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5 Key Steps to Form Healthy Habits

Why is it so difficult for us all to stick to a new habit? Every year, millions of Americans create a New Year’s Resolution, and these resolutions are discarded in a matter of weeks or months. It’s easy for many of us to start a diet or a fitness program, but what is keeping us from forming these healthy habits long-term? Is it a lack of motivation, forgetfulness, or that it’s “just too hard”?

The answer may lie within the Trans-Theoretical Model, a tool that can be used to assess one’s “readiness” to start a new healthy behavior. The Trans-Theoretical Model, or TTM for short, is a cyclic model with 5 stages. Here, I will outline each stage of the TTM, as well as some tips to continue moving forward in pursuit of your health goals.

Image result for transtheoretical model

STEP 1 – Pre-Contemplation

Pre-Contemplation is the beginning stage of the Trans-Theoretical Model. If you are in the pre-contemplation stage, it means that you have no desire to change your behavior in the immediate future. A person in this stage will probably come off as resistant, due to the fact that they do not see a need to change. An individual at this stage is also not ready to change. The will to change must come from within in order for physical action to be taken. If you find yourself at this stage, it is helpful to think about some of the positive and negative impacts that your current behaviors have on your life. If you did decide to change your lifestyle and adopt new healthy habits, what are the short-term and long-term benefits? What, if any, are the consequences?

STEP 2 – Contemplation

Contemplation is the second step in the Trans-Theoretical Model. In the contemplation stage, you are aware of your actions and behaviors and you are thinking about making a change in the near future. At this point, no action has been taken to change habits, but you are aware that there is a behavior that you’d like to change. At this point, it’s so important to have relationships with people who will help move you forward on your journey. By having a friend or a community supporting you, not only will you have external motivation, but you will feel a stronger urge to hold yourself accountable.

STEP 3 – Preparation

Preparation is one step further from contemplation. The difference between Step 2 and Step 3 is that by Step 3, you are actively planning to make a change. If your goal is to be more physically active, the preparation phase might include buying a new workout outfit, or joining a gym. You have decided to make a change, and you believe that you can change your habits.

STEP 4 – Action

The action phase begins the minute you start actively making a change. This stage only lasts up to 6 months, where an individual will either move on to the next and final stage (maintenance) or move back to one of the previous phases mentioned. In this phase, it’s important to recognize what former stressors were affecting your previous behaviors. If, for example, you are trying to quit drinking, it may be helpful to avoid a certain bar that you used to frequent. It is important to develop coping strategies to manage those former stressors, so they do not influence you to fall back into bad habits.

STEP 5 – Maintenance

Maintenance is the final phase of the Trans-Theoretical Model. In this stage, an individual is still working to integrate these new changes until they become a regular part of life. An individual enters the maintenance stage after about 6 months of adapting a new habit. It is important, at this final stage, that you have identified your former stressors, whether they may be people, places, or objects. If you cycle back to an earlier stage, this is known as “Relapse”.

An important thing to note about the Trans-Theoretical Model is that it is a cyclic model, meaning that some people may fall into a cycle of starting new habits, ditching them, and trying again in a few months if they get discouraged or don’t see results soon enough. It takes time for a new habit to become regular, and most of the time these new habits mean adopting a lifestyle change to accommodate for these new behaviors. By being mindful of your own readiness, you will be much more likely to be successful in creating new healthy habits.

Maintaining Balance in Your Life

Welcome to the NEW AND IMPROVED web page for Everything Alexandra! It has been FOREVER since I’ve published a post on my blog, and I’ve been itching to create and share some new content. Since I’ve returned to Boston for school, I’ve been juggling my full-time education studying Chemical Engineering, work, and extracurriculars. Unfortunately, the Everything Alexandra blog has taken a backseat as I’ve focused most of my energy on my classes, and my priorities have felt soooo out of balance.

After I created the new Instagram page for Everything Alexandra, I noticed that the majority of my posts were about vegan food. Although I think that food and nutrition are a super important part of wellness, there is so much more that goes along with wellness, including mental health, that go unspoken about. Wellness is so much more than just nutrition and exercise (although I do believe that these are still super important), and it’s easy to get so caught up in the “physical” aspects of health that we forget to take care of ourselves on the inside.

I think one flawed perception of “wellness” is that people assume in order to be “healthy” you have to be happy all the time. But just like anything, life is a constant cycle of high and low moments. For every day that I drink a green smoothie for breakfast, do my cardio, get a full night’s sleep, etc., I’m bound to have a day (or night) where I don’t have energy because I’m lacking in sleep, or I decide not to go to the gym because I’m not feeling up for it. These highs and lows are bound to happen, because that’s life. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over one cheat meal or one missed workout or one bad day. But if you start to notice that the “good” days are few and far between, maybe it’s time to re-balance your priorities if you can, focusing your time and energy into things that are going to make you happier.


Take some time out of your day to explore someplace new

That being said, you should never underestimate the power of a mental day. I repeat: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A MENTAL DAY. We all need a day, or two, or even just an hour, to relax and give our brains and bodies a break. Take some time to go for a walk, take a nap, or read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to but never had the time. We all deserve a break from the constant go-go-go of school or work. You’re listening to the master of spreading themselves too thin. Trust me, I know how it feels to be burnt out, and it’s unbelievably draining.

And I’m not alone. Many of my close friends and peers spread themselves unbelievably thin so they can “stand out” and have an impressive resume. I was one of them. I’m still trying to break that mindset, actually. But here’s the thing: by cutting back on all of the endless responsibilities, and choosing one or two really important things in your life to devote your time and energy to, not only will you feel less stressed, but your work will most likely improve and you will feel so much better. Remember, wellness starts from within, so we must take care of our mental selves just as much as we take care of our physical selves.

As we enter the Spring season, be mindful of maintaining balance in all aspects of your life. Maybe we can all try to leave the long, unnecessarily stressful days behind!

The Amazing Green Smoothie

A common misconception about green smoothies is that they have to taste awful in order to be healthy. Well that’s just flat out wrong! Though I do agree that some green juices and smoothies have a much more bitter taste (thank you kale and arugula), this smoothie is the perfect transition. I recommend using baby spinach as your choice of greens, especially if you aren’t used to the taste of kale. Plus, I personally think spinach blends better (AND looks prettier).

This Amazing Green Smoothie is pleasantly sweet, thanks to the natural sugars found in banana, pineapple, and mango. These fruits also give it a slightly tropical flavor (which makes it the perfect breakfast in the summertime).

For this smoothie, you will need:img_1010

  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup mango (fresh or frozen)
  • 1-2 cups almond milk (NOTE – more milk will be needed if using all frozen fruit, otherwise the smoothie will be too thick)

Now, it does matter what order you add your ingredients in. I like to blend up my greens first with the first cup of almond milk, blending on high power until it creates a smooth green juice. Then, I add the rest of my fruit and blend on high power until smooth. Sometimes a little extra milk is necessary to get the desired thickness.

I prefer to use frozen fruit because it’s cheaper, and it lasts longer in the freezer (so I don’t have to worry about it rotting). Because of that, I either move my pineapple and mango to the fridge to thaw overnight, or I just have to add a lot more milk. But the beauty of smoothies is that you can craft them however you like!

If you have any tips about green smoothies, or smoothie making in general, feel free to leave a comment!

Smoothie Bowls

One of my favorite go-to breakfast choices is a delicious fruit smoothie. I love how quick and easy they are to make, and how versatile they can be. It’s super easy to add a scoop of protein powder or nut butter to transform your smoothie into some excellent post-workout fuel.

But lately, people have been taking it a step further, and crafting their smoothies into beautiful food masterpieces, topping them with sliced fruit, nuts, seeds, you name it. They are called smoothie bowls, and they look downright delicious. If you enjoy the taste of a smoothie but it doesn’t feel quite like a meal, you should give smoothie bowls a shot.

This was my first attempt at crafting a smoothie bowl, and it turned out to be pretty tasty. I started with a simple strawberry banana smoothie and added some protein powder. I will definitely experiment with other flavor combinations and add those soon!


Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl

  • 1 banana, sliced (save a few slices for toppings)
  • 1 cup strawberries (about 5-6 medium sized berries)
  • 1 cup almond milk (I use almond milk, but feel free to use whatever type milk you prefer)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Swiig Mediterranean Vanilla Plant Protein)

Slice the bananas and strawberries, and freeze them overnight. Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Next is the fun part: add your favorite toppings! This is where you can get creative. I topped my smoothie bowl with strawberry and banana slices, chia seeds, and granola.

How do you like your smoothie bowls? Leave a comment below!

Berry Banana Chia Seed Pudding

Okay, I tried this recipe last night and just HAD to share ASAP.  If you’ve never had Chia Seed Pudding before, this is definitely something new for you to try.  This particular flavor was made with vanilla almond milk and some maple syrup, and the sweetness was perfect paired with some tart blueberries and a few slices of banana. This tastes best when you let it sit overnight (or at least 12 hours), and it keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge.  This recipe only calls for 3 ingredients (which you may already have in your kitchen!), plus whatever ingredients you’d like to use for toppings.

With all that said, here’s the recipe!

Berry Banana Chia Seed Pudding


  • 1 1/2 cups nondairy milk (I used sweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (you can use black or white – I used black because that’s what I had on hand!)
  • 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • fruit/seeds/granola for toppings!


Combine the milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup into a bowl or a mason jar. I like to add the liquids first so the seeds don’t clump at the bottom. Then, stir that stuff like crazy! I would take my mason jar out of the fridge every half hour or so and give it a little stir to prevent the seeds from settling. Then, you’re all set to leave it overnight! The longer you let this pudding sit, the more milk will be absorbed by the chia seeds, and the thicker the consistency will be.

This can be enjoyed as a dessert, a breakfast food, or just a simple snack! Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, and this recipe contains over 50% of your daily recommended calcium intake.

How do you like your chia seed pudding? Leave a comment below!

3 Major Tips for Going Vegan

First off, I feel like I should say a quick disclaimer. I did NOT choose to start a vegan diet as a means to lose weight. I chose veganism for other reasons, including personal health reasons, environmental reasons, and animal welfare (but this isn’t an article about why I became vegan, which I will save for another time).

A common misconception about the vegan diet is that it’s extremely restrictive. The vegan diet is often compared to the likes of “rabbit food”. These claims are WILDLY false! Although I do eat lots of fruit and vegetables, my diet extends way beyond just that. This leads me to Tip #1:

Tip #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things


If you want to switch to veganism successfully, you’ll need to make some additional changes to your diet. If you were to simply cut out meat, dairy and eggs from the Standard American Diet, you wouldn’t be left with much else. It’s important to fill your plate with a good mix of fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, grains, and healthy fats like avocado. The easiest way to do this successfully is by trying new foods. In the past two weeks, I’ve tried black bean burgers, tofu, and kombucha, and I’ve loved all three of them! I was SO skeptical about trying tofu, but it’s delicious, and it just takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with (making it an excellent protein for stir fries). By having a diverse plate, you’ll get some excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber.

Speaking of vitamins…

Tip #2: Take a B12 Supplement

A Vitamin B12 supplement is necessary for anybody who plans to cut out all animal products. Vitamin B12 is necessary for nerve and blood cell health, DNA production, and preventing against various types of anemia. Since our main source of B12 is through animal products, it’s important to take a supplement to guarantee a high enough daily value.

Tip #3: Find Yummy Alternatives

It was difficult to imagine a life without pizza, ice cream and cheese. Luckily, I can still enjoy all those treats, thanks to the endless variety of nondairy alternatives that are widely available. I’ve listed my top choices below:


Almond Milk (Blue Diamond and Silk are both excellent options. I typically use Unsweetened Original flavor if I’m using it in cooking, or Unsweetened Vanilla for sweeter things like oatmeal/chia pudding/smoothies).


I’ve tried a few different nondairy creamers, and my favorite by far is the one by Silk. It tastes the most like regular creamer, and they offer different flavors (original, vanilla, hazelnut).


Cheese was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I had to give up. Luckily, I’ve found some excellent dairy free replacements. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds are excellent for Vegan Mac and Cheese, and Trader Joe’s Vegan Style Mozzarella Shreds are BOMB if you want a melty, cheesy topping (like on a pizza).

Sour Cream

If you’re like me, it’s impossible to have chilis, tacos, or burrito bowls without sour cream. Tofutti’s Dairy Free Sour Cream is an excellent vegan alternative, and you can find it at Whole Foods.

Cream Cheese

Tofutti also makes a really good vegan cream cheese. This is the perfect spread to put on top of bagels (and I also use it to make my mac and cheese extra creamy).

Ice Creamimg_0545

There are TONS of vegan ice cream options out there. Ben and Jerry’s started releasing nondairy ice cream a couple years back, and you can find it at any grocery store that also sells regular Ben and Jerry’s (though it’s usually in a different part of the aisle). My favorite flavor is PB & Cookies (FYI, Oreo’s are vegan too). So Delicious makes some yummy coconut milk ice cream- I like their cookie dough flavor.

Another tip is to look for sorbets – most sorbets are fruit based and contain NO dairy (though it never hurts to check labels). This goes for gelato, too. Fruit flavors like lemon, raspberry or mango are almost always dairy free.


I haven’t tried any commercial egg replacements yet, but for baking, I like to use bananas as an emulsifier. When I make pancakes, I substitute 1/2 mashed banana in place of an egg, and it also adds some natural sweetness to whatever you’re baking.


Banana Pancakes with Homemade Strawberry Sauce

It’s easier now than ever to convert to a plant-based lifestyle, because it is SO EASY to find alternatives to all your favorite foods. So far, my experience going vegan has been wildly successful, and I have so many new recipes that I cannot wait to post.

Who else eats a vegan diet? Any questions or suggestions? Comment below!

Surviving Holiday Stress

Oh, the holiday season. It’s a time that should be filled with love and laughter and delicious food, but it’s hard to enjoy the festivities when you’re stressed out about things like Black Friday shopping, overindulging on Thanksgiving dinner, or finals week. Well, you’re not alone. This time of year can be extremely overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to manage your stress during these times.

Stress is your body’s natural response to “dangerous” situations. While a little stress from time to time is completely natural, too much can be extremely taxing on your body. It affects your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viral infections or disease. It affects your sleep, leaving you fatigued and unable to focus on school or work. And, it affects your digestion, making it more difficult for your body to absorb essential nutrients needed to keep you healthy. Basically, too much stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. Plus, it’s the leading cause of acne, and there’s nothing worse than trying to battle a breakout when you’re already stressed out.

So you’re probably thinking, what can I do to prevent holiday stress? For starters, it helps to have some sort of outlet where you can release all of your negative energy. For me, that’s exercise. When I go to the gym, I’m able to just focus on my workout, and allow all of that negative energy and stress to leave my body. That being said, working out should be fun, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to go for a 5 mile jog to “relieve stress” if that’s not your type of workout. I am a HIIT/boot camp/circuit type person, so I need something high intensity to keep me focused. But if you prefer something more calming (like yoga, for example), that’s cool too.

I believe one source of stress that many people go through is worrying about food. This is so tricky because this stigma goes both ways. On one hand, you might feel forced to watch what you eat, or skip the dessert, or pile your plate with squash, peas, and carrots because that’s the “healthy” thing to do. I remember recently listening to a well trusted fitness professional exclaim that we should skip the pecan pie and stick to broccoli. Listen, guys. Thanksgiving is one of maybe a handful of days in the entire year where we have a free pass to eat whatever the hell we want! However, we also receive stigma that we aren’t eating enough. Has it ever happened to you, where you feel compelled to finish your entire plate even though you really aren’t that hungry? I’ve gone through this same problem year after year, where I eat way too much food in an attempt to be polite (or because I’m offered food), and then I end up feeling bloated, sluggish and gross. It doesn’t help that I battled gastrointestinal issues for years, either. This year, I’m going to make an effort to listen to my body and eat what I really want to eat, when my body is ready to eat. If that means that I only fill half my plate, that’s okay. If that means I go back for seconds, that’s okay too. If that means that I choose not to have squash to save room for more pie, that’s okay. You know your body more than anybody else does, and you know what/when you need to eat in order to stay comfortable.

Another major stress factor that I hear a lot from students and young adults is the pressure to buy extravagant Christmas gifts. Listen, I understand. You want to thank your family and friends for everything they do to love and support you throughout the year, but you feel like you don’t have adequate funding to do so. Thankfully, there are so many ways to show your love and appreciation without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas…

  • If you are a talented cook, consider making treats to give as gifts. Might I suggest this Pumpkin Whoopie Pie recipe as a good place to start…
  • Maybe baking isn’t really your strong suit. There are plenty of wonderful gift ideas that are also on the cheaper side (think fuzzy blankets, fuzzy socks, fuzzy anything…). These simple gifts mean so much, especially if you live in a colder area where you’ll get to use them often.
  • Most importantly, the holidays should be less about presents, and more about presence. What means the most at this time of year isn’t the gifts you receive, but the time you spend together. Gather your family together for a holiday flag football tournament, or an afternoon of playing cards. Even if you just spend a few hours together without phones or distractions, these small gestures will create more lasting memories than just opening presents will.

It is so easy to let stress get to you at this time of year. That’s why it’s so important to recognize what is causing your stress, and find the best way to alleviate it. That way, you can be more present for time well-spent with family and friends.

Why We Should Stop Worrying About Weight

“The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem—to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and fear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.”
– Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size

I remember the first time I weighed myself on my Wii Fit balance board. I was 11 years old, and I weighed 92 pounds. That was a healthy weight, according to the video game, because I had a BMI (Body Mass Index) that fell within the “normal” range. I didn’t really care much about this new information, because, well, I was a kid. I wasn’t supposed to care about my weight.

It had been a few months since I had last played the game, so when I turned it on, I received a message telling me I was due to weigh myself again. So I, now at 12 years old, stepped onto the balance board to weigh in. I watched in horror as the scale read…102 pounds, tipping my BMI from “normal” into the “overweight” range. This video game had just told me, a healthy, growing girl, that I was fat. And I believed it.

This set me off on a weight loss obsession. Unbeknownst to my family and friends, I kept a “weight loss journal” where I’d track my calorie intakes, create weekly meal plans, and write down my body measurements. I kept a folder of workouts from magazine clippings in hopes that I could use them to slim down my “thunder thighs”. I searched for how to control ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and I also looked for obscure weight loss diets, like the Japanese Banana Diet (yes, this is a real thing), where you’re guaranteed to lose weight if you eat a banana for breakfast every single day. I was consumed by weight loss when I didn’t have any weight to lose in the first place.

These behaviors continued throughout high school, and into college. I was terrified of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, so I would track every last calorie on MyFitnessPal, down to the teaspoon of sugar I put in my coffee. I obsessed over my FitBit statistics, refusing to ever take the elevator if I could take the stairs instead. I would feel ashamed every time I had cookies or ice cream or fast food, because these weren’t “healthy” foods. This wasn’t just some childhood phase that I would eventually grow out of. This was my life, and I couldn’t eat or sleep or exercise without wondering how it would affect the number on a scale.

The worst thing is, these obsessive behaviors are so widely accepted, and most are even considered “healthy” things to do, because they are done in the pursuit of weight loss. If you constantly worry about the number on a scale, or the circumference of your waist, and these worries are inhibiting you from living a happy life, is that really beneficial for your health? If all of this dieting and calorie restriction is causing you to be stressed and fatigued and miserable…is that still healthy?

I don’t think so.

It’s okay to eat that piece of bread, or the cookie, or the slice of pizza, or whatever. Eat whatever food makes you happiest. It’s also okay to have a garden salad for lunch and a cheeseburger for dinner (because I totally did that this week). Instead of focusing on the number of calories you’re consuming, focus on the nutrients your food provides and how it makes you feel, while still being mindful that you’re eating enough food to energize your body. And remember, it is never okay to judge somebody based on their body weight. Weight is not a direct indicator of health, and in order to achieve total physical, mental and emotional health, we must get over weight stigma and fatphobia. And no matter your shape or your size, you are beautiful.


How I Cured My Acne

I’ll warn you now – this post is a long one. But, if you’re like me and you’ve suffered from acne for years without seeing any improvement, this will be worth the read.

Acne vulgaris is the most common skin condition in the United States, especially for adolescents. If your pores become clogged with dead skin and excess sebum (an oil produced by your sebaceous glands designed to protect your skin), it manifests into a pimple. Although everybody experiences acne from time to time, some people are more prone to breakouts than others. Acne can also worsen over time: some people don’t experience acne until their 30s, or even their 40s. I started experiencing acne when I was in high school. I would get a pimple here and there, but in time they usually went away. When I started college, the added stress of my rigorous coursework and the change in my diet caused me to experience more severe and frequent breakouts. I tried new skin products, but nothing seemed to work. I ended up taking matters into my own hands (literally), and I would end up picking at my face and popping pimples. This was ultimately the WORST thing I could have done, because it left my face spotted with horrible scars and hyperpigmentation that would take months to heal. It did take months, and eventually years, but after endless trial and error, I was finally able to treat my acne (and prevent new breakouts from forming).

For the longest time, I thought acne could only be treated by some miracle product (*ahem*, Proactiv). But no matter how many creams, deep treatments, or DIY remedies I tried, nothing could get rid of my stubborn acne. I began to research the causes of acne, hoping that if I learned what’s actually causing my breakouts, I could prevent them from forming in the first place. I learned that acne is often a key indicator of a deeper issue going on inside your body, and you can often pinpoint the original problem based on where your breakouts tend to be. This way, you can heal your body from the inside out. Here are some root causes of acne you may not even be thinking about-


Does most of your acne lie on your forehead? It may be linked to digestive issues. Your body is designed to filter out toxins from food and the environment, and those toxins leave your body as waste. But, if your gastrointestinal tract is not functioning properly, your body will find another way to excrete those toxins (i.e. through your skin).  Acne based on the lower forehead is linked to problems in the intestines, such as IBS. It could also be signs of a bacterial imbalance, especially if you’ve taken antibiotics. Antibiotics mess up your body’s microbiome by killing off “good” bacteria that your gut needs to properly break down food.

Acne in between your eyebrows tends to be associated with toxic buildup in the liver. You may break out in this spot if you’ve eaten a big meal right before bed, or possibly if you went out and had a lot to drink the night before.


Stress is the most common cause of acne, but why? When you are feeling stressed, your adrenal glands begin to produce an androgen called cortisol. Releasing this hormone is the body’s natural way of dealing with fight or flight situations. When your body is in a chronic state of stress, and your adrenals are constantly producing cortisol, that becomes your body’s primary focus. Certain functions like the digestive system, the endocrine system, and the immune system are put on the back burner, and the resulting symptoms include weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, and acne.


Hormonal acne and stress-induced acne are quite similar. If you are a woman, you might see these breakouts pop up around your neck, jawline, and chin right around your menstrual cycle, or possibly during pregnancy. This is because hormonal balances tend to drastically change around these times. High levels of testosterone (another type of androgen) can cause acne, also. This is because testosterone increases the production of sebum.

One of the most beneficial ways to treat acne is making a few key changes to your diet. Although there is no one food that “causes” acne, there are certain foods that may be contributing to your breakouts. Dairy, for example, often comes from pregnant cows that are fed growth hormones. Our bodies convert these hormones like testosterone, which can cause a breakout. The “Clear Skin Diet” suggests that by limiting foods high in sugar, you can minimize breakouts. Sugar spikes insulin production, which in turn increases androgen production. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help prevent acne. Try to eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and green leafy vegetables. If you aren’t a big fan of salads, try combining these ingredients into a smoothie with other sweet fruits like banana or pineapple. Another excellent food group is fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna and mackerel, and also nuts like almonds and walnuts. The most important thing, however, is to drink water. Hydration is key! Staying hydrated helps to flush the toxins out of your system.

If most of your acne is stress-induced, try to think about what’s causing stress in your life. If it’s caused by a stressful week of exams or a tough week at work, that’s okay. These things happen. But if your studies are leaving you in a chronic state of stress, perhaps it’s time to consider if this is a career path you truly enjoy or not. Is your stress caused by a toxic relationship? If so, there is nothing wrong with removing yourself from toxic people.

In addition to making some of these key internal changes, it’s extremely important to find a skincare routine and stick to it. Don’t get discouraged when your acne doesn’t disappear overnight. It may take a few weeks to see results, but these results will last long term. Here are some of the products I’ve used that significantly improved my skin.


The regimen is a 3 step process that treats acne while also limiting irritation. You can start off by taking a quiz on their website to find out which treatment is best for your skin type and the severity of your acne. Their 3-step treatment comes with step-by-step instructions for how to apply their products most effectively. On their website it states that you can expect completely clear skin in 3-4 months, or faster for some people (It took me about 4 months to completely clear my face). In addition to the products sold on their website, is also full of information about different types of acne treatments, their ingredients, and also ingredients to avoid.


The first step to the regimen is the lathering foam cleanser. I used to use a lot of harsh exfoliating cleansers (apricot scrubs, sea salt scrubs, you name it) that were actually harming my skin by causing micro tears from the intense scrubbing. This product helped limit irritation, and it did a great job at removing makeup.

2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Treatment

temporary-1I was skeptical about using a Benzoyl Peroxide treatment because I was afraid it would dry my skin out. I suffered from dry skin for a while, and although this product did cause a bit of flakiness for the first couple weeks, my skin quickly developed a tolerance to the product. You start out with a very small amount, and slowly work your way up to using 2 full pumps. Benzoyl peroxide (BP) kills the P. acnes bacteria that’s known to cause acne. It also unblocks the drainage of sebum, so your pores stay clear. This product was a key essential to clearing my acne. Be very careful when using a product that contains BP- it can bleach fabric if you aren’t careful. Wash your hands after you apply it, and wait for it to fully absorb before you let anything touch your face (like a T-shirt or a pillowcase).

Moisturizer (with Licochalcone)

temporary-1Licochalcone, the active ingredient in the moisturizer, is derived from licorice root extract, and it’s both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It is soothing, and also helps control the production of oil. It is very important not to skip this step, especially when using the BP solution, because you want your skin to stay moisturized. If your skin is too try, your body will start to overproduce oil in an attempt to hydrate your skin. Keeping your skin moisturized will prevent this from happening.

AHA+ (10% Glycolic Acid)

I began using the AHA+ moisturizer about two months into using the regimen. This moisturizer differs from the original moisturizer because it contains alpha-hydroxy acids, or AHA’s. These unique chemicals (derived from foods such as citrus fruits, apples or grapes) are excellent chemical exfoliates. Glycolic acid, one type of AHA, temporary-1is excellent at fading acne scars and hyper-pigmentation. Since it is a chemical exfoliate, this helps with flakiness that you may experience with the BP treatment. I use this product at night, 2-3 times per week in place of my regular moisturizer. After a few weeks, I noticed that the Glycolic Acid was working a little too well, to the point where I could literally rub dead skin off my face. I ended up replacing my cleanser with a gentle exfoliating cleanser with Salicylic Acid, so I could slough off those dead skin cells in the morning. That combination has worked extremely well, and my skin looks much brighter. Salicylic acid is another excellent acne-fighting ingredient, but it’s not as strong as BP.

I know some of these ingredient names may seem scary, but don’t let the word “acid” scare you away. A lemon is more acidic than glycolic acid, for example, and you wouldn’t be afraid to touch a lemon to your skin. However, if you do have extremely sensitive skin, there are plenty of all-natural alternatives out there.


No more pimples!

I hope that you find this information useful, and hopefully you learned a bit more about what’s causing your acne. Everybody’s skin is different, and it may take a while to find the perfect product combination or to see fully clear skin, but don’t give up! Finding a helpful skincare regimen, developing a healthy digestive system, and adopting a low-stress, wholesome lifestyle has had a serious impact on the quality of my skin. All these changes I’ve made have helped me become a happier, more confident person. I don’t feel like I have to hide behind makeup anymore. Although my skin isn’t perfectly clear, it certainly has come a long way. Hopefully by making some of these key changes, you’ll see a major difference in your skin, too.

For more information, check out the links below:
Acne – American Academy of Dermatology
Acne and Testosterone – LIVESTRONG
An Introduction to Face Mapping – AnnMarie Skincare
Causes of Hormonal Acne – Annmarie Skincare
Foods That Fight Inflammation – Harvard Medical School
How I Cured My Acne – Cassandra Bankson (Video)
How I Cured My Acne – Organic Olivia (Video)
Stress and Acne –


No BS about IBS


It is quite normal to experience some belly bloat every once in a while. But if you are experiencing chronic symptoms that don’t seem to go away, you may have a deeper issue going on in your gut. Bloat and stomach distention are issues that I’ve dealt with since childhood. As a kid, I had to take fiber supplements, drink prune juice (yuck), and drink coffee to try to “regulate” my GI tract. My symptoms only worsened as I got older, and I wrote it off as either a gluten intolerance, a dairy intolerance, or some sort of sensitivity to processed food. Still, even after I cut these foods out, my symptoms persisted. It got to the point where I found myself doubled over in pain after eating an apple. An apple! By then, I was fed up with trying to deal with my symptoms. I was miserable. So, I saw a gastroenterologist, and he determined that I had IBS.

If you’ve never heard of IBS, or you have but you don’t quite know what it is, allow me to explain. IBS, which stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a fairly common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. It takes place in the large intestine (colon), and affects around 20% of Americans. The cause of IBS is unknown, although doctors believe a few factors can contribute, such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), food intolerances, and other GI abnormalities. You may have IBS if you suffer from some of these symptoms:

  • Bloating or abdominal pain
  • Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Acne, especially forehead acne

The first few symptoms are fairly straightforward. If you are experiencing pain and discomfort in the GI tract, you may have a GI disorder! Also, if you have acne (especially on the forehead) accompanied with these symptoms, this can be another sign. There is a definite link between acne and digestive issues, but I’ll save that conversation for a separate post.

There is no universal treatment for patients who suffer from IBS. Many patients see improvement with what’s called the FODMAP Diet. “FODMAP” is an acronym, which stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols”. Basically, FODMAPs are sugars that are not easily digested in the gastrointestinal tract, and are instead fermented by bacteria in the colon.

Example list of high FODMAP foods

The FODMAP diet includes two phases: Phase 1 is the “elimination” phase, where all  high FODMAP foods are eliminated from your diet for a period of 4-6 weeks. Phase 2 allows you to slowly reincorporate the foods back into your diet, to gain a better understanding of which foods cause the most damage to your GI tract. Note: This is not meant to be a long term diet! Most high FODMAP foods are healthy foods, and if you eliminate these foods for an extended period of time, it can be difficult to find other healthy substitutes. The purpose of this diet is for you to have a better idea of which foods are causing you discomfort.

Although I did not try the FODMAP diet, I found significant improvement with a daily fiber supplement. My gastroenterologist recommended Citrucel® , an over-the-counter Methylcellulose fiber supplement that helps to maintain regularity. Methylcellulose is a synthetic chemical compound derived from cellulose. It is hydrophilic, which means that it absorbs water. Since cellulose is non-digestible, this fiber does not become fermented by bacteria in the gut and doesn’t cause excess gas and bloating like fermentable fibers do. I have been using Citrucel® for about 8 months now, and it seriously has made my life better. I am now able to eat all the food I love without experiencing any of those uncomfortable symptoms.

So if you are like me and you’re fed up with having to deal with the pain and discomfort associated with eating the food you like, take action! See your doctor, a nutritional expert, or another qualified professional who can put together a plan to help you mitigate your symptoms. It may take a couple weeks to notice a difference in how you feel, but the difference is significant. And once you realize how much better you feel, you’ll never want to look back.

Note: I am not a licensed dietician, a doctor, or a personal trainer. I am simply a college student who is interested in health and fitness and would like to share my research and personal experiences with you all. Talk to your doctor before embarking on any new diet or fitness regimen.