un aguacate a la vez


Current Favorites | March 2018

Beauty, Health, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment
iherb basics

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My New Nighttime Skincare Routine

For YEARS I had been hooked on the same skincare routine: Ole Henriksen Truth SerumTarte Maracuja Oil and the eye cream I was using at the moment, since I haven't found one that I am in love with. This all changed once the store Coconut People in Old San Juan gifted me the Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum.

Pic via Coconut People

Pic via Coconut People

After just one week I started to see my skin become more radiant and smooth! Now, almost one month after I started using it, I started using Almond Oil mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil as my moisturizer instead of my super trusty maracuja oil. And I'm not talking about a fancy Sephora facial oil, I'm talking about a $10 per 16oz pure almond oil you can find almost anywhere! The result? My skin is as smooth as a baby's butt! I am going to stick to this routine for a while to see how it turns out, but I highly recommend you try this combo! Just make sure you are buying almond oil with only almond oil as ingredient, like this one

You can find Mad Hippie at Coconut People in Calle San Francisco, Old San Juan or at iherb.com. You can find pure almond oil at any grocery store, but I recommend you get it on iherb.com. Free shipping over $20, no tax (bye Amazon!) and you can get 5% off with my coupon code: AFU8252

Ayurvedic Self-care Routines


If you read my 5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Have a Spa Retreat at Home post, you have an idea of where I'm going with this one.  I will not go over all the Ayurveda body types (doshas) and nutrition details because they are a LOT (check out this book if you're interested), so here are the Ayurveda Self-Care routines that have improved my life recently:

  • Tongue scraping right when I wake up
  • Switch mouth wash for coconut oil (Oil Pulling) 
  • Warm water with lemon before breakfast
  • Using essential oils for diffusing
  • Dry Brushing before showering at night
  • Oil Massaging before going to bed

Like everything, consistency is key! I have been doing all of these steps daily for about two weeks now and I have seen a significant improvement on my well being. From complexion to energy levels. And let's be honest, this self-care routine is making me feel like a queen! And who doesn't want that?! 

I am currently working on a separate blog post with details on this process so make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter! I will share it once it's ready.


Yup, you guessed it! I am HOOKED with iherb.com and I promise this is not sponsored, ok?! As you may have heard on my Instagram Stories, 2018 is all about looking for even more natural alternatives to my beauty routine! Meaning vegan, toxic free brands that I can trust.  This means that I have been looking for a one stop shop where I can find everything that makes me happy these days: everything wellness related! 

That's it! Let me know your March favorites on the comments below.

Until next time, 

María Elena

How to Create a Yoga Space at Home

wellness, Lifestyle, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment
How to Create a Yoga Space copy.png

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I started doing yoga back in August, when I discovered I actually don't hate running. Back then, yoga became my go-to stretching routine after my runs and soon after that, Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating hurricanes. In the midst of all the chaos, yoga became my little piece of heaven and I credit the combination of running and yoga to my mental stability through the most difficult months of my life. I am forever grateful. 

I do yoga when I need a stretch, I do yoga when I'm depressed, I do yoga when I have a back pain, I do yoga when I'm angry and I do yoga when I'm happy. Why? Because yoga is self love and helps you truly realize that the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself, through a connection of mind and body. 

So where do I practice it? I go to free community classes every once in a while (Santurce Yogi by El Estudio La Ciudadela and Lululemon's Roof Top Yoga at Mall of San Juan are my favorites), attend special classes in studios near me and my favorite way to practice; at home. Here's how I do it: 

Setting the stage  

  • High Quality Yoga Mat - I started out with an old workout mat that would move all over the place while doing my downward facing dogs, and yeah... that's not safe. So for my birthday, my boyfriend got me a really good quality yoga mat. I can definetely see the difference in my practice!

  • Yoga Bolster - A restorative yoga game changer. Yes, you can use some pillows or blankets for this, but this is all about creating a yoga studio experience at home. If you haven't practiced restorative yoga yet, you don't know what you're missing. Here are some really good videos to get started.

  • Yoga Blocks - This is a must if you are a beginner. Trying to go deeper on your poses when you are starting out can be really harmful for you! 

  • Aroma Diffuser - This is one of those products that you don't know you need until you get one. Diffusing essential oils help you center you during your practice. My favorite essential oils are peppermint for the day time and lavender for nighttime. 

  • Bluetooth Speakers - You definetely don't need this, but it is nice to listen to your yoga music through good quality speakers. Yoga is about treating yourself! 

  • Comfy Clothes - Yoga is all about feeling comfortable in your own skin. That's why I love doing yoga in comfortable leggings and shirts. I especially love practicing with jackets now in the "colder" months in Puerto Rico. 

  • Warm Lighting - I recently started reading about the benefits of himalayan salt lamps, so my sister got me one for my birthday. You can also hang some fairy lights or light some candles. Basically anything that makes your yoga space look warm and cozy in your terms will work.  

  • Earthy Items - Meaning plants, rocks and crystals. In my personal experience, the more you sync with nature, the better your yoga practice. 

Yoga Videos

Yes, you can buy yoga videos online. But there are so many great yoga channels on Youtube that upload really great quality content each week! Here are my favorites:

  • Yoga with Adriene - If you are not feeling well in any area of your life, physically or mentally, Adriene is your girl. Her classes are pure self love and with over 300 videos to choose from and a witty personality, there's no way you will get bored with this lady. She has a yoga video for almost anyone! Plus, her cute dog makes appearances in her videos every once in a while! I did her Yoga for Tired Legs video after my first 10 mile run and it was h-e-a-v-e-n. 
  • Yoga with Tim - This is how I started practicing yoga for real! I did his 30 Day Total Yoga Body Challenge, which really helped me with learning the foundations of yoga and basic poses. He's your go-to-guy if you really don't like the spiritual side of yoga and you're looking for a great workout. In my opinion, he has one of the best Vinyasa Flow videos on Youtube! 



Bad Habits I Broke in 2017

wellness, Real Talk, Popular, Lifestyle, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment

We all have bad habits. Whether we know about them or not, we do. Maybe you've had a problem with sugar, picking on your face for years (🙋🏻) or simply procrastinating too much. The important thing here is knowing exactly what are the things that are holding back with your goals and making a conscious effort to change them. And now that the new year is almost here, it's time to do a recap. 

I think I have talked enough about how much I've changed this year, but in case you're interested, you can click here, here or here. So here are the bad habits I had to break in order to make this huge life transformation. Enjoy! 

complaining about things I could change

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: By the end of 2016 I was feeling a bit miserable with my life and felt really low energy. But instead of looking for a solution, I was just feeling sorry for myself. 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: You need to change your mindset completely. Every time I didn't like something, I looked for ways I could make it work for me. If I couldn't change it, depending on the case, I would look for ways to get out of it or just make peace with it. 
  • Difficulty Level: 9/10
  • Results: I feel unstoppable and like I can solve almost anything! 

eating meat (All kinds) and processed food

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: I used to be very health conscious back in my high school and college days, mostly for body image issues. But after I started working full time, I started implementing a YOLO mindset that definetely started projecting in my health. I would eat extremely well for two days and eat fried wings with french fries and dessert during the weekend, because "cheat meals" were ok. 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: After one failed attempt at going vegan about two years ago and watching almost every single documentary on Netflix, I decided to make the plant based lifestyle really happen for me. But this time, I decided to make a less strict approach, in which I would eat 80% vegan just so I had a 20% cushion for cravings. 
  • Difficulty Level: 5/10 (It hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be!)
  • Results: I don't eat any type of animal and even though I eat dairy and eggs 2-3 times a week, I'm craving it less and less. I feel amazing! 

Being overly critical of myself

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: Like most women, for years I kept criticizing myself for not being skinny enough and comparing myself to others. 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: The best thing you can do to stop criticizing yourself is to start accepting compliments. If someone says you look beautiful in that dress, there's no need to say "Oh! This old thing" or "You think?", just say "Thank you!" and walk away with a little more pride. There is nothing wrong in accepting your awesomeness. 
  • Difficulty Level: 6/10
  • Results: I feel beautiful from the inside out. 

going back to toxic people  

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: First, I needed to recognize the toxic people in my life. If you have friends who always leave you drained, questioning if some comments were an insult or you just feel a bad vibe around them, maybe you have some toxic people in your life. If when you read this a person popped in your mind, you need to scape soon! 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: Stop making plans with these people and get out of those group messages. Good vibes only, baby. ✌🏽
  • Difficulty Level: 8/10
  • Results: I have the most wonderful tribe of people who I support and they support me! 

working out just because I had to 

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: I couldn't stick to a fitness routine for more than three months! 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: After absolutely hating running, but being extremely curious about the runner's rush, I set the goal of finishing my first 5K race. Turns out all I needed to kick my bad habit was finding a workout I loved! 
  • Difficulty Level: 9/10 (but so worth it!)
  • Results: I discovered yoga, because it helps me stretch and be more mindful during my runs and I can't stop signing up for races! 

drinking to release stress

  • Recognizing the Bad Habit: I had to open a bottle of wine every single afternoon after work, just to release stress and feel "happier". 
  • Changing the Bad Habit: After I started running every morning, I noticed that my runs weren't as enjoyable if I drank the night before. Also, yoga helped me release all the stress I was feeling from the inside. 
  • Difficulty Level: 7/10
  • Results: Although I still have the ocasional glass of wine, I realized I don't need it to have fun or release stress. 


Now that the new year is coming up, what are some bad habits you're breaking in 2018? Let me know!

Don't forget to check out your agenda for the new year here. 

Until next time,

María Elena

2017 in Review | The Best and the Worst

Beauty, Lifestyle, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment
best buys of 2017

This year was far from normal to say the least. From traveling to Europe for the first time, posting consistently once a week and surviving a devastating natural disaster. 2017 was intense, but it was all that I needed to check my priorities. 

I made some big lifestyle changes and some huge decisions along the way. It was transformative to say the least, but I couldn't be happier for the outcome. So here are the highs and lows that helped me get there:


Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip Collection

As many of the products I discover, I discovered this one out of a whim. I always like using a nourishing lip balm after my nighttime skincare routine and before I fall asleep and this one has been perfect. It's a little expensive, but it's worth the splurge since a little bit goes a long way. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip collection here


OLEHENRIKSEN Transforming Walnut Scrub

ole henriksen walnut scrub

You all know my love for Ole Henriksen, but first thing first: This scrub STINKS! But boy does it work. If you can pass through the smell and are diligent about using this product at least once a week you will see the amazing results. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Ole Henriksen Transforming Walnut Scrub here


tarte Tarteist™ Lash Paint Mascara

I have the most stubborn eyelashes. They are the hardest to curl and give some volume. But this mascara is doing her part on my lashes. Plus, it's buildable and perfect for those days when you want to give your makeup look that extra sultriness. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Tarteist Lash Paint Mascara here. 


Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask

herbivore blue tansy

This is an effective but expensive mask. It smells great and it feels really luxurious. Plus, you will see the results right away. I've been using this mask before special occasions or if my skin is looking a little dull.

I talk more about this product here

You can buy the Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask here


Tarte Shape Tape Concealer

Just as I suspected, this concealer quickly gained holy grail status. The hype is real guys! If you suffer of dark circles like I do, this concealer will change your life. Just keep in mind that it's super full coverage, which is why I only use it for special occasions. For my every day I've been using the Wet N' Wild Photo Focus Concealer

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer here. 


Glossier Serums

glossier serums

I started using these serums after my sister raved about them so much. You all know my love for the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, but since I've been leaning more towards more natural and less ingredients skincare I thought it was time to give these a try. 

These are definetely lighter than I thought and from my experience, you will start to see results after a week or so. The only downside is that it's 0.5 oz and for the price and for the price and daily usage, I don't think it's appropriate. Wishing they come out with a full 1oz and more cost effective packaging! 

Grab Glossier's The Supper Pack Serums here


Hello, World!

glossier perfume

If you follow me on Instagram you know I went to the Glossier Showroom in Chelsey, NYC this past November. I had no idea I would love this perfume, but once I smelled it, I knew it had to be mine. Some of you know that I've been really into warm and spicy scents this year and that is exactly what this smells like. But it's not basic at all. Am I explaining myself? Describing scents is so hard!

Anyways... you can grab the Glossier You Perfume here


All of the Nirvana Perfumes

Speaking about warm and spicy perfumes, Nirvana by Elizabeth and James stole my heart this year. From their deliciously sexy Nirvana Bourbon perfume to their new Nirvana Amethyst perfect for the holidays. If you want to captivate someone, try one of these perfumes. 

Grab a trio of Nirvana by Elizabeth and James Perfumes here


Rose Water Sprays

Notice that I wrote "sprays" not "spray"? That's because I don't care about the brand. I just love spraying rose water spray in my face. Does it make my skin any different? No. Does it make me feel like a queen? Absolutely! It feels like an added luxury to my skincare regimen.

Grab Mario Badescu's Rose Water Spray here


Too Faced Sweet Peach Eyeshadow Palette

too faced sweet peach palette

This is the only palette I've been using. I am not big on using eyeshadow, but when I do, I like some high quality, super blendable and long wearing shadows. The shades I love the most from this palette are Summer Yum and Luscious. Peaches 'N Cream is perfect for blending out at the end. 

Grab a Too Faced Peach Palette here



I come and go with planners and I have used dozens of them over the years. Even two at once. But I've come to realize that the best system for me is one where I can keep all my to-do's, calendar and notes in one place. Hence, the Filofax system. Again, I don't mind paying a little extra for effectiveness and this system lets me customize my pages and add or edit whatever I want throughout the year. This helped me stay on track with this extra crazy year! 


It all started with a 5K race and it ended up being the biggest lifestyle change I've done in my life. I was never a runner, in fact, I hated running. But something inside me shifted once I raced that 5K. I even credit running for my mental health after surviving Hurricane Maria, but you can read more about that in my article at Merodea


Where do I even begin with this? I believe I got hooked on yoga by accident. It was just a way of stretching after running, but once I noticed that I had no sore legs after doing yoga and that boost in endorphins, I knew I wouldn't go back! 

Going Plant-Based

I have been going back and forth with this topic for a while. But just in time when I began running and doing yoga I decided to give this a try one more time. It has been a challenge, specially after María, but I have never felt better in my life. Let me know if you would like to read more about my transition to veganism! 


These past two years have been huge in traveling for me. But now, I'm in the middle of a huge life transition which is why I will probably be putting some of my vacation time on hold. But all these experiences were amazing and necessary for me. You can read more about this here


Louis Vuitton Neverfull 

This was in my bucket list since forever. After I purchased my pre-loved Speedy 30, I wanted the Nerverfull to complete my collection. Then Europe happened and I was able to purchase it for a much better price. But after I got it for a few months it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I deserved it and after Hurricane María almost washed us off the map, I knew I had to give her up. 

It's not that I'm against luxury products now. I'm just more consciously aware of everything and I just wish to have things in my life that add value to my life and I definetely didn't feel that way with the Neverfull. 

We have been posting our favorite posts of the year on Facebook and Twitter so make sure you check that out.

Until next time, 

María Elena


Career, Health, Popular, Real Talk, Lifestyle, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment

Disclaimer: I feel the obligation to express that I'm well aware that the story I'm about to share doesn't even begin to compare to stories about rape and molesting. I have so much respect and admiration for people like Loraima from Lorriento who are brave enough to share their heartbreaking stories in order to empower other women to do the same. That's why even though I didn't believe I was worthy of being part of the #MeToo campaign, I'm sharing my story in the hopes of raising awareness about the importance of speaking out about men using their power to sexually misconduct. 


I was 23 years young, starting my career in the communications industry. It was christmas season and one of the clients at the agency I was working for had a meeting/ christmas party among their business partners in a very well known male predominated industry. I was excited for this event because it would be a chance to network and meet some cool people in my field. 

When the meeting ended, I went over to the self-serving catering counter to get some food, just like everybody else. While I was serving myself some arroz mamposteao, a middle aged man came uncomfortably close behind my back, grabbed me by my waist, slowly moved his hand across it and whispered in my ear "What is the menu for today, sweety?". This man, who I had never even been introduced to or talked to before, was a partner at a very well known advertising agency. An advertising agency were I hoped I would one day work for. 

During the 5-10 seconds that moment lasted, which felt like ages, I remember feeling overwhelmingly powerless and ashamed. So ashamed that I didn't look at anyone in the eye for about an hour.

Sadly, this is not my only story about staying silent after being inappropriately touched or feeling uncomfortable around men. Most of my stories are from my teenage years, from being honked at and cat called by men in cars who saw me wearing my school uniform (let that sink in for a minute) to being touched with the index finger in the opening of my pant "to let me know that my pant's fly was open" by the father of a very close relative's friend. I was 16 years old. 

The worst part? Almost every single woman in my life has gone through a similar or a worse situation than I have. From being abused as a child by a family member to not being able to get a promotion at work because she won't sleep with her boss. It is so common and we are so used to it, that we speak about it as a normality. Complaining but not doing anything about it. Because either people won't believe us or if we speak out it would affect us in some way. 

Breaking the Silence

time 2017 person of the year

Now, it's 2017 and even though the political status is the opposite of adequate, we have a huge feminist movement that is empowering women all around the world to speak up and not only fight for our rights, but to call out all the men who have gotten away with their inappropriate behaviors without consequences. Which is why I was super excited about Time Magazine choosing their Person of the Year as the Silence Breakers. But this morning I saw this top comment on Facebook and felt immediately triggered and disappointed with humanity:


Let me tell you exactly why I didn't speak out right away:

  • I thought I was overreacting. 
  • I thought people would tell me I was overreacting. Turns out this was the case in the rare occasion I did speak out as a teenager. 
  • For some damn reason I thought it was my fault.
  • Was it the clothes I was wearing? Did I wear too much makeup? Did I invite him in some way? No, no and definitely no. 
  • I had the delusional thought that people would automatically asume I was this man's mistress.
  • I was raised to believe that women who argue and speak up for themselves are not likable. 
  • I was so embarrassed and in shock that I just stayed there motionless and completely mute not knowing what I should say or do.
  • I thought if I said something I would've made a fool out of myself.
  • I didn't want to embarrass my current employer who had just recently employed me.
  • I didn't want to miss my chance of working for this disgusting man's advertising agency. (Oh, what a fool I was!)
  • I didn't want to be labeled as a trouble maker in the industry.
  • I really thought speaking up would end my career.
  • I was embarrassed.
  • I felt disgusting.
  • I felt powerless. 

What I would've done different if it had happened to me today:

  • I would've told him right away that I felt uncomfortable. 
  • I would've spoken to my employer about the situation. 


Feeling uncomfortable is enough reason to speak up. I repeat: Feeling uncomfortable is enough reason to speak up. FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE IS ENOUGH REASON TO SPEAK UP.

None of the excuses I had for not speaking up would've been valid if we didn't live in a patriarchal society. A society that blames the victim and not the predator. The truth is: I felt uncomfortable, powerless and thought my career would be over if I called out this man for his inappropriate behavior.

That is enough to make us question how we are raising our children. It's 2017 and a woman is still being blamed for their rape and sexual assaults, for the plain reason of being too pretty to go out alone at night, for dressing however the fuck she wants, for wearing makeup and for being herself.

Finally, I really wanted to write what I would've done as a kid or teenager if any of the situations I lived through would've been worse. But I felt clueless. Who would I spoke out to? Who would believe me? Would I be blamed? And my heart breaks, because I know how many of you have gone through the worst case scenario. So please, speak your truth. You will be saving future generations from shame and suffering. 


María Elena Rodríguez



Super Rafa's Kidney Transplant Story

wellness, Real Talk, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment
super rafa melendez boston

As one of my favorite cousins growing up (he was the only boy cousin for a while!) and having the same birthday, I have followed Javier Meléndez's journey closely. He moved to Boston for college a little over 10 years ago and even though we haven't seen each other in a while, I have kept in touch with him through the power of social media. And that's exactly how I found out about the amazing journey he's in, along with his wife, Sarah Meléndez and his toddler, Rafa. 

His life sounds pretty simple: He went to college, graduated, fell in love, got married and had a baby. Sounds like a perfect story, doesn't it? But he had the most amazing plot twist: He has a child, who happens to have kidney disease and he is actually the perfect match to donate his kidney to his son. 

Since I know this story has touched my heart and I can definitely understand why they call Rafa "Super Rafa", I thought I would share this conversation with the Melendez family with you guys. Or as they like to call themselves, the #MelEmpire:

rafa melendez story - boston


ambinity: When did you guys learn Rafa had a health condition?

Sarah Meléndez: While I was 19 weeks pregnant at an ultrasound. Our only hope for that ultrasound was to find out if he was going to be a boy or a girl. Nothing crossed our mind to think about anything else. When we found out he had medical issues it was very surprising and scary.

Javier Meléndez: We were so lucky we where in Boston because some of the best hospitals in the world are here. Right after that ultrasound they asked us to come over to the Boston's Children's Hospital (BCH) to see a specialist. They did an amazing job taking care of Rafa and Sarah, four months before him being born.

SM: At BCH, they knew we couldn't do anything until after he was born, but they wanted to be ready with a plan once he was born.

sarah melendez pregnant - boston

a: What was his diagnosis? 

JM: He had something called "Posterior Urethral Valve". As he was developing in the uterus he had a blockage that wouldn't let him pee. So as he was creating more and more urine, it just backed up into his kidney and it inflated and damaged them. 

SM: Basically his kidneys never fully developed. The scary thing and the difficult thing for the doctors was that when I was pregnant they didn't know to what extent the damage was done. It's interesting because babies pee in the womb, which I didn't know, and they make their own amniotic fluid. So since he wasn't peeing out, he had less and less fluid, which is what would help him develop in the womb. So instead of being in a swimming pool, he was in a bath tub. It was very scary because we didn't know if he had enough fluid for his lungs to develop. 

JM: The only way you can tell if your lungs are working is if you're breathing, but you don't breathe in uterus. 

SM: They saw his breath going in and out but that didn't mean his lungs were fully developed. 

JM: The day that he was born we still didn't know if he was going to be born and not breathe. 

SM: It was awful!

javier and sarah melendez boston

a: How did you manage all of this? I would have gone crazy with all the stress and anxiety leading to the birth!

JM: It was a tough time.

SM: I think that we really really relied on prayer and faith in unity. We had several catholic mentors and priests that helped guide us and we had each other. But it was the worst! All the help helped us carry the load but it was terrible. We never thought we would have this experience. 

JM: The last couple of weeks were the hardest. Sarah actually got admitted into the hospital for the last six weeks before Rafa was born. So there was a chance that once he was born he could choke himself with the umbilical cord or cut his blood flow.

SM: I even got a heart rate monitor because I just wanted to check him all the time to make sure he was ok. Because if they saw something irregular they would be able to make an emergency C-Section. But that never happened!

a: So you actually had a natural labor?

SM: Well, they induced me at 34 weeks. 

JM: He was born premature, because it got to a point where it was riskier to keep him for more than that time. 

SM: I gave birth vaginally, which was great because it is much easier to heel from that type of birth. The doctors were worried that that type of birth was going to give him some type of trauma, but he did great!

super rafa - boston children's hospital

a: How was Rafa as a newborn? 

SM: I think it's worth saying the doctors had a little trouble stabilizing him. He stayed at Beth Israel's Hospital for 10 days and then Boston Children's Hospital for 28 days, until he was able to breath on his own. He miraculously had healthy and strong lungs!

JM: He was kicking ass! He exceeded everyone's expectations. Like, the doctors weren't expecting him to pee when he was born and the one of the first things he did was pee. They didn't know if he was going to have lungs and that was the first thing he did was cry out loud. They thought he might have to stay at the hospital for like two weeks or maybe longer but he was out ten days later. 

SM: They had to keep changing his plan because he was progressing faster than they had expected. He has gained weight really well. Sometimes kids with kidney disease have a hard time growing but he... he's a fatty! It's so beautiful to be a part of his story. He's so happy and energetic!

 a: You have been really public about Rafa's story, making it into local news channels. Why do you feel the need to share his story?

JM: We are so transparent and open about his story on social media, because we realize this is not about us. There's something bigger happening and even though we don't really know what that is, we want to make sure that we can share this success with everyone. We feel really called to do that. 

a: When did you learn that Rafa needed a kidney transplant?

JM: We learned right away,  when he was still in uterus. Even though they didn't know much at that point, they mentioned that it was likely that he would need a kidney transplant. And actually the first words out of my mouth were "Sarah, he can have mine". Immediately, I knew he was going to have my kidney and that he was going to be fine. 

It wasn't until a couple of months after he was born, even though he was doing really good with medications, medications can only take you so far. So once it got to the point that they couldn't do anything more with medications, then they decided he had to go on dialysis. And once you go on dialysis, it means that you need a kidney transplant. 

a: What type of dialysis is Rafa in?

JM: Basically he has a tube that goes into his abdomen and every night he gets filled with this liquid that goes in and out about 12 times every night. So all we have to do is hook him up to this machine at night and unhook him in the morning. 

javier and rafa melendez

a: Once he gets his kidney transplant he will get off the dialysis?

JM: Yes. It's crazy! The kidneys work so quickly once the transplant is done. Like as soon as they hook up my kidney to him it starts to work. Like that day he's medical results will be better, hours later! 

a: Are you going to recover quickly once you transplant your kidney to Rafa?

JM: They say two to six weeks, it depends on what kind of work you do. I get out of the hospital in like three days, but I just have to take it easy. 

a: Are you going to have a normal life after that?

JM: Yeah, that's one of the amazing things about donating a kidney. The life expectancy in between someone who has one kidney and someone with both kidneys is the same. Once I donate my kidney, the other kidney will compensate and starts performing better. The loss to me is nothing, but the change that will make to Rafa's life is amazing. Even if the recovery meant I would have to be in bed for like 12 weeks, I wouldn't care. 

Once I donate my kidney, the other kidney will compensate and starts performing better. The loss to me is nothing, but the change that will make to Rafa’s life is amazing.
— Javier Meléndez

a: How is the recovery going to be for Rafa?

JM: He will be in the hospital for at least two weeks, to monitor him very closely just to make sure everything is going is alright. Once he's out of the hospital, they want to monitor him at least once a week for like a year.

SM: Once you have an organ transplant they put you in medication to suppress your immune system with anti-rejection medications. We just have to keep everything really clean, clean our hands and do our best to keep him away for germs as much as we can. 

a: Did you have any other friends or family who tested to see if they were a kidney match for Rafa? 

SM: We had about 40 people volunteer and get tested for Rafa. This was just by sharing his story on Facebook back in February! 

JM: I got tested, Sarah got tested, Papi got tested and also a couple of friends who wanted to keep it confidential. The really amazing thing is that I always wanted and felt like I was going to be the donor, and out of all the people who got tested I was the best match immediately. And not just the best match, a perfect match. Rafa and I had 20 for 20 the same protein! 

SM: They actually told us that they usually don't see a perfect match. They are used to seeing them in identical twins, so for Javi to be a perfect match was miraculous! 

JM: We actually had a lot of strangers and people from Puerto Rico testing for Rafa. 

SM: I just can't believe we are sitting here today telling you this story. It feels like a dream!

a: Has he been able to catch up with other kids his age? 

JM: He's delayed in his developmental milestones, but that's the usual case with kids who have kidney disease. 

SM: But he's rolling around the house like crazy and pulling on stuff. He's super energetic and active and that is not always the case for kidney kids.

JM: We are really lucky we live in Massachusets. Not just for the hospitals we have here, but for the healthcare system. 

SM: Also our insurance and resources. He was born to the perfect family!

JM: It's crazy because we meet people flying in from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, people who have to move to Boston just to attend this hospital, and we live 15 minutes away from the hospital. We are so lucky!  

a: When will the transplant happen?

JM: A week from today, we will find out if my kidney is good for him. If the answer is yes, which right now it's looking that there's a really good chance that it will be, we will schedule the transplant for the next month or so. 

Side note: As I was writing this blog post Javi, Rafa's dad was confirmed as a kidney donor. 

The results are in! Javi (Rafa’s dad) was officially approved to be Rafa’s kidney donor! We are ecstatic!
— Sarah Melendez's Facebook Profile

a: How will your life change once Rafi has a new kidney?

SM: For one, we are really excited to see what milestones Rafa starts hitting right away. We know other families who's kids recently got transplants and their kids already started doing all sorts of right away. Talking, walking and standing up more... Just generally happy kids stuff. 

JM: Even more energetic than now! I think that he will be bouncing off the wall. 

SM: We won't have to give him a whole bunch of medication, no dialysis and we can even take him in the ocean! Just a world's difference. 

JM: And for me, I'm going to be like a half pound lighter. It's a pretty good diet plan!

rafa melendez - super rafa! boston

a: Why do you call yourselves the #MelEmpire? 

JM: Sarah actually came up with that hashtag. She was watching the TV show Empire while she was pregnant and since we are always talking about having a big family, we decided to name our family that way. We like to say that it's going to be our own little empire. 

a: What advice would you give other parents who are about to give birth to a kid with health conditions?

SM: I would say that even though you may only feel fear, there is so much more beauty, goodness, positivity and grace that comes from a journey like this than you could ever imagine. There's so much more goodness that comes with a journey like this. 

JM: My advice would be to always keep in mind that your child's diagnosis is not who your child is or going to be. Rafa is not his kidney disease, he happens to have kidney disease. He's his own person, with his own little personality, quirks and ridiculous things that make me laugh all the time. That is what you have to pay attention to. 

If you feel touched in any way by this story, please donate to Super Rafa's GoFundMe here. All the profits will help cover his' and Javi's kidney transplant surgery. Thank you! 

How to Deal with Anxiety

wellness, Real Talk, Lifestyle, Health, CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
how to manage anxiety at work

This is the most personal post I've ever published. I decided to push through the embarrassment in the hopes it will help you somehow. If you're dealing with anxiety and/ or panic attacks, you are not alone. Because, spoiler alert: It has a cure!  

Once I started working full time right after graduating college, I was feeling a little off. I honestly thought it was due to the change in lifestyle or maybe getting used to adulthood (ugh). But once I got my first job in the communications industry (my study field!) I started noticing that I was having tachycardia, trouble breathing, sweaty palms, difficulty speaking up in meetings, standing up for myself to people mistreating me and even speaking without stuttering. I was even called out on my nervousness during meetings. They gave me an ultimatum, because they knew I was underperforming due to my stress (I had no idea it was anxiety at that time). I remember being sick to my stomach and sweating my hands off during the entire meeting because I honestly thought I was going to be fired for being the worst employee ever. 

*Already getting sweaty palms and difficulty breathing while writing this.*

Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD (Clinical Psychologist) For appointments: 787-505-6938

Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD (Clinical Psychologist) For appointments: 787-505-6938

Since I already knew there was definetely a problem with me, I decided to visit Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD. She was the first person to ever recognize that I was experiencing panic attacks due to my irrational thoughts. So she quickly gave me all the tools I needed to overcome them, along with several breathing techniques in order to avoid letting a panic attack get the best of me. 

Turns out these irrational and catastrophic thoughts of me being a failure after just one year in the communications industry is what led me to start failing at work. I was comparing myself to all my colleagues who already had years of experience, thinking that there was a problem with me because I was not as skilled or witty. I even truly believed that I wasn't intelligent enough to handle the industry. 

Thanks to all this treatment, today I am in such a better place. I am more aware than ever that anxiety is directly related to the way we respond to situations, not what happens to us or how people treat us. The only way to get through it, is by learning to identify our triggers and making sure to stop them before the panic attack happens. It is a slow process, but I'm telling you, it WILL get better.

I decided to publish this post, because even though I've never been ashamed of visiting a psychologist regularly (I truly believe everyone needs one), I started to notice many of my friends who were starting their careers at the same time, were experimenting very similar symptoms as I was. I am very pleased to see all increase in mental health awareness in the media, but I still think we are not talking about it in a personal level. I firmly believe that talking about mental health with either a professional or a good friend is the best way to overcome it. 

That's why I decided to interview my awesome psychotherapist, Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD so she can talk a little bit about what is stress, anxiety and a panic attack. Hope this helps! 

PS: Special thanks to Mari Nieves from Pink Studios for the amazing infographic at the end of this post! 

What exactly is anxiety?

Anxiety is a term used to describe a physiological and cognitive response that our body has due to an event or particular stimulus, perceived by the person as a high threat or danger. 

How should I handle anxiety?

During an anxiety response the first step is to ask yourself if your life is in danger. If the answer is yes, we can asume that anxiety is due to an adaptive response.

If the answer is no, we can imply that anxiety is a pathological or mental health symptom. 

How can we recognize anxiety as a mental disorder? 

When the person expresses a physiological response in the absence of a real dangerous event. Here are some of the key indicators:  

  • The person starts being dysfunctional in their environment.

  • The person starts having a mix of dysfunctional thoughts that are not grounded to reality.

So how can we diagnose an anxiety disorder? 

Anxiety by itself is not a diagnosis. The "anxiety" term helps us to give a title to a diagnosis category where anxiety manifests itself. Some of these diagnosis associated with anxiety are: 

  • Phobias

  • Panic disorders without agoraphobia

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Stress reactions (Such as Post Acute Stress Disorder, PTSD and Adjustment Disorders)

Should I start taking anxiety pills?

There are evidence based cognitive behavioral treatments that promise effective results without the need of prescription drugs. Nevertheless, for some people, the combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy is the best option.  

How do you decide to refer a patient for pharmacotherapy?

We ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What is this patient's level of basic needs, dreams, nutrition and higiene accomplishments? 

  • Does this person has avoidance behaviors that impede optimum performance in their environments?

  • Can you sense the presence of non-functional rituals in their environments?

What's the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress is a degradation of anxiety and it usually only manifests through thoughts. Stress is a discomfort sensation or concern you go through during an event or unknown event. When we talk about stress, we talk about a sensation that will eventually go away. While the person is uncomfortable, he or she eventually executes the task and fulfills their responsibilities. 

When we talk about stress, we talk about a sensation that will eventually go away. While the person is uncomfortable, he or she eventually executes the task and fulfills their responsibilities. 
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

Can stress cause a panic attack?

An anxious response can manifest at any place or time.  It usually shows through high frequency stress and stress slowly transforms into anxiety. 

Similarly, anxiety increases until it reaches its limit. I always tell my patients that the body is very wise and it can handle a lot, but it has a limit. When we have anxiety, we are filling up a tank every time we decide to avoid something until our body says, "enough!". By nature, all that tension and discomfort hast to come out somehow, so the body expels it with symptoms and physical discomfort. This is usually when you experiment your first panic attack. 

How can we identify a panic attack?

A panic attack usually manifests in two ways: physically and mentally. While panic attacks share some characteristics, they are usually unique to each person. Not everyone experiments the same group of symptoms or in the same order. 

When a person is having physical symptoms, they may suddenly experiment multiple discomforts in a gradual and climbing form, such as: headaches, blurry vision, difficulty speaking, heat flashes, rosacea, drowning sensations, trembling voice, chest pain, tachycardia, difficulty breathing, stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, muscular pains, spasms,  irritability, catatonia, repetitive conducts, such as biting nails and somatization (physical pain due to no apparent biological reason). 

When a person is having cognitive symptoms, they may be scared that the worst will happen: die, loose control or suffer a heart attack. 

Do you have to visit a hospital if you have a panic attack?

It is very common that a person arrives at the emergency room once a panic attack happens. When this happens, the person goes through screening tests that usually turn out negative. In the hospital they will usually treat it with Benadryl or some type of painkillers. Once they observe the patient for some hours, they SHOULD be referred to some type of mental health provider. 

You may have heard of a coworker that went to the emergency room because she thought she had a heart attack when it was just a panic attack. Even though the person usually doesn't believe they have a mental health problem, this person usually has negative thoughts, suffers from diarrhea, sweat, headaches and when they arrive at work they feel like they have asthma.  Every person has their own symptoms combination. 

What is the main cause of a panic attack

In a general or macro level, anxiety is a defense mechanism that the person uses to avoid or confront some type of situation. So it is necessary to evaluate the avoidance component: If you avoid something, you accumulate it until it explotes in a panic attack. 

In a general or macro level, anxiety is a defense mechanism that the person uses to avoid or confront some type of situation.
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

In a micro level, there's something in your immediate environment that makes you have discomforting thoughts. I always tell my patients to evaluate themselves for two weeks so they can identify some pattern. 

They should consider multiple factors, like schedule, people, nutrition, menstrual cycle, sleeping patterns and basically everything in order to get a clear x-ray of your mind. After this homework, they always come back to me amazed because they are more consious that their anxiety or panic attacks are usually due to a general response and that they have a very marked pattern. 

If I experience a panic attack, does it mean I have a mental condition?

Experimenting a panic attack doesn't mean you have a mental health condition or that you need to start taking pills or have some type of pharmacological treatment. It certainly does not mean that you are unwell or crazy. 

Experimenting a panic attack doesn’t mean you have a mental health condition or that you need to start taking pills or have some type of pharmacological treatment. It certainly does not mean that you are unwell or crazy. 
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

What should I do if I experience a panic attack?

Experiencing a panic attack is an indicator that you present some type of stimulus that is making you have emotional and psychological discomfort and that your current efforts to manage them are not being effective.  Yes, it is an indicator that you need to look for a mental health provider. 

You should schedule an appointment with a clinical psychologist (usually with a PhD or PsyD title), so this person can evaluate, educate you and determine the severity of your symptoms and offer a treatment plan. This may include a referral to a psychiatrist to consider medical treatment.

Why should I visit a psychologist?

Psychotherapy seeks to decrease the intensity and frequency of panic attacks, while educating on how to process and modulate perceived information in a way that does not accumulate so your body doesn't find it necessary to respond in pathological anxiety.

In a nutshell, psychotherapy will help you create a base line so you can auto-evaluate and know how anxiety and panic attacks manifest in yourself. Your psychologist will explore difficult or traumatic events, emotions and repressed thoughts that feed your anxiety. You will finally identify the sequence of your symptoms and offer clear tools adapted to your reality and environment so you know the 1-2-3's once you recognize your first anxiety symptom. 

Is there a cure for anxiety?

A manageable doze of anxiety is always motivating. However, pathological anxiety is preventable and has a cure. A person can manage to master  and  reduce their anxiety in order to eliminate their panic attacks. My opinion is that an anxious person will always be a little nervous, but as you learn, you manage to minimize triggers and learn to use appropriate tools once you recognize that you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety. You will manage ways to avoid (1) a full blown panic attack and (2) live his life without fear and avoidance.

Does fear have any relation to anxiety?

Fear is the consequence of anxiety. The concept of fear develops in the face of discomfort caused by anxiety and/ or a panic attack or any other diagnosis in the anxiety family.

The person identifies some triggers and therefore avoids exposure to them, thus reducing anxiety, while generating dysfunction and avoidance. Whenever we are afraid, we become immobilized and incapacitated.

Can anxiety lead to depression? 

Yes, there is a relationship between anxiety and depression and many times they feed from each other.

Like everything in life, anxiety does not like to live alone, so it usually comes with symptoms or a depression diagnosis. By avoiding situations, many times the person is isolated and at the same time feels guilty or embarrassed, while feeding the components needed for depression.

What is a mental health emergency?

A person (adult or minor) engages in one or more of these actions:

  • Expresses death thoughts or any indicator that they want to end their lives or harm themselves.

  • Expresses they want to harm another person.

  • The person is intoxicated and represents danger to themselves and/or others.

  • The person is psychotic, unconscious, disorganized or having hallucinations.

  • The person is out of control and aggressive.

What to do during a mental health emergency:

Call 911 and visit your nearest hospital. It can be a regular hospital since the person will eventually be transported to a psychiatric hospital. 

We should NEVER assume that the person is being manipulative and we certainly must never assume that the "suicide is trending" as I read in a comment related to 13 Reasons Why. 

Here are some health care providers (in Puerto Rico) to consider if you're having sucide thoughts or in case of an emergency: 

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline – National Network (TALK): 1-800-273-8255

  • Centro de Control de Envenenamiento (Poison Help): 1-800-222-1222

  • Administración de Salud Mental y Contra la Adicción (ASSMCA), Línea de Emergencia Primera Ayuda Social (PAS): (787) 763-7575/ Toll Free Number: 1-(800)-981-0023


  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • (787) 760-0222 (exts. 7162, 7163, 7196 y 7197)

    • fax (787) 760-6875 y 760-2944

    • Toll free number: 1-(888)-967-4357

  • Hospital Panamericano en Cidra

    • (787) 739-5555 - (fax) 739-5544

    • Toll free number: 1-(800)-981-1218

  • Hospital Pavia

    • 787-641-2323

  • Hospital Ramon Fernandez Marina

    • 787-766-4646

Partial Adults:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano Bayamón / Condado

  • Hospital Panamericano en Cidra

  • Inspira Auxilio Mutuo / Hato Rey / Caguas / Bayamón

  • APS Healthcare Inc, Caguas y Carolina


  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • 787-625-2900

  • Unidad Psiquiatrica Adolescentes -- Instalaciones del Hospital Universitario Ramón Ruiz Arnau(Hospital Regional de Bayamón)

    • 787-786-7373, 787-786-3620

  • Hospital San Jorge

    • 787-727-1088

    • 787-752-4453

Partial Minors:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • 787-708-6324

  • Hospital San Jorge

    • 787-727-1088

    • 787-752-4453

dealing with anxiety

Have you ever dealt with anxiety, panic attacks or depression? Feel free to discuss this in the comments bellow! This should never be a shameful topic. :)

Until next time, 

María Elena

My Fitness Tracker Experience

Lifestyle, Health, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment

A few months ago I posted a lovely photo on Instagram featuring my Fitbit Charge HR where many of you asked me to do a review on it, because I was loving it at first. Good thing I decided to test it out for a few months before writing this post or the outcome would've been very different. 

Let's head back a bit first, shall we? My fitness journey started when I was 14 years old as I discovered an old Jenny Craig workout cassette series my mom had in the living room. Yes, a VHS, back when Jenny20 was the coolest diet ever. Boy have things changed! Well, the thing is this was my first experience with exercise and I loved how strong I felt even though I had many, MANY body image issues. 

I've never done any kind of sports, but I've managed to stay in the habit of exercising and I haven't gone more than three months without doing any type of exercise. I may flake from time to time, but I always come back because that's how I feel best about myself. So when all this fitness tracker hype started emerging out of nowhere, I knew I had to try one. 

I started like most people, with My Fitness Pal. I logged in every single piece of food I put in my mouth all day, errday so I obviously got tired of it. Then I decided to start tracking my steps with the iPhone's Health App, but apparently it was too boring for me. That's when I decided I was going to invest on a beautiful fitness tracker that would make me look sporty and chic in all athleisure glory. 

I purchased the Jawbone Up 24 with a great discount back when Radio Shack was closing its stores. I was so excited to start using it and find all my friends who had wore one too so I could add them on the Jawbone App. So I came home and was really excited to start tracking my steps when all of the sudden the bracelet wouldn't turn on. I googled every single tutorial there is on how to reboot/ restart/ re-whatever a Jawbone Up and nothing happened. So I emailed, called and twitted Jawbone and all I got were generic responses from their Customer Service Team. I kept communicating with them, but I was left unanswered and without a way to do anything about my non-working Jawbone. Needless to say, I would never recommend a Jawbone to you guys. I threw my Jawbone away without hesitation when I Konmari'd my life. Ha! 

After that horrible experience, I decided I was never going to buy another fitness tracker in my life. What if they were all as bad as my previews one? So I really don't know how it happened... (or maybe it was that I was super into Crossfit at the end of 2015) but I purchased the Fitbit Charge HR in a lovely purple color. 

I was hooked. I loved how it monitored my heart rate during WODs, how it congratulated me when I reached 10,000 steps and how I could track how many times I had woken up during my sleep. I even enjoyed logging my food and water intake on the app! The excitement actually lasted about 2 months which is quite a lot for gimmicky technology. 

First I stopped using it during my sleep because it felt too tight for my comfort. Then just as My Fitness Pal, I grew tired of logging every single aspect of my health life into the app. That's when I got really frustrated when I realized that I actually spent $145 on a pedometer that can be found on my phone. And I mean, it's cool to have a heart rate monitor, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary unless you're a sports athlete or a gym rat/ marathoner. Obviously I'm none of the above, so say it with me: Ain't nobody got time for that!

So what am I doing now? I've found that the best way to keep track of my fitness is to not have goals. Yup! You read that right. Since I no longer have "fitness goals" I started forgiving myself for not wanting to workout sometimes. I mean, I'm human and after a long day at work, Netflix and Chill most of the time sounds way better than sweating my ass off! Heck I even stopped working out in the early morning, something that I've been doing for more than 4 years and I used to swear by, because waking up before the sun comes out no longer fits into my lifestyle. And that's ok. My lifestyle right now requires more sleeping in in the mornings and to be honest, going for a run right after work can actually be very stress relieving. 

Basically I've found the only things I need to stay active are headphones, an armband, a smartphone and tennis shoes. The app I'm using right now is Run Keeper because I love how it pushes me to train for a 5K while going at my own pace. I've never been a runner, but I feel this app keeps the pressure away and makes running time feel like me time. Am I finally getting the runners rush?!

My advice to you guys and the reason I created this post is to let you know that the important thing is to stay active. You don't need fitness trackers or gym memberships, unless you really want them of course. Exercise shouldn't be a chore, so find a way to make it fun. There's a LOT of free apps that can do that for you. But if you can't stand having your phone with you, I would say, just go for a basic pedometer. Don't spend too much money on this. Trust me, odds are, you'll get tired of it. 

What do you do to stay active?

Until next time, 


My Top 3 Healthy Lifestyle Hacks

Lifestyle, Health, wellnessMaría ElenaComment

I'm a yoyo dieter. There I said it. I was trying to give you all the reasons why it's so hard for me to keep a steady healthy lifestyle while having a crazy full time job and blah blah blah, but I stopped myself. Because it's true, I am was a yoyo dieter and here's how I stopped falling back to it:

1.be your healthiest first thing in the morning

Forget the excuses and stop leaving your workouts for the end of the day. Because if you are like me, at the end of the day you just want to eat and sleep. This is why I like waking up at 5:00AM, eating some healthy food, like a fruit bowl with chia seeds and then doing some type of exercise. I find that if I start my day right, it will be easier to make healthy choices afterwards. But if you really aren't a morning person, here's a tip I once read: if you were going to get paid to wake up so early to workout, you'll do it. So set up your alarm clock and think of it as a reward for your body!

2. Green Smoothies

The best healthy snack! I've found this is the simplest way to actually get back on track. You are literally giving your body a bunch of healthy nutrients that will help you feel good about yourself. My favorite recipe is a handful of spinach or kale, half a cup of papaya, half a banana, half a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a tablespoon of greek yogurt, a teaspoon of coconut oil and a teaspoon of chia seeds. But if you're a beginner, I would recommend one of these recipes from Simple Green Smoothies.

3. Don't Pay for a Gym Membership

Some people love the gym, some people hate the gym and some find the gym a waste of time and money (me!). Why? Because you can do almost all of those exercises outside or at the comfort of your own home at a much cheaper price.

So try to stay active. Go buy yourself some tennis shoes, 5 lbs weights, a yoga mat and download a workout app. That's all most of you will ever need. Need more? Buy some Jillian Michaels DVD's or search workout videos on Youtube. That's it!

Last but not least, I wanted to be clear that I know it can get a little overwhelming sometimes to have time to do it all (high five to all moms out there who actually do!). But once you start feeling that what you do to your body will reflect on your everyday life, you'll find the time. 

How do you keep yourself motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Let me know. Don't forget to share this post with your friends if you found it helpful. :)

XO, Elena