2018 Reflections, Onward to 2019!

2018 Reflections, Onward to 2019!

Last year, 2018, marked the hardest year of my life so far. Countless days of studying for standardized tests, working through the most difficult semesters of high school (junior spring + senior fall), applying for college, and struggling to resolve family matters took a tremendous toll on my wellbeing. But, highs always come with lows, and as I scrolled through my camera roll at all of my pictures from the past year, I know that there is much to be thankful for.

2018 began with good food and family time…

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1/1/18 breakfast at the best coffee shop with my family

And continued with friends…

 

Travel to old and new destinations…

 

Many trips to my favorite city, NYC…

 

Lots of golf with my favorite team…

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Exploring my passion for sustainability…

 

And of course, indulging in lots of food…

 

Thank you, 2018, for all of the struggles and new experiences!

I hope that 2019 will bring lots of growth for me, as I complete high school and embark on my college journey. I usually don’t make “resolutions,” but I will set new (and hopefully attainable) wellness-focused goals for myself to start off this year.

  1. Food – this winter break, I indulged on practically every meal. With the holiday season and large family feasts, I made it a habit to finish everything on my plate, even if the amount was too much. As a result, I didn’t feel healthy, and tried to offset my meals by working out. But I know from experience that diet is the single most important factor in a healthy lifestyle, and these are my food goals for 2019…
    1. Break the habit of eating past 8pm! (Only do this on special occasions)
    2. Portion control (only one plate of food/meal)
  2. Prioritize sleep and try to wake up earlier – After watching many productivity/lifestyle Youtube videos, I have been feeling very inspired to start waking up earlier. My goal is: wake up at 6:30 AM everyday, with the hope of reaching 6AM. Of course, this will mean that I have to sleep earlier.
  3. Write one blog post/month!
  4. Read more books for pleasure…I’m currently reading The Girl on the Train…would recommend for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and mysteries!
  5. Be more respectful of parents
  6. Work hard and play hard

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions, and what have you learned from 2018?

Love,

Serena

 

 

Why I am Thankful for my Eating Disorder

Why I am Thankful for my Eating Disorder

This post comes a bit late, but rather than rushing to write a post for Thanksgiving Day, I decided to spend quality time with my family and friends and then take time in writing this post. So here I go. A few days late, but still very relevant.

Yesterday was the three year anniversary for Avolicious. Over these three years, I’ve changed, especially mentally. To be honest, when I started Avolicious with Serena, I was “recovered” from my eating disorder, but the frequency of those relapsing thoughts was quite high.

Especially, going to a high school boarding school, I was even more pressured and swayed by my peers. And my recovery almost faced a downward trajectory.

And so I started writing posts relating to disordered eating as initially a means not for others, but for me.

I needed to convince myself that I chose the right decision to seek recovery: that I needed to nourish my body, that I needed to give my body the love, rest, and appreciation that it deserves.

And over the three years, through meeting other bloggers on this platform, through trying as consistently as I can, through writing blog posts that I needed to hear as much as others did, I’ve made slow but significant progress in my recovery.

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The blog posts no longer serve as reminders for me, but to you, the reader. My blog posts have finished serving my purpose of convincing myself that recovery was the right decision and now have become that same purpose for you all.

And something I want to write today is that as ignorant as it may sound, hardships are something we can be thankful for.

Although I have recovered, the thoughts will stay with me forever. I’m not going to lie, some days are harder than others to keep those toxic thoughts in control.

To many, the Holidays can be a time where these thoughts flare up – we have lots of food, lots of events to attend meaning we have lots of people to meet (and want to impress).

But I’ve learned that having a resentful mindset toward my eating disorder past won’t do anything for me.

Yes, I will continue to be haunted by these thoughts, but this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my eating disorder.

Now let me clarify. I am not thankful for the actual challenges and hardships – the mental and physical pain – of my eating disorder. But I’m thankful of what I became of due to my eating disorder.

My eating disorder at the time was a coping mechanism for me to control something of my life. I was extremely Type-A, detail-oriented, and a perfectionist – and I was good at it. But as I got to middle school, I was slowly losing grasp of this (not to even mention high school, ha). And in a seeming sense of feeling lost and overwhelmed, I turned to one thing I could control: my eating.

In the thick of my eating disorder, when I realized that I needed to get better, my eating disorder gave me a chance to reflect on my life.  I realized that I was doing the same thing I did with my eating in my academics, social life, faith, and life in general.

The moralizing I put into my food choices (If you eat a hamburger, you’re bad. If you eat a salad, you’re a good person), I did likewise to my academics (If you get a B, you’re bad. If you get a A+, you’re an amazing person). And the same went to how I viewed my friendships, and my relationship with God.

But I never wanted to relive through that traumatic experience I had from my eating disorder in other aspects in life. Rather than chasing toward the unrealistic and restrictive rules society imposed on me, my eating disorder has taught me to loosen my grip on life. If I don’t fix my mindset now, I realized I’m going to be stuck in this restrictive mindset for the rest of my life.

I wanted to live a liberating life, a life that was peaceful without the noise from society of what I’m supposed to do and not do.

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By choosing to live a life that I was happy and excited about, I had to make the hard choice of having to quit extracurriculars that were becoming a chore and simply a name for college apps. These extracurriculars were restricting me rather than giving me the chance to flourish and grow. While I had reservations about giving up these activities that I had worked hard for by sacrificing my weekends and sleep, I realized I was working hard to a false distortion of success, an image that would ultimately make me unhappy. Instead, I consciously have chosen to be happy and make the most out of the present moment rather than looking to where I’ll be next. While in the beginning it was a bit tough, loving my current life allowed me to be much happier and free.

Numbers no longer dictate me, rather, they merely give me a snapshot, a rough outline of my progress.

And with my eating disorder, came a different Stephanie. This is not to say that I’ve completely reversed in my roles. Much like my eating disorder recovery, I’ve learned how to handle and control my Type-A, perfectionist thoughts.

And while I’ve failed countless times to control these thoughts, I know that success is the result of repeated and consistent trials and so I continue practicing that less rigid mindset day in and day out.

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I thank my eating disorder for teaching what it means to be resilient, patient, and determined. But above all, for changing my life view. I now regard my eating disorder as a time for me to pause, reflect, and change a lifestyle that was extremely toxic and unhealthy for me. If it weren’t something as significant as an eating disorder, maybe I would have continued to ignore those warning signs and still live that extreme perfectionist and demanding lifestyle.

And so, with all due respect, thank you to my eating disorder. Thank you for creating a new me, a me that I grow to love and appreciate more every day.

What unexpected thing are you thankful for?

xoxo,

Stephanie

The biggest takeaway from my health journey

The biggest takeaway from my health journey

Over the weekend, Serena and I had a lot of fun answering your questions on our InstaStory (if you aren’t following us already, follow @avolicious_blog !!). One of my favorite questions was “What is the biggest takeaway from my health journey?”

I answered this briefly in the InstaStory, but the biggest takeaway from my (ongoing) health journey is to follow your own path. As easy it is to look up online on what to eat, how to exercise, how to live (and if you think about it, that’s essentially what you’re looking up), I’ve learned that every body and mind is different.

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In middle school, young Stephanie thought that she had to look a certain way, had to eat only certain foods and had to exercise x amounts a week, x minutes at a time. But I’ve learned that health (or wellness as a better word), is COMPLETELY relative.

It’s really frustrating to hear that – especially when we have so many seemingly helpful resources and also a bombardment of lifestyle pictures, it is very easy to fall in the trap of imposing someone else’s “healthy” onto you.

But just like what Serena responded, to practice these health-conscious decisions consistently, it has to be sustainable, it has to be a lifestyle. Your preferences and decisions need to work with your lifestyle – not some 20 year old who lives in NYC and has the money to buy expensive vegan food and do private workouts because they are all influencers trying to unrealistically influence you to live a certain way.

It takes a long time to find this happy medium. I’m still finding that happy medium. Every single day.

I keep a mental log of what things don’t work well for me. What I’ve learned: I don’t do well with dairy, I cannot wait to eat until my stomach is starving: or else, I get a huge stomachache, I cannot eat that much for breakfast, I need to eat simple carbs when I’m in huge anxiety mode. For exercise, I cannot exercise when I am tired – sleeping is better for me then. And the list continues to get modified as each day passes.

So with all that, listen to your body. Be present. Learn about your body, not about someone else’s.

What’s the biggest takeaway from your health journey?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Speak Out and Ask for Help | World Mental Health Day

Speak Out and Ask for Help | World Mental Health Day

While today is “officially” World Mental Health Day,  to be frank, everyday should be so. As much as physical health has always been recognized as important, I think society today has made great strides in eliminating the stigma against mental health.

But in my perspective, I don’t see mental health and physical health as a black and white dynamic. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, mental health and physical health go very hand in hand.

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Some people regard eating disorders as a very physical thing: in fact many insurance companies delegate which of their clients is eligible to get coverage for their recovery treatment purely based on weight. If their client maintains that they have an eating disorder, however they are a certain low weight, they will not be insured. Some people depict anorexia, bulimia, and all disordered eating in the in between with skinniness where you can see the bones and no muscle. And soon as we gain weight, we are deemed as “recovered.”

However, disordered eating carries more than the physical manifestation. Actually, I think it is more than the physical. Disordered eating takes on a whole psychological battle: internalizing your worth through food, exercise, and body image. So even if you are at a physically “healthy” weight, your thoughts are still unhealthy and damaging.

And although very depressing, sometimes these thoughts will never be gone. There isn’t necessarily something as full, complete recovery where you can live a life drastically different and with no fear of food. There will always be lingering thoughts – sometimes felt more severely than other times – and so recovery means something greater than completely eliminating those thoughts but rather, knowing how to handle them when they do pop up because they do.

Mental health is  viewed in society as something that is treated once and will never come back. No, just as much as a physical fever or cold, we get sick frequently. And that’s we have doctors and medicine because we know that we don’t just get sick once in our lifetime, but dozens and dozens of times. Very much so, mental health problems are not something that just passes by, but rather with each time, will make you a stronger person and more ready to handle it the next time it comes, because it will come again.

So on behalf of World Mental Health Day, prioritize your health: both physical and mental. And always always know asking for help does not make you any less of person, but actually brings and shows the humanity in you. We as humans require help and support to grow into stronger forms of ourselves. There is always someone out there that sincerely cares for your health. You are never alone.

xoxo,

Stephanie

What does it mean to honor and listen to your body? Delving into what intuitive eating means…

What does it mean to honor and listen to your body? Delving into what intuitive eating means…

Some of my friends who read my blog posts ask me what it means to honor and listen to your body. To be frank, listening to your body is a medium that is incredibly hard – harder than the extremes. Based on my experience, restricting or overeating and not exercising at all or overexercising is a lot easier than practicing “moderation.”

Across my recovery, I’ve been recommended to practice intuitive eating, but let me tell you intuitive is very difficult when you’ve been practicing disordered eating. Listening to your body requires a lot of time, patience, and effort.

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To me, listening to my body means to not eat ice cream because I know that my body does not process dairy well. I know that the sluggish and queasy feeling I get in my stomach after eating dairy is not worth the momentary pleasure of eating ice cream. This is not restriction. Restriction would be not getting ice cream because I know there are too many calories in ice cream.

To me honoring my body means going out for an easy run when I’m itchy for some movement. I know that I have been sitting down a lot throughout the week and want to stretch out and give the range of motion my body wants. This is not exercise addiction. Exercise addiction would be exercising despite injuries, despite your body feeling weak and tired.

To me, intuitive eating means not getting seconds because I am aware that my wanting to get seconds is emotional: I had a rough day at school, I have friend drama going on, I have a big test looming ahead. I am aware that my physical hunger has been satisfied. This is not restriction because restriction would be to not eat when my stomach is asking for more food.

Indeed, this is not easy. It’s hard to take the time to reflect, pause, and listen to what your body wants. And even when you are trying to listen, sometimes you are confused as to whether you are listening to your physical self or your emotional self.

This took me an incredibly time (maybe an upward of two years) and I’m still not near perfect. Intuitive eating is never about being perfect and listening to your body every single time. Intuitive eating is about progress, about continually getting better at listening to your body. Because sometimes, you may be physically full but you just might need a little sweet to pick you up. And that’s completely fine.

Going into intuitive eating is first a huge step. To completely ditch the calorie counting in your head, to ditch the “obligation” to exercise, to completely ditch all the rules from society but to only listen to yourself. And even when you decide to practice intuitive eating, it is a hard principle to follow. But read my examples above. Getting to that point took a lot of time, patience and effort but at the end, I feel much more energy and love and self-respect for my body.

You only get to live with your body once. Honor it. Listen to it. No matter how hard it gets.

What will you do today to honor your body?

Xoxo,

Stephanie

My Apple Watch is making me fall back in love with running again…

My Apple Watch is making me fall back in love with running again…

For anyone who’s known me since ninth grade, you know that running and I have a love and hate relationship.

I entered high school vowing to never do track. I ran track in middle school — specifically the 800m which for those who are not familiar with track, you have to run at the speed of a sprint but at a significant distance.

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I think this might have been one of my last long run before I took a hiatus. One of my favorite trails – right along the canal.

The only reason I ran track in middle school was because my hand-eye coordination is extremely poor. I’ve done my fair share of ball sports — my P.E. teacher always shouted to me, “keep your eyes on the ball,” and I have, it’s just that I innately can’t hit it. LOL

Anywho, I entered a new high school telling myself running is a no-no. However, when winter term came, I found myself in the distance winter track team. I don’t even know how that happened. I just looked through the Avolicious archives and found my winter break running routine. I sound insane – I don’t even know how I did that.

But long story short, I fell in love with running during freshmen and sophomore year. I loved the team, I loved the energy and support, but I loved the personal growth and strength you developed from running the most. However, because of my weak knees, I had a slew of injuries to the point that this year I’m not running.

One of the highlights of my weekend during high school was going on long runs with Serena. Whether it was to a park or to a canal (which we went this summer!!), catching up over the 7 miles was incredibly fun and refreshing. But with weak knees making me run less, I lost my stamina and strength and just fell out of running.

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Last XC race 😦

So for the past year or so, I stayed away from running. And the more I stayed away, the more I didn’t want to go back. But that changed with my Apple watch…

I received my Apple watch as a present sometime this spring. I’ve always been a watch enthusiast — Serena can attest to this. But the watches I used to wear were the regular analog leather watches. So getting this huge digital watch was definitely a transition.

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Please excuse the hand…but here’s the activity app. Everything is currently at zero because this was taken past midnight so the next day 🙂 You can see the Move, Stand and Exercise rings. You can customize these goals to be higher or lower than the default.

 

Of all the features of the Apple watch, my favorite has to be the Activity app and the Workout app. The Activity app has three “rings” it measures: move, stand and exercise. Move is essentially the calories you’ve burned, exercise is the amount of time your heart rate has risen, and stand is the amount of time you’ve stood up throughout the day.

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again, sorry for the grainy pic 😦

The Workout app is kind of like the Activity one in the sense that it tracks your movement, but for a specific activity. So I usually set mine to outdoor run or indoor run and it tracks your BPM, mileage and pace which is super neat. I can’t wait for my AirPods to come in the mail so I can leave my phone at home and listen to music from my Apple watch!

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What the rings look like stacked up on your iPhone app

For some one who’s competitive and extremely Type-A, I find it incredibly fun to close all my rings. The Apple watch does a cool animation of the ring closing with a ding sound. It’s a small sign, but it for some reason, does make my day.

So although I’m not fully back into my runner’s high, I can confidently say that my Apple watch has helped me find the joy and fun in running.

And frankly, you don’t even have to invest in an Apple watch to get this feeling. If you didn’t know, your iPhone actually automatically tracks your steps. If you go on the Health app, it shows your steps and distance walked. And you can also download the Nike running app which is great for running. But I think the Apple watch is a great investment as it makes tracking your runs and standard daily activity so much easier. I love the stand feature as it reminds during my long study sessions to take a break and give my legs a stretch.

This is definitely one of my longer posts, but the length just goes to show how much I love my Apple watch! If you have any questions about the Apple watch, leave a comment below!

Have you ever fallen back in love with running?

xoxo

Stephanie

 

Debunking the Freshmen 15

Debunking the Freshmen 15

For some reason or the other, I’ve been in a jumble of emotions. First, I’m heading into my last year of high school (insert screaming face emoji here) and that in itself is surreal. I tell my friends this all the time, but I still very much feel like I’m a freshman.

Second, a lot of my friends are heading into their freshmen year of college. And that feels weird too. Although they’ve always been a year ahead of me, it just doesn’t seem right that they should now possess the maturity of a college student. Anyways, some of these friends told me that they were worried about getting the freshmen 15.

For those of you who don’t know, the freshmen 15 is an expression that refers to college freshmen gaining arbitrarily 15 pounds their first year of college.

And now I get it, gaining 15 pounds sounds scary. I mean in this culture gaining any little bit of weight is daunting. As a boarding school student, “freshmen 15” was already buzzing around the halls in the freshmen girls dorm. I even wrote a post two years ago about how to “avoid” the freshmen 15.

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But in many ways now, I personally think the freshmen 15 phrase is dangerous. It is one more time for society to tell us that gaining weight = bad and so conversely, being skinny = good. And this black and white spectrum is a toxic mindset to adopt.

I still vividly remember freshmen year exclaiming, “There goes my freshmen 15” as they took a bite into a slice of pizza. That takes the joy out of eating. The “Freshmen 15” presents one more obstacle to something that was so natural as simply eating when we were hungry and stopping when we are full.

Eating is truly and genuinely for fuel and nourishment. It is just as much an essential, in fact a basic essential, as SLEEP. But then when we go to sleep do we worry about not getting enough sleep? (Actually maybe that might be a concern for some, but it’s not as raved about as the Freshmen 15, no?

Why do we have to create certain limits and fears and “rules” to an essential? If you are hungry eat! If you have a craving, respond to that craving. I’ve talked about this many times on the blog before, but our bodies are a lot smarter than we think.

Respect. Listen. And Honor your body. Don’t shy away from getting to know your new dorm mates because you know there’s going to be Chinese take out. Don’t ignore a text to go out to dinner at a restaurant you know is “Freshmen 15 conducive.” Live life. Enjoy life. Understand that food can be a very social thing and that yeah, you might gain weight. But that shouldn’t be your biggest worry. It’s just not worth your time. I promise.

Have you heard of the Freshmen 15?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

let go and stop counting calories, steps, pounds and instead allow peace

let go and stop counting calories, steps, pounds and instead allow peace

Let me ask you a question: what do you count?

Do you count money? Do you count your grades? Do you count the number of followers you have on Instagram? Do you count calories burned? Do you count calories eaten? Do you count the number of steps you’ve taken? Or do you count the number of your coffee cups – sorry couldn’t help but sneak in the Rent reference 😉

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The fact of the matter is, whatever you count, those numbers are what consumes your life. Perhaps consumes is too strong of a word, but that’s the only word I can think of right now.

During the thick of my eating disorders, numbers were constantly on my mind. Now I’m no math whiz so what I was doing was not Calculus or anything. What I was counting were my 1,200 calories and the pounds that were never enough.

Even now I can look at a food and estimate around how many calories it’ll be. I lived off on MyFitnessPal for over a year – I probably used that app more than my iMessage app, I even could say that it was my most used app by far.

I would step up that darn scale every morning and night – making sure that my weight didn’t fluctuate for more than 1.0 pounds. And so I quantified my worth to solely those numbers. I became the calories I consumed, the pounds that I carried.

But let go and stop counting whatever you’re counting and allow yourself to intuitively find peace and balance. Trust your body to know what it wants. Believe that your body can consume the right enough calories, can wear the right enough pounds, can take enough steps. 

Rather than following the suggested (at least be honest you don’t even take it as a suggestion but more of as a must”) number of steps, calories, and pounds that some random person and the collective illusive society tells you to live, listen to your own body and trust in it.

Free your mind from the number crunching, those false scripted groundless numbers. Breathe in and out. Let yourself free.

What will you stop counting?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

The struggle to practice what I preach

The struggle to practice what I preach

I wish I could walk the talk that I give on the blog. I wish I could fully embrace my physical flaws, I wish I could truly eat for nourishment and not vanity. But I don’t.

Since Avolicious’s beginnings, I’ve written something along the lines of fitness, nutrition and anywhere in between. And I’ve tried my best to be the empowering and positive-minded presence. Keyword: tried.

Maybe it’s part of being human or perhaps it’s just me, but I still struggle with loving my body and eating certain foods for strength and energy, but I eat certain foods in the hopes to simply look skinner.

I just wrote about why carbs are not the enemy on yesterday’s post. As much as that post was addressed to the public, it was equally addressed to me: I am scared of carbs. I continue to still moralize my food choices and find the need to excessively justify every single food choice. My brain is noisy, it’s never quiet when I’m eating. But yet, but yet, I say that I am something otherwise on the blog.

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And in a sense, my blog is an extension of what I wish to be. The opinions, the thoughts, the blog posts that I write are what I desire I could be. Someone who was confident, empowered, self-loving and truly content with where she is now. And through much of this past year, this contradiction has always haunted me. I write about loving and embracing our bodies for what they are, but immediately as I hit publish I lament at my reflection on the mirror. My seemingly dual life haunted me and I questioned if I should write for Avolicious anymore.

So I took a break from Avolicious around the spring time of this year; I wasn’t comfortable with not “walking the talk.”

But I came back. Why?

… because change is not a judgment of yourself

The change I wanted for myself were what I wrote on Avolicious: full acceptance of one’s body and mindful eating. And to get to that point, I needed to change myself. I am constantly changing: each blog post nudges me to walk more step on the path that I wish to walk on. The ideas and the posts for Avolicious are helping me walk out of the path that I am walking on right now and turn into the path that I wish to walk on.

While my usual posts have a satisfactory end, today’s post will be unfinished because I am still wandering and exploring this new and frightening chapter of my life. Thank you for all the support, but don’t expect me to exactly walk the talk, I’m getting there 😉

Do you practice what you preach?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

 

carbs are not the enemy

carbs are not the enemy

I’ve seen countless of Instagram posts or websites encouraging to forgo carbs completely so as to lose weight. But we don’t have to demonize carbs and we shouldn’t embrace low-carb diets.

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Piling on top of my multi-grain bread, a whole lot of avocados 🙂

Carbs are the best source of energy and thus, when you drastically cut out your carb intake, your body will respond by preserving fat … making it harder for you to lose weight.

Why, you ask?

When humans used to be hunter-gatherers, our bodies were trained to preserve body fat when they realized that the body’s energy source was low. Our bodies are incredibly smart and so when you start eliminating carbs, your body thinks you are in a critical situation with not much resources and instead of readily expending your energy, tries its best to preserve it – in the form of holding onto your body fat.

Now this doesn’t mean go on a pasta and garlic bread feast everyday. It means you have to choose your carbs carefully: carbs are not made all the same.

We have our complex carbs (think multigrain bread, brown rice, oatmeal; “starchy” foods) and we also have our refined carbs (aka white bread, white pasta, chips, baked goods). You want to aim for complex carbs as they are higher in fiber and also digest more slowly. You don’t get that energy spike and sugar crash, but rather a continual source of energy. This long source of energy allows you to snack less and stay satisfied for longer periods of time. Also, fiber is critical as it slows the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream, hence making you feel full longer.

For those whose eyes glazed over the more “scientific” terms, here is the quick summary:

  • Carbs are not bad for you, in fact, if you eliminate carbs it makes it harder to lose weight
    • Your body holds onto your body fat rather than letting it go because it assumes you are at an energy depletion
  • Carbs are not bad for you, BUT you should choose carefully ==> CHOOSE COMPLEX CARBS

What are your thoughts on carbs?

xoxo,

Stephanie