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 ūüôā

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

It’s All About Lifestyle‚ÄĒ24 Healthy Habits, Hobbies & Scientific Facts

It’s All About Lifestyle‚ÄĒ24 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

 

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‚Äôve been perusing their website recently and I love reading their research and mission. They’ve also released an¬†NAD+ supplement called Basis‚ÄĒit’s some really interesting stuff.

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

ElysiumSCBG1.jpg

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.

How small steps (literally) can change your life

How small steps (literally) can change your life

In this fast-paced world of instant access, it’s perfectly normal that we want change¬†fast. Changes such as losing weight, eating healthier, and being more active. Things I talk about here in avolicious¬†a lot.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Take a leap of faith.” Well actually don’t. I was to be honest tempted to title this post as “Don’t take that leap of faith”

Let me explain.

FullSizeRender 3
Just like taking the stairs. One step at a time.

I took a huge leap of faith, a leap that looking back I realize was completely uneducated and made in blindness. That leap was in the faith that I would become skinner. I don’t what got into that eighth-grade self me. Looking through the pictures now, I was perfectly fine! But at that moment, I felt large. I felt big. I felt like I was that “fat friend” amidst my friend group. Nobody pressured me or treated me differently to lose weight. In fact, it was completely my decision.

I can’t completely say that I regret this decision, as this leap let me become so passionate about proper nutrition and fervent on redefining what “healthy” means to me (which you can read here). ¬†However, if I was given the choice and go back in time, I would choose not to go through this arduous journey.

This leap of faith made me restrict myself to consuming a mere 1,200 calories and running an average of 3 miles daily in the scorching sun. Roughly calculating it, I probably lived off of 500-800 calories. In a matter of 3 months, I lost 20 pounds. But most importantly and significantly, I lost my self-esteem and self-confidence which still affects me today.

Yes, that big leap of faith allowed me to get quick results FAST. I was so proud and pleased with my appearance. I was able to fit into those skinny jeans, no problem. I had a thigh gap. I had a flat stomach. I finally looked like those girls on Instagram.

But I was completely miserable. My day was dictated merely on numbers – the number on the scale, the number of calories I ate that MyFitnessPal app told me, the number of miles I ran that day, the number on the size tag of my clothes. These numbers consumed my life and let me tell you, I felt so powerless. I was in such control of my eating, yet I felt so out of control in my life (it’s a hard feeling to describe but I’m sure a lot of those who’ve gone through ED or experiencing one right now can attest to this).

But fast-forward two years now, I am a much better relationship with food now. I don’t necessarily think that I am fully recovered. I still have a long way to go.

But I have made progress.

And through my experience, I can say that I’ve had successful progress when I took small steps.

Small and baby steps.

Give you an example? I’ve been straying away a bit from running these days. I used to love running the past, but these days I dread just thinking of the mileage and the prospect of running. Instead, I’ve been doing so much walking.

I’m a Type A gal so I love keeping track of things. I’ve been recently logging my steps into the Health app on my iPhone. I’ve been average 10,000+ steps daily!

I wake up at 6:30am when the weather is actually bearable and take a 30-40 minute power walk. This gets me to about 4,000 steps. Later in the evening, I take a 60-75 minute walk with my parents after dinner. This second walk allows me to get up to 10,000-12,000 steps.

And the best part? I get to enjoy being active. I sincerely do get excited about the prospect of walking in the morning and after dinner. While yes, walking necessarily may not burn as much calories, I am able to do it more consistently and with a glad heart.

And to be honest, all I’m going for is to develop a sustainable, maintainable, and happy lifestyle. Nothing too extreme – on both sides of the spectrum. Doing things that I enjoy, eating things that I enjoy, and most importantly, enjoying the body that I was born with.

So I challenge you: instead of making your goal to go to the gym for an hour everyday, or go cold turkey tomorrow, pick ONE change and stick with it.

Have you tried taking baby steps?

xoxo,

Stephanie

How I Get It All Done

How I Get It All Done

I’m known by many to be a Type-A, workaholic, and perfectionist. There are pros and cons to this. The pros are that I get everything that I say I’m going to do, done. The cons are that it’s not necessarily “healthy.”

Having a healthy lifestyle not only means eating healthy, being active, and maintaining your body such as your eyes, but it also means having a manageable schedule and workload, having that balance.

Here are a few of my tips on how I get it all done, without sacrificing my health and happiness.

tips.jpg

ONE// Prioritize

This is so important. There are a million and one things to do and to be real with you, we’re just not going to have enough time for that.

Rather than being pulled in so many directions, choose a handful of things that are truly important to you and that is worth investing your energy into. To give you a sense, my priorities are: school work, friends, family, health, Avolicious, my faith.

If some work pops up that involves these categories, then I’m willing to stay up later, sacrifice my sleep time and get it done. If the work does not involve these categories, I’ll either put it off to the side to work on it later, OR I’ll say no.

This is said so so so many times, but saying NO is okay. Period. No questions.

Keep your important categories in mind and as you create your schedule/to-do list, make sure those categories are on the top of that list.

 

TWO// Nourish

As much as hangry (hungry + angry) exists, losing focus when hungry is very much a real thing (do we have a term for this?). I tend to always lose focus when I’m hungry. This is perfectly normal because rather than using our energy to focus on our work, because we have no energy, we can’t focus. The key is that the snacks you eat should¬†help you study and work longer. They shouldn’t drift you¬†away from studying because of their absurd sugar content or some weird chemical ingredient.

gomacro

The easiest snacks that are both healthy and convenient to carry around are granola bars. My recent favorites are the GoMacro bars. GoMacro bars provide organic, plant-powered and wholesome nutrition  Рa perfect combination for a little pick me up at around that 3pm/4pm time.

I love stashing these in my backpack during school or even in the summer, when I’m going out and about doing internships and volunteer work.

THREE// 120% Focus

I live by the mantra, “Work hard, Play Hard.” And working hard for me not only means putting in the time, the hours to work, but to be ultra-efficient while doing so. Making sure the concentration between the effort and time is the highest it can be.

Completely hone in on your work. No other thoughts. Put away your distractions, including music. Go all in.

You’ll find that when you have a 120% focus you get much more work done in less time, meaning you get more time to relax and play¬†hard.

FOUR// My non-negotiables

With these three tips above, I get my non-negotiables accomplished. My non-negotiables are: sleeping at least 6+ hours every day, eating healthy (eating at least one meal where it is non-meat and green), and at least 1-2 hours of relaxing and play time.

How to you get everything done (in a healthy way)?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

Learning from Travel

Learning from Travel

Just when you thought that I was gone, surprise! Stephanie back again!

I just came back a three-week trip and suffering terribly from jet lag. I went to Japan for two weeks for a cultural exchange program and then met up with my parents in Korea where I stayed for a week.

As much as travel is travel, attending a cultural exchange program really allowed me to become immersed into the culture. And of course, the foodie I am, while I was in Japan, I was hyper-aware of the food and the attitude around food.

In the 14 days I was there, I learned for myself why Japan is so well-known for its healthy and slim population.

IMG_7515.JPG
a standard meal ūüėČ

ONE // portion size

First off,¬†portion size. Even before I went to Japan, I knew from the numerous articles I read on the internet, that Japanese (and French and pretty much the rest of the world) eat much less than us in the States. Those sites weren’t kidding – I don’t know what I was expecting for smaller portion size but I don’t think anything would have gotten me prepared for the ridiculously small portion sizes!

It really may depend on the family, but my host family (oh my gosh, they were the sweetest!) did eat very little. And while it was hard to adjust at first, that adjustment and change was all part of the experience.

To put it in perspective, a meal that looks like it could be served to one person in the States, was shared by four people (two adults and two high schoolers) while I was in Japan. Eating in such a way for two weeks, my stomach and appetite has definitely shrunk.

The other day, I was eating my classic avocado toast meal and I felt so full even though I was only halfway into the meal! Usually I still feel hungry after two pieces of toast, but the other day, I already felt full only after finishing the first piece!

img_7307.jpg
I wasn’t kidding…

TWO// three square meals, no snacks

Another big thing I learned is that they eat very little if not no snacks. For my host family, we ate three square meals – but usually when we say square, we mean a big meal, but if you look at number one, square meals in Japan are like the quarter of the size of a square meal in America haha. I think the two weeks I was there, my host family’s mom offered snacks around three times. And the after-school snack was three pieces of watermelon with three pieces of melon. Not your usual mini-meal.

Also, because I was there as a cultural exchange, my host skipped her basketball practice and instead just went home with me. However, on usual days, my host and the rest of the student body have clubs from 3:30-6:30. These clubs range from sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, etc) to music activities (orchestra, band). And the average commute time is 90 minutes! So when these students come back home, they eat dinner at around 8pm (when lunch was at 12:30pm!) I was alarmed at how little these Japanese students ate compared to their activity levels.

IMG_7128.JPG
Yes..it is white rice – but relatively healthy and small in portion. Much better than white bread sandwiches with heaps of mayo and cured meats.

THREE// they just eat.

One night in my second week staying in Japan, my host family and I started talking about the different cuisine and lifestyles between Japan and the States. My host said that while Japan is known to be healthy from other countries, she claimed that not a lot of Japanese people actually think that they eat healthy. Japanese people don’t make a conscious effort or decision to eat healthy. Unlike a lot of “healthy” people here in the States (I’m putting healthy in quotes because of this blog post) who eat salads everyday and go to SoulCycle, Japanese people just eat what they are given. They just eat. Their cuisine in itself is just healthier. In the two weeks I was there, I think I had red meat once if not at all. However, despite not eating a lot of red meat compared to back home, I didn’t feel like I was nutritionally deficient. They eat the feared carbs – they eat rice every meal – yet, they are still slim. Why? Because they eat everything in moderation and smaller proportion.

I have much more to share about what I learned while in my two weeks in Japan. But the other tidbits are more personal and specific to my body image and self-love. I’ll be sharing tomorrow ūüôā

But in all, I never expected to learn so much while traveling. Most of my traveling after 8th grade has been to Korea to visit my grandparents. Going to Korea is kind of like going to Nantucket/Cape Cod for some in the States. I don’t go to explore and discover new places in Korea, but more to just spend time with family and friends and doing the mundane things – eating, shopping, and some R&R. So going to Japan this summer was such a mindblowing and amazing experience. Of course, other than food I learned other things, but I decided to share the food aspects on the blog today.

Have you learned something from your travels before?

xoxo

Stephanie

Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep-it’s super important for physical and emotional well-being. People who are well-rested are more energetic, productive, and alert. And I must say, waking up after an amazing sleep is an awesome feeling!

Interestingly, sleep regulates the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). When you get less sleep than recommended, your ghrelin goes up and leptin goes down, which is why you feel hungrier after getting little sleep than when you’re well-rested.

So how much sleep do you need?

  • Teenagers (14-17): ¬†8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range ¬†remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
http://time.com/3691992/sleep-hours-recommendations/

Unfortunately, most people struggle with falling asleep. A study done by Consumer Reports says that 68% of Americans struggle with sleep at least once a week. That’s approximately 164 million people.

 

unnamed.jpg

So, here are my tips for getting a good night’s sleep!

  • I find that dimming my bedroom lights an hour before sleeping by only turning on my lamp helps tremendously in helping me fall asleep. It prepares my body for sleep by creating a peaceful environment.
  • Make your bed before sleeping.¬†I find that slipping into a nicely made bed is one of the most comforting feelings! If you’re looking for a new bed or some new sheets, I would check out this new bed¬†from Leesa!
  • Have a bedtime ritual. Mine’s is showering right before I go to sleep. The steam feels so refreshing and having a ritual every night signals to my body that it is time to sleep ūüôā

Ok, writing about getting ready to sleep makes me feel sleepy! Happy resting!

Love,

Serena

 

Getting Out of a Funk

Getting Out of a Funk

I’ve recently been in a funk. After school got out on May 31st, I’ve just lost all motivation and energy. I am an extremely organized and Type-A person – so much so that I plan my days out to the minute. Throughout the school year, before I went to sleep, I would create my schedule from my notes app. It would be something like

 

This sort of method helped me to stay on top of things but I think such a rigid and structured schedule made me completely flop over when school ended.

Things I enjoyed such as blogging, running, and reading, became things I didn’t even consider doing. I just wanted to sleep, eat, and watch videos on YouTube.

It’s hard to describe the feelings exactly but I’m sure many of you guys here can relate those days when you just don’t want to do anything.

But I’m slowly coming out of that funk right now and I have a few tips based on my experience.

unplug_page

UNPLUG |¬†We unfortunately have these things called electronics and social media. I really really recommend to those who are in a funk to just¬†UNPLUG. We have such a bad tendency to just reach for our phones or our computers whenever we feel lazy or unmotivated. This is procrastination at its finest. I tend to procrastinate on studying or doing work by going on social media rather than spending time with my friends or family or by reading. This past week, I unplugged for just one day and it was such a powerful experience. My emotions and feelings were no longer dependent on these small devices – I felt so free and lighter. Take a day or a few hours to just unplug (if you need to tell some important people beforehand, send them a quick text saying that you’re going to turn off your phone for x amount of hours). You’ll feel refreshed and reset to forget about the sluggish past few days and look forward to a fresh new slate.

file_000-6

WALK | While I haven’t been running at all this past week, I’ve been walking every night for an hour with my parents. Something about being surrounded by who love you the most in the midst of a light cool evening breeze and just walking it out is therapeutic. Also, walking alone is great too. Listen to some music (or refrain if you’re going to adhere to #1) and take a moment to just reflect and think.

JOURNAL | Maybe it’s because I am a huge journal addict, but I love love journaling. Its really powerful to just jot down your feelings. Sometimes you just don’t know¬†why you’re feeling like you do. You feel sluggish, unmotivated and lazy, but you don’t know WHY. And writing in your journal, it allows you to again, take a minute, reflect, and identify why you’re feeling a certain way and then find ways to solve it.

You can see that in these three tips, the running theme is to TAKE A MINUTE. Just take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and reflect what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.

And the most important thing to remember is that we all have those days. It’s normal to feel unmotivated and sluggish. We are not perfect. We are human. We are allowed to feel lazy and not are best selves.

How do you get out of a funk?

xoxo,

Stephanie