Healthy Winter Favorites 2017
I’ve curated a list of the healthy favorites I’m using these days to keep my body moving, my brain fired up, and my life under control. I’m sharing everything from beauty products (kind of) to my best movement resources to my favorite snacks. And yes, that includes TWO types of chocolate. High in fibre, magnesium and anti-oxidants, yo!
If you’re looking for some healthy inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what’s keeping me happy and healthy this winter!
Self Care Products
I am a bit late to the essential oil party. But now that I’m here I’m loving it! Living Libations is a slightly loopy but really awesome Canadian brand of products that’s super, super natural and based largely on essential oils. The quality of the oils is extremely high, and their approach is generally a refreshing change from other beauty care lines. For instance, they have a section devoted of tooth-care products!
Tooth-care is actually how I got into Living Libations, because ever since I found out about my tongue-tie, I have become mouth obsessed. It’s super nerdy, but for some reason it now makes me super happy to spend lots of time cleaning my teeth. This started when I bought myself a bottle of their Happy Gum Drops for Christmas and fell in love with flossing all over again.
Did you know that one of the reasons flossing is good for you is because it moves your gums? Yep. Super cool!
A super intense but also delicious blend of essential oils that you rub on your dental floss before you floss to get extra clean teeth. Lots of clove and cinnamon goodness – yum! You can also turn these into mouth wash by mixing them into salt water, and I use them as part of my tooth brushing regime as well.
As well as the Gum Drops, I now have other fun stuff from the Living Libations mouth care line, including a tongue cleaner (also highly recommended) and Neem enamelizer toothpaste. My teeth feel great and I’m super motivated to clean them all the time thanks to all my fancy stuff!
Work and Life Tech Stuff
It’s super easy for me to get lost in the world of computer work. This is not my preferred way to use my brain and my body for extended periods of time so I’ve been using some excellent tech tools to help me stay on track and keep moving.
Toggl is a simple tracker app that lets me see exactly how much time I spend on my different daily tasks. Actually being able to see how long I spend on Instagram and Facebook makes it much easier to avoid mindlessly surfing them when I’m bored or looking for a distraction. And I can see how long different work tasks take me as well, which is really handy for running my business.
The Wunderlist app lets you create and share ‘To-Do’ lists. It’s really handy for collaborating on the fly – for instance, Chris and I can both contribute to our weekly Shopping List whenever we notice that we’re running out of something. I also like it for jotting down good ideas that I have at times when I’m not ready to actually work on them. Much more handy than all the little pieces of paper or emails to myself I used to use!
Chocolate is one of my basic food groups, and I’ve found two really awesome bars that I’m loving this winter. Warning: I dislike both sugar and slavery, so I buy very intense dark chocolate bars from companies with that are committed to fair trade. If you’re not a big sugar eater, these are the best chocolate bars I’ve found recently. I think you’ll love them! And, if you prefer your chocolate sweeter, both these companies have other options that I’m sure are excellent too.
Chocosol is an amazing social enterprise business with its home base in Toronto but its heart in Mexico (which kind of sounds like me, actually). I have just found their superb 100% Gratitude bars and put them on heavy rotation. Unlike many 100% products, they are smooth on the tongue, as well as snappy and slightly sour. They make an excellent breakfast since they have no sugar at all. I get mine at The Nuthouse on Bloor but you can check out their list of retailers here.
For when you’re feeling indulgent! The texture of these Organic Fair Midnight 90% bars is unbelievable and the chocolate is rich, fruity and succulent. According to the package, these feel like creamy silk on the tongue, and I definitely have to agree.
My Personal Movement Practice
One of the best things about my life is that the more I move and learn my own body, the more I can offer my clients. That is secretly the biggest reason I chose this job – maybe not so secret! I spend as much time as possible learning and moving. Here’s what I’m focused on right now.
Ever since I took a step back from Crossfit, Chris and I haven’t had a good city-based activity to do together. Until now! A really great new climbing gym opened near us last year, and we started climbing together in October.
I used to climb a lot many years ago. It’s been so fun remembering why I loved it so much! Climbing requires strategy, balance and technique to do well – plus super strong fingers – so its really engaging. Plus it helps me move in unique and novel ways. It builds lots of strength and mobility in the core and upper body. And it’s really great to share it with my partner. All of which makes climbing the perfect complement to the rest of my movement life! I also think it’s going to make it extra fun to hike and scramble outdoors when the weather warms up again.
Our gym is called Basecamp Climbing, and I recommend it if you’re located on the west side of Toronto. If not, you likely have a climbing gym near you somewhere. Give it a go and see what you think – most gyms offer inexpensive intro courses so you can try it out and learn the basics. Climbing a fantastic activity for kids, too!
I’ve been learning from Katy for almost four years now. I deepen my understanding of movement and teaching movement every time I take one of her classes. One of my New Year’s goals is to take an online movement class every morning that I don’t have something else going on, like climbing or teaching. So I’ve been doing Katy’s new Virtual Classes and am completely loving them. Katy always manages to give me a new perspective on my body and movement and these new classes are just fabulous.
If you want to try one of her new Virtual Classes yourself, you can try this free class – but be warned, it’s a burner! If you’re new to Restorative Exercise and find this one too challenging, try her DVDs or Alignment Snacks instead.
Dr. Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain is – like Katy – at the forefront of the current renaissance in rethinking how humans can and should move. It’s exciting times for bodies these days!
Also like Katy, Dr. Perry is a big advocate for:
- Moving more in general
- Enhancing our movement patterns by changing our environment (this means get out of that chair and onto the ground, STAT!), and
- Spending more time in bare feet.
Try doing any of those things and your body will start being happier right away!
I attended one of Dr. Perry’s Primal Movement Chains workshops here in Toronto and I’m really excited to start sharing his work with my clients. He puts out lots and lots of great free material so check out his website or his podcast where he talks with all kinds of really, really smart movers.
Having great equipment to play with definitely opens up more options when it comes to moving. You can do a lot with just the ground and a yoga mat, but adding toys gives you new textures, levels, and possibilities. Here are the tools I’m most into right now.
If everyone could have just one myofascial release tool, I would probably pick the Coregeous ball from Yoga Tune Up. The Coregeous ball is a squishy, kind of sticky ball about the size of a volleyball. It’s really amazing at creating shear through the top layers of your skin and connective tissue. As a result, it stimulates lots and lots and LOTS of nerve endings, creating a huge amount of (delicious) sensory input. It’s also really good for abdominal massage, which is amazing for relieving stress, improving digestion and helping you breathe better. Since I’m a bit obsessed with breath these days, the Coregeous ball is a tool I use daily for both me and my clients.
Here’s a great video from Jill Miller showing you how to use the Coregeous ball for abdominal massage – this is good for anyone, whether or not you have scar tissue. Note of warning – don’t try this with a hard ball. Really. Ugh.
I’m a giant fan of the BOSU to help improve balance, stability, proprioception and foot strength. Since we tend to spend less time walking in bare feet when there’s snow on the ground, the BOSU is a really great option to help keep your feet strong and happy in the winter. It’s a big-ticket exercise tool but it’s one of my absolute favorites because you can use it all the time. In fact, I’m actually standing on mine right now as I type here at my standing desk. On one leg. As one does.
I will say that I don’t use the BOSU the way most trainers do – if you’re going to invest, I recommend also getting Katy Bowman’s Balance Bootcamp video workshop. It’s an amazing series of 5 classes and will change the way you move forever. I do recommend a thorough understanding of Restorative Exercise principles (knee cap release, stance, pelvis and rib cage alignment) before taking this course though!
I’m really super into breathing right now. I’m working on it for personal reasons, ever since realizing that my breathing pattern is part of why my sleeping isn’t the best. And for professional reasons, because almost everyone has issues with breathing that can have major, giant impacts on their entire body. Poor breathing habits are related to everything from belly fat to lower back pain – so even if you don’t think that breathing is your issue, you should probably still work on it!
One of the most simple and important things you can do to improve your breath right now is to start breathing through your nose. Nasal breathing (both in and out) is much, much better for your body. Your brain much prefers air that’s been cleaned, warmed and moistened – which is what you get when you breath in through your nose.
But what if you get stuffed up at night? That’s what happens to me. So I’ve been using these two products to help my night-time breathing.
Xlear Spray helps keep nasal tissues hydrated, clean and clear. It’s pretty much all natural so it doesn’t create the rebound effect that many other nasal decongestants can do.
Breathe Right Strips are springy little Band-Aid type things that go over your nose. They’re designed to pull up the sides of your nasal passages so that there’s more physical space for air to get through. They feel kind of strange and kind of amazing, but most importantly they definitely help me breathe better at night.
It’s really hard to find waterproof, insulated, awesome minimal winter boots that work up here in Toronto where they have to be able to handle everything from rain to salty slush to solid ice. Frankly, I still don’t have the perfect pair because I have super wide and super small feet and the ones I’m going to recommend don’t actually fit me. Still haven’t found a good style for us wide-footed people, but if you are a narrow-footed person, and are either a guy or have larger female feet, here is my official pick.
I feel slightly bad recommending these boots because Vivobarefoots don’t fit me well and I don’t personally own a pair. However, Chris has two pairs of these and adores them. They’re waterproof, somewhat insulated, and nice and sleek. These are the winter boots I would buy if I had narrow and long feet, and if you, my friend, happen to be that person, I highly recommend them. Remember that January/February is the perfect time to buy next year’s winter boots!
What are YOUR faves?
These are all the healthy favorites I’m super into right now, but I love hearing about new things. What great healthy stuff have you been digging recently? Let me know in the comments below!
Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body – and she’s always happy to chat about it. When she’s not teaching, you’ll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.