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…

A3988A55-08C2-48E0-ACAD-535512BDF324.JPG
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…

51B56F36-A6CC-4D98-A568-B0A6BB31A230.JPG

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

 

 

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.

IMG_7200.JPG

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

 

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.

avolicious header image

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

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.

IMG_0675.JPG

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

 

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.

IMG_8140.jpg
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

Does a juice cleanse really work?

Does a juice cleanse really work?

The juice cleanse diet is among one of the popular diets I’ve heard of. Juice cleanses are a type of detox diet that involves only consuming liquids (squeezed from a mixture of fruits and vegetables) and not consuming any food. I’ve never had the urge to try one as I need the chewing aspect and constantly just drinking liquids doesn’t really appeal to me.

However, I’ve been asked this question multiple times from several of my friends: a) Do juice cleanses work? and b) Are they healthy for you?

rawpixel-714371-unsplash

Unfortunately, I get asked the first question much more than the latter question, showing that many people would rather choose a diet’s result than its actual consequence on their health.

But here are a few pointers about juice cleanses:

  • While many think that drinking a high quantity of fruits and vegetables squeezed into a bottle of juice is healthy, juices fail to include fiber.
    • Juicing discards the fiber filled pulp of the fruit. Fiber is essential for good bowel movement, low cholesterol levels and low blood levels.
  • With no fiber, the percentage of sugar in juices is alarmingly high.
    •  At its core, fruits are natural sugars. And while natural sugar is great and all, sugar is sugar. Drinking too much natural sugar can cause high blood levels and high cholesterol.
  • Most of the time, these juices lack protein
    • Few fruits and vegetables have a significant amount of protein for your body. Without enough protein, your body cannot build nor repair tissues, making your daily workouts not as effective as they can be.
  • A short term fix
    • This is something I touched upon the other day, but short term health fixes will give you the material results, but will never make you feel good. Perhaps you’ll lose a few pounds from the (cough cough expensive) juice cleanse diet, but ultimately, you won’t feel fulfilled and free. This diet is unsustainable and something that requires a lot of brute force which in the long-term won’t help you. You can easily relapse back into your old habits and thus relapse back into your old body.

I hope this short post helped to clarify any confusions or questions about juice cleanses. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m quite against them as they are unnatural and unsustainable. But of course, as always, all opinions are completely of my own and you are free to decide what you want to do with your body. 🙂

What are your thoughts on juice cleanses?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Links to sources if you are interested in reading more in-depth:

what’s the point anyway?

what’s the point anyway?

I would like to think that it’s natural to often wonder what the point of a healthy lifestyle is. Our modern culture is quite confusing: we emphasize feasting on junk food but at the same time impose a certain body standard, both expectations unrealistic and definitely not a one-size-fits-all.

fruit.jpg

Indeed, I know several friends who were blessed with a fast metabolism, I’m sure we all have a couple of those friends: they seem to eat everything and anything in obscene amounts yet stay slim. And then there are a few of us who seem to gain weight by simply drinking (of course, an exaggeration but you know what I’m trying to say).

To be honest, my passion for health is skewed, or at least started skewed. Middle school Stephanie wanted to eat healthy and exercise consistently for the sake of looking better. It was a vain attempt that unfortunately worked, but it was short-lived. I learned that you need a deeper and more meaningful reason. And I’m not going to lie, finding that deeper meaning is hard; I haven’t even found it yet.

Often times I found myself ditching healthy eating because I would be one of those friends: they would be feasting on junk foods while maintaining a slim figure, and me putting the two and two together, decided that it would be perfectly fine for me to eat those junk foods too. Same goes with exercise: if that friend doesn’t exercise, then I don’t either.

The reason to why we should live a healthier life is more complex than simply looking better. I’m still figuring out this myself, but my answer so far is how we feel.

After eating rich pizza and greasy fries, my body feels sluggish. But I do realize that after eating a fresh salad, my body feels energized and light. (I apologize for the horrible descriptions, this is not my forte) Or even better yet, after an indulgent lunch that mid-afternoon crash where you have low-energy and brain is unclear. I think ultimately, we live a healthy lifestyle to not look good but to feel good.  This sounds like a cliche, I know, but in 2018, to do something simply for an inner result is exceedingly hard. We in this modern world are impatiently wanting a tangible result, something we can see. So this effort to feel great seems foreign and thus makes it much harder to have this as your reason.

It’s definitely a work in progress for me. But at least the awareness counts!

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

It’s All About Lifestyle—24 Healthy Habits, Hobbies & Scientific Facts

It’s All About Lifestyle—24 Healthy Habits, Hobbies & Scientific Facts

I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same thing I’m feeling right now: burned out and tired with school/work/life.

As a high school junior, wow, I am drowning in homework, school tests, standardized testing, and that end of the year stress.

And especially at this point of the year, it’s super easy to slip up with our health habits.

But remember: it’s actually more important when we are fatigued and unmotivated to nourish our bodies and brains with the proper fuel, exercise and rest.

I was shown to this super duper helpful infographic the other day that I think will help keep those stress-eating sessions and procrastinations at bay.

infographic

This infographic is from writer&blogger Jake Milgram.

I’m going to try in achieving three of these goals this week.

What goals will you try out?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Simple Ways to Have a Healthier 2018

Simple Ways to Have a Healthier 2018

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning of every year. Wherever you go – social media, the magazines by the check out aisle, commercials – we see this “new year, new you” message.

I completely recognize the reason behind this message, but at the same time part of me hates how self-deprecating this can be. So what about your old me? Or your present me? Why do I have to change? The word “new” is too drastic and extreme for me. I think the word “improved” or “progressed” is a better fit. Each new year is one more chance to become the best self you can be, NOT the best self that society imposes you. If you want o read more about this, check out my “healthy” post from last year.

Stepping off the soapbox, I wanted to share a few of my tips that are SIMPLE and effortless to make your 2018 a bit better.

DRINK MORE WATER // Serena and I are known by our friends as water monsters. We are always seen carrying our waterbottles and constantly refilling them. And it’s not for bad reason – staying hydrated makes you feel more energized (it’s my go-to alternative for coffee) and allows you to be more clear-minded and more headache-free.

Serena loves her Nalgene and I adore my Hydroflask – both great options that will stand the test of time!

IMG_8624
Serena with her beloved Nalgene

 

GO TO A DOCTOR FOR REGULAR CHECK-UPS// This might seem super obvious, but I know a handful of friends who don’t go to the doctor because they’re not sick. Now, this is not a good reason to have – we don’t always go to the doctor because we’re sick. We go to treat current illness but also to prevent future illness.

Below is an useful graphic from hims on what check-ups you should book an appointment for depending on your age. I love the sentence the graphic has at the bottom: “Having an issue isn’t weird. Not dealing with it is weird.” Ditto that.

Hims Health Checklist

Check out this blog post for even more information from hims!

LISTEN// This advice runs the gamut from eating habits to sleep needs. Our bodies are wonderfully made and are incredibly smart — they know what it needs and will do all they can to let you know. Trust what you feel and give your body what it truly needs. On certain days, that might mean a kale salad topped with salmon, but on other days that mean Chick-Fil-A, and that’s completely fine. This is easier than you think. Eat when hungry. Stop when full. Get sleep when you’re tired. Get exercise when you’re craving some movement. LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN

I truthfully think that these tips all together will allow for a 2018 that is in the smallest of ways healthier and more fulfilling.

What are your go-to tips for a healthy life?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder

How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2018 was to reconnect with my old friends. Moving to boarding school, I’ve found myself losing contact with a lot of my friends from my old school. So on New Years, I sent a few texts to those I sincerely missed and one of them was Sara!

Sara is the sweetest, most down-to-earth girl you’ll ever meet. Her beautiful, compassionate and selfless personality is contagious! I was so heart-broken when she told she suffered from an eating disorder. In fact, both of us had no idea we suffered from an eating disorder — and we’ve known each other since 3rd grade!

I was ecstatic when Sara said she would be totally up for writing a blog post for avolicious! I believe that Sara’s story will inspire and motivate many of you or those that you know to really make 2018 your healthiest and happiest year yet!

xoxo, Stephanie

————————————————

How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder 

Guest post by Sara

I’d always had a disordered relationship with food. My naturally large appetite and love for pasta made it hard for me to stay healthy. My weight was constantly fluctuating, and I couldn’t stand my body. I developed an eating disorder when I was fourteen. I suffered from anorexia for about three years.

Although it’s hard to say that I’m fully recovered, I’m glad to report that I no longer deprive myself. I definitely still have some intrusive thoughts wondering how many calories are in that cookie, but now I consistently nourish my body with healthful foods and indulge a few times a week to keep me sane. Going vegan this past July radically changed my relationship with food for the better.

Acai Bowl

As an animal lover, I had contemplated veganism for months. I thought I could never go vegan; I assumed it would be too hard and too restricting. But the moment I stepped into that leather shop in Italy, my perspective changed. I realized that what I consumed had a significant impact on the animals. I was supporting animal cruelty with everything I bought or ate. I cut out meat the next day and gradually cut out all other animal products over the next few weeks.

The greatest concern for me and my family was that I would lose weight. Plants are generally less calorie-dense than animal products. I initially was reluctant because I didn’t want to see myself spiral out of control again with my restrictive eating, but I had already decided to help change the world for the animals. Finally, I came across one of Bonny Rebecca’s videos about how veganism helped her overcome bulimia. I’d never been so determined. Her story showed me that veganism could help me recover from my eating disorder. I did hours of research online and met with a nutritionist to ensure that I ate sufficiently. What I failed to realize in the beginning was that food truly, really was my friend. I thought I was eating too much and felt guilty for wanting more — that was my anorexia talking to me.

Me after Hike
“I exercise to celebrate my strength and my body. I am so lucky I got to go on a hike with such a beautiful view.”

When you’re vegan, your body knows what you need. If you’re not satisfied, then eat more! This is the only way I have been able to maintain a healthy weight for the past few months. Often I fail to realize how few calories my meal has, and my body cries for more. It’s amazing what listening to your body can do. I thrive on a vegan diet when I listen to my cravings. I can eat when I am hungry, and I stop when I am full. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t ever feel weighed down, no matter how much I eat.

Although some perceive veganism as extremely restrictive, I have never felt so free. I no longer have to worry about how much I’m eating because I know my brain will take care of that by telling me when to start and when to stop eating. I am the happiest I have ever been. I hope that you can have the same loving relationship with food that I have gained through veganism.

 

What will you do this week for your body and mind?

XOXO,

Sara