How to Survive Finals

So it’s that time of the year, or close to at least. Serena and I attend a school who runs on a trimester schedule (like as two finals isn’t enough), so we have our winter term final right before spring break. With that in mind, this post could either be the perfect timing if your school runs on a trimester schedule too, or a post too early if your school runs on a semester schedule (which I am awfully missing and jealous about). Regardless of which schedule your school runs on, here are my tips on how to survive finals in regards to health. Being that this is a health blog and NOT a study blog, I won’t be going into how to maintain self-control, avoid procrastination, and etc, and also because I’m procrastinating by writing this post, so I can’t talk about self-control.

Anywho, here are my top 3 tips!

 

  1. Go easy on the caffeine, chug down the water | During finals week, I see the recycle bins in our schools filled with Starbucks latte and coffee cups. Please … do me and your body a favor, and go easy on the caffeine. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into details of why coffee is bad for you. Nobody goes around boasting to themselves that they’ve drank two cups of coffee. (If you still aren’t sure, here’s a link from Mayo Clinic). Water is a HUGE part of your body and your body is one of the most energy expensive organs in your body. Add the two and two together, and you realize that your brain needs water to function properly.

 

  1. Exercise | Now, I know this may seem contradictory where I should be telling you guys to sit and study instead of exercise. However, just go out and be active for 30 minutes. I see so many of my friends going to the library right after their finals claiming that they are “studying for the final tomorrow.” However, I see them just binge watching on their TV shows or not completely focused because their brains are exhausted. Instead, I go for an easy jog or hop on the bike for 30 minutes to release stress and clear my brain. I can truly attest to this, but after I exercise, I am a lot more focused when I study. (Also, it’s been touted that exercise improves brain function, specifically brain memory as this Harvard study states)

 

  1. Sleep well, eat well. | As students, sleep is a commodity. However, out of experience, we all know that sleep can make it or break it. Instead of pulling an all-nighter, shut your books and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep. Also, make sure you eat well. I know with finals season everybody is in zombie mode where people study, sleep, eat with their pajamas or something of the like. With your body extremely tired and you looking and feeling sloppy, it’s easy to have lunch for pizza, eat a tub of ice cream just for the heck of it (but partly due to stress)  and just eat a whole ton of junk food. Instead, stick to foods high in fiber – like oatmeal for breakfast, so you can have constant energy while taking your finals or while studying for them.

 

What are your tips and tricks for finals?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Raw Food and Acquiring Tastes

I used to not understand the raw, oil-free diet. How was it possible to eat uncooked veggies everyday? I remember when my mom used to force me to eat carrot sticks because they were “good for my eyes” or spinach because it was “healthy”. I associated food with pleasure, and I wondered how people could enjoy eating flavorless foods.

But when I started school again this year, I was inspired by Stephanie and the not so appealing hot food, to eat more salads. Before, I would only make a salad if it had avocado in it. I think the school lunch made me less of a picky-eater.

So when I started eating more salads, I used spinach, chickpeas, and sometimes grains like quinoa. Now, having regularly eaten this salad for about a month, I can say that chickpeas actually taste good!

As a form of Pavlovian conditioning, people can learn to like a certain food after eating it regularly. So, if you are eating a healthy food that you really don’t like, hang in there; you might end up liking it 🙂

Love,

Serena

Nutrition 101: Fats

I’m going to be honest here. As much as I love to be original and creative, sometimes I do need to be a bit “boring” because I want to make our blog as varied in the health spectrum as possible. This means that sometimes I just want to educate and teach what nutrition is all about.  With that being said, let’s dive right in.

I really don’t know why that there’s all this shaming on carbs and fats, but never protein. There’s fat-free, low-carb, but never low-protein. In fact, packages emphasize and highlight their high protein content. I think this is spreading the wrong message. People need all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, lipids (fats) and proteins. Not one is better than the other. I decided to kick off my three part nutrition series (because there are three macronutrients) with fats. I think the word “fat” makes it easy for people to steer clear of them. I mean people are trying to lose fat when they put up on their New Year’s Resolution list: lose weight.

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image source

However, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s the type of fats you eat that’s important. I can’t live a day without my daily dose of nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, you name it) which are packed with healthy fats and I can truly attest that nuts haven’t made me fat.

 

Now you might ask, what is a “healthy” and “unhealthy” fat? Healthy fats are unsaturated fats, while unhealthy ones are saturated or trans. Let me explain.

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SATURATED FATS| Fat molecules are made out of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, but mostly carbon and hydrogen. When fat is saturated, this means that the molecule is saturated with hydrogens. It’s reached the maximum number. This makes saturated fats solid at room temperature. Butter, for instance, is a prime example.

 

Saturated fats increase your LDL (low density lipoprotein) and increase your HDL. LDL is the cholesterol that is deemed “bad.” It causes plaque to build up in your blood vessels which overtime will have negative effects on your blood pressure and blood flow. HDL (high density lipoprotein) remove plaque from your blood vessels and transport them to your liver which destroys them. As you can see, while saturated fats do increase HDL, the good cholesterol, it increases LDL, the bad one, too. What if there was something that would only increase the good and decrease the bad? This is where unsaturated fats come in play.

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UNSATURATED FATS | This means that there is fewer hydrogens in a fat molecule than a saturated fat molecule. This allows the fat molecule to “kink” meaning, it has a weird curvy shape to it. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, so think olive oil.

 

Like hinted from above, unsaturated fats decrease LDL while increase HDL.

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TRANS FATS| This is the worst of the worst. Trans fats are man-made unsaturated fats HOWEVER, trans fats increase LDL and decrease HDL. It’s taking away the good stuff while bringing in the bad stuff. You may ask, where is trans fats found in? They’re found in pretty much all processed foods so chips, cookies, and so forth.

 

Now that you know what the types of fats there are, and which ones are bad and good for you, let me compile a list of the foods in all three types of categories of fat.

 

UNSATURATED:

  • nuts
  • fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel
  • avocado
  • olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil
  • seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • olives

 

SATURATED:

  • red meat
  • dairy products made from cream or whole milk
  • poultry
  • cheese
  • coconut

 

TRANS:

  • french fries
  • cheeseburgers
  • donuts
  • pies
  • chicken nuggets

 

So make sure that when you say you’re staying clear of fat, it’s not those healthy ones, but the unhealthy ones!

 

What is your favorite unsaturated food?

xoxo, Stephanie

 

Cravings…

We’ve all felt it. That irritable sensation of hanger that makes you say, “I would kill for ____!!!”Let’s talk (or read) about cravings.

What do I crave? Let’s see…dark chocolate, avocado toast, guacamole, greek yogurt, mangoes… And of course the unhealthy: cookies, chocolate cake, brownies, ice cream, pita chips (the last one’s debatable I guess)

Of course, not everyone has cravings. But studies show that nearly 100% of women and 70% of men have cravings. So what is to blame for this global hanger?

  1. Memory areas of our brain which associate food with a reward
  2. Calming stress and reducing anxiety – typically foods high in fat, sugar, or both

So how do we respond to cravings?

  1. Portion control! Don’t go for the family size pack of chips because they are cheap because a craving for chips could lead to eating half the bag
  2. Eat several meals a day to prevent overeating
  3. Start a cravings journal and write down what causes your cravings
  4. Drink more water
  5. Take a walk after eating a meal
  6. De-stress by meditating, doing yoga, reading a good book or magazine, taking a hike, etc.

So the next time a craving pops up, don’t give in!!! Stop yourself before it’s too late.

Love,

Serena

 

 

Love Yourself

I hope everyone had an amazing Valentine’s Day with their loved ones yesterday. I wanted to take this time, while we are still on the topic of love, to talk about self-love. While you took the time yesterday to show love toward others, I challenge you to take one day and reflect how much love you put towards yourself. With the ever-influential media around us, it’s hard to be content with ourselves. We see these “fit” celebrities who have perfectly portioned and healthy meals, and we can’t help but compare ourselves with them.

 

However, I, after going through an experience (which I will tell below)  multiple times, I realized that self-control wasn’t the problem, but my lack of self-love was.

 

Here’s the scenario:

My friend and I just finished eating seconds of yogurt (can be anything really, my kryptonite is yogurt). My friend is happily lickng her spoon, however, I don’t feel as happy as her. The whole time – starting from the time I stood up to get seconds, I felt guilty. I felt full, my stomach told me that, but my appetite or soul or whatever thing that dictates my food choices, wanted more. So I got seconds. But the whole time I was eating the yogurt, I kept on repeating to myself, “You’re eating WAY too much. You have horrible self-control.”

 

Sound familiar? Yeah, Serena and I have this scenario play out pretty much everyday #noshame.

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I’ve done this way too many times – measuring the width of my thighs… (can anyone relate?)

No matter how healthy my diet may be, I still have guilt trips over my diet. And I have guilt trips not because of the kind of foods I eat, but the quantities. I simply cannot do the “Everything in moderation” motto. I just eat way too much.

 

However, I find myself getting tired of this. I find myself getting tired of constantly hitting down on myself for eating too much. I mean isn’t food supposed to be pleasurable too? I only live once, right? Why do I have to let my body and my mind suffer by inadequetly feeding myself? I should feed and nourish myself in abundance, and sometimes that abundance can be more than normal or necessary sometimes. I mean doesn’t the word abundance mean more than enough?

 

Each time I found myself shaming and guilt tripping myself, I wrote down my true and innermost thoughts in my journal. Here they are:

–Food is both about properly fueling and nourish your body AND nourishing your pleasure senses. It should be used as pleasure too. (Just don’t make food your only pleasure – that’s when it becomes  a concern).

–Just b/c you’re groping and grieving about it doesn’t mean those calories are irreversible. They are in your body. So just MOVE ON. Worry about others things in your life, sheesh.

–Don’t label food as bad or good. The “goodness” of food is controlling you. You cannot let this happen to you. YOU have the power. (This is to be another blog post topic – labelling food as good or bad has profound effects on how you feel about your diet and eating habits)

–Life is about balance. Balance means sometimes being perfect and other times not.

–Nobody’s perfect. My friends said this to me once and it is SO TRUE. She told me, “Stephanie, you may have a bad day, but you have less bad days than most of us. And that’s what counts.” I may “slip-up” once every two weeks and that’s a huge difference to “slipping-up” everyday. It’s how many days you slip-up compared to how many days you don’t. It’s all about consistency.

–Don’t do extra stuff. Just start fresh. Don’t undereat – or skip meals. Just start now. Don’t exercise more. Just start afresh.

–Realize that it’s okay. It’s okay if you eat too much sometimes. This may be your body’s way of saying I need food. Even if it’s not, it’s not the end of the world.

–Just like one good/healthy meal doesn’t makes you healthy, one “bad” meal doesn’t make you not healthy either.

–Just learn from these lessons – What did you do wrong?

–Did you eat too little during the day or the past week and binged?

–Were you stress eating?

–Were you actually thirsty for water?

–Did you restrict yourself on something that you found yourself craving and soon binging on it?

–It’s okay to have a cheat day once in awhile

–We’re all human. We should live to enjoy not live to restrict.

–Don’t beat yourself up on it.

To sum it up, just love yourself. Stop criticizing every single flaw about you. Those flaws make up who you are. We seriously are our harshest critics. But I challenge you all, particularly for your eating habits, to start LOVING and FORGIVING.

 

Have you struggled with loving and forgiving yourself?

 

xoxo,
Stephanie

Superfood Chia and Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am always running late in the mornings! This chia seed, yogurt, and blueberry parfait took 5 minutes to make. was super delicious, and had so many superfoods!

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Yeah…this picture is kinda blurry, but I took it in a moving car…you know how it is 🙂

This is how I made it:

I mixed 3 tbsp. of chia seeds with 1/3 cup of almond milk, 1 tsp. acai berry powder, and 1 and 1/2 tsp. of honey. I refrigerated it overnight, and in the morning, I added plain greek yogurt and frozen blueberries (because they’re not in season right now).

What is your favorite parfait recipe?

Love,

Serena

Clean Eating 101

WARNING: this post is going to be lengthy so hang in there.
Today’s post is two parts – what clean eating is and why you should eat clean.
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So, what is clean eating? I’m sure many of you guys have seen the words clean eating at least once in your lifetime(#cleaneating anyone?) In this day and age, despite the obesity levels rising, there is still a lot of hype on clean eating.
When I started my “health” journey this spring of 2015 (so when I went “cold turkey” in being completely healthy), I was confused on what clean eating meant. I mean my foods were always sanitarily clean, so what the heck does this clean eating mean?
 
Ahhh…after reading this did I realize that clean eating wasn’t as simple as I thought. Packaged and processed foods were embarrsingly definitely part of my daily diet.
To break this definition down for you guys, clean eating means NO chemicals, NO additives, NO GMO’s, NO preservatives. A good rule of thumb is no ingredient that you cannot pronounce does NOT go into your body. So for example, for the perennial favorite Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars here is the ingredient list:
Do you know what Soy Lecithin is? Nope, neither do I, so stay clear of these foods.
Now getting into the grind of clean eating is hard, I’m not going to lie. In the beginning you may hate all foods related to healthy eating. But trust me, it’s because your taste buds are not used to the natural and wholesome taste of “real” food but used to the fake chemicals in processed foods. Give yourself some time. Ease into it.
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This doesn’t look too bad, right? Yummy and colorful!
The second portion of my blog post is why eat clean. In the beginning the only reason as to why I ate clean was because I wanted to lose weight. And yes, it definitely helped me lose weight. However, I never really had an incentive other than weight loss to eat clean until a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago, I had to be at a track meet (but not run in it) and then afterwards, go for an erg session. I realized half way during the meet that I was hungry. I didn’t bring any snacks so I went to our team “chill” area and only found Clif bars. I had never tried Clif bars and was sort of hesitant to try them out. Of course, the ingredient list was just filled with ingredients I could not pronounce. However, I reluctantly ate it because I knew or else I would faint.
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See? So many words I just do. not. know. Also, another rule of thumb: if there are more than 5 ingredients, stay clear. This Clif bar definitely has more than five.

 

After the erg session, I felt a stomach ache. I didn’t mind too much about it because I’m actually used to stomach aches since I always had gas problems as a kid. However, as the evening went on, the pain got worse. In the middle of the night, I woke up because the stomach ache was getting way out of hand (and this was a surprise since I’m a deep sleeper). I went to the bathroom and had diarrhoea. I seriously spent a solid 15 minutes in the bathroom. I knew this was from the Clif bar since as a creature of habit, I eat the same things every day. Only the Clif bar was new to my diet that day. I had diarrhoea because my body was adjusted to clean eating that when it got faced to digest these weird chemicals, it just couldn’t perform properly.

This goes to show that our bodies in their most natural state do not do well with chemically, processed foods. We are surviving now because our smart bodies have adapted to these foods. I hope this very personal story has shed some light and motivation as to why you should eat healthy.
What’s your take on clean eating?
xoxo,
Stephanie

An Introduction to Antioxidants

Blueberries have antioxidants. Acai berries have antioxidants. So what are the use of these substances that many superfoods claim to?

Antioxidants are man made or natural molecules that prevent or delay cell damage. More specifically, they inhibit the oxidation of other cells. Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules in the body interact with other molecules. The result is the production of free radicals, atoms or groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons. It looks a little something like this:

freeradical1 scientific, I know 🙂

Once the free radicals are formed, they can start a chain reaction. It gets dangerous when they react with major cell components, like our DNA or cell membranes. If this happens, cells can be damaged or even die.

Antioxidants prevent the free radicals from developing a chain reaction. Woohoo!

Some scientific studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants prevent agains cancer. So, eat your fruits and veggies!

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What is your favorite antioxidant-rich food?

Love,

Serena

My “Athletic” Experience

I am athletic … not.

After moving to a new high school I had the blessing and the curse to “remake” myself. The idea that no one knew who I was in the past was exciting yet daunting. The bad side of this “remaking” process is that my new friends think that I’m athletic because I love fitness and working out. However, this is far from the truth. I. AM. NOT. ATHLETIC. AT. ALL. PERIOD.  During elementary school, many us will remember the horrors of P.E. I still remember that every year, when I brought home my report card, for my P.E. class, I would only get “Outstanding” (the highest grade) for the category:  listening to directions. #embarrassingchildhoodmemories
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Out of many trials and errors (and multiple breakdowns after games lost), I discovered I am not a team sports kind of gal. Team sports meaning soccer, basketball, lacrosse, or any of those sort. I also don’t do well with aggressive sports either. And it happens to be that all team sports are aggressive, so I decided that team sports and I will never be a good mix. I remember being the tallest girl on my club basketball team and getting reprimanded by my coach before and after every game to be aggressive and get those rebounds. Yeah, that never happened. #sorrynotsorry

 

However, with all that being said, my mom encouraged me to be active and signed me up for an after-school running program called Girls on the Run, hoping I would enjoy running at the very least. Looking back now, I think I hated all 5 of the seasons. Nevertheless, Girls on the Run helped cultivate my love now for running (this is message to everyone including me: listen to your parents). Soon after, I joined the track team for both seventh and eighth grade and tried out and got in the indoor track team as a freshman. Serena knows this better than anyone, but I suffer from huge anxiety about track. It’s always been haunting me since seventh grade and it’s my lifelong goal to stop worrying so much about it (actually, this indoor track season I’ve gotten so much better at handling pre-race anxiety, if any of you are interested, comment down below so I can blog about it in the future!).

 

Anyways, the point of today’s blog post was to show that being athletic and healthy have nothing to do with each other. I was, am and never will be an athletic person. However, this should never stop someone from being active and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. With my past experience in struggling to find an activity I loved, I really urge everyone to find something that they love. I wasn’t initially fond of yoga because I knew that it was low calorie burner, I only wanted to participate in a sport that burned a lot calories. Nevertheless, I found myself loving and craving yoga –  I practiced yoga everyday because doing it wasn’t much of a chore but a hobby. If you really want to be technical, practicing yoga five times a week is going to burn a lot more calories than going on an intense and miserable run once a month.

 

So if you find yourself getting off track on your New Year’s Resolutions in terms of fitness, I seriously recommend reevaluating whether or not what you’re doing for fitness is enjoyable to you. If not, change it to something enjoyable, as simple as 30 minute walk outside. It’s that simple.

 

What’s your experience with sports?

xoxo, Stephanie

 

P.S. : Being that this is the start of February, I wanted to update everyone on how well I did on my January “balance” goal. I stated underneath January that my goals were to: Create balance in school. Create balance with food. Create balance with play and work. Create balance with your stress levels. Create balance with extracurriculars. I feel somewhat selfish saying this, but I achieved this goal. It’s weird, I feel strange that I accomplished my one of my 2016 resolutions. I mean the intention of New Year’s Resolutions are to get them accomplished, but we associate these resolutions as short-living that it’s rare to see one accomplish their resolutions.

 

After going back to school after winter break, I definitely gave myself more time to relax. It’s easy for me to get caught up in a whirlwind of work, however, this month I was strict on myself and tried to relax all these “rules” and “guidelines” I set for myself. For the first time since fourth grade, I let myself watch a TV show during the school year (I only allowed myself to watch TV shows during the summer or school breaks). For the first time since my weight loss and health journey, which started early 2015, I let myself eat whatever my body craved – no matter how “bad” that food was. I forgave myself when I ate too much on a certain day because I knew that I could better the next day.

 

However, the biggest achievement was when I created balance with my extracurriculars. Serena and I were and are struggling to find balance with our extracurriculars – how to be involved yet maintain sanity. This month, I let go of some of the school clubs I was in and found myself with at least one night a week free. While this free night was used to catch up on my homework, mentally, having no definite obligation every.single.night. was reassuring.

 

I can’t wait to maintain this “balance” mindset while starting my new goal for February which is centered around love (obviously). The mantra for February is: Love yourself. Love others by showing patience, understanding. Reach out to old childhood friends. Pray for friends. Obey your parents. Wish me luck!