Category Archives: California

Day 38: Tips from Friends – Erin

Day 38, and I bring you my second installment of ‘Tips From Friends.’ Sometimes the best, most actionable advice for healthy living comes from the people around you.

Today’s tips come from my friend Erin, a Bay Area native. It’s quite rare to meet someone who is actually from here- so many people living in San Francisco are from other places.¬†This is something that makes San Francisco super interesting to live in, but it’s always nice hanging out with someone who has the inside scoop on the fun things to do – both in the city and the surrounding area.

Click to picture below to watch the video. We even caught some of the Blue Angels practice in the background. Really cool! The Blue Angels come to SF for Fleet Week every October – basically an air show, with lots of stunts. There are also a lot of sailors in town as part of this…it’s a fun time for everyone! ūüėČ

Click here to watch a video of Erin's healthy tips!

Click here to watch a video of Erin’s healthy tips!

If you don’t want to watch the video, here are her tips.

1. Take advantage of the many steep staircases in the city

  • The Lyon Street Steps, in The Presidio,¬†are Erin’s favourite and the most well-known.¬†(Erin was the second person to mention these to me this week. My friend Isabel wants to start a regular run there)
  • You can run or walk them – it’s all good exercise
  • It’s great for people watching!

2. Eat Californinian fresh produce and take advantage of companies like The Urban Pantry

  • The fresh fruit and veg in California is second to none, so take advantage
  • Use companies like The Urban Pantry, or Plated, who will deliver you organic food, all portioned out, so it makes cooking super easy!¬†(I am definitely doing this – it will make cooking on tired days a lot more manageable)

3. Attend sporting events for motivation to get active

  • There are so many amazing sports teams in the area (Go Giants!)
  • Whenever Erin attends a game she’s super motivated to get outside and pick up a ball or tennis racket and get active¬†(way better than drinking¬†beer and eat hot dogs, which would probably have been the first thing I would want to do!)

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Blueberries, Chia Seed paste (delish),greek yogurt, some granola, pineapple, coffee
  • Lunch: Salad with baked salmon
  • Snack: Banana
  • Exercise: Barry’s Bootcamp. Intervals. Lots of steep intervals.
  • Dinner: Gluten free pizza and salad.
  • Comment: Good day all round – the pizza was healthified. And I went to the cinema and had no snacks, which would have been the norm!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!

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Day 37: Veg-loading – my new strategy

Day 37 was all about veg-loading. Think carb-loading, but a lot less fun. Veg-loading is my new strategy for surviving nights out!

Pre-drinking is a thing of the past. It's all about the pre-vegging!

Pre-drinking is a thing of the past. It’s all about the pre-vegging!

Day 37’s night out was actually a date! As mentioned in a previous post¬†I find it quite challenging¬†to eat healthfully when going on a date – I get nervous, I forget to eat, I have some drinks and then I eat bold stuff when I get home.

This time around I was determined to keep it healthy. I figured the best way to do it was to stock up on vegetables and other good food throughout the day,¬†as I knew I wouldn’t have time to eat when I got home.

Thankfully, this is really easy to do in work. I will always be extraordinarily grateful for the abundance of fresh fruit and veg we get. When you want to be healthy it’s so easy!

So, I had kale and crudites at breakfast with some eggs, crudites as a snack, a HUGE salad, with a variety of veg for lunch and then more crudites and hummus in the afternoon. I also worked out and drank a shed-load of water during the day. When I left to go out I felt satisfied and clear headed – not like the hungry, dehydrated wreck I was on the last date.

My huge salads

My huge salads

 

I’ve actually already made it a habit to eat a lot of vegetable at meals. I could never be the the type of person that just eats tiny portions – that’s why a conventional, calorie restricting diet would never work for me. I need something substantial in my belly or else I would be driven demented with hunger. So I eat loads and loads of veg.

It’s funny, I work with a lot of Frenchies, and whilst they’ve never said it, I think they are slightly appalled at the amount I put on my plate.¬†The French, in my mind,¬†have really mastered the art of eating – they take small amounts of fine, high quality food. My mountain of raw veg and chicken, with only lemon juice as a dressing, most likely seems barbaric to them.

‘IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!’ I feel like shouting sometimes, when I see them look over in my direction at lunch. ‘YOU’RE EATING A PASTRY! STUFFED WITH CHOCOLATE! I¬†DON’T CARE¬†IF IT’S ONE OF THE MINI ONES.’

I’m a little jealous of the French, clearly. They’ve probably never had to veg-load in their life.

On to the date – we went to The Royal Cuckoo¬†in the Mission. This is a great spot for a date, especially mid-week. They’ve got a great drinks menu with lots of good cocktails. It’s all low lighting, fairy lights and cosy seats. They also played some live jazz as well. I’m not a huge jazz fan really, but it was fun.

So, happy to say I managed to keep it relatively healthy on a date day. I think veg-loading, or healthy-food loading is the way to go in the future!

 

Day 36: When the hard work pays off

I’ve been doing the 100 Healthy Day Challenge for 36 days now, more or less*. And I am delighted to say that I’ve started to really see the effects of my hard work! It’s not just imagined, I have empirical evidence(ish)!

The best kind of party. The cake kind.

The best kind of party. The cake kind.

Here is my evidence:

1. I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost half a stone (7 lbs for my awkward American friends).

2. I’m now able to do a full push up

Some details about the above:

1. Weight loss is not necessarily the main objective of my 100 Healthy Days challenge. Fat loss yes for sure, I want a whole lot of that, but weight loss, as measured by the scales, I’m not too pushed with knowing on a regular basis.

All the experts now seem to agree that weight loss only gives you one side of the story, and is really not representative of how healthy you are. See here for some more bullet-pointed wisdom from mindbodygreen on the subject.

I’m relying mostly on my body fat % testing to get a full picture of how I’m doing and I’m going to¬†get re-tested in a couple of weeks.

However, I¬†think that my 7lb loss is a definite indicator that things are going well, which is why I’m so happy about it! If the scales tell me I’ve lost 7 lbs, I can only that assume my body fat % has gone down as well and it’s not just a false-positive related to water retention.¬†Watch this space, I’ll report back as to whether my hypothesis is correct.

Have you ever had your body fat % tested by the way? They basically grab and pinch your fat in a set of calipers – in parts of your body you never even realised could get fatty! Slightly humiliating, but you have to pretend to be totes cool with it all. Oh yeah sure, grab away!

2. I’m now able to do a full push up! And I ain’t talking about no little girly push-up on my knees. I’m talking about a real-life adult push up. Full disclosure – I don’t go alll the way down but around 75% of the way. But, 75% of a real-life adult push up, is a pretty big deal in my book. Considering the fact that I couldn’t go 50% of the girly-push up when I first started working out. Definite progress.

It’s so amazing to see myself getting stronger and fitter. It’s as good a feeling as the weight/fat loss, if not more.

Next stop, a pull up!! Ha, maybe in around 2 years.

Also, I’ve been¬†told I¬†may be nominated for GYM MEMBER OF THE MONTH.¬†How cool is that! I must have been boring the ear off of Jon, my personal trainer, about all my healthy activities and all the research I’ve been doing about health and well-being. If it does happen, it would go straight into my sporting achievements hall of fame. Right next to the time that I made¬†sub for the Minor C netball team when I was in 3rd year in secondary school.¬†That’s actually my only other sporting achievement. It’s been a slow 17 years.

So, all in all, I’ve seen some really excellent results – proof that all of my hard work is paying off. This is actually the greatest motivation I could get. When you see the results you want more and more of the same, so you’re more encouraged to do more and more exercise and healthy eating.

So, I’ve decided to change my meme.

squats

I know this looks like me, but it’s not me

*Creative license was taken with the counting of the days for the purpose of the narrative. It’s been more like 40 days but I can’t remember what happened on the days I didn’t blog. Granola, Barry’s Bootcamp, ¬†something, something, something…it’s all a blur

Day 35: Coping with work stress – the healthy way

I am just off the back of a 12 hour work day. It’s one of those weeks. It was one of those weeks, last week. And it will probably be one of those weeks next week.

I am in the midst of a work-stress attack!

This is me. This is my granola.

This is me. This is my granola.

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, you’ll be happy to hear.

I think it’s the most boring thing on earth to listen to someone talk through the minutiae of a working day that you will never¬†understand. Or care to understand. I have enough boring minutiae of my own to be bored by. Let’s be clear – nobody outside of your company, will ever be as incensed as you are about that pivot table that was pivot-ed incorrectly, even though you are¬†100%¬†convinced that¬†your co-worker actually did it on purpose (!), just to make you look bad, because you may or may not have accidentally undermined her in your weekly project meeting, but you only did it because she sent an email to your mutual stakeholders without CCing you, in a FLAGRANT violation of the AGREED-UPON internal process you set up SIX MONTHS AGO!

(Note, the events in this blog post are a work of fiction, and are not based on the true life of Michelle).

Suffice to say, it’s been a fast-paced and busy time, which is why I haven’t posted in a while.

The good news is, I’ve still been trying to live a healthy lifestyle throughout all of this. Not just, in spite of the stress, but to actually combat it!

A year or so ago, I learned the hard way that stress can have a huge impact on your physical well-being.

I had always dismissed stress as a real health threat. There were plenty of other things that would ‘get you’ before stress would – smoking, drinking, bad diet – we all know these things bring doom and gloom, cancer and heart disease, weight gain and bad skin.

Little did I realise that stress does the exact same thing! There are countless articles on this, but this is a nice easily digestible one from mindbodygreen.com.

So, one day, about a year ago, I was sitting in work, just out of a particularly difficult meeting, when suddenly my left arm started to go numb, my heart started racing, there was pressure on my chest,¬†I couldn’t breathe and I started to over-heat…all of the symptoms of a heart attack! So, of course, I instantly got on Google Chat to my friend Marie (most logical thing to do in an emergency) to tell her I was having a heart attack, and to maybe call an ambulance.

Thankfully, she calmly pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be able to chat with her if I was really having a heart attack, and that I was probably having a panic attack.¬†She was right.¬†After a few minutes of breathing deeply with my head between my legs I started to feel normal again. (MORTO, by the way. Sitting at your desk, with your head between your legs, heavy breathing, is not a professional look.)

Funnily enough, that hugely scary situation was not enough to wake me up to the reality of the stress I was under.

It was only after I started balling my eyes out crying, in a pub, on a Sunday, surrounded by happy people, in the middle of eating a huge plateful of French Toast, just before going back to the office for more work, that I realised something needed to change. It was only then that I took an objective look at myself and really saw what the stress had done to me – in addition to heart attack symptoms, crying in public, eating French Toast and working on a Sunday, I had definitely gained weight, my skin was gray and spotty, I was short-tempered and absent-minded, I couldn’t concentrate on conversations with family and friends…and the list of terrible things goes on.

After this shocking realisation, I made the decision that I needed to pro-actively dig myself out of the stress hole I had dug and buried myself in.

So, I did a number of things Рattended some good classes, had conversations with some experts and got some good advice that really helped me.

The following is a list of the best pieces of advice I got, that I’ve adapted for myself.

  • The corporate world is not¬†the¬†world. What happens in the office cannot make or break you, as you’re a lot more than an employee. You’re a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend. Keep perspective on this!
  • Take time to breathe during the day. When you’re stressed you don’t breathe properly. Every time you get up from your desk take a huge breath in and breathe the stress out.
  • Take time to drink water – you can be guaranteed you’re dehydrated when you’re stressed. Taking the 2 minutes to re-fill your water bottle will pay dividends.
  • Schedule some ‘you’ time at some point during the day and¬†do not, under any circumstances re-schedule.
  • Think about making the ‘you’ time exercise time. As soon as I hit the gym I forget about my problems for a little bit.
  • Eat healthfully where you can. There will be times when all you want is bad stuff. But when you have the option choose vegetables.

This time around, whilst I’m still doing 12 hour days, which should be a big no-no, I’m not nearly as bad as I was before. Kicking back with a scented candle, some wine and some blog-therapy also helps!

IMG_20141007_202551

Stress therapy. Scented candles are my crack cocaine.

FYI – I’m just going to skip over the other days in the challenge, and pretend we’re now on Day 35. Cheating, perhaps, but it’s the best way for me to get back on track.

Day 34: Finding my swagga’ at HipHop

As mentioned I’ve been trying lots of exercises classes recently. One of my favourites is (Beginners) Hip Hop at the¬†Dance Mission Theatre, on 24th and Mission in San Francisco. I go every Tuesday night with Lysbet.

hip hop

Whilst technically not an exercise class, it’s an hour and a half of body rockin’, booty shakin’, b-girlin’, kriss-krossin’, breakin’ it down and poppin’ it like it’s hot. In other words getting your body moving and your sweat on. And for good measure, the instructor throws in some sit ups, so we can legitimately call it a work-out.

This class is so much fun!

Every two weeks we learn a new routine to a new song, so we get two classes¬†to practice the moves. The instructor, David, is amazing – he’s a talented dancer, number one, ¬†he’s patient and pauses for questions, and encourages us to let loose and find our inner swagga’.

Cos it’s alllll about the swagga’ and attitude.

I need to work on the swagger a bit, being honest. Starting with the threads. I turn up in my pink runners, with matching pink t-shirt, and pink socks and all these Urban funksters in their slouchy pants and boot-runners stare me out of it. No hip-hop pro is going to be taken seriously wearing pink. Especially matching pink.

I also need to work on the moves. They come fast and furious and they need to be precise to look good. You really do need the two weeks to be able to get them right. But it’s like playing the piano, or anything else that requires coordination – when you get it, it’s the most AMAZING feeling.

I’m not quite ready to break it down in da cluuub just yet, but it’s coming. I may look like Carlton at the moment, but¬†I can feel my inner Beyonce bubbling to the surface.

On a side note, I really, really want to learn a routine for the Big Butts song. I have a bit of an obsession. I know all the words to the intro!¬†I also love Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, and this 11 year old girl is my new idol. Killin’ it!

 

From a 100 Healthy Days perspective, my hip hop class serves two purposes:

  1. Getting my body moving after a day of sitting at my desk
  2. Making me happy by doing something fun and challenging. Health and happiness go hand in hand.

It doesn’t always have to be about weights and interval training!

Food and exercise

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and steamed kale. The usual!
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with loads of veg and quinoa
  • Snack: Banana and greek yogurt
  • Exercise: 1.5 hours hip-hoppin
  • Dinner: Greek yogurt, peach and pecans
  • Comment: Way too much greek yogurt and fruit today. I didn’t get it together in time to grab a salad in work before hip hop. My bad!

Photo Collage Maker_zdm1SD

 

Day 33: Autumn is here and so are the pumpkins

It’s October, peeps, and you know what that means!

The Autumn/Fall/Harvest Season, (or whatever you’re having yourself), is officially upon us! Halloween is just around the corner, the days are getting shorter… and the temperature is soaring and we’re cracking out the sun block.

California, you’re messing with my head!!

Autumn here is so weird. We get blue skies and sunshine (highs of 90F/30C this weekend according to SF Gate), just like summer. But at the same the leaves are falling off the trees and the stores are selling woolen sweaters, hats and scarves. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Beach umbrellas and leaves on the ground. Madness!

Beach umbrellas and leaves on the ground. Madness!

What I’m also seeing is pumpkin everywhere, which is also slightly incongruous with the good weather.

It was like as soon as the clock struck midnight on September 22nd EVERYTHING turned into a pumpkin. Cinderella would have been appalled.

And actually, probably a little excited. Pumpkin spice is kind of a great flavour.

As I sit here I can smell Venessa’s (vegan) pumpkin bread cooling in the kitchen. Intoxicating.

But food manufacturers are really taking it to the extreme- check out this list of pumpkin spice products, compiled by Grub Street. It includes vodka, marshmallows, peanut butter and margarine. Margarine! Utter ridiculousness!

I’ve seen the madness myself in Trader Joes, with their selection of Pumpkin Ales.

Pumpkin Ale. I'm tempted!

Pumpkin Ale. I’m tempted!

But whilst it’s so tempting to get swept up in the pumpkin tidal wave, I’m trying to make a big effort to pause and take a close look at what’s going into these foodstuffs. If actual pumpkins were going into the making of these products the country would be overrun with pumpkin fields. And as far as I can see, the only pumpkin fields around, are for people to take pictures with. (I definitely want a pumpkin FB profiler).

What brought this home was this article written by The Food Babe about the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Full of sugar and pumpkin spice and nothing at all nice or good for you basically. It’s pretty shocking. Have a read!

So, I think for the most part I’m going to be sticking to real pumpkin food. I’ve found these recipes that I’m dying to try.

The only thing is that pumpkin is a bitch to cook! I always end up hurting myself. If anyone has an easy way of doing it let me know! Is canned pumpkin acceptable from a health perspective do you think?

Food and Excercise

Photo Collage Maker_Nnc3ew (1)

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and egg whites, steamed kale and raw carrots/celery
  • Lunch: Chicken with salad and lots of veg, avocado, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Banana with half a carton of Greek yogurt
  • Exercise: Spinning (I was on the squeaky bike – it was so loud! So I couldn’t stand up for the hill climbs. Every hill climb was seated. My quads hated me).
  • Dinner: Quinoa, green beans with some tofu, pulled pork and salad/raw veg.
  • Snack: Half a pear and teaspoon of almond butter

Day 32: Time for some tough love

I’ve been doing the 100 Healthy Day Challenge for a full month now. 31 days of making¬†a ‘concerted, dedicated and publicly documented effort to be healthy.’

However, taking an honest look back at my posts, I’ve decided that rather than applaud, high five and/or fist bump myself, I actually need some tough lovin’. I’mma open up a can of whoop-ass on myself.

I'mma open up a can of whoop-ass...on myself

Opening a can of whoop-ass was my favourite saying when I was kid! I was opening up cans all over the place.

There have been some highs, that’s for sure. My zucchini noodles for a start – I was immensely proud of those. Saying no to cupcakes in work, was a huge win, (especially because they were from Kara’s Cupcakes¬†in Palo Alto,¬†and they had a banana cream one. I love banana stuff).¬†And I love all the exercise classes I’ve been trying.

But for the most part, it’s been a catalogue of challenges and failures and small, daily slip ups. Hangover-gate, burrito-gate and of course that week of utter granola carnage.

It’s just dawned on me that, whilst¬†I’ve been making an effort to make the healthy choice where possible, I haven’t been putting any concerted effort into it. I’ve been exercising my will power when I’ve needed to, but I haven’t been going out of my way to make sure I’m leading as healthy a lifestyle as possible.

Let me give you some examples.

Exercising will power:

  • Choosing the healthy option when out for dinner
  • Saying no to bread with brunch
  • Saying no to ice cream, dessert or sweet things when on offer
  • Only having one glass of wine at dinner, rather than sharing a bottle

Where I could have made a concerted effort:

  • Going shopping for the picnic in Dolores Park¬†to ensure I had healthy options
  • Making time for dinner before a date
  • Food prepping in advance to account for those times when I’m too exhausted to cook
  • Buying healthy snacks for those late night munchies after a night out
  • Having healthy snacks at my desk to ward off granola cravings

A dedicated healthy lifestyle takes a lot of work – prepping and planning, shopping and scheduling.¬†You can’t be half-ass about it. (Soz, I think I’ve over-used the word ass in this post.)

I can see now why so many people fall into living such un-healthy lifestyles. None of us have time for it!¬†We’re all too busy!¬†Have you ever found yourself answering the question ‘How are you doing?’ with ‘Ohhh, you know, busy!!’ Shocking.

But, are we ever not busy? What the hell are we busy doing? Why do we prioritise all other things over a healthy body?

So, going into my second month, I’ve decided to get¬†my lazy ass (one more ass for good measure) into gear and make time for my¬†healthy lifestyle.

This will include:

  • Doing a weekly food shop so I have healthy food in the fridge
  • Buying snacks for those late night post-drink munchies
  • Making a big dish of something healthy (eg curry, soup) and freezing it
  • Bringing healthy snacks with me wherever I go
  • Booking my exercise classes in advance

A little more effort will mean a lot more gainz!

Any other tips out there?

Food and exercise

Photo Collage Maker_nJGgjL

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt, apple and pear
  • Lunch: Omlette with tomoatoes
  • Snack: half an apple and 8 almonds
  • Dinner: Spaghetting squash with puttanesca sauce and chickpeas, glass of win
  • Exercise: None – it’s the day of rest after all! I got into my work out clothes though, Nearly there!