Dry Brushing: What you Need to Know

Have you ever heard of dry brushing?  Well, it’s exactly like it sounds – you use a large bristled brush and massage over your dry skin before taking a shower.  Sounds weird, I know, but I’ve been doing it for several months now and believe that it has not only made my skin softer and smoother but has reduced my cellulite!

dry brushes
Dry brushing can help soften your skin and improve your circulation.

Let’s break it down:  there are not any scientific studies to confirm my results; however if you look up dry brushing the benefits listed are that it removes dead skin cells (think manual exfoliation for your entire body), stimulates circulation (similar to benefits of massage), which helps your you body systems perform at peak efficiency, and boosts your immune system (we can all use that this flu season, am I right?)

Now I don’t do this every single day, but at least three times a week, before getting in the shower, I brush my body, starting from my feet to my legs, using long upward strokes (it is recommended to always use upward strokes and always brush toward your heart). I’m going to be brutally honest here:  it is not an enjoyable, spa-like feeling.  Bristles on dry skin = uncomfortable.  It’s not painful, but don’t expect it to feel relaxing.  I will say that the longer I’ve been doing this the more I am used to how it feels and it’s just another step in my beauty routine, kind of like flossing your teeth.

My whole philosophy on this is that it can’t hurt, so why not try it?  I don’t always need a scientific study to convince me of something’s effectiveness.  There is a lot of scientific evidence in terms of benefits of massage, so I do think that logically some of that translates to dry brushing.  Also, I know that regular exfoliation of your skin is good for you so that knowledge made this sound like a viable option.  The brush I use is a $5 one from Ecotools.  You can get fancy with the type of brush and spend a lot more but the one I have works great for me.  Here’s another Ecotools one with a handle here.  I would say that if you have extremely sensitive skin or eczema that this would NOT be a good option for you.  It may exacerbate your skin condition instead of helping.

I’m sharing my personal experience with you so that you can decide if dry brushing is something you want to check out.  My skin has never felt so smooth and now, in the winter, my legs are not showing dry flakes as they usually do this time of year.  That’s really the only evidence I need that dry brushing is working for me!

Do you dry brush?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.  Leave a comment!

5 Best High-Protein Snacks

It seems like these days, everyone is trying to reduce their carb intake for one reason or another.  I am the queen of carbs!  Being Italian, I could not imagine life without fresh pasta and bread.  As a rule of thumb, I don’t believe in any diets that eliminate a food group; in my opinion that does not set someone up for success.  Being someone who once weighed 30 lbs more than I do now, I can say that from experience.  However, this article is not about dieting.  My current fitness goals include increasing muscle mass and toning up.  In order to achieve this, I do need to reduce my carbs and increase my protein intake.  The most challenging for me is to find things that I can snack on the go that are NOT carbs.  I’ve found some great healthy, high-protein options and want to share them with you.  Whether you have your own fitness goals, or are looking for some inspiration for new items to snack on, you’re sure to like something on this list!

best high protein snacks

Greek yogurt – This is a great snack that packs 16 g of protein per serving!  However, you need to be careful when selecting this to be sure you aren’t choosing ones that have the fruit on top that adds unwanted sugars to it.  I found a brand called “Siggi’s” that I like a lot.  They claim to have at least 25% Iess sugar than the top three leading brands and based on what I’ve seen I believe that to be true.  I feel like it’s lower in sugar but still tastes good.  I get the 0% usually in vanilla or raspberry but there are several flavors available.  If I’m feeling fancy I’ll throw fresh fruit on top.

Almond flour crackers – I found these awesome crackers from Simple Mills that are made with almond flour and am in LOVE!  They come in a few different flavors, but I like the Rosemary and Sea Salt.  It’s also Vegan and Paleo friendly so it can be a good part of a variety of diets.  While it’s not super high protein, it definitely is lower carb and the almond flour is a great alternative to regular crackers (less bloat for sure!)

Lenny & Larry’s Protein Cookie – This is the best find I have made since I began this fitness journey!  I don’t know about you but I absolutely HATE protein bars.  None of them taste really good to me.  This, however is a soft, delicious COOKIE that has 16g of protein per serving!  If you are on the go and know you won’t be able to eat for several hours, this snack will keep you satisfied!  I had to take a road trip a while back and I knew it would be several hours before I would have the chance to eat.  I ate one of these in the car and I felt fine for hours after!  My only word of caution is that they are large cookies, and each package is actually 2 servings, so be careful.  I usually eat half at a time unless I am in the road trip situation.  My favorite flavors are the Lemon Poppy and Double Chocolate.  Trust me, these taste too good to be true!

The Good Bean – Sometimes I crave something crunchy that I can sit and much on and satisfy my salt cravings.  Usually, that means potato chips or something that is not healthy or high protein.  I recently found the answer to this at my local Wegman’s!  It’s called “The Good Bean” and it is basically a roasted chickpea with sea salt.  Ingenious!  You can eat them straight from the bag (which I do) or throw them in salads or soups.  They come in a variety of flavors too such as: Cracked Pepper, Smoky Chili and Lime, Sweet Cinnamon, Thai Coconut Lemongrass, Mesquite BBQ, and Chocolate.

5 best high protein snacksNuts – This is the obvious go – to snack for protein, especially since nuts are so portable.  The key is to not eat too many (very hard for me) because of the fat content.  I try to portion them out beforehand or buy the proportioned 100 calorie packs (made by Emerald) of almonds or cashews so that I keep my portions in check.

So whatever your fitness goals are, I hope you got some inspiration for some new, healthy snack ideas!  I’m always looking for new snack ideas, so I’d love to hear about your favorite snacks.

How Zumba Saved My Life

At a time when I needed it most, spending an hour dancing around to latin-inspired music every week gave me hope and lifted my spirits.  Instead of taking Xanax to calm my anxiety, I got up, got dressed and went to Zumba class.  And it worked.

Zumba was never my favorite workout.  I had taken a class several years ago and felt like I had two left feet.  Fast forward to November 2016.  I had recently lost my mother unexpectedly,  only a couple of years after losing my dad.  I left my job to focus on settling my mom’s affairs and taking care of my 4 year old son.  Life as I once knew it was totally topsy-turvy and I was trying to get my footing.

I decided to join a gym in my area and, in looking at the group class schedule, noticed a lot of Zumba classes.  Initially, I was a little disappointed as I was used to taking Body Sculpting or Pilates classes.  But, one day I decided to see what it was all about – maybe something had changed from the class I took so many years ago.  Looking back, I’m not sure what made me decide to try that class, but it was a decision that has greatly impacted my life since.

I’m not gonna lie – that first class was tough.  I still felt a bit self-conscious at not knowing the steps, but the group there was so welcoming and the music was a great mix of traditional and contemporary.  I kept going to the classes and found that each time it was a little easier to follow along.  Soon, I was looking forward to going and hearing the songs I enjoyed and losing myself a little in the moves, and even laughing!

As the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing approaches, I feel like I’ve honored her by keeping it together and taking care of the things that need to be taken care of.  Along the way were a lot of ups and downs, but continuing to take Zumba kept me on a straight path to finishing what I set out to do, no matter how painful and unpleasant it was.  I still miss my mom every day, but feel like I am getting a little stronger each day and rebuilding my life.  Zumba has definitely helped me on this path and for that, I am grateful.

If you are experiencing a challenge in life, trying something different and totally out of your comfort zone may help.  I believe that any physical activity will help us to be healthy physically as well as mentally, and give us strength to deal with stressful situations.   For me, trying something new and different ended up giving me a renewed sense of self and a new perspective on things.  Maybe having a healthy outlet to channel my feelings of sadness and grief has led me on this path to where I am now – all I know is that Zumba class has truly saved my life.  So, to anyone out there feeling lost,  find your “Zumba,” and, instead of staying on a path of despair, choose a path of hope and adventure.