refresh and reload

I kind of suck at this second blog. I’m working on it, I promise.

This semester has been full of ups and downs and learning experiences. This wasn’t entirely unexpected; after all, I just moved across the country all alone, started two master’s programs, and am still learning about what exactly is wrong with my body. But all of this stuff happening means I’ve suffered from some bouts of depression, binge eating, feelings of aimlessness because of no longer having a job, cycles of excessive gym use followed by no gym use, learning a ton and loving it, learning a ton and feeling overwhelmed by how quickly I have to absorb it all, having a cluttered apartment with too many possessions, learning to manage money in chunks rather than regular paychecks, and feeling cut off from my family.

It’s a lot to handle, and I’m still not that great at it.

That said, I’ve had enough. I’m cleaning. I’m making piles of stuff to throw out, give away, resell. I’m writing again. I’m making more of an effort to be busy with friends and volunteering, and I’ve sent out tons of resumes and cover letters. As usual, I’m reading like crazy, and I’m getting better and better at it. I’m trying to keep myself interested in different kinds of exercise so that I don’t get bored. I’m striving to get into a better routine with cooking, and I’ve accepted that I need to give up refined sugar so that my stomach stops wrenching and having cravings and crashes. I have pulled out my keyboard a couple times and want to dedicate myself to learning at least one or two new piano pieces next semester. I have the Pimsleur course in Portuguese and plan on listening to it on the treadmill, thus refamiliarizing myself with the language and training my body to run and my joints to not suck so much.

But these steps take time and effort, and I’m also trying to finish my first semester of grad school strong. And I’m going home for a month, to finally see my family and hometown again, to refresh and reload, to finish my novel, to relax. So I’ll be back in the new year with a new purpose and dedication to this blog.

Until then.

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inventory time!

Cereal has always been my weakness, and when you’re in a position to reduce your carbs and starch, it’s even more of something to get rid of. But it’s hard, because it’s so easy, so comforting, so delicious. There’s no way I’ll ever totally give cereal up, but I’ve been trying to reduce my dependency on it, especially now that I live on such a tiny budget and gluten-free cereal is so expensive. Plus, it’s basically empty calories, so I end up eating more throughout the entire day, which is calories and money out the door.

So, step 1. Change from sugary, starchy, empty cereal to filling cereal. That means cereal with fiber and protein, and that means the homemade, low-sugar, delicious granola I’ve been making from scratch.

Step 2. When it’s not a morning where I have somewhere to be first thing (i.e. four or five days a week), make something healthier, more filling, and just plain more interesting. If I want to get better at cooking, I have to practice, experiment, and get better at following recipes. And I have to do that all without buying some of the stuff I really want, because I can’t afford it, like cute little ramekins and a food scale.

Step 3. Be more efficient in the ingredients I use. Store things better, buy only what I can eat, and find recipes for the week that use the ingredients I buy in bulk (right now I have lots of carrots, onions, apples, and mushrooms) in varying ways.

So for breakfast this morning, instead of my usual egg fallback, I made pancakes out of almond meal (aka pancakes that are full of protein, omegas, and healthy fat rather than starch and sugar), stevia, and olive oil, covered them with liliko’i jam and a little syrup, and had a delicious apple with it. Apples here are amazing! I can’t get enough. And compared to my usual, much larger breakfasts, I feel full and happy with less. Also, almond pancakes are a lovely brown color and have a kind of natural, almond sweetness to them without needing sugar. I did add stevia, but I’m thinking of trying it again with applesauce to replace both the egg and the sweetener. Might be interesting.

Then I found this recipe at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, which is perfect because it’s the kind of recipe I need with the sorts of ingredients I have an abundance of. So it was off to my cabinet to check my flour inventory. I found what I think is all-purpose gf flour (somehow it’s not labeled, but I don’t know what else would be in a plastic bag that looks like flour except flour, and I haven’t bought regular flour in ages), xanthan gum, garbanzo flour, almond meal, and my pao de queijo mix, which I can’t have anymore because I can’t have cheese, but since the flour is vacuum sealed and cheeseless, I’m assuming it’s still good and useable. And according to the package, it’s just tapioca flour with emulsifier and baking soda already in there, so it’s like ready-made baking mix. So I have a ton of flour options, and I can’t wait to get started on more savory, healthy, filling baking. I need a change. This will be good.

wellness: cardio is not enough

Something amazing has happened. After years of being the weak little girl who had to hang onto the lane lines during swim practice to catch her breath, after being the kid who was winded after one sprint in PE class, I am too good for cardio.

Seriously. I go to the gym and do about 60-80 minutes of cardio, and while I break a sweat, I don’t feel like I just worked my ass off and I’m going to die. I either feel like I didn’t do anything at all, or I just feel like, eh. I worked out. That was nice. Whatevs. There are probably lots of things contributing to this.

1. After many years of being on dangerous asthma steroids and allergy pills and still not being able to breathe, I was diagnosed a year ago with the correct breathing condition (vocal cord dysfunction, NOT asthma), went on the correct meds, and now have less of a chance of dying, better blood pressure, a better heart rate, and a less depressed outlook on life. And when you can breathe, you can go on the elliptical without feeling like you’re going to die.

2. I started working out more or less regularly in February of 2010, so as I have more or less kept to that for a year and a half, I have put myself “in shape,” if you will. And people who are in shape can work out without needing to die, and they can definitely work out for longer.

3. This is probably the most sedentary period of my life, grad school, and so I’m sure my body is so excited for those 60-80 minutes that I put it through that it does it without complaint. And an hour of cardio at the gym each day is not enough to counter hours of sitting in a classroom or at a desk, so it’s actually not enough. Hence trying to walk rather than take the T when I run errands, taking the stairs to class, etc.

4. Now that I’m on a more correct diet, my body is actually functioning properly, so working out is not the chore it once was.

Still. When I realized that I was doing a ton of cardio and it wasn’t putting me in the great I-just-worked-out-and-sweated-a-ton-I-feel-amazing! mood I had previously been in after a workout, I had to think about why that was. After all, it’s a perfectly acceptable amount of exercise for someone my age and size. Also, I don’t do exactly the same workout each time—I cycle between the elliptical, stationary bike, treadmill, and elliptical-ish running thingie for which I don’t know the name. So I shouldn’t be bored. Plus, when I am bored by the prospect of a workout, I bring a book or magazine to the gym, because I figure even if it makes the intensity a bit less, it’s better to be doing any cardio at all than to sit in my house.

But the real reason is that I wasn’t giving my body anytime to tone, sculpt, or productively relax. And even though I do some basic stretches after a cardio session, I don’t really stretch. The body needs a challenge, and the body needs a change. The body needs to be surprised. Routine can be lethal.

So I’ve gotten off my lazy ass, literally, and reminded myself that I have lots of workout DVDs. I’m cutting back on my gym time and going back to basics, with Pilates, stretching, The Brazilian Booty Workout, The Girls Next Door Workout, Total Body Balance Ball, and Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease. Mostly the 10-minute Pilates workouts, in different iterations (the entire video is about 50 minutes, but you can skip around and do different 10-minute sets for a customized, targeted session). But sometimes the other ones, because even though they sound silly, they actually do kick your butt (because you can’t lie and say that you haven’t looked at some of those girls and been impressed with their bodies).

I feel amazing, by which I mean I feel sore and like I just used new muscles, or used the old muscles in different ways. So I’m rotating this new kind of workout into my normal cardio routine. Here come sculpted abs and tighter thunder thighs! Here comes even lower blood pressure. Here comes flexibility. Change is good.