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Wellness

6 Ways to Stay Healthy on a Vegas Trip

Brittany McCallum

We all know that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". Unfortunately, your body doesn't always agree with the famous phrase. From buffets to binge drinking, the aftermath of a Vegas trip can wreak havoc on your mind and body. I've been to Vegas numerous times for work and for play (or some combination of the two). During my most recent trip to the Strip, I focused on finding balance. Even though it's a crazy place, you don't have to completely fall off track when visiting. Here are ways to be mindful of your health in Sin City:

1. Hydrate

Desert heat is no joke! The Corkcicle bottle keeps your beverage cold for 25 hours, and is perfect for hot weather. I carried mine with me everywhere I went and was able to refill it throughout the day. Drinking enough water is vital! Make it a priority, your body will thank you.

2. Drink Juices & Smoothies

Fresh pressed juice and fruit smoothies are jam packed with vitamins and minerals! They are a great way to stay nourished and energized while trying to keep up with the fast-paced environment. Juice/smoothie shops are conveniently located in most hotels on the Strip. I stopped at Pressed Juicery in the Aria after working out one morning. The Green 3 is delicious! 

3. Wear Sunscreen

While I was in town, the temperature got up to 115 degrees! I coated myself with sunscreen and reapplied every couple hours to reduce the risk of sun damage. No one wants to suffer from a sunburn on vacation! Make sure you load up on sunscreen to protect yourself, keeping in mind that products with SPF 30 block 97% of UVB Rays. 

4. Exercise

Sweating is a great way to purge the body of bad toxins. I recommend trying a heated exercise class to naturally detox. Vegas has tons of amazing fitness studios! Most of them are 15 minutes away from the Strip, but totally worth the drive. Here are a few studios that I highly recommend checking out:

Inferno Hot Pilates

5. Visit a Spa

There's hardly time to sleep on a wild Vegas trip! I suggest sneaking away to a day spa for a little rest and relaxation. Treating yourself to a facial or massage is a great way to rejuvenate the mind and body. I stopped by the Grand Spa at MGM Grand for some sauna and steam room action.

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6. Listen to Your Body

Your body knows if you've had enough and when it's time to stop! Pay attention to the signals, and use them to set limits and boundaries. It's possible to stay balanced as long as you don't push yourself too hard. Give yourself permission to walk away from any activity that doesn't best serve you.

Atlanta's Top Natural Beauty Stores

Brittany McCallum

While searching for the best wellness spots around ATL, I discovered two fantastic natural beauty stores. I try to live as holistic and organic as possible, and these innovative local businesses make it easy to stock up on my favorite clean and eco-friendly products. 

Little Barn Apothecary 

I stumbled upon this gem one afternoon while walking through the Westside Provisions District. The gorgeous entrance drew me in, and its walls shelved with organic, non-toxic products instantly hooked me. As I walked around the store, grabbing various necessities (anything from natural toothpaste to fresh scented candles) one of the owners, Joshua Morgan, approached me with a flood of information about his store. He and his partner, Brad Scoggins, created an all-natural skin care line crafted from organic and wild harvested ingredients. Their Little Barn Apothecary products are sold alongside an impressive collection of wellness brands. 

My favorite items sold at Little Barn Apothecary:

Binchotan Facial Puff

Run the charcoal puff under warm water to instantly soften then lightly massage it all over your face. It's an excellent exfoliator, gentle enough for sensitive skin, but powerful enough to tackle clogged pores and blackheads. I use my puff everyday with a facial cleanser and have drastically noticed softer, brighter skin. 

Honeysuckle + Grapefruit Body Oil

This body oil feels light, absorbs quickly and smells heavenly! It has a sweet citrus scent that complements my perfume. I recommend putting it on right after taking a shower, while your body is still damp, allowing the oil to really soak in. I love the glow it leaves on my skin during the day and I like to reapply before bed for extra nourishment. 

Fig & Flower 

When I shop at Fig & Flower, I feel comfortable purchasing any item in the store without worrying about harmful ingredients lists. I trust Sara Lamond's judgement, founder of Atlanta's first all-natural beauty store, when it comes to safe products to use on my body. She along with her employee's are extremely knowledgable about the wellness industry. I always learn something new about health and beauty when chatting with the employees as I browse the store. Fig & Flower has a large selection of natural makeup brands and they take it to the next level by providing makeup lessons. I plan on scheduling a time with Sara, allowing her to apply makeup using the right products for my skin tone. Natural makeup can get pricey so it's important to learn as much as I can before I make the investment. 

My favorite item sold at Fig & Flower:

One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil

Two thumbs up for this enzyme cleansing oil. Vitamin B is known for its anti-aging properties, and the fruit enzyme helps exfoliate without striping the skin. I recommend using it at night as both your cleanser and makeup remover. 

10 BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET

Brittany McCallum

It’s been over seven years since I've eaten a piece of meat. I quit eating chicken, beef, and pork while I was a sophomore in college (never was much of a seafood eater). As an assignment for class, I had to attend a film festival. Randomly, I chose to see the screening of Food, Inc. The documentary exposed the dirty side of meat production in the United States and it bothered me so much that I gave up eating meat right on the spot. The information addressed in Food Inc. truly shook me to my core. That was a night I will never forget! I walked out of the theater and grabbed dinner with friends in a cafeteria on campus. Instead of reaching for the usual late night burger and fries, I found myself walking from station to station trying to find a filling alternative. Since that night, I haven’t experienced any cravings toward meat. As a matter of fact, after becoming more educated on food, I ultimately cut out dairy and all other animal products. Throughout the years, I’ve made a complete lifestyle change, and my body couldn’t be more thankful.

Being vegan is super healthy and great for the environment! If you’re on the fence about making the switch, here are 10 reasons that helped with my decision:

1.    Vegans live longer 
Research shows plant-based eaters live six to nine years longer than those who eat meat. 

2.    Vegan diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol
Information from the book, The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, suggests that average American's cholesterol level is 210 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), which is higher than the medically acceptable range of 150-200 mg/dL. The average cholesterol of a vegan in the US is 146 mg/dL.

3.    Reduce the risk of life-threatening illness (such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease)
An article published in Food Technology, explains that plant-based diets either minimize or completely eliminate people's genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

4.    Better skin
Removing dairy from my diet has done wonders. My skin glows and I've noticed a remarkable reduction in blemishes. Grains, nuts and dark leafy greens are great sources of vitamins A and E which benefit the skin.

5.    Weight management
My weight dropped significantly when I first cut out meat. Since then, eating clean has helped me maintain a healthy size. 

6.    Vegan food does not contain antibiotics, growth or sex hormones
According to the Environmental Working Group, "80% of all antibiotics consumed in the U.S. go to livestock." Animals are treated with antibiotics and hormones to enhance growth rates and prevent infections. 

7.    Protect our planet
Cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2. A study shows that 16 times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower & rice. According to Peter Scarborough and his colleagues at the University of Oxford, a vegan saves 1.5 tons of CO2 compared to the average American diet.

8.    Save water
According to GoVeg.com, "it takes 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan and more than 4,000 gallons per day to produce food for a meat-eater. Additionally, food for a vegan can be produced on 1/16 an acre of land, compared to over 3 acres to produce food for a meat-eater."

9.    Save money
Don't be turned away when you hear that eating healthy is too expensive! It's not! Fruits and veggies are generally much cheaper than meats and dairy items. Even if it was costly, the nutritional value and benefit to your personal health will largely outweigh the cost.

10.    Feel better
Following a vegan diet makes me feel better physically, and cutting out dairy has tremendously reduced bloating. Now, when I indulge in a cheat meal, my body feels bad! Cravings for junk food leave me with headaches and terrible stomach pain.

It’s not as hard as you think! A vegan diet is simple! Eat more plants!

Discovering Mindfulness Through Meditation

Brittany McCallum

For years I struggled with expressing my feelings and emotions. I would immediately shut down because I didn't know how to explain the way I felt. Unconsciously, I thought the best way to handle uncomfortable situations was to remain silent, hiding behind blocks and barriers until the pain went away.

Through meditation, I discovered that it’s better to turn towards the messiness of life, and allow your heart to remain open and soft. This practice is not easy for someone like me who wants to get along with everyone. We want life to appear carefree, but it’s impossible to pretend that everything is always ok on the surface while we live in a world that tells us we are not good enough. We receive messages all day telling us “you would be better if…”. It’s a deep conditioned response in our culture that takes a lot of effort to escape. I learned that the best way to break those habits is to find peace within yourself. 

Meditation has taught me not to fixate on what I think a condition should be, and has allowed me to see differently by opening me up to a larger perspective. I can now accept things for what they are. When meditating, I often find myself caught up in what has passed or what’s to come, but my practice allows me to see a situation then let it go and watch those thoughts pass by. Meditation has retrained my thinking. You don’t have to fight or hide the negative thoughts. It’s better to acknowledge them as they come, keep a sense a gratitude for the experience, then move forward and let the next thought enter.

I used to keep my feelings and emotions bottled up because I didn’t want to deal with them, but I could only hold it inside for so long. In some cases, I would explode on the person who triggered an emotion that reminded me of something painful. Or even worse, I would go "ghost" which meant I was silent and did not talk to the person for months, never explaining why I was upset. Then I would get stuck replaying the situation over and over again in my head. I'd think of different ways I could have handled it and make assumptions of what the other person involved was thinking. Through meditation, I realized that this is not a healthy way of thinking and I discovered compassion and acceptance. We must be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate with others.

Mediation is not just for people who struggle like me. It is for everyone! Honestly, I didn’t know I had any issues until I dove deeper into my mediation practice. I started meditating daily when I first started working for my brother. I got caught up doing everything for my little brother, and often put his responsibilities above mine.
Initially, I began meditating because I find it extremely important to do at least one thing for yourself each day and sometimes it was the only thing I did for myself. After some time, I found balance through meditation. At first I would meditate for 10 minutes when I woke up in the morning. I would set an intention and let that peaceful time set the tone for my day. Then I met Nick Anicich, a meditation coach, and through his classes I learned the art of letting go. After lots of practice I realized that you can’t control how you’re feeling, but you can control how to deal with the feelings. When you let go of judgement and comparison you find freedom. When you keep your heart open through pain and suffering you feel liberated.

Be fearless: Organic Hair Color

Brittany McCallum


Fear is an emotion that holds you back from experiencing life, but if you have the courage to face it you may receive a big reward.

At age 26, I had never colored my hair. It's something I've wanted to do since middle school, but my mother would not allow it. Do you remember Sun-In, the peroxide spray used to lighten your hair? Well she wouldn't let me use that either so I would squeeze fresh lemon juice all over my hair and sit out by the pool hoping the sun would naturally brighten it during the summer. 

Of course I could have dyed my hair as soon as I moved out of her house, but to be honest I was fearful. Deep down in my heart I wanted to go blonde, but several of my family members scared me into thinking that color will damage it and I was too afraid to ruin the strong healthy hair I've worked so hard to grow. 

Now, I do what makes me happy. Life is short and I finally accepted that it's just hair! If it breaks off or falls out, it will grow back. So I made the decision to go for it. In search of less damaging products I stumbled upon Organic Color Systems. It's not 100% organic, but the company prides itself on using the maximum amount of certified organic products, a minimal amount of chemicals and is totally ammonia free. 

My colorist, Maggie at Organic Beauty Bar in Santa Monica, California, mixed two organic products: Organic Color Systems and O Way. The permanent color had no harmful fumes, caused no scalp discomfort or staining and contained the following natural ingredients: certified organic chamomile, comfrey, grapefruit, orange, vitamins C, vitamin E and hydrolyzed wheat protein. 

I was pleased to see how my coarse hair took to the organic color and loved the way it turned out. I think it looks beautiful, dramatic and represents how I feel on the inside which is fearless. I did my best to choose a cleaner product, but still took a chance. That's what life is all about. 

If there is anything you have been longing to do, I encourage you stretch out of your comfort zone. What's the worst that can happen? For me, it was the risk that my hair would fall out, but instead I grew in confidence. 

 

Essential Oils 101

Brittany McCallum

 Photo by Brittany

Photo by Brittany

As an enthusiast of natural remedies, it was only a matter of time until I dove into the world of essential oils. I have used essential oils sporadically over the years, but I never really understood what all they do. After spending time researching and attending a couple workshops, I decided to breakdown the information I have learned to help you get a better grasp of the wonderful benefits essential oils have to offer!

What are essential oils? Concentrated plant extracts obtained by steam distillation, cold pressing or resin tapping. 

What are essential oils used for? Aromatically- you can inhale the scent by placing 1-2 drops of the oil in your hands then bringing your hands to your face and breathe slow or place 4-5 drops in a diffuser to let it fill a room. 
Topically- applied directly to the skin.

How do essential oils work? When inhaling through the nose, tiny nerves send an immediate signal to the brain and go to work on the systems that moderate your mind and body. When applying topically, essential oils penetrate the tissues of the skin and absorb into your bloodstream. The oils travel through your entire body within 25 minutes, even going to your liver. 

Where should I apply the oils on my body? It depends on the oil, but the most popular areas are on your wrists, temples, neck, behind the ears and on the soles of your feet.

What are the benefits of essential oils? Enhance mood, support overall wellness and well-being, maintain healthy body systems and promote relaxation.

How long have essential oils been around? Essential oils are known to be mankind's first medicine and can be traced back to biblical times. Frankincense, myrrh, rosemary and spikenard are all referenced in the bible for anointing and healing. 

Are all brands the same? No! Not all companies sell 100% pure oils. In fact, the FDA only requires 5% of the oil in order to call it pure and the rest is sometimes mixed with synthetic plants. High quality essential oils must be extracted properly and made from wild-crafted organic plants. So, read the label before purchasing because you can easily be ripped off. I discovered that Young Living and doTerra are honest products which I recommend. 

What are carrier oils? Non-essential oils used for diluting. Most common are coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil and olive oil. When using essentials oils topically, you can mix a couple drops of the essential oil with a larger amount of the carrier oil before applying to the skin. 

Common essential oils:
1. Lavender: 
This versatile essential oil is used for calming, relaxing and its fragrance is known for balancing physically and emotionally. What people don't realize is that it's great for treating skin from acne and inflammation. Other uses include- sleep aid, bee sting/insect bite, cuts, skin irregularities, motion sickness, nosebleed, dry/chapped skin, scarring, seasonal issues, flaky scalp, deodorant, sweeten laundry, itchy bumpy skin, sun damage and mouth sores.

2. Peppermint: I love to use this before I workout. I rub the oil on the back of my neck, it instantly cools me down. The scent is very strong so when I put my hands to my nose and inhale, it boosts my mood and gives me energy. Other uses include- indigestion, stomach digestive support, bruising, temperature, itching, poison ivy/oak, working out, nausea, head discomfort, hiccups, alertness/concentration, travel sickness, congestion, joint/muscle discomfort, bad breath, curb appetite, ticks and sore feet.

3. Tea Tree: This is my favorite essential oil! I use it everyday on my face to treat acne and lighten dark spots. It's know to moisturize and beautify the appearance of the skin. It can also be used for sanitation; my Pilates instructor adds it to the cleaner she sprays on the equipment after class. Other uses: boosts immune system, supports healthy lung function. 

4. Lemon: Uses include- air freshener, removal of gum/oil/grease spots and crayon, sore feet, prolong life of fresh fruit, sterilize counter tops, disinfectant. 

5. Eucalyptus: Uses include treatment for cold and flu, hair nourishment, hand cleaner, sinus and allergies, natural home care, odor remover, air cleanser, spot remover, respiratory problems and wound treatment.

6. Chamomile: A relaxing and calming essential oil with multiple uses that include the treatment of dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, bee sting, cuts, bruises, insomnia, stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, PMS and menopause. 

7. Frankincense: Mentioned several times in the bible as a fellowship with the lord. Uses include the improvement of concentration, immune system, skin swelling, insect bites, sadness/moodiness, strengthen nails, stretch marks, fluid filled skin, skin health (damaged skin spots), scaly skin bump, overall wellness. 

If you are new to essential oils like me, always remember to test small areas on your skin when using different oils. Everybody responds differently and some could cause irritation. 

Prayer Walks

Brittany McCallum

 Photo by Hazem Giballi

Photo by Hazem Giballi

I was inspired after reading the book, Training Camp by Jon Gordon. In his list of 20 ways to get mentally tough, Gordon suggests that a morning walk of gratitude and prayer will create a fertile mind ready for success.

I started taking prayer walks eight weeks into the training program for my half marathon. I was looking for ways to enhance my workouts so I started running the steepest hill in my neighborhood. At that time my puppy, Macy, would wake me up around 6am so I was used to getting up early, but instead of turning on the TV or checking Instagram I would take a prayer walk to that hill before I continuously ran up and down it. 

The walk was not long, but it was meaningful. I would use that time to thank God for all of my blessings, ask for his forgiveness and discuss whatever was on my mind. It was a great way to start my day.

Today, I continue to take prayer walks as I walk Macy around the neighborhood. She looks forward to her time outdoors and I look forward to my time with God.