The Hidden Toxins in Beauty Care & How to Ditch Them

There were 3 girls in my house growing up and as you can imagine -we went through a TON of personal care products. There was the shower full of soaps, 2-in-1 shampoos and Neet hair removal cream (Pert Plus and Dial were my favs), the vanity with a huge assortment of face washes, toners, deodorant, Biore nose strips, toothpaste, hair gels and mouthwash AND our own makeup bags stuffed to overflowing with cosmetics and nail polishes. And I always liked to top things off with a generous spritz of The Body Shop vanilla perfume just to seal the deal. Hey it took a lot of work to look this fabulous!

Lori Picture

What I didn’t know back then was that each of those items that made my hair shine, my pimples fade and my nails gleam fluorescent purple were loaded with toxic chemicals. In fact, it wasn’t until I set about changing my diet 6 years ago that occurred to me what I put on my body is just as important as what I put into it. Perhaps even more important since the things we eat are filtered through our organs of elimination (kidneys, liver, bowels) but the junk we smear on our skin is simply absorbed right into our bodies. Yeesh!

The clearest and best way I’ve seen to get my head around this stuff is by watching Annie Leonard’s 8-minute video “The Story of Cosmetics”. Check it out below:

(*email subscribers – click the link above or go to my site at www.lorileighwilson.com to view the video)

Of course I want the safest and best alternatives for myself and my family but at the same time I don’t want to resort to letting my hair hang in greasy coconut oil covered strands or staining my lips and cheeks with beet juice to achieve a healthy glow. So what can I do? Believe it or not there are some really amazing and effective natural alternatives that will meet all of our cosmetic needs while still keeping us as healthy as possible. Here are 5 suggestions to get you started:

1. Read Gillian Deacon’s book “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” – Broadcaster and environmental activist Gillian Deacon wrote this compelling book after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It’s an invaluable resource because she not only outlines all of the hazardous chemicals and their potential side effects but also lists natural and effective alternatives by brand name.

theres lead in your lipstick

2. Download the free app “Think Dirty”– Developed by a young Canadian entrepreneur, this free app is a life saver when you are shopping for the healthiest products to use on your body. Simply enter the product or scan the URL and you will immediately get the list of ingredients with a ranking from 1-10 (10 being the worst). The “Dirty Meter” will rate the products ingredients in terms of their Carcinogenicity, Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity and Allergies & Immunotoxicities. And they even offer up greener and more natural alternatives!

thinkdirty_app_mock_1000x627

3. Ask questions & Source Out Greener Salons – have you ever wondered how safe the sweet-smelling shampoos and hair dyes applied at your favourite local hairdressers are for you AND for the stylist applying them? Or what about the cocktail of toxins we apply to our nails and skin at spas? Chances are we are inhaling and ingesting a dangerous mix of untested chemicals each time we get a “beauty” treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your own research about the products being used and take the time to find safer and healthier alternatives. Thankfully many salons and spas are now incorporating greener items into their offerings which benefits the long-term health of both their clients and their employees. (GTA friends – check out Casablanca Salon, Alma Natural Spa and One Salon & Boutique)

4. Order online – Although you might not be able to find good clean products at your local store, there are some amazing websites offering beautiful natural products to keep you looking and smelling your very best. 100% Pure, Living Libations and Gabriel Cosmetics are 3 of my absolute favourites.

100% pure

5. Make your own stuff- I’ve had lots of fun making beauty products in my own kitchen. Meghan Telpner’s book Undiet and the website WellnessMama.com have tons of wonderful recipes using easy-to-source ingredients like baking soda, epsom salts, avocado, oats and raw chocolate. I even whipped up homemade beauty products to give as Christmas gifts to my girlfriends including these Lavender Bath Salts: Combine 3 tablespoons of epsom salts, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 8 drops of lavender essential oil and 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a small jar. Shake it all up and use generously in a restorative hot bath!

Today my bathroom is filled with just as many products as when I was a teenager but over time I’ve managed to ditch the Pert Plus and Biore in favour of stellar chemical-free alternatives. Don’t get overwhelmed though- it took me a good long time to transition from Pantene to Aubrey Organics. But little by little I have replaced the old stuff with healthier and more natural choices…..I might still have those stunning purple triangle earrings though ; )

Check Me Out On Tuja Wellness!

The good folks at the online health publication Tuja Wellness ran a Nutrition Rockstar contest back in the summer and I was the lucky winner!  Thanks to the generosity of Meghan Telpner and the Tuja peeps- I have been happily soaking in an abundance of knowledge from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition via their Culinary Nutrition Expert Program.

Another wonderful bonus to winning the contest is that I get the opportunity to write a column for Tuja. How freakin lucky am I?! If you haven’t heard of Tuja then make a beeline for their site and sign up already! It’s an amazing online resource for anyone interested in enjoying a healthy, balanced and happy life.

And of course they only use the most brilliant writers ; ) My first contribution for Tuja went up on their site on Saturday so hop on over and check out my 6 Worry-Free Tricks To Keep Your Family Healthy Through The Holidays”.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful and healthy holiday season! And thank you Tuja Wellness for this early Christmas present.

Over Halfway through! My Top 5 “A-Ha’s” From the CNE Course So Far

Hey there – Nutrition Rockstar here! As we head into mid-November,  I’m now over halfway through the Meghan Telpner Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. My brain is literally spilling over with information and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to participate in this powerful and positive life-changing endeavour.

This program has offered me everything I had hoped for and more. Within each comprehensive module, I’m learning about the power of food, how to prepare healthful and delicious meals, the science of healthy eating, how to avoid the pitfalls of healthwashing and “bad”vertising, how to extract medicine from food, how to live a healthy, balanced life and how to have fun and enjoy the process. And the best part is that I’m able to do the entire course from the comfort of my own home! I get the kids off to school, whip up a Dandy Latte, fire up my computer and settle in to learn from Meghan and her amazing team of experts.

Before I share my top 5 list from the first half of the course, I want to let you know that Meghan will be running this program again next fall and she has just opened up a limited time registration with the option of a 10-month payment plan. Trust me -if you are at all interested in learning more about nutrition or perhaps becoming a Culinary Nutrution Expert yourself – this is a gift that you simply must give to yourself. Just click on the CNE banner above or below to find out all about the program. And you can always contact me directly if you’d like more information about my experience (or if you’d like me to whip you up a superfood concoction with my newly acquired culinary skills ; )

And now onto my list! It was really freakin’ hard to narrow it down to just 5 things because my notebooks are literally filled to the brim with life-changing information, research and recipes. But after careful consideration, here are my Top 5 “A-Ha” Lessons from the first half of the CNE Course:

1. Preparation is Key – life is busy, busy, busy and it’s often easier to just hit up a drive-thru or order a pizza than to think about making dinner. But if you can spare an hour or 2 a week to plan out your meals and prep your ingredients – you’ll save time and money and your entire family will reap the myriad benefits of eating healthy, nutrient dense food.

2. Stop Counting Calories! – Ok seriously – this is one trend that I could never fully get behind. There’s just something about counting calories (and counting steps for that matter) that really seems like a surefire way to suck all of the joy and fun out of life. I’ve learned from Meghan that all calories are not created equally (thus the epidemic of people who are overfed and undernourished) and that it’s much more important to focus on nutrient load by eating whole, fresh, unprocessed foods than to worry about each and every bite.

3. Organics All the WayMeghan’s equally brilliant husband Josh Gitalis led us through a comprehensive module on “The Fundamentals of Nutrition“. I literally took notes until my fingers ached as he taught about the importance of healthy soil, fresh water, organic plants and the key macro and micro nutrients in our diet. One of the biggest “ahas” from this section of the course for me was learning about the difference between organic and inorganic farming. Did you know that the following things are prohibited from organic farming (but are often used on conventional farms): GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizer, sewage sludge, drugs and radiation. Yeesh! Whenever possible – try to support farmers who are committed to organic farming principles so that you can enjoy the most potent nutrient rich food.

4. Don’t Fear the Fat – I was a teenager when the whole “low-fat” craze really took hold. I remember happily chowing down bags of candy and thinking I was following a perfectly healthy low-fat diet. Doh! There are tons of misconceptions about fats and sadly as a result of misleading advertising and healthwashing, many of us have become fat-phobic. But the truth is that our bodies need healthy fats for energy and optimal health (did you know our brains are 60% fat?) So don’t be afraid to incorporate healthy fats into your diet – nuts, avocados and raw, cold-pressed oils are a great place to start.

5. It’s Not Just About The Food– although the food we put in our bodies is a key to enjoying optimal health, there are also other factors that contribute to overall wellbeing. Meghan recently wrote a blog post about “Vitamin G” – the gratitude vitamin! Taking the time to feel grateful for the blessings in your life can have a major impact on your health and happiness. Also things like reducing stress (why not give meditation a try?), getting out into nature, finding a form of exercise you love, cultivating supportive and nurturing friendships and finding ways to be creative and have fun will all contribute to a joy-filled life.

Culinary Nutrition Expert ProgramI could literally go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned from the CNE course so far. Things like; why we should eat more plants, the importance of regulating blood sugar, how to use food as medicine and the straight poop on foods like dairy/meat/gluten/and white sugar. And I promise I’ll share more tidbits of wisdom in an upcoming post. But for now, I’ve got to get back to my studies! It’s not easy being a rockstar…but it sure is a lot of fun ; )

An Imperfect Rockstar

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about an amazing contest that was being run by Tuja Wellness with the prize of a scholarship to Meghan Telpner’s School of Culinary Nutrition. They were looking for a “Nutrition Rockstar” – and I am thrilled and humbled to announce that I am the very lucky winner. I am beyond excited to dive headfirst into the learning that is jam-packed into this incredible course.

Actually, “Rockstar” is quite a fitting moniker for a gal like me given that I already like to think of myself as a young, fun-loving, cool, plant-eating vegetarian hipster. Something of a “green smoothie goddess” if you will. A veritable whiz kid in the kitchen – my family gobbling up my kale and quinoa-laden dishes just like they were candy.

Ok yes – the reality might not be quite so rosy. Actually, I’m just a 40-something mom- neither as young or cool as I used to pretend to be who’s mostly just trying to keep my family healthy and well-fed. And by “healthy” I mean getting them to ingest their green smoothies without gagging or complaining bitterly. And by “fed” I mean with as much humour, taste and nutrient-rich plant foods that I can reasonably achieve and afford.

Funnily enough, our first assignment in this course is to craft our very own food philosophy. Something along the lines of the brilliant Michael Pollan who wrote:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

In Defense of Food

So I started wondering about  my own personal credo and I’m thinking that maybe something simple like my lofty goal of keeping myself and my family healthy and well-fed might be a good place to start.:

“Feeding a family of meat-free, animal-loving, plant-munching, green-drink guzzling hipsters.”

Lori Wilson

That sounds pretty darn  good! I’ll start with my own clan and then branch out and hopefully my honest approach to cooking and eating will inspire a few others along the way. My goal is that in addition to my own growth and learning, I will also share the ups and downs of this educational journey with all of you.

Yep – I’m going to pick up that “Rockstar” title and run with it goddamit! Thank you to Tuja Wellness and Meghan Telpner for taking a chance on me – a decidedly imperfect rockstar. I am dancing around my kitchen, belting out a tune and strumming my wooden spoon air guitar as I get set to cook up some culinary magic. Let the fun and learning begin!

 

 

Lori Wilson – Nutrition Rockstar

I can confidently define myself a number of ways: mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, voice-over actress, writer, small-town girl, Western grad and lover of 80’s pop music. Those labels are 100% me. But “nutrition rockstar“? I’m not so sure.

Yes it’s true that I’m a plant-based foodie and that I love to prepare healthy foods for my family. And yes I’m willing to experiment with new ingredients and recipes to create culinary masterpieces in my kitchen. But here’s the rub – I fail just as many times (if not more) than I succeed. For every “Mmmm…mom this is yummy!” I get an equal number of “I can’t drink any more of this smoothie – I just gagged twice” and “quick get me a drink of water so I can swallow this stuff down!”

And it’s not just the kids – it’s me too. Most days I smugly start off the morning with lemon water followed by a glorious green smoothie. And then there are the days that I groggily hit up the Starbucks drive-thru for a grande soy latte and a sesame bagel. I can rock a Kathy Freston 21-day cleanse with as much vigour as I can spend the whole day lounging poolside sipping Prosecco and eating junk food with my girlfriends.

Like most people, I have a long and complicated relationship with food. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30’s that I decided to make a major shift in my eating habits and it’s been a journey of self-discovery, successes and setbacks. And I certainly haven’t unlocked the secret formula- I still have a LOT to learn. But for me, a diet free of animal products and rich in plant foods (and the occasional hunk of chocolate) has been the best fit.

The good folks at Tuja Wellness in partnership with nutritionist Meghan Telpner are giving away a scholarship to the fall Culinary Nutrition Expert Program and I would dearly love to win it. They are looking for a “Nutrition Rockstar” and the more I think about it, I wonder if perhaps I wouldn’t fit the bill. I certainly don’t consider myself to be better than anyone else – quite the opposite. I’m just like most of you. A regular person weaving on and off of the path healthy living with more than my fair share of bumps along the way. But I am confident that there are some lessons to be mined (and connections to be made) if I take this incredible program and continue to honestly share the inevitable ups and downs and screw ups and successes that will unfold.

I have wanted to take this course ever since I took my first cooking class in Meghan’s pink kitchen back in 2011. I was immediately drawn to her passion for real, whole, unprocessed ingredients and her impressive knowledge of the transformational power of food. However with 3 young children, there has always been something else for me to spend the tuition money on (Do you know how much it costs to outfit a young hockey goalie? Or the expense of competitive dance? Or that kids grow so darn fast you have to keep buying them practically a whole new wardrobe every single year?!)

But maybe the time has come for me to really focus on myself. I’m open and willing to learn and I’m determined to keep steering myself and my family towards making more nutritious choices. And I’m not going to quit even when my 4-year-old tells me that his smoothie looks like brown mushy poop. Or when my daughter dramatically rolls her eyes when I announce what’s for dinner. Or even when I finish off a day of healthy eating by sitting on my butt watching So You Think You Can Dance with a big bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine. Because after I throw myself a little pity party – I will pick myself up and try again. In my heart I know it’s worth it. And all things considered – doesn’t that sound kind of like a Rockstar?

 

 

 

Potent Superfood Add-Ins For Your Smoothie

Green smoothies are a staple in my house and you can hear the whir of the Vitamix coming from the kitchen pretty much every single morning. And although at least one of the kids will inevitably complain bitterly, we all chug down our green goodness to kick-start the day.

The greens, veggies and fruits are the stars of the show but I also like to slip in some potent superfoods to get a bit more bang for my buck. These are definitely optional and some of them are down-right decadent judging by the price tag but if you have the inclination and the extra cash, you might want to try a few of my favourites:

SPIRALINA– This blue-green algae comes from the sea and is a superior source of protein. It’s a powder so it requires very little energy to digest and is amazingly rich in chlorophyll a phytochemical that comes straight from the sun’s energy. It also helps detoxify and nourish the blood and every cell of the body. Spiralina can add a bit of a fishy taste to your smoothie so start with a half a teaspoon in the beginning and amp up the honey or dates to cover the sea  flavor. It will also make your smoothie a brilliant green colour!

spirulina

CHLORELLA– I recently purchased Vega chlorella tablets to add to smoothies and for my son to take after particularly grueling soccer practices and matches. This green algae is roughly 65% protein and also contains all of the essential amino acids and tons of chlorophyll. According to nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, “it can be helpful in warding off energy slumps and thanks to its high protein content, it’s useful for active athletes.” Be warned though – a bottle containing 300 tablets set me back $70.

chlorella

CHIA SEEDS– I love chia seeds for their amazing amino acid profile and omega 3 essential fatty acids.  Just 2 tablespoon added to a smoothie contains five times the omega-3 content of a 1/4 cup serving of walnuts, twice the iron and magnesium of a cup of spinach, as much calcium as a half-cup of milk, as much potassium as a third of a banana and more than twice the fiber of a cup of oatmeal. And it’s loaded with antioxidants. One note though – if you are adding chia to your smoothie it’s best to drink it right away. The seeds swell over time and will make your smoothie thick and clumpy if you let it sit.

chia

SUNWARRIOR PROTEIN POWDER– I have tried several protein powders and this one is definitely my favourite. It’s not chalky or grainy, tastes pretty good and it’s easy to digest. This whole grain brown rice protein powder is 85% protein, soy-free, raw, sprouted, and vegan. It is naturally rich in vitamins and minerals and contains high amounts of antioxidants. It also contains other essential nutrients such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous, iron, and potassium. But again – it’s not cheap at $65.99 a bag.

sun-warrior-protein

IRISH MOSS– I first learned about this superfood at a course with Meghan Telpner and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now brace yourself – it’s kind of a weird one but the health benefits are truly amazing. According to Meghan, this sea vegetable is “nature’s only plant-based source of thyroid hormones, is abundant in potassium which can significantly improve behavior and mental functioning and is also very helpful for fibromyalgia,  moodiness, agitation, depression and anxiety disorders. It is highly concentrated in iodine and abundant in selenium which is a necessary factor in thyroid hormone production and if that wasn’t enough Sea Moss contains Algin. This phytonutrient has magical therapeutic value as a heavy metal detoxifying agent- meaning it helps pull heavy metals out of the tissues of our bodies.  Additionally this food is a healing agent to all mucous membranes.” Wow! Irish Moss comes in a bag looking like a weed you might pull off the beach so follow this link to see how to prepare the moss before you add it to your smoothie- http://meghantelpner.com/blog/the-mystery-revealed-how-to-prepare-irish-moss-sea-moss/

irish moss

MSM POWDER – Raw food expert and author David Wolfe speaks passionately about the benefits of this naturally occurring form of dietary sulfur found in fresh raw foods that are involved in the cycle of rain. “MSM is deficient in foods grown in greenhouses or in foods grown through irrigation. MSM is volatile and destroyed by cooking. In the body, MSM builds collagen and maintains healthy joints. This is also why MSM increases flexibility, hastens recovery time from sore muscles, and is excellent for recovery from athletic injuries. Because of its collagen-building properties, MSM creates smooth skin, thick lustrous hair, and strong nails.” I love Omica Organics 100% Pure Plant MSM Crystals that are derived from natural wood pulp. And if I don’t put a scoop in my morning smoothie, I’ll stir a 1/2 teaspoon into a glass of water later in the day.

msm

FREEZE DRIED ACAI BERRY POWDER– this powder derived from the acai berry contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart and circulatory system while promoting tissue growth development. Acai’s high antioxidant content has been shown to slow down the effects of aging and prevent the development of certain cancers. I throw in 1 teaspoon as a potent antioxidant smoothie addition.

acai

 MACA– this root grows in some of the hardiest terrain in the world on top of the Peruvian mountains. Because it’s so durable, it is called an “adaptagen” which means it helps us cope and better manage stress. As a result, it can also boost our libido, improve hormonal balance, and stabilize our mood and energy. Remember – a little maca powder goes a long way so start with a 1/2 tsp in your smoothie and build up to 1/2 a tablespoon.

maca

These are just a few of the amazing superfoods that I keep stocked in my pantry and I’ll toss 1 or 2 into my smoothie each morning as the mood strikes me. I also love to add a tablespoon of coconut oil, a pinch of Celtic sea salt, a couple of Vitamin C capsules, a teaspoon of cinnamon and/or turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds. Don’t feel like you need to rush out and buy a whole arsenal of new products – just try a few and experiment with adding them to your smoothie until you come up with a few new yummy and healthy drinks.

Happy blending!

My Biggest Lesson from the 21-Day Cleanse

I am a worrier. As far back as I can remember I have fretted over things, often to the point of developing a physical side effect like a nagging tummy ache. In fact, as a child people often compared me to my grandma who was famous for worrying over every little thing.

This legacy has stayed with me into adulthood and was only amplified once I had children. There are soooo many more things to freak out about now that I have 3 precious little beings to love and protect.

worry 4

I had many “aha” moments in doing the 21-day cleanse this time around but none so profound as the realization that I often numb my worry/stress/anxiety with food and wine. About 5 days into the cleanse, I couldn’t figure out why I felt so great physically and so strung out mentally. I was anxious, tense and distracted. And what I came to understand was that I had eliminated all of my coping mechanisms. Tough day with the kids? Have a glass of wine. Up all night with a sick toddler? Hit the Starbucks drive-thru for a venti. Argument with my husband? Grab a big hunk of chocolate. Anxious over an audition? Plunk myself in front of American Idol with a bag of chips. Overscheduled and strung out? Good time for a slice of pizza and a piece of cake.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I have been avoiding “feeling” most of my feelings because I’ve put things in place to compensate. I never slow down long enough to figure out what is going on in my mind because I am racing through life at full throttle without taking inventory of how I am really doing. And guess what? Once I couldn’t turn to my beloved glass of red wine or a big hunk of Lindt chocolate, my worry was still right there waiting to take over.

So what did I do? Well after I shed a few tears, I decided to take this as an opportunity for personal growth. I dusted off my copy of Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and reread it. I read Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I downloaded guided meditations off of iTunes (Kathy Freston, Louise Hay, Pema Chodron and Gabrielle Bernstein are my favs) and I listened to them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I wrote. I loaded my Louise Hay CD (How To Love Yourself) into my van and listened to it whenever I was driving around. I shared my feelings with my husband, my sister and a couple of close friends. I took good long Epsom salt baths. I stopped to breathe when I felt my worry taking over – 3 slow deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. I got a massage. I constantly reminded myself to stay present with my children. I watched Modern Family and laughed my head off. And I started to feel better.

dale carnegie worry

Even though I am far from having this thing conquered, I truly feel that I am on the path to more genuine peace and serenity. And I’m not going to be so darn afraid of my feelings anymore. Heck, they are all a part of me and I’m going to either work towards setting them free or figure out how to incorporate them into my life.

Does this mean I’m never going to have a glass of wine again or that reality tv is now off my radar? No chance! I’m still planning to enjoy life’s guilty pleasures. I’m just going to be sure that I don’t come to rely on them quite so much.

Bottom line – shit is going to happen. I get that. But I can’t spend the rest of my life worrying about past events and impending disasters and still fully enjoy being present as a loving wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and human being. And I can’t grow as a person while racing through life with a glass of wine in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other. It’s time to face my fears and move forward. Yay me!