Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bye Bye Shumai

Sticking to my goals was especially difficult with todays school lunch. As Ive mentioned before, elementary school students are made to eat their entire lunches, so at those schools I try to set a good example and eat everything even if it breaks my rules. But at my junior high school I eat in the office with some of the school staff, so we have the freedom to choose what and how much we eat. Everyone receives the same lunch, but it is acceptable to throw away anything you dont want.

First of all, throwing away food is really hard for me to come to terms with. Its such a waste, trashing perfectly good food, Im sure theres someone out there who would love to eat it! But thats the thing, someone out there The best option is to not buy or make more than you can eat, but since school lunch is a pre-made set of food, I just have to learn to throw some away.

What made today particularly difficult, though, was that I really wanted to eat it! Not eating bread is fine, I dont like bread that much anyway. But today we got two fried shumai (Chinese dumplings), and they looked so good! However, I believe the wrapper is made with egg and wheat flour. They were so small though, small enough that I could maybe reason to myself that its not enough to matter. But if I start making little allowances too often, pretty soon Im completely screwed.

The other reason I wanted to eat them rather than throw them away was because I wanted to avoid the curiosity of the office staff. Its normal to toss some of your rice or bread or even other dishes because you were full. But to eat everything except specifically the two little shumai, well, clearly its not because I just got full.

Two sad little shumai left all alone on the lunch tray.

Conversations about what Im eating or not eating and why make me feel uncomfortable and defensive. The assumption often is that if someone chooses not to eat something they either hate it or are dieting for weight loss. And if they think Im dieting for weight loss, the immediate response is, But you look great! You dont need to diet! Heres a thought, maybe I look great BECAUSE I eat well? Plus, its not just about weight, but also digestive health, energy levels, headaches, and many many other things that can be affected by what you put in your body.

All of this, though, is hard to explain in a quick conversation, especially while people are trying to tell me not to worry, or to make an exception this time because of A or B. I know they mean well, but its actually stressful. So even when people arent reacting like that, I still feel stressed, imagining that they will. This is a big reason why I didnt want to throw away my delicious shumai. Im really motivated to stick to my rules, though, especially since I started this blog. So, bye bye shumai! And thankfully, nobody said anything. Even better, Im proud of myself for resisting! Today gets gold stars for food and exercise! Now Ill drift off to sleep imagining how good those shumai would have tasted

Monday, October 27, 2014

How to survive a Halloween potluck party

One of the most challenging times to eat well is at potlucks. So many tempting foods that are oh so good, yet oh so bad! So here are some tips that helped me:

1.  Eat before going. I had a nice big healthy breakfast late in the morning, so when I arrived to the party I wasn't so hungry that I wanted to shove everything in my face.

Cabbage & carrot salad with chia seeds and coconut milk,
soy yogurt, fish, and green tea - a healthy and hearty breakfast.

2. Bring a dish that's safe for you. I know everyone wanted me to bring the famous "Pyrex Sex" brownies (named by the friend who gave me the recipe), but they are basically made up of everything that I'm trying not to eat, so I opted for some fun Halloween treats instead. Although one of them I still couldn't eat, but it was just too cute to not make.

Pyrex Sex consists of chocolate chip cookie dough, oreos,
brownie mix, and in this case a pumpkin swirl.
Graveyard ghosts - freaking adorable, had to make them.
Skeleton teeth - cute, delicious, and ok for me to eat.
3. First eat the foods you know are safe. I had some quinoa salad and a chicken & pumpkin dish right off the bat to satisfy my need to try awesome potluck dishes.
4. Distract yourself, preferably in a room away from the food. After eating a little, I went into the kitchen to prepare the food I brought, and while I was doing that I wasn't tempted to eat any more. Unfortunately I spent the rest of the party sitting right by the food, so I ended up eating way too much.
5. Request alternate versions of unsafe dishes if possible. A friend was making mini hamburgers, and she happily made me one without cheese or a bun.
6. Stick to foods you know are safe. There were brownies, banana bread, and the most amazing looking fresh-baked cookies that were SUPER tempting, but instead I ate more of the delicious quinoa salad and filled up on chili. Plus I had a lot of the apple slices with peanut butter that I brought. I ate way more calories that I should have, but I was too stuffed to be seduced by the sugary treats that could wreak havoc on my system.
7. Have someone other than yourself holding you accountable. Because I share this blog on Facebook, most of the people at the party have or possibly will read it. This means someone there could know my goals, and know if I didnt achieve them. They would also know if I cheated and ate a cookie but didnt write about it.
8. No alcohol. Not only is it unhealthy in a number of ways, youll also find yourself loosing will power after a couple of drinks. I still had lots of fun (and was plenty clumsy) without it.
9. Stay hydrated! We all know how important it is for our health to drink lots of water throughout the day. I brought my own green tea and soda water to the party so I would always have something to drink.

Other than the Halloween party, here's how I've been doing the past few days. 

Thursday, Oct. 23, health log:

Garbage day! Since I have to pull on clothes and haul my trash out to the neighborhood garbage station, why not pull on running clothes and go for a jog after tossing it out? Which is exactly what I did! A nice quick 15 minute jog to jump start my day. Followed by my regular breakfast of a cabbage salad, fish, soy yogurt, and green tea.

I loved school lunch today! There was a salad of chilled steamed cabbage, bean sprouts, and various types of seaweed in vinegar and a simmered tofu and vegetables dish. Healthy and delicious, exactly what I look for in a meal! As a super awesome bonus, we got a small snack of almonds and tiny dried fish, my favorite! The only downside was that it was a bread day, so I only managed two days in a row of gluten and dairy free so far this week.

Mmm, I love eating fish whole.
After lunch I got in an extra 30 minutes on my bike because I had to run to the bank. That also meant an extra 30 minutes in the sun soaking up that vitamin D!

I think it only took two evenings of not exercising for me to fall out of the habit. I really didn't want to exercise after work today! BUT, in my last post I wrote about the workout I was planning on doing, thus holding me accountable to all the someones out there who read it, so I HAD to do it. And did. And felt great afterwards. I even did two bonus mini-workouts for abs and butt! Yay motivation, this blog is already paying off! If you tell me your health goals, I can help hold you accountable too, so let me know in the comments.

Want a firm, round booty? This butt bonus can help!

Friday-Monday, Oct. 24-27, health log:
Another great morning with exercise and a healthy breakfast, and a safe school lunch too. Instead of exercising in the evening I went to a friends house for game night. She also is working on eating healthy, so we had lots of vegetables and some protein in a traditional dish for colder weather nabe! Nabe literally means pot,” but when referring to a meal it means a pot of soup that is cooked at the table, with ingredients being constantly added while the ready to eat ones are taken out and eaten.

Knowing that I wouldnt be home the next day for breakfast or lunch, I packed two cabbage salads, soy yogurt, fish, and almond milk to take with me. Even though its definitely not as healthy as green tea, I indulged in coffee with almond milk in the morning. I was nice and awake for the Kurashiki English Speech Contest that my student was in!

After a long day at the speech contest, I was really craving foods that Im trying not to eat, like chocolate and cookies. As I was grocery shopping that afternoon I was careful to not go down (or even look down) the dangerous aisles in the center of the supermarket. If I buy myself a treat thinking that itll be fine because Ill eat it over a few days, I always end up devouring the whole thing. Nobody feels good after an entire bag of cookies, even if they are gluten-free! So if I dont buy it, it wont be in my house, and I wont eat it. Instead I bought a healthy dinner of salad, fish, and chicken livers & hearts. Then I treated myself to a baked sweet potato drizzled with peanut oil and sprinkled with cocoa powder. I came up with it on the spot, and it turned out delicious!

As for Sunday, youve already read about the Halloween potluck party. Unfortunately I didnt have a chance to exercise at all on Saturday or Sunday, other than riding my bike around when running errands. By the end of the day on Sunday my leg muscles were starting to ache from inactivity. Does anyone else get that?

I was glad to get back into my routine, starting today once again taking out the trash and going for a jog. School lunch broke my dairy-free, gluten-free streak, though. Actually, I had a tiny bit of dairy yesterday because a couple of dishes had been cooked with butter. So I managed only two dairy free days and three gluten free days. Still egg free! How long do you think I need to not eat eggs before I can test them and find out if I have a sensitivity to them? What I've been reading says 3-4 weeks...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Exercising in the comfort of your own home, and for free!

I've been doing pretty well with my daily goals for the past couple of days. Tuesday morning I did this low impact cardio workout. Low impact doesn't mean it's too easy! I was definitely sweating by the end. And at 5:30 in the morning, who would want something more intense? Not me!

I had a good breakfast, and school lunch was Japanese style with no gluten, dairy, or eggs. Yay! There was no time to exercise in the evening, but I went grocery shopping and cooked some meals to last the rest of the week. What did I make, you ask? Grilled chicken liver, hijiki salad, and chicken stew seasoned Simon & Garfunkel style, with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! Plus, for a nice little October treat I roasted the seeds from the pumpkin I put in the stew.

Hijiki is the black seaweed dish in the back.
(Photo taken from wikipedia) 

Today also went well. I did another 30 minute low impact cardio workout followed by a nice healthy breakfast. Then I had to ride my bicycle to work in the rain, ugh! One of the few times I wish I had a car… School lunch had bread and cheese, but I didn’t eat either of them. Wish I had that option at all of my schools! Unfortunately I didn't have time for a workout in the evening because I stayed overtime at work. Thankfully I had that chicken stew I made yesterday ready to go for an awesome dinner!

Veggies and pumpkin and chicken, oh my!

Back when I started wanting to exercise regularly, a couple friends of mine recommended bodyrock.tv. It was the first time I had used online videos to learn how to effectively work out with very little equipment in my small room. I was so excited to not need to go to a gym! They weren’t videos that you follow along with, but rather they tell you what the routine for the day is and explain how to do the moves, and then you can do it on your own. So I took notes on what the exercises were and how to do them, and over more than a year I filled up three little notebooks of workout routines. Fyi, though, bodyrock.tv has changed quite a lot, and I now find the hosts annoying. Thankfully I did such good note taking, now I don’t even need a computer, just one of my notebooks and an interval timer and I’m good to go! If I have time tomorrow evening, I think I'll do this one:

I know it says March, but that's because I originally wrote it down in March, a few years ago! 

I quickly get tired of doing the same workout again and again, but thankfully there are thousands, if not millions, of workout videos on youtube, and a lot of great ideas out there! Have noise sensitive neighbors? Search for quiet workouts! Don't own any equipment? Search for body weight only workouts! There's something for everyone out there, you just have to know what you want.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dairy-free, egg-free, but not delicious-free pumpkin pie!

 This week didn’t start off real well, but I plan to get back on track quickly! I didn’t exercise this morning because I need time to make my cabbage salad. I usually make it the night before, but I barely got anything done yesterday since I was exhausted from staying out till 4:00am the night before. Getting enough sleep is really important for health, so I really should try to avoid all night partying (>.<)
I ate a good breakfast this morning, and was actually too full to eat my soy yogurt. Unfortunately, today’s school lunch had all three of the foods I’m trying to avoid – gluten in the shell pasta and bread, plus dairy and egg in a small piece of cheesecake.

 School lunch bread - white fluff

There was also some sausage in the soup, which may be free of gluten, dairy, and egg, but definitely has artificial preservatives or other additives that aren’t natural and aren’t good for our bodies.
However, I did this workout in the evening, and ate a super healthy and delicious dinner. Getting on track!

Last week I tried a new recipe that I’m really excited about and would love to share! (Sorry, forgot to take pictures). I still haven’t successfully made a gluten-free pie crust, but here’s a recipe for dairy-free and egg-free pumpkin pie that works and is oh so very yummy! Basically, it’s the Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, but I’ve substituted coconut milk for evaporated milk and 2 Tbsp of chia seeds per egg.
A quick note first - If you’ve never tried chia seeds before, they’re pretty interesting. They look a bit like poppy seeds, have a nice nutty flavor, and contain lots of protein, fiber, and omega-3. But one of the coolest things about chia seeds is their amazing ability to absorb moisture and become gel-like in consistency. They’re great for thickening smoothies or soups, or for making pudding or jelly. Beware, they’re also amazing at sticking in your teeth!
Ok, it’s pie time!
Dairy-free egg-free pumpkin pie:

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I often only use a half or even a third of this for myself & Kelsi, but people expecting a traditional pumpkin pie would probably prefer all the sweetness!)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons chia seeds (replaces 2 eggs)
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) coconut milk (replaces 12 fl. oz. evaporated milk)
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, and chia seeds in small bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in coconut milk. Let sit for 30 to allow chia seeds to expand and provide firmness.
2. Stir well to redistribute chia seeds and pour into pie shell.
3. Bake in preheated 425 F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Cool before serving. It should be firmer than pudding, but won't be as firm as a traditional pumpkin pie. Still able to be picked up and eaten by hand if you want!

Suspicious that it won't taste good? Just ask my guinea pig, Kelsi! Or try it and enjoy!!

Introduction: What's up with genki?

I’ve decided to start a blog, mostly as a motivational tool for myself, but also because we can all learn more from shared experiences. This first entry will be really long to introduce my aims and goals. No guarantees future entries will be shorter, though. Sometimes when I get going I can find a lot to say!

In this blog I will talk mainly about food and exercise, and how it affects me. I will share things that work well for me and things that don’t. I’d love to hear what does and doesn’t work for you as well, so let me know in the comments!

I am always working toward being healthier, mainly by trying different ways of eating and exercising. And when I say healthier, I don’t just mean weight loss (although I do dream of someday getting rid of the little tummy pooch I’ve always had). I want to maximize my overall health, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In Japanese, genki can have many meanings. As defined by my phone dictionary (which I rely on almost every single day to get through life in Japan) genki means: health(y), robust, vigor, energy, vitality, vim, stamina, spirit, courage, pep. And so with the birth of this blog comes the name, "Let's be genki!"

So, to start off with, here’s where I’m currently at with my goals:
I’m happy with my weight and body shape except my tummy. I wouldn’t mind being 2 or 3 kg lighter and maintaining that.
I want to have strong muscles. I can do a 30-50 minute high intensity workout and for the most part keep up with the trainer, but there’s always room for improvement. For example, I can’t do a pull up!
I want to jog regularly, and be able to run up to 10 km. Last spring I was jogging almost every morning, 4 km on weekdays and 8 km on Saturdays, but I had to stop because of shin splits. After no running at all for 2 months, I’m trying to slowly get back into it. But my left leg still pains me if I run too fast or too far.
I use a Fitbit, and try to reach the default goal of 10,000 steps every day. This was a lot easier before when I could go jogging more. I also use my Fitbit to track my calories in vs. out, and have the goal of eating 500 less calories than I burn every day. This goal is based on my current weight, ideal weight, and how quickly I want to reach it. Sometimes I’ll do really well reaching my goal for many days in a row, but I often blow it at least once a week. To tell the truth, sometimes I go over by as much as 2,000 calories!
I’m also trying to change how I eat to improve my digestive health and body’s health. I want to do an elimination diet to find out what foods my body may be sensitive to, specifically gluten, milk, and eggs. However, these foods are often in school lunch. I eat school lunch because it takes too much time and effort to make a lunch every day, plus the students have no option of bringing their own lunch, so I feel like it’s unfair if I do. Also, the students are not allowed to pick and choose what they eat in their lunch, but are made to eat everything, so I try to set a good example to eat everything as well. The only different thing I do is bring soy milk or almond milk and don’t drink the regular milk. I know for sure that it upsets my stomach, and I would rather deal with explaining that over and over to each class rather than fart and have stomach cramps all day every day.
So, other than school lunch, I’m trying as much as possible to not have foods containing gluten, dairy, or eggs. I’m also trying to follow the Wahl’s Protocol, which is a diet that aims to give your body as many nutrients as possible, while removing anti-nutrients and other damaging foods. The main rule is 9 cups of vegetables a day, 3 of them leafy greens, 3 of colorful vegetables and some fruit, and 3 cups of sulfur rich vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. The other main rule is to eat at least 6 oz of animal protein a day, especially organ meats and other parts of the animal that most Americans these days don’t eat, and fish. As much as possible, buy free-range, grass-fed, and/or wild-caught, because the meat will be a lot richer in nutrients. After eating all these vegetables and meat, hopefully you won’t still be hungry, but if you are try to avoid too many carbohydrates, especially grains. Also, eat REAL food! I try to avoid pre-made and/or processed food. Thankfully I enjoy cooking!

My ideal healthy day looks like this:
Wake up at 5:30.
Go jogging or do 10-30 minutes of low impact cardio in the morning.
For breakfast have green tea, a large cabbage salad and fish and/or soy yogurt.
Walk or bicycle to school.
Eat school lunch. At the Junior High where I have a choice because I eat in the office rather than with students, don’t eat bread or noodles, and eat only half of the rice.
Walk or bicycle home.
Do a high intensity workout, at least 20 minutes. Once a week do yoga instead.
For dinner eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, like an entire mixing bowl sized salad. Eat a lot of meat as well, at least 200 grams. Can also eat natto and maybe a piece of fruit.
Go to bed by 9:00pm.

Ok, now you know what I'm aiming for, help keep me on track!