Meet the Experience Life team, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the magazine comes together each month.

Experience Life Magazine

5 More Meditations for the Workplace

Ahhh, balance!

We recently posted five “stealth meditations” from Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness at Work. Each takes one minute or less and can improve a working day considerably. If you found those helpful, here are five more to try:

“If you are feeling down or discouraged, consider helping someone at work. Science has identified a happiness-helping loop. The more you help, the happier you can be.” (178)

“When walking to a meeting or to lunch, feel your feet against the ground and the sense of your body moving through space. Do not text or take calls while you are doing this.” (188)

“Use doorways consciously. As you come upon that in-between space, feel your feet against the floor, your hand on the knob; touch the doorway you pass through.” (208)

“Look for ways to acknowledge someone’s challenges. Even when you can’t fix things, people appreciate the recognition that the workload is growing, that the new deadline is a killer, that it’s hard to deal with others’ grumpiness.” (222)

“If you find yourself straining to think ‘outside the box’, explore what made up that box. Understanding how you got to where you are is the first step in going beyond that point.” (234)

If you test any of these out and find them helpful, let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @ExperienceLife.

Courtney Helgoe is an Experience Life senior editor.  

Experience Life Magazine

Kale & Coffee Smoothie


Drink your coffee and your veggies at the same time!

This morning I made this green smoothie inspired by Kris Carr’s Aztec Spirit smoothie recipe. It was awesome!

Kale & Coffee Smoothie

  • 5 Brazil nuts
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups kale (stems and all)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 half packet of Starbucks Via (you could use any powdered coffee)
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • Approximately 2 1/2 cups water

Blend in a high-speed blender until smooth. Drink. Enjoy!

TELL US: What’s your favorite healthy smoothie recipe? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife. 

Laine Bergeson is an Experience Life senior editor. 

Experience Life Magazine

On The Bike: Cross-Training

When bicycle racers speak about “cross-training,” it’s kind of like cross dressing: Putting on the clothes, the mien, and the ethos of another sport during the off season to help prepare you for the Real Deal.

Bicyclists up here in the Great Frozen North often cross-train by Nordic skiing, as some of the motions of the two endurance sports are similar, or at least close enough to provide training benefits.

Rarely do we consider lacrosse, rugby, or ice hockey. Or surfing.

A buddy of mine is a surfer. A real surfer. As in, he lived for several years in his Subaru station wagon parked at Malibu Beach. When the surf was up, he surfed. Other times, he did the rest of the things the rest of us do and call “life.”

When I mentioned bicycle racing to him, he screwed up his face and practically shuddered. “Why do you cyclists like to suffer so much?” he asked.

Good question. And one for which I didn’t have a good answer.

Truth is, I don’t think we cyclist really like to suffer, per se. But it is how you get better.

Surfers also suffer for their sport. Have you ever tried paddling a longboard into a set of waves while laying prone? It’s hard work, it’s exhausting, and after a morning of surfing, you feel it. But come on. The palm trees, the sun, the beaches … I guess it’s all just “suffering” by a different name.


Gone surfin’.

So I figured this winter, I’d try cross training for bike racing by surfing.

Unfortunately, here at my HQ in Minnesota there are no oceans (unless I somehow overlooked one). So when a break in the action permitted (in between work and polar vortexes), my family and I made a beeline for Mexico.

We surfed the left-breaking shoulder of the pointbreak at La Saladita and the beach break at a nearly deserted Playa Linda, both just north of the gorgeous small city of Zihautanejo. There were indeed palm trees, sun, and beaches. And there were especially wondrous sets of waves, thanks to our catching the tail end of the North Swell that was making big surf up in California that week.

Now, through my new regimen of surfing cross-training, I wasn’t expecting huge cardio and metabolic improvements — although my shoulders and core could certainly feel all that paddling, especially considering the size of some of the North Swell waves. Maybe I built some explosive power from jumping up on the board to my feet as I caught those breaks. And the surfboard rash on my knees and chest also may prepare me for the inevitable road rash this coming season, although I’m skeptical you can ever really prepare for that.

So all in all, I sadly have to report that surfing doesn’t quite cut it as cross-training for bike racing.

But on the other hand … upon reflection, with all that saltwater, vitamin D, and the glorious laid-back vibe of surfing, I felt great. Refreshed. Reinvigorated. Yes, dare I say it, stoked.

Surfing proved to have phenomenal psychological and even philosophical cross-training benefits — benefits that I could foresee translating into all sorts of other Good Things on the bike.

In fact, maybe I’ll become a surfer, and cross-train by racing bicycles.

TELL US: How do you cross-train for your sport/activity of choice? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife. 

Michael Dregni is Experience Life‘s managing editor. 

Experience Life Magazine

100 Days of School

Illustration for My daughter started kindergarten this year, and the school she attends has a tradition of celebrating the 100th day of school. It’s a day filled with lots of activities related to the number 100 — graphing, grouping, adding, etc.

I love the idea of this since the kids have a blast learning.

What caught me off guard, however, were the items on the donation list that were requested for coordinating the related activities. It went something like this:

  • Bag of Hershey’s Kisses (this is what I was selected to donate)
  • Bag of M&Ms
  • Box of Fruit Loops
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Bag of popcorn


I already have a hard enough time trying to feed my kids healthy foods and regulating the amount of sugar they consume — and now we’re organizing a whole day of learning that includes sugary foods, which we know are addictive and bad for their little bodies? And what five or six year old is going to say “No, thank you” to M&Ms because her mommy says they aren’t good for her?

Don’t get me wrong: I understand this was one day and it was for fun. But then the next day is a birthday party with cake and ice cream, followed by cookies before a game, and doughnuts to celebrate winning the game. Top that off with hot chocolate after playing in the snow, a neighbor providing a sugary snack, brownies for dessert at grandma’s, followed by more ice cream to celebrate this, and cake to celebrate that — life feels like an unending celebration filled with sugary sweets!

No wonder our kids are suffering obesity and the diseases associated with it.

It’s frustrating that our children are taught in school about the importance of eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies, healthy proteins, and fewer refined foods, but then in virtually the same breath are presented with a barrage of sugary sweets. It sends a very confusing, mixed message to our children.

Perhaps I’m sensitive to the amount of sugar they consume, knowing all too well the addictive quality of it and the damage it has on the body. I just think this 100-day celebration could be a great opportunity to make healthy foods fun.

Instead of candy, my revised list might include:

  • Mini carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Green grapes
  • Purple grapes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Raisins
  • Almonds
  • Cheerios or another whole-grain cereal option
  • Bag of popcorn

These options are still colorful and fun, but send a healthier, more consistent message to our very impressionable little ones. Plus, it helps curb the amount of sugar our children end up consuming in a day.

And who knows: Maybe a child will discover that they like cherry tomatoes more than M&Ms. (This mom can dream, can’t she?)

TELL US: How do you help your kids eat more fruits and veggies? Comment below or tweet us @ExperienceLife.

Christy Rice is Experience Life‘s circulation coordinator.

Experience Life Magazine

Taking Notes: The Future of Nutrition Conference (Gut Health and Fermented Foods)

Note: The Future of Nutrition, which took place a few weeks ago, was an online conference hosted by nutritional psychologist Marc David, MD, that connected nutrition with the inner-workings of our bodies and minds. It featured interviews with over 55 experts in the field. In this third installment, Casie Leigh Lukes shares her notes and top takeaways on the topic of Gut Health and Fermented Foods. Read more of her takeaways in the first installment on hormones and second installment on autism and nutrition!

Eating fermented foods to improve gut health is something I’m just beginning to learn about — and I find myself resistant because it means another shift in my eating habits. My overall diet is pretty healthy: I eat mostly organic items and lots of vegetables, and have cut back on coffee, alcohol, processed food, dairy, and grains.

I don’t, however, eat many microbe-inducing tummy foods. Sure, I drink kombucha and enjoy kefir smoothies, but I can’t choke down yogurt or sauerkraut. As research continues to show the connection between our gut and brain health, though, I feel compelled to try fermented foods.

Marc David and best-selling author of The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity Donna Gates, MEd, ABAAHP, discuss “Digestive Health Into the Future.” Gates is also an Advanced Fellow with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Below are my notes.


Donna Gates, an expert on fermented food and gut health.









1. Yeast is a big problem that affects the entire body: It’s not just in the gut, vagina, or sinuses.

  • Yeast produce serious toxins in our bodies, causing overgrowth like Candida.
  • There are environmental toxins that come into our bodies via clothing, and food, as well as internal endogenous toxins our bodies produce. These toxins take T4 (produced by thyroid) and prevent it from converting into T3 (energy!).

2. Women tend to have weaker immune systems than men due to hormones fluctuating throughout the month, which allows yeast to have more opportunities in a woman’s body versus a man’s. Women also have many hormones that are easily out of balance.

3. Fermented foods and enzymes are the best ways to increase the power of digestion. Most of us are not producing adequate enzymes, especially hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid actually triggers all the other enzymes in your body to work.

4. Taking care of your brain starts by taking care of your gut. Fermented foods help build up a healthy gut lining of good bacteria.

5. Fermented foods take away the cravings for sugar, which not only increases brain health, but digestive health as well.

(Related: Probiotics at Work, Good Bacteria Welcome)

6. Tips to restart a digestive system:

  • Change the environment of a gut — get rid of pathogens to begin to heal.
  • Eat fermented food: Taking probiotics will not be enough to change the environment in your gut.
  • Gates’s recommended Coconut Kefir (CocoKefir), InterEco, Coconut Water
  • Make and eat fermented veggies. (Watch for a video about how to do this in the next month or two here at ExperienceLife.com!)

For more on gut health, see more of Experience Life‘s articles: Functional Wellness, Part 3: Digestive Health, Ghosts in Your Machine, Gut Check

Casie Leigh Lukes is Experience Life’s digital content specialist.

Image from bodyecology.com.

Experience Life Magazine

Overcoming an OCD — With Words


Image via Trich.org

The most amazing, wonderful, exciting — dare I even say it, miraculous! — thing has happened to me: I’ve finally stopped pulling out my hair.

For the past 20-plus years, I’ve suffered from this odd disorder, which I think started when I was a kid. I liked to twirl my hair and suck my thumb. Like most kids, though, I eventually quit sucking my thumb; the hair-fiddling continued into high school, when it took another form.

I remember sitting in algebra, hand in my hair, and finding an odd strand. It had a different texture and didn’t quite belong. So, pluck! Out it came.

The hair pulling started fairly slowly: An odd hair plucked out here, and an odd one pulled out there.

Then I went to college, which came with an amazing amount of anxiety. I found myself pulling more regularly and soon noticed a bald patch forming in my “hot spot” (which happened to be my bangs at the time). I was able to move the hot spot to a less noticeable area.

I had no idea why I pulled my hair out and was extremely frustrated by it. People would tell me to just stop (oh gee, thanks, I hadn’t thought of that!), and worse, some would even swat my hand away from my head and tell me to knock it off.

The pulling and “helpful suggestions” went on for years. Then one day a word and its definition popped up on my Merriam-Webster screen saver: Trichotillomania.

It was as though a whole new world had opened up. There was a name for what I was doing — and I wasn’t alone.

A Breakdown of Trich

Trichotillomania is pronounced trik-uh-til-uh-may-nee-uh and is called trich for short. The word is broken out as follows:

  • trich = hair
  • till = pull or pluck
  • mania = madness/frenzy/love

It basically means that someone with this disorder “loves” to pull out their hair.

Trich falls into the spectrum of an obsessive-control disorder, but is classified as an impulse control disorder. It affects about 3 percent of the female population and about 1.5 percent of the male population. Doctors don’t quite know what triggers it, and there is no known cure.

Trichsters (a nickname for ourselves) pull out everything from eyelashes and eyebrows to pubic hair to large patches of hair from their heads. Some people will also bite off the bulb of the hair or eat the entire strand (which leads to another more complex disorder, trichophagia).

Some trichsters are so obsessed with pulling their hair out that they will sit for hours simply pulling. The disorder can have a major affect on their work and social life.

I’m a lucky trichster: I have one smallish hot spot on the side of my head that takes the brunt of my pulling and the disorder doesn’t interfere with my daily life. It can, however, be rather embarrassing. There’s the constant need to have my hand in my hair, which can make professional situations a little awkward, for instance.

For those with severe trich it can be worse, given the visible affects of missing large patches of hair on the head or missing eyebrows or eyelashes.

Solution Seeking

Once I found out that my odd compulsion had a name, I started researching the condition in an attempt to overcome it. I tried many things:

  • Behavioral therapy (putting the pieces of hair into an envelope and counting them didn’t work for me)
  • Hypnosis ($350 later and no results)
  •  EFT or tapping
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Wearing gloves
  • Sitting on my hand
  • Playing with a koosh ball (a distraction technique)
  • Participating in a research study at the University of Minnesota
  • Taking N-Acetly-Cysteine (NAC), a supplement that has been found to have decent results for some trichsters (taking two to three pills three times a day was a bit much for me, though).

I’ve wished the disorder away countless times, always wondering, “Why do I have this crazy disorder?” I get angry with myself and swear I’ll never pull another piece. I tell myself, “I’m done, that was the last pull,” only to pull again five minutes later.

Every once in a while my compulsion will come on extra strong. I’ll end up pulling a few strands out at a time and, subsequently, get really angry with myself. When this happens, I go online to see if there’s anything new on the subject.

A Declaration of Independence

During a recent episode that left me with four strands of hair between my fingers in one quick yank, I went online to see if there was anything new on trich. I stumbled upon an article by another trichster (unfortunately I can’t find the article to link back to, so my apologies).

The author wrote about how she had participated in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness to increase psychological flexibility.

The ACT therapist told the author that she needed to take control of her impulses — they were in her control. (Really? If they were in our control then we wouldn’t pull.)

The author needed to sit with the sensations she was having and not pull (if you’re not a trichster, imagine a fly landing on your bare arm and not swatting it away — stressful, right?!). As she was sitting with the urge to pull, the author was instructed to say five simple words:

“I don’t do that anymore.” (Seriously? Just like that. No putting hairs in envelopes or tapping?)

So, I decided to try those five simple words, inserting “pull my hair” in place of “do that.”

I sat with an urge to pull, and didn’t pull. And when the next urge came, I sat with that urge again and thought, “I don’t pull my hair anymore.” I didn’t pull. And then the next urge came, and I thought “I don’t pull my hair anymore.” And so on.

And you know what? I don’t pull my hair out anymore.

I do still play with my hair and have the compulsion to pull, but when the urge presents itself, I come back to the phrase “I don’t pull my hair anymore.” I’ve even gone an entire day without  an urge to pull!

I’ve been pull free for over three weeks now. It’s truly amazing and wonderful, and I consider it a miracle since I’ve wished for decades to be rid of this disorder.

Those five little words are like the golden ticket for me — a declaration of independence, if you will. It’s not a wishy-washy wish, or a statement filled with anger or frustration directed at myself. There’s empowerment and control conveyed in that simple phrase.

I share this simple phrase and story with you because I hope it can help you, or someone you know, stop something that they’ve “wished” away  for years.

Whether the “do that” of the phrase is “eat chips,” “bite my finger nails,” “eat second desserts,” “smoke,” “swear.” Whatever that “urge” is for you, I sincerely hope the power of your language can help you take control of it.

It has for me. I’m ecstatic to report, that after more than 20 years, “I don’t pull my hair out anymore!”

(For more information and resources about trichotillomania, please visit trich.org.)

TELL US:  What behavior have you been struggling to overcome? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @ExperienceLife. 

Christy Rice is Experience Life‘s circulation coordinator. 

Experience Life Magazine

Taking Notes: The Future of Nutrition Conference (Autism)

Note: The Future of Nutrition, which took place a few weeks ago, was an online conference hosted by nutritional psychologist Marc David, MD, that connected nutrition with the inner-workings of our bodies and minds. It featured interviews with over 55 experts in the field. In this second installment, Casie Leigh Lukes shares her notes and top takeaways on the topic of Autism and Nutrition. Read the first installment on hormones!

I first became interested in autism when I volunteered at arcBarks, an organization employing people with special needs. The employees make dog treats, and sell them in grocery stores like The Fresh Market.

In this Future of  Nutrition session, Marc David interviewed Julie Matthews about “Autism, Nutrition and Hope” — it was a wake-up call for me to learn more about the various ways food heals and hurts us. It provided such insight, clarity, and hope. My top takeaways are below!


Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant, Autism Nutrition Specialist, educator, and author of Nourishing Hope for Autism.










1. Underlying conditions that researchers have correlated with autism include the body’s detoxification ability, immune function, digestive capacity, and metabolism/cellular functions.

  • Detoxification, immune function, digestive capacity, metabolism, and cellular function handle every interaction we have with food because our immune system decides with each item we consume whether it is a friend or foe, and if inflammation needs to be increased. This process happens in the gut, so we have the immune system and digestive system overlapping.

2. As we improve the health of the body, we improve the health of the brain. Strategies to do this:

  • Remove artificial additives (dyes, MSG, flavorings) from food, and reduce sugar intake
  •  Individualized diet and supplement strategies — because no one diet fits all. An example of this is bioindividual nutrition, which is based on the unique needs of the individual.
  • Going gluten-free and dairy-free are two ways to adjust the health of the brain. If you can’t break down the difficult-to-digest proteins (gluten and dairy), you can form opiates from them. Symptoms of not being able to break them down include feeling fuzzy, foggy, speaking incoherently, getting frustrated easily, and having a high pain tolerance. We also know that people with autism have higher levels of opiates in their urine than others. Those foods are also very inflammatory, affecting the gut and immune system.
  • Eating grain-free diets. Grains can be very difficult on digestion. Children with autism don’t just have social and language challenges; they might have chronic constipation, diarrhea, or irritating skin rashes, too. Some have extreme inflammatory bowel issues. Sometimes a grain-free diet can really be a supportive step, along with seeing gastroenterologist. Having a team of people to help you is important.
  • Eating diets that support healthy digestion, such as the Body Ecology diet, GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride — on resetting your gut flora), Paleo diet.

3. We need to work on health from the inside out. There are a lot of common factors of autism and ADHD. When we see depression in women before they’re even pregnant, there’s an increased chance of autism in their future children.

4. Fussy eating can be caused by sensory issues (the food may be too slimy, for instance) and by having an addiction to sugar or other artificial additives. The additive MSG causes food to taste more exciting, leaving foods without it seem boring. If you’re creating opiates from wheat and dairy because your body is unable to break these down, you can become very addicted to those as well, causing a person to only want to eat foods that keep this cycle going, instead of eating healthier options.

5.  We need to start seeing parents as equals with professionals in finding solutions. Researchers and clinicians are 40 to 50 years ahead in studying these topics from what’s happening in the practical and mainstream arenas.

6. The No. 1 misconception about autism is that it’s a permanent, lifelong condition that you can’t change and can’t recover from. Matthews says, however, that you can improve your situation — whether it’s a full recovery or feeling better — regaining some language skills, having healthier bowel movements, or simply enjoying your day.

This interview with Julie Matthews was one of the most encouraging and exciting sessions for me to listen to: The fact that research has begun pinpointing practical steps to help those with autism, specifically by adjusting the diet, is phenomenal. I also loved how Matthews acknowledged that each person is different, and that the same dietary adjustments that help people with autism can help all of us lead healthier lives.

For more information on Julie Matthews’s work, visit Nourishing Hope.

Casie Lukes is Experience Life’s digital content specialist. 

Image via saaif.org.au.

Related: Autism’s Puzzle, Gluten: The Whole Story, How Junk Food Inflames Us

Experience Life Magazine

“Stealth Meditations” for the Workplace

Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg

The book jacket for renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg’s new book. Image via SharonSalzberg.com 

The stress and pressure of the average workplace doesn’t always bring out the best in people, but there’s no better place to develop real equanimity. (It’s kind of like New York City — if you can make peace at work, you can make it anywhere.) Renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg’s new book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace, offers some “stealth meditations” you can build into your workday to help you find grace under pressure a little more easily. Here are a few to try:

“Try to perform a simple, conscious act of kindness each day. It can be as simple as holding an elevator door.” (18)

“Unitask! Focus exclusively on just one thing for a small portion of time. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes, so you can focus without straining.” (34)

“If you’re on a conference call, refrain from checking your email or doing another task at the same time.” (44)

“Every time you feel bored, pay more acute attention to the moment. Are you listening carefully or are you multitasking? Try to be fully present with just one thing.” (51)

“For an upcoming one-on-one conversation, resolve to listen more and speak less.” (144)

TELL US: Do you have any strategies for centering yourself at work? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife.

Courtney Helgoe a senior editor for Experience Life

Experience Life Magazine

Taking Notes: The Future of Nutrition Conference (Hormones)

The Future of Nutrition, which took place a few weeks ago, was an online conference hosted by nutritional psychologist Marc David, MA, that connected nutrition with the inner-workings of our bodies and minds. The event featured interviews with over 55 experts in the field.

I was beyond excited for this conference, especially those on the topics of hormones, autism, the brain, gut health, and women’s health. As I listened, I took notes rapidly, trying to soak in as much as I could. This is the stuff that fascinates me; it also empowers people on the Experience Life team to promote better health for our readers — and embrace it in our own lives as well.

This post primarily covers my top takeaways surrounding the topic of hormones from the session with Sara Gottfried, MD.


Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure.












1. The three main hormones for women (what Gottfried refers to as “Charlie’s Angels”): Cortisol, Estrogen, Thyroid

2. The three main hormones for men (what Gottfried refers to as “The 3 Amigos”): Testosterone, Cortisol, Thyroid

  • Testosterone is important for women also, but 10 times less concentrated. Those levels decline over time, especially if you have a sugar addiction. The goal is to keep it level: not too high, not too low.

3. PMS: How do we pay attention and decode the messages from our body instead of masking them with medications? It’s important to have awareness and not become blind in your own roll: When we become aware, it allows us to do something different the week before your period (changing how we eat, move, and supplement, for instance, versus taking sleeping pills, antidepressants, or anxiety meds).

4. Ways to balance hormones naturally:

  • Nutritionally: Incorporate needed minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium. You also need vitamin D.
  • Botanicals
  • Bioidentical hormones

5. Women have thyroid problems 20 times more than men.

  • Estrogen drives the difference between men and women.
  • Inflammation affects women more strongly than men.
  • Men are more resilient than women in dealing with chronic stress.

6. A woman’s body is more sensitive and finely attuned, and this leads to the need to have more awareness and be proactive about self-care.

  • Men and women are equal, but very different. These differences need to be teased out and understood.
  • “We need to get honest about our differences: Here’s the male and female matrixes. Here’s what’s going on in your body. Here’s what food nourishes you, here’s the exercise and movement that best serves your body.”
  • Have an open dialogue with yourself about your body and what’s happening in it, and have an open dialogue with your partner and those in your life about this as well. Educate yourself on your body — whether you’re a male or female — and educate each other. In this way, each person can learn how to best support the other, as well as owning and taking responsibility for themselves.

7. Hippocrates said, “Let medicine be they food, let food be thy medicine.” Gottfried said she would add to that: “How do we get really granular about that, for you individually? When you get really clear about the food and drink that will support you best, that’s the future of nutrition.”

Gottfried has a deep well of knowledge of hormones, how they work together in the body, and how that looks from a holistic level. I loved her openness and science-based knowledge, as well as intuitiveness about really paying attention to our bodies. I also appreciated her perspective about how having these open discussions makes what’s happening in our bodies much less “taboo.”

As I listened to her speak, I kept thinking: Why don’t we learn about this in school? Why didn’t I know this information before? It left me feeling empowered and ready to learn more in these areas.

So I started reading her book, The Hormone Cure, and have been madly in love with the way she presents these truths. She has a way of making this essential information not only clear, but fun.

Casie Leigh Lukes is Experience Life’s digital content specialist.

Experience Life Magazine

Field Notes: Hog Hunting for a Good Cause

Editorial Note: Experience Life staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard was recently in Southwest Texas reporting on the proliferation of wild hogs in the state, their destructive environmental impact, and efforts to manage their numbers — primarily through organized, unlimited hog hunts. The hunts attract experienced hunters as well as novices with an interest in local food sourcing and the “ranch-to-table” experience. Maggie is sharing some of her reporting through the “Field Notes” series this week. Check out Part One, Part II, and Part III, and find Part IV below. 

As the number of wild hogs — and the problems they cause — has increased, so has the number of organized hog-hunting trips. People from across the country head to Texas, which boasts the largest wild hog population in the United States and has no prohibitions on hunting the exotic game.

To learn more and experience this growing trend first-hand, I signed up to accompany a group of about 25 men who, for the second year, were going to hunt hogs in the area around Carrizo Springs in Southwest Texas. This hunt happened to be a charity event, benefitting two veterans’ organizations — the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund and the Green Beret Foundation — that provide assistance to families of fallen Reconnaissance Marines and Special Operations Forces.

Hog hunts and college scholarships don’t obviously go hand-in hand. But according to Brent Phillips, the president of the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund, the five-day hunting trip is a perfect opportunity for members of the military to bond with civilian participants.

“We didn’t ever want to do a black-tie dinner,” said Phillips, 24, who started the SWSF in 2010 after four friends from reconnaissance school were killed in action. “I wanted to do something, because no organization existed to raise money for families of recon Marines. But I never wanted it to be something solemn.” Because “physical fitness is a big part of our life in the Marines,” Phillips and his SWSF board members decided to focus on fun fitness events. Initial fundraising efforts involved “driving around begging CrossFit gyms to put on an event.”

The first year, in 2010, the organization raised $2,000 for a student. This year, in 2014, Phillips expects to raise between $60,000 and $70,00 — enough to support five students.

“We legitimately thought we’d have to write the scholarship checks ourselves,” recalls Phillips, who also owns CrossFit Sil War in Jacksonville, N.C. “We never thought it would evolve into this.”

While athletic events continue to be a cornerstone of the SWSF effort, the annual charity hog hunt has proven to be a major draw. Phillips attributes its popularity to the combination of novelty — most of the participants don’t regularly hunt hogs — and the opportunity to form deeper bonds than they would at a short 5K run-walk.

To this end, the trip included hands-on demonstrations unrelated to wild hogs. Topics included field trauma and basic field medical skills, improvised explosive devices, situational awareness/self-defense, and shooting lessons.

The annual hunt, Phillips said, has become a success because it’s about more than hunting: It’s about doing something fun and new for a good cause.

Maggie Fazeli Fard is an Experience Life staff writer. 

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