5 Healthy Life Lessons I Learned from My Mom

Healthy Life Lessons I Learned from My MomHappy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! And especially to mine—I seriously hit the mom jackpot with her. This is admittedly one of those “Ok, Nicole, we get it…you like to write” posts, but I couldn’t resist the chance to reflect on some of the (many) ways my mom has guided me on the path to health and happiness.

Mom’s Healthy Life Lessons

Mental/spiritual health is just as important as physical health.

cancun-me-momMy mom is the most spiritual person I know. She seems to radiate inner peace, and it’s especially apparent in the way she deals with adverse situations (I’m in awe of the calm she’s able to maintain). Our feelings and emotions impact our bodies as well as minds (stress is the perfect example of this), and I truly believe your state of mental health is just as important as exercising daily and eating wholesome foods—my mom has always been the perfect example of this!

While she’s not the biggest fan of exercise (although she has started to do pilates DVDs and light cardio—you go, Mom!!), my family always swears she’ll live to be 150 years old. She meditates, prays, is emotionally wise, and I swear it manifests itself physically—she looks ten years younger than her age!

When a person says or does something mean to you, it’s probably because they don’t like something about themselves.

5 Healthy Life Lessons I Learned from my MomI was a very sensitive child and took any sort of negativity towards me extremely personal. Even constructive criticism could crush me, so you can imagine how mild middle school teasing made me feel. Back in the day, I was really into school—I literally did homework for fun. One of those kids. So while I wasn’t bullied by any means, the occasional one-liner about my nerdiness was inevitable.

In one particular instance, the boy I had a crush on made a joke about me staying inside and doing homework on the weekends (which I totally did, for the record). I very vividly remember my mom explaining to me that the teasing didn’t mean he didn’t like me as a person. Maybe he was struggling in school and it made him feel bad about himself to see me excel at it. Maybe he had an unhappy family situation at home and that’s why he didn’t want to stay in on the weekends, and he envied my happy home. Maybe he was the object of teasing in his friend group and the only way he knew to deflect it was to make someone else the brunt of jokes.

Now, we were in the sixth grade. I highly doubt that the boy was jealous I spent my free time doing homework and was getting better grades than him (LOL), but my mom’s words stuck with me and apply to interactions you’ll have with people all your life. Bottom line: Happy people who love themselves and their lives don’t feel the need to put others down. If someone is trying to make you feel bad about yourself, 9 times out of 10 it’s coming from a place of insecurity or unhappiness. When you realize that, you’re much less affected by the negativity. 

If you’re full, stop eating.

I used to laugh at how my mom would have one teeny, tiny bite of food left on her plate and claim that she just couldn’t possibly finish it. It’s half a spoonful of potatoes and one pea—just eat it, Mom!

“I’m full—why would I eat it?”

Such a simple concept, but certainly not an easy one for a lot of (most) people! Emotions, social influences and so much more besides hunger often shapes our eating habits. Without even putting thought into it, my mom is the queen of portion control because she just listens to her body. Eats when she’s hungry, stops when she’s full. It’s one of the reasons she’s always been “naturally” thin. I admittedly am not as good about this as she is—I definitely have to put thought into stopping myself with treats like peanut butter and ice cream—but I’ve always admired her intuitive relationship with food.

Take up space.

me-mom-disneyGrowing up (and still a bit today), I was quiet, sensitive, and really wanted everyone to like me. The result was that I could be a pushover and often let people take advantage of me; I would shy away from conflict instead of standing up for myself. It was a reoccurring theme in relationships, friendships, and one time on a family ski trip, my mom even noticed it in my body mannerisms on the slopes.

“Stop letting people cut you off! Take up space! Claim your territory!” She made me play a game for practice where she’d poke her hands at me and I’d have to swap them away (LOL).

It took some time and maturing, but I’ve realized it goes beyond wanting people to like you—it’s about liking and valuing yourself enough to not let people take advantage. Take up space in this world! You’re worthy of it!

Nature provides us with (almost) all we need.

I had to add the “almost” in there because if I break my femur in half, I’m not going to rub tree sap and river water on the bone and hope for the best, but my mom has always been into alternative medicine and natural remedies. Garlic and oregano oil for warts, pee for poison ivy (don’t ask…seriously, you don’t want to know)—you name the ailment, my mom had a natural solution for it.

And beyond natural healing, she has always kept the house full of organic food and natural products. She even makes her own toothpaste and uses limes as deodorant (I give her a hard time about that last one, but I’m sure it works haha). I’m so thankful for the healthy home I got to grow up in because of her!

5 Healthy Life Lessons I Learned from my MomI used to make fun of my mom’s “weird” ways (angsty teens are the worst), but I love that I’m becoming more and more like her as I grow up. It’s funny how as a teenager you think your parents are complete idiots and then as you grow up you realize “Oh shit. I’m the idiot.” To me, my mom is the most spiritually wise person I know, and her advice is beyond value.

So Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thank you for all that you do, and please don’t be mad at me for posting pictures of you to the internet. :) I LOVE YOU!

What healthy life lessons did you learn from your mom? Or, if you’re a mom, what do you hope to teach your children? signature

Final (Massive) Giveaway for the Health & Fitness Challenge

giveaway-week-4 Happy Friday! What better way to kick off the weekend than with some free swag??

Giveaway Prizes

Massive Product Package from NOW Foods

NOW-product-giveaway NOW-product-giveaway-2 NOW-foods-giveawayYup. ALL OF THAT. Vitamins, supplements, protein powders, shampoo, toothpaste, essential oils and a differ for them, artisan cooking oils, teas, baking supplies, snacks—you name it, you’ll get it. A huge thanks to my friends at NOW for the massive amount of swag! Fair warning: the honey roasted pecans are basically crack. Impossible to eat just a handful… 

2 Classes at the Fitness Studio of Your Choice 

Any studio you’d like! From a national chain like Soul Cycle to your local yoga studio.

A Piece of Equipment for Your Home Gym

Don’t get too excited—I love you guys, but I’m not buying you a new treadmill (haha). You can pick from the following: a kettlebell, a set of dumbbells, a medicine ball, a stability ball, resistance bands, a power wheel, jump rope, pull up bar or ankle weights. Basically any piece of equipment I use on the blog!

$50 Lululemon or Athleta Gift Card (you pick!)
I’ll hook it up with whichever store you like better.

To Enter

If you had an awesome week, ate your veggies, sweat regularly and crushed your goals–enter away! And all my DietBet winners, you get a special added entry for rocking it last month. :) I’ll pick a winner Monday night.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enjoy your weekend! Anyone have fun plans? The weather is supposed to be beautiful in Boston–I can’t wait!


A Look at What Goes into “Natural” Products & Supplements with NOW Foods (+Blogger Event Recap)

fitfluential-nowPicture from the @fitfluential Instagram

First and foremost, don’t you worry—I did not forget about the fourth and final weekly giveaway. I’m going to post it on Friday because I actually have an INCREDIBLE package from NOW Foods to include in the prize, and first wanted to share all about my trip to see the company.

On Thursday, I got the fun opportunity to travel out to the suburbs of Chicago with a group of FitFluential bloggers to attend a two-day immersion event at NOW Foods. Up until then, I associated NOW with their bright orange vitamin and supplement bottles I’d seen at health food stores, but wasn’t too familiar with the company beyond that. And as I learned, NOW doesn’t just produce supplements. They have personal care products (including essential oils—my favorite!), sports nutrition products and a wide array of foods.

hilton-indian-lakesWe stayed at the Hilton Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale and had enough downtime for me to get a little blogging work done…and practice headstands. :)

Honestly, my first reaction was skepticism. Would I really want to buy foods from the same company from which I was buying shampoo? But—not to sound like an infomercial—I was beyond impressed by NOW’s transparency throughout the trip and by an obvious commitment to quality they have as the foundation of everything they do. I left feeling genuinely excited to use their products.

I think part of my skepticism going into the trip is something a lot of people can relate to—a sort of subliminal association of supplements with drugs (steroids, diet pills, bad chemicals, etc.), and therefore a hesitation to accept them as “natural.” And what I really appreciated was NOW’s candidness in addressing this. I’m going to focus this post on the “natural” discussion (what does it even mean these days??) because I found it fascinating, but if you’re just interested in hearing about the blogging trip, scroll through and read the captions I’ve included underneath all the pictures. :)

fish-dinnerWe had a welcome dinner the first night at Glen Prairie where we got to chat with some of the NOW team. I had a delicious spinach salad and then this phenomenal salmon dish. 

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that “natural” in its perhaps purest definition (for example, an apple grown in organic soil on your family’s farm, plucked straight from the tree and eaten on the spot) isn’t always possible and realistic in today’s world. Supply can be limited, and not everyone lives close to a farm. Developments in science have provided solutions to this. And I’m in no way suggesting you eat an apple made in a laboratory (please don’t)—I am very passionate about eating organic, non-GMO products when possible. I am saying that not all food science is bad. Vitamin supplements can be a great example of this.

workout-post-smoothieFriday morning we got up bright and early for a spin class at Life Time Fitness and a quick yoga session with Amy, their Group Fitness Director. After our workout, we enjoyed some delicious cinnamon chocolate protein shakes.

I got to chat with NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme, and my first question was simply where do pill-form vitamins come from? Are they extracted from foods and plants? Are they made in laboratories? And he explained that it totally depends on the nutrient. Some can be extracted from vegetable oils, soy, fish liver oils and other mineral sources. In other cases, a nature-identical nutrient can be made in the lab. These nature-identical nutrients have the exact molecular structure to the nutrient occurring in nature—your body doesn’t know the difference. When NOW can’t use from-nature “natural” ingredients, they use these nature-identical ones in their products.

The example Jim used was vitamin C. Upwards of 95% (maybe more—I forget the exact number) of vitamin C found in supplements is manufactured in labs in China. It was weird to wrap my brain around the concept. On the one hand, swallowing a pill made in a lab in China doesn’t seem very natural. But think about eating a genetically modified orange to get a dose of vitamin C. That orange’s molecular makeup might be slightly different from an orange grown organically in nature because it’s been genetically modified. The vitamin C pill from a lab, however, is identical to the molecular make up of the vitamin C found in that organic orange. Weird to think about, right? :)

touring-NOW-foodsWe got a private tour of the NOW Operations Facility led by Neil E. Levin, CCD, DANLA, Nutrition Education Manager…all while dressed to impress.

Nature-identical ingredients are clearly great from a manufacturer’s standpoint (as well as a consumer’s since they help keep supply on par with our demand), but they come with a whole new set of quality assurance concerns. If I’m buying a banana at the grocery store, I know what I’m getting. Looks like a banana, smells like a banana, tastes like a banana—I’m good. But when I buy supplements, it’s not always as clear. I can’t look at a multivitamin capsule and know what’s inside based on my own personal knowledge—I have to trust that the company I’m buying from has listed exactly what’s in it on the label.

And it’s not necessarily that the company is trying to deceive you—they might have been deceived by their suppliers. Brand X, for example, doesn’t make every single ingredient in their protein powder. They might source one ingredient from a manufacturer in China, another from a supplier in California, etc., etc. Not only does NOW audit their suppliers, but their testing process is rigorous to say the least. And I was shocked to learn that detecting adulterants, synthetic hormones and steroids, and other unnatural ingredients was actually a fairly regular occurrence. It makes you appreciate the effort put into their quality assurance testing!

lunch-dr-wendy After our tour, we heading to NOW Corporate Offices to do a testing of the Ellyndale Foods oils (NOW’s high quality food label). Dr. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD then gave us a great presentation on wellness!

I thought this whole “natural” topic was super relevant given the battle between Food Babe and Science Babe that went viral recently (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read more here and the rebuttal here). I’m not siding with either—I think we absolutely do have a right to know what’s in our food and skincare products, but that we also shouldn’t live in fear of every ingredient or process we don’t fully understand (something I’m definitely guilty of at times!).

I saw visiting NOW as a huge opportunity for me to learn about supplements and the manufacturing of “natural” products—two areas I didn’t fully understand, and admittedly was wary of as a result. It was an excellent trip for me. Yes, I now found a brand I feel confident in, but more importantly, I just feel more knowledgeable about the business of “natural” products as a whole and better able to make informed purchasing decisions in the future. You can read more about NOW’s definition of “natural” HERE.

NOW-foods-blogger-event NOW-baking-final We ended the trip with a cooking session with Chef Suzy Singh in NOW’s Culinary Innovation Center. Everything was delicious, but the gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies especially blew my mind (and taste buds).

Since I spent this whole post yapping about “natural,” I’ll wrap up with some important points about NOW Foods. On Friday, I am giving away a MASSIVE package of their products along with some other prizes so get excited!

  • NOW was founded in 1968 by Elwood Richard and is still family-owned today by the Richards. This has been a huge factor in allowing them to stick to their core mission of providing value in products that empower people to lead healthier lives, even as the company continues to grow.
  • As part of their commitment to being “natural,” NOW does not feel GMOs belong in their products. Their foods are 100% non-GMO and so far 75% of their supplements are non-GMO Assured.
  • NOW has four major categories of products: nutritional supplements, sports nutrition, foods and personal care. I know I focused on supplements for most of this post, but guys. Their coconut infusions. So good!
  • You can connect with NOW on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. They’re also hosting a #NOWGetFit Twitter party on Tuesday, May 12 @9PM.


Big thanks to FitFluential & NOW Foods–I had a great time!

What are your thoughts on the word “natural”? How would you define it? signature

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of NOW Foods.