Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why Not You?

Why Not You?

Jillian Michaels is such an inspiration to me. She used to be overweight (click here to see a picture) and she found discipline and motivation through martial arts, and decided to change her life for good. She reminds me every day that any of us are capable of greatness, whether it is physical or otherwise… it is just a matter of believing that you can. No one is excluded from health, wellness, success, or happiness… not you, and not me.

This is your one and only life. How do you want to live it?

Tagged , , , , ,

Take The Stairs

Take The Stairs

Whenever given the chance, always take the stairs. Don’t be a lazy fucker! If I could do it while carrying 3 heavy bags and my laptop, IN HEELS, then you can do it too. Even if it takes you twice as long, make a habit out of always taking the route of most exercise. Everyone’s day provides them with ample opportunities to move a little bit more, so take those opportunities to do right by your body and soul. Take the stairs.

Tagged , , , , ,

Habits

I’ve been thinking about some of the habits of highly successful people (as far as fitness and health), and I’ve realized that they are not just disciplined with their food and exercise, but with everything in their life. I suppose part of my journey here is to develop stronger self control, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that this extends beyond just food and exercise. My room is always messy, I’m easily distracted, and I rarely finish all the millions of little projects that I start. In order to build healthier habits over time, I need to work on all of the habits that are holding me back from reaching my potential, such as cleaning my room, clearing out my inbox every day, walking with better posture, going to bed at the same (early) time every night, etc etc etc.

I want to be stronger than I have always thought I could be, and I want to be more disciplined, not just with my food, but with everything, because I can’t slack off in other areas of my life and expect to see a change with my attitude towards food and my goals to have a better, healthier body and mind. So I want to start challenging myself to make small changes outside of just my eating and exercise habits. Changing your body or your health is not an isolated event or goal – it all relates to how disciplined you are with other areas of your life, so to expect to change one part is to force yourself to change other parts. Its a ripple effect and discipline/willpower are like muscles, so the more you use them, the stronger they get. For example, working out in the mornings is great because it gets your motivation and discipline going so you’re more likely to succeed the rest of the day.

In an ideal world, I would like to:

– clean my room/home every day

– practice yoga every day

– take 5-15 minutes to meditate every day

– disconnect from my computer at least 30 minutes before bed every night

– work out before work every morning

– have better posture

– respond to all my emails right away and always have zero unread in my inbox

– read 30 minutes a day

With the start of this new month, I want to start building and breaking habits beyond the ones that are directly related to health, fitness, and wellness. A friend of mine recently sent me this link from zenhabits about adjusting your definition of “normal” and I am using it as inspiration to slowly develop “a better me” with new ‘normals’ and new, healthier habits. I realize that I cannot change everything all at once, but I can start with one or two things and build from there. This month, I am going to focus on keeping my room clean by putting away all my clothing every night. I am also going to focus on going to bed earlier (my goal will be no later than 11:30pm for now, eventually I’d like to be going to bed at 10:30pm).

To accomplish this process of creating a new normal, zenhabits says:

You can do this with anything — exercise, meditation, procrastination. Gradually adjust what feels like normal to you.

Here’s the process:

  1. Start small. What’s the smallest increment you can do? Do this for at least 3 days, preferably 4-5.
  2. Get started. Starting the change each day is the most important thing. Want to run? Just get out the door. Want to meditate? Just get on the cushion.
  3. Enjoy the change. Don’t look at this as a sacrifice. It’s fun, it’s learning, it’s a challenge.
  4. Stick to the change. Notice your urge to quit. Don’t act on it. Keep going.
  5. Adjust again. When the change becomes normal, make another small adjustment.

This is the process of creating a new normal. It’s beautiful and simple.

Starting today, I will clean my room when I get home from work, and I will set myself up for an earlier bed time (which will hopefully lead to earlier wake up time, giving me time to exercise in the morning, which will give me energy and endorphins for the rest of the day, so any other task I have at hand will be slightly easier, I will be slightly stronger, and more likely to succeed in my goals, big and small, all day long… see, positive cycle!). I won’t try to tackle all my habits at once – maybe I won’t get off my computer 30 minutes before bed, or maybe I won’t have time to meditate or clear out my inbox, but I’m taking baby steps, and that is better than nothing.

***

I encourage everyone to think about what parts of your lives you can be more disciplined in, and set goals for how you can improve those. It may make your body-related goals a lot easier to reach!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Avoiding Starvation Choices

Last Saturday in Paris after a morning work event, I found myself hungry for lunch and totally unprepared. Normally, because I live in a ridiculous perpetual fear of starvation, I have at least 457 snacks in my huge purse, just in case! Because you never know when you’re going to get lost and somehow find yourself in a forrest or deserted island, starving and ready to eat your own hand in order to stay alive. (Not even kidding, these are the thoughts that go through my head every day before leaving the house. “Is there any chance of starvation today due to fantastical and unprecedented occurrences?” The answer is always yes.) So, you will always find a bag of almonds in my purse, a piece of fruit (or three), and a healthy food bar of some type (generally I prefer ones with minimal, raw ingredients, like KIND Bars orLärabar, because I try to eat as raw and as close to nature as possible. Food bars should all have ingredients you recognize and can pronounce, and you should ideally be able to easily recreate them at home. There are plenty of recipes online for homemade Lärabars). However, this particular Saturday, I left the house in a hurry and forgot to bring any food with me, and of course, it was 2pm and I hadn’t eaten since 8am and I was ravenous and near the point of starvation-panic.

I passed a number of bakeries and my nose turned to mush when the smell of fresh croissants and baguettes trickled its way into my system. Mmm, butter, I thought to myself, and paused a few times, desperate and starving, considering buying myself “just something small”. But I snapped out of it and reminded myself that this was just my actual biological starvation mechanism being activated (everyone just relax, I know what I’m talking about… I took an anthropology class once in college), as my body began to crave the most simple and necessary nutrition for survival: sugar and fat. I was aware of this and I forced myself to use my highly complex brain system to step away from the bakeries

A while passed and I kept walking, indecisive, trying to figure out what to eat. I found a little shop and bought myself a banana to hold me over until I could get a real meal, and that banana saved the day, truly.

I considered going to a restaurant, but again, I’m broke so a grocery store had to be enough. Eventually I stumbled across a Naturalia, pretty much the only healthy, organic store in France, and I was saved!

I bought a lentil and tofu salad, a small whole wheat multigrain bread roll, a few dates, for “dessert”, and I sat myself down by the canal and enjoyed a picnic with me, myself, and I, and all the pigeons that wanted in on this fucking bomb meal of mine.

IMG_2903Chillin.

IMG_2904

Lentils, tofu, red onions, and a little secret ingredient that I no longer remember, but good lord this was so tasty.

IMG_2905

Cheers.

All for around 5 euros. If I tried ordering this at a restaurant, it would likely cost triple. And if I had made it at home, it probably would have cost half. Cheap, easy, so tasty, and so goddamn healthy, it almost hurts.

1 point for me. 0 points for poor health, cholesterol, muffin tops, heart attacks, cancer, and everything else evil in the world.

#winning.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Easy Wednesday Lunch

Last Wednesday, I made a meal for the girls and I that involved more of the same ingredients I always use, because I refuse to feed them or myself anything unhealthy. I sometimes wonder if they think I don’t know how to cook because I always make the same things? Either way, maybe one day they’ll thank me…. or not. Whatever. #ungratefulchildren

I made a healthy veggie stir fry and some baked chicken breast, and since the little one loves peas, I steamed some frozen peas for us as well. The girls smothered their food in ketchup/barbecue sauce and I wanted to cringe a little bit, but I know when you’re a kid, thats the only way to make food taste good, I guess. And I’m not going to lie, I fucking love ketchup. But I didn’t eat any, because ew… high fructose corn syrup? No thanks. Also, thats just ew in general when its not on a burger.

Anyway, I digress… from whatever point I wasn’t even going to make. Because I had nothing real to say.

Host mom left us a small cantaloupe, so I cut that up and we ate it as dessert. It was so sweet, so juicy, and so refreshing on that somewhat warm afternoon.

IMG_2797

Eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, sauteed in a big wok with just a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili flakes for taste.

IMG_2802

Makes my mouth water just looking at it. How does this shit come from nature!? Nothing human-made can even come close… I don’t even know why we bother.

Lessons learned? Ummm, nothing that’s really going to knock your socks off. Eating healthy is easy. Get over your laziness and just do it.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Paleo Carrot Cake Balls

Ok, that title is misleading. They would have been paleo, but I took some liberties with the recipe and added a little bit of oatmeal, so the ones I made are not actually paleo. But if you want to make them yourself and you want them to be paleo, just don’t add the oatmeal. Duh.

(If you don’t know what paleo is, it’s basically eating like hunter-gatherers used to eat, before the advent of agriculture. Essentially, it is meat + fruits/vegetables, no dairy, carbs (like bread, etc), sugars, etc.)

I got the idea to make something carrot-cake-y because there were a ton of shredded carrots in the fridge and I wanted to put them to good use. So I went on my Pinterest and looked at a few carrot recipes and I decided to make paleo carrot cake balls when I examined the ingredients and realized that everything was available in my house and the recipe was simple. That’s how I roll… I ain’t about to make an effort. Shiet.

These make an excellent pre or post workout snack, they provide plenty of healthy fats and protein and all-natural sugars, so when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to completely destroy your diet/body, make these instead. They’re delicious and so healthy.

After dinner, I offered some for dessert to my host family and to my great pleasure, they loved them and they loved that they were a healthier version of dessert. I’m hoping to keep making little things like this that I can share with them so that I can better introduce my need for a healthier diet into our daily lives here. Baby steps. This was a good way to get things going and I feel proud of this small accomplishment. I wonder what I’ll make next??

******

Soooo anyway, I’m going to wing this next part… the recipe.

I loosely based my balls (… pause, reflect on that phrase… and continue… because you are more mature than me…) on this paleo carrot cake balls recipe from Sweet Pea Sylvie but as soon as I realized that measurements don’t really matter and that these are basically just a big mixture of delicious items, I started taking liberties and ended up with my own little version (thats also how I ended up making them not paleo, but you can just ignore that part if you’re super paleo-y). For the sake of showing you how to make them, I’ll try to make a recipe out of what I did, but in all honesty, you can pretty much eyeball everything… you literally cannot fuck these up even if you tried.

photo (9)

MY ABSURD PALEO CARROT CAKE BALL RECIPE (… with commentary)

3/4 cup almond flour (If you want to make this yourself, you can just grind almonds in your food processor until they are powdery. Or so I hear, I’ve never actually tried this.)

6-8 pitted dates, cut into pieces… Recipe calls for 5, but I’m giving you some leeway here because I know you’re going to eat a few of them, obv.

4-6 dried apricots, cut into pieces

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 

A bunch of shredded carrots (Okay, proper measurement says 2 cups, but really, who gives a fuck. They’re your balls and you do what you want to them. Amirite??)

1/2 tbsp cinnamon (Seriously, I have never measured cinnamon in my life and I tend to think people that do measure it are entirely deranged. Its cinnamon, people! The Lord’s gift to us. Get crazy. Take your top off!)

A pinch of ground ginger (I don’t know why I added that, but I did, and you will too if you’re following this ridiculous recipe. This is essentially me playing in the kitchen and trying to act scholarly about it.)

2-4 tbsp coconut milk (oops… I just realized I put way more than that, which is probably why my balls came out really moist. Whatever, they’re delicious!)

A handful of raisins (Again, who ever measures raisins. The more the merrier.)

6-8 almonds, chopped into small pieces

Here’s the non-paleo [optional] part: 1/4 – 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (I didn’t measure this, but this is another dumb estimate)

Instructions: Put it in a food processor. Thats it.

Okay, really, here’s what I did, kind of…

  • Pit and chop dates and apricots.

photo (3)

  • Mix the dates, apricots, and shredded coconut in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed.
  • Add almond flour, oatmeal, carrots, and spices and mix well.

photo (5)

  • Add coconut milk and blend until desired consistency is reached.

photo (6)

photo (13)

  • Remove and put dough in a separate bowl, and gently fold in raisins and almond pieces.

photo (14)

photo (7)

  • Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Once cool, form into balls, roll in a bowl of shredded coconut, and store in freezer or refrigerator as desired.

photo (11)

  • Try to not eat them all in one sitting. I dare you. Whoever said “guilt free” was full of shit.

photo (9)

*******

Recipe brought to you by Strong Fits Well. Thats me, bitches. And if you try my recipe and think its shit, then 2 things: 1) you’re full of shit because its delicious, and 2) not my problem.

ENJOY! ❤

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Tone It Up

Some of you may have heard me mention Tone It Up here and there, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. (Please note, I have no financial or any sort of incentive whatsoever to be talking about Tone It Up. I just really like them and want to spread the word!)

Tone It Up is a fitness, health, and lifestyle blog… or dare I say movement, that emphasizes positivity, self-love, teamwork, community, and flexibility. The two founders/trainers are Karena and Katrina, two real-life best friends and fitness professionals who have taken a really fun, carefree spin on wellness by encouraging their followers to get healthy through friendship and a friendly, relatable attitude. The success of Tone It Up can be largely attributed to how easygoing and normal these two girls are. Many fitness professionals take the intimidation route, where they yell, push, scare, and generally try to light a terrifying fire under your ass in order to achieve success. Karena and Katrina are not like that. They are silly with each other and with their viewers and it really works. Personally, I’m all about it! (Plus they’re really cute California girls and their whole vibe is very beachy and warm and incredibly inviting).

I first heard about them about a year ago, when I was buckling down to get fit for a friends wedding. I came across Tone It Up (TIU for short) on Pinterest, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started by just following their blog and their Youtube Channel and eventually I registered (for free) in their community to be able to interact with other TIU members and to get encouragement from others who were working hard to reach their goals. I love the support network and the sense of family and I think this was one of the most important aspects of Tone It Up for me. Often times I didn’t feel that I had the full support or understanding of my close friends or family, so I looked elsewhere for people who understood my struggles and who cheered me on through every up and down of becoming healthier and fitter. I really love the community and I still use it, though I haven’t been as active since I’ve been in France. I’m hoping to dive back in soon! They are also all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, and followers can interact with them, and with each other everywhere. You can also find plenty of regional TIU groups, where other TIU followers in your area can get together to exercise (or do whatever you want) together, extending the support network out of the internet and into real life. It’s super inspiring and I’m a big fan.

I also purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan last summer, which I mostly use for recipes and nutritional education. I haven’t been following it very strictly in France, but when I get home I will hopefully get back into the swing of things quickly. Essentially, Tone It Up is all about 5 small meals a day, and the nutrition plan gives you everything you need to know about that lifestyle in order to achieve the greatest health success.

Best recipe ever… Protein Pancakes!

 

This is Katrina, one of the TIU girls… She’s a big inspiration because even though she’s a fitness professional, she strugged (and still does) to get fit and healthy. Her transformation is impressive and reminds me that anyone can do it!

Anyway, the reason for this post was to share the big “Bikini Series” that Tone It Up does every spring. It was through this series that I first started really following TIU and now, a year later, I’m excited to follow the Bikini Series once again. My resources are limited and my schedule is more complicated than it was last year, but I’m going to try to get back into my Tone It Up routine for the next 8 weeks, at least as much as I can! And I want to invite anyone out there (and it does not have to be just for women!) to join me in this years Tone It Up Bikini Series. There will be great recipes, workouts, education, and plenty of motivation to keep you on track for your goals, whatever they may be. If you are at all intrigued, be sure to check out the website and learn more. Once you sign up (all you need is your email address), you’ll get a cute little “starter pack” with recipes, and a few workouts to get you going from day 1.

Summer is coming… lets make this a good spring, together!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Dreaming of Produce

Last night I had a dream that I came home from Paris to my parents house, and the kitchen had been turned into the produce section at a grocery store. I walked in, saw the bountiful amounts of fruits and vegetables, and screamed with delight. I ran over to the strawberries, grabbed a box, and did a silly ballet dance around the kitchen, strawberries in hand, with my family watching and laughing on the other side of the kitchen. 

Am I that deprived of amazing produce here in France that I have fantastical dreams about it??

Who the hell dreams about produce?! Like really.

Tagged , , ,

Raspberry Banana Oatmeal Protein Smoothie

No almond butter? No peanut butter? What am I supposed to do with myself for an afternoon snack?!?!

I was hungry and I knew that dinner tonight will be soup, and I know that this soup contains probably very little healthy protein (mostly vegetables and heavy cream), so I wanted to get some protein in before dinner so I wouldn’t feel nutrient-deprived later, so….

I experimented with a few different ingredients to make a Raspberry-Banana-Oatmeal Protein Smoothie, and it was glorious!

The raspberries were a lucky find… I did some digging in the freezer because I knew a while ago my host mom had some frozen raspberries for one of her amazing desserts, and I wondered if there might still be some. To my delight, there were! So I tossed some of those in with half a banana (the bananas were huge), some almond milk, a scoop of protein powder, oatmeal, and cinnamon and blended that shit uppppp.

_DSC0077edit

Raspberry Banana Protein Smoothie

3/4 cup raspberries

1/2 large banana

1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal

1 scoop protein powder

3/4 – 1 cup almond milk

Sprinkle of cinnamon

** Blend in blender. Drink. Make this face:

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Lunch Time Improv

Most of the time, I’m just working with whatever is available in my house. I don’t have control over groceries so I usually just make whatever is as lean and clean and raw and healthy as possible, using the limited ingredients I have in my host family’s kitchen. The fridge usually is full of all sorts of dairy products (cheese, creme fraiche, sugary yogurts, etc) and red meat (usually different types of pork, like ham or lardons) so that moment when I open the fridge is usually a little disheartening. However, they tend to have carrots and zucchini always on hand, so whether I like it or not, I usually end up eating carrots and zucchini almost every day. As this post and maybe the next few will illustrate, my meals usually revolve around those items, sometimes with a little more variety depending on what I find that day. As for the other parts of my meal, if its available, I will make quinoa (a complete protein) and basically eat that plus veggies nearly every day for lunch. Or, if I’m feeling crazy, I’ll make egg whites with veggies. WATCH OUT.

It’s not exactly an exciting way to eat, but its better than having a heart attack in 30 years, right? And its also better than having pants that don’t fit right now. Anyway, food is fuel and thats it. Plain and simple.

I got lucky the other day and found some lentils, so I ate this lean little meal, packed with protein (from the lentils) and all types of wonderful vitamins and minerals from the veggies. Not to shabby, and a nice way to change up my routine.

IMG_2562

 

Paired it with an apple, and I was full, full, FULL for hours.

IMG_2563

 

Eating clean really isn’t that hard as long as there is something clean to eat. And to be honest, this meal was probably dirt cheap too. Since I didn’t buy the ingredients myself, I can’t give exact numbers, but how much can lentils, carrots, zucchini, and an apple really cost? Yeah, probably nothing. Probably less than anything less healthy, thats for sure. So really, being healthy should save you money, and of course, you know, save your life.

I’m in. Are you?

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Documentaries

A friend of mine has been urging me to watch this documentary, Forks Over Knives, for quite some time now, and I managed to find it online recently and watched it a few nights ago before going to bed. (You can watch it on Hulu). The documentary discusses some of the worlds most common diseases including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc and their direct relation to diet. Forks Over Knives shows through a series of scientific and medical studies and first-hand accounts the incredible and undeniably positive effects of a whole foods, plant-based diet on health.

Here’s a trailer:

I strongly urge everyone to watch this documentary. It will absolutely open your eyes and provide strong evidence to support a healthier, longer life through food, and there is no reason why anyone should not watch this and take its message to heart. Even if you are not interested in cutting out meat and dairy from your diet, learning more about the importance of diet on health (instead of medicine) should be reason enough to get informed. I can’t imagine anyone out there who doesn’t (deep down) want to live a long, healthy life, so do yourself a favor and watch this movie!

If you are interested in learning more about public health and the food industry in general, I recommend Food Inc., a fabulous and well-known documentary examining the origins of everything we eat. Watching this documentary 2 years ago absolutely changed my life, and following it with the Food Inc. book and Omnivore’s Dilemma was a critical time in my discovery and awareness of food and consumption. Along with Forks Over Knives, I think Food Inc. is an effective, accurate, and powerfully informative depiction of some of the most important subjects of our lives. Knowing where your food comes from and what effect it has on your body and on the environment at large is a powerful tool leading to greater education and awareness and hopefully improved health and longevity. It behooves all of us to be educated about the very thing that gives us life: food.


Watch, learn, and allow yourself to be changed and inspired!

Tagged , , , , , ,

You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.

Diana Vreeland

You don’t owe p…

Tagged

Legs

I had a small but powerful moment yesterday as I began my run. I had just finished writing a long, long post (which I haven’t quite decided if I will post or not) about my experiences over the past 3 years with health, fitness, body image, etc, and immediately after, I went out for a run to clear my head. Within only the first 20 seconds of my run, I happened to turn my head coincidentally at the just right moment to make accidental eye contact with a young man, maybe a few years younger than me, who was sitting in a wheelchair. He was clearly disabled from the waist down and  has likely been in a wheelchair his whole life, and in that brief moment we shared, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of sadness and of appreciation at the same time. Perhaps it was the look he gave me, as I trotted past him in my fancy running gear, or perhaps I am just projecting what I thought he was saying to me with his soulful stare, but he really pierced right to my heart, and right after I passed him, I found myself short of breath and fighting back tears unsuccessfully.

I spend far too much time wondering if my thighs will ever not touch, or if my butt will be as hard as a rock, or if my knees will ever heal from my running injuries, and in that moment I suddenly felt so small and so pathetic for caring about such petty details. I have legs that work! Beautiful, strong, functional legs, and maybe they don’t run that fast and maybe they feel heavy sometimes when I run and maybe I have thighs that touch, but holy shit, how awesome is that?? I have those things. I. Have. Legs. And they work, really well.

I dedicated the rest of my run to that boy, and every time I felt lazy and wanting to quit, I reminded myself that if I was in a wheelchair, I’m sure I’d give anything to just take one step. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and being thankful each time I could do so. I am lucky and I want to keep taking care of myself so that I can have this fortune for decades to come.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Confession

Okay, I confess. I’ve been bad the past few days.

I’ve been shy to post anything because I am far too aware of my poor choices and its easier to just keep it a secret and pretend like I’m still being inspirational or whatever the fuck, but I can’t look at my blog and act like all is well because I’ve been cheating, hard core. To be fair (can this count as fairness?), I have a friend in town and of course half of the experience of being in Paris revolves around eating, so it’s rather difficult to stay on track. Also, I may (don’t want to jinx it yet) have a new pseudo-internship/volunteer thing which will take over pretty much all of my extra time each day (aside from my job as an au pair), so I’ve been busy, and only going to get busier. BUT I realize I’m contradicting my last post, about excuses, so I’m going to try not to go there.

Wednesday was warm and sunny and though I went a little heavy on the almond butter throughout the day, all of my meals were healthy and I felt successful for the most part. Exercise was minimal, but I convinced the little one to walk with me to the “big park” which is about 20 minutes away, so that was nice to get out of the house and move my skeleton at least just a little. For dinner, since I was babysitting, I was able to assert a bit more control over what I ate. The parents had left a cauliflower gratin thing (aka ham, cheese, and cream and a little bit of cauliflower) for us to eat for dinner, but since I don’t like cauliflower and I want to avoid cheese, ham, and cream, I explained to the girls that I shouldn’t eat that because of my cholesterol (tried explaining that in French to them…) and I made myself an egg white veggie scramble. Success!

But yesterday… oh dear. Between 3 of us girls, we ate 2 whole baguettes and basically a whole thing of brie cheese, salami and cured meats, and gummi bears. My mouth was happy but my body hated me later. After that, I seemed to lose all my motivation to get my day back on track (its that “fuck it, I already fucked up anyway, may as well continue to do so” mentality) so somehow cookies and almond butter and too many dried apricots and lots of bread made it into my system, and I felt pretty shitty about that. I told myself, “Tomorrow, you will be good. You’ll wake up early and go for a run before meeting your friends, and you’ll make healthy choices all day.” And guess what…

Stayed up until 2:30am, woke up late, didn’t run, ate a huge falafel pita sandwich, and some baklava, and kind of hate my life now.

This is the whole struggle with being social and being healthy. The two more often than not tend to oppose each other dramatically and it’s really hard to find a good middle ground. You can try to surround yourself only by people that share your exact same goals and mentalities about health and fitness, but that’s not very flexible and realistic. So, what do you do? For those of you out there that have reached your health goals, how have you managed to do that while maintaining a normal social life?

This weekend I have two parties and a couple of events and visitors, which means little time for exercise and lots of food and drinking. I would love to get some advice from people out there who have been in this same position… how do you stay strong given social constraints?

This is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. Help!

Tagged , ,

Warning

Almond butter jars should come with a serious warning label:

This shit will NOT last nearly as long as you naively think it will. Don’t be a fool.

 

I bought my almond butter like a week ago, okay, maybe 10 days ago, and its a HUGE jar… I figured it might last several weeks… HA. What an idiot. It’s nearly empty and I honestly don’t know why! I think I black out every time I eat almond butter and I wake up the next day not remembering anything that happened, with a strange man in my bed (or in this case, a strange empty jar) and pills all over the floor. Almond butter is kind of like roofies I guess. Sweet! Drugs!

 

Not.

 

Tagged ,

Healthy in France? HA.

Without beating around the bush too much, I’ll just flat out say this: French people don’t seem to know, or care, at all about health or fitness.

Now, thats not to say that there aren’t people here in France who do genuinely care or who are working hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle… I know well enough than to truly believe that sort of generalization I just made. But, in general, I see more people that are just misinformed or disinterested than people who are “enlightened”.

You see, French culture, or the culture I have come in contact with, is mostly focused on pleasure. French people enjoy the finer things in life, and that is something I admire in many ways. They have longer vacations each year and structured meal times every day to spend with family and children only go to school 4 days a week. French people know how to enjoy the worlds finest wine and champagne, bread, pastries, and cheese and they live in some of the most beautiful cities and countrysides on the planet. So much about French life is about pleasure, beauty, culture, and knowledge and it is this attitude that gives so many Americans (and others around the world) an intense yearning for and obsession with France. This is a place of dreams and of fantasies and kings and romance and lavender fields and yachts and museums and macaroons, not to mention the absolutely beautiful French language. It seems to be every girls (or guys) dream to come to France and be swept off her (his) feet by a sexy French (wo)man, speaking to her in his(her) mother tounge, wooing her(him) with nights at quiet wine bars and strolls along the river. Cue this song:

Well, as you may have guessed by now. It is not quite so. I’ve been there… you know, the whole “getting woo-ed by a beautiful French man” thing… It’s really not that exciting. And getting woo-ed by France, well, I’m still in the thick of it, trying to figure out if I love it or hate it, and more often than not, its both. France is all of those poetic things… it is beautiful and the food is delicious and the language is sexy and the wine is great. But its not a fantasy. Its just a place, like anywhere else. Yes, even Paris. It smells like piss, the metros are ugly as hell, and you can’t walk 10 feet without inhaling cigarette smoke or stepping in dog shit. It’s just a city. And half the time, I’m like,

And with that comes the slow realization that the French mentality on food, health, and exercise is really not as glamorous as the world likes to think it is. French people live for pleasure, and as amazing and admirable as that is for us in America (where we live and breathe for work), the culture lacks an awareness of many important things outside of those related to immediate sensory stimulation. When it comes to food, the mentality is purely flavor-based. When it comes to exercise, its purely based on getting skinny and looking pretty.

I “interviewed” a French friend recently about food and exercise in France and she confirmed this. Healthy food is considered “diet” food, and you only eat it when you’re trying to lose weight. Grocery stores have a small section of organic products and they are usually paired right next to the meal replacements, supplements, diet pills, and other skinny-oriented hocus-pocus. Organic food is not prevalent and you often have to go to special stores to buy it, however this is considered snobby and only for rich people, so people don’t eat organic, ever. Whenever someone starts eating healthy, the assumption is that they are doing it to get skinny, and along with healthy eating comes just straight up not eating, another “secret” to how the French stay so thin.

Exercise is viewed in the same way. Gym memberships are expensive and hard to come by, which naturally excludes a huge portion of the population from access to a gym. The few that are willing to dish out the cash for a gym can be seen doing one of two things: men lift weights without proper form, women mindlessly trot on the elliptical while reading Elle.

Walking out in public in your workout clothes is still frowned upon (remember, French people always are put-together) and sometimes even running along your street is greeted with stares of confusion or disbelief, depending on where you are. I was surprised to see any runners at all in France. There are quite a few… enough for a marathon, apparently.

When it comes to meal times, a typical French meal will have at least 3 courses, often 4 or 5. Every night when I have dinner with my host family, we sit down for our meal, and after I’ve eaten what I consider to be way too much already, we move on to cheese and bread, or yogurt… generally some type of dairy product (someone please explain this to me. I honestly do not understand what this part of the meal is about. #confusedamerican). After that, we will have fruit, and/or dessert. I have started to learn when to stop eating during this long dinner process, but often the social pressure of participating in the meal is stronger than my ability to say “non, merci” and I end up eating way more than I am capable of or than I should. Lunch is the exact same way. Fortunately I do my own thing for lunch, but if I ever decide to have lunch with the family on weekends, I know I will be sitting down for almost 2 hours to eat, and eat, and eat. It’s the French way, and it is so vastly different from my American ways, where I want to eat something quick and easy and light and get on with my day.

Each meal in France is made entirely for the sake of flavor, and health is rarely considered, or if it is, it comes from a seriously misinformed perspective. Most meals have an absurd amount of one or many of the following: red meat, heavy cream, butter, salt, carbs, or sugar, and no matter how strong I am (often not as strong as I wish), I can’t escape these heart-killing ingredients. As you may know, I have high cholesterol, so coming to France clearly was not the best way for me to start lowering that.

A typical ingredient used in most dishes is lardons, or as described on Wikipedia, strips of subcutaneous pork fat (aka bacon-ish). I find myself staring into the eyes of this artery-clogging little bitch pretty much every day and there is nothing I can do but eat it and pretend like this bit of pork fat is some type of useful protein. It’s not. French people, mark my words… lardons KILL.

I can’t escape them!!

Okay, maybe not, but eventually we’re all going to regret eating those little fuckers. I swear.

God got drunk and invented these…

Aside from lardons, creme fraîche is used in everything. Making pasta sauce? No problem. Just one whole container of creme fraîche and some lardons and cheese, et voilà! (I’m not kidding about that.) It’s on dessert, its in quiche, its in gratins, and on chicken and in your water and it comes out of your shower head and you use it to fuel your car and to wash your windows and to paint your nails and and when you light a match in France, you get creme fraîche instead of fire.

Again, my arteries are like,

Red meat? Yep, stick that in the lardons paragraph. It’s everywhere.

Butter? Holy fuck, what would we eat if butter didn’t exist? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing.

Okay, I could go on but I’m about to get rude here and, well, it would be very Parisian of me and everything, but I think you get the idea.

As for exercise, I recently overheard this comment, and this should be telling enough. The conversation was about wanting to lose weight, and I heard someone say, “No, riding my bike to work wont make me lose weight. It’ll just make me bulky and muscular.”

….

Fuck.

So you see, staying healthy and fit in France is an enormous struggle. It’s not just that I’m away from home and away from my usual foods, which is very true. Its that the culture I’m immersed in is built for an entirely different set of habits than the ones I’m trying to adopt. My diet here is basically,

and I have struggled so much in trying to find a balance. I want to be immersed in French culture, but I also don’t want to have a heart attack! Fuck, is that too much to ask? I revel in my mild successes because they are so few and far between. Having one good day seems to me to count so much more here than it did back home. Most of the time, I feel like,

when it comes to being healthy in France.

I’m trying. I really am trying. I want to be healthy and strong and I want my cholesterol to go down and I want to improve my fitness and learn more about healthy cooking and I want to have stronger willpower and I want to be in an environment where I am supported and encouraged for my positive choices, but I think maybe that environment doesn’t exist in France. At least not yet.

I’m lucky that I have a host family that cooks really well and often does keep decent healthy options around the house. If you’ve read my other posts about food, you’ll see I do have vegetables and fruits and sometimes quinoa or eggs at home, and I try to use them as much as I can when I’m on my own. But at dinner time, I’m frequently faced with the dilemma of not having much of a say over what I eat, sometimes not even how much (because my plate is often served for me), so the best I can do is resist the multiple courses or carefully try to exert some type of control by asking for a little less on my plate. I try, but I don’t always succeed (social pressures, fear of being rude, not wanting to offend, and also the fact that the food is always SO good… these things make it hard to put my foot down every night). Part of me has accepted this reality and decided that I can only really start living healthy when I get back home to America, but the other part of me doesn’t want to give up that easily. That’s part of why this blog is here. To help me get creative and find ways to beat the system, for the sake of my heart, my body, and my willpower. There has to be a way!

French people out there, please share your thoughts, insights, and wisdom with me. There is so much I have yet to learn and I know there has to be a way to be healthy here, but I just haven’t found it yet. And for anyone else out there, suggestions? Similar experiences? Reactions? Thoughts? Recipes?

Until next time… Over and out.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: