Tag Archives: Healthy challenge

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

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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 – attended 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!

Day 31: It ended with a burrito

Day 31 ended with a burrito. A big, fat, chicken one. With guac.

But it had started so well!

I had woken up early, loving the fact that I had such a clear head on a Saturday. Sad to say,  but that’s not been the norm to date – Friday nights out on the town are one of my most favourite things in life.  As a result, I felt like I could conquer the world! Or at the very least conquer my bad habits and have a golden day*.

Mags and I went to Barry’s Bootcamp in the morning and killed the workout. (Big fan now, by the way. Huge.) This was followed by a green juice from Pressed Juicery and a healthy brunch of eggs and salmon in Savor., Noe Valley.

‘No, bread,’ I told the waiter, with a smug smile. ‘And, no, I don’t want a box for those potatoes I left behind.’

Success!

Next stop after brunch, was none other than Dolores Park. Thinking about it, I really should have anticipated my downfall.

A bunch of us had decided to go watch the movie they were showing that night, as part of their movie series. I was so excited about it! This is such a Californian thing to do, in my mind. The fact that you can sit outside, in a park and watch a movie and not have to worry about rain, or wind or the gangster pigeons you’d sometimes get in a Dublin park – it blows the mind.

The movie started at 8.30pm, so the plan was to get there at 3.30pm to secure a good spot and have a picnic beforehand.

The fatal mistake I made was not planning what to bring in advance.

I was running late and still full from brunch, so I thought I wouldn’t need to eat anything (eh, in what world would that ever happen, Michelle??). I then wanted to get some alcohol like all the cool kids were doing so I went into the Bi-Rite Market near the park. It was so jammed I ended up panic buying some BEER!

It all went downhill from then.

Of course, the others had brought an amazing spread with them, and of course, I got hungry so I was powerless to resist.

So, first this happened:

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Then this

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Being honest, this would have happened anyway. Mags made some home-made Irish scones and they were delish!

And then flash forward, past a few handfuls of kettle chips, more beer, dancing at a friend’s house, out to a bar, another beer, and then finally this happened:

Photo Collage Maker_VBaWic

Despite having grazed all day my stomach was hungry for something more substantial and nourishing. A burrito was the perfect answer, obvs!

But, fate, the heavens and the angels are obviously all working hard to keep me on my healthy eating track.

Just as I was sitting down at the kitchen table, all set to enjoy my greasy, fatty, unhealthy indulgence, my roommate Quinn suddenly appeared at the door.

‘YOU’RE EATING A BURRITO?!?’ he cried, incredulously.

Caught in the act, with the burrito half-way to my mouth.

Note, Quinn doesn’t even know about my 100 Healthy Day Challenge, by the way. He’s just a Californian and the idea of eating a burrito, late at night, was probably just shocking in general to him.

‘Emmm, yes,’ I replied, red-faced, ‘Hungry, you know.’

He stared at me, still in obvious shock.

I looked down and the burrito, and back to him.

‘Actually, you know what, this is way too big for me. I’m stuffed.’ (Lies, pure lies). ‘Do you want some?’

I could see the same internal, mental struggle I was suffering from, painted on his face.

‘Well, maybe just a bite,’ he said, after a while.

And proceeded to eat the whole thing.

The next day I woke up, feeling thankful for the unexpected intervention. One of these days, I will be able to intervene on my own behalf and truly have the, as of yet, elusive golden Saturday.

This day was not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But, I am determined to plan better for the next time.

(*NOTE: A golden day is what I’m calling a day where I make all the right decisions from a healthy living point of view.)

Day 30: Tips from friends

There is an abundance of healthy, beautiful, tanned and toned people here in San Francisco.

To the point where I was about ready to hop back on the plane to Dublin when I first arrived. I don’t belong here, I’m an imposter! My shins are too pale to wear shorts every day.

But after a while I realised:

1. I’m not the only one with pale shins. We’re in the tech nerd capital of the world after all, filled with engineers who have pale everything.

2. I can actually use this situation to my advantage – make friends with these beautiful people and get their secrets!

So, that’s what I’m doing – interviewing my group of SF friends to get their top tips for staying healthy.

We’re starting off with Anna. Anna is actually Irish, but she does a very good job of blending in with the beautiful locals. And not only does she look great, she’s also a qualified nutritionist so she speaks the truth.

Watch the video by clicking on the picture below. This was taken on Day 31 at Dolores Park. Blog entry on this tomorrow.

(Note, this is my first time making a video. I’ll get better!)

Watch Anna's top healthy tips here

Watch Anna’s top healthy tips here

If you’re not into videos, her tips written down are:

  1. Find an active, social sport you enjoy
    • Her sport of choice is spinning, which is close to where she lives
    • She tries to do it 2-3 times a week
    • If she doesn’t hit that number, she doesn’t beat herself up about it, she just pushes hard the next week
  2. At a picnic, go for the low-cab options
    • Avoid things like kettle chips (And Anna actually did avoid these things! Unlike myself. I had to actually throw that bag of kettle chips over to the other side of the picnic blanket to avoid them.)
    • It’s OK to have a beer, but limit the number you have
    • 1 drink during the day is worth 2 beers at night – so be careful as you could actually get more drunk day-drinking
  3. Walk as much as you can
  4. On a night out drink red wine, gin or vodka and soda
    • Have the vodka and soda with lots and lots of lime as it makes it taste better

Thanks for the healthy tips Anna, what a super star! Stay tuned for more tips from friends.

Food and Exercise

I just had a couple of those tortilla chips and guac!

I just had a couple of those tortilla chips and guac!

  • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, steamed Kale, raw celery and watemelon
  • Lunch: Chicken salad, with peaches and grapes and jalapeno peppers (random but tasty!)
  • Snack: Glass of wine…
  • Dinner: Salad with garbanzo beans and some kind of cheese (in a bar) and San Pelligrino
  • Snack: Glass of wine and like two-three tortilla chips with guac.
The late night snack with Lysbet, Isabel and Dzuy

The late night snack with Lysbet, Isabel and Dzuy