Wellness Challenge: Final Thoughts

Food, Wellness

This month’s challenges have yielded interesting results. The most surprising? I actually want to go the gym now. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe my body finally got sick of sitting around all day. Maybe I just had to get used to the routine. Maybe I’m hooked on the endorphins. Maybe it’s all three. At any rate, I’m digging the way I feel after a tough workout.

Changing up my meals has been harder. Switching my breakfast (pb on toast with some coffee) and lunch (whatever is in the fridge, usually dinner leftovers) routine has taken some creative shopping and some prep work. Some days are still hit or miss, but I’m working on it. Fortunately, I already like eating vegetables, so that part isn’t hard.

Million-dollar question: has all of this made me more grateful? I think I have to say “yes, but …” Yes, but it’s not enough on its own. Yes, but I haven’t transformed into a perky workout goddess. Yes, but I still feel really crappy and ungrateful sometimes.

Taking good care of myself doesn’t automatically make me more grateful, or more zen, or whatever. But it does make me more predisposed to feel calm, centered, and grateful. These days I feel better about my body. I feel grateful for my health. I feel calmer and more grounded during stressful events and minor crisis (and I’ve had a lot of those this month, I’m afraid).

So, while I intend to stick to my new routines, it’s August now. Time to move onto something different. That post will come next week because (lucky me) I’m going on vacation again for a few days. I’ll hopefully have my toes in the sand, looking out over the ocean with cold drink in hand by tomorrow afternoon.

Wellness Challenge, Week Three in Review

Food, Wellness

Goal #1: Workout 3-4 times a week.

Only hit two this week, but I am SORE so maybe easing back into it after vacation was the right idea.

Goal #2: Pack and eat healthy snacks.

Not bad. Almonds are my new best friend!

Goal #3: Eat all the veggies.

Again, no CSA box this week thanks to our vacation time, but we did plan some veggie-centric dinners. I’ve been keeping up with my spinach smoothie habit (I added tofu to them too, and love the creaminess).

It’s actually been hit or miss this week. But I am giving myself some credit because playing catch up after being out of town is hard. Once upon a time, I would have taken it as an excuse to get take out and skip the gym. So I feel heartened that these routines are become exactly that — routine.

Next week I’ll be wrapping up by reflecting on whether or not this set of challenges has actually made me more grateful – or at least more inclined to feel grateful and content. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend. I’m volunteering with Habitat for Humanity tomorrow, so wish me luck. (Looks like I’ll just be doing paint prep and other things not too far outside my skill level — like, you know, roofing, or something.)


Vegan Accomplishments (Plus, What Next?)

Food, Uncategorized, Wellness

Project part-time veganism is starting to gel — yesterday I put only vegan ingredients in my Chipotle burrito bowl (I gazed a little wistfully at the cheese, it’s true, but it was still a tasty lunch). Now, I’m eating a tofu spinach scramble as I write this. Tofu! I feel proud of myself. I also feel like a limp noodle because lifting weights after a week off is hard. But I think these things have helped me settle in again after the severe disappointment of coming back from vacation.

Only six days left in the wellness challenge. But I’ve already accomplished the real goal: set up healthy routines. I intend to keep on exercising and eating better, even after this month is over. I feel good. I’m grateful for that, and I’m excited for the next thing.

What is next? I’m still brainstorming, but I’ve been having lots of conversations lately about community and friendship. I’m beginning to realize that having a community of folks to rely on, bounce ideas of off, commiserate and celebrate with is just vital. On so many levels. And it requires attention and care to build that. But how do I tackle that? How do you maintain your friendships? How should I set goals?

Today I’m thankful for: the new water bottle that I finally broke down and bought. So worth it to have one that doesn’t leak.

Staying Motivated to Exercise


Going to the gym has become more of a routine. Instead of thinking, “Should I workout tonight?” I think “Of course I’m going to workout tonight.” But near the end of the week it gets harder. I’m tired. A summer malaise has infected the office. I let my blood sugar get low and then I ate some chocolate and it made me feel like crap. I fit in three workouts this week already — isn’t that enough?

On days like these, motivation is hard to come by. Today, though, serendipity intervened in form of one of my favorite new websites, The Toast, and its new fitness column. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this because I’m craving some real, positive talk about weight training and exercise in the context of what your body can DO and not just how it looks. Go read the article and you’ll see what I mean. I got jazzed and went to the gym like I’d planned instead of blowing it off.

[108/365] Ill-advised

(I couldn’t resist. source)

What does this have to do with a gratitude project? Well, being grateful for how my body looks is just too fraught thanks to our culture at this particular point in time. And also not a good idea generally anyway. Ugh. I can’t even go there. But I can be grateful for what my body can do, and I can be grateful for my health, and for good endorphins, and all that good stuff that comes from exercise. It’s easier to stay motivated if those are your goals. And I think that’s true for a lot of people, even if exercise just means taking a brisk walk (I love walks! Walks are so good for you. You don’t need to start lifting hundred pound weights at Crossfit if you don’t want to).

So, while I’ll be blogging about a new challenge after July ends, if you’re interested in this sort of thing I encourage you to keep up with Nicole’s column. I know I will.

Part-Time Vegan

Food, Wellness

I think I’m going to become a part-time vegan.

I’ve chosen this month to focus on my body and building healthy habits, but it’s something that’s been slowly gaining momentum in my life for the past few years. And that’s the only reason why I was able to type that sentence above.

In college, I had many vegetarian and vegan friends (probably thanks to the fact that I attended tiny liberal arts school that focused on social justice and environmentalism). But despite my friends’ influence, swearing off animal products always seemed out of reach for me personally. No meat? No cheese? No way. Besides, in college food was mostly just fuel. I didn’t put much thought into what I ate, even after I started cooking for myself senior year. I grazed a lot. I ate at weird times. I hit the books a lot more than the gym. It didn’t matter: I avoided the “Freshman 15” and my weight was always steady.

But today —  two years after graduation and two years into a desk job and “adulthood” — I’m considering going vegan … at least part-time.

Farmers' Market

(Image via NatalieMaynor)

I’m halfway through Mark Bittman’s VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good. It’s a “diet” that can be summed up like this: eat strictly vegan all day until dinner and then you can eat whatever you want (within reason). It also requires a commitment to eating whole foods and eliminating highly processed junk.

I’ve always found news stories on diets and the latest nutritional science confusing, conflicting, overwhelming, and depressing. So I’ve avoided it all like the plague and eaten whatever seemed good to me. I don’t eat much fast food, so I figured I was fine.

Except that I wasn’t. I was okay, but I gained some weight and got a mild scolding from my doctor. (“Just don’t add on ten pounds every year.” Okay, thanks doc.) In the meantime, I read about the industrial food system. I started exploring the local farmers’ market, picking out produce I’d never cooked with before, and giving it a whirl in the kitchen. It was fun. My husband and I planned some vegetarian dinners every week. Then I joined a CSA, which means a reliable stream of produce even if I accidentally sleep in on Saturday mornings. I’m now convinced that consuming more plants and less meat is a pretty sound approach to eating.

But I hit a wall because I’m not sure how to incorporate more veggies at breakfast and lunch. I rely on dinner leftovers and last-minute meals. I don’t put much thought into my snacks. I let my blood sugar get low at work. I rely on carbs too much. That’s why I’ve turned to Mark Bittman’s new book. I’ve fallen in love with his no-nonsense, compassionate writing about food. I trust Bittman because he understands that eating is personal, cultural, and social — and that it should be pleasurable. His version of a “diet” is more of a lifestyle change — adaptable, flexible, and sustainable. Hence the “six o’clock” rule. I have no desire to give up meat and cheese all together. However, this book provides much-needed structure (for me at least) when it comes to recipes, meal planning, etc. so that I can get more veggies.

I’m excited, nervous, and oddly emotional about embarking on some new eating habits. But I figure that if I want to truly feed myself well (mind and body) this is another step along the path I’ve already been on.

Today I’m grateful for: Mark Bittman! Seriously, I’d recommend this book to anyone.