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Show Notes from EO24 Clean Eating

Show Notes from EO24 Clean Eating

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

On last week’s episode of the Messy Middle Road Trip, we talked about the clean eating trend. Most likely you’re bombarded day after day by all sorts of claims in your Facebook feed about the benefits of drinking celery juice, Whole 30, Keto, or another plan for getting healthier by changing your diet.  It can feel like a Herculean effort to ditch the fast food drive-thru or late night salty or sugary snacks. But shedding an unhealthy food addiction can change your life.

Here are the show notes from that episode.

[Nicole] Today we’re talking about the trend for clean eating you’re most likely being bombarded by all sorts of claims on your Facebook feed benefits of drinking celery juice, Whole 30 AYP or elimination diets like keto.

Completely changing your diet may seem like a foreign idea and completely unrealistic if you’re juggling a busy schedule with career kids with limited time and on a budget. Well, Janine and I have taken the plunge and we are willing to share our journey. It can feel like a Herculean effort to ditch the fast food drive-thru or late night salty or sugary snacks. But shedding an unhealthy food addiction can change your life.

Today I want to share a little bit about my autoimmune condition because it’s really my decision to really go down the clean eating path has changed my life immeasurably.

So about a year ago, actually more the fall of 2017. My husband and I did a kitchen renovation and for those of you guys that have ever survived a renovation, you know how stressful that can be. The unfortunate part is with autoimmune issues when you have a high-stress trigger like that even if you’re doing well and you’re in remission it can flare terribly. And my psoriatic arthritis came back full force.

It was probably about February or so when I was looking down the barrel of getting on another biologic injection and that scared me to death because one of the potential side effects is leukemia and I have a family history of cancer. I would much rather have psoriatic arthritis and be in pain and miserable than cancer. But I was really thinking, this is where I am. This is horrible and finally, for the first time, I took a look at a book that I had on my shelf. It literally sat there collecting dust for two years that my friend had given me. There was a little post to note in there with the year that he the date and year he gave it to me and I was horrified to realize that it had been there for two years.

It was basically an elimination diet and guidelines for how to go about doing it. Recipes for getting you through and really talking about the nuts and bolts of the why of it. I said you know what, I’m going to read this book. I literally devoured the thing in two days. No pun intended. It was so eye-opening to me because one of the chapters was all about reducing your toxic body burden and removing that load from your body with personal care and cleaning products. And I was like whoa,  I’m already doing that part so I can totally just speed read that chapter.

It made so much sense to me because of the way the author described it she really took it to a level where I felt like I was back in biology class but in a good way. Like it wasn’t over my head and I was connecting the puzzle pieces. And it wasn’t a snooze. I decided all right, I’m all in, and I’m doing this. And I told my husband he rolled his eyes at me like, oh boy here we go. And I said so you can opt to do this with me or not. I’m not going to judge you one way or the other, but if you’re with not me then I’m still doing this. So please support me, because for those of you guys who have ever tried to change your eating habits you know, if you have children or a spouse who is sabotaging, you can go off the rails.

[Janine] I think that’s for every habit that you try to quit, absolutely. You want to stop smoking or you want to stop drinking, if somebody in the house that does it, forget it.

[Nicole] I think that’s a problem. You’ll get right back on the bad habits. I decided all right. I’m doing this. I looked at my pantry and I was horrified because there was not one thing in my pantry that I could actually eat, because it contained all the stuff I was supposed to avoid. And when I tell you like it was an elimination diet, the only thing I could eat on this was non-GMO, organic proteins and seafood, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. That’s it. There were no condiments, no sugar, no caffeine, everything had to be fresh farm to table, nothing processed. And we’re a busy family. There was a ton of products in my pantry that was quick meals on the go in a box and stuff that you had to microwave. So I got away from all of that. It was a little eye-opening, because I had no food in the house that I could actually eat. 

It takes a lot of planning, you have to cook every day. There was a lot of meal planning and a lot of Sunday, so I would have it to be able to eat through the week. Breakfast was interesting because I do eggs and again veggies and fruits, but I was looking at making my own apple turkey sausage patties for breakfast with a sweet potato. And it just feels odd having seafood for breakfast.

(Janine) Eating carbs in the morning that’s an American thing. When I travel having vegetables and fish or other dinner meat for breakfast is not strange.

[Nicole] I remember heating up the fish one morning and Tim was looking at me like, I don’t know if I can do that. And it was good.

I kind of had to get over the fact that it was breakfast. So, I committed and I did this for 30 days. And Tim actually did it with me. And by week two we were hangry. It was like, get out of my way. I’m crabby and going through a detox. Like you don’t realize how much your body craves sugar and processed foods and all the carbs you’re used to eating.

I remember yelling at him and just saying if you’re hungry eat a bigger portion. Don’t yell at me. You’re a grown adult and you decided to do this with me. So go for it. But don’t take it out on me because I’m right there with you.  I was definitely hungry as well. But then once I got over that two-week hump, and I know Janine you’re going to share your story too about your whole 30 experience, but my energy levels went through the roof. I felt like I was more rested.

I definitely started to see that I was losing weight. After having two kids, I just never one hundred percent went back to my size before I had children and I embrace that. I was like OK this body did some major work with having some babies, I’m OK with that. So I wasn’t doing it for the weight loss. So that was unexpected for me when my pants started to fit properly and I could even see it in my face got thinner and you know it was noticed noticeable changes.

[Janine] Yeah, I lost five pounds almost immediately.

[Nicole] Yeah. It’s crazy. It is crazy. But, you’re flushing yourself out because you’re drinking a ton more water and I definitely thought it was part of that too for sure.

And, it was such a wonderful transformation. But I’ll tell you,  at the end of the 30 days I was able to put myself back in remission with my psoriatic arthritis. I had been suffering for months with a very bad flare for my psoriasis my scalp was on fire. It was like I had red patches that were creeping down towards my eyes, like the whole perimeter of my head and my arthritis pain was terrible. I was swollen, but after this 30-day elimination, I had mild pain. I was actually able to do yoga again. I was able to plank and hold myself in that. And it was transformational. And I’m so glad I did it. You know I’ll talk a little bit later about accountability partners, but I actually got on board and did this with one of my very good friends Jennifer. She did it alongside me.

So we encouraged each other and we complained when we needed to as you should because it gets you through sometimes with humor. You don’t want advice, you just want someone to say, yeah I hear you. And I’m not feeling these almonds and raisins snack right now.

So, Janine, you did like a whole 30, right?

[Janine] So, I was just thinking about your book and the expression when the student is ready the teacher appears. Your friend who gave you the book thought this is somebody she’ll need at some point and then just let it be.

[Nicole] Because at the time I had my psoriatic arthritis, in his brain he’s like she totally needs this. And I was like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I’m not going to do that. It takes time.

[Janine] So it was there like a little teacher on the bookshelf waiting for you to come over. But you know what. You only can find something when you’re ready. Yeah I can tell you forever and ever and ever you need something, but until you’re ready to do it, it won’t work for sure.

[Nicole] And oftentimes we’re so stubborn that if somebody tells us it makes us dig in and not want to do it even more right.

[Janine] I think there’s shame or something to it, like I’ve been doing something wrong my whole life. You feel bad about it and then you have to have a whole mindset thing. We’ve talked about that before, but it is such a mindset thing.

So, I don’t have the same concerns that you do, at all. I was just feeling like out of sorts, a little bit bad, and plus the holidays just happened, so I just felt like kind of gross overall, and I thought I wanted to try something. I tried Whole 30 last year and it bit the dust pretty quickly. So, I didn’t it didn’t do Whole 30 exactly, it was through clean eating magazine, very similar though, and in fact, their January edition had a whole section on Whole 30. It was almost the same.

But basically, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s pretty much just no sugar, and no processed foods no preservatives, very similar to what you did. It was fruits, vegetables, protein, and good fats. That was pretty much it.  I could drink coffee but you couldn’t have dairy products. No alcohol, of course. The first week was a headache. You know I had a low-grade headache for about a week and then the second week I started to feel good. You do miss crunchy food. I mean, I know carrots are crunchy, but not the same kind of crunch or same mouthfeel as bread or whatever. But, I really felt awesome.

It had a lot to do with cleaning out all of the residues from the holidays. All the yummy, but fatty and high caloric and lots of sugar food, alcohol and all the rest of it. But my sleep was better. I just had more energy. I mean I work out a lot anyway but my workouts felt stronger and my mood was better.

You’ve read this too that when you eat the stuff like sugar and the preservatives whatever it affects your gut, and so much happens in your gut for health. One of the big buzzwords now is inflammation, but all of that junk causes you to be inflamed, which is arthritis. And then even if you don’t have an autoimmune disease, you have a bad sleep, the brain fog which is killing us all right now in midlife right. You get that high and low. I mean honestly at two o’clock every day I felt like I could put my head down on the table and take a nap.

[Nicole] I was right there with you. Oh yeah. I would be at the bus stop and my head would be bobbing and weaving. Kids are getting off the bus I look like a goober with my mouth wide open and sunglasses on. Yes, my mouth wide open. Yeah. That’s classic right.

[Janine] And then, of course, you know your excess weight. And it’s something we think about anyway in midlife because the shift in hormones causes weight gain and weight to move around your body to your gut and all that.

So anyway the bottom line, I’m glad that I did it and I’ll keep it up. So it’s six weeks since I started. Now I’ve kept up a lot of the changes to added things back and gradually. I do drink milk again. I drink that because I prefer my coffee, but I don’t drink a lot of milk. Otherwise, I had oatmeal. But really, that’s it. I haven’t any bread, I’ve really kept pretty good about doing it.Well, that’s it. So we went out to dinner. I eat a normal thing. I’m certainly not thinking that every single time I go out. But, I did say to my husband that I’m going to stick with it because I do feel so good and I’m so much more productive. And I’m just getting a lot done. So I think it’s great. Yeah, it is awesome. I did lose five pounds. That’s fantastic. Yeah.

[Nicole] Well my girlfriend who did it. She lost over 60 pounds. Wow. Yeah. And she’s doing it right along with me since March and she’s had some ups and downs but for the most part, she’s off all her medication that she was on for her condition of arthritis which is different than mine. So huge life-changing stuff. And it’s hard. There is no getting around it. It’s a commitment. Like you said, it’s a mindset.

[Janine] And it’s a lot to prepare. You have to think things through. I can’t say how many times for lunch I’d eat an apple and almond butter. Because I couldn’t be bothered to try to it figure out so I’d squeeze almond butter on a banana. Definitely takes a lot of work. It’s a commitment to do it and really have the result that you want.

[Nicole] Absolutely and my husband makes fun of me because we have gone out to dinner. But of course, I have to research the restaurant ahead of time and find out if they offer gluten free options and I can usually maneuver around. I had to stay off of a ton of stuff because I went and did nutritional response testing. And what that does, in a nutshell, it allowed me to know what I could add back into my diet what my body could actually eat and tolerate because oftentimes when you’re adding things back in especially if it’s counteracting a condition that you have, if you eat something that your body can’t tolerate then you’re going to flare in some way shape or form and you have to do it one at a time to know what the thing is that flared you. And I just like, I don’t have that kind of time. I am hungry, so I think this nutritional response testing and it really was eye-opening for me because I had to stay off of grain, all grain, including corn, which is crazy because corn is in everything and everything. Oh my gosh. So that’s been a big piece for me. I recently came off of dairy. So those are my two biggest. And then the gluten free piece.

But when I go to dinner with Tim he laughs at me and says I’m like Sally from When Harry Met Sally at the restaurant. She’s like, I would like the toast on the side no butter. I had to make all these requests. And actually, we went out to dinner last night. There was a fantastic looking dish, it was like a tomato seafood stew but it was on polenta and I couldn’t have the polenta. But then separately there was a mushroom style zucchini noodle dish that looked amazing. And so I had to ask the waiter, could you give me zoodles under this fish. And I said you can charge me more. It’s OK. And you can keep the flavor profile of the stew. He looks at me, and he is going to take my order just memorize it and go back to the kitchen, and I start talking, and he took a pad out and just started writing it all down. I said to them you know, that was the key when he took his pad out that I was giving away too much information.

It’s bad because you can look at the menu a lot of times and there’s stuff in it that you don’t know there. So look last Sunday we went out to eat, but I ordered fish or something. I felt lousy afterward. So I thought to myself, there’s probably a ton of sugar somewhere that you don’t know about. And I figured that I’m making a healthy choice.I mean you know everything is in moderation, but not this time because I haven’t had any. That was surprising. That was eye opening and something to keep in mind.

And even though you know you see written on menus now, if you have a food allergy please let your server know, but oftentimes the servers aren’t properly trained. They look at you like, what do you mean you don’t eat dairy. They don’t understand and they’re like well it’s got some butter on it but that should be OK. Right. No. So for those of us that have health concerns and health conditions that can be triggered because of food intolerances that’s a scary thing. You run the risk of somebody having anaphylactic shock. You know if they’re exposed to peanuts or something that they can’t eat. You have to be diligent about it. And I think that’s often why those of us with food issues don’t eat out normally because you’re in control in your own kitchen. And I’ve even found that I have to use different pans for cooking. For example, I cook buckwheat pasta because I can’t do the grain. But I have to cook it in a separate pan because if you’ve ever cooked regular pasta you don’t necessarily wash off all the trace amounts of gluten, especially if you’ve used them after year after year. And so just that trace amount can set me off. And I have to be cautious of that.

But I just want to talk to you guys a bit about the importance of non-GMO, organic, and gluten-free at least in my experience. This is a controversial subject, I think for a lot of people because you often hear, well if I go gluten-free then I’m going to build an intolerance to gluten and then I’m not going to be able to eat it. The problem, while there are plenty of people who can eat certain things and can keep on keeping on, but for those of us that have an intolerance, we can’t eat it. So GMO means genetically modified. That means it has a high exposure to pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate which has been linked to cancer. It’s difficult to find corn that is not GMO tainted. Almost 90 percent of the corn grown in the US goes into animal feed and biofuels while the remainder is processed down into various ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, or it’s used as the source material to make ingredients like alcohol and citric acid. So when he said I can’t eat corn and gave me like a six-page list of things that have corn in it, I almost fell off my chair. It was maple syrup, honey, citric acid and you know natural flavors things that t hide stuff in. You wouldn’t know is there, and I would be reading a label, I’m like oh I can eat this and I get to the bottom and it’s got citric acid. I’m like, oh darn it, because you just don’t stop and you think about that containing corn.

[Janine] This is a separate conversation but about the farming industry in the United States and the reason why we grow so much corn and soybeans, so a whole different conversation for a different day. But yeah we add them as fillers or whatever and it’s moving our food system in a certain way that I think is problematic.

[Nicole] It’s true because then they’re also using the corn to feed the animals that we’re eating. And so that’s why I have to be cautious with my proteins because I don’t want to be exposed through what the animal ate

[Janine] Yeah and cows aren’t meant corn. Nobody grows grass.

[Nicole] Organic food is is another big one for me because it’s the product of basically a farming system that avoids the use of manmade fertilizers pesticides growth regulators, livestock feed, and all additives. And when you look at genetically modified organisms or the GMOs or products produced from or by GMOs, it’s generally prohibited by organic legislation. So it’s tricky.

[Janine] Is it prohibited in Europe too. That’s a good question. I think it might be.

[Nicole] I think it might be. I think Europe is actually far more advanced with that we are in the States. Sometimes you will find products that are marked as non-GMO and organic and those are like great for me. Because oftentimes you’ll get one but not the other. So it could be listed as organic. But they’ll wait until it’s harvested and then they’ll douse it in some sort of preservative that is not organic and they’ll get away with it. So you really have to have your eyes wide open when you’re looking at foods especially if you’re trying to avoid pesticides and herbicides and things.

Best to buy organic strawberries because they are hands down, the dirtiest fruit on the planet. So if you’re gonna buy anything and you’re on a budget and can’t go buying all sorts of organic fruits, I’m going to tell you strawberries are the number one best thing to buy otherwise you are basically eating a red chemical. There is nothing, nothing healthy about non-organic strawberries. You notice how big and fat they are and when you cut into them they’re white on white on the inside. It’s not good. And the other thing you have to think about is seasonality of fruits, right. You shouldn’t be buying strawberries in February, because they don’t grow in February. So oftentimes if you buy things seasonally and then freeze, you can eat them through the winter or make them into preserves or whatever it is that you want to do with them. But definitely, strawberries are the number one dirtiest, then spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and, peppers. Those are all the best to buy organic.

[Janine] The Dirty Dozen or whatever it’s called.

[Nicole] Baker’s dozen or so if you or a family member is having any symptoms that show diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, or poor appetite, bloating, or feeling full, itchy rash, growth delay in children. Those can all be signs of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and I can remember hearing back when celiac was just starting to be talked about and thinking to myself. Oh my goodness how can these folks survive like this? They have to cut so much out of their diet and that’s just it’s crazy. Here I am X amount of years later and I’m like oh it’s not so bad. You can eat so much healthier and really have such a positive effect. I think I’m fueling my body.

I know that my kiddos have gluten sensitivity. They’re definitely they’re not celiac but I think they have an intolerance to certain things. Well, they’ll get belly aches if they’ll eat a certain pizza and pasta. So we’ve tried to try to cut back a bit and just be cognizant but they are kids and we have to make our own choices, which is it’s hard. So when you think about it, humans have been eating wheat and gluten in it for like 10,000 years, gluten is also found in rye and barley. So a gluten free diet contains neither of these grains nor wheat. I think gluten sensitivity is definitely an under-recognized health threat. I think we’re starting to see more and more like Janine was talking about, that connection with the microbiome in the gut health. It can affect the little hairs that are inside our intestine and it can cause inflammation, and the problem is when you eat gluten. If you have an autoimmune condition and your immune system is already compromised, it’s like your body sends in the troops to combat that gluten. They’re like, oh there’s gluten we’re sending in the troops and they’re fighting that gluten and it causes that inflammation.

[Janine] I don’t know as much about issues with gluten as you do. But I remember I was reading about a chef who has a gluten sensitivity, but when she travels overseas it doesn’t bother her. And I find it really interesting. What I’m wondering about, I know we treat wheat with chemicals that allowed in other parts of the world I’m curious to know if has to do with how we grow it and sure and then the chemicals that are on it and if that’s why it’s become more of a problem in this country specifically.

[Nicole] Absolutely. And I think we’ve gotten away from heirloom seeds the way that they were grown back when our grandparents and great grandparents were alive. They’re different now, they’re modified and it’s really hard, I think for farmers, so we’re seeing a change with how it’s grown.

[Janine] Well I imagine too, because again I’m not a farmer, but I think there’s not a ton of money in farming and it must be very difficult to make a living. Trying to find a way to maximize your crops and there’s a lot of things that go into it. So there’s definitely a lot of reasons why we’ve become what we’ve become in terms of our food system.

[Nicole] Yes. Because they want it faster and they want a larger yield for their crop. And you know they want to prevent insect attacks and rot. So they come up with all these scientific things, which I think have good intention but it’s not how it all played out. Unfortunately, there’s a ton of us suffering which is a bummer.  When you think about gluten we think about right off the bat you think about bread, pasta, noodles, cereal. But there’s actually hidden gluten that you don’t think about in soup, sauces, gravy, salad dressing, snack foods. even frozen vegetables.

It’s true. And because nearly a third of the foods found in American supermarkets contain some component of wheat. So it’s usually gluten or starch or both. Our diet has certainly changed over the last century, but our bodies haven’t and our ability to process the foods haven’t changed. So we really have to consider a lot of the wheat is milled into white flour, which is loaded with gluten but lacking in vitamins and nutrients. That can cause an increase in blood sugar leading to diabetes and other chronic illnesses. So it’s not just those of us with gluten sensitivity, it can really affect everyone. It’s crazy right.

[Janine] Diabetes is such a problem.  In the next 10 years that 50 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese. And the number of kids who are obese is sky high. Overweight kids. It’s crazy. It’s like we’re killing ourselves.

[Nicole] Well, look at like what’s on the menu for lunches at schools.

[Janine] I know it’s terrible. There’s no nutrition in it. I know some schools are trying to do better, but that’s is a subject for another podcast too. Of course, they can give healthy food to the kids but they can’t make them eat it.

That question of gluten and gluten sensitivity. You see it everywhere. And I think a lot of people do want to start eating better. But then, of course, you have the big issue of cost. I wonder if your husband rolled his eyes when you told him about the change because he was thinking of dollar signs.

So when we’re thinking about this show, we want to tell you ways you and do it without spending a million bucks. I mean the big joke is that Whole Foods is called whole paycheck. But I do think there are a lot of ways that you can do more economically. We talked about the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables. If you only buy those organic then and buy everything else conventional, that will make things more reasonable. Also buying seasonally, look at how much strawberries costs now, I don’t know six bucks. Why would you even want them? They don’t taste right. You know there’s no flavor.  And of course, eating locally. I mean we’re lucky because we live in an area with a lot of farms and not everybody has access to that. But farmer’s markets are springing up everywhere in every city. So if you have the opportunity to buy locally from the farmer and talk to the people growing your food it’s much more economical than just buying stuff at the supermarket.

[Nicole] I think you can get reasonable prices with local farmers and it might not be organic necessarily but it’s certainly healthier to buy something local than buying something that was shipped to you from Spain and washed in some bath of preservative of chlorine or whatever.

[Janine] Right. I don’t know about you Nicole, but I’ve signed up for a CSA, which is a community sustained agricultural share at a farm. I pay the farmer beforehand, before the season started, I’m sure people have heard about this, and you get a certain share every week or every two weeks of whatever they grow. Sometimes you get to pick, which I find to be much better because I’ve been in a CSA where I get a lot of turnips and I’m not a turnip fan. Nothing against turnips. But that’s a way to save money too because that is very economical. But again you’re right they’re not always organic.

[Nicole] So you have to weigh that when you decide, or you have like 12 years of corn that you get every week. You’re like, how can I eat this much corn. Ever in history of ever.

[Janine] You can shop online for items that are expensive at thrive.com or some other online alternative to Whole Foods. Go to Trader Joe’s which really seems to have better prices although we don’t have one that close to us. Also, make sure buy stuff you like rather than buying something just because it’s healthy. So back when everybody was eating kale, I was like oh I need to eat kale. It Turns out I hate kale. I need to get a T-shirt, I hate kale. I tried to eat it 20 different ways. Even make those kale chips.

[Nicole] Those are terrible. My friend Tracy used to try to make me eat those just like they’re so delicious. My kids love them and they taste like potato chips.  I’m like they do not taste like potato chips. Put kale in a smoothie. You can sneak it in that way.

[Janine] Yeah maybe I will. But probably not. But my point is it’s now a kale smoothie you won’t even know it. Probably not. You buy this stuff and then it rots. So is the problem So you know the most expensive food you eat the food that you don’t eat. So the kale goes. Goodbye. That’s all I’m trying to say. Plus food waste in this country is such a huge problem and it’s something that I started working on about a year ago. I really tried to address the problem in my home and I don’t know.

I read that a family of four throws away about eighteen hundred dollars in food every single year. Think about how much that is, that’s insane. That is it is crazy. It’s not just families, it’s restaurants and supermarkets, but consumers waste the most, 40 percent of all food waste comes from households. Wow. Yeah I mean think about that. You think about how many people are in need and need that food. And we just buy it and throw it away. Plus besides costing a lot, it’s terrible for the environment, because it rots and that causes the greenhouse gases to go up into the sky.  I think it’s unless it’s fruits or vegetables something that you can compost, but you can’t compost meat.

[Nicole] No we can’t compost that.

[Janine] Right. Right right. And realistically how many people compost. Probably. I mean some. But unless you have a service or something, remember we had a Pam from Greenily on and you talked about a composting service. I mean that’s ideal. They throw everything in a container and the service comes and takes it away takes it.

[Nicole] I think meal planning is a big way to get around waste. Right. If you know, this is what I’m buying because these are the actual meals I’m going to make per day and you don’t give the kids an option. Because that’s another piece to it’s hard. I know it’s hard. The kids look at stuff that I made and they’re like, you know I’m not eating that. It’s like fish with onions and carrots and avocado on top of it. So good. and they’re like I’m not even trying it. To get the whole family to eat the same thing, it’s tricky. Go have an apple, go make a peanut butter jelly sandwich.

[Janine] I agree with you. You have to make a plan go through your cabinets before you go to the supermarket because  sometimes you come home and you realize you have 10 cans of beans, and you’re like, oh man. Shop your cabinets. Shelly from taming frenzy said that to us. Remember she said check the cabinets first and then of course buy bulk when it’s appropriate. Of course, if you go to one of the big box stores and buy a giant bag of something and then it goes bad, you’re better off just buying a smaller and spending so you’re going to use.

[Nicole] And there are a lot of organic options now at the big box stores too which is kind of cool.

[Janine] So yeah. Yeah. That’s great. That’s true. I also buy frozen food, but now I don’t know because the hidden gluten, but if you’re not worrying about gluten so much then it’s OK. Eater frozen vegetables, because I’ve read that frozen is sometimes more nutritious than fresh depending on where it comes from. If you’ve had something that’s been hanging around for a long time compared with the freezing process, they freeze it almost immediately. A flash freeze, so it’s actually more nutritious.I also found a website called Imperfect Produce that saves the ugly produce farmers throw away because they can’t sell it. They think consumers won’t buy it because it looks funny and just goes to waste. So this company is selling that produce it’s not all organic though it’s a mix, but it’s a nice way to think about it because it tastes the same. If we can kind of get over what we think food is supposed to look like and traveling helps you do that too because you’re exposed to a lot of different things that you’d never think that you’d eat but you’re more open to it. And I think the bottom line is you’re going to focus on one thing it’s buying organic things that are the most toxic that the most pesticides and stuff. I think that’s probably super useful.

[Nicole] Absolutely. And I think to trying to buy as much fresh. I have friends, they’ll go on a daily shopping trip to the to the store and they’re like oh I’m going to buy, what I’m making for dinner tonight. So then there’s no question what you’re making and you’re going to eat it and you’ll have leftovers the next day and there’s no food waste. Yeah, I couldn’t do that. That would drive me bananas. I mean I do a once a week shop.

[Janine] Well when I lived in England back way back a long time ago in the early 90s, most flats had tiny refrigerators tiny. A little bit bigger than dorm-size, but not much because it really just fit a small amount. But every neighborhood had a little green grocer, a butcher, a bakery. And I would be surprised if that’s still the case, but I think people did buy day to day. You wouldn’t plan it for a week. So there was no chance that you’d end up throwing the food away you just make what you what you need that night.

[Nicole] Absolutely and I think now to we hear more people talking about their insta-pots and crock pot recipes. Things you can buy things and make a big batch of something, but then you can freeze it, or if you’re making soups,  or extend it and try to get as much bang for your buck. You know there’s definitely so many Pinterest sites and Facebook groups and places that you can go to find ideas for recipes and inspiration to get you don’t necessarily have to do a 30 day elimination diet right. You can just opt to maybe remove something from your diet that you know is not great for your health.

I have a girlfriend and she’s going on, I think, three months of not drinking soda. And she was addicted. You know she would walk past the vending machine everyday at work and she would get a can and she would drink it, and she said it’s been one of the most difficult things she’s ever done because she craves it every time she walks past the machine, she craves it. I was like, keep going. You’ve been doing it for three months. Don’t quit now. Drink water if you don’t like the taste of water throw something in it. So throw some lemon or fruit or something to help drink it,  fill your mouth with something other than the soda.

[Janine] Was she drinking diet soda or it was a diet. That’s supposed to be the worst though. It’s like the artificial sweetener tricks your brain  to really craving sweets. It’s an addiction. Yeah, it’s a funny thing how it does that. You think you’d want less sweets, but I guess it does something that makes you crave sweets more.

[Nicole] So there’s no coincidence that cocaine was like one of the ingredients that was in a popular soda way back when.

[Janine] Way back when. Imagine that marketing campaign now. Yeah right. Although I think cocaine was used in a medicine back then too. Crazy, but I guess the bottom line is the best way to control what you eat, have  a healthy diet and save money is to cook on your own. Nobody wants to hear that because we’re all super busy and running around, but it doesn’t have to be a French gourmet meal.

[Nicole] You can don chicken vegetable I will share that I did one of those meal boxes where you sign up and it gets delivered once every two weeks. Iit has enough in there to make two meals or for whatever, and some of those meals were way out of our comfort zone.  There were some crazy Thai dish or something that was from Spain that we would have never in a million years ordered at a restaurant or ever tried to cook at home. But it was so simple with the ingredients we got the kids involved it was healthy fresh foods and it was fun. It mixed up the routine. I love that you can cancel it at any time. So if you wanted to try it see because they give you a break out of the costs, three dollars and fifty two cents per meal or something like that. It’s portion controlled which I love. So they’re only giving you the amount that you need and it’s there’s no waste which I like.

[Janine] Yeah. No, we’ve tried that too but we didn’t stick with it either. I I didn’t feel like the value was that great. The quality was good, but I felt like the value wasn’t that great. Also, I was unhappy with the packaging, but more recently where the packaging was much more environmentally friendly. The company that I first tried it was all in plastic bags. It was a giant pile of trash after. Yeah, I liked it, and I agree it was fun and it was different and they give you that big selection. So that’s an option too if that’s something that you can fit into your budget and want to try and motivate you to cook. The easy way to cook it. It’s probably a step down from ordering out like it’s the next step or something.

[Nicole] We hope you enjoy this episode of the messy middle road trip podcast. It feels vital to remember that every time you eat you have an opportunity to nourish your body if you like what we’re doing. Please show us some love and go give us a rating or review I Tunes we’d really appreciate it. Thank you.

Our Favorite Things – Ideas to Make Your Life Better

Our Favorite Things – Ideas to Make Your Life Better

At Messy Middle Road Trip, we’re always looking for ways to make our day-to-day lives more manageable. Every once in a while, we’ll send you a few ideas and products we love as our own public service announcement. Some of these links are affiliate links, which means we’ll make a small chunk of change if you click through and make a purchase. However, none of the fees of these resources are increased to compensate us, and we only recommend items we like and believe in.

We don’t have any raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but here are a few of our favorite things, part one.

Endless Entertainment – Audible Audiobooks

For years, I’d visit the library before long, solo car rides and rent audiobooks on CD to play on the road. The selection was limited and changing CDs while driving dangerous, so I was thrilled when Amazon launched Audible.

Audible has a seemingly endless selection of audio books from your favorite authors and performed by (mostly) fantastic voice artists. Sometimes, I listen while cleaning and the story is so good I keep on cleaning. Now that’s a real endorsement.

How does it work?  Users sign up and buy book credits each month. The number of credits determines the number of books you purchase. When the new credits arrive, pick a book, download it onto your phone or another mp3 player, throw in some earbuds, and enjoy.

I’ve listened to dozens of books on Audible, and most are excellent. Here’s the cool thing, if you start listening and you don’t like the book, or the narrator sounds like a tortured cat, Audible issues a full-credit return, no questions asked.

So, if reading more books is on your 2019 resolution list try Audible (and no, listening to a book isn’t “cheating” according to the Messy Middle Road Trip guide to life). Plus bonus, you get a free book with a one-month trial subscription when you sign up through this link.

All News You Need to Know – theSkimm

Sometimes you find something clearly created for a younger audience, but it’s good, so you say what the heck and sign up anyway. That’s how I feel about theSkimm.

Written in quick, easy snippets, theSkimm daily email newsletter gives you just enough news to know what’s going on, plus a few fun bits to remove the sting from all that bad news. Want to know more about a particular story? theSkimm links to longer content with all the details. It’s free to sign up, and you won’t receive annoying sales emails or other junk.

Tamer of Lions, Tigers, and Frenzy – Taming Frenzy

Not long ago, our friend Shelly Merchant from Taming Frenzy took a spin in the convertible with tips about how to live better with less frenzy. Check out her podcast episode here. Shelley’s like a combination of Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman (a red-headed Texan with a Southern drawl like sweet tea on your front porch) and a more laid-back Marie Kondo (she means business when it comes to organizing, but not so hung up on the “does it give you joy” bit).

She believes once we stop, take a breath, and adopt some of her tips, we’ll have better relationships, more joy in our lives, and time for ourselves. You’ll find a ton of helpful information on her website Taming Frenzy and during her fun live events on Facebook. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and frenzied, Shelley’s got your back.

Downward Dog Do It – Yoga International

Many of our podcast episodes talk about self-care and include ideas to incorporate clean eating and exercise into your life. Recent guest and Holistic Health Coach Karen Bobinski told us, “Motion is lotion to the joints,” and we agree. One great way to include more exercise in your life is yoga.

Even after 5,000 years, yoga continues to find fans because it works. Research shows yoga improves balance, flexibility, strength, pain management, menopausal symptoms, and energy level. Bottom line, yoga might be the cure for what ails you.

Finding a great local studio and attending a live class is best, but sometimes it’s hard to find the time. Yoga International to the rescue. With more than 500 expert teachers and 1,000 yoga classes, you’ll find a teacher and style of yoga to suit your needs and expand your home practice. Classes range from 15 to 120 minutes and are available anywhere you have a mobile device.

Interested in yoga therapy, the anatomy of yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, yin, or restorative yoga? Yoga International has a class to feed your curious mind. The monthly cost is less than most individual yoga class, and they offer a 14-day free trial. Are you ready to get your bend on and add some lotion to your motion?  Start your free trial now.

Who Runs the World? – A Better Social Media Platform – MixR

We came across something new and intriguing out on the webs, and it could be the future of social networks. MixR is the first social network of live communities created and driven by women. Their mission is to empower, “female leadership within local communities to stand up, pursue their passions, drive social change and create a more balanced world.”

Hmmm…interesting.

MixR allows you to create local MixR gatherings easily and use the platform as a way to communicate and engage with your community. Similar to MeetUp, but exclusively for women and free, MixR allows organizers and users to create/find their tribe in the real world, not just online.  

Social media is great, but more of us are looking for real connection in the real world and not just words on a screen. Plus, the online world has created and encouraged the worst kind of ugly, and it’s time for something new. The platform is new and only in the U.S., but the mission is worthwhile and something to keep an eye on.

Eating Healthy Without Having to Sell a Kidney  – Thrive Market

The quality of the food we eat is so important to our health and the health of the planet, but the current system of food production makes unhealthy food cheap and accessible and organic, healthy food expensive and out of reach for many families.

Thrive Market is a membership community that sells healthy food and natural products. How does it work?  Thrive Market takes out the middle-(wo)man and the retail mark up to sell at wholesale prices.  Plus, none of the products sold by Thrive Market have known GMO ingredients, it’s packaging is 100% recyclable, shipping facilities are zero waste, the company seeks out women-owned and carbon neutral companies, AND they sponsor a free membership for a low-income American family for every new membership. Sounds good to us. In fact, Nicole has been using this service for about a year now and the variety of gluten-free, dairy free, grain free products is amazing. Not only do they get delivered to your door but they taste great!

There is a yearly membership cost, but according to Thrive their products are 25-50% below retail, so the average person saves $30 on every order. If you don’t make back your whole membership in savings, Thrive will refund the difference, no questions asked.

Try Thrive Market free for 30 days AND get 25% off your first purchase using this link.

Save the World One Tip at a Time  – Greenily – Your Family Only Greener

The fabulous Pam Mercer from Greenily – Your Family Only Greener hopped in the convertible to help us go green without going extreme. Check out her podcast episode here.

The earth needs help, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the things we SHOULD do to make it better. Pam believes a small shift in perception, a little bit of knowledge, and a few actionable steps will make a big difference in helping the planet. Check out “Do These 5 Simple Things To Be A Green Traveler.” Find her on Facebook for lots of easy green tips for families. Small actions might seem like just a drop in the bucket, but they add up and collectively we a difference.

The Land of Self-Helpery – Books We Love 

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Alfred a Knopf

Like many women, I faced the uncertainty of midlife with a pile of questions about what to do next. Reading this book changed my thinking about goals and helped me see a path for the future free of mental self-sabotage.

To be honest, I would never have picked this book without a recommendation. The idea of planning my life like a “designer” by “prototyping” different ideas sounded stiff and a little boring. I was wrong.

The book’s most valuable lesson especially for women and our inner perfectionist: Making the “wrong” choices in our life is part of the process, not a failure or even wrong. Your happiness and future prospects aren’t tied to one decision, so lighten up. Try a bunch of different things, abandon what doesn’t work, and try something new. Looking at our lives like designers gives us freedom and the power to plot our course and decide our future. Give it a try.

The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins

A life-changing book for many, this book teaches a simple tactic, the 5-second rule, to better our lives. How many times have you wanted to say or do something and your brain got involved and talked you right out of doing it?  Maybe you wanted to strike up a conversation with a new mom at the playground, or you wanted to share an idea at work but bit your tongue instead. Have you ever made a promise to begin a new diet or exercise plan…tomorrow?

Mel Robbins digs into the brain chemistry involved in moving from thinking of an idea to taking action and how many times we allow ourselves to be sabotaged by self-doubt or excuses. If you are tired of living below your potential or you just need a kick in the butt to do the things you want to accomplish, this book will provide the inspiration to transform your life with courage and confidence. Ms. Robbins helps prove we each have greatness inside of us.

What do you think of our list? Do you have blogs, apps, or products you love and make your life easier? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments below. Thanks.

What’s Up with Gen X Women?

What’s Up with Gen X Women?

“I’d like to stop thinking of the present as some minor, insignificant preamble to something else.” — Cynthia, Dazed and Confused 1992

Gen-Xers are a unique bunch. We’re originals.

But, you already know that.

We sent out a survey and asked our female cohorts some questions about their lives. The results are below. Let us know what you think.

Question: Name one word that describes Generation X women?

The most frequent response? 

Strong

Which is not a surprise, there’s something about our generation that makes us tough. Maybe it was the constant threat of nuclear annihilation or just the fact we had to fend for ourselves most days after school. We’ll never know, but it’s accurate.

A few more responses given multiple times:

Adaptable
Driven
Badass!

My favorite:  “Superwomen – we do it all and get sh** done!”  Right on!!

Other positive ways we see ourselves:

Determined
Diligent
Resilient
Motivated
Tenacious
Vocal
Workers
Perseverance/persistence
Empowered
Multi-taskers

Less positive ways we describe ourselves:

Tired
Scattered
Waiting (BTW, it’s time to stop waiting.)
Under-appreciated
Busy

Question: What problem/issue/concern keeps you up at night?

For three lucky ladies, nothing keeps them up at night. Amazing! And how do I get me some of that?

For everyone else, we worry.

Kids/teenagers top the worry list for 43.5% of participants.

Next came finances, money, and retirement. 20.5% are worried about their financial future.

Health and our work/career tied for our third greatest concern with 12.8% each.

10.2% of the participants worry about worry and anxiety.

7.9% are concerned about college affordability.

Other concerns included:

Life fulfillment 5.1%

Direction of country 5.1%

Aging parents 2.5%

Keeping relationships healthy 2.5%

Question: If you could do anything in the world, without limitations, what would it be?

The number one response for almost everyone, Travel.

76.9% of respondents said they would travel if they could do anything without limitations

Some women would help others by finding a way to end poverty and sickness, fix the country’s healthcare system, and assure a healthy future for their families.

One person wants to be a rockstar and another a stay-at-home blogger, which I assure you is pretty much the same thing.

Question: Which topics about mid-life are most needed right now? Is there anything you don’t see covered but would like to see talked about?

20.5% want more information about self-care through perimenopause and strategies to age well.

17.9% want help caring for aging parents.

10.2% have trouble dealing with the empty nest and feelings of loss as the kids grow up and start their own lives.

7.6% of participants want information about personal growth and parenting teens.

Other issues of concern:

Kids & Technology
Careers after a life as a Stay-at-Home Mom.
Work-life balance
Preparing a child for college
Midlife in the workplace
Retirement planning for women

Question: What’s missing out there? What product/service do you wish someone would create for our generation?

A few favorite answers:

“Self-cleaning house.”

“How to eat, drink, and be merry and not gain weight and have a heart attack…”

“Driver for my kids.”

“Peace. I wish someone could create a service for peace.”

“Explain millennial to me.”

Overall, we’re looking for help staying/getting healthy, staying relevant in the workforce (or getting back into the workforce), and finding ways to have some fun.

Question: Where do you hang out online?

72.5% are on Facebook and 10% like Pinterest.

The rest is a mix of Instagram, email, or nothing at all. No one seems to like Twitter.

Generation X is unlike any other generation. Even though we’re small our impact is felt across society. Generation X changed parenting, work-life balance in the workplace, a father’s contribution/involvement in parenting, and societal norms that benefit everyone. Our second-half will be our greatest half.

Now, who’s going to invent a self-cleaning house?

What do you think about the answers to the survey? Do you have different ideas?

You might also like:
EO12: Living Big with Wendy Perrotti
Are You a Stressed Out Midlife Mess? Meditation Might Help

Cat T-Shirts, Minimum Wage, and the Fate of American Manufacturing

Cat T-Shirts, Minimum Wage, and the Fate of American Manufacturing

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

In part two of our podcast with Sue Marshall and Meg DeCubellis from illumiNITE reflective athletic wear we continue our conversation about running a woman-owned manufacturing company and what it RELLY takes to get something made and out into the world.  Hint: It’s hard, but there’s hope. If you have a dream of making the next great handbag or t-shirt, this episode is for you.

We asked Sue and Meg A LOT of questions. Here are a few highlights from the show.

Q: Are consumer concerned about who manufactures their clothing? Are they willing to pay more for good quality and ethically made clothes, or does the almighty dollar still rule?

A:  For the most part, the almighty dollar still rules. There are pockets of people who care and think it’s cool to buy ethically made, etc., but do they really want to pay an extra $50 a jacket? Our products are made in Fall River, MA and a lot of people appreciate that story.

Q: What happens if someone’s “great idea” isn’t that hot?

A: People approach us with all sorts of ideas, and we try to approach every idea as if it’s a great one.  Whether we believe the idea is great or not is insignificant, as long as we believe we can help. We don’t try to discourage anyone, but if it’s not a great idea and it’s not going well, we take a pause and ask them to think it through. We ask tough questions like, who is the competition, and how will they market the product?  How will they make money? People dream of Shark Tank without recognizing all the work that came before Shark Tank. Remember, just because everyone wears clothes doesn’t mean everyone is able to design clothes.

A lot of times people come to us at the beginning with the initial idea. Most people don’t realize the next part is the real hard work. The next part is sticking with it through manufacturing and selling the product. You’ve got to be good at sales because you have to sell the hell out of this thing, sometimes they fall or they falter a bit there.

Q: How do you to judge if an idea will work?

A:  We try to give people good advice along the way. Sometimes a person gets all the way through the process, through manufacturing, and then it goes nowhere because the commitment isn’t there. When we help, we touch the product it in every step of the process, and we’re committed to it.

But, the bottom line, if we see a bad idea and it’s on the back of a cocktail napkin, which happens all the time, before someone dumps a ton of money into something, we encourage them to reconsider. We ask the customer to be sure. Are they sure this cat t-shirt is going to start a cat t-shirt craze? The hardest thing to do is discourage someone if they have a real passion for their cat t-shirt. That said, experience is the best teacher.

Q: What do you see as the future for the apparel industry?

A. Everyone likes to buy things made in the USA, but the reality is something different. It’s great to manufacture here, but we can’t find enough trained stitchers, factory workers, or people who want to do this type of work. It sounds great. I want to make it in the USA. The problem is where are the people to work in the factory, and who is training them to do this work?

And it’s a huge problem. It’s not just here, it’s all over the country. It’s great to want to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, but there has to be an investment in education and training to keep this business going. On our factory floor, the average age of our workers is 65. More than half of them collect Social Security because they’re eligible to collect Social Security. So these women come into work because they like working. They like coming in and making things with their friends.

The increased minimum wage is also something to think about. Everybody’s got to make $15 an hour, which I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but you give $15 an hour to an unskilled worker, so that means at least $20 an hour for a skilled factory worker. Suddenly making apparel in this country is impossible, because everyone wants cheap clothes. No one is interested in these kinds of jobs because for my company to be competitive, we can’t pay $25 an hour for people to make clothes.

Another problem is technology. A lot of manufacturing left this country, so no one invested money into improving technology. It’s like we’re stuck in the forties and fifties and the sixties.

New technology was developed and sent overseas, so we’re in a weird generation gap of manufacturing. Other countries aren’t investing in their people as much as they should, so the money goes to technology to make everything more efficient and faster and more competitive in general.

Q: What makes illumiNITE different?

A. Our customers are important to us. When you call, one of us picks up the phone. Quality and integrity are important and if you have a problem with our product, whether you bought the jacket yesterday or 10 years ago, we’ll make it right.

People who like us believe in our product and appreciate that we manufacture in Fall River with a little bit of love. Everything we sell is reflective. It’s considered retroreflective. So what does that mean? It means when the light hits it, it directs light back to the source, and it’s like you plugged in the item.  We genuinely believe in our product, and when we show our customers what the difference between our product the product sitting next to it they see a big difference.

You might also like:

EO19: How to Start a Manufacturing Business Part One

 

Take Care – Colon Cancer Warning Signs

Take Care – Colon Cancer Warning Signs

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

In last week’s podcast, we talked with Carrie Peck about her journey with colon cancer. Carrie is an amazing person, and we admire her bravery and commitment to educating others about this disease.

She gave us great advice and a lot to think about. Her experience was a wakeup call for women who always put the needs of others before themselves (ahem, most of us). Often, we neglect or ignore health concerns until they become real problems. The excuses are, well, excuses: I’m too busy, I don’t have time, this place will fall apart without me. Do you really believe it? Yes, you might come home to dirty dishes, a dog covered in burs, and the kids eating dry cereal off the kitchen floor, but so what? Go to the phone right now and schedule your annual physical, gynecological exam, dermatologist screening, colonoscopy, etc. As Carrie said, “You’re no good to your family if you’re dead.” Follow the in-flight safety advice, put your oxygen mask on first and then take care of everyone around you.

Remember early detection is essential when it comes to colon cancer. Take steps today to ensure you’ll be around for a long time to come.

Schedule a screening for colorectal cancer.

By age 50, one in four people developed polyps (growths in the colon that could develop into cancer). Talk to your doctor about when you need your first colonoscopy or screening. If you’re over 50 that time is now, right now.

Get comfortable talking about poop.

Yes, it’s awkward talking about bowel movements (unless you’re a 10-year-old boy), but remember it’s your doctor, not the woman in the supermarket checkout line. (Although, I have heard about one or two medical issues while waiting to buy a gallon of milk). Look for persistent changes in bowel habits like constipation and/or diarrhea, abdominal cramping, unexplained weight loss, and blood in your stool. If you spot any of those problems, go to the doctor and tell her all about it.

Know your family medical history.

Carrie was a healthy woman in her early 40s when she was diagnosed, not exactly a primary candidate for colon cancer according to medical literature. It was her family’s history with the disease that made her symptoms more urgent.

Talk to your doctor about unusual symptoms and concerns.

If he/she doesn’t listen, find another doctor.

Keep yourself healthy.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t guarantee a life without illness, but it doesn’t hurt. You know the drill, eat healthily, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, exercise, reduce your stress, and surround yourself with awesome people.

If you want to know more about colorectal cancer detection and prevention, visit the Colon Cancer Coalition.

You might also like:

Tips to Beat the Winter Blues
EO09: Benefits of Massage Therapy with Jen Field

Travel Solo & Travel Safe in Midlife

Travel Solo & Travel Safe in Midlife

Photo by Luo Lei on Unsplash

In episode 17 of the Messy Middle Road Trip, I talked about great tips to stay safe if you travel solo. Here are the extended show notes (the podcast is better!).

In my travels, I meet women who are in mid-life, single, with no kids at home, money in their pocket and dying to get out and see the world. “Great,” I ask. “Where do you want to go?”

Usually, a sad look crosses their face, and I hear some version of, “I don’t have anyone to travel with…”  Meaning, I can’t/won’t go alone, so I’m stuck here.  No matter how much I try to convince them otherwise, they don’t believe 1)They deserve to travel and 2) They absolutely can go alone.

The key to staying safe and having a fantastic time is planning, paying attention, and using that smart brain currently residing in your head.  Here are few tips to help on your solo journey to the great unknown.

Hire a Professional

I’m a big believer in hiring a professional whenever possible, and this includes traveling planning. Finding a female travel consultant with expertise in your chosen location will make a huge difference in your trip. Her on-the-ground experience will complement your research and provide practical advice and information, so you get the most out of your experience.

Accommodations

Finding the right accommodations can make the difference between a fabulous empowering experience and a nightmare. Always read the one and two-star reviews and look for reoccurring problems. Did guests find the front door unlocked or propped open? Are locks flimsy or hallways poorly lit? Did guests feel unsafe? Bad reviews provide a wealth of information, just watch for trolls who write unfair or inaccurate reviews.

Allocate a few extra dollars for accommodations in the city center. A centrally located hotel will be near the major tourist attractions, the area will have steady foot traffic day and night, and you won’t have to worry about long public transportation or taxi rides back to your hotel.

Transportation

How will you get around once you’ve arrived in your dream location? What is the public transportation system like and how close is it to the hotel?  Are unmarked taxis safe to use? Luckily, a lot of this information is available at our fingertips. You should also ask the advice of the hotel’s female employees.

Travel Insurance

Always buy travel insurance.  Always.

This is gender neutral advice that I give to anyone who will listen.  First, think about the cost of the trip.  Would you spend $10,000 on a piece of jewelry and not insure it?  I don’t think so.  Second, with the right plan, insurance covers so much more than the trip. Good travel insurance will help get you home if there’s a natural or human-made disaster. It will also provide medical coverage if your sick or even airlift you back to the States for treatment in an emergency. 

Finally, make sure it’s the right policy for your trip. You won’t need the same insurance to visit California wine country as a trip to the Amazon rain forest, so look at all of the options offered by the insurance company.

Theft Protection

If losing something would devastate you (e.g. your grandmother’s earrings) leave them at home.  In fact, I recommend zero to minimal jewelry or costume jewelry. 

Keep all of the important stuff like your passport, money, credit card, phone in one small pouch that you strap across your body and keep on your person until you reach your hotel room. Don’t put it down next to your luggage or on the counter while you find money for a train ticket. If you look away for a moment, it’s gone. If someone is bothering you or trying to distract you for directions, etc. there’s a good chance his/her friend is stealing your stuff.  Hold on to that bag and don’t let go.

Year’s ago, I stay at a hostel in Amsterdam. The other women in the room were friendly, and I naively left my bag on my bed to go into the attached bathroom. Two minutes later I returned to find my bag and the friendly women gone. Most thieves are opportunists not criminal masterminds. Don’t give them the opportunity.

Use the hotel safe to stash your valuables.  Take only what you really need out into the world, but not your passport. Some cash, a credit card, and your room key should do.

Having Fun

Don’t drink too much. Drinking and taking drugs impedes your judgment and makes certain situations unsafe. Know your limit and be smart.

Blend In and Wear Pants

Try to look less American. No sneakers (exception: nice, fashion sneakers)! Avoid shorts and t-shirts or anything that screams American tourist. Follow the country’s customs regarding clothing. Cover up in Muslim countries, wear loose clothing in India, and a scarf in Paris (obviously not required, but man, those women look nice). Following local fashion will help you blend in and avoid problems.

In case you’re wondering: No, yoga pants aren’t appropriate for every occasion. I traveled to Ireland this summer and everywhere (churches, restaurants, museums) I looked, I saw American women in yoga pants. Come on ladies; you’re representing our nation, please wear real pants.

Directions

Download a map of the city on your phone, so you can access it without an internet connection.  If you need to consult a map, pop into a store or cafe and discretely get reoriented.  Nothing screams MUG ME like a lost looking tourist staring at a big paper map.

If you do get lost, fake it until you make it. Walk around like you own the place and have someplace very important to go. Then ask a woman with kids for directions.

When you head out, take a business card from your hotel with its address written in the local language. Also, ask someone at your hotel to write your destination down just in case you get lost and need to ask for help.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Give a copy of your passport, travel documents, itinerary, and credit cards to a friend at home. Store a second copy on Google Docs or Dropbox. Keep emergency money and second credit card in your underwear (or someplace safe) just in case you’re robbed or something unexpected happens.

Other ideas

  • Download Google translate. The translations aren’t always perfect, but people will get the gist of your question and can use the same App to answer.
  • Watch for pickpockets on buses, trains, elevators, and escalators.
  • Put your foot through the loop of your bag anytime you need to rest it on the floor.
  • Bring something to wedge under the hotel door to prevent entry while you’re inside.
  • If you want to go old school, buy a money belt and keep valuables under your shirt.
  • Finally, use your common sense. Your gut, above all, will tell you if something isn’t right. Listen to that voice in your head. I know you are woman, hear me roar, but most of the time it’s smart to walk the other way.

The whole world is out there waiting for you.  Makes plans and go.  You deserve it.

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