Add a Hat to your Summer Wardrobe

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One important addition to your summer wardrobe should be a wide brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun.  Whether you are strolling through a city, sitting by a pool or attending a sporting event, a hat will keep the sun out of your eyes and protect your skin.

Sunlight is important for Vitamin D but it also causes premature wrinkling and skin cancer when you worship sun to the extreme.  A tan might make you feel good in your 20’s but it will make you leathery-skinned in your 40’s.  Finding a balance of sun exposure is very important.

The good news is that a good hat won’t cramp your style or break the bank so bring one with you everywhere.

Infused Water Recipe #2

infused

This infused water recipe has its foundation from a signature cocktail served up at Oceana in Condado, Puerto Rico called the “Nolita,” we want to give credit where credit is due!  The cocktail was very refreshing on a warm, tropical evening and a few elements of the drink would make very sip-worthy water on hot summer days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • Water

Use a large, one gallon pitcher and fill almost to the top with water.  Add the cucumber, mint and lime and let the flavors infuse for a couple of hours.  Stir in the pineapple juice and pour yourself a glass over ice!

Pineapple contains bromelain, which reduces inflammation.  Cucumbers have B vitamins, which are good for a whole host of health reasons, but cucumbers also add tremendous flavor to the water.

Keep cool and hydrated in a flavorful way!

Menstrual Hygiene around the World

girls in africa

Menstrual hygiene and ample choice of supplies are things we take for granted in the United States, like clean pads and tampons.  Another thing we don’t even think about is that if we get our period at school or at work, we have options for dealing with it.  We can discretely ask to borrow a tampon or find a bathroom with a machine to buy one.  The worst case scenario is that we make a homemade pad from rolled up toilet paper to get us through the next hour or so until we can find a real one.

All of these will work and even the worst case scenario is better than using mud, leaves, grasses or literal “rags.”  In some countries the worst case scenario is bleeding through clothes and embarrassment, followed by staying at home because of a lack of supplies.  NPR recently wrote about this topic and you can find their compelling article here.

Unless your symptoms are debilitating, you typically won’t miss school or work due to period bleeding.  That isn’t the case for women and girls in other parts of the world.  May 28th is menstrual hygiene day…yes, one day.  Many diseases get a month, but a normal bodily function that affects 50% of the global population on a monthly basis has one day.  There was a lot of information shared on social media on May 28th about these issues.

If you have a Twitter handle, do a little research using #menstrualhealth.  You will see some charts from many worthy NGO’s that are dealing with the lack menstruation supplies in unique ways.  The bottom line for most of these organizations is to empower women through jobs by manufacturing supplies in a local setting and keeping young girls in school by giving them sanitary pads.

Just something to think about next time you are bummed because you have to stash a tampon in a clutch for an evening out.  We are so lucky to have clean supplies!

Infused Water to Increase H2O Intake

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Staying hydrated has never been more fun or flavorful!  Here is the first of three recipes to "wet your whistle" this summer.  It all starts with a pitcher of water adding fruit, vegetables and herbs that hopefully are plucked from your summer herb garden.

Watermelon-Mint Water

Ingredients:

  • Three Sprigs of Mints
  • Slices of Lime
  • Seedless watermelon chunks
  • Water

Directions:

  • Muddle (mash up) the mint sprigs and lime slices in the bottom of the pitcher.
  • Place chunks of watermelon in Cuisinart or Mini-Chopper to make a smooth puree.
  • Add puree to the pitcher.
  • Fill with water refrigerate.

Watermelon is loaded with Vitamin C and Vitamin Ad, plus it is a great source of lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant.  Plus, watermelon is a source of manganese and magnesium, two minerals that both lessen PMS symptoms!

Enjoy, and if it is cocktail time, a splash of rum makes a lovely evening cocktail.

What to Wear with Period Bloating this Summer

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There are 15 precious summer weekends on the calendar this year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but what if your cycle messes up one of those weekends with period bloating?  Not to worry because summer fashion options are plentiful for days with water weight gain.

Here are a few comfortable outfit ideas for those days when a waistline with a zipper and a button seem impossible and demoralizing due to PMS bloating!

The Maxi Dress – Whether you chose a jersey style fabric, or a more flowing chiffon style fabric, the maxi dress is a great way to keep it loose at the mid-section.  All you will need is an awesome pair of sandals and a few eye-catching accessories and you will be trendy along with comfortable.

Tunic + Leggings – Tunics are available in stores ranging from inexpensive at H&M and Forever 21 to more expensive, preppy labels like Vineyard Vines and Lily Pulitzer.  Either way, the shirt grazes the mid-thigh and leggings are totally stretchy around the stomach area.   All you will need is a fun pair of flip-flops or gladiators and you are set for a summer evening in the city.

Yoga Pants – Have you seen the different styles available these days? From tight to flare to jogger to pants that could easily pass for jeans!  Today’s yoga pants are stylish enough for the office and as comfortable as yesteryear’s sweat pants.

Overall’s – These have made the rounds on many, many fashion blogs so what is old is new again.  Since they hang loose at the mid-section, they are perfect for PMS bloating days!

A-line T-shirts – Even if you insist on squeezing into your white jeans, a loose, breezy A-line t-shirt is cut a little longer and doesn’t cling to the body.  If you are really uncomfortable, you can undo the top button of your jeans and no one will be the wiser.

Remember that this water weight gain is temporary and if you choose the right clothing, you can still feel and look good every single night and day this summer!

Plant a Summer Garden & Boost Self Esteem

gardenPart three of our #GirlUBeWell blog series to provide you with an off-screen, self esteem boosting activity is planting a garden.  If you start this weekend, you will be rewarded all summer long. Doing an activity outside gets you “back to nature” and an easy garden provides a soul satisfying experience of playing with dirt and nurturing a plant’s growth.

Even if your only outdoor space is technically a sunny kitchen window, or a balcony, you have enough space for a garden.  But even with acres of land, if you are a newbie, your best bang for the buck is to start off growing herbs.  They thrive in pots or in a small plot of land.

A trip to your local Home Depot, or Lowes, or hometown nursery will provide everything you need…the planters, soil and small plants of herbs.  Here is what we think will make the perfect starter herb garden!

Basil – Grows like a weed as long as it has good sunlight and regular watering.  Since is grows abundantly, pinch off leaves for a caprese salad, bruschetta or a quick pesto sauce.

Mint – Also a hardy plant that grows quickly!  If you put it in the ground, give it room to spread.  Mint is perfect for Mojitos and for infusing water.  Mix in chopped mint with lemon juice and Greek yogurt and you have a great topping for grilled food.

Thyme – Excellent all around flavor and easy to dry for winter use.  Thyme is great for a lemon chicken dish or in pasta sauce.

Marjoram & Oregano – Do you have a spice bottle of “Italian Seasoning?” These two herbs are staples in sauces.

Tarragon – Adds a rich, woodsy flavor to mushroom risotto or a chicken dish.

Rosemary – Excellent on roasted vegetables or potatoes and it smells heavenly in creamy sauces.

Sage – Another woodsy herb that grows quickly and the leaves are soft and fuzzy and a pale green that looks so pretty in the garden.

Chives - A subtle onion flavor and a welcome addition in salad dressing and on baked potatoes with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

This is a satisfying way to spend a few minutes every day and there are plenty of other herbs to consider!  Fussing over the plants, either watering or picking some herbs, becomes a daily habit.  Your finger tips will be fragrant with whichever herb you pick and it feels good to grow some of the food you eat. You might find yourself looking for easy recipes using tarragon or sage if you have a bumper crop, or taking a bunch of basil in a mason jar filled with water to a friend’s house to share.  Who knows, growing herbs might entice you to try growing tomatoes or zucchini next summer.

Get Rid of Cramps with Heat!

Sometimes the best course of action when cramps are ruining your life is to place something warm on your belly and let heat work its magic.   Here is a product roundup of hot water bottles and heating pads to get rid of cramps.

SpaComforts Cozy Comfort Hot Water Bottle, Spa Girl Pink

$9.99, Walgreens.com

SpaComforts Cozy Comfort Hot Water Bottle

 

This old-fashioned hot water bottle has a stylish, plush cover with a little girlfriend reminder to “relax.”  Fill it up with hot water and place it on your belly for hours of heat therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Size Heart Warmer Pillow Red

$11.01 on sale, Bucky.com

heartwarmer_flat-hr_765155507230_3_1__38692.1415127403.1280.1280

It is a little heart shaped hug and at 5”x 5” in size, it is discrete enough to use the office kitchen microwave and place on your lap at work.  Whole buckwheat seed is used in spas since it provides a gentle, moist heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CVS Heatwraps Menstrual Cramp Relief

$5.99 for 3 patches, CVS.com

cvs heat wraps

They are not sexy, but a patch provides 8 hours of heat exactly where you need it and no one will ever be the wiser!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunbeam Moist/Dry Heating Pad

$12.99, Drugstore.com

heating pad

The electric heating pad is great for those days on the couch in sweatpants when long-lasting, steady heat is the only remedy for those cramps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat is an all natural way to deal with the pain of PMS cramps and the good news is that there are many affordable options for relief.

 

PMS Food Cravings

cupcakesFull disclosure: This blog was drafted in writer’s head on a walk to coffee shop for decaf skim latte to avoid office birthday cake temptation!

As rational women, here is what we know.  We know that diet is critical to mitigating PMS symptoms.  By eating small meals throughout the day to avoid extreme hunger and by choosing vegetables and lean protein, we can fill our bodies with the food it needs to maintain balanced blood sugar and avoid food cravings.

But food cravings are powerful and fluctuating hormones can sometimes be hard to overcome.  During our PMS days, stress hormone, cortisol, can spike and feel-good hormone, serotonin, drops.  What temporarily boosts serotonin? Carbohydrates boost serotonin.  And the problem is that we crave the most fat and sugar filled carbohydrates during stressful and emotional times of the month.

We asked for coping strategies from a sampling of women and here are their answers.

  • Taking a walk and sipping on a warm beverage are two coping strategies. Both light exercise and caffeine can provide a boost.  If you are stressed out, go easy on the caffeine because you really don’t need a boost, you need the Zen affect of sipping something warm and soothing.   A dusting of chocolate or cinnamon to the top of a latte or cappuccino provides a dessert type flavor to the coffee, satisfying a sweet tooth for some.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless grape bubble gum was the respondent’s choice for a sweet pick me up, but mint or bubble gum flavors are also fine.
  • Have a conversation with yourself to understand the craving. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or are you bored?  Are you eating your emotions and is there something else you could do instead (take a walk, pick up your knitting, write in a journal) to work through the emotions?
  • Make a satisfying substitution. One respondent said that she eats a few dark chocolate covered almonds versus a candy bar and rationalizes it by saying that the almonds are healthier than a candy bar from the vending machine.  Plus, it satisfies the craving for chocolate.

Here is a little secret that most women don’t know, your metabolism revs up during your PMS days.  It is Mother Nature’s little offset for those PMS food cravings!  Try to bust through cravings by distracting yourself or substituting a healthier option, but forgive yourself and move on if you find yourself in a miserable mood finishing a bag of chips.

Knit 1, Purl 2…Stress Relief Just 4 You

YThe focus of our #GirlUBeWell blog campaign is to introduce a few analog activities for stress relief and to carve out some “me time” during the week.  Working, exercising, family obligations and overall busyness erode any free time to sit quietly and just be.  These quiet times are important to rejuvenate the mind.

Why knitting?  There are so many reasons but start with “community.”  If you want to meet new people, find a yarn store and purchase your yarn and needles there, take a class and join a knitting circle.  You can ask for help as you get stuck or have an expert available to pick up a dropped stitch, or help you rip a few errant rows.   Grab a few friends and make it a new kind of happy hour.  Sitting around with a bunch of women and the “click-click” of needles working always sparks conversation, and it is nice to talk versus text sometimes.

“Creativity” and “concentration” are second and third on the list of reasons.  As you gain confidence and skill, you will try new things.  It’s ok to make twenty scarves, eventually you will want a hat, socks or maybe some fingerless gloves.  As you learn to more stitches, you might move up to a poncho or a shawl!  Knitting requires reading a pattern and counting things, like stitches and rows, so it is an activity that demands focus.  Checking your newsfeed is not advisable!

Knitting a few rows is a great way to wind down your night, no yarn pun intended!  There is no blue light from a screen that revs up your brain and the tactile feel of soft yarn and the repetitive motion is soothing.  And when you hold a finished product in your hand, even a simple scarf, it is a gratifying sense of accomplishment.  For more on knitting and why it is a great activity to try, check out this Yahoo article or this HuffPost article!

The Right Bra for Sore Breasts

braDuring those PMS days of the month, breasts may become sore, swollen and tender and a bra that fits correctly goes a long way to keeping “the girls” comfortable. Have you had a proper fitting for a bra? If you answered “no,” you are like most women who guess their bra size by trial and error. However, most women pick out the wrong size and that can have consequences!

Department stores and lingerie stores have employees who are trained to measure and fit a bra properly. Everything about getting fitted, buying one bra at that store and paying a higher price for the right size, is worth it. Most of the support from a bra comes from the band and the right cup size will prevent squishing, spillage and extra movement.

Here are a couple of key tips for wearing the most comfortable bra every day, but especially on PMS days.

The Band – The band should rest on the top of your rib cage. This is especially important if you are wearing an underwire bra. If the wire or band is digging into breast tissue, this can be very painful on PMS days.

The Cup – Breasts not only move up and down, but also side to side during normal everyday activity. A cup that is too big allows a larger range of motion, which can be painful during PMS. A too small cup will squish breast tissue, which is also uncomfortable when breasts are swollen and tender.

The Support- Breasts don’t have a lot of built in support, "Cooper’s Ligaments" hold your breasts up. This tissue is responsible for the “shape and lift” of your breasts, so excessive bouncing can damage the tissue.

We have written extensively about how exercise is good for combating PMS, like here and here, but if your boobs hurt that could really make exercise unappealing. So sports bras need to fit well too! A good sports bra will restrict bouncing which is important on PMS days. A good rule of thumb is to replace a sports bra when you replace your sneakers since the elastic wears out with frequent wear and washing!

If your breasts are sensitive to the touch during PMS, pick a bra with a soft lining versus a lace bra. Even a layer of padding will be helpful if your breasts are really sensitive.

One last note, the band and the shoulder straps should not leave visible marks on your body when you remove your bra. Use this as a quick check to see if you are wearing the correct bra size. If the straps dig into your shoulders and you have an imprint of the band around your chest, then do yourself a huge favor and get properly fitted for a bra as soon as possible!