Recently we’ve been hearing a lot about harmful ingredients in health and beauty products. Many of us listen but dismiss this. We shouldn’t be. Every day we expose ourselves to potential toxins, chemicals, and harmful ingredients. Many of the products sitting in your bathrooms right now have the potential to negatively impact your health and the health of your family.
In a recent study from the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University, 100 Latina girls between the ages of 14 to 18 stopped using their regular health and beauty products for three days. Instead they used products free of suspected endocrine disruptors such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and benzophenone-3 (BP-3).
Both pre and post intervetion urine was measured for the suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals. After 3 days, the girls urine was tested again for levels of phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and benzophenone-3 (BP-3, all ingredients found in many health and beauty products.
The results showed decreases of these ingredients in their urine after only three days of replacing conventional products with products free of these ingredients:
43.9 percent down in levels of methyl and propyl paraben. Parabens are preservatives widely used in many cosmetics, shampoo, and lotion.
35.7 percent down in triclosan. This is an antibacterial chemical that is common in liquid antibacterial hand soap, dish-washing detergent, toothpaste, face wash and deodorant. Triclosan has been linked to the disruption of thyroid and reproductive hormones in animal studies and has been found in human breast milk, blood, and urine (Triclosan, 2010).
27.4 percent down in mono-ethyl phthalates. Phthalates, common industrial plasticizers, are present in some nail polish and fragrances.
Source: Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure, 2016
This is why I’m so passionate about educating others about what is in their products.
This does not only affect teenage girls, this affects all of us.
Women on average use 10 to 12 different health and beauty products daily on our biggest organ, our skin. This means we are potentially exposing ourselves to 168 different chemicals each day.
Parabens have been shown to be oestrogenic, having an effect on female hormones, and have been detected in human breast tumor tissue (Endocrine, 2004). Phthalic acid esters (PAEs), used in a wide range of products, have been shown to adversely affect male reproduction and potentially affect fetal development (Potential Adverse Effects, 2007). Phthalates have been shown to possibly affect pregnancy outcome, puberty, respiratory health, and neuro-development (Exposure to Phthalates, 2011).
Each product we use has the potential to adversely affect our health since the U.S. does not have major regulations to ensure ingredient or product safety in the same ways other countries do. The United States has only banned 11 ingredients to date in personal care products, while the European Union has banned or restricted over 1,300 ingredients.
This concerns me. But it doesn’t mean I’m helpless to make changes for myself or my family. There are things you can do.
So what can we do?
Start replacing the products you use everyday with safer alternatives. This can be done in several ways. Using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database you can search more than 60,000 products for their potential impact and get tips for what to look for in safer products.
You can also purchase products from companies that care about safer products and have taken it as their mission to carefully select products.
Some of my favorite safer companies for health and beauty products:
Beautycounter who has banned more than 1,500 ingredients in order to set a new standard for health and safety without sacrificing performance. Beautycounter has a full line of make-up in addition to offering skin care, bath and body products, sun protection, plus a kids and baby collection. Most Beautycounter products are nut and soy free, and they are all gluten free.
Fatco (formerly FatFace) uses pressed plant oils and tallow from grass fed-cows (full of nourishing vitamins A, D, E, and K) in their products. The use of tallow promotes head-to-tail use of the whole animal. FatCo has not only my favorite deodorant Stank Stop, they have body and baby butta, cleansing oil, toner and more.
Primal Life Organics carries chemical free skin care including my favorite toothpowder and a wide range of personal care and beauty products.
Primal Pit Paste for not only deodorant put PoPo Body Powder (you know for the ‘boys’).
Full disclosure: I am a consultant for Beautycounter and participate in the affiliate program for FatCo. So yes, I do get paid if you use my links to purchase products from their sites. However, I became a consultant and an affiliate because I used the products first and fell in love with not only how well they performed but the mission behind each company. They are at the top of my list because they are my personal favorites and the ones that I order from the most for myself and my family. This is why I recommend them to you and use their products to educate others on what was discussed in this post, the potential harm from using conventional products with questionable ingredients. I believe in safer products and education to help shift the health of everyone.
Banned in Europe, Safe in the US. (2014). Retrieved from http://ensia.com/features/banned-in-europe-safe-in-the-u-s/
Endocrine disrupters and human health: could oestrogenic chemicals in body care cosmetics adversely affect breast cancer incidence in women? (2004). Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.978/abstract;jsessionid=5D238C0A8EACE76116477E348728C529.f02t03
Exposure to phthalates: Reproductive outcome and children health. A review of epidemiological studies. (2011). Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.2478/s13382-011-0022-2
International Laws, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/
Potential adverse effects of phthalic acid esters on human health: A review of recent studies on reproduction. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230007001316
Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study. (2016). Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/15-10514/
I lost over 100 pounds but always felt like I needed to lose more. I cut carbs out and would stress over everything I ate, feeling guilty when I had carbs or like a failure if I indulged. I didn’t see what others saw when I looked in the mirror.
I worked out two to three times a day. Getting up at 3 AM for a run and lifting before work and then lifting again after work. Often going for a second run in the evening. I was logging 6 to 10 miles a day running plus hundreds of pounds lifted in weights each day. Everyday. I pushed my body to the limit and I still wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like I needed to do more.
Gradually I came to accept the achievements I had made. I began to enjoy my food and not feeling guilty for eating carbs, because I NEEDED them. We all do. I stopped working out 7 days a week and only going to the gym once a day. Granted injuring my PCL last year, hello overdoing it, pushed me to rest more than I would have otherwise, but I did start taking rest days.
Yes. I gained weight. But not the fat I carried around before. I gained muscle. I started to appreciate my body for the journey it’s been through and how strong I was becoming. I’m in a much healthier place now than I was before. I still struggle at times when I see a photo I don’t like or clothes don’t fit a certain way. But I’m nicer to myself.
I focus on whole nutritious foods, including carbs. Balancing work and workouts. Building a strong base and foundation of strength. Rest and activity. Stress relief through favorite activities such as reading, taking an epsom salt bath, going for a walk, meditation, and laughter. I no longer focus on food or let it rule my life.
We expect life after weight loss to be magical and that if we just get to a certain point… but it’s not like that. There is a lot more to life, health, and our bodies than numbers on a scale.
You’ve never seen anyone eat a popsicle so slowly until you’ve seen my little sister eat a popsicle. Being the oldest I occasionally got to stay up late and watch T.V. with Mom before I had to go to bed, especially in the summer time. Before I could hang out late watching cool T.V. my little sister was told to finish her popsicle, then go to bed. It would take her a lifetime to slowly and meticulously savor that popsicle until I just wanted to scream. I mean I had shows to watch. Cool cable shows that I only got to watch with Mom if my sister was in bed. Shows that you couldn’t watch whenever you wanted because you recorded them on your DVR. No, you had to watch it when it was on or you missed it. But there was my cute blonde haired blue eyed innocent looking sister eating her popsicle slower than a snail. It always tested my limited patience.
Not all my summertime popsicle memories involve getting frustrated with my sister, but they all involve her. Every summer time involved popsicle breaks of some kind in between hours spent playing outside together. We’d often take a break from playing outside to get into the garage fridge for an otter pop. Savoring the tongue staining coldness of that that sickly sweet pop with the mouth cutting plastic wrapper. Or we’d chase down the ice cream truck so I could get an ice cream sandwich and a cherry and pineapple swirl popsicle while my sister got the more expensive whatever crazy cartoon popsicle they had at the time.
When we were older our popsicle tastes got a little more refined. The town we lived in at the time had a teeny tiny shop that sold paletas (Mexican ice pops) in every imaginable flavor and then some. I’m not even sure how we found the shop to begin with. It didn’t have much in the way of signage and it was off the main drive in an area we didn’t normally frequent. Every time I drove near that store, and sometimes I drove us there just to get a paleta, we’d go inside. I loved that place. One of my favorite flavors was a cantaloupe paleta which I used as inspiration for this recipe. My sister often ordered a watermelon flavor that will be featured in an upcoming post. Even though we had moved on to more sophisticated flavors, that sister of mine still ate her frozen treat so slowly I was always surprised it was still frozen by the time she got to the last bite. She still eats her frozen treats that way. In contrast, I inhale mine.
I used a popsicle mold from Williams and Sonoma to make the popsicles in this recipe. Amazon has a nearly identical mold that would work wonderfully. The trick to getting the pops out once frozen is to run warm water over the outside of the mold for a few seconds, then they pull right out. You could also use Zoku Classic Pop Molds or a Zoku Quick Pop Maker to make this recipe or any other popsicle recipe.
Sustainability, Stress, and Abs or What I Took Away from Paleo f(x)
It’s difficult to write a blog post when a large purring orange cat is curled up on your arms and partially on your computer, but it’s even more difficult to write a blog post when you are still overflowing with information and processing it all. Paleo f(x), if you are unfamiliar with it, is a 3 day conference in Austin Texas covering all aspects of health from nutrition, to movement, to products.This year was my first year attending, and I was blown away by the impact the event had on me. There was an expo floor where I got to meet some of the amazing people behind my favorite companies and learn more about other products. Cooking demos and presentations by authors, bloggers, health professionals, and more were on-going all three days, it was often hard to decide which presentation to attend because there were so many amazing topics. With only 5 minutes between presentations it was often a mad dash to get to the next one. I attended workshops where I learned about training using biofeedback with Jen Sinkler and David Dellanave, plant medicine for the mind with Mike Bledsoe and Doug Larsen from Barbell Shrugged, and speed under the barbell with Dutch Lowy . I even got to briefly share a barbell with Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo and Stacy from Paleo Parents, both amazing women I respect greatly who help to encourage strong female lifters. I even got to be there and cheer on Nicole from Merit + Fork as she attempted her first barbell cleans. I had an amazing inspiring chat with other 21 Day Sugar Detox coaches, Diane Sanfilippo, and her team. And that isn’t even getting to the tip of the iceberg on other experiences.
My overall takeaways from the weekend were a focus on reducing stress, the effects stress has on our every day lives, and sustainability is greater than abs. I learned about many applicable topics such as anabolic windows, carbohydrate timing, using real food to fuel for athletic activities, who a ketogenic diet may help and who it may be detrimental for, food and autoimmunity, and stress reduction. I came away feeling like I was hungover with information but so inspired to get back home to put everything in use for myself, family, and clients.
Oh, about those abs! Visible abs are such a sought after ideal that there are billions of dollars spent in the health and fitness industry to attempt to achieve them. Just watch television late at night or early in the morning for evidence. Most of the information shilled is false, if it were that easy or true everyone would have abs. It’s not always healthy to obtain those abs either at the cost of what else is sacrificed, such as hormonal health for women. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the idea of having visible abs myself, but the reality is it’s not possible for every man or woman to reach that ideal. And that is okay! Overall health and being at the right body proportions for your own body is more important. I do know people that have those visible abs and they have genetics on their side. In other words sustainability is greater than abs!
Overall Paleo f(x) was a whirlwind of activity that I hope to never forget. I’m already looking forward to next year for Paleo f(x) 2016!
Feeding our bodies is one of the most important things we do every single day, multiple times a day. As important as this is, there isn’t one way to nourish ourselves that works for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another person. Although there are many basics nearly anyone can incorporate, it’s important for each of us to find our own path to how we best nourish to fuel. Taking into account many things, such as body composition, goals, athletic performance, allergies, food intolerances, health, you name it. Each journey is our own, but we can learn a lot from others and how they fuel their bodies. In the first of a new series, the “Nourish Interview Series”, I interviewed Chelsea Nicholas an Engineer, CrossFit NW Regionals Athlete, and awesome woman to welcome in the CrossFit 2015 Open and this exciting new series on how an individual uses nutrition to reach their goals! Over the course of the next couple weeks you’ll hear from other CrossFit regionals athletes (including one athlete who was just signed to the NPGL Grid league) as the series continues.
Let’s get started and hear about Chelsea and her nutrition!
Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally and athletically?
My name is Chelsea Nicholas. I’m 27 years old. I grew up in Bothell, WA. I’ve always been busy with sports including gymnastics, cross-country and track and field. I earned a BS and MS in Civil Engineering at Washington State University, where I pole-vaulted on the Track and Field team for my first two years. After graduation I started working as a Structural Analysis Engineer at Boeing (December 2011). Right around this time I also found CrossFit.
What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?
After competing on a team at the North West Regionals CrossFit competition last year, I decided I wanted to start competing as an individual to see how far I can go with the sport. I hired a coach to design my programming and have been working with her the last 9 months or so putting in 15+ hours a week. I have countless goals that vary in magnitude and depth. The main goal I have been working towards this year is qualifying for regionals as an individual. Day to day I’m also chasing personal records (PRs) in various lifts and common workouts such as a 300 lb back squat. I like to have something to train for. CrossFit is an exciting sport to participate in because everything is measurable; you can literally track your fitness. I think that’s why a lot of people fall in love with it so quickly.
What motivates you?
Initially my motivation for getting to the gym was purely aesthetics; I wanted to look good. At some point I realized that everyone has a different idea of what it means to look good and you get a lot more satisfaction if you focus on performance. That’s when I stopped “working out” and started “training.” I try to be my own motivation. The only person you should worry about impressing is yourself.
Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.
My perception of healthy eating has evolved so much over the years and I’m sure it will continue to change. It’s all about something you can sustain and enjoy every day that keeps you energized and fueled for training. Nutrition is very personal and you have to find what works for you.
How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?
I use nutrition to energize, recover, and heal. It absolutely affects performance and if I want to reach my goals I need to plan/track my nutrition (and sleep) very closely. If you are eating right you will feel happier, healthier, stronger, more powerful, and ready to attack your workouts. This means eating enough of the right things at the right times.
How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?
Nutrition is essential to reaching my goals. If I want to maximize performance and uncover my full potential then I can’t ignore it. They go hand in hand.
Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?
I started paying closer attention to nutrition about a year and a half ago. At the time I was still working out because I wanted to look good; I cared more about the weight of my body than the weight of my barbell. I started tracking my food to control calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) but was not as concerned about what foods I was eating. I set my goal numbers using a calorie distribution of 30/40/30 for protein/carbs/fat. Wanting to lose a few pounds I set daily calorie intake too low. This was effective for losing a little weight but it came at a price; I was not enjoying my time at the gym and it was completely exhausting! Ultimately it was not sustainable and at some point I stopped counting. From this initial food tracking experience I developed a concept of how many macros are in different foods. I learned that I tend to be low on protein and high on fat if I don’t pay attention. With this in mind I tried to consume more protein and continued eating what seemed healthy and training hard. When I hired my coach 9 months ago she set some new macros for me. They followed the same calorie distribution, but with protein set at my body weight which ends up being right around 2000 calories a day. This was great for a while, my body weight stayed the same and I continued making gains in the gym. Several months later my workouts were getting longer and I reached a point where my muscles would fatigue before my lungs gave out. At this time we added an extra 100g of carbs post workout to ensure my muscles are properly nourished. I don’t eat the extra 100g of carbs every day, but I can tell if I am going to need them based on the types of workouts I see in my training week and how I am feeling. It’s nice to be in a place where you know your body and what it needs to perform at its best.
When it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid I’m still experimenting. When I find things I like that are easy to prep for the week, I stick with them. I don’t have any food allergies so I was never too worried about cuttings things out of my diet. Then about two months ago I had a weightlifting accident…I won’t tell the full story because I don’t want anyone thinking CrossFit is careless or dangerous but I tore the ulnar collateral ligament in my right elbow more than 50%. Right after the injury my coach had me cut out all wheat, dairy, and sugar from my diet to help with inflammation. I also doubled my fish oil and started taking tart cherry concentrate. Cutting these things out of my diet was surprisingly easy with the mindset that it would speed up my recovery. It’s been a frustrating yet amazing process. Your body can be extremely resilient if you treat it right. I plan to continue with the new restrictions. The only thing I really miss is ice cream and that can still be a rare treat.
How did you eat before finding what works for you? Did you pay attention to what you ate? How did that affect your training?
Everyone has their own notion of healthy eating and there are different levels. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who eats healthy, but my definition of the word is constantly evolving. Before I started tracking my food and reading labels I think my diet was probably low in protein and high in fat. I did not cut any food groups from my diet and I did not pay attention to the timing of my carbs. I am not the same athlete I was a year and a half ago. Knowing how to feed your body is a game changer.
What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule, when do you typically eat?
I will include a sample of my meals for one day but basically I try to hit 150g protein, 200g carbs and 60g fat each day. The only real timing rule I have is eating carbs immediately post workout. This is for recovery; I also try to put in more carbs at night after I train. I like to start my day with protein and fat because it keeps me feeling full longer; my favorite lately is 4oz ground bison with 2 eggs. It seems like most of my calorie intake is in the beginning of the day, but most of my carbs are consumed closer to the end of the day.
Do you count macros? Why or why not?
Yes I do. I developed an excel spreadsheet with a database of all the foods I like to eat so I can plan my meals. I have a scale in my kitchen to weigh out portions. It’s not every meal, every day, all the time, but enough to know I’m getting enough of the right things. When I don’t count I tend to fall short on protein and carbs and I pay for it at the gym.
What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?
I always keep little packets of baby food in my gym bag. Mostly things like sweet potatoes and bananas. They are easy to eat, simple, and about 20g of carbs. After workouts I usually have some kind of post-workout drink like Progenex Recovery, Afterglow, or Revive Rx Recovery. These are all powders you mix with water and have roughly a 2/1 carb/protein ratio. This is all for ease and consistency. When I get home from the gym it’s always something like 150g sweet potatoes with more protein.
Do you plan your meals in advance? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?
I do plan my meals, in a way. On Sundays I go grocery shopping and meal prep. By “meal prep” what I mean is I cook all the foods I bought so they are ready to portion out and eat through the week. I have all my meat and potatoes cooked and veggies chopped. It makes the week a lot easier and it still leaves room for some flexibility. I have an off day from the gym mid-week and this is an opportunity for me to try a new recipe or something different. I have it easy since the only person I’m planning meals for is myself. This method works great for my lifestyle. For others, try to sit down and outline what a perfect couple days would look like before you head to the grocery store then prepare food accordingly. It’s nothing fancy but it is efficient and effective.
What is your favorite treat meal?
On Sunday mornings I go to Whole Foods for breakfast with my sister. Usually we get bacon and eggs but every now and then we’ll get biscuits and gravy. This breaks a couple of my rules but that’s why it’s called a treat. I’m lucky to be one of those people who actually enjoy simple foods. When people ask me what my favorite meal is I always say steak salad. I’d pick that over biscuits and gravy any day.
What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?
You have to find something that you can maintain and that means DO NOT starve yourself. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt because everyone is a little different. Find things you like to eat that fit your own personal guidelines for healthy eating and experiment to find what works best for you and your goals. A good starting point is to track your food for a week and find out about how many calories you consume in a day. From there you can try redistributing your macros to fit the 30/40/30 calorie distribution of protein/carbs/fat based on your current calorie intake. Make adjustments from there based on how you feel and how you weigh in.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
We all have this vision of who we want to be and where we want to end up. But how do you know when you get there? What do you do IF you get there?? You’re not going to go back to your old ways and feel satisfied for the rest of your life; that would be completely unfulfilling. You have to learn to love the process because the process is your life.