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.

 

unnamed.jpg

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.

unplug_page

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.

file_000-6

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.

Improving-SCOBY-Health
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!

 

 

 

IMG_6248.JPG
Look at that scoby!

IMG_6249.JPG  IMG_6252.JPG

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.

IMG_6167.JPG

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.

Image result for pumpkin congee
  Pumpkin Congee
Image result for chinese breakfast
Tea-braised Eggs

 

Image result for red bean sticky rice cake
Red Bean Sticky Rice Cake- my favorite!!
Image result for steam buns and man tou
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

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

Aaptiv_classes.jpg

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 4.48.41 PM
^ Go to the website link and find this button to hear a sample workout!

2) Hydroflask Waterbottle

hydroflask.jpg
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

bullet-journal-p90x3-page-horizontal.jpg
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

 

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!

IMG_6116 (2).JPG

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

 

 

 

Glass half-full? Or glass half-empty? | Positive Mindset

The first day back from spring break, I had golf try-outs.

Now, I’m NOTHING NOTHING compared to Serena (she is a goddess at golf, but she’s way too humble to brag or talk about it, so I’ll do it for her: her handicap is an 8!!! An 8!!!).

However, ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve always wanted to learn and do golf. My dad is an avid golf fan and he goes out with his friends or coworkers pretty much every weekend. He always expressed interest for my mom and me to join him to golf. As much as he loved golfing with his friends, he’s always wanted to play with his family.

So after having a horrible experience with crew (it’s a very respectable sport, but it just wasn’t the sport for me), I had nothing to do for spring term. I decided to try out golf.

I started playing golf seriously last summer, so summer of 2016. I had weekly lessons and my dad and I would go out to the driving range several times a week. But being that I was away at boarding school and busy with school work, I could only practice golf intensely during school breaks.

So with a lack of sufficient experience, I was a wreck and full of nerves and anxiety leading to the golf tryouts. However, if there is one thing I learned from golf try-outs, it’s having a positive mindset.

I used to play tennis before (yeah, as you can see, I’ve had my fair share of many sports but I was never able to stick to a sport since I was so horrible at it haha. One of the reasons I fell in love with running – not much skill needed). One thing about tennis that I miss is the mental game. You have to have a strong mental game. Period.

I remember during tennis matches between each point, while waiting for the serve or before my serve, I would tell myself “Stephanie, you can do this. You can do this. Have confidence. Have faith. You can do this.”

And this sort of mental pep talk does wonders. It really does. Playing with a positive and confident mindset has a huge difference than playing with a negative and discouraging mindset.

Instead of regretting and grumbling of a bad shot, changing my mindset to “Okay, make the next shot the best you can,” has changed the outcome of my golf game drastically.

So in short, LIVE WITH CONFIDENCE. CARRY YOURSELF WITH CONFIDENCE.

Remember to always to have the glass half-full perspective. You’ll find yourself surprised of the positive outcomes that will come out of it.

How strong is your mental game?

xoxo,

Stephanie

How I Stay Healthy When Eating Out

You’re stuck in a restaurant that you didn’t want to go to in the first place. One look at the menu and you know this will be a major cheat meal-fried chicken, ribs, steak and potatoes, with not a mention of a vegetable in sight!

I’ve experienced this little scenario many times before, I visit my relatives from New York about once a month, and whenever we eat out, they always choose to go to either a chain steakhouse or a Chinese restaurant.

So, over the years, I’ve developed some techniques to staying healthy when eating out. I think these tips can be applied to many different scenarios, like if your friends all decide to order takeout from a restaurant that you know does not have healthy food, or if you are at a fast food restaurant because you have no time to sit down and eat a slow meal.

Also, I just want to note that I am pescatarian, but these tips can definitely apply to vegetarians, vegans, or just health-conscious individuals.

1.) Look at the salad options. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but the salad might be your best bet to eating a plant-based meal. If the salad has an element that you would prefer not to have, just ask for it to be removed or replaced. Since you are still paying for that element of the dish, you could just give it to the people dining with you.

2.) Sides are your best friend. I’ve been to steakhouses that offer no vegetable dish at all. Even the salads contain some kind of meat, whether that be chicken or steak. However, I can guarantee you that you’ll find at least one plant based option among the sides. Take this menu from Outback Steakhouse for example. All of the sides are plant based (with the exception of theFullSizeRender mac and cheese). You can also usually make potatoes healthier by asking for no toppings (getting rid of fatty sour cream) and just add salt and pepper to your taste. You could also ask for condiments on the side, so instead of the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sugar and Butter that is on the menu, you could add these two ingredients to your liking.

If none of the main dishes are speaking to you, you can order solely sides, or a combination of appetizers and sides.

 

 

 

3.) Your waiter is your best friend. As I’ve stated before, you can always ask for an ingredient to be removed, replaced, or put on the side. Your waiter or the cashier is your go-to person for making these requests. One time, I went to TGI Friday’s with my family because it was the only restaurant open at the time we wanted dinner. With the exception of a garden salad, there was not a single non-meat item on the menu. I didn’t really want to have the garden salad because it was just lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. So instead, I ordered the mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken, and asked for all of the chicken to be replaced with broccoli.

4.) When eating a family-style meal, take charge of ordering food. When you are eating with a large group of people (like my extended family, with 13 people) it’s easy to engage in side conversations while the ordering is occurring. There have been many times where other people have ordered, and as a result, I may only have one dish that I can eat as a pescatarian, or as a healthy person in general! So, if you are in charge of ordering the food, you can order what you want to eat because anyways, it will benefit the group to have at least one or two healthy dishes on the table.

So I hope these tips will help you when ordering food! Fast food doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, and steakhouses don’t always have to mean steak. Happy eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

My Exercise Journey

My exercise journey has been completely shaped by parent’s, especially my mom’s, passion for exercise. To put this in perspective, my parents actually met at an outdoors organization. Go figure.

Throughout my life, my parents have always stressed the importance of experiencing the outdoors. Our definition of a family vacation included driving until we were practically outside of civilization, hiking rugged trails that extended for miles, gazing out at scenic landscapes, and staying in funny-smelling, sketchy motels in the middle of nowhere. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we’ve visited at least one National Park. Last year, we crossed off an item from my bucket list by traveling to Washington and Oregon, and visiting Crater Lake, Olympic National Park, and others. So, hiking as a form of exercise has been with me forever. I can definitely relate to Stephanie’s post about a Walker’s High!

But for the majority of the year, when we were at home, my mom enrolled me in a variety of different sports, in hopes that I would find a passion. I was involved with swimming classes, a soccer team, gymnastics, golf, and ice skating.

Swimming eventually became a major part of my life, as I would take classes every weekend, and I joined a swim team. I remember one meet in particular, waiting anxiously beside the pool for my heat to start, as rain was pouring down, my small body was blanketed in goose bumps, and my heart was pounding out of my chest.

However, I ended up giving up swimming for the sport that had resonated the most with me–golf.

I think it was the similarities to hiking that got me hooked. I loved how I could just walk, while engaging in competition! To boil it down, golf is just that, walking, swinging a club every once in a while, and that’s it. But as I immersed myself deeper into golf, I realized that the biggest reason I loved golf so much was that feeling of euphoria after hitting an amazing shot. We golfers call it “pin-seeking” or “throwing darts” when we hit the ball close to the cup. It truly is an indescribable feeling.

I spent countless nights on the driving range, hitting balls until I was the only one left because it was too dark to see the ball. After the driving range, I would walk over to practice on the putting green. And by the time I was done, the entire golf course parking lot was empty except for my parent’s car. On the weekends, I would play in tournaments all over the state, sometimes driving over an hour to get to a golf course. Golf became an integral part of my life, and it was how I exercised.

At the start of middle school, I decided to join the track team, because I knew that running would benefit my golf swing and help me hit the ball farther. Well, let’s just say joining track was a bit of a fail. I was a sprinter, but we were also required to participate in a field event. I tried hurdling, because many of my friends were doing it, but every time I attempted to jump over a hurdle my foot would stubbornly hit the hurdle and I would fall flat. It was one of the most humiliating times of my life, and I remember all of the popular “track stars” laughing at me as I struggled and fell hurdle after hurdle. I also despised the running aspect of track, I hated the hard workouts, and coming in consistently among the lasts did not help. I was so defeated that I quit track the following year. I briefly tried volleyball, which also turned out to be a bust as well.

One day, I decided to go with my mom to her gym, and I went to a yoga class. It was completely love at first attempt. I adored the relaxing-yet challenging poses and flow of yoga. It helped me unwind and get a good workout. As my mom preferred Zumba and playing badminton to yoga that she considered was “too slow,” I frequently went to the yoga classes by myself. I was 12 years old and the only kid in the class, but nevertheless I enjoyed being around supportive adults who loved yoga as much as I did! I diligently practiced headstands in my room at night, and I would film myself to make sure my form was correct.

Right before high school, determined to have one other actual sport aside from golf, I attempted field hockey. I figured that since it seemed similar to golf, it might be easier than the other sports I had tried. Mind you-this was the first time I had run so much since track in 6th grade! I was not ready for the cardio challenge, but I actually thoroughly appreciated the wonderful workout that I would get a couple days a week at practice.

Now, I am still playing field hockey, and doing yoga when I can. But this year, I tried running track again. Judging by the running workouts from field hockey, I knew that my endurance was not bad compared to the other girls, so I tried out for the distance running team. I was mostly motivated by Stephanie’s enthusiasm about running, but also my desire to actually challenge myself, and the fact that running would make me stronger and my golf swing more powerful.

I never expected to make it into track, because 1) the most I had every run was 3 miles, 2) I had failed at 6th grade track, and 3) I didn’t have much willpower. But, God made it happen! During tryouts, I ran an entire minute and a half faster than I had ever run before. I found a sport that was extremely challenging, but it whipped me into shape and I loved the support that everyone gave each other through each meet. Being a part of track made me very proud, because I had never considered myself a very athletic person. –> I think I’ll talk about my thoughts/experience about athleticism in another post. I also think I’ll run track again next year.

I’m definitely looking forward to the golf season, it starts on Tuesday!!!

Oh wow I realize this post is longer than I expected! Congratulations if you made it all the way to the end. I hope you enjoyed my story and maybe took something away from it!

Care to share your exercise journey?

Love,

Serena