Category Archives: san francisco

Day 2: The post-holiday post-mortem and my new goals

Is there anything worse than getting on to the scales and having your body fat % tested, right after the holidays?

fat

For the record, there is definitely plenty worse in life than this.This comparison obviously only relates to other superficial events or occurrences that could befall a human being. Like having a skinny friend who eats toast and chocolate croissants every day. That features highly on my list of terrible things that could happen to someone. I’m looking at you Frenchie!

I know many of you are probably screaming at your computer, going ‘For the love of all that is good and holy, why the hell would you do that to yourself?!? Everyone knows that the only time to weigh yourself again is after a two week juicing cleanse, a round of colonics and a haircut. And only then if it’s first thing in the morning and you’re completely naked.’

You’re right…you’re right! That would typically be my way of thinking as well. Why put yourself through undue heartache and torture, cursing the day a mince pie ever crossed your path?

However, there’s no denying that on occasion you need a short, sharp shock to the system to jump-start change – and stepping on those scales and having your belly fat pinched is the best way to do it.

I actually had the remarkable foresight of anticipating my post-holiday excuses months ago, so I signed up in advance for a 10-week fitness and nutrition program in work- with a pre-evaluation on January 6th. Job done.

And so starts my tale of woe…

How much damage did the holidays do? A LOT! 7lbs worth of damage and a place in the overweight body fat % category (0.8% over healthy). I was actually shocked at how quickly I put on the lbs and body fat. However, when I stepped off the scales in a huff, wanting to cry and thought about it some more – it made sense. Whilst I didn’t go crazy and indulge as much as I wanted to, I had been pretty lax with my healthy eating for a good two months. It was slow and creeping and disastrous.

So now starts the epic challenge of reversing this and I’m hoping my 100HealthyDaysinSF program will help me.

For full disclosure I’m going to put down my new goals here. I hope to achieve these at the end of the 10 weeks of the fitness program I signed up to.

  • Lose 3% body fat
  • Be able to do 10 full push ups (I can do 3 now)
  • Reduce waist size by 3 inches
  • Be happy and healthy

Mx

Comment on healthy living today

Today was a good day in terms of healthy living – all three of my meals were healthy and I started back exercising with a group exercise class. This was TOUGH going! I felt like I needed to explain myself to the strangers in my class as I was huffing, puffing and sweating after a round of jumping jacks. ‘First workout after the holidays, you know…’ It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. It was a win even turning up.

Food and exercise

Once again featuring the book light. Obsessed

Once again featuring the book light. Obsessed

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Breakfast: 1 cup of scrambled eggs (50% whites, 50% whole), chia seeds, steamed kale. (I MISSED KALE SO MUCH)
  • Lunch: Salad with lots of veg, edamame beans, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, olive oil and balsamic. Also a little bit of seaweed salad – which had SUGAR in it. Criminal, never again.
  • Snack: handful of almonds and raw veg
  • Exercise: 45 mins group exercise class
  • Dinner: White fish with green beans, cherry tomatoes and half an avocado
  • Lots of herbal tea
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Day 1: The Rules

The first rule of the 100 Healthy Days in SF challenge is that you need rules. I love rules. I’m a Canadian (more or less)…And I ob-eh’ the rules.

Obey the rules

A lot of people have asked me what the rules of my challenge are, and more specifically, what I mean by ‘healthy’. Whenever I try to explain, it gets a bit muddied and unclear – obviously because I’m unclear myself.

As such I need a list of rules. And a mission statement.

(Actually, I’m slightly tardy with the mission statement – for life in general, not just this challenge. Everyone living in San Francisco needs to have a mission statement. If you don’t have one, and if you haven’t written it down, laminated it, or tattooed it somewhere on your body nobody will take you seriously as you obviously haven’t found your purpose in life or business. You also need to have a solid idea for an app.)

So, here is my mission statement:

“I will strive daily to make the healthiest choices possible, that benefit my mind, body and spirit, whilst living life to the fullest in San Francisco.’

And here are my three simple rules:

  • Eat as cleanly as possible – ie, food that has not been heavily processed
  • Do some form of exercise every day
  • Don’t become a hermit

There will be sub-rules in addition to these (like only drinking vodka-soda on a night out), and mini tasks that I set myself along the way (like giving up sugar for a few weeks) but as long as I stick to these principles my challenge should have an impact and also be sustainable for a happy, fun life.

Comment on today’s healthy living

Today was all about getting back on track on trying to cast the demons of bad living out of my body. My primary strategy was to hydrate, hydrate and then hydrate some more. Water is holy. At any one time I had two cups of herbal tea at my desk. It worked as I was able to make healthy choices all day.

What I wasn’t able to do is go to the spin class I had signed up for. Jet lag is a bitch!

Tonight was the first time my roommates and I were all back after the holidays so we celebrated with a lovely home-cooked dinner (thanks Venessa!!) and some present giving. So lovely. It was hard to say goodbye to Ireland after the holidays, but I’m also happy to back in SF!

What you see there, in addition to lovely roommates and a tasty dinner is a book light. An actual book that is also a light. Fascinating.

What you see there, in addition to lovely roommates and a tasty dinner is a book light. An actual book that is also a light. Fascinating.

Too many meals at my computer. Terrible habit!

Too many meals at my computer. Terrible habit!

Food

  • Snack: Green Juice from Pressed Juicery
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (25% whole eggs, 75% egg whites), steamed greens, chia seeds, 2 x large coffees with almond milk
  • Lunch: Salad with lots of veggies, grilled chicken, walnuts, sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Raw veg and handful of almonds
  • Dinner: Vegan tamales, salad, avocado, rice, red wine
  • Loads and loads and loads of water and herbal teas (dandelion, peppermint, green)

Exercise:

  • Getting off at a bus stop farther away than my usual one. Lame, I know. But I was exhausted from stupid jet lag.

Day 43: Strategies for eating out in San Francisco

As anyone living in San Francisco will tell you, this is the best city to come to if you are a foodie. Not only are there amazing restaurants and food trucks, but also talking about food (and being a ‘foodie’) is a legitimate past-time…As well as blogging about food, instagramming food, yelping about restaurants. You even start to choose a potential date based upon how much they like to eat out!

foodie

Food plays an integral part of the socialising over here, and I love it!

(But not to the point where I instagram my food. I’m not that much of a douchey Foodie. Anyone else so bored by this?)

Obviously, however, to eat the healthiest you need to be at home cooking your own meals, so you know exactly what you’re eating.

BORING!!! How depressing would that be? Can you imagine turning down an opportunity to try out the latest hip restaurant in favour of eating a bowl of kale and broiled chicken on your tod. You’d want to kill yourself!

(Oh my God, I have the feeling that sounds like something a douchey Foodie would say).

So, really, if you want to go out and have a social life AND be healthy, you just have to get clever and have a few strategies up your sleeve. These are the ones I’m trying out for myself

1. Choose and reserve the restaurant beforehand.

Because there are so many options in San Francisco, it can get overwhelming and difficult to make a decision about where to eat – especially when you’re out and about. And when that happens you inevitably spend a good hour walking around in circles, until you get hangry, then you panic, have a fight with your dinner companions and end up storming into the nearest taqueria for a burrito, that you eat in a huff.

This is not fun for anyone and can lose you some friends.

So, instead do your research and choose the restaurant online beforehand. If you’re going with a group, offer to find and reserve for everyone. They’ll love you for it. My go-to in SF is OpenTable or Yelp (sorry Google+…).

Any other good sites out there?

2. If you can’t choose the restaurant, look at the menu before you go

Most restaurants will have their menus available online, so you can plan exactly what to order in advance. By doing that, you save yourself from getting swept up in the ordering frenzy and going for something unhealthy.

3. Load up on veg beforehand

Maybe even just before you go out. The French or Italians would freak at the thought of potentially ruining your meal by eating so close to dinner-time, but don’t mind them. It’s survival tactics here. And they’ve probably had 12 chocolate pastries already today.

4. Choose your vice

There are many fun things to indulge in at dinner – the bread, the wine, the pasta dishes the dessert. Decide which two of the four you want and don’t go near the others. Ie if you have wine and bread, avoid the tortellini and tiramisu.

5. Go for whole foods

Go for the steak, chicken or fish. They’ll be the healthiest because you know they probably won’t have added anything nasty into them.

This week is jam-packed with dinner dates, so I’ll get an opportunity to try out these tactics myself.

Tonight’s restaurant was Bistro Aix, in the Marina. This is a charming place, with great food, beautiful wine (chosen by the very dashing Johnny, who works there) and a lovely atmosphere. Complete with an indoor tree! I love indoor trees like you wouldn’t believe.

i had one slice of the bread, wine, beet and goat’s cheese salad and lamb meatballs with baby potatoes. I avoided the dessert, as per rule number 4. It looked so decadent…

Let’s see how I get on with the other dinners!

Day 41: Ode to Spaghetti Squash

Since moving to San Francisco, my new favourite thing in life* is spaghetti squash. This is, in my mind, the savior that will rid the world of the evils of processed carbs and gluten.

spaghetti squash

This baby deserves a fist pump for being so healthy

For those of you unfamiliar, spaghetti squash is not pasta made from or with squash. It’s actually a VEGETABLE, itself a member of the squash family, and looks like this:

I'm a spaghetti squash, not a melon

I’m a spaghetti squash, not a melon

And when you cook it, it kind of looks like this:

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

And, then, this is where the magic happens; when you take a fork and rake it down the flesh of the cooked spaghetti squash, you get this:

Here's one I made earlier.  The pic doesn't do it justice.

Here’s one I made earlier. The pic doesn’t do it justice.

In other words, long strands that look and act exactly like spaghetti!!

The sheer and utter beauty of the spaghetti squash, lies in the fact that you don’t even need to use any fancy gadget, like a spiralizer, to turn the flesh it into strands. IT DOES IT BY ITSELF! And, to top it all off, you can cook it in the microwave and it’s ready in 15 minutes.

The discovery of spaghetti squash has pretty much changed my life for the better.

I am a pasta-fiend. I grew up in an Italian/Irish(Canadian/Scottish) household and while all my Irish friends were chowing down on Irish stew, Shepherd’s Pie or other meat, veg and potato combos, I was twirling and slurping my way through parmesan laden pasta dishes. To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food and reminds me of home.

But, of course, pasta is not necessarily the healthiest of dishes. All that icky gluten can cause reactions, and too many carbs give you back-fat (scientific term), so it can’t really feature regularly in a healthy eating regime, except as a treat. Cue 😦

But this is where spaghetti squash comes in! You get the bulk and strand-like consistency of spaghetti and you can pair it with all of your fave pasta sauces. Well, maybe not the carbonara…

The sad news is, I haven’t seen this outside of the US. Certainly not in Ireland anyway. My advice is to do anything you can to import/smuggle this sucker in – ethically and sustainably, of course.

(*I actually have multiple new favourite things in life since moving to San Francisco – bridges, Mission graffiti, margaritas, people watching in Dolores Park, farmer’s markets…I’m loving this city more and more every day).

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, with goat’s cheese, avocado and smoked salmon
  • Lunch: Smoked salmon, tbsp hummus and avocado
  • Snack: Chia seed pudding (chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla essence) with stewed apple
  • Dinner: Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, green salad, enochi mushrooms, 2x small pieces of bread with cheese, glass of wine (all homemade by Venessa – such a treat!)
  • Exercise: none – I was still to tired!!

 

Day 40: Ending a week of bad living

The most appropriate way to end a week of bad living – eating poorly, no exercising, general slovenliness-  is with a hangover.

Whilst it’s no fun for anyone, it serves two purposes:

  1. It’s a fitting punishment for the crime- after a week of abusing my body with food and unhealthy activities, I deserve to feel the effects of my bad behaviour in a physical way.
  2. It’s motivation to start leading a healthy lifestyle again.
Yes, I deserve it

Yes, I deserve it

Thinking about it, hangovers are actually excellent motivators for living a healthy life.

As you’re lying on the couch, with last night’s make up still caked on your face and that little stamp on your hand from that dodgy club, you’re filled with so much fear, shame and self-loathing that the only way to dig yourself out of it, is to promise yourself that it will Never. Happen. Again. And that starting from now you won’t drink any more, you’ll eat healthfully, cook from scratch, exercise daily, meditate every morning, spend quality time with your family, donate to charity, volunteer in the community and be the best damn human being you can be!

…Actually, let’s start from tomorrow. The take out is on the way and you’ve just accidentally eaten half the packet of cookies belonging to your roommate and being honest, you’re probably going to go in for a second round.

So, my advice to anyone looking to become healthier is to go out immediately, neck 10 margaritas, don’t eat dinner, dance on some tables, maybe kiss the barman and then watch your life magically transform for the better.

(NOTE: As always, I’m being slightly melodramatic. I actually wasn’t that hungover. I didn’t drink that much, but I was still exhausted and emotional, possibly from a cold. And I also think I’m allergic to alcohol!!! 😦 )

(NOTE #2: The night before the hangover was spent at the Hozier concert. He was playing the Regency Ballroom in SF, which is a brilliant venue. Small enough for it to feel intimate, pretty theatre-like building, ample bar staff. If you don’t know him, check him out. His voice is amazing. And he’s Irish. So, obviously I love him even more!)

Hozier, the big ride!

Hozier, the big ride!

So, what caused the week of bad living that ended with a hangover? God, what ever causes it?!? I always have so many theories on the subject. It could have been any and all of the below.

  • Out of my regular routine
  • Dehydrated
  • Time of the month
  • Sugary breakfasts
  • Busy at work
  • Exhaustion
  • Too many carbs
  • Not enough carbs

Suffice to say it happened and I got a hangover that caused sufficient pain, heart-ache and general self-loathing to prompt me into affirmative action. Once again. Yes everyone, once again I am hopping back onto the wagon, having yet again fallen off it.

But sure, as I learned this week (in an interesting talk on film-making that I attended), you need conflict for any great story with a happy ending. And if this challenge was going to be easy there wouldn’t be a point to it. The only thing I can do is dust the crumbs off, buy some brussel sprouts and get right back to it!

Food and exercise

Not going to get into the details of what I ate. But, randomly, the first thing I did when I woke up with my hangover was make Chia Seed pudding, which is what I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Gelatinous muck or tasty breakfast? Maybe a combo of both.

I admit, it looks disgusting

I admit, it looks disgusting

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! 😉

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!

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!