Sometimes I wonder if it just seems like the topics I’m interested in are becoming mainstream because I live in a sheltered “wellness bubble”, as I like to refer to it as. I surround myself with other health and wellness junkies and it can appear that the vast majority of the population is living a somewhat similar lifestyle to my own. Luckily, something eventually pops that beautiful bubble and I am faced with the reality that, of course, this really isn’t the case at all. Although I do believe more and more people are taking steps to lead a healthier lifestyle in general, there is still such a long way to go in terms of educating the masses on important health related issues and lifestyle choices.
It took me a while to even start this post because of its scope. Low-tox living has been at the forefront of my mind lately, but there is just so much to say about it and so much ground to cover, that the idea of writing about it seemed daunting. Too big. And you know how I have a tendency to ramble on… I want to say it all, but that would mean writing a book, not a blog post.
So I decided the best thing to do was pick one area of focus per post and today I am choosing clean beauty.
When I first began to detox the body and our home, I started with food. I slowly switched out conventional foods for organic ones and made the added cost of quality, chemical-free foods work for us because it was deemed priority. That was many years ago now. However, one of the last things I did was switch out my makeup for clean, chemical-free (or at the very least, highly reduced) products. And I’m probably not alone in this. Women become particularly attached to their beauty potions and lotions. We have specific brands and products that we’re loyal to and have been using for years. Letting go of that relationship and stepping outside of the comfort zone of knowing what gives you your desired look is a little scary. And, quite honestly, can leave you a little grumpy. I think it took being bombarded with daily messages of clean beauty before I finally uncrossed my arms, rolled my eyes and said, “Fine!"
You’ve probably heard that the skin is our body’s biggest organ. What we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it.
Although I wouldn’t say I wear a lot of makeup, I wear some form of makeup pretty much every day. Even if it’s only a couple of products. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I’m 33 now. That’s a lot of daily chemical shit storm doses for my biggest organ… (over 5000, actually. I just checked). There are over 1400 chemicals banned or restricted in skincare products by the European Union. In the US, that number is a mere eleven. ELEVEN. My values were clear to me. Health was number one, and I just couldn’t ignore this area of my life any longer because it didn’t align.
And so began the journey of switching out drugstore (and even premium) beauty products for natural ones. These aren’t brands that you see advertised on television or in magazines. They are not in mainstream media. So even knowing where to start was difficult. It took research. I read reviews on blogs, watched YouTube videos, searched Instagram… you name it. I started with one product at a time, which made for a slow transition. But, let’s face it, makeup is expensive. Layer that on top of being reluctant to let go of your favourite products in the first place, and the switch likely isn’t going to happen over night. Between testing multiple brands and multiple products (and yes, this was a financial investment), I would say it took me close to a year before I had created a clean beauty routine that I truly loved.
But I made the switch.
And, today, I really do love my makeup.
With that, I am going to share, without bias or sponsors, products that I have fallen in love with in the world of clean beauty. I do think this is quite a personal journey because, of course, we are all different. Skin types and general makeup preferences differ. But I want to offer up my experience to help others the same way all of those internet reviews helped me when I began the careful selection of what to try next.
I think the easiest way to organize this is by brand. So I am going to start with a Canadian company whose products I adore. I tried out what felt like 25 different mascaras and, for me, Ilia came out on top. It was dark, long lasting, lengthening and included a brush I now can’t live without. I also love their foundation, when paired with an under eye concealer (a trait that was true of all foundations I tested). It’s lightweight but provides decent coverage and lasts all day.
And finally, although I don’t wear a ton of lipstick these days, I always need a bright fuchsia on hand for those rare occasions that require just a little more glam. Ilia provided great colour selection and wearability in this department that packed a punch. Beyond the products themselves, Ilia’s founder and Vancouver native, Sasha Plavsic, boasts a beautiful story of how the company came to be, inspired by her brother’s personal health struggles and her mother’s influence. This is likely a brand that will remain in my collection for many years.
Next in my makeup bag you’ll find Beauty Counter. This is a big (and loud!) player in the world of clean beauty and for good reason. I have tried a number of their products and my favourite one, hands down, is their Dew Skin. As the name suggests, this tinted moisturizer leaves your skin looking fresh and hydrated (with the added benefit of SPF). I am obsessed and use it on the daily, either on its own or under foundation. Most days I simply pair the Dew Skin with an under eye concealer and am set. I actually find when I don’t wear my Dew Skin and simply opt for a foundation, I feel like my skin looks a little dull! My second pick with Beauty counter is their mattifying powder. I use this to set an under eye concealer if I am planning on using mascara on my lower lashes (to prevent transfer) or if I need to ensure overall, long-lasting wear. It’s lightweight, not cakey and doesn’t require much on the brush to get the job done (which is also cost effective). More recently, I have also started using their highlighter. It’s not an everyday item for me, but a great option when I need a little more shimmer in my look! Speaking of highlights, if you have 12 minutes, check out Beauty Counter’s mini biography on mica, one of the key ingredients in any makeup product that gives that shimmery, sparkly look. This company is changing the face of beauty and this video is just one small example of that.
The next brand is one not as well known in Canada, I would suggest (due to accessibility), but it’s one that I simply cannot leave out because I love it THAT MUCH. Han Skincare Cosmetics won my heart when it comes to bronzer and blush. Their products are so pigmented with incredible blendability and I immediately fell in love. At first, I was forced to order from the US and pay international shipping, but can now purchase these two products via Amazon. I legit have about four clean blushes sitting in my makeup drawer right now. And as much I try to rotate them, I just can’t stay away from this one. It works so well with my skin and over my other products that it quickly became my go-to.
Finally, like most moms, I really appreciate a good concealer for nights of broken sleep and resulting under eye circles. Well People has taken care of this for me with their high coverage product. A little goes a long way and I simply apply with my finger to cover up sleepless nights and other imperfections. If you’re looking for a toxic free concealer, I highly recommend this beauty.
I am so happy to say that these products are just a drop in the bucket. The clean beauty movement is alive and happening, and I already have a few other brands on my list that I am dying to try out. This is huge because it means that low-tox living is really starting to build momentum (or maybe we’re actually just going back to how it all started in the first place? I like to think of it that way). People are demanding safer options for themselves and their families and companies are responding. It’s an exciting time in the midst of an era where we are literally exposed to thousands of toxins and chemicals every day. This is just one example of how we’re taking the power back. And that’s a beautiful thing.
As we start to settle into life as a family of four and find our daily rhythm, I’ve created a weekly routine for myself that I’m pretty happy with. I’m getting in regularly scheduled workouts (which, if you read my last post you know is a non negotiable for me), spending quality time with my family, and focusing on this blog and my own studies--all activities that I would classify as some of my favourite things. Maternity leave in Canada: it’s pretty sweet. It allows you time to really lean into the things you love. And it’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my job, but there’s nothing quite like making your own schedule and being really picky about how you spend your energy. A structured 9-5 doesn’t quite allow for the same flexibility.
Last week, I was hyper aware of how level I felt. And by level, I mean blood sugar wise. I wasn’t craving sweets the same way I have been known to (not saying I didn’t have my daily dark chocolate. Because I did. Let’s not be ridiculous). And I was just feeling super satisfied by all of my well thought-out, real food meals. I was motivated in the kitchen to create nourishing dishes for my family and feeling more creative when it came to our meal prep. Just because I am a health and nutrition enthusiast, doesn’t mean my level of enthusiasm is consistent. Like anyone, it ebbs and flows and from time to time, I fall into a rut. Sometimes life gets away from me and my planning isn’t as top notch as it needs to be, or I have a difficult time coming up with new and interesting meals that also meet my nutritional standards. I began to wonder why, exactly, I was feeling this way.
Why is it that my eating habits are better at certain times than others?
When I really sat with this, I came to the conclusion that my eating habits are strongly correlated with my overall life satisfaction. When I feel fulfilled and generally happy, as well as minimally stressed (at least in a negative way), my food intake and eating patterns are optimized. Reflecting on periods of my life when I am not as satisfied by my daily routines, have less satisfaction by my close relationships, etc., I noted that my eating habits are more likely to stray from my ideal standards. There is an obvious emotional connection.
I felt very confident in this prediction, but wanted to dive a little deeper into the theory, so I began to research whether life satisfaction impacted eating behaviours, whether or not this was a well known phenomenon, and moreover, why. It was difficult to find studies that reflected this precise idea, but I definitely came across some closely connected literature.
In one study, women were sorted into groups that aimed to help them increase their exercise, improve eating patterns and reduce weight. Results found that subjects’ mood, self-efficacy and body satisfaction strongly predicted emotional eating behaviour. Women who received in-person support in their health journey, reported increased exercise, and more positive self-efficacy and body satisfaction. They were also found to participate in emotional eating far less. The study itself concluded that multiple psycho-social factors should be addressed for optimal weight loss results.
Another study found that unmet psychosocial needs were associated with disordered eating behaviours. “Path analysis revealed that unsatisfied needs of autonomy and competence were indirectly related to disordered eating behaviours through feelings of ineffectiveness… The observed patterns suggest that persistent experience of need frustration may engender an internal sense of ineffectiveness and lack of control, which then compels individuals to engage in disordered eating behaviours in an attempt to regain autonomy and competence.” It should be noted that researchers admitted this type of thing is difficult to study in depth and they weren’t entirely happy with their model, finding there was some obvious limitations and further research should be conducted.
To be fair, these studies are looking at far more serious psychological matters than what I am referring to, but I am not afraid to draw a connection here. Based on what I have read (and what I am self reporting), I would suggest it makes sense that better/more positive food choices (as perceived by the individual) are generally made when one is feeling positively about themselves and their overall lifestyle. In other words, when everything else is in order and you are feeling organized, in control of your destiny, and satisfied by your daily routines, you are more likely to eat in alignment with your nutrition goals and ideals.
What do you think? Is this too much of a stretch? Study correlation or not, I’m pretty convinced! Tell me about your personal experiences with this.
There is a lot of talk about sugar and its negative effects on our health. From diabetes to heart disease, to obesity, the laundry list of reasons not to consume too much is never ending. Personally, I haven't baked with regular white refined sugar in a very long time. My guess would be years. I do, however, like to use natural, unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup (my favourite) and honey. I will also choose something like coconut sugar and dates--both which have a lower glycemic index than refined sugars. Ayla is at an age where, if dessert is on the menu, she is offered it. It isn't contingent on whether or not she ate her main course, and often I will actually serve it at the same time! Limiting labels creates less emotion around what she is eating and helps her develop a healthy relationship with food. Although we don't eat dessert every night, I do like to experiment with baking (obviously), so it's important to me that I am offering her desserts that are made with real ingredients and are low in sugar most of the time. Of course, we have the odd treat not made at home and fully enjoy it. I don't deprive her of that, but it's certainly considered a special occasion. When we are home, I have the power and responsibility of offering nourishing, whole foods.
Traditionally, I have found brownies to be one of the easiest
desserts to make gluten free.
It isn't difficult to find a flourless version of this tasty treat. However, I was really on the hunt for something low-sugar as well, and sometimes that can make things tricky. However, once I started looking around at a few different recipes, I was confident I could create what I was envisioning. And sure enough, the result was this decadent, fudgy, chocolate dream brownie. Bonus: I made it without any sugar!
Brownies can get away with being more on rich side (using cacao) than sweet. So we luck out there. However, some sweetness is necessary. So what did I use? Monkfruit sweetener! I've been experimenting with this 0 carb, 0 calorie sweetener lately. I've found it definitely has its own unique flavour and can alter the texture of a recipe a bit, but it's a great option for a 0 sugar dessert, especially if you follow a paleo or keto lifestyle. It's fructose and glucose free, which means it doesn't spike blood sugar levels. My sister-in-law also reminded me that it is AIP friendly! So, if you are eating to support the healing of an autoimmune disorder, this recipe is one for your collection.
My main tip for this batter is to not overcook it. Check the brownies at about 18 minutes. Insert a knife into the middle and if it comes out a little moist, that's perfect. Remove them from the oven and let them sit. If it's clear they need a little more time, put them back in, but don't exceed a baking time of 25 minutes. The brownies will dry out and will not be the texture we're going for here.
Find the recipe below and let me know if you try out these decadent, low-carb treat with your family!