obligation, but if you wanted to do three or four classes a day, you could, but if you’d rather just relax and do yoga, you can do that too. There are literally classes for every fitness level here, from meditation and gentle yoga to endurance hikes and boot camp. I started my Saturday morning with a cardio bootcamp lead by Gloria. Gloria was funny and motivating, but also encouraged each person in the class to go at their own pace. This is so important in fitness as you really have to listen to your own body. As someone dealing with a heel spur, I knew I needed to go low impact on my left foot, and kick it up with the weights on the arms. Gloria helped me customize the plan when sections of the class just wouldn’t be a good choice for my foot.
I had a few hours of free time on Saturday and unfortunately Katelyn was under the weather, so I walked around downtown Ojai (just a few steps across the street from the spa) and bought myself some pottery. Downtown Ojai has a bunch of cute boutiques and there is something for everyone if you’re looking to bring home a sweet trinket for a loved one. After strolling around, I wanted to hit the pool. I was the only person out basking in the sun, and I lazily flipped through a magazine, waded through the pool, and admired the gorgeous scenery around me. It was the ultimate “me time” that I had been craving. I love my husband and kiddo, but it sure was nice to take a few hours to just be still, soaking up the sunshine. After my pool time, I headed back to the spa for some YOGA! I did an hour of a totally peacefully yoga-flow, and I left limber and inspired for our dinner of chicken with peanut sauce and broccoli. Thai inspired and oh so yum! In the spirit of not lying and maintaining authenticity, I will admit that in true Double Chin Diary fashion, I allowed for one indulgence I love, the unsweetened Starbucks Black Tea Lemonade. I admit it, I brought contraband back into a weight loss spa! Haha!
Next up was SPA TIME! I chose to have a body wrap as I had never tried one before. The aesthetician helping me was fantastic about setting my mind at ease, as a body wrap requires full nudity. Say what?! Don’t worry, your parts are covered by a towel at all times, so you’re not just going commando for a show. My treatment began with a coffee bean scrub, helping to draw out impurities and bloat. After being slathered and rubbed with several different concoctions, I was swaddled in a wrap and cozy warm blanket where I snuggled for 15-20 minutes. After being wiped down and cleaned up, I received a wonderful scalp massage, and ended up leaving being TWO pounds lighter than when I had gone in. That’s two pounds of bloating and excess water weight, folks! It’s not uncommon for me (or other PCOS folks) to bloat up to 9 pounds overnight, so I’m not surprised. I felt svelte and slim! Katelyn also had a body wrap and raved about how her skin was unbelievably soft.
Speaking of skin — the Oaks is a Skin Authority Spa. I received some complimentary Skin Authority products, and because my skin is sensitive, my favorite product is the Vitamin C Serum. It fills in fine lines, rejuvenates cells, and sloughs off dead skin. In the week that I’ve been using it, I already feel like my skin is getting a gorgeous glow to it. Definitely ask at The Oaks how Skin Authority can work for you.
After our spa treatment, Katelyn and I headed back to our cozy casita, where we nestled up in our beds and drifted to sleep under a sky full of stars.
I’m so grateful for my experience at the Oaks because it showed me that a vacation CAN be a trip without eating junk food, guzzling booze, and laying around like a slug. I also can now say that any preconceived notions of a weight loss spa being like a fat camp are totally not true. I felt at ease, rested, well-fed, and best, totally pampered and respected at my time at the Oaks. Though the Oaks will run you a bit more than your average hotel (starting at $250 a night), remember that all of your meals, snacks, and drinks are provided. In addition, the fitness classes, steam rooms, pool, and hot tubs are well worth that extra cost. Be sure to look into the specials they’re running – this would make an amazing romantic get away or weekend away with the girls.
So, if you’re looking for a total mind and body reset, the Oaks at Ojai is for you. Pamper yourself, work your body, calm your mind… you’ll do all of that and more at The Oaks. Learn about how you can experience the Oaks at Ojai now! Also, November 1- 20, experience the BRING A FRIEND DISCOUNT! It’s twice the fun and a 25% discount for both of you when you share a room! Workout, chat poolside, explore Ojai and stay up late catching up! Click here to learn more about this amazing bring a friend deal that Katelyn and I got to enjoy 🙂
I was gifted a stay at the Oaks Spa including a spa service and skin care products in exchange for my honest review. I am grateful to the Oaks for the awesome opportunity. It most certainly went above and beyond expectations. 🙂
Ah, PCOS – the annoying syndrome that most people have never heard of that wreaks havoc on almost every part of an affected woman’s body. Hair loss, hair growth, weight gain, anxiety, depression, acne, darkening skin, thyroid problems, fatigue, irregular or absent periods, infertility… it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But, the good news is, that PCOS is treatable, and though fraught with frustration, it can *kind of* be reversed with weight loss and medication. The problem is, losing the weight you need to lose to reverse it feels near damn impossible, but people tell me it IS possible, so I’m going to be optimistic and believe that.
I always try and blog at least once in September about PCOS, because I think more people need to know what it is, and we need to beat down the doors of stigma. When I first found out I had PCOS, I was MAD – mad because for years, I was the hallmark poster child of the syndrome, but never once did my doctors think to look beyond a sluggish thyroid or blame it on my own lack of efforts that no matter what I did, my weight continually ballooned upwards. It was only diagnosed after gaining seven pounds on a doctor-ordered liver cleanse (where I pretty much ate nothing but green veggies and drank only supplement liquids) that I demanded every single blood test and scan of pretty much every metabolic function in my body. Sure enough, after an ultrasound, I had plenty of cysts, in addition to highly elevated androgen levels that explained my metabolic dysfunction, my tendency towards anxiety, and why I’ve always lost fistfuls of hair. I also was unable to breastfeed my daughter for more than three months as my body simply never produced enough milk, despite trying every single method known to lactation consultants and witch doctors alike.
I’ve seen several doctors over the years, and while I am fortunate to be in good health, the weight is one nut I cannot seem to crack. However, more science is being done every day on how this syndrome can be treated, and with the help of experts like Dr. Fiona, I do believe we’re getting closer to finding solutions that will work for every varied and complex case of PCOS. Many people want to write off this syndrome as something that’s not important, an ‘invisible illness’ that ‘fat people use as an excuse to stay fat’ (I got those gems from the trolls of the Internet), but the truth is, it can have devastating effects. One in 10 women has PCOS, and for many, PCOS means years of challenging fertility treatments, medication to control blood sugar before it leads to full-blown diabetes, and an exasperating growth in emotional imbalance leading to panic attacks and depression.
I’ve bought many books over the years including A Patient’s Guide to PCOS, The PCOS Diet Plan, and PCOS for Dummies, but I have a new favorite. Dr. Fiona McCulloch’s 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS is packed with the scientific data and reasoning behind so many methods for treating and reversing PCOS, and at times it felt like I was having lunch with a very smart yet very cool doctor who “gets it” as she explains why such and such causes such and such to happen. I also liked that in the first few chapters, there are several quizzes and lists that help you identify which type of PCOS you have; splitting it into four categories of A,B,C, and D, to help you determine what areas you need to focus on.
Dr. McCulloch is a self-described ‘data junkie’ and you can really feel that in her writing. As a nerdy former grad student myself, I like digging into numbers and statistics. One of the most helpful resources she provides to readers is a chart that details insulin counts. If you have PCOS, you’re likely insulin resistant, which means that your cells are less sensitive to the actions of insulin, so you tend to hold onto fat and sugars in the bloodstream much more than a “normal” person. Dr. Fiona details an extensive chart of food that you can work into your diet based on a low-insulin count for breakfast, and modified insulin counts for lunch and dinner. For example, a piece of chicken has an insulin count of 20 (good) whereas a low-fat blueberry muffin has an insulin count of 116 (not so good). I’m going to be incorporating some low-insulin-count foods into my current low carb eating plan, and see what happens when I start to play with the numbers a little bit.
I also like that she lists some supplements you can try to help with the various issues of PCOS. I have never tried a supplement approach for my PCOS, and I’m thinking about checking out Myo-Inositol and Holy Basil per her recommendations. I was sent a free copy of Dr. McColloch’s book to review, but am not under any obligation to mention it at all. I just found it helpful and wanted to share.
If you think you might have PCOS, ask your gynecologist or endocrinologist to test you for some of the hallmark symptoms. It can explain a lot of frustrations with your health, and with new advances in sciences, I do believe we’ll get closer to finding a way to reverse PCOS for everyone.
This blog post contains affiliate links.
A 26-year-old man paces a hallway, tapping one, two, three times on the door. He turns around. Taps one, two, three times again. He cannot enter his office until he taps away his tension.
A 14-year-old girl, drowning in her anxiety and restlessness, glides a safety pin over the tender skin of her wrist until beads of blood well up, like miniature rubies. Her parents are ashamed so won’t take her in for help until they find her in a bathtub, her pulse weakening. She survived.
A 42-year-old woman has bourbon for breakfast. Her coworkers are concerned because her teeth are decaying and she seems unkempt and rattled. She lost her driver’s license and spends all of her money on alcohol. Drinking is the only thing she does anymore, and she can’t even figure out why.
A 65-year-old woman loses her job, and with it, her access to health insurance. She is forced to stop taking her anti-depressants, and she won’t get out of bed. Her kids call and call and bang on the door, but she won’t even get up to let them in.
A 25-year-old woman has night terrors, seeing her molesters hands reach for her in her dreams. She can’t sleep, so she drags herself through the day, haunted by panic and regret.
A 30-year-old woman feels faint and flush in meetings. She gasps for air. She forces herself to sit through the meeting so she seems “normal”, even though she’s breathing herself through a massive panic attack and feels like she might pass out.
A 19-year-old boy hears voices in his room. He won’t open the refrigerator door or eat any food from his home, because in his mind, he is convinced he is being poisoned. Weight slides off of him and people tell him how good he looks, not aware that he is starving from the treachery of his own mind.
I know all of these people. All of these situations have happened. All of them are people I know, people with names, people you might pass in a grocery store and never think anything of. They’re my coworkers, my neighbors, my friend’s parents, my friend’s kids, that lady from church. They’re me, and you, and all of us, because today, one in 5 adults suffers from a diagnosed mental illness. I’ve written about my struggles with panic disorder before, and it took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my story with the Internet. My in-laws read my blog. My coworkers. My boss. My neighbors. It was hard to share the story, but I can do hard things and so can you, and if writing about my anxiety helps just one person feel less alone, it’s worth every single word.
My friend AJ and I have decided to use our collective social media influence to help light a candle for all of the people in our lives who have been affected by suicide. On Saturday, September 15, AJ and I will meet in Santa Monica at 7:45 a.m. and walk in memory of the 117 Americans who take their life every day. We walk because every 12 minutes in the United States, someone ends their life. We walk because in 2014, there were 42,773 suicides. We walk because depression affects over 25 million people in America every year, including myself, when my anxiety is untreated.
We walk for the people in our lives who are no longer here because they couldn’t take the pain, or didn’t know who or how to ask for help. I walk for PJ and Josh and Nicole and Dylan and Erin. I walk because in one year, my senior year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide in the span of one month. I remember seeing one of them the night before he turned on his parents car and sat in the garage with the windows closed. We had played Uno. He was smiling. He was himself. I would have never guessed that anything was wrong. And that is why I will walk. Because today, it’s still taboo to say you’re depressed, or anxious, or suffering from anything “in your head”. We ask, “How are you?”, as a form of courtesy, but we don’t want to hear anything other than “good”, because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to stop pushing away the discomfort, and instead, start helping. Be the light in someone’s life. Be the friend who will reply to your friend’s texts, the one who can’t sleep, the one who needs to know it’s ok to not be ok. Be the friend, but also be the encourager. Encourage them to look past stigma, to take medication if they need it, to exercise, to meditate, to eat well, to sleep. Encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to find a therapist, or a counselor, or a doctor. Even the best of a friend cannot solve a true mental illness that requires professional treatment.
I need your help, and your fellow Americans need your help. It’s not just one in five of us who needs help: it’s all five of us, and here’s why. Even if you’re not the “one” afflicted by mental illness, you will be affected because it’s your family, your friend, your child, your neighbor. Suicide makes a lasting and tragic impact on a family. How can you help? You can make a $25 donation today. $25 makes a huge difference in somebody’s life: for example, $25 could be the price of a life-saving prescription medication. Please donate today! If I raise $150 by October 15th, I will earn a t-shirt that I will proudly wear in honor of my struggle with anxiety, and in memory of my beloved friends.
If you are local, will you join me in walking about three miles on Saturday, October 15? We’ll be walking along the beautiful Santa Monica boardwalk and coast, and together, we will breathe in the sea air, share our stories, and remember why life is inherently good, even among the bad times; because we have each other. Please, help me make a difference in saving lives today.