Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Change of Scenery

Happiest of Saturdays to you, blends!

I want to thank you for each and every time you visited my little corner of the blogosphere, even if today is your first visit. Your comments, texts, tweets, and emails have taught me so much more than I expected over the past ten months. I have come to truly love the experience of blogging, and I can only hope that you have enjoyed reading. I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you my big news...
Girl Emerging is moving! The crazy stories, fitness blunders, dietary experiments, and thinking aloud are all the same -- just at a new location. Now you can find me at SarcasmWithaSideofVeggies. The new site is still under construction, but I couldn't wait any longer to unveil it!
You can still email me here:
Tweet me here: @girl_emerging
And please feel free to continue reading and commenting here! I'll be checking back regularly as I make the transition :)
Thank you for making my first blogging experience and location incredibly memorable and educational! I hope you'll keep up with me at Sarcasm with a Side of Veggies!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brand-Spankin'-Unexpected PDR + Big News!

Happy, happy, happy Friday, blends!
I have several pieces of news to share with you this morning.
First, yesterday I accomplished a personal distance record I thought was a bit further down the road (pun intended) than it actually was.
Wednesday night, I wondered to myself whether I could do 5 miles on the treadmill. Five miles is a lot for someone who's farthest distance to date was 4 miles -- and that had been a stretch the few times I had accomplished it.
Thursday morning, I woke up with renewed enthusiasm. Why had I been so pessimistic? The worst that could happen would be a shorter run than I had planned. I prepped well by eating a wholesome breakfast, and then a quinoa bowl for lunch. I felt mentally prepared and well-fueled as I left for the gym. I settled in on my favorite treadmill, Toddlers and Tiaras keeping me company. I don't know about the rest of you runners out there, but I can't run a "long" distance or a new PDR without some sort of distraction.
Before I knew it, I had 2 miles under my belt, then 3... and then 4. Just one more mile, and I'd have reached my goal. Actually, just 0.01 more miles and I was at a new PDR. I marveled to myself how incredible I felt throughout the run; my blood sugar didn't drop, my heel didn't bother me (excessively), my knees didn't feel weak or unsteady, I wasn't experiencing chafing or irritation.
I had to ask myself, Why did I think five miles wasn't within my grasp?
I can't even explain the feeling of rounding that 5-mile mark. I was incredulous all day long. I texted pictures of the treadmill stats to both of my parents and to Ian. I was also surprised that I accomplished my goal in less time than I had anticipated. When I began the run, I set a 1-hour goal for myself, at just under an 11:30/mile pace. I reached five miles at 57 minutes and 40 seconds -- by far one of my proudest fitness accomplishments. To many, my pace probably seems downright sluggish, but the feeling of completing a new PDR is the same every time: it's as though I've just crossed the marathon finish line.
Of course, Ian was none too happy with me for not only not heeding his sage advice, but for attempting a new PDR on a (possibly) injured foot. Well, today I don't feel any the worse for wear, and my attitude is at its prime. I'd say that's a pretty good reward :)
My second piece of news is something I can't share with you just yet. There's something BIG coming to the blog, and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with you! Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to Make Someone's Day

Step 1: Say something kind and unexpected.
End of list.
Last night, one of my classmates absolutely made my day. She literally stayed late after class to tell me that she noticed I had lost weight. She asked me if I was on a diet, and I told her no, that I was running and eating more cleanly. We didn't have a lengthy conversation, just a few words and she was on her way.
It literally made my entire day that not only did she pay me such a nice compliment, she stayed late, after almost everyone had left, to tell me in quieter quarters that she thought I looked good. I was beaming.
I'll be honest, folks. It doesn't take much to make my day. I don't need to be bought a $200 dinner (but feel free!) or showered with pricey gifts. Over time, I've learned to appreciate the little things in life. To me, those are the most meaningful.
I'm a sucker for one of my favorite movies unexpectedly being on TV. Sheets and towels fresh out of the dryer. A guy holding the door open for me. Four-leaf clovers. A wildly inappropriate joke. A phone call from family or friends. Snail mail. A bowl of ice cream with all the fixin's. Earning an "A" on even the smallest assignment. You get the picture. It's neither expensive nor difficult to make my day. Others are likely the same way.
So go ahead. Make someone's day today :) There's nothing more beautiful than genuine altruism.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What the Heel

I can't even begin to tell you how many runner-bloggers' posts I've read about injuries suffered, physical therapy sessions attended, doctors' appointments made, hiatuses taken, and pieces of advice offered. I've suffered a few boo-boos myself, between bruising my knee (and my ego), experiencing unexplained knee pain (and here and here), and suffering a very painful ear infection. Hazards of the trade, I suppose. Well, apparently I'm made of glass, because my heel has been bothering me since the Vinton 5k.

I'll back up a bit. After Dad and I finished the 5k, our family headed to the pancake breakfast. I didn't realize how tight my muscles already were until I stood up after breakfast and I found I was incredibly sore. I can definitely attribute this to not stretching before the race, running in the cold on pavement, and not stretching after the race. Triple oops. I don't normally stretch before or after running because I don't normally have stiffness, soreness, or tightness. That being said, I don't normally run outdoors in 40-degree weather. Anyway...

The morning after the 5k, my right heel was pretty tender. There was no swelling or visible bruising, but it hurt to apply pressure or stand on it immediately after I got out of bed. That's the way it's been every morning since.

I've never experienced pain after a rest before. When I was experiencing knee pain, I recuperated from rest, and experienced pain during and after exercise. I'm having a hard time explaining this... It's also hard to describe exactly where the pain is:
Someone offered me an explanation of plantar fasciitis (but the pain isn't the bottom of my foot); someone else offered the possibility of a stress fracture (I probably wouldn't be able to walk normally, much less run). Ian, my MD-to-be, suggested RICE -- rest, ice, compression, elevation. Call me a total idiot, but I don't like the sound of any of it.

I took Friday off from the gym, spent most of Saturday walking all over Appomattox, and rested all day Sunday. Yesterday, I blew it all off and went for a short 20-minute run around my neighborhood. Brilliant, A.K. Looks like for the next few days, I'll finally be heeding my boyfriend's advice and working on my upper-body strength training... *sigh*

Besides the obvious -- Suggestions? Recommendations? Possibilities?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Orthorexia: There's a Name for Everything

My mom sent me this Dear Abby on Friday:
(My apologies for the photo; my scanner was acting screwy this morning)
Ironically, my friend and sorority sister, Colleen, blogged about this same issue a few days ago, from the perspective of those who are burned out on others pretending to have developed lactose or gluten intolerance, and those who have a burning desire to share with the Web every uber-healthy morsel they consume.
Turns out there's a name for everything.
At the risk of sounding like a Psyc-101 freshman here, I wonder aloud how this new condition, termed orthorexia, or the "psychological obsession with eating healthy," has touched my life. And not in a positive way. I truly appreciated Colleen's post because it caused me to take two giant steps back to see how my lifestyle and my choices affect those around me. (Am I making a positive or a negative impact?)
It's all too easy to fall victim to the slippery slope of look-Ma-I've-finally-decided-that-vegetables-are-good-for-me, segueing into look-everyone-I-ate-my-allotted-soy-protein-powder-gluten-free-morning-meal. The more Instagram pictures of dressing-free salads are posted, the more pressure there is to count calories, question every bite, and overanalyze the "nutritional" quality of each meal. This doesn't just apply to women, either. There are a number of Twitter accounts I recently discontinued following because they made me feel bad about myself and the foods I chose to put into my body. I follow several well-known registered dieticians (RDs) and fitness gurus whose glistening abs remind me on the daily that I'm not doing nearly enough to tone, tighten, and trim. (Or am I?)
If you've been reading Girl Emerging for awhile, you know that for the past year, I've made serious changes in my diet, eating habits, fitness regimen, and lifestyle. I've been blogging and Tweeting about my progress and new developments as a way of logging experiments, challenges, triumphs, concerns, and queries. In terms of weight loss and exercise, I've been feeling out what works best for me, and then sharing it with you.
I stopped in my tracks to ask myself:
Is the message I send others about my "diet" one of health and wholeness, or one of negativity and obligation?
Is the snapshot I display of my intense workout going to inspire or injure?
Am I being true to myself and my values along my weight-loss journey and my lifestyle makeover?
Do my family and friends enjoy conversing with me about the changes I've made, or do they wish I'd shove another carrot in my pie hole and stop babbling?
Colleen's blog post and the Dear Abby article have given me a lot to consider in terms of the impact I am making on those around me. I don't want to create an impression of intolerance or disgust with others' food and exercise choices. I don't want to lose friends or cause people to be turned off by my life decisions in the pursuit of a healthier, more holistic life. To be cliche, at the end of the day, I want to live a life fueled by health and happiness, and I want my friends and family by my side to share in that.
P.S. Have you heard of orthorexia? Is there someone who has impacted your health-related life decisions?

Edited to add: My mom did not send me this article because she believes I have orthorexia or any related condition; she sent me the article for the sake of awareness and out of curiosity about whether I had heard of the condition. Thank you for your concern and your positive responses to this post!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Historical Date Weekend

Even after 3 years (well, 3 years on November 12) I still get just as excited about Date Night as I did when Ian and I met in October of 2009. I love to dress to impress (him, of course) and I still get butterflies when he knocks on my door. This weekend was no exception.

Friday afternoon, we decided to head to an early dinner at a local steak house. Ian's dad had bought us a just-because gift certificate, so we decided to splurge a little bit. I tried steak au jus for the first time. What a treat!

After a mini grocery shopping trip, we picked out a pumpkin at Kroger. Ian did most of the carving, because last year, I carved our pumpkin into a disaster.
We didn't have a clue what we wanted to carve. I suggested a kitty, but that didn't really appeal to either of us. Normally, we're big planners, but we decided to wing it with our jack-o-lantern. We knew that we wanted something that represented both of us, and somehow we ended up with this little number:
We may not be master carvers, but we were pretty pleased with the end result.

Saturday morning, we intended to sleep in, but I woke up bright and early, too excited. It was the day we were finally going to drive Route 24 in Appomattox, tour the Museum of the Confederacy, stop at the historical monuments, and possibly venture into the Lee Grant Rebel Store on Route 460.

Even though it would be a lot of driving, we decided to head to the far end of 24 and double back, stopping at the plaques and monuments along the way. Before we were halfway, Ian suggested we stop at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. At just $5 per vehicle, it's a great deal for all that visitors can see and do. Armed with our map, we set out across the village. We could not have had more perfect weather.

I admired the (original) Isbell House from afar, but we decided to stay closer to the courthouse and the center of the village.
Next, we toured the Appomattox County Jail. I was impressed by how much of the original Civil War era preservation remained, like these shacklebolts.
Then, we wandered over to the Clover Hill Tavern, where reenactors were leading tours and giving speeches. We weren't allowed in most of the rooms, but I took as many photos as I possibly could.
We spent a great deal of time marveling over the Meeks Store merchandise. I felt like we were taking ourselves back through time, looking at the crude medicines, bolts of fabric, and bins of raw ingredients.
We toured the tiny Woodson Law Office, the Tavern Guesthouse, the Tavern Kitchen (now used as the bookstore and gift shop), the Storehouse, the outhouses (of course), and the Slave Quarters before arriving at McLean House -- the surrender site.

We began touring in the basement: the kitchen and dining room of the McLean family.
We toured the bedrooms, the nursery, personal office/study space, women's work spaces, and sitting rooms.
I was struck by how much the restored McLean House resembled the Civil War era architecture present all over Hampden-Sydney's campus. Of course, the two locations are less than an hour apart, and the Civil War waged right through campus while classes were in session.
This view is of the McLean House from the front.
After we finished touring the McLean House summer kitchen and slave quarters, we were pretty hungry. We decided to leave the village to have a picnic lunch along Route 24. We smartly packed more than enough food: raw broccoli and organic baby carrots, sub sandwiches, Halloween cookies, blue corn tortilla chips, Vitamin Water, dark chocolate almond milk for me, and bananas.
We found a shady spot along the river to eat. Of course, there was the obligatory tourist shot...
After lunch, we headed a bit further down 24 to stop at some of the historical battle sites. The Confederate Cemetery was less than half a mile from the Courthouse Park.
I'm really not a history buff, but the day was so beautiful and breezy that it made everything we saw seem less bleak and more enjoyable as an "educational" experience.
We also stopped at the site where Lee's men camped for three nights prior to the surrender, but by the time we hiked a mile into the woods, I was too pooped for pictures.

We decided to forgo the Museum of the Confederacy because it was 5:00 by the time we hit Route 460, but that's definitely still on my Bucket List. If you haven't ever visited the Civil War museums or sites, I highly recommend it. Between my apartment and my permanent home, all of it is right in my backyard and it took me 23 years to finally visit. Most of the sites are free or very inexpensive.

After dinner, we headed back out for supplies to make my Halloween costume. We drove all over creation and searched no fewer than five fabric and craft supplies stores before finally settling on what we needed. I'm bursting with excitement about my costume -- which took us 2 hours to create, I might add -- but I'm forcing myself to wait until after I wear it to post pics. I will say that it's by far my most creative costume ;)

Needless to say, it was early to bed again. We finally slept in this morning before Ian needed to head back to Richmond. He made this weekend nothing short of perfect!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trying for the Sake of Trying

Does anyone else ever find herself caught up in the whirlwind of a new fad? Well, I'll go first.
Hi, my name is A.K., and I bought almond butter and almond milk on Tuesday for no particular reason.
Sometimes I find myself writing down atypical grocery items on my list (e.g., soups containing barley, lactose-free milk, coconut oil, Smart Water, natural peanut butter, Fage yogurt) simply for the sake of trying something new. But am I really buying these items to try new foods? Or am I buying them because other bloggers, Tweeters, healthy-living pursuers, or friends mention something in passing that I just can't get out of my head?
I'll give you a prime personal example. About a year ago, I found myself in a meal rut; I was making the same 4-5 recipes repeatedly, and I was starting to seriously feel the need to branch out. I decided I could start by replacing some of the less healthy ingredients in these recipes (cough, mayonnaise, cough) with healthy substitutes. I replaced the heavy mayonnaise base in my godmother's chicken casserole recipe with plain Chobani Greek yogurt. I continually read about people extolling the virtues of Chobani as a substitute for different creamy bases, so I said, why not? 
I'm not an experienced enough domestic goddess to know which substitutions are actually feasible, so I didn't anticipate that I would sacrifice the creaminess and hint of sweetness of the mayo for the chalkiness and bitterness of the yogurt. The casserole turned out terribly, and I ruined two nights' worth of dinners.
Naturally, I had to stop and ask myself: would I have been better off to suck it up and use a more caloric base, or ruin dinner for several nights and waste a ton of fresh ingredients? Since then, by the way, I use olive oil-based mayonnaise when I absolutely need it. It's one of those condiments that really kind of grosses me out, since it's essentially lard... but that's beyond the point.
I had also read many bloggers' posts about replacing sour cream with plain Greek yogurt. I was a little wiser this time around, so I did my homework before I automatically became a drone, mindlessly replacing foods I enjoy with foods I have to choke down in the name of "health."
Since I purchase store-brand fat-free sour cream, I'm consuming 10 calories per tbsp. If I were to substitute the dollop or two of sour cream I enjoy atop my favorite vegetarian chili with plain Chobani, I'd be consuming 15-20 calories per tbsp. But I count more than just calories; the nutritional values are actually comparable (with the exception of protein). In this case, making such a switch is a personal preference, as there is no alarming difference I can see between using fat-free sour cream and plain yogurt.
(Mind you, I'm pretty sure I keep the Cho section of my local Kroger in business, but I'm just making my point.)
Back to the almonds...
I've tried almond butter before, and I wasn't impressed. As much as I love whole, unsalted almonds, I think I expected almond butter to be sweeter and creamier, like the peanut butter I'm accustomed to buying. Probably because so many of the well-known varieties are chock-full of sugar and preservatives... Oh, right, it's not time for a soapbox spiel. In any event, I'm really enjoying my almond butter. I had to stop myself the other day from eating it by the spoonful. Surprisingly, I like that it's drier than PB and equally as easily spread. I can't say I'm thrilled about 190 cals per serving, but the protein content and the heart-healthy endorsement put me a little more at ease.
I really don't know what compelled me to purchase lactose-free milk. I agonized in the Natural Foods section for a solid ten minutes before finally selecting vanilla-flavored Silk Pure Almond. I hesitantly tried it yesterday morning with my beloved Kashi Honey Puffs. I dabbled with it later in a cup of Joe, but I can't say it was as great in coffee as it was in cereal. At more than twice the cost of skim milk for half of the quantity, I'm questioning my M.O. on this one more than the others.
In the end, I'm not always sure why I make some of the purchases I do, particularly ones of which I might've initially been skeptical.
Why have I suddenly changed my mind?
Am I becoming a so-called follower? Or worse, the old insult, a copycat?
Nah. I think I'm just curious. Whatever the reason, I'm learning a hell of a lot more by experimenting than I ever did simply reading about other people's exploits or sticking with my same-old-same. For me, that's what this has all been about.
P.S. Back to my question: do you ever find yourself getting sucked into "fad foods" or trendy new diet options?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Over the Moon for Skinny Cow

I've been pretty open about the fact that I don't often buy dessert-y or indulgent items for my apartment... because they'd all be gone within the hour. I'm serious. There's no chance that chocolate or Doritos could mellow for a day or two. Just because I love to find ways to eat well doesn't mean I don't sometimes crave Forbidden Foods.
Well, my blends, the dessert-less apartment era may be on its way out.
During our requisite grocery shopping trip our first evening at the lake, Mom and I were looking for some sweet treats. (Because, you know, the Famous Amos cookies and the Tupperware container of M&Ms weren't enough.) We stumbled across Skinny Cow miniatures in the ice cream section.
Now, let me just say, I don't often allow myself to venture into the ice cream section, because I go starry-eyed like a drooling kid in front of the the Cocoa-Choco-Peanut Butter-Fatty Crisps in the cereal aisle. I have to resist the strong, pulling, uncontrollable urge to stuff my pie hole with every rich ice cream in sight.
Okay, allow me to wipe my chin as I get back to my story...
So we compared various miniature ice creams' calorie, fat, and sugar contents. Skinny Cow came out the clear winner. At just 4 Weight Watchers points, I knew my sister would be pleased. At 150 calories, I was pleased! This ice cream is some of the creamiest, dreamiest, tastiest ice cream I have ever had. I'm not a big strawberry cheesecake girl, but the Skinny Cow variety wholeheartedly has my vote.
Move over, Obamney!
Yesterday afternoon, I wrote ice cream on my grocery list for the first time in probably literally a year. I was all too excited to get to the frozen foods section of Kroger to see which flavors they offered. I settled on Strawberry Cheesecake, Cookies 'n Cream, and Chocolate Fudge Brownie. And ya know what? I don't feel one bit guilty about having three containers of ice cream in my freezer.
The serving size is perfect, the texture is beyond, the flavor is incredible, and the benefits of knowing I can have dessert without feeling like a bloated whale are untold. Three cheers for Skinny Cow!
P.S. Have you tried Skinny Cow products? If so, which flavors do you recommend?
Disclaimer: All opinions and product endorsements are my own. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for reviewing or promoting this product.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Martini Therapy

The solution to everything is liquor time with girlfriends.

I like to call a dinner date incorporating drinks with the girls either "martini therapy" or "margarita therapy," no matter what we're actually drinking.

Last night's poison of choice was Robin Alexander martinis -- "James and the Giant Peach" and "Andes Mint," to be exact. My sister said it perfectly over the weekend: there needs to be a day between Sunday and Monday to ease us back into the week. That's exactly what last night was!

In this order, I was in desperate need of:
1. Girlfriend gossip
2. Martinis
3. A scrumptious salad
4. Martinis

Martini therapy doesn't entail much except secret-sharing, delicious food, a few naughty drinks, and a chance to relax for a few hours. Unfortunately, martini therapy is practically as expensive as actual therapy, but the benefits are untold ;) Nothing quite beats a cancelled class and a night out with my ladies!

P.S. Do you have a special place you like to go with your girlfriends? If it's in RVA, please share!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Break R&R

This weekend was completely perfect, folks.
I didn't blog because the house my family rented for my sister's and my Fall Break didn't have Internet access, and I wasn't about to find a library in BFE to post a few words. So, I'll just cram it all in now!
The house we rented was in a quiet, secluded lakefront community, so we had as much peace and quiet as we could handle. I had truly forgotten how much I enjoy reading for pleasure. I brought schoolwork with me because I'd have felt guilty if I didn't, but I had no intentions of touching it. This weekend was all about rest and relaxation. The rest part was a bit dicey, considering the twin bed I called my own for four nights was about as comfortable as a few reams of printer paper... but I think that was my only complaint.
Thursday, my parents picked me up at my apartment around 12:30, and we hit Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Honestly, I'll never turn down the Chick'n Strips Salad and a Diet Lemonade. Then we were lake-bound! I was in comfy clothes with hot tea and a new book in my hand faster than you could say vacation.
I lazed around, read (Kristin Hannah's Magic Hour), cat-napped, and soaked up the beautiful weather. Mom and I had planned scrumptious, health-conscious meals, so Thursday night, my parents and I made gigantic spinach salads topped with salmon.
I even indulged in the random assortment of beer Dad brought along ;)
I'm not sure whether I'm embarrassed to say we watched and commentated the VP debate... but I can say I learned virtually nothing.
Friday, after Mom and I snooped around the gorgeous house next door which was for sale and poked around the dock, Caroline arrived. We elected to have turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and salad for dinner to "carb up." We spent the evening watching an episode of Jeopardy!, sipping hot tea, and reading.
Saturday, we were up before the sun to be in Vinton -- 45 minutes from our rental property -- for the 5k. I was more nervous than I anticipated being, and the 40-degree temps didn't warm my confidence. You know you're participating in a small race when it begins with some guy in an orange vest shouting instructions and then pressing an air horn. I was also surprised by how many cross-country runners and sprinters participated in this small-town event. I tried not to focus on how far we'd run, and instead focus on the scenery and the town. The course was out-and-back, so I got to see everything twice as the sun melted the frost and brought neighbors out to the blocked-off course.
When I thought we were probably nearing the finish line, Dad said, "Just up around this bend, go around the block, across the street, and we're there." He confirmed that we were on pace to finish in 35 minutes. We picked up our pace as we passed back over the creek, especially after he reported, "Less than five minutes." My lungs were burning and my legs were getting a bit tired from pounding pavement, but I said, "Run!" when he reported that we had 30 seconds left. We sprinted across the finish line in exactly 35 minutes. He stepped back to let me pass a few seconds ahead of him, and I felt so triumphant that not only had we completed the race together, running the entire distance, but we accomplished our goal. My dad knows how to inspire, y'all.
After we changed into warmer clothes and hydrated, we made our way toward the pancake breakfast. Let me tell you, those were some of the most moist pancakes and some of the juiciest sausage I've ever tasted. After breakfast, it was only 9:30, so we began meandering among vendors' booths. The Vinton Fall Festival was actually pretty cool, and there was a lot of interesting stuff for all ages to do and see.
Later that afternoon, I was torn between my mind craving more reading, and my body craving a nap. I compromised by reading until I dozed off. Yeah, I'm 90. Saturday night, we made BBQ sandwiches topped with angel hair cole slaw (I literally did not know such a thing existed) and accompanied by veggies and fruit. I was satisfied to be in my tiny, rock-hard bed early Saturday night.
Sunday, I slept in until the very late hour of 8:45. We had decided to rent a pontoon boat for the day to cruise the lake. My face got pretty sunburned because I spent four hours in the bow, scoping out million-dollar homes and delighting in the wind and the waves. We pulled up to a small marina for 30 minutes or so to have an on-board picnic lunch, and then we were back at it. Sometimes I feel like I was born to be on the water.
Sunday's menu consisted of chicken, mushrooms, onion, and asparagus over whole wheat pasta, with sides of fresh strawberries and light garlic French bread. After everyone was done lounging and digesting, we wandered down to the sandy beach in front of the house to set up the "instant fire pit" my mom found. I toasted one marshmallow after another until I was s'mored out. We read until everyone was pooped, and then called it a night.
This morning, it was gloomy and pouring when my alarm went off at 8:00. It was the usual frenzy to pack everything up and be out of the house by 10:00. I always hate the sad, slow feeling that inevitably means it's the last day of vacation. I'm pretty sure my family and I are Smith Mountain Lake lifers. Now it's back to the real world...
P.S. As always, I hardly took any pictures to document my adventures. I need a new memory card for my new digital camera. I'm working on it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Coffee vs. Tea: The Smack(ing Lips)-Down

I've always liked both tea and coffee. I'm more likely to order tea with dinner and coffee after dinner as a treat. I like either beverage equally hot or iced. I don't care for either paired with alcohol (think Firefly).
As part of my drink-more-water campaign, I've been experimenting with tea. Don't get me wrong -- I still love my Dunkin and my Folger's decaf.
I just decided to pick up a couple varieties of tea and see what I liked or didn't like about it.
As it turns out, I'm leaning toward tea these days.

As a huge type-A personality, a "pros" list for each option is a must (pros are strictly my personal opinions):

Pros of tea                                         Pros of coffee
Lighter feel                                    Bigger caffeine boost
More refreshing                                  More filling
More thirst-quenching                               Sweeter
Energizing                                       Sleep-inducing
Fresher breath                                  More flavorful
Healthier additives (e.g. natural honey)       More additive options
Great on the porch on a fall day!               Great on the porch on a fall day!

I find that I'm more likely to make 2-3 cups of tea per day, whereas I drink a maximum of 2 cups of coffee per day (one with caffeine in the morning, sometimes one decaf in the evening). I just feel lighter and more refreshed drinking tea, and I don't feel guilty making multiple cups per day because I'm adding natural sweeteners to it.

I've found that I don't necessarily need a jolt of caffeine in my day. Since I eliminated soda from my diet, coffee and tea are the only sources of caffeine I consume, neither of which I need if I (a) get adequate sleep and (b) get a good cardio workout in.

I'm not looking to stick solely to one beverage or another; I'm just kind of weighing the pros of each on the blogosphere. I'd love your input, whether you are strictly a coffee-drinker, only a tea-drinker, whether you don't have a preference, or whether you drink something else entirely!

Overall, my goal has been to drink more water, and that is exactly what I have accomplished. Truth be told, since both tea and coffee are made from water, neither beverage has much effect on my daily H2O consumption -- I just like them :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

5k Numero Dos Prep

Last Thursday, I ran a 5k in under 35:00 -- the goal Dad and I set for ourselves for the Vinton 5k -- for the first time ever.
Please excuse me while I toot my own horn (toot, toooot!) but I was pretty stoked. To be honest, I wasn't sure 3.1 miles in 35 minutes was doable for me right now. I haven't trained for this race like I did the Susan Komen race in May, and I've been experiencing troubles with my blood sugar.
Now I'm just making excuses.
But now that I know that it is doable, I'm feeling more ready than ever. I'm also pretty stoked to have a time goal; for the 5k in May, my goal was simply to run/jog the entire distance. This time around, my goal is both!

Dad's been very encouraging throughout my prep for this race. He and I trained separately, though I sent him frequent updates. Essentially, even for a 5k, I focused on getting myself back to that comfortable place with the distance. Then I worked on shaving off time and pacing myself at faster speeds. I haven't had a set running schedule, but I knew that the harder I pushed myself in the weeks before the race (within reason), the more relaxed I'd feel on race day.
This week, per Dad's suggestion, I'll run 3.1 miles this morning, and I'll do some half-mile sprints Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, of course, will be my day off. Saturday is R-A-C-E D-A-Y!

So why am I laying all this out so far in advance? Well, this weekend is my sister's and my Fall Break, which my family and I are spending at Smith Mountain Lake (hence the Vinton Fall Festival). We probably won't have Internet access, so I'll report on the race -- and the ridiculous number of ensuing pancakes I plan to scarf -- sometime next week.

Happy Tuesday!

Countdown to race day: T-minus 4

Sunday, October 7, 2012


One of the things that terrifies me most in this world is giving presentations. I can't pinpoint what it is that makes me so nervous... other than everything.
I'm just positive I'll forget my presentation, even though I've emailed it to myself, saved it on a flash drive, and brought my laptop with me.
I know I'll stumble over historical figures' names (you try pronouncing Eugen Bleuler's name correctly) and look like an ignoramus in front of my colleagues.
It's obvious to everyone that my face is redder than a tomato, and now my neck is getting all splotchy...
My professor must know I keep checking the clock to stay within my time limit.
My project partner is much more natural at this, so I look like a fumbling, bumbling idiot.
See what I mean?
One of the greatest experiences of my college career was serving as a Peer Mentor, a delegate for the Office of First-Year Experience at Longwood. The first year I served, I was a junior with a class of 10 very disinterested College of Business and Economics students (about which I know zip). I co-taught the class with the Vice President for Student Affairs -- yowza! The second year I served, I landed one of two coveted spots in the Psychology department working alongside two of the most influential professors I've ever had. I had the responsibility of co-teaching and managing 15 half-interested Psychology majors with smart-ass attitudes. It wasn't my first rodeo, and I had a better handle on how to "deal" with freshmen.
Out of these experiences, I gained a sense of competence in public speaking. I learned how to carry myself in order to project confidence, even when I'm drop-dead nervous. I learned how to practice until I was blue in the face so as to rely less on notes. I learned how to be present with my audience instead of focusing on the next thing to say or do. Above all, I learned that nobody gives a perfect presentation, and that with time and experience comes the feeling of less anxiety with each presentation.
(Between you and me, I think I'd rather address board rooms of disgruntled CEOs for the rest of my life than a classroom of gum-snapping, eye-rolling, half-asleep, pissed-off college freshmen who have better places to be.)
During my first year of grad school, one of my classmates introduced me to the magical presentation world of Prezi, which one of my current professors refers to as "PowerPoint on crack." In case you're not familiar with Prezi, it's a website you can use collaboratively to design presentations that are more naturally animated. Prezi allows you to add movement to a presentation without it looking goofy or overdone. Trust me, I am not a tech-savvy lady (I don't know whether I've ever emphasized mentioned that before...) and even I can use this site!

Prezi has been a real life-saver, as my project partners as I have increasingly conflicting schedules and busier lives. We can't always set aside time to work together physically, but that's the beauty of Prezi. I can add my assigned components, save the Prezi, and check in on things online as my partners add their components from different locations. Neat, huh?

I'm not saying I'll ever be good at public speaking or giving presentations, but with neat little tips and tricks like Prezi, I'm well on my way to feeling less like fainting each time ;)

P.S. Do you like public speaking? If so, do you have any pointers?!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sweet Relief

Well, I'm not in the clear just yet. The nurse drew four vials of blood this morning, which definitely made me a little woozy. Ian said, Don't be a weiner! in response to my text-messaged pictures of a bandaged arm and a cotton-ball-and-Band-Aid-covered hand. Hey, I bruise like a peach and needles and I don't get along! I'll spare you the visual aids I sent Ian...
I'm feeling relieved after my appointment, though. My doctor is awesome. When she didn't immediately report that I was dying, I already started to feel better. She normalized all of my concerns and discussed all possible reasons behind the near-constant hunger I've been experiencing:
Due to my BC containing a dose of iron, I may have developed anemia when I switched from the brand-name to the generic product.
I won't delve into "lady business" issues any more than I already have, but it may be a contributing factor to anemia.
Eating five small meals a day as opposed to three larger ones should be helping, but it doesn't explain my need for snacks or the feelings (i.e. spotty vision, weakness, lightheadedness, wooziness) associated with low blood sugar.
My healthy "diet" should be benefiting me as well, but only time and my lab results will tell the tale.
I have never been officially diagnosed with hypoglycemia, but the answer could be as simple as that.
Running 2-4 miles per day has upped my metabolism, which could simply mean that even as much as I'm eating, I'm losing weight -- which means I'm still not eating enough. Hooray for weight-loss and an excuse to eat!
My bloodwork is expected back from the lab by the middle of next week, so I should have some answers to go with my questions! I'm just sure you're on pins and needles to know what's up, so I'll be sure to share ;) 
In the meantime, I have two very purple bruises that make me look a bit like a needle-sharing addict... Here's to hoping people's assumptions are kind!
P.S. What are you up to this weekend? My parents and Ian and I have a low-key weekend planned, and I'm really looking forward to a little R&R.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Don't I Feel Full?

Today, I'm writing about two topics that have brought me some concern over the past month. One of them I found to be challenging, yet rewarding and doable. The other is still a concern.

On nutrition:
Over the past month or two, I've experienced a day or two per week during which I could not get full. It seems like no matter how much or what type of food I eat, my blood sugar is still low. It's not just hunger pangs; it's more like I can't regulate my blood sugar or fill my stomach sufficiently. Finally, I decided it was bothering me enough to see my PCP about it.
I'm not a big fan of going to the doctor, particularly when needles are involved. I don't have a fear of needles, per se, but they give me the willies. So you can imagine I am not stoked for an appointment before which I cannot eat (yikes!), and at which I know beforehand they will be drawing blood. Double yikes!
I'm a little worried about what my doctor will say, but I'm armed with lots of possible causes (e.g. returning to omnivorism, frequent cardio exercise, "lady business" troubles and comorbid recurring BC problems [which could contribute to anemia], insufficient protein and/or iron consumption... the list goes on). Truth be told, I'm kind of terrified that my doctor will tell me that all of my hard work, meticulous planning, and expensive health-conscious purchases aren't doing my body good. That, or that I have actually been harming my body...
Both Ian and my mom, in their infinite wisdom, have offered tons of helpful suggestions and assured me that I'm doing the right thing. My appointment is Friday at 9:00. Fingers crossed for good news!

On planks:
Remember when I challenged myself to complete a plank a day for the month of September? Well, my blends, I did one plank every single day for 27 days, and I forgot on the 28th day. Consequently, I completed two one-minute planks on Sept. 29th, and I rounded out the month nicely. Obviously, I can't report that I've sprouted a six-pack, but I can say that planks get easier the more you do them. The first few days, I thought I was going to collapse. I've done planks sporadically before, but doing one a day seemed like it would be the death of me when I first began. Now, I'm thinking that making a plank-a-day part of my daily routine isn't a half-bad idea! It's an easy way to throw some ab work as well as some controlled breathing into my day without really having to plan.

I'll be back tomorrow with updates. As my dad says, happy teeny-Friday!
P.S. Countdown to the Vinton 5k: 9 days!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Kroger Chronicles

I've been receiving requests for info and questions about where I grocery shop and the types of foods I buy, so I thought, why not write about my most recent Kroger expedition? I went Monday afternoon before class. I broke my cardinal rule of never shopping on an empty stomach, but surprisingly, I stuck to my list (my other cardinal rule).

Disclaimer: While I consider most of the following items staples in my "diet," not all of these items are ones which I purchase on every grocery shopping trip. I used Monday's trip as a snapshot of the types of foods I buy on a regular basis.

Salad fixings and fresh veggies are staples in my fridge. Sometimes I treat myself to extras to spice up a salad -- like these pecan pieces and Italian pine nuts -- but I always stock baby spinach, organic tomato, cucumber, celery, baby carrots, and vidalia onion.
I always have some type of fresh fruit. It's usually bananas that are still too green to eat, strawberries, or blueberries. Recently, I've begun buying frozen freestone peaches or triple-berry mixes. Frozen fruit is perfect for after class when I'm craving ice cream; it's cold, flavorful, and still nutritious. Unfortunately, it's also expensive, but that's where freezing my own pre-portioned fruit could come in handy.
I discovered KIND bars 8 or 9 months ago, and it was love at first bite. They're a bit high in the calorie department (120-200) for me, but they're incredibly good, and they're packed with goodies like protein and fiber. They're perfect in-class snacks, and their huge variety of flavors and ingredients (e.g. cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds, pecans) keeps me interested. These babies come in really handy in a pinch when my blood sugar drops quickly.
Since I began eating meat about 10 months ago, 90% of my cravings are for chicken. I keep a bag of the boneless, skinless variety in the freezer; this type of meat is preferable because of its versatility. I don't usually stock salmon, but it's such a great source of Omega-3s, I don't pass it up when it's on sale. I usually bake it in Balsamic Vinaigrette and eat it atop a salad. It's great fuel that keeps me full and feeling good for hours.
(Secret Time: I like the way the single piece of fish looks wrapped up in wax paper. It reminds me of old-timey movies or TV shows when everybody carried one paper grocery bag with the leafy greens of the carrots sticking out of the top.)
Odwalla and Naked smoothies and drinks are "special occasion" treats because of their expense ($3-5 apiece) and their high caloric content. They're supposed to suffice as a meal or a hearty between-meals supplement, but they don't keep me full. On the plus side, they're absolutely saturated with nutrients, vitamins, veggies, and fruit, so I can't be too mad at them...
These Greek yogurt treats are also considered special occasion goodies. Between 100-150 calories apiece, they're great sources of calcium and vitamin D. I bought these because they were 10/$10, and because they taste like dessert without the dessert hurt-factor.
Chobani, however, is an absolute necessity for me. There is never a time that I'm without my beloved Chobani, particularly the pomegranate, mango, and pineapple flavors. If I have them on hand, I love to add granola and/or chia seeds to my morning Chobani.
I alternate between SoBe Life Water, Vitamin Water Zero (and the Kroger brand), and Propel Zero. It depends on which brand is on sale and which flavors I'm craving. Generally speaking, I buy Vitamin Water most frequently. I'm quite certain Kroger misses me single-handedly keeping these sections of the store in business, but my Brita has saved me a boatload of money and tossed plastic bottles. Having a Brita also ensures that I always have cold, fresh water, which has upped my per diem water intake significantly.
 I try to buy heart-healthy soups that are low in sodium, but admittedly, my favorite flavors are rich in sodium (i.e. Campbell's French Onion, which has half of my RDV of sodium). I also look for limited-time seasonally flavored soups. I wasn't feeling risky enough to try the orange tomato variety I saw, but there's always next time ;) One of my favorite meals is soup over brown or white rice.
Milk -- another staple in my diet. I don't drink milk nearly as often as I used to, but I eat cereal quite a bit. I always buy skim, always a half-gallon. I'm that girl who elbows old ladies out of the way to strong-arm her way to the very back of the case for the jug with the longest expiration date.
I used to consume more cheese than you would ever believe. I have a mild obsession with Swiss... so anyway, I try to make it a policy not to have more than two types of readily consumable cheese on hand at any given time (e.g. Swiss slices and spreadable sharp cheddar). Occasionally, I'll buy crumbled feta or bleu cheese to add to salads or to top veggie burgers. One of my all-time favorite veggie burger combos includes a toasted bun of some sort, cucumber slices, tomato slices, baby spinach, hummus, and cheese crumbles atop the patty.
And last but certainly not least... I discovered Sandwich Thins 6-8 months ago, and I've never looked back. With all of the 100-calorie varieties, I don't have a need to buy sliced bread or buns anymore. These are versatile, too -- I use them as toast with margarine and jam, burger buns, breakfast rounds topped with Nutella and banana slices, sandwich bread, etc.
Disclaimer Two: I'm not a calorie-counting fiend, I promise! It just helps to know exactly what you're putting into your body so you know what you can expect out of your diet. I've learned so much just by reading labels and doing basic research. Once you get into a routine and you start buying a lot of the same foods regularly, you pretty much know the nutritional value without having to read labels every time.
If you had questions, I hope this helps! If not, you've gotten a glimpse into my pantry :)
Please feel free to continue emailing, tweeting, commenting or texting questions. Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

(Somewhat) Full-Disclosure Sunday

Whew! The past few days have been a whirlwind! Life is definitely different this semester with three classes right in a row -- bam, bam, bam. Having Thursday through Sunday available has made life... interesting. Well, let's see...
Thursday, I headed to RIC around lunchtime to spend some QT with Mom. Dad was at a series of meetings at my alma mater, Longwood University. Mom and I got to pal around, make a healthy dinner together, sit outside and enjoy the wannabe-fall temps, and watch too much television -- starting with a new episode of The Office and ending with a few old Twilight Zone episodes, maybe including Parks and Rec in between. My mom isn't much of a TV-watcher; she often says that if there wasn't a TV in the house, she wouldn't notice. Still, it was great to bum around the house just us girls. She even let me test out her new Sleep Number!
Friday was Ian's M1-D1 semi-formal (i.e. the first-year med school nerds and the first-year dental students mixin' it up at the beautiful, newly renovated historic Hotel John Marshall). He picked me up after lunch at the Casa de Lew, and we hung around his apartment for a few hours before trying out a new recipe: whole-wheat thin spaghetti with fresh minced garlic and Prego Light Smart plus sauteed squash and zucchini with a splash of soy. Then it was time to play dress-up! Hey, I like an occasional excuse to put on something fancy and attend a swanky event on my man's arm ;) However... between the "pre-game" Ian's good friend hosted and the three drinks included with the cost of each ticket, I was feeling, shall we say, not myself when we finally hopped in a cab. A great time was had by all! ...until Saturday morning.
Give me a cold any day. Throw me allergies or a sinus infection. You know what, I'll even take bronchitis again. But don't expect me to function when I'm hungover. Every time this happens, I tell Ian, "I'm almost 24 years old! Shouldn't I know my limit by now?!"
His response?
"You like to have a good time!"
That I do. But I still wanted to enjoy the University of Richmond tailgate and football game we were planning to attend yesterday afternoon. My dad is an alum and a brother of Phi Kappa Sigma, and he and his frat bros all have season tickets. My sister has been to several tailgates before, but I hadn't seen my dad's brothers in ages. I needed to make a good impression, but I also desperately wanted to feel better. Luckily for me (and my poor sense of good judgment), Ian is a fantastic boyfriend who really looks out for me. He bought Chobani for me, cooked me some incredible scrambled eggs, sliced up fresh fruit, and even packed up my stuff for me as I moaned and groaned about feeling sick. Somehow, we got out the door on time.
I guess the boy has magical powers--or magical fruit--because somewhere between Miseryville and some pear slices, I felt almost like myself again.
The tailgate food was to die for, and the game was really exciting! Bear in mind, this is coming from a girl who doesn't have a clue what "first and ten" means, and who frankly doesn't care a bit about football. I guess live football is okay, and the rivalry between ODU and UR inspired a ton of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the Monarchs defeated the Spiders 45-37.
Afterward, the fam and Ian and I headed to The Tavern for a late dinner. Since I began eating meat in January, I think I've had steak twice. Three times now, as The Tavern's steak fajitas were ahh-may-zingg. Of course, there was an obligatory Sweet Frog trip to follow, and the night concluded with the hilarity of Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles. A first for me...
My weekend wrapped up with church this morning, a lazy lunch, and good-byes all around as Ian and Caroline headed back to their respective schools. Not having class until 4:30 on Mondays means one more night at home :) I'm off to enjoy the late afternoon sun in the swing with Mom. Ta ta!
P.S. What did you get into this weekend? Anything super exciting??
P.P.S. I swear I think about taking pictures for the blog -- I'm just bad about actually doing it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Wish I'd Known When I Started Running

When I really kicked things into high gear a year ago, my primary goals were healthy gradual weight loss, and getting fit. I didn't start blogging until a few months later, and the only blog I was reading was Colleen's -- insightful, humorous, and brutally honest.
Here are some of the running factoids I'm sharing with my past self that I wish someone had shared with me before I started running:
(1) There will be chafing, and it will be uncomfortable. Hell, anywhere skin touches skin or clothing (or anything, for that matter) lends itself to the possibility of chafing. My thighs touch, and they probably always will. BFD. Well, except when they're bleeding... Finally buying a pair of sliders was the best thing that ever happened to me.
(2) The right shoes are key. Something that supports your ankles, as well as something light that provides a landing spring to absorb impact. The longer you try to stick it out in those holey, cheap POS "tennis shoes" from Ross, the longer you'll be unaware of why your feet are crying.
(3) Running as a sport is not easy. Nike can promote "just do it" out the wazoo, but running requires patience, mindful effort, challenging oneself, and perseverance. At some point, I think I truly believed that I would become A Runner after just a few weeks of skipping merrily around. Almost a year later, the furthest distance I've ever run is 4 miles. Don't get me wrong -- I'm proud as hell of those miles.
(4) Some days it feels as though dragging yourself to the gym will be the end of you in itself, much less clamoring aboard the treadmill with a pounding head, clogged nasal passages, aching muscles, and zero inclination to run. That's okay. Every single day that you decide to run won't necessarily feel like it's a sunshine-and-butterflies type of day.
(5) It is absolutely vital to listen to the signals your body sends you. If a little light is blinking in the dark recesses of your brain, saying, Don't make me go to the gym today, pleeease! then don't force yourself to go. Some resistance may be helpful in preventing serious injury, but it's when you decide to be heroic and conquer that little blinking light that you can wind up in bad shape. I'll admit, 99.9% of the time that I force myself to go when I truly do not want to, I feel great afterward. But sometimes, it's really okay to let ye olde body take a bit of a rest.
(6) You're not doing yourself any favors by attempting to run every single day. Since running doesn't come easily for you and it probably never will, it's perfectly acceptable -- and probably encouraged -- to switch up your exercise routine. Mix in some weight training, the elliptical, an outdoor powerwalk, spinning, walking on the treadmill at different inclines... whatever crosses your mind. Get movin'!
(7) Driving yourself 0.4 miles to the gym is frankly kind of embarrassing. But, if it helps you stay motivated to work out, the cost of gas and the sympathetic looks you get from people are well worth it.
(8) Never, ever, ever stop trying. Just because running doesn't come as naturally to you as talking on the phone or craving ice cream, doesn't mean you can't be successful. Sure, some days will be better than others, and there will be days here and there when it would be simplest to just lie down and give up the game. Just don't forget the incredible feeling you experienced when you crossed the finish line in an all-out sprint at your first race, or how exhilarated you were when you realized you unintentionally accomplished a 5k on the treadmill weeks before you were supposed to have reached your goal. You can do this.
And with that, I'm off to run! Happy Hump Day, blends.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dinner with Sister(s)

For the most part, I'm perfectly content living alone. I don't have to mark whose milk is whose, whose leftovers are whose, or whose bananas are whose (my undergrad roommates and I used to actually mark our initials on the banana peels). I don't have to ask permission before Ian visits, or inform anyone that I need a little peace and quiet for a nap or some "me time." I can watch Breaking Amish or Jersey Shore: Season 6 (guilty pleasure) without worrying that someone somewhere is huffing about not getting to watch her show that's on at the same time. I have all the personal space and the freedom in the world! But, I digress.
I have several very close friends in my graduate program, but it's not the same as having the constant companionship or physical closeness as a roommate. One of my closest friends, Kristin, lives with her boyfriend, Travis, just a mile or so down the road. Another close friend, Jennifer, has a roommate of her own. It's super convenient being able to visit with my girls who live so close.
Now, I have even more exciting visits to plan. One of my sorority sisters, Rachel, is now in the same program as I at the same college!

We set up a date earlier in the week to go out to dinner Friday night or to have a few beers on someone's porch to soak up this gorgeous weather. We left things pretty loose, so I was thrilled when she texted Friday morning, asking whether I'd be interested in having dinner in at her place with another of our ADPi sisters, Ashley. I was like, duhh! Mini ADPi reunion! As it turned out, Ashley got off work later than she planned and wasn't able to make it, but I rejoiced that she'll be living with Rachel come February.
I was also overly excited because I volunteered to bring the salad, which gave me an opportunity to use the wooden salad bowl set my mom got me last Christmas!
Home decor and kitchenware really shouldn't be as thrilling as they are to me, but hey, I own it. [Secretly, I think Ian also owns my love for "cute" kitchen and home furnishing items because it's less he'll need to worry about when we someday share a home.]

Being the scatterbrain that I am, I forgot the salad dressings I had promised to bring, and Rachel didn't have any. Sooo, we were saladless. No matter; she prepared a delicious on-the-spot sauteed garlic chicken dish and stir-fried garden veggies for us! I even told her how pleasantly surprised I was that we had agreed on a health-conscious dinner choice.
One of my favorite things about the seasons changing is the extended time I can spend on the porch or meandering outside, admiring the leaves changing and absorbing the cooler temps. So that's exactly what we did... for five hours. It's so funny to me how no matter where the conversation takes us, we always end up back at sorority stuff or Longwood. Hey, home is home.

P.S. What were you up to this weekend? I spent Saturday cheering on the Hampden-Sydney Tigers, who unfortunately lost in the last 4 minutes, 21-24, to the Huntingdon Hawks of Alabama. We'll get 'em next time!