Tag Archives: san francisco

Day 42: Combatting sugar cravings with water

For a while now I’ve been battling some serious sugar cravings. Have you ever experienced this? The ‘can’t sit still at your desk, about to claw your nails down your face or throw someone down the stairs just to get to the granola jar faster’ kind of feeling.

sugar

When I first started the challenge I didn’t suffer from this at all. I actually wrote a post on Day 13 about the evils of breakfast cereal and boasted about the fact that I was able to breeze past the jars in work, and not be tempted to grab some.

Oh how cocky and naive I was!

What happened? Why am I suddenly afflicted like this? What was I doing differently back then?

Thinking back, I was more motivated, certainly – I was all keen to do the best job I could with the 100 Healthy Days Challenge. All the enthusiasm of someone starting out on a new project.

But I don’t think motivation, or lack thereof, is the reason.

What I really think was different was the water I was drinking. I was making a massive effort to drink water and herbal teas – nettle, dandelion and mint predominantly.

So, as an experiment I decided to drown myself with water and tea today. I constantly made sure I had a bottle of water and a herbal tea on the go. I probably drank more than I would normally, or felt like I needed.

And, good news – I didn’t have any sugar cravings today! I was once again able to breeze past the granola jar, mentally giving it the middle finger and a big #$% you. I’m hesitant to start the celebrations just yet. All too often I think I’ve solved my sugar issues, only to find myself nose deep in a cereal bowl.

Let’s just call this an interesting observation. And let’s just try it again tomorrow and see how we get on.

This is going to be my strategy for upping my water intake:

  • Keeping a large glass of water by my bedside and drinking the full thing as soon as I wake up in the morning.
  • Whenever I have a coffee, I’ll make sure to have a glass of water with it. Italians do this in bars all the time!
  • Drink water flavoured with natural fruit – we have lots of this in work. The new thing is basil flavoured water. Kids these days!
  • Carry a bag big enough to fit a bottle of water and make sure I have one when going out.

FYI – I also tried the below things as well, which apparently have an impact on blood sugar and sugar cravings.

  1. I did not eat any fruit
  2. I started taking a good probiotic
  3. I started taking Omega 3s
  4. I put cinnamon on everything!
  5. I upped the protein and healthy fat amounts in my salad – extra chicken, avocado and added in pumpkin seeds and olive oil

Fingers crossed we can have another good day tomorrow!

Food and Exercise

  • Snack: 10 almonds
  • Exercise: 45 mins spin with light weights
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (made with olive oil), steamed egg whites, chia seeds, steamed mustard greens and kale, raw peppers, large coffee with half and half
  • Lunch: Green salad, with chicken, avocado, olive oil, apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Hummus with crudites – including PURPLE CAULIFLOWER
  • Dinner: Kale salad, cherry tomatoes, sweet potato, cannelini beans, goat’s cheese, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
It's PURPLE

It’s PURPLE

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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!

 

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 – 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.