20 February 2016


I'm not very good at resting.  If I'm not doing something I feel guilty about not doing all the things I feel like I should be doing.  No wonder I'm tired all the time.

For more than a year I've been suffering with lower back pain.  I've tried physical therapy (months and months of it) and gone through all the anti-inflammatory meds the doc had to offer (I avoided all meds for a very long time). Only one actually worked and it only worked for about 6 weeks.  The pain only got worse. Finally, after exhausting my options, I consented to getting epidural steroid injections.  Crying at my desk because of the pain wasn't working for me. "Your body is telling you something,"  I heard.

Let me just say that I HATE needles.  I thought I was going to throw up or cry or both the other morning before going to get it done.  I was told I had to rest for several days (normal activities were allowed but no teaching classes and nothing strenuous).  I was honestly a little excited.  I followed doctor orders and rested for 2 days.  After the 2nd day I couldn't sleep last night.  I'm not used to doing nothing.  Even though I couldn't keep my eyes open the rest of me just wasn't tired. I felt like rubbish this morning.  I had to get up and out!

It's really nice out today so I took the dogs for extra long walks and then cleaned up the yard. It was so good to be out and not laying around on the couch!  I'm not noticing any improvement in the pain since getting the injections but they said it could take up to a week.  Or, it might not work at all.  I don't know what I'll do in that case. 

For now, though, I think I'm done resting.  I'm not going to go crazy doing stuff but it seems there's a limit to how much nothing I can do.  The most relaxing vacation I ever took involved running or yoga every morning followed by bike riding along the coast.  That's my kind of resting :)

How do you like to rest?

17 February 2016

What I Ate Wednesday - Vegan Goat Cheese

Goats are vegans, right?  So goat cheese is vegan, right? 

Obviously I know this is not true.  I wish it was.  I'm not a vegan...yet.  It's a goal I'm working on but there are a lot of factors involved.  I won't unpack them all in this post. I am, however, fully aware of the horrors of the animal-product industry.  I've seen the movies. I know the impacts.  The few animal products I do consume are organic and from small, local, sustainable farms.  I'm working on it.

Angie over at Angie Eats Peace sometimes does What I Ate Wednesday posts so I thought I'd do one and talk about one aspect of my vegetarian-to-vegan journey.

I'm a tiny person (although, as I discussed yesterday, not a thin person).  I've heard, "as much as you exercise you must be able to eat whatever you want," so many times.  If Only! 

I plan my meals for the week and have to be very strict or I will easily consume far too many calories for someone my size.  Even though most of what I eat is very healthy I still have to carefully watch my portions. Eating the same thing every day for a week makes the planning a lot easier.

I usually take my dogs for a quick walk before leaving for work.  Today, however, I managed to burn my finger while boiling water for coffee so I spent all the time I had before leaving with my hand in ice water.  Not an ideal way to start a day!

I'm a little like Rain Man when it comes to eating.  You can almost set your watch to what I eat and when.  I usually eat a handful of almonds  (I have small hands so we're talking 12) on my way to work which is around 0600.  I have coffee most mornings as well.  I usually use half-and-half.  I like my coffee creamy. I know there are plant-based substitutes but they come in disposable (usually not recyclable) packaging.  I only allow myself to buy half-and-half if I can get it in returnable glass bottles from a local, organic dairy.  My desire to lead a close-to-zero waste life sometimes conflicts with my desire to become vegan.  I do sometimes use coconut oil in my coffee but after a while I really crave the creaminess that comes from half-and-half.  This is a journey and I don't have it all figured out.

At 0800 I eat my breakfast.  This week (I basically eat the same menu all week and I prepare everything on Sunday so that it is all ready to go) my breakfast is a slice of Rudi's Multigrain Sprouted toast (I am not being compensated for mentioning this product but if Rudi's is interested... :D) with a mixture consisting of a tablespoon of fresh-ground peanut butter, a tablespoon of avocado and a half-scoop of chocolate protein powder all mixed with enough water so that it is moist enough to spread.  It's not pretty but it is filling.

I wish I loved avocado like a good vegetarian but I don't.  I can eat them if I must but I do not enjoy them.  However, I found that if I mix the smashed avocado with a little peanut butter then I get the healthy benefits of eating avocado without the avocado flavor.  In this case I wanted more protein so I added the protein powder.  I like Plant Fusion (again, no compensation but if Plant Fusion is interested...:D). High protein, low carbs, tastes good and the price per serving is lower than most with similar protein-to-carb ratios.

At 1000 I eat a string cheese.  I've tried other options on my quest to eliminate animal products but so far haven't found anything that is as satisfying without a great increase in carbs/calories.  I'm still searching.  And I'm aware that string cheese comes in plastic packaging.  Striving for life as a zero-waste vegan is not an easy endeavor!

At 1130 I eat a salad (although today I had a roof inspection at 1130 so I was late eating...this does not make my inner Rain Man very happy).  Again, being somewhat RainMan-esque I eat the same salad Every. Single. Day.  It contains cauliflower, tomatoes, mushrooms and greens.  It used to contain goat cheese.  I love goat cheese.  I ran out a couple weeks ago and forgot to add it to my grocery list.  So I decided to eat my salads without it that week to see if I could get used to not having it.  Then I intentionally didn't buy any last week.  Honestly, I do not particularly enjoy my salad without the goat cheese.  I used to crave my salad but now I just eat it because it's one of the only ways I get vegetables (I'll discuss my general dislike of vegetables in another post).  Dressing I make myself with 2T ACV, 1t olive oil, 1t balsamic vinegar, some cayenne pepper and some salt-free Greek seasoning.

I believe food should be healthy (mostly) and meet the body's nutritional needs but I also feel it should be enjoyable.  There are things I eat sometimes because I know they are good for me even if I don't particularly care for them.  But I'm not a fan of doing this every day.  I'm trying to find a vegan substitute for my beloved goat cheese.  If anyone has any suggestions please let me know!  I want to enjoy my salads again.

I usually eat the rest of my lunch sometime around 1330.  I tend to make some sort of soup or stew or other dish that can be shoveled into my face with a spoon.  I very rarely eat from a plate with different foods sitting there separately.  Everything in one dish works best for me.  This week I have a soup I made with carrots, red kidney beans and whole wheat orzo. 

When I got home from work I took a little nap.  I love naps.  And, I'm almost always tired.  When I got up from my nap I took the dogs for their regular walks (longer than the morning walks).  Then I went to teach my class at the gym. I usually eat a banana on my way to the gym.

By the time I get home from the gym I'm usually ready to eat All The Things so I have to have dinner pre-made or there's no telling what will be consumed.  This week it's quinoa and tofu cooked up in soy sauce and Thai seasoning.  If sugar snap peas were in season I would have included those as well.  I also like to crush up some peanuts and mix those in but I forgot to buy them.  It's a simple dish but cooked so that the quinoa gets a little crunchy and it's super-YUM!  It can also be eaten using lettuce as a wrap but I'm usually too lazy for that extra step. I realize most people would add onions and peppers and other veggies but, again, I don't like most veggies.

I also drink lots of water throughout the day.  I have a carbonator at home as I love bubbles in my water (hold over from living in Europe).  My physical therapist recommended adding electrolytes to my water to hopefully relieve some muscle pain in my back so I started that this week.  I also like to add a splash of tart cherry juice as tart cherries help reduce inflammation.

So that's what I ate today (and the rest of the days this week).  Mostly vegan. 

What did you eat today?  Do you have any recommendations for vegan substitutes for string cheese or goat cheese?

16 February 2016

Skinny Jeans

We had a blizzard here a couple week ago.  The shoveling-out was hell!  But it gave me a good starting point for some lessons at the gym. 

I told all my classes that I didn't care if they ever fit into skinny jeans or what they looked like in their skinny jeans if they were wearing them.  My goal is to make sure they can shovel themselves out from a blizzard or hike to the nearest gas station if their car gets stuck in the snow (I realize most people just whip out their phone and call someone these days but I come from a time when we didn't have cell phones so I remember having to hoof it if the car broke down).  Cardio endurance and core strength were going to be our focus for the week. 

For the record, I do not wear skinny jeans. Probably never will.  Then again, that isn't really my style anyway.  I have thick legs.  They are strong but there is flab as well.  I don't feel good about that but I do somehow like that I can stand in front of a class with my flabby legs and jiggly butt and lead them through a very tough workout.  I like that they can (hopefully) see that being fit and strong does not require one to be thin and lean. 

Would I like to be thin(er) and lean(er).  Sure.  But I do think that sometimes people are afraid of trying a class at the gym when the instructor looks like someone from a fitness magazine cover.  I look like an everyday, average person.  I'm okay(ish) with that.  I do like being the one with flabby legs and a jiggly butt who can do more push-ups/squats/burpees than the one who thinks an instructor with flabby thighs and a jiggly butt can't be very good :p

What do you think when you see someone who isn't thin/lean at the gym?  Do you think strong and fit are what count or do you think it's more important to be thin?

14 February 2016

Who Am I

Hi, I'm Afi.  I love chocolate and dogs (although I don't eat the dogs and don't take chocolate for walks).   I don't expect too many people to see this but I wanted a place to talk about health and exercise/fitness and food and weight and frustrations/successes with all of those things. 

I'm a vegetarian who doesn't like very many vegetables.  I'm working towards being a vegan...maybe.  I'll talk about that later.

I'm a fitness instructor who struggles with weight and likes to eat too much.  I have body image issues but try to be a positive model of strength over size for my students. I also have chronic back pain which sometimes gets in the way of the things I want to do.

I'm just one person with a small voice.  That's okay.  Even if no one hears me.