Tag Archives: wellness in San Francisco

Day 7: Working those calves on Bernal Hill

San Francisco loves a hill. And San Francisco adores a steep hill. So much so that my roommate Venessa specifically warned me that my calves were going to explode, hulk-style, as a result of walking around – pointing out her own monster calves as an example. (FYI they’re tiny, dainty little things). Risk of monster calves aside there’s no denying that a walk around your typical SF neighborhood will provide you with a satisfactory burn in the legs.

If Ryan's OK with it, then so am I

If it’s good enough for Ryan, it’s good enough for me

One of the hills near me is the beautiful Bernal Heights Hill. If you can believe it, I’ve lived in my house for 8 months now and I can see Bernal from our deck, but I’ve never actually made it up. Ridiculous! My new year’s resolution is to get outdoors more so I decided to take myself up there for a nice walk with my other roommate Lysbet.

The walk itself is very short – it probably only took us 15/20 minutes to get up to the top. But most of it is vertical with lots of stairs so you get a lot of bang for your buck. If I had been taking the outing seriously as a workout, I probably would have run it. As it was, I was just happy to get out in the warm, Californian sunshine and take in the view. My calves did burn though!! I’ll run it the next time…

The view from the summit is spectacular – on a clear day you get a 360 view of the city. It was fun trying to pick out our fave spots. One thing I also noticed was that there were so many more green areas that I didn’t even know existed. Plenty more exploring to be done obviously!

A lot of people had the same idea as we did – we were joined by a lot of dog walkers and couples having magic moments. Bernal Hill is an amazing place to either pledge your undying love to someone or decide to go your separate ways.

The walk home was fun as well. One thing I love about SF is that they put such effort into making public spaces pretty and interesting. There were so many cute little look-out points and even a slide in lieu of some stairs (see video!). A simple walk around the block can turn into a mini adventure.

It was a lovely day indeed and it’s made me realise that I need to get out exploring more. Any San Franciscans know of any other hills/green areas/fun places to explore in the city?

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Video of Lysbet and I going down the slide.

Such lovely views!

Such lovely views!

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Today was a good day. My one slight slip was another trip to Toast. I’m obsessed. My new favourite activity is to go early by myself and people watch. No major exercise – just the walk up Bernal. Great to get some fresh air though and to get your body moving.

Food and exercise

  • Breakfast: Scramble with bacon and avocado, fruit salad, half an English muffin
  • Exercise: Walk up Bernal Heights Hill
  • Lunch: Salad from Wholefoods with prawns
  • Dinner: Vegan Tamale
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Day 5: Friday Night Syndrome

What is it about Friday nights? You spend the first part of the week being so healthy you could be the pin-up in a juice bar, only for the clock to strike 4 on a Friday and your resolve crumbles faster than a full fat chocolate chip cookie. Friday. Night. Syndrome.

The typical Friday night conversation

The typical Friday night conversation

Friday nights are my Achilles heel. My way of unwinding after a long, hard week of working is to go out, meet some friends and chit-chat over good food and some sort of alcoholic beverage. If I just went home and watched TV I would feel cheated and probably spend the night crying into my broiled white fish and broccoli supper. That’s what Sunday through Thursday is for!

So, realistically I’m not going to give up my Friday night socialising – I just need to find a way to healthify it.

The plan this Friday was to go to Zeitgeist in the Mission for a few drinks and then on to Burma Love, which just opened recently. Perfect I thought, planning it all out in my head – I’ll have no more than two vodka tonics at happy hour, before heading to the restaurant where I would opt for the healthiest option on the menu and then head home at a reasonable hour and get the requisite 8 hours sleep. HEALTH MASTER!

Emmmm…didn’t quite pan out that way. The primary cause – I forgot how ridiculously strong the drinks are in the States. They’re even stronger when you engage in a bit of friendly, Friday night flirting with the bartender. So, my first vodka-tonic was most likely worth three normal (Irish) ones. And this tickled me pink enough to order two more. And then of course, the banter with the friends got even better, so food was forgotten about until around 10. We actually did end up going to Burma Love, but were tipsy enough and starving enough to order the slightly less than healthy option…with a side of wine.

So, not an amazingly healthy night, but also, not a complete disaster. A disaster would have been to drink beer rather than vodka tonics and then not eat until midnight when you stop and get a burrito. This kind of disaster has struck before.

I’m not quite sure how to cure myself of Friday Night Syndrome though. Maybe buddy up with a fellow health warrior and only do rounds of drinks with them? Any tips or strategies out there?

A note on Zeitgeist and Burma Love. It was my first time at both and I had a blast.

Zeitgeist is a fun dive bar, with a great outdoor area and lots of benches. Not too many annoying hipsters either. If you’re not trying to be healthy they have a BBQ pit as well where you can get some burgers.

Burma Love was great as well. I had never had Burmese food prior to coming to San Francisco, but now tea leaf salad is one of my favorite dishes. As with most restaurants worth going to in the city you need a reservation. We got lucky and got a table with no reso!

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Despite a relatively un-healthy ending to the day it started quite well, with lots of fresh, whole foods. No exercise though. I was still exhausted and knew I’d be doing Barry’s Bootcamp on Saturday so I decided not to push it. Outside of food and exercise the other healthy thing was chilling out with friends and laughing. Food for the soul, so it is!

Food and exercise

No pictures of my lunch, drinks or dinner so you get a selfie instead

No pictures of my lunch, drinks or dinner so you get a selfie instead

  • Snack: Green Juice from Thistle (ordered the night before)
  • Breakfast: Kefir with berries (AMAZING)
  • Lunch: Salad with chicken, edamame beans and a slice of rye bread (bold, bold, bold)
  • Snack: Sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, large handful of walnuts
  • Drinks: 3 (large) vodka tonics with a splash of cranberry
  • Dinner: Green tea salad (split by three people) Tablespoon of a chicken/noodle dish, 2 tablespoons brown rice, eggplant prawn dish (YUM) and one large glass of wine

Day 4: Exhausted, but a healthy SF take out saves the day!

Day 4 and I’ve been slammed by a wave of exhaustion. Naively, I had convinced myself that I would be able to cheat jet lag, bounce and frolick my way back into a healthy, daily routine, go to my 8 exercise classes and cook balanced meals from scratch. Hah!

Turns out I’m not quite the super-food cooking superhero just yet.

Instead, I’m more like this.

I love this crazy looking creature.

I love this crazy looking creature.

I’ve gone through similar periods of exhaustion in the past, so I’m all too familiar with the havoc this can wreak upon a healthy living resolution. In an effort to simply keep your eyes open, all you want to do is to eat carby, sugary, starchy, fatty (DELICIOUS) food- and the last thing you want to do is to cook it. Inevitably, this leads to a stop at the local burrito place on the way home from work or a sneaky take out that usually involves pizza.

I am extraordinarily happy to report that good sense and and great health prevailed in this instance. Whilst I did order take-out it was of the very healthy variety. Actually, scratch that, it was of the very, very healthy variety. And it doesn’t get much better than very, very healthy.

Enter Thistle – the pioneers (in my mind – maybe there are others?) of genuinely healthy fast food. I’ve been using them for a while now. They have a variety of healthy, vegetarian dishes that you can order online and have delivered to your doorstep in 30 minutes (or less, more often than not). The dishes always provide a balance of veg, healthy carbs, fat and protein. Honestly speaking, I always feel 100% satisfied afterwards, and never want anything else after.

Jaysus, this sounds like it’s a commercial, but it’s not, I promise.

My dish of choice was the Power Bowl – steamed quinoa, marinated kale, mashed sweet potato, black beans, carrots, housemade kimchi, sunflower seeds, and tahini sauce. I also got the Snow drink (almond milk with peppermint) and I got the Verdance green juice for the following morning.

Thistle is great if you need a quick fix, but in the future I plan to have a freezer-load of healthy meals on hand, ready to defrost when the need hits.

But I’ll get to that when i’m less tired…

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Whilst I did a good job on the eating front, exercise failed miserably. I had signed up for two exercise classes, canceled them, asked some friends if they wanted to go for a walk, canceled that and then ended up on the couch for the night. But you know what – needs must and sometimes you just need to listen to your body.

Food and exercise:

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs (whole and whites), kale, two large coffees with milk
  • Lunch: Salad, with fresh veg, chicken and some fried plantain (healthy? Probs not…but only a small bit), sprinkle nuts and seeds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Chobani Greek yogurt and handful almonds
  • Dinner: See above
  • Exercise: channel surfing…

Day 3: Sweating the holidays out with Bikram Yoga in the Mission

During some kind of a jet-lagged fueled, manic episode I decided to sign up to no less than 8 exercise classes this week. One of these being Bikram Yoga. No better way to rid yourself of your holiday demons than sweating them out of you.

yoga meme

My friend Katie, suggested we check out the Bikram Yoga class at Mission Yoga in San Francisco. We managed to get an amazing deal on Groupon – 25 classes for $108. Score! (There’s also still time remaining to get the deal FYI).

This wasn’t my first time doing Bikram, thankfully. I used to do it quite regularly while living in Dublin and I loved it. I think if it had been my first time, I would have suffered even more than I did.

For those of you who refuse to call something a workout unless it involves lifting serious lbs or sprinting 5 miles – let me enlighten you. Bikram Yoga is not for wimps. It’s badass. I find that it gets my heart racing as much as a hill run or a round of wall balls . The class consists of a continuous flow of 26 postures in 40 °C (104 °F) heat with a humidity of 40% for 90 badass minutes. That’s right…badass.

More often than not it’s the heat and humidity that’s the most difficult part of the class. It gets hot! And the postures themselves can be pretty challenging. There’s contorting, squatting and oodles of balancing postures. For those of you who know me you’ll know I don’t do balancing that well. I sometimes fall down even when standing still.

This all being said, Bikram Yog is still totally do-able and accessible to everyone, regardless of fitness level. You’re encouraged to take it at your own speed and sit down whenever you want. I spent half of my first few classes sitting on the mat.

In addition to the physicality I find that there’s something that happens to you on an emotional level when you practice Bikram. Bear with me. My friend Marie used to tell me that she found it to be amazing for unlocking pent up emotions. Sure enough, at the end of the class as we were lying in the dark in the savasana pose I could feel the tears pricking my eyes for no reason at all. It wasn’t a bad thing necessarily – I felt like something had been dislodged, emotionally speaking. Strange…

Anyway, suffice to say I thought the class was great and I’ll definitely be going back again. I really want to get better at it! I want to be the teachers pet, and be the one to hear ‘You there in the back, that’s the best tree pose I’ve seen this side of India.’

Like I said – lofty goals this year.

In other yoga related news I just saw they’re running a weed-fueled yoga class in SOMA on Wednesdays. This is so San Francisco, it hurts! Something to put on the bucket list I think.

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Today was again quite a good day for healthy living. I managed to eat healthfully and do two exercise classes. I did have a brief moment though, as I was eating my raw vegetable snack, when I thought I couldn’t stomach any more veg. But I persevered! 3 good days so far – not bad!

Food and exercise

Photo Collage Maker_jkzzSt

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Snack: Small handful walnuts
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and Kale, 2 large coffees
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT
  • Lunch: Salad with veg, chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Raw veg with lemon hummus
  • Exercise: 90 (badass) mins of Bikram Yoga
  • Snack: Handful pecans
  • Dinner: White fish, green beans, half an avocado

 

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

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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

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!!