National Bank ALT COURT Soireé in Montreal

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ALT COURT

Tennis has long been known as a heritage sport that still embodies the ethos the game had when it was first created over 140 years ago. Although the sport’s culture has changed slightly over the years, thanks to the new generation of tennis stars, you can still expect to see players wearing “all-white” at Wimbledon, complete silence during match play, and many other traditions. However, on the night of July 7th, National Bank wanted to change our outlook on tennis. Here’s a glimpse of the insanely eclectic evening they hosted at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium:

To help celebrate the bank’s 10th year as the Rogers Cup title sponsor, ALT COURT (short for “Alternative Court”) was created and luckily myself and 11 other friends from Toronto flew in for the grand soireé. The event embodied contrasting elements one would never expect to find on the court – hence the party’s ‘apropos’ name.  It featured dope light installations, vintage-style games, the largest table tennis set up I think I’ve ever seen; for up to 10 players at a time, tunes spun by DJ Ryan Hemsworth, choreographed dance performances by Tentacle Tribe and much more. I even loved how the models were styled by Tinashe Musara in what looked like the futuristic version of the tournament’s ball girl uniform’s. It was the perfect evening to celebrate this decade long partnership and to help create some excitement for the upcoming men and women’s tournaments in Toronto and Montreal respectively, taking place July 23-31st.

National Bank ALT COURT

National Bank ALT COURT

National Bank ALT COURT

National Bank ALT COURT

National Bank ALT COURTPhotography by Sarah Birkett and Karel Chladek for National Bank

For more information on Rogers Cup and to purchase tickets in advance online head to RogersCup.com

Posted on by Sasha in EVENTS, LIFESTYLE Leave a comment

SSFit: Spotify Summer Sixteen Training Playlist

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SSFit: Summer Sixteen Training Playlist

You’ve heard me say time and time again that the right outfit can motivate you to workout, but a dope playlist is never to be underestimated. If you’re in the gym solo, it can be difficult AF to stay focused, give 100% and push yourself until the end of your planned workout. I hear so many times from people that they head to the gym with plans of doing an hour long workout and end up bailing 30 minutes later. No judgements here…I get it. It’s probably how I feel when I go to the nail or hair salon. I immediately start thinking of all the things I “could” be doing instead of being there for much longer than I really want to be.

SSFit Summer Sixteen Training Playlist

If it’s not possible to have a workout buddy or accountability partner in the gym, I would say you better get some good tunes to keep your butt committed to your planned workouts. There’s a few tracks I have had on heavy rotation lately and based on all your requests on Twitter, I have compiled them into a 45 minute Spotify playlist titled, “SSFit: Summer Sixteen Training Playlist” (there’s a sneak peek above) for you that will seamlessly take you through your warm-up, workout, cool-down and even a slow tempo’d track for you to stretch to.

And your playlist is only as good as the headphones you use to listen to it, amirite? I’ve gone back to wireless headphones and currently addicted to my new Beats by Dre Solo 2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones in rose gold. The intelligent design buffers outside noise with earcup padding and has a wide range of sound to allow listeners to enjoy music the way artists intend us to. They pair easily with my iPhone6 and I can move freely up to 9 meters away from my connected device. I really hate interrupting workouts with calls, but if I need to jump on one quickly with my agent, I can do so with the hands free mic. If you’re familiar with wireless headphones you’re probably wondering about the battery life right? The Solo 2 headphones were made for people on the go and can stay unplugged all day thanks to the 12 hour rechargeable battery. Available for sale now on Apple.ca for $329.95.

SSFit: Summer Sixteen Training PlaylistPhoto by Jess Baumung.com for LouLou Magazine

Want details on my training look? Head to louloumagazine.com/sashaexeter for the details and the rest of my #366DaysOfLooks.

Posted on by Sasha in FASHION, FITNESS Leave a comment

5 Important Tips For Better Sleep When You Travel

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ZzzQuil

Getting adequate sleep at night in your own bed is a challenge in itself. Since January I have been doing research on the topic of sleep in search of effective ways to increase quality shut eye. You may have seen this chronicled right here not too long ago, where I shared some of the things my boyfriend and I have incorporated into our nightly routine at home. But sleep can be even more tricky when your traveling. If you don’t get enough sleep, especially when switching time zones, there is a good chance your trip, whether it be for work or play, may not pan out the way you intended. There’s nothing worse than traveling a long way for a fun filled trip and spending the first few days in the destination living in a jet lag fog. Of course, only to be outdone by being in a sleep deprived, induced coma when on a business trip. If you’re traveling anytime soon, you may want to take notes on the below so you can arrive at your destination looking refreshed and ready to take over the city.

ZzzQuil

1. Modify Your Sleep. This may be a very ambitious rule, but if you can figure out a way to do this, I can almost guarantee you will be unfazed by a time zone change and long travel days. Shifting your bedtime a couple days before you depart to be in line with what your destination’s time is a veteran trick. It’s natural to find it difficult to get on a different time zone – generally we become sleepy during the day and restless at night. Not ideal! Many well heeled travellers have a few tricks up their sleeves to combat this and one of mine is ZzzQuil. Although ZzzQuil is made by the makers of Vicks NyQuil, it’s not for colds. It’s not for pain. It’s just for sleep. It contains diphenhydramine – a big word for a small compound that can be used to relieve occasional sleeplessness. When used as directed and when you can donate a full night to sleeping, it reduces the time it takes for you to fall asleep. I make sure to have it packed inside my emergency travel kit that I store inside my carry-on bag, just as a precautionary measure in the event my luggage gets lost or misplaced. It helps  me fall asleep easily so I can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Sleep Better

2. Stay Hydrated. In high altitudes, it’s not uncommon for your body and skin to get dehydrated. Also, with prices at the airport being so expensive, it literally deters people from purchasing a couple bottles of Fiji water before take-off. Really, you should be increasing your H20 intake 1-2 days prior to your departure. To make sure you get adequate hydration while in transit, skip buying the pricey water at the airport and bring your own large refillable water bottle to fill up during the flight instead of relying on the miniature cups of water cabin crew hand out. Proper hydration will prevent you from feeling groggy when you wake up from sleeping on the plane.

3. Avoid Red-Eye Flights. Red eye flights are awful and I really only recommend them if necessary when flying overseas internationally. Many assume they are doing themselves a favour by flying overnight so they can make the most of their time in a new city. Not so much! In actuality, the transit time in the air is short in comparison to the time it takes to get to and from the airport, baggage claim, going through customs and getting situation at your hotel, basically throwing you off your sleep for most of your trip.

ZzzQuil

4. Dress For Comfort. Ok, it is very important to understand that I am not sagging that one shows up to the airport looking like a schlep, especially if you a re traveling for business. My father always told me to look presentable when traveling because you never know who you will cross paths with. However, you don’t want to be so uncomfortable that you can’t get rest on the plane. For flights over two and a half hours, I usually bring a pair of compression socks to avoid symptoms like heavy legs, leg pain, swollen feet and ankles. These symptoms can occur during long haul flights where movement is constrained and blood circulation in the legs is restricted. I also typically wear a long sleeve top, an additional thin layer plus a light weight cashmere scarf that can easily double as a blanket when the cabin temperature drops during the flight.

ZzzQuilLimbo Multiwheel Créme White Luggage c/o Rimowa Toronto

5. Reduce Stimuli. Whether you’re attempting to sleep on the plane or in your hotel room on the first night of your stay, reducing the amount of stimuli is crucial to getting good rest. I always find it funny when people say, “I don’t know why, but I can’t sleep on planes!” and then later find out they spend the entire time in flight working on their laptop, watching a movie marathon or blasting music in some pricey noise cancelling headphones. It’s no wonder they can’t get some decent rest. Restricting screen time of any kind; TV or computers and staying off your phone an hour before bedtime works wonders even when you’re not traveling. Light music is fine I suppose but I prefer a sound machine app, I mean who doesn’t feel calm hearing the sound of waves or falling rain, right!

ZzzQuil

In case you missed it, you can check out more of my sleep tips to help you get your best rest yet. This post is sponsored by ZzzQuil Canada but all opinions are my own. Before you take medications, it’s important to know what is actually in them. I always recommend you read the label and if you have further questions about the product, please consult your physician, pharmacist or call the 1-800 number on the product packaging. Head to ZzzQuil.ca for more information.

Posted on by Sasha in LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL Leave a comment

Fight Tough to Beat Odours with Tide + Downy Odor Defence Collection

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Tide + Downy Odor Defense

I don’t think there is anyone more happier than I am about athletic wear becoming a larger part of people’s everyday wardrobes. I thoroughly enjoy the idea of being able to hit up a workout, make one edit to my look and then continue on with the rest of my day still on trend and comfy may I add. After spending a good portion of the last 25 years in workout clothes, I’ve come to realize one thing. The technical fabrics used in today’s activewear are no doubt functional, making them ultra comfortable, flattering and moisture wicking, however they often become odour magnets making your workout clothes the home of trapped in dirt and sweat. Have you ever hit the gym in an outfit you’ve just washed and noticed the garments start to smell before you’ve even begun the workout? It’s actually happened to me a several times and had me thinking I had lost my damn mind and put on dirty clothes or that our top load washer was no longer doing the trick. After switching to a new front load washer, the problem still existed. Turns out, I’m not a lunatic – go figure! This occasionally smelly situation has a term and it’s known as “Rebloom“. If not in your gym clothes, some of you may have encountered this with towels shortly after laundry day. You know for a fact you washed them, but you smell a hint of mildew releasing while drying off post shower.

Tide + Downy Odor Defense

Tide + Downy Odor Defense

The only way to combat the rebloom effect is to break down dirt and body soils at a different fibre level so smells don’t come back. With all our daily workouts and activities, I am literally drowning in dirty laundry desperate for some TLC by the time the end of the week rolls around. Now was a better time than any to try out the new Tide + Downy Odor Defense Collection, which I am referring to as the “Trifecta”. I am a bit of a skeptic when a new product is said to be “ground-breaking”, “life-changing” or a “game changer” and after years of experiencing the same odour issues with my workout gear, I didn’t set my expectations high. Tights and a sports bra are my go to when I’m working out in the gym, so I used items with Dry-Fit, Nike’s moisture wicking fabric, to put Tide + Downy Collection through the ultimate test. I am not quite sure how well each product works independently but combined together, all of my garments smelled unbelievably fresh, even heavily sweat soiled sports bras and running shorts with absolutely no hint of the rebloom effect making it’s way back into the clothes – thank God!

Tide + Downy Odor Defense

Tide + Downy Odor Defense

Tide + Downy Odor Defense

If you are using regular liquid detergent or god forbid powder, stop what you are doing right now and proceed directly to your nearest grocery store and pick up Tide Pods Plus Febreeze Odor Defense. Never again do I want to worry if I am putting too much or too little detergent for each load or whether or not a detergent has to the power to eliminate deeply rooted odours. The 4-in-1 pod is power packed to remove residue and surface stains. But just like any good sports team, the other teammates need to be equally as strong. Enter Tide Odor Rescue with Febreeze Odor Defense and Downy Fresh Protect with Febreeze Odor Defense. The former is a mega in-wash booster that penetrates deep down to remove odors and dirt trapped in the fibres while the latter contains motion activated beads that also banishes doors but more importantly seals in the odor protection technology so clothes stay fresh long after their washed, making it a critical component to the collection. Basically, deodorant for your clothes!

Tide + Downy Odor DefensePhotography by JessBaumung.com

Looking to avoid the embarrassing and smelly result of rebloom in your activewear clothing? This incredible trio of products can now be found in most mass retail and grocery stores nationwide. Check out Tide.ca for more information on their products and special offers.

I created this post as an ambassador for Tide. All opinions and advice are of my own and I only work with companies I either genuinely love or have used prior to being contracted.

Posted on by Sasha in FITNESS, LIFESTYLE, PREVIEWS & REVIEWS Leave a comment

UPDATED: Get Inspired to Move This Summer With Me and Degree Women

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*This post has been updated on July 1st, 2016. Scroll down for details on my #BeTheMovement challenge

#BeTheMotion Degree

One of the most valuable things my parents taught me is that it always “takes a village” to get anywhere worth going in life. A solid support system is critical in my life and the secret to my success to date has been to surround myself around people that inspire me and push me to be the best possible version of myself in both my personal and professional life.

#BeTheMotion Degree

#BeTheMotion Degree

A large part of my recovery to health has to do with exercise. Do I love waking up at 5:30am for a gruelling workout? No, not really. Would I much rather be nestled in the arms of my man in bed with our pup laying at our feet. Absolutely. Do I get sore for days after a hard session? Of course. Is it fun to run outside in -25 degrees during our Canadian winter? Nope, not really. My illness means I am in moderate to severe pain pretty much daily…some days are better than others but sometimes it’s challenging just to get out of bed in the morning to be honest. But here’s the thing folks, although it can be a bit difficult to get moving, what keeps me on track are all the physical and mental benefits of working out and leading an active, healthy lifestyle. Actually, my life depends on moving every single day and as hard as it can be to get that workout done, there is no better feeling than the endorphin high I get afterwards.

Every now and again I receive sweet emails from followers saying how much my personal story motivates you. Some of you have even shared your personal goals and achievements with me. Reading messages like these pushes me to keep going and forces me to continue to challenge myself every single day. I’m also extremely lucky to have an amazing supporting cast around me. Some special peeps that also help to inspire, motivate and keep me accountable.

#BeTheMotion Degree

#BeTheMotion Degree

My other half, Réjean Chiasson (Creative Director and Head Coach of Adidas Runners), on most days runs 20-30kms and seeing his drive and determination naturally rubs off on me. This is not a household for the weak and unmotivated. As a former Canadian marathon champion, clearly I am no where near his level, but he always has my back when I need a training partner. Working out with him is not only fun, but I have a tendency to push myself a little harder when he’s around just because I want him to be proud of me. Speaking of which, he has just asked me to join him in a pull-up and push-up challenge which makes me think that he too needs an accountability partner 😉 And if he’s not enough, I have the best friend a girl can ask for, Eva Redpath – Canada’s Nike Master Trainer. We often refer to her as the “Ultimate Accountability Partner“. This woman is unreal. Not a day goes by without her checking in to make sure I have knocked off all the items on my to-do list, pushes me during our weekly workouts together at Toronto’s Goldring High Performance Centre and has dug me out of more emotional holes than I would like to admit. My antiperspirant is just as important as my support team. Degree Women ActiveShield Dry Spray Antiperspirant has Motionsense technology that detects when I move from underarm friction causing it to release immediate odour protection and keeps me feeling fresh all day long.

#BeTheMotion DegreePhotos by JessBaumung.com

Knowing how important it is to have that one person to help you stay on track, I want to be your accountability partner this summer. For the month of July, I’m going to challenge you to #BeTheMotion for a minimum of 30 minutes everyday. To some a half hour seems like it’s either too short of a time to do any good and conversely there may be some that think 30 minutes daily of exercise or movement is not attainable. It most definitely is and you would be surprised at what can get accomplished during this time. So if you’re down for a realistic challenge, I will act as your personal support team via social media with tips, tricks and feedback. It’s funny how it works but when you know someone is going to check in with you to make sure you’ve done what you said you were going to do – it significantly increases the chances of you getting shit done. To add yourself to my “Be The Motion Challenge” list, just tag me (@sashaexeter) on Instagram or Twitter and I will touch base with you daily to ensure your daily 30 minutes is in the bag and to encourage you throughout the next 31 days. Have a question or need some suggestions – just shoot me a DM, we’re in this together. Let’s do this!

Posted on by Sasha in FITNESS Leave a comment

Quinoa Salad with Pickles and Kale

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Quinoa Salad with Kale and Pickles

Hey guys, Kristen Vander Hoeven here from the SoSasha.com team bringing you another quick and easy bowl recipe that you can quickly make at home this week. Quinoa, quinoa, quinoa…everyone’s obsessed with quinoa. It’s basically the perfect blank canvas for an infinity amount of recipes. You can turn it into anything you like and trick your mind and belly into thinking your eating a big delicious bowl of bad carbs. I’ve adjusted this recipe to compliment my salmon but as time passes I will add and modify different recipes on how I prepare this golden grain.

Quinoa Salad with Kale and Pickles

I added dill pickles this time to compliment the fish as well as bring that sour element to cut the flavour of the buttery salmon. I love added fermented food to almost anything I’m eating. It aids in digestion which helps to eliminate bloating. You can try different fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.

Quinoa Salad with Kale and Pickles

QUINOA SALAD WITH PICKLES & KALE

PREP: 25 min

COOKING: 30 min

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 vegetable bouillon cube (if you have home made stock use that instead)
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 3 large dill pickle spears diced
  • 1 cup of kale loosely chopped
  • 1 green onion

DRESSING:

  • 6 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Quinoa Salad with Kale and Pickles

Add all of your ingredients and dressing to your quinoa. You can serve warm, cold, whatever you wish. NOTE: For the perfect fluffy quinoa, start by rinsing your quinoa in a mesh strainer. This helps take off a weird coating that the grain has which can lead to it being a bit bitter and unfluffy. Once rinsed, placed quinoa into a sauce pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toasting your quinoa before cooking brings out a nutty delicious flavour. After it’s all toasty and fragrant, add your water or cooking stock. Bring to a oil then turn your heat down and simmer with lid on for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat but leave on the lid and let sit for another 10 minutes. Remove lid, fluff with a fork.

Quinoa Salad with Kale and PicklesPhotography by Jilly Botting

For more recipe inspiration and healthy meal ideas, follow me on Instagram using the handle @KristenVanderHoeven, xoxo

Posted on by Sasha in FOOD Leave a comment

Ombrelle Sport Endurance: Major Keys to Sun Protection

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Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Summer is in full swing and after what seemed like a never ending winter, everyone is outside enjoying the sun. For me, one of the best parts of warmer weather means I get to switch things up and take my workouts outside. Any exposure to sun calls for protection and during this time of the year I become extra obsessive around skin protection and sunscreen. To some, this comes as bit of a surprise as most make the assumption that darker skin isn’t affected by sun damage. WRONG!!!!!! That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Both black and white skin can become damaged by exposure to the sun. Even though black skin has a natural SPF of 13.4 while white skin 3.3, both skin colours are equally susceptible to damage.

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Endurance Sport

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Endurance Sport

When I’m outdoors, especially working out or playing sports, I need a sunscreen that is SPF 50, high performing and can stand up to my active lifestyle. Ombrelle Sport Endurance is non-greasy, oil-free formula that provides wearers with 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance. It goes on clear, so I am never left with that unsightly white residue that makes my skin appear grey and even on wet or sweaty skin (think reapply-ing while playing beach volleyball) it still provides an even coverage. My sunscreens of the past were greasy and left my hands annoyingly sticky, not to mention dripped into my eyes on runs or when playing tennis and burned like crazy when I would sweat. Not ideal at all! Not all sunscreens are created equal. Ombrelle Sport Endurance doesn’t drip into my eyes, my hands aren’t left sticky and also gives me protection against both UVB and UVA rays. Are both UVB and UVA protection important? Absolutely. You want to stay protected from UVB as they these are the rays that cause skin surface damage such as sunburns but you should also want to stay protected from UVA as well. Those are the rays that cause long term damage and contribute to premature aging and skin cancer.

Ombrelle Sport EndurancePhotos by JessBaumung.com

If you’re wondering what SPF actually stands for, trust me you’re not alone. Funny enough, this week is #SunAwarenessWeek and the inquisitive person that I am, I have been chatting with people about the topic of sun protection and how well their understanding is of how sun screen works to keep skin safe. Interestingly, 60% of those I spoke to had no clue what the acronym SPF stands for and almost 90% didn’t know what SPF’s corresponding number means. For years I had swore the SPF number (i.e. SPF 15) simply represented the sunscreen’s strength but in actuality, that number is the length of time that sunscreen protected skin can be exposed to the sun before burning.  Is your mind blown yet? This means, if you normally start to get a sunburn on unprotected skin in twenty minutes in the sun, then SPF 15 would provide you with 15 x 20 minutes (or 300 minutes) of protection.

If some of this information is news to you and you would like to learn more on sun protection and #SunAwarenessWeek head to OmbrelleSunFacts.ca.

Posted on by Sasha in FITNESS, HEALTH & WELLNESS Leave a comment

Not All Protein Bars Are Created Equal. Here’s Why…

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No matter what kind of workout I’m doing, I give 100% in the gym. It’s funny, when people see me exercising and in my zone, they always ask me, “What are you training for?”. I usually giggle before responding, “Life. I’m just trying to be better than the person I was yesterday!” If you can imagine the look at people’s faces when they hear that. Ok, I know…I’m a bit of an overachiever with a competitive streak, but this is just how I’ve always been.
Genuine Health fermented Greek yogurt proteins+

When you train hard, your body needs quick replenishment to help rebuild muscle tears, restore glycogen levels and stabilize your blood sugar. Recently, I’ve been carrying a protein bar or two in my gym bag for after my workouts and I’ve become obsessed with Genuine Health’s fermented Greek yogurt protein+ bars. In the past I have stuck with protein powders post sweat sesh and runs because let’s be honest, protein bars usually taste like Astronaut food or sawdust. Furthermore, I had made the conscious decision to refrain from promoting one until I found a bar I truly loved. So yes, these fermented Greek yogurt protein+ bars are great for post workout and when consumed before exercising, supplies me with steady energy to make it through one of Larry’s intense sessions alive at Track Fitness , (home of cult-fave Circuit 60 and ClimbMax classes) but the best part – they taste effing AMAZING!

What else makes these bars so special? The fermentation process promotes overall gut health; something extremely important to me considering my health condition, amplifies the nutritional value of minerals, vitamins and amino acids and helps support the immune system. And if that’s not enough, fermented Greek yogurt has it’s own amazing nutritional benefits giving these tasty bars 15g of protein from grass fed California dairy conveniently on-the-go.

Fermented Greek yogurt proteins+ comes in Cherry Almond Vanilla and Cinnamon Pecan flavours while also in protein powder format. For more information on these products and the rest of the brand’s amazing product portfolio, head to GenuineHealth.com or follow @GenuineHealth on Instagram and Twitter. #LoveYourGut #LoveHowYouFeel

Posted on by Sasha in FITNESS, FOOD, HEALTH & WELLNESS Leave a comment

Where Do Babies Fit Into My #3YearGoals?

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BirthControlForme.ca

I am in a very weird period of my life right now. Most of my friends are married, with children mind you or having babies while I’m over here trying to figure this thing called life out. My twenty year old self would have naturally assumed that at my current age I would for sure be a mother of at least one child by now. I wouldn’t be surprised if my Mum shared that sentiment as well. I am an aunty to a beautiful baby boy named Leilan and I couldn’t be more obsessed with another human being and these beautiful images captured by Jess Baumung got me thinking…am I ready for this now or is this still part of my 3 year plan? Well, if I was to make a decision based the comments on a recent Instagram post with my little nugget, apparently I look like a natural with 6 month baby on my hip. That may be true for a couple hours but I can guarantee you it’s because I know I am returning him back to his loving parents. I doubt I would I look this effortless, rested and smiling as a full time Mommy! Shooting with him and seeing these adorable photos let’s me foreshadow what my future could look like with a child within the next 3 years and seeing all his parents do for him is a reminder that now is still not the right time for me. With a few career changes under my belt, I still need time to get my shit together and plan my next steps to building my brand. So in the meantime until I am certain I’m ready, I will just steal this chubby chunk as much as I possibly can!

BirthControlForme.ca

BirthControlForme.ca

BirthControlForme.ca

I have something to share that just may surprise you all. I have never taken birth control. Shocking, I know. Besides protecting myself the good old fashioned way of either abstinence or condoms, I was never an advocate for women taking birth control pills. My views about prescription medication differs from majority of the population. I have suffered an illness for almost half my life and have watched meds wreak havoc on my body. Consequently, I have been condition to believe that there is no need for me to play God and intercept my body’s natural rhythm of menstruation and ovulation because how could there not be any ramifications from doing that, right? I have watched so many of my friends come off the pill after being on it for 15-20 years to find out they are unable to get pregnant and/or suffering from severe cystic acne issues or endometriosis. This clearly didn’t help the thoughts I’ve had. I decided it was time for me to sit down and chat with a doctor to discuss my thoughts, concerns and to learn more about all the options that are currently available to women in hopes that more clarification will help me and some of you guys make the right decision for you bodies too.

BirthControlForme.caPhotos by Jess Baumung

Dr. Christine Palmay’s focuses on preventative medicine and women’s health so she was understanding of my trepidation with traditional medicine making her the perfect fit to chat with me about this topic. We jumped right into the topic of the pill within minutes and she pointed out that birth control pills have gotten a bad rap over the past few years for various reasons but that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t explore other forms of contraception. We both agreed on one thing…studies for the pill are almost always done in very controlled environments in perfect setting on lab rats, so it’s no surprise that findings always showed the pill having 99.7% effective rate but, “failure rates in real life can be a bit higher” says Dr. Palmay. “Life is busy and complicated for most, making it difficult for women to take the pill at the exact same time of the day.” I know personally with my schedule, it would literally be impossible to do. But what about the complaints of infertility and acne when coming off the pill? Doc explains that the pill is often times takes the heat for issues and complications when in actuality taking it daily could have helped problems that would have been present years before the patient began taking this form of contraception. So essentially, if a young woman begins taking the pill at 15 before real acne issues set in, it could just be covering up the problem that won’t be discovered until she stops taking the pill entirely. So if you’re not entirely down for the pill like me, what other options do you have if sporting a baby bump is not the look you’re going for next season? Turns out, there are many options available and from the sounds of it, something for (almost) everyone.

1. Long Acting Non-Daily Contraceptives

The options under this category is probably going to be the most appealing for women who have a very busy career, hectic lifestyle. You have probably heard of a long acting non-daily contraceptive (IUS/IUD) already but once this T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus by a physician, you literally don’t have to think about it for another 3-5 years. The IUS is 99.8% effective with typical and slowly releases hormones over time which thins the lining of the uterus and thickens the cervical mucus preventing sperms from penetrating through the cervical canal. If you’re worried about the surge of hormones via an IUS, you can always consider a Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD) which just changes the chemistry in the uterus and prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg. An interesting fact, pregnancy rates for women after the removal of an IUS were shown to be about the same as for those who had never used one. Meaning majority of women who wanted to get pregnant and removing it were able to do so within a year. Possible side effects can include irregular or increase bleeding within the first few months, depression, acne, headache and breast tenderness and it may fall out in up to 6% of women.

2. Short Term Contraceptives

If you’re open to an option that involves a little more attention in regards to time, the Patch or the Ring could be viable options for you. The former is a small adhesive patch that continuously releases estrogen and a progestin into the bloodstream, which stops the ovaries from releasing an egg and is a weekly contraception. Although its effective rate is 92%, risks from using the patch are assumed to be very similar to combined pill and is not suitable for smokers over the age of 35 or women of that age that suffer from migraines. The downside, it could detach from the skin or cause side effects such as irregular bleeding and headaches. The latter I am discovering there are more women than I thought that have turned to this form of contraceptive. It is inserted into the vagina and slowly releases hormones, estrogen and progestin for 3 weeks. It also prevents pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg. Side effects are very similar to the patch in addition to a very small risk of the ring falling out or it causing vaginal discomfort/irritation.

3. Barrier Methods

We are all aware of the most well known barrier methods – condoms and spermicides but used less than these two is a Diaphragm which is a latex or silicone cap meant to be used in conjunction with a spermicide that covers the cervix and prevents sperm from getting past. The effective rate is almost 10% lower but it can also help prevent some sexually transmitted infections and cervical dysplasia. The downside…may increase the risk of reoccurring UTI’s and you really requires proper knowledge and practice for proper insertion so that it stays in place. Also, if you have a sensitivity or allergy to latex, this is not the option for you.

4. Surgical Procedures

For women seeking permanent contraception, I would suggest you turn to Tubal Litigation. This is a permanent option that surgically detaches the fallopian tubes so that the egg literally never meets the sperm. The World Health Organization cites a failure rate after the procedure of 0.5% which is great but there are some short term complications that you will need to be made aware of which can include; anaesthesia related risk, bleeding, and infection or damage to the bowel, bladder and blood vessels

There’s a lot to digest here for sure and I can agree that there are some benefits with using any of these aforementioned forms of contraception. Said benefits can potentially come at a cost of suffering from one or more side effects though. We are all unique and there isn’t one form of contraception that is best for all women across the board, but I do agree with Dr. Palmay, women should be well educated on the topic so they are able to make an informed decision for their body. If you want to learn more about options available to you, head to BirthControlForme.ca or speak with your healthcare practitioner. Follow along on other women’s 3 year goal plans by using the hashtag #3YearGoals on social media

This post was sponsored by BirthControlForme.ca  but all opinions on this subject are that of my own

Posted on by Sasha in HEALTH & WELLNESS, LIFESTYLE Leave a comment

Keys to Better Sleep, Better Mood & Improved Productivity

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Sleep Better

That is one long and loaded blog post title, isn’t it? Well after months of reading, research and trials at home, I can confidently attest that sleep is directly correlated to mood, productivity, sex drive and tons of other aspects to our health and wellness. What was the catalyst behind this post? I was tired (literally) of waking up in the morning exhausted, in a bad mood and feeling like a complete zombie come 3pm. It wasn’t only me feeling this way either. My boyfriend was complaining of the same thing and the more I talked about my inability to get a good night’s rest, I discovered so many people around me have the same issue. When it comes to sleep, turns out it’s not just quantity that matters – it’s quality and what we do during the day hugely impacts how we rest at night. Our bedtime habits, sleep schedule and day-to-day routine. Because it’s something we know our body needs to survive, we often make the wrong assumption that it should come easily and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If that were the case, 60% of Canadians wouldn’t feel tired all the time due to insomnia, sleep apnea, stress, pain related issues, restless legs, narcolepsy or 80-some other conditions that disturb our shut eye.

Apple Watch Sleep++

Before embarking on my quest for improved sleep, I decided to monitor my rest at night to see when and if I was getting any quality zzz’s with the Sleep++ app on my Apple Watch and iPhone. I’ve discovered so many amazing and useful apps for my watch and this one definitely ranks high on my list of faves.  It let’s me measure the duration and quality of my sleep and as my sleep study progressed, it allowed me to gauge how effective the changes I’ve been making to my routine to benefit my sleep. Having issues getting zzz’s at night? The road won’t be easy, but I can promise you incorporating some of the tips below into your routine, you can significantly improve your quality of sleep and life.

 1. Support Your Body’s Natural Rhythms

Ok, so we’re going to start with the basics here. Do you remember as a child having a strict bedtime every night? I most certainly do and used to hate my parents for it. But it turns out there is a reason behind our parents doing this and we should have been thanking them to be honest. They knew sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. So how do we do this as an adult? Set a realistic bedtime that works with your lifestyle. I suggest choosing a time when you normally feel tired and do your best to stick with it. For me, that’s around 10pm. Also, if you’re getting adequate sleep, you will be able to wake up naturally without an alarm. Some other tips for getting in sync with your body’s natural cycle:

  • Fight after meal drowsiness (or what we love to refer to as “itis”)
  • Be smart about napping. I know it’s hard sometimes but if you suffer from insomnia, you may want to stay away from them altogether.
  • Avoid sleeping in on weekends. Having the same bed and wake times will enable you to wake up everyday feeling refreshed.

2. Reserve Your Bed For SLEEP and SEX only

Ugh…praying my father doesn’t happen to check out this post. I will die of embarrassment.  Over the years I have noticed something interesting. Sleep and sex are very closely related. When I speak to people that mention that they are not having much sex with their partner, they almost always admit that either they or their better half is sleep deprived. Makes sense to me because when I’m exhausted, sex is legit the last thing on my mind. Conversely when I start to think back to my better nights of sleep, surprisingly they have come after sexy time with my man. Its a bit like the chicken and the egg theory or the horse before the cart. You need to sleep and be well rested for more sex but sex can also be the thing to help you rest better at night. To help you get more sleep and subsequently more sex, use the bed for only these things. So many people live in small urban spaces (aka condos) meaning it’s super easy for your bed to become your office, restaurant or private theatre for Netflix marathons. If you associate your bed with any of these things, it will be significantly harder to fall asleep at night. Reserving it for only sleep and sex means that when it’s time to head to bed, your body will know exactly what to do.

Keys to Better Sleep

 

3. Control Your Exposure to Light & Avoid Bright Screens Within 2 Hours of Your Bedtime 

Pretty sure you’ve head this before, but it’s one of the toughest things to nail down. So here’s the deal, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate our sleep cycle. When it’s dark outside, our brains produce more melatonin, which makes you sleepy. On the other hand, when it’s light we produce less making us more alert. In a perfect world we would all become sleepy when it gets dark outside but long days trapped in office with little light, too much exposure to energy efficient LED lights, working late or the night shift are just some examples that can shift our circadian rhythm and production of melatonin. Other ways to control light exposure to ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Truth is, the darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. I swear by black out shades to block light from windows. Not having them isn’t the end of the world though. For about $15 you can purchase a sleep mask, which pretty much does the same thing.
  • Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you feel like you absolutely need some light to navigate to the washroom safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hallway or use the flashlight option on your iPhone or smartphone.

Limiting (bright) screen time before bed is usually one of the first tips you will find if you Google “ways to improve sleep”. Most studies suggest any and all screen time can affect your quality of sleep. This is a huge generalization in my personal opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. Originally when I started this study, I obtained from watching Netflix for the first two months, but then my boyfriend and I realized that for me, it’s the complete opposite. I actually can’t make it through an episode of Scandal without falling asleep. However, if I get started on watching YouTube videos or Instagram that’s a whole other story. I could burn away hours watching, which will definitely affect my sleep so I stay off my phone after 10:30pm. If we happen to watch something on Netflix, the screen brightness on our laptop is turned down.

4. Get Regular Exercise

Keys to Better Sleep

Are you making time in your busy schedule to exercise? If not, this could actually be negatively affecting your ability to sleep soundly at night. Research shows that those who exercise  regularly, not only sleep better but feel less sleepy throughout the day. But keep in mind, this not not a quick fix solution to your sleep woes. It could take a few months for you to see a difference. Be patient. Focus on having consistency in your exercise routine and sleep will be sure to follow.

Exercise elevates your body temperature, stimulates hormones like cortisol and speeds up your metabolism, which are all amazing and great in the morning and afternoon, but may be counter productive if you wait until too late in the day (or night for that matter!). For this to work they way it’s intended to, try to finish your sweat sesh at least 3 hours or more before your scheduled bedtime. Sometimes it can take up to 6 hours for the body to fully cool down to a temperature conducive for sleep.

5. Be Smart About The Foods and Drinks You Consume 

Keys to Better Sleep

You know you take your sleep seriously when you nix your caffeine intake altogether. That surprises most people when I meet up with them at a cafe…”wait, like don’t all bloggers drink coffee and fancy lattes that they take pictures of for Instagram?!” is the response I usually get. All jokes aside, I swamped my regular cuppa joe for matcha and I’ve found it considerably easier to settle down later into the evening. Caffeine can cause sleep issues 10-12 hours after consumption. Yup, you can pick your mouth up off the floor now. After speaking to a few friends, turns out eliminating caffeine is just not doable for a lot of people. Well, if you happen to fall under this category, try steering clear of anything caffeinated after lunchtime. Additional tips:

  • We all know how important H20 is for our diet, but try not to drink too much close to bedtime. Interrupting your sleep with a trip to the washroom is an easy way to off-set your sleep cycle at night.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. A nightcap may sound like a good idea to help you relax just before bed, but in actuality it 100% disrupts your sleep cycle while you’re out. Just trust me, I have had to learn the hard way.
  • Stay away from big meals late at night. It may be too much for the stomach to digest and can leave you away for hours due to heartburn and indigestion.
  • Not all foods before bed are bad though.  I swear to you, tryptophan is pure magic, so foods like turkey, soy beans and pumpkin seeds can help calm the brain of some which can help induce sleep. Just think about how sleepy you get after a turkey dinner during Thanksgiving. Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin – a hormone our body produces for sleep…more on this later.  Like guacamole? Then you’re in luck. Foods high in magnesium like avocados may be just what you need for a one way ticket to dreamland. Whole grains (crackers, breads, etc) in moderation paired with protein rich foods like eggs, turkey or low-fat dairy can be the perfect combination for a pre-sleep snack.

Rituals and Relaxation Techniques

Saje Wellness Sleep WellPhotos by Nathalia Allen (www.amillionminds.com)

We have done a lot in attempt to figure this whole sleep thing out. Rejean and I are far from perfect and we screw up from time to time. We certainly feel the affects of missing our self prescribed bedtime or having vino too close to zzz time. One thing we know for sure though, it’s never just one thing that puts you into an optimal slumber, but rather an amalgamation of many things. Our pre-bed routine went from a quick 10-15 minutes to a solid 1-2 hour wind down and I know it sounds long, tedious even but it really is worth it. Drinking tea, stretching, taking what seems like a million supplements including magnesium (if you’re sleep issues are really bad you should definitely also add 5-HTP , Melatonin or GABA), listening to the calming sounds of falling rain or waves on a beach via the Calm app on our iPhone and liberally lathering on Saje Wellness “Sleep Well” formula that contains an herb called Valerian that used to help reduce the amount of time it takes to nod off is starting to become second nature.

Posted on by Sasha in HEALTH & WELLNESS Leave a comment
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