Tag Archives: Paris

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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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.

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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.

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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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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!

***

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.

***

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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Back to Reality

Well, in case my last post didn’t quite tell you enough, I’m back. I arrived yesterday back to my house after 2 amazing weeks (traveling through France, Belgium, and Spain with my mom, and then with a friend) and the contrast between sunny Barcelona and dreary Paris was overwhelming. I came home, hungry, tired, sad, and lonely, and was welcomed by the awful smell of weird rotten cheese (or who knows what) in the kitchen [hence my bitter last post]. Needless to say, it was a shitty way to come back to reality.

I signed up for a 10k race in Paris in 2 weeks and I am entirely out of shape because of the past few weeks of no real exercise other than lots of walking. I also can see and feel the effects of 2 weeks of vacation-eating on my body, and even though I’m trying to not feel shitty about it, in all honesty, yeah, I feel shitty.  As I recently posted, vacation is often such a difficult time for me (and I’m guessing for everyone) because who wants to travel to France, Belgium, or Spain and eat healthy. Even if healthy options exist (which they don’t), eating is such a seemingly important part of seeing a new culture that it feels wrong, dare I say disrespectful or wasteful to not eat your heart out. You can’t go to Belgium and not eat a Belgian waffle covered in speculoos spread or a basket of the famous twice-fried Belgian fries. You can’t go to Paris and not eat pastries or cheese. You can’t go to Spain and not eat tapas.

So the question for me becomes… How can I travel (which is one of my greatest passions and joys in life) without the guilt and the weight gain, not to mention the unseen effects on my health? How can I still practice self control and strength when I’m faced with days or weeks outside of my normal routine, where indulgence is expected and applauded (by myself and by others)?

It’s easier said than done, but perhaps it starts with portion control. This coming weekend I will be going to Brussels with some friends, and one friend and I have decided that maybe the best way to not lose ourselves amongst the Belgian waffles and fries and stews is to just share them. Maybe vacation doesn’t have to mean missing out on food entirely – often times all you want is just a taste anyway. I want to reach a point in my self control where I don’t feel so compelled to eat the whole thing, but instead allow myself to just enjoy the few bites that I am actually craving.

My mom once said when I was growing up that the things that are most restricted are the ones that are most desired (saying it in Spanish sounds a lot nicer), and though she was referring to a style of parenting, this mentality can apply to food as well. Telling myself that I’m not allowed to enjoy the delicious treats on vacation is just a recipe for disaster. Not only will I inevitably break my own rules, but I’ll be feeling guilty about it for days to come. Telling myself that I can eat anything I want, just in honest, reasonable moderation will [hopefully] help me feel satisfied and in control, when I come home from vacation knowing that I was strong and maintained discipline while still enjoying the trip to the fullest extent.

I have to make an effort to incorporate these types of thoughts into my daily life too, not just while on vacation, and that is where the struggle begins. I’m used to being all-or-nothing and that generally does not work out well in the end, so working to find a middle ground should be my focus for now. Baby steps. This is all part of the process of “creating a new normal” for myself.

Everything in moderation, right?

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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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Avoiding Starvation Choices

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2903Chillin.

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

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Cheers.

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

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

#winning.

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Confession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Healthy in France? HA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t escape them!!

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

God got drunk and invented these…

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

Again, my arteries are like,

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

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

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

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

….

Fuck.

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

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

when it comes to being healthy in France.

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

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

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

Until next time… Over and out.

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Weekends

The weekend is over, sadly, and I wanted to do a quick recap of what worked for me, health-wise, and what didn’t this weekend. Since weekends are always tricky for everyone I imagine, I think it helps me to be aware of what I do to hopefully improve my willpower for next weekend.

This weekend, I am proud of:

– My 5-mile run on Saturday morning, where I discovered a little secret path alongside the river. Finding new paths along the same running trail I always run down made my run so much more enjoyable.

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– Cooking dinner at my friends apartment. Not only was it cheaper than going out (I’m so broke!), but it was healthier and we could control exactly what we were putting in our bodies. We made ratatouille (sauteed eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil), quinoa, and baked sweet potato wedges (with rosemary) and drank some [very cheap] red wine.

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– Waking up early to go running on Sunday with my friend, and taking 15 minutes out of our run to do some intense exercises like burpees, jump squats, spiderman pushups, crunches, etc. Working out with someone helps keep you motivated and it pushes you to work a little harder than you would when you’re alone. A great way to start the day!

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Went running here.

– Having a picnic with another friend (it was the first day of warmth in Paris) and bringing our own healthy lunches instead of buying something expensive and less healthy. I brought tuna with avocado and tomatoes on a slice of whole wheat bread, an orange, and some almonds. My friend brought a lentil salad, hummus, guacamole, and fruit. Again, it was a great way to save money and to stay healthy at the same time.

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Everyone had the same idea as us. Picnic in Paris.

– I walked everywhere on Sunday. Like literally everywhere.

– Because of the heat, I think, and because of all the protein in my tuna lunch, I wasn’t hungry the rest of the day on Sunday so my food choices were light and healthy (for the most part) – mostly fruit and nuts.

I had a few slip-ups, like we all have, that involved cookies, ice cream, and doritos, and I’m not entirely proud of all of those choices, but they were tasty and great and overall this weekend was SO much better (health-wise) than last weekend, when I feasted like crazy and regretted it for days. So much about weekends involves being social, and so much about being social involves food, so its often hard to stay on track with your goals during those two critical days each week. But I’m learning to develop awareness of what I do on weekends and why, and I aim to use this awareness as motivation to improve my habits slowly. As I’ve said before, a lifestyle change or improvement happens little by little so I’m trying to make small improvements here and there to eventually reach a better level of willpower and personal strength. This weekend I learned how nice it can be to make your own food, bring your own food, and live cheaply. I’m looking forward to applying this next weekend, and to tackling a new challenge along with it.

What did you learn this weekend? How do you hope to improve that by next weekend?

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New Day

Today is a new day and anything I was feeling yesterday does not have to follow me today. My friend (who helped me out yesterday) always asks me this incredibly useful question: “What are your intentions for today?” and “What will you do to achieve them?”

** Pause in my writing… this song just came on my playlist and the first line is “Wake up, its a beautiful morning…”, and somehow thats exactly what I needed to hear (despite the fact that its cloudy and miserable as shit outside because I live in Paris and there is no such thing as sun here), so here you go:

The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing from POPFRENZY HQ on Vimeo.

 

Anyway… My intentions for today are to let my anxiety from yesterday be done and allow myself a little bit of happiness, even if that means a little indulgence. I am in Paris and I want to enjoy it and its Saturday and life is good.

I’m going for a run now to clear my head and set the mood for the rest of the day. Today is the Paris Marathon… maybe I’ll catch the end of it and get some inspiration. Hmm.

I am stronger than yesterday. And I am as worthy as I was yesterday too. Remembering this is my intention for today.

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