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Wellness

I Quit Sugar: Here’s What Happened

I’m not really a sugar person- I say that and I know what you’re thinking, but growing up I was super sensitive to sugar and actually was really disliked sugary cereals, donuts and pastries. I had this idea that things that weren’t supposed to be sweet- shouldn’t be. So my go-to cereals were corn flakes and cheerios basically.

I don’t even really remember like going ham and developing a sweet tooth during Halloween (popcorn balls were my JAM though.) To this day, I’m that person who asks “is the almond milk sweetened? Or “is that matcha tea like actual matcha tea or like from a mix?” or even “do you mind if i just see the bottle of almond milk that you’re using?” I know, it’s bad and I’m not proud of it, but 9 times out of 10 sugar is added onto already sugary things- which isn’t ideal. 

If you don’t know me, I’m already a pescatarian that eats mostly gluten-free, the most organic that I can afford and almost no dairy. I eat high raw, plant-based foods and supplement my diet with superfoods and adaptogens. I think that eating well is super important and I place a high emphasis on it. That’s also because I believe it’s the key to emotional and physical happiness and as my mom always says, pay now or pay later (aka health is wealth).

But getting back to sugar-I learned later in life that contrary to popular belief, sugar was the real enemy, not fat. It not only made us gain weight because it spiked our insulin, it was also being linked to thyroid and autoimmune diseases.  I also found out how much sugar is linked to depression, can cause inflammation, AND is more addictive than heroin.  Convinced yet? I sure was. A few months ago, I decided to QUIT SUGAR for 20 days. Here’s what happened.

Prep makes perfect

I went into this sugar detox with an open mind ( and a cleared out pantry) which was key because ravaging through your pantry like a sugar crazed person can happen people! Thanks to some pre-reading as part of my friend Summer’s SugarDetoxMe program, I felt educated and informed enough before even starting my detox.

I also made the smart decision to not go cold turkey, instead phasing out all things sugar gradually (starting with sugary beverages first, then sugary fruit and food) and stocked up on veggies, legumes, protein and plant-based goodness to start my cleanse.

 

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As far as cleanses go, not gonna lie the struggle was REAL

To be honest, the first few days were ROUGH- and actually worse than I had expected. I felt an overwhelming crankiness take hold of my body more powerful than PMS or juice cleanse cranky. It wasn’t even that I was hangry (aka the main side effect of a juice cleanse) — this was because I was going through a sort of “withdrawal” state as my body cut out sugar.

I quickly found out that the rumours were true- our bodies experience a serious withdrawl when we steadily cut out sugar because consuming sugar is directly tied to dopamine levels.

 

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Translation: taking a bite of a Twix instantly provides the body a sense of calm and happiness that helps overcome stress studies have shown sugar to be more addicting than cocaine because of this. 

I learned all of this in the prep phase of my SugarDetoxMe cleanse. It was super helpful and helped to put my crankiness into perspective as I knew in the back of my mind I was doing good things for my body. Oh and Sarah Wilson, author of “I Quit Sugar” advocates for occasional glasses of wine during a sugar detox so that helps too..

Don’t worry, it gets better.

Not only did I see changes in my skin and body, but I gravitated towards healthier choices the longer I detoxed. Cravings subsided after day 5 ( insert sigh of relief here). I found that I began to crave sugar less and less as the days went on. It also was a rude awakening because it showed how much my body had become dependent on sugar, even though I consume low levels on a daily basis. Mindless cravings and sugar consumption that crept up on stressful days were a thing of the past. 

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The rumors are true, brain fog because of sugar is a THING people

I would totally do it again again though just because I experienced such drastic changes in my mental clarity.

I didn’t have any overarching “fuzzy” feeling or trouble concentrating on tasks. I found myself thinking clearer and performing my usual day to day with ease and better than ever.

I had heard this was an upside ditching sugar, but I felt seriously amazing, I’m talking like “I don’t need coffee I’m ready to embrace the day” amazing. This feeling alone made quitting sugar so worth it.

So why should you quit sugar?

Sugar detoxing isn’t just the newest craze that everyone is frothing over. Quitting sugar, even for 3 days can help you realize how much of an impact it has on your lifestyle and give you the strength to dial back accordingly.

Side-note, part of the many reasons on why I’m so fascinated by holistic/healthy living is that my family has a history of thyroid disease so the cards are basically stacked against me.

Hearing how much sugar played a role in these scary, life threatening diseases made me pay attention. It wasn’t just about a trendy detox anymore, it made me seriously consider lifestyle habits and question the overall food choices we have every day.

Even today, I’m still super sugar conscious and consider myself very conservative except for partaking in juice cleanses and eating fruit, I still wanted to see if I could kick the sugar and see how doing so would affect my mind and overall mood.

Sculpt Style

Healthy Chic Holiday Gift Wishlist

The Holiday Season is just around the corner (for real though, Christmas is in 4 days, Hanukkah is in 3). If you’re like me, aka the ultimate last minute shopper, good news is you can still be saved by rush shipping (IF you order today).

Here’s the ultimate “it list” and gift guide to top off your last minute list.

  • LUNA face brush– tiny but mighty! Keep your face clean and clear with this mini version of the silicone favorite.
  • A gift certificate to the chic and fabulous Higher Dose 
  • Wake up with the sunrise thanks to the soothing and trendy Sunrise Activated Alarm Clock
  • Get the elite taste of Japanese pour-over coffee thanks to the Chemex Coffee Maker 
  • Ramp up any winter workout thanks to Outdoor Voices Cool-Down Kit
  • Make the ultimate style statement by sporting a trendy AF S’well Water bottle
  • Strut your stuff to the studio in this marble-print yoga legging 
  • Misfit Phase Smartwatch – This chic wearable is the perfect combination of function and style. It works s
  • The newly released Moon Juice cookbook by the cult-favorite brand is the perfect gift idea for holistic health gurus and healthy eaters.
  • Get the strobing effect with this all natural makeup line and fashion-insider favorite RMS Living Luminizer
  • This eco-chic filtered water container is trendy and made from sustainable materials (from plants yay) Also the company has a partnership with Charity:Water helping provide water to those in need.
  • Make any room into a spa-like oasis with an Essential oil diffuser. Because who doesn’t want tranquility and a calming essential oil filled paradise?

 

Sculpt

Workout (Apps) We Tried: Are They Worth the Hype?

✨by @mingmingphoto

✨by @mingmingphoto

Is the iPhone workout the new workout? Personalized, private and catered to busy lifestyles, there certainly are a lot of pros to iPhone app workouts- but isn’t the whole point of working out to show off your new Swell water bottle, flawless yoga crop and swag yoga gear?  With permanent food comas post Thanksgiving and official Netflix and chill weather in full swing, now’s as good a time as any to stay on top of your fitness game but admittedly, gathering up the motivation to go to the gym when it’s freezing outside really takes dedication (let’s be real). So I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and put 4 workout apps ( courtesy of the App Store) to the test. Here’s what happened.

 

#1. Skyfit– I really wanted to love this app. Promises of perfect playlists, a quote from a Refinery29 editor raving about it, customizable workouts and world-class trainers. Personally, I fell for the hype and downloaded right away but was surprised when this app fell short of expectations shortly thereafter.

Thoughts: Were the trainers amazing? eh. I tried a cardio class and as it was lacking a visual component, (aka no video just audio of the trainers), I got lost at times and it was hard to follow (so no, it’s not the same as a boutique fitness class), and also depending on the instructor who’s teaching the class his/her voice can be more annoying than motivational. I wasn’t feeling the elliptical class at all so I thought I would try my luck at

Also a not-so-cool feature, it forces you to take out a trial within the app in order to access the classes and you can’t cancel the subscription until it’s nearing the end of the 7th day. So unless you’re a diligent human being who remembers to set a calendar reminder, you’ll likely forget you even took out a free trial an get conned into paying for at least one month of this app which is about the same price as a low-key gym such as Blink or Planet Fitness.

Good news is I emailed customer service and they directed me to the sneaky subscription I had taken out via the Apple store (disaster avoided.)

 

#2. Zova All I could’ve asked for.. and more.

Pros: Helpful step-by-step videos allow you to preview each workout and guide you through each step. I like the diverse array of workouts (for ab day, leg day etc.) and it’s way easier than looking at workout steps off of Pinterest. Other cool features include a built in timer and countdown (so you can keep track of how many reps you’re actually doing!)

Cons: some of the workouts are “locked” and some are free. I wish that they were all free but there’s a handful of free ones to choose from and the user experience is super positive overall

Good for: handy workouts for mixing up your gym routine or getting a good sweat from the comfort of your home with little to no equipment needed! Everything I would’ve hoped for- and more

 

#.8Fit– After a slightly awkward registration process (the app makes you enter your height, weight, and estimated percentage of body fat which I completely ball-parked btw.) Then it asks you to tap the stock image that you feel like accurately represents your body fat percentage (questionable..) and then decide on your personalized goals and the estimated amount of time needed to get there.

Pros: The app caters to you, and tells you based on your goals how many days approximately you need to work out and “follow a healthy diet” compared to how fast you want to see results (e.g. “If you wanted to lose 2 lbs in a month you should go to the gym 5 days a week and follow a healthy diet always” as if I didn’t know that already..)

Cons: It asks you if you want guidance for a meal plan. recipes and healthy eating tips but later drops the bomb that that’s only available with a paid subscription. Similarly, there’s a few too many shameless plugs within the apps nagging you to upgrade to a monthly subscription plan. Also some of the “healthy eating tips’ are suuuper sketch and questionably unhealthy e.g ” feeling hungry? try having sugar free tea or coffee instead” *insert evil side-eye emoji here*

Good For: someone who wants to stay on top of specific fitness goals not actually sure who this app is good for on second thought, except if you want an app to motivate you how many times you should go to the gym..

 

#4.”Swork it

Pros: The app opens and allows users to customize their ab workout based on desired time. Then the app chooses a series of ab exercises depending on target area. Very helpful, informative video demos walk you through exercises (instead of confusing step by step flow charts one might find in a magazine workout article.) there’s even an option to sync up music and a motivational voice walks you through each exercise. (useful when laziness starts to kick in.) You can also share your favorite workouts with a friend from within the app.

Cons: There’s a limit to which workouts are available in the free version which is a bit of a let-down. Also, if you’re looking to track long term fitness goals and keep track of nutritional intakes etc. this app doesn’t provide that and is strictly workout focused.

Good For: For free app it’s definitely one worth having when looking for workout moves at the gym and even better for an at home workout. Also worth mentioning- I found it works without cellular data! (score?!)

Sculpt

So fresh, So Clean: How I became a Sneakerhead

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(credit: giphy)

Is it just me or have you ever wondered how those people keep their sneakers looking absolutely perfect: new, obnoxiously white and scuff free?

Flash forward to a week ago where I came across the holy grail: an article on Mr. Porter about “How to Keep Your Sneakers Clean“.

It professed that Jason Markk a cure-all solution in a magical bottle allegedly sold at Urban Outfitters (well that part was a lie, at least in Soho.)
A week later I begrudgingly stomped by flawed sneakers around the city, desperate for answers- or more fittingly the sneaker magic.

A week later I found it at Kith. The jojoba coconut based goodness transformed my kicks just as if I’d hit the reset button and never wore them (whaaat?! Score!)

The Results

Reluctant at first, I was shocked to find that the sudsy creamy lather slowly restored my sneakers to a pearly white, lifted the stubborn dirt off my Converse and provided a much needed cleaning.

Although I had hoped for it to work bigger miracles on my shoe laces, this wasn’t as bad of a loss considering I can always toss those in the washer or get new ones. Sneakers are way harder to clean than laces and I liked how they conditioned as they cleaned, helping to restore some of that long lost shine. In short, I’ve officially become a sneakerhead now that I’ve discovered there is a way to keep sneakers looking better than brand new.

 

 

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                                                                                         (Credit: Giphy)
Eat Out

Asbury Park & Vegan Food Shares

Asbury Park has somewhat of a bad rap.

But despite it’s rough, questionable past, as the rest of the tri-state area continues to rapidly gentrify, Asbury Park is no exception.

Filled with high-end galleries, salons, boutiques, juice bars and a board walk, not to mention being the home of The Stone Pony, Asbury Park has quickly transformed into a chic, trendy, (slightly hipster?) cool spot for up and coming musicians.

 

 

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A few weekends ago I decided to take a trip and explore it myself, go on another one of my vegan food shares and go on an out of the city adventure.

This unexpectedly cool oasis also boasted an impressive beach area, complete with a dedicated surfer’s area and a naturally formed rock jetty. After working up an appetite after a long beach day, I came across a chic vegan cafe.

 

The Yelp reviews did this place no justice. Picturing a tiny juice stand, I was shocked to find a large vegan spot with earthy, rustic vibes. From the outside Twisted Tree cafe looked dope AF and the endless smoothie menu and innovative menu only made it better. Props for a quick turn around time on the food and probably one of the best salads I’ve had at a vegan restaurant ever. My second vegan food share in New Jersey turned out to be one of my faves, granted it’s proximity to the beach definitely played a factor in my decision. 

 

 

Shine On

Summer Beauty: Things We Love

As the summer draws to a close- at least for most of us (sorry college kids if you got the short end of the stick and had to go back before Labor Day–we’ve all been there.. But hey long weekend?!) everyone else is officially celebrating the last days of summer. 

As much as I love rooftop movies, music festivals, days spent by the pool, summer fridays, and all things summer, the one major buzzkill summer brings in breakouts and beauty disasters. So, although Summer is technically over- at least calendar wise, summer weather and all things summer don’t officially really start winding down until October 30th (daylight savings)- so until the sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes are officially in full swing- squeeze out the rest of the summer weather and check out these foolproof beauty fixes to keep your summer sweat induced breakouts, frizz and your tan at bay.

 

  1. Dirty Lemon- Dirty Lemon?! Yes you read that correctly. You know what they say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And no, we’re not talking about Beyonce’s Lemonade.. This brand specializes in an entire line of charcoal lemonade (detox, energy, skin & hair, and sleep). Not sure about that last one- but as an avid charcoal lemonade drinker, and tough critic, I was surprised to instantly fall for this trendy detox drink. I found it the perfect balance of sweet and refreshing (props for only containing 1 gram of sugar and 10 calories per bottle too!) It also contains no added sugars, Dandelion Root, Ginger Root and Activated Charcoal. The label touts promises to support liver and kidney function but it also serves as a healthy summer essential for post hangover nights/weekends away and as a natural detox to set the tone for a successful week.
  2. Cocoil- While I was hesitant at first to slather my skin head to toe in overly oily coconut oil (the same kind I cook with and occasionally use for a hair mask), this unique blend of organic oils from Australian brand, Cocoil was plesasingly hydrating and nourishing during and after a day in the sun and for preserving a well earned tan.
  3. Rosewater- this rosewater by Mario Badescu is an absolute essential on my list because it’s refreshing, helps add some life back to your makeup midday and also smells amazing
  4. Le Roche Posay- I love to get some vitamin D in the summer but no one wants a sunburn, least of all me. My favorite sunscreen that keeps my skin protected and breakout free is Le Roche Posay which I can grab at CVS before I hit the beach (score!) They have so many varieties to choose from included tinted moisturizer sunscreens, sunscreen+primers and sunscreen serums (my fave) so I can fight the sun and still give my skin some antioxidants.
  5. Face mask- oily skin because of summer sweatiness and wearing hats screams out
  6. PawPaw ointment made from fermented Papayas helps keep lips moisturized and also can double as a low-key eyeshadow primer. Your world is your oyster with this one so feel free to get creative on ways to moisturize your skin with this secret weapon.
  7. AfterBite– is your best friend after a bug ridden beach day, hike or camping trip that leaves you itchy and irritated.
  8. Lip Stain- for adding a pop of color without the weighted down, waxy feeling of lipstick. Because, no one wants that in the summer. This rollerball applicator lip stain from Milk is an unexpected new favorite of mine that is hydrating, has long lasting natural color pigments and contains vitamin E that leaves lips feeling moisturized. While I’m normally not a fan of lip stains because they end up looking like paint, this one dares to be different.
  9. Sunbum Natural Browning Lotion made from certified organic coconut and argan oils aloe vera and kona coffee, this lotion is both vegan and gluten free and doesn’t contain harmful/ questionable chemicals but still keeps to achieve a deep, dark tan by cutting tanning time down and activating the skin to help get desired color faster.
  10. Get the perfect “surf hair” tousled/beachy waves thing going on with this guy. I have naturally curly hair anyway but that doesn’t stop me from using this during the summer to give my hair the perfect beach hair.
City Sculpts

Workouts we tried: Bari

On a rainy, humid Sunday I woke up antsy after a mostly sedentary weekend. It seemed like a perfect day to get some sculpt in and after a long past due attempt to try a class at Bari, I made the leap and navigated to the chic NYC studio in TriBeCa. All I can say is: believe the hype. 
THE STUDIO:
The lofty TriBeCa space had a chic, modern interior and the friendly staff was welcoming and accommodating.  I was surprised to find it was full of amenities/ necessities plus there’s a shower so it’s pre date/ night or approved 🙌🏼 
I personally hate when intense workouts are followed by an absence of showers. Luckily that wasn’t the case here, they have 2 showers, blow dryers and spray on deodorant if you need a touch up. Lockers line the back wall on the way to the studio, and the built in combo locks on all of them are convenient. 

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THE WORKOUT:
My first Bari class (bounce everest class) didn’t disappoint-it was a fast paced, dynamic and challenging workout that provided the perfect amount of cardio and toning.The small class size provided an intimate setting and the opportunity for Individualized attention.  The coordination was challenging to follow at times, but definitely not overwhelming and the instructor, Ailene really did an amazing job making sure everyone was on track and doing the workout correctly. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of  “danced based cardio workouts”‘ I’ll admit I was hesitant at first to try what is boasted as  “the most cardio centric class”, but I’m glad I did.
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(Source: Instagram @BariStudio)
THE CROWD:
 
Chic, slightly scene-y editors, models ( Joan Smalls), fitness bloggers ( Hannah Bronfman) and people from the art and fashion scene. Slightly intimidating but motivating and a healthy amount of competitive mix. The words “down bounce” will become your new favorite words/ mantra/ motto until the class ends. The class will likely end with everyone drenched in a pile of sweat so we’re all friends here. 
BOTTOM LINE: 
 
It’s a workout – no doubt. Like a scenester, chic cousin of Barry’s Bootcamp. I immediately felt the toning results the next day but regretted not doing a full stretch after class. All in all an amazing workout that’s a lot of fun!
Eat Out

Lunching at Manhattan’s Newest Hotspot: The Pennsy

 

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(Photo by: J. Lisa)

Located in a New York City’s Midtown West neighborhood ( on 33rd and 7th Avenue) is the latest trendy eating establishment, “Pennsy” which pays homage to meatpacking’s renown “Chelsea Market” but includes offerings from some of the city’s most upscale eateries such as The Cinnamon Snail, The Little Beet, Lobster Press, Pat LaFrieda, La Colombe, Mario by Mary (by Mary Giuliani & Mario Batali.)

Pennsy, which opened early last month, offers a varied palette of gourmet fast casual options coupled with a chic atmosphere, and plenty of indoor open seating ( 8,000 square feet worth!)

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( Photo: instagram @Thepennsy)

The Cinnamon Snail, the vegan hot spot which has a loyal, cult-like following was previously a food truck and it’s newest location at the Pennsy signifies it’s first foray into having a brick and mortar location. The veggie focused, gluten free destination, The Little Beet also serves up a diverse menu chock full of clean eating options such as the beet and quinoa bowl, and the lentil, quinoa, chickpea beet box.

Mario by Mary takes a gourmet spin at classic soup and sandwich combinations, while Pat LaFrieda offers hot toasted sandwiches, roasted vegetable sides and side salads. The Lobster Press redefines the traditional lobster sandwich by transforming it into a warm, freshly pressed panini. There’s even a counter serving La Colombe coffee and lattes!

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( Photo: instagram @Thepennsy)

Pennsy signifies a change in the area surrounding Penn Station that is known for it’s sparse to nonexistent healthy eating options. This new delicious destination has already proven to be largely popular (with long lines to prove it), so if you haven’t already checked it out, try and come before the lunchtime rush!

 

 

 

 

 

Detox

Pressed Juicery comes to NYC!

 New York already has its fair share of juice stores, but with the recent close of NY founded juice company, Organic Avenue, many are left wondering if the “juice fad” is coming to an end.

Coming soon to the blog! Juice heaven at @pressedjuicery #sculptandshineLA #DTLA

After recently returning from a trip to LA, I noticed that , despite Organic Avenue shuttering all of its stores, NY is actually still flooded with a wide variety of juice store chains. Some of which include: Juice Generation, Juice Press and Liquiteria. I was relieved that there were some new awesome juice bars in LA they didn’t have in NY such as Kimberly Snyder’s Glow Bio and my personal favorite, Pressed Juicery.

On my first day in LA, I fell in love with this renowned west coast juice chain.

The vibe inside the small Downtown LA  location was cheerful and welcoming and I loved how they doled out samples per the customer’s request (compared to traditionally where it’s a self serve try it out kind of situation.)

They were having a seasonal sale, offering 4 juices for $20 (i know, insane!) so it gave me room to try a ton of new flavors. I tried the roots 2, greens 2, lavender charcoal lemonade, coconut cinnamon, and greens 1.5.

The vast array of unique flavors made me an instant fan, and I vowed to move to the west coast solely for the purpose of being closer to this juice chain..(not joking)

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So imagine my delight when, before my boxing class at Overthrow ,I spotted a Pressed Juicery in Nolita! The store, which opened this past Monday is manhattan’s first and only location. They also offer a customer reward’s program which is awesome because it allows customer’s to accumulate points with each purchase and each point earned goes towards future discounts.

 (Woot woot)

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Pressed Juicery’s latest digs in Nolita! Cheers!

Eat Out

Juicy Mondays at The Butcher’s Daughter

For the latest Juicy Monday post, we checked out the Butcher’s Daughter outpost, The Butcher’s Daughter Market, located next store to the original restaurant in Manhattan’s chic Nolita neighborhood. While I’m always a fan of the Butcher’s Daughter cafe, the market is a great spot to grab a healthy smoothie, fresh pressed juice, homemade nut mylks or healthy baked treat.

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I tried a #4 Green Juice ( on their “simple juices” menu) which was made of cucumber, kale, and green apple. I loved how they switched to eco-friendly packaging ( cute cardboard juice carton) since I had been there last. They also offer red, orange and yellow juices for grab and go at the market; while the cafe features more elaborate “heritage” juices such as the “waterflower” juice that features cactus pear, lavender flower, watermelon, fennel, honeydew and lime. My favorite at the cafe though is the goddess of green, if you go definitely give it a try. The #4 Green Juice I ordered was refreshing and definitely hit the spot, plus not having to wait for a table during brunch hour was a huge plus.

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Happy Healthy Monday & Cheers to a New Week!

 

xx SS