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

 

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

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

 

my favorite d.c. spots

my favorite d.c. spots

Every time I come home back from school, I realize how lucky I am to live so close to D.C. While I technically don’t live “in” D.C., I live on the most northern tip of Virginia (a literal 10 minute drive away from D.C.) that I consider it close enough.

Anywho, one of the great parts about D.C. is the food! There is such a wide range of options and I’m continually exploring of new places to eat. In fact, Serena is coming to visit D.C. next weekend (super excited!!) and we’re still unsure of where to eat because there’s just so many places to eat.

But here are a few around the DC area (some may have location in Northern Virginia):

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Founding Farmers // 

1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006

1800 Tysons Blvd, Tysons, VA 22102

Just an all-around great American restaurant. Many of my friends think it’s one of my “super-healthy, all-vegan blah blah” restaurants from the name “farmers,” but I promise you it’s not! There’s something for everyone and it’s always a success! Serena can attest to this since our family ate with hers when they visited DC last summer (hopefully this annual DC trip can be a thing, Serena? 😉 )

sushi

Sushi Taro//

1503 17th St NW Washington, DC 20036

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with sushi! My trip to Japan last year was literal heaven hehe and I always love it when I find Japanese restaurants that serve fresh sashimi. Sushi Taro is hands-down my favorite sushi place. I brought my exchange student from Japan here and she commented that the food they serve at Sushi Taro is authentic Japanese food which goes to show how great the place is at preserving the cuisine. If you are a Japanese food lover, you need to check out Sushi Taro!

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Peking Gourmet Inn//

6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

Now this technically isn’t in DC, but it’s close and super famous among DC locals that I thought I would include it! Peking Gourmet Inn specializes in Peking Duck and Sichuan Beef. It’s your typical crowded Chinese restaurant BUT the walls are covered with famous people visiting the restaurant. I mean rumor says that President George Bush came to Peking Gourmet Inn so often, the restaurant decided to install bullet proof walls. Highly highly recommend this place for anyone who wants to try Peking Duck!

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Graffiato //

2001 INTERNATIONAL DR, McLean, VA 22102

Now this one is a bit high on the price scale, but so very worth it. Rumor right now is circulating that Graffiato has permanently closed (I think it’s only the DC location, the VA location still seems to be open) but I hope that’s not the case. Graffiato is Chef Michael Isabella’s first restaurant and serves amazing Italian food. One thing you have to get there is their brussel sprouts – even my friends who hate vegetables love them! Please promise me 🙂

el tio

El Tio Grill//

3345 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20010

1433 Center Street, McLean, VA 22101

Last but not least, El Tio! This is our family’s go-to spot for Mexican food. If you love Chipotle, you got to check out this place — it’s even better! 😉 I really can’t what my favorite is because they are all good. One caution though, the portions are huge so order mindfully!

So there you have it! Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of the amazing restaurants in DC. I still have yet to explore!

Do you have a favorite restaurant in DC?

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

 

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

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?

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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:

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.

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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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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“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

Taking care of yourself this holiday season

Taking care of yourself this holiday season

I was falling into the black hole of YouTube the other day (you know that hole where you go in to find one video and then 2 hours later, you find yourself watching a totally unrelated video?) and I came across a video featuring Miranda Kerr. It’s actually a worthwhile video to watch, but she said something in the video that really resonated with me.

“If you take care of yourself, then you can give so much more as a mother, you can give so much more to your work …”

Obviously, this quote can be tailored to you: “If you take care of yourself, then you can give so much more as a ________ [friend, daughter, wife, mother …]

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I don’t know why, but I’ve been especially cranky and “off” this holiday season. Throughout the school year, I would get into frequent bouts of feeling “off” to the point where many of my friends felt it.

Now I’m not advocating for people pleasers, but I don’t think it’s fair or ever enjoyable for your friends to deal with negative/pessimistic people. I always feel horrible and sorry when I’m snapping back to my friends or am not my usual chirpy self.

I think this quote is really critical, especially during the holidays when we’re spending so much time with our family and friends. We have to be the best versions of ourselves so that we can step our best foot forward when we’re spending time with others.

For me, that’s to exercise, journal, get lots of sleep, eat nourishing and nutritious food and getting enough alone time. This last one seems counterintuitive, but I often times find myself the most energetic and outgoing with my friends when I’ve had enough time for myself to recharge.

And exercise doesn’t have to be extreme. I usually like to go on runs, but these days I’ve been trying out the barre/pilates/yoga classes at my gym – and completely obsessed! It’s nice to have someone tell you what to do and the class members motivate you to not give up! Or even a simple morning walk with the dog or family is always up my alley.

So in short, remember to pamper and take care of yourself during the holiday season. It can definitely get hectic and busy, but unless you maintain the best version of yourself, you can’t give as much to those around you.

What do you do to recharge/take-care of yourself?

xoxo,

Stephanie