On January 3rd this year, I decided to go alcohol-free for 40 days. I was going to be in Indian the first week of February, and it felt like a good time to experiment.
I’ve always had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I enjoy good wine, get excited about special cocktails, and appreciate a craft beer. And while in general I wasn’t drinking heavily, I did notice that between Happy Hours, date nights, and the occasional night cap, I was having a drink more than I realized – often 4-5 nights per week.
I take care of my body well, and hangovers were few and far between, but I still wondered: would cutting alcohol out for an extended period of time significantly alter my happiness, health, or well-being?
And so I did it. 40 days, no alcohol. Here’s what happened.
As the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer come to an end, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy delicious summer flavors.
This year, I revived an old favorite recipe for a watermelon mint tonic that is just the best. It’s tangy, sweet, and refreshing.
I’ve had my moments where I’ve thought that in order to be successful, I need to act alone. I’m the queen of self-reliance, and I know that I have a hard time asking for help.
However, last January, I heard the impeccable Madame Gandhi speak at an event thrown by WORN. She talked about how “the future is female,” and that she envisions a world that is “linked not ranked.” She talked about how we’ve been taught that self-reliance and pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is the ultimate marker of success, but to actually succeed in this world, we need to embrace a more collaborative spirit (which many would typify as a more feminine vs masculine viewpoint).
A switch flipped in my head. Here I was thinking that I needed to act alone in order to make the best impact, when in actuality it was the opposite. If I work with, everything is more successful.
This spirit of collaboration inspired me to put together a collaborative event. I invited Madame Gandhi to lead a live DJ set while I taught a yoga class. Jessica Guzik took on the role of event planner, Lauren Louise as photographer, and Alex Triana from Dacha lended the venue. We knew we wanted this event to be for charity, and specifically to benefit women. When I learned about Global Fund for Women from my friend Heather, I knew we had the perfect partner.
Global Fund for Women’s vision is that “every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. No exceptions.”
This vision resonated with me because it reflects a collaborative spirit. Being heard necessitates that there’s a listener – there’s a dialogue. That is collaboration. When we are heard – truly heard – that’s when we feel our strongest and most powerful.
The morning of the event, the positive vibes could be felt throughout the building. We moved, we danced, we laughed. It was an amazing day.
I could help but recognize that the success of the day was because of the collaboration of these women coming together, not in spite of it.
A few months later, I got the itch to do it again. I missed the camaraderie and togetherness. With Jess moving to Berlin and Madame Gandhi living in LA, it was time to build new partnership and friendships.
Truth: I worried. I didn’t know if we could recreate the magic of our first event. And I had some doubts as the date drew closer. But once the party started…voila. Once again we proved that positive energy and collaborative spirit reigns supreme. Odetta wowed us all by playing guitar, violin, and tuning forks through the class, and we shat and chatted long after the class was finished. These photos tell the story better.
All in all, we raised over $1,000 for Global Fund for Women.
How this helps me
For me, it proved the power of collaboration. I realized that self-reliance can sometimes assume scarcity. It’s assuming that having more people will dilute your personal gain. Instead, I found the opposite to be true. As we added more partners, the event only got better.
I’m not sure what form our next music/yoga event will take (soliciting ideas….), but I do know that there will be a rag tag team of awesome women to make it happen.
Try this quick and cooling cucumber soup recipe this summer. It’s delicious and simple to make!
It’s official. The dog days of summer are here. Washington DC turns into a bit of a swamp, and the humidity keeps on rising.
And while we all love summer produce, most people’s diets don’t change all that much during the summer. Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s easier to stick to the same routines and patterns.
However, that shift in weather does impact our bodies, and to fuel ourselves optimally, we need to switch our food intake as well.
Eating to stay cool
In Ayurveda, certain foods are cooling or heating. Unfortunately, a lot of summertime favorites are heating for your body. Some heating foods include meat like burgers and hot dogs, vinegar-filled mustard, or carb-heavy pasta salad. Hot sauce and spicy foods are a no-no.
Instead, now’s the time to enjoy all of your raw salads and fruits. Instead of your usual olive oil, use coconut oil based dressings (don’t worry, it’s so hot it will melt!) Avocado is another great source of fat that cools your body down. When you season your food, use dill, fennel, parsley, and basil instead of black pepper of cayenne.
Additionally, we need to focus on hydration. I’m sure we’ve all noticed an increase in sweat production, and that water loss adds up throughout the day!
The answer isn’t to down another 2 gallons of water. What’s more important is that you hydrate intelligently. Get a good source of electrolytes (the vitamins and minerals that make your body work their best) alongside your water from healthy fruits and vegetables. The electrolytes make sure that your hydration brings you into balance, rather than simply water-logging your body (and causing you to have to go to the bathroom every half hour).
I recently came across a recipe for a cucumber soup, and I realized it would be the perfect summer tonic. I tweaked the recipe a bit to make it even more Ayurveda and summertime friendly. In addition to cucumber, it features avocado, lemon juice (which is actually cooling for your body even though it doesn’t seem like it should be!), and cooling spices. It only takes 5 minutes to put together, and it will leave you feeling delightful. You can use this recipe as a side dish to your meal, or drink it just like a smoothie!
Take a look at the food you eat over the course of this next day. What’s your guess – heating or cooling? After you eat it, notice how your body feels. Perhaps you can slowly start to introduce some more cooling oils and spices into your daily routine. Leave a comment below on what you find!
Use this super quick hemp milk recipe as a morning coffee replacement, in smoothies, for your cereal, or as a pre-bed tonic!
When I first discovered hemp milk in the grocery store – I was overjoyed to find a soy milk alternative that had some heft (more on why I was looking for a soy milk alternative here). I had previously used almond and cashew milk, but these are more like almond and cashew water…the unsweetened varieties only have about 30 calories per serving and not a crazy amount of flavor. Plus, there was a bunch of added thickeners and stabilizers to make it taste more like “real milk”.
Hemp milk on the other hand was actually full of protein and good fats. Hemp seeds are a powerful little seed and are filled with tons of omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. It more closely resembled soy milk in it’s nutrition which means that I could actually justify buying and using it to supplement my breakfasts.
Unfortunately, the hemp milk I was buying was 1) expensive and 2) still full of the same stabilizers that almond and soy milk had. I wanted to try making my own hemp milk at home, but I was a little intimidated.
People have been asking me about starting a food company since I originally started Happy Healthy Human back in 2014. I was resistant for a long time – I believe in the power of quality, homemade food, and I didn’t want to have to compromise on my values and standards for a high quality product.
Eventually, the internal and external pressure to start a company won. I realized that creating a product didn’t have to compromise my mission of providing personalized nutrition and the best ingredients to my clients and customers. Instead – Happy Healthy Human snacks were born. Each snack is specially designed to help you feel Balance, Calm, Motivation, or Relief. Each one has a completely unique flavor profile and includes different ingredients to impact your body and mind in distinct ways.
One of the most common complaints I hear about healthy eating is that it takes too long. Eating out or heating something up in the microwave just seems so much more convenient.
Even though I love to cook, I also love shortcuts and easy recipes. I roast all my veggies during a weekly meal-prep session, I make most of my sauces and toppings in a blender (30 seconds or less!), and I’m a fan of the fastest protein source: an egg.
Lessons from our Happy Healthy Human Ayurveda cooking class with Anu and Seema!
Last Sunday, my fabulous teachers from India, Anu Agarwal and Seema Johari came to teach a healing cooking class. We had a fabulous group of 16 who were ready to cook, learn, and eat!
I knew when I showed up at 10am it was going to be a great day. Anu, Seema, and their friend Belinda showed up with their pots and pans, ingredients, and smiles. The ladies worked hard concocting delicious dishes, but they luckily had a few minutes to catch up with a chai before everyone arrived.
When everyone showed up, we started with some mingling and Happy Healthy Human snacks, which are actually inspired by Ayurveda, which is the ancient Indian system of healing that inspired Anu and Seema’s cooking.
Pretty soon though, we were all in the kitchen, helping Anu make dishes and learning from her wisdom.
After 2 hours (and 8 dishes completed!) we sat down to a beautiful feast. It was a magical day.
For everyone that couldn’t make it – here are some key lessons from our cooking class.
You want food to nourish mind, body, and soul.
This means it’s worth the time and money to buy fresh, local ingredients. Was that plant sprayed with tons of chemicals? Was that animal treated fairly? The more fresh whole foods you eat, the better the prana, or energy, that it can share with you. Choose wisely.
Then consider yourself. Are you stressed out? Angry while you cook? Impart some love and joy into your food. It will taste better and be better for you. (And there’s scientific basis for this. The more stressed you are, the harder it is to properly digest and assimilate your nutrients. So take a deep breath and find some calm.)
Good cooking doesn’t have to be complicated.
Anu used 4 core spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, and fenugreek) to make 3 different vegetable dishes that were all unique and delicious. If you use these 3 different spice blends for different vegetables and veggie mixtures, you’ll never run out of new, yummy meals.
Cook your spices in oil to get their healing properties.
Anu taught us how releasing the active oils from spices like turmeric and cumin requires heating and cooking. Plus, it suffuses the oil with delicious flavor, making your finished product taste even better. Here’s how to use these cooked spices in your cooking:
Gently heat up your olive oil or ghee.
Add your whole spices until they start to dance (as Anu says)
Add your powdered spices with some water (about 2-3 tbsp).
Let the water boil off, and the healing properties of the spices start to release.
When the water is gone, add your veggies, and cook until they’re the desired consistency.
In ten minutes, you have a delicious meal to call your own!
A pressure cooker is your best friend.
Don’t have time to make beans? Quinoa and rice too much of a hassle? Get a pressure cooker. It’ll cut your cooking time by 60-70%, and you’ll get perfect beans each time. I just invested in this beauty.
Prevent gas with this genius way to cook beans.
This tip is from Seema, Anu’s mom and cooking extraordinaire. Heat up olive oil with minced garlic and cumin seeds in a pot. Add your rinsed beans or lentils, water, and a few pinches of asafoetida (also known as hing). This Indian spice is known for it’s ability to improve the digestibility of beans. Cook until the beans are soft, and then salt and serve. The cumin, garlic, and asafoetida will help you digest.
The key to your cooking success is magic sauce
Anu’s recipe for magic sauce can be used on almost any vegetable or bean. Chana masala, Aloo Mattar, or any dish that could use some extra flavor. Give it a try!