Although Valentine’s Day is only one day in February, the entire month is often focused on love in all its forms. This issue of Start Healthy honors that tradition with a look at a beloved, world-renowned winter event, a pair of chocolatey desserts, tips for embracing your love of self, and the importance of protecting your heart’s health.
Each year, thousands of people gather in Wisconsin for the largest cross-country ski race in North America, the Birkie. This time-honored institution welcomes skiers from around the globe to test their skills and spectators to cheer them on while enjoying the many other activities at this amazing event. Learn more about it inside.
Indulging in chocolate treats is another February tradition loved by many. But if you’re looking to put a healthier spin on your desserts, you have to try the scrumptious chocolate recipes in this issue. The best part? They’re both vegan and made with wholesome ingredients!
Expressing your care and appreciation for others is important, but we often forget how crucial it is to love ourselves too. Read all about the benefits of expressing self-love and get tips for how to do it.
Love is often associated with the heart, but no matter where our feelings of love actually come from, one thing is certain: practicing good heart health is one of the best ways to show love to yourself. Check out the enclosed guide to keeping your ticker in tip-top shape.
May February bring you plenty of opportunities to love and be loved in return. As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
February is prime time for chocolaty desserts, but if you’re looking to indulge in something healthier, these recipes from the Bake It Vegan cookbook have you covered.
Skip the box mix; these decadent brownies are so rich and delicious, it’s hard to believe they’re made with better-for-you ingredients.
Before you knock it, you have to see how creamy and chocolaty this black-bean mousse really is—and it’s dairy free!
Reprinted with permission from Bake It Vegan by Maja Brekalo, Page Street Publishing Co. 2021. Photo credit: Maja Brekalo
This must be one of my absolute favorite chocolate desserts of all time. These brownies are so incredibly fudgy. They literally melt in your mouth, and they taste like they’re loaded with eggs, butter and sugar, even though they’re made with healthier vegan ingredients. They’re ultra-indulgent and almost too good to be true, but the recipe is super quick and easy. I am quite sure that you’ll be amazed by the result you’ll achieve with these simple wholesome ingredients.
Yields 9 brownies
Super decadent and so chocolaty you wouldn’t believe it was also healthy and wholesome, this dessert is also protein rich, gluten free, refined sugar free and vegan. You will not taste the beans because they are perfectly masked in roasted hazelnut and chocolate flavors, but they give an amazing creamy texture to this dessert and so much nutritious goodness.
Yields 4 jars
Every year, February has its can’t-miss events you circle or note on your calendar. The Super Bowl. Valentine’s Day.
And for skiers across the globe, there’s the Birkie.
The Slumberland American Birkebeiner, lovingly known as the Birkie, is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon. This journey along the 32-mile trail from Cable, Wisconsin, to Hayward, Wisconsin, also ranks as one of the top three of its kind in the world.
And even though the Birkie has become a worldwide cross-country skiing sensation, it started with humble—yet heroic—origins.
To understand this event, you must understand its heritage. The Birkie is rooted in history dating back to thirteenth-century Norway. During a civil war, the king’s infant son, Prince Haakon, needed to be transported to safety. A pair of skiers, called Birkebeiners because of their protective leggings, safely transported the eighteen-month-old across treacherous mountain terrain to a town many miles away. Haakon would eventually become a revered king who brought peace to Norway. To honor these skiers’ heroics, the first Birkebeiner ski race was created in 1932, and it’s been a Norwegian tradition for ninety years.
Forty-one years later, Hayward-born businessman Tony Wise discovered this story and was motivated to launch the American Birkebeiner, with thirty-five skiers participating in the 50-kilometer cross-country marathon, which was originally from Hayward to Cable. In 1978, Wise also founded the Worldloppet, an international governing body for cross-country skiing marathons, which the American Birkebeiner is part of.
Today, approximately 10,000 skiers from around the globe flock to Wisconsin every February to participate, and another 30,000 fans take in the event. (To put these numbers in perspective, the combined population of Hayward and Cable is around 3,000.)
Professional skiers love the challenge of the course. However, nonprofessionals are also welcome to take on the challenge, as long as they’re eighteen or older and know how to classic ski. Of course, the best professionals from around the world ski the Birkie, as evidenced by the forty-nine American states and twenty-seven different countries represented in 2020.
Skiers kick off the race at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead in Cable. The route then takes them through the forest, across Lake Hayward, and over the American Birkebeiner International Bridge all the way to the finish line on Main Street in Hayward, where throngs of fans cheer their arrival—an atmosphere one Olympic skier compared to the Olympics itself. It’s a grueling yet exhilarating experience.
The American Birkebeiner is the star of this show, but there are several other events to enjoy during Birkie Ski Week, which is slated for February 23–27. In addition to the main event, which features 50K (skater style) and 55K (classic style) races on Saturday, you can watch or participate in several other races based on age and skill level, including:
If you can’t make it to Birkie Week, you can always catch the action by live-streaming or watching replays of the men’s and women’s American Birkebeiner events on the organization’s official website. You can even get a firsthand view of the trails from the comfort of your home by taking a virtual tour. But wherever you take in the action, experiencing the vibe and excitement of the breathtaking Birkie is well worth your time.
For more info, visit birkie.com
February is known as the month when you show even more devotion and affection than usual to the people you care about most. However, that isn’t the only love you should consider. It’s important to show yourself some gratitude by honoring one of the most enduring loves you should have, self-love.
Simply put, self-love is the appreciation you have for yourself and the regard you have for your well-being and happiness. The relationship you have with yourself may require as much time and attention as your relationships with others. The practice of self-love will be different for each person, but it starts by focusing on your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being for others. Your self-love can grow from nurturing three key areas:
The development timeline of self-love will be different for everyone. What works for you won’t necessarily work for a friend or family member. However, there are some actions you can take to take better care of yourself.
One of the first steps to improving your self-love is to figure out what your needs are. Sure, you need food, water, and sleep, but what people, places, or experiences make you feel fulfilled? If there was a time when you were feeling down, was something missing? Whether it’s a career you’re passionate about or a chance to volunteer for a particular cause, figuring out what you need to feel accomplished and making it a priority can help improve how you feel about yourself.
It’s important to value yourself and focus on your physical necessities, including exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and having healthy social interactions. Make time in your schedule for completing a yoga workout, drinking enough water, and relaxing with loved ones. Even some simple forms of self-care, such as taking breaks from work to stretch or avoiding social media, can positively impact you. By meeting your needs, you may feel better about yourself, which, in return, may affect the other areas and relationships in your life.
Self-love means more than saying yes to the things you enjoy; it also means learning to say no to some people or activities in your life. It can be difficult to say no to family members, friends, or coworkers. However, it’s essential to occasionally prioritize your needs over the needs of others. Avoid partaking in activities you find physically or emotionally draining. You don’t need to attend every event if you’d prefer to spend your time relaxing at home or on an activity you enjoy.
There’s a good chance you’re harder on yourself than anyone else. And while these feelings can motivate you, they can also leave you feeling pessimistic. If something doesn’t go right, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, so let go of negative feelings and find a positive way to overcome them. Many people have said something they regret or forgotten an important event. Instead of labeling your experiences as failures, consider them lessons learned. Remember, even though you may feel like everyone notices when you make a misstep, most people won’t notice your flaws. Part of self-love is acknowledging that no one is perfect, so you shouldn’t hold yourself to an unattainable standard.
Social media has given everyone an inside view of the lives of friends, family members, and celebrities. However, there is always more to everyone than meets the eye. Many people only post their accomplishments and the exciting moments in their lives. Comparing yourself to a curated online presence can negatively impact how you feel about yourself. It’s important to remember that people rarely post about the everyday difficulties or problems they face.
While you can improve self-love through your own actions, external factors can sometimes have an impact. Try to surround yourself with people who treat you with respect and offer positive affirmations. And remember that it’s OK to question if you feel better or worse after interactions with some people in your life. Your loved ones can provide you with constructive criticism and have your best interests in mind. However, to improve your self-love, you may want to limit interactions with individuals who ignore your boundaries, disregard your opinions, or only have negative things to say.
What makes you unique? Celebrate it! Everyone is one of a kind, and you should cherish the things that make you special to develop a more heartfelt appreciation of yourself. Avoid concentrating on traits you consider flaws, and appreciate what makes you you. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what these things are, keep a journal handy, and write down the things about yourself that made you feel good that day. Make sure to celebrate your successes, whatever they may be. You deserve it.
We often like to fantasize that our heart is the center of our love and feelings, but do you spend enough time focusing on its importance to your physical health?
February is American Heart Month, so now is the perfect time to love your heart back. Read this guide for insight into the importance of heart health and what you can do every day to keep your heart beating strong throughout your life.
Your heart works hard, beating about 100,000 times per day and about thirty-five million times per year. Pretty amazing, right? And because your heart impacts your other bodily functions, it’s vital to prioritize your heart’s health. Just as a car cannot run without its engine, you cannot function at your best without a healthy heart.
Heart disease is one of the leading health problems in the United States. This fact is startling, but the reality is that most people neglect to monitor their heart health. If you get proactive about your wellness, you can reduce your chance of being a part of that statistic. It’s never too late to start caring for your heart and lessen the impact of existing damage. There are a few urgent signs of heart disease to watch out for and discuss with your doctor. Such as chronic chest pain and discomfort, poor circulation, and frequent shortness of breath.
Lifestyle and genetic predispositions are the two primary causes of heart disease. Smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine intake, stress, and diet are all controllable factors. And, even though you cannot change your genetics, you can combat the effects of these risk factors through diet and exercise.
The benefits of a healthy heart
Your well-being and quality of life can be vastly improved if you look after your heart. Increased energy levels, lower blood pressure, less joint pain, a reduced risk of certain cancers, and even a longer life expectancy are among the many benefits.
Practically speaking, having a healthy heart makes your day-to-day life more enjoyable. When your heart pumps blood effectively, you can move more freely for extended periods of time. Mobility creates opportunities for children and adults alike. Children can keep up with their friends and explore interests in sports and other high-energy activities. Boosting your heart health can also keep you participating in the activities you love as you age, such as playing with children and grandchildren, partaking in physical hobbies like sports, and exploring new places on foot.
Considering your heart’s significance, there are a few steps you can take every day to keep your heart in tip-top shape. However, before you follow these tips, make sure to discuss your heart health with your doctor and disclose a thorough family history of any heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, or other diseases.
You don’t need to completely cut your favorite foods out of your diet, but there are healthy substitutions and additions you should consider to help your heart. Because the heart is a muscle, it needs plenty of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to work efficiently.
Exercise is one of the most effective tools for strengthening the heart. Benefits of regular physical activity include controlling weight, warding off potential artery damage from high cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and preventing high blood pressure that could otherwise lead to a heart attack or stroke.
However, you should only exercise with proper technique to minimize strain on your heart. It’s not necessary to run miles every day to reap the benefits of exercise. Below are a few fun and simple workouts that can help keep your heart fit:
Finally, you should remain aware of your heart health. Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of heart disease or not, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. Pay attention to the following details at your next doctor’s appointment.
Implement these tips to stay in sync with your heart health so that you can continue to live a fulfilling life.