Herbal Tea: Is it really good for you?

A few weeks ago I decided to start a bedtime routine to hopefully help me develop the habit of going to bed earlier. I’m a night owl, and I frequently would stay up past midnight. I wanted to change that – not by much, but if I can regularly go to bed by 11:00, that would be great.

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The routine I’ve established is to brush my teeth, wash/tone/moisturize my face, put on my PJs, and then prepare a relaxing cup of herbal tea. I sit in my recliner and slowly sip my tea – savoring it – being mindful. When I finish the tea, I rinse the cup and put it away, and then I go to bed.

The research behind establishing a bedtime routine is that our bodies become accustomed to the pattern. So once that herbal tea hits my system, my body says, “Okay, I’m sleepy! Go to bed, Carol!”

I’ve been doing better on WW since I started this routine. I don’t know if there is a connection between the two or not. However, it is working for me, and I’m enjoying the variety of herbal teas that I’m trying. I’m drinking herbal tea during the day, too. As the weather gets cooler, I will likely drink it even more often during the day.

At night, I choose from a selection of my bedtime teas

And I have to mention that one thing that piqued my interest in herbal teas is that I’m a fan of the History Channel’s show “Alone.” And this past season, so many of the contestants talked about making tea from the plants they found growing around them. “How to make teas” was probably one of the topics that they covered in their “boot camp” before the competition started. And I can understand how knowing which plants to use and how to make the tea would be beneficial in a situation such as that.

This afternoon, I started researching herbal teas. I haven’t read much about them before now. I was eager to find out if herbal teas offer any concrete health benefits. And, by George, they do!

First of all, herbal teas aren’t really teas because they aren’t made from tea leaves. They’re called “tisanes” (I’ve never heard or seen that word before!) or, in more familiar language, they are “infusions.” They can be made from edible spices, herbs, fruit, bark, roots, flowers, or any combination of the aforementioned. An infusion allows you to enjoy the benefits of a plant in an easily digestible form. And just about everything I read extolled the benefits – even including the fact that usually if you’re drinking herbal tea, you’re not eating. Thus, it may help to control weight. LOL! “May” being the operative word in that last sentence.

I went on a bit of a buying spree when I decided to become an herbal tea drinker. I’d had some Two Leaves and a Bud tea at a restaurant a few years ago, and I loved it. So I got some of their “Better Belly Blend” and some “Chamomile.” Then I asked my Facebook friends for herbal tea recommendations, and bought some that they recommended.

Since stomach issues have always been a part of my life, I have a selection of teas that aid digestion. These are the ones I drink after meals. I can testify that they DO help!

The composition of an herbal tea determines the health benefits. For example, chamomile is good for relaxation, while ginger helps with digestion. Here’s a chart with some of the more popular herbal tea ingredients.

What is Herbal Tea? Benefits and Characteristics | Full ...

The good news is that herbal teas are very popular, and you can find high quality teas in most grocery stores. Of course, you can get just about all of them from Amazon, although often you have to buy more than one box of them – which makes it a little less tempting. When you only drink 2-3 cups a day, you don’t need a dozen 15-bag boxes!

I wanted a tea box to hold all my teas! I love this one because it hold lots of varieties, and I can easily replace teas as I use them.

There are blends for just about everything. I bought some for sleep and some for digestion, but I also got a detox tea, and some that would perk me up a little, if needed.

Other teas I drink occasionally

I wanted a special cup for my tea, and decided this one that I made at Third Coast Clay when I went there with my 10-year old granddaughter in August was perfect. It’s the right size, and it is now my official tea cup.

October Goals

September has come and gone, and a new month has begun. Here are my goals for October:

  1. Make a list of meals that work for me. I want to plan ahead so I don’t waste so much food. Those plans will be food that I like.  I started on this last night – writing out meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with snacks and desserts. I plan to convert them to pdf and post them on this website.
  2. Build on the exercise routine I started in September. That means doing circuit work in my exercise room, along with having the goal of at least 5K steps each day.
  3. Continue with self-care routines – skin care, bedtime herbal tea, prayer and meditation time each day.

I will stop there. My tendency is to go overboard on plans, but the reality is that they need to be kept small and do-able.

Get Outside! An Atomic Habit

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by [James Clear]Sometimes we come across a book that actually changes our lives. That happened to me a couple years ago when I read a book titled Atomic Habits by James Clear.  The basic premise is that if we set big goals, we often set ourselves up for defeat since big and perfect goals take so much time and effort. However, if we work on small habits – 3 minutes of exercise each morning, cutting out one teaspoon of sugar in our coffee, writing one thank you note each week, making two business calls before lunch – then it becomes like compound interest. The benefits snowball over time.

Back in March when this pandemic isolation began, I decided that one atomic habit I wanted to develop was getting outside for just a few minutes each day.  Here is a video I made on today’s walk. Excuse the breathlessness! I had just walked up a hill. I could’ve waited till I caught my breath to start the video, but this is calling “Living Real with Carol!” and the reality was that I was a little breathless at the moment.

When Problems Become Idols

I was reading a devotional book the other day, and it talked about how sometimes we let problems and worries take over; they become idols to us. It was a different way of looking at things we tend to obsess over, and it made me realize that my weight issues have become like an idol to me.

Commitment versus Motivation/Willpower

I am a member of many Weight Watchers groups on Facebook. One frequent comment that is posted numerous times a day by many different people is something along these lines:

I lost my motivation. What can I do to get it back?

I do really well all day, but then at night I lose all my willpower!

I keep forgetting to log my food, and by the time I remember I’m already over my points for the day, and I just give up! What can I do to get the motivation to get back on track?

Recently I read that the difference between succeeding or failing is in whether we rely on motivation/willpower or we rely on commitment.  Motivation and willpower are hard to pinpoint. They’re often intangible and vague, whereas a commitment is a concrete thing,

Back in July when I MADE THE COMMITMENT to start WW again, I knew that this time was different. I wasn’t going on a diet. I wasn’t going to “try” this and see if it would work. I was committed to a different way of living for the rest of my life.

As I write this, it is 10:30 in the evening. Awhile ago, I heard the Baked Cheetos in my pantry calling my name. I’ve used all my daily points, I have only 7 weekly points left, and I still have two more full days before my points re-set for a new week.  I craved those salty, cheesy, and crispy Cheetos. However, I reminded myself of my commitment to REAL change. And real change is learning to say no to those cravings. The more I give in, the more I give in. The more I resist, the more I resist. I know I’m not hungry. I had a healthy dinner and I had some grapes for an after-dinner snack. I’ve had more than enough food today. So I bypassed the pantry and wrote this post instead.

Then I thought of the quote above: Commitment strengthens over time but begins with a single decision. Next time those Cheetos call my name, it will be easier to decide to forego them. The only way to stop eating late in the evening is to stop eating late in the evening. Each single decision I make that supports my commitment makes me a stronger and better person.

Comparison is the thief of joy

I’ve joined a lot of Weight Watchers groups on Facebook.  Multiple times a day someone will post something along these lines: 

I have tracked every single bite this week, I’ve guzzled so much water I’m drowning, and I’ve walked 10K steps every day, and at my weigh-in, I ONLY lost 15  pounds! I’m so upset and frustrated, I want to quit.

That’s really not much of an exaggeration. I just read one post where a woman said she’d lost 30 pounds in two months. Really?

I read posts like that and think, “Yeah, I’ve been at this for eight weeks, and I’ve “only” lost a little over 8 lbs.”

Theodore Roosevelt had it right: if we start comparing our lives with others, we will often lose our joy because there will always be those who have more, do more, spend more, eat more, lose more, paint more, travel more, etc.

The word “only” should be banned. It a word that diminishes and trivializes, and we don’t want to diminish and trivialize things that are important to us. It’s denotes a false and unbecoming humility that we use so no one will think we are bragging.

Losses each week of 1/2 lb, or 1/10 lb, or 1/100 lb add up. If I stay the course, it will eventually equal a big weight loss. And what does it matter if it takes 3 months, 6 months, one year, two years, or more to reach my “ideal” weight? The time will pass anyway; wouldn’t it be better during the passing of that time for me to be doing what is best for my body? Wouldn’t it be better that I spend the time developing habits that will serve me well into the rest of my 70s, into my 80s and 90s?

So I pledge to congratulate others on their achievements, but to remain happy that despite what the scale number is, I am now in my 9th week of taking better care of myself. My whole self – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What does “mindfulness” look like?

For the tagline to this blog, I wrote: “A journey of health, fitness, and mindfulness after the age of 70.” So far I’ve written a lot about health via all my WW posts. However, I haven’t written much at all about fitness and mindfulness. So today I will talk about mindfulness.

With all that’s going on in the world today, it is easy to have one’s mind full to bursting with all the news about riots, diseases, unrest, quarantines, etc.  “Experts” weigh in with opposing views on just about everything. That makes it all the more important to deliberately be mindful and to foster mindful practices in everyday life.

Mindfulness can be defined as the nurturing practice of being aware of one’s environment, thoughts, emotions, and experiences “in the moment” while remaining kind and nonjudgmental to oneself and others.

Being mindful is no small accomplishment! How am I kind to myself?  How do I nurture positive behaviors in order to take care of myself?  First – back to the other posts I’ve made in this blog – I am being nurturing and kind to myself by taking better care of my body via eating well and following the WW plan.

Mindful eating is really what WWs is all about.  One unhealthy habit I have is that I quickly eat most of my meals sitting in my recliner either watching TV or scrolling through my phone or laptop. I would like to replace that habit with a more nurturing one – sitting at a table with soft music playing – slowing down and being mindful of taste and texture – drinking plenty of water along with the meal.  TODAY I will start with dinner each day – at the dining room table, music from my iPhone, talking with my husband.

What does mindfulness look like right now in my life?

  1. I’ve recently started a skin care regimen. I’m fortunate in having a good inheritance when it comes to my skin. I’ve never had to do much to have good skin. However, now that I’m in my 70s, the wrinkles are more apparent. Rather than going to bed without removing my makeup first (something I’ve always done!), I’ve started washing my face with a good skin care product (Rodan + Fields), using a toner, and then a face cream.  In the mornings, I apply a sunscreen before applying makeup. I consider it a soothing and relaxing way to prepare for bed.
  2. In the mornings, I’ve started back having my quiet time. I did this for year before, but in the past couple years, I’ve let it slide.  During my quiet time, I read the Bible, keep a prayer journal, and read a devotional – all while enjoying my morning coffee. It is delightful way to start the day, and it’s a “centering” practice.
  3. I make my own healing skin cream. I am a “picker” – meaning if there is any blemish on my skin, I tend to pick at it. It is a habit that is SO hard to break! There’s something about the lack of smoothness that makes me feel compelled to try to make it smooth by scratching at it. So I made my own healing cream that I put on any blemish to help it heal quickly.   I mix it in a bowl and put it in small 2-oz. cosmetic jars. And I’m making a concerted effort to stop the picking! I have made my own regular skin cream for the past year, too. I prefer both the skin cream and the healing cream over any commercial cream I’ve found. It’s not only a self-care practice, it helps to foster my creativity.
  4. I do mindfulness walks around our yard. That was something I started at the beginning of the Covid-19 quarantine in March 2020.  We are fortunate to have some acreage where I can walk. I try to get outside in the sun on a daily basis and just walk around, breathing deeply, for a few minutes each day.
  5. I’m working on more regularly keeping my home clean and neat because a clean and organized environment fosters calm and peace. Yesterday I cleaned out my closet (again!). The pantry is next. Then my art studio. The rest of the house stays fairly clean and neat.
  6. With SO much discord in the world right now, I have avoided the news as much as possible for a long time. I get most news via the internet – but I can select news outlets that don’t have obvious biases. I want to form my own opinions rather than be told what to believe – which is what most news outlet do. That way I can be informed without being manipulated into getting upset or angry.
  7. My Apple watch is set to regularly remind me to breathe deeply throughout the day. Sometimes just taking a deep breathe is calming.

Balance is another aspect of mindfulness, and I think I do a pretty good job of that. I work around the house or paint or cook or whatever, but I also take breaks, I write, and I visit family and friends.