Food Sensitivity Testing With EverlyWell | EverlyWell Review

Food sensitivities and intolerances are a hot-button topic right now. People are self-diagnosing left and right and you see all sorts of diets (gluten-free, dairy-free, etc) all over the place. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people that legitimately need to avoid these foods, but I also am saying that are probably many people starting elimination type diets simply to be on trend or because they think they have an intolerance to something. 

I’m not going to lie, I’ve often wondered the same thing about my body. I don’t want to be required to live a dairy-free or gluten-free lifestyle, but I can’t help but wonder if I should.  Some of the symptoms of food intolerances are things I experience regularly, like skin issues (major skin issues), fatigue, brain fog, and of course the whole gas and bloating thing.  What originally sparked my interest in food sensitivities was not because I had these symptoms, but because I seemed to get these symptoms at weird and random times. There are some days I wake up and am having a great skin day (some people have good/bad hair days. I pay more attention to good/bad skin days) where my acne and redness seems to be less angry than normal and I feel somewhat confident in my skin. Then there are days where I wake up and my skin thinks I’m 15 again, hormones raging and acne raging right along with it. Breakouts everywhere. I never know if it’s my skincare (not likely) or my diet. If it’s my diet, why do I have good days and bad days?

I also experience the same thing with gas and bloating. As a chronic Weight Watcher and calorie counter, I consider a good day of eating to be when I’m fueling myself with healthy, clean foods and staying within my calorie range. Imagine my surprise when I am fueling my body so well (think lean protein, fruits, and veggies, whole grains, clean, good stuff) and in the evening I still end up extra gassy and feeling bloated despite doing everything “right” and staying away from junk. Then there are days where I feel great and have no issues. What in the world is going on?!

It dawned on me recently that while I don’t have any food allergies, there could always be a possibility of there being foods that my body has a reaction to that could be causing my issues. Ever since I considered this possibility, I wanted to get an official test done. Not an allergy test (I’ve had that done and despite being allergic to plenty of things, I’m not allergic to any foods), but a food sensitivity test. Apparently, this isn’t as easy to find as you’d think.

Until now…

Meet EverlyWell

I can’t remember how I heard of EverlyWell, but I know they were on my radar before they had their big moment on Shark Tank (one of my all-time favorite TV shows). EverlyWell is a company that offers at-home health testing. No doctors appointments, no health insurance. Just collecting a few drops of blood and sending it off to the lab the company works with. Then you can view your results online.  I mean, how can you not want to participate in something that easy?

EverlyWell has a ton of at home tests available, but the highlight for me was knowing there’s a food sensitivity test available. The EverlyWell food sensitivity test measures the body’s IgG immune response to 96 different foods that are most common in western diets. This test is different from a food allergy test. Allergies can be life-threatening, so if you think it’s an allergy you should head to your doctor. Allergies are tested by measuring IgE antibodies, which cannot currently be done at home. 

As I said, food sensitivities can trigger different physical symptoms. Some examples are:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Other miscellaneous skin problems (my issue is adult acne)
  • Food intolerance
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) distress
  • Stomach pain

Are you intrigued yet? I certainly was. Thankfully, I reached out to EverlyWell and they agreed to let me take the test in exchange for a review about the experience. As you guys know by now, I’m always honest and transparent about things like this, so yes, I got to take the test for free, but my experience and opinions are 100% my own opinions. Okay, now that we’re clear about that, let’s dive into my personal experience with this test. 

My EverlyWell Experience

I received my test in a timely manner, and everything was so organized it’s basically fool-proof. Here’s what came in the box:

  • alcohol wipe
  • bandage
  • gauze
  • 3 lancets
  • sample collection card
  • biohazard bag
  • EverlyWell bandage holder
  • mailing bag
  • registration code
  • instructions

The first thing you do when you have your kit is go to the EverlyWell website and get it all registered. Since all of your results are online, this is very important.  After you get your kit registered it’s time to get your blood sample collected. 

Using your ring or pinky finger (that’s what they suggest anyway) for the sample, all you do is wash your hands under running warm water (they don’t say anything about soap) for 30 seconds, dry, then take the alcohol wipe and clean the area. Use the lancet to prick your skin, then squeeze so you get a complete drop of blood. in a perfect world, you get 5 beautiful drops smack in the center of the circles on the first try, however, we all know things don’t always work out like that. Hence the bonus lancets, just in case you need to prick yourself again. Once your samples are collected let the card air dry for 30 minutes before putting it in the biohazard bag. Then package it back in the box, put it in the already labeled bag and send it off. Easy peasy!

Once the package arrives at the lab they’ll let you know and then it’s about 5 business days until your results are ready. I was super anxious to get them simply because I love knowing what is going on in my body, good, bad, or otherwise, and these results would hopefully give me even more insight into how my body works and how I can aid it in feeling its best.  Finally, 4 days later (yes, earlier than estimated) my results were in!

My EverlyWell Food Sensitivity Test Results

The first thing you see when you log in to your test results is a summary page telling you how many of each of the 96 foods landed in which level of reactivity. Your 4 options are high, moderate, mild, and low reactivities.  Foods clocking in at high and moderate are the ones most likely to be causing any issues and are the place to start when it comes to elimination in your diet. After doing that they suggest trying to eliminate some of the mild reactivity foods and after a period of time adding them back in one by one to see if they cause any of your issues as well. 

Ready to see my results??  Drum roll, please!

Right off the bat, I can rest easy, as there are ZERO foods that I’m highly reactive to. Hallelujah, happy day! However, you can see that I’m not totally in the clear, as I do have a whopping 1 food in the moderate category and 19 in the mild category.  Any guesses as to what my most reactive food is?  I thought for sure I’d be reactive in some way to dairy products, because dairy can cause acne and digestive issues and thanks to my love of protein, which includes yogurt, cheese, and of course all of the whey protein found in Quest products, it would only make sense that dairy is my obvious answer.  Was I right??

This deserves another drumroll…

GRAPES?!

Yup! Apparently, the food I am most reactive to is grapes. Who would have thought? Certainly not me!

Thankfully that’s the only thing that had a high enough reactivity for me to be concerned. I also reacted to 19 foods in the mild area, and the rest were low (meaning nothing to be concerned about) reactivity. See all of my results below. 

 

 

 

The surprises (other than the grapes) were gluten (and everything associated with it) and eggs being reactive and dairy having low enough reactivity where it isn’t an issue. I thought for sure dairy would be something that causes an issue for me, but alas, I was wrong! 

Will this change any of my habits? Maybe..

Grapes aren’t difficult for me to give up, as I don’t consume them much anyway. The biggest sacrifice would be having to give up wine. I don’t drink often at all, so having the occasional glass of wine is totally worth it for me, as I rarely overdo it anyway. Generally, leaving grapes behind will be easy. 

Gluten and eggs were a big shocker, and they’re both things that are in my diet every single day. Will I stop eating them? Probably not, but I will be considerate of the amount I consume in the future. Mindfulness is key here.

If I wanted to properly do an elimination diet, EverlyWell suggests eliminating all reactive foods for 30 days, then slowly re-introducing them one by one until you discover which food is the one causing the problem. While this is something I could do, I don’t immediately feel the need to go through such a serious process. However, if lightning and being mindful of consuming the foods I appear to be reactive to doesn’t solve my problems, then I might consider doing an elimination diet in the future. For now, I’m just going to be aware of what I’m eating and try and focus on more foods with a low reactivity, and peppering in my miles reactivity foods when they really count.

So that was my experience getting a food sensitivity test done from the comfort of my own home. Does this have you intrigued yet? If yes, I’ve got great news for you. The lovely people EverlyWell gave me a special code just for my readers. 

Use code DIVADIVINE for 15% off any EverlyWell test!! Hooray!

I emphasize the word any test because EverlyWell does more than just the at-home food sensitivity test. You can test your hormone levels, metabolism, and even get STD testing from the comfort of your own home thanks to this company. There’s an entire list of available tests on their website, so head over to EverlyWell to find out what tests are available to you. My code will get you 15% off whatever test you might decide to try. 

Have you ever had a food sensitivity test done? What were your reactions to the results, and did they change your eating habits in any way? Let me know in the comments below.  

Sephora Play! July 2018

Sephora Play is one of two subscription boxes I still subscribe to (the other being FabFitFun) and for good reason. Most of the times, my boxes are filled with deluxe-sized samples that are things I’m actually thrilled about trying.  This month had some exceptional choices that are perfect for me, so I’m beyond thrilled with my box. I know I’m really bad at sharing them with you, but I promise I will try and get better about making it a monthly habit to share these subscriptions.

This month’s box was themed “the good stuff,” which means everything in the box is free of parabens, phthaltes, and sulfates for a cleaner beauty routine. 

Here’s what my $10 earned me this month.  

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

A hydrating gel that uses 100% plant-derived ingredients for brighter, balanced skin. Both squalene and probiotics are definitely hot in skincare right now, so it’s nice to have them both packed into one little moisturizer.  Biossance is a brand that seems to be getting really high reviews, and while I’ve only ever tried a sample of their retinol serum, it’s a brand that is on my radar, so I’m excited to have something else of theirs to try. 

Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen

A vegan, collagen-based serum that visibly restores skin’s suppleness and resilience. Collagen is also very trending right now, both topically and as something to take internally.  Apparently, we don’t get enough collagen naturally, and it’s one of the best things for our skin to help prevent signs of aging. I tried this serum once, and the consistency is a little weird because of the beads of microalgae in the container, but they melted into my skin quite nicely. This is also something I’m looking forward to using. 

Briogeo Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Creme

A heat protectant blow dry cream that boosts hair’s luster and softness. I love a good blow dry creme, as I find they really do help make my blowdry a little sleeker and smoother. My current go to is by Bumble & Bumble, but I’m always open to trying something new.  The only bummer about this is it’s a single use packet, but I much prefer something like this over a perfume sample, so I’m glad to have received this instead. 

Korres Wild Rose Vitamin C Active Brightening Oil

An Ultra concentrated vitamin C face oil that reduced the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Two oils in one box? Yes indeed.  This serum is formulated to help brighten the skin with a heavy dose of vitamin C in each drop.  I gave this a try last night, and I won’t lie, my skin feels really soft this morning. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because of this serum or the combination of products I’ve been using lately, but either way, I like it. Buyer beware: if you don’t like the scent of rose, you will not like this product. 

Tarte Color Splash Lipstick in Salt Lyfe

A long-wear, full-coverage nude lipstick with a satin finish that hydrates and conditions. It’s formulated with algae to helps lips look smoother, and it’s vegan-friendly. I just applied it to see how it looks and feels, and I actually am really enjoying it. The color applied evenly and with pretty heavy pigmentation considering how light the lipstick feels. It’s got a hydrating almost watery feel to it, which is pretty comfortable, but I’m not optimistic as to how long the color actually lasts. Still, it’s hydrating, looks nice, and feels even nicer, which is good enough for me. Also, thank you Sephora for sending me a nude shade rather than the crazy bold colors you normally send that I’ll rarely wear. 

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour Blush in Paaarty

This blush was worth the $10 alone for me, so if you add in everything else, I definitely got my money’s worth this month. The shade Paaarty is a Sephora exclusive shade and it was actually part of last year’s Beauty Insider birthday gift, so I already have this exact shade in this size. Why am I so pumped about getting something I already own? Becuase I absolutely love it! It’s a beautiful matte pink that is perfect for everyday wear, and it has been the blush I’ve been reaching for most often, so of course, I’d be thrilled to have another one. 

As I said, I am super pleased with this box, and I look forward to giving all of these products a try. For $10 a month, Sephora Play is hands down my favorite monthly subscription because it sends products from brands found in their store, which are all brands I trust. Are you a Sephora Play member? What did you receive in your July box?

7 Days of the Fab 4 Smoothie

 

As a chronic Weight Watcher, I’ve always had a certain way of thinking when it came to various macros. Generally, the rules are protein and fiber = good and fat and sugar = bad, right? Well as our diet culture continues to grow and change (which is a whole topic on its own), the keto diet has become a wildly trendy diet to be following. For those that don’t know, the keto diet is ahigh fat and way low carb way of eating. Think no sugar but all of the bacon and avocado you could ever want.  Now, before you get all in a tizzy, no, I am not going Keto. Simply put, I like sugar and carbs too much to give them up completely. While I’m not team Keto, I have been more and more intrigued by the idea of fat not being a “bad” food, but instead embracing the fat and using it to my diet’s advantage. Enter: Kelly LaVeque.

Kelly is a nutritionist and the author of the book Body Love. I actually heard Kelly speak on two separate podcasts that I love, so once I heard her the second time, I started thinking I should look into her way of eating a bit more. In a nutshell, Kelly’s approach involves creating your meals based on the “Fab 4”

The Fab 4

  • Protein

  • Fat (yes, fat)

  • Fiber

  • Greens

Notice how fat is listed in there? A solid combination of these types of foods will help keep you fuller longer, prevent blood sugar spikes, and help prevent turning your fuel into fat as well as promoting weight loss if that’s your goal.  I could dive in a lot deeper, but basically, that’s what you need to know about Kelly’s way of eating. If you want more information, I highly recommend her book, Body Love.

A cornerstone for Kelly’s Fab 4 lifestyle is the Fab 4 Smoothie. This is basically taking all of the components of a Fab 4 meal, and blending them up into an easy to consume breakfast that is satisfying, healthy, and metabolism-boosting.  Since there are a lot of her clients that start the day like this, I decided I wanted to give it a try, so I challenged myself to an entire week of consuming a Fab 4 smoothie at the start of my day just to see what happened. My start date was last Monday 7/9/18, and now the results are in.

My 7 Day Fab 4 Smoothie Challenge

Read more

How To Stay On Track During The Summer

Summer is my second favorite season of the year. While sometimes the heat is unbearable, it is a small price to pay for being able to wear shorts and sandals, spend time outside, get a tan, and get your hands on fresh fruit without breaking the bank. It’s the time of outdoor music festivals, farmer’s markets, and more cookouts than you can fit into your schedule. For some, summer is a very difficult time to stay on track.  When there are cookouts and plenty of excuses to stay out later and enjoy plenty of high calories cold beverages, it’s easy to let your weight loss efforts get pushed to the side so you can enjoy all of the goodies that summer regularly offers.  
 
Personally, I actually find summer to be the time of year that it’s easiest for me to stay on track, but that is because of the habits I’ve developed over the last handful of years. The things I do to help me stay on track during the summer are now naturally engrained in my brain, and come easily to me, making summer the time of year I am most focused, feeling my best, and typically seeing the most progress in my journey. 
 
  1. Hydrate! I know, drinking water pretty much ends up in every single “tips for weight loss type video, but there is a good reason. Hydration is essential for keeping the body running and functioning well, but I feel like it’s extra essential in summer. If you’re doing summer the way summer is meant to be done, odds are you’re spending more time out in the sun and heat. There’s nothing better for you than making sure you’re consuming plenty of ice cold, refreshing, hydrating water while you’re busy sweating your booty off outside.  Whether I just got back from a walk or I’m chilling outside at a party, that cold H2O feels so good on so many levels. What happens to my body if I’m staying hydrated while out in the heat, is I notice between the heat and filling my stomach with liquid, I’m a lot less hungry in general during the summer. Less hunger = less random munching.
  2. Get outside! Guys, its SUMMER time.  Get outside and get a little sweaty. No one will judge, we’re all sweaty this time of year. Again, when I’m all summertime toasty hot, I find that a bonus is my appetite is way suppressed. Is it just me? Does the idea of being out in the blazing heat of the day really make you feel nothing but negative thoughts? Well, thanks to summer, it is light outside for longer, which means you can get outside later in the day. Just last night I took Gracie on an extra walk at 8:00 pm. It was still warm, but not unbearably hot. Perfect for getting a few thousand more steps in before calling it a night. There is something magical about taking even 20 minutes to just be outside. It’s good for the body, mind, and soul. Bonus: you get that sun-kissed glow. 
  3. Eat all the produce. One of my favorite things about summer is that fresh, delicious produce is plentiful and way less expensive than it is in the winter. Is there anything more glorious than a slice of chilled watermelon or a bowl of fresh berries on a hot summer day? No, there really isn’t. I find that in summer my body actually craves more fruits and vegetables, and I give in to those cravings because let’s be honest, I could do a lot worse than enjoying extra fresh grilled veggies or an extra cup of fresh fruit salad. Between the produce and the water I’m drinking, I’m often filled up on good, fresh, healthy things. If I’m behaving and listening to my hunger signals (which I’ll admit isn’t always the case), then I’m a lot less likely to eat all of the delicious junk that’s available this time of year. I eat healthy naturally. 
  4. Low-calorie alcoholic beverages. One of the standards of summer is cookouts and parties that typically include alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are a sure fire way to skyrocket your daily intake of points, sugars, and calories without even thinking about it, so it’s important to have lighter options if you’re someone who likes to participate on a regular basis. Well margaritas are amazing and mimosas are delicious, both of them are so heavy in sugar and calories that it’s really easy to pack on the pounds. Two of my favorite low-calorie options are as follows. The first one is a discovery I made just this past week, and it is the new spiked seltzers from Smirnoff.  At only 90 cals and 1 g of sugar and 4.5% ABV, they’re kind of like a lightly alcoholic Lacroix. If you are a cocktail type person, the goal is to enjoy your booze with as little additives as possible. My old go to used to be a vodka cranberry, which was easy to keep low cal at home because I was able to buy diet cranberry juice, which let’s face it is actually just cranberry flavored water at 5 cals a serving, but when you go out and order a vodka cranberry, there’s no way the bars are going to have diet anything. What I would end up with is full calorie, full sugar mixers plus the vodka, making my beverage many more calories in points and I would’ve liked. So, I made a couple modifications and now my go-to order is a vodka soda (which is just carbonated water) with a small splash of cranberry. This means that you’re only paying for the vodka, and your mixers are essentially nothing. This is also a drink easy to re-create at home. I now have a legitimate low-calorie but still alcoholic options which allow me to enjoy partying right along with my family and friends, but without completely derailing my day or week. 
  5. Bring your own weight watchers friendly side dish. As you know, when you are invited to a cookout of any kind it is always good form to bring something to share. Since you’re going to bring something anyway, why not make a dish that is diet friendly and fits perfectly into your plan? For the cookout I attended on the Fourth of July, I literally brought a bunch of raw vegetables and some hummus. Raw veggies are zero points, low-calorie, and a great way to fill up while still getting to enjoy little bits and pieces of the higher calorie goods available. If you bring your own diet-friendly dish, you can at least rest assured knowing there’s at least one thing where you can enjoy guilt-free. 
  6. Sneak in extra activities. Since it’s summer and you’re going to be spending plenty of time outside anyway, you might as well pick and choose activities that involve getting extra movement without even trying. Walk around the local farmers market and get some steps in while you’re picking out delicious fresh produce, or enjoy your day at the amusement park as you walk your way from ride to ride. Park at the other end of the parking lot and walk the extra distance to the door taking advantage of the fact it’s not freezing and snowing outside, or have a romantic walk in the park with your loved one or your dog to enjoy a summertime sunset. It is really easy to pick activities that do not simply involve going out to eat, but rather involve activity, movement, and doing something healthy for your body. This is definitely a lot easier to accomplish in the summer than in the dead of winter, at least for me. 
  7. Plan ahead for your parties. As we’ve mentioned several times already, summer is the season of cookouts, get together’s, and parties were food and alcohol flow freely. If you know you’re going to one of these events in the coming weekend, why not plan ahead all week long? Working in an extra work out or two to burn some extra calories, and the extra diligent about what you’re putting into your body to make room for your indulgences during the weekend. It doesn’t take too much extra work to be able to work your party right into your plan. I always sign on I plan ahead, it is a rare thing to have the party affect my number on the scale, and I also enjoy my indulgences a little bit more because I don’t feel at all guilty about having them because I planned well the rest of the week.
 
Those are just a few things that I do during the summer to help me stay on track. Like I said, summer is actually the season I have the easiest time getting active, eating well, and treating my body right. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s bikini season and there’s a little bit more pressure, or simply because I love being outside in the sun and all of the positive choices come naturally, but summer is my bodies season to thrive. Hopefully, with these tips, you are inspired to help your body thrive during this wonderful season as well. Do you have anything that you do to help you stay on track during the summer? Let me know in the comments below. 
 
 

July 2018 Goals

Well, just like that half of the year is behind us. Can you even believe it? I certainly can’t.  It’s usually this time of year when I look back at all of those goals I set in January and how little progress I’ve made thus far and the fear of failing another year’s worth of goals and resolutions sets in.  How are you doing with your 2018 goals? Are you okay with the year being half over? I’m certainly not.

Okay, maybe I’m being a tad overdramatic here, because I definitely know that I have already reached some of my 2018 goals, so I can’t complain, but others still seem so far away, Nevertheless, it’s a new month and it’s time to keep moving forward to make the second half of 2018 the most productive and goal achieving time of the whole year.  

 

July Goals

Count Calories

After thinking about it (and stressing about it), I decided that rather than go back to Points, I’m going to stick with counting calories for at least another month.  When the idea of changing back actually brought on anxiety and stress, I decided that it wasn’t worth stressing over and to stick with the current plan. Since I’m enjoying calorie counting, for the time being, I figure why not just stick to what makes me happy? I’ve been feeling really good about where my body is headed, and I just don’t feel like messing with that at this point in time.

Bring Back The Smoothie

I used to be really into making smoothies, and for one reason or another, I’ve gotten away from that. Recently I was listening to Rachel Hollis’s (author of the bestselling book Girl, Wash Your Face) podcast and she talked about her weight loss journey and how her nutritionist was a part of it. Well it turns out her nutritionist is Kelly LeVeque, author of Body Love. Kelly’s eating philosophy does not involve tracking calories, but focusing on the proper macro and nutrition intake. In a nutshell, the proper food intake can be obtained by making your meals consist of the Fab 4: Protein, Fat, Fiber, and Greens.

These ingredients are easily translated into a breakfast smoothie that many of her clients, including Rachel, consume on a daily basis. The goal is to have the right ingredients in your easy smoothie so your blood sugar stays balanced and you stay full straight until lunch.

My goal for the month is to bring back the smoothie at least 3x per week, but I am actually starting a 7-day challenge where I have a fab 4 smoothie every single day for a week just to see what happens.  Less hunger? Fewer sugar cravings? Weight loss or fat loss? I’ll be writing all about it. 

Limit Protein Bar intake

I’ve become too dependant on bars as a quick fix, and it’s really easy for me to add one to my day every single day. While this is great every once and awhile, it definitely does not need to be an every day occurance.  I need to continue to focus on clean, whole foods, which has been doing great things for my body. The goal is no more than 4 bars per week. 

Sidenote, I’ve been noticing that since they added erythritol to their bars, Quest bars and I haven’t been getting along, so that might make this a little easier. 

Change my focus on this weight loss journey

This is a big one and will be getting its own post soon. Basically, as I’ve noticed my body changing, getting leaner and stronger, but the scale isn’t moving. When people are still telling me that my face is thinning out, and my husband noticed that I felt skinnier despite the scale refusing to budge, I started thinking about my relationship with the scale. Ultimately I decided that if the scale doesn’t move another pound, but my body continues to transform by getting stronger and trimmer, then I no longer care. 

That being said, I am positive that there is still weight to be lost, but my focus is definitely on fitness with the goal of toning up, and nutrition with the goal of being healthy, energized and feeling the best I can feel.  If I focus on those things, I have no doubt more weight will continue to come off, but truthfully, it’s okay if the scale doesn’t move anymore as long as my measurements do. Changing that focus has the potential to open up a whole new perspective on this journey. 

Body Pump 3x/Week

One of the main reasons I’m noticing the positive changes in my body is that I’ve upped my Bodypump attendance from 2x/week to 3x/week. Having a disease that makes muscles weaker and no treatment for it means I need to do what I can to work ahead of the disease and get as strong as possible. I decided that adding an extra class is the better answer than adding more weight, although I’m actually starting to do that too. My goal is to keep up the 3 classes all month long and see how I feel. 

Buckle Down At Work

Let’s face it, I’ve been a pretty terrible blogger and Youtuber lately. There, I said it. 

I tend to get SO wrapped up in the other things happening in life (obsessing over keeping the house clean..which never goes as well as I want, obsessing over food, fitness, and every calorie consumed and burned, etc) and I also tend to be a master procrastinator. This is a deadly combo for Diva and the Divine, as it means I always manage to find something more important to do than my work.  Is it actually more important? Probably not, but I tend to stress, obsess, and make things feel like a bigger deal than they actually are. This month I really want to do what I can to make sure I make Diva and the Divine a priority.  I will be implementing a few strategies to make sure this happens, but in general, this month the goal is to crank out regular content both on the blog and on my Youtube channel.

Bonus Goal: Get A King Size Bed

This is a goal that is basically in the hands of my hardworking, never home to do home related things husband, but I will consider it a major win if we actually do it. For a few months now we’ve been toying with getting a king sized bed, as it will benefit both of us in many, many ways. He’s a heavy sleeper that likes to move, I’m a light sleeper that wakes up with every movement. I like to sleep with my weighted blanket, but he hates it because it’s not big enough for both of us, but still takes up 3/4 of the bed, etc etc. 

Bottom line: if we manage to get a bed ordered this month, I will consider it a big bonus goal getting accomplished. It’s the final step towards the several bedroom upgrades I’ve been working on to make it a more romantic and less “college student” feeling place to be. 

Those are my goals for the month. Did you set any goals this month? Let me know!

5 Productivity Hacks That Actually Work

 

Productivity is something that everyone could use a little bit more of. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, running your own business, working 9-5, 60+ hour weeks, or are a housewife, I’m sure there isn’t a single person out that that doesn’t think a little more productivity in their life is necessary.

You will find countless books, blog post, youtube videos, TED talks, basically any content delivery system you can think of, filled to the brim with different tips, tricks, and techniques on how to be your most productive self, get organized, and get things done. We live in a world of hustle and fighting the to-do list that never ends, and we are dying to learn exactly how to get it all done,

Becuase there is an oversaturation of productivity advice and techniques, it’s really easy to get so wrapped up in learning about the different techniques that we never stop looking and start implementing what we’ve found. I’m here to solve that problem for you. I’ve got 5 productivity hacks that I’ve tested, tried, and use on a regular basis.  My favorite hacks are simple and yield high productivity results, which is what productivity is, right? Getting things done in a timely manner. 

Here are my 5 productivity hacks that actually work.

#1 Blocking and Scheduling

This is kind of 2 things, but I figured we can lump them together.  First, schedule everything.  Sure, we always write down our planned appointments, but have you ever considered scheduling the things that you don’t consider to be an appointment like your workouts or your time spent with the kids or your spouse? Scheduling all of your items, even if they don’t necessarily feel like something that needs to be scheduled, ensures that you have a period of time blocked off for that item, even if it’s just cuddling on the couch with your significant other and giving your relationship an hour of your time.  That’s a pretty important to-do list item if you ask me. So, part 1: schedule everything. 

Part 2 is block scheduling.  This falls under the “schedule everything” umbrella, which is why it’s lumped together under tip #1. Block scheduling is basically blocking off larger periods of time to help you specify what types of things you’re doing throughout your day. I regularly have several different time blocks located throughout my week to help me stay on task and organized.  I have a color-coded system that helps me understand at a glance what types of tasks I’ doing throughout y day. Here are examples of my block schedules:

  • “Work”: I have many different types of tasks under this umbrella: blogging, filming, editing, shooting photos, social media, admin, emails, and other things that fall under the Diva and the Divine umbrella. It’s coded in purple (like my website. See what I did there?) and I try to give myself a solid, several hour blocks a few times a week to be my “work days.”
  • Errands: If I can help it, I block out one chunk of time per week for errands. If I have a doctor’s appointment or something that gets me out of the house anyway, I try to make that my errand day, and the entire blocked chunk of time consists of getting all of my out and about tasks done in one go, leaving me a lot more time during the week to accomplish everything else since I won’t need to run an errand every day. This doesn’t always work out, but I do my best.
  • Cleaning: I also block schedule a few cleaning times in throughout the week. I typically have a 15-minute block of time every night for general tidying, and I’ll mark of one or two power hours (more on that in a minute) to get my longer list of cleaning tasks completed.

I find block scheduling is a great tool for me to try and make my days as a non-working (outside of Diva and the Divine) housewife resemble a typical work week as if I was employed.  I’m still working on the whole procrastinating and straying from my block schedule thing, but at least I’m getting things in writing. 

#2 Today’s Top 3

Let’s face it: we live in a world where our to-do lists are so long that there is no way we can actually get every task completed before more get added. It’s a vicious cycle that makes us feel like we are constantly behind. That’s where “Today’s Top 3” comes in.  I know you have a crazy list that might be 20+ items long, but today, your job is to pick your top 3 (not 5, 8 or 3 sets of 3…JUST 3) and those are the tasks you prioritize for the day. 

I know your to-do list is a lot longer than 3 items, but hear me out. 3 things is a totally manageable number of things to get done in a day. If you pick your top 3, that doesn’t mean you can’t do more, but it means those 3 items are your official priorities of the day. If you do nothing else today but those 3 tasks, the day is a success. Anything extra is just bonus points. 

The top 3 can vary greatly from day to day, but here are some examples of my “Today’s Top 3”

  • Grocery Shopping, 1 load of laundry, meal prep
  • Bodypump, film 2 videos, vacuum
  • Drop packages at post office, take blog photos, write for 20 minutes
  • Cleaning Power Hour, pick up a prescription, Upload video

My top 3 are often something from the different genres of my life. Some days are blog focused, others are home focused, and sometimes BodyPump or go to the gym is actually one of my official priorities, rather than just something I have to work into my 3 priorities for the day. Start the day knowing what your top 3 are and then don’t rest until they’re complete. 

#3 Batching

Batching is a term I heard as part of the blogger and YouTuber community, but there’s no reason everyone can use this technique.  The idea behind batching is to take tasks of a similar nature and to batch them all together to be accomplished in one go. For me, I have batches like filming videos, shooting photos for several posts at once, one period of time not focused on one particular post, but on writing, even if I get more than one post typed out.  The same goes for errands (as I mentioned, I will try to schedule a block of time to get them all done in one day. Batching!), cleaning, and I even batch together those goofy random tasks that don’t have a category. This helps the brain focus on one type of thing at a time, helping us be more productive rather than losing productivity for having to change focus regularly.

#4 Power Hour

The power hour is perhaps the productivity technique I use most frequently, and for a good reason. The concept of power hour is to set a timer for 60 minutes and go gung-ho on the task at hand, but once your hour is up you move on to something else, regardless of where your to-do list ended up. The best example of this is cleaning power hours, which I do all the time.  First, I make a list of all the things that need to get done.  It might look like this:

  • Laundry
  • Put laundry away
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Dust
  • Vacuum
  • Steam Floors
  • Change Towels
  • Clean Toilets
  • Soak Gracie’s potty pads
  • Wipe down counters
  • Clean mirrors/Glass surfaces

That’s 11 things. Once my timer starts I blitz into cleaning mode loading the laundry. While that’s running I might do the kitchen stuff and finally get around to dusting the other rooms in my home. Perhaps I get done dusting and vacuuming, but then I hear the alarm go off before I can get steaming the floors or wiping down the mirrors. That’s okay!  I’ll save that for my next cleaning power hour later in the week. I still accomplished several of my tasks, and now I can be okay with switching focus to a different genre of work, like heading to my office to blog or going to the gym. 

I’m one of those people that can use home cleaning and organization as a procrastination tool to prevent me from sitting down to work, so I know that putting a time limit on things is the solution to my procrastination problem. 

The wonderful thing about a power hour is it doesn’t have to be an hour. It can be 15 minutes or 90 minutes. As long as you make your list and stop when your time is up, it’s the power hour technique at work.

#5 Routines

Many of us have some sort of routine that we do most days, but just because it’s a routine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a productive one.  I find that having a productive morning and evening routine really helps me be a more productive person overall. While routines will look different for every person, here are what some of my productive habits are that help me set myself up for success.

Night time routine

My night time routine is probably my more important routine as most of it literally sets up the next day.  Some of the things I do every night are:

  • 15 minute tidy: I go through the house before I start getting ready for bed and tidy up some messes that have developed throughout the day. This often includes clearing and wiping down the kitchen counters, picking up all of Gracie’s toys and putting them back in her basket, folding blankets that were thrown around the couches, picking up clothes on the floor, and clearing off my desk in the office. When I take just a few minutes to do this every night I get to wake up to a tidy house, which is a pleasant and stress-free way to wake up.
  • Set up my coffee maker: I don’t have a fancy coffee maker, but it does all I need, which is have coffee ready for me in the morning. My simple Mr. Coffee allows me to set it up the night before, set a timer for 15 minutes before my alarm, and there’s fresh, hot coffee ready and waiting when I walk out into the kitchen in my groggy morning haze. This is a life essential 🙂
  • Establish what the next day’s top 3 priorities are. That way I know what the most important tasks of the next day are before I go to bed, so when I wake up and am ready to work, I can hit the ground running.  
  • Turn the lights down low and enjoy the process of getting ready for bed. This includes my nightly skincare routine, changing into comfy PJs, enjoying my favorite magnesium drink to help me sleep, and overall getting the mind and body in sleep mode. As an insomniac, this process is essential to make sure I actually fall asleep when I get in bed. Getting a solid night’s sleep is huge when it comes to productivity.

Morning routine:

  • Set alarm 15 minutes early to allow myself a buffer in actually finding the desire to get out of bed.
  • Wash my face, even if it’s just a splash of water. This helps wake me up. Also, down a significant amount of water. Rehydrating helps wake up your insides. 
  • Pour some coffee and sit in my recliner for some quiet time with the Lord, to read, and to gather my thoughts for the day.
  • Move over to my office where everything is already tidy and ready for me to jump into whatever I have to get done that day. 

Like I said, everyone’s routines will look different, but finding what works best for you to achieve maximum productivity is crucial in helping you get more done in the long run. 

Those are my 5 productivity tips/tricks/hacks that really work. Do you have a favorite productivity tool that you swear by? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

I Slept In Today

I know that’s a ridiculous title for a blog post, but it’s the truth. Because I failed to set an alarm last night when I went to bed (at 1:30 am…) I ended up waking up at 9:30 this morning. I’ve had a weird day ever since. 

If I’m being honest, I was initially pretty mad at myself for not setting that alarm, as I like to be up somewhere in the 7:00 hour because I like to have a leisurely morning of sipping coffee, poking at my phone, and doing morning reflections before I start my day.  However, it wasn’t long until I realized just how energized and motivated I felt. I poured some coffee (which I also failed to set up properly the night before) and headed straight to my desk to write in the guided journals I found at Michaels for only $3 yesterday. They had me setting goals, intentions, and gratitude, getting my head on straight, and creating a well prioritized  to-do list for the day.

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You CAN Eat Peanut Butter and Lose Weight! | Healthy Eating All The Time and Go Bars

Peanut butter is something that I have loved all my life, but let’s be honest when you’re on a diet and trying to lose weight peanut butter is basically one of the first things to go. At least this is the case for me. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a good old fashion peanut butter and jelly sandwich or didn’t eat peanut butter without mourning how many Weight Watchers points and calories the small 2 tbsp serving ended up being. I pretty much resigned myself to a life without peanut butter unless it was powdered PB (While it gets the job done, it in no way compares to the real deal). Sad day.

You guys all know I love my bars. Quest Bars, No Cow Bars, Dive Bars, and everything in between. Especially when I’m pressed for time, there is something wonderful about having my nutrients all packed into one little portable bar. As per usual, when I discover new brands of bars, I have to give them a try. I’ve seen this brand on Instagram for quite some time now, with many Weight Watchers and healthy lifestyle accounts posting photo after photo, raving about this delicious bar. I finally decided I had to give them a try. 

I ended up with the complete Healthy Eating All The Time and Go (which I will from this point forward call HEAT bars for the sake of length) collection, both purchased by me and sent to me by the owner of the company.  Once I sat down and calculated the Points for all of the bars, which ranged from 6-8sp and 4-6pp, I opened up the one that seemed to be the most popular (cranberry peanut butter granola) and took a bite. 

..and then I died and went to a peanut butter filled Heaven.

I’m not even joking. This bar, which is only 4 PP (I’m currently following the old WW plan), was a delicious mouthful of REAL peanut butter flavor. It was the most delicious bar I had ever bitten into, and I’m not exaggerating. 

Wholesome, REAL Ingredients

Let’s talk about the ingredients for just a second. In a world of processed food that contains ingredients that sound anything but natural, the ingredients in HEAT bars are plain and simple: things like oats, natural peanut butter, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, almonds, honey, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried apple, and the occasional 60% cacao chip or whey protein. Clean, whole ingredients that are easy to read and more importantly, are easy on the body. In a world of sugar alcohols and artificial everything, this was a very welcome change.  Read more

Smart Sweets Gummy Bears

 

Gummy Bears are a classic when it comes to candy. These tiny little guys will bring a smile to your face and joy to your taste buds.  However, for those of us trying to lessen our sugar intake, gummy bears aren’t always something we can enjoy. Until now.

Did you know there is a gummy bear out there that is fruity, chewy, and delightful that contains only 3g of sugar per serving?? It’s true! They’re called Smart Sweets, and they’re most definitely the smarter way to enjoy gummy bears. 

What Are Smart Sweets?

Smart Sweets gummy bears offer all of the joys of eating this tasty, fun treat without all of the crazy sugar that gummy bears typically come with. While they aren’t completely sugar-free, they contain a whopping 3g of sugar per bag. While this would normally be alarming, fear not! They don’t contain any sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners either! *happy dance*

Smart Sweets are sweetened with plant-based, non-GMO stevia.  This means that there shouldn’t be any icky side effects in your digestive system because of artificial sweeteners. I mean, have you seen the reviews for Haribo sugar-free gummy bears on Amazon? It’s hilarious to read, but absolutely NOT hilarious to experience. You see, those are sweetened with the sugar alcohol maltitol, which can cause major issues for a lot of people. Thankfully, Smart Sweets has nothing like that in their ingredients list, making them an ideal candy substitute. 

Ready for another nutritional bonus of Smart Sweets? 28 g of dietary fiber! Read more

My No-Makeup Makeup Routine (Actually Using As Little Product As Possible)

Ah, the “no-makeup” makeup look. Where we strive to look like we’re flawless whilst looking like we’re not wearing a stitch of makeup. Have you ever noticed that most of the no-makeup tutorials out there actually use a ton of products and take a lot of time, even though the goal is to look like we’re not wearing anything at all? In my opinion, this is not the way the no makeup look should go. When the goal is to achieve a natural, no-makeup look, don’t you think we should be using as little product as we can?

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of full face, full coverage days when I’m filming for my channel or going out for the evening, but on a normal weekday, I can be found with nothing on my face except a little lip balm. 

I’ll be honest, I wish I could say that my no-makeup look actually involved wearing absolutely zero makeup, but sadly this is not the case. The truth is, my skin is something that shakes my self-confidence because I have adult acne. I feel very self-conscious about going out in public without at least trying to tone down some of my skin’s imperfections.  While I often throw on a little bit of something, I have managed to create a no-makeup look that actually involves only a few products. The goal of my look is not to make my skin look totally flawless, but simply to help me blur the imperfections that make me most uncomfortable.  Some days, this doesn’t involve any makeup at all, but on days where I’m feeling particularly broken out, there are few products that are quick and easy to use that make me feel like I can go out in public and not worry about my skin’s appearance.  Read more