The Last Straw For Plastic Straws?

Depending on what social circles you run in, you may or may not have seen the recently viral hate on plastic straws. The hate isn’t new, but going by the ban of plastic straws, and other plastic utensils in Seattle this July, it certainly has gotten much more attention. This ban’s planning actually started in September of last year. Perhaps others have seen this as a long brewing storm even before Seattle since they’re the latest city to make the ban, but on social media it is sparking debates.

People are arguing over what is more impactful way to deal with the Earth’s depleting resources: banning plastic items as they are often single use, going vegan and reducing methane emissions from animals, or finding ways around daily fossil fuel use. Other arguments are that while this movement has the right idea that corporations need to step up and do their part, not just individuals.

A counter-voice to the plastic straw ban has come from people with disabilities who need to use plastic straws to live an easier life because using straws made out of alternative materials are not as effective. Metal straws heat up too much when used for hot liquids and are potentially dangerous for people with physical ticks/spasms/seizures.  Paper straws are a major suggestion, but can deteriorate too quickly and for people with pica, may not last long enough to be of any real use. Some people from the UK have suggested that if those with disabilities need a plastic straw that they should get a prescription for it.

Others call certain tactics unnecessary guilt trips such as a server asking a customer if they will be needing straws or if they’d rather save the turtles.

The internet has various clashing opinions surrounding the plastic straw debate. Some observers may see this as one more argument that the internet has dreamed up, but more than one group is taking it seriously. Starbucks has decided its last straw will be done with in 2020. With all the locations that Starbucks owns, it could have a serious impact, but as with every major decision a business makes not everyone will be happy. Maybe this topic will fade away into obscurity in the upcoming weeks or maybe it will be a jumping point for more environmental discussions and future practices.

Why Starting the Day with Gratitude Is Good for You

Sarah rushed to put her makeup on, grab her homemade lunch, and balance the apple in her hand. As she walked down the stairs, she worried about tripping and falling down the rest of the stairs. The last thing she needed was a broken ankle. Between work, debt, school, and her busy social life, Sarah was feeling very overwhelmed.

Can you relate to any aspect of this story? Young adults like Sarah are struggling with balancing their hectic lives and meeting the demands of the 21st-century workforce. What if there was a way to reduce the stress that didn’t cost as much as a luxury vacation or therapy bill? What if I told you it was free?

The key starts with looking within and finding an internal anchor. If you need an instant change to your attitude, why not try some gratitude? Try closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing – try to envision what brings you joy. It could be your partner, a new rescue animal, or even your favorite dog-eared book. Afterward, think about three things that make you grateful to be alive. Try not to think of them like a grocery list. Instead, pretend each thing is as delicious as a dark chocolate truffle — savor them.

For example, in Sarah’s gratitude meditation, she might be thinking: I am grateful for the ability to breathe and walk freely. I am grateful for the sunrise and sunset at the beginning and end of my day. I am grateful for the upcoming sale at my favorite store, which will allow me to get that cute little number I’ve had my eye on for weeks.

Okay, maybe try to keep it about immaterial things, but if saving money and discounts rock your socks off, who says you shouldn’t be grateful for them? Maybe you are strapped for cash and little things like semi-annual sales make your day. The main point is to try to change the three things you are grateful for every week. If you are saying them over and over, like “Work, Dog, Health,” they might lose meaning. Instead, try to elaborate on new details about each thing, such as, “I am grateful my boss shows me appreciation (Work). I am grateful my dog is making new friends at the dog park (Dog). I am grateful I don’t need to step on the scale every day to know I am healthy and beautiful (Health).”

Being grateful isn’t only good for your attitude. Forbes reported that people who practiced gratitude on a regular basis were more likely to report better health and had fewer aches and pains. People who practice gratitude regularly also experience improved sleep and have higher self-esteem. Being grateful every day can also decrease depression and improve happiness. Another study discovered the simple act of writing a letter of gratitude to someone special who had a long-lasting positive impact on the participants. I mention these different studies to show you that daily gratitude could improve your life and can be realized in many different ways. It only takes a few minutes, and it doesn’t cost anything. Try it for yourself and see what happens.

The Smallest Amount of Fitness Needed to Stay Healthy

What is the minimum amount a person needs to eat and do to stay healthy?  

Stay Healthy with Exercise

What is “healthy” is different for everybody, but the general guidelines seem to be 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per day, or half that in vigorous exercise. To discover what counts as “vigorous exercise” it may be better to focus on how much effort is being put into the physical activity. Heart rate is often a good metric for judging effort over speed and strength milestones. Having at least 2 days of muscle training per week is also necessary to stay healthy. No matter what the body type, regular exercise, and proper care improve a person’s physical and mental health.

Regular fitness doesn’t just benefit the body. It is also one of the best activities to improve brain health.  Some lifestyles undermine the benefits of fitness. Sitting, in particular, can cause a lot of problems, so people with a desk job should routinely get up and move at work in order to avoid many of the physical problems that come from sitting. Doing a work out in the gym may increase mental performance in the office.

Stay Healthy with Diet

While exercise is extremely helpful, diet may be more important for those who want to stay at a healthy weight. Eating many fruits and veggies, two oily fish every week, as well as a starch at every meal, may be a good way to start a healthy lifestyle. If a person’s diet problem is caused by their budget there may be great price saving tips available to help start a healthy eating plan.

There are different health plans for different goals and different body types. To create the most effective fitness program it is wise to contact a personal trainer or health professional. No matter what life a person has, choosing to stay healthy may lead to a better one.

Eight Ways to Save Money on Groceries

The cost of living continues to rise around much of the country and, at the same time, wages for many remain stagnant. More than ever, consumers are looking for ways to save. While the easiest way to save is to cut out all unnecessary expenses, there are also ways to minimize expenses associated with the necessary ones like groceries. According to the USDA, grocery store food prices rose 0.6 percent from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018. While food prices could drop over the next few years, it’s more likely that the trend of rising costs will continue.

1. Stay Away from the Middle Aisles

Fresher and healthier food lines the perimeter of the store. The middle aisles are packed with tempting, yet unhealthy processed foods like cookies and chips. Not only do these foods put a strain on your waistline by being high in calories and low in nutrition, these foods also cost a lot more than the food on the outer aisles. You’ll be doing your body and wallet a favor by making a conscious choice to shop for groceries in the perimeter aisles of the supermarket.

2. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry

We’ve all done it – going to the store when we’re hungry with the intention of buying only what’s on the list but ending up buying other food that we’re craving because we are hungry. Research has shown that shoppers are more likely to make impulsive buys and choose higher calorie foods when shopping on an empty stomach. Eating a snack before shopping can help prevent giving into the temptation.

3. Opt for Smaller Carts, but Avoid Baskets

Shopping cart size has continued to grow since it was first developed in 1937. One experiment found that consumers bought 40 percent more when shopping carts sizes were doubled. Choose a smaller cart whenever possible, but not a basket! Studies have found that shopping baskets lead to impulsive buying of more unhealthy groceries.

4. Plant Your Own Herb Garden

Fresh herbs in the produce section can cost quite a bit and can spoil easily. If you have a green thumb, many grocery stores sell living herbs that you can plant yourself — often for the same cost – saving you money by avoiding future trips to the store to buy herbs.

5. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk may not be an option for everything, but it’s an excellent way to save money on groceries with long shelf-life staple foods like rice and beans. Buying meat in bulk will also save you quite a bit. But if you are buying meat in bulk, make sure you have the proper storage freezer space available.

6. Choose Local, In-Season Produce

Choosing in-season produce is big on savings and the produce often tastes better. Local in-season food is generally harvested at its peak and sold for less. Out of season food is often grown around the world, is shipped long distances, is picked/harvested before peak to ensure it doesn’t spoil and is often more costly.

7. Utilize Coupons

Coupons are by far one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries. Before modern technology, people would have to pore over promotional advertisement circulars in an effort to find coupons for products regularly bought. Today, technology has made it easy to find useful coupons through websites devoted to coupons and even some stores have coupon applications. Be sure to only use coupons on items you already buy and need!

8. Avoid Convenience

Premade and pre-cut foods may be convenient, but premade and pre-cut foods end up costing significantly more. Instead of buying a premade sandwich, buy the supplies to make one — you’ll have sandwiches for days! Shredded cheese, deli meat, and pre-cut fruit and veggies are all marked up significantly; instead, opt for the whole ingredients and get more for your money.


Hula Hooping Is the Least Crazy Way to Find Your Passion for Working Out

Naked yoga! High Intensity Interval Painting! Multi-Apparatus Aerial!

These are just a few of the unconventional classes available if you are willing to look hard enough. Maybe doing that lower body circuit at the gym is smart for the glutes, but, after a while, seems kind of dumb-ass. Perhaps swimming laps is really just not in your lane anymore. Maybe you need to do something different. Something that gets you excited.  

It’s Just Like Falling in Love

For some people, it’s a lot like falling in love: Suddenly, you just know.

How about a Stiletto Workout class? It’s just what it sounds like, an aerobics class on super high stiletto heels. Maybe altitude is what gives that dizzy I’m in love feeling. Or perhaps it was that punk rock aerobics class you wandered into one day and it sort of made you stare longingly into the mosh pit, unable to stop yourself from jumping right in and thrashing.

For others, it’s more of a slow buildup. Maybe that first class was nice enough for a second class, which was good enough for a third class. Next thing you know you have spent a year doing Namasdrake Yoga, which is just what it says it is, Drake-themed yoga.

But maybe you can’t wait around for Drake, maybe he’s too into his yoga to be into you. Maybe you need to find your own fitness activity that you can be passionate about.

Mix It Up

Feel free to mix it up. Your fitness tastes might change as you enter new life stages. One idea: If you’re a new parent, try Trampoline Jumping because it burns three times the calories as running and allows you to practice resilience. To be a mom or a dad, you really need to be able to bounce back.

Or maybe you’ve moved from the coast to the flatlands and, suddenly, they don’t offer Aqua Zumba anymore. So you decide to try Farm Fitness. This includes an actual tractor pull component. It’s then you realize, man, I really miss the coast.

Or maybe you retire and go from hula hooping in your off hours to dedicating every retired minute to ultra-marathon running because now you really have the time to train, and you’ve always been a little extreme, one way or the other.

Just Have Fun

No matter what you decide to do, have fun. The more fun you are having, the chances are that you will work out harder and longer. Loving your workout will get you up and moving again and again.

And that’s especially true of High Intensity Interval Painting, which is kind of like Pilates meets paint palette and has, as its motto, “Sweat it out, brush it off.”

Which sounds a little like something Drake would say, if he weren’t so into his yoga these days.

Unfortunately, Wine Isn’t For Everyone (Sorry)

Scroll through Pinterest and you’ll see there is an endless supply of wine-related memes. Not only do people love wine, they love to talk about how much they love wine. So, it sucks when you find out that you are allergic to it — or so you thought.

All us amazing wine connoisseurs know that sulfites are added as a preservative in order to maintain the longevity of the alcohol and maintain its freshness. What some people also think is that you can be allergic to red wine but not white wine, based on the sulfites. However, this is not entirely true. Yes, you can be allergic to sulfites, but then you would be allergic to a lot more than just red or white wine. For example, dried fruits, bottled lemon and lime juice, grape juice, sauerkraut, and most things that involve preservation contain sulfites. If you eat these and are fine, it is more than likely you won’t be allergic to wine. Still get those awful headaches though? Well, it is quite possible that you are actually allergic to Tannins or Histamines (woah).

Tannins are a compound found in the skins of things, like fruit skins and bark. Tannins are most common in red wines because it creates that bitterness and astringency you often find in a nice, dry red. So, you think this isn’t the cause either? Now let’s look at Histamines. These are chemicals that your body releases when your immune system thinks there is a threat to alert the body that something is wrong. Research has found that consuming aged food and drinks can cause the body to release histamines. This causes a few different effects like inflammation, itchiness, and the red wine headaches we so love.

Though there are a varying amount of possible culprits, as a wine drinker you have to remember that the cure could be as easy as drinking more water. I love wine as much as the next person, but you can’t overdo it. Stay hydrated, stay healthy.

Traveling Like a Rockstar on a Broke Budget is Possible. But Plan Wisely.

Many Americans have a vacation scheduled in the next year, but the reasons behind where and why they are going vary drastically between different generations. For example, AARP reports that Millennials prefer to travel internationally and for romantic getaways. Meanwhile, Generation Xers are planning family vacations for their children, grandparents, and parents. Baby Boomers opt for “once-in-a-lifetime” destinations. How people from different generations book their travel and accommodations also differs. Regardless of their reasons for wanting a change of scenery, many would agree that rejuvenation and relaxation are key vacation goals.

Part of planning for a relaxing and inexpensive vacation involves researching. If the traveler is open to destinations and is more flexible with the traveling dates, they have more choices to look into and choose the best deal that fits their budget and interests. AirWander is a website that offers travelers a better way to plan their layovers by helping plan ways to get extra sleep in hotels and/or maximize tourist time in layover cities. Travelers who are service-oriented could look into Se7en, which is a service that connects volunteers with hosts around the world for free or low costs. Service projects range from teaching English to helping with environmental initiatives. Other options include last-minute budget flights – like flying to Iceland for $99 — if you’re willing to make certain accommodations like flying from a list of select airports and sit in cramped seats.

There are many websites that discuss traveling on a budget. Some offer advice on traveling frugally, while others provide insight into which countries require visas, where to find free amenities, and how to have a true cultural experience. Planning a budget before the big trip is also very important. By researching all the options, travelers will have a chance to prioritize interests and eliminate unnecessary expenditures. Planning can also help prevent the headaches that come with constantly worrying about affording travel expenses, buying dinner, or renting a car. People who go on vacation and planned well tend to get a break from their regular routine. They come back to their regular lives rejuvenated and happier.

A popular blog noted, “Environmental psychologists have observed that the good vibes you bring back from vacation rub off on the people around you — and what’s more, when a lot of people go on vacation at the same time, those vibes become ‘a viral happiness pandemic.’ Just imagine an elementary school on the day before summer vacation begins.”

Treasure Hunting and Saving Money? Count. Me. In.

College students are notoriously broke. Stories of top ramen dinners and stealing toilet paper from public restrooms are typically brought up anytime a group of financially strapped college students — or recent graduates — get together. With student debt in America nearly tripling in the last ten years, the need to live frugally is not likely to dissipate from a borrower’s lifestyle any time soon. There is, luckily, an underutilized and up-and-coming market that those “penny pinchers” should consider. Generally, thrift stores and resale shopping can be a great way to save money and may even provide a treasure hunt like experience. You’re not going to find authentic bell bottoms from the 1970s in Target. Think authentic 1970s bell bottoms aren’t a treasure? You’re objectively wrong.

The two main advantages to thrift shops are that: (1) everybody loves a good deal; and (2) the thrift stores are going to have unique clothing items that help someone create a personal identity instead of matching the cookie cutter feeling of the current clothes in a department store. Thrift stores can help a person build a unique wardrobe. Thrift stores are also a great place to go costume shopping because most thrift stores have enough variety to let you dress up as any member of The Village People.

You can find some really cool stuff and for cheap, especially when compared to the retail price it was or could be. A personal favorite find was a circa 1988 T-shirt featuring a large picture of Spuds Mackenzie. Retro T-shirts are going to be at second-hand stores. Research shows that more Americans shop at thrift stores than in outlet malls.

According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year. For perspective, during the same time frame, 11.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores, and 21.3 percent in major department stores. Resale is a billion dollar industry, and thrift stores are popular again.

Moreover, thrift stores are a great way to create personal style on a budget. An Atlantic Marketing Journal report showed that the more education a person has, the more likely they are to shop at a thrift store. So for the millions of Americans who deal with student loan debt, budgeted personal fashion is an important aspect of being frugal. The low costs are both practical and exciting just like the feeling of accomplishment when you find a great deal on a rare item. That’s the epitome of the treasure hunting feeling. A friend once bought a violin for $25 and sold it for $1,000. If that’s not like a chest full of gold then I don’t know what is.

There’s some luck involved in finding a gem like a violin. By strategically choosing your thrift store you can give yourself a better shot at finding that treasure. Thrift shops in well-to-do areas will tend to have higher prices and nicer items and are less likely to have a unique vintage item that can’t be found elsewhere. Thrift shops in less economically affluent areas will be cheaper, have fewer high-end items, but will provide a higher likelihood of a unique treasure-like purchase. There are merits to both approaches.

Overall, thrift stores provide a cheaper alternative to retail shops and an opportunity for one-of-a-kind purchases. The numbers show that Americans are taking advantage. I seriously hope the 1970s bell bottoms you find have rhinestones on them.

The Health Benefits of Watermelon – Because Eat Your Fruits!

When starting research for this post I had little to no idea what is even in watermelon, all I knew is that it is really, really good. Most people don’t think there is any substance to the fruit, because isn’t it like 92 percent water or something? Well, we are all very wrong.

So What Is Even in This Fruit?

Surprisingly there is so much more than water in this sweet treat! According to Healthline, there are at least nine health benefits to eating watermelon. I won’t list all nine here, but I will list a few that I feel are super important for us average people to know:

  1. Watermelon contains a great boost of Vitamin C and A, which is good for literally your whole body (hair, skin, inflammation reduction, heart health, antioxidants, etc.)
  2. The fruit also contains Cucurbitacin E which has been found to help with weight loss and visceral obesity.  
  3. Lycopene is found in watermelon and can reduce cancer risk, especially cancers of the digestive system because it lowers insulin-like growth factor (IGF)
  4. Muscle soreness can be alleviated with the help of Citrulline specifically found in watermelon. The juice can be used as a recovery drink after exercise!
  5. Water and fiber, which is all I thought watermelon was, can really help improve digestion. If your stomach doesn’t feel quite like it should, grab some watermelon and keep your tract healthy.

Wow I had no Idea…

Me neither! Next time I see anything watermelon infused I for sure will be picking it up. Want to try out something new? Grab watermelon slices and mozzarella cheese for a fun summer caprese! Watermelon is a great low-calorie snack packed with great vitamins, so definitely add it to your go-to lineup this summer.