Every Day I’m Struggling

I know that this is like, the ultimate white girl problem, but I really struggle with working out.

I’ve just… never really liked it. I didn’t grow up in a super active family, I was never very athletic and don’t have great physical coordination. I don’t love getting sweaty, and I hate being obligated to shower (especially with my various hair colors, where it’s important not to wash my hair too frequently.) Working out is not something I’ve ever been able to easily work into my routine (primarily because I never tried that hard to work it into my routine, but I digress), and it’s not something I’m used to doing on a daily basis.

The P90 schedule 

But, as you are aware, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and really shift my health and weight loss efforts to have a major emphasis on fitness.

Which, you know, means I actually have to work out.

And, amazingly enough, I am! Frankly, I’m pretty impressed with myself for simply being able to say that I’m two weeks in to this daily working out thing and I haven’t missed one yet! Given that I’m pretty sure I could win the Guinness World Record for World’s Laziest Woman, that’s a pretty big milestone for me.

But before I give myself too many self-congratulatory pats on the back, I gotta be honest. Because while I did work out yesterday, it was the first day where I almost didn’t. I almost skipped my workout, and I almost broke my streak.

Sure, I’m sure I could’ve mentally justified it if I had gone ahead and skipped out on my gettin’ sweaty time. I was tired — I didn’t fall asleep until 3 AM the night before.  I had a lot of work stuff on my plate. It was cold and I feel like I’m getting sick and I wanted to take a nap and blah blah blah. Miraculously, I managed to hold steady against all of these built-in excuses and peel myself off the couch long enough to work out… at about 9 PM.

Now, I know, I know, the important thing is that I didn’t skip it, that I did do it, even if it was late in the day, even if it was as a last-resort, and I should feel good about that. Except, I didn’t really feel good about how the workout went either.

My muscles were heavy, my body was aching, and everything seemed like it took three times as much effort. So I only really made it about halfway through the workout before essentially giving up and just half-assing the rest of the moves.

And I didn’t feel so great about that. Which is also kind of a new feeling for me, because who would’ve known? Who really cares if I don’t give my 100% during a workout? It’s not like Tony Horton is going to crawl through my TV set to give me what-for. But, as it turns out, I care! Who knew?!

And after giving it a little bit of thought, I think that I came to some important realizations that will probably be good to note as I continue through this journey:

1. Taking a rest day is important.

I didn’t take my rest day on Sunday like I was supposed to. I did an extra day of cardio because I had started P90 mid-week, and I wanted to make sure my first week started strong. And as someone who has always had a disproportionate number of rest days over workout days (you know, like, 10:1, ahahaha), I didn’t really realize that giving your body a day to recover — even if it doesn’t feel like you need to recover — is an important thing.

I think that my body feeling sluggish and my legs feeling heavy and all that stuff is, at least in part, due to me not giving myself enough time to really recover. Not that I’m here running marathons or anything, and hey, maybe when I’m a little bit more fit, I won’t really need a full rest day, because my body will be much more used to pushing itself. But at least for now, while things are still new, my body’s still adjusting, and my muscles are still being woken up from their long, long slumber, I should keep a closer eye on things and let myself rest if need be.

2. Turns out, fueling your body right matters.

I’ve never been a huge fan of health lingo. I’d kind of roll my eyes or find my mouth forming a smug little smirk anytime I read references to “fueling the machine” or “feeding the temple.” I mean, it’s just EATING, right?! Well, maybe it’s not, exactly.

Turns out that if you are trying to lead a more active lifestyle, these terms start to take on a little more meaning. The timing of when you eat really does impact how energized you feel — i.e. “You gotta fill the tank before going for a drive!” (LOL eyeroll.) I used to go most of the day without eating, and would only finally eat my first meal of the day in the mid-to-late afternoon. But now? If I expect myself to workout in the morning, I need to make sure I’ve eaten something beforehand. Only, not right beforehand, because my acid reflux is bad enough without sprawls and burpees contributing to the issue, haha.

Yesterday, my eating schedule got a little messed up due to a series of appointments & meetings that I had mid-morning. So I didn’t really end up eating anything of significance until around 2 PM, and I do think that contributed heavily to my lack of motivation to workout.

Furthermore, due to my slightly hectic schedule, for the first time in the past two weeks, I totally picked convenience over nutrition. Which actually brings me to my final point…

3. Not all calories are created equal.

I like to think that I’m pretty knowledgable about calories at this point. I’ve been counting ’em for a long time. I can tell you off the top of my head how many calories are in an egg (70) or a banana (90) or a cup of romaine (8). And while I was losing weight the first time around, I took a lot of pride in being creative with my daily calorie counts.

I felt (and I do still feel) that it’s totally possible for you to continue going out to eat and ordering in, and still lose weight. Because a calorie is a calorie, right? Even if you eat out a lot, you can still make food choices that keep your calories a little lower. And if you were to spend two-thirds of your daily caloric allotment on fast food, but still stay under your overall intake goal, it’s not that big a deal. Because as long as your total number of calories in is lower than your total number of calories out, you’ll eventually lose weight.

Weeeell, I still believe that’s true. Kind of. However, when you add physical exertion into the equation, the type of food you’re ingesting becomes a lot more important. Suddenly, your body is actively utilizing the calories you ingest for energy. To make it so you are physically able to do the sprints and the press jacks and the side lunges and the tricep dips. And the kind of energy your body extracts from a McDouble (390) is definitely different than what it might take from, say, a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and avocado (which could land you around 390).

Given my poor performance yesterday, I feel pretty confident that the kinds of calories I need to consume matter a little more than they used to. I had a lazy, convenience-driven day yesterday, and I really felt it in my muscles when I worked out. I felt sluggish and heavy and just general not-great. So while a calorie may just be a calorie when it comes to weight loss, a calorie is NOT just a calorie when it comes to fitness.

So, yeah. Consider these my beginner’s lessons learned thus far. Granted, it may be a little bit silly for me to be trying to spout these wisdoms now, with my active lifestyle still in its relative infancy. But, hey, a learning is a learning, right?

I mean, all that said, I am still proud of myself for rallying and working out yesterday. In spite of the many factors I had working against me, at least I can say that I tried! And some activity is always better than no activity, there’s no doubt about that.

Besides, today is a brand new day, so hopefully with some better fuel in my system (oatmeal for breakfast!) a full-night’s sleep (in bed by 1 AM!) and a more normalized eating schedule (awake in the single digits!), I’ll be back to sweating it out and feeling good about it in no time!

Option Paralysis

Before I jump into things, I should mention that I’m fully aware I haven’t posted a weigh-in in the past two weeks, but that’s because I have literally been weighing in at exactly the same weight for the past two weeks (kind of a victory?), so there’s just not a whole lot going on there. ::shrug::

I’ve mentioned — on more than one occasion — that I’m a bit of a waffler. Wishy-washy, flaky, indecisive, whatever term you want to affix to it, I’ve never been very good at sticking with something. I tend to start something with enthusiasm, go full-throttle… and after a little while, totally lose interest.

It has been a big step for me to be able to recognize this tendency of mine. I think it’s a sign of growth, to be reflective enough to tell when I’m just following a lark versus pursuing something in a serious way. But in some ways, I feel that I’ve almost taken it to the opposite extreme at this point. I’ve convinced myself that I’m so waffley that no matter what I think I want to do, I *will* lose interest. That it *will* be a waste of time/money/etc. And therefore, I don’t actually do anything.

I bring this up because for quite a while now, I’ve found myself facing that looming question that all twenty-somethings pose to themselves at one point or another: what should I do with my life? Starting this blog has helped me hone and define my interests so much more than I ever thought it would, and subjecting myself to this new world of people who are passionate about food, nutrition, health, fitness has been incredibly eye-opening to me. And because of how so many other bloggers that I follow — all women who truly inspire me — I really thought I needed to follow their example in terms of my career as well.

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I’ve spent a good year+ waffling, debating, and trying to decide between whether I should pursue nutrition or food as a career. Do I start the long, arduous, but ultimately rewarding task of going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, like Anne? Or do I follow my passion for food and go to culinary school, like Emily has done, and Cassie is currently doing?

One path would lead me far from home (there are no ADA-accredited master’s programs in Nutrition in this area that I would be eligible for), and would cost a lot both in terms of money and time (since I have almost none of the necessary prerequisites). The other path would be an incredible experience, but could I ever really justify paying so much money and taking so much time for something that I simply *want* to do, since I have no desire to work as a restaurant chef? Neither were particularly practical for me, since the only thing that I knew I wanted either way was to give myself the credentials and experience to make myself a more effective blogger.

I was stuck between these two options for a long, long time. Both had their pros, both had their cons, and despite talking with family, friends, bloggers, and random strangers on the street (well, only that one time) I still found myself incapacitated by these two choices. Stuck in the space between them. As my clever coworker informed me, this state is aptly called “option paralysis”.

Tug-O-War
Pulling on both ends with equal pressure doesn’t get you very far, my friends.

So I asked myself some questions: Why was this decision so difficult for me? Was it the equally tantalizing appeal of both options? Or my fear that pursuing one or the other would inevitably lead to my loss of interest? When I started out in college, my major was vocal performance. It took less than a semester for me to realize that making singing my career would only cause me to hate to sing, so I switched. And while that was fine and dandy as an undergrad, it would have a bigger impact on me financially if the same thing were to happen on a graduate level.

After living in this career-decision-limbo, I finally forced myself to take a step back. Reevaluate. Reassess. And I’ve realized that while I was (and am!) passionate about both food and nutrition in general, feeling the need to turn them into my career was coming more out of unspoken peer pressure than true desire. No, It was coming from a similar place as my previous (and at least temporarily, extinct) desire to be a long-distance runner: I am immersed in a world full of fantastic, inspiring women who are doing these things, so I wanted to do it too. But when it comes down to it, I’ve finally realized those aren’t even the things that I love most about this blog.

What I love most about writing this blog is exactly that. Writing it. I love to write, to know that I’m reaching people, maybe even helping inspire them on their own journeys. I love being able to impart the knowledge that I’ve picked up from my own experiences and pass it on. I love reading your questions, hearing about your struggles, and sharing in your experiences. So for a while now, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a totally different path instead: teaching. Specifically, teaching secondary English and, subsequently, writing.

I know full well there are tons of pros and cons when it comes to teaching, that can probably be discussed ad nauseum. I’m passionate about writing, literature, and goodness knows I LOVE my young adult novels, hahaha. Not to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I also feel I’m equipped with the enthusiasm and creativity to be an exciting teacher. But, of course, I’m also concerned about getting burnt out, being a disciplinarian, and all the general ethics and politics that are tied up with the world of education. So far, nothing is confirmed, nothing has been decided. Since I have a few English courses I need to complete before I’d be eligible to apply for the education graduate program I’m looking at, I’m starting there. Just a couple of classes on the side to see if the subject matter is even something I could really see myself doing.

We’ll see where things take me. I’m trying not to get too wrapped up in it, reminding myself that I am still young, and I do still have time (cliches are there for a reason!). I’m dipping my toe in the water instead of jumping in with both feet, but it finally feels good to have a little forward momentum. Something to work toward that’s my own, even if it’s just the slightest bit separate from my world here.

Have you ever gone through anything similar, with regard to your choice of career and interests?

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing’s in particular is wrong, but nothing’s really right either. But then again, with sushi the day before, the bar was set pretty high.

I woke up thinking it was Friday, the weather was decidedly dreary, and I was generally in just a hum-drum mood. So after trying (and failing) to lift my spirits with far too much caffeine throughout the day, I came home and knew I had to take action. Time for some kitchen therapy!

Chop chop

Chopping soothes the soul.

Aromatics

As does mincing. And dicing. Gotta keep those knife skills “sharp”! (Badoom-ching!)

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I also roasted my first peppers! After only ever buying the pre-roasted kind that comes in a jar, it turns out it is pretty much the easiest thing ever: turn oven onto broil. Put peppers on baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, turning twice, until charred.

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Let cool (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, make the same mistake I did and don’t, haha), then peel off the skin. Typing out those words may make me feel creepy, but it’s oddly therapeutic!

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Slice, dice, and done! Meanwhile…

'Shrooms
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Let’s make some magic. The result?

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 2

A pasta dish that ended up being simultaneously hearty and light, and totally hit the spot! Funny how my idea of “kitchen therapy” has evolved from eating my way through an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, eh? I think I may be an even better emotional cooker than emotional eater, haha. The only thing I thought was missing was a touch of fresh basil… which I would have gladly added had my basil plant not been vanquished by my black thumb. Oops.

Black Thumb
R.I.P.

Regardless, it still turned out great! Just the thing to lift my melancholia (well, finally getting to watch the season premiere of Modern Family might also have been a factor.) Behold:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Print this recipe!

This easy pasta is robust and creamy, tasting far guiltier than it is! I like a little zest, but you can make this as spicy as you like. Pair with shrimp or chicken, or enjoy on its own!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups diced or sliced roasted red peppers, diced or sliced (or both!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup milk or cream of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sriracha, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Set pasta water to boil. Broil peppers if necessary. Cook pasta to preference/according to instructions on the box.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan to medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions with seasonings (basil, salt, pepper) until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, and sriracha (if using.) Add almond milk and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce sauce until it is of desired thickness, about 5 – 7 minutes.

4. Combine with pasta, and enjoy!

Take a bite!
Bon appetit!

Have a fantastic weekend!