Birthday Refections

Another year older! Numbers don’t lie. Every year, I find myself reflecting on my birthday. So, here are my birthday reflections. These are just a good chunk of my realizations, what I’m valuing, what I’m still wanting and what I have learned this past year. 

  1. Trusting in Allah (God). Completely. Doing more dhikr (remembrance/praise of God) helps with that.
  2. More quality time with family – I’m valuing this more and more as I’m getting older.  Especially cherishing my parents. 
  3. Needing my girlfriends! Heart to heart conversations are the best with your close few.
  4. Getting my creative juices flowing – in any way, shape or form.  This could be building my business, artwork with the kids, cooking in the kitchen, dancing, etc.
  5. Incorporating more quiet time/stillness in my day where I get to connect with myself, Allah and nature- taking little ‘nature breaks’ when I feel the need
  6. Prioritizing physical activity to feel strong and fit.  Again, for me that looks like yoga!
  7. Practicing gratitude by appreciating and celebrating the good in my life. 
  8. Learning more and more about mental and emotional health especially as it relates to my individual self
  9. Exploring with my kids
  10. Finding those little moments of joy and laughter amongst the hectic schedules and motherhood duties of daily life.  Being fully present in them.
  11. Bonding over some good entertainment with others
  12. Healing myself
  13.  Not comparing my life to others
  14. Moving on
  15. Taking action and showing up

I hope you could relate with some of these or be inspired by them. What realizations are hitting you as you’re getting older? I would love to hear some of them. We’re all always evolving and as we go through different phases of life, sometimes that has us re-evaluating some of the outdated beliefs and ideas we’ve been carrying with us. Reflecting really helps you figure out what’s serving you and what’s not anymore. I urge you to give it a try!

Weight Loss Tips

I’ve gotten so many questions and requests regarding “how to lose weight,” so I decided to write a full blog post all about it! I focus more on creating a sustainable healthy diet and lifestyle over the long term. I want you to know that you don’t have to follow the latest diet trends and drive yourself crazy. Just stick to these principles below as best as you can and you’ll see improvements in your weight and health!

1. A Lower-Carb Diet! 

Simple. Eat more fat, protein and fiber-loaded foods rather than carb-heavy/starchy/sugary foods.  Just trim your portion size of the carb and mainly eat whole grain carbs! There’s plenty of research that indicates that a high-protein breakfast is linked with reduced cravings during the day and also less late-night snacking! So, if you’re the kind who gets a coffee and croissant/giant muffin on the go and skimps on breakfast, change that! Switch over to eggs, Greek yogurt, nut butters, avocados, smoked turkey/salmon, etc and get off the cereal! It’s not just about how many calories you consume vs. how many calories you burn, it’s more about the TYPE of calories.  The type of calories (ex: soda vs. broccoli) you consume affect your hormones in a way that they either promote disease and weight gain or promote health and fitness.

2. Cut out processed foods and sugary drinks!

Take out those donuts, cookies, chocolates, chips, cakes, as well as those fancy frappucinos, sodas, fruit juices, etc.  Allow yourself 1-2 times out of the week where you treat yourself to these things, so that you don’t feel deprived and enjoy yourself.  One tip I can give you around this is to be INTENTIONAL about it.  Don’t just have it because it’s right there, it’s convenient or your friend/co-worker is having it.  Be intentional and go for it when you REALLY want it.  Remember, many granola/energy bars/flavored yogurts which are marketed as “health foods” are actually pretty high in added sugar.  Instead, for snacks go with a mix of nuts/seeds, fruit with almond/peanut butter, veggies with hummus/guacamole, etc. Also, for drinks, water is your best friend! Have some lightly flavored/infused water with some lemon/lime/orange etc if you don’t enjoy drinking plain water.

3. Consume LOTS of vegetables!

Eat those salads and roasted/sauteed veggies.  4-5 servings of veggies and at most 2-3 servings of fruits is recommended. Fruits do contain natural sugars, so we don’t want to rely on them too much. I’ve posted a sample picture at the beginning of this post of what an ideal plate looks like. Try to follow that most of the time. Its OK if sometimes you have more carbs and less vegetables. What you do most of the time is what matters! Here’s a visual of what 4-5 veggie servings in a day looks like. This is not to intimidate you. It’s to encourage you and help you come close to this inshaAllah (God-Willing). Make it your own by using your ethnic foods!

4. Exercise at-least 30 mins every day or 45 mins every other day.

You won’t get the results you’re looking for if you don’t exercise consistently. If you can’t go the gym, you can just dance it out. Make it yours!

5. Try your best to get a good night’s sleep.

 There’s research showing that we crave more comfort foods when we’re sleep-deprived. Hormones that increase our appetite go up and we end up eating bigger portions of food at meals. On top of that, sleep reduces our insulin-sensitivity which makes our body more likely to store fat. Stick to a schedule for sleep and food!

Here are some weight-loss friendly foods:

  • Coconut oil- Don’t add it on top of the other oils you already use in your cooking, rather replace some of the oils you use with coconut oil.  The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut are quickly converted into energy and are less likely to be stored as fat! 
  • Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies- You can eat a big volume of these since they’re so low in calories and carbs. Try broccoli and cauliflower roasted!
  • Apple cider vinegar- it appears that ACV can help promote weight loss by improving blood sugar and insulin responses especially after a higher-carb meal. Use it in your salad dressings.  You can also have a glass of water mixed with 1 tbsp of ACV 20 minutes before your meal to help with digestion.

Here’s a 1 day sample meal plan for weight loss or really for anyone trying to eat a heathier diet and up their nutrition.

1 Day Sample Meal Plan

Breakfast:   Open-faced egg sandwich – Top 1 slice whole grain toast with ¼-1/2 mashed avocado and 2 scrambled eggs! Add some berries on the side.

Lunch:  Whole grain wrap with turkey/chicken/fish/beans with lettuce and about ½ cup chopped vegetables (like onion, tomato, olives, cucumber) and 3-4 tbsp hummus.  On the side, have some carrot and cucumber/celery sticks.

Snack: Apple slices with almond butter

Dinner: ½ cup rice or medium size whole grain roti (flat bread), baked/grilled chicken or fish (palm-sized is good), 1 cup cooked/roasted vegetables (ex: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, eggplant, okra etc.) or 2 cups chopped salad. (Having yogurt or “raita” with your chicken and vegetables is also good since it ups the protein content!)

Post dinner treat: (If craving!) 2 Stuffed Dates. Take the pit out of dates and stuff them with some almond/peanut butter butter and pinch sea salt. Freeze. You can eat this right out of the freezer.

So, I hope you now have a clearer picture of what a “weight loss” diet looks like. Above and beyond the weight loss benefits, if you want to prevent chronic disease, stick to these factors and you will enjoy better health, strength and energy inshaAllah (God-willing).

Of course, these are all general guidelines.  Every person is different and what works for one, won’t always work for the other.  If you need a more personalized diet plan for yourself and need some coaching to reach your health goals, I’ll be starting my 1 on 1 coaching sessions very soon!  Stay tuned.  

Prepping your body for Ramadan

Hello to my lovely readers!

Ramadan is a couple of weeks away alhamdulillah (All praise and thanks due to God). I wanted to share some little tips and tricks for you to prepare your body for a healthier and easier Ramadan inshaAllah.  Our eating habits can drastically change during Ramadan, so making small adjustments before can help you transition better. These are intended to help reduce any possible side effects of fasting. So, here we go!

  1. Start reducing your Caffeine intake – especially if you’re a heavy coffee drinker! This can ensure that your withdrawal symptoms aren’t as bad when you do start fasting. 
  2. Drink lots of water- if your body stays properly hydrated consistently, it will be better able to handle long fasts minimizing symptoms of dehydration. 
  3. Include more sunnah foods (the Prophet’s food) in your diet! All the sunnah foods have loads of nutrition in them along with being light and easy to digest. Plus, you get the reward of emulating the Prophet. Some sunnah foods are melons, squash, dates, honey, figs, cucumbers, grapes, olive oil, vinegar, eggs, fish, basil, and black seeds which can be great additions. 
  4. Reduce refined sugar- As soon as you do this, your cravings will decrease and your blood sugar will start to stay more stable which is especially important during the time you are fasting!
  5. Batch prep some healthy food and freeze them for Ramadan.  Things like kebabs, veggie patties, chutneys, chicken, etc can be made ahead. I know the deep-fried items like samosas and rolls are made ahead by the dozens in many South Asian households, but try to hold back on that! Have them as the occasional treat like when you’re invited at an iftar gathering. 
  6. Start cutting out snacks from your diet! Stretch out your meals longer by just sticking with breakfast, lunch and dinner. No grazing/snacking if you’re used to that. This way you will be getting your body used to longer periods without food!
  7. Start waking up a bit earlier to adjust your sleeping patterns. In Ramadan we wake up to pray and eat suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) super early. It can be difficult to do that, so these adjustments can really help some of us. When ramadan is in full swing, I even try to add in a power nap when I can because of getting less sleep during the month.

Now of course, I just covered the prepping you can do to get yourself ready physically for fasting in Ramadan, but as Muslims, the spiritual benefits are what we’re really after.  As a reminder to myself and you, let’s make this the best Ramadan, spiritually inshaAllah.  Make your intention and set realistic goals for yourself. All this meal prepping and eating healthy stuff is only a means to an end.  A means to having more energy and more productivity in the things that matter most in Ramadan like your worship and good deeds inshaAllah.

zesty asparagus masala

Zesty asparagus masala !

This is a spin off my aunt’s recipe for okra masala . I wanted to try and make asparagus South Asian style and this totally worked !  You can use okra instead if you like.

Asparagus can be such a great nutritious addition into anyone’s diet . It’s loaded with folate, fiber and vitamins A, C and K!

I love the combination of the toasted spice mixture in the end . The spices really help boost a persons digestion and metabolism .

Here’s the recipe:

Sauté one medium chopped onion in about 2 tbsp of oil (I used avocado oil) until golden brown.

Add 2 chopped medium tomatoes, salt to taste, 1/4 tsp turmeric , 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper . Mix around and then lower heat to medium low, cover pan and let tomatoes cook for about 5 mins . Remove lid and cook on high till the tomato masala is a bit dryish (mash the tomatoes if you want!)

Add 1 bunch of chopped asparagus , stir around and then lower heat and let asparagus cook till tender (about 15 mins) .

While asparagus is cooking , in a dry skillet, toast 1/2 tsp each of whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds , and mustard seeds along with 1/4 tsp each of Kalonji ( aka nigella seeds in English) and fenugreek seeds (methi dana). Once the spices are a bit toasty, add to a coffee grinder and grind them . I got about 1 1/2 tbsp jor so of ground spices .

When asparagus is tender , raise heat to high and cook a bit more till masala looks done. Add all the toasted spice mixture and add some green chili’s . Mix, lower heat and cover pan for just a few more mins for flavors to come together. Done . Garnish with chopped mint and cilantro 💚

Again, follow me @healthwithafrina on Instagram to see regular updates from me and keep your eyes peeled for my first ever 6 week holistic health program in the works and launching VERY soon!

#asparagus #healthydesifood #realwholefood #iinhealthcoach #cleaneating #vegetarianrecipes #masala #nutritious #healthyfoodshare #healingspices

 

Beating the Winter Blues!

Winter will be here soon! The bitter cold and less daylight hours can have some of us feeling the winter blues. There’s even something called seasonal affective disorder which is basically a type of depression that occurs in winter! I want to share some holistic diet and lifestyle tips that can help you stay happy this winter.

1. Wear brighter colors – seriously! Color therapy is real. Different colors can help shift our moods. Brighter colors are associated with happiness and youth! In nature, spring, summer and fall have so many colors to offer and in winter, there’s generally more greys and a lack of color. So, add some more color to your own personal life to boost happy feelings!

2. Get outside early morning or afternoon when there’s actual sunlight out! Sunshine significantly goes down during the winter, so take advantage of it when there is some. Take a break from whatever you’re doing and take a walk outside. Light therapy is also very real. Natural light boosts mood!

3. Move your body! Anything that gets you more physically active. Exercise, yoga, dance, etc. One of the best ways to relieve stress and release those feel good endorphins is by exercising! Time and time again, exercise has been proven to decrease feelings of depression and improve mood.

4. Diffuse your favorite natural fragrances in your home! We find ourselves more home bound in the winter season staying cozy and warm indoors. Aromatherapy is very powerful! You can use essential oils like lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, rose etc to help you feel instantly relaxed easing any depressive moods. It’s a regular in our household and we love coming home to delicious smells!
Alternatively, you can create your own simmering potpourri! Basically all you do is simmer water in a pot on the stove with your favorite smelling scents like from spices and food/food scraps like orange peels, lemon peels, cinnamon, apple peels and cores, cloves, dried lavender etc. They will make your kitchen and home smell lovely uplifting your spirits. You can get super festive with it at this time of the year. Keep it going and just add water as needed.

5. Drink hot drinks! Nothing more comforting then sweet warm drinks that cozy you up on the inside! Hot chocolate is our favorite which we make diary-free with our favorite creamy home-made cashew milk. Our favorite recipe can be found here: https://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/14/luxurious-dairy-free-hot-cocoa/
I even read that just clutching a warm mug in your hand soothes us even before we begin to drink. Finding your favorite mug (lots of motivational ones out there!) makes it that much more special!

6. Make sure you’re getting enough of all those mood-boosting nutrients you might be deficient in! Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids can help fight depression. Also, eating complex carbohydrates releases serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the body, which can temporarily enhance mood!

So, yes, these were some self care tips from me for the winter to keep your spirits up! Of course, there’s a gazillion things you can do to cheer yourself up and you know yourself best! Of course, if you have serious mood/depression issues than make sure to get the professional help you need and do the deeper internal work that needs to be done. I love journaling and find it extremely therapeutic. Whenever my thoughts and emotions are nagging and getting the best of me, I pull out my journal to make sense of it all, gather perspective, shift from negative to positive and move on. It’s like an emotional detox! Try it 🙂

Don’t forget to follow me on IG @healthwithafrina to get more frequent tips and inspiration from me!

HOLIDAY SEASON: HEALTHY EATING TIPS

Holiday season can be a little tough for people who are trying to eat healthy and clean, lose weight or those who have any dietary restrictions. I have 6 tips to help you stay on track while STILL fully enjoying the holidays!

 

  1. Make sure you’re well fed BEFORE the holiday party.  No skipping meals!  I know many people who really don’t eat all day before the party in anticipation of having a larger meal at the party.  Basically, they try to save their calorie intake for the party.  Although that might sound smart, it really sets you up for failure in two big ways.    It will slow down your metabolism which is NOT helpful for weight/belly issues and 2.  Your increased hunger level and cravings will just get the best of you leading you to stuffing your face into a food coma! So, make sure your body is “nutritionally fed” before the party.  Have eggs with greens for breakfast or have a loaded green smoothie.  This will prevent you from overeating!
  2. Eat your FAVORITE foods at the party! You don’t have to eat everything or sample (putting it mildly here) everything. Whichever dish is your favorite to eat or whichever dish you are in the mood for, eat that!
  3. Eat SLOWLY and SAVOR each bite! Don’t mindlessly eat while rambling on.  Fully enjoy your meal by chewing more and loving every bit of it.  You can try putting down your fork in between bites to help slow you down.  Remember, it takes time for our brains to get the signal that we’re full, so if you eat slow, you won’t over eat!
  4. Enjoy the company and the entertainment! There’s MUCH more to holiday gatherings than just food!!  Connect with others and just have a good old time.  That can nourish and comfort you on another level aside from food!
  5. Bring a healthy side dish to the party if you feel like that will help keep you getting too off track with your healthy diet.
  6. Lastly, practice moderation. Try to get in a light exercise the day of the party.  This will keep your body more insulin sensitive which can help with weight management. Drink lots of water throughout the day, so again you body feels more balanced, satisfied and at ease!

 

And if you still go “overboard,” know that it’s OKAY!  You can pick right back up again the next day.  No need for immense guilt.  It will be a new day where you get to make healthier choices all over again.  Take a deep breath and just THANK God for all the abundance you have around you!

How to Stay Balanced with the Changing of the Seasons?

Summer to Fall edition!

Fall has officially started! Cooler weather is clearly setting in. The squirrels are super active, leaves are slowly changing color and very soon crunchy leaves will start to cover the ground, and there will be pumpkin and apple treats everywhere soon!

So, how do we transition from the high energy, warmer and longer days of summer to the more cozy, shorter and cooler days of fall?  We might still not be dressing warm enough, still adjusting to new routines and demands with school/college/work in full swing, staying up late as we’re still used to the more carefree summer schedule, still enjoying ice creams and sundaes even as the weather gets cooler etc. These things can take a toll on our health with seasonal changes, weakening our immune system (NOT great for flu season coming up!) and causing us added stress. Here are some tips to help you stay balanced with the changes that come from summer to fall.

1. Get out those cozy sweaters! Chillier weather calls for a bit of layering up or wearing some light outerwear. Some of us might already have reorganized our closets putting away summer clothes and bringing out the warmer ones . The cozy feel of sweaters can feel like warm snuggles on a cold day. Preserving our body heat in cooler weather especially in our core is an important energy saver for our bodies believe it or not. It also adds to your trendy fashion flair if that makes ya happy!

2. Start your day with a warming spiced drink- it could be infused waters/herbal teas, matcha lattes, golden turmeric milk, chia tea etc! Swap your cold juices, iced teas, sodas for warming drinks. (If you drink too many smoothies, swap some of them also!) Adding warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom etc will boost your circulation, metabolism and immunity in the colder months.

My favorite thing is to make a warm ginger and lemon tea in the morning. The way I make it actually CONVENIENT for me is by pureeing some ginger with some water in a blender/food processor (I do 2 cups chopped ginger and 2 cups water) and then freezing it in ice cube trays. Then in the morning, I boil some water, throw in one of the ginger ice cubes, squeeze some lemon juice in it and mix in a little honey.

3. Eat more seasonal foods- the harvest of fall is abundant! Reach for the squashes, root vegetables like carrots and beets, apples, pears, etc. These are nature’s comfort foods for this time of the year. Eating more warming soups, stews, breakfast porridges and roasted vegetables in cooler weather will be more nourishing for the body.

4. Go to bed earlier! -As the sun starts to set earlier, the days are getting shorter and nights, longer. Be in tune with the natural rhythms and head to bed a bit earlier getting more restorative rest. The cold forces us to slow down a bit, stay home and cozy up with our loved ones. This slowing down actually promotes optimal health and energy in the colder months.

5. Drink lots of water! – make sure you’re adequately hydrated since colder weather is drying. Dryness can lead to achy stiff joints, dry skin, constipation, headaches and weak digestion. Sipping on water throughout the day preferably room temp or slightly warm is very rehydrating. If you constantly feel dry mouth, add a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and squeeze of lime in your water.

6. Take walks outside and soak up all the fall beauty, enjoy the beautiful colors, breathe in the crisp fresh air and listen to the crunchy leaves while you’re walking. Experience with all your senses. This will just bring you into the present moment, bring you into gratitude and have a calming effect on your mood and body.

We should celebrate the good of every season. We definitely have fall-themed activities planned like apple-picking, going to the pumpkin patches, corn mazes, baking fall treats, doing nature themed arts and crafts, etc.   Also, October is my birthday month ! I hope your fall goes fantastic!

What brings you joy and happiness?

What brings you joy? What brings you happiness?

I’ve found these to be very important questions to ask ourselves.

It’s weird because when I thought about the answer to this for myself, it was hard for me to come up with answers! I really had to sit, ponder and reflect to come up with specific things or else I was going down the very general, very vague route of answering with “oh, my family and friends”. After journaling a bit, I realized some of the things that I know for sure bring me happiness, I wasn’t doing ENOUGH of them! They were things I did once in a while unfortunately.  We all just get so busy with our to-do lists that incorporating things that give us joy and happiness on a consistent, regular basis is a challenge.

So, now I want to share 20 things that make me happy with you.  I’ve also added in parenthesis how I’ll actually be incorporating some of them into my life. Now, I encourage you to write down your own list of 20 things that make YOU happy.  They don’t have to be grand things, but just simple little pleasures! And once you have your list, make sure you actually DO those things that make you happy.  Schedule them in, into your life, daily, weekly and/or at least monthly depending on what it is.

Why is this important? Are we being selfish and self-absorbed by wanting our happiness? NO way! Because doing what makes us happy is THERAPEUTIC!! It enhances your WELLBEING which encompasses mind, body and soul health. When we are not happy in our lives, the effects of that will show up as toxic and negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Many people who have hard addictions are actually using that as an escape route from their depression or anxiety.  On the contrary, when we have positive feelings more often and then we make decisions and choices from this place of happiness rather than a place of frustration or anxiousness, our overall quality of life increases.

Here is my list:

  1. Going out to eat at different restaurants and enjoying gourmet meals (definitely love to do this 3x a month or so)
  2. Going to the farmers market and picking out fresh seasonal produce (summer is here, yay, so this more feasible now!)
  3. The sunshine and warm weather (Being out in nature and the outdoors more when the weather is like this)
  4. Watching squirrels! Because livening in NY, they’re everywhere (You might think I’m weird but they are pretty entertaining lol and for me it’s a sign of God watching them dig, harvest and munch away all by God’s design)
  5. Exploring Manhattan (have to plan this out more, maybe once a month)
  6. My kids saying the cutest things EVER (this happens daily alhamdulilah and now I seek it out even more by engaging in interesting conversations with my kids where they and their imagination takes the lead along with their cutest work-in-progress grammar skills).
  7. Going to brunch or a nice café with my friends (Also, need to plan this once a month. As a mom, this has gone down considerably!)
  8. Quiet post-dinner night time walks around the block with my mom and kids (aim for daily, but most likely be 4-5x a week)
  9. Connecting with my creator in a very SINCERE prayer (every late night prayer inshallah)
  10. Having picnics outside (once a week with my girls, doing lunch outside)
  11. The color rose gold with light sparkles! (adding more to my wardrobe and accessories)
  12. Snuggling with my babies!! (every night inshallah)
  13. Laying in my moms lap and watching a good TV show with her
  14. Dark chocolate with almonds anything especially homemade chocolate chip cookies!
  15. Avocado salsa and tortilla chips while watching a good movie
  16. Vacations with family and friends
  17. Going for a light run and feeling the wind on my face (aiming 3x a week)
  18. Lavender mist spray on my pillow every night before sleeping
  19. Being confident and speaking up for my truth gracefully
  20. Waking up to having my breakfast pre-prepared like a yogurt parfait or overnight oats!

By all means, this is not an exhaustive list! For example, my mom’s biryani also makes me so happy, watching the clouds slowly moving is almost therapeutic for me, watching tennis with my dad and wrestle mania with my brothers (like we did in childhood together), apple-picking and other autumn activities bring me joy, etc. I hope you get the idea!

Of course, ultimately, happiness is an inside job.  External circumstances shouldn’t dictate your happiness, but they definitely can give you the much-needed boost.  We are a combination of internal and external factors, nature and nurture, body and soul right? So, lets do this.

Let me know if you make your list of 20 things that make you happy and if you want share it with me or on your social media and tag me @healthwithafrina 😊 You can also use the hashtag #20thingsthatmakemehappy

Making Desi food healthier!

South Asian Food (Desi food)

After becoming a health coach, do I still eat desi food? I often get asked this question now. (Desi is collectively referred to the people from the South Asian subcontinent which includes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). The answer is YES, of course! All ethnic cuisines have their share of health benefits. For example, Desi cuisine utilizes lots of healing, anti-inflammatory and digestive aiding SPICES. We also have a variety of lentil-based dishes that are amazing for health. With that being said, our desi cuisine is notorious for using lots of oil and carbs with not enough fresh vegetables.

So, how do I healthify my desi food a bit more? By making sure I have lots of VEGETABLES on my plate! By using LESS oil and preferably better QUALITY oil like a coconut oil (I use refined coconut oil since it’s neutral tasting and smelling), avocado oil, or the traditional Ghee (making sure the Ghee is pasture-raised since it’s cleaner and most nutritious then).

Also, I try not to overcook the HECK out of our vegetable dishes. I’ll usually make the masala (spicy sauce) first fully and then add the vegetables, so they don’t have to be cooked for too long on high heat.

I’ll serve my desi food with a light, refreshing salad (cucumbers, tomato, onions, mint, cilantro and lemon is my favorite with desi food) to balance out the meal. I also do this to make sure I have that extra anti-oxidant loaded, phytochemical loaded goodness in my meal just so that if I’m consuming something along with it that isn’t optimal (like let’s say non-organic meat or like a curry dish cooked in a lower quality oil like canola-because let’s be REAL, these things can happen when you live with other family members and it get’s expensive or very inconvenient for you to include the higher-quality versions of these all the time), I’ll have those fresh vegetables to kinda detox and offset any negative effects of those non-optimal items.

In the picture above, I have daal (lentil soup/stew), chawal (rice) and karahi gosht (a spicy goat curry) along with some sautéed kale (I didn’t get enough greens that day, so had to have my daily share!) and a fresh side salad of cucumbers and bell peppers (with a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika and salt). The addition of the greens and salad also has you eating less carbs like the white rice over here because it really helps fill up your stomach. Some of you, I know might be cringing at the idea of sautéed kale with your beloved karahi gosht, but I prormise you when you mix some into the curry, it all still tastes very good! Our desi sauces and curries are SO flavorful on their own that they can easily handle extra greens in there. Sometimes, I’ll add in roasted vegetables instead of the greens or salad, or like a quick sautéed/stir-fried vegetable side like my sautéed green beans with lemon zest recipe posted here on the blog.

And there you go, healthy eating is really not that complicated. Just make sure you’re using higher quality ingredients and lots of veggies. It’s always ideal to consume organic meat in moderation of course, so limiting meat intake and having more vegetable-based dishes is the way to go. Higher quality fish like wild salmon, tuna, cod, mahi mahi, etc are all GREAT choices as well!

Redefining Beauty

I attended the new beauty revolution telesummit and loved it! Their goal was to REDEFINE beauty. This post was inspired by that program, particularly Shakaya Leone, a natural aesthetician who was a guest speaker there.

Beauty. This one word holds a lot of importance for a woman. What is beauty? One thing for sure, it definitely is NOT just a physical characteristic. It is soo soo much more. A leading example of beauty would be the beauty of nature. The natural world around us radiates with beauty. Just imagine a romantic sunset, a delicate flower, or a sparkling starry night sky. How their beauty is such a coolness to the eyes and just so uplifting to the spirit.

Now what makes nature so beautiful? Its beauty lies in its rich DIVERSITY. Each creation in nature has a unique color, shape, size, pattern to them, and it is in this individuality that their beauty shines. In the same way, we are also creations of God and each one of us has something deeply beautiful about us. All we need to do is embrace our beauty just like the natural world around us does so, so gracefully. We need to realize that tall, short, brunette, blonde, wide-boned, petite frame, light-skinned, dark-skinned, long nose, wide nose, etc are different pieces to that unique beauty we each possess. Ms. JoAnne Dodgson, a renowned healer, teaches us a beauty lesson from nature.  She says, “bears don’t worry about the shape of their bodies. Dragonflies aren’t distressed by the size of their wings. Oak trees don’t attempt to look more like the pine trees. Beauty sings out from the sunsets and echoes in the wind and shines down from the moon and dances in the sea and whispers on wings and howls with coyotes and lingers in the scent of the sage. Beauty calls out from the mountains and rumbles with thunder and sits quietly with the owls and soars with the hawks and buzzes with the bees and glistens in the shimmering ocean. In nature’s beauty, there are no winners or losers, and no better-thans or less-thans. Beauty is simply in the honoring of what is, a celebration of life in all its magnificent, mysterious, remarkable forms.” Wow! right? Just observe the natural world around you and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

So, basically, what this is saying is that your beauty is in who you are. Your whole being. The very essence of you. The design that makes you, YOU. Just like the beauty of a full moon or a waterfall is in their essence. The creator with his infinite ability to create has proportioned and fashioned you in a way that you are an ORIGINAL in this world. An exclusive piece. Shakaya Leone says that beauty is present within all of us, but not all of us are connected to our beauty.  We just need to connect to our beauty and then nurture it. To connect to and nurture our beauty on the physical realm, we really need to nourish our bodies with more wholesome fresh foods because “beauty is the natural result of vibrant health” as she puts it. Delight in eating more fresh crisp apples, sweet-tart berries, fragrant oranges, juicy pineapples, thirst-quenching watermelons, crimson beets, bright green spinach, cool cucumbers, creamy avocados, crunchy cabbage or just pour yourself a glass of freshly squeezed juice daily. They are filled with living enzymes and antioxidants that are easily absorbed by the body and can do wonders for your skin, hair and overall health. These are water and nutrient-rich and so detoxifying! Here’s a recipe from Shakaya: If you have a juicer: take 3 apples, 1 beet, 1 cucumber and 1 lemon and juice it. It is so refreshing and delicious. Also, a cool tip: You can stain your cheeks with some beet juice for some rosy cheeks!

Now of course, nourishing your body will nurture your physical beauty, but there’s a higher form of beauty which comes from nourishing your heart and soul. This is when your true beauty will manifest. The physical body will eventually wither away anyway, but when you nurture and connect to your higher beauty, you will light up like a brilliant star who’s beauty will remain long after you’re gone. There’s a great saying of the Prophet Muhammad in Islam (peace be upon him) that God does not look at your faces and bodies, but your hearts and deeds. This is the ultimate beauty as the beauty from your heart and deeds can bring benefits to the world and humanity long after you’re gone. In my training as a holistic health counselor, we learned a great exercise called finding your signature strength. It’s an exercise that will help you connect to your higher beauty.

Here’s how to do it:

First, make a list of your signature strengths. Some examples of signature strengths are kindness, fairness, humor, bravery, curiosity, love of knowledge, etc. Also, add to that list your skills, talents, interests. Now, think of ways you use these things in your life already. Then think of ways how you can use them even more regularly. Lastly, think of how you can use them in the service of something larger than yourself like in some positive organization, i.e. your community, school, place of worship, etc. We all have things we are good at or maybe even just average at, but we can develop them and cultivate them and become greater than we’d ever imagine ourselves to be. So, think what’s your strength? Or what’s your passion? What gives you joy? Then use it as described above.

I believe we each have a gift to give to the world especially being women. We really need to embrace our femininity because being feminine is beautiful in and of itself. We are nurturers and caregivers by nature, many times even putting the needs of our loved ones before ours. God has honored us with such mercy and compassion and these are divine attributes which he expresses through us. So, to connect to your higher beauty, find out what your gift is, develop it, grow it, and then deliver it to the world. It could even be that immense love you feel for your beautiful child, so you can use that by raising him or her in the most positive way. That is not an ordinary thing. That is an expression of your beauty and your legacy!

So, how can you fully express your true beauty?