Tag Archives: health

I AM BACK

IM THE WORST.

 

THE WORST, I TELL YOU.

 

OK, let me explain.

 

Last time I posted, I was living as an au pair in a suburb outside of Paris. I had way too much free time (apparently) and way too many boring meals to take pictures of. I fell off the face of the earth at the beginning of July and I have pretty much been MIA ever since… until now.

What happened?

Well, in just a few words: I got a job really suddenly back in California, had to switch my flights to come home 2 weeks early, packed up my entire life, said goodbye to friends and host family, and took the worst trip ever to get back to the U-S-of-A. I had layovers in Newark and Dallas, only to reach Washington DC to meet up with my boyfriend so we could move him from there to California with me in his Jeep. We drove across the country and made it just in time to start my new job, where I have now been working for almost 2 weeks…

Phew. Wrap your mind around that.

So, needless to say, among the airport food in traveling, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and lack of sincerely healthy options (or efforts) on the road back to California… lets just say, I let myself go a little bit. Now that I’m at my new job (actually at the company I worked for before France), all our food is provided for us, for free, all day every day, and it’s delicious. Time spent adjusting to my new life back home (yes, living with my parents again… for now), being with my boyfriend again after all this time apart, bonding with my new team over free lunch, and nights out drinking or eating while catching up with friends from home…. needless to say, it has taken a toll.

But I haven’t disappeared. Not at all! I was just on a forced hiatus, and I’m determined to be back now, with struggles that started in France as an au pair, and now continue in California as an employed and functional member of society. I naively thought it would be easy back in America to be healthy, given all the options and access to fresh produce (at least in California, the agricultural paradise), but I’ve already started to remember my struggles from being in this place last year – its not that easy. Being at this company is fabulous and I’m so lucky to be so well fed every day, but staying fit, healthy, and slim is now an entirely new challenge that I’m relearning how to deal with. Here’s to hoping that I can reach my goals… once and for all.

 

It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to keep on trying!

 

Thanks for staying tuned. You’ll be hearing from me on the regular once again.

Feels so good to be home!

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All Talk

All Talk

A conversation last night with a friend led me to think about something that has been vaguely on my mind the past several weeks, which led her to send me an article which helped me understand what I have been feeling.

The article from Nerd Fitness is about taking action on your goals, not just talking about them and expecting results. Read it!

I am so much like the underpants gnomes he references from South Park. I collect underpants (knowledge) and I even make underpants (I write this blog), but I so often forget about Phase 2 and I eagerly jump to expect Phase 3, “profit” to happen automatically. Confused about what I’m talking about? I told you to read the article!!

I have spent years reading health blogs, books, watching documentaries and TED talks, and in every other way absolutely inundating my brain with knowledge about health and fitness. I should get an honorary fitness and nutritionist certification with all the research I’ve done. So you’d think, you know… I would have reached my goals by now. But the reality is, I’ve looked and felt mostly the same pretty much my entire life. I’ve had little moments of brilliance, where I really stepped it up and lost weight and felt amazing, but I quickly fall back into my old habits and my changes fail to stick.

I talk a lot and think a lot about health, but I’ve been feeling lately like I don’t actually DO anything about it. I mean, I’ve made changes that I shouldn’t ignore, like my slow progression to a mostly vegan diet which has been a great accomplishment for me so far, but if I’ve lost weight, it has been maybe a pound or two. Nothing noticeable. And while I do feel a lot better eating a clean, plant-based diet, I’m feeling impatient and I’m feeling disappointed that my progress has been so slow and mostly invisible. I don’t want to just talk about making changes… I want to actually make them!

My question is, how do I make these changes really stick this time? I’ve done this before. I’ve been right here many times, and I’ve temporarily succeeded. I’ve lost 10-15 pounds several times (gained them back, of course) and I’ve felt accomplished and proud, but why do I struggle with sticking to my lifestyle changes? I’m determined to get to the root of the problem, in one way or another.

Perhaps the key for me (and anyone else struggling with this feeling) is to make a list of tangible, quantifiable, achievable, realistic goals (or assignments/homework), write them down, and stick them on your wall so you remember them every day. Maybe if I try to think of this as a game, or as an assignment for work, maybe I’ll feel the same sense of urgency or desire to accomplish them. I don’t know. Just a thought. I’m a lists-person. I feel great when I can check things off of my list, and often I can’t accomplish much without one because I’ll just simply forget, so maybe I can work with my goals and see them as “errands” that I can check off today, and perhaps that will help me just get it done, and thus slowly start building patterns and habits, maybe without all the emotional baggage that I tend to tie into “changing my life.” That feels too heavy. Do I have to think so hard about it? Can’t I just… do it?

Anyway, my point is… I feel like I talk too much and don’t take enough action. I still give in to my snacking cravings every time they come and I still eat the same sized portions as I normally do and I still stay up late and miss my morning workouts and I still eat crap if its in front of me and I still overdose on my addictive favorites like granola and almond butter. I suppose, as I mentioned, my biggest accomplishment is sticking to a mostly vegan diet, with exceptions whenever I don’t have a choice (like occasional dinners with my host family or social gatherings, etc).

I can’t tackle all of these at the same time, but I can start by what I can control today.

– I will try really hard to eat at the designated eating times, the way French people do. In following the Tone It Up  lifestyle suggestions (as well as the suggestions by most other nutrition experts out there), I will eat 5 small meals today, and if I get hungry in between, I will drink water or green tea and remind myself that my next meal is not too far off. I need to learn patience and I need to learn not to be afraid of hunger. Now DO NOT misinterpret that, please. All I mean is… I live in this perpetual fear of hunger and at the slightest grumble in my stomach, I immediately feel the need to binge on something to avoid starvation. It’s irrational, and I end up not even being that hungry when I actually do eat a meal. I just want to not feel so controlled by the hungry animal impulse, and usually drinking a glass of water does the trick for a while. So without further ado, here is my plan for the day:

Meal 1: 8am, breakfast quinoa – DONE

Meal 2: 11am, soy yogurt with banana – DONE

Meal 3: 1pm, lentils + sautéed veggies + apple – planned

Meal 4:  5pm, half sweet potato + spinach + almonds – planned 

Meal 5: 9pm, something healthy-ish at the restaurant + red wine – planned

– Even though its Wednesday (long day as an au pair), I will try to find time to squeeze in 50 squats and 20 pushups. Like, maybe right after posting this.

– I will take a moment to reflect on my accomplishments thus far, and I will try to be proud of myself for them.

Those are my small goals for today. I will let you know how it goes. I have plans to meet a friend for dinner and drinks tonight, but I will try to order something healthy and I will stick to a glass or two of red wine. No day is perfect, but I can still be strong.

Enough with collecting underpants. I want to be ready for Phase 2.

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Guilt. So much Guilt.

Oh dear… the guilt! I worried if this day would come, and it has.

A while ago, my host mom told me that if I ever felt like the food they eat at dinner time is too heavy or bad for my cholesterol, that I’m free to eat anything else. I was so relieved to hear this, as dinner time (as you may know if you’ve been following) is often the biggest struggle for me, since the meals are outside of my control and often cooked decadently and always with lots of love, and cheese. Saying no to my host moms meal often feels like I’m rejecting her love and appreciation for my work, so I ate what everyone else ate, and swallowed my guilt in the process. So when she showed some concern for my cholesterol and gave me the green light for a little bit of freedom during dinner time, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude. I still remained hesitant to take her up on this offer, but one day I asked if she would mind if I ate some quinoa and vegetables instead, and she was totally okay with it. Since then, I’ve managed to more often than not, eat my own food for dinner (usually I pre-make it during the day), thus being able to stay about 99% vegan for the past 2+ weeks.

But tonight, like the past few nights, I did the same – opted out of the croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich with butter on white bread) and ate my quinoa and veggies instead, and in the middle of dinner, my host mom jokingly, but kind of not, made a sad face and said, “C doesn’t eat my food anymore…” (C is me, obv) and she jokingly continued to pout, and I said, “Aww, that’s not true!” and two of the girls chimed in to help me out, one saying, “She ate some of your tabouleh tonight!” and the other eventually looked at her mom very seriously and said, “Mom, stop.”

And it was done.

The girls know, somewhat, that I’ve mostly stopped eating meat and dairy because last Wednesday when I made them their lunch, I made myself a salad and they asked why and I explained. But I haven’t had the heart to be straight forward with my host mom to tell her I’ve essentially stopped eating all the staples of her cooking and of the French diet in general, because I know how important food is to her. Food is her way of showing love, and holy Jesus, woman can COOK. Seriously I don’t know any better chef than her. So refusing her food is taken deeply personally, and I really don’t want to offend anyone.

I’m stuck in a strange place. I want to keep with my vegan streak, but more importantly I want to keep with my developing healthier lifestyle, but the relationships I build here are also important to me, and for better or worse, food is one way to build those relationships. I don’t want my host mom to think I don’t like her cooking (though I’ve complimented her many, many times) or that I think I’m above their food, because none of that is true. But expressing my desires to get healthier (and yes, lets face it, to lose a pound or two. Okay maybe 10 or 15) are beyond my abilities in this situation, or at least so it seems. I don’t want to bombard them with all of my nutritional research, so all I can do is just request to eat my own thing, and while I thought that was going well enough, apparently its not. It seems like opting for my health means hurting someones feelings, and that puts me in a sticky situation.

So, what to do? Do I try to eat more of her home-cooked dinners instead of my own, likely sacrificing quite a bit (and dealing with intestinal adventures the rest of the night), in order to keep a happy relationship with my host mom? Do I try to explain to her my food goals and hope that she understands without being offended? Do I continue doing what I’m doing and not let tonight bother me? Do I have any other options? On the “bright” side, I’m leaving in 6 weeks, back to healthy California, where this bizarre issue will be behind me. But until then, what do I do?

Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I feel at a loss no matter what.

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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.

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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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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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Sleep and Exercise

Why did it take me this long to discover the WordPress app??

Genius! Now I can post all my brain vomit, as it’s happening.

My first phone-post will be dedicated to stairs.

I am going to just attribute this to the fact that I’m kind of sick and can’t breathe right as it is, but something startled me just now. I got winded (like really winded) climbing up one flight of stairs. Wtf.

Just a few days ago I climbed like 15 flights of stairs going up a hill in Barcelona, and while I was sweating balls by the end, I felt fine and strong. But today, I’ve felt slow and lethargic and weak and the stairs in my house totally dominated me and I feel pretty lame about that. Normally I make stairs my bitch.

This got me thinking about 2 things:
– sleep
– exercise

(It’s allllllll fuckin’ related, bro!)

Due to 2 weeks of intense travel, my sleep has become continuously more and more deprived, until I reached a breaking point yesterday and I had to excuse myself before dinner time and go to bed before 10 pm, feeling sick and utterly exhausted. My brain was entirely dysfunctional all day yesterday and I felt unable to think straight. My memory was not at it’s best and I had trouble articulating myself all day long. Today hasn’t been much better, even though I slept 9.5 hours last night. I think my sleep deprivation needs several days to be fixed.

Thanks to this, I think I’ve gotten sick and have felt weak all day. Any hope for exercise is basically gone.

Additionally, as I mentioned in another post, I haven’t really exercised in probably 3 weeks (other than walking) and I feel the effects of this immensely. My energy is low and I feel my heart stamina plummeting like a brick. These damn stairs got the best of me, and I hate that.

What can I learn from this shitty feeling?

Sleep is so important. Even without the exercise, if I had slept properly, I probably wouldn’t be sick right now and I probably would be a lot sharper and generally in a better mood.

Exercise NEEDS to be a priority. I so often forget how to do that! When I’m on vacation, I always tell myself “I’ll just wake up early and go for a run or do exercises in the hotel room”… But I never do. Basically, that needs to stop. I need to just do it. Just wake up 30 minutes earlier and go for a quick jog. It might not be as intense as I would normally do, but it’s better than nothing. Especially with all the food I end up eating on vacation, the exercise is even more critical. And I have 10 days to get back into shape for a 10k race next weekend, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be ready, at all. Ugh.

So, tomorrow, I will exercise before work. I need to. I will be going for a 4-mile run and if I don’t, I give you all permission to punish me by forcing me to eat broccoli. (Which I detest.)

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Doomed

How do some people make it look so easy?? They’re like, “I woke up one morning and was fed up with blah blah blah, and I just decided to make a change! I worked hard for it, and now look at how great I am.”

This is so bullshitty to me. I’ve woken up plenty of mornings and been like, “I’m done with this crap, I’m making a change” and guess what… NOTHING EVER CHANGES.

Is it really that simple? Can regular people with struggles with motivation, willpower, and self control actually achieve the same successful changes that other, more driven, organized, and gritty people can? Do they think about it as much as I do? Do they feel consumed by their struggles, sometimes even doomed by them, as much as I do?  I often feel like I’m forever going to be excluded from the successful people category because of my type-b personality. I’m too lax, too lazy, too disorganized, and too distracted to ever be one of those people that forever changes their life for the better. At least thats what I always end up thinking to myself. Whenever I see a before-and-after picture like this one I recently posted, I am filled with two opposing emotions: an overwhelming sensation of “If she can do it, I can too!” and an equally overwhelming thought, “…but her personality is probably way better suited for change than mine. She’s probably much more intense, much more strict, and much more of a perfectionist than I am. Maybe I’ll never be like her because maybe I can’t. Maybe my personality will never allow me to be.”

And yet, I have had moments of success in my health and fitness… I’ve managed to lose weight and get fit quickly several times, but none of those changes have ever lasted. I just always question if I’m cut out for that type of change, enough to make it last for good, or if maybe I’m destined to be a forever-fluctuator, always wishing, trying, and maybe succeeding momentarily, and then crashing and burning, only to start all over again. Is this my fate?

If not, when will it end? 

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Vacation Struggles

This trip I have essentially thrown all self control out the window, as I do on every vacation. My thoughts are usually along the lines of, “I’m on vacation! I want to experience this place through the mouth and calories don’t count on vacation, right??” In Paris, my mom and I ate at some amazing restaurants where all types of exquisite French cuisine was consumed daily, for every meal. Currently, I am in Belgium, and I just ate the most delicious Flemish rabbit stew with Belgian fries… worth every bite, except this overwhelming fullness now is taking over my guilt, hardcore.

I’m realizing that I struggle between two very opposing forces – wanting to enjoy food and eating as I do so much, and wanting to be extremely healthy, fit, and in control. I never seem to be able to find a balance between the two, and my life fluctuates between intense periods of each emotion. Usually after indulging as I have been lately (and will continue to do as I travel to Barcelona in the next few days and beyond), I come home to a sobering realization that I’ve completely let myself go and I question if any of it was even worth it. When the motivation strikes, I cut all my bad habits out, cold turkey, and dedicate myself entirely and supremely rigidly to my health and fitness. Until, of course, that lifestyle becomes unsustainable and I crash and begin a new cycle of indulgence and comfort-eating, leading to another bout of extreme healthiness, and so on…

How do I break out of this cycle? What does it take to find self control, and keep it, for good? What do I need to do to to find willpower and develop a normal, healthy routine, regardless of circumstances (stress, vacation, social life, etc)?

These are questions I just need to keep pondering to myself, but if anyone has similar experiences, I’d love to hear about it. How have you struggled (and/or overcome) with staying healthy in different life circumstances and how have you worked towards avoiding a repetitive cycle like the one I’ve always lived in?

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Quick Posts

To all of you, my dearest, strongest, badass readers… I have so many thoughts to share and I can’t wait to sit down and write them all out, but these next 10 days are going to be a little bit less routine than normal because yesterday my mother arrived in Paris to visit me! She’s more spontaneous and last-minute than I am (I get it from her) and she planned this trip literally just a few days ago. Then I’ll be in Barcelona for a few days (yeah, life is tough when you live in Europe…), so I’m anticipating lots of food, lots of dessert, not a lot of exercise, and lots of guilt in 10 days, but I will try my best to post and keep you updated on the struggles of being healthy on vacation. Meanwhile though, I’ll be posting lots of pictures, as I’ve been doing. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!! You are all my inspiration and you continue to be even while I stuff my face with an almond-praline eclair.

Image

 

Catch you all on the dark side, and dont forget to stay tuned.

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Now I’m Free From French Fries

This video by The Happiness Project, sent to me by a good friend, reminded me of something I have heard repeatedly through my mild obsession with reading health and fitness blogs. Most successful fitness and health people will all live by this particular mentality: instead of saying “I can’t eat cookies,” they say (or think to themselves), “I don’t eat cookies.” This small linguistic change shapes their entire perspective for their health and fitness goals as it frames their actions as choices that they made as free-willed individuals and not as things that they were deprived of by forces beyond their control. Its as if by changing one critical word “cant” to “don’t”, you are taking control over your life and your actions and living by a code of healthier, empowered choices and freedoms.

Personally, I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t drink soda, and I don’t eat fast food. I’m still working on developing that kind of power towards sugar, but its a work in progress and I think I’ve come a long way over the past few years. I need to start reminding myself that I am strong and empowered and that dessert (or whatever other temptation) does not have control over me, so when I see a dessert, I won’t be so quick to gobble it down.

What are you “free” from? What food/behavior do you just simply not do, for the sake of your health, self esteem, and self control?

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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?

 

 

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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!

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