Tag Archives: SF

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

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  • 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 25: A Healthy Day in Nob Hill Spa

The secret to good health lies beyond simply eating right and regular exercise. Man cannot live by broccoli and cardio pump alone.

It’s so important to pay attention to your mental, emotional and spiritual needs as well. When these are neglected you often see a manifestation of that neglect in your body- stress, breakouts, exhaustion, headaches, weight gain.

This is how I justify my small, and slightly expensive, obsession with day spas. In my mind, it’s the perfect place to meet every single one of your health needs.

On Day 25 I took myself off with a group of 4 girlfriends to Nob Hill Day Spa. This was my first time going, and I must say I enjoyed every lavender-scented minute of it.

We were there for 9am, which was a good call, as it got a little more crowded later on (but not uncomfortably so). They have all of the usual amenities you would expect from a day spa – robes and slippers, a relaxation room, pool, hot tub, sauna all of which were perfect. The relaxation room was kind of small though, with only 4 loungers. In saying that, I was always able to nab one when I wanted it so it wasn’t an issue.

The relaxation room is always my favourite part of a spa. As soon as I sick down onto the lounger, and drape the blanket over me I can almost physically feel the stress draining away from my muscles. It’s magical. I’m a bit of an introvert as well so I love just sitting there, not needing to talk, just thinking and staring off into space.

And then of course you have the all the free beverages and snacks – herbal teas (ever try rooibos and coconut – yum), fruit and then if you’re feeling especially naughty- chocolate almonds and trail mix. And before you ask, no I did not go there. My ‘indulgence’ of choice was some dried fruit. I had a huge dried pear. Party. Girl.

Our healthy lunch was then served out on the balcony with a lovely view of the city. All of the lunch options were pretty much healthy. Even the ‘sandwich’, where they had replaced the bread with turkey slices.

It was such a lovely day and I left feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and balanced.

And then our afternoon took a slightly kookier, kinkier turn with a decision to check out the Folsom Street Fair. This is not your average family, street fair! You will not find any cotton candy, face painters or quaint singer songwriters. I’m not going to elaborate, but there was a lot of leather. And whips.

This was such a ‘San Francisco’ event to witness – a group of people openly and unabashedly indulging in what makes them happy. Leave your prejudices (and pretty much most of your clothes) at the door. I stuck out like a sore thumb, with Irish Catholic school girl written all over my slack-jawed face, despite my attempt at nonchalance. We left pretty quickly needless to say, wishing them all well with their leather-clad endeavors!

Just your usual San Francisco weekend really.


NOTE: After the spa we went to Tartine, a renowned San Francisco bakery, for a snack. This place is amazing for baked goods and of course constantly has lines out the door. Their lemon cream tart was recently listed as one of the top 50 treats to eat before you die. I am happy to tell you I did not have anything. I had a cup of tea and only drooled a small amount while the others tucked in.

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  • Breakfast: 3/4 small pot of low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 banana, 4 strawberries, 6 pecans, 1 tbsp chia seeds, large coffee with milk
  • Snack: Pear and some dried fruit
  • Lunch: Salade Nicoise, coffee with milk
  • Snack: Dried fruit
  • Dinner: Wholegrain pasta, with left-over meat loaf and a green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, 1 sml glass of wine

Days 21-23: MIA- most likely found in the granola aisle

As you can most likely infer from the title of this post the past few days have been rough. So rough I haven’t been able to face blogging about them. And the lack of blogging, or rather the lack of full disclosure to the masses, most likely exacerbated the issue. If I had come clean, and faced the shame on day 21, I would have probably been able to bring myself back from the brink, instead of spiraling into the darkness… The nutty, oaty, cranberry-y darkness.

So, can you guess what caused this tremendous flying leap off the wagon?


Yes, granola.

I can hear you all sigh at your screens as you read this. ‘I knew this would happen. The way she talked about granola in the last post seemed slightly manic. Hysterical almost. A lady on the edge.’

And all I can say is you were right, how very astute of you, well done. Just, the next time, make sure you intervene, k? Wrestle the box out of my hands, if needs be. (It will probably be needed.)

So, what happened exactly?

I would say that over the past 3 days I’ve actually been 75% healthy. Lots of veg, lean protein, healthy fat. Exactly what the magazines tell you.

But the other 25%? I’ll give you the showreel- granola after dinner, granola for breakfast one day, granola as an afternoon snack, pasta (!) and eating ice cream out of the carton standing at the freezer (only one spoonful but it’s kind of the defining moment of those 3 days of madness).

I think the worst thing about this period was the feeling that I was out of control, that I couldn’t say no to the badness, that the granola had complete power over me. And then of course, there were the feelings of guilt and loathing. The beating myself up and telling myself I was a terrible person with no will power, who had just failed the 100 day challenge.

Needless to say they were some dark times, food wise.

But, I am happy to say I am back on track and committed one again to my 100 Healthy Days.

What helped me? Some words of wisdom from my roommate Venessa.

‘Have you ever thought about telling yourself nothing is off-limits?’ She asked.

‘Interesting question.’ I replied. ‘Never. That would just open the flood gates. I would be having carb fests morning, noon and night.’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘think about this. If you say to yourself there is no way in hell you can have that granola, all you’ll do is obsess about it and then eat the whole box.’

I nodded emphatically.

She continued ‘If you tell yourself instead, you can have a quarter of a cup of granola today, if you’re craving it, and then you can have another quarter of a cup the next day if you still want it, you kind of remove that sense of deprivation. And also the obsession.’

You know what, what Venessa said to me just made sense! And it allowed me to get back on track, almost immediately, funnily enough. Without wanting any more granola. It’s like the desire has been neutralised.

Funny how the mind works. You always want what you can’t have.

So, the next time I have an intense craving, I’m going to remember Venessa’s words and just have a tiny bit, with the thought that it’s there for me if I want it later. And I’m just going to focus on eating food that makes me feel good. Ie healthy stuff!

I’m not saying this is the end of my struggles, but it’s food for thought, and thought for food. (Haha dork).

And I’m now back in the saddle! Roll on Day 24!

Day 19: The perils of too much coffee

  • Snack: 10 almonds
  • Exercise: 45 mins spin class
  • Breakfast: Eggs (scrambled), chia seeds, steamed kale, strawberries, lrg coffee x 2
  • Lunch: Mixed salad with veggies, chicken and avocado and balsamic vinegar
  • Snack: Granola and banana and chocolate covered blueberries
  • Dinner: BURGER…with a BUN

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So, today I kind of fell of the wagon. Not only did I have granola (and it was a large bowl, I’m not going to lie),  I also got a burger with a bun for dinner. Granola and hamburger s with buns are not foods that should feature in a healthy eating plan – apart from as a treat. And today should not have been a treat day.

So annoying!!

But, the one positive I can take from this experience, is that I kind of understand why it happened , which hopefully means I can prevent it in the future.

My theory is that the two large cups of coffee I had with breakfast (as well as the strawberries) wreaked havoc on my blood sugar levels. After drinking the coffees I felt on edge and restless all day-  just not satisfied. After lunch I still felt like I wanted more food, even though I wasn’t hungry. And then, when I walked past the cereal at around 3pm it was like an invisible force dragged me over to the counter, made me get out a bowl and go to town on the granola. OK,  I’m being over-dramatic, but normally I can avoid the cereal no problem. I JUST NEEDED THAT GRANOLA.

And then of course I needed chocolate covered blueberries and a hamburger.

Does anyone else get like this after too much coffee?

Biggest lesson here for me is that I need to be careful with what I eat and drink in the morning- avoid too much coffee and too much fruit and make sure you’re well hydrated.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the bus on way to work on Day 20 and I know I’m de-hydrated and looking for a coffee. Fingers crossed I can get it together later!


Day 18: Dolores Park life

Breakfast: Low fat natural yogurt, raspberries, red grapes, 6 pecans, cinnamon, coffee with milk
Snack: banana
Lunch: Vietnamese chicken salad (grilled chicken with cabbage, carrots, pickled onions, peanuts), kale smoothie made with almond milk and almond butter. All from Delores Park Cafe (really tasty).
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Chicken with tomato ratatouille, cherry tomatoes, red grapes


The summers in San Francisco are not the best. It’s cold and foggy and you’re more likely to be investing in a sensible Northface fleece than a cute pair of shorts. The fog is kind of cool to see though- it rolls in over the city like a wave and hovers so low you feel like you could touch it. The San Franciscans have become so acquainted with it they’ve even given it a name. Meet Karl the Fog. It’s a definitely a love-hate relationship.

Anyway, SF summers kind of suck (which is a lot for an Irish person to say) but the SF fall can be spectacular- like this weekend! It was so hot, but with a light breeze so very pleasant indeed. I love the sun!!

If you’re staying in the city there’s really only one thing to do when the weather is nice- hit up a park. And my park of choice is Dolores Park. Not only is it in my hood, but it’s the most fun in my opinion, even with half of it under construction as it is now. It’s chock-a-block with people, dogs (sometimes cats), babies, birthday parties, acrobatics, hippies doing hippy things, hippies selling hippy things (like things 😉 ) and…people kicking back and drinking.

Beers in the sun, in a park. Is there anything nicer?

Before heading over to meet my friends I tried to steel myself against the lures of Delores Park by reminding myself of my goals, blah blah blah.

But as soon as we sat down and someone mentioned getting beers my resolve began to waver and the internal battle commenced.

‘Well maybe one, tiny, light beer won’t hurt.’ ‘

‘That skinny girl over there is drinking beer, how bad could it be.’

‘Drinking in the sun burns off calories immediately.’

And so on.

It wasn’t until another friend Katie refused the offer of beer in favor of coffee that I was able to calm the inner voice and say no myself.

And the good news is I still had a good time. Parks are fun without the drinking.

But it just goes to show that while I have won a few battles on behalf of healthy eating, the war with my old habits had yet to be won.

In other news, I got a hair cut today as well. It was really needed! Thanks Henrik, magic work!


Day 15: Reflections and Refocusing

  • Breakfast: Low fat natural yoghurt, bee pollen, flax seeds, tsp dried cranberries, apple
  • Exercise: 30 mins PT
  • Snack: Acai bowl (frozen blended acai, bananas, strawberries, shredded coconut)
  • Lunch: Mixed salad with plain tune
  • Snack: Half carton of low-fat cottage cheese, crudites
  • Dinner: Mediterranean chicken (chicken with homemade tomato sauce and zucchini, peppers, onions and mushrooms) with mixed salad and avocado
  • Dessert: What I didn’t have was some of the Mitchell’s ice cream my parents bought. BOOM.
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The acai bowl is more of a cup really. False advertising.

I am now in my 3rd week of my 100 Healthy Days in SF challenge – where did the time go?!?

This has prompted me to do some thinking and reflecting on how the challenge has gone to date and what I want to focus on for the next while.

Biggest learning for me has probably been that it’s not just a matter of saying you want to change a behaviour and relying on sheer will power to get you there. Yes, will power plays a part, obviously, and the more you practice using it, the easier it gets. It’s like a muscle, don’t ya know.

But I think you also need to think about pro-active, intervention strategies as well. Bad habits take a while to form and they can be steadfastly entrenched in your day-to-day life. It’s going to take some effort and planning to get rid of them.

So, one of my big focuses over the next while is to plan ahead and be prepared to meet the various challenges head on.

The second biggest learning is around FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This will happen a lot!! You see someone else happily drinking a margarita in the sunshine of a Friday evening, or ooo-ing and ahhh-ing and smacking their lips over an ice-cream and a little voice inside your head screams ‘THAT SHOULD BE ME! I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY! HAPPINESS IS NOT FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF A BAG OF STUPID CARROTS.’

What I’ve learned is that it takes a lot of shouting back at that inner-voice to get him to shut up. You need to constantly remind him it’s all for the greater good, that this is a new way of living, that carrots are tasty in their own way and that the person who appears to be having such an amazing time eating or drinking may not actually be enjoying themselves that much. (Although I’m pretty sure the people eating Mitchell’s ice cream are having an amazing time).

Funny note – my mother is obsessed with the phrase FOMO. She laughs every time she hears it and has started saying it as well. I’m trying to get her to start saying YOLO as well. That would make me LOL.

The third part of my reflections are around exercise. I haven’t been doing nearly enough. Partly because my parents are over and partly for no reason at all. Laziness most likely. So the next few weeks will focus on getting my sweat on!

Last note for today – do you know how to pronounce acai? I did not. Apparently it’s pronouced ah-sigh-ee. Morto for me, I was pronouncing it A-Kigh. Oh how the Californians must have laughed at me.

Day 14: The Take-Out Challenge

  • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and egg whites, steamed kale with enochi mushrooms, watermelon and strawberries
  • Lunch: Mixed salad, grilled chicken, hummus, olives, berries (try berries or any fruit in your salad – may seem odd but it’s yum! Kudos to my friend Ly for bringing this into my life)
  • Snack: Sugar snaps, cherry tomatoes and walnuts
  • Dinner: Prawn salad (spring grees, cooked prawns, roasted red peppers, mango, avocado, queso fresco) from The Liitle Chihuahua
It's a veritable, vegetable fiesta!

It’s a veritable, vegetable fiesta!

I did it, I did it!!!!!! I passed one of the 100 Healthy Days in SF challenges!!!

Note- these are not necessarily challenges I devised at the beginning of my 100 healthy days, but rather events that occur during every day life that I know will be difficult to navigate without going mad with the food. It turns out there are many! And we haven’t even hit any kind of holiday, first date, monthly emotional roller-coaster or bad hair day challenges yet.

San Francisco does great Mexican food, it’s a fact. Maybe even THE BEST, if you put any faith into the ‘America’s Best Burrito’ contest, which La Taqueria, in the Mission, recently won. Mexican wave for you guys!

As such, I wanted my parents to experience it. We don’t have great Mexican restaurants in Ireland. The food tends to be of the Tex-Mex variety and you don’t even get free tortilla chips. I knew we would be lining up for a year if we wanted to get into La Taqueria post-award so I suggested we try The Little Chihuahua in Noe Valley. This is also great food – really fresh ingredients from sources that use sustainable farming. They were a bit too wrecked from all the sightseeing and shopping so we decided to get a take-out.

Take-outs are normally a nightmare for people eating healthfully – you get FOMO, there are typically no real healthy options, you’re normally starved by the time the food comes so you end up eating way more than you should.

BUT good sense prevailed and I went for the Tostada salad. I left behind the tostada (basically deep-fried carb of some sort) and halved the portion (it was HUGE). I also politely declined the free tortilla chips, much to the delight of my parents. SUCCESS.

I think a lot of it had to do with keeping well hydrated during the day and having a really healthy, veg filled snack late in the afternoon.

Regardless, this has given me a much-needed confidence boost. I know it is possible to make the right choice! Bring on the next challenge! (I’m not looking forward to the bar hair day one though. It can get emotional).

Note – I ordered the take-out from trycaviar.com. The site is great, easy to use, and they seem to have much better restaurants than grubhub.com.

Day 13: Spotlight on breakfast cereal

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and egg whites, steamed kales, chia seeds, raw celery, tomatoes
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT session (leg day)
  • Lunch: Mixed salad, with grilled chicken and avocado, apple cider vinegar
  • Dinner: Brown rice and spicy eggplant with shrimp and chicken
  • Snack: Almond brittle
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I didn’t photograph the almond brittle. It was only a tiny piece!

I read a really interesting article today from The New York Times, about the decline in cereal sales over the past decade. The reason cited are varied- millennials are too busy to sit down and eat meals in general so are ‘snacking’ instead (not this millenial!); people went crazy for bagels for a while; the number of breakfast options available in the marketplace are growing so people are branching out; and lastly people are becoming a lot more health conscious and don’t want to eat unhealthy food.

About 2 years ago I started seeing a personal trainer in Dublin (howya Gordon!) and one of his most important pieces of advice to me was to fix the breakfasts- ditch the sugary, processed cereals and concentrate on eating protein. Not only is it better for you from a nutritional standpoint, it will also help to balance your blood sugars for the day so you’re not craving the bad stuff.

I cried a little when I heard that.

Cereal and I – we go way back. Some of my most fond memories relate to cereal – my gran sprinkling on the sugar for me when we vactaioned with her in Italy, being so excited to eat Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms when we went back to visit Canada. I would happily eat cereal at all times of the day – it’s carby and comforting. Carbforting – does that work?!

But, based on his advice I did it, I quit cereal! Even the ‘healthy’ muesli I had convinced myself was OK. Instead I started eating eggs, smoked salmon and even smoked mackerel (there was a small bit of gagging the first time)!

I stopped short at eating chicken for breakfast, which is what his recommendation was. I think I nearly threw a dumbbell at him when he suggested it. Chicken!

And, you know what – I feel great for it and it’s one of the healthy habits I’ve managed to keep up. I rarely get sugar cravings, and I don’t feel hungry until lunch time. So great, it’s a healthy habit I’ve managed to keep up. I can safely say that my breakfasts are 99% clean. (Don’t you dare throw those Day 11 pancakes back in my face). 

Note, I actually also try to avoid fruit sugars at breakfast, where possible. Even having too much fruit has an effect on my blood sugars (ie sugar craving).

Try it! And tell me if you have any good breakfast recommendations that don’t involve eggs. I eat them a bit too regularly.

The cereal selection in work. You have no power over me, cereal!

The cereal selection in work. You have no power over me, cereal!

One of the breakfast options I want to try is this. It looks soooo good!

Avocado with eggs. Yum!

Avocado with eggs. Yum!

Day 12: Getting back on track

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and egg whites, chia seeds, sauteed escarole, raw red peppers, coffee with milk
  • Snack: Strawberries
  • Lunch: Salad with chicken and avocado, apple cider vinegar, coffee with milk
  • Snack: 6 almonds, half a carton of Chobani greek yogurt
  • Dandelion and nettle tea
  • Dinner: Brown rice, with chicken, stir-fired veg and Thai curry sauce from a jar
  • (Dessert: Gluten Free Banana Bread. If I put it in brackets and italicise it, it means it never happened, right?)
  • Exercise: zzzzzzzzzzzz

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After my carb/sugar/alocohol-fueled weekend of debauchery, Day 12 was all about trying to get back on the healthy buzz – both mentally and physically. 

I was still utterly exhausted from Saturday night. I’ve started to notice this recently – it takes around 2 days to recover from a big night out. Not worth it.

Thankfully, at my place of work, healthy food is always at hand, which makes this challenge so much easier. We have an amazing cafe, with fresh veg, fruit, eggs, salads etc. I am so incredibly thankful for this. I think if I was left entirely to my own devices today I would have been too exhausted to prepare anything healthy and I would have definitely indulged (more than I did) in a ready-made sandwich or pastry. But, I was able to easily grab some good food.

However, when I got back from work I did cave and I had carbs (and gluten-free banana bread). They were clean, brown carbs though so not entirely bad (unlike the gluten-free banana bread, which was also laced with chocolate chips FYI).

Lesson learned- have healthy stuff to hand at all times for those days when exhaustion takes over. In the real world, when there’s not a handy cafe, this probably means doing some prep work in advance. I need to work on this.

One good thing I did today was to drink lots and lots of dandelion and nettle tea. These teas are great for detoxing.

In SF news, I saw this really cute dog today. Everyone in SF has a dog. Even the dogs have pet dogs. I would love a dog.



Day 11: The Hangover Challenge

Food: Bad all day, I don’t wanna talk about it. Suffice to say pancakes were involved (from the delightful Chole’s Cafe in Noe Valley.)

the fear


Of course, failing the ‘Pre-gaming, night out challenge‘ meant I was battling an additional challenge on Day 11.

The Hangover Challenge.

Question – is it possible for anyone to pass the hangover challenge? I would say it’s only possible if you’re too sick to eat. At least you force yourself into a calorie deficit. Healthy, right? Emmm.

No need to elaborate on the details of how I failed this challenge, you’ve all been there.

My coping mechanism for this going forward is to not fail the fecking challenge the night before.

Orrrrr, if disaster does strike again, I found these interesting tips from one of my fave sites mindbodygreen.com on how to get over a hangover the healthy way!

  1. Coconut water (agreed – if you can stomach it.)
  2. Regular water (obvious, but get as much down as possible, just force yourself!)
  3. Asparagus (!?!)
  4. Yoga (My friend Marie is a huge fan of this!)
  5. I’ve also heard watermelon has all the vitamins you need to cure a hangover.

Or just getting a hug from your mama or loved ones helps. That’s what I did.

We also went for a mani pedi in Noe Valley. I was very pleased with the job the Rainbow Nail Spa did! 


This may, or may not, have been my hangover breakfast.

Mama enjoying her mani-pedi

Mama enjoying her mani-pedi


My friend Marie doing hangover yoga.

My friend Marie doing hangover yoga.