Health, Pregnancy, Pretty Well

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga has been such a blessing during my pregnancy. We are fortunate enough to have an instructor in Athens who works with moms to be and holds a class once a week for expectant mothers. I was very early in my pregnancy when I walked into the door for the first time, but I was determined to give my body the best care possible from the beginning. As the baby grows and my body changes, I am more thankful than ever for yoga and the difference it makes for my overall health and wellness. I don’t get to attend the class every week, but I have found many great online resources for prenatal yoga. I would just make sure you attend a class to understand proper technique before taking on a practice of your own from home!

Here are five ways I have personally benefitted from yoga while pregnant: 

  1. I get to connect with other expectant mothers at various stages in pregnancy. 
  2. I feel strong and empowered even as my body shifts and changes. 
  3. I get to have time to myself without any distractions (like the phone! Can I get an amen?). 
  4. It’s equipping me with techniques to use during labor. 
  5. And, most importantly, it helps me feel great both physically and emotionally. 

If you are a mom to be, I highly recommend checking your local area for prenatal yoga classes or even exploring online resources. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made during this pregnancy, and I think everyone (as long as your doctor gives you approval) can benefit from an hour focusing on you and baby!

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My favorite little yoga partner…Chewy Man!
Health, Pretty Well

Trending Healthy

I walked out of the Indie Beauty Fair feeling more overwhelmed than encouraged. The process of fighting the crowd, going from booth to booth, and hearing about countless products left me exhausted. I wasn’t sure how I could possibly know which product claims were true and, ultimately, which products would work best for me. I’m analytical to a fault at times, and my trip around the Indie Beauty Fair brought out my need for things to be black or white. I flew back to Georgia the following day with many questions still on my mind.

Green, organic, clean, natural, non-toxic. They are buzz words of our generation. We are valiantly attempting to reverse the effects of mass production and consumption while working to provide our children with more simple and cleaner lives. Mindsets and companies are beginning to make changes. It’s encouraging to see changes taking place and the many voices advocating for clean living. Yet, navigating this landscape proves challenging.

I sat reading a few research articles and blog comments on cleaner living the other night. I was shocked to find an absurd amount of hateful talk and fingers pointing here and there about who is right and who is wrong. I closed my computer, looked over at my husband and said, “This is more complicated than I realized. There is confusion surrounding certain ingredients and companies with no definitive answers in sight.” I sat thinking about different arguments swirling around individual ingredients in products labeled as natural or clean, and on a deeper level, I couldn’t help but think about my own life and perceived contradictions.

Like the fact that I occasionally eat the really unhealthy cereals (okay, maybe more than occasionally) or that I take medication for my autoimmune disorder. There is also the fact that my family is involved in conventional farming. Does that disqualify me from having a voice in this area? Does that make my experience less valuable? I felt concerned about products on my blog, figuring it’s a matter of time before the Green Police start disagreeing with my decisions.

My mom is full of wisdom and she makes an effort to live a more healthy lifestyle, so I decided to bring up my thoughts to her. “It feels like there are no clear answers when it comes to living a cleaner and more healthy life. How do I help make a difference when the answers are not clear?” I asked her. She reminded me of the many women struggling with self-confidence and skin issues, and she also reminded me of my own struggles leading to this journey.

Like the time in middle school when I was crying in her arms as we stood in front of the bathroom mirror. My acne was horrible. Kids were mean. There was also the time we traveled to see a prominent esthetician. The results were horrible and made everything about my skin worse.

I also remembered people constantly telling me that I, “need to wash my face,” as if I wasn’t doing that and it would heal all my skin problems.

Most recently, I remembered my first autoimmune disorder related sun rash and walking out of the doctor’s office with the autoimmune disorder diagnosis knowing my life was forever changed. I promised myself that I would make changes in order to give myself the best life possible.

All of these moments and many more are part of my story. It’s so important that we not let confusion or opinions hijack our sense of purpose and passions on any journey. It’s important to hold your story in the forefront so you’re not easily distracted by the many voices lining the road.

I believe, for the most part, we are all living life the best we can with the information available to us–whether that is related to food, children, or beauty products. One of my favorite ideas is the idea of “trending toward” something. That is how I like to think of my life and clean living journey these days. I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to ingredients and products, and I don’t know that anyone ever will. I know that some things are a big “No” while others are still in question. I know that opinions vary on different companies. Most importantly, I know what works for me and what to avoid to prevent autoimmune flares.

I am trending toward making better decisions for my family and personal health one day at a time. My goal here is to help you trend toward a better life. A life where you are confident in your beauty, decisions, and health. Yes, the choices can be overwhelming at times, but this is a journey rather than a final destination. You simply have to start somewhere.

These days I am giving myself some grace and extending that to others. It has helped ease the burden I feel to make the absolute best, right, cleanest, most perfect decision possible.

-Jess

Beauty Products, Health, Pretty Well

When Natural Beauty Fails

I was sifting through old pictures on my phone a few days ago. I found a few pictures from my early days of switching to natural beauty products, and they gave me a good laugh. They reminded me of the phase I went through in elementary school of using hairspray to spray down every single flyaway in my hair. I seriously looked like a greaser. In all fairness, there was no reasoning with me so my mom just let me go at it every morning. My youngest sister also went through this phase a few years back…hair slicked right down to her head. I guess it just runs in the family! It’s a wonder all of my hair didn’t fall out during that period.

As I experimented with natural products, there were definitely items that did not work for me. I thought I looked good but the fact that I did not continue to use those products and the photographic evidence prove otherwise. And, it wasn’t just makeup. I remember my skin feeling like a seashell from the natural body wash I was using. My hair also returned to early greaser days as I switched to natural hair products. Then, there were my attempts at making homemade laundry detergent, which my husband eventually (and so kindly) asked me to step away from. The entire process ended up being wildly disappointing. I looked older and worse than ever and our clothes felt dirty. Great.

Sometimes natural products do not work. 

Like everything in life, we often have to work to find a great fit. What may work for one person may be a total misfit for another. I had to learn to step away from reviews and start trusting my gut on certain products and, for a while, I did go back to my less than natural favorites. I went back to my trusted products that I had used for years because at least I looked okay while using them. I came back around, though, and was determined to discover new favorites that were also safer and without completely breaking the bank. I also had to accept a few things about myself. Like the fact that I am not a maker of products. There are plenty of laundry detergents out there that are safe and do not require me to spend time grating soap. You may be very skilled at that, but it just wasn’t for me.

Sometimes you find a wonderful natural product that you just can’t live without!

I decided to really use samples to my advantage, and that is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone making a transition with their beauty products. I quickly learned that there are a few brands that I love and that work for me. I try to stick with those companies rather than spending all of my time trying new brands and products. Along the way, I’ve discovered some really awful products. Some really disappointing brands. I’ve also discovered that what may be awful for me may be your absolute favorite and that is perfectly okay.

What works for me? 

  • Beautycounter: Seriously my favorite brand at this time. I use so many of their products. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, facial oil, foundation, lipstick, etc. I LOVE that I can get all of these products in one place. My husband even uses it and loves it. I also love that I get to work as a consultant and connect friends and family directly with items I believe in! Let me know if you’re interested in any samples by emailing prettywellblog@gmail.com. 
  • One Love Organics:  I haven’t used anything by One Love that I haven’t loved. Everything is made in small batches and you can really tell that they put a lot of thought into the quality. LOVE!
  • Indie Lee: I love their glass bottles and I love their products even more. Only one product from them has not worked for me. Everything else has been a dream!
  • Vapour Organic Beauty: I would call Vapour the Cadillac of natural beauty. It’s luxurious plus they offer samples so you can try it before diving right in!

Of course, there are very popular companies that have not worked for me & are not on my list. There are also a ton of companies I have not tried at this point. My best advice: find what works for you slowly but surely. And, for goodness’ sake, do not turn into a greaser! If it’s not working, move on!

-Jess

Beauty Products, Pretty Well

Sale Alert

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are looking forward to your weekend. There are a few sales I want to update you on for the weekend.

Pretty + Well

Fig & Flower: My absolute favorite store for purchasing safer beauty products. They carry all of my favorite brands and are a local Atlanta business. They are showing some love with their Earth Day Sale through Sunday. You should show them some love, too! 10% off $100, 15% off $150, 20% off $200.

Click here to shop Fig & Flower! 

Beautycounter: You know I am a huge fan of Beautycounter. Right now, you get a free deluxe trial size product when you purchase one of the following: Cleansing Balm, Charcoal Bar, No. 1 Brightening Facial Oil, No. 2 Plumping Facial Oil, No. 3 Balancing Facial Oil, Tint Skin Hydrating Foundation, Sheer Lipstick, Protect All-Over SPF 30. Any new customers of mine will also receive a special gift!

Click here to shop Beautycounter! 

Target Naturals: Target has really stepped up their game in the natural product department. Today through Saturday they have 10% off natural beauty and home products.

Click here to shop Target! 

Happy Shopping! I will add any additional deals as I find them 🙂

Pregnancy, Pretty Well

Pregnancy: The Best Surprise

The day I found out I was pregnant will forever be frozen in time. My first instinct was to walk laps around the inside of the house. I just started walking and kept walking as I processed what was ahead. This was not planned so it was such a surprise! My mind was filled with delight and hope and shadows of fear. Fear of the unexpected and a path I had never walked down before. Yet, I felt so blessed that I had been given such a wonderful gift. When you have an autoimmune disorder, you never really know how your body will respond to pregnancy. I often questioned if it would even be possible for me to have children. Here, on this day, I was met with that reality and resounding YES. Yes, it is possible and it’s happening right now! I called my doctor to make the first appointment and waited for what felt like years before the day came. But, then it came.

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Hearing that heartbeat for the first time brought me much peace. The fear whirling around started to settle after seeing our little one and talking with the doctor. My midwife along with my rheumatologist developed a plan for care, and things have been great so far for our baby and me. We are hopeful and excited for the next few months as I finish up the second trimester and finish out the third. The autoimmune issues have only tried to flare a few times, but it’s usually taken care of with a little extra rest. I’ve been proactive in taking care of my joints and preparing my body for this time. We also made the decision early on that we would celebrate this pregnancy and not fear anything to come or any “might-be.” It has made a huge difference for me. Instead of spending time worrying about hypotheticals or statistics, we have rejoiced and celebrated the little life we already love so much!

My Pregnancy Self-Care Routine 

  • Biweekly prenatal massages. Find someone who specializes in prenatal massages in your area.
  • Prenatal yoga (group classes weekly and at home). I cannot recommend this enough! It’s a great time to connect with other expectant mothers and learn correct form for practicing at home.
  • Walks outside. Vitamin D + low impact exercise for the win!
  • Vitamins. I went the longest time without taking my prenatal vitamins. I’ve recently started taking them and notice a difference.
  • Salt baths. Epsom salt eases aches and boosts your magnesium. Add some essential oils for added benefits.
  • Quiet time to reading and writing. I love flipping through magazines right now. I also have started a Bible study on the book of James. It’s a great way to relax if you have a busy mind like me,
  • Give yourself some grace to rest. Growing a baby is no easy task! I’ve had to learn to let some things go (hello wrinkly clothes) or allow my husband to help.
  • Be joyful; fear less!

Whether your already a mommy or hope to be one, I wish you well on your journey!

Beauty Products, Health

Sunscreen Favorites  

It’s awful to admit, but I used to never wear sunscreen. Getting tan was my only goal as I would lather up in anything that may accelerate that process…even baby oil. As I have grown older, I’ve become very aware of the importance of sunscreen and desire to spread that awareness to others. Having an autoimmune disorder also means that it’s important for me to protect myself from the sun as much as possible to prevent rashes and flares. These days, I wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing during the especially warm months. I’ve learned that all sunscreen is not created equal. Sunscreen should protect us, but there are some bad ones out there.

It’s not the case for everyone, but I wear sunscreen most everyday. I was surprised to learn about the nasty ingredients in many sunscreens so, like my beauty products, it has been important to choose wisely. I am rounding up my favorites for you below.

The Environmental Watch Group provides a guide to sunscreens every year. The 2017 one is not out yet, but you can find the 2016 one here. It’s one of the best resources when selecting sunscreen for your family.

TIP: Not ready to commit to a product? Many brands will offer a travel size. It’s a great way to sample products!

My Everyday Favorites 

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La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 15, 3.4 Fl. Oz.

This rubs in very well and doesn’t leave any white residue. It’s quick and easy to apply.

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Devita Solar Body Moisturizer SPF 30+, 7 Oz

A great everyday sunscreen and moisturizer combo. It works great, but you do have to work to rub it in to prevent any white streaks. 

My Heavy Duty Favorite 

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Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen For Body, SPF 30

Suntegrity is a go-to favorite. I love all of their products, and they are a guaranteed safe brand for sun protection. I love their sunscreen for days at the beach or when I know I will be out in the sun for an extended period.

My Face Favorites

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Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 with Sunboost ATB (Full (2oz/60ml))

I love the smell! It’s super moisturizing and goes on smooth. I wear it under my makeup and even as a moisturizer at night from time to time.

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Juice Beauty Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer, 1.7 fl. oz.

This moisturizer helps protect your face from the sun while always brightening your skin. I love it and have continued to purchase it. I like to alternate between this product and the Josie Maran Moisturizer during the week.

Faith, Health

The Autoimmune Journey

I’ve gone back and forth on sharing my health struggles since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder a few years ago. It was one of the darkest seasons I have walked through to date and it changed my life in so many ways. There are a lot of people suffering, often silently, with autoimmune conditions like Lupus and too many others to name. As I have opened up about my own struggle to individuals, I have learned about others walking down a similar path. Still, I find myself trying to sweep it all under the rug…continuing on with life as normal. Continuing on is fine (because you truly have to), but I think the sweeping creates an issue. It makes us feel isolated and alone in the diagnosis and the life changes that come with it. I hope to offer a story of hope as I share various aspects of life with an autoimmune disorder. So, I am making the decision to start sharing more.

I am technically diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. I have antibodies for Sjogrens but it symptomatically acts more like Lupus. The two are often closely related. I had not felt well for a large portion of my life, especially after getting ill multiple times in high school. I made it through college and a few years after college with a few symptoms. A lot started to change as I got older, and my husband (who I was dating at the time) encouraged me to go to the doctor. The story gets a little complex from that point, but I was finally able to get connected to great doctors and explore treatment options after about a year. I’m terribly stubborn and refused to take the medicine I needed for the longest time (thanks to my curiosity and the terrible stories online). I’ve battled the fear that accompanies this sort of thing. I’ve spent morning in tears because my joints ached so bad. I’ve gone from someone who loved a good tan to embracing paleness in the name of being well. I’ve felt guilty and lazy when clean eating plans have failed to make a difference. I’ve wondered if it would ever get better. And, guess what?

You adjust and life does get better. I have gotten better. I had to learn to let go of the past, of what used to be, of who I used to be. Things like this have the ability to change you. You either get better or you get bitter.

I’ve had to learn a new way of life, but that life is perhaps better than before. As I sat with my Rheumatologist for the first time, big tears in my eyes, she assured me that there would be a time of adjustment and transition. Honestly, I think knowing that was the most important part…giving myself and continuing to give myself the grace to navigate life differently. And, through it all, I’ve had to trust in the Lord’s plan for my life and his promises to protect me and watch over me. He has done just that.

-Jess