Long Lost Cousin

Hey guys! I’m currently at the airport waiting for a 2 hour delay. While I’m perfectly happy here with my Wifi, it’s not exactly ideal because I won’t get to DC until late, have a long trip back from the airport, and am living somewhere new. No clue where my room is, and my commute tomorrow is a bit of an unknown. But it is what it is!

Friday morning before I left for the airport, I completed my 10 mile training run. It was uneventful-I ran past the airport though! Decent pace, fine weather, nothing exciting. The morning was kind of crazy-I had lots of stuff to lug around and had to stop by the new place before leaving. As for transportation, I did it all-I ran, walked, flew, took the bus, took the metro, took a taxi, and rode in a car.

Pre-airport treat was a little stop for ice cream. I’m boring and got the one I’ve had before-Chocolate Therapy.



Then, I was off! I went to up-state New York to visit family. I haven’t seen my cousins in 5 years! How crazy is that? I’m the long lost CA cousin-they all live on the East Coast!

I was immediately put to work. My cousin had a graduation party on Saturday, so we were busy preparing for it. I was on cooking duty.

Between Friday and Saturday, I made a cheese, spinach, and artichoke dip:



Cheesecake brownies:

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And peach cobbler 100% from scratch. A triple batch. I don’t think the pictures capture the size!

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I also helped with macaroni and cheese.

On the day of, there was plenty of food!



I ate my weight in appetizers, so I had no room for a burger. I just went with macaroni and taco salad, plus dessert.



Here’s the crew:



After everyone left, we went through and divided up a whole bunch of old photos. I found some from when I was really young, plus a few gems from my dad’s family’s Christmas cards. The ’70s were a difficult time, my friends. Those clothes…

Here’s me and my sister! I’m on the left.



On Sunday, I had planned on running my 5 miler, but after a heavy breakfast that wasn’t happening. I’m glad I was ahead on my running for the week anyways! We did take a nice long walk though. It was so pretty with all the wildflowers!



That afternoon, we went to an adorable tea place, and got the full spread. Buttermilk scones, clotted cream, and smoked salmon, egg salad, and cucumber marscapone sandwiches!

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Despite the fact that I currently feel like I’m going to pop, this weekend did make me think about my food philosophy. I haven’t seen these people in 5 years, and they knew I was really into sugar metabolism, nutrition, and how sugar is not good for you, and they were worried I wouldn’t eat sweets or anything.

I was thinking about this when they mentioned it to me (while I was chowing down on a brownie). I realized that what I really believe in is habits and overall trends. Sure, sugar is not good for you, but if you avoid it for the most part, especially in everyday foods, there’s plenty of space to be healthy and still eat dessert. If you limit added sugars throughout the day, there’s still room in a healthy diet for sweets. I definitely have perfectionist tendencies-not that I ever eat perfectly, but I tend to strive for this (and end up obviously not-you’ve seen what I post here!), but health really isn’t perfect. Our bodies are adaptable, and as long as we eat mostly healthy, I think we function just fine!

Overall, it was a really fun weekend, and I’m glad I was able to come up here to visit my family and their cats. I just hope I make it back tonight! I’m a bit worried because my flight keeps getting pushed back in a tiny airport! Fingers crossed!

When was the last time you visited extended family?



Weekend Part 1: Fancy Mexican Food and Breakfast

Happy Monday! (Happy Monday? Is that even a thing?) I’m actually going to discuss my weekend in 2 parts because I’m a bad blogger and haven’t posted.

Friday morning started out with a track workout. I did 10x400m, which is a classic that I haven’t done in a while. Then-breakfast! I had a yogurt bowl with plain Greek yogurt, berry compote (frozen berries boiled down), and sunflower seed butter. For my birthday, I received a shipment of my favorite kind of sunflower seed butter, MaraNatha, which I cannot find anywhere! So that has made my little yogurt bowls all the more enjoyable!



After class on Friday I headed to Whole Foods to pick up some things for the weekend. Guys. I found the holy grail of all cheeses. GOAT Brie. As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be mine. And it was FABULOUS. My friends and I keep talking about how we need to have a cheese tasting party, and this may have to be my contribution!

Also at Whole Foods, I picked up lunch of Greek salad with chicken and a blueberry muffin.



That evening was a highlight for me. We had a dinner for my hall in my dorm, and we went to a fancy Mexican place, Reposado. We started with huac (what’s new?) and I think it was the best I’ve ever had. It was insanely creamy, and not too citrusy. I think there must have been cheese in there. YUM.



For my meal, I went with Tortilla soup and a side of sweet, creamy corn. Both were excellent. I would definitely recommend this place!

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And of course dessert was a must. I had warm banana upside down cake, served with sea salt caramel ice cream. I have to say, the ice cream definitely stole the show here! SO good.



After dinner, I rushed back to campus to begin a wild Friday night.



My school put on an event where they subsidized Build a Bear knock offs, so my friends and I signed up to do it. I’m clearly quite the party animal!

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I then stayed up much later than I should have given my wake up call the next morning. Healthy living tip: sleep. Sleep is important and you all should do it.

Saturday was my mom’s birthday, so my sister and I drove up to surprise her with breakfast. I was in charge of fruit, while my sister made lattes with her fancy raw, local, organic milk, as well as lemon truffle latkes. My sister has a Jewish boyfriend, so she has learned a thing or two about latke making!



We hung around a while, and I may or may not have taken advantage of the opportunity of an oven and roasted up some carrots. Since my slicing capabilities are not the best, I decided to try baby carrots and see how they turned out. The verdict? Maybe not quite as good but still much better than nothing!



The rest of my day was spent with my rear end planted firmly to my chair, working on a paper due at midnight. Yes, on a Saturday.

Dinner was some chicken, butternut squash, and vegetable soup, along with cheese and crackers.



However, after a long day of writing and reading intense neuroscience journal articles, I was able to apply some of my newly learned knowledge in one of my friend and my typical late night sugar rants. I love connecting knowledge and applying it elsewhere! The sum of it was that we’re all addicted to sugar, and a lot of the problem isn’t the dopaminergic pathways, but the glutamatergic pathways. Yayy big words! Basically that means that the reason the addiction sustains is not that we feel so much pleasure from the sweet stuff, but that the addiction is caused by environmental cues triggering the urge for sugar. This is believed the main pathway for relapse and the later stages of addiction, according to the research I did for my paper. This is interesting because I’ve experienced this some when I’ve tried to avoid sugar for a while-certain cues definitely set me off! I guess to overcome addiction it helps to understand it!

And there’s part 1 of my weekend! I’ll be back with a Mother’s Day recap tomorrow, but for now-sleep+homework!

What did you do for Mother’s Day?

Bay Area Childhood Obesity Conference Recap

I hope everyone’s weekend is going fabulously! Today I went to the Bay Area Childhood Obesity conference and It. Was. Awesome. I think that healthy living blogging in general is a lot about making the healthy healthier. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I mean that is the audience! But people rarely talk about obesity and the public health issue we have today. I took plenty of notes today, and was definitely well fed! So I’m going to share some interesting things from today and try to only minimally rant.

First-the food. Breakfast was plain yogurt, fruit, granola (mine was gingersnap!) and coffee. The granola wasn’t crazy sweet either!


Lunch was an amazing salad-some type of green and creamy dressing, chicken, giant white beans, carrots, and lentils. What was really great about this was that the veggies were all actually seasoned!

There were also plenty of snacks. This bar was a favorite of mine:


Plus some other little things.


As a college student, you know there’s no way I’m saying no to free food-especially good food!

There were also some people doing a blender-bike demo outside!



So let’s get into it, shall we?

The first speak was Dr. Robert Lustig. He’s the guy fighting against sugar as the cause of obesity, and his book is was my whole project was based on. So I was super excited to see him speak!


He didn’t go super into the Biochem, but he did talk about one specific chemical reaction that I thought was super cool, and I’m so glad I learned about sugars in OChem this week because it made so much sense! I was actually going to nerd out and use my chemical structure drawing software to show you guys the reaction but I’ll spare you that. The gist is that the browning reaction that happens when you cook meat? That happens in your body as you age. And sugar makes it happen faster. If anyone loves Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry and wants me to go into more details, let me know!

One interesting point he made about scientific studies is that you really need to look at the funding source to get a sense of the study. A lot of studies are funded by the food industry, and the results are often different. Out of some of the studies he discussed of sugar on weight gain, only 1 of 6 studies funded by the food industry reported that sugar had an impact on weight gain. On the studies NOT funded by the food industry, 10 of 12 reported that sugar had an impact on weight gain. So much of our food policy and governmental nutrition recommendations are tied up with the food industry. One interesting thing is that if you look at the currents nutritional guidelines, when referring to what you SHOULD eat, the guidelines discuss specific foods such as fruits and vegetables. But the foods you shouldn’t eat are listed as general food groups, such as “bad fats.” Because the meat industry would have gone crazy if the government had recommended eating less animal fat!

Here’s something else that is scary and relevant about the national health problem we currently have. 30% of our population is obese. However, obesity does not equal disease-metabolic dysfunction equals disease. Metabolic dysfunction (such as insulin resistance) leads to things like type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. Of these obese people, 80% are metabolically ill. Fair enough. But get this: of the normal weight people, 40% are metabolically ill. Which means they have the same high risks of disease as those 80% of the obese! A general indication of metabolic disease is liver fat, and lots of sugar (or alcohol like the more traditional fatty liver disease) directly leads to liver fat. 

I’m sure we all know I like to rant about sugar, and while it’s definitely not THE ONLY problem leading to obesity and metabolic disease, it’s a BIG one! What compounds this problem is besides just the metabolic dysfunction, we have sugar “addiction.” I use that in quotes because whether it’s technically an addiction is debated, but I’m sure everyone here can think of a time when they just could not stop shoving sugar down their throats. And it becomes an even bigger problem when sugar is the norm. Heck, I couldn’t even stick to the project for a month! But the changes in my body after JUST TWO WEEKS without sugar and processed food where dramatic. My fasting blood sugar dropped almost 20 points! It was at the upper range of healthy, and after just 2 weeks, it was lower than it’s ever been as far as my records. I also lost 7 pounds, and looked noticeably different (although it should be noted that carbohydrate holds onto a lot of water). And that’s just 2 weeks! And I’m reasonably healthy! It’s crazy. 


I had the chance to quickly talk with Dr. Lustig between speakers, and I asked him for resources about the mechanisms of the metabolism of sugar metabolism, since again, as we all know, I’m kind of in love with it and think it’s the coolest thing ever. There is NOTHING out there! He suggested a book that is coming out sometime within the year, but other than that, there is nothing! This got me thinking-if there are facts out there that could guide public health policy, as well as nutritional studies, we need to be using them! And I guarantee that when the people in charge of public health make decisions and statements, they don’t look at the Biochemistry. I’m totally biased since I’m a scientist, but if we can explain a process, why not use that information to guide us? To find a solution, to predict an outcome? Ok, rant over. Moving on!

The next speaker discussed intervention in schools in terms of food and health education and school meals. Kids today eat 35% of their calories at school, and many schools even serve up to 5 meals a day! She also discussed how in low income areas, the life expectancy is significantly lower. But what I think is really powerful to take away from her talk is this quote: “Facilitate change, but give up the illusion that you can direct change.” As my generation starts trying to change the world, I think this is important to keep in mind. People don’t always want to change, and you can’t just order someone to do something. However, you can guide them in the correct direction. 

One of the last things I want to discuss is the speaker who discussed child psychology in relation to the obesity epidemic. I think this applies to far more people than just children, and I think a lot of you guys will be able to relate to this. First-happiness and joy are not the same. All joyful moments are happy, but not all happy moments are joyful. Joy is that sense you get when you think of those you love the most-it’s the sensation that runs through your body when it’s a beautiful day and you’re off to see a loved one. Joy is created through love and deep connections with others. And when we don’t get joy, we turn to artificial, short term rewards such as screen time or ice cream. She described 5 brain states: 1 is joy, and 5 is the most absolutely stressed. In states 1-3,  which she termed the “homeostatic circuit,” we are capable of reasoning with ourselves are making rational decisions. But when we hit states 4 and 5, we are stuck in the “allostatic circuit,” or the “survival” circuit. AKA the fight or flight response. In the allostatic circuit, we are stuck in unstoppable drives with no shut off switch-it’s just how our brain is wired. Once this gets triggered, there’s no stopping your behavior, whatever it may be-such as binging. The cool thing is that you can change the wiring of your brain by having a different result come from times of stress-such as a loving connection, which while make you stop going to food for that artificial comfort. Her overall point behind all of this is that these behaviors happen because the way our brain in wired, and often times we replace love with food. Which is especially relevant for children growing up in a stressful environment. 

That’s all I have from the conference! I really, really enjoyed it and I definitely feel inspired and even more sure this is the area I want to work in. I would definitely attend this again next year! I hope you guys were able to get something out of the reviews, or at least not fall asleep! So let’s look at more food, shall we?


One of the speakers today discussed food marketing. He works for Bolthouse Farms, and they are trying to sell carrots as “the next junk food.” They came out with this cool idea of seasoning carrots, just like chips! These were ranch, and they were really good!


And after a day of eating VERY well, I was inspired to eat some veggies at the dining hall! It’s parent’s weekend, so they definitely stepped it up! I had a salad with olive oil and vinegar, plus HUMMUS. We never have hummus! And I discovered I like beets much better in salad form…Plus some herbed spaghetti squash-something else we never have!

And then at the end of the day my parents wanted to see me, so we went to my favorite ice cream place and I actually got something different-but equally delicious. Salted butterscotch with chocolate fudge. 


And yes, I realize this is after I totally ranted about sugar. But it was delicious!

Friday Things

Not the most creative title, I know. I wasn’t planning on blogging tonight but here I am again, in the laundry room. Which is fabulous because it means I’ll actually have clothes. More clothes. But also stupid because it means I’m guaranteed to be up past midnight doing laundry. I live a wild life you guys. 

I’ve talked a lot about how amazing this project is and all the changes. But today, I’m going to get into the hard parts. 

Guys. I am SO sore from doing hill sprints yesterday. Clearly a sign I need more sprinting in my life! My calves are donezo, and my hips are so sore! My achilles was bad this morning but it feels better now at least! I started my morning off with a spin class in my last pair of clean workout pants (hence the laundry).



I’d been dreaming about that fat, juicy orange since I saw it in the CSA box on Wednesday. The oranges we’ve gotten have been unreal, and this was no exception. I was a little too excited about it! Plus microwave scrambled eggs with manchego. Fancy cheese is life changing, and I need to stock up ASAP. 


I was totally at a loss for what to pack for lunch. Then, I opened the freezer and remembered I had this, all packed up and ready to go! I’m a genius. And I forgot how much I love this lunch. It’s just so perfect. I need to make more lunches like these!

After a 4 hour chem lab, I was hungry so I ate food. A lot of food. Which was really, really stupid given I only had an hour before Crossfit…I wavered a lot about whether or not to go, but we can’t un-sign up within 2 hours of the class, and I’m not really sure what happens if you skip…

But as giant snack part 1, I tried making tapioca in the microwave with nonfat milk and dates. It was a totally success-totally delicious (although I put too many dates in so it was a little sweetener than I would have liked!), and it may have overflowed a few times, but I still downed the whole bowl. 



I also had a ton of crackers with sunflower seed butter and fancy cheese (not together!). Which would have been just fine if I wasn’t about to work out and had just eaten my body weight in crackers and fats. And the workout today seemed particularly bad for these types of issues. 

But by some miracle, it was totally fine, and I felt ok, despite burpees on burpees on burpees, wall balls, kettle bell swings, jump ropes, etc. No clue how that’s even possible. But at this point in my life I’ve eaten some really junky things before workouts. (The worst in my memory is cake with a lot of frosting…) Stomach of steel?

Since I had snacked so late, I was on the fence about another meal, but I ended up making up for veggies at the dining hall with a big plate of food.


SO FULL right now…

And then I had to make some homemade chocolate to celebrate. I got my chem test back today and I did much better than expected, which made my life week. Totally necessary. And homemade chocolate game changer? After making it (while melty still), adding a splash of half and half. Amazing.


And I finally captured a picture of the beauty. Also, note the presence of a real, non plastic spoon. This girl did some dishes!

This is a good segway into today’s topic-the struggles I’m facing on the project. I’d be lying if I said I always felt good. Like right now-I feel pretty gross. Even with cutting out processed food, it’s definitely still possible to overeat or eat badly. And sometimes I just want a cookie, darn it! I’ve gone through various mental struggles with this project, but the current thing I’m hung up on is what will happen post-project. I’m well past the halfway point, and definitely thinking about the future. I feel like I’ve treated this as my saving grace-what was going to change my life and get my health back on track. And I had amazing progress so far-but lately I’ve been eating a little too much of the wrong things. I’ve eaten a ton of dates, which kind of puts the foundation of the changes into question-limiting sugar. I think I’m the kind of person who constantly needs new motivation and a new direction to stick with things, and I think it’s time to refocus to really bring this thing home. But seriously-given that I feel kind of gross now, I have to worry how I can manage to feel good post-project. All those cookies I’ve passed up-will I be able to continue to pass them up? Or will I be right back where I started? If nothing else, this project has changed my perspective. I would have to argue that one of the reasons behind obesity in this country is availability. There is delicious, sugary food all around me. It’s taken all this to pass it up. But without the support and backbone of this project, how would I be able to? How would anon be able to? Warm, melty chocolate chip cookie with cool, creamy ice cream. That’s what I’ve been dreaming of! 

And realistically, I’m not going to always remove myself from situations just to avoid foods. That’s crazy and I would have no social life, which definitely isn’t healthy. 

So I guess what I’m struggling with now is that if I’m not currently eating the best or progressing with all these fancy guidelines and motivation, how will I continue to progress post-project? That’s something I’ll be thinking about for the next week or so. While I try to lay off the dates. And saturated fat. Heh. 

What are your tips for avoiding treats at every corner?

Things Break Down (And Science Doesn’t Lie!)

Hey guys!

I wan’t really feeling the posting today…but I’m keeping it real here on the ol’ blog. In terms of the project, things are a little hot and cold. 

Last night, I ended up making homemade chocolate-it was really good! Super rich, super dark, not that sweet. It was simply coconut oil, maple syrup, and cocoa powder. 


Last night was spend studying and hanging out with friends. And maybe singing to ’90s music at 1am. 

This morning I woke up and stabbed myself for the sake of science. Image

I read the directions (yay) and successfully took my blood sugar! It was lower than last March, but still on the high side of healthy, so there should be some improvements, hopefully! My roommate’s blood sugar was on the lower end of healthy, so it’s unlikely she’ll see much of a drop. 

For breakfast, I tested out my pre-race breakfast.


Banana and egg oatmeal! This was a little different than how I normally make it-I used extra thick rolled oats instead of instant (so I soaked them overnight), and a whole egg instead of egg whites. Plus, I normally make this with almond milk, but that’s not technically allowed, and i don’t really want dairy before a hard run, so I just used water.

Remember how I was craving bananas so much?

I’m SO. SICK. OF. THEM. Banana overload!

Plus a kiwi.


For this morning’s workout, I wanted to do a pace run. I went to the track and did 2 miles at race pace. And it was doable! Let’s just hope I can push out another mile at that pace!


Plus the course isn’t exactly totally flat…and it’s never exactly 3.1…but I still have a week to get faster and stronger, right??

I followed the run with some weights-back lunges, single leg RDLs, and abs. 

And then-lunchtime!


Salad with oil and vinegar, mixed grain salad, and a garden burger with cheese cubes. Not totally sure on these ingredients, but I felt good after so we’ll go with it! Plus nonfat plain Greek yogurt with pineapple. Ignore the strawberry mess-I was hoping it would be without any added sugar, but a small taste immediately told me otherwise!

Later in the day is where things started to break down. I felt SO great. I kept thinking how I barely notice feeling great anymore because it’s my new normal! But then I was hungry. So I had a snack. 

Yesterday I talked about “fake” desserts-which for the record I should especially avoid because my stomach was not a big fan of all the coconut flour. Today, I’m talking about “real” desserts that don’t seem real. It’s science people! (kidding-that probably makes no sense.)

Over the last couple of days, I’ve had a decent amount of sugar. But it’s “natural” sugar, so totally doesn’t count, right? But here’s the crazy thing. In your body, sugar is basically just sugar. And if you’re sensitive to sugar anyway, and then you try to avoid it, you’re likely going to react to natural sugars as well. 

I’ve had a few too many dates and dried mangoes lately…and I feel it. And I react no differently than regular sugar. 

I feel sick. I can’t focus. I’m anxious. I want more sweet stuff. 

So I caved. It happened. I’m being honest with you guys. But I’m also learning from it. 

How did I feel? Gross. Sick. Panicky (this is probably not a normal reaction to sugar but it always makes me crazy). 

But what did I do about it? 

I learned from my mistake. 

1. Sugar tastes good. Desserts are great. But I’ve never been one of those people that handles sugar well, and I honestly should try to keep it out of my life. For me, the worst effect is mental. To be clear-the problem is NOT that I beat myself up over it, but I’ve always had bad reactions. My heart races, I get really hot, my hormones go crazy. Those physical responses lead to anxiety, lack of focus, feelings of panic. Which makes sense-those physical symptoms evolutionarily would indicate a reason for panic (like seeing a tiger).

2. Sugar is sugar. Sugar makes me crave sugar. Dried fruits (especially dates) are still sugar. And I need to be more careful.

3. I can’t wallow in self pity. Feeling bad about not being able to eat things is a recipe for failure-I need to focus on the delicious things I’m CHOOSING to eat (not just that I CAN eat).

4. I may need to take a step back. From the Internet world. Just for a little while-I love looking at pictures of froyo and chocolate and muffins, but if I’m going to finish this thing, I need to limit my exposure. But I have midterms anyways so there’s that distraction…

Oh, and here’s dinner:


Bottom line: I really want to finish this strong. The changes I’m seeing and feeling are amazing. My confidence is higher than I can even remember. And I’ll do whatever I need to do to finish this out. Depending on what’s happening 3 weeks from now, I may go an extra week to really do a full month. But given the changes I felt in a week, we’ll see. 

Another thing I’m recognizing: just HOW MANY occasions come up that I would have grabbed a sweet at. Multiple cookie parties, giant cookies at late night, waffles and muffins for brunch. I now understand exactly where the Freshman 15 comes from! 

So-yes. I slipped up. But I’m not going to sit here and complain about it, because it’s an opportunity to learn. 

To be quite frank, the thing that worries me the most is life post-Project. After the difference in how I felt this morning vs. after sugar, I don’t know how I can possibly function in a life with sugar. Yes, I have the biggest sweet tooth, but I also have a really bad reaction to it. I don’t know how I can go through life functioning and feeling good with it. I feel like a lot of the stress I felt last year was a result of overconsumption of sugar. It’s crazy how things work, isn’t it?? I wish I understood WHY I’m so sensitive!

But-tomorrow is another day! Please don’t take this post as me complaining and feeling bad about eating sugar. I’m only posting because I want to be honest with you guys, and I do think it’s an important learning experience. And remember-the things my body responds to are completely different for a lot of other people! Some people can have a moderate amount of sugar everyday and it works for them-if this is the case for you, but all means go for it! These are just my experiences.

I think I’ve asked this before, but: any ideas on how to be get magically fast in a week??