One month. No exercise. Here’s what happened

Helloooo everyone,

As some of you might know, recently I decided to take a break from the gym. While to some this might not seem like a big deal and maybe even relieving not to HAVE to workout everyday, it was a much different experience for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a B R E A K. Actually, I can it was when I was obsessively working out, not eating enough and needed to stop before my health went plummeting downhill. I’ll save that story for another time. This time was different, this time was because I simply wanted to experience ME. Not the me that depends on the gym everyday, not the me on a high from working out every morning. Simply me, in all my endorphin-less glory. 

So here’s the story- I started feeling super stressed with school and pressed for time to workout everyday. I took a few days off and decided maybe I’ll keep this up for a while, you know stay up a little later (studying, hanging out with friends, reading) and sleep in (meaning 8am HA). The first week was fun really, I didn’t have to wake up and meet my demanding daily 7am appointment. But then something interesting started to happen, I stopped focusing as much on my body and more on the way I felt. I ate when I was hungry and admittedly, I let myself eat “non-clean” food every once in a while. AKA PIZZA. And to be honest it felt great. I truly felt that I was tuning into my true self and not this person constantly masked by the effects of working out (good and bad). I believe there are positives and negatives to just about everything, working out included. As great as it is for the mind, body, metabolism, heart, etc. there IS a point of diminishing return. Meaning the constant pushing, mental and physical stress is doing more harm than good. While I have not been to this extreme in a few years, a break was fully warranted and FULLY beneficial. 

Fast forward a few weeks and everything began to go downhill. A little back story: when I was in middle school (and a litttttle bit in high school) I used to have SEVERE anxiety in classrooms, only at that time I had no idea what anxiety was. I would be in class and when the teacher closed the door I would feel trapped. I would get myself so worked up to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I remember having to calm myself down and continually reassure myself that I was fine, and everything was fine. The class would be over before I knew it and I would be able to bask in the fresh air of a crowded middle school hallway (not as appealing now if you ask me). Anyway…the point of this is I haven’t had that feeling in YEARS and honestly I completely forgot about those minor panic attacks until recently. Recently because it happened again. About two weeks ago I was sitting in class, I had gotten up that morning walked to Starbucks and studied for a few hours instead of going to the gym. It must have been a combination of the unmatched strength of Starbuck’s caffeine and a lack of my daily endorphin release that sent me over the edge, but it was happening. I felt a lump in my throat, sweaty palms and a sudden feeling of sickness. I couldn’t stop my thoughts. Over and over I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I’m going to be sick. I couldn’t stop the shaking, discomfort and 100000mph thoughts racing through my head. After a mental battle with myself I got the courage to get up. I walked out of the classroom straight to the bathroom where I looked at myself, took a few deep breaths and told myself I WOULD be fine. Needless to say I didn’t learn much in class that day. What’s even worse? It started happening more. Not just in that class but in all my classes. I was constantly having to leave the room, go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk to make it through a 50 minute lecture. What was wrong with me? As time went on I noticed various changes in my thought process, the way I felt and most apparent, my attention span. 

After worsening anxiety and some contemplation I decided I needed to get back to the gym. What had changed since now and middle school? Well a lot, but one thing I know for sure is my healthy habits, particularly working out. Just a few days after being back in the gym I noticed a change in my attention span. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and I didn’t find myself daydreaming as frequently. Most importantly my mood shifted. I was reminded of the empowering endorphin rush I get just after a workout and how beneficial it is for my mental well-being. Not only that but WOW it feels good to sweat. My body was giving me signs that I needed to be back in the gym. I was craving that rush and quite frankly could use some release to tackle my anxiety. While a break was just what I needed at the time, it had run its course and  served its use. Moral of the story- workout addiction is real. It is a problem and there CAN be too much of a good thing. Taking a break has allowed me to come back with a fresh start, a new outlook and new goals to work towards. It has taught me that there are aspects of my workout routine I need to focus on and improve. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of a break. Taking more days off than anticipated is okay. Staying up late one night to hangout with the people you love is okay. Eating that piece of pizza and having that extra piece of chocolate is okay. If the mind isn’t healthy there is no use in focusing on the body. Working out provides me with confidence, ease, and release. It gives me something to work for and something to indulge in other than studying. The benifits of exercise are immense, any research article will tell you that. But a little time off is important too. Know your body, listen to the signs and honor yourself with whatever your needs of the day might be. 

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Do You KNOW Yourself?

When was the last time you let yourself truly relax? No, I don’t mean sit in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, binge on Netflix for a day, or lay around the pool for an afternoon. I’m talking about TRUE relaxation, nothingness, complete silence. Have you ever let yourself do that? Just….be. In this day and age most of us haven’t. We’re constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, living in big cities, surrounded by people all day long, looking for the next big thing to do. Not to mention the biggest player of them all, SOCIAL MEDIA. Even when we do allow ourselves to be alone, are we ever really truly alone? With the advent of social media, not really.

As I have recently taken up a more serious practice of meditation, I have come to realize the benefits of silence, being in the present moment, and simply being. Not worrying about the next thing on my list, not thinking about what everyone around me is doing, and not spending countless hours looking at OTHER people’s lives on instagram/facebook etc. Don’t get me wrong, to-do lists are important, and an active, working lifestyle is a healthy part of life, but from time to time we all need a break. Allowing ourselves to take this time for silence builds stronger character, patience, and a mindful demeanor. It allows us to approach those busy and stressful situations differently. It allows us to become familiar with ourselves, our thoughts, our values and morals. There is something to be said for pure nothingness. We are often so hyper-focused on everything around us and the sensory stimuli overwhelming our lives that we forget to look inward, contemplate our own lives and enjoy time spent with ourselves. What do your thoughts sound like when you’re alone? Do you look at the glass as half full or half empty? Do you talk to yourself in an uplifting, confident way or do you talk down on yourself and belittle your unique beauty? In many cases we are unsure of these answers, we do not allow ourselves enough time spent in silence to become aware of our conscious and subconscious thoughts. Introspection is a gift, you are your own person, unique, beautifully made, and not a carbon copy ANYONE else. I believe the overwhelming stimulation that has been thrusted upon our lives has damaged our sense of independent human beings. We see these images and videos of other people and in turn we try so hard to look like them, be as successful as them, and in extreme cases-to be “them.” Why? Why do we want so badly to mirror the image of another? Why do we want to spend our lives engulfed in the DRAMA of someone else’s life? What would it look like if we spent time with ourselves, connecting to our thoughts and bettering ourselves through quiet introspection.

I’m not saying it’s easy, my own troubles with this sparked me to write this post. At times when I sit down to have time to myself my heart starts racing, my mind wondering. I feel as though this is not right, I shouldn’t be sitting alone in silence. I have a to-do list, I need to be active, I don’t have time. But once I adjust and feel comfortable with myself in the present moment I am able to reach a higher state of consciousness, turning inward and watching my thoughts as they spiral through my mind. Reaching a higher level of consciousness allows for awareness of thoughts, and eventually the ability to cultivate control over the way you think. Introspection is important and for many it is a lost (or never present) art. It doesn’t have to be a guru-yogi experience. It can be as simple as setting your phone down 30 minutes before bed and not touching it for 30 minutes after waking up in the morning, or as extreme as spending a weekend alone, out of the city with no technology or distractions. Do what works for YOU, and maintain a conscious awareness of the types of thoughts and self talk you are feeding yourself.

 

 

STRESS: THE NUMBER 1 KILLER

As a college student I feel as if my whole life is spent worrying and obsessing over my future, particularly my career. That is the point of obtaining a university education, right? I am constantly contemplating where I want to be in my career as I get older, what I need to do to get there and most importantly, what exactly I WANT to do. In all honesty, this chronic reflection and pondering drives me crazy. I will humbly admit, I am extremely dedicated to my future and the aspirations I have for my life, however I do believe there is a bit of an unhealthy cloud of anxiety following me around. I feel as if my whole life depends on my future, if I am not successful everything in my life will fall to pieces. I believe the competitive nature of modern education has implanted these thoughts in my head and left me with a permanent feeling of angst and unease.

My ultimate goal in life is to overwhelmingly depict the powerful benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. I want to shed positive light on everything and anything there is to learn about health, from the food you put into your mouth, to the products you use on your body and the atmosphere of your home. Health encompasses more than just exercise and food. Every single second of our lives has the power to be healthy or unhealthy, and is something I could spend hours, days, even weeks discussing. As I spend a copious amount of time with my head buried in books, and just about every single day stressing over achieving my goals, I lose some of the healthy qualities I so often promote. Constant stress, and anxiety is detrimental to the mind and the body (a very powerful connection) and the costs are monumental. Stress is becoming the number one cause of health problems and has yet to be addressed in conventional medicine. So what? What do we do, just let ourselves become immersed in this whirlwind of stress and say “Oh well, it’ll be worth it, I’ll be successful one day!” NO! We must take control of our health, prioritize cognitive balance, mindfulness, and a healthy mentality. I truly believe everyday is a choice, you can choose to make time for yourself, you can choose to wake up on the “right side of the bed,” and you can CHOOSE to have a healthy lifestyle in the midst of the stress and constant pressure society engulfs us in.

De-stressing looks different for everyone, there is no “ONE SIZE FITS ALL.” Experiment with different approaches-exercise, meditation, reading, cooking, spending time with loved ones, whatever makes you feel you and devoid of the stressors of everyday life. As is the case with everything in life, the first step is to acknowledge the problem, and then make a conscious decision to take action and make changes. When incorporating these habits note that everything takes time and the mind is a powerful tool. While you might not feel the benefits immediately, change IS taking place on both a conscious and subconscious level. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes weeks, or even months. Be patient with yourself and mindful of your choices and your thoughts.

“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”

Ginger Noodles

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Pasta is always a go to throughout the long winter months, the problem is it’s not always the best for our bodies. These miso ginger noodles are perfect for a cold winter night and great for every pallet. You can make them as spicy or creamy as you desire and the ginger and miso offer great healing properties to fight that lingering cold or flu!!

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb carrots

2″ square piece of ginger

4 teaspoons coconut oil

4 teaspoons miso

2 cups cashews

water

12oz ramen/udon/noodles of choice

1 large red pepper

1 large yellow pepper

1 cup mushrooms

1 cup spinach

toasted cashews (optional topping)

cilantro (optional topping)

pepper flakes (optional topping)

black sesame seeds (optional topping)

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut and peel the carrots and ginger into about 1/2″ pieces (size is not necessary just a general guideline). Toss with coconut oil and spread onto roasting pan. Roast until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

While carrots are cooking begin cashew cream sauce. Puree cashews in food processor adding water as needed until it reaches a creamy light consistency.

Once the carrots are cooled place the cashew cream sauce, carrots, and miso in blender and blend until smooth. Again, add water to reach desired consistency.

Once the sauce is prepared, begin sautéing the remaining vegetables. Slice peppers and place into a pan with spinach and mushrooms with oil. Sauté for about 10 minutes or until peppers have a tint of golden brown and spinach is condensed.

Prepare noodles, following directions on the package.

Once the noodles are cooked and drained, add sauce and vegetables.

Add toppings as desired.

TIP- I used the amount of ginger the recipe calls for but I would recommend adding a bit more if you’re a fan of ginger to reach a stronger flavor. Cilantro and cashews are great options for toppings. The cilantro adds a refreshing kick and the toasted cashews make for a great crunchy mix!

 

Special Asian Salad

If we’re being completely honest, from a nutritional standpoint, I could eat salad three times a day for the rest of my life. While my plate may not always resemble a traditional salad, it’s always there. I eat greens with everything, and I find that when I stray away from them for a day or two I start to feel a little off. Greens are a staple in the nutritional world and should be incorporated into EVERYONE’S diet. That being said, I often get bored with my salads, I find that I have a few staple bowls I always go to and a lot of the time I don’t really think about trying anything out of the ordinary. This year for Christmas I acquired a surplus of cookbooks. I’ve never been one to follow recipes but these new books have me eager to try a few. One that stood out to me was an Asian salad from Plant Based Paleo written by Jenna Zoe. This salad is a take on a traditional kale salad, with an interesting mix of flavors and packed with nutrition. The recipe is made for four but I decided to make it my own, doubling it and adding a few things. The best part about this salad is it STILL tastes good after being refrigerated!! No soggy lettuce or dull flavors.

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Ingredients

2 large heads of kale

6-8 tablespoons black truffle oil

2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt

2 sprigs fresh mint

2 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 scallions

freshly squeezed juice from 2 limes

2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

6 tablespoons hemp seeds

4 carrots

1 cucumber

OPTIONAL avocado

 

 

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Instructions

  1. Wash and dry both heads of kale. Once they are dry chop the kale into fine pieces. In a large bowl massage the kale with truffle oil and Himalayan salt. When evenly coated allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime thinly slice carrots and cucumber. If the option is available, spiralize the carrots and cucumber.
  3. Add carrots, cucumber, mint, cilantro, scallions, and lime juice to kale mixture.
  4. Toss salad and then add remaining ingredients.
  5. Top with avocado and serve.

Enjoy!!

ALMOST Vegan Veggie Pizza

Pizza, such a wonderful part of life isn’t it? So wonderful that even the healthiest of health freaks shouldn’t have to miss out. As many of us do, I struggle with finding a balance between healthy eating and guilty pleasures. While I love indulging in sweets and unhealthy delights I find myself feeling sluggish, fatigued and just a little off after eating these foods. For this reason I have tried to create spins on some of my favorites, allowing myself to indulge in guilty pleasures without feeling too guilty. With that I give you my guilt free veggie pizza.

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Veggie Pizza

INGREDIENTS

1 box Simple Mills Artisan Bread Mix

2 Eggs

4 Tablespoons of Water

2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup Trader Joe’s Pizza Sauce

Goat Cheese (as much as desired)

1/2 Caramelized Onion

1 Roasted Red Pepper

2 Bulbs of Garlic

1 Tomato

1 Roasted Cucumber

2 Tablespoons Rosemary

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DIRECTIONS

Whisk eggs, apple cider vinegar, and water in large bowl. Add bread mix and stir until the mixture reaches a thick doughy consistency. Let sit for about 5 minutes to thicken.

In the meantime roast one red pepper. Slice in half and place face up, spread olive oil on top and place in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. Slice cucumber and place in the oven with olive oil at the same temperature.

Caramelize onions-place in a stove pan with olive oil or butter and heat until golden brown.

Separate the dough into two pieces and place each on a greased cooking sheet or pan. Mold each dough into a round pizza shape.

Spread 1/4 cup of pizza sauce on each pizza, add goat cheese.

Slice red pepper into long slices.

Add 1 bulb sliced garlic to each pizza, 1/2 red pepper, cucumber and caramelized onions.

Slice one tomato and add 1/2 to each pizza.

Sprinkle rosemary and desired spices.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Enjoy!!

Re-Grounding

I haven’t slept. Two weeks to be exact, I’ve been bombarded with the stress of finals, followed by excessive “de-stressing,” i.e. family time, late nights, lagging workouts, cheat meals, and Netflix. Yes, I push myself as hard as humanly possible throughout the semester, admittedly depriving myself of enjoyment at times, and this may be the reason for my excessive “de-stressing” as I call it. Throughout the past few weeks I have immersed myself in social media, socializing, and relaxation. While it has been a wonderful break on my drained mind, it has inevitably brought me to a stalemate. I’m stuck, I feel out of it, groggy, irritable, emotional, and malnourished. I find myself longing to just feel normal again and reevaluating what I need to do to get there. My solution; re-grounding. There are various versions of “self help,” “self medicating,” or “me time” if you will, all of which fall under my umbrella term of re-grounding. I consider myself an introverted extrovert, I love being around people and couldn’t survive without the help of my friends and family, but at times I just need some time to MYSELF. I haven’t gotten a lot of this lately, can you tell? The older I get (i.e. the more overloaded with stress I become) the less time I have for self nourishing. Sure, I workout everyday, I eat healthy, and I stick to a fairly regular sleep schedule, but with all of this in place I still need that relaxation time to stay sane. Before the overhaul of school fell into my life I had a lot of this time. I would take a night once a week and just read, or write, maybe take a bath and do some yoga. Recently these days are few and far between and now that I’m caught in this excessive relaxation stage I’m turning to these habits as a solution to the rut. I’m taking a few nights to myself to read, draw, embrace scripture, meditate and simply mindlessly listen to music. I’m turning off my social media, putting down my phone and allowing myself to nourish myself. Getting stuck in these ruts is extremely common for people today, particularly due to the constant “go! go! go!” attitude and persistent pull from social media. We’re constantly caught up in a world that is not our own and sometimes we just need some time to re-establish ourselves, re-connect to our bodies and allow ourselves to fall back into our true nature. For some people this might be a long bath on a Friday night, for others it might be a daily yoga class or picking up an old hobby. Whatever it is, I encourage you to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of this thing we call life and take some time for yourself to reestablish your sanity.

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Inner Beauty Doesn’t Age

Life. It’s such a beautiful thing isn’t it? We start off young and invincible as a child, we grow excited, full of anticipation to see the world and do something with our lives, then slowly we reach an age of stress, anxiety and tension only to then return to an old age of carelessness and disinterest in most everything. This whirlwind takes us through ups and downs, and throughout it all we do everything in our power NOT to reach that final point of aging, of looking and being old.the-legend-of-youth-1214223

Throughout this time we spend hours, days, months, years exerting our energy to ensure we age as gracefully as possible. Anti aging creams, surgical procedures, fitness, and healthy eating are all a part of this barricade we use to fight our physical age. But why is it that we focus SO heavily on this physical aspect? Has anyone ever thought to focus instead on what manifests on the inside? After all, it’s this beauty that lasts forever.

Recently I heard a quote that really stuck with me. It was actually in a movie, in the midst of a conversation but for some reason something about it really resonated with me.

“Inner Beauty Doesn’t Age”

This really made me think about everything that we (and I personally) do in an attempt to postpone/avoid physical aging. Yes, I eat healthy and workout and I will admit that part of that comes from motivation to look healthy. But what about the inside? Every encounter we have, every year of our life impacts the person we become, and that person stays with us forever. What would happen if we made a conscious effort each day to work on our inner beauty? The world would be a little bit of a better place in my opinion. Generosity, courage, kind heartedness, a sense of humor, these are the characteristics that stay with us for the rest of our lives. Society has molded us to into image oriented beings. There is a societal obsession with looks, beauty, sex, and fitness in the unhealthiest way. If you take a moment to think about it, some of the most beautiful people are not necessarily the most “beautiful.” The people that radiate with their big smiles, generous hearts, and courageous personalities THOSE are the most alluring people in the world. We all know that one person that can walk into a room and instantly  win the heart of a crowd with their grandiose personality. They are bold, confident and captivating in such a way that their physical “imperfections” are unnoticed. These are the types of people that never age.

While the outside is still important, it does not take excessive skincare products, starvation and unhealthy exaggerations of fitness to beat the aging process and be deemed a beautiful person. It’s the inside that we should focus on crafting and strengthening. My humble advice to make the world a little bit of a better place is to practice cultivating beauty within, and be conscious of judgmental perceptions based on appearances. Remember appearances will fade but our souls are forever.

 

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Less Meat More…Hummus

Recently I’ve been altering my diet a bit in terms of meat consumption. I’m always trying new recipes and adding new staples to my daily routine and the past few weeks i’ve been focusing particularly on eliminating excess meat. With the workouts I do I have always been convinced that I should be consuming meat based protein numerous times a day, in addition to meals. However, I am now coming to the conclusion that such an astounding amount of meat is not necessary and may even be harmful.
While I do still need protein (as does everyone) I have been leaning towards beans and plants significantly more often. I do still consume meat, and as I said in a previous post I do not plan on eliminating it from my diet, but I have found that I feel better when I don’t eat as much.
I have always assumed that the only way to acquire sufficient quantities of protein is through meat. This is not true. Plant based products, particularly beans, lentils, edamame, chickpeas etc. contain up to 18 grams of protein per serving.
Since I eat a big bowl of greens AT LEAST two times a day, I’m already getting a fairly decent amount. I just need a little extra boost to get me where I need to be. This is where I turn to beans and most importantly, HUMMUS. Hummus has always been a love of mine but I have never viewed it as a source of protein. Fortunately, a typical serving contains 8 grams and when combined with beans you’ll have the perfect amount.
Here’s a quick salad I made sans meat (with a few extra goodies).

INGREDIENTS
Mixed Greens
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Onion
Organic Blackberries
ORGANIC Black Beans- when purchasing canned beans ALWAYS buy organic and be sure to rinse them before eating.
Hummus

*I have also tried this recipe without the berries and with salsa instead, great flavor! You could always add some cheese and Greek Yogurt, as a sour cream supplement and turn it into a Mexican bowl!

When There’s a Will There’s a Way

I am currently posted in my cozy little writing corner-tea in hand reminiscing on the amazing opportunity I had this summer to visit the Grand Canyon. I love traveling, seeing new places and learning new things, but I always find myself stressing over where my next meal will be and whether or not I will be able to find something healthy-NOT a healthy habit I will admit, but sometimes I can’t help it.

This vacation was a bit different from your normal beach resort. We spent our days covered in dust and sweat hiking up and down the side of this monstrous canyon (the views were GORGEOUS-more posts to come on that). As or days came to an end we found ourselves exhausted and unable to conjure up enough energy to shower and make it to a big fancy dinner.
Instead of your typical room service we decided to create our own hotel masterpiece. The first night we took it upon ourselves to make a grandiose dinner sans oven/stove/microwave etc. With only a mini fridge, some plastic utensils and $17 worth of food (and food network playing in the background for support) I have to say we got pretty creative.
For our first course we had an elegant little appetizer consisting of Ancient Grain crackers and carrots dipped in tapenade hummus. Fancy right??
Next we moved on to the main course-salad. We started with our base, greens of course and got as crazy as we could with the extras. I bought pre made mixed greens with chopped carrots, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes. From there we added sliced avocado and leftover apple from our hiking snack pack.
Since we were trying to keep things cheap and avoid lugging back extra food on the plane I was at a loss for my typical oil and vinegar. I had to settle for a pre made vinegarette- olive oil vinegar and a few added spices. I tried to find something with as little sugar and preservatives as possible. Sometimes you just have to settle for good enough. Regardless, the salad tasted amazing, my boyfriend said it was the best one i’ve made (HA).

We didn’t quite make it to desert but a few glasses of white wine made up for that. Laughing, joking, and criticizing chopped (favorite show) we had an exhilarating dinner in our private little hotel room. While this may not have been a five star gourmet meal we cultivated a filling, clean and nutritious dish.
This goes to prove that you don’t need fancy kitchen tools or suppliance’s to make a healthy and filling meal. You don’t need a never-ending budget either!

If you put fourth the thought and effort it IS possible to eat healthy no matter where you are.