To Think Or Not To Think

Do you guys ever wake up feeling like a lump of trash? Groggy, sore, and possibly sick? Well that was me this morning. There was really no explanation for it besides going to bed too late and training legs really hard yesterday. 

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Not sure what I was doing at the Colosseum but I definitely wasn’t as distressed as it appears in the photo…

But then I recalled thinking to myself yesterday, “Wow, I haven’t been sick in a long time!” And it occurred to me—our brains are WAY more connected to our bodies than we think, so I probably brought this upon myself.

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I always feel like my mind and body are in synch at the beach. Especially Barcelona beaches!!

Of course, lack of sleep and overtraining can weaken the immune system but I’m convinced that our thoughts can too. After all, stress is directly connected to our nervous system and can even cause terrible digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, along with tons of other health problems.

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A castle in Lisbon, Portugal

If that is true, what’s to stop us from thinking our thought patterns can’t predict our physical health? In the wise words of my mother (When telling her about the sickness coincidence), “Don’t think about it in the future.”

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Trevi Fountain, Rome. Definitely not thinking about sickness here!

 

Progress Is Progress!

“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” -Khalil Gibran

Processed with VSCO with a1 presetI gotta be totally honest. I did not start off this morning in a good mood. Today was my weekly check-in where I weigh myself once a week and take a couple of progress pictures. I was not pleasantly surprised. I was up .5 lbs (after maintaining my weight the first two weeks and lowering my calories after the first week). The reason this is so frustrating is because when you start a health journey you want to see results. You are working hard to do everything right–get adequate sleep, go hard in your workouts, measure your foods to the gram. So when you see no outcome your mind turns pretty negative. “What’s the point?” “You’ll never get there” “This is impossible” “This is going to take SO long” are phrases that come to mind. I can really get down on myself, questioning the process and being tempted to resort to my old ways of restricting extremely which then so directly leads to binge eating behaviors.

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But then, I stop myself. I took a class called Positive Psychology in Denmark. My incredible professor preached positive psychology techniques, one of which being gratitude, another one being finding the positive or silver lining in any situation (which may seem obvious but when is the last time you actually tried it?). We as humans are incredibly resilient. When we flip the narrative from negative to positive, it creates a whole flood of other happy thoughts along with it. I started to take a closer look. I have not binged (or had the urge to binge) in a month now. This used to be a bi-weekly occurrence and at its worst a daily one. This is momentous because one binge-eating session can set me back at least a week in my progress goals (and mentally–you really start to lose trust in yourself). I thought some more and realized these first few weeks are experimental, figuring out the greatest number of calories I can eat for weight loss. This is not a get thin quick scheme. What I wanted in the first place was to find a process that would bring me lasting results. Then I thought some more. I have been working out 6 days a week for the past 3 weeks, with 5 strength training sessions and 3-4 cardio sessions. I have noticed visible muscle gains in my body and I am already feeling stronger. My progress photos show definite results, even if they seem minimal. It is rare that I have had anything more than mild hunger and I am energized throughout the day. I really have nothing to complain about. Yes, I have a little more work to do figuring out the right recipe for me. But I am on the right track and I am on the cusp of some great progress.

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The point is, when the results seem slow or nonexistent, look a little closer. Find something bright to latch onto and grasp it hard–let the positivity flow over you and throughout you. With this newfound positivity, hold your head high and forge ahead. Quit measuring yourself against others and especially against yourself. Do the work, tweak, work some more, and the results will eventually come. I believe in that.

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Should I Track My Food?

There are two types of people:

  1. Those who thrive with spontaneous food choices
  2. Those who thrive when they plan their food ahead of time

These two types of people are like the difference between introverts and extroverts. Extroverts will never fully understand introverts and vice versa. I was sitting at the dinner table with some family recently and they wanted to know how I eat. I was not eating the layered (and delicious smelling) chicken, mozzarella, with tomatoes everyone else was having for a few reasons, one being that I don’t eat meat and the second being that I am working with my trainer to figure out the ideal macros for my body right now. I tried to explain to them that that takes utmost consistency because if you are not consistent you will never figure out what works. The variables need to be held constant, just like in 8th grade science class.

I then realized, based on their reactions, that what I was saying was probably relatable to one person at the table, and totally foreign to the other two. One was the intuitive eating type (something I greatly admire) and one was the social, pleasure eating type. Of course, I wish I could be the pleasure eating kind of person. I would save so much time, thought, and effort that could be invested elsewhere in my life. However, I have become some kind of expert when it comes to accepting and handling the fact that my body does not work that way. Usually when I relax on the food tracking my body fat percentage skyrockets from the hidden oils, dressings, etc. This is one reason I developed such an interest in health and fitness. It was out of necessity, but soon became a passion. I was spending so much time manipulating the foods that I ate that it became more and more interesting when I would see results.

It all boils down to your values. Because I grew up as a figure skater, I spent my childhood in a body in great physical condition. I really believe that your physical health and satisfaction with your shell is a huge part of the foundation to your happiness. That is why when people undergo a large weight loss transformation they are often happier with a whole new and positive demeanor. When I started gaining weight in college my body did not feel like my own anymore. I despised this feeling, especially because it deterred me from doing what I love–figure skating. I came to the realization that when I go out to eat with friends or pass a fast food restaurant I no longer WANT to eat the unhealthy food. I don’t crave it or desire it because I know that it will make me feel terrible 23.5 hours out of the day. It is not a matter of willpower. It’s a matter of being honest with yourself. However, that is so very hard to explain to someone who doesn’t share the same past and experiences. It can come off like you’re talking down to them when you really just have true intentions. What I have come to realize is that food is a personal choice and you know yourself best. If one of your friends passes up an ice cream cone don’t take it personally, or compare your choices to theirs. They may just be thinking prioritizing their next 12 hours of the day over their next 12 minutes of pleasure because that makes them the happiest. But that doesn’t mean skipping the ice cream cone will maximize your personal happiness too!
Here is a photo of my pre-workout smoothie with banana and almond butter! Yummy!

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Breaking Up With HIIT For A Bit

Update on me! I returned from Denmark and a three week trip around Europe about 5 weeks ago, took a summer Anatomy & Physiology course, and now I am ready to get back to BUSINESS with my blog and wellness adventures 🙂

I have always loved doing little experiments on myself relating to health and fitness. It’s a huge reason why I pursued an exercise science major. Part of it was out of necessity—as A figure skater I had to figure out a way to get lean in order to perform well in my sport. But part of it was out of curiosity, too. I am fascinated with the fact that we have the power to shape and manipulate our bodies to points we never would have dreamed of. Yes, genetics play a large part in where you hold your body fat, how fast you lose weight, how easily you gain muscle, where you gain weight, etc, but your lifestyle choices HUGELY affect your body fat percentage. Over the years I’ve learned a lot of the things I did intuitively really helped me reach my goals (intermittent fasting, learning the importance of consistency but also changing ingredients up). However, I’ve also made a ton of mistakes and wreaked havoc on my metabolism. Having always executed my little “experiments” on my own, and finally reaching a point where I’m fed up with all of the conflicting health info out there, I decided to finally look to what works and get a coach. I’ve always been engrossed in the bodybuilding community and the sculpted athletes involved in the sport. Even if I never compete, I decided I want to push my body to achieve the same strength as figure competitors. So this time I hired a coach to guide me through the process. I’ve done extensive online research but nothing is quite the same as having a real person available to answer all of your questions, and I am glad to gain more knowledge of health and fitness through such a different lens. Not only is it nice to have the moral support of someone who has achieved results before rooting for you, but it is also important to have that person as a constant reminder that I’m not alone in this journey. I have been flying solo for long enough.

I have also avoided the strength training trend for long enough. I have always been someone who puts on muscle pretty easily (my figure skating coach once told my mom I should be a bodybuilder—haha) but growing up as a figure skater I was pressured to achieve that lean look. Well, now according to widespread fitness advice on social media, a lean, sculpted, and badass aesthetic is achievable through lifting heavy. This is the exact opposite of what my skating coaches used to tell me. The feelings I hold towards the media for telling women we have to work out differently than men to achieve the results we want is another whole blog post (or should I say rant) in itself so…I’ll save that for later. Of course, living for health experiments, I have to find out for myself if these Instagram transformations are another marketing scheme or the real deal (I think I know the answer to that). So I have decided to fully commit myself to the Lifting Life and see what happens.

Rather than waiting until i have achieved optimal results, I am going to share my journey as I go, something that i have not seen done often besides the awesome vegan YouTuber High Carb Hannah. This is the ultimate way to put myself out there and share my journey but it is totally honest, so it it works you’ll know it’s real! If I have craved one thing when doing research it is to follow someone along as they execute major changes in their lifestyle which is what I plan to do with the help of my coach, a specialist in competitive bodybuilding and muscle hypertrophy. If you are sick of seeing just the before and after success stories with anecdotes of the actual process, follow my journey through Youtube, this blog, and Instagram because i am here to share the process, what works what doesn’t, and all about what I have learned in the past so you can at least avoid some of the massive mistakes I’ve made. 

P.S. Are you wondering what that lovely melon-looking orange thing is in the cover photo? Well, that is Kabocha squash, whom I am in a long term relationship with. I FINALLY found it at the store again. It is like a mix between pumpkin and sweet potato and is so tasty, so don’t sleep on it!

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Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am merely here to share my own experiences. What works for me will not necessarily work for you. Consult a medical professional before changing your diet or exercise habits.

 

Why I’m Hitting on HIIT

I am in a long-term relationship with HIIT workouts. We may even be married. Out of all of the fitness plans I have ever tried, my HIIT workouts have by far been the most effective. I got into the best shape of my life doing “Bodyrock Bootcamp” workouts with Lisa Marie (bodyrock youtube), and since then I have had a love for creating my own High Intensity Interval Training Workouts. The reason these are so effective is because they work EVERY muscle in your body, in an intense bout of exercise. The key is to remember that it is a short period of time so you must go all out. This is not a two hour long weight session in the gym. This workout is meant to push your limits, test your boundaries, and increase your endurance while at the same time energizing you for the rest of your day. It does wonders in speeding your metabolism, shedding fat, and building lean muscle. Ideally, you can incorporate weights into some of the exercises or end with a weights burnout. You should SWEAT when you do these workouts. I cannot wait to share some of my own creations every week with you!

 

Today I introduced one of my good friends to these workouts. We ran to the beach nearby and did it outside, which is way more thrilling than being a gym! You can really do these workouts anywhere. It was an hour and a half long endeavor and we ended the workout with some failed attempts at acro yoga, but it was still an absolute blast! In Denmark working out outside is completely normal–they even have outdoor gyms and parkour structures set up around the beach. What a world! The beach was packed with people at a toasty 70 degrees and the sun does not go down until 9:30 PM right now, which leaves no excuses for skipping a workout!

 

Another thing that struck me: a single workout can turn your whole outlook around. After dragging my feet all day because it had been so long since a proper workout, my friend and I fed each other with motivation and we had the best workout. Afterwards all of my goals seemed attainable again! Stay positive, keep with it, and don’t give up because it IS worth it and simply takes consistency 🙂

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Intuitive Exercise

Does you body ever just feel like it is rejecting you? You have a cold that won’t let go, exhaustion but can’t sleep, and your mind is craving a workout but your legs feel like lead? That is how you know it is time for a day…or two…gasp, THREE days off! Intuitive eating means you honor your physical cues over your emotional or mental cravings. Yes, exercise means mental toughness and pushing past your body’s limits, but sometimes we really need to listen to our bodies and give it a rest! Your stomach growls when you are hungry, your body tells you when you need to pee, but when we are dragging, tired, sick, and no have energy left, we usually push through and try to complete the workout plan anyways. The truth is, if you take a rest, you will probably have a much, much better workout the next day, which basically cancels out your day off! Your muscles have time to recover and rebuild, and rather than having an extended period of mediocre workouts you can get back to your usual high intensity much sooner.

I have literally been sick for 4 weeks with some kind of sinus infection / cold / virus (a typical state of mine throughout study abroad), and I have been trying to suck it up and push through in order to continue my workout consistency. But when I kept getting worse I decided enough was enough so I have not exercised in 3 days (besides a lot of biking–it is Denmark after all)! I am really itching to get back to it but I am already starting to feel better. Instead, I spent the evening at Tivoli (a famous amusement park in Copenhagen), listening to a wonderful up and coming artist, Jada, with some friends! So take care of yourselves people, listen to your bodies, and practice intuitive exercise 🙂 

 

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A photo of me on my rest day meeting my favorite up and coming Danish artist, Jada!
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The Bike Home!

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Instagram has been trying to get me to go to this little joint for awhile now. At first I was skeptical, one because it was sketchy how they knew my love for bougie-hipster-vegan-colorful brunch places that serve food on a wooden cutting board, and two because the photos I had seen online looked too good to be true.

I was again reminded that there is no such thing as “too good to be true” in Copenhagen. Not only did I stumble upon a gorgeous cemetery with lucious gardens and chirping birds on the way (Assistens Cemetery), but when I arrived at the restaurant tucked away on a pleasant little side street in Nørrebro, the aesthetic was so pleasing I almost turned around and walked out.

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Me in Assistens Cemetery

I met my friend at the cute, rustic little cafe and we both decided on the Vegan Brunch, which was a hefty $26 each (165 kr) for two college students. But I knew that I had to invest, if I went didn’t go all out I would regret it and end up going back, only to spend twice as much. I had seen the pictures taken by other foodies and I knew the risk would be worth it.

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And it was. It would have been worth it even if we had not ingested it. The most interesting was the chickpea waffle, more savory than expected but perfectly crispy and hot. The hummus was a deligtfully dense consistency, the beetroot pesto paired perfectly with the rye bread, and the fig compote completed me. The crackers made of seeds were so buttery they crumbled in your hands, and the chia porridge was thick, nutty, and a beautiful purple hue. My one complaint is that the avocado could have been a bit more doctored up with salt and pepper, and the acai bowl would have tasted better if it were cold. However, that may have been my fault as I saved it for last my friend and I took about 45 minutes to eat what we could on the plate. Despite eating so slowly though, we left the restaurant the perfect level of full, which fueled us for a glorious bike ride the rest of the afternoon for some shopping on Jægersborggade and a stroll in Frederiksberg Gardens. I know I will be back here someday, and you should as well! Below is the description on the website.

 

The Vegan breakfast plate

Mint and ginger marinated fruits. Half an avocado served w/ salt and pepper, and a salad of the day with green herbs. Chickpea waffle with homemade hummus, beetroot pesto and homemade “tuna” mousse made from seaweed.Freshly baked bread with fig compote. Homemade raspberry chia porridge, served fresh berries and almonds. Acai bowl with fruit, nuts, and pollen