Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep-it’s super important for physical and emotional well-being. People who are well-rested are more energetic, productive, and alert. And I must say, waking up after an amazing sleep is an awesome feeling!

Interestingly, sleep regulates the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). When you get less sleep than recommended, your ghrelin goes up and leptin goes down, which is why you feel hungrier after getting little sleep than when you’re well-rested.

So how much sleep do you need?

  • Teenagers (14-17):  8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range  remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
http://time.com/3691992/sleep-hours-recommendations/

Unfortunately, most people struggle with falling asleep. A study done by Consumer Reports says that 68% of Americans struggle with sleep at least once a week. That’s approximately 164 million people.

 

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So, here are my tips for getting a good night’s sleep!

  • I find that dimming my bedroom lights an hour before sleeping by only turning on my lamp helps tremendously in helping me fall asleep. It prepares my body for sleep by creating a peaceful environment.
  • Make your bed before sleeping. I find that slipping into a nicely made bed is one of the most comforting feelings! If you’re looking for a new bed or some new sheets, I would check out this new bed from Leesa!
  • Have a bedtime ritual. Mine’s is showering right before I go to sleep. The steam feels so refreshing and having a ritual every night signals to my body that it is time to sleep 🙂

Ok, writing about getting ready to sleep makes me feel sleepy! Happy resting!

Love,

Serena

 

Getting Out of a Funk

I’ve recently been in a funk. After school got out on May 31st, I’ve just lost all motivation and energy. I am an extremely organized and Type-A person – so much so that I plan my days out to the minute. Throughout the school year, before I went to sleep, I would create my schedule from my notes app. It would be something like

 

This sort of method helped me to stay on top of things but I think such a rigid and structured schedule made me completely flop over when school ended.

Things I enjoyed such as blogging, running, and reading, became things I didn’t even consider doing. I just wanted to sleep, eat, and watch videos on YouTube.

It’s hard to describe the feelings exactly but I’m sure many of you guys here can relate those days when you just don’t want to do anything.

But I’m slowly coming out of that funk right now and I have a few tips based on my experience.

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UNPLUG | We unfortunately have these things called electronics and social media. I really really recommend to those who are in a funk to just UNPLUG. We have such a bad tendency to just reach for our phones or our computers whenever we feel lazy or unmotivated. This is procrastination at its finest. I tend to procrastinate on studying or doing work by going on social media rather than spending time with my friends or family or by reading. This past week, I unplugged for just one day and it was such a powerful experience. My emotions and feelings were no longer dependent on these small devices – I felt so free and lighter. Take a day or a few hours to just unplug (if you need to tell some important people beforehand, send them a quick text saying that you’re going to turn off your phone for x amount of hours). You’ll feel refreshed and reset to forget about the sluggish past few days and look forward to a fresh new slate.

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WALK | While I haven’t been running at all this past week, I’ve been walking every night for an hour with my parents. Something about being surrounded by who love you the most in the midst of a light cool evening breeze and just walking it out is therapeutic. Also, walking alone is great too. Listen to some music (or refrain if you’re going to adhere to #1) and take a moment to just reflect and think.

JOURNAL | Maybe it’s because I am a huge journal addict, but I love love journaling. Its really powerful to just jot down your feelings. Sometimes you just don’t know why you’re feeling like you do. You feel sluggish, unmotivated and lazy, but you don’t know WHY. And writing in your journal, it allows you to again, take a minute, reflect, and identify why you’re feeling a certain way and then find ways to solve it.

You can see that in these three tips, the running theme is to TAKE A MINUTE. Just take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and reflect what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.

And the most important thing to remember is that we all have those days. It’s normal to feel unmotivated and sluggish. We are not perfect. We are human. We are allowed to feel lazy and not are best selves.

How do you get out of a funk?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

Making My Own Kombucha

Kombucha. You’ve probably heard about this fizzy, probiotic drink from plenty of food and wellness bloggers. Kombucha is the product of fermenting sweetened tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Kombucha has been lauded for its ability to

  • Improve Digestion
  • Weight Loss
  • Increase Energy
  • Detox
  • Support Immune System
  • Reduce Joint Pain
  • Prevent Cancer

But, kombucha typically sells for $3-6 at supermarkets, which can really add up overtime! I decided to brew my own kombucha to see if it actually lives up to its health claims.

I started brewing my kombucha in February and I used a recipe by The Kitchn; it’s super detailed and explains everything step-by-step.

Just as a helpful note:

Batch Size: To increase or decrease the amount of kombucha you make, maintain the basic ratio of 1 cup of sugar, 8 bags of tea, and 2 cups starter tea per gallon batch. One scoby will ferment any size batch, though larger batches may take longer. (The Kitchn)

One of my friends’ sister was brewing kombucha as well, and I used a piece of her SCOBY.

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The scoby looked a little something like this! (Improving-SCOBY-Health.jpg)

I kept the kombucha in a dark area and let it sit and brew. Every couple weeks, I would give it a taste test to  make sure it wasn’t too sweet, but it also wasn’t too sour and vinegar-like. Finally, at the end of April, I decided it was ready!

 

 

 

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Look at that scoby!

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So, you can see that the scoby grew to be huge and super thick. The kombucha tasted sweet and vinegary, with just the right amount of carbonation. I drank 1/2 cup of kombucha a couple times every week, so here are my observations:

  • Claims to improve digestion –> From my experience, I was actually more gassy than before!
  • Increases energy –> I guess the vinegary kick from the kombucha did give me more energy…but the drink is super sugary, and the longer it was left in the fridge, the sweeter it got (something to do with the fermentation process…), and for me personally, the kombucha was too sweet.

In conclusion, I don’t really think kombucha is worth the hype based on how it made me feel. I must admit that I do feel very healthy sipping that ice-cold kombucha, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it is worth the money, or effort and time to make it.

What do you think about kombucha?

Love,

Serena

 

Talk. Just start talking.

If you guys have read any of my blog posts, then you know that I am quite immune and familiar that I have dealt with body image issues and not being “normal” with my eating.

And as much as I love sharing it here on the blog or writing about my experience with body image and my attitude towards food. Nevertheless, there is power and beauty in physically talking to someone. Face-to-face.

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I go to a boarding school so in my residential house, we have prefects. Prefects are seniors who serve almost in place as our parents. However, prefects tend to be so closely integrated into our house that they are our friends but our parents.

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go one of my prefects and just open up my whole situation. And I’ve shared this story so many times. Here on the blog. In my journal. But being able to talk to someone about this – someone who can respond and react to my story as I tell it, was powerful.

Another great thing was the prefect I told this apparently went through a similar situation. She was nodding the whole time and almost smiling to herself because she knew exactly how I was feeling. And after talking to her, she gave me a couple of tips, but what I cherished the most was that I had someone I could share my feelings and my experience with. Someone who went through something similar and understood me.

So with that, I really urge those who have something that they want to share, to just share. Go to someone you trust, trust that they’ll reserve judgement. There’s such a huge difference and power in telling someone face to face. Trust me.

Have you ever opened up about your experience regarding body image/eating disorder?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Easter Brunch: What I Ate Wednesday! 

For many people, Easter is a day for celebration, complete with lots of scrumptious food.  Here’s a rundown of everything I ate and did on Easter Sunday!

In the morning, I got up early for a 7:30am sunrise service at my church. Following the service, we had a large Chinese breakfast, with four different types of congee (beef, pork, pumpkin, and century egg) with fried crullers, tea-braised hard boiled eggs, steam pork buns, man tou (plain buns), and my favorite, red bean sticky rice cake.

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  Pumpkin Congee
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Tea-braised Eggs

 

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Red Bean Sticky Rice Cake- my favorite!!
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Mantou (plain buns)

 

After church, I went out to practice golf, because the weather was 80 degrees and gorgeous. Around 1 or 2, I came home to have a late lunch. I was sweaty and starving at this point, so I quickly grabbed all the fruit in the fridge, and had a feast of papaya, mango, and jack fruit. The fruit was perfect after a couple hours in the sun. I then had two slices of avocado toast, and finished my meal with some dairy-free ice cream!

  

Almond milk So Delicious ice cream with pistachios

So much good food on Easter, it was seriously #foodgoals!

 

Love,

Serena

Banana Cinnamon Coffee Overnight Oats

I love my overnight oats. Sometimes I think I wake up because my oats are calling my name. You might think I’m a bit overly obsessed but let me tell you they are the perfect breakfast to have in the mornings when you don’t have time to/don’t feel like making anything, but don’t want to sacrifice your health. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you better feed your body right, from the start.

I have so many overnight oat recipes that I’ve created, and I’ll share more of them later. But for now, allow me to introduce my go to, BANANA CINNAMON COFFEE overnight oats. As with many of my recipes, each of the ingredients are selected for a purpose, so that the ingredients list doesn’t contain any unnecessary bells and whistles.

Here it is:

Servings: 1

Time: 5 minutes active (yes, actually 5 minutes I timed it :)), 7-8 hours fridge overnight

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp. chia seeds (or sub flax seeds)

1/2 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp instant coffee powder (equivalent to about 1/2 cup coffee worth of caffeine)

1/2 cup + a little bit more almond milk (or milk of choice)

honey to taste

optional toppings: almond slivers, dark chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions:

1.) In a mason jar or some resealable jar, mash the banana. Add oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, coffee powder, honey, and milk.

2.) Screw on the lid and shake until well combined (or you could be fancy and mix with a spoon).

3.) Pop it in the fridge, and enjoy right out of the jar the next morning! (ideally 7-8 hours in the fridge, but the timing is flexible)

Yeah, that’s it. Just a throw everything in a jar and shake kind of recipe. You DO NOT have to have any kind of cooking skill to make this oatmeal, and it turns out creamy and satisfying every time!! You can heat it up in the morning as well, but I find cold/room temp oats to be just fine. I even have overnight oats for snack sometimes 😛

Let me know if you try out this recipe and your thoughts! Happy oatmeal eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

 

Essentials for a Great Workout Routine

It’s finally spring weather! After a super cold and dreary winter season, it’s so nice to sit on the porch with the sun shining and wind billowing. And of course, spring means that there is absolutely NO excuse to exercise! As much as I love working out and breaking a sweat, it’s definitely hard in the winter with the weather and just the ole winter blues.

With spring season and summer right around the corner, I wanted to share a few of my essentials for a killer workout routine.

1) Aaptiv

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Aaptiv is one of my newest discoveries, but quickly becoming my favorite and most crucial to have an amazing workout session. Warning: this is not a regular fitness app. The app provides motivation and guidance right from your headphones. For instance, when I do a treadmill workout, throughout the whole run, the trainers (one of my favorites being Rochelle) are continually motivating and cheering you on. The trainers are all super inspiring and their pumped-up voices are literally what makes me go that extra mile or push harder. Rather than my voice telling me that I should stop, go slower, or take a break, Rochelle’s voice shatters those doubtful thoughts. For those who are lacking in the motivation department, especially when you’re in the midst of the workout, give Aaptiv a try! (They provide a free 7-day trial. I’m sure you’ll be hooked on it after the 7 days, haha). If you check out their website and scroll down, you can hear a sample workout.

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^ Go to the website link and find this button to hear a sample workout!

2) Hydroflask Waterbottle

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I have this one in purple and LOOOVE it

Now, this isn’t just any water bottle. It has to be a Hydroflask. Oh my goodness, I can’t express how much I love my Hydroflask. On those hot and boiling days, opening my Hydroflask and sipping on ice-cold water is THE BEST FEELING. Even if I filled it up in the morning, my water stays cold even when I finish a workout late at night. (I believe that it insulates cold water for 24-hours and hot water for 12-hours). I highly recommend investing in a great insulating water bottle – it will change the way you drink water. (I’ve seen other popular insulating water bottles like S’well)

 

3) Scheduling

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Any bullet journal fanatics around here?

Out of all the essentials here, I believe that number three is the most important. Scheduling and carving out time to workout is key. For me especially, I am a busy-bee and have a million and one things to do in the weekday (and weekend sadly). So unless I schedule and write down that I’m going to workout, chances are, I’m not. And the workouts don’t have to be long at all. Even 20 minutes each day will make you feel much more energized and fit! In the app I was talking about previously, there is a filter where you can filter workouts depending on their duration, a feature I love and use a lot. If I only time to squeeze in a short workout I filter the time to 20 minutes and I can pick and choose which workouts I want to do within the 20 minutes. If I have more time, I would choose like a 45-min or even an hour long piece. TIP: Make sure that when you schedule your workout session, you create buffer time before and after the session. Usually I have a 5-min buffer before and a 10-min buffer after so that I have time to change, head to the gym, and take a break if needed.

 

4) Be realistic

Don’t overdo yourself. Make sure that your workout routine is sustainable. There are very low chances that you will continue a workout session if every time it is miserable and you hate it. In fact, for around 3 weeks, I’ve been routinely walking 10,000 steps daily. And while it took some modifications to get to that quota, the changes weren’t so drastic that I’ve been able to do it everyday. Making manageable changes are key to continue your workout session. In addition to manageable changes, it’s important to make sure you’re enjoying the workout. For me, I love running, taking long walks, golfing, or doing yoga, so I get to be happy while I’m burning calories – a win-win! I think Aaptiv does a great job with this (have I mentioned how much I love Aaptiv?!). The trainers are super motivating and after the end of each workout, I feel so rejuvenated and energized. The trainers at Aaptiv are what allows me to come back to the app each time for another workout.

 

What are your workout essentials?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Living with the “healthy” curse

Sorry for being a bit MIA over on the blog this week. I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile and while I haven’t really refined or polished it, I thought I would at least share what I have so far.

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A preview of what I’m going to talk about …

So around 2014, I ate relatively “normal.” That meaning I didn’t really obsess over what I was eating. Food never was a problem or concern in my life. But in spring of 2015, I was tempted to go on the dangerous path of restrictive eating and dieting. And at this point, I started obsessing in what I was eating. That became spinach, avocado, and other vegetables, but very little or if not at all on carbs and junk food. I have much to be grateful for as this is where I fell in love with nutrition. I learned that a calorie is not a calorie and that I’m much better off nourishing myself with nutrient dense foods.

Without rambling on too much, I slowly became obsessed with eating healthy. Eating not only the right amount but the right quality. But I quickly four out that this made me sad and lonely as I stopped going to social events and that I was constantly tired and cranky. In other words, I wasn’t mentally healthy even though I probably was physically healthy.

So I started indulging a bit. I started eating things in moderation. And I really tried to redefine what healthy meant for me. And I’ve been lucky and blessed enough to share part of this journey on the blog. (Like this one for example). But sadly enough, I’ve been receiving unwelcome and heartbreaking reactions from my friends.

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Who says I can’t eat a lemon bar?

As I got a few French fries from my school’s dining hall, I passed one of my friends who wasn’t close but knew me pretty well. She knew from last year that I was the one getting lunch and dinner from the salad bar. She knew me as the one who didn’t eat any cake, sweets, any processed or fatty foods. And she was right. I was that person last year.

But as much as it was hard for me to mentally change my outlook on food, it’s been hard for me to deal with the reactions I’ve been getting from my friends.

Whenever I get something a bit unhealthy, my friends gasp and almost scold me. And as much as I appreciate their concern and attention to me, I wish they would realize how hard it was for me to overcome that mental block I had before of “I shouldn’t eat this because it’s unhealthy.” Because you know what? I redefine my definition of healthy. Its to be mentally and physically sane and happy and to practice sustainable things.

But it’s definitely hard to do so when your friends only see you as that health nut. It’s hard to change their perception of you and consequently, it’s hard to change yourself because you’re almost beholden to their thinking.

So yeah that’s pretty much what I have so far. Just like what I said in the beginning of this post, I don’t have this figured out at all. It’s something I’ve been grappling with this past week and I’m sure the many more weeks to come. But I thought I might share here because I know there are so many wise and caring people out here on the blogging world.

 

With that said, how do you deal with your friends perceptions of your eating habits?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Asparagus for Any Day

I’ve always loved asparagus because of how fun it is to eat! Asparagus isn’t like spinach or lettuce where I feel like a cow eating it with stems and leaves sticking stubbornly out of my mouth. Instead, asparagus is crunchy and texturally satisfying. Also, fun fact, 1 cup of asparagus has 100% of the daily value of Vitamin K for blood clotting and bone support.

If you follow our Avolicious Instagram, you’ll know that I was sick this past week. I had a fever and I still have a sore throat, but I made this delicious asparagus dish that was both healthy and satisfying. My recipe was based off of my spiced fried rice recipe in that I used similar super healthy spices.

Here’s the simple recipe and I hope you give it a try!


Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Asparagus (duh)

1 tbsp Minced garlic/garlic powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

(That’s it!! only 4 ingredients!!)

Process:

1.) Wash asparagus and chop into 1.5 inch pieces.

2.) Heat 1 tbsp. water in a pan and add minced garlic if using

3.) Once water is hot, add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes

4.) Add turmeric and black pepper

Yay!! All done. This recipe is easy easy you really don’t need to have many cooking skills for it! Plus, the turmeric is amazing for fighting inflammation, and black pepper helps the body absorb the nutrients from the turmeric.

Enjoy!

-Serena 

Foodie Alphabet

I think one of the greatest things about blogging is the community. While at first I was intimidated on commenting on other people’s blogs, to be honest, the conversations I have through blogging have been so invaluable.

One blogger that I’ve been following ever since I created Avolicious is Shadee from Izzie’s Kitchen. Shadee continues to amaze me with the dedication and amazing quality posts she churns up daily (or sometimes multiple posts in a single day!). Particularly, the titles to her blog posts are always SPOT ON. You have to check her out – she’s amazing beyond words.

Anywho, Shadee challenged me to do the foodie alphabet after she posted her alphabet on her blog a couple of days ago. Of course, as the foodie I am, I was excited to take part in this challenge. Thanks, Shadee for this challenge! My hope is that all my 26 favorites are different from Shadee’s!

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I challenge:

Stephanie’s Foodie Alphabet

Avocado (duh..what did you expect? 😉 )

Banana (I eat one every single day)

Chickpeas

Durian (fun fact: I used to hate these. When we were living in the Philippines, my mom would buy them at least twice a month. My dad and I refused to eat it. However, a bit older, I guess my tastebuds have matured. – Glad they did, durian is so good. )

Eggplant

Fettucine Alfredo (I know…not that healthiest, but in moderation … 🙂 )

Grapefruit

Hummus (I’m not cheating – chickpeas and hummus are independent things. At least for me haha)

Instant Apples & Cinnamon Oatmeal (much needed sometimes on a cold rainy morning)

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Kiwi (Kimchi is a close second)

Lychees (had so many of these when I was living in the Philippines)

Mango

Nectarines

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Persimmon

Quinoa

Rice!!! (I am an Asian by heart, am I right???)

Salmon & Smoked Salmon

Tofu

Udon

Vanilla Ice Cream

Walnuts

Xigua (apparently this is the Chinese word for watermelon. I couldn’t find any “x” words so I switched my W – Watermelon to Xigua and put Walnuts up)

Yogurt

Zucchini

What’s your foodie alphabet?

xoxo,

Stephanie