Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting Happy at a High Altitude

Winters in Utah can be a total drag. Not just because they last through May, but also because the nasty inversion that seems to get worse every year. (Be part of the solution HERE.) But did you know feeling blue amid the winter white can actually be blamed on our high altitude?

In this well researched article from my favorite local magazine, Catalyst, researchers point out that Utahns are prone to a depression-causing condition called hypoxia, where, basically, your brain becomes deprived of essential fuel like oxygen, and creatine. Creatine? Like the stuff your boyfriend slams down before hitting the gym? The stuff that gives you a blast of energy, while its annoyingly meathead-y canisters promise an increase in lean muscle? 


The article says that our brains actually already make creatine - which reportedly is as essential to your feel-goods as serotonin and dopamine - but that hypoxia restricts your body's ability to access it. So, the study suggests supplementing your daily vitamins with creatine. (Ask your doctor what kind to get!)

I have been trying it out - I put half of the daily amount in my morning smoothie, then half in a cup of tea later in the day to ensure absorption - and I am ALL for it, to the point where I took some over to my mom and sisters and preached to them all about it! You see, I don't just have sustained energy - not the euphoria-now, crash-later sort of stuff - but I also feel a stabilizing of my mood! It seems ever since I had postpartum depression, I have been prone to more dips in my cheerfulness, and this is just what I needed to even me out. I feel like before, if something unexpected came up, I would get super stressed and bummed out. Now, I feel like  I can take a deep breath and see the positive side more often.  

Oh, and remember to ski. Who's ever been sad doing that winter sport?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Small, DIY Fixes that Transformed Our Home

2014 was a big year for the Joneses (isn't every year? Oh, the joy of progression). We had a baby, I started a business, and we also moved. We picked up and left our little busy-road bungalow in a questionable (yet conveniently walkable) area, and nestled ourselves in a liberal ski community against the Wasatch mountains.

We love our ranch house! And have done quite a bit to it since we've been here.




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Body Issues are More than Skin-Deep

This company says our vaginas need deodorant!
"Hail to the V!"

It's the seemingly empowering slogan of "feminine hygiene" company Summer's Eve. But the message behind their products, like vaginal deodorant and "freshening" wipes, is anything but squeaky-clean.

I remember in my later years of high school, one of my best friends just lost her virginity. Sitting in my '89 Chevy Suburban in the parking lot of Alta High, she recounted her first night with Chad.

"Everything was going really good, until he was like, 'I want to go DOWN THERE!'" she exclaimed, eyes wide in horror.

"Did you let him!?" I recoiled, equally terrified of facing her boyfriend's preposition.

"No way!" she wailed. "What if he thought it was GROSS?"

Even before companies like Summer's Eve were telling girls and women our vaginas are - I'll just go ahead and say it - smelly, society has been laying the bricks for that stigma. This Jezebel article attributes women's smell-shame to a history of women being shamed for simply having a vagina, period. (Ever noticed how, since ancient times, it was never a man who was deemed, "unclean?")

I also believe that pop culture (comedians, movies, etc.) has perpetuated the idea that vaginas are gross. My husband and I were watching some comedian, I can't remember which one, but I cringed when I heard him smugly slur into the mic: "If you can smell it on the way down....go back up!"

Even the medical world has started vaginas off on the wrong foot. WebMD says, "It's normal for your vagina to have a slight odor," giving a negative connotation to the organ's natural scent.

Products like Summer's Eve, along with pop culture, are not doing men any favors, either. If a male expects a woman to smell like roses, he will be disappointed. But the wiser man will use our natural musk - and the arousing pheromones contained within - for his pleasure.

I'll admit, I've often been uncomfortable with my own area. Not just growing up, but also when I first got with my husband. I remember on our first night "together," me pleading to the Gods for him to "like it" down there! It took me a while, actually, before I could just sit back and enjoy that part of our sex life....till I realized, he enjoyed it, too.

There are days, however, when something is truly "off." The vagina is such a complex, self-policing and healing organ, that it sends messages to us through various odors and secretions. But it's unfortunate that some people's experience with a "fishy" day (typically signaling an infection), can scar them for life.

Breasts are also up to bat in the shame-game. I remember in high school, a football player asked me to flash him. And I did, thinking that was my tax for hanging out with the "cool kids." I was a late bloomer, though, and I guess the kid told his friends that my boobs were "weird." Weird compared to what, I dishearteningly thought, when the rumor made its way back to me.

Society has created the "normal" breast type: Whether they're big or small, they must be round or teardrop shaped, and perky, with small areolas. Don't believe me? Listen to any plastic surgeon discuss the ideal image with a patient (or go to their websites and see the "embarrassing" before and afters). Or ask Hugh Hefner what type of breasts he allows to be showcased in his magazines.

Even mainstream magazines don't offer any consolation to those who fall outside "the norm." Cosmopolitan featured an article where the advice for dealing with boobs of "two different sizes" is: Pad one side of your bra, or get plastic surgery.

So, how can women cope with this "perfect" pair standard, WITHOUT surgery?

Love them just how they are, right now.

Easier said than done. But I changed my opinion about mine, so I know it's possible.

In her book, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Dr. Christiane Northrup says the best way to love your breasts, or even the lack thereof, is a daily practice of basically cupping each one, and sending loving thoughts to them. Conversely, Dr. Northrup claims that loathing your lumps is linked to breast cancer. Extra: Watch this video on the power of words.

If you've already been under the knife (and according to this research, 74% of Utahns have), STILL practice loving them. Because the grass is ALWAYS greener if your eyes are only focused over the fence. Comparison will slowly kill any semblance of self-love and acceptance.

And then there's this: Despite the fact that the media's trying to brainwash all of mankind into desiring the perfect double D, when you're face-to-face with your partner, he will likely be charmed by your chest, no matter what they look like.

So, let's "hail" our own breasts and "V's;" but not with products or surgeries, just love. We women deserve to love the very things that make us women, and to have others respect them, as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Postpartum Depression Update

It's been almost 7 weeks since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. You can read all about that here. And though the Zoloft was tempting, it appears that my natural remedies (and just straight up endurance) paid off, and now, I feel like the fog is lifting.

I think it has A LOT to do with this smile....

The Formula Dilemma

Researching formula, it seems that every mom-blog about it starts with an epilogue of guilt. "I just tried and tried to breastfeed, but he wouldn't latch," or "I really did everything I could to breastfeed, but my milk just didn't come in." Ok, moms - drop the breastfeeding guilt! Yes, it's a great way to pump your kid full of antibodies, and it's cheap as hell, but what if you just plain don't want to be a milk machine for your newborn? That's ok! Especially with the high rate of postpartum depression; a little freedom can go a LONG way.

So, I will spare you my excuses for why breastfeeding didn't last very long for me (2.5 months, to be exact). Bottom line, formula happened. I went straight for organic, but guess what? It constipated him worse than that first time in the bathroom, right after I give birth....I digress. Plus, organic formulas are major GMO/chemical offenders, too!! That USDA label doesn't mean much these days (that's why now, I'm like, "Farmer's Market - FTW!") If you wanna read something freaky, here's a great comparison of organic formulas and which ones have more bad stuff than others (spoiler alert - they're ALL guilty).

Necessary evil?
The constipation issue was solved when we found Enfamil GentleEase in the ready-to-use bottles (I think the powder form of most formulas had a lot to do with backing babies up). How I loved the fact that William was no longer in pain! But how I loathed the fact that not only were we pumping him full of non-organic milk and chemicals, but also littering the Earth with plastic bottles (that we recycled, but still...)

My DIY formula
I refused to believe THIS was William's only option. Thank goodness for Google! (Hours, and hours, of Google...). I finally found a recipe for formula that jived with all my ideals. It's a twist on the Meyenberg Goat's Milk recipe (and I've already told you all the ways in which I love goat's milk, but mainly, it's just easier for human bodies to digest it than cow's milk i.e. closer to breastmilk than just about anything else out there.) 

This is the recipe I made (pasted below), and William is eating it up! It's all organic, his burps aren't followed by a river of spit-ups, and his bowel movements are regular! Hallelujah! Sure, I have to make a batch almost daily, but it's wayyyy cheaper (about 50 bucks to gather all the ingredients, which will last you MONTHS! I'd spend 50 bucks on two weeks' worth of formula!).

"This recipe makes 32 oz. of goat milk formula – or 4-8 oz bottles.  I put all the ingredients in my Ninja blender, then pour in a 32 oz container, seal and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Here’s what I use and why:
  1. 4 tbsp powdered goat milk – I first purchased powdered goat milk at a local health food store.  I have since discovered it is sold at Whole Foods and I’ve recently found it online at Amazon.   It is cheapest on Amazon ($9.07 per 12 oz can) plus shipping is free.  Additionally, you get a 5% discount if you enable autoship in which you can pre-order the milk for up to 6 month increments.
    The Meyenberg brand is the only brand I’ve found and it works great!  It is fortified with folic acid and vitamin D as an added bonus for babies.  I have also used store-bought goat milk and diluted it using a 1:1 milk/water ratio (for this recipe, that would be 2 cups goat milk to 2 cups water).  I have read that evaporated goat milk can also be used.
  2. 4 tsp organic coconut oil – Coconut oil is the most abundant natural source of an essential saturated fat called lauric acid which is found in high amount in breast milk.  In fact, breast milk is the only other natural source that contains such a high amount of lauric acid.  Lauric acid helps to destroy bacteria, viruses and fungus in the body.  As well,coconut oil is known for regulating blood sugar and thyroid function.
    I have always kept coconut oil as a kitchen staple.  This was a plus because the initial investment for goat milk formula ingredients can be pricey albeit worth it.  Not having to purchase coconut oil was great!  I purchase my coconut oil fromAmazon as well because I can usually take advantage of free shipping.  I pay about $9 for a 15 oz container of coconut oil.  I know this is sacrilege for me, but I have never done price comparison shopping for coconut oil so if you think you can find it cheaper elsewhere, you probably can :).
  3. 4 tsp organic sunflower oil (alternative: extra virgin olive oil) –Sunflower oil (and olive oil) provide monounsaturated fats and vitamin E.  Unsaturated fats balance blood cholesterol.  Sunflower oil has significantly more vitamin E than olive oil, but olive oil contains more vitamin K than sunflower oil.  I prefer sunflower oil for the milder flavor/scent in the infant formula.  Since both provide enough essential unsaturated fats and vitamins, and we are adding a multivitamin to the formula (keep reading), both oils will work.  I have also read where the oil can be omitted.
    Like most households, extra virgin olive oil is a staple in my kitchen.  I buy it blindly when I shop at low-price leader grocery stores and don’t pay much attention to price.  I’ve even found it at Aldi and Walmart.  Sunflower oil, on the other hand, was much more difficult to get my hands on.  I found it at Whole Foods for about $5 for a 16 oz bottle.  Sunflower oil can also be purchased on Amazon.
  4. 4 tbsp organic agave nectar (alternative: organic 100% maple syrup, brown rice syrup) – The sugar and high carbohydrate content found in agave nectar are necessary for brain growth.  Forty percent of the calories from breast milk come from carbohydrates called lactose.  A breast milk substitute, therefore, would have to be high in carbs as well.
    I have been buying agave nectar in bulk at Costco since I have startedplant-based eating.  It is much sweeter than regular sugar so I use less of it, and therefore, it lasts a lot longer.  I cannot recall how much I paid for it (since I’ve had it for so long).  I do know that it is sold in most grocery stores.  I also keep maple syrup as a kitchen staple for plant-based eating.  I am not particularly fond of maple syrup’s taste as a condiment.  However, it works fine as sugar substitutes in most baked ingredients.  Like agave nectar, 100% maple syrup can be found at almost any grocery store including Walmart.  I’ve found it the cheapest at Aldi for about $4.
  5. 1/2 tsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses – This provides B-vitamins, iron, calcium and trace minerals.  Molasses also helps with alleviate constipation.  I have not had a problem with this amount, but decrease the amount if stools are too loose.
    I found molasses at Walmart and thought I struck gold.  When I got it home, I realized it was notunsulphured blackstrap molasses and the two differ by processing method.  I found the unsulphured molasses at Whole Foods.
  6. 1/2 tsp infant probiotic strain – I had always heard of probiotic in my favorite yogurt products before now, but never paid much attention to it.  Breast milk is extremely high in probiotics.  Probiotics improve digestive functions and boost the good bacteria in our bodies to fight the bad bacteria which prevents infection.  Breast milk contains numerous probiotic strains including lactobacillus genus, lactobacillus gasseri and lactobacillus fermentu.
    The infant probiotic comes in a vitamin bottle and is a powdery substance so it’s easy to add to liquids and foods.  I found a brand by Maxi Baby Care at Whole Foods.  It can also be purchased at Amazon, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and most health food stores.
  7. 4 tsp natural infant liquid multivitamins (or proportioned amount per package directions and amount of milk being made) – This adds in all the missing and extra vitamins your infant needs.  If you are adding this to his/her daily diet already, I would not advise including this in the formula too.
    I found a multivitamin brand by Maxi Baby Care at Whole Foods.  It can also be purchased at Amazon, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and most health food stores.  Poly-vi-sol is another popular infant vitamin brand and it can be found at Walmart.
  8. 32 oz warm nursery or filtered water – Goat milk powder is harder to dissolve in cold water than store-bought formula.  Make sure your water is hot or warm for better mixing and clump-free formula."

Enjoy! And remember, stop with the breastfeeding guilt. :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Post-baby Body

'Just four months after giving birth, take a look at her post-baby bod!' touts E! News anchor Guiliana Rancic as new mom Kerry Washington steps down the red carpet, her figure as petite as the statue she might win tonight.

'Whats your secret?' G asks once Kerry meets her on the aisle.

'A lot of working out,' the actress announces, as if she practiced in the mirror.

Me, curious about my own 'post-baby body'
Then Megan Fox, just two months post-partum, tells a tabloid her slim post-baby body comes from a strict paleo diet.

Now, if I, almost two months post-partum as well, can barely stand the pressure of regaining that pre-baby body... for these Hollywood actresses, the expectation looming over them must be suffocating.

Those three months after the baby aren't called the 'fourth trimester' for nothing. Dealing with the round-the-clock demands of a newborn, lacking sleep and energy, and experiencing extreme hormone changes calls for a hibernation of sorts - to cope and recover. And while 'working out' (light exercise like walking and yoga) is certainly prescribed by experts to help new moms stabilize, it is definitely NOT the first thing we are apt to do in between diaper changes, and our bodies aren't truly meant to do it heavily until at least 6 months. So, it's slightly bothersome that anyone is expected to 'bounce back' even within a year of giving birth.

I have been very grateful for compliments about my post-baby body, but irked that THAT's what new moms are applauded for. We just created life, and nearly died pushing it out! I'm still a little proud of this weirdly loose abdomen...don't make me scrutinize it yet! I haven't even fully processed birth, let alone thought about erasing all signs of pregnancy.

Sorry if this sounds rant-y; I just hope we can be a little gentler in our expectations of new moms and their ever-vulnerable 'post-baby bodies.'

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How Does a Yoga Teacher get Postpartum Depression?

I'm the only yoga teacher I know, who's depressed.

Tears came when, during my 6-week postpartum checkup, that little postpartum depression survey concludes that I am one of the 20% of mothers suffering from it. My midwife prescribes Zoloft against my will; assures me that it's worked miracles for moms, and that I'd likely only have to use it short-term.

Dude. I don't even take Tylenol. I had an unmedicated birth for a reason.

Hesitation and fear are written all over my face.

"You don't have to suffer," she almost pleads with me. "You don't have to do this alone."

Postpartum Depression affects 20% of mothers.
Photo ©Yoga Parties by Amanda, LLC
Two weeks ago, I was fine. Overwhelmed, but fine. But when William's four-week birthday came along, I found myself dreading, fearing, anticipating, well, EVERYTHING. It was fine when Chris was home, but when he went to work, I'd sit frozen in fear of putting Will in his carseat to go to the store. 

What if he's uncomfortable? What if he cries in the car? What if he doesn't like his carseat? are all thoughts I'd have. I think you can guess if I ever ended up going to the store.

Then it got even worse. Once I made it into the shower, I never wanted to get out. One day, I woke up and laid there like a corpse, and had the (now terrifying) thought that, I wish I was one. I noticed how often I was crying. I'd dream of drinking all day or anything else that would numb my emotions. I didn't know how to accept my now 100-percent-different life. I didn't think I could balance caring for both of us. I just had this overwhelming sense that everything would go wrong; that every day, I'd be this shower-less, starving wreck of a woman, bouncing a crying baby on my hip, sitting in the filth of a tornado-wrecked house.

Wait, what am I talking about "had?" I STILL FEEL THIS WAY!

I know these thoughts are irrational. And I do a decent job of putting on a brave face, being nice to my husband, making googly eyes at the baby, interacting with friends when they come over, dragging myself out of the house to grab something from the store. But it's hard. Not just to have PPD, but that I was so sure I'd never get it. I mean, I eat all organic. I do yoga. I freakin' meditate, for crying out loud! Depressed people don't do any of that!

I know I need help, but I cannot bring myself to take the anti-depressants.

What I'm about to say only pertains to postpartum depression, not depression. Plus, I am not a doctor, so don't take what I say as medical advice. AND I'm not judging anyone for taking medication or telling them it's wrong - in fact, many people say it is what cured them. But let me proceed with my opinion.

Some doctors tell you postpartum depression is caused by an imbalance in your "brain chemistry" or "serotonin levels." That is a theory, and, according to a new study, may not have anything to do with serotonin at all. Other doctors tell you that PPD is caused by environmental/social/emotional factors such as unrealistic expectations, lack of support, and more. Well, if anti-depressants are only addressing the brain chemistry theory (by increasing your serotonin levels), what if my PPD is caused by the other factors? I'd be messing with something that ain't broke! Plus, the sertraline in most anti-depressants carry a risk of serotonin syndrome, and have not been around long enough to know what long-term risks may exist.

So, meds are out for me. I'd love love LOVE to start feeling better, like my midwife and several friends have told me I will if I take the meds, but I just can't. It's been one week since my diagnosis, and this is what, I'm learning, helps me.

1. The knowledge that PPD is, by all accounts, temporary
2. Therapy. I'm going to my first support group next week, and continue one-on-ones with the amazing Kim Smart.
3. Kava Kava, Passion Flower, and Valerian root (all natural "calming" herbs - you can buy at Whole Foods) - The Kava and Valerian have a more tangible effect, I've noticed. Here's a list of other natural supplements that could help. Some people even swear by small amounts of marijuana (too much can make PPD worse).
4. Yoga. Even though it gives me anxiety to set the baby up in his swing (thinking he might cry and interrupt my yoga at any moment), I fight through it and feel massive relief once I start moving. If you don't know yoga, you can find a ton of free videos on YouTube and free subscription sites like Yoga has been scholastically proven to help treat depression.
5. Hot showers with drops of essential oils on the shower floor. The warmth relaxes muscles, and oils provide aromatherapy. Some of my favorite scents are (uplifting) lemon, orange and grapefruit, and (calming) lavendar and clary sage. Since this is a must-do-daily sort of thing, the other day, I took a shower with the baby in his bouncy seat right outside the curtain. You do what you've gotta do.
6. Walks/Being Outdoors. Getting outside and knowing there is a world outside my dark little head. The sun feels so good, too! Doctors often recommend light therapy for depression.
7. Friends! I feel so withdrawn that it takes everything in my being to accept a visit, but once I do, I am so happy I did! Friends commiserate, allow you to vent without judgement, get you to LAUGH! Laughter SAVES me.
8. On that note, have a BUDDY. A buddy to call you and nudge you to go on a walk, to the store, even to get out of bed. My buddy is my husband, but I have to be really careful about using him as a crutch, and even a punching bag. But his encouraging words in the morning really help to get me putting my pants on one leg at a time.
9. Eat fresh foods, and drink tons of water and tea. I've noticed heavy foods don't do anything for me, same with caffeine (the come-down is more noticeable with PPD, I think). When you eat foods that are "alive," I think that transfers a little extra good energy into that bod.
10. Cuddle and laugh with that baby! Your baby doesn't have depression, so be inspired by their radiant light! I will read to him, or try to make him giggle. And, of course, kiss, kiss, kiss those chubby cheeks! Even writing about it cheers me up!

Postpartum depression is real, and it sucks (man, women really get the shit end of the stick with all this motherhood stuff). But this hopeless feeling is temporary, and there is relief. We can do this. We're women, after all. ;)