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

 

 

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

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

 

How do you define an eating disorder?

How do you define an eating disorder?

This question or at least variations of this question ran through my head now almost four years ago. And this is a question I’ve been asked multiple times by other people.

Indeed, one of my closest friends after I opened up that had an eating disorder was worried that she had an eating disorder too. Unlike a physical illness, eating disorders are like mental illness in that they are hard to identify. In fact, during my eating disorder, I was convinced I was simply eating “healthy.” Eating disorders can be seen through one’s actions, but it is ultimately determined by how your mind processes food.

Personally, my go-to “short” and easy answer is that an eating disorder is any relationship with food that is unhealthy. But, of course, that is vague. So I’ll try my best to unpack what an eating disorder is truly is here today:

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What an eating disorder is not:

Saying no to a slice of birthday cake because you simply don’t want to eat it // Sometimes we’re just too full to eat cake (this applies to any food, but I’m using cake as an example) and sometimes we don’t want to anything sweet at that moment. Just because you don’t want to eat something doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder. The discussion changes when your reason to saying no to cake is rooted in a limited number of calories to consume daily.

Not consuming meat, gluten, or any certain food groups because they do not digest well for you // Along a similar line as above, some people stay away from certain food groups because they cannot digest it well. For example, my mom cannot digest red meat very well and consumes it probably once a month. Again, the reasoning to your choices is the key. If you are not consuming gluten or carbs not because you can’t digest it, but because you believe it will help you lose weight, etc.

Not eating as much because you want to MAINTAIN (or SLOWLY lose ) weight // I mean even at the early age of 10, I remember my mom telling me to eat fruits rather than potato chips or else I’ll gain weight. And I’m sure a lot of us grew up like so. The occasional indulgence is fine, however, potato chips should not be a daily occurrence compared to fruit. Or grown up, if you deliberately choose to eat a salad to watch for your waist line, that’s perfectly normal too. These incidents should be small and short-lived thoughts in your head. An eating disorder is something that exists ALL the time, where your head is constantly noisy – regardless of whether you are eating or not.

So what is an eating disorder?

Food or thinking about food dominates your life // This includes scenarios where you cannot go a day without worrying about what you have eaten or what you will eat. This can also include counting calories or tracking macros through an app on your phone religiously: if you go over your calorie goal, you beat yourself up for it but if you go under your calories goal, you are glowing.

You moralize food and you are extremely strict about not crossing that self-imposed line // You have determined already in your head that there are certain “good” foods that are okay to eat and “bad” foods you cannot ever eat. You restrict certain foods not for any other reasons but because they are “bad” for you and that line should never be crossed.

Your body image and self-esteem are extremely low: they rely upon others’ affirmations // You are constantly chasing after a certain body standard and unless others comment on how thin/toned/etc you look, you feel as if you have to restrict yourself more. It’s not a momentary desire to be _____, but rather a constant pursuit to become this body and you compare your body to others to see if you are “better.”

You make excuses regarding eating, especially for events with friends // You tell your parents that you’ve already ate dinner. You tell your friends you’re too busy to hang out with them for lunch tomorrow. All these excuses rooted in the fact that you don’t want to be tempted to eat these “bad” foods and would rather not eat or eat your “safe” foods.

My Story: As mentioned earlier, in the midst of my eating disorder, I did not believe I had one. I thought I was simply eating healthier. But what was happening was I was restricting my food consumption. I resorted to eating a mere 1,200 calories every day regardless of how much exercise I did that day. I moralized my food choices to the point that once I started eating dairy desserts, I had a huge stomach ache as my body wasn’t used to dairy anymore. I declined several social events all because I didn’t want to be faced with FOOD.

FOOD FOOD FOOD was all I thought about and it consumed my life. But for some reason or another, I thought it was normal. Maybe it was because I knew there was a stigma attached to eating disorders? Or maybe because I thought eating disorders were only designated to the extreme behaviors of bulimia or anorexia? Whatever it was, it took around a half a year for me to get a wake up call. This wake up call came when my nephrologist told me that my one functioning kidney had shrunk. This is for another day, but I only have one functioning kidney and while it is big than the average kidney, I have to be extremely careful. So when my doctor told me that my eating disorder (which at the time I refused to believe in) had shrunk my one functioning kidney, I was shocked. I finally woke up from my delirious state of mind. But this story is for another day 🙂

I hope this post cleared up any confusions you guys had regarding eating disorders. If you have any other questions, leave a comment, email me, or DM me on Instagram. I’ll be more than happy to answer.

How do you define an eating disorder?

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:

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.

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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

 

Small Change, Big Gain

Small Change, Big Gain

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my Tried & True Wellness Tips over on the blog. The central idea of that post was that while these tips are not life-changing, consistent practice and application of them will produce great results.

To be honest, this has been my mantra ever since I naively lost 40 lbs. in the course of two months and then gained it back again. I realized the importance of sustainable healthy practices, not extreme ones. Here is one of favorite posts that talk about this small change, big gain theme: How small steps (literally) can change your life

So you can imagine my excitement when Elysium Health included my advice in a graphic they created with this same theme! I’ve been perusing their website recently and I love reading their research and mission. They’ve also released an NAD+ supplement called Basis—it’s some really interesting stuff.

I loved the graphic so much that I decided to share it on the blog!

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Aren’t these great tips?

Hope you can use these small tips to create a big gain in your week!

What small change are you going to implement this week?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Thank you for Elysium Health for creating this awesome graphic.

Summer Workout Favorites-dogs included!

Summer Workout Favorites-dogs included!

Summer is the time for working out (and of course cooking)! Even though summer is very unfortunately coming to a close in a few weeks, I thought I would share with everyone my favorite ways to exercise this season. (pilates, yoga, running)

1.) Pilates, specifically Blogilates

My recent obsession has been working out in my room. I roll out my yoga mat, open the windows to let the sunshine flow in, and do pilates to Cassey Ho’s Blogilates videos. They’re so challenging, but Cassey’s positive and bubbly attitude keeps me motivated. Also, I’ve definitely seen results-I’ve been working out to one video in particular. Two months ago, I was only able to get through half of the video, but now, completing the entire exercise sequence is becoming easier and easier!

2.) Yoga

Usually, I end up doing one yoga video as a warm up, and then a Blogilates video. Here’s an amazing link to a list of great (free) yoga videos on Youtube! Alternatively, I take an hour yoga class at the gym, because the group setting can by really enjoyable. I’ve also recently discovered an awesome form of yoga called doga (dogs+yoga). Essentially, you and your dog practice various yoga poses together, and it’s a wonderful way for you and your canine companion to bond and stretch out! Even though I don’t have a dog, I definitely want to try this, it seems so fun!

3.) Running

Last summer, I ran every morning for a couple weeks, and in the end, I was constantly sore and developed a minor injury. So, this summer, I’ve definitely been listening to my body and running when I want to (and not just to follow a daily ritual). I definitely enjoy running with company, but since many of my friends don’t like running, I’ve tried Facetiming them while running. Needless to say, my attempt at Facetiming failed because I could hardly talk while running without having to stop to catch my breath. However, taking dogs out to run with you is a great way to both get exercise and motivate yourself to go on a run. Plus, your dog won’t expect you to talk back to him/her, your dog is just the perfect companion for a run.

Here’s an infographic from Puppyspot on exercising with your dog:

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So, next time you workout, try it with your dog! It definitely makes working out fun and rewarding.

What are your summer workout favorites?

Love,

Serena

How to Drink More Water!

How to Drink More Water!

From a young age, I always struggled to drink the recommended amount of water. I’m not sure if this is just me, but for some reason, I drink liquids very slowly-I physically cannot chug anything-small sips for some are like big gulps to me. So, I always viewed drinking water as a chore and never found any motivation to hydrate. But, my breakthrough moment was when I went backpacking last summer. Everyday, I carried two 32 oz. Nalgene bottles full of water, and ended up drinking all of it! Even though this could have been due to my thirst after so much physical exertion, it felt like I wasn’t drinking a significant amount of water, just two bottles a day. So, this leads me to my number one tip to hydrating actively….

1.) Use a 32 oz. reusable water bottle. My 32 oz. Nalgene bottle is very special to me-wherever I go, my Nalgene travels with me! The size of the bottle tricks me into drinking more water than I feel like I am consuming, but drinking the full bottle is equivalent to drinking two plastic bottles of water (what I used to drink from). As an added bonus, reusable bottles last forever (the one I use was actually my parents’ from when they were in college!), so you’ll save money and the Earth’s precious resources 😀

2.) Bring your bottle everywhere. As I said before, my bottle travels with me at all times. It’s presence reminds me to be constantly sipping. There have been multiple times where I have been in awkward social situations, and drinking water helped me look preoccupied and skip over any awkward silences.

3.) Use a bottle that is aesthetically pleasing. Having a good-looking bottle makes it appealing to look at, drink from, and carry around. I decorated my Nalgene completely with stickers of things that mean a lot to me- national parks, my high school, farmers markets, healthy food, my religion…but I also know plenty of people who go for a plain bottle. Stephanie is obsessed with her Hydroflask-it would definitely be worth purchasing if you enjoy ice cold or hot beverages.

So, those are the three tips I swear by to motivate me to drink more water. Let me know what you do to drink more water!

Love,

Serena