Category Archives: Lifestyle

5 Safer Birth Control Options

Looking to avoid hormonal birth control? Learn about 5 safer birth control options that you may want to look into without the harmful side effects.

Before I talk about the negative effects of birth control pills and safer birth control options, I want to state that I’m not against hormonal birth control in general. However, I do think women need to be educated and informed about the side effects of going on any kind of contraceptive thoroughly before making a decision, which isn’t the case many times. Please consult with your doctor or medical professional before making any changes to your health regime or medication.

Safer Birth Control Options

As a woman in the modern world, one of the biggest decisions we make is regarding out birth control. Will you take the pill? Stick with condoms? The patch? Or maybe the implant? There are so many choices these days that it’s hard to know what the best option is, especially when there are so many stories about the negative side effects of some of these options.

Why I Avoid Hormonal Birth Control

If you want to know the details about my experience, as well as some of the negative effects of hormonal birth control, you can read my post here. To sum it up, I lost my period after going off of birth control and it took years for me to finally get my cycle back.

Also, during the time that I was taking the pill was when my digestive issues and food sensitivities started. I know there are other factors that may have contributed to this, but this is a common symptom of the pill, due to yeast overgrowth and estrogen dominance.

There are also nutrient deficiencies that may occur, reduction in your chance of pregnancy for when you do want to have a baby, increase in inflammation, and more. To learn more about some of the other negative effects and what your body may go through, check out my previous post about this topic.

Safer Birth Control Options

So what are some safer birth control options? These may not be as convenient and “easy” as taking the pill, but I think they are 100% worth the extra effort for your health now and in the future.

Condoms

Oh, the good ol’ condom. Is it annoying? Yes. Is it effective? Hell yes. They are cheap, easy to use, and most protect against STDs. I suggest using male condoms rather than female, because female condoms do not have as high of a success rate (79%, while it’s 98% for the latter).

If you are easily irritated by latex condoms or you just want to try ones with less harmful chemicals, there are better alternatives on the market that you might want to check out:

Safer Birth Control Options

  • Sustain Lubricated Latex Condoms: Sustain makes ultra thin latex condoms that are fair trade certified, paraben free, vegan, and free of nitrosomine, carcinogens found in most latex condoms. It also doesn’t smell like latex and many women who are irritated by other latex condoms find that they don’t have issues with these.
  • Lifestyles SKYN Condoms: These are latex free condoms made with polyisoprene, which provides a more natural and more sensitive look and feel than latex condoms.
  • TROJAN NaturaLamb Condoms: These condoms are made with lamb intestines, so you may need some time to get used to that idea and the scent. These are great for monogamous couples, because they do not prevent against STDs. Many couples swear by these because they are extremely thin and provide ultrasensitivity.

Diaphragm with Spermicide

Also called a cervical cap, a diaphragm is a mini cup made out of silicone placed inside the vagina to cover the cervix. There are no hormones involved and it act as a physical barrier to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus.

You do want to use it with spermicide (kills the sperm) to make it the most effective and you do have to insert it with the spermicide every time you have sex, so this may not be the most convenient option. However, if you do decide to try it out, I’ve heard great things about Caya Contoured Diaphragm.

Copper IUD

Unlike hormonal IUDs, copper IUDs do not contain any hormones and are very effective. They are also convenient because once inserted, they can stay in the uterus for up to 10 years. They do have a chance of slipping out, especially during sex, but they have a 99% success rate.

The only caution with copper IUDs is that your PMS symptoms may worsen, such as cramping and bleeding, and there’s a risk of copper overload or toxicity.

One way to reduce this chance of copper toxicity is to supplement with some zinc (I recommend this brand), because zinc and copper balance each other out in the body. Too much zinc causes copper insufficiency, and vice versa, so supplementing with zinc helps the body keep a healthy ratio of these minerals if you decide on the copper IUD for your preferred form of birth control.

Natural Family Planning (NFP)

My favorite form of birth control (or pregnancy planning), and the one that I follow, is natural family planning. It’s most appropriate for committed couples in monogamous relationships because it doesn’t protect against STDs. However, it’s the most natural and noninvasive form of birth control because it works by listening to your body’s natural cycle and rhythms.

Safer Birth Control Options

What exactly is it? It’s a way to monitor the fertile and infertile phases of your body during the cycle to time out when to get intimate with your partner. This works for both avoiding pregnancy, as well as if you are trying to conceive.

You can do this by tracking it on your own with a calendar, but there are so many awesome apps that do it for you! My favorite is the Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, and not only does it track your period and let you know when you are fertile and not fertile, you can also track your PMS symptoms to have it tell you why you are going through those symptoms. I highly recommend it.

Low Dose Hormonal Birth Control

Finally, if you do not want to part with your pills and don’t want to bother with the inconvenience of other safer methods, you may want to explore low dose hormonal birth control options.

Safer Birth Control Options

Low dose pills are still as effective in preventing pregnancy as regular pills, with fewer risks involved when it comes to the negative long-term side effects. However, the downside of low dose pills is that you may experience spotting in between periods and breakthrough bleeding.

There are many options on the market when it comes to low dose, or even ultra-low dose birth control pills. I suggest you talk to your doctor to discuss these options and find out what may be the most appropriate for you.

Do What Works and Feels Best For You

No matter which option you go with, make sure to choose a birth control method that you are completely comfortable with. Take time to fully learn the side effects of each, the pros and cons, as well as what’s important to you in terms of safety, convenience, and ease.

It really saddens me that most women have a limited understanding of how hormonal birth control can affect their health, so it’s important to do your homework to educate yourself because we can’t always rely on our doctors to do this for us. Your health is YOUR responsibility so it’s important to take the time to learn what foreign substances are entering your body.

I hope the breakdown of these safer birth control methods help you gain a better understanding of these options and explore each one a bit more on your own. If you have any questions or if you have any more to add to this list, comment below! I am always open to talk about safer birth control and women’s health, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to discuss the normal things that our bodies go through.

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

5 Things I Do For Better Sleep (Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep!)

Learn the 5 things I do that help so much with getting better sleep every night and have drastically improved the quality and length of my sleep! 

Sleep Better

I am not a good sleeper. I’m so so jealous of people like my husband who can sleep anywhere anytime without a care in the world. But me? I have anxiety issues that keep me up and are much worse when I’m stressed or my diet is high in sugar.

And if I can fall asleep easily, I would wake up way too early around 3 or 4am without being able to go back to sleep. My mind would race and I’ll think of all the things i have to do or just worry about things that were not within my control. And if this continues for a few nights (TORTURE), it would spiral into depression, low energy, and loss in productivity as my brain health would decline. I’m sure many of you who have suffered from insomnia before could relate. It’s no fun at all.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried out various methods to help myself get better sleep, some that worked and some that didn’t. And some that would work at first but stop once my body got adjusted to that new method. However, there are a few habits were consistently effective and they have helped me so much with improving my sleep.

Of course, keeping a healthy diet, eating low in sugar, and managing your stress help tremendously, but besides those obvious tips, here are my top 5 things I incorporate to ensure that I get a good night’s sleep, meaning I fall asleep easily and stay asleep throughout the night.

1. Epsom salt bath

What at first was just a feel-good self care activity for me is a non-negotiable these days if I had a stressful or energizing day. Magnesium epsom salt baths are known to relax your muscles, decrease inflammation, improve circulation, heal skin issues, and more!

I usually take a bath after finishing up work either before or after dinner, to mark the end of the day. I love having a specific nighttime routine to signal my body that it’s time to unwind. I usually pour in 2 cups of Epsom salt (I get this bulk size) in a tub full of warm to hot water with several drops of lavender essential oil.

Bath Time-Sleep Better

I make a ritual out of it by turning down the lights, lighting up candles, and putting on some relaxing meditation music. It’s such an enjoyable activity that relaxes my mind and body, and I definitely get a better night’s sleep afterwards. It’s actually quite difficult for me to do anything that takes even a moderate amount of physical or mental strength right after an epsom salt bath because it lowers my energy drastically, so I like to plan my chores and activities accordingly.

2. Reduce inflammatory foods

One of the best decisions I made in the past year was taking the Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test to find out what foods were inflaming my body. I was going through some uncomfortable bloat and digestive issues that were caused by what I was eating, along with sleep issues. When I took the test and eliminated the foods I was sensitive to like eggs and green beans, it was like my body could finally relax and get better sleep throughout the night without its immune system being attacked.

When we have food sensitivities, our body can react in a variety of ways from hives, digestive issues, acne, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, to weight gain. Interference of sleep is another huge symptom as our body cannot fully relax while being inflamed. And inflammation is also a stressor on the body, which affects our blood sugar level to spike and drop, keeping us awake in the middle of the night.

If you are experiencing these food sensitivity symptoms, I highly recommend you find out what foods may be bothering you through an elimination diet or taking a test. You can read all about my experience with Everlywell testing here. My 12% discount is still live if you want to use it:

Use the code EVERLY at checkout for 12% off Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test!

3. Eat more carbs for dinner

One of the reasons why you may wake up way too early in the morning around 3-4am without being able to go back to sleep is there may be a drop in you blood sugar level. This can happen because your body is going through stress, you have food sensitivities (see #2 above), you drank alcohol the day before, or you have a diet that’s high in processed sugars.

One of the ways to combat this is to reduce inflammatory foods like alcohol and sugar. Also, for those of you who eat a low carb diet, increasing your carb intake during dinner may help cause drowsiness and and help you sleep. This has helped tremendously for me. I usually eat low in carbs during the day, but will increase my intake for dinner to a moderate amount.

Carbs help lower cortisol, the stress hormone, while synthesizing seratonin, that feel good, calming neurotransmitter. It also prolongs the release of insulin, helping you stay asleep. Make sure to stick with healthy, real food carbs like fruits, white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables.

4. CBD tea and other relaxation techniques

It seems like CBD is a new emerging health trend, and with good reason. Unlike THC, CBD alone doesn’t give you that high feeling associated with smoking or ingesting marijuana. When isolated and taken alone, it’s known to have so many calming benefits like relieving inflammation and pain, reducing anxiety, relieving nausea, and giving that relaxing feeling we need at night for a good night’s sleep.

I’ve recently been drinking CBD teas from Buddha Teas after dinner, and it really has been helping with promoting that calming and happy feeling. My favorite is the Organic CBD Chamomile Blend because chamomile is known for its calming effects, which make the tea extra beneficial for promoting sleep.

CBD tea

In addition, I incorporate other relaxation techniques. After dinner, I refuse to do any kind of work or anything that requires intense focus on my computer or my phone. Some people avoid screens altogether, but I find that watching TV relaxes me and helps me with my sleep. I also meditate after dinner for 10 minutes, and depending on how my body is feeling, I’ll also do some at-home cupping (more about the amazing benefits of cupping here) or I’ll lay on my electronic massager which always feels amazing. I use this massage pillow, and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made and I highly recommend it!

 5. WishGarden Sleepy Nights

Okay, I’ve tried soooo many supplements and drugs to help me sleep when I really needed it. Sometimes they are necessary especially during traveling or stressful times. I’ve found that things like melatonin and valerian root will work well for the first few times and then my body will get adjusted to them and they aren’t as effective anymore. Anything stronger that you can get over-the-counter will put me out but I’ll be so groggy with a headache and dehydration the next day.

After many trials and errors, one thing that always works for me consistently is WishGarden’s Sleepy Nights formula. Made with a clean herbal blend to promote sleep, I’ll take this before going to bed and it literally works in 15-20 minutes. I can’t even keep my eyes open when it’s in full effect. And the best part is that I wake up so refreshed without feeling tired and heavy like I do on other supplements I’ve tried.

Sleepy Nights SupplementNot only that, WishGarden also has this formula for kids or pregnant women that you can check out here. They are also having a 20% discount with free shipping for all domestic orders for a limited time so I highly recommend you go check it out!


I hope these tips and habits that I’ve fallen into help you with getting better sleep at night. Of course, our bodies are all different, so what may work for me may not work for you. However, I think we should keep trying new things until we find something that’s consistently effective. It took me years to find what works for me after trying countless methods, so don’t lose hope! Getting quality sleep makes a tremendous difference on our health, mood, productivity and happiness.

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
 
Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

Sayulita Travel Guide: Things to Do & Our Wedding Recap

If you ever wanted to visit Sayulita, read this Sayulita travel guide to find the best spots and things to do in this charming beachy fishing village. Our wedding recap is also included by popular request!

Sayulita Travel Guide

It’s been a year since my husband and I got married in the magical town of Sayulita in Mexico, and we went back again recently for our 1 year anniversary. When I posted photos on Instagram and shared our experience on Instagram Stories, I received several requests to do a travel guide.

Also, last year, some of you asked for a wedding recap which I never got around to, so I’m combining the two together in this post to share one of our favorite places on earth because it’s definitely a relatively unknown gem that I highly encourage you to visit.

Sayulita is a tiny fishing village about 45 minutes north of Puerta Vallarta with a population of 5,000 people. The town itself is so charming and colorful with murals, delicious restaurants, spas, yoga studios, and shops, all next to a beautiful beach that you can swim, surf, or go stand up paddle boarding in. Before I get to our wedding recap, let’s start with the Sayulita travel guide and all the things you can enjoy there.

Transportation

To get to Sayulita, you have to fly into the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR), then drive about 45 minutes north. There are buses that you can take from the airport which are super cheap, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a lot of luggage as they don’t have much storage space.  It’ll also take a lot longer 45 minutes because there are many stops.

You can also take taxis from the airport but I’ve heard that you’ll have to negotiate the charge with them or they’ll overcharge you. The best and the most convenient option is to book a car in advance. They are usually about $130 round trip and totally worth it. We book through Sayulita Suburban, and they’ll even stop at a supermarket on the way to Sayulita if you want to stock up on snacks and groceries for your trip.

I don’t recommend renting a car because the streets of Sayulita are narrow and aren’t easy to get around with a car. However, you can rent a golf cart once you are in town, which is actually a main mode of transportation in Sayulita. We’ve rented through golf carts through Sayulita Suburban as well.

Lodging

I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with most lodging choices in Sayulita. There are incredible Airbnbs and hotels that are not too expensive. You can get so much more bang for your buck there. Also, Sayulita is quite small so if you are used to a bit of walking, there are no bad areas to stay in. If you are a bit far out, then you can always rent a golf cart.

Last year, we used VRBO to book a 7 bedroom villa so all our family members could stay together during our wedding week. Our guests booked their own Airbnbs or hotels and I was told that their stays were all so nice without breaking the bank at all. Most of them had pools as well.

This year, we stayed at Hotel Oz Sayulita which was so comfortable and close to the town plaza. There was also a rooftop pool and bar that we fully took advantage.

Beaches

Sayulita Beach – This is the main beach of Sayulita and honestly, it’s not my favorite. It’s always super crowded and it’s just not the nicest beach in the area. It’s definitely convenient, because there are a lot of delicious restaurants along the beach that you can eat at.

Playa de los Muertos – This is actually my favorite beach, It’s only a 10 minute walk south from Sayulita Beach, but the water is much more calm and it’s less crowded. It’s also very beautiful with rock formations that you can climb on over bluest of the waters. It gets its name because it’s right next to a cemetery that you walk by to get to the beach. I highly recommend this beach over Sayulita Beach.

San Pancho Beach – San Pancho is a beach that’s north of Sayulita in a city called San Francisco. We rode a cab 10 minutes north for a day trip there and it cost us about $7 each way. The beach here is also gorgeous and not too crowded, and it’s in the cutest town with fun shops and restaurants. Just be mindful that the waves here are no joke. People do swim here but the water is not kid-friendly. I was able play in the waves for maybe 10 minutes and then I had to call it quits before opting to lay out in the sun instead.

Restaurants

One thing to say about Sayulita’s food is that all of it is seriously AMAZING. Every place we tried is super cheap, so tasty, and being that it’s a fishing village, you can never go wrong with the seafood here. Most of the food is gluten free-friendly and I didn’t have any trouble or issues with the food.

Also, since the town is so small, all of these restaurants are within walking distance.

Mary’s – A hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place with great tacos and a delicious brunch menu. You can’t miss the bright pink wall in the main street of Av. Revolución.

Burrito Revolution – Another delicious taco and burrito place with outdoor seating. They also have vegan options.

Don Pedros – If you want to splurge a bit (as in, spend the same amount as you would do in the US), Don Pedros is a delicious restaurant with a beach view. They catered our wedding and the food was exceptional. Make a reservation if you want to sit along the beach. This is also one of the only places that take credit cards.

Palmar Trapiche – The cutest beer garden outside of the main town area with delicious food as well. It’s an outdoor spot surrounded my palm trees and lights, and it’s so charming. They have various craft beers that my husband enjoyed.

La Rustica – A restaurant with pizza and Italian food with gorgeous decor. If you go during lunch or brunch, they also have the most delicious pork tacos. It is a bit more high end than most restaurants in the area, but they do take credit cards.

I’ve only listed a few of the memorable spots, but you really can’t go wrong with most of the restaurants in Sayulita. After we realized this, we stopped checking for reviews online and just picked places to go to by walking around and seeing if we liked the menu (so old school).

Shops

There are so many cute shops in Sayulita, focused on local handcrafted arts and gifts. They vary in price and quality, and it’s so much fun to walk around and visit these stores. These are some of my favorites:

Farmers Market/Mercado del Pueblo – If you have a chance to be in Sayulita on a Friday, don’t miss out on this farmers market. It’s on the small side but they have delicious fresh food, flowers, and artisan crafts.

Révolucion del Sueño – This place screams color with their beautiful jewelry, bags, blankets, and other gifts. I bought a bracelet and a colorful garland here that I love. It’s so cute and you might want to buy everything here.

Manyana – This is a small shop near the beach with mostly clothes and bags with minimalist designs. However, what really drew me in is their small collection of pottery. I bought a beautiful mug here, but was also tempted to try on their clothing as well.

Evoke the Spirit – This is a boho style gift shop with ceramic pottery, beautiful blankets, and jewelry finely curated by local artists. I just love the decor in here, and I wish I could take one of the craft workshops that they offer.

Galería la Hamaca – Featuring a huge collection of Mexican folk art, they have some gorgeous artwork, tapestry, pottery, and other home decor items. They have some of the most beautiful, intricate designs at a reasonable price.

Other Things to Do

Besides eating, shopping, and hanging out at the beach, you can go snorkeling, take surfing lessons (which is HUGE there), stand up paddle boarding, do yoga, get a massage on the beach, or even horseback riding.

Another activity we really enjoyed was going on a beautiful sunset cruise, in which we ended up doing fun water activities. You can read more about it under the “Sunset Cruise” section below, as I now shift gears and recap our wedding 1 year ago.

Our Sayulita Wedding 

First, to give you a little background… I was never someone who dreamt of her wedding. If it was up to me, I would have eloped and be done with it. I love to attend weddings as a guest, but I honestly dread the type of stress and attention that you get as a bride. So, as a compromise with my family, I decided to do a small destination wedding with 40 people max.

I honestly don’t remember how I came across Sayulita, a place I’ve never even heard of before. I think it was a friend who mentioned that it’s a beautiful town in Mexico near Puerto Vallarta, so I Googled it and fell in love with all the images and reviews I found. And literally based on that, we decided to get married in there. And no, we’ve never even visited before, and the first time we were there was for our wedding week. It might sound crazy, but everything about it just felt right so we just went for it.

One thing that’s great about having a destination wedding in a country like Mexico is that everything is much lower in cost than In the US so we were able to be way more flexible within our budget with what we wanted to do than if we had our wedding in the States.

We hired a wedding planner, Luz Ochoa, because I honestly wanted no part in the planning process. I had a specific vision in mind, which I relayed to her, and she was so amazing about picking out all the flowers and decor according to what I wanted and the end result was even better than I expected.

WELCOME DINNER

The day before our wedding, we held our welcome dinner with all the guests at a beach restaurant called La Terrazola. It was so cute and beautiful, because they set out tables on the beach alongside a bonfire and different games we requested like corn hole, bocce ball, and a giant Jenga set.

The food was delicious and the whole event took place over sunset, and we ended the night by lighting up sky lanterns that looked beautiful floating up over the beach sky lined with palm trees.

CEREMONY

I wanted a beach ceremony, because the beach is truly my happy place, and that’s exactly what we got. It was held a bit north of the main Sayulita Beach, where it’s much quieter and less crowded. I was barefoot and the blue of the ocean with the sand under my feet was so so perfect, and exactly what I had envisioned.

We had a little less than 30 people who came from all over the world and it was truly the most magical experience. Afterwards, we took photos on the beach with our family and just us 2, which turned out beautiful.

By the way, our wedding photographer was Christine Sargologos and she did an amazing job. I highly recommend her!

RECEPTION

The real party after the ceremony was at the villa that our immediate family members stayed at in Sayulita, which might be the nicest place I’ve ever stayed at in my life. We booked this 7 bedroom villa through VRBO, and while it was way up on the hills far away from the main town center, it had an incredible view, awesome pools, and an outdoor lawn area that was made for a reception. If you are ever in Sayulita with a big group, I highly recommend you try to stay there because everything about it was so beautiful. It was so perfect for to watching the sunset as well through the evening because it overlooked the entire Sayulita Beach.

We catered our food from Don Pedros which was so delicious and mostly gluten free, got a gluten free wedding cake, and after we danced the night away, we had churros and ice cream carts for late night snacks which were a huge hit. It was honestly so much fun to be surrounded by the closest people in my life and both of us had the time of our lives.

SUNSET CRUISE

The day after the wedding, everyone slept in and relaxed on the beach or the pool to recover. Then, for the evening, we organized a private sunset cruise with Ally Cat Sailing for all the guests. It was a fun and relaxing 3 hour cruise, and they provided transportation to and from the marina, snacks and alcoholic drinks on the cruise, and various water activities like diving, swimming, and stand up paddle boarding.

I highly recommend this cruise company. The staff members both on and off the boat were some of the friendliest people and one of the best customer service experience I’ve had in a long time. It was the perfect way to end our wedding celebration. 

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect wedding for us. It was everything I wanted with my closest friends and family in a place that was so magical and beautiful. It’s so fun to relive these moments through these photos!

If you have any more questions this Sayulita travel guide and/or about having a wedding there, leave me a comment and I’ll answer them the best I can. I hope this post encourages you to plan your trip to Sayulita because it truly is so charming and happy, and it’s a place you’ll fall in love with as soon as you get there!