Conquered my run

This past Saturday, I ran my first race in two years. The last time I competed in any sort of race, it was the LA Marathon and that was to prove to myself that I could run 26.2 miles.

This weekend was all about setting the bar to compete against myself. I wanted to see how fast I could run a 5k so that I can start training to beat that time. As most of you know, I recently got back from two months of traveling in Europe (and if you don’t remember, refer to my most recent post here). I haven’t been this out of shape since before I started working out 7 years ago.

The last month and a half has been a lot of sweating and pouting over the fact that I’m not physically at where I used to be. However, regardless of how painful it was, I laced up my workout shoes 6 days a week and went for as long of a run as I could and as difficult of a weight training session as I could handle. I felt like I was in slow motion. Nothing seemed to be getting better. My strength wasn’t improving. My lungs weren’t burning any less.

Then one day, I didn’t notice the fact that my legs no longer felt like lead or that sweat wasn’t pouring down my face. Slowly but surely, I was getting back into the shape that I was before.

That’s what inspired me to run this weekends race. I wanted to set the bar for myself to have something to push for. It wasn’t about winning the race, but seeing where I was at so that I could work to beat myself.

But then I did win the race. And it felt pretty good.

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*Notice me yawning? It was 6:45 am. Give me a break.

To be fair, there were only 60-ish people running this race but still! I started off the run thinking “dear god, why did I stop drinking coffee right before this. I could really use the caffeine. It’s 6:45am on a Saturday. This is un-godly.” My legs felt heavy and under-used. To top it off, it’s been unseasonably hot in LA. Even at 7:00 am when the race started, it was 77 degrees with a hot breeze rolling through. People passed me and that was okay. I wasn’t in it to win it. I was in it to finish it.

My steady pace eventually brought me to the halfway point and my legs suddenly felt light and my energy high! I made the turn and I pushed myself to pass the 8-10 people in front of me. Eventually, I wiggled myself to the first place position. As I neared the finish line, I kept looking behind me, expecting someone to get a second wind and pull me out of the first position slot. But that didn’t happen. And I crossed that chalk finish line in first!

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I was greeted at the end by a small medal and an envelope for an hour long massage. Whaaaaat!

And I will need that massage. I walked home after the race and slept for an hour while the sun blazed to 95 degrees.

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And so did Trevor 🙂

So, I finished with a fairly decent time of 24:10 and room to improve!

Look forward to some posts on how to improve your own 5k PR as I work toward beating my own!

And remember, no matter what state of shape you are in now or how hard you have fallen off of the wagon… you can always get back to where you once were. Not a single person has ever said it will be easy (and if they did they’re liars) but don’t let the challenge hold you back from getting to where you want to be.

Now lets go PR!!

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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The simple act of being kind

I feel extraordinarily at peace with where I am in life right now. I have an incredible family, I live in a beautiful city, I’m able to pursue my passion for nutrition and fitness while living rent free with my parents and I have great friends who can make me laugh and remind me once again how lucky I am. My life is full of ups and downs, as most people’s are. There’s no such thing as someone having a problem-free existence. The happy moments wouldn’t be so happy if it weren’t for the unfortunate moments as well. And that’s the thing I think most people forget: everyone has problems. Our own problems always seem exponentially larger than anyone elses because they are our own problems. So we lash out, we blame, we convince ourselves that the person who was rude to us has no right to be so mean.

Trust me, I’ve worked in the service industry since I was 13 so I know how awful people can get. Never worked as a waitress before? Well, you can really tell what a person is like by the way they treat people who “serve” them. So I came across my fair share of jerks and a**h****.

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This is me at my first real job. I was a waitress for 2.5 years at a local breakfast spot in my hometown. My friend (on the right) and I used to watch a lot of “SpongeBob Squarepants” on rainy days when it was slow…

But letting those people who are having a bad day ruin your day as well will do nothing but continue the vicious cycle of people being dicks to each other. From my years of experience of working with and around jerks, I’ve learned that the only way to deal with these people while still coming out as a positive and happy person, is to spread some random acts of kindness to others.

Think of a time when someone was rude to you and you lashed out back at them. Did you feel better? Did the “lashing out” cause you to be happy? Did it solve any problems? Most likely, the answer is no. It can be hard to be kind to those who are so mean to you, but ultimately, you will be happier and in a better place because of it.

If being kind to jerks is too difficult, try first being kind to those you don’t know.

When I was in school, I was living off of a very tight food budget. There was one particularly stressful day where I was freaking out about my future because graduation was approaching, I was scared to leave my friends and I felt lost in a sea of confusion and anxiety. I took a break from studying and walked to the store to buy some lunch. Outside of the store, there was this homeless lady who drew pictures to sell for food. She was probably in her late 60’s. She never begged or asked for money. She just went along drawing pictures in exchange for food to keep her alive.

Seeing her made me forget my problems and think about her. I felt the need to bring some positivity to her life in any little way that I could. Instead of spending my money on lunch for myself, I bought a sandwich and a hard boiled egg with a water bottle to bring out to her.

She thanked me and I talked to her for a little about her drawings. She mostly drew pictures of the people that walked past. She told me she liked to draw people and imagine what their lives were like.

After I left to return to my studying, my anxiety was gone and I felt happy. Reaching out to someone else and displaying a little act of a humanity reminded me that happiness is all that matters in life. Instead of lash out from my anxiety and fear at the first person I could, I did the exact opposite. It made me feel happy. It spread happiness to another human being. My negative emotions were replaced with positive ones.

You don’t have to be charitable in order to be kind. Just remember that none of us on this planet want to be sad or lonely. We all want to belong. We all want to be happy. Just the simple act of being kind is enough to spread happiness to all of those around you.

Laugh when you feel sad.

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Smile when you’ve been wronged.

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Hug those that have forgotten how to be happy.

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Spend time with family.

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Make time for friends.

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Do what you love.

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Simply be kind. And you will be happier for it.

1.

Staying humble and hopeful

Sometimes you’re on top. Stay humble. Sometimes you’ve hit a low. Stay hopeful.

A very simple concept that would make everyone’s lives 100% better if they actually put it into use.

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This is the motto for Lokai bracelets. Lokai braceletes were made to remind people of the highs and lows of life and everything else in between. You are going to have a day every now and then when you feel on top of the world or invincible. Extreme contrast, it’s also inevitable that you’ll have days when all of the hope and happiness in life seems like it doesn’t apply to you. And then there’s everything in between. The average days that don’t seem like much, but hold the highs and lows together. The bracelet is a reminder of this by having one bead filled with mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and another bead filled with water from Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. The clear beads represent every other day where the highs and lows aren’t present. Together, they form a circle. According to the founder of Lokai bracelets, he says “I brought these two key elements together because life is full of cycles. The rest of the beads are clear because we all have our own story of balance to tell”.

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Finding balance, even during the highs, lows and middles of life is what keeps us sane and ultimately happy. The dramatic roller coaster may be exciting to ride when the lows aren’t too low and the highs aren’t too high, but it can also destroy us without finding that balance. Allow yourself to get lost in those moments and you forget what really matters: family, friends, loved ones.

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Me wearing my Lokai bracelet while on a run.

Finding the balance is really difficult for me. The lows make my physically ill. Most of life’s problems, I can deal with and I’m fine. But when something really knocks me down, I can’t eat or sleep and my brain goes into hyperactive mode while my body refuses to react to anything. The high points are also difficult for me to process. There’s no way to say it… but I get cocky. And arrogant. And I can be a bit of an asshole when I’ve succeeded at something.

Wearing this bracelet helps me find that balance. When I’m feeling cocky and arrogant at my success, I look down at the little white bead and remember that this is just a moment of life. I can be happy for myself, of course. But I can’t let myself think that I am better than anyone. Because we all of our highs. We all have our lows. And this reminds me that today is just my day but tomorrow might be someone else’s day. And that’s okay. If I let my head swell with pride, then when my day turns into someone else’s day, I will deflate and develop jealousy, anger, etc.

Same goes for my lows. Bad days don’t constitute a life. During those times, the little black bead reminds be that this is just one of those days. Flip that bracelet around and the little white bead is there, promising me of great times ahead as long as I stay hopeful and happy.

I highly suggest ordering a bracelet for yourself. It honestly has really helped me with my occasional emotional roller coasters and having a constant reminder worn around your wrist of staying hopeful and humble helps make the ride a little more smooth.

The new year resolution conundrum.

Have you been doing too much of this?

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Or eating too much of that?

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Yeah, I’m in that same boat. New years resolutions are interesting like that. You have SO MUCH ambition and excitement that this year will be the year that you lose 10 pounds, start eating veggies, quit smoking, drink less, etc etc etc. But then there’s New Years Eve. And you drink a bottle (or two) of champagne. There is no way in hell you’re passing up those greasy hang over cure potatoes the next morning on January 1st. So you tell yourself that January 2nd is the start of your new year. And then it’s Nana’s birthday and the cake is from that new trendy awesome bakery so you have to have a slice (or two). THIS WEEKEND. I SWEAR TO GOD THIS WEEKEND IS WHEN MY NEW YEAR STARTS. And then you get that call from your friend who just found out she got a raise/got engaged/broke up with the awful boyfriend/got a pedicure and needs to go out and celebrate. Well.. it would be rude of you to NOT do something to celebrate your friend’s newly painted toe nails. So you close down the local dive bars and leave your debit card with the bartender.

Basically, the new year isn’t what you planned it to be.

It’s not a lot of this.

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Or this.

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And definitely not that.

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You’re not alone, my friend. Everyone starts off the new year exactly the opposite of the way we had planned. I think the problem is we put our expectations for ourselves too high for such an immediate change. I’m a big believer in gradual change. You won’t stick with something that is drastic and uncomfortable, but small changes made over time can be easy to implement and stick with.

I’m actually doing a three day cleanse to reboot my body starting next Monday, so look forward to a post on picking a cleanse that’s right for your body and goals coming soon! But for now, lets pick out a few new “new years resolutions” that aren’t so extravagant and can be achieved and make you feel great about yourself!

My “Mini” NY Resolutions:

1. Drink more water.

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This sounds silly and typical and too easy but is SO GOD DAMN IMPORTANT. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That’s a scary big number. Especially since dehydration, even the mild every day type, can cause shriveled and dry skin, rapid heart beat, heart palpitations, dizziness, inability to absorb nutrients, fatigue and lack of energy.

So here’s an easy way to drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you constantly and make sure you drink 8 oz/ hour starting right when you wake up. Make little marks on the side of the bottle so you know exactly how much 8 oz is. This alone will help detox your liver and kidneys, increase your energy levels and improve the appearance of your skin. Obviously, if you live in a very hot area or you work out a lot, this number will have to be increased, but try and maintain a minimum of 8 oz/hour.

2. Do something active (and fun) at least once a week.

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This is in addition to your workout routine. Get outside and do SOMETHING fun that’s active as well. Remember when we were kids and our idea of “fun” was running around for hours playing tag, sliding down slides and chasing groups of birds? Rediscover that inner child of yours and teach yourself how to do fun things that are active again. It’ll be great for your physical and mental health and help break up your routine of work, gym, sleep.

Here are some ideas: hike, walk the dogs, join an adult for fun sports team, get your friends together to play a pick up game of dodgeball, join your kids in games of tag, do a yoga class or go dancing with your friends! The opportunities are endless!

3. Spend the first hour that you wake up NOT on your phone.

Trust me. I know how hard this is. I love my phone like it’s my child. But try and get up at your normal time, make breakfast, read the paper, take a walk with a cup of tea, etc all without craning your head down to look at a little glowing screen. Just breaking the habit of starting your day with technology is a great feat. All day we’re bombarded by technology at work, at home, at dinner, with friends, and taking an hour in the morning to just enjoy the morning will do your mental health some good.

Happy February 3rd! Good luck with your new “new years resolutions”!

UrthBox made my case of the Mondays a whole lot better

I just discovered something that I wish I had when I was a freshman in college so that I could have used it my entire 4 (and a half..) years at school. Let me preface this with the fact that I get through my day because of snacking and I’m sure that’s the case with most students. When you’re a student, you don’t really have the time (or desire) to cook full meals and so quickly grabbing a snack from the store on the way to school is usually what you have to do. If you’re especially unlucky and forget to grab something at the store, you’re usually stuck buying “convenience” crap food on campus that typically consist of a coffee to keep the hunger away and a bag of chips or a muffin that has an expiration date that’s further out than your own.

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When I discovered UrthBox, I felt like all of those years of abuse from grabbing junk food on the go when I was too unorganized to have healthy snacks available could have been avoided. Even as a nutrition major, I know it takes a ridiculous amount of time to go through the grocery store and read every snack label to make sure that there isn’t anything bad in it. My friends really hate grocery shopping with me because of this… so it can cause social issues as well. Just ask any roommate I’ve ever lived with and they’ll explain the methods they’ve used to entertain themselves at the store while I desperately scan every food label for healthy snacks–basically, the process isn’t fun for anyone.

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UrthBox is everything I’ve ever needed, especially as a student (Plus, it makes a great monthly care package for family members to send to their kids! *cough* Hi mom *cough*). They provide a monthly box of goodies that have passed their strict criteria for calorie and nutrition content, ingredient source and manufacturing reviews. Only the best reach your doorstep. So not only do you get to try a bunch of new products that were delivered straight to you every month, you also don’t have to worry about checking the food labels because they’ve already done it for you!! Praise the lord! Think of all the sleeping.. I mean studying.. you could do instead of wasting time checking food labels!

UrthBox has four different types of boxes to order based off of your dietary needs as well: Classic, Gluten-free, Diet, and Vegan. I got the classic. It was delicious. But more on that later. You can also get different sized boxes delivered to you depending on the type of “snacker” you are. You can get the small discovery box which is only $19 per month and has 7-10 products, the “part time snacker” box which is $29 per month and has 12-15 products or the Happy snacker which has 20-24 products and is only $49 per month. You can do the math, but I’ll just explain this to you: This is way cheaper than if you were to actually go out and buy all of the products that they sell. And it’s delivered to your door. Every month. I really shouldn’t have to say more because those facts alone got me beyond excited about UrthBox. But one more fun fact: You can get discounts and gift cards on the products that they sent you online or at local stores.

STUDENTS and PARENTS: It’s cheap. It’s healthy. It’s convenient. It’s delicious. It’s always fun getting mail. Do yourselves or your kids a favor and sign them up for this. I’m a student and a nutrition expert and this passes both the need for something easy as well as the body’s requirement for something healthy.

I can’t possibly explain all of the perks of UrthBox in this post, so to sign up or to get more information, check them out on facebook, their website, instagram or twitter:

www.urthbox.com

www.facebook.com/urthbox (like them and you’ll get a $10 off coupon code! Score.)

Instagram and Twitter: @Urthbox

Let me tell you about my experience with UrthBox:

I first received an email saying my UrthBox should arrive in 1-3 business days. So obviously, I immediately checked my mailbox to see if somehow the magical folks at UrthBox were able to teleport my package of snacks to me. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet discovered how to do this but I didn’t have to wait long for my UrthBox to arrive because two days later (when I again over-eagerly checked my mailbox) I had my box of goodies in my hands.

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Which is when I took this picture. You’re lucky you even got a picture of the unopened box. It took a lot of will power for me to take the time to snap this picture before tearing it open.

It was like Christmas in November. Which Christmas basically is in November now with Starbucks blasting Christmas music and using their holiday cups-very confusing- but I digress.

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I first see the UrthBox card saying “You are what you eat! So don’t be fast and cheap”. Oh, UrthBox. How did you know I require humor in my relationships? I can already tell this is going to work out really well.

When I brought the box into my apartment, I suddenly had the urge to artistically display the products around a pumpkin because, you know, it’s fall and food makes me inspired.

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My roommates were eyeing all of my snacks and looking down at their own barren sections of the kitchen with extreme sadness (Again, students have ZERO time to buy their own snacks. It’s just a fact of life.).

I now have a full stash of snacks to bring to class with me so that I don’t starve/resort to snickers bars or bags of chips. You guys. Listen to me and sign up for UrthBox. It’s probably the best thing that could happen to a student. Just do it. You’ll be happy, just like me and my satiated little belly.

PS: I’m writing this while snacking on the “Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips” from my box. I’ve never tried them before until now and I’m hooked. Non-Gmo and all! God, I love snacks.

Falling in love with fall… quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

Fall is by far my favorite season. A little biased? Maybe. But some of the tastiest and most complex food comes from this season. The squashes, root veggies and cruciferous plants!! All some of my faves. The common theme between all of these is that they taste absolutely incredible when roasted. Each different veggie has such a unique flavor that develops during the roasting process. Yams become sweeter, cauliflower becomes earthy-er and spaghetti squash becomes.. spaghetti (another post on that later this month)!

Roasting these veggies on their own is good… but stuffing them with some other awesome ingredients… even better!!

Acorn squash has a super ridiculously low glycemic load (4 on a scale that goes up to 250) which is good because it won’t give you high insulin spikes that cause a crash later on. It’s also known to be packed with magnesium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. Plus, only 56 calories for a cup of the stuff.

Quinoa, as we know, is a complete protein which will help make you fuller faster.

This is a great side dish to meat, or a main meal if you pair it with some cooked veggies. Try it out!

 

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Baked quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

ingredients

1 small acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut the acorn squash in half. Once you’ve cut it in half, take each part and cut about 1/2 inch off of the end so that it can stand up.

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3. Scoop the seeds out of the squash and drizzle the inside of both halves with olive oil. Then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt into both halves as well. Put this into the oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on how big your squash is. Mine was really small so it only took 25 minutes.

4. While the squash cooks, put your quinoa into a pot with 1 cup water. Cover and turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes.

5. When the quinoa is done cooking, sprinkle the garlic powder, remaining salt and butter into the pot with the heat off. Stir to combine.

6. Next, toast the pine nuts. Take a small, dry sauce pan and put it over medium high heat. Pour the pine nuts into the pan and constantly stir the nuts by shaking the pan. These burn VERY quickly so you can’t walk away from them. It should only take about 45 seconds to get properly toasted (if the pan is hot enough when you put them in).

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This is how the pine nuts will look when they are done.

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A shot of how the pine nuts and the acorn squash look when they are both done cooking.

7. Stir the toasted pine nuts into the quinoa.

8. Flip the acorn squash over so that the cut side is now facing up and put it onto your serving plate. Scoop the quinoa out of the pan and equally fill each half of the squash with the quinoa and you are ready to eat!

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**This also tastes great with some finely chopped and sauteed veggies mixed in with the quinoa, like broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower.

**Feel free to add a meat into the quinoa mixture as well. Just make sure it’s already cooked when you add it in and that it is chopped into small pieces!