Tips to Stay Stress-Free and Glowing during the Holiday Season

Shannon Smyth
Tips to stay stress-free and glowing during the holidays! #beauty #health #wellness When I was in college I often went skiing in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. I always tell myself that one day I'll get back there (but this time to check out the spas in addition to the skiing!) One of those places is Stoweflake Spa and Wellness Center in Stowe, Vermont. Surinda Oberai Cavanagh, Spa Director and Ayurvedic Consultant at Stoweflake Spa and Wellness Center, offers A Girl's Gotta Spa! readers these tips to stay stress free and glowing this holiday season. Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season
  • Begin your day with a large glass of warm or hot water. This is great for hydration and cleansing the digestive system.
  • Before you bathe, generously apply a high quality massage oil (Sarada Ayurvedic massage oil) to your entire body. Use minimal soap. This practice will calm and coat your nervous system, nourish and hydrate your skin and leave you feeling warmer when the cold winds blow this season.
  • Eat your main meal between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. This is when your digestive system is most efficient. This will minimize holiday weight gain.
  • Have warm milk with nutmeg before bed. This is a wonderful evening routine and nutmeg is a very effective sedative.
Facial Glow Tips for the Holidays
  • Make sure you moisturize your face each day before heading out in to the elements with a heavy winter moisturizer or facial oil. This will protect against the drying effects of the winter weather.
  • Take a teaspoon of turmeric in raw honey internally for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Make sure you exercise to the point of breaking a sweat. This will ensure your lymphatic system is stimulated.
Try this at home facial mask to cleanse and exfoliate daily. Simple Holiday At-Home Mask
  • 3 Teaspoons raw honey
  • ½ Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon whole plain yogurt
  • Mix together and apply to face and neck. Leave on for 8-10 minutes and then rinse with warm water.
If you try any of these, let us know how they work for you! Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! for more beauty reviews! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! Shannon on G+

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Benefits of Quinoa for Skin

Gail Lewis
Benefits of Quinoa for Skin When a food item gets its own year, that has to mean that it's pretty amazing.  In the case of quinoa, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as, "The International Year of the Quinoa." By now you might have heard that quinoa is another one of these "super foods" that you should be incorporating into your diet (which is super easy to do given how versatile it is.)  I use it as a substitute for other grains such as rice and pasta, in my salads and as a breakfast porridge.  There are dozens of other ways quinoa can also be used, I personally am looking forward to using it for baking , for making a vegan quinoa burger and since the holiday season is upon us I am thinking of ways to incorporate it into stuffing etc. Simply perform a Google search for quinoa and you will get tons of results on the health benefits of quinoa, which includes (to name a few); quinoa  is a source of complete protein, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. It is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.   It is also gluten-free and easy to digest.  These are all pretty amazing reasons to consume this super food, but from a beauty standpoint quinoa is practically a miracle food for the skin. Quinoa contains lysine, an essential amino acid for human skin, which is used in the production of elastin and collagen. Lysine is an essential nutrient which cannot be synthesized by the body, hence it must be provided by the diet. It aids in the quick healing of damaged tissue, making it very important for people who are recovering from any surgery or injury.  It also helps to create scar tissue and ligaments for quick recovery.  Quinoa contains high levels of riboflavin which provides elasticity to the skin to give it the required softness and resiliency. It also builds up connective tissue to tone the skin and prevents wrinkles and fine lines. Consumption of quinoa seeds provides the body with collagen which rejuvenates the skin from within and reduces wrinkles and other symptoms of ageing. It makes the skin soft, smooth and supple. There are Vitamins in quinoa that decreases clustering of melanin granules to reduce brown spots and pigmentation. and if that is not enough, quinoa also helps to decrease sebum production and treats acne.  See I wasn't kidding when I said miracle food! I usually purchase a 4lb bag of quinoa from Costco, which lasts me for a pretty long time since the bag contains 42 servings.  If you go to Pinterest and search Quinoa, the amount of recipes that show up can almost be overwhelming so go ahead and get crazy and creative with your quinoa exploration! Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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5 Best Foods to Eat this Holiday Season for Glowing Skin

Shannon Smyth1 comment
The holiday season is fast approaching and menu ideas are being finalized. You don’t want to have to sacrifice great skin for great food. Glowing skin and delish foods can be mutually exclusive. Dr. David E. Bank, director and founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, reveals the five best foods you can eat this holiday season that not only are delicious, but are great for your skin. From diminishing wrinkles to helping dry skin, Dr. Bank sheds light on surprising foods that will keep your skin glowing and healthy through the holiday season. 5 Best Holiday Foods for Glowing Skin



This green veggie is the at top of the list when it comes to beauty foods. Kale is full of antioxidants that are a great way of reducing wrinkles because they slow down the ageing process. Kale also contains Vitamin A, which is essential for the health of your skin. It has been proven to be helpful in averting a host of skin diseases as well. Kale is a very good cleanser for your skin because it detoxifies your body leaving you with healthy, glowing skin outside.


The vibrant orange color of this squash indicates that it’s loaded with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant. This gets converted to Vitamin A which helps prevent wrinkles and keep your skin youthful and moisturized. This is the perfect food if you are experiencing dry skin because of the cold weather. Pumpkin is also loaded with Vitamin C, another antioxidant that protects collagen and boosts our immune systems.


In just one sweet potato you will find more than 200% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for having amazing skin, because it promotes the growth of new skin cells and increases the rate at which this happens, which leaves you with vibrant skin. Also, from a sweet potato, you’ll get three grams of fiber which keeps your digestive tract healthy and functioning properly during the season of eating. A healthy and functioning digestive track can help keep your breakouts to a minimum.


Carrots are not only good for your eyes but that are also amazing for smooth skin. Our skin is up against a lot of environmental factors every day like sun radiation and toxins, which combined with stress, leads to weakened defense against damaging free radicals that attack our skin. Carotenoids, found in carrots, are your protection from these everyday pollutants and will prevent wrinkles.


Olive oil contains four major antioxidants which allow it to work as a cleanser and moisturizer. Among these antioxidants are Vitamin A and Vitamin E, Vitamin E accounts for anti- aging benefits because it helps restore skin elasticity. Try: A Girl's Gotta Spa! olive oil body lotion Olive oil penetrates into the skin without clogging pores. Another benefit of this cooking aid is that it is useful as an exfoliator when mixed with sea salt and rubbed into the body. The mild abrasive qualities of the sea salt, combined with the deep, penetrating action of the oil, will remove dead skin cells and leave the skin looking renewed and glowing. So, you now have our permission to indulge (for the sake of your skin!) Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! for more beauty reviews! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram.

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Psoriasis Treatment and Symptoms

Shannon Smyth
Psoriasis Treatment & Symptoms via A Girl's Gotta Spa! Dealing with Psoriasis – Treatment Tips from a Certified Dermatologist Reuters Health recently reviewed a survey of psoriasis patients which showed a significant patient dissatisfaction level with the current treatments available. This research study conducted by the National Psoriasis Foundation between 2003 and 2011 surveyed more than 5,000 participants in the United States who either had psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Participants answered questions regarding prescription medications they use and overall satisfaction with their treatment. Just more than half of the survey respondents were dissatisfied with their treatment. In fact, 42% of respondents indicated that they discontinued their medication stating that they either did not work or caused too many negative side effects. The Reuters article and the National Skincare Month in September were the inspiration for this article to highlight the need for dermatologists and patients to work together to treat this disease.

What is psoriasis? Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious, and often painful skin disease that causes the cells of the dermis, or skin, to reproduce more rapidly than normal. The condition causes reddish, round scaly skin patches to develop on the knees, hands, feet, elbows and scalp.

The normal skin cell life cycle is 28 to 30 days. During this time the cell matures and sloughs off the body’s surface. A psoriatic skin cell has a three to four day maturation process. Once mature, instead of falling off the body the skin cells pile up and form the lesions or patches described above. There are several types of psoriasis:
  • Plaque psoriasis - the most common form of psoriasis characterized by reddish patches of skin with silvery scale;

  • Guttate psoriasis - characterized by smaller lesions appearing as dots;

  • Pustular psoriasis - involves weeping lesions and more intense scaling;

  • Inverse psoriasis - characterized by intense inflammation of the skin;

  • Erythrodermic psoriasis - characterized by intense shedding and redness around the lesions.

Approximately 20% of patients with psoriasis develop a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis sufferers are also at an increased risk of depression and diseases like heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease. Psoriasis treatment options Current available treatment options contain symptoms, but do not address the cause of those symptoms. These include oral and topical medications, as well as newer intravenous or injectable biologic treatments which work to block the activation of the cells that trigger psoriasis. Why is psoriasis so difficult to treat? There are several issues that make treatment of mild to severe psoriasis difficult. First, a lot is still not known about psoriasis. Further research is required to develop a full understanding of the disease. Psoriasis also manifests itself differently from person to person, making a one-size-fits-all solution impossible. To make matters worse symptoms of the disease may occur in certain locations on the body, like the scalp, the nails and in various folds of the skin (intertriginous) that are difficult to treat. Finally, many insurance plans have been hesitant to cover expensive biologic agents that cost as much as $25,000 annually. Financial issues were a main factor cited in the Reuters study. Tips for working well with your dermatologist:
  1. Find a dermatologist who you trust and who has experience with the disease. Referrals from other medical professionals or friends and family are useful.

  2. Keep in constant communication with your dermatologist about what is working and what is not. Raise any and all concerns you may have, including mental health-related concerns.

  3. Consider trying forms of treatment other than medication including diet (fasting periods, low energy diets and vegetarian diets have improved psoriasis symptoms in some studies). Studies have also shown that symptoms may be influenced by lifestyle habits related to alcohol, smoking, weight, sleep, stress and physical activity.

Final Thoughts Until better treatments become available, it is important to fully understand your individual psoriasis condition. Working with a licensed dermatologist will make minimizing your symptoms and discomfort easier.

About the Contributor: Lisa Rhodes, MD practices medical dermatology at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. Dr. Rhodes also currently a volunteer faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Dermatology Program. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!

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Beautifying Morning Smoothie Recipe

Gail Lewis
Beautifying Smoothie Recipe I've always believed in caring for my skin from the inside out.  There is nothing that makes me happier than when I have clear, glowing skin that does not require a stitch of makeup. To make sure my skin looks as good as possible I try to maintain a clean, healthy, balanced diet...much easier said than done- get regular exercise, good sleep and make sure I make it to hot yoga at least twice a week.  Lately I've been incorporating more smoothies into my diet.  They are a quick and easy way for me to get a meal in when I don't have a lot of time or if I'm much too lazy to cook.  My favorite smoothie is the one that I frequently have in the morning.  It gives me the energy I need to start the day off right, I feel good that I've consumed something for breakfast and the ingredients in the smoothie contribute to radiant skin and hair. My morning smoothie contains green tea, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and kale. Unfortunately I have a tendency to not measure anything so I can't give you the exact quantities of the ingredients, but if I were to estimate I would say about two cups of green tea, a handful of blueberries, a large handful of kale and about 4-5 strawberries.  I combine the ingredients in my Magic Bullet and in less than a minute I have a tasty, filling smoothie that's healthy and great for my hair and skin. The berries in the smoothie are loaded with Vitamin C, which is responsible for the health of collagen and contribute to radiant, glowing skin and hair.  The green tea in my smoothie also contains antioxidants, but in addition it has anti-inflammatory properties.  Green tea has also been linked to enhancement of sun protection when combined with sunscreen.  Last but not least, kale is anti-inflammatory and has high levels of  vitamin C, K and A, which help to clear acne prone skin, combat hyperpigmentation and wrinkles and encourages cell reproduction.  Kale is also abundant in lutein, a nutrient that makes eyes whiter.  I love the taste of this smoothie, but if you would prefer it a bit sweeter I would recommend mixing in some organic honey for a bit more flavor.  Hopefully you enjoy drinking your way to healthier, radiant skin and hair as much as I do! Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too! *Disclosure

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How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Shannon Smyth4 comments
How to combat seasonal affective disorder Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that happens during the same time each year. While it can happen at any time of year, it is most often associated with Fall and Winter (you've heard the term winter blues, right?) This is due to lack of sunlight which of course results in a Vitamin D deficiency. It's getting darker sooner, which throws off your internal clock, remaining indoors due to cooler or bad weather (hello cabin fever!) and what I call a "lack of an interesting landscape"; in other words everything lacks the color, vibrancy and fragrances of the warmer months. I'm bringing this up because in the last few days I kept remarking to my husband, "I feel so tired all the time," and "I feel like I have no energy," and wanting to eat every carb in sight. Personally, nothing has changed for me to bring this on. I'm very happily married, am passionate about my career, enjoy my sons and so on. He then brought it to my attention that since the weather has gotten colder, I've been outdoors less; it's getting darker earlier, etc. And then it clicked. During the days of getting my degree in Psychology, I had learned about SAD and recognized the symptoms.


Beginning to feel the same as I am? Here is a SAD check list (as listed by the MAYO Clinic): Depression Hopelessness Anxiety Loss of energy Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs Social withdrawal Oversleeping Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates Weight gain Difficulty concentrating While it is always recommended to talk to your doctor, there are some things you can do to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder at home.


Seasonal Affective Disorder - tips to help at home via @agirlsgottaspa Hydro Chromotherapy: Light therapy has been used for a while to combat SAD. I love light therapy incorporated with the relaxation of water. Whereas some hydro chromotherapy systems can be very expensive, there are others that simply involve LED Showerheads that are completely affordable.  Prices do range from under $10 to upwards of $150. (Plus it may encourage your kids to actually want to bathe.) Tips to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder Aromatherapy: The power of scent can be mood altering. You know this the moment you walk into a spa, light a candle in your home or apply your favorite perfume. Bergamot, frankincense, geranium, chamomile, lavender, marjoram and citrus-derived oils are the most effective for treating SAD. There are some amazing products out there now that add essential oils to your shower head, as well. Essio uses essential oil pods that attach to your shower head. While you shouldn't attempt to wash your hair while the oils are being dispersed, it's just another great way to lift your mood (and soften your skin in the process!) You can read Gail's review of Essio for more details! Sidenote: Try A Girl's Gotta Spa! Energizing Citrus Body Wash while showering - it's made with citrus essential oils. I also love my aromatherapy diffuser from Gurunanda. I use it during the day to keep me focused and at night to help me sleep soundly. Exercise: A great way to boost serotonin and dopamine levels is with daily exercise. If you can get outside and enjoy the Fall/Winter landscape, even better, as you take in some Vitamin D in the process. Know the symptoms of seasonal depression and tips to help deal with them. Vitamin D supplements: I love Nature Made VitaMelts because they come in delicious flavors. Yum. You can take 1 tablet 4 times per day. And the Vitamin D supplement is great for bone and immune support too. Phototherapy at the spa: It's obvious, I truly believe that the spa is more than just a place of escape, but a necessity for a more balanced mind. Many spas offer phototherapy and are worth booking a treatment for!


Of course, none of this advice should be supplemented for speaking with your doctor. While I have my degree in Psychology, my tips should never trump that of a doctor. If you feel depressed in a way that is unrelated to the seasonal change, please consult a professional local to you. Have you ever suffered from SAD? What tips would you offer? Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram.

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Everyone Hand Sanitizers Helping to Keep You Flu-Free

Courtney Smith BSN
Help prevent the spread of germs this #flu season! Fall is upon us! It's that lovely season when the kid’s return to school (YIPPEEE), the temperature drops enough to save our electric bills from the high cost of air conditioning (another hooray!), apple pie al a mode drops into bellies, pumpkins and mums decorate our door steps, hayrides ride, fall festivals engage, and beautiful colors pervade our natural habitat. Mmm, oh and I forgot to mention the not so fantastic party-pooping germs that also love the fall, and/or that love making us take a fall from good health. Yes, it's that time of year that the Flu likes to make its grand entrance, along with some other nasty "bugs." Give or take a few weeks in either direction, the various strands of Flu like to arrive sometime around October and stick it out until about May. The CDC reported that 2012-13 was one of the worst flu seasons in about a decade. After a fresh reminder that we are not invincible knocks us down a few notches, we tend to prepare better the following year. Dr. Swanson recently wrote an informative article in the Huffington Post to keep us up on the need-to- know info regarding the Flu and has everything you could ever dream of to help keep you fully prepared for the 2013-14 Flu season. The good news is that something as simple as proper and frequent hand sanitation is one of our primary defenses against the spread of the flu...and against almost all communicable diseases. Did you know that Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing, dropped the death toll of the soldiers during the Crimean War from 42% to 2% just by implementing proper and consistent sanitation strategies, such as hand washing? That fact is always such a wow-factor to me on the significance that simple hand sanitation plays into stopping the spread of potentially deadly illnesses. Everyone (EO) is a brand that is all about helping us to love life and stay clean. They have formulated two new fantastic scented hand sanitizers, Peppermint + Citrus and Coconut + Lemon, that are 99.9% effective against most common germs. The nearly equally fab facets of these products, are that they are made with natural plant-based ingredients and contain essential oils. This means that Everyone hand sanitizers will leave your hands supple and clean, instead of cracked and mean. They come in easy to pack hand sprays and gels that are super-affordable. I recommend that you buy a ton of them and throw em’ in your kids school bags, throw em’ in the car, and throw em’ in your purse. Please implement the use of Everyone hand sanitizers frequently this coming season to help make our world healthy, happy, and clean. I assure you that you will unknowingly save a few lives doing it, and perhaps your own. Happy Fall all, now pass on the good news and let the festivities play on! Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! for more beauty reviews! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle tooCourtney on G+. *Disclosure

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Lyme Disease Prevention with Skin So Soft Bug Guard

Shannon Smyth5 comments

Lyme Disease Prevention

While summer may be just about over, those of us who live among the deer and tall grass know that we still need to be vigilant about Lyme Disease. I happen to live in the Pocono Mountains where deer abound.

Pictured about is my very active, hilarious and animated 6-year old son, Brody. He loves to play and get dirty (often.) A few months ago when returning from a weekend visit with his dad (who also lives in the woods), he complained that there was something stuck in his ear. When we arrived home, I looked in the inner corner of his ear to find a slightly bloated tick. My husband was able to pull the entire tick out with tweezers, and since it didn't appear to be a deer tick (I looked it up online), we didn't give it another thought.

About a month later, Brody was in the ER because the back half of his head began to swell and ooze on the exact side where he had been bitten. The ER told me he had cellulitis, prescribed an antibiotic and steroid and sent us on our way. The swelling went away about a week later and we thought nothing more about it since the antibiotic appeared to have treated the issue.

Just short of two weeks from that ER visit, Brody woke up with the same side of his face looking a bit swollen under his eye. I asked him if his head hurt again, but he blamed his brother Duncan for hitting him in the face, and since that was a completely reasonable answer, I scolded Duncan for hitting him. Later that morning when I dropped him off to his dad, his face seemed redder. I mentioned it to his father and told him what Brody told me. By that evening when I went to pick up my oldest from camp and bring him to his dad, Brody's whole side of his face was swollen and very red. He also felt like he had a fever. I then noticed a bullseye on his arm and asked his father to call the doctor immediately the next morning to schedule an appointment for him to be seen. My ex-husband quickly grabbed his laptop to look up images of Lyme Disease and we knew that this was very likely what was going on with Brody.

By the next morning when I met Brody and his dad at the doctor's office, his face looked worse, and he had not just one bullseye, but a total of 5 between his arms and legs (this indicates it's been in your system for more than 30 days.) I was nervous since Brody is my youngest and such a tiny guy. The pediatrician confirmed just based on the presenting symptoms that he had Lyme Disease and prescribed a 3-week dosing of antibiotics.

Thankfully Brody appears to have responded well and he is back to his normal self. My ex-husband had brought up using Avon's Skin So Soft on him (and his brothers) to help protect them from further tick bites. Thankfully Avon had great timing, as they offered their new Skin So Soft Bug Guard for review just after Brody's diagnosis.

Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard

All products are DEET-free and reviewed and approved by the EPA. The collection’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard formulas contain one of two EPA-registered active ingredients, IR3535® or Picaridin. The entire collection includes: Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition SPF 30 ($14-$16) – Available as an Aerosol Spray and Pump Spray, and travel size this Vitamin E-enriched formula protects against sun damage while fighting off bugs. Bug Guard Plus Picaridin ($14-$16) – Ideal for protection during dusk/dawn, which is when bugs are most active, this formula provides long-lasting protection against deer ticks that may transmit Lyme disease and mosquitoes that may carry West Nile virus. Available as an Aerosol Spray, Pump Spray and travel-friendly Towelettes. Bug Guard Plus IR3535 SPF 30 ($14) – This dual-purpose repellent wards off bugs and defends against UVB rays using an Aloe and Vitamin E-enriched formula. Available as a Gentle Breeze Lotion and Cool 'n Fabulous Disappearing Color Lotion. Now these amazing pump sprays are also available in convenient travel size so you can take them anywhere you go, which is great since we love to hike, hang out by the lake, etc. Just like sunscreen, these are a necessity and apply just as easy! Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard is available through and your local Avon representative. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle tooShannon on G+

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Nutrisystem Week 5 Losing Inches But Not Weight

Shannon Smyth4 comments

Losing Inches @nutrisystem #weightloss

Remember when you were told, never say never (and I'm not talking about Justin Bieber)? I feel like having said, "I never want to be 170 lbs," is haunting me because it simply won't go away. While everyone says not to pay attention to the scale, but rather how you look, I know I should listen (but it is so hard to do!) Due to losing inches, I've definitely noticed that my favorite blue shirt is looser on me. I also noticed on Sunday that a shirt I haven't worn in a while (due to muffin top issues) suddenly looked a lot better. Not to mention that my jeans are looser and require a belt (or at least me pulling them up multiple times until I buy one.) My husband even told me that it's hard to believe I haven't lost weight because I look like I have (brownie points). Which got me wondering. Both hyper and hypothyroidism run in my family. After playing Dr. Google, I found on WedMD that I do meet a lot of the symptoms. Unfortunately, I do not have health insurance, so I can't have the blood work done to be sure. I'm beginning to wonder if this is why that despite following the Nutrisystem diet plan and exercising, why I am not dropping pounds. I admit that I didn't get around to getting plain water and flavoring it naturally with fruit just yet...but I making that change this week. I also got wrapped up in work and spending the holiday weekend with my family and have not yet contacted the Nutrisystem dietician. Something I will do as soon as I finish this post. My week 5 results are: 2 inches lost, a half pound gained. I'm at 170 again. I can tell you that not seeing the pounds drop off after all this hard work makes you feel defeated. But as I'm constantly pulling up my jeans, I'm reminded that Nutrisystem IS working. I'm not where I want to be weight-wise, but otherwise I am healthy, eating the right portion sizes and toning up. I have to remind myself that those are good things too! I feel like my weekly updates end up being pep talks to myself! Want to lose weight and get healthy on Nutrisystem? Join today by calling 1-888-853-4689 or by visiting Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle tooShannon on G+ *Disclosure: Sponsored

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Love Your Skin Love Yourself Q and A with Rachael Pontillo

Shannon Smyth
Love your skin, love yourself author Rachael Pontillo My friend, fellow blogger, and holistic skincare expert, Rachael Pontillo has a book coming out on September 3rd: Love Your Skin, Love Yourself: Achieve Beauty, Health, and Vitality from the Inside Out and Outside In. It'll be available on both Amazon and Kindle. Considering that her skin is absolutely flawless and nothing short of amazing, I needed to find out all I could about what she is dishing in her new book. Women with skin issues often feel like they have to hide or that there is something wrong with them. Whether the condition starts as early as adolescence, or develops later on during a pregnancy or for other reasons, it affects much more than just the skin. Sometimes issues that accompany a skin condition are physical such as weight gain, digestive issues, systemic infection, chronic inflammation, etc. Other times, however, the issues are emotional and even spiritual. This was the case for author and coach, Rachael Pontillo. After living the majority of her life with acne, she cleared up her skin for good (and simultaneously lost 80 lbs) once she cleaned up her diet and upgraded her lifestyle. Though she looked and felt better on the outside and was healthier on the inside, she still had issues having to do with self-image and self-love. These are issues common to many women, especially those who have experienced a visible skin condition, and many feel misunderstood, alone and insecure because of it. By incorporating simple practices into her daily routine, Rachael was able to feel beautiful, confident, and empowered—that’s what she wants her readers to experience after reading this book. By reading Love Your Skin, Love Yourself, women with skin concerns and self image issues will discover how to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Love Your Skin Love Yourself Book Q&A Shannon: What is holistic skincare? Rachael: I define “holistic skincare” a little differently than some other practitioners who use the term. Many aestheticians and spas consider themselves "holistic" if they use all-natural, organic products and provide non-invasive and wellness oriented services. While this is a piece of the puzzle, it isn’t the complete picture. Other practitioners like health coaches and nutritionists define holistic skincare simply as "beauty from the inside out." Again, this is an important piece of the puzzle, but after my years of education, personal life experience, and professional experience as a health coach, aesthetician, and health and wellness writer, I’ve come to realize that both are necessary to ensure the best results. So my definition of holistic skincare is “caring for the skin from the inside out with proper nutrition and lifestyle choices and from the outside in with safe and healthy products, proper hygiene, and the right skincare regimen. ShannonWhy did you decide to focus this book and your career on holistic skincare? Rachael: I've lived more than half my life feeling ugly and insecure because of acne. I tried everything from prescription medications to over-the-counter medications, chemical peels and microdermabrasion, drugstore products, department store products, mail order products, and professional strength products. Some things worked, and many didn't…and those that worked usually had side effects and only worked until I ran out of the product. I knew I was missing something. When I changed my diet and saw the quick and dramatic improvement in my skin, I knew I was onto something. However, based on my knowledge of the body as a whole and the skin as its barrier, I knew that the skin needs hydration and nourishment on the outside too. Plus, there are so many harmful chemicals and toxins in products and in our environment that the skin takes quite a beating. My own experience changed my life and I've had clients with similar life-changing experiences, and I knew that this message needed to be brought to a larger scale with this book and in my other work. Shannon: Is holistic skincare as effective as expensive and high-tech spa and cosmetic treatments? Rachael: Holistic skincare and conventional/medical skincare are completely different modalities—it’s like comparing apples to oranges, and the efficacy in this case is subjective. Some people consider quick and dramatic results to be effective, even if those results fade quickly and require numerous ongoing treatments to maintain and come with risks and potential side effects. Others consider long-lasting, sustainable results that can be achieved at home over time to be more effective. The efficacy of holistic skincare varies per person, since each person’s condition, current diet and lifestyle, and physical and emotional constitutions are so different. Some people do achieve quick and dramatic results like I did, and these results continue to last and my skin continues to improve years later. Others see a more gradual improvement over time, but also experience improvements in other areas of their health and lives—all of which become part of a permanent lifestyle. That being said, holistic skincare is not a quick fix for everyone…but the results are long lasting for everyone. Because of that and the fact that it doesn't come with a laundry list of risks and side effects, I’d say it’s more effective than conventional aesthetic and cosmetic treatments and procedures. Shannon: How is this book different from all the other skincare books out there? Rachael: There are many great books covering the nutritional aspect of skincare, with certain diets and detox regimens that really do focus on the "inside out" piece. There are also many wonderful books covering the importance of natural skincare products, with recipes for handmade products as well as information about the effects of the chemicals in conventional products. And of course there is a myriad of self-help books that talk about transformation, lifestyle, self-esteem, finding one’s true self, and more recently, the concept of self-love. However I haven’t seen many that encompass all aspects—nutrition, lifestyle, topical skincare, and self-love—and really tell the whole story. Without all of these components, my own healing would not have been possible or sustainable. I've also noticed that many holistic skincare and diet books out there tell people what to do and why to do it, but not necessarily HOW to do it—meaning how to incorporate these new changes into their existing lifestyles without feeling completely overwhelmed. Many also insinuate that these changes are easy for everyone, and I think that this message is part of the reason why so many people have a hard time keeping up with diets or lifestyle changes. In Love Your Skin, Love Yourself I tell it like it is—some of the changes I made were easy for me but some did not come naturally at all; and there were times that I almost quit completely. I discuss how I came through those challenges and also share tips for how readers can get started and what to do if things seem overwhelming or challenging. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows and most journeys of true healing and transformation have areas of shadow…but the shadow passes and then the sun returns. That being said, we can’t ignore the shadow. Too many books don’t talk about the parts of the process that are hard for people—I wanted to present my own journey as well as the changes I recommend honestly and authentically, and for me that means telling the whole story—the triumphs but also the challenges and how I dealt with them in that moment. Shannon: Was this book hard to write? Rachael: Yes and no. A large amount of this book came to me in spurts from my muse late at night. I’m a very creative person, and I've learned that when the muse wants to work I step out of the way and let her have at it. However a lot of these late night musings didn't transition well from one thought to another. I decided to get some help and work with a book coach as well as a very talented editor to help me organize my thoughts. Though I've been writing for nearly half my life, writing blog posts and magazine articles is very different from writing a book since they are more condensed and one doesn't necessarily have to flow into another. The thought of writing an entire book on one topic was very scary to me. This book is also much more personal than my more fact-oriented articles and even most of my blog posts. Piecing together the manuscript and going through the editing process was very emotional for me, since I didn't realize when I initially wrote some of it how raw my own thoughts and experiences still were for me. That’s the part of the process I was expecting the least—feeling vulnerable. Writing has always come naturally to me, as has expressing myself in other ways, so the actual writing part was not hard—it was the feeling of vulnerability that was more difficult. The process of going through the editing, design, formatting, proofreading, and getting the book published was challenging at times but was an incredible experience at the same time. I am so blessed to have consulted with my incredible topic matter experts: Dr. Ben Johnson from Osmosis Skincare, Dr. Georgia Tetlow from Philadelphia Integrative Medicine, Sharonah Rapseik, PhD from Spa Holistica, and Christine Arylo, bestselling author and Queen of Self-Love. My editor, Daniella Thoren, designer Michelle Fitz of Hat Trick Strategies, and publisher Sennin Group also really helped the process run smoothly and helped me create something that looks more amazing than I ever could have imagined. Overall it’s been one of the most rewarding journeys of my life and I look forward to doing it again! About Rachael: Rachael Pontillo is a holistic health and image coach with more than 15 years in the beauty and healthcare industries. Following her own challenges with acne and weight, she has helped many women overcome skin conditions and self image issues in her private coaching practice. She is also a published author whose work has been featured in the top aesthetics trade journal, Dermascope Magazine, the international magazine Complete Wellbeing, as well as on several blogs and websites such as Spa Week Daily, Holistic Vanity, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, and WholesomeOne, in addition to her own popular blog, Holistically Haute. She is a recipient of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s prestigious Health Leadership Award, is a featured skincare expert for NeoCell Health, and spoke on a national stage before the Association of Holistic Skincare Practitioners Conference where she educated aestheticians about the benefits of offering nutritional counseling services to their clients. Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram and G+. 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