Let me take you back to the night of the National Championship (can I get a roll tide?). I frolicked from bar to bar with my crew of crimson revelers, indiscriminately picking up Budlight after Lemondrop and slice of pizza after chicken wing. It was a magnificent caloric experiment in poor decision-making.
Knowing I’d be hopping (read: dragging myself) onto a flight to San Diego at 9 a.m. the next day, I stumbled home at a modest 4 a.m. with visions of 50-yard OT touchdown passes soaring through my consciousness. (My parents are probably SO proud right now—I promise this was a one-time, victory-fueled romp.)
After promptly oversleeping by an hour and a half and nearly missing my flight, I rushed to the airport without eating breakfast, without grabbing water, and with a nasty, persistent throbbing behind my eyes. The ghost of beer buckets past. I looked like I had aged 10 years and gained 10 lbs. Cute.
Is it any surprise that I felt absolutely horrible the entire day? I was so distracted by how I had utterly trashed my body (like I said, not typical for me) the night before that I couldn’t focus on anything else.
This is a common theme in my life when I behave in an unhealthy way.
Whether it’s eating terrible food, having one (or several) too many, or sleeping for 4 or 5 hours instead of 8, I always find myself agonizing in the aftermath. I realized, after one too many bad choices: Hey, I really hate the way this makes me feel. I should prioritize my health & wellness so I feel focused, energetic, and on top of the world every. single. day.
Here are some of the habits and products I’ve inducted into my daily routine that have given me crazy energy, confidence, and—at the risk of sounding cheesy—happiness. My hope is that it'll give you some encouragement or ideas, even if it's just marginally helpful.
I read a lot of health & wellness blogs, hang out with fitness instructors semi-regularly, and listen to a lot of Podcasts that deal with this stuff—so I've tried my fair share and feel like I know what's worth it and what's not. Below, I've distilled some of the best stuff from all my favorite sources.
HABIT: Exercising in the mornings before work.
I’m not here to tell you what to do. But, if you’d like some unsolicited advice (and if you’ve made it this far, I assume you do), work out in the mornings before you do anything else.
If you work ridiculous hours or have some unusual extenuating circumstance like being the mother to a gaggle of children, then maybe this isn’t practical for you. But for everyone else working your typical 8-5 job, I swear, this will change your life.
I worked out at night (6 p.m.) for months when I started working full-time, but I realized I wasn't getting home until, like 7:30 p.m., and then had to shower and make dinner. It was kind of depressing. I felt like I didn't have a life.
Plus, my coworkers actually NOTICED when I started working out in the mornings and commented on how much more energetic I seemed. (Today at lunch, Matt commented I had been a ‘hoppy energy squirrel’ that day, and I’m still deciphering what the hell that was supposed to mean.)
Matt, who wasn't working out at all, started running in the mornings at 5:30 a.m. and told me he couldn’t believe how much more energy he had throughout the day. Matt has a 2-year-old and is in his forties. If Matt can, you can.
Look, I get it. I was super nervous to try it for the first time because I didn’t think I could exercise that early in the morning, but I surprised myself at how quickly the body warms up once you start pushing it. There's legitimately nothing better than walking into Starbucks at 7 a.m. as the sun is rising, knowing your workout for the day is done.
A few hacks for this:
Lay out your workout clothes the night before.
Don’t feel like you need to wash your face or brush your teeth first (sorry, just don’t), and worry about that after to save time and get a few extra minutes of sleep in.
Don’t eat first. I know this is controversial, but Kelly LeVeque, the nutritionist who coaches the likes of Jessica Alba and Chelsea Handler, explains in Episode #98 of the Skinny Confidential podcast that you reap the benefits of intermittent fasting when you work out first thing in the morning without eating beforehand. But, she explains, you should drink water first. If you have time, I would encourage you to listen to this entire podcast. It’s incredible how saturated it is with applicable tips and tricks for health and wellness. She dispels juice cleanse myths and other ‘fad’ diets.
In my current routine, I drink one bottle of water before and during the workout and then finish another one in the hour after—essentially, I drink 32 oz. before even arriving at work in the morning. (If you’d like to hear me wail on and on about the benefits of hydration, check out my 2018 Mood post here.)
And bonus: You can still go to happy hours and friendly dinners after work without feeling like you’re skipping a workout. As one of my old yoga instructors used to say about skipping yoga for happy hour: “Congratulations. You played yourself.”
HABIT: Drinking a green smoothie after my workout.
This is the first thing I put in my body in the morning, post-workout. My current recipe is linked here, and it has collagen powder in it. But other folks who know far more about this than I do (like Kelly LeVeque and my wellness coach pal Maggie Gehlsen) will tell you that you’re better off pairing foods that metabolize effectively, namely:
Fiber, protein, fat, and greens.
For example, this could be:
I pulled this recipe from Kelly’s website. She has a TON you can try.
Mine has too much fruit in it (i.e., sugar) but it’s primarily kale and has ginger and collagen in it so I am #unconcerned.
PRODUCT: The Living Proof Full Dry Volume Blast.
So it turns out working out at 6 a.m. is great until it’s 7:30 a.m. and it’s time to wash your hair. Enter Full Dry Volume Blast.
I have been especially skeptical of sprays that purport to make your hair more voluminous, but this one definitely does it.
That’s not, however, why I love it. Dry shampoos have historically annoyed me because they always seem to paradoxically exacerbate the grease I can see and feel in my hair. This product doesn’t claim to work as a dry shampoo, but DAMN, it sure does.
My hair looks freshly washed for days.
This morning, it was day three, and I hadn’t used any product but I didn’t have time to wash my sweaty mop of hair before my first meeting and I was #stressed. I whipped out this product, sprayed it in the roots, and then wrapped it in a loose bun on the top of my head.
One of my (40-year-old male) coworkers commented that my hair looked like it ‘had a lot of volume’ today. I.e., it didn’t look like a limp, greasy mess.
For the best results, I’ve found turning your head upside down and spraying into the roots from about six inches away—then holding your head upside down for a few seconds—works best. Then you just tousle it out, and you have Texas hair, y’all!
HABIT: Drinking a lot of water throughout the day—five water bottles, at least.
To quote a Tweet that’s now been sent to me four times:
“Day 7 of drinking 96 oz. of water a day. A lot has changed. I pee 14 times a day. My skin feels great. I feel energized. I can now shapeshift into a lizard whenever I want. I can lift 3 Honda Civics with my pinky finger (left hand specifically) & harvest a field of crops in 0.7 seconds.”
Yep. It’s all true. All of it.
No, but really.
PRODUCT: Estee Lauder Double Wear Light (I’m shade 2.0)
As noted above, I am a greasy person. I love dewy foundations, but damn, I struggle to find one that hasn’t slid around by 5 p.m.
This foundation does the absolute best job of not sliding around or oxidizing on the skin. I usually have to blot my nose late in the afternoon, but other than that, it’s one of those foundations that looks the same the entire day.
I apply mine with a wet sponge, because it does set fairly quickly. If you’re dry, stay away from this—it’ll cling to those spots and not blend. But if you’re combination or oily, you seriously need this. It's $42, which is steep, but it lasts awhile and in my opinion the skin is the most important part.
HABIT/PRODUCTS: Replacing candy & donuts with healthy snacks during work.
I don’t know if all workplaces are like Southwest, but there is candy and junk food around CONSTANTLY. For someone whose sweet tooth sits in the driver’s seat of her psyche, it’s incredibly challenging for me to pass up on them when I’m feeling that afternoon hunger twinge.
Only recently did I have the bright idea to—you guessed it—buy my own snacks! (I know, shocking revelations happening in my cubicle.)
I went to Kroger and found snacks that were high in healthy fats to really satisfy that ‘sweet tooth’ craving that bombards my amygdala every 27 seconds.
These are my favorites:
Larabars. Whole 30-approved (not that I’m doing Whole 30) and made with very minimal ingredients—typically just dates and nuts. My favorites right now are Cashew Cookie, Banana Bread, Apple Pie, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.
Justin’s Almond Butter. Wowee, this ish is ‘spensive, but damn—it’s delicious and only made from almonds and palm oil. Plus, it comes in these little squeeze packs, which are convenient and cute as shit.
Plantain Chips. When I occasionally crave the salty popcorns and tortilla chips that litter our communal tables, these come in clutch. They satisfy that salty craving without being terrible for you.
I must disclaim: I still eat sweets at work. It’s not like I’m turning down the donuts and M&Ms and other garbage food that’s constantly thrust in my direction. But I eat FAR less of it. Whenever I feel hungry, these foods placate that sugary craving.
I buy all this stuff at Kroger. The Larabars are about $1 a piece, the Justin’s is $1.59, and the plantain chips are in the bulk section and super cheap.
HABIT: Making my own food.
This one is double points because it makes you lose weight AND save money. Win/win.
Now, I’m sure 98% of you who are sweet enough to read this far are like, “Katie, I already cook my own food—that’s so college to not make your own meals.” People, I was living in 2015. I ate Lean Cuisine’s and Ramen. My body was a processed food dumpster, and if I wasn’t eating frozen food, I was going to Chipotle.
For those of you who DO NOT CURRENTLY ENJOY COOKING or are weary of trying, just do it. Seriously.
Every week, I buy some lean beef, some chicken breast, and then produce (broccoli, carrots, corn, black beans) and I swear I never pay more than $30 and can eat for a week and a half. Granted, I’m small, so if you’re a 6’ dude pushing 250 reading this, that won’t be enough.
But the moral of the story is, it’s unreasonably cheap. And surprisingly easy. When I do go out now, I get super pissed at how expensive restaurant food is because I know how cheap it is to make it yourself. That said, eating out is now a treat I save for the weekends and it’s less guilt-trippy.
HABIT: Reading before bed instead of watching TV.
I recently read a list of the top 10 books for writers and purchased four of them on Amazon within five minutes (and I threw in “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” for good measure because I *love* self-help books).
Anyway, once I had a slew of new reads, I started settling in for the last hour or so before bed with a book instead of watching Gossip Girl for the 14th time through. I’ve noticed I sleep better, and I feel much calmer when I go to sleep at night. As anyone who’s ever taken an English Literature class knows, reading makes you sleepy.
And that's a wrap. I'm sure there are other things that'll come to me later and I'll definitely post as they do, but for the seven of you who are still reading this, give these little tips a try and let me know if you feel differently after a couple weeks.
Right now the wheels totally fly off on the weekends for me, so hopefully I can discover some 'weekend wellness' tips to help keep me on track.
It's a good thing Alabama only wins the National Championship once a year. ;)
Thanks for reading!
All things beauty.