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5K’s and Mockingjays!

Friday afternoon, I finally got that long long long (looooong) standing goal of running a 5K over and done! Even though I finished, I definitely didn’t run under optimum conditions. My lunch was too acidic, and I got a sharp pain in my stomach halfway through. I can also say I gave it everything I had at the moment. I was a little out of training…hadn’t had a decent run in a couple of weeks. So, when I finished my left knee hurt and I might have strained a muscle in my calf. But, even though I’m a little more sore now than I should be, I’m glad I got that milestone behind me.

I hope my little success can show some of you out there that anybody can turn themselves into a runner with the right supportive shoes and determination. It’s all about initiating habits and pushing yourself a little further each time. I recommend the couch to 5K programs because they start out so easy that you don’t feel overwhelmed and the success in the beginning keeps you with the program and on to the end goal of 5K-dom.

But honestly, the whole process was a lot harder than I thought it would be….overcoming a knee injury early on, battling through a million colds and post-cold asthma-like crud for months afterwards, and times when busy schedules would delay training for a while and I felt like I was starting over again. But, in the end, I did it. I kept focussed on my goal….which is all I wanted really. And I think I knew all along that I’d get there EVENTUALLY! The next plan is to get a little more comfortable with 5K distance and then work towards 10K!

Me in all my post 5K glory, hehe

And as for my Sunday, it revolved entirely around the third (and final :/) book in the Hunger Games series: Mockingjay.

Breakfast:

Lunch:

Coffee Shop:

And dinner:

I’m done now and totally have a head-ache from cabin fever and reading in the dim light. But, at least the book had a perfect conclusion. I won’t say any more because no one likes spoilers! Just read it, K? : )

Also, if you want to stay posted on my workouts, check out my dailymile account by clicking on the ‘Work Outs’ tab above. There I post all my running, biking, and swimming work outs since I don’t always get around to blogging them all.

Food, Friends, Budget Making, and Lunch

The last few days have been cheered by good food and good company! After a hot 18 mile bike ride Sunday, I received an awesome surprise when me and my bike crashed back into the door to my apartment: FOOD and friends. And it was delicious, vegetarian, fresh produce-filled goodness! It was a perfect way to christen my new silverware, tumblers, and apartment. We were even extra classy and used salad forks and wine glasses.

I love fresh basil!

And yesterday night, a friend and I met to work on our budgets! Every one I’ve mentioned this to has given me ‘crazy eyes,’ but I am happy to finally start keeping a closer eye on my finances. I just needed a little accountability to get me motivated. I have been pretty embarassed because I know quite a bit about personal finance through books I’ve read and blogs, but I haven’t implemented a lot of what I know. I need to cut back in areas that aren’t important to me, and start saving more and investing. Even though I don’t make much as a graduate student, I definitely feel like I could be doing more with what I have.

To ease the discomfort of a budget party, we made an elaborately delicious spanish themed meal with tons of fresh produce!

Fresh produce, FTW

cilantro and lime for the rice!

And, I grated cheese for the first time! Haha, whatta fun life aspiration to get out of the way!

Our crazy yet delicious Spanish themed cheese

One of the big win categories we both had when we looked at our spending is eating out. And to help us save more of our current spending there, we have started a little competition entitled: Taking Back Lunch (wait for applause).

Basically, the goal is to pack lunch as many days in a row as possible. Throughout undergrad and the beginning of grad school, I was in the habit of packing lunch every day but I feel like being social in the department has had a bad effect on me in this area. I hope I can at least go a month without eating a lunch out again and by that time I’ll hopefully be used to it and it won’t feel hard…but…like second nature!

Lunch number one was the leftovers from the night before. They were so delicious I couldn’t even wait to eat long enough to take a picture hehe.

Classes started today! I can’t believe Summer is over, it has been awesome! What are some of your favorite things to pack for lunch? I need ideas if I’m going to win this ; )

Off the grid….

Hey all! It’s been a crazy week here in Karen-land. I’m off the grid, schedule wise!

Tuesday, the local electric people cut off the power in my apartment because the bill didn’t get switched over to my roommate’s name when she moved in a bit ago. It wasn’t totally tragic, but I did end up crashing at a friend’s place for 3 nights and had to get a lot of take out. My eating and exercise routines ended up getting mixed up.

Couch surfing, indeed! I recommend this couch though! Twas comfy!

Now I’m chilling in West Virginia at my parent’s place for the weekend. Saturday I went to a beautiful wedding of a girl I’ve known since 4th grade, I believe. She’s the first person MY age that I was friend’s with to get married (that I know of…). It’s kind of weird….apparently I’m of marrying age if I so desire to do so?? When did that happen?

Me ready for the wedding!

My hot companion for the day!

The ceremony was actually my favorite of all I’ve been to. It was outside in a nearby state park, which satisfies my inner hippie. And overall, it was just short, sweet, and simple which I thought made it feel more endearing and genuine. It was about getting married and being in love, and celebrating that with friends and family.

After I had a long catch up day with a dear friend, where we spilled our secrets and current life dramas to each other over ice cream and (later) soup! I seriously could eat all my calories from soup. I love the concept of throwing lots of flavorful things in a pot and seeing what happens.

Today I did more relaxing, catching up with friends, and squeezed a mini run in a park near my house. The run didn’t go as well as planned due to the humidity…After 2 miles I just kind of felt like I was drowning and couldn’t get productive breaths in. It was not the 5K of my dreams. I think I might have to do it inside the first time. This Southern humidity is killer. Well, hopefully I don’t let today’s failure get me down for tooo long.

It’s really hard being a vegetarian in West Virginia compared to Cville, Virginia. I struggled all weekend to eat properly- and I’ve been sneaking a lot of granola bars and cashews to get through the day. I’m kind of impressed I stayed strong for the most part. My tummy is glad we’re going to be going home tomorrow though, fo sho!

Peace,

Karen

A Book Review: In Defense of Food

Wow! Over 90 hits on my new bike post. I’m glad my readers are as excited about the new addition to my family as I am : ) Val and I are hitting up Skyline Drive tomorrow! I’ve never been on it, but it should be scenic, fun, and educational.

So, I finally got around to reading one of Michael Pollan’s books – I chose In Defense of Food.

Even though most of the ‘rules’ in the book were nothing I didn’t suspect or already try to keep in the back of my mind when I shopped for food, this man puts together some fine sentences. I found myself wearing out my highlighter because every few pages had a great quote I wanted to be able go back to.

The book condenses down to the following – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The first snippet of that gets the most attention from Pollan as he details how most of our food isn’t real, but highly processed. And the food we should be eating is the pure stuff our great great grandparents would recognize as food.

I got some good insights on the history of nutrionalism and what goes into the ‘scientific’ studies of nutrition. It’s pretty disheartening and had great parallels to my biological research – keep finding smaller and smaller components, periodically declare this part is bad or awesome, depending on the label remove it from everything or fortify everything with it, and then monitor the consequences (which were rarely good, because we don’t REALLY understand the whole system).

“Like so many ideologies, nutritionism at bottom hinges on a form of dualism, so that at all times there must be an evil nutrient for adherents to excoriate and a savior nutrient for them to sanctify” – Pollan

I also really liked the idea of food synergy – that maybe a whole food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts – therefore fortifying could be a waste of effort?

Also scary to note that the food we eat now has less nutrients than it did 100 years ago!

A couple more quotes from the book that got a fist pump from me – things that annoy me about the way America eats:

“Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunites: diet pills, heart bybass operatoins, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery.”

“Apparently it is easier, or at least more profitable to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way civilization eats.”

It’s one of those books that makes me want to change the world. But, since that’s not happening today, I have renewed determination to carefully examine the ingredients in my food and make sure I’m living as clean and unprocessed as I can. It’s a book worth reading, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods now. Pollan also supports the idea of eating meat more as a side than a main course, something I wish was more poplar in this country.

To celebrate finishing the book, I had a salad using stuff I got from my crop share – All freshly picked from Virginia by the local Menonites. The mix included Bibb lettuce, blueberries, cucmbers, tomatoes, walnuts, and feta with some delicious corn on the side. The corn was so sweet and juicy that it would be a crime to put anything on it. I just boiled for 3 minutes and that was that! Nom nom!

Summer is FLYING

So how in the world is it Sunday again already?! This is insane. And somehow I have yet to really get a post in about my week and eats/workouts.

Looking back, I don’t think I got as many workouts as I wanted to. Monday was classic tennis action and Wednesday I took a 15 minute nighttime run (+15ish min walk) around UVA’s campus. Tuesday and Thursday I ‘accidentally’ let bars call me away from my running shoes…

One of the more exciting meals of the week was Waffle Wednesday! My hoarder friend (hehehe) needed my judging eye to help him get rid of a ton of stuff. Having helped him move a month ago and saw the ridicule he got from all the ‘happy’ helpers, I knew he needed some serious help letting go. But, I’m glad I got a yummy waffle meal the unprocessed way.

waffle with peanut butter and berries!

And a fun yogurt mix on the side: Artificial sweetener free yogurt (which is way too hard to come by), frozen berries, coconut, high fiber cereal, and chocolate chips!

I got to test out a fun tip I read online – if you have trouble of letting go of things for sentimental reasons, take a picture of it! It takes up little room in the digital space and you’ll still be able to look at it and remember good times (or at least be comforted that you have the ability to do that….I doubt he’ll actually look at these pictures very much).

Though, I really think this was only phase 1, I’m proud he was able to trash as much as he did! Letting go of excess belongings always makes me feel a release – decreases my anxiety and I just feel less mental load. Plus, it’s way easier to keep tidy and organized and clutter free with less physical stuff.

Friday, instead of eating at my desk (ewwww), I decided to eat out in the sunshine! Why do I not do this every day?! All I was missing was a book.

Red pepper hummus + cucumbers + roasted tomatoes + house dressing on pumpernickel! Fab!

And look at the view. UVA is very pretty!

the lunch spot!

Saturday I traveled to northern Virginia to test out a bike! I did also make a last minute sanity stop at Ikea! I mean, I can’t be that close to one without going inside to ogle at all the nifty organizational tools and play bedrooms! While in Arlington, I got to eat at my first Whole Foods! My plate was pretty friggin yummy! I wish the Cville Whole Foods would get its act together and open a market.

Curry Tofu, Samosa, Vegetable Korma, Sundried Tomato Polenta, and Mediterranean Salad...Obvi I couldn't decide on a theme!

Ok, I guess I’m more or less caught up now. At least, caught up enough that I don’t feel like I wasted the effort taking the above food pics!

Today after church I got a…wait for it….2 MILE RUN IN! I went in saying I would let myself settle for 1.8 miles if I had to. And honestly, mile 15-18 were so suck inducing I thought I was going to quit. But, once I passed lap 18, laps 19-20 were cake and I finished strong : ) I’m now officially in my last week of Couch to 5K! And, I’m going to finish it this time, guys. Mark my words!

For dinner I ended up being lazy and eating a sammie at Panera since I had to go to lab later and was hungry post run. It was a Mediterranean sandwich: feta, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and such on sour dough. MMMM! I never knew a meatless sandwich could be so yummy until I became a veggie-almost-terian.

Anyway, I’m ending this disjointed post in hopes that this week I’ll be more with it!  Tomorrow I’m buying a bike! AHHH!

❤ K

My 85% Rule for eating meat and ya know, loving life!

Hi, so, yeah, end of semester complications and exams are to blame for my somewhat erratic and spontaneous posting schedule. I would say sorry, but, I get annoyed at bloggers who apologize for not posting as if the world at large is waiting by their keyboards with bated breath to read my musings. I don’t have that big of an ego yet (<—-HELLO, KEYWORD!).

So last night when I celebrated my physiology class being OVER (however it turns out grade-wise, eek!) I had a couple people ask me about my deal with meat. One of them had said he tried to ‘Go veggie!’ for 10 days or so then gave it up due to lack of energy and boredom with the food. These thoughts are TOTALLY legit, and as someone still fairly n00b to this lifestyle, I experience it too. While you can totes get all the energy you need without eating meat (Hell, I have 10X more energy!), when you start out cold turkey you have a tendency to replace the meat void with unhealthy stuff that doesn’t give you the right fuel for the day.

For anyone considering reducing meat intake, the biggest advice I have is to make gradual changes.  All or nothing approaches really don’t work. I used to have this attitude and it kept me from regularly exercising for years. I would be gung ho for a week or 2, working out daily, get awesome results, and then once a busy week came up (or ya know, some other nameless obstacle or excuse) I’d give up because I couldn’t work out as often/hard. It was dumb. Now I’m much more realistic. I enjoy the weeks I can go ‘all out’, but when those hard weeks come (and they always do, kiddies), I just fit in as much as I can. It all comes out in the wash, so they say. And I am content with less because I know it’s about moving your life in a certain direction.

You should definitely flirt with vegetarianism before jumping right in. Start out by looking at what veggie friendly foods are at restaurants and seeing what you like. Then think about how you could transform foods you eat regularly to include less meat or no meat. Browse the interwebs for recipes that sound appetizing, and then try a couple of them out. Small steps like this were most effective for me. I’ve been reducing my meat consumption gradually since last Fall. And even today, I still give myself a ‘cheat meal’ every week.

There are lots of reasons behind the cheat meal. And, depending on your reasons for going veggie, you might not feel comfortable doing it. I for one never want to be so high maintenance that I have to have special needs when I eat at someone’s home. So I want to keep my meat enzymes! I’m the type of person who will eat pretty much everything to make my host happy. I hate melons, and ate pretty much a quarter of a cantaloupe a year or so ago to make my friend’s mom happy hehe. And raw tomatoes (which I USED to loathe) and a glass of some kind of dessert liquor. And I did this all with a smile on my face : ) !

Also, most diets out there include a cheat meal. Once you begin to feel deprived/restricted/(boa constricted? hehe) is when you start looking for the nearest friggin exit off the bandwagon. Like, give up chocolate cold turkey for a week and next thing you know you’re in the bathroom of a gas station pounding down 10 crunch bars. You can’t do that shit. For me, going veggie is the same way. If I see someone’s hot spicy juicy BBQ at the company picnic and it looks too good to resist…well, I’m not going to feel guilty. In the end, giving myself that BREAK will lead to many more meals where I stick to my values and goals. Otherwise, I’d be that girl in the station, only I’d be pounding down a bucket of chicken wings (with sauce in my hair and on my hands, it’d be totally carnal….)

This is the essence of what I call the 85% rule in my life. I feel that being ‘good’ 85% of the time is definitely good enough! You got to let yourself cheat to keep your sanity. I apply this to a lot of areas in my life: spending money, managing free time, eating sweets, planning my exercise schedule, dealing with really hard homework assignments, etc.  It makes my life less stressful, and I find that by getting rid of ‘all or nothing’ thinking, I actually accomplish so much more. Excercise and healthy eating have become something I want to do, instead of a chore that needs to get done. Life is hard enough without finding new things to make yourself guilty over.

What other things do you think 85% is good enough for?

Bonus Reads, on the philsophy of (1) starting new habits and (2) how this can be applied to beginning an exercise habit!

(1) http://6changes.com/post/288470275/start

(2) http://6changes.com/post/288452935/exercise

Me and Meat, Part 1

It looks like I am slowly but surely embracing the vegetarian lifestyle. I’m reluctant to label myself a vegetarian though. When I hear the word, I immediately think of crazy hippies running into labs freeing the animals and spraying rich women’s fur coats with red paint. Yeah, that’s not me. Honestly, as a scientist, I believe in the food chain. Predator-Prey relationships are completely natural. Would you ever expect a lion to stop eating the weak, delicious gazelle just because he realized the gazelle likes being alive?

That’s just the way it is. And if we lived in a world where my strong (and dark and handsome…hehe) husband went out into the woods every couple weeks and shot us our dinners while I went out back and milked Bessie  and collected eggs then I would be cool with it. But…we don’t!

We live in a world of mass production and convenience. We need to kill the animals faster than they can grow up on their own, so we inject them with unnatural crap that I don’t think we even realize the true consequences of yet. We live in a world where so many animals are getting eaten we have to pack them in wall to wall, giving them a pretty shitastic sad existence.

When I was younger, I kind of imagined the animals running around on a happy farm in the sunshine before they were killed. It really doesn’t happen that way. It clicked when I learned more about how animals are treated in lab facilities for research. So much care is given to the cage conditions and making sure the animals are as content as they can be in such a cage. Why don’t we give that much care to the animals that we eat, which probably make up a way bigger percentage of animals being sacrificed regularly than the animals used in research do.

So yeah, there’s ethical meat out there from small farms and I totally support it. It’s also pretty expensive (but in my opinion, totally worth it if you plan on continuing to eat meat). Honestly, if you think about the fact that you are what you eat, spending a bit more to fuel yourself well seems more worth it, in my opinion. Think about it. You eat, you sleep, and you drink. Those are some of the most important things we do each day to stay alive, and we often do a shitty job of them because of stressful and overfilled days. Last semester I bought some organic, small farm meat and it was the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had – so moist and full of flavor. Chicken and I don’t really hang out much anymore, but if we did, I’d be all over that.

I never really intended to give it up 100%. I didn’t want it to get to a point where I became nuisance – always having to explain WHY and needing special stuff made for me when I went out. But, I do want meat to make up a very small part of my total food intake (about 1-2 meals a week  max). If one day I take the plunge, and decide to embrace the label of vegetarian, that will be cool too. But, gradual change is much more sustainable, and the 1 meal per week thing has been really working for me.

People often say that they NEED meat to feel energized, and I have found that’s not the case at all. I honestly feel 10 times better and more energized from eating pure, nutrient dense foods. My body feels clean, and I think long and hard about putting stuff in it that will take that feeling away. Also, I no longer crave it at all (And I also don’t crave sweets at all any more which is REALLY bizzare, I have a bag of untouched easter candy in my room from my mom). I kind of forced down my last meat meal, a hospital caf turkey burger, to be honest.

I hope that more people in this country will realize that a meal doesn’t have to be a MEAT and a STARCH – that a complete nutrient meal is totally possible (and totally delicious!) without meat.

I also hope, that more people will start consuming meat from more ethical sources. Supply and demand control pricing. If more people start consuming it, supply will increase and price will hopefully start to come down.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to write a preachy entry at all. And I don’t judge other people’s decisions in this area. It’s up to everyone to live in a way that makes them feel morally sound. I do encourage you to research the meat industry and gain full knowledge of how the food you’re eating ends up in the store. Like I said, what you eat is a big part of your day to day existence. You have the right to know as much as you can about your food.

So, that’s me and meat’s deal right now.  It feels really weird living without it, and at the same time, I don’t want it back in my life. Sounds like a pretty healthy break-up to me!  Who knows if we’ll remain friends.