Monthly Archives: May 2013

Loving Myself and Conquering The Brain

No external change can happen without a true internal change, and as most of us know, that is the biggest challenge. It’s not really a matter of whether or not you can run a mile (trust me, you can) or 10 miles (you will, if you train) or if you can lift 5 pounds or 50, or if you can finish a 5k or a marathon or an Iron Man. It’s not even if your body is capable of losing 5 pounds or having abs or having a firm butt. All of that is possible. All of our bodies, more or less are built quite the same. If all those people filling up your Pinterest “Fitness” board have achieved those incredible bodies, honestly there isn’t any reason why our bodies aren’t capable of our own versions of the same. After all, we all do have a six pack somewhere in there and glutes and biceps and thighs and all the same muscles as all of those people. So, really, why not me? Why not you?

[Anecdote/afterthought: You may know I like running. I recently ran a 10k, and I’ve run several before. I’m hoping to run a half marathon this year, and maybe a marathon next year. Running has become a huge part of my life. But, fun fact: I used to hate, hate, HATE running. I couldn’t run a mile 3 years ago. Couldn’t and wouldn’t. I’d rather die. But I had a personal trainer for a while in college and she forced me to run a mile with her once or twice a week, and slowly but surely, running became a part of my life. IT IS POSSIBLE. The end. Back to regularly scheduled programming.]

Thats the easy part. Getting your body to look like that is easy when you look at it factually: Eat lean, clean, natural foods, lower your calorie intake, and exercise. Its a simple equation. To lose one pound of fat in one week, you must lower your calorie intake by 3,500 calories in that week. That means that you need to lessen your calorie intake by 500 calories a day through a combination of exercise and healthy eating (perhaps you burn 200 calories in exercise and you cut out 100 calories from breakfast, 100 from lunch, and 100 from dinner). Honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? All of us are capable of achieving the body and the health that we desire. It is in our genetic makeup to be able to achieve that.

So… why in the hell is it so goddamn hard??!

If I really try hard, I can do enough bicep curls to have killer lady guns. No biggie, right? My body is capable of doing exactly what I want it to do. But my brain is the hardest muscle to reshape. The struggle for self control and stronger willpower seems to be so much more challenging than the 80 burpees I did on Monday (more on that later). And even doing the burpees isn’t even the real issue… I know my body will do them. My legs can jump and my arms can do push ups and my lungs can breathe and my heart can pump blood. I’ll be exhausted, but I can do it, eventually. But why is it that after doing 5 of those burpees, my brain says, “No, don’t do it, don’t do it! Noooo!” It requires turning off those thoughts (so hard to do) and forcing your body to do things that your brain doesn’t want to adjust to. Whether its burpees, 10 miles of running, weight lifting, or not eating the tempting food or choosing to eat salad instead of whatever you normally eat, it’s entirely a mental choice and our brains are so, so resistant to change.

Not only that, but I feel my brain being swarmed daily with conflicting ideas and advice about how to achieve the change I really want, and I’m constantly torn between different ways in which to get started. Should I focus on building healthy habits outside of health and exercise, and maybe I’ll get fit along the way? Should I focus on becoming vegan and then it’ll just be so much easier to lose weight? Should I focus on just exercising more, that way I’ll be happier and have more energy and be more motivated to make changes? Should I focus on writing more about how I feel about my current state so I can start to analyze my thoughts and behaviors from a basic, psychological level? Should I focus on doing more yoga and meditation to be centered and strong at my core? Should I focus on self love before changing anything about my lifestyle so that my heart is in the right place? Should I maybe just start with one thing and not overwhelm myself, and let everything else in my life stay the same for a bit so the change isn’t so striking?… AM I OVER THINKING THIS?

These are the things that go through my head constantly. And I haven’t quite found a balance between any of these thoughts, but the best answer to myself is… maybe its just a little bit of everything? I’m too distracted and ADD to be able to just do one thing. I need variety. Or at least variety is what has sustained me up until now, and I think it would be foolish of me to try to change that part of my personality. I need to learn to work within my own personal “constraints” in order to find the answers that are right for me. So taking a little from each of those thoughts and I suppose just patching it all together and “making it work” is the best, maybe the only way for me.

BUT ANYWAYS… what I was getting at was this: The body is easy. The mind is the real struggle. And even if I don’t always believe or truly internalize all the things I want to believe, as a friend (who happens to be a therapist) has said to me many times, “In order to achieve those deep-rooted cognitive changes and mental reframing, the trick really is just to fake it until you make it. Ultimately the subconscious doesn’t know the difference.” So, I suppose thats a great place to start. Similarly, a friend recently sent me this intriguing article explaining the effects of positive self affirmation, and how phrases like “I’m awesome” don’t really do much but something like “I am a great runner” are much more effective because they are direct, tangible, and easy to believe and internalize.

So, I want to focus on reminding myself of things that I know I’m good at and things I already like about myself, and I encourage you (whether you prefer privately or better yet, share it in the comments!) to do the same.

A few things I love about me:

I am an excellent dancer. It’s my greatest love, my greatest talent, and my greatest source of joy.

I am a great swimmer. 12 years of competitive swimming has made me a strong little fish, for life.

Thanks to swimming and waterpolo, I have strong shoulders and killer legs. My legs might be my favorite body part.

Hourglass figure! I’ve learned to love it as my love for fashion grew and I realized I could wear so many sexy, feminine pieces, like high-waisted skirts and belted dresses. I have a womanly body, and I like that.

I’ve always loved my hair. Though I have been caught complaining about the frizz (probably because every girl needs to find some aspect of their hair that they hate because its taboo to like your hair), it has always been a lie. I love my hair. Always have. Always will.

I like my eye color. Hazel.

I’m assertive and a natural leader. I love dealing with people, helping people, and teaching people and I love that about my personality.

I’m optimistic.

I speak 3 languages and I’m proud of my ability to learn languages with relative ease.

So there… a few things that I love about myself. I may make another one of these lists later, along with another list of accomplishments from the day. I found that to be a nice reminder to myself that things really are going well, even if I’m inclined to find the reasons for why they are not. Ultimately, things are GOOD. Things are great. I am healthy and strong, even when I have moments of weakness. Must learn to remind myself of this daily. Things really are just fine.

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Deadly Dairy Diaries

[This post started as a short little post about how dairy gave me a stomach ache, and it turned into something quite a bit longer than that. Get your reading pants on, kids (what??) and EDUCATE YO’ SELF]

I’ve been mostly vegan the past several days, without too much effort as described in this post from last week, and it has felt really great. However, today the girls baked a cake, and since I don’t like chocolate, they baked a little separate one without chocolate for me. I didn’t actually want it, but they were so sweet to make it that I couldn’t turn it down and break their little hearts. So I ate a small piece of cake (and later a bite of one of my cookies from Belgium), and immediately… the intestinal chorus began to sing. I’m sitting here feeling the alarmingly immediate effects of dairy on my body, and I’m reminded once again of that feeling of “liberation” by eating clean, whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods. Food should never make you feel sick. Dairy is not natural for us to eat! And anyone who thinks otherwise, let me explain:

(PS: A lot of this information comes from things I’ve read and watched or learned in school, but I haven’t the slightest clue where or how to cite any of my sources. Take it or leave it, or do some research yourself to be further convinced.)

Why Not Dairy?

When you are born, you drink your mothers milk, which has all of the nutrients you need for the first few months/year of your life, and until you are weaned off of your mothers milk, you do not need anything else. Milk is very nutritionally dense for a little baby. In the same way, a kitten is born and drinks her mothers milk until she is grown and is able to fend for herself and eat the things an adult cat eats. Likewise, an elephant calf is born and drinks its mothers milk, and a baby gorilla does the same, and a baby cow does the same. All mammals drink their mothers milk while growing during those formative infant moments (be it days, weeks, months, years…) and once the baby is old enough, it no longer needs any milk, and the mother no longer needs to produce it. So why as a population have we been convinced that we still need to drink milk (or consume dairy of any kind)? For calcium. Strong bones and teeth. Etc etc, right?

Actually, not so.

First, consider this: If we as humans no longer need to drink our own mothers’ milk, from our own species, why should we have to drink the infant growth juice of a mother from an entirely different species? Why cows milk, and not elephant milk or dog milk or gorilla milk? If anything, gorilla or chimpanzee milk would be most appropriate, considering we share over 98% of our DNA with them. Or, why don’t we just continue to drink our own mothers milk well into adulthood? That would actually be most appropriate, considering our options. But who decided cow milk was what humans need? Likely (most certainly) it was the food industry, trying to find new ways to make money. Inventions like frozen food, non-perishable Twinkies, and milk are all products of industrialized “nutrition”.

Second, consider this: The majority of the human population on this earth is lactose intolerant. So yeah, that means probably you too. If you’re at all like me, you’ve grown up your entire life drinking milk (cereal with milk is and has always been my favorite food), eating cheese, ice cream, butter, etc, then you’ve likely gotten used to the grumble in your tummy or the discomfort or even the diarrhea that comes along with eating dairy. Its likely you’ve never noticed it at all. And if you have, you’ve just attributed it to… who knows… “something I ate” or maybe you haven’t attributed it to anything at all, but to the simple, normal reaction that happens after you eat. Truth is, I lived like this my entire life, literally until about a week or two ago, when I slowly started eating less to no dairy, and today, I’m sitting here, after about 3 or 4 bites of a cake that is made entirely of dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, eggs, and some flour… yes I know eggs are not dairy), and my entire digestive system is NOT happy about it. And I’m starting to see the light.

So, if most of the human population is lactose intolerant, why do we keep consuming lactose? Why do we have so many products, like Lactaid, which make dairy easier to consume? Eating should not require a set of pills to make us function properly. Our body is built to process things naturally, and ideally, we should never need Tums or Pepto Bismol or Lactaid to help us eat. Ever heard of pharmaceutical companies? Yeah…

Another highly compelling fact is this: There is a small population of people living in the desert in Africa who have historically, for thousands and thousands of years, been cattle herders. They live in a place where water and food are scarce, but they have co-evolved with the cattle they herd over time in order to be able to survive together. Since humans are naturally intolerant to lactose, we normally become sick, even if just mildly, upon consuming dairy. In some cases, we can have diarrhea from dairy, which for most of us in a privaledged western world may mean we have to run to the bathroom at an inopportune moment, maybe take some Pepto Bismol, and if its really bad, we may have to lay in bed for a while and drink some gatorade or water to feel better. But if you live in the desert in Africa, with little access to food or water, diarrhea can kill you, since it completely dehydrates you from all liquid and nutrients in your system. So, this unique population of cattle herders has co-evolved with cows, developing a distinct and rare genetic mutation that allows them to properly process lactose without becoming sick and thus dying, since more often than not, they rely exclusively on the milk of these cows to survive. So think about that. In order to process milk, they evolved (over centuries) a genetic mutation to be able to drink milk and not die. Most of us do not have this mutation, and thus, if we were stranded in a desert with only milk to drink, we would all probably die.

I’m just saying…

OK, so maybe dairy isn’t exactly normal to drink, but is it actually harmful? Yeah, it is. Much to my sadness and dismay (I love dairy), dairy has high levels of saturated fat (the bad kind of fat) and of bad cholesterol, similar to a piece of red meat.

“Red meat and full-fat dairy products (cheese, milk, ice cream, butter) are among the main sources of saturated fat in our diets.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“Trans fats are also naturally found in beef fat and dairy fat, in small amounts.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“… Because vegetable fat was not related to risk of breast cancer, these findings suggest that red meat and high-fat dairy products may contain other factors, such as hormones, that increase risk of breast cancer.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“It’s worth noting that milk and other dairy products are our biggest source of saturated fat, and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer.” – Dr. Barnard, quoted in this New York Times article by Mark Bittman

Animals and Planet

Another important factor to consider is the effect of dairy production on the environment and on the well-being of the animals being exploited. I think we all like to imagine that all the milk we drink comes from happy cows (from California) who roam around with wide green pastures much like this,

but sadly, this is a reality for very few, if any cows at all. Most of the time, a real dairy farm looks more like this:

or this,

I’ve actually been to a dairy farm, when I was wwoofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Ireland a few months ago, I was taken by my host to the local dairy farm that provided the milk for some of Irelands most popular dairy products. Ireland and the United States are very different in their production of dairy, but I presume they shared some similarities. Since milk comes from a cow who has recently given birth, naturally that milk should go to the calf, but instead, they are separated immediately (imagine the stress on the mother to have her baby taken from her!) and she is hooked up to an uncomfortable machine which pumps her milk out for hours every day. I actually got to milk a cow with one of those machines, and trust me, the cows did not enjoy it. Though the farm looked like that last photo, the cows in Ireland did get to spend part of their time in a lovely green pasture. But remember, this is Ireland, where leprechauns exist and magic is everywhere. America is not so quaint. Most american dairy and beef cows are fed corn, which their stomachs are not built to digest (they’re meant to eat grass), so when they become sick, they are pumped with antibiotics. More than half of the antibiotics sold in America go to food-animals, not humans. So the happy cow thing is just a big lie so that you can sleep at night and buy milk in the morning… milk from stressed mothers whose children have been taken from them, mothers who are fed unnatural things (imagine if you were fed wood or rocks instead of actual food you could digest?) and pumped with chemicals and antibiotics, living in a metal warehouse filled with feces and all sorts of nasty things… Honestly, just ew. If we are what we eat, and if cows are what they eat, and if we eat cows, then we are what cows eat, and if you knew what it looked (or smelled) like inside a dairy farm, I promise you’d never touch a piece of cheese again. Promise.

Also, that whole thing about cows farting is actually true. The methane gas released from the billions of cows in industrialized farms contributes to more greenhouse gases than all of the gases released from all transportation methods, combined. Global warming is serious business, and a huge part of it comes from cows that are farting from eating corn, much in the same way we’re farting from eating dairy.

“The nearly half a million factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times more waste than the human population. Cattle produce nearly one billion tons of organic waste each year. The waste from livestock, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides are a primary source of water pollution in this country. Wastes from dairies, feedlots, and chicken and hog farms enter waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and making the water unfit for consumption. Cattle also contribute significantly to global warming because they emit methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, three of the four gases responsible for trapping solar heat.” – Born Free USA, “The Destructive Dairy Industry”

So… if cutting back on dairy for your own health isn’t compelling enough, do it for the earth, man! After all… our body is our one and only vessel, and our planet is too. Once its gone, its gone for good.

[Also I should point out that I highlighted America, but each country has its own industrialized food system and I encourage those of you reading this in other countries to take a look into your countries practices. Its likely that they’re not all that different from those of the grand ol’ U-S-A.]

Ok all of that is sad about the animals and the planet but you’re probably not going to do anything about it because most of us don’t but you’re still thinking about health because a sliver of you is curious about not dying or maybe just not being sick one day, and likely you’ve been wondering this whole time about the “real” question… CALCIUM!

Calcium is needed for strong bones, right? And we get calcium from where? Milk? Research shows that osteoporosis (loss of bone density, bones becoming porous, weaker bones, breaking your hip when you’re old, etc) is most prevalent in the countries with the highest consumption of dairy, like United States, United Kingdom, Finland, and Sweden. And that’s not a random coincidence. To quote from the Livestrong website:

“Most know that milk is high in calcium. It may seem counterintuitive that the calcium in dairy can contribute to osteoporosis, which is characterized by a loss of calcium from bones. However, excessive calcium suppresses the activation of vitamin D, argues Walter Willet, M.D. Activated or supercharged D contributes to a wide array of health benefits. According to Campbell, persistently low levels of this activated vitamin create an “inviting environment” for different cancers, autoimmune diseases and osteoporosis. Of note, animal protein also suppresses the production of supercharged D.”

So… Then where else can I get calcium and protein?

If you don’t know where else you could possibly get calcium and protein if not from dairy, there are many natural foods, from the earth, that have as much if not more calcium than dairy, like broccoli, kale, spinach, sesame seeds, nuts, soy, and so much more. Similarly, most of those, plus quinoa, lentils, beans, and other legumes have as much protein as any piece of lean meat. By eating a regular, well-rounded plant-based diet, you can get all the nutrients you need (protein, calcium, etc) without harming your body in the long run. Dairy is not the answer. We’ve just been told it is, and we’ve never questioned it. But becoming informed and educated about what you put into your body, your one and only vessel, is one of the most important things you can do to prolong your life and the quality of your life along the way.

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[My] Dairy Detox:

Milk

I have always loved dairy. Like I said, cereal with milk has been one of the biggest staples of my diet for most of my life, so I am no stranger to being a part of the dairy myth. I love milk, I love the taste of a sweet glass of 1% milk, I love cold milk and cereal when I’m hungry in the middle of the night, and I often used to say that cereal and milk was “my coffee” (since I don’t like coffee) in the mornings. I am obsessed equally with yogurt, especially greek yogurt, and getting rid of yogurt from my diet has been surprisingly more difficult than milk. I stopped drinking milk a while ago, not all at once, but as I slowly realized there were more options for breakfast than just cereal and milk. I began to enjoy oatmeal or greek yogurt or eggs instead on some mornings, and slowly, without meaning to, I found myself more satisfied by those than by an airy, sugary cereal, so cereal, but more importantly milk, began to take a back seat to my new breakfast discoveries. There are plenty of non-dairy milks, like almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc though I’ve only tried almond milk, and I usually only use it in smoothies because I haven’t quite gotten used to the taste on its own (its best to buy unsweetened but the flavor is also stronger), but I’m working on it. Maybe if I’m ever really craving cereal, I’ll give it a shot. But for now, I don’t miss milk or cereal enough to drink almond milk straight, though that could change as I continue to expand my taste buds.

Yogurt

Yogurt is one of my favorite snacks, particularly and nearly exclusively greek yogurt (except here in France where my host family only buys regular or flavored yogurts), so I’m learning to find ways to replace it, most recently by my discovery of soy yogurt. It tastes great, and has the same consistency as any regular yogurt, and honestly you wouldn’t know the difference after eating it a few times. When soy yogurt becomes your new normal, you wont feel deprived in any way. I am learning to expand from my limited understanding of what yogurt is, in order to discover new, more interesting ways of enjoying the foods I’ve always loved.

photo (21)

Cheese

Cheese is another food to consider. I don’t really eat a lot of cheese so this isn’t particularly difficult for me to cut out, but I know I’m probably alone in that. Though I must say, avoiding cheese in France is about as difficult as avoiding water. But I’ve done surprisingly well lately, just by saying “Non, merci.” (No, thank you). And I hear there are plenty of vegan cheeses that taste the same, melt the same, look the same, but they don’t kill you in the same way. Nice! When I get back to California, I’m excited to try these out. I know eating pizza (another one of my favorite things) is going to be a challenge, but perhaps a cheese-less pizza isn’t so bad, right? More room for the sauce, which, lets be honest, is the best part anyway.

Butter

Another important element to consider in the dairy category is… BUTTER. Good lord. I understand why we like it, but I don’t understand why it’s even legal. It is so, SO bad for you! Eating butter is just asking for a heart attack. It’s basically all “bad fats” and cholesterol. And so many of us don’t know what we would do if we cant cook/bake with butter, but trust me, there are so many options! If you love spreading butter on bread like I do, um, basically, just don’t. Sorry. Find something else. Natural fruit preserves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, almond butter, avocados… there are plenty of things that can be put on bread, and butter should not be one of them. As for cooking, you can use olive oil, sesame seed oil, coconut oil… pretty much most natural oils are better. I used to not know how to cook certain things without butter, like eggs for example, but I started using olive oil instead and I don’t miss butter one bit. As for baking (one of my favorite things to do), I hear apple sauce makes a great substitute, as well as avocados (yum) or greek yogurt (yeah I know its dairy, but its a start…) and plenty of other things. Just takes a little research. I’m eager to test some of these substitutions out next time I decide to bake myself a treat.

Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Actually… I don’t. I enjoy it from time to time, but I rarely crave it and whenever I do, all I actually want is a bite or two. Often it is too rich and I get bored quickly. But I know some people die for ice cream, so I suppose I’ll address it here. Ice cream is basically just really cold fat and sugar. If you’re looking for something cold, sweet, and flavorful, you could make yourself a smoothie, or eat an all-natural frozen fruit pop thing (I hate those, but if thats your style, go wild), or a natural frozen yogurt (yes, also dairy but better in general if you just can’t let go), or best of all, just a piece of frozen fruit. That is something I can get sexy on. Frozen strawberries? Mixed with a little balsamic vinegar and some mint leaves? You wouldn’t believe how delicious that is. And if you really want something ice cream-y, you can try soy ice cream. I’ve never tried it but I bet if its anything like soy yogurt, its probably really good.

I realize leaving the dairy world is not easy, and if you read my last post, you’ll know my deep frustration with blog posts and magazines that “give you all the answers” and make it look easy. I know its not. I wasn’t born vegan, and even now, I’ve only really been mostly vegan for about 10 days. I’ve spent the past 25 years of my life eating meat, dairy, eggs, and a plethora of processed foods, sugars, and other nonsense (Um… Lean Cuisine anyone? Don’t judge me, I was in college). I’m not perfect (AS YOU KNOW if you’ve read any of my posts. Good lord I’m so far from where I want to be, and you all know it) and I struggle so much with any change I try to make in my life. But one thing that I suppose I can learn about my relationship with dairy (and thus apply it to all my other desired changes) is that things really happen very, very slowly. This slow process of lessening dairy in my life has been something I have been doing (without even meaning to) over several years. And even still, I do consume cheese and yogurt and butter and ice cream, but I’m trying to consume them less. And eventually, who knows how long it will take, I’d like to be free from them all together. Its a slow process and I realize its not easy at all. Sometimes all you want is a cheesy pizza or some ice cream or cereal with milk. But I’ve started to see that you can still have all of these things, but in new ways. Eating right does not have to mean deprivation! It just means being smarter and more aware of what you are putting in your body.

The saying really is true… You are what you eat.

To learn more, I recommend these videos or any of the links at the bottom.

 

Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

The New York Times, “Got Milk? You Don’t Need It”

Huffington Post Healthy Living, “Dairy: 6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid it at All Costs[…]”

Born Free USA, “The Destructive Dairy Industry”

ABC News, “Sixty Percent of Adults Can’t Digest Milk”

Livestrong, “Milk Consumption & Osteoporosis”

Food Matters, “The Truth About Calcium and Osteoporosis”

US News, “5 Non-Dairy Foods With Calcium”

Yahoo Voices, “5 Foods With More Calcium Than Milk”

Livestrong, “Healthy Heart Substitute For Butter”

Fitsugar, “Healthy Baking: Surprising Butter Substitutes”

Yahoo Voices, “5 Dairy-Free Cheese Substitutes”

3 Fat Chicks, “7 Healthy Ice Cream Substitutes”

Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

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I Hate Magazines and Fitness Blogs… kinda

You know, one thing that puts me off about a lot of fitness/health blogs or magazines is when they give you step-by-step instructions, how-to’s, or perfectly crafted lists, laying out all the answers to all the issues you’ve been trying to deal with on your own. “10 tips for better abs now”, “How to control your cravings”, “Follow these steps to have your best body by summer.”  Sorry but, I call major bullshit on all of you (meaning them).

Perhaps part of my problem with posts or articles like these is that it gives me a lot of hidden anxiety to read about how truly easy it is to reach my goals. Its like… so, all I need to do is follow those steps, and… I’ll have abs? I’ll be sexy? I’ll love myself? Perfect! Its like baking. And I love baking. Why don’t I just bake myself some self respect, or how about I whip up some confidence by mixing these 4 simple ingredients. No. It’s not that easy. It’s not easy at all. For some of us, we’ve been battling our demons our entire lives, and to simplify all of our trials and tribulations into “10 easy steps” just makes me (I don’t know about you) feel pretty worthless. Like, if its so easy, then why doesn’t everyone have abs? Maybe I’m just incompetent. Doomed. Destined for failure. These simplified articles, magazines and blogs all just walk around all day strutting their toned ass, waving it like a giant piece of berry cobbler in my face, like, “La la la, you can’t have this, la la la. It was easy for me, but it’s not for you. Enjoy your jiggle forever. La la la.”

I recently unsubscribed from the SELF drop a million pounds by summer email thing (I don’t remember what it was called and I don’t care) because I realized, first of all, sorry but your recipes and diet plan are whack (you are not going to lose 10 pounds by summer by eating 1600-1700 calories a day, unless you’re a 6’5 football player) and they all sound nasty and they endorse fast food as a decent option (no, you can’t eat McDonalds and lose weight. You just can’t, and even if you can, you shouldn’t unless you wanna die). In my entirely uneducated opinion, their dietary advice is completely un-sound (is that a word? Welp, now it is) and misleading, plus it just looks gross. I tried one of their recepies once. It sucked. (Okay, maybe my kitchen skills should take part of the blame for that, but still…).

But the real reason why I unsubscribed was because it was making me self-conscious. Sure, SELF Magazine is great, or whatever, and I’m sure they really want you to love yourself and all that jazz, but I just feel like any plan that promises to get you fit by summer is just missing the mark entirely. At least for me. Because yes, I’d love to leave this wretched French weather and go home to California and wear a swimsuit all summer long and actually be excited about it, but it’s not the most important thing to me, and setting a set deadline is both terrifying and entirely destructive to the internalization of my goals. Do I want a hot body for summer? Sure. Do I want a hot body and strong soul for life? Absolutely. And getting reminders every day that there are only X number of weeks before summer only makes me feel like more of a failure than I already care to admit. I feel like I’ve been wasting my time, like I haven’t been making progress fast enough, that I haven’t had the dedication to hop on board this temporary, short-lived nasty diet plan to lose some of this jiggle, only to gain it back again come October. So, I broke up with SELF Magazine, and my mind and my inbox are just a little bit less bothered now.

As for the rest of the blogging world… My relationship is harder to define. I have a blog. I love blogging. (I have 2 other blogs, entirely different). And literally all I do when I’m not on Facebook, eating, or sleeping is reading other peoples blogs, and generally they’re about fitness and health. If reading blogs gave you calories, I’d surely be obese by now. But its this constant back and forth, between feeling inspired and motivated, and feeling inadequate and unworthy. Whenever I read stories about inspiring people who have changed their lives and now have the abs to prove it, that conflict becomes very salient. “Wow, that’s amazing. It just goes to show, anyone can do it! I’m so ready to get my life going and be one of them!“… this very quickly turns into, “… except probably not. Because I like cookies and pie and calories too much. I’ll never be like them. God, I suck! Look at how many times I failed today! I bet this person would have never done what I did. I can’t believe I ate so much almond butter. Fuck.”

Yeah yeah, I know. But I’m just being honest. And surely I can’t be the only one out there who struggles with such poisonous self-talk. But its hard to break out of that cycle when, on top of all the challenges I already feel like I’m facing, I’m confronted with articles on a daily basis, simplifying all of my struggles into some stupid bullshit sentence like “It’s easier than you think!” (Literally taken verbatim from SELF.com)

**

This is actually related I swear. I was reminded of this hilarious article making fun of Cosmo Magazine’s ridiculous sex tips because after switching out a few words here and there, these tips for impossible sex acts are about as ridiculous as the seemingly helpful, easy tips for changing your entire life.

NSFW, mostly, unless you work where I used to work, where my coworkers and I would read this out loud to each other in our open-layout workspace, 10 feet from our boss. Cuz thats how we roll(ed).

http://jezebel.com/5919206/cosmos-44-most-ridiculous-sex-tips

**

So, my point is… I don’t have one. I’m torn. I love and often need the inspiration of looking at people’s insane bodies because it gives me a glimmer of hope, something to strive for. But never in my life have I ever come close to looking like them, and I hate feeling like my struggle really shouldn’t have been so hard. I get most pleasure out of reading “real” people’s blogs, where they talk about their daily lives, their ups and downs, their frustrations and fears, and they don’t pretend to have all the answers, easy steps, or quick fixes. They are human, and they make me feel less alone. This is partially why I connected so much with Tone It Up. I like Karena and Katrina, (especially Katrina, because she underwent quite an inspiring transformation), they’re friendly and normal, but more than them, I like the community. I like knowing there are others out there that are slipping and getting back up on their feet, and pushing themselves and each other every day to succeed. Maybe none of us will ever look like the people we see in big-name blogs or magazines, but thats okay. Those people live for their bodies. It’s their career. Some of us don’t have that luxury. But I find comfort in talking to strangers, people who I’ve never met but who seem to understand my struggles so deeply and who take time and effort to reach out to other strangers in need. Its like we can share each others’ load, make it a little bit easier for each other, remind each other that we are worthy, beautiful, and despite all odds, we are all stronger than we think.

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Killer Workout

Todays workout was killerrrrrrrr and now I’m a killer so watch out.
I ran to the park, about 10-15 minutes away, and found myself a nice spot on the big grassy area and spent probably an hour doing all sorts of body weight exercises. I had (following what my friend and I did in Brussels) previously written down all all the exercises in this Zuzana Light video (featured below), and after finishing all 3 rounds (barely!), I went wild and made up my own exercises. I did lots of kickboxing, earning me plenty of stares from the others in the park (apparently kickboxing alone in public is “weird” here? Anywhere?) and more push-ups, burpees, lunges, and as many ab exercises as I could handle. I hate doing abs. Absolutely hate it. Whenever I’m doing them, my brain is saying, “Stop! Keep the belly! Do not continue. It’s not worth it.” And, more often than not, I listen   :-/ . Any tips for enjoying ab exercises, or at least not wanting to kills self after 5 crunches?? I need to learn to like those.
Anyway, after about an hour of working out with a good level of intensity, I ran back home, this time challenging myself to do short sprint intervals. Not only were my legs feeling like lead after my workout, but the way back is slightly uphill and my legs hate it. But finishing felt SO good and when I finally got home, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride over my hard work. It was not easy, but so worth it. There’s nothing like feeling the sweat from your forehead drip into your eyes and your mouth, making you burn and cringe at the same time. Now THAT is hard work! I should make that a goal every time I exercise: “Sweat so hard your eyes burn and you go momentarily blind”.
This is the written version of Zuzana’s killer workout:

10 Dive Bombers (like downward dog pushups)

5 full burpees

20 (each side) squat leg lifts – squat, down, come up, lift one leg out, repeat on other side

5 burpees

10 side plank lifts (each side)

5 burpees

10 pistol squats (each side) – one legged squat

5 burpees
Repeat 3 times total

 

Sweat your heart out!

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Battle

Battle

This resonated with me while scrolling through pictures of extremely fit girls on Pinterest. I fluctuate so often, but this reminds me that its OKAY. I’ve fought this battle before, and I’m fighting it again, this time a little stronger and a little wiser than before. A good friend reminds me time and time again that its not a cycle, because that implies that I’m not improving and not going anywhere new. Its an upward-trending line… sure, it has its ups and downs, but in general, I’m moving up, getting stronger with every failure and learning so much along the way.

I am stronger than I think I am. And stronger than yesterday.

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Mid-Day Mind Munchies and Yoga

Sometimes I wonder if I think about food too much. Am I alone here? Or does anyone else ever feel like they just obsess over food all day, every day. I plan my whole day around my food and exercise, and I plan my food and exercise around each other, and its not because I’m some inspiring, intense, die-hard foodie or fitness goddess. I’m not. At all. I’m the laziest sonofabitch you’ll ever meet, and (as you know if you’ve been reading my blog), I seem to love stuffing my face with food until I want to cry. It really should be pathetic.

But, alas, I somehow still get myself to exercise, and since food already takes up 90% of my brain space, I inevitably plan my exercising around my food and my life around my food.

I FUCKING LOVE FOOD. And I think everyone out there does too, but some people like to act like food doesn’t consume their thoughts, because they think it makes them look cool. Or strong. Or healthy. Or who knows. But don’t kid yourself… I can see riiiiight past it. Your brain is salivating.

Anyway… What I meant to say was… Here are some pictures of my food today!

Because, I love food, and I take pictures of food and I don’t care.

photo 1

Lunch salad, which I ate out of a huge bowl, because spinach takes up a lot of space, and its easier/more fun that way if you’re savage and happen to be eating alone like I am. It kind of feels like I’m the guy from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, eating an entire box of Lucky Charms out of a huge mixing bowl, like a boss:

Anyway… My salad consisted of spinach, chickpeas, corn, carrots, tomatoes, almonds, pine nuts, raisins, and for dressing, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

photo 2

[This part needs to be read in a snobby British accent.] As the second course for todays prix-fixe menu, we have featured our house specialty, the Artesanal Dry-Farmed Herloom Beta-Carotene Puree with an H2O Reduction Sauce.

In other words… microwaved sweet potato.

Literally the most gourmet thing you’ll ever find in nature. It blows my balls off.

Sweet potato is what happened when God had a lot of liberating sex on Saturday night with Mr. God (or Mrs. God, since LadyGod could have very well been a lesbian. Who am I to make that kind of assumption…) and was feeling happy and overly generous to Her children on the 7th day, so She said, here, kids, take all my gold and my money and my secrets and run wild. So they partied hard, got really drunk, and passed out in the dirt and all the gold got stuck somewhere deep in the soil, and months later sweet potatoes popped up. So now you know some agricultural history. You’re welcome.

Later in the afternoon, I was feeling hungry (as if my enormous bath tub of salad wasn’t enough), so I made myself a smoothie much like this one, but with almond butter instead of peanut butter. After it was blended, I added a little more almond butter, and right now, as I’m drinking it, I keep finding little chunks of heaven amidst this delicious smoothie, and I’m patting myself on the back for having such a brilliant idea.

photo (20)

So far, so good. I actually didn’t eat oatmeal for breakfast, because my almond butter needed attention (I can already see that my goal to not finish this jar by the end of the week is going to be really difficult), so I ate an open-faced sandwich: whole wheat bread, almond butter, banana. Bomb dot com.

After watching a bunch of TED talks and killing all the ants I found in my room (don’t ask… I’m pissed), I did half an hour of yoga, following a Jillian Michaels’ video:

 

And now at the early hour of 4:49pm, I’m finally getting my day started. Its Sunday, don’t hate. I’m going to the movies, and I’m making my promise ahead of time – I will not eat anything from the concession stand. I’m bringing a bag of almonds and maybe a piece of fruit, if I get hungry (though this smoothie should keep me full for a while), and tonight I’m eating the rest of my salad (yeah… I forgot to mention, I couldn’t finish it) and maybe some plain soy yogurt with honey for dessert.

HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE, okay!?

If all goes well, today will be another successful vegan day. Hooray!

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Grocery Shopping

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to two grocery stores yesterday and spent half of my weekly allowance on food that I shouldn’t even need to buy. But, its not likely that my host family will be buying tempeh and almond butter, so I’ve been taking matters into my own hands (aka broke-ass wallet) for the past few months and buying myself things that I want/need.

I went to Monoprix, the big “normal” grocery store, and bought whatever didn’t need to be bought at Naturalia, the organic, healthy store. I came home feeling like Santa, excitedly arranging all of my food on my tiny table in the corner of the room, and proudly taking pictures, just for YOU.

photo (19)

Featured on my list of healthy items:

– Oatmeal

– Quinoa

– Nuts

– Thin Brown Rice Cakes

– Sun Warrior Protein Powder

– Organic Whole Wheat bread

– Fruit (apples, bananas, avocados, tomatoes)

– Vegetables (sweet potatoes, canned chickpeas, spinach)

– Tahini sauce

– Almond butter (I caved in…)

– Tempeh

– Soy Yogurt

– Almond Milk

 

This is a very limited list. But these are my staples, and knowing that I have these in the house, I feel prepared and ready to eat healthy and clean for the rest of the week. Dinner times I know will always be a challenge, but I’m learning slowly that it is okay to make my own dinner and eat that instead. It takes a bit of courage (I’m shy and I feel the need to be respectful) but ultimately, it tends to work out okay when I give it a shot. But at least for the other meals of the day when I’m on my own, I don’t have any excuse now to not eat right. My challenge is to avoid all the other temptations around the house, and trust me, there are plenty.

Oh yeah, also my challenge is to not finish the enormous jar of almond butter by the end of this week. Because my brain does not understand “all things in moderation” or “portion control” or “STOP god damnit!” when almond butter is in front of me. I knew I shouldn’t buy it, but again… brain shut off, hand grabbed jar, wallet paid, and oops now its here.

Im TRYING, okay!?

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All Or Nothing

I realized as I was leaving the second grocery store this afternoon that I’m starting to fall into my typical all-or-nothing ways. I tend to get really excited about something, then I start researching the shit out of it, and within a few short days, I find myself entirely changing my lifestyle to something new. I may have talked about this before, and how this is likely the reason for my constant up and down success and failure. I never seem to be able to just stick to something because I think I take on too many things all at once, and ultimately, its not sustainable. But honestly, I just get impatient and bored easily, and when I get an idea in my head, I want to run with it and never look back.

Examples… When I became obsessed with locally-grown, organic, seasonal produce (after watching Food Inc). I nearly tossed out everything in my house that didn’t fit this standard, got my mom to sign up for a CSA program (community-supported agriculture, where local farms sell you their produce in a box, etc), refused to shop at a grocery store and only at farmers markets, started planting my own vegetables, etc etc etc. This lasted for a good few weeks, until in one way or another, it was just too much to change all at once, and we slowly slipped back into our old routine. My mom couldn’t keep up with all the produce we were getting and a lot of it would go bad, and we got into a big fight one time when I (being a brat) gave her shit for wanting to eat a banana, from Chile. Needless to say, it ended right where it began. At least I gained lots of knowledge  and I still try to use this information whenever I shop, but not to the same extreme as before.

Or maybe, for example, that time in my life when I determined that I would be the next Jimi Hendrix AND Deadmau5 and convinced my parents to buy me a guitar and turn tables and mixers for Christmas, so that I could finally achieve my musical potential. Note: I HAVE NEVER BEEN MUSICALLY GIFTED EVER. I tried piano and clarinet for years as a kid and failed miserably. So why, then, the sudden obsession with music again? I don’t know. I got it into my head, and couldn’t get it out. Sadly, this equipment is gathering dust in my parents garage.

This same thing happens to me any time I’ve tried to lose weight. Exactly 1 year ago (for my friends wedding, this very weekend last year), I weighed 118 pounds, and I’m 5’4. I had lost probably 10+ pounds in 2 months. I don’t know how I did it, honestly, because I’ve never been that skinny, but just a few weeks later, I gained 5 pounds back, then I had gained 5 more by the end of summer… and now, well I haven’t weighed myself in months, but I know I’ve gained more. I hate admitting it. Getting obsessed with an idea, like losing weight, works temporarily, but in the long term, it might actually be doing me more damage than good. Its a battle with constant success followed by supreme disappointment by what feels like enormous failure. I lose confidence in my ability to truly succeed because up until now, I really haven’t. Not long-term.

How do I deal with my attention-deficit, my impatience, and my constant need for new stimulation, without losing myself along the way? How do I make healthy, long-lasting changes… how do I get them to stick, and stick for good?

I don’t want this new-found veganism to become just another one of my ridiculous failed phases. I honestly think this could work for me, but I’m afraid I might not be going about it in the best way. Today I spent 40 of my measly 80 euros a week on groceries (that I’m not even supposed to buy, since technically my host family should provide for my food. Except I refuse to eat bacon and cheese every day, so I end up having to buy my own food and keep it in my room) at two grocery stores. I stocked up on a few of my usual staples, but I bought a few new “experimental” items, or guilty pleasures, because I was just so overcome with excitement about starting a vegan lifestyle. I don’t want to see this food, or my efforts, go to waste after a while. So how do I make this become a slow and steady life change and NOT just another one of my phases? Tips? Suggestions? I’m all ears. Lord knows I could use a real change.

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Nike We Own The Night 10k

I ran my 10k this morning, and it went so well! I was nervous because I really haven’t been running much at all these past few weeks (traveling, getting sick, being lazy), but I know I can handle the 6.2 miles since I’ve run that, and more, many times before in the last few months. For a while, I was training for a half marathon, but I ended up getting off track from my training and not being prepared for the event in Paris in March, though I do hope when I get back home in the summer, I can start training again. I aim to finish a half before 2013 is over.

photo 1

Anyway, today’s run went really well. I ran a slow but decent pace and, and aside from pain in my knees (I’ve had IT Band syndrome aka runners knee for years), I felt strong in my heart and in my legs. My last kilometer felt like one long uphill sprint, but I pushed through and was rewarded by thousands of happy, proud women hugging and high-five-ing each other for accomplishing this exciting feat. Instead of a dumb medal (useless), we were given a really cute bracelet as a finishing gift (featured below… The top one is the bracelet we got with our race packet – has a cute Nike Swoosh on the ball. The second pink one is the finishers “medal”), along with tons of great snacks (way better than the ones given at the events I’ve done back home! I guess French people know whats up) like bananas, apples, nectarines, apricots, dried fruits of all kinds, baked fruit cakes and sweet loaves of bread, tons of water and juice… the list goes on. Awesome.

photo 2

At one point in the race, there was a station that was playing (on repeat) Run The World by Beyonce, and it was getting us all super PUMPED. I looked around and realized, you know, we’re all just normal-shaped women. Some of us have hips and some have skinny legs and some have big thighs and some are tall and some are small and most of us, no… all of us jiggle. Its what makes us women! But jiggle or no jiggle, celulite or none, we are all strong, reaching for the same goal, and it felt unifying and rewarding to be surrounded by so many motivated people. It was another reminder that I am blessed and thankful to have a healthy, functioning, fit body that allows me to do anything I could possibly want to do. My body is my machine. I want to take good care of it.

 

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Vegan day 2… and Oops, I got Instagram

Another accidental vegan day, and it feels oh so good. I know I had a shitty day yesterday, but I refused to let it haunt me today, so this morning I reminded myself of how crappy it felt to lose myself, and I set my intentions for the day: stronger than yesterday.

I didn’t do much in the way of exercise (I rationalized it as being my rest day before my race tomorrow), but I did stay on track of my food, and it wasn’t even hard and didn’t require too much thought or effort at all! Its amazing how being vegan for a day feels so effortless, and the days when I do consume animal products, at least in this past week, have been the days when I’ve felt most out of control. Not eating animals or animal products and thus having a whole foods, plant-based diet is amazingly liberating. It fits in with this post about being “free” from certain foods/behaviors, or saying “I don’t” instead of “I cant”. Once I tell myself “I’m free from consuming animals” or “I don’t eat dairy”, I don’t feel the same urge to cave in, give up, and eat a piece of ham or a yogurt. Instead I just use what I have and get a little creative, and it ends up tasting SO much more gourmet than a nasty ham sandwich or plain yogurt with sugar.

I didn’t plan on being vegan today. I haven’t really been trying to be vegan at all over the past few days/weeks. But it just ends up happening rather accidentally, because I don’t eat red meat (unless my host mom makes it) and I don’t drink milk (gives me a stomach ache) and rarely eat cheese (amazingly, I’ve never really liked it), and my host family never seems to have chicken or fish stocked up and ready to cook (only pork products, like lardons or ham), so I almost have no choice but to be vegan, or mostly vegan plus the occasional yogurt (which I still love). So really, it hasn’t been all that hard to have entirely vegan days – if I happen to make my own dinner that night, its really quite easy!

And like I said on Wednesday, I feel absolutely liberated by my food. I don’t feel out of control, I feel happy, I feel clean and healthy and light, I have energy, and I feel well fed. I’ve gotten all my nutrients, all of my protein, all of my vitamins and minerals… and no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and no guilt (of any kind). Its kind of amazing. I’m all about this!

Also… Um, yeah, I got Instagram. For this blog. I don’t have a personal one yet and I’ve been resisting for ages (this is a matter of pride, as a photographer)… but I did it. I caved. So, follow me on Instagram… “strongfitswell“. Duh. Also I have no idea how to use it so give me some time before I figure out how to follow you back.

So without further ado…my Instagrammed meals:

photo 2A surprise treat – passion fruit!

photo 1

Lunch was chickpeas, white beans, avocado, tomatoes, pine nuts, sesame seeds, olive oil. So good!

photo 4

Dinner consisted of quinoa with sautéed zucchini and onions, along with,

photo 3

… an open-faced “sandwich” – toasted whole wheat bread, spread avocados, tomatoes.

Breakfast was my usual oatmeal with protein powder, and snacks throughout the day were mixed nuts, prunes, and lots of fruit. I drank a TON of water (to be hydrated for my race tomorrow) and I got plenty of rest last night. I hope tonight I can get some good rest too.

I’m feeling so good right now. I hope tomorrow’s race goes well (though its supposed to rain!) and I hope the rest of this weekend can be somewhat as good as today and wednesday. I feel fabulous.

Oh also, I watched this informational video today (its about an hour long) about eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, and though it was a little cheesy at times, I actually really loved it and gained a lot of useful information and tips about developing a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. You should watch this!

I’m posting part 1 here, but there are 9 parts total, all easily available one after the other on YouTube.

 

I hope everyone has had a great day!

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I Confess

I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors by not admitting to this. And it wouldn’t be fair to you if I just kept this to myself… I ATTACKED THE COOKIES. Okay? Shoot me. Just as yesterday was promsing to turn out into a shitty day of no self control, the little animal in me said, “fuck it”, and I ate a bunch of cookies I brought home from Belgium. And another granola bar at 2am because I stayed up that late dealing with unnecessary family drama and I found myself hungry before bed.

After catching myself in the midst of a successful cookie attack, I decided, okay, just one more bite and I’ll take the cookies upstairs and offer them to my host family. At least that way they would be out of my room and out of sight. No one has eaten them yet, but I’m hoping they will, otherwise I don’t know… I should just throw them away. (And then I think, “But they’re from Belgium. They’re special!”… I know I should just get over that.)

WHY do I do this? Surely I’m not alone here. Why do we do things that hurt us? What do we gain from it, psychologically? Biologically? And what does it take to eradicate that destructive behavior?

Ugh.

 

But, today is a new day and I will try to do my best today. I have a 10k race tomorrow morning and I want to be well-fed and well rested for that.

Must be stronger than yesterday. Must!

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Welp, There I Go Again…

So I guess this is how things work out for me… I have one fabulous day (yesterday) and, as if to maintain the natural order of things, I find myself today way too full and way too unhappy about it. Snack time consisted of a some nuts and an all-natural granola bar… not bad, right? Then I thought, “Hmm, maybe my body needs fiber…” so I ate a bunch of prunes, because “my body might need it.” Then, since I thought I was still hungry (I probably was just thirsty) or because I thought I hadn’t had enough vitamins for the day, I ate an orange. Still, healthy choices at least. And then, as I seem to do quite often, I started worrying that dinner tonight with my host family would not have enough protein or whatever other nutrients I thought I might need (this is all just my own rationalization to reduce my guilt about eating more more more before dinner) so I convinced myself that a yogurt, apricot preserves, and some granola would be just the thing. So I ate that too.

Now, I realize that all my choices have been fine as far as quality goes (oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa, veggies and avocado for lunch, fruits all day long, etc), but its the quantity that has me feeling full and embarrassed. To be honest, I wasn’t even hungry any more after the granola bar, but something inside of me just kept rationalizing more snacks, and “since they’re healthy, its okay to overeat, right?” I don’t know why I always find little excuses to do what I always do, but these habits need to stop. These little snack binges, no matter how healthy they are, ultimately are getting in the way of me seeing actual changes in my body. Like, for example, my pants not being tight. Why is it so easy to slip up from one day to the next? Did I (without realizing) exhaust all my willpower yesterday and am I in a deficit today? Is it because I lazied my way out of exercising this morning that I caved in a moment of weakness in the afternoon?

I need to figure out how to break these habits. I’m thankful that I have learned to at least eat mostly pretty healthy, even when I am “binging”, but its not just what I eat – its the lack of self control that really affects how I feel about myself. Or, perhaps, is it how I feel about myself that prompts these far-too-frequent snack binges?

TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

At the end of the day, losing weight is a numbers game. Calories in, calories out. Surely it’s not so simple – 500 calories of spinach is not the same thing as 500 calories of chips. And in that regard, I’d rather be binging on fruits and nuts than on chips and cookies (don’t worry, I do that too), but in the end, I need to learn self-control, so that food does not consume or define me. I want to remember days like yesterday, when food liberated me and I felt strong. And I want to minimize days like today, when I forget everything I have ever learned and lose myself along the way.

BUT HOW?

Does anyone out there have any CONCRETE tips or experiences to share? Encouragement is great. I love hearing “You got this!” “You’re strong and beautiful!” “Oh man, I know, I’ve been there. But every day is a new day!”… All of that is lovely. But days like today, all I want is practical advice. Like “don’t buy granola” (I wouldn’t if I had that freedom but I live in a kitchen that is not my own and the temptations of French indulgent eating are around me at all times) or “brush your teeth after eating” (I’ve tried this, with mixed results. If the binge is coming, the flavor of mint in my mouth won’t stop it).

So, I ask, in mild desperation… what can I do to gain more self control??

If you have the magic answer, please don’t be shy to share. I need it.

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Accidental Vegan For The Day

Without too much effort and almost without meaning to, today was an entirely vegan day. I feel amazing! I feel light, healthy, full of energy, happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. I really feel like today was the first time in a long time where I felt liberated by food – the thought of food didn’t consume me while I wasn’t eating, and while I was eating, I felt no anxiety whatsoever. I found myself eating slower, being more mindful, and really appreciating all the distinct flavors of my meals, instead of mindlessly shoveling things into my mouth, stressing over calories or nutritional value, and feeling anxious about whether or not my food was in some way controlling me. Today, I felt free.

I woke up without an alarm (I had the day off) and eased myself into my workout clothes when I finally felt ready. I went for a 4-mile run and threw in some sprinting intervals as well as some bodyweight exercises, similar to the ones featured in this recent post, and I felt powerful and strong the entire time. Slow, but strong. At one point, I had been looking forward to using the adult play structure to do some pushups and other exercises, but when I jogged up to it, I realized that as per usual, it was full of beefy guys, and no women. In America this would be somewhat intimidating, but in France it is so much worse. There is a distinct divide between men and women in most aspects of the culture, including exercise, so I felt immediately hyper-aware of my womanhood and my instinct told me to run away and work out in the privacy of my own home. But, as if sent by Hera (Greek goddess of women) through my headphones, this song came on and my attitude changed instantly:

I redirected my path and set straight for the bars to do some spiderman pushups and pull-ups and a few other exercises before doing one final, balls-out, full-speed sprint. I guess theres some part of me as a woman that feels the need to compete with the big boys when I’m in workout situations where my gender becomes very salient. I always tend to step up the intensity a bit, perhaps to prove to the beefy men that I’m not just some girl, and that girls can be tough too. I don’t know. I guess that’s how I deal with being the only woman in a group full of men flexing their cock muscles and eye-fucking each others’ biceps.

Anyway… I refueled with an enormous banana and some almonds, and later had my real breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder, and walnuts.

For lunch, I ate a quinoa-bulgur wheat mix with sautéed veggies (leftovers from yesterday) and half an avocado. My dessert was a few prunes.

photo (18)

During my Parisian outing, I ate an apple, a banana, and some more almonds. And when it came down to have dinner, instead of going home for dinner with my host family, I bought a book and did a little search online for nearby vegan/vegetarian restaurants, and treated myself to a healthy, cozy dinner-for-one. I went to this restaurant called Le Grenier de Notre-Dame and I ordered the “formule”, mainly because it was the same price as any one dish, and I was hungry. For a starter, I ate a chickpea mush (I’m sure there’s a much prettier name for it) which was delicious and flavorful and was great for spreading on the whole wheat bread they gave me. My main dish was a mixed vegetable-brown rice-black bean dish, served with soy tofu, seaweed, and a salad. YUM. I ate the whole thing but didn’t feel overwhelmed. I still felt light, at least in spirit. For dessert, a warm vegan apple tarte with a few fresh apple slices. As I was reading while at dinner, I felt calm and relaxed around my food and I didn’t feel any urge to rush through my meal, which helped achieve that level of mindfulness that I mentioned earlier. Amazingly, when the dessert came around, I actually waited a minute or two before starting to eat it (because I was entrenched in my book) and then I only ate it in small bites, slowly, over 5 or 10 minutes. I felt so powerful, knowing that food didn’t have to control me! I’m really proud.

Eating vegan is actually way easier than it seems. It feels so good to eat so clean, and I know my body will thank me for days to come, not to mention my soul. This was such a great day and I’m feeling really happy about myself. I hope I can keep this up!

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Question for vegans out there: I am thinking about making dinner for my host family one night, and I’d ideally like to make something vegan, but I have no idea how to create a dinner-party-style vegan meal, and I wouldn’t know what to prepare. I want it to be impressive, so no one can find any reason to discredit vegan food, and I want it to be relatively easy, since I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all day cooking. Suggestions? Thoughts? Email or comment if you have any insight!!

 

 

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Lessons Learned

Yesterday I learned a few things. Or rather, re-learned.

Eating shitty feels shitty

– Eating well feels great

– I am stronger than I think I am

Let me explain.

I went to work and because I was in a rush in the morning, I didn’t have time to pack a lunch and was thus at the mercy of whatever everyone else was eating when lunchtime came around. Chinese food was ordered and I, slightly excited because of my AFD (Asian Food Deprivation) here in Paris, filled my plate up with whatever was offered: general chicken (i.e. deep-fried chicken bits, generally the worst parts of the chicken that really shoudln’t be eaten at all), some other saucy chicken-y thing, white rice, a fried shrimp egg roll, and a meat potsticker. There were no vegetables, so I ate little bits of onion mixed in the sauces. After a few bites, I already knew this meal was going to be a bad idea, but I was hungry and everyone was eating, and I couldn’t not eat it now, so I ate it, every bite causing my stomach to hurt a little bit more. By the end, my stomach was hurting so bad, I was bloated, and I felt sick. Likely there was nothing directly wrong with the food (meaning, it wasn’t food poisoning or anything like that), but I think my body just isn’t used to eating so much awful, unhealthy fried food, and it rebelled. I pretty much hated my life the entire rest of the day… I couldn’t walk up straight because of my stomach ache and I was so bloated that I had to wear stretchy leggings and lie in fetal position any chance I could. I felt AWFUL! (Even now as I write this, I still feel remnants of this shitty feeling). This was a very immediate reminder: EATING SHITTY FEELS SHITTY.

To compensate, I prepared myself some sautéed vegetables (onions, carrots, zucchini, red bell peppers, tomatoes) and some quinoa and set it aside for dinner. Every night, my host mom is in charge of dinner, but a few weeks ago she sweetly brought up my cholesterol and said that if I ever feel like the food they eat is too heavy or anything, that I am free to make myself something else for dinner too. I really appreciated her telling me this, though, perhaps because I’m shy, I only took her up on this offer once before last night, and even then I still ate some of what she had made. Last night, however, because I was feeling like death, I reminded myself that I do have more control over what I eat than what I realize, so I asked my host mom if she would mind if I ate some quinoa and veggies I made myself earlier, and she said “of course” (as in, of course I won’t mind), so thats exactly what I did. I added some salad and half an avocado to my meal, and felt satisfied and healthier than I had felt all day.

Eating clean just FEELS right, and there are no two ways around that. So, lessons learned, and learned, and learned again. And likely they will be learned again and again and again over time, hopefully improving each time these things come up. I am stronger than I think I am. I can make good choices if I want. I totally can.

 

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Healthy Weekend!

This weekend was such a success! I was traveling, again, this time visiting friends in Brussels, and overall, I’m pleased with my choices. This is one of the few times I’ve come home from a trip and not felt entirely guilty, so I’d call that a small but significant traveling accomplishment.

On the bus ride from Paris to Brussels, I brought a few healthy snacks with me, like a banana (note to self: bananas do not travel well) and some nuts. When we made a quick pitstop, I went to buy some food but of course, as with all gas stations, everything offered was pure filth. Chips, nasty pre-made bacon sandwiches doused in mayonaise, soda, candy… things that people have somehow been allowed to call “food.” (Honestly I don’t know how this stuff looks appetizing to anyone. It’s repulsive. It’s not food! Its like, hey, why don’t we go eat some concrete-flavored sandpaper and dip it in liquid mercury. Yum! Seriously… Unbelievable that processed food-like edible items exists, much less get eaten by billions. Barf.) I found some pre-sliced apples in a package (not ideal, as they have preservatives to keep them fresh… I hear these are often cancer-causing. Eek), but I figured sliced apples was probably my only safe-ish bet, so I ate that, and cringed at everyone on the bus fussing with that packaging that was keeping them from their wholesome, nutritious, life-giving Doritos.

On to the rest of the trip…

One of the friends I was traveling with (who reads this blog and shares many of my same feelings and goals – hello friend!! I see you!) was entirely on the same page as me the whole time, which helped both of us stay on track for the most part, while still allowing ourselves little indulgences along the way. We agreed before the trip to work out in the mornings and to share any heavy meals/treats we might consume, since often times all we really crave is just a bite and not the entire thing (like for example, with Belgian waffles), and we did exactly that. Our first morning we all got a late start so exercise didn’t happen, but at least we walked a lot that day and did not overeat. We shared one Belgian waffle between 3 girls, which was actually perfect (those things are so big and sweet anyway that eating a whole thing makes you feel like dying), we had a small burger for lunch (like, a correctly portioned patty, no bigger than 3 or 4 ounces) which my friend smartly ate without the bun (I ate half of the bun) and for dinner our friend and host made us some pasta with veggies and ground turkey and a little bit of red wine. That night, while out at a bars, we shared a beer and later a mojito (no need to drink the whole thing…), which was perfect. We got the taste, but none of the bad side effects. Not bad for a day of travel, where most of the time I spend too much money and calories on eating out and drinking at restaurants.

Day 2 was started off on the right foot when we set our alarms earlier and went outside to exercise, enjoying the surprisingly sunny weather in the process. We started with a short walk, then a 15 minute run to warm up. When we got to the park, we did a series of running sprint intervals, and after this exhausting set, we buckled down for a short HIIT routine before walking back home. (Our exact workouts are featured at the bottom of this post). After exercising, we bought some pineapple and water and fresh squeezed orange juice and refueled before setting out for the day. Our sightseeing was accompanied by a few healthy snacks (nuts, protein bars, green tea, etc) and of course, a few bites of a Belgian waffle. We shared our beers that afternoon, and all four of us in the group shared a few macaroons, and at dinner time, we allowed ourselves to indulge in our first and only true Belgian meal. I ate a chicken stew with veggies and potatoes and for dessert, a waffle. I’d like to think this was my only real indulgence of the trip, which is slightly amazing and really exciting that I didn’t indulge more than that.

Monday, day 3, was our last day, and I left at around 1pm. In the morning, my friend and I went out for another quick workout (featured below). Before leaving, I ate a panini (not the best choice, but also not the worst) and I took a banana and a raw, all-natural granola bar for the drive back to Paris. Dinner with my host family was, surprisingly, a healthy salad! I was so happy to be eating greens!

As I type all of this, I’m realizing that while its hard to have a perfect weekend, or a perfect trip (with regards to health), it is SO possible to make good choices given your constraints and to not completely blow it in two days. Surely traveling isn’t ideal for staying healthy, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! This is a big lesson I am just now starting to learn. After my travels through Belgium and Spain a few weeks ago (and my many indulgent moments therein), I’m seeing that it is still possible (though not easy, I admit) to be healthy while exploring the world and having fun with friends.

Another wonderful thing about this weekend was the power of friendship! Having someone who shares your goals and who understands your struggles is such a blessing. Not to mention, having that person be a great travel buddy… it makes all the difference. I know for a fact that I would not have worked out once if it were not for my friend, and its likely I would have eaten a whole waffle (or two, or three), several beers, plenty of fries, etc. But having someone to share the journey with (and to keep you accountable) was what truly made this weekend a success. Thank you, dear friend, for accompanying me on this journey!!

I feel proud and pleased. I had a great time, and food did not consume me nor did it cause me to feel any guilt, and that is something worth celebrating today. I hope all my trips can be as healthy as this one!

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And now for a recap of our workouts, in case anyone wants to try it out. We came out sweating and sore in every possible way, so give it a shot, if you dare…

Workout 1:

Warm up: jog/run for 15 minutes

Jog (normal pace, resting pace) 1 minute

Sprint (all out, 90-100% effort) 20 seconds

Repeat 12 times

Then, do this circuit:

To warm down, walk or jog for 15 minutes.

 

Workout 2… We did both of these videos:

Then this one

To warm down, walk or jog 15 minutes.

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Trust me, your ass will thank you after finishing these workouts. I know mine is.

 

Hooray for a healthy, fit weekend!!

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Accomplishments

This is a quickie because I’m eager to get to sleep, but I just wanted to post a quick reminder to myself about all of my small accomplishments from today, because everything counts and it’s all worth celebrating, right?

– Slept 8 hours
– Woke up on time
– Ran 4 miles
– Controlled my portions at all meals
– Ate mostly (about 90%) vegan
– Practiced 20 minutes of yoga at night
– Cleaned my room before bed
– Replied to a few (though not all) lingering emails
– Caught up with several friends
– Worked from home, successfully (!)

When I list it all out like that, it looks pretty good!! I should do this more often. It’s nice to see what I’ve accomplished in one 24-hour period, and it’s important to recognize all the goals that were reached, even if they were small ones.

This feels good. Maybe I’ll do this again tomorrow.

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Running Demons

Well, my friends, I ran today. The gods were telling me not to, but a little reminder (you’ll know from my previous post) in the morning was just the encouragement that I needed to drag my tired, mildly sick body out the door first thing in the morning for a slow 4-mile run.

It is so, so hard to get back into the rhythm of exercise, and I see now why it’s so hard for people to start when they’ve never had a habit of exercising to begin with. When you’re in the habit, exercise is like crack. It’s almost a drug. You crave it and you need it to function, the way some people need coffee. But starting, after not exercising in a while, is THE WORST THING EVER. It’s days like today where I hate exercise, it sucks, and I’d rather be buried alive than make the slightest effort to burn a calorie. During the entire run, I was hating life. My knees hurt (remnants of a never-quite-healed running injury) and my legs felt like lead and my feet were sore and my heart felt weak, not to mention it was cold and slightly rainy and all around bullshitty in every possible way. But… I DID IT ANYWAY. Despite my whining and complaining and enormous desires to eat cookies and cry at my miserable existence (ok not really), I just turned off my brain and tied my shoes and ran.

This is a reminder to myself that I CAN. Maybe I don’t always want to and maybe there will always be a million ways to rationalize not doing it, but my body can run, and therefore my mind can too. And the mind, after all, is the biggest, dare I say the ONLY hurdle at all.

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