The Importance of Self Care

My body and I have a long history. A whole lifetime, in fact. As a child I thought very little about my body. I was too busy running, jumping, playing, screaming, crying, laughing and being a kid to think about it.

Fast forward through puberty, weight gain, weight loss, dieting, stress, grief, injury, therapy and college, and here I am, figuring out adulthood and what it means to take care of myself. There are the basics–work, shelter, food. But as I’m finding out, the real kind of soul nourishing self care has to come from a place of self love–a somewhat unfamiliar territory for me.

2016 had a lot of ups and downs for me. I accomplished goals I never thought I could  and other goals turned themselves on their heads, leaving me feeling more confused than ever.

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In the past, “taking care” of my body came from a place of hate and insecurity. I ate healthy and exercised to lose weight, not to thank my body for all that it does. I took my body for granted. I pushed it through sleepless nights to finish papers and to party with friends. I bottled and dismissed my emotions when they didn’t fit into the image of who I wanted to be. And in the end, I always ended up unhappy and far from the life I wanted to lead.

Within the past year I’ve come face to face with growing pains and had to get real honest with tough choices. It’s been uncomfortable to say the least but I’ve begun to realize the value of patience. I like to think I know patience with others but I have never known patience with myself.

Patience with yourself and your life and your journey is the foundation of self love and self care. Buddhism teaches that the desire to end suffering causes more suffering. We need to sit with our discomfort to know contentment.

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If you’re like me and think “well what the hell does that mean?” when you read that, I can’t say I have all the answers but I can tell you what it means for me.

For me it means that life is shitty but it’s not shit. I can suffer and feel pain but it does not mean my life is bad. I can experience confusion and guilt and jealousy but it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. To be human is to suffer and to be alive is to be in a constant state of flux. Pain will flow in and out of our lives and it doesn’t mean life is bad.

So, with that understanding, I am coming to know self care. These days, self care for me is sleeping in until I feel fully rested, even if I have a day-long to do list. It’s eating nourishing, enriching food when I’m hungry because I genuinely feel better when I do. It’s journaling regularly to check in with myself and unravel the jumble of thoughts in my brain. It’s running at my own pace, for pleasure, or not running at all and resting when I need it.

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I saw a quote once that said something like “A lifetime is a long time to hate yourself” and I wondered then if I’d ever get to a place of self love. I am still on that journey but it feels like a sigh of relief to at least know what it really looks like.

But, perhaps most importantly, I believe that self care and self love is different for everyone. What makes me feel good and nourishes me  might not be the same for you or even your loved ones. Recognizing that my self care isn’t the same as someone else’s has been half of my battle.

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It’s so easy to idealize someone else’s version of healthy and neglect yourself and your needs in the process. So, that being said, take some time to be honest with yourself about what makes you feel good. Not “I would feel good if I could make myself do this because it would align with the idea of who I should be” Things that you do because you enjoy them and feel a little lighter afterwards.

For example, I avoided yoga for a long time because I didn’t regard it as a “real work out”. I figured if I wasn’t sweating out calories on a treadmill or building muscle with squats and sit ups, it was a waste of my time.

Within the past few months I sought out yoga, not as a work out but as a way to calm my nerves, and I’ve really fell in love with it. It feels like I’m taking care of my body and my mental health.

But maybe you hate yoga. Or self care for you is spending time with your loved ones. The point is, make space in your life for the things that make you feel good, outside of your self improvement goals. Then, go from there.

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Snow Day in Portland

Recently Chris and I decided we’d take a day trip up to Portland, ME. It’s about a 2 hour drive from where we are and Chris just got a new car so he’d been dying to drive it around a bit.

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Not including a slight detour for some lunch, it took us about 2.5 hours to get there because what we thought was a snow sprinkle turned out to be windy, freezing rain for most of the day. But that didn’t deter us!

The way I like to experience a new place is to plan a few things ahead of time, but leave lots of flex room for walking around and changing my mind.

Chris and I were both a bit sleepy after lunch (thanks, pasta) so our first stop in Portland was Bard Coffee.

I got a standard coffee and Chris got a fancier one that they gave to him on a tray. The interior had a sort of minimalist vibe with high ceilings and simple furniture, which was balanced out by a really cool wallpaper print.

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They also had non-dairy milk available for no extra charge, which is always a plus in my book. The weather outside was more severe than it was in Boston so a hot coffee was just what we needed.

Word for the wise: don’t wear heeled booties to Portland in the winter. I didn’t even think twice about it when I left the house because there wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground in Boston but Portland had whole streets shut down because of the snow and ice.

After finding to our dismay that we would not be doing a walking tour of Portland, we got in the car and headed over to a place called The Holy Donut, which we were told by friends we couldn’t miss out on. Luckily, by the time we got there there were still some donuts left.

The donuts, which are made with potatoes, were unlike any I had tried before. It was somewhat later in the afternoon so the donuts had been sitting out for a number of hours and I didn’t want to set my expectations too high.  They were still amazing. I expected them to be hard and stale but they were a magnificent combination of fluffy and crispy.

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There were also some interesting flavors that I had never tried on a donut before. We got one of everything they had left: Churro, Maple, Lemon, Pomegranate, Chocolate, and Wild Berry. My favorite was the lemon. It didn’t have that super sweet lemon-like flavor, but more of a mouth puckering meringue taste.

The shop’s interior was very much no-frills with old coolers and furniture but it almost gave it an authentic old school feeling.

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Note my poor shoe choice

Our next stop was slightly outside Portland but was one Chris had been excited about all day: The Maine Beer Company. We were worried the tasting room would be closed because of the storm, like so many other places but we called ahead to make sure.

Maine Beer Co.’s Peeper Ale is a beer that I’ve only noticed in the Boston area in the last 8 months or so but it, along with other MBC beers have really become popular. Aside from having good, sustainable beer, Maine Beer Co. also donates a portion of its profits to environmental and animal charities, hence its slogan: “Do What’s Right”. A beer after my own heart, I tell ya.

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Chris and I wanted to try all of the beers so we decided to split their $18.00 variety flight. They had a few board games available to guests so Chris taught me Texas Hold Em while we sampled and read about the beer. Side note: You’ll never find me at a table in Vegas.

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We started to get hungry so we finished up and made a quick stop before heading to dinner at the LL Bean Store. I always knew LL Bean was from Maine so I was expecting a pretty big store. I was wrong. It was an entire LL Bean campus. There was every LL Bean product you could think of. Fortunately for my wallet, neither of us felt much like shopping so Chris snagged a quick picture with the boot and we headed out.

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Our last stop of the day was a highly recommended spot called Duckfat. It was a cozy little restaurant with craft sodas and awesome food. Chris and I shared an order of poutine (the small was big enough for 2 to share) and a cup of their lentil soup for starters.

For an entree I got a roasted delicato squash panini with pickled cauliflower, turnip & leak slaw, boursin, and brown butter-sage mayo. It was refreshing to see a more interesting vegetarian option than the standard veggie burger or caprese sandwich that you usually find in restaurants. Chris got the house smoked turkey panini wit buttermilk fried shallots, swiss, frisee, and herb mayo. His was good but we both like the squash sandwich best.

Satisfied and full, we wrapped up our left overs and headed home. For a cold, wet day it was still a pretty successful trip. I’d love to see the city again in the summer.

 

My Year in Books

2016 was a year of many ups and downs but one of the things I most enjoyed was getting back to reading. They say that if you want to travel in time to read a book and truly, there are few things I enjoy more than doing just that. I smile thinking back to when my mom, a voracious reader herself, would make me sit with her and read my American Girl books. I hated it! I was just learning to read and my mom wanted to make sure that I developed a love for it like she did. Silly, but it really was a gift in a way.

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As the years went on and I was required to read more and more for school, my reading for pleasure kind of took a back seat. I did enjoy some of the reading of course— Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I highly recommend taking a Women in Pop Fiction class)—but as my required reading list grew longer, it seemed more daunting than relaxing.

So, in the past year while I was decidedly straying from screen time (more on that in another post) I found reading again. I cranked out around 30 in total, give or take. Admittedly some of the books I read this year are embarrassing—I love a good self help section at Barnes and Noble—but here are some that aren’t too bad :o)

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    ⁃    The Happiness Project
    ⁃    The Defining Decade
    ⁃    What French Women Know
    ⁃    The Inferno
    ⁃    The Opposite of Loneliness
    ⁃    Crazy Rich Asians
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Darker
    ⁃    Lucky
    ⁃    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    Brain on Fire
    ⁃    America’s Queen
    ⁃    The Circle
    ⁃    Hollow City: Sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest
    ⁃    Girl On The Train
    ⁃    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
    ⁃    Wild 10/4/16
    ⁃    Satan’s Advice to Young Lawyers 10/10/16
    ⁃    Water For Elephants – 10/18/16
    ⁃    The Help 10/25/16
    ⁃    At Home with Madame Chic – 11/8/16
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Freed – 11/16/16
    ⁃    My Year with Eleanor – 12/1/16
    ⁃    The Beautiful and Damned 12/20/16
    ⁃    Harry Potter and The Cursed Child 1/1/17

Around October I thought it would be fun to start including the dates that I finished each book so that’s why you see those there. I also did not include any books that I did not finish, or any books that I’m currently still working on.

Of all of them, my favorite book was probably The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. I love that entire series and am so upset that it was meant to be one of 10 books instead of three. RIP Stieg Larsson. I also enjoyed America’s Queen (Biography of my idol, Jackie Kennedy Onassis,)The Miss Peregrines Books, Crazy Rich Asians, Inferno (anything by Dan Brown, really) and The Defining Decade.

Some books I didn’t quite enjoy but felt the need to finish because I had already started them, like The Happiness Project, The 50 Shades series, and The Opposite of Loneliness. There are probably around 10 books I started this year that I just could not push myself to read through, no matter how loudly my OCD protested. I summoned my inner Marie Kondo and dropped them off at the Goodwill to bring joy to someone else.

I didn’t begin the year with any particular book list and looking back I am actually surprised by how female-centric all of them are (not a bad thing, of course.) However, I do have a book list started for 2017. Side goal: stop buying more books when I already have so many to finish.

Here’s my 2017 book list, as it currently stands, and including a few that I just started, listed at the top:

– Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
– The China Study

– Dante’s Divine Comedy
– Library of Souls – Miss Peregrine series
– Holy Blood, Holy Grail
– The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
– China Rich Girlfriend – Crazy Rich Asians series
– Rich People Problems – Crazy Rich Asians series
– The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
– Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
– The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
– Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food
– Steve Jobs – Biography

If I can keep up my streak, I’ll be able to get through all of these by June so I’m always looking for book suggestions! Do you guys have any book lists or reading goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

chelsea

Book Review: At Home with Madame Chic

Okay, confession time: I am a total Francophile. I admit it. I am the cliche American, obsessed with French culture.

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I think my obsession first began when I visited France the summer before my senior year in college. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about French culture when I visited. (Major faux pas on my part. I didn’t even think much about it until after I came home and found myself once again frustrated with the general calamity of our materialistic, productivity-obsessed consumer culture. I remembered how simple and fresh France was and sought to bring that sophistication in to my own life.

Long story short, I read a lot of books about French culture. At Home with Madame Chic came up in my reading suggestions so I decided to check it out. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t crazy about it.

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Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a good, general self help book. The author, Jennifer Scott, provides a lot of advice for home keeping and simplifying life at home with kids. I think, however the book is misleading. After reading the description, which cites the author’s time living in France with a French family, I purchased it in hopes of hearing about exactly that. What daily habits did the matriarch Madame Chic have in keeping her home? What kind of food did she cook? How did she approach clutter?

The book very briefly touched upon these topics. While a chapter might start off with an anecdote about Madame Chic wearing an apron while preparing dinner for that night, it would veer off and talk about what kind of music the author liked to listen to in the afternoon or how she wanted to take a nap while her kids were home sick from school. Perhaps they are relatable and delightful for some stay at home parents, but these topics are largely uninteresting to me.

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I bought the book to read about the original Madame Chic, not what kind of junk accumulates on the author’s dining room table throughout the day.Rather than  “At Home with Madame Chic” it would be more aptly titled “How I Incorporated Values I Learned In France Into My Own Home Life”.

As a single woman with no children and a full time job, there was a large portion of it that was boring/inapplicable to me. This isn’t a bad thing per se but I wouldn’t have bought the book if I knew that’s what it was about.

It also addressed the subject of family/womanhood/femininity from the author’s perspective which is  not necessarily negative, but limited if you don’t fall in to the same identity spectrum. I think a recap/interpretation of Scott’s observations in France, as implied in the title and book description,  would welcome a greater audience. If you’re interested in how to approach heteronormative motherhood with a little more grace, this is good book for you. Just don’t go in with the expectation of reading about French culture.

Post Marathon Recovery and Return

In the final weeks leading up to my race I spent less excitement on running my first marathon and more on the anticipated freedom from training. So much time for activities!

More than just the time training takes, it requires a lot of time thinking about training- planning when to run, when to eat, what to eat, how much recovery is needed, how early before work do I need to finish eating and showering to get there on time, etc.— it’s a lot.

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But, with everything being said and done, I found myself antsy to get back on the road a few days after my race. My head suddenly filled up with a mixture of starry-eyed thoughts about cool races to get under my belt and a creeping fear that I’d lose all my fitness and quickly turn into a useless slug if I didn’t immediately resume my 40 mile weeks. You can tell I’m a bit of a worrier.

However, I was relieved to hear I’m not the only one with these kinds of thoughts. They’ve even got a name for it!—PMS: Post Marathon Syndrome, ha. Although I haven’t been suffering one of the most common afflictions – regret about my performance (it was a PR, after all 😉 ) I do find myself imagining how much better I might be able to run my next race.

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So where does that leave me? My legs might be able to run a marathon but they’re not invincible — I’m still injury prone and probably tied to hip strengthening exercises for the rest of my life. Right now my focus is getting back to strength training (I missed it in those taper weeks!) and keeping my cardio between cycling and easy runs. I did find this  post marathon training plan by Runners World, which looks like a good start to getting back on track for a Spring race.

But maybe I’ll just do a half marathon this time around.

x

I ran a marathon! (Long Recap)

GUYS. I DID IT!! I ran the New York City Marathon!!!

If you’ve read my blog through the years, you know I’ve dealt with running related injury for the past 8 years. Knee surgery, chronic ITBS, strained hamstrings, tight hip flexors, sprained arches, Patellofemoral syndrome–you name it. I’ve been in and out of physical therapy and doctor’s offices countless times. There were moments when I worried that I might never be able to run more than a few miles at a time, let alone 26.2.

But I did it. And I didn’t get injured or die even though it felt like it at times. Here’s my recap of the race:

After some heavy carboloading (bagels, pasta, pizza throughout the day), I went to bed around 9 pm on Saturday night to be up for 4:15 the following day. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious but I still didn’t get a very good sleep that night. Thank God for Daylight Savings giving me an extra hour.

We left Long Island at 4:45 and headed towards Manhattan. I chose the 6:30am Midtown bus as my transportation to the starting line. I was worried we were leaving too early but when I got to the pickup spot I couldn’t believe how many people were there and already in line.

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After being loaded on to the buses we made our way to the starter village on Staten Island.  I ate the chocolate chip muffin I brought with me and took a short nap. We got there around 7:30 and I was in the village by 8am.

I wasn’t scheduled to start until the last wave, around 11am so I had some time to kill. I grabbed some coffee, food and water and got in line for the bathrooms while I was waiting.

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When it was finally time for me to start, I shed my extra sweatshirt and sweatpants (to combat the early morning cold) and ate a pre-race guu. There was music blasting and all the volunteers/police were lining the start, cheering us on.

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Crossing the Verrazano Bridge was amazing. We had a clear, bright day and a spectacular view of the city. It was also cool because the Verrazano is closed to pedestrian access regularly so there really isn’t any other way I’d be able to cross is by foot.

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The bridge let us off in to Brooklyn, where there were crowds, music and camaraderie everywhere. I made sure to start my mid race fueling early. I brought a combinations of beans, gels, and chews with me and tried to take some every 12-15 minutes. Aid stations began at Mile 3 and I alternated between Gatorade and water at each one, skipping about 3 throughout the race.

For the first 9 miles, I felt stronger than I ever had before. I was worried I would make the same mistake as many other runners in heading out too strong/fast and burning out in the second half so I made sure to check my pace regularly and keep it at a conversational level.

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I had read that the crowds in Brooklyn tend to peter out and it can be a difficult stretch afterwards but I found there were pretty much crowds along the entire length of the course, except for bridges.

Miles 11-16 were where I hit my wall. My pace slowed by about 2-3 minutes per mile and I was feeling overwhelmed by the mileage ahead of me. I started taking walk breaks at each aid station but ran for the majority of the time until I reached the Queensboro bridge, around Mile 15.

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Great view, tough bridge.

It was definitely the most difficult bridge in my opinion and I, along with many people around me, walked  almost the entire incline. With 11ish miles left, I didn’t want to waste too much effort on it so I did my best to keep up a steady speed walk and ran the downhill.

Around Mile 17 my body was really starting to ache but I was buoyed by the closeness of Mile 20 and resigned myself to keeping a steady gait. There was also a pace team close behind me, which encouraged me to stay ahead of them. It was around this point that I became repulsed by the gels/chews I brought with me and had to force myself to keep consuming them.

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Mid marathon texts

Seeing the Mile 20 marker was euphoric and exhausting all in one, but I did pick up my pace until Mile 24, which, by the way, is pretty much a giant hill along Central Park. 23-26 was hillier than I expected and I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t start crying a little when I entered Central Park right before 25.

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Pushing through the final stretch

Once in the park, it was like a giant party full of people, music, lights, and nearby attractions. 25 to 26.2 felt like the longest running stretch of my life but I refused to stop running until I reached the finish line.

I was emotional, exhausted, and so excited to cross the finish. When the volunteer placed the medal around my neck, I was full on sobbing, haha.

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I grabbed my recovery bag, took a finish photo, and headed on a 15-20 minute hobble to the early exit/poncho pick up. I exited the course and met Chris nearby at the corner of Columbus and W 81st.

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Overall I can say that the experience was amazing, not what I expected, and not anything like my training. I honestly think I’ve never run a stronger 10 mile stretch than my run through Brooklyn and I’ve never had a more difficult time on miles 11-16 despite having covered that distance a number of times on long runs.

Another notable difference I found interesting was that while my cardiovascular ability felts strong throughout the whole race, my lower body hurt significantly, whereas in training it has always been the opposite. I never felt more than foot pain in my long runs.

Although I swore off running for the two post-race days during which I couldn’t walk properly, I’m already feeling antsy to get another goal/race set in the future. I’m giving myself a solid week before I start running again but I did do an easy half mile on the treadmill yesterday, just to make sure I still know how 🙂

In my next post I’ll talk about how I’m recovering and returning to normal life (so much free time!)

Happy Saturday x

 

 

 

 

Training, Nutrition & Tips for Healthy Eating

Temperatures are dropping, coats are coming out and Fall is finally here! Call me cliche if you must but autumn is my favorite season and October is my favorite month of the year.

One of the best things about October is the beautiful and *perfect* running weather. Sunny skies, cool breezes and leaves littering the trails makes getting myself off the couch and out for a run so much easier than in sweltering summer heat.

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Ok, I won’t totally give up sunset runs.

Another thing I love about fall (& the change of seasons in general) is the new produce available / the ability to use my oven. I love looking up recipes that use pomegranates, Brussels sprouts and all sorts of squashes.

With my race just a little more than a month away (it makes my stomach flip just writing that,) cooking and finding inspiration in new recipes is more important than ever. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the most diligent this summer in making sure I was properly fueling my training. I regretfully admit that many times I used running as an excuse to eat like a garbage truck.

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I know that life works for some people – but I’m not one of them. Although I haven’t noticed any weight gain or dramatic consequences, I can definitely say poor nutrition has negatively affected my training. The biggest thing has to be energy levels. Training for a marathon can be draining on its own. Rest, as much as exercise, is crucial to getting through it. However, it has become very clear to me that eating the right stuff and eating enough of it is really important too.

On the days when I didn’t have enough fruits, veggies, and water, I came home from work starving and exhausted. In that state of being, I usually didn’t have the energy or appetite to whip together something healthy so I perpetuated the cycle of poor eating. It was only when I stayed healthy throughout the day that I found myself mentally and physically prepared for a strong run.

So how do I stay healthy? Let’s be real – it’s hard. So many people, myself included, struggle with healthy eating on a regular day to day basis. Layer heavy exercise on top of that, and you find yourself hungry all the time if you’re not dedicated to providing your body the correct nutrients.

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  1. One good thing I find with healthy eating is that I do actually crave junk food less if I eat healthy meals so it might just take an initial strong push to pull you out of a crappy cycle. Alternatively, sometimes when I find myself in a rut I try to make at least one meal a day really healthy. Usually that one meal makes it easier to make healthy choices at the next meal, and so on.
  2. Another way I stay healthy is by looking up recipes and meals on Pinterest/Youtube. I follow a number of people who inspire me and I watch their “what I eat in a day” videos to get a look at realistic meal plans. As much as I love a good food blog, I have a hard time believing that bloggers have carefully crafted, beautiful meals every time they sit down to eat. And I don’t have the time for that anyway.
  3. Although I could be better about this, it definitely helps to plan out meals on some level. I’ve never been one to mass produce food and separate it into color coded Tupperware (I do love those photos though.) However, picking a recipe or two and making enough to last me a few days does save me time and effort.
  4. Keep healthy food in the house. Whenever I go to the grocery store I make sure to keep my apartment stocked with a number of items I consider essential. I do my best to keep 2-3 kinds of fruit (enough to last me 3-5 days,) 2-3 different vegetables (kinds that I know I like and could easily throw into a recipe,) and basic items to glue recipes together – rice, pasta sauce, peanut butter, nondairy milk, etc. This helps the most on days when I don’t have anything planned and can throw together something simple and mostly healthy, like pasta and roasted veggies. 

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    Lunch today: a heaping plate of roasted veggies + lemony vegan alfredo
  5. Keep junk food in the house. –Okay, I know this seems like a contradiction and if you’re the type of person who swears by “out of sight out of mind” then keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re like me and will go out and buy junk food when it pops into your head, this might be helpful to you. I usually keep one junk food item at a time in my house — for me it’s sweets. Sometimes it’s a bar of chocolate in the freezer or a package of cookies in the cupboard. That way, when I’m craving sweets I can satisfy that craving with a cookie or two without going out and demolishing a bag of mini donuts. It keeps me in check before I get out of hand.

I hope these help you & I’d love to hear how you guys stay healthy during training, or in general!

chelsea