It’s Time to Transform the Toy Industry

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#ToyLikeMe is a social media campaign striving to bring diversity to the toy industry, and a British toy company has started production on the new line of dolls with disabilities. How amazing is that!?

According to this article, over 150 million children around the world have disabilities. So why are companies just now starting to make diverse dolls? It’s 2015 – this could’ve (and should’ve) been done decades ago.

For now, the company is producing dolls with hearing aids, walking aids, and facial birthmarks, but says it’s working on making a doll in a wheelchair as well. I did some research online to see where I could buy the dolls, but they come at a hefty price. If you’re interested in buying them, this site has them for sale for about $130.

This line of dolls is definitely a step in the right direction, but toy manufacturers still have a long way to go. Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing accomplishment for #ToyLikeMe! However, there are so many types of dolls companies could market to real-life girls.

For example, all dolls, regardless of race, disabilities, hair color, or gender, are always very thin, attractive, and done up with makeup. When will we start making dolls with different body types and real-life features?

Just think of all the possibilities!

  • Blind dolls with guide dogs
  • Dolls with allergies
  • Diabetic dolls with insulin shots
  • Dolls with missing/extra limbs
  • Burn victim dolls
  • Dolls with alopecia (hair loss)
  • Dolls who need chemotherapy
  • Dolls with oxygen tanks
  • Dolls with a cleft lip/pallet
  • Dolls who need an IV or feeding tube
  • Dolls who are shorter/taller than average
  • Dolls who weigh more/less than average
  • Dolls with big/small feet
  • And the list goes on!

These dolls would be great for children with disabilities or body image issues, but they’d be just as amazing for children without these issues. These dolls could teach children that no one is perfect and we should love ourselves no matter what. It would teach them compassion and acceptance of others even if they’re different from others.

Everyone wants their children to grow up thinking that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so it’s time to take action! Appearance doesn’t define us.

I wish I had these kind of dolls growing up. I played with tall, blonde, model-like Barbie Dolls throughout my childhood. I’ve always had body image issues, although I can’t say they only came from playing with dolls. However, it certainly would’ve helped my self-esteem if I had dolls who were like real girls.

#ToyLikeMe has inspired me. We really can make a difference, and maybe by the time I have children, there will be more toys like this for them to play with. I can only hope!

What do you think of these disabled dolls? What other features would you like to see in these dolls?

Guest Blog Post on Dearly Beloved Bridal: 7 Tips to Shape Up for your Wedding

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Alissa, blogger of Dearly Beloved Bridal, asked me to contribute a guest blog post, and I couldn’t have been more excited!

Dearly Beloved Bridal is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to get married, is getting married, is married, or knows someone who is planning a wedding. Alissa blogs because she wants “to share [her] experiences and lessons learned with others in hopes that they too can plan the best day of their lives.”

Head on over to her awesome blog to check it out! 7 Tips to Shape Up for your Wedding

15 Benefits of Meditation

benefits of meditation

I’ve just finished day 10 of Headspace meditation, and I’m dedicated to sticking with it! I’ll post more about Headspace and meditation apps in my next post, but first, I’m going to tell you all about the benefits of meditation.

I spent some time researching meditation, which is why I decided to try it out. There are so many good things it does for our bodies! I read articles from Emma Seppala Ph.D., Forbes, Stepping Stones Mental Health, and Headspace to compile the following.

I feel extremely relaxed immediately after meditating, but I’m not sure if I’ve experienced any long-lasting effects. Some people say they’ve noticed effects immediately, but others say it’s gradual and takes time. Just like any physical exercise, mental exercise takes time to perfect too! Some articles say it takes a couple days, some say a couple weeks, and others say a few months. I’m just being patient and looking forward to some (or all!) of these benefits listed below.

EMOTIONAL

Increases optimism and resilience in hard times

Increases life satisfaction and sense of wellbeing

Reduces self-referential thoughts (thoughts that are typically associated with being less happy)

Reduces worrying and rumination

Increases self-awareness, self-confidence, self-understanding, and self-control

MENTAL

Increases attention span to stay on task longer and switch tasks less often

Reduces mind wandering and makes it easier to focus on current task

Increases creative thinking

Improves concentration, attention, focus, memory, and cognitive skills

PHYSICAL

Reduces stress, anxiety, social anxiety, depression, and pain

Helps with addition recovery to help people effectively manage cravings

Restores a sense of calmness, balance, and peacefulness

Improves sleep quality and increases energy

RELATIONAL

Improves communication with others to increase marital/relationship quality

Improves empathy and compassion

Attempting to Train my Brain with Meditation

Bonus picture of my dog, April, relaxing on the couch!

Bonus picture of my dog, April, relaxing on the couch! Dog meditation :)

Ohm… Ohm… Ohm…

I’m just starting to take up meditation, but so far, so good! In my last post, I wrote natural about ways to alleviate stress and anxiety, and I mentioned meditation as one of the tips.

I finally decided to take my own advice and try meditating to relieve some of my anxiety. After reading up on meditation apps, I found really good reviews for an app called Headspace. The first 10 meditation sessions are free, so I thought, what the heck? I’ll give it a try!

Unfortunately, you have to pay a subscription fee to continue meditation sessions after the first 10. I’ll have to find another app to use once I finish the free trial because I’m too frugal to justify spending money on meditation (when it’s something that can be done for free).

I’m on day five right now, and so far, it’s great! The first couple days were hard, but that’s to be expected. Meditation takes training. The Headspace narrator explains this throughout the 10-day trial.

While I’m meditating, I feel so relaxed. One day, I even fell asleep during the session because I was so relaxed. If you have trouble falling asleep, you should try meditating before bed!

I’m trying my best to meditate every day. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on my progress and let you know how well meditation really helps relieve stress and anxiety.

I’ll be doing more research on meditation over the next few days, so in my next post, I’ll describe the benefits of meditation in detail!

  • Does anyone have experience with meditation?
  • How well did/does it work for you?
  • Does anyone have a recommendation for a good meditation app for Android?

Let me know in the comments!!

10 Natural Remedies to Alleviate Anxiety

Image from anandamarga.org.

Image from anandamarga.org.

Have you been feeling anxious and stressed lately? Me too, don’t worry. After scouring the Internet for ways to ease anxiety, I found lots of natural ways to help you feel more relaxed.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 18% of the adult population. Anxiety is characterized by nervous behaviors, such as ruminating thoughts, worries, and fears. These behaviors often cause muscle tension, poor concentration, restlessness, and fatigue.

There are many ways to treat anxiety, including counseling, therapy, prescription medication, and natural remedies. Due to unpleasant side effects of anxiety medication, many sufferers turn to natural, holistic approaches to manage their anxiety. Here are 10 natural remedies that can help ease anxiety.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese method restores the body’s energy force, called Qi. According to acupuncturists, Qi regulates your body’s overall health and restores balance. Acupuncture causes the nervous system to produce chemicals that jump start the body’s natural healing ability to calm your brain and relieve tension.

Chamomile

Whether you prefer chamomile tea or a chamomile supplement, this ancient medicinal herb can help to relax your blood vessels, smooth your muscle fibers, and improve your sleep, all of which contribute to anxiety relief.

Exercise

Exercise causes your brain to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Any physical activity helps, especially those that get your heart pumping and increase blood flow to your brain, such as yoga, jogging, or walking.

Deep Breathing

There are many deep breathing techniques, but they all center around the same idea: breathing deep into your abdomen. Take a slow breath in through the nose, hold for a couple seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Just a few deep breaths can have a lasting feeling of relaxation.

Omega-3s

Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid that promotes cardiovascular health. These fatty acids increase your brain’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is lacking in those who suffer from anxiety. Good sources of omega-3s include fish, seeds, nuts, and green, leafy vegetables.

Meditation

This relaxation technique eases anxiety by quieting overactive minds and relieving stressful thinking. Meditation helps you become more aware of the present moment, eases muscular tension, and promotes deep breathing techniques.

Lavender

This soothing oil acts as a sedative with the brain centers (amygdala and hippocampus) that regulate emotion. Just add a few drops to a hot bath, put some in an oil diffuser, or dab a tiny bit on your temples.

Sunlight

When you are exposed to sunlight, your body produces vitamin D. This allows your brain to produce more serotonin, leading to a calming effect in your body. If you are on anxiety medication, be cautious of getting too much sun. Some medications may make you more sensitive to light, so be sure to use sunblock and talk to your doctor.

Hot Bath

Not only will a hot bath allow you some time to yourself in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, but it is also a great place for some aromatherapy. Add a few drops of oil to your bath for the ultimate stress-relieving experience. Some relaxing oils include lavender, sage, rose, jasmine, and sandalwood.

Keep a Journal (or a blog!)

Set aside some time each day to document your thoughts. This helps you become more conscious and aware of your thought patterns, so you can see how thoughts cycle through your mind. It can be soothing to write and spend some quiet time reflecting.

These natural remedies should help you manage your anxiety and relieve stress. However, they might not work for everyone, so if your anxiety symptoms persist, see a doctor or counselor.

What do you do to reduce your stress and manage your anxiety? Let me know your tips in the comments!🙂

Free Weights vs. Weight Machines

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In December, I bought myself a year-long membership to my local Planet Fitness gym. If you’ve ever been to a gym, you know they have cardio machines, free weights, and weight machines.

I’ve been going to the gym about 4 days a week, mostly using the cardio machines. I use the free weights and weight machines once in a while, and it got me wondering.

What’s better: free weights or weight machines? So, I’ve done some research, and as usual, I want to share with my readers!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty about the differences in the actual weights, we need to talk about fitness goals. Different fitness goals mean different fitness needs and training.

Structural Goals

These are goals pertaining to the structure of your muscles, like building mass or losing fat. Free weights are the optimal tool for structural goals, but weight machines are a good second choice.

Performance Goals

These are goals that focus on improving the function of your muscles, like training for a competition or sport. Free weights or body weight exercises are best for performance goals.

Now, we can focus on the weights themselves. I’ve used BodyBuilding.com and AWorkoutRoutine.com for the following information.

Free Weights

  • More versatile for different exercise moves
  • Stimulate the total body
  • Help your balance and core strength
  • You can train anywhere, even at home
  • Allow for natural movement
  • Use additional muscle groups, not just the one you’re targeting

Weight Machines

  • Can target a specific muscle group
  • Can isolate one muscle
  • Are easier and quicker to learn for beginners
  • Have less potential for injury
  • No spotter needed
  • You can lift heavier without as much risk of injury
  • Good for bodybuilders to use after a free weight workout

From my own personal experience, I feel like free weights give me a better, harder, more effective workout than weight machines. When I do a free weight routine, everything is tired, and I even get a really good cardio workout. I feel like I get more done in the same amount of time.

However, I do like the machines when I want to try squatting with a really heavy weight. I can’t squat much with free weights because I don’t have the upper body or back strength to hold a barbell that weighs more than I do. But with a machine, I can easily attempt squatting more than my bodyweight without the fear of hurting myself. The machines are also quicker and easier for adjusting the amount of weight.

Overall, I’d say it really depends on personal preference, fitness goals, weight lifting ability, and overall strength. Let me know in the comments whether you prefer weight machines or free weights!

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

sleepbaby

Have you been sleeping more since you read my last post? Have you at least been trying to get more sleep?

Well, just like I promised, here are some of my tips for falling asleep faster, getting more sleep, and getting higher quality sleep.

Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, nurse, sleep expert, or anything else like that. I’m just a person who has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting good quality sleep.

Most of the time, I have a lot of stress that keeps me from falling asleep quickly. I’m also a light sleeper, so every little noise and movement wakes me up in the middle of the night. But, luckily, I have a few tips and tricks that help me fall asleep and stay asleep!

I know we’re all different, but here are some things that work for me:

Establish a bedtime routine.

My routine is usually to take a bath, take out my contacts, eat a snack, and either watch Netflix, crochet, or read. This helps my body understand that it’s time to wind down (both physically and mentally), so I can relax much sooner.

Drink tea before bed.

Once in a while, I’ll have a warm cup of tea before bed. This not only warms me up, but it also fills my belly and makes me drowsy. Just be sure it’s caffeine-free or herbal tea!

Watch TV to lull you into sleep.

I know we’ve been told that we should turn off the lights and get into bed to tell our brains to turn off. But in my personal experience, it helps me calm my mind by watching a show or movie I like. It helps me relax and stop worrying, and then I drift off into peaceful sleep.

Use your smartphone or e-reader to relax your mind.

I’ve been hearing a lot about how you shouldn’t use your smartphone or tablet before bed because the bright light tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime and you should wake up. But hear me out!

This, for me, works just like watching TV by allowing me to forget the worries of the day and fall fast asleep. Play a relaxing game, read a good book, or browse Pinterest. Whatever you do, just turn the screen brightness all the way down so you don’t keep yourself up.

Have a snack before bed.

I know they say eating before bed is bad because it makes you gain weight. Well, getting poor sleep at night because you’re hungry is going to make you gain weight too, so it’s your choice. Personally, I like going to sleep on a full stomach and not waking up starving in the morning.

Take a bath in the evening.

Run yourself a hot bath, grab a book or magazine, and relax. Let your mind and body relax, and you’ll be able to peacefully head to bed shortly after.

Prepare items for tomorrow before sleeping.

Before you jump into bed, get everything ready for the next day. Pack your lunch for work, pick out your clothes, get your keys and jacket out, pack your gym bag, and do anything else you normally do in the morning. Not only will this ease your mind, but you can also sleep in a few extra minutes in the morning!

Stretch before crawling in bed.

I don’t do this as often as I should, but it’s a great tip! Stretch your legs and back (even while sitting in bed), and your body will instantly feel less tense. Also, if you tend to get leg cramps at night, this might help you out.

Use a fan or earplugs to drown out noise.

I usually only use a fan to sleep, but if the neighbors are loud or my boyfriend is snoring, I’ll use earplugs too. This really helps if you’re a light sleeper because if you have a fan on and earplugs in, you won’t hear much at all. But don’t worry, you’ll still hear your alarm clock!

 

Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips on getting better sleep! And don’t forget to take your nap today!

Sleep, Snooze, Nap, Doze, and Dream

sleeping puppies

These dogs know what’s up! (Photo: PicPetz.com)

We’ve all heard people say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but what you might not know is that you’ll be dead a lot sooner if you skimp on sleep. You might think you’re getting more ‘life’ out of your day by going to bed late or waking up early, but even though you’ll have more time for the moment, you’re cutting your life short.

I came across and article recently that really made me realize how important sleep is. I always heard it was important, but I never knew sleep was that important. I’ve compiled lots of research to help you understand how important sleep really is. Health isn’t just about diet and exercise; it’s also about living a healthy lifestyle. This means taking care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sleep plays a role in all three!

So let’s start with the basics. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Getting fewer hours of sleep can lead to stress, irritability, moodiness, poor concentration, grumpiness, and sluggishness. You might even experience slowed speech, poor judgement and decision making, impaired memory, and the inability to multitask. This is common sense. We’ve all had days when our brains are foggy from lack of sleep.

Here’s where it gets really scary. According to the Huffington Post, just one week of getting 6 hours of sleep per night can lead to over 700 genetic changes. If you only get 6 hours of sleep for one week, you’ll have four times the risk of stroke and a 48% higher risk of dying of heart disease when compared to someone getting adequate sleep. Lack of sleep also increases your risk for osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Healthline explains in great detail how a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. If you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones get thrown off, particularly leptin and ghrelin. These hormones help regulate your appetite by telling your brain when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough to eat. Those who average only 6 hours of sleep per night are 27% more likely to be overweight. Not only is this because your hormones are confused, but also because you’ll be lacking the mental and physical energy to exercise.

Have you ever noticed that after a late night or early morning, you want food? Whenever I don’t get enough sleep, I always want carbs. I also want to sit on the couch and be lazy, but that’s beside the point…

Food cravings + poor judgement from lack of sleep = unhealthy food choices (and ultimately weight gain if repeated over time).

Now you’re probably thinking, “well, I can always catch up on sleep during the weekend or take a nap later.” This is true, but only to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong – naps are my best friend, and if I could, I’d nap every day. Sleeping in on weekends and napping will help, but they won’t fix the problem. Think of it like debt. Naps are like paying only the minimum monthly payment on a credit card. It’ll keep you afloat, but you’ll never be fully caught up. I’m definitely not telling you to stop napping – I’m a HUGE fan! Just remember, playing catch-up on sleep isn’t the best.

Now that you know the facts about lack of sleep, you just need some tips to help you get enough shut-eye! My next post will give you tips on how to fall asleep faster, get enough sleep, and sleep better throughout the night.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to nap today!! I’ll be taking my own advice🙂

 

Slender Fried Chicken

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Hello Readers!!

It’s getting cold! At least where I am… I’m up in Michigan, and today we have a wind chill of -18°F. Burrrrrr! That makes today a good day to stay inside and keep warm.

Luckily, you can make yourself a tasty dinner without going out in the cold. You only need a few ingredients for this fried chicken, and it’s HEALTHY too!

It’s perfect for kids, picky eaters, and anyone who loves fried chicken but also likes to eat healthy. My boyfriend and I have this about once a week because it’s healthy,cheap, quick, and easy!

I like to dip mine in barbecue sauce (not the healthiest choice, I know), but try dipping them in my healthy honey mustard. It’s just as good and is all natural.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks or strips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sauce for dipping (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat your olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk your egg in a small bowl.
  3. Spread your flour out on a cookie sheet or plate, giving yourself enough room for coating the chicken.
  4. Dip each chunk of chicken in the egg and then coat it in flour.
  5. Gently set it in your olive oil. Be careful! The oil might splatter, and it’ll be hot!
  6. Once all the chicken is in the pan, let it fry for about 5 minutes until it gets crispy and golden brown, then flip it for another 5 minutes.
  7. To make sure it’s fully cooked, you can use a meat thermometer and make sure the chicken reaches 165°F.
  8. Once the chicken is done, remove it from the pan and put the pieces on a plate lined with paper towels. This will help soak up any extra oil and keep your breading from getting soggy.
  9. Salt and pepper your chicken the way you like.
  10. Let it cool a little bit, and serve with your favorite sauce!

Just writing this is making me want some chicken! I like to eat mine with a  sweet potato and green beans. Yum! It’s the perfect balanced meal: healthy fats, lean protein, complex carbs, and veggies.

Enjoy! Let me know how you like it and what you like to dip your chicken in.

Slender Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas

¡Hola!

Last night I feasted on a delicious chicken quesadilla that had whole grain, veggies, and lean protein. With Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and no cheese, it’s sure to keep you slender! If you’re really craving cheese, just add a little; don’t go overboard!

Normally, a quesadilla would include flour tortillas loaded with cheese and topped with sour cream – not exactly the healthiest dinner idea. But I’ve slenderized it for you! You can still indulge in a tasty meal without any guilt.

This is a quick and easy recipe, so if you don’t have a lot of time or energy, no worries!

I have a quesadilla maker, but you could easily make these on the stove. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

(for one quesadilla)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 whole wheat tortilla shells
  • 1/2 cup peppers & onions (can be frozen or fresh)
  • Plain nonfat Greek yogurt, salsa, guacamole (optional)
  • Cheese (optional, only if you must have it)

Directions:

  1. Lightly oil a pan with olive oil and warm it over medium heat.
  2. Grill chicken breast until fully cooked (temperature reaches 165°F)
  3. Salt and pepper chicken breast to taste.
  4. Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces or shred it if possible.
  5. If using a quesadilla maker, plug it in and get it warm. If using a pan on the stove, get the pan warmed up. Do NOT use any oil. You don’t want soggy tortillas.
  6. Put down one tortilla shell and evenly spread the chicken, peppers, and onions. Put the other tortilla shell on top.

    Chicken quesadilla

    Frozen peppers and onions don’t have to be warmed up ahead of time. They will thaw and heat as the tortillas brown.

  7. Again, if using the quesadilla maker, just follow the directions for it (you won’t need to flip it). If using the stove, let each side of the quesadila brown up (you’ll have to flip it at least once to see how it’s browning).
  8. Once the tortillas are nice and toasted, set the quesadilla on a plate and let it cool a few minutes before cutting.
  9. Top with Greek yogurt, guacamole, or salsa.

This is by far my favorite dinner recipe, as well as my boyfriend’s. It’s just so quick, easy, and delicious. And the best part is, it’s healthy too!!

¡Adios!