Skin, Hair and Nails, OH MY!

  1. If your hair is looking super greasy, dried and straw-like, discolored, broken-off and fuzzy, frizzy, tangled, engrossed with split-ends, or you have an itchy scalp with dandruff/scaling: it’s your endocrine system.
  2. If your skin has a funny yellowish/other color tint, is producing lots of acne-causing oils and blackheads, growing abnormal amounts of hair/ingrown hairs, is dry, cracked, flaky or discolored: it’s your endocrine system.
  3. If your nails are splitting, breaking off, ingrown, bleeding or cracked at the cuticle, discolored, really thin, flimsy or extra thick: it’s your endocrine system.
  4. If you are constantly getting sick, have swollen lymph nodes, have a chronic ailment related to your immune system: it’s most likely due to a dysfunctional gland(s) within the endocrine system; unfortunately, this dysfunction may prove to be an accurate reflection of lifestyle choices.

Your endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate your body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function.  The hormones are released into the blood stream and transported to tissues and organs throughout the body.  The endocrine system consists of:

  • Pineal body-Involved with daily biological cycles
  • Pituitary-Produces a number of different hormones that influence other various endocrine glands
  • Hypothalamus-Activates and controls the part of the nervous system responsible for many involuntary bodily functions (for example, regulating sleep or stimulating appetite) and influences hormones
  • Thyroid gland-Produces hormones that stimulate body heat production, bone growth, and the body’s metabolism
  • Parathyroids-Secretes a hormone that maintains calcium levels in the circulatory system
  • Thymus gland-Plays a role in the body’s immune system
  • Adrenal glands-Divided into 2 regions; secrete hormones that influence the body’s metabolism, blood chemicals and body characteristics, as well as influence the part of the nervous system that is involved in the response and defense against stress
  • Pancreas-Secretes a hormone (insulin) that controls the use of glucose by the body
  • Ovaries-Secrete hormones that influence female characteristics
  • Testicles-Secrete hormones that influence male characteristics

If any of these glands are not functioning the way they are supposed to, your body outwardly displays these problems through parts of us that essentially pertain to beauty standards (skin, hair, nails, sexual organs and our weight/body shape/size).  Maintaining a healthy endocrine system helps your body perform many of its vital functions, such as growth, development, reproduction and immunity. The endocrine system may also affect some aspects of personality and behavior. An unhealthy endocrine system can result in thyroid diseases, osteoporosis and a variety of other problems, both large and small.

Protect your endocrine system, health and overall appearance by:

  • Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet
  • Be aware of family history pertaining to endocrine problems and take preventative measures against those problems which could be hereditary
  • Find healthy ways to eliminate stress that can result in disorders or a weakened immune system
  • Take a daily vitamin or supplement such as Biotin or others that support endocrine system hormones and glands

Server Etiquette

When you go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant that’s supposed to provide a friendly staff who serves your food and beverages and caters to your every need pertaining to that experience, do you judge that restaurant experience prior to entering the building?  I’ve held the title ‘server’ at seven restaurants in the past six years and it seems as if more and more guests come in to order with a negative attitude and a less-than-full wallet.  Your restaurant experience will really come down to the type of dining atmosphere from which you are choosing: location, depth and variety of the menu, types of food on the menu and their market prices (compared to other restaurants that have similar food and claims), quality of the food and beverages, staff uniform, gender-specific staff, socio-economic and education expectations among staff and other guests, hygienic qualities of the staff, cleanliness of the bathrooms, dining rooms, utensils, dishes and any other paraphernalia that is supposed to complement the quality and standards of the restaurant.

Your server can be trained to accommodate guests’ expectations for any restaurant by shadowing other co-workers, adhering to managerial instruction, studying the food and drink menus, knowing what each dish looks like and what it comes with, practicing scripts to guests and sophistication (or not) of those one-fits-all scripts/ individual and personal treatment to tables, and by up-selling specialty food and drinks (the customer buys a speciality beverage or entree based on your recommendations and knowledge of the dish/drink).  With each new serving job, the management, duties and atmospheres seem to be polar opposites from the prior and succumb to inefficiency without corporate affiliation.

Regardless to what the server knows about how the restaurant is run, the guest should enter the restaurant, look around, read a menu and decide if that restaurant is a yes or no for that dining experience.  At that point, if your server is impressing you with skills, attitude and competency, YOU SHOULD NEVER LEAVE LESS THAN AN 18% GRATUITY.  A SERVER’S ABILITIES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ABILITIES OF THE KITCHEN STAFF WHO PREPARED THE FOOD.  It is only the server’s responsibility to know what the food should look like, how they are supposed to serve that food, refill drinks when notified or noticed during a scanning round (casually looking around at your tables while they’re eating to see if they are low on anything/looks on their faces while eating/eyes searching for something or someone) and handling your money to pay for the bill.

***It is insulting to a server to receive lower than 18% if they’ve effectively performed everything listed above and gone above and beyond expectations, treating the guests like royalty.  We work hard for your tips doing absurd things other professions would never require and if you don’t have the money to tip 18% or more of the check, the solution is simple: DON’T EAT AT THAT RESTAURANT.  GO SOMEWHERE WHERE YOU CAN AFFORD TO TIP AT LEAST 18% AND THAT SERVER WILL BE PLEASED. ***

One last thing, your SERVER is not your SERVANT, so don’t treat them like one.  Use your manners and professional demeanor when out to eat.  Restaurants and their staff are businesses too.  

Haircare Promises

Have you ever paused in the shower to read the back of your shampoo/conditioner bottles and attempted to comprehend even one word of the active ingredients?  I have been jumping in between shampoo and conditioning systems lately based on advertisements I see for these brands because I simply don’t have the time to research individual ingredients across hundreds of brands.  I switched back to Pantene Pro-V from Garnier about a month ago and noticed that my hair now has more split ends in these 30 days than it has had in the past two years.  I became frustrated as I was going through my hair, dusting my split ends  and grabbed the Pantene volume bottle to comb through the ingredients and compare them to another set of shampoo/conditioner sitting in the shower (John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde).  

Almost every active ingredient ended with the word alcohol, acid or sulfate.  Right off the bat I internalized those words picturing a FirsAid kit, doctor’s office, laundry detergent and then chemical cleaners.  It turns out that sodium sulfates, alcohol, hydrogens and acids are all highly effective surfactants in the removal of oily stains and residues.  These compounds can be found in engine degreasers, floor cleaners, car wash soaps, pesticides, and ah yes, toothpastes, shampoos, shaving creams and bubble bath formulas for their abilities to effectively lather.  I can’t speak for other people but I was very uncomfortable with the fact that the products I’m using to clean my mouth, body and hair have the same ingredients found in harsh, dangerous chemical cleaners.  Women’s Health Magazine explains each common ingredient in shampoo and conditioner and why manufacturers need them to all balance each other out.

So what products are safe and trustworthy?  Top 10 picks by TotalBeauty readers:

  1. Arbonne FC5 Nourishing Shampoo
  2. Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo
  3. Kerastase Bain Oleo-Curl Shampoo
  4. Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Moisturizing Lather Shampoo
  5. Aubrey Organics Blue Chamomile Hydrating Shampoo
  6. Mizani Thermasmooth Shampoo
  7. Kerastase Bain Satin 2 Shampoo
  8. Beecology Natural Honey and Botanical Sulfate-Free Shampoo
  9. Dove Nourishing Oil Care Shampoo
  10. Giovanni Smooth as Silk Shampoo


“Skin Improving” Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy consists of exposure to daylight or to specific wavelengths of light using polychromatic, polarized light, lasers, light emitting diodes, fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps or very bright full spectrum light, usually controlled with various devices.  The light is administered for a prescribed amount of time and, in some cases, at a specific time of day.  Light therapy is a common form of treatment for a variety of conditions from auto immune disorders like psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo to wound healing, depression, seasonal affective disorder and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.  Two forms of phototherapy exist, non-targeted phototherapy (from sunlight or a light box like those found at tanning salons), and targeted-phototherapy, in which light is administered to a specific, localized area of the skin.  Current targeted phototherapy is administered through excimer lasers, elemental gas lamps, or LED lights.

The FDA has cleared devices on the market including XTRAC excimer laser, BClear, Theralight, and Psoria-Light LED phototherapy.  Targeted phototherapy is administered in a doctor’s office and is only administered to the affected skin, not the entire body, thus sparing healthy skin from UV rays which may lead to other health issues including skin cancer.  While different wavelengths work for different conditions, treatment is most often done with narrow band UVB (NB-UVB) as this is the safest wavelength. Non-targeted phototherapy can be delivered at doctor’s office or at home via prescription using a booth, multidirectional unit, or wand; the unaffected skin is simply covered. Several devices are FDA-approved for home including the Panosol 3D, Richmond Light and Solarc Handheld.  

Red light easily penetrates the skin and boosts circulation, releasing more blood and nutrients to the area. It also stimulates vital collagen and elastin production; collagen helps plump the skin, while elastin firms the skin. The red light is energizing as it repairs damaged cells and restores skin back to its youthful look.


  • Reduction in wrinkles and fine lines
  • Tightening and firming (non-surgical face lift alternative)
  • Reduction or complete loss of blemishes and redness
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Reduces sun and age spots
  • Corrects hyperpigmentation on face, hands, neck
  • Improves/diminishes severe acne and acne scars
  • Can drastically reduce the appearance of cellulite with continued sessions

How to Keep the Calories off This Easter

Though Easter may have originated as a Christian holiday, it has been thought of as a time for family gatherings and feasting.  Feasting on chocolate, feasting on candy, feasting on ham, feasting on macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole, feasting on…OK, we get the point.  The typical Thanksgiving meal is around 4,500 calories per person: nearly twice the daily recommended allowance. The New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope wanted to test this theory so she created a virtual Thanksgiving feast that would sit with even the most insatiable eater.

  • 6 oz. of turkey, with skin: 299 calories
  • sausage stuffing: 310 calories
  • dinner roll and butter: 310 calories
  • sweet-potato casserole: 300 calories
  • mashed potatoes and gravy: 140 calories
  • green-bean casserole: 110 calories
  • cranberry sauce: 15 calories
  • brussels sprouts: 83 calories
  • pumpkin pie: 316 calories
  • pecan pie: 503 calories
  • whipped cream: 100 calories

total: 2,486 calories

Your family probably makes a ham for Easter and substitutes banana cream pie for pumpkin pie but the point is that the meals are very similar and probably have the same caloric value.  Parker-Pope says you could push your calorie count higher by downing a few glasses of wine or pre-dinner snacks (or, adds NewsFeed, by using a Paula Deen cookbook). But at some point, the body just says no: “After about 1,500 calories in one sitting, the gut releases a hormone that causes nausea.” Still, it may be possible to overcome your gut reflexes and stuff like a champ. ‘You can stretch your stomach’s capacity (normally about 8 cups) by regularly overeating over time,’ according to Lawrence Kosinski, committee chairman of the American Gastroenterological Association.

Replace your Heavenly Ham with lean meat choices in the form of pork, lamb, veal, poultry or game at 3 g of fat and 55 calories per ounce; just make sure you don’t exceed six ounces or there will be no point in choosing a leaner meat.  These meat choices are also recommended for diabetics in the family who will appreciate the fact that you kept them in mind while cooking.  As disappointing as it might be, serve bowls of mixed fruit topped with light whipped cream to your guests instead of pie: you won’t feel as guilty the next morning when you step on the scale.  Limit the amount of chocolate/candy the ‘Easter Bunny’ puts in each basket and hold a challenging ‘post-dinner Easter Egg Hunt’ outside to walk off calories as you race each other to find eggs.  The use of incentives such as money or gift cards in random eggs is helpful in motivating just about everyone to get off the couch and join the hunt.


The Cheapest Health Foods

I don’t have a lot of money to overindulge in expensive super foods, dietary supplements or pre-portioned weight-loss programs but I know what works and delivers results.  The nutrients found in all foods and drinks provide nourishment for the body. This nourishment is in the form of:

  • Substances which provide energy
  • Building blocks for bone, muscle, organs, hormones and blood
  • Substances needed for processes to occur in the body (like digestion)
  • Substances that protect the body

Nutrients are drawn from a wide variety of foods and the more varied your diet, the more likely you are to obtain all the nutrients you need.  The 4 key nutrients recommended by the daily intake guide are fat, saturated fats, sugars and sodium (salt).  Additional nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals which play many crucial roles in the body’s function and wellbeing, but do not provide energy (kilojoules).

Some nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mushrooms (crimini and shiitake)
  • Potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Cantaloupe, papaya, raspberries, strawberries
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
  • Beans (garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto)
  • Lentils, peas
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice
  • Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
  • Lean beef, lamb, venison
  • Chicken, turkey

All of these foods are important for building muscle, trimming fat and maintaining good health but some can cost more than you might be willing to spend.  These are my top ten cheaper food ideas that have gotten me through my college years and kept me in the same jeans since high school:

  1. Canned tuna/salmon/sardines (I mix the meat w/ spicy brown mustard)
  2. Bananas, apples and large bags of frozen mixed berries–> the mixed berries are great for smoothies and disguise the taste of added vegetables like fresh spinach leaves
  3. Eggs and Bacon–>Eat one egg and one piece of bacon for breakfast
  4. Turkey and Chicken–>Low sodium turkey lunch meat and larger packages of frozen chicken lasts you about two weeks, delivers protein and keeps you full compared to empty carbohydrates and sugars
  5. Whole wheat bread
  6. Skim Milk
  7. Water
  8. Generic low-fat yogurt
  9. Oatmeal
  10. Canned or frozen vegetables

Look Your Best, Feel Your Best: Say No to Ratchet

#Ratchet: a word that has recently developed in our culture to describe a woman who doesn’t dress with class or sophistication, practices poor hygiene and makes tacky, uneducated decisions.  Ratchet is not a word to be proud of and the rise of social media just points out more and more of these scenarios that can be easily avoided.  Ladies, if you have the money and resources to take care of yourself, PLEASE DO for all our sakes and reputations.  Even those of you who think you don’t have the money to sacrifice on your personal appearance, there are ways around the ratchet routine.  I will personally share some pointers for those of you ballin’ on a strict budget.

  • If you aren’t washing your hair and body everyday because you need to lower your water bill, don’t have time to or can’t waste money on shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors, body wash, etc. there are plenty of ways to keep a clean appearance and fresh smell.
  1. DRY SHAMPOO: Pick up a Dove or TRESemee dry shampoo from Wal-Mart for $5 or less.  Dry shampoo is a spray shampoo or powder that you rub throughout your roots and ends of unwashed hair to absorb oil and give a clean appearance.  If you don’t like the dry shampoo or can’t afford it, sprinkle a baby powder through your roots and work it through thoroughly to absorb oil.
  2. TOOTHPASTE W/ BAKING SODA: Toothpaste is only a few dollars, sometimes less.  You can pick up a toothbrush at the dollar store and brush your teeth at least twice a day with a whitening toothpaste like Arm&Hammer’s Extreme Whitening (or the generic) to effectively lift stains and keep breath fresh without purchasing scope or whitening strips.
  3. DEODORANT: You need to apply deodorant every day after cleansing your armpits with soap or a wipe to rid and mask unpleasant, overbearing body odor.  Try to buy a scented deodorant (spray or roll-on) if you can’t afford a body spray or perfume so you stay fresh and smell decent.
  4. BABY WIPES: If you don’t have time/can’t afford to wash your body everyday with a body wash, buy a large package of generic baby wipes from the dollar store and wipe your body down head to toe before getting dressed to remove dirt, oil and odor.
  5. RAZORS: If you aren’t going to shave an area on your body, don’t show it off!  Simple as that!  Purchase disposable razors and use them twice or a razor with a built-in shaving cream to cut shaving time in half and reduce costs of both shaving creams and razors

Amateur or Professional in the Workplace: You Decide

I started a new job last weekend in a fine dining restaurant called Annie’s, located in Stevensville, Maryland.  Annie’s staff is supposed to be sophisticated, classy, knowledgable, friendly and satisfactory to every customer that enters and is willing to spend around $30 on an entree.  After two short training shifts last weekend for serving and one training shift for food running/expediting Friday, I was thrown to the wolves last night.  I mean literally, thrown to the wolves: my coworkers (and customers) proved to be rather vicious, arrogant, belittling and completely unsupportive of myself and each other.

I know comparing an upscale restaurant staff to innovative, college educated, salaried employees who build, uphold and represent a branded corporation isn’t the best analogy to preach professionalism in the workplace but every business can benefit from these tips by the Monster Career Coach.

1. Competence. You’re good at what you do – and you have the skills and knowledge that enable you to do your job well.

2. Reliability. People can depend on you to show up on time, submit your work when it’s supposed to be ready, etc.

3. Honesty. You tell the truth and are upfront about where things stand.

4. Integrity. You are known for your consistent principles.

5. Respect For Others. Treating all people as if they mattered is part of your approach.

6. Self-Upgrading. Rather than letting your skills or knowledge become outdated, you seek out ways of staying current.

7. Being Positive. No one likes a constant pessimist. Having an upbeat attitude and trying to be a problem-solver makes a big difference.

8. Supporting Others. You share the spotlight with colleagues, take time to show others how to do things properly, and lend an ear when necessary.

9. Staying Work-Focused. Not letting your private life needlessly have an impact on your job, and not spending time at work attending to personal matters.

10. Listening Carefully. People want to be heard, so you give people a chance to explain their ideas properly.

If you treat people around you with disrespect, keep them waiting unnecessarily, steal their thunder by using their ideas without giving them credit, say one thing then do the complete opposite, break promises regularly and are pessimistic/unsupportive of those around you, YOU ARE BEING UNPROFESSIONAL.

Abnormal Eating Habits 101

“Ok, this is it.  This is the month I’m going to do it.  I’m going to diet, eat healthy and workout for that body I want.  Oh my god that brownie was good.  Er, I mean, four brownies.  Ok, those four brownies were great.  Wait, four?  That’s like thousands of calories, what was I thinking?!  Oh god I’m not eating anything else today, that’s it.  Man I’m starving from not eating all day.  Maybe a few crackers will hold me over.  How many hand fuels did I just eat?!  Seriously?  I just ingested 100 grams of carbs!  Not cool, I better run it off.”  If a similar scenario keeps playing out in your head and you are constantly worrying about food and body image, you may be suffering from an eating disorder.

How do I know if I have an eating disorder and what could it be?

  • Anorexia nervosa: When you have anorexia nervosa (an-o-REK-see-uh nur-VOH-suh), you’re obsessed with food and being thin, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.
  • Bulimia nervosa: When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging. During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short duration and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories through vomiting or excessive exercise. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.
  • Binge-eating disorder: When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat excessive amounts of food (binge), but don’t try to compensate for this behavior with exercise or purging as someone with bulimia or anorexia might. You may eat when you’re not hungry and continue eating even long after you’re uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may feel guilty or ashamed, which can trigger a new round of bingeing. You may be a normal weight, overweight or obese.

When to see a doctor

  • If you feel ashamed, sad, hopeless, drained, irritable and anxious.
  • You’re experiencing a host of physical problems such as irregular heartbeats, fatigue, and bowel or menstrual troubles


Protein Powders Exposed

Muscle Milk and Jack3d: two of the most popular creatine powders used among the population’s young athletes in the past decade.  Creatine—typically bought in flavored powders and mixed with liquid—increases the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly. With more energy, you can train harder and more often, producing faster results.  It’s this simple: “If you can lift one or two more reps or 5 more pounds, your muscles will get bigger and stronger,” says Chad Kerksick, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Oklahoma.  Research shows that creatine is most effective in high-intensity training and explosive activities. This includes weight training and sports that require short bursts of effort, such as sprinting, football, and baseball.  Read more…

Why should you consider taking or not taking a creatine powder?

  • If you take creatine, you’ll gain weight at a rapid pace, guaranteed
  • While the initial gain is water (about 2 to 4 pounds in the first week of supplementation), subsequent gains are muscle due to the increase in the workload you can handle
  • Studies in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that muscle fibers grow when a person takes creatine
  • The catch: This only happens if you take advantage of the boost in energy and hit the gym. Otherwise, it is just water weight
  • Creatine doesn’t seem to improve strength or body composition in people over 60
  • In addition to improving athletic performance, creatine is used for congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle’s disease, and for various muscular dystrophies.

Who uses creatine?

  • Creatine is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports
  • The NCAA no longer allows colleges and universities to supply creatine to their students with school funds; students are permitted to buy creatine on their own and the NCAA has no plans to ban creatine unless medical evidence indicates that it is harmful
  • Creatine use is widespread among professional and amateur athletes and has been acknowledged by well-known athletes such as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and John Elway
  • Vegetarians and people associated with illnesses previously listed
  • Americans use more than 4 million kilograms of creatine each year