Hair Health + Big Moves


hair tea.jpg

Hello from Greenville, South Carolina! I wrote a long post about why I moved and what I'm doing (or think I'm doing) here, but I decided to not post it. Here's the long and the short of it: it was time for a change. Instead of that post, I wanted to write about what I've been doing for my hair health, and better yet my scalp health, lately. 

I think I've always had an itchy, dry scalp. One of my New York co-workers and I have discussed our scalp history at length because we both have the same issue. If I put too much conditioner in or too much oil on, my fine hair becomes an oily mess. Strip too much and my hair is crunchy. The hydration issue is a balance that I don't always seem to get right. 

I've been practicing/utilizing four things consistently for a few months now that I think are making all the difference. While my scalp is still a little dry, the itch has gone down significantly. I'm also not finding as many little white bits at the base of my hair as I used to, hallelujah! 

While this is an on-going experiment, I can tell that this is what is working best now. My hypothyroidism and excessive stress had caused a lot of hair loss over the past 2 years. That on top of an itchy, dry scalp resulted in a self-confidence drop. My hair helps me feel beautiful. It's vain, I know. But there are things, you know, that just make you feel pretty, like a great dress or the perfect eyeliner. My hair felt like a safety net and when it was failing, I felt insecure. While that's probably (definitely) a deeper issue, it feels like my friend is back and healthy and things feel right again. So I'm taking this win, and hoping one, or all, of these steps help you too.

Step 1: MINERALIZE

Hair and scalp health is not just a topical issue. Your scalp is your skin. If there are things happening on the inside, they are coming out. To help get more vitamins and minerals, I've turned to a blend of herbs for an infusion that I try to drink at least once a day. Horsetail, nettle leaf, and oatstraw (with Gotu Kola thrown in occasionally) all provide nutrients key for building strong hair and nails, as well as providing a moistening component to aid in hydration. I use them in equal parts and steep in hot water for at least 10 minutes.

Step 2: PURE SHAMPOO

I have seriously tried so many shampoos and between me and my co-worker we probably tried almost everything on the (affordable) market. I started using Enfleurage's Rosemary & Atlas Cedar Shampoo a few months ago and I honestly couldn't be happier. It's a really clean, herbal-infused shampoo (with all the herbs I've been drinking amazingly). It has a great lather but doesn't seem to be as stripping as a lot of the ones out there. It's not the cheapest option, but it's also not the most expensive one I've tried. And a little can go a long way. It's apparently not available online so here's hoping I can call the store and have them ship it to me!

Step 3: OIL

Pre-shampoo: Sarada Ayurvedic Remedies' Hair Vitality Elixir. For 10 minutes before I shampoo or sometimes hours before I shampoo. I section my scalp into quarters and put about 10 drops in each quarter. Be sure to massage in, but more on that in the next step. 

Post-shampoo: Cocokind Organic Chia Oil. Chamomile infused so it has calming and anti-inflammatory properties. But just a little. Like 3 drops on the tips of your fingers that you spread over your whole scalp. And then massage. 

Step 4: STIMULATE

Perhaps the most important step. Once I get out of the shower and towel my hair off (with a proper hair towel, also important for hair health), I put the chia oil on the tips of my fingers and really massage my scalp. The point here is to stimulate blood flow to help in detoxification, so really get in there. It has also helped increase my hair's volume so added bonus. If you do nothing else, change nothing else in your routine, do this. And then get back to me and let me know how it goes. 

 

What kind of confidence challenges are you experiencing? How are you beginning to overcome them? What are your healthy hair tips?

Three Things Keeping Me Healthy This Winter


The weather has been weird lately. It was 19 degrees last night and in the high 60s last week. Since this weird, global warming winter has been shaking things up internally, it has been a good sign to check in on my health. I used to be the person that would get sick every time the weather changed, so I try to be very aware of how I'm feeling physically whenever a new season is upon us. I'm offering a few of my favorite ways to stay healthy below (plus a few things that are keeping me occupied indoors while the cold works itself out). 

Elderberry Syrup - High in Vitamin C, a little bit of this in my daily hot lemon water has been a delicious start to my day and a great immune boost first thing in the morning. Currently, I'm sipping on Mother Mountain Herbals' Elderberry Oxymel that was steeped for over 8 months. My other favorites included Wooden Spoon Herbs' Elderberry Sumac Syrup and the Organic Sambucus Elderberry + Zinc Lozenges

Kitchari - This is Ayurveda's answer to a cleanse. This lentil/rice porridge with veggies is so stewed down that it gives your digestive system a rest. It's the perfect way to change seasons, take a break after an eating holiday, or any other time your digestive system feels taxed. Here's my favorite recipe for kitchari from Noel Graupner, an Ayurvedic practitioner in NYC. If you have any questions about the recipe, email me or comment below!

P.S. This recipe makes a few days worth which is really all you need to reset, but you may want to use Triphala (a mix of berries and herbs in pill form) to help you poop daily since there isn't much roughage. I usually take 2 pills before bed. 

Noël's Spring Kitchari
1 cup split or whole mung dal
1 cup white basmati rice
½ tsp mustard seed, whole
½ tsp cumin or kalonji seed, whole
½ tsp coriander, ground
½ tsp fennel, whole
½ tsp turmeric, ground
½ tsp fenugreek, ground
½ inch ginger root, chopped or grated
¼ tsp mineral or soma salt
2-3 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1-2 cups of spring veggies, chopped (bitter melon, daikon radish, celery root, asparagus, pea, fennel, etc.)
1 cup bitter spring greens (mustard greens, dandelion, sorrel, nettles, collards, arugula, kale, spinach)
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
6 cups of water, filtered if possible

First, sift and sort through lentils and grains to remove any stones. Soak lentils and quinoa 5-8 hours or overnight, rinse well twice in cool, preferably filtered water. Soaking and rinsing will improve the digestibility of the kitchari.

Add the 5-6 cups of water along with the rice and mung beans to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid slightly ajar, and cook until the grain and beans have become soft, between 20-30 minutes. While the rice and beans are cooking, prepare vegetables and greens of your choice, add them to the pot of rice and beans, and continue cooking until they have become soft. The result should be a soupy porridge. Allow to cool slightly and  divide into bowls. 

In a separate saucepan, warm 2-3 Tbsp of ghee over the lowest heat possible. Add first the whole spices, stirring constantly until they begin to pop, then add the remaining ground spices to the ghee until well integrated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat before the aromas of the spices are lost from the ghee mixture to the air. Generously spoon the seasoned ghee over the cooked kitchari. Top kitchari with a sprinkle of mineral salt, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve warm. Enjoy, chewing each bite well before swallowing!

Tea - If you know me, you know I drink a LOT of tea. Mostly herbal since I cut out caffeine for the most part (Is now the time to tell you that it increases the chances of infertility by 50%?) Anything that keeps my digestion happy will keep away sickness and I know how much my body loves hot water. I'm drinking lots of immuno-happy herbs like lemon balm, nettle, peppermint, turmeric, and ginger. My favorite thing lately has been to just cut a few slices of fresh ginger and put them in my cup to refresh with hot water throughout the day.

Things I'm Loving Lately

Podcasts - Trying my best to keep informed by listening to NPR Politics which breaks the news down gently for me and trying to stay uplifted by listening to The Cookbook Deal by my favorite cookbook author, Jessica Murnane (P.S. If you aren't following me on Instagram, you probably haven't seen my hundreds of pictures of her cookbook but it is beautiful!).

Music - When I feel like I'm full up on people talking in my ears, I've been listening to and remembering my love for music. Right now I can't stop playing Aaron Copland's Rodeo and Chance the Rapper's All Night. What can I say? I have diverse taste...

Books - I had a chance to read Adina Grigore's second book, Just the Essentials, in advance and I am so excited for you all to read it! It is everything you need to know on essential oils and how to use them with lots of recipes. I made the Rosemary Clarifying Shampoo this week and it is GOOD. P.S. If you pre-order the book now you can get a free functional fragrance! Also enjoying Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander's The Art of Possibility. It provides tools to open you up to more (ahem) possibilities. 

 

What are you loving this week? What is keeping you healthy? Comment below or find me on Instagram @lisammagee. 

 

Sometimes I Need to Hear Things Twice


Sometimes I need to hear things twice before I REALLY hear them. Such was the case this past week when I attended The Class by Taryn Toomey on Wednesday. They mention on the website how cathartic of an experience The Class can be. The sounds, movement, and sweat can really get emotions flowing. While in the cool down after intense cardio, I contemplated what I needed to leave in the room before I headed back into the world. My mind immediately jumped to something Erin Stutland says in her "Soul Stroll" audio.

"What you used to think was hard is now easy. Just see if you can take on this idea that it's easy. That life is just getting easier. " 

These words brought tears to my eyes. As crazy hard as the workout was, my life has been feeling harder. It's been so hard to see my face breakout. To see my thyroid hormone plateau at an elevated level. To not know if something I eat is going to make me feel terrible. But as I sat there on that mat and heard those words again (which to be honest, I've heard them at least 20 times), I realized I had a choice to make. I could either choose to let my life feel hard or I could choose to let my life feel easy. I don't know about you, but I want any easy life. Does that mean I won't have bad days? Of course not. But choosing my health is an easy choice. Choosing to not eat specific foods because they can disrupt my body's processes sounds like an easy choice. Is it challenging? YES. But it is the easy choice to make. I keep thinking how hard it is to have to watch what I eat so carefully. And is this going to be life for as long as I live? It probably will be. But that doesn't mean it has to be hard. It may feel hard for awhile. Hard to figure out what my body responds well to, but it will get easier. The more I pay attention to how I feel with certain foods, exercises, and daily habits, the easier it will be to stay on the path of health. 

3 Ways I (Try to) Cope with Anxiety


I wrote the post below while sitting on a plane heading back to New Orleans for Christmas. I'm going to be honest, it's pretty personal, and possibly TMI. It also feels good to post it knowing that the people who need to read it will, and anyone else will just know my digestive system a little better. Also, to my cousin Charlotte who sat next to me on the plane, if you read this, sorry and I love you!


At present, I'm sitting on a plane with Debussy in my ears while still hearing the screeching cry of a baby a few rows away. And I am feeling that baby's pain. Maybe not that much. But I'm uncomfortable. My stomach is popping little gas bubbles all the time and I can't figure out why. Yes, those zucchini potato latkes at the airport may have been a bad idea. But why? They were oven baked. Nothing weird. And the few fries I had? Not out of the ordinary. Somehow though immediately upon consumption I felt terrible. Sharp stomach pains then annoying bloating and gas. And then I ate some banana bread. And some dried mango.

I've been having weird stomach problems for a few days now and it's something that comes and goes. Overall, my digestion is better. Better than it was last year. Better than it was 6 months ago. But I'm going home. And that brings anxiety. Sometimes I am the strongest disciplined person, able to say no to the things I don't want and know will make my body feel awful. But lately I've been giving into cookies and sugar and things I know I don't want to consume. The anxiety I've been feeling over going home, over the election, and the stress my family has been under because of it has taken a toll on my strong will. I want comfort. I want mac and cheese. I definitely don't want kale. I want a po-boy and bread and cookies. I want bacon. These are things that have never made me feel good. So the question becomes how do I move through this? How do I cope with anxiety and the stress I feel I'm under? Well, I'm still figuring that out. 

One thing that seems to work well for me is writing. Even a few minutes helps release a lot of tension that I feel. Writing this now I'm consciously having to unclench my jaw just from the build up of anxiety that's manifesting itself in my body. 

Another thing is breathing. Consciously, deeply breathing. I'm a breath holder. It's unconscious but sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. 

Talking (and usually crying whilst talking) has also become a big part of moving through this season. I'm a very emotional person anyways but this season has brought an uptick of sharing my feelings with others and looking for support and someone to talk it out with. My sister has been a big part of this as well as a few other dear friends without whom I would be a mess. I'm also looking forward to potentially seeking some professional guidance in the new year. 

This outlet of talking is also coming forth in community. I've set up a meeting this month for women who have (currently or otherwise) health issues and need space to be supported by other women. As I've reflected on this year, I've realized how far I've come, while also feeling like I haven't moved at all. I've been getting a lot of advice but I see the need to just vent and cry and be comforted in the unknowing of what my health looks like and will look like in the future. If you're in the NYC area and interested in participating, please email me at the address in the About section. There is no better time than the present to hold each other up and give comfort and support.

Why I Pet Patches the Cat Everyday (And Other Forms of Self-Care)


Whatever side of the aisle you fall on, this was a hard week for a lot people. We're all searching now for a little peace in this increasingly chaotic world (or maybe you're still protesting and that's okay, too). We're wondering what we can do to get through this, to heal, to understand, and to move forward in a place of strength and solidarity. I want to make this space comfortable for any person from any party to be able to bring who they are in an open dialogue, so I will only touch on politics to say I'm still in denial. I still feel as though I am in a dream, still sitting and watching it all unfold at an election party. But I'm not there and we must move forward. How? Day by day and step by step. 

One step I would like to offer up is self-care. You may be hearing that word a lot right now, mostly coming out of the wellness industry. I think Renee Byrd from Will Frolic for Food said it best, "Self-care, for me, is about developing comprehensive, preventative, daily practices that lead to improved long-term emotional and physical wellbeing." It's the little things or habits that we incorporate into our daily lives to bring a sense of calm or do something meaningful for our future health. When I add fermented ginger carrots to my food, my digestion doesn't miraculously feel amazing, but I know that it is improving the way I will feel further down the line. 

It may be reading your Bible before going to work. Repeating affirmations to yourself before you step out of bed. Making a cup of coffee in your special mug and enjoying it before frantically trying to get dressed. Spritzing lavender pillow spray before going to bed. Spending a few minutes petting your cat or dog. Maybe it's adding a few drops of a flower essence, tonic, or tincture to your morning cup of water. Holding a crystal in your hands or putting your feet in grass to remember your connection to the earth. Whatever it is, repeat and repeat again. The amazing thing about our minds is that they are malleable. New neural pathways can be created and we can interrupt our way of thinking and put in a new thought to create positive change.

Here's a few things I do to create a practice of self-care:

Ashwaganda, turmeric, and lemon tonic in hot water made in my special bowl and mixed with a chasen (bamboo whisk). This adaptogenic (stress-balancing) and inflammation-calming tonic is good for my body, but also is a small dose of meditation. Japanese tradition says creating a bowl of matcha refocuses your concentration from your thoughts to the movements with the whisk.  

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic form of full-body self massage that not only stimulates the lymphatic system, but connects you to your body. I use cold-pressed sesame oil or calendula-infused apricot kernel oil, but you can use any oil you like. I also occasionally use Naturopathica's lavender body oil as it is extra stress relieving. The practice is usually done before a bath, but can be done before or after a shower. *Beware of slippery tubs if massaging before the shower. (See more here.)

I touched on this earlier, but fermented foods are finding a big place in my self-care practice. I am in love with Hawthorne Valley's fermented ginger carrots to throw on EVERYTHING or Miso Master's chickpea miso to add into soup. Building up my gut health is so important for my overall health. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said "All disease begins in the gut," so I'm taking good care to build up happy, healthy bacteria for my mind and body. Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, or sauerkraut are also great additions to any daily food routine (although I would limit kefir and yogurt to 2-3 times a week because of the dairy). 

Pet my cat named Patches. This is going to make me sound like a crazy cat lady and that's okay. I'm usually alone in my apartment and having another creature here is so comforting. We've been together since I was in 7th grade and my sister will tell you we have a weird connection (at least I think she will). She knows when I'm hurting and knows when I really need a snuggle. Petting or combing her, especially her favorite spot, the head, is a way that I honor her place in my life. 

These are just a few ways I'm starting to practice self-care. However this practice manifests for you is perfect. It's all about what works best for you, what fits into your schedule and creates calm, and what brings you the most joy. I've been trying to strive for perfection in this and do these things everyday, but some days I forget and that's okay. You'll know to do it when you need it.

I'd love to start a conversation with you and help you find a self-care practice to incorporate into your daily life. Or maybe you're an expert at self-care and want to share your practice with others. Use the comments below and let's start a dialogue of support. We're stronger and better together. Whatever you're feeling, please keep an open mind and utilize words of kindness instead of insult.