My Winter Break Fitness Routine

December 17th marked the first day of winter break for me. Now, winter break in my books is always a mental break, but not so much a physical break. Not only do I take being in shape seriously, but I also have a full indoor track season ahead of me when I get back from break which gives me the incentive to be diligent about my workouts.

Today’s post will solely be focused on my fitness routine during my first week back for winter break and will most likely be my winter routine for the rest of the break.

Just on a side note, I count myself lucky to have parents (especially my mom) who are willing to drive me to the gym as well as workout together with me.

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FRIDAY, December 18th: 45 minute run + 10 minute erg + 10 minute core + rehab exercises | Friday was a moderate workout day. I went on a 45 minute run on the running machine at 7.3 mph (that’s an 8:13 pace per mile meaning it’s easier than my tempo pace which is a minute added to my 6:58 mile time). After the run, I did 10 minutes on the erg machine. I’m hoping to get in the crew team for spring this year so I’m trying to get practice on my form and speed because I know a lot of freshmen girls are trying out this year. After all my cardio, I did my 10 minute core routine where it’s 10 core exercises a minute each. I seriously can attest that doing these daily for several weeks have shown results both physically in my abs but also in my fitness levels as well. The 10 minute core routine goes like this: leg lifts, bicycles, Russian twists, crunches, regular plank, side plank (on both sides), penguins, in’s and out’s, and V-sits. I also have to do rehab exercises for my left knee which got injured right after Thanksgiving Break. My trainer and track coach both believe it’s from overuse and I’m building up my quads and hamstrings in hopes to not get injured again. The rehab exercises are 15×3 regular squats, 10×3 Bulgarian split squats on both legs, 10×3 step up and step down, 10×3 on the leg extension machine, and 10×3 suspended clams on each leg.

 

SATURDAY, December 19th :  35 minute run + 20 min bike + 10 minute core + rehab exercises | Today was a mix of cardio along with the regular core and rehab exercises. I did a 35 minute run at again the same pace at 7.3 mph and then hopped on the bike with resistance level 3 where my rpm was around the 110-115 range. I love going on the bike because I get more mileage (so I kind of fool my body thinking that I did more work) plus I get to watch YouTube videos while cycling! I know some people can get away with listening to music let alone watching videos on their devices while running, but for some reason my earbuds never stay put so I can never use my phone to entertain myself during my runs.

 

SUNDAY, December 20th: 30 minute walk + 3 Ballet Beautiful videos + 5 minute core | Today was pretty much a rest day for me. I went on a walk with my dad to Giant (local grocery store) to buy more Christmas lights for our tree and ice cream (our whole family’s weakpoint). My parents and I have been incorporating walks to the grocery store ever since last spring, and I think it’s wonderful. Although they go to the grocery store mainly to buy ice cream, walking nonetheless is exercise and I love getting some fresh air. After coming back from Giant, I went upstairs, pulled out my yoga mat and followed along to three Ballet Beautiful videos. I haven’t done Ballet Beautiful videos since last winter since I was so busy athletic wise with tennis and spring track. I love Ballet Beautiful because it’s not your regular squats or pushups, but it’s ballet like movements that seriously kill you. Mary Helen Bowers, the founder of Ballet Beautiful, is famous for training celebrities like Natalie Portman and Lily Aldridge. Let me tell you her videos are hard. After the Ballet Beautiful video, I did a condensed version of my core routine where it was 30 seconds for each exercise. I think it’s equally important to give your body enough rest as well as giving your body a challenge. If you don’t rest, you’ll either injury self later or not be as productive in your future workouts meaning your time won’t be well spent.

*The three Ballet Beautiful videos I watched: 

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MONDAY, December 21st: 65 minute run + 10 minute core + rehab exercise | My track coach called for a long run today, so I went on a 60 minute run at a 7.0 mph pace plus a five minute cool down. So that means I ran a bit over 7 miles today. Being the distance runner I am, long runs are super nice because I finally get to settle myself into a comfortable pace instead of sprinting and being confused at what pace I should be in like the mile. After the long run, I did my 10 minute core (I’m seriously religion about my core routine!!!) and my rehab exercises as well.

 

TUESDAY, December 22nd: 45 minute run + 15 minute erg + 10 minute core + rehab exercises | After a 45 minute run at a 7.3 pace, I hopped on the erg for 15 minutes holding around 2:15-2:30. After the two cardio sessions, I of course, went to do my 10 minute core and rehab exercises.

 

After the end of each workout, I make sure to stretch and roll out with a foam roller for a solid 10 minutes. I think it’s crucial that after a workout, I stretch out my muscles in order to give them a speedy and proper recovery. Also, I drink lots of water and a bottle of 100% coconut water when I get home back from the gym. Coconut water has 100% natural electrolytes and is great to drink for hydration!

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WEDNESDAY, December 23rd : 55 minute run + 20 minute erg + 10 minute core + strengthening exercises | Today I went on a 55 minute run at a 7.2 mph pace and then did 20 minutes on the erg machine. I did 50 strokes which were in the 2:10-2:20 range with the handle and then 25 strokes without the handle. I’m still a beginner with rowing machines so I did the 25 handle-free strokes for the sake of building my rowing form. I did these sets (50 w/ handle, 25 w/out handle) four times. After the erg machine, I went to the section of the gym that I don’t frequent often, which is where all the weights are. I did exercises that targeted my arms, abs, and legs. After 20 minutes of strengthening exercises, I did 10 minute core, stretched and foam rolled.

 

THURSDAY, December 24th: 60 minute walking and running combination + 10 minute cycle + 10 minute core | I sensed something was amiss when I felt my legs felt super sore and heavy when I woke up this morning. Consequently, when I started running, my legs felt like they were bounded down with 100 pound weights, that I decided today would be an impromptu recovery/rest day. I went on a very easy jog (around 6.0 mph) for 30 minutes and the rest I speed walked at 4.3 mph. After 60 minutes on the treadmill, I hopped on the bike and lowered the resistance super low and started cycling rapidly. I did this in hopes to get all the lactic acid stored in my quads from yesterday’s workout. I didn’t do any of my rehab exercises because they included squats and leg targeted moves or the erg machine (which I think the 20 minute session may have led to the soreness). After the cycle, I did a 10 minute core and a nice long stretch and foam-rolling to end today’s workout.

 

FRIDAY, December 25th : NONE | Today was definitely a planned rest day. My uncle’s family was coming up for the holidays so much of today was spent cleaning and prepping the house as well as spending time with my parents.

 

SATURDAY, December 26th: 65 minute run + rehab exercises + 5 minute core | After two easy days, my body was begging me to go workout – haha. Anyways, I did a nice and easy jog (7.0 mph) for a bit over an hour. After the jog, I did my rehab exercises. Although my legs still felt a little heavy and I was still scared from Thursday’s sudden soreness, I wanted to still strengthen my legs since I didn’t want my knee to get injured again. After the rehab exercises, I did half of my core routine because I was short on time, stretched, and foam rolled.

SUNDAY, December 27th: 45 minute run + rehab exercises + 5 minute erg + 10 minute core | Today I went on a 45 minute run at 7.1 mph, did 5 minutes on the erg not for the sake of a workout but to maintain my form. Before my cardio session, I did 8×3 on the hamstring curl machine, 8×3 on the leg extensions, and 8×3 on both sides for the Bulgarian split squats. I of course ended today’s workout with 10 minute core, stretching, and foam rolling.

For the rest of the week (Monday – Thursday) I won’t be able to fit any workouts because I’m going on a winter retreat with my church. I hope you enjoyed getting an inside look at my workouts!

How do you plan your workouts? Is it the same thing every time at the gym? Or do you have designated workout days like leg day or arm day?

xoxo, Stephanie

The Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

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Chia seeds were once a staple in the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Now, people are starting to realize their immense health benefits. Here are eight reasons why you should start loving chia:

1.) Easy to digest

2.) Controls hunger, feel full faster!

3.) Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, carbs, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium

4.) Some experts say that chia seeds promote weight-loss

5.) Can be easily added to food and beverages-sprinkle some on top of those Christmas cookies! Also, when soaked in liquid, chia seeds become a gel-like pudding.

6.) Very few calories

7.) May lower the risk of heart conditions and diabetes

8.) Can improve sport performance because of their numerous nutrients

 

This is the chia seed pudding guide that I swear by:chia-guide

How do you like to eat your chia seeds?

Love,

Serena

Six Tips to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

I totally agree with the title of Andy William’s song, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” However, as much happiness and merriment the season can bring, I know it also brings a lot of anxiety and angst for those who are conscious about their diet because of weight loss or just they’re extremely health-conscious (which Serena’s and my friends claim that we two are…Serena and I disagree). However, regardless of where you land on this “food-conscious” spectrum, here are few of my personal tips that I follow during the holiday season or whenever I know I’ll be eating a lot more than usual.

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  1. Be a (polite) picky eater | This doesn’t mean that you can shove vegetables off your plate and use it to justify to yourself when you eat everything and anything. So during the holiday season, when you want to control your waistline and not have to routinely put “Lose weight” on your New Year Resolutions list, be picky. If you’re not too fond of the food after the first tasting, stop eating it and leave it on your plate politely. There’s no need to make a show about it and gag about how much you don’t like the food. Just move it to the side of your plate.
  2. Create a goal | We’re all human, so don’t be unrealistic and promise yourself that you’re not going to eat any treats or “bad” food during the whole holiday season. Let’s face it. That’s not going to happen, and you’re going to hit yourself down hard when you slip and inevitably indulge yourself to a treat (which is not a bad thing). Create a goal that is reasonable yet slightly challenging at the same time. You could set a goal such as only one treat per day or maybe 5 treats per week (with hopes that all five won’t be devoured in the course of one day).
  3. No distractions | This is something I always follow, 24/7 for 365 days a year. I think it’s important that you’re fully concentrated on your meal while you’re eating it. This means phones turned off and preferably not on the dinner table, T.V. turned off, no book or anything readable within reach, but just you, your food, and the people you’re eating together with. It’s crazy at how many people I see during the day with one hand grabbing a fork and the other holding a smartphone. When you eat distracted, you only know that you’re done with your meal when you have nothing to scrape up from the plate. Instead, when you’re fully concentrated on your food, many a times you find that before you lick-clean your plate, you already feel satisfied because first, restaurant portions are oversized and also our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.
  4. Eat something light before going to a party | This seems counterintuitive – that you would end up eating more calories. However, if you go to a party hungry, you’re more likely to reach for the fatty, calorie-dense food. Also, it’s easier to justify when you’re reaching for your 5th cookie that you were hungry before the party and you’re just trying to get satisfied. I suggest eating something light like a piece of fruit.
  5. No skipping meals | This goes hand-in-hand with number 4. When you skip meals, you’ll just end up overeating later and make it easier to justify yourself when you’re reaching for something unhealthy.
  6. Check it out | Be savvy and peruse around the choices. If a particular pie catches your eye, make a mental note to save a bit of room for the pie. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be faced with the dilemma of whether to eat the pie despite feeling extremely full or lose the chance of eating the delicious pie.

 

…But have fun!!! While the above tips were all about making sure you don’t fall back on “unhealthy” holiday eating bandwagon, at the same time, remember that it’s the holiday season! It’ll be such a pity for you to spend all your time calculating calories or keeping track of how many cookies you ate this week when you could be spending time with your loved ones. Remember, it’s all about balance. If you’ve kept up a pretty healthy lifestyle so far, a couple weeks of not-so-stellar eating habits isn’t going to run you down. So if you find yourself slip-up against your goals, forgive yourself and move on.

 

I hope everybody has a great holiday season receiving lots of love and joy and eating great food – no matter how healthy or unhealthy there are. Don’t let food take advantage of you and replace your holiday spirit with worry and misery.

Which tip is going to be the easiest for you to follow? Which tip is going to be the hardest? Do you have any of your own tips to share?

 

xoxo, Stephanie

 

Christmas Chocolate

Christmas is a week from today. What? Yes. A week.

Christmas is the season of joy and merriment. It’s also the season for the assorted chocolate.

Like this:

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Or this:

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Or this: (my mouth is actually watering right now)

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And my favorite…

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There are usually three main types of chocolate contained in an assortment: white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. They are each special in their own way, but dark chocolate is by far the healthiest option. Just keep in mind, though, the higher percent of cacao the more nutritious.

Dark chocolate is considered a “super food” by many. It can improve health and reduce the risk of heart disease. It contains flavanols which can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. Dark chocolate is also antioxidant-rich, which can help cells protect against the damage caused by the body’s free radicals.

Overall, dark chocolate is amazing for your body, but as with all foods, eat in moderation. The “darker” (higher percent of cacao) the chocolate, the better.

What is your favorite chocolate brand?

Love,

Serena

My Favorite Health Apps

In this day and age, it’s rare to find someone without a smartphone. There’s obviously conflicts about which smartphone is the best – where people (not including me) find that its super important that there is phone is 0.02 seconds faster than another phone. Whether you’re an iOS lover or Android lover, a smartphone is a smartphone. And with these incredible devices, come incredible apps, including ones that can help you be health-savvy. Below, you’ll find the four apps that I’ve tried and

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1. PumpUp | This app is amazing… I think it’s safe to say that everybody needs workout motivation once in a while (or everyday for me before this app). PumpUp is like an Instagram but only for fitness related posts. You connect with other PumpUp users by posting what meals you ate, what exercises you did, but you also send encouraging words and advice when you’re off the fitness bandwagon. If you’re lacking motivation to workout or you want your New Year’s Resolution this year to actually stick, I seriously recommend trying out PumpUp.

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2. Fooducate | Like the name says, Fooducate is a great app for those who aren’t sure about what healthy foods are and what healthy foods isn’t, to educate themselves. Fooducate has a search option as well as scanner option (so all you have to do is scan the food item if it has a barcode). After that, it gives a grade on what the food is. So for example, I chose an all-time favorite of many, Nutella. As you can see it’s grade is a C. If you click on it, it gives you explanations why it got that grade and also alternatives that have a better grade. If you don’t want to go through the work of counting calories but still want to be conscious of your food choices, I highly recommend using Fooducate. I know a lot of people went through a healthy lifestyle change by only eating foods that were rated A or B!

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3. Map My Run | Being a runner, I can’t help but have an app devoted to running. I hate running on a treadmill, so I try to run outside when I get the opportunity. I love the easy to use and clean interface of Map My Run. I’ve heard of countless other running apps – Nike, Endomondo, and RunKeeper – but I’ve never found a reason or excuse to delete Map My Run and replace it with another running app.

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4. Pacer/Apple Health | These two go hand in hand. Being an iOS user (please don’t start a iOS vs Android battle here!!), I automatically have Apple Health installed. With that being said, I don’t find the need to download another app to track my steps when I already have one built in to my phone. Instead of buying the quite costly fitness trackers like FitBit or Jawbone, I just stick with an app. I think being the Type-A personality I am, I’ll become obsessive about getting my daily steps in. I think counting steps goes a long way. Walking, I believe, is the most underrated form of exercise. People these days believe that exercise is exercise only when it’s really hard. However, I think the most important thing about exercise is that it’s enjoyable and thus, sustainable. It’s not good if you go running at fast pace for a week and stop compared to walking 30 minutes five days a week. So, with that long explanation, using your phone to track your steps will be a great way to start changing your lifestyle toward a more healthy one. For Android users who don’t have Apple Health or a built-in step tracker, I recommend Pacer. I used to use this app before Apple Health was introduced.

Do you guys have any fitness/health apps you recommend for me to try out that I didn’t mention in this post? Or do any of you guys have these four apps already downloaded? How were your experiences with them? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Lacto-Fermentation!

I have been waiting for a food museum in America for years, and finally, The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) recently opened in Brooklyn. Last month, I went to check it out. I  also attended a free fermentation workshop called Kraut Mob when I went. 

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This is what a Kraut mob looks like-it involves a ton of chopping, grating, peeling, and most of all, massaging. main

Fermentation is a chemical process where glucose breaks down anaerobically. According to the Cultures for Health, “Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Beyond preservation advantages, lacto-fermentation also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food.” So, fermentation is pretty cool.

Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and pickled veggies are all products of fermentation. I made sauerkraut using green and red cabbages, scallions, carrots, ginger, and garlic. I also used  several spices like Chinese Five Spice. Then, came the massaging. It took about 15 minutes and ten aching fingers to produce bubbles. When I squeezed the sauerkraut, liquid would come out, and that was when I knew I was done. The end result looked like this:

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I found out that sauerkraut and avocado is a great combination!

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So part of the fermentation process is making sure the brine site on top of the sauerkraut. This is how its supposed to look:

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I, on the other hand, picked up a meat tenderizer drying in the dishwasher and tried to mash the sauerkraut to squeeze the brine out. I did this to all of my jars. And then my dad told me that everything in the dishwasher had not been washed yet. Basically, the meat tenderizer that had touched blood had been in all five of my sauerkraut jars. That was probably one of the most stupid mistakes of my life….sigh.

Anyway, here’s the instructions on how to make your own fermented creation:

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Happy fermenting! Oh, and try not to make the same mistake I did 🙂

What do you put in your sauerkraut?

Love,

Serena

What I Eat in a Day (11/30/15)

It would be hard to label my diet to a specific one. Despite the numerous diets endorsed today like Atkins, Paleo, Vegan, South Beach, and who knows many more, I don’t label myself or fix myself to one type of diet. I eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it. However, I am a creature of habit so most of the time, I eat the same meals everyday. Of course, there are exceptions like for birthdays or during the holiday seasons, but today (which is actually last week, November 11/30) is a perfect example of what I would have eaten on a typical day.

Just to note, I don’t believe in eating your meals at a certain time and only a certain number of times. I eat when I’m hungry and as you read down below, you’ll see my hunger usually hits around the standard breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner mark. Another thing to note is that I do count calories. I know this is a widely controversial topic, but I’ll get to this topic in more depth in a separate post.

Without further ado…

 

7:00 AM – HYDRATE: My mom (and my maternal grandmother) has instilled upon me from a very young age to always drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. They claim that it comfortably wakes up and warms up the body rather than catching it off by surprise and make it go through the work of digesting your breakfast. Whilst having my glass of water, I also take one probiotic pill. I don’t have a preference on which probiotics I take, I just take the ones my mom buys for our family, which she gets from Costco.

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7:20 AM – BREAKFAST: Bob’s Mill Steel-Cut Oats with Stonyfield Fat-Free French Vanilla yogurt, half of a banana, handful of either pecans, almonds, walnuts or Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax granola, couple of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, tablespoon of both Nature’s Intent Organic chia seeds and Navitas Naturals Acai powder. Sometimes: persimmons (either on top the oatmeal or on the side) and one Fuji apple. – Don’t mind my little baby spoon 🙂 )

Whether I’m at boarding school or back at home, my breakfast for about a year now has been oatmeal. I’ve always heard people rave about oatmeal, but I was always on the fence about it because I’m not a huge fan of the grain and porridge combination. However, after trying it in the beginning of this year, I’m hooked. Today was last day at home for Thanksgiving break so I had the luxury to concoct an elaborate oatmeal bowl! At school, I’m stuck with instant oatmeal (I always choose the plain oatmeal not the brown sugar maple or whatnot kind), yogurt, banana, nuts I bring from home in ziploc bags, and here’s the kicker: chopped tomatoes and bell peppers from the omelette bar.

Not only is my go-to breakfast tasty, but it’s also super healthy. Oatmeal is famously called the “whole-grain powerhouse.” Whole-grains give you abundant energy, making oatmeal the perfect meal to kickstart your day. Also, oatmeal is full of fiber, which is digests slowly, meaning that you’ll be full longer. On an additional note, while not pertinent to all, oatmeal does help reduce cholesterol.1

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12:00 PM – LUNCH: 2 slices of Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, half of an avocado, approximately half of a grapefruit, handful of blackberries and raspberries left over from breakfast, and Siggi’s Skyr Vanilla Icelandic style yogurt.

I always loving having some type of sandwich or toast for lunch. I am definitely do not turn away from carbs! Carbohydrates are important in order for you to stay energized and working at your most optimal state! My favorite bread is either the Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin bread or Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread. If I have the choice, I always opt for an avocado toast. Being home for Thanksgiving and having full access to avocados (it’s really sad that the closest avocado thing my school dining hall serves is guacamole), I chose avocado toast for today. I try to limit myself to half an avocado everyday since I already eat nuts and don’t want to overdo it on the healthy fats (everything in moderation!). On the side, I usually have a hard-boiled egg (I eat one daily), but today I put some pieces of fried-egg on the top, which I found in the fridge and reheated in the microwave. I also enjoy having an assortment of fruit so I pulled together some fruit from the fridge, which that day happened to be grapefruit and berries. Last but not least, I love my yogurt. Especially siggi’s. I highly recommend trying out the brand if you haven’t already.

AFTERNOON SNACK: homemade granola bar

Usually, I have an afternoon snack to get me out of the afternoon slump. However, today, I was traveling back to school from Thanksgiving Break. I wasn’t hungry in the car ride where I slept the whole time. 🙂 But usually, I always have some sort of snack in between the times of 3 and 5 in the afternoon. At school, I have my mom’s homemade granola bar (made with Nature Valley’s Pumpkin Flax granola, eggs, and maple syrup – really easy and healthy in terms of few ingredients) before track practice. However, when I was home for Thanksgiving, I had butternut squash porridge that my mom made for me.

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6:00 PM – DINNER: (the one on the left) Corn couscous, mushrooms, grilled vegetables

Dinner today was back at the school dining hall. I would say I’m pretty fortunate to have a pretty nice dining hall service. Of course there are good and bad days, but what I love about the school dining hall is that I get to pick and choose without being labelled picky or choosy, which happens a lot at home when what I want to eat is quite different from the rest of my family’s. Tonight’s dinner is the picture on the left, but I included the picture on the right for you to see how different and diverse my meals can be at the dining hall.

 

Breakfast and lunch is the same whether at home or back at school, it’s the just the matter of instant oatmeal vs. steel-cut oatmeal, berries or no berries, avocado vs. no avocado – the little things. However, dinner is always different. The dinner on the right are roasted baby carrots (my favorite – I seriously leap in joy when I see these for dinner, Serena can attest to this), about 3 oz of salmon, white Lima beans, potatoes and a hard-boiled egg. Dinner is usually a mix of veggies and protein. I go pretty light on the carbohydrates since I find that too much carbs at the night makes me feel groggy leading to an unproductive night study session.

 

So that’s it! I actually don’t have a sweet tooth, which I guess is somewhat lucky and helpful, so I never reach for desserts at night. After dinner, I don’t eat anything until breakfast the next morning. I feel somewhat satisfied with a hint of hunger when I go to bed and wake up ravenously hungry when I wake up in the morning, which is just the way I like it.

 

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy “What I Eat in a Day” post. Remember, I don’t believe in restriction or deprivation. The reason you don’t see any “treats” or “junk food” is because I don’t crave these. I can live my life perfectly fine, sustainably, without laying my hands on chips or pastries. I don’t know how this came to be, but my body and appetite longs for delicious, nutritious meals. I hope this post gave you inspiration, motivation, to eat “healthy”!

 

How would you describe your eating habits? Are you proud/not so proud of them? What’s your favorite meal or food? I would love to hear in the comment section below!

 

xoxo, Stephanie

P.S.: For those who are interested, I ate around 2,325 calories today.

 

Why I Love to Cook

Cooking, for me, is therapy. It is a stress reliever. It allows me to create and be proud of the end result. I like cooking because the fruit of my labor is very tangible. It is versatile and can be enjoyed by everyone. I love the feeling of pride from combining small ingredients into a wholesome meal.

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Cooking is also a means of connecting completely different people under one roof. The process of cooking-the pop and sizzle of mushrooms hitting a pan, the golden-browning of searing scallop, the sight of a clean toothpick coming out of a cake…every action  of food preparation invigorates me. Food nourishes life.

Why is cooking important to you?

Love,

Serena