My Journey to Natural Beauty and Wellness
Whether you're just starting your journey to clean beauty and wellness or are in the midst of it, doesn't always help to hear how others decided to change their life?
I've always found hearing others' stories so inspirational and it's a huge part of the reason I'm where I'm at today. I wasn't always into natural beauty and wellness, in fact, you could say I was on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.
Since clean DIY beauty is actually a whole lifestyle change (it's much more than just skin-deep folks!), I want to go all the way back to when I was a teenager. Long, long ago in the 90s, way before DIY beauty was mainstream. Back then, I had no conception of what being "healthy" was. I actually thought in some crazy way, that I was healthy even though I ate junk food all the time (I know this sounds irrational, but stay with me).
When I say I ate junk food, I literally mean fried food, fast food, sweets, soda and next to no vegetables or fiber 99% of the time.
Breakfast would be a sugary cereal or a bagel with cream cheese. A typical lunch would be either pizza or a peanut butter sandwich on refined bread with chips, cookies and soda. I drank a lot of soda. Dinner would usually be frozen to begin with; fish sticks, french fries, frozen taquitos (big in our house), or pasta. I absolutely hated veggies. Hated them. Hard to believe now...
Why in the world would I think I was actually healthy? Now I ask myself that every day. But it was a different era. The internet barely existed and there wasn' the health craze that we have today. Did I know I was supposed to eat veggies? Of course, but I thought I was fine mainly because I did not gain any weight from eating really bad food.
Now when I look back, I think there are two reasons for this, maybe three. I was on the swim team in high school so I was pretty active. I'm lucky in that I have a naturally petite frame and lastly, I think I wasn't eating huge portions of food.
So I figured it was fine that I continue to eat junk.
I was wrong.
I was lucky in the sense that I didn't gain weight, but my unhealthiness showed in other ways. I had a bad acne problem and bad skin. Actually, I had super greasy skin. Man, it was really bad. When I look back at photos, I can just see the unhealthiness in my face. My mom took me to a dermatologist who prescribed a medicinal cream that did work, but he also told me that I could eat french fries plus other junk food and it wouldn't affect my skin.
I hope that rumor is not still floating around today. Of course, since my dermatologist told me that, I continued to eat junk food and fast food on a regular basis. That is until I got really sick when I was 19.
It was in the early fall of my first year of college. I began to get migraines and felt like I had jet lag all the time. I just lost all of my energy to the point where I was in bed all day. This lasted about a month. I had to drop out of school because it got so bad. The doctor thought that I might have mono, but all the tests came back negative.
So mono was ruled out, yet they couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, except that my ldl cholesterol was 270! Just to give you an idea of how high that is, a good level should be under 200, borderline high is 200-239 and high is 240 and up.
For a teenager to have their cholesterol that high is almost ridicules. But it happened to me and in a way I'm so thankful I got sick because it forced me to change my lifestyle.
It definitely was a scary time when I think back and I still didn't understand the correlation between food and health, but it was the beginning of my journey to better health.
I hope that so far you will see that eating any kind of junk food on a regular basis can have drastic effects on not only your beauty, but your overall health. Scary stuff.
I tried to make changes in my diet, but it was really hard. At that point I hated veggies so they were something I had to force myself to eat. Looking back, I still don't think I ate that well, but at least I had cut out a lot of the junk food. I also remember about a year after getting sick, getting a physical during a P.E. course at my community college. They told me I still had high cholesterol. I couldn't believe it.
Now I know that at that time I just didn't understand what a healthy diet was.
When I moved out of my parents' house at 21 and down to Los Angeles to go to school is when I started cooking for myself. I started shopping at Trader Joe's and buying healthier options. I was doing a lot better at this point than I was when I was 19. I barely was eating junk food at that time, but I definitely wasn't eating organic and was not eating anywhere near the amount of fruits and veggies that I needed to.
Also, I had another downfall. Now, I'm trying to be totally transparent on here so don't judge, but when they say live it up in your 20s...well, I did. From the moment that I moved down to L.A. I started going out and drinking a lot. I wasn't an alcoholic by any means, but my girlfriends and I would go out about 3 to 4 times a week to the clubs.
I think a lot of girls in their early 20s in college can relate to this. Do I look back and regret that I did this? No, I had a great time and I am the type of person that still likes to have a good time every once in a while (like once a month these days, ha) so I take it for what it was worth.
However, I just wish that I was more aware of what I was doing to my body at that time. When you're in your 20s, you feel like you're invincible. You party, then you wake up and feel fine and go out the next night. If I did that today, I would feel horrible for a week. Which is why I rarely drink anymore. Back then, it was no big deal. Can anyone else relate to this?
Another thing about drinking and losing your inhibitions...you tend to eat a lot when you're drunk and it tends to be junk. I remember almost after every time we went out, we would either get pizza or stop by Jack In The Box to get a burger and fries. So now I was eating junk food again.
I would try to eat healthy during the day and then we would all binge on fast food when we came home from going out. And still for some reason, I thought I was being healthy. I can't remember if I was in complete denial or just didn't know better. Or maybe I was just having too much fun to care.
As I got into my mid 20s, I wasn't going out as much (probably two nights a week), but I was still doing the same thing. Drinking and then binging on fast food. I would work out and wonder why I couldn't get rid of my little belly I always seemed to have. Now, I've been lucky that I never had a weight problem throughout all this (besides my little pudgy belly!). At the same time you can be skinny, but have the body fat of someone who is overweight. That was me.
Also, as far as a beauty routine at that time, it was so completely different than it is now. I used to be a drugstore beauty junkie. Every time there was a new product that promised to get rid of wrinkles (and I didn't even have wrinkles back then) or some other anti aging product I would buy it.
I shopped a lot at Bath and Body Works because I thought they're products were natural. I even was a big fan of self-tanner, which I shudder at now. I would waste so much money on these products that really did nothing for my skin and definitely did not make me look any better.
When I turned 27 was a turning point. First, I really started to question what I was eating. I remember wanting to get really in shape, but no matter how hard I worked out, I just couldn't lose that belly fat that plagued me throughout my 20s. I started to up my meat intake for more protein thinking that was the answer, but it did not make feel any better.
Plus I was already a big meat eater to begin with so I almost began to despise it in a way because I was eating so much of it.
Second, I started to question what were in the beauty products I was using. All those ingredients that I couldn't pronounce, were they really safe for me to use? In the back of my head, all I could think was, probably not.
This was the point that changed everything.
By 27 I was kind of growing out of that stage. First, I wanted to cut back on the going out and drinking.
This was definitely a turning point in my life. Getting away from the party crowd in L.A. and moving to the more mellow North County of San Diego did wonders for my wellbeing.
A couple of other changes were going on at the same time. First, I stopped eating meat so frequently. I used to think that I needed to eat it at every meal to get enough protein. I started reading a lot of books on health and nutrition. I also began researching cultures or societies that had a centenarians or large numbers of people that lived over 100 years old.
The one thing that all of these cultures had in common was either they didn't eat meat or they ate it about once a week. I took that into consideration, but I was also getting kind of grossed out by meat to be honest. I definitely wasn't ready to cut it all the way out of my diet at the time, but I started eating it just once a week.
I also started to really pay attention to what I was eating and made a big effort to eat a lot of veggies and whole grains. I lost about 10 pounds in less than a month and I wasn't even trying to lose weight! I kind of felt like I was almost cleansing my body because up until that time, I would eat about anything that was placed in front of me. Anyway, after this change, I felt so much better I can't even describe to you! I was happier, leaner and healthier.
In addition to this, I really began to get picky about which beauty products I was using. Since I became somewhat obsessed about health and researching nutrition, I also learned that what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it. All that drug store beauty junk that I spent so much money on was actually detrimental to my body. I had a feeling about that before I made the switch that I chose to ignore! Turns out my intuition was right.
I began to research which products were truly natural and let me tell you they were hard to find in 2007. Even the so called natural ones still had a lot of ingredients that I didn't understand or trust. I won't name names, but I tried out a couple companies over the next year or so. Yes, they were better than all the drugstore products I had been using before. However, they still were questionable.
I also started researching even more about beauty remedies from nature. I had always loved honey and heard that it was great for skincare. The research I found said it was antibacterial (great for acne) and super gentle on the skin. I can't remember what gave me the exact idea to use it as a facial wash and I'm certainly not the first person to do it, but I gave it a try.
I found that my skin stayed soft after washing it and I rarely got any pimples...ever (considering I had such bad acne as a teenager, this was a big deal). So, that started my journey towards completely natural skincare. I continued to use honey to wash my face, but it took a couple of years to completely switch over to homemade beauty products that I made myself. I've been using my own beauty products for about seven years now and I love it!
I will never in a million years go back to the traditional beauty methods here in the U.S. of buying synthetic chemical laden store bought products.
Currently, I make all my own beauty products or buy from brands that I completely trust. Life can get busy and there have been times throughout the years that I've bought completely natural products instead of making them myself. Luckily in 2016 (nine years after I made the transition) there are a good number of reputable brands out there.
As far as nutrition, I make an effort to eat really well. Lots of veggies, fruits, and whole grains. I mostly plant-based, although I will sometimes have a bit of cheese, chicken, eggs or fresh fish. For me at this time of my life, I feel the best on a mostly plant-based diet with some lean protein here and there.
So there you have it. My journey to wellness.
I will leave you with this...it is never too late to make a positive change to your health/life. You may need to hit bottom before you realize it or maybe you're ready right now, but I suggest not waiting. Just go for it. Seriously, it's so worth it!