Health

My Journey With Scoliosis + Holistic Healing

Above: the aftermath of cupping. The darker spots indicate places that needed and responded more to the treatment than others. “Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.”


Remember that day in seventh grade during PE class when the school nurse came to the locker room and checked everyone’s spines for scoliosis? We all giggled and tittered nervously because we had to bend over in front of her with our shirts off and it was just an awkward moment for a tween. At the time, I didn’t really understand what that little test was for.

Two years later, I definitely understood.

I don’t really remember why my mom ended up taking me to a spine doctor when I was 14. Undoubtedly it was for back pain, but I can’t say for sure. At just 14-years-old, I found myself receiving x-rays of my spine, and being told I had scoliosis. Even after the diagnosis, I still didn’t really understand what that meant. “Your spine is curved,” is what the doctor told me. “It’s too minor to do surgery on, but you can do some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it.” And he sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a list of moves to do every day that would help stretch and strengthen my back.

Psh, yeah right. What 14-year-old girl is going to do physical therapy for a back condition she doesn’t know anything about and doesn’t really effect her life in any way?

Of course, now I wish I would have taken his advice, because my condition is currently 16 years chronic. And basically I’m in constant pain, every day. It hurts to sit for a long time, it hurts to stand for a long time, it hurts to walk for an extended period of time. So essentially, I just hurt.

On the flip side, I’m very fortunate that the actual condition itself hasn’t worsened in the 16 years that I’ve had it. My spine has stayed in exactly the same awkward curve all that time. And the pain that I feel is mostly a dull, constant ache, no shooting pains or tingles. What that means, though, is that all of the muscles in my body have slowly lost their purpose.

When I say all of the muscles in my body, I pretty much mean all of them. From head to toe. The funny thing about scoliosis is, it isn’t just a spine condition. It effects every inch of you. Something that I recently discovered.

I’m really against taking pain medication for anything other than a headache. That’s literally the only time I’ll take them. Because in all honesty, they do not work. And putting foreign entities into your body is extremely unhealthy. Which is the main reason I’ve turned to holistic healthcare to aid in my ailments.

When I started going to acupuncture a little over a year ago, it was for migraines and stress. My acupuncturist also knew I had scoliosis and tried to relieve the pain, but unfortunately the needles did little to rid me of my aches and pains [it worked wonders for everything else, though! Read about my experience here]. To be fair, with a condition as chronic as mine, there was little she could do. Acupuncture is wonderful for so many things, but my scoliosis pain was something that was too deep-rooted for acupuncture to fix.

I continued to live with the pain for another eight months or so, but knowing we had a trip to Europe coming up and I’d be walking and standing a lot, I wanted to start seeking treatment again. My fiancé directed me to a chiropractor friend of his. I’d always been afraid of going to a chiropractor – I had a major fear that a correction would go horribly wrong and I’d be paralyzed for the rest of my life. My fiancé reassured me that Vince practiced a different, more modern form of chiro and would barely do any adjusting at all. He was right.

Dr. Vince Hoffart practices a form of chiropractic care called Active Release Technique. He does do some adjusting, but it’s mostly a lot of centralized muscle release. Instead of adjusting the bones in your body, he works on the muscles around them. Instead of a quick fix, he focuses on getting to the root of your issue. [In my case, the scoliosis has caused all of the muscles in my body to create a backwards support system. Instead of the muscles around my spine supporting my spine, they are trying trying to keep my spine from twisting. So other muscles have taken the place of those in order to support my spine.] It’s pretty amazing, actually. The first time I saw him, he dug around in my hip bone and the inside of my leg to try and help ease the tension in my back. A truly eye-opening experience to learn that other parts of my body could be worked on in an effort to aid my chronic scoliosis.

I’ve been seeing Vince for three months, and while the pain in my back hasn’t lessened, he’s done wonders for my neck and hip/glute, which both were aching and ailing me due to the unnatural curvature of my spine. The scoliosis is still a work in progress, but I have high hopes for this type of treatment.

In addition to chiropractic healing, I’ve also been seeing a massage therapist who practices a style of massage that focuses more on the nervous system and fascia. Her belief is that when you don’t use your muscles properly, over time the fascia [tissue between your muscles] glued them together unnaturally and constricts your range of motion. It’s a painful, yet oddly relaxing, form of massage. My first appointment with her, she worked on the muscles and fascia in my armpits [I know, weird], chest and between my ribs and rib cage. Her hope is that by releasing tension throughout the body, one section at a time, my back will eventually loosen up as my muscles remember their original purpose. She also performed cupping on my back and shoulders in order to release tension and toxins from my muscles that her hands and fingers could not do.

Jury is still out on whether this will work or not. Although I will say that I could breathe so much easier after she worked on my rib cage. It actually felt like a weight had been lifted off of my chest. I am looking forward to seeing if this form of massage therapy will work for me. The fact that I had no idea how much tension had built up in just my chest cavity means that every inch of my body is likely experiencing the same tightness and pressure.

Only the future knows how my body will respond to these holistic treatments, but I am willing to put all of my money and effort into finding out. Even if it doesn’t help my back, other little parts of my body and soul are starting to feel better, and that is just as, if not more, important. I also think it’s good for the human body to let its guard down every once in a while. Even if you don’t believe in holistic healing, having someone spend so much time and effort [they’re literally so passionate that they make a living doing it!] to try and help you is truly an amazing and beautiful thing. People helping people. There are still kind and humane people out there who just want to do right by others. And that – that gives me hope. Hope for myself, hope for my health, and hope for the health of humankind.


“Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.”

Why Is It So F*ck’n Hard To Find Decent Healthcare For Our Lady Parts?!

Until recently, I never bothered with finding a good OB. All I’ve ever needed in my adult life from them is birth control, so why worry about who’s supplying it? Planned Parenthood was as good as any doc covered by insurance, as far as I was concerned. As long as I was protected and having normal paps, I was worry-free.

But now that I’m engaged, and my fiancé and I are planning on starting a family within a year or so after we get married, I really actually care about who my doctor is. I’m actually thinking about who’s going to be my hand-holder during pregnancy, reassuring me every step of the way [aside from my fiancé, who will likely be rolling his eyes and telling me I’m fine #truelifeihaveanxiety].

Prior to our family trip to Europe, I really didn’t have time to research any doctors. I was scrambling at work and also trying to get wedding details together, and I figured there wasn’t any reason to start that process when I would be taking off and leaving the country for two weeks. But when I returned, I put my feelers out into the Facebook world and asked my fellow females for some OB recs. It was amazing how many women responded and loved and highly recommended their doctors. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cross all borders, and, like everyone else, I am limited to a number of doctors who take my insurance.

So I took people’s recommendations and starting researching the docs who took my insurance. Honestly, there are hundreds of OBs out there, but I didn’t want to just throw a dart at a map and pick one. I wanted to know that who I chose would be my medical support system before, during and after pregnancy. Some websites will give you a bio on the doctor – what they specialize in, where they studied, things like that, which I love. And since several women on my mom’s side of the family have Endometriosis and PCOS [see end of post to read more about these], I wanted to be sure I found a doc that was knowledgeable in those two diseases in the higher than normal case that I may be affected by one or both of them.

As a woman, I have always been hesitant to have a male doctor examining my lady bits. That may be feminist or close minded, but regardless of how much education you have under your belt as a man, you will never actually know or experience what we ladies go through on a day-to-day basis because we were blessed [or cursed, pick your poison] with ovaries and a uterus. The free clinics like Planned Parenthood only staff women, and since I’ve frequented those since I was 18, it’s sort of been a non-issue since I’ve had lady docs by default. But so many women who responded to my Facebook post recommended male OBs. And I’m at a time in my life where my health, the health of my future children, and the safety of any and all pregnancies and childbirths ahead are more important to me than whether the person examining me has a uterus. So, after a week of researching doctors and comparing several different ones [all of which ended up being men, by the way], I finally narrowed it down and made an appointment with a man who had an extensive list of specialties [including abnormal bleeding, Endo, PCOS, and many other “issues” that us females are lucky enough to deal with].

Yesterday I had my appointment with this doctor [just a consultation], and despite my nerves that he was a man, I was feeling confident that I’d finally found a reliable and educated doctor that I could trust. I was armed with a list of things I’ve been dealing with for the past several years, and was prepared to feel like the man understood me and could guide me through the next few years of my life.

To say I was let down is an understatement. The man essentially steamrolled me. Oh, he was very nice and very friendly, but he wrote off all my abnormalities as being on the wrong birth control. The ten days of debilitating cramps and abdominal pain I recently dealt with? In which everything I ate literally went right through me? The stabbing, cramping pain in the site of my right ovary last week? Bleeding every single day, all month long for the last several years? Oh yeah, that’s all normal symptoms of a birth control not strong enough for my body. WHAT?!

You guys, I wanted to scream at this man. I know these things aren’t normal. I know they aren’t because of birth control because I’ve tried 85 different kinds over the course of the last 11 years I’ve been on it and I sure as hell don’t feel normal nor do the symptoms ever change. Oh, and when I voiced my concerns about Endo, he told me I had nothing to worry about because my weight was healthy for my height and since I’ve never had an abnormal pap I am a fine 30-year-old female specimen. And even if I ended up having Endo, the best way to deal with it was to keep on birth control and take pain meds. Had I not known so much about the disease since I personally know SEVEN women effected by it, I probably would have believed him. However, Endo is an estrogen dominant disease. It is worsened by the presence of estrogen, which, if you know anything about birth control pills, they’re packed full of estrogen. So basically, if you have endometriosis, you’re aggravating it by being on a birth control that is estrogen heavy [ie: contraceptive pills]. And nobody wants to be on painkillers that do jack sh*t for that kind of pain.

You know what’s even worse about this whole scenario? This guy was the best doctor I could find out of all of the ones that were recommended to me and of all the lists of local docs that I went through. So this man, who claims to have an extensive knowledge of all sorts of female reproductive issues, completely shredded his credibility to me within a 30 minute conversation. If this guy is the best there is for me, am I just doomed? Do I trust this guy to get me to the finish line when I’m super pregnant? Will he reassure me and give me peace of mind if or when I feel like something’s off during pregnancy? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

And you know what else is frustrating? I’ve never had this issue with any other type of doctor. My GP, dermatologist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, naturopathic [yup, I’ve even seen one of those].. All of them listen intently and don’t interject or tell me I’m crazy when I question the health of my own body. And not to say that your general day-to-day health isn’t important, but why, why when it’s the one doctor that’s supposed to watch over your reproductive system and the process of building another life is it treated so haphazardly? This seems completely backwards to me.

This turned into a lengthy, venting post which I apologize for. I’ve just truly never been so frustrated with our healthcare system and doctors and how little they educate themselves after med school. And after taking Otis to our vet the evening before, who had just attended not one, but TWO, new seminars on new veterinary studies, I found myself wishing that she was my doctor. At least I know my dogs are getting the best possible care. As obsessed as I am with them, that definitely counts for something.

If any of you are local Sac ladies and have an OB recommendation for me, I am all ears! I am not going to just settle because this guy was the “best” I could find. There may have been someone I glanced over or missed, and I am willing to take the time and steps to find the absolute best doctor I possibly can! My future babies depend on it!


For those wondering, Endometriosis and PCOS [Polycystic Ovary Syndrome] are two reproductive disorders that can greatly hinder your chances at getting pregnant and/or carrying a baby full term. Endometriosis is a condition where your uterine tissue grows outside of your uterus. And when the female period happens once a month and that lining naturally sheds.. Yup, you guessed it! It sheds elsewhere inside the body, too, causing internal bleeding that has no chance of escape. If it sounds painful, it’s because it is. Endo effects at least 1 in 10 women, but the fact that I personally know 7 ladies who suffer from it leads me to believe it’s more common than we even know. If you want to read more about either or both, you can definitely Google them. I also recommend reading the two blogs I’ve listed below. One of them is my best friend who was diagnosed with Endo 11 years ago. Her blog is all about her journey and how she’s found her source of recovery [Endo is not curable, by the way]. The other blog is by another close friend of mine who developed Endo after she gave birth to her child via C-section. She was recently diagnosed within this last year. I’ll also list their Instagram profiles as well – they are both very open about their disease and their struggles and are more than willing to talk to anyone who has it or thinks they do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and is definitely, sadly, more common than we think!

Holistic Merbabe [IG: @holisticmerbabe]
Seashells and Sit-Ups [IG: @saltysweetseasons]

Up Before The Sun: How I Stay Motivated To Get My Morning Runs In

One of the best things about summer in Sacramento is the wonderfully long days. The earth is lit up from the early hour of roughly 5 am, until just about 9 pm. For a warm weather worshiper like myself, this means HEAVEN.

On the flipside, one of the worst things about summer in Sacramento is the oppressive heat [if you live in Sac, then you can totally relate to the god awful heat wave we just experienced a couple of weeks ago].

For me, there isn’t much else out there that’s harder to motivate myself for than working out. I am usually able to justify that I have much more important things to do in what little free time I do have than going to the gym or getting a yoga session in.

Which is why I have to get my butt outta bed and get my heart rate up at the beginning of my day. I mean, it’s not as if I’m going to get up and craft something at 5 am..

But seriously, I understand how difficult it is to climb out of bed much earlier than you actually have to be up for your workday. I am the queen of turning off my alarm, setting a new one, and going back to sleep for an hour-and-a-half.

So, then, where do I get my motivation? How is it that I’m able to get out of bed at 5 am, Monday through Friday, and run 3 to 5 miles [aside from wanting a bangin’ ass bod]?

Here are a few of my tips on how I light a fire under my ass every morning:

Don’t sleep in your workout clothes. In my own experience, already having the clothing on when I wake up doesn’t get me any more motivated to get up and make use of them. Instead, I lay my clothes out the night before – that way I am forced to get up, get out of bed, take my PJ’s off and put my workout clothes on, all the while getting my blood moving and slowly helping my body come awake. I even lay out my clothes in the guest room so that I’m not tempted to hop back in bed.

Train your mind to accept the new wake-up time. I know how difficult this is. Believe me. More often than not, my alarm goes off and I think wistfully of the extra hour of sleep I could get if I just stayed in bed this one day.. But I know my body, and I know myself. One more measly hour will actually make me feel worse instead of better. And once you’ve woken up early enough mornings in a row, your body will get accustomed to the routine, and actually begin to wake itself on its own. Just resign yourself to the fact that this is your life now – this is your schedule. Plus, once you get your workout done, you could potentially be done for the day! [Sidenote: having a dog that exercises with you is another helpful wake up tool. Bella is accustomed to our early schedule – at roughly five minutes to five, every morning, I hear her climb off the couch, shake her head, and come clattering to the end of the hallway to sit and whine until I get up. Hard to ignore, and a total guilt trip if I don’t at least exercise my poor doggy.]

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to stretch thoroughly before you exercise. I can’t stress this enough! I have had far too many injuries from not prepping my body correctly for a run. I am prone to weak ankles and also suffer from tight hips, which for a runner are a couple of doozies. When it’s really cold out I spend 15-30 seconds stretching each muscle that is impacted by running. It helps to wake my muscles and warm them up a bit. Supposedly we aren’t supposed to stretch until after we’ve done a warm up, but I know my body well enough to know what it needs – and it needs to be stretched before physical activity. [You should also stretch and/or foam roll after runs and workouts.]

Do some breathing exercises before you hit the pavement. This has helped me tremendously. Especially in the early days when I’m just getting back into running, whether I’ve taken a few months off or was forced to take a couple weeks off due to a cold or the flu. I always struggle the most with getting my lungs back into shape [they say it takes a full week to get your endurance back]. If I find myself gasping for air mid-run, I try and focus on getting back the control of my breath. Even though it’s extremely difficult, I force myself to breathe deeply while I run, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I find that filling the chest and the belly full of air, and then forcing it all out, really helps me to regain my endurance. I also suggest slowing your pace a bit. Since I run with Bella who always tugs me along a little bit, I tend to be unaware of how swiftly we are moving. Often times that is a contributor to why I get so short of breath.

Invest in some decent workout clothes! I cannot stress this enough. The last 15ish years I have been working out in scrubs – old cheer shorts, worn out t-shirts from soccer tournaments in my teens, or sorority shirts from my early twenties. Oh, and shoes that are so old that they’re coming apart at the soles. Nothing makes you feel crummier than throwing on old shit and trying to get motivated. I know workout clothes can be expensive these days. And I know how painful it is to have to spend money on something expensive that you’re just going to sweat in. But honestly, you feel SO much better about yourself if you feel good in what you’re wearing. It’s such a silly concept but for me it’s proven to be true. I am always replenishing my supply, and I definitely always ensure that my shoes are up-to-date and are going to provide me with proper support. For those of you who think it’s “cool” to wear Chucks [Converse] to the gym – it’s not!! You NEED more support than that, even if you’re just pumping iron or doing low impact cardio. I go to Fleet Feet to get my shoes – they fit you for runners according to how you walk and stand and how narrow or wide your feet are. [Sidenote: because athleisure is such a “thing” now, so many stores are carrying athletic apparel. Target actually has some great clothes for a reasonable cost.]

Purchase a fitness watch of some sort. I am an Apple consumer through-and-through, so I, myself, am an Apple Watch wearer. FitBits are great, too – my fiancé wears one. Honestly, just getting a product that keeps track of your steps, your distance, and your calories burned is a game-changer. It’s amazing how motivating it is to be able to look down at your wrist and see your progress for the day. One of my favorite features of the Apple Watch is the ability to share your activities with other Apple Watch wearers [I believe FitBit offers a similar feature, as well]. So, not only can I track my own progress, but I can see how my friends are doing, too. My best friend, for example, burns anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories A DAY. Every time I get a ping on my watch that she’s completed another workout, it makes me want to hop out of my desk chair and do the same.

Let’s be honest – everybody is different. Obviously not everyone will be able to get up and work out before work or school or whatever it is that fills your days. BUT, if you’re like me and just need a little push in the right direction, the above are what have helped me to semi stay on track with my workouts. Find what works for you and stick to it as much as you can. And don’t forget that it’s completely okay to have off days. Yesterday I was too sore from Tuesday’s five miler and a booty workout to go for a run, so I just let my body have a rest day. And I felt great and ready to go today! Again, whatever works for YOU and your body.

Diet + Exercise. They’re Just Four [And Eight] Letter Words.

You know those people who just absolutely love working out? Like, they freak out if they don’t get a workout in every single day? They hit several group workout classes a week, they do cardio every day, plus they go to the gym and do strength training.

Yeah, I’m definitely NOT one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love to run. It’s very therapeutic in the sense that it burns extra energy and allows me to get my head on straight [writer’s mind makes you a little extra loco at times]. The actual physical act of running, though? So not my fav.

I truly envy those of you out there who have such a passion for working out. I have honestly made a solid effort to become one. I commit to these workout challenges [Tone It Up, for those females out there that are interested – actually love their programs, the timing of them just never works well with my life], I set my alarm to run before work. I’ve even been seeing a personal trainer since February [MAPT Fitness, for those fit folk out there who want an awesome trainer who acts like your brother and best friend and doesn’t treat sessions like freakin’ bootcamp – if I wanted to join the military I would have] to try and make a habit out of working out. And literally NONE of it works for me. I get so burnt out, and life gets in the way.

I’m also not somebody who can commit to eating healthy for every meal, every single day. To be completely honest, trying to work out and worry about what I’m putting into my body is freakin’ EXHAUSTING. It’s a full-time job [maybe this is why people hire other people to do it for them – personal trainers, dietitians..]. I, for one, do not have the time or energy to put into meal prepping and planning workouts every day.

Let’s be real for a sec. Does anybody actually believe that your body will be absolutely RUINED if you have “cheat” meals, cocktails, miss a workout, etc? You guys, you will be FINE. And look, I get it – I know exercise and nutrition are super important. Especially in this day and age with all the genetically modified food that’s sold at our grocery stores, and how polluted our earth has become. I totally get it. But we only get one life! We can’t be so obsessed with these two things that we forget to just enjoy living.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a meal, overeat, eat poorly. Don’t feel guilty for needing more sleep one morning instead of going for a run. In this day and age, it’s all about enjoying the little things in life. Indulge yourself. We get so caught up in keeping up with the Jones’, pushing ourselves to be the best that we can, spreading ourselves too thin because we have mortgages, utility bills, car payments, children, pets.. Give yourself the okay to let your guard down every once in a while. A weekend [or even a week!] off from your obsessions won’t kill you.

For some people, I think there’s a fear that if they step off track for even one second they will fall off whatever wagon they’re on. And THAT is unhealthy. Using exercise and nutrition as a crutch for other things in your life is not good, and if you are one of these people then you desperately need a vacation far away from your daily life. Like, STAT!

You guys, I am obviously by absolutely no means a professional at anything I talk about on my blog, especially diet and nutrition [seeing as I literally just stated that I cannot stick to either one for very long]. But, that said, I do wholeheartedly believe in doing things that are good for you. I believe it’s healthy to unwind, put your walls down, indulge, relax – I’m sure you work hard, so spend some of that well earned cash on a weekend away. YOU DESERVE IT!

As Donna and Tom would say, “Treat yo’ self!” [Parks and Rec – if you haven’t watched it, it’s on Netflix, and it’s hilarious].

Organic Antidotes

There few things I despise more in life than needing medication to feel better.

Truly. I don’t believe that there’s ANYTHING good in pharmaceuticals. Just because something seems to help.. Well, it’s probably just masking your symptoms with something horrendously bad for your body.

I don’t even like to take over-the-counter pain pills like Advil – mainly because they never seem to actually work, but also because it’s a drug and a foreign entity to the body.

I get that there are some things that we need medication for. Certain infections, for example, require antibiotics. I totally get that! And I strongly suggest medication for those types of health issues [because, honestly, to my knowledge, there really isn’t anything else that will make an infection go away].

A few months ago I started getting migraines. For the first time in my life! Now, as far as migraines go, I’m pretty positive that they are mild compared to what some of my friends have struggled through. I definitely haven’t seen spots, or been bedridden, or felt nauseous [some people actually get sick!]. No, mine have been relatively manageable. But they’re bad enough that the pain is distracting and keeps me from concentrating on work and keeps me from being able to work out.

Since I’ve never gotten migraines before, I found it odd that they came on so suddenly almost the moment I turned 29. So I delved a little bit in to my memory bank and tried to pinpoint what exactly may have triggered them.

After wracking my brain, I finally attributed the migraines to stress. Which, funnily enough, I haven’t been managing well at all the last several months. Imagine that.

I relayed my symptoms to a girlfriend of mine who had been having similar symptoms a year or so before. “Oh, just take a Xanax. That always calms my mind down.” I was so freaked out by the thought of taking it that I immediately nixed the idea without even a consideration. There had to be another way.

And that’s when I stumbled across the idea of acupuncture.

It actually just so happened that my boyfriend had started going to a masseuse shortly before I decided I couldn’t handle the stress or migraines anymore. We were lying in bed one Saturday morning, and he was in so much back and hip pain [he’s a chef so he stands for 12-15 hours every day] that he could barely get out of bed. I told him he needed a massage, and he said, “I need something that isn’t just a regular massage.” So I Yelped it, found a place, and booked him an appointment for that Monday.

Post massage, he had almost no more back pain, and had already booked an appointment for the next month to have his masseuse work on his hips. I went to check out the place online to see if maybe I should get a massage there, and that’s when I saw that they also offered acupuncture. And when I saw that they treat headaches, stress and anxiety, I knew I had to try it.

I had no expectations going into my first appointment. I know people that have had acupuncture [my boss, my best friend, my dad], but nobody can really tell you what to expect. Looking back, it’s probably best that I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no reason to have any fear [although, I did have a little – my entire life I’ve had a horrendous fear of needles (I was 18 when I finally got my ears pierced)]. I did have excitement, but that was in the hope that acupuncture would help relieve my stress and headaches.

One of the things that I liked about my acupuncturist prior to meeting her was that, not only did she have an education in Chinese Healing [more specifically, acupuncture], but she also earned a business degree from UCSB. For me, that was a solidification in my mind that she actually knew what she was doing [oddly enough, because I don’t have a degree myself].

When I arrived at my appointment, I had to fill out a first time client questionnaire and health history survey [pretty standard for any doctor’s office]. Once completed, we sat down for a consultation – she asked me questions more specifically regarding what I had marked on my survey, and also inquired as to what may have triggered the migraines and stress [lifestyle, events, etc.]. She suggested cutting out caffeine, as that may be contributing to the anxiety and the headaches.

Once the consultation was over, it was time for the treatment. I got settled on my back on a table similar to that of a massage table, comfortably adorned with a soft “mattress” and pillow, and a prop to go underneath my knees. She wiped down several parts of my body with a cleanser, and then she began inserting the needles. She warned that there may be a quick pressure but that after the initial pin prick, I should feel no pain. Once she had completed with the needles, we did a breathing exercise to help relax me, and then she turned a heat lamp on over my feet, dimmed the lights, said, “I’ll see you in 25 minutes,” and left me be.

I honestly don’t know how to describe the feeling your body gets during acupuncture. I know that it’s different for everyone – some are more sensitive to it than others. For me, I became so relaxed that I felt like my body was melting off of the table. I found that I was unable to lift my legs [nor did I want to]. I had zero control over my body and my limbs. I could actually feel my blood shifting and moving inside my body; I could feel the pressure of stress being moved upwards through my body and out at my head. Odd, yes, but even more so, relieving.

Before I knew it, the 25 minutes were up. She gently plucked the needles out of my body, scheduled me to come back a week later, and sent me on my way.

Three weeks later, and my stress and headaches are still at bay. I did as she suggested and cut out caffeine, which, much to my surprise, has helped me to feel so much better! I no longer get energy crashes in the afternoon, I don’t find myself getting overly worked up at stupid things – I’m sure some of that is coffee-related, but I like to believe a lot of it has to do with my body getting its balance back.

I know acupuncture may not be for everyone, but if you have ailments and haven’t tried it yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. I can truly say that it has helped me and has changed my health for the better.

Fit Tip Tuesday

There is nothing like a three-day holiday weekend when you’re taking a break from alcohol to get you motivated to get back in the gym.

Until recently, a sunny, 75-degree weekend would most likely always lead me to a mimosa brunch followed by a booze-filled day of drinking. Fun, right?!

And then a ridiculously rough day back at work following said bender. This part = not so fun.

It wasn’t until I actually rang in this new year sober that I realized that I really didn’t want to waste my two precious days off every week muddling my brain and wasting away anymore.

Not to totally hate on day drinking and having fun – I think it’s fine, or, rather, necessary to let loose every once in a while. Sow some wild oats and all that.

BUT, I also believe that there are other, healthier ways to let loose on a more frequent basis.

I realize it’s a bit hypocritical of me to start blabbing about the importance of exercise when I literally just got back into it after taking several months off [truth: honestly can’t remember the last time I went to the gym – it’s been years, at least].

However, that said, now that I’m back into the full swing of things, I’m becoming what some may refer to as a gym rat. Or maybe not necessarily a gym rat, but exercise and staying fit has become very important to my routine. And, actually, it’s something that is important, nay, VITAL to Miss Bella’s routine, as well.

So why the three-day weekend as the starting point [or any weekend, really]? Most would consider a weekend the worst time to start a new system. Generally, we’ll pick a Monday to add a new regimen of some sort. First official day of the work week – it just makes sense in our minds to add something else we aren’t all that thrilled about to an already scheduled day. Well, I already had to suffer through an eight-hour day at the office, might as well schlep my ass to the gym.

With that kind of mindset, that is absolutely not the right time to add fitness to your daily routine.

Exercise produces natural endorphins, but it’s hard to appreciate those endorphins when our brains aren’t looking forward to the task of obtaining them.

With nothing but free time and gorgeous weather on my hands, I felt that this last weekend was the perfect opportunity to boost my exercise regime. Bella and I started every day with a run [I’ve been tracking my progress with MapMyRun – love this app for those of you who are trying to get into running! It keeps you motivated.. I am always trying to beat my previous distance and time], and then cooled down the morning with a little hike on a trail close by. I found myself bored to tears mid-afternoon, and thought, What better time to go to the gym than now?

Truly, the best time to go if you’re trying to get back into it is on the weekend in the middle of the day. There is nobody there. I literally had the place to myself, which was wonderful. For me, there is literally nothing worse than going to the gym at six pm. Aka social hour. No, I am actually not here to work out my vocal chords. My hair is up, I’m sweating and I have no make up on – I MEAN BUSINESS, PEOPLE. #sorrynotsorry

If you’re worried about cost, shop around a bit. I go to Crunch [a) because it’s right across the street from my apartment, and b) because it’s only $10 – that includes classes – and all of the machines are brand spanking new!] Just because a gym is inexpensive doesn’t mean you’re getting what you pay for.

If you just hate how meticulous the gym can be, try something else like OrangeTheory or The Dailey Method.

OR, if you’re really against spending money to get fit, GET OUTSIDE. Outdoor fitness is FREE! Running, cycling, yoga, SUP. And the best part about all of that is that you get to be outdoors. You really can’t beat that. Not in my mind, at least.

Terminal Velocity

Since returning home from my five day trip to San Diego, I have made it a goal to exercise every single day. And it’s been much easier than I anticipated it to be.

In the past, when I’ve tried to build up an exercise regime, I have failed. Miserably. I’ve tried running in the morning before work or school, I’ve tried going to the gym in the evenings – nothing has ever stuck. And 100% of it had to do with me and my mind. How much did being healthy and in shape matter to me?

It didn’t. Not really.

Until now.

At 28-years-old, I know I am extremely lucky and blessed to still have my slender body type – and it’s no thanks to the amount of garbage I put in my body. I absolutely love food, and I’m very fortunate to have no allergies to it [well, none that I’m aware of]. I put anything and everything into my body, and I just hope and pray that I won’t blow up like a balloon. And my justification for all of this is, “Well look at that oversized human over there, at least I don’t look like that.”

This, by the way, is horrible logic. Just because somebody else doesn’t have a beanpole body type doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Several of my family members struggle with thyroid disease and other reproductive diseases that make it almost impossible to keep weight off.

So to whom or what do I attribute my recent success at keeping a steady workout schedule?

Myself. My brain. My willpower.

Spending five days in San Diego really was exactly what I needed to get my motivation back. And I can’t actually say that it was the location, per se – I honestly think I just needed a break from the mundane reality I had come to know. Wake up – go to work – come home – take the dog out – come home – shower – eat – sleep. Repeat.

GODDDDDD. I’m bored to tears just thinking about it.

For me, the hardest thing about exercising has always been cardio. I have no problem doing lunges and weights and ab work – anything muscle building has never been an issue. I love the burn and I love the soreness that comes afterward. But cardio has always been the bane of my existence. So when I decided that I wanted to be more fit and start exercising more, I knew that I had to nip this little cardio problem in the bud.

I heard something on the radio the other morning – the DJs were talking about runners, and how some ridiculously high percentage of them, when surveyed, said that the only thing they think about while they run is how much they hate running. After hearing that, I realized that I have always been one of those people – I go for a run because I have to, not because I enjoy it in any way. I mean, who actually likes to pound pavement and sweat and be gasping desperately for oxygen? And all the while you’re trying to tell yourself, “You can do it. Run to that tree and then you can stop. Fuck. Okay, stop now. You’re not going to make it to the tree. At least you made it this far. Running sucks..” Yes. I know you are familiar with that inner dialogue.

So what was the difference for me this time around?

I think my issue in the past is that I have always made running [or cardio in general] about what it’s doing for my body physically. It’s shedding pounds, it’s getting me in shape. It’s making me healthy.

But what I’ve never noticed before, until now, is what it does for my mind.

When you run for the physical aspect, it’s a thousand times more difficult to get out of your own way. Your mind is going a million miles a minute, you can’t stop thinking about how taxing this is on your body, how much you hate this feeling and how much it sucks. But when you run to let off steam or to take the edge off of a rough day, THAT is when you will finally find some sort of release. That is when you will actually enjoy what cardio does for you.

On weekdays, my workouts happen in the evenings after I get off work. I’ve tried to get up before work and just get it out of the way, but I cherish a little bit of extra sleep in the morning when I don’t have to be up to get work done. And yes, the afternoons in Sac are hot, and yes sometimes I think that the last thing I want to do is go for a run after a stressful day at the office. But that’s exactly why enjoy it now – when I’m stressed at work, I can 100% count on running myself ragged on the road to bring me back to a calm state of mind.

This morning I set off on my run with both my dogs [Miss Roca is staying with me while she goes through her biannual heat cycle]. And I was eager to get my workout done so I could start my day. I woke up on the right side of the bed – I had the whole day ahead of me to do some shopping and get my errands done. I had plans to see a friend that I haven’t seen in a few weeks. And then literally two minutes into my run, the goddamn sidewalk jumped up, grabbed my foot, and sent me crashing and skidding across the ground. Nothing like throwing a wrench in my good mood. And at that point I had every intention of turning right around and stomping back to my apartment, but I took one look at my dogs and thought, “Fuck it. They need the exercise, and now I’m downright angry that this just happened.” And so I spent the next five miles running off every last ounce of stress and anxiety that I had accumulated in that split second of tripping and falling.

And it felt amazing.

I spent FIVE MILES out of my mind. Five miles just pushing myself because the anger hadn’t quite left my body yet. Five miles – and, upon returning to the apartment, I wasn’t even winded. The dogs were dragging behind me, and I probably could have run another five more. And not even for a moment did I have a single one of those “You’re almost there, just make it to that stop sign” thoughts.

And that, for me is a huge accomplishment.

The one thing I did think about, however, is that cardio, for me is, almost like terminal velocity. Once you hit a certain point, you’re no longer gasping for air, your muscles aren’t aching and tight with underuse. It just feels right. And it almost gets easy. Almost.

I can honestly and truly say that the only only ONLY thing standing in your way is you. And that goes for anything. We are all so in our minds all the time that we forget to just be. And I can truthfully say that if I am able to get to this place where I actually enjoy cardio, then you definitely can, too.

My advice to all of you, if you’re trying to find the motivation to get started on something, use what irritates you or angers your as a starting point. Make the upset into something positive – running off the anger instead of sitting at home and stewing about it. Let the exercise be your therapy.

Free your mind, and the rest will follow.