Just after Thanksgiving, I began recognizing the telltale signs of a COVID infection. Headache, fatigue, coughing, I just felt miserable. After trudging my way to the walk-in for the dreaded nasal swab, my results "lit up like a Christmas tree". I was positive. Mask in hand, I returned home to my bedroom where I would quarantine for 14 days to prevent spreading this to my more vulnerable family.
Admittedly, I had it easy. I am a healthy person, my symptoms were mild and I got out of making dinner and doing the dishes for 14 days as I could not risk exposing my family. Hey, gotta find the silver lining, right? Undoubtedly, my worst symptom appeared around day four of quarantine. As I prepared to work from home, I embarked on my morning routine of sitting quietly as I plan my day over a fresh brewed cup of coffee...but something was different...
I could not smell the awakening aroma of the beans as they infused with the hot water!
I could not taste the hazelnut flavoring that tantalize my taste buds!
COVID had stolen my sense of taste and smell!
A panicked google search entailed..how long will this last? Will I ever taste and smell again?
As with any google search, I began focusing on the small percentage whose taste and smell may take months to return while in rare cases some may never have the luxury of these senses ever again.
Cue the deep breath!
After a few tasteless dinners, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. Spicy foods to reawaken my taste buds and essential oil inhalers for my tired nostrils. I had no idea if it would work but it was worth a try.
Two weeks (and it was a long two weeks) my taste and smell slowly began to return. A hint of smell as the beans were grinding in the coffee maker, a tingle on my tongue as the spicy red pepper flakes warned them.
Did the essential oils and spicy foods really work?
Almost three months later as I am cleaning out my email inbox, I come across a blog from my favorite essential oil provider, Eden's Garden. They had evidence from multiple studies that the use of essential oils could, in fact, help bring back the sense of taste and smell.
Olfactory training with essential oils first took off with a study performed by German doctors in 2009. The study involved four different scent types–floral, fruity, spicy and resinous–represented by Rose, Lemon, Clove and Eucalyptus oil. Anosmic participants were instructed to smell each oil for ten second intervals, twice daily for 12 weeks. The results were very positive, prompting others to further study olfactory training with essential oils.
Could my personal experiment be the reason my taste and smell returned? I will never know. While essential oils are not recognized by the FDA, they can be a powerful tool in your medicine cabinet. Whether diffusing, applying topically or using to clean with, these little brown bottles pack a punch. That said, though they may seem harmless as they are part of nature, some essential oils do have contraindications when it comes to medicines, pets, children, elderly and underlying conditions. It is important to so your research and consult a professional aromatherapist if you are prone to side effects.
If you do plan to embark on your own experiment to get back your senses, I recommend the Eden's garden brand. They are sustainably sources, non-toxic, vegan and animal friendly. Most importantly, they are 100% essential oils with no synthetics or added fragrance. I have also created a 4-pack of Essential Oil Inhalers that include the oils mentioned in the original 2009 study::
Essential oils can be potentially dangerous. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have an underlying medical condition, please seek the guidance of a licensed Aromatherapist.
So... what have you missed most about your loss of smell or taste? What personal tricks have you tried and found success?
Share in the comments!
Living in New England, one thing is guaranteed this time of year...
My skin will be screaming for moisture!
I can predict during the coldest months the pain of cracked knuckles and flaky arms and legs. Throughout my life I have been burdened with dry skin. While this was a blessing in disguise when my siblings and peers were dealing with the oily acne stages of puberty, (I can count the number of pimples I had in middle school on one hand) I was never able to outgrow my dry skin.
Drug store lotions proved ineffective, Vaseline filled cotton gloves at night were uncomfortable and the OTC creams were too greasy, too stinky or too chemically to use.
Enter Shea Butter!
After some deep and heavy research (read: Pinterest scrolling) I learned about Shea butter. This thick, rich, nutty scented butter originates in Eastern and Western Africa. It is hard when cold but melts easily when rubbed between the hands to create a protective layer on skin. When mixed with beeswax and jojoba oil (another nourishing oil), an amazing salve is created that moisturizes and protects, without the harmful chemical of medicinal or drug store products.
Make your own!
I have since started making my own hand salve and stock up this time of year. Interested in making your own? It really is quick and simple. You will need a double boiler (a glass pyrex or mason jar placed in pan of 1" of boiling water will do the trick) and a glass or wood stirring rod. Add 1 ounce of jojoba oil and 1/2 ounce beeswax pellets to the top of your double boiler and allow to fully melt. Remove from heat and add 1.5 ounces of shea butter. Ensure accurate measurements with a food scale. Stir until melted. Pour into a 4 ounce container such as a mason or metal tin. Allow to cool slightly then add 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil. Cover and allow to harden.
A little of this body butter goes a long way. To use, scoop a dime sized amount out and rub between your palms to melt. Apply the warmed butter to your dry skin until absorbed. This butter will leave a protective layer that may at first feel greasy but it will absorb and leave behind a soft smooth layer.
If you suffer from dry skin or are looking for a hydration boost during the cold winter months, give this butter a try. Experiment with other scents by switching up your essential oils. These also make great gifts!! Not ready to invest in the ingredients and materials? This product is now available for purchase.
What are your secrets to keeping your skin hydrated during the cold dry winter?
Please share your tricks in the comments...I am always looking for new ideas!
Your body is a complex machine made up of systems working together to function at its best. Just like any machine, your body needs fuel or energy to run. Choosing the best fuel for your body is important. What is good for someone else, may not help your body achieve optimal functioning. One thing rings true, however, everyone should avoid fuel that is loaded with chemicals. The human body is not capable of recognizing and using them. They become toxic and cause illness and disease. Choosing the proper fuel and avoiding toxic options can help prevent illness, give you lasting energy and promote good health and longevity.
In a culture where processed foods outnumber the healthy options, how do you know what to choose? Fancy labels and marketing make many processed foods appear healthy, but the truth in these foods lies in the beyond the marketing on the front of package in the ingredients label. Turn to the side of the package and get to know what was put into the food and do your best to avoid the following ingredients as a start to cleaner eating:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This cheaper version of naturally occurring sugars found in fruits is derived from cornstarch. It has grown in popularity as a less expensive alternative to making food sweet and can now be found not only in candy or cookies, but also sauces, ketchup, soups and salad dressings.
Why should you avoid it?
HFCS has been linked to obesity, inflammation, cancer and diabetes.
Reach for foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit. When your sweet tooth strikes, chose sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.
Hydrogenated Oils (Trans Fats)
This chemically enhanced fat was created to increase the shelf life of foods and enhance flavor and texture. It has since been banned but companies are allowed to include trace amounts. Learn to read INGREDIENTS and look for terms such as "Partially Hydrogenated" or "Hydrogenated" and place them back on the market shelf to live a long long life there!
Why should you avoid it?
Trans Fats have been proven to increase LDL or "bad" cholesterol which could lead to heart disease or stroke.
Choose foods high in healthy fats such as avocados and nuts. Opt for extra virgin olive oil vs. vegetable oil when cooking.
In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan writes, "Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk". Artificial color found in popular sugary cereals, sodas and rainbow colored candies as well as condiments, baked goods and even foods like pickles and beverages.
Why should you avoid it?
Artificial color, usually listed in the ingredients as Red, Yellow or Blue followed by a number, have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, thyroid cancer and allergies
Focus on whole foods that do not add artificial dyes.
Mindfulness...What is it? How does it work? Is it just a passing trend?
Undoubtedly you have heard the term mindfulness. Perhaps it was a course promoted through social media to "sign up for 8 weeks of meditation", a reference in your favorit podcast or your employer looking to add Self Care to your list of To Do. It seems as though everyone from accountants to zen yoga instructors are all jumping on this bandwagon...but what is it really all about?
What is Mindfulness
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the UMASS Medical Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindfulness as
“the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
In simpler terms, it is noticing how you feel in the present moment by focusing your awareness and quieting the busy mind. Mindful practice (and yes, it is a practice that needs to be done consistently to master) comes in many forms such as meditation, guided visualization and yoga. Instead of thinking of it as a way to get rid of all negative racing thoughts, consider it more learning how to live with thoughts and emotions and have control over your response to them.
How does Mindfulness help?
The benefits of Mindfulness reach into many dimensions of health. A consistent practice can decrease blood pressure, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, increases cognitive function and memory and can boost immunity.
The best thing about mindfulness is you do not need any equipment, just your breath and seat. Find a quiet spot where you will not be interrupted and can sit for 10 minutes. No need for fancy mats or pillows, the chair you are sitting in now, the floor or even your bed will do just fine. I actually take a few minutes when I get to the gym to sit in my car...there really are no rules!
Eyes closed or open? That is up to you. If your mind is constantly wondering what is going on past your closed eyes, keep them open and rest your gaze gently a few inches in front of you. Keep an active spine. If lying in bed as you prepare for sleep. lie on your back or in a comfortable position.
The thought of sitting still for 10 straight minutes may seem intimidating. Start slow. Aim for a 2-3 minute meditation. Take advantage of the many free meditations available through apps or online. A few of my favorite include Calm, FitOn, and Yoga with Adriene.
As you practice, you will learn to acknowledge your wandering mind and allow forgiveness when your find your thoughts drifting. As with any skill, the more you practice the better you will get. You may find yourself sitting for longer sessions and using it to cope with different situations and emotions. Be sure to find a time where you can practice consistently each day. It should be as important as bushing your teeth or taking your vitamins.
Do you have a mindful practice?
What is your favorite mindfulness practice?
Leave me a comment and tell me how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
CONFESSION! I LOVE MEAL PLANNING!!!
I schedule time on Saturday or Sunday (depending on my plans for the weekend), pour myself a cup of coffee, spread out my recipe printouts, open my calendar and make sure I will not be interrupted and begin strategically planning what my family will be willing to consume and what I will be willing to make for dinner during the upcoming week.
I am a total meal planning geek, but I also know that not many follow in my passion for pre-planning and prepping. However, taking a quiet hour one day a week can free up time later, save money and reduce waste. My meal planning start came from wanting to lose weight and track portions but I now enjoy the benefits of fewer leftovers being tossed in the garbage and quick grocery store runs. Sound good? Check out my 4 steps to successful meal planning and maybe you will join my meal prep tribe!
Grab a pen and notebook and let's get started...
STEP #1: Check Your Calendar
There is nothing worse than getting home a little later than usual, pulling out the ingredients for tonight's dinner and realizing your recipe takes one hour to marinate and another hour to roast. Prior preparation could have prevented this frustration that may result in an unhealthier food delivery fix.
Step one of meal prepping is to know how much time you will have to cook a healthy meal each night. Some days you will have time to try that new recipe you printed from your favorite foodie while other nights it will be a crock pot dump and go so dinner is ready when you get home.
Start with a notebook or print my Meal Plan Worksheet, and write down the days of the week. Under each day, list appointments and their times so as you plug in your meals, you will choose meals you can create given your time and stick to healthy eating.
STEP #2: Browse Your Recipe Stash
In addition to being a meal planning geek, I am also a recipe hoarder. I have Pinterest pages, printouts and have been known to quietly tear a recipe or two from the magazine in a waiting room now and then. I have a nifty little system to categorize them too, but that is a whole other blog! I am sure you, too, have a library of recipes including family favorites and recipes you are dying to try.
It is time to pull out your stash. Open your Pinterest and grab your cookbooks. Start browsing. Begin plugging in meals each day that will fit your schedule also keeping in mind the energy necessary to create the meal. Will you be too tired for all those steps? Maybe hold it off for the weekend. Include all your side dishes as you plan entrees. Remember what the purpose of dinner is, to fuel your body and provide it the nutrients it needs for good health. Don't skimp on the veggies and whole grains as you create your weekly menu.
Once your list is complete, I suggest posting it somewhere visible. This step will help hold you accountable to healthy meals and quiet that voice that tries to influence you to just call for a pizza. Check out my Dry Erase Menu Board displayed in my kitchen pictured here. (Total geekiness!!) If you are looking for something similar, try this framed menu board or maybe something a bit more discreet like this magnet menu board for the refrigerator. You can also print a copy of my meal plan worksheet or use a simple notebook and pen. Just make sure you post it where you will see it and be reminded of the game plan!
BONUS: Having your meals for the week visibly posted keeps your kids from constantly asking "What's for dinner?"
STEP #3: Make a List
As you plug in each meal, create your grocery list including the ingredients you will need to make each meal. This is also a good time to take inventory of staples like herbs and spices, pantry items and sauces you already have on hand. Knowing what you already have avoids spending money mindlessly and prevents waste. Keeping an organized pantry is a great strategy to healthier eating, but alas, it is another topic for another day. You can obviously jot this down on another page in your notebook or use my printable grocery list that helps organize your list by department, saving you from traveling aimlessly through the grocery store (and yes... I do have strategies for grocery shopping too. I did mention I am a geek, right?)
When you head out to the store, go with a mindset of sticking to your list. You have taken time to plan healthy meals, do not sabotage your efforts by falling victim of marketing strategies that hope you will throw those temptations into your cart. Plan your visit accordingly during non-peak hours, don't go hungry and remember your reusable bags (environmental health is part of your wellness journey)
STEP #4: Prep
OK, so this step isn't really part of the meal planning, but I recommend you do this extra credit step. Upon your return home as you unpack, consider what items you can pre-prep to save time during your week. Wash and chop fruits and veggies, throw together the ingredients for the slow cooker, separate meats into portions to marinate and seal and store ingredients by meal in your pantry and refrigerator. Yes, this step does take a little more time but it I promise it will save time, energy, frustration and falling off the healthy eating wagon later in the week.
Remember to store your foods in glass or BPA free plastic, label meats with the date you packaged them and refrigerate opened goods that require refrigeration after opening (beans, sauces, etc).
Got a Strategy of Your Own?
Listen...meal planning takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, you too will geek out with your own special dry erase board, favorite pen and notebook and secret stash of stolen magazine recipes. Need a little extra support? Let's chat and talk prep! Drop me an email and let me know where your struggles are when it comes to planning meals.
Got your own personal strategy to planning your week and staying on the healthy eating band wagon?
Want to share a picture of your meal plan board?
Have a go to recipe that every week should include?
Comment below and share your ideas!
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