Greek Breakfast Bowl

Greek yogurt breakfast bowl, yes please!

It’s been about a year since I traveled to Crete, the largest Greek island and home to famous Greek lore, the minotaur, the ancient Minoan society, breathtaking mountain scapes, and crystal clear waters. One of the things I’ve missed most about Greece is the amazing food! A common breakfast dessert item is a Greek yogurt bowl topped with fruit and honey. Traditionally the yogurt is high in fat to give it a sweeter, richer flavor.

I now incorporate my own breakfast bowl into American life since it was just so yummy!

In a bowl, combine:
• 1/2 cup of full fat (~5%) Greek yogurt (I love Fage)
• Top with some chopped apples and whatever other fruits youd like.
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• drizzle of local honey

I like adding pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes because I love some texture plus you get the added benefits of omegas from the seeds.

greek yogurt

Greek breakfast bowl

A common misconception is that full fat yogurt is bad for you. The truth is that it’s not but moderation is key! Many low fat yogurts are loaded with sugar which can be more detrimental to your health and can increase the inflammatory response. Full fat can also help to keep you satiated (feeling full) for longer!


The ignorance within.

Recently, I went down a rabbit hole of the Vedic type as one does when you’re working on Ayurvedic self-study. I found myself immersed in the Isha Upanishad, specifically focused on the ideas of Vidhya vs. Avidhya.  Before going on, it’s important to briefly break down what each of these means in order to understand the depth of these concepts. Simply put, Vidhya can be described as the innate clarity, wisdom, and understanding of the world that we all possess. Conversely, Avidhya relates to spiritual ignorance or the forgetfulness that we are a part of everything. Avidhya essentially leads to the concept of ego and the manifestation of “I.” This relationship is beautifully portrayed in Hymn 7 of the Isha Upanishad:

When to a man who understands, 

the Self has become all things, 

what sorrow, what trouble can there be, 

to him who beholds the unity. 

~ Isha Upanishad, Hymn 7

The root of suffering comes from the ignorance of Avidhya as it is the consideration that ones Self is completely unique and distinct from the Self of others. When we believe that our problems or woes are different or even worse than that of another, we lack the spiritual unity of oneness (Vidhya) and may find ourselves trapped in the stories we tell ourselves. The Avidhya-affected individual must look beyond ego in order to end their suffering.

I remember this concept being planted in my brain during the first couple weeks of yoga teacher training. At that time I don’t think that the concept fully took root due to the abundance of information we received those first weeks, but it did provide me with inspiration to sit with. In my personal relationship with anxiety and depression, I’ve come up with plenty narratives in which I tell myself that my problems are worse than others (like the underdeveloped brain of a teenager saying “nobody understands ME!”). But, how selfish and closed minded is it to think that I am that unique? Every intelligent being in the universe experiences hardships or obstacles in their existence. If we wish to live a life free of suffering, we must be grounded in knowing that we share an anchored connection with the universe. Knowing that we ALL share the same inner dialogues or scripted personal narratives is actually refreshingly comforting and has given me an indescribable amount of clarity which brings me a profound sense of peace.

You are me and I am you. 

Book Review: The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

A couple months ago, I found myself scrolling through Audible’s library of recommended books and stumbled upon Gabrielle Bernstein’s latest bookff91b6fa807b88f4acfb48208eba14d3 “The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith.” I hadn’t read any reviews on this book and had a free book credit to spare so I downloaded it, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to listen to.  Gabby states that this book helps the reader to regain control of their life in order to invite in more happiness and a clear direction. This self-proclaimed “spirit junkie” invites us to take a look inward and discover that with a little work through meditation, mantras, and positive thinking, we can transcend our fear based thinking.

Gabby is a firm believer in the power of thoughts and how they can manifest themselves to reality. She provides numerous examples of how our old thought patterns pose as road blocks in our journey of spiritual transformation. While I loved that she provided numerous personal examples of how our stale behavior patterns prevent us from reaching our potential, I did feel like some were self-indulgent, shallow, and a bit of a humble brag.

The book is sprinkled with helpful little “ah-ha!” moments that I allowed myself to sit with and replay the audio numerous times. Gabby also provides another online resource of guided meditations; some of which are titled: “Honor Your Feelings,” “Turn Over Your Obstacles,” and “Meditation For Oneness.” I found these meditations to be incredibly transformative and I truly saw results in my personal and professional life. I created a mantra for myself that I tweaked from Gabby’s direction which read: I am open to and worthy of growth and abundance in my life and my business. In my spa business I saw incredible monetary rewards almost instantly. At one point I thought about a client I hadn’t seen in a while and literally within 5 minutes of me saying a mantra with her in mind, she texted me to book an appointment in the spa! My mind was blown! Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it wasn’t. I’m a skeptic of all this woo-woo stuff but honestly, when you give it a genuine try, you might surprise yourself with where it takes you.

“Your purpose is to be joyful. Your purpose is to live with ease. Your purpose is to surrender to the love of the Universe so you can live a happy life. Accept the purpose of love, and your life will radically change this instant.” – Gabrielle Bernstein, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith

Now, I can’t say that this book will propel you into a completely new life with an attractive new lover and money flowing to you, but it does trigger some healthy (perhaps new) thought patterns to build a more assertive and positive version of yourself.

I listened to this book while driving, working out, folding laundry, and completed the meditations before bed. I found that her way of story telling was personable, uplifting, and convincing. If you’re looking for a quick read (or listen) on spiritual transformation, check it out!

Overall: 4/5 (I rated this as a 4 because I do feel like there is an element of her elevating herself in a cool California girl sort of way- otherwise, I genuinely felt this to be some great spiritual guidance).

Ask the Expert: Personal Trainer, Mattie Wakeman

We all know that exercise is good for us. It strengthens our muscles and bones, controls weight, increases flexibility, and improves quality of life. But, getting into a good fitness routine can be difficult and frankly a little overwhelming.  I sat down with personal trainer Mattie Wakeman to get the scoop on how to best set yourself up for success and also debunk a few common myths. If you’re new to working out or maybe you just like learning about exercise, have a read!


Q: What is your background in exercise science and nutrition?
A: I graduated from George Mason University in 2012 with a B.S in Exercise Science and a minor in Nutrition. Upon graduating I got a job training and teaching group exercise classes at a local gym. I furthered my education by obtaining several PT certifications including one of my favorites: TRX!
Q: What is the number one thing you think keeps people from returning to the gym?
A: Motivation! It takes a while to form good habits! A lot of people think that going to the gym once or twice a week will do it. That’s just not true. 1.) You will never become consistent. 2.) You probably won’t notice much in the way of body metamorphosis by only going once or twice a week. It is a lifestyle change. I always tell my clients that 4-6 weeks is how long it’s going to take you to make this a habit, something that you MAKE fit into your schedule 3-5 times a week. I also think a lot of people just aren’t sure where to start. Entering a gym for many people can be intimidating so people just don’t do it. This is where Personal Trainers and Group Fitness come into play
Q: How many days a week do you recommend the average person work out?
A: I guess it depends where you are starting…if you NEVER workout and are just getting into it then telling you to go 5 days a week is never going to happen. On average though 3-5 days a week is GREAT! Especially if you are really pushing yourself and making your workouts worthwhile!

Q: If someone is crunched for time and only has 30 minutes to workout, what do you recommend?
A: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is always great if you’re in a pinch and really want to maximize calories burned AND work on your strength. There are HUNDREDS of 30 minute workouts you can do and really break a sweat and leave feeling like you got a good butt kicking.

Q: When at the gym, is it better to do cardio or weight training first?
A: I get this question ALL THE TIME. And honestly the answer is “it depends”. If you are looking to lose weight and burn calories, then you want to start with weights (after a warm up of course) and end with cardio. This is because by the time you start your cardio your body will already be in the “fat burning zone” so you can maximize your cardio. On the flip side- if you’re like me-and your goal is to build muscle then you probably don’t want to do cardio after a heavy lift. Chances are you will be too tired anyways!
Q: What is the importance of a “rest day” and do you really need them?
A: SO IMPORTANT! Yes, you DEFINITELY need them! Your body needs time to recover from workouts! Muscle growth occurs when the muscle is worked and then heals. When you weight train, you are essentially tearing muscle fibers, so without proper rest days your system to repair you will not see the benefits of your workouts.
Q: How soon should you eat after a workout? What should you eat?
A: I always recommend eating as soon as possible after a workout. You have just set your
metabolism on fire and your body is going to be looking for energy to refuel your systems. I suggest starting with a good protein shake immediately after a workout and then having a decent size meal containing healthy carbs and protein about an hour after that.
Q: Should you stretch before or after a workout?
A: Simple answer: BOTH!
Q: What is more important, diet or working out?
A: Its 80% diet, 20% exercise for weight loss. You can work out 7 days a week but if you are eating garbage you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You’ve heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen. You can do crunches until you die but if you go home and eat mac and cheese and fried chicken for dinner then those abs are never going to turn any heads. If your goal however is to build strength and muscle, then obviously the only way to do this is through exercise! Find a healthy balance of both, that’s my suggestion!

Q: What is the best way to burn fat on the belly, thighs, and butt?
A: Oh man- I wish “spot training” was a real thing- if that was the case I’d have the most chiseled 6 pack and the tightest glutes you’ve ever seen. Burning fat is a whole-body process! However, compound movements (like SQUATS and DEADLIFTS!) target the WHOLE body and are an awesome way to burn calories!

Q: What are some of your favorite workouts and why?
A: I am ALL about weight training. I enjoy powerlifting: squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing, etc. I do a lot of accessory work on cables too. Weight training is what sculpts your body, plus the more muscle you have the easier it is to burn fat!


We’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite workouts? Still have some questions about exercise? Drop a comment below.


Mattie in a figure competition
Mattie graduated in 2012 from George Mason University with a B.S. in Exercise Science a minor in Nutrition. Soon after graduating she started working at a local gym personal training and teaching group fitness classes at several gyms in the area. She loves weight training and Olympic lifting and competing in figure competitions. With a full gym in her garage with equipment ranging from row machines and squat racks to kettle bells, bumper plates and plyo boxes. Her favorite thing to do is workout with her husband in the warm weather! She provides customized workout plans catered to your specific goals at a reasonable price to encourage others to reach their full fitness potential!

What’s an AHA?

If you’ve ever used any type of professional exfoliating product, chances are it contained an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). So, what are these acids and how do they benefit the skin?

AHA’s are naturally occurring acids that range from low to high exfoliating potential. Technically speaking, if you’re an organic chemistry nerd, they contain a hydroxy group on the first carbon chain (beta hydroxy acids contain a hydroxy group on the second chain). They assist in exfoliation by freeing the sebum that helps  our skin cells literally stick together. Exposure to AHA’s allow them to lift off freely and reveal newer skin cells that give us a brighter appearance. This can help to unclog skin, lighten areas of hyperpigmentation, and brighten dull skin. The most common of these include (ordered from strongest to most gentle):

  •  Glycolic Acid: Derived from sugar cane. It is the smallest in molecular size of the AHA’s and therefore can penetrate the deepest. It’s widely used in the skin industry and has particularly helpful effects for brightening the skin and correcting signs of aging. While it can be drying because of its strength and astringent-degreasing potential, glycolic acid is hydrophilic (water-loving), therefore it helps retain moisture after use. Best to use on oilier, less sensitive skin types.
  • Lactic Acid: Derived from milk. Another very common AHA that can be used for slightly more sensitive skin types. It will benefit those with uneven tone, premature signs of aging, and correct dryness because of its hydrophilic nature. Lactic acid can even be used on individuals with rosacea. Though, always consult with your skin care provider or dermatologist.
  • Mandelic Acid: Derived from almonds. A very gentle AHA that is beneficial at reducing hyperpigmentation and correcting acne. It packs a punch when combined with lactic acid. This acid can also be used on sensitive, rosacea prone skin. Personally, this is one of my favorites because it is the least irritating and consistently gives beautiful results for a broad range of imperfections.

All of these acids have a fairly low pH, therefore have an astringent and exfoliating effect on the skin after immediate use. Our skin has a natural pH that ranges from 4.5-5.5 called the acid mantle. AHA’s have even been shown to increase the efficacy of our skin’s barrier function when we use the appropriate pH (stick with an AHA cleanser close to your skin’s natural pH level. Cleansers that are closer to neutral or basic may have temporary beneficial effects but they weaken the barrier over time).

Products can range from cleansers, toners, brightening treatment solutions, moisturizers, and chemical peels. Peels will have the most dramatic effect due to the higher percentage and concentration of the AHA and the lower pH.

When using any kind of mild topical AHA at home like a toner or moisturizer, know that you want to avoid direct sun exposure directly after application. While the half-life (the time it takes for the ingredient to become half its original strength) of AHA’s are pretty short, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours, it still strips the outer most layer of skin from the surface. This outer most layer is what protects us from UV damage, therefore if you’re planning on being outside while AHA’s are in your skincare regimen it’s better to just use them at night, wait at the very least 12 hours post AHA use, and always wear a physical blocker (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sunscreen.


Reasons to avoid AHA’s:

  • You were recently waxed
  • Have an active sunburn
  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Are using prescription tretinoin (this can vary- for low percentage retinols, it can be fine to use)
  • Have extremely sensitive skin or severe rosacea
  • Are planning on being in the sun


I’d like to know, what are your favorite alpha hydroxy acids? Comment below if you have more questions!

Healing Atopic Dermatitis Through Food

I think it has become fairly evident that I like researching and writing about Atopic Dermatitis (eczema, as it is most commonly known as- refer to my previous post about winter skin to learn more). I was diagnosed with eczema when I was in the 6th grade and since then it has been the scourge of my skin! As an esthetician, nothing frustrates me more as having imperfect, problematic, sensitive skin! In my research over the years, genetics, stress and immune function, and nutrition have all come to the forefront of being primary antagonists or catalysts to eczematous breakouts.

Recently I have experimented with my diet a good bit, trying to identify triggers and soothers to my scaly, itchy patches of skin. Through trial and error, I have found that a diet high in fish, greens, and vegetables along with my regular supplementation of protein powder (I seriously love the Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein in Yerba Mate flavor- it’s the best and tastes great!), and drinking tons of water has been the most helpful in decreasing flareups and healing skin from the inside out.

So what’s the common denominator in a lot of these foods? High vitamin and omega levels increase barrier function.

Vitamin D: The research is still coming along, but there seems to be some evidence that individuals suffering from Atopic Dermatitis also have lower serum Vitamin D levels. In a meta-analysis by Kim  et al. which discussed the efficacy of Vitamin D supplementation in treating atopic dermatitis, there was varying evidence that showed increasing Vitamin D levels improved symptoms of atopic dermatitis in study participants. A limited number of studies have been done on this, therefore a strong relationship remains inconclusive.

Foods to look for: salmon, mushrooms, fortified yogurt, fortified orange juice, eggs

Omegas: Omega-3 fatty acid seems to show promising results in reducing the occurrence of atopic dermatitis. A study by Miles and Calder discusses the efficacy of increasing omega-3 and 6 through supplementation or food sources such as fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, in lowering the occurrence of atopic dermatitis in young children due to maternal consumption of these fatty acids. Study participants who were followed up with later in life showed less likelihood to be treated for asthma as well. While this study suggests the importance of maternal consumption of omega fatty acids, it is just as important for other age groups to consume. Increased consumption of linoleic acid has also shown to be effective in decreasing the occurrence and severity of acne!

Foods to look for: flax seed, walnuts, sardines, salmon, tuna, mackeral, soybeans, enriched tofu