Monday, August 30, 2010

elyssa: falling into fall

location: toronto (1 week until school starts)

BALSAMIC. BALSAMIC. BALSAMIC. seriously, i'm obsessed. take the balsamic. slow boil. bit of sugar. i know i mentioned this in my last post, but hey you're leaving for italy this week..why wouldn't you want to hear non-stop talk about BALSAMIC?! eat it with tomatoes. strawberries. pears. and ohh thanks to caitlin's inspiration..with quinoa. eat balsamic with everything. it's better than chocolate.

week in review:

all ranting aside, this week has brought a series of culinary triumphs. the breakfast 'souffle' has been taken to another level. 1 tbs almond butter (or pb) + 1 tbs flax seed + 1 egg. microwaved for 1 min 30 sec in a ramekin = my typical breakfast of the last 4 years. but wait.. add a couple dollops of canned organic pumpkin into the mix and it's pumpkin pie for breakfast!! unreal. garnish with maple syrup and cinnamon, of course.

friday was a bit troubling. for the first time in 3 months, the boy and i enjoyed an entire day..just the two of us. we hit up 'secret beach' (it's actually called that, and, yes, it's actually secret). we strolled in the sunshine. enjoyed soy cappuccinos. picked up groceries. checked out the city panorama at sunset. the perfect day. on the beach we had a sardine salad tossed with a bit of sesame oil and celery. side of hard-boiled eggs. dinner was eggplant from the garden. shared chicken breast (wine reduction). everything was healthy and fresh, but what worried me was that i had no idea what i was putting in my mouth half the time. he could have pulled out a hamburger and i probably would have eaten it - i was that exhausted/delirious/happy. mindful eating, very important!

on saturday, i encountered the challenge of fitting in a double dose of AM bootcamp at the gym, taking in a street festival with friends visiting from montreal, and making the trek out to hamilton to visit the boy. everything was under control until i got hot and sweaty and exhausted and found myself in the best. chocolate. store. ever. seriously, they make the chocolate from raw cacao beans in a massive vat chillin right in the front of the store. so yea, i ate an entire bar of dark chocolate with ginger. bad. lack of moderation. next time, save half.

this brings me to my last point: i need to establish a repertoire of things i never leave the house without. this week really highlighted the urgency of this. thus far i have: lara bar, and book. im thinking several almonds as well? suggestions?

new challenges:

september is almost here! based on previous years, this is it - the make or break it month. the month that i always 'undo' all the progress i achieved on the mountain. this month, the challenge will be to maintain and advance. here's how i'm thinking it's going to happen:

- establishing days of the week for certain body part workouts (to avoid over-training/ gym overwhelmedness)
- really start to nail down what it means to have a 'clean week' (i'm thinking it's going to be next week..)
- come to terms with the reality of exercising only just a little some days when time is tight/energy is low (slashing that 'all or nothing mentality' - ie this sunday, it was accepting that just doing 40 mins of banish fat, boost metabolism at home was enough)
- more daily yoga with shiva rea!
- keep the calories matching the expenditure (carbs down doesn't hurt either)

current obsessions:

so you think you can dance canada, creating a balsamic dark chocolate truffle, lunch dates with random friendquaintances.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

elyssa: dinner party madness

location: back and forth from toronto to hamilton

midweek check-in:

so i've mastered eating alone - but who wants to be a sad old spinster that eats alone with the cat? when i'm by myself, the urge to monitor and moderate comes naturally. i dont want to eat 50 grapes - i just want 10. i savor. i notice taste and texture. in a crowd, this skill pretty much disappears. in my experience, the best way to handle moments of weakness is to do what i told you i did at last week's party. go upstairs. take a moment. return to your center (like in yoga). i did this at the boy's house yesterday. his ever-gracious mom was of a mind to force feed my dad and i unlimited homemade crepes. while delicious, i stopped at half a crepe. i was able to resist her urges to eat more by taking a minute to excuse myself and recommit. sounds ridiculous? well, it works! did i experience guilt for just this half? yes, a little bit. while i try not to get caught up in a negative relationship with food (i take my inspiration here from your lovely positive relationship with the cupcake lol), honestly, it's probably because the crepe isn't my preferred indulgence of choice. nevertheless, the situation was handled quite nicely. good thing, because crepes, cinnamon buns, and strudel are a weekly occurrence in the boy's household :)

current challenges:

the exercise regime is on track (i still have lots of time on my hands as summer draws to an end). i am, however, starting to become aware of the rapidly approaching shift in pace that the new school year will bring. my current goal is to spend no longer than 2 hours at the gym. while that sounds like a long time, usually 1 hour is dedicated to a yoga class. so, that leaves only 1 for cardio and strength. on days when i don't do yoga, i like throwing in a bit of elliptical and weight machines before a class. on those days, i can do a quick yoga practice/stretch at home before bed. the point is not to spend my life at the gym. more goals to be posted on sunday!

tonight i'm hosting a dinner party! on the menu: lentil casserole (a la angela), maple glazed chicken legs, roasted vegetable salad (yes, i roasted those vegetables one by one), and pots de creme (aka dark chocolate creme brulee) with whipped cherry topping for dessert. i'm always nervous for dinner parties because it's easy to cook entirely 'my style' and have people wondering 'where was the meat?!' or 'what do you mean, NO sugar?' - so i try to achieve a happy balance all around. chicken is scary as well because when chicken is the star of the show, you want to make sure its not umm..boring. ergo, the maple glaze. i also tried a new technique: leaving it to brine overnight in a sugar/salt 'bath'. we'll see how it turns out!

current obsessions:

cinnamon (hello, fall!), pumpkin (thank you, angela), balsamic reductions (not the healthiest, but sugar + balsamic + slowly boiled = always amazing), getting pictures up on this blog (soon!)

hira: recovery mode

location: mountain home, last week---6 days until departure to italia!

week in review: this is my last week on the mountain, and then im jetting off to torino, italy where i will be spending four months exploring, eating, hiking, and maybe a bit of studying :D it's still a bit of a dream, like a faraway adventure that hasn't quite surfaced. i'm sure it will materialize once i'm eating my first gelato :P

my last week or so in Maryland has brought multiple delicious moments with friends, old and new. i've learned to appreciate those moments without constantly thinking about every morsel i place in my mouth--for example, i picked up half a dozen cupcakes from the infamous Georgetown Cupcake ( on my way to D.C. to have a dinner with some greta friends. That night, i broke into this:

you can't tell me i have to leave my beloved D.C. without one last cupcake. i had to wait in line with my friend diana for a good 30 minutes (which is actually no time at all for georgetown cupcake) to get my hands on these delicious cakes. you should definitely stop by if you're in D.C.---or actually anywhere in the DMV.

don't worry--i have't been eating cupcakes all day long. but im not opposed to the idea. i've actually been a bit of a madwoman, chopping tomatoes all day long in a desperate attempt to squeeze out the last bit of summer in the states. who knows what ind of produce italia will bring, but im excited to find out. i will keep you fully informed of my farmers market findings.

new challenges: well im kind of taking a break because i forgot how much Ramadan takes out of me...along with several other things that have come up this time around. but i do have a rough plan of how i will be eating in italy--i want to go back to eating small meals/substantial snacks four or five times a day--or whenever i'm hungry. i find it works better for my metabolism and energy.

is it weird that one of the things im most excited about in italy is the FOOD. and people watching :D

i'm off to do very american things. ciao!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

elyssa: greetings from toronto

location: my downtown apartment (toronto, ontario)

week in review:

how do you review a week that almost didn't exist? my last week at home was marked by apathy and detachment. not good; however, im pleased to report that food was not the bandaid to my wounds. no emotional eating here! as i packed my bags and soaked in the last hours of mountain sun, i thought to myself 'wow. this place ain't half bad'. (yes, the ain't is necessary in mountain-talk.) i'll miss the peace. the tomatoes. the basil. the time it takes to get to the grocery store. everything on the mountain is slow..and i like it that way.

i was really happy that my last week at home was not marked by deprivation. in previous years, i'd use that time as an opportunity to shrink as rapidly as possible. not this year. i ate normally, even indulged in a bit of homemade zucchini bread. on the car ride up, i munched on fresh hummus and carrots. i was so proud of myself for saving the lara bar i bought for the trip 4 days before to enjoy on the road! we arrived and promptly headed to our favorite mexican restaurant with the boy. i made an off-the-menu request (this is key!!) for sautéed chicken (essentially the innards of a fajita - sans tortilla) - and extra pico de gallo (tomato salsa) on the side. excellent choice.

today was the first of many social events coming up - a going away party for a dear friend. i sampled some hummus (a current fave), alongside a kidney bean salad, and a bunch of grapes. a piece of dark chocolate replaced a slice of farewell cake. i had my moments of weakness (not that i thought i was going to eat anything 'bad' - i'm simply not attracted to those things - but i feared i would begin to eat mindlessly). i took a moment to head upstairs, calm myself, remember my goals, think of this partnership, and head back down with my commitment to health firmly intact.

new challenges:

the next few weeks are lacking in structure since school has yet to start. i expect to be back and forth from here to the boy's house (1 hr away) and spending time with my dad while he is still in the city. so my current challenge is to somehow maintain a strong exercise regime and conscious eating mindset, while slowly backing off from some of the very time consuming health habits that i acquired on the mountain.

- make sunday the day for planning out a reasonable exercise regime for the week
- maintain morning and evening exercise balance
- allot sufficient time for short, frequent yoga practices scattered throughout the week
- continue recording calorie intake (back at school, i'm most vulnerable to excessive eating)
- increase green tea consumption (hydration!!)
- enforce mandatory 8 hour sleep schedule

current obsessions:

my sparkly new macbook pro, planting an indoor herb garden, planning this thursday's dinner partay

Friday, August 20, 2010

hira: see you at christmas

location: the mountain home (departure for italia in 12 days!!)

week in review: today i said goodbye to my best friend for the seventh summer in a row, as she goes back to finish her third and final year of law school--filled with strength and a beauty that just keeps growing, i know she'll be just alright. luckily, we have this shared blog to keep us connected despite the distance :)

so ramadan is almost halfway over, and i can definitely see progress: no post-sunset binges and stomachaches; now that is something to take note. before i went to elyssa's to say goodbye, i cooked dinner at home for myself and my family. such simple, fresh ingredients made for a delicious and satisfying dinner. the still-warm zucchini bread with tea at elyssa's house just put me over the edge.

...i guess i should have stopped at one piece?

this week, i made some important fitness purchases for italy: a new yoga bag (actually a gift from my friend sana), a resistance band, and Jillian Michael's No More Trouble Zones. i've seen this dvd all over the blog world, and i know elyssa has recently tried the workout as well, and i've concluded that it should be a good strength conditioning supplement to what hopefully will be a yoga and gym-filled semester abroad. i called the resident director in charge of my study abroad program (University Study Abroad Consortium- USAC) and she informed me that there would be a gym at the university of torino, where i will be studying. but she rather strongly hinted at looking elsewhere if i wanted class options and variety in exercise equipment--and of course, we like our class options. i want my yoga, my kickboxing, my body pump etc. i get bored easily.

new challenges: mini boot camps before i go to sleep (jumping jacks, burpees, abs etc)

current obsessions: medjool dates filled with maranatha's dark chocolate almond butter--so filling. a good pre-workout snack, the energy boost is very concrete. suede sneakers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

elyssa: last week on the mountain

location: the mountain (5 days until toronto)

week in review:

as i hunker down to write this post, i notice your current obsessions: 'muted grays and navy solids'. on my trip this weekend, i bought 2 very carefully planned purchases: a soft navy merino cardigan, and an amazing grey yogaish/sweatshirt thing. while the parallel would appear trivial to an outside eye, for me it perfectly encapsulates what you said the other day over tea - - 'with us it's always weird', and by weird, i know you meant..perfectly in sync.

new york was fabulous. literally, the perfect girls weekend. we went all out with the 'girls' theme - long, emotional talks..delightful brunches..a trip to a vegan chocolatiers..dinner at home over f*r*i*e*n*d*s (sitcom).

i worried about how i would react to this trip. for all its benefits, the mountain has a tendency to augment my already present reclusive tendencies. i worried i wouldn't be able to socialize properly and enjoy all that the city and my friends have to offer. this fear stems from the fact that i am best able to eat consciously either on my own or in the presence of those who share my approach to food. at the core of the problem is the lack of faith that i have in myself to make conscious choices in a social environment. while i was tempted to indulge in moments of self-loathing as we walked merrily up the fashionable bleeker street or promenaded down 5th avenue, for the most part..i held it together.

success on vacation is the culmination of multiple, healthy choices. turning down a cream-ridden dessert (not appetizing anyways), in favor of a delightful espresso with a tad bit of cream and a small biscotti. indulging in pinkberry, vegan chocolates, and a vegan cupcake (!) - and choosing healthy alternatives to eating out (a fun excursion to whole foods, followed by a picnic in central park). had i been alone, my diet would inevitably have been more austere, but a happy balance was definitely achieved.

new challenges:

the last week at home is always the hardest. morale is down. the temptation is to say: 'what's done is done. this is what i've accomplished. the best i can do is try and semi keep it up during the year'. NO. no no no. this year, i will say: 'i made great progress this summer. the road to health never ends, school is just another opportunity to further my quest'. throughout the summer, i am able to make healthy advancements because i keep trying new things. the challenge for this week is to ensure that i still have that gusto for healthy experimentation once back in toronto.

- accept my reliance on AM exercise (i've realized i NEED it to get my day off to a good start - and the best way to embrace this 'addiction' is to allow for a brisk 20 min workout every morning)
- new exercise videos are a must (no more trouble zones doesn't really fit into this 'brisk' niche since i still gym it up in the PM)
- work on combatting my social phobias surrounding food (just say 'no, thanks - i'm eating vegan today')
- focus on a low-carb, balanced food week (eating vegan didn't really do it for me as i excessively increased carbs and fat, without sufficient protein, but i'm glad i tried!)
- reinstate the monster

current obsessions:

moving to new york, yacon syrup, nutritional yeast, developing an everyday 'uniform', evening walks

Saturday, August 14, 2010

hira: staying fresh

location: the mountain home (19 days until departure for italia!)

week in review: ramadan has arrived, my house is buzzing with family and friends, decorations, and special treats that only make an appearance during this month. every year, ramadan starts about 10 days earlier than the previous year--all based on a lunar cycle, so it starts with a new lunar month. for the past two years, it has occurred mostly, if not entirely, within the school-year. while fasting from food and water is much easier during those times when i am too busy running around to class and meetings to focus on hunger, it is not the space nor time for any real spiritual progress. this year, i am grateful to be at my family home for the first 20 days of ramadan (the latter 10 will be spent in torino, italia) and i have set some goals for myself:

1. eat in the morning. during ramadan, one is permitted to eat/drink until just before dawn---so about 4:45 am these days---and i have neglected to eat anything at this time during previous ramadans.

2. instead of stumbling back upstairs and sleeping, i plan to stay awake to say my morning prayers, read, write, whatever inspires me that particular day.

3. i will incorporate naps into my daily routine, life permitting.

4. i will take long walks on the mountain and not stress over a lack of gym routine.

so far, so good.

this week, i've been thinking about my relationship with food and how it has evolved from a rushed, impure lust to a pure and deep love. since i am allowed the luxury of time here on the mountain, i spend some mornings and afternoons in the kitchen, experimenting with flavors and textures, working to create a delectable dish. my family doesn't complain. these experiences are much more meaningful to me because i am blessed to be able to use only the freshest fruits, vegetables, and herbs from my gardens and trees in my backyard. i just love going out in the morning and collecting some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. basil, rosemary, peaches, cherries. eggplants, banana peppers, kale. its easy to appreciate food when real food lays in front of you, textures, colors, and smells engulfing you in a foodie trance. honestly, i think this simple pleasure of slow food, being able to experience my food, has led me to falling in love with the mountain. it does bring good things.

i can feel it becoming a part of me, a part that doesn't stay with the mountain when i leave, but travels with me wherever i go---to university, to italy. italy is the birthplace of the 'slow food movement' and strives to retain a traditional sense of a meal and how it is prepared (i.e. something worth eating and meant to be savored). i look forward to the farmer markets and being immersed in a culture so focused on cuisine.
at school, though exams and stress have led me down roads built on refined carbs and sugars, i still have a strong community present that reminds me that, well, it all means nothing if you don't enjoy it. i love the UMD co-op and the people that come with it who have become my friends. i love that i can just swing by the student involvement suites or the co-op and run into someone reading, talking about something more meaningful than the latest iphone (which is pretty important as well, don't get me wrong). these people assure me, they remind me of what is important. makes me a bit hesitant about life after university ha ha.

new goals for this week: no eating after iftar (the dinner that breaks fast during ramadan), eating my salads and vegetables first during mealtime, stretch more and take more walks---been stiff as of late.

current obsessions: homemade frozen smoothie pops, muted grays and navy solids, chilled soups, homemade greek yogurt, lychee and mangos.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

elyssa: they're called 'challenges' for a reason

location: my mountain home (14 days until toronto)

week in review:

if i was writing this in a worse mood - i'd say: i failed. completely. clean week didn't materialize exactly as i'd envisioned. while i was able to eat pretty much only 'whole' foods and avoid processed substances, i needed to eat. A LOT. i fight to remind myself that this is because i succeeded - i exercised vigorously and enjoyed every second of it. i mean it, this past week, exercise was a joy. the hardcore interval training class at the Y whipped me into high gear on monday and friday, along with 3 kickboxing classes and alternating abs/weight lifting at home courtesy of jillian michaels and shaun t.

oh and completing the MPRE (one part of the bar exam) on friday may have had something to do with it. although i may not have passed the exam, i was pleased with the energy i put into it. that said, there were several late night melba toast incidents that i regret. my theory to explain 'guilty' eating is as follows: i dont feel guilty for eating a delicious biscuit or chocolate torte provided that my mental attitude corresponds to the act of eating a luxury food item. for instance, this week my mom and i dined at 'volt' - the fancy top chef restaurant in town - and i downed said biscuit and torte without any guilt in sight. that melba toast at night, however? fraught with guilt. why? because i ate it with shame. i ate it, not wanting to eat it. and that is what we're gonna have to work on avoiding.

new challenge:

needless to say, my current exercise regime will not be sustainable once school starts. for now, ill keep up the pace - but the new goal is to always eat in proportion to how much i burn. how much my body needs. never over, never under. the theme for the following week is vegan. i want to give it a try. i attempted today, but the necessary evils of dining out got in the way. i should write a book: 'my 7 hours as a vegan'..but seriously, tomorrow i try again..

- restrict breakfast calories to have more to spare in the evening (400, 450?)..i'm a breakfast person..
- no eating after 9 (i hate that icky morning feeling)
- devise a full-proof strategy for recovering from a 'guilty' moment (i read this in self magazine - the next day: eat enough, eat clean, drink lots, extra fiber etc)
- stay healthy but ENJOY myself on my upcoming 2 day mini NYC VACAY!

current obsessions: my new navy blazer with suede elbow patches, homemade gazpacho, yogurt face masks, dark chocolate covered orange peel

hira: pre-fasting "fasting"

location: mountain (25 days and counting until departure for italia!)

current goal: no late-night grazing; desperate attempts to stop eating at 7 pm. and therefore ensure that i am properly nourished throughout the day to prevent PM binges.

week in review: all was well and dandy on mountain and in D.C. as these days, i am splitting my time between home (mountain) and working at a TA (D.C.). as much as the mountain fits the summer scene, its been a pleasantry to have some days away---visiting friends, delicious restaurants, a combination of well-known and yet to be discovered places.

unfortunately, an incident with my tooth left me puffed up, swollen, and unable to eat anything but yogurt and green monsters for four days---it could be worse :) in previous times, i would have been panicking at the thought of no exercise for four days---exercise only 'counting' as at least two hours at the gym---but these days, i take this hiatus as an opportunity to treat myself to long mountain walks, mindful eating and lots of writing; a sort of detox if you will. a pre-fasting 'fast'. Ramadan is three days away. goals for the month,as well as an explanation, to come soon.

new challenges: green monsters every morning this week. at least four creative salad lunches. three long walks. continue eating enough during the day.

as per usual, obsessed with: frozen yogurt (i chose to eat this when the dentist told me i could only eat ice cream, pudding and apple sauce- ha ha) and drinking water from glass jars.

here's to another healthy and growth-filled week. cheers my darling.



Sunday, August 1, 2010

elyssa: home from vacation

location: back on the mountain

week in review:

last week's goal - staying healthy on vacation - successfully accomplished! miami with the boy and the fam definitely benefited my overall health and fitness. long beach swims. conscious eating. bidaily workouts. its tough merging exercise styles with the boy, but we managed with a combination of shared and separate time at the gym. jillian michael's 30 day shred carried me through when the elliptical looked less than appealing. night time yoga sessions from's free printouts kept us limber and motivated.

the two week beach vacay came with its fair share of downfalls as well. one particularly unhealthy meal at the cheesecake factory prompted a frenzied midnight elliptical burst. tears were shed. lesson learned, however; a lack of moderation is never the solution. so i ate too much, exercising too much can be just as detrimental to my body - and to my psyche. looking back, im proud that we exercised every day and still enjoyed many a delicious cuban meal.

new challenge:

summer is coming to an end and there is no way im going to be able to keep up this pace in the school year. so my current challenge is to enjoy the results i have achieved, and at the same time to make the best of our remaining days on the mountain to see more improvements by the time school rolls around. for now, its full steam ahead.

- replace 30 day shred (daily) with jm's no more trouble zones + shaun t's insane abs (alternating days)
- make the effort to focus on specific muscle groups - moving away from arms and legs, focusing on back and abs
- commit to making the first week of every month 'clean week' - roughly modeled on the clean diet smoothie plan
- try 5 new raw diet recipes - paving the way for special 'raw days' each week

current obsessions:

heirloom tomatos. cabbage. mad men. j crew.