My New Favorite (Non-Crazy) Fitness App

My name is Georgia, and I am a recovering MyFitnessPal addict.

If you aren’t familiar, MyFitnessPal is a website and an app that allow you to create a daily food and exercise diary.  This means you can record every single thing you eat and every step you take, every day, which is cool because of the degree of precision with which you can see if you’re getting the right balance of nutrients in your diet and eating the right number of calories for your activity level.  It’s a good concept, and I have nothing against the its creators because I’m sure it helps a lot of people get on track with their fitness goals.

However, the reason I had to give it up is because I’m kind of a detail-oriented freak (as you might remember, I have a seasonally-updated master grocery list because I can’t stand the thought of forgetting something at the store) and as a result I tend to obsess a little too much over my MyFitnessPal entries.  I like the feeling of control it gives me, but I don’t like not eating snacks even though I’m hungry because I’ve already met my calorie goal for the day, and feeling bad about exceeding my daily allotted fat grams but not getting enough protein, and wondering why I’m so tired after yoga if according to the app it only burned exactly 174 calories.

The problem with focusing on the app is that it distracts you from focusing on your body and what it needs, which is (duh) more nuanced than a computer can understand.  But tuning in to your body and trusting it is, at least for me, harder than typing information into my smartphone.  So for right now, I’m working on finding some balance and focusing on how I feel rather than counting calories and fat grams.

So this may seem ironic, but to help me with my new goal (and admittedly because it’s hard for me to quit fitness tracker apps cold turkey), there is a new app in my life.  It’s called Fig, and it lets you choose from a huge variety of completely customizable health and wellness goals and track your progress towards them.  And weight loss doesn’t have to be one of them–it doesn’t have to be involved at all.  You can choose “breathe deeply,” “take a desk break,” “spend time with friends,” “avoid the dirty dozen,” “enjoy nature,” or any of about a million other things.

Unlike MyFitnessPal and many other tracking apps, there is no negative reinforcement or “helpful” reminders that “eggs are high in cholesterol!” or “you’ve exceeded your calorie limit for the day!”  You just decide on any goal you want, like “Eat veggies 3 times a day,” and every time you eat veggies you click on a circle until you get to three and then the circle turns into a star.  If you only eat veggies twice, the circle just stays a circle, and (guess what!) you don’t have to feel bad about it.  Because (guess what!) you shouldn’t ever have to feel bad about trying to take care of yourself.

Spectating the CIM

On Sunday, my husband ran the California International Marathon.  It was his first marathon, and he was hoping to run it in under 4 hours, which was a pretty lofty goal considering our best half time was 2:01 and anyone who has run a full marathon knows that it’s way more than twice as hard.

However, he is really good at running (especially when I’m not there to slow him down), and when he has his heart set on something not a lot can get in the way of it.  So he spent 26.2 miles in BEAST MODE and finished in 3:58 like a boss.

10501718_10100893526248045_550164097304826647_n

When I met him at the finish, he was somewhat delirious and extremely pale with very blue lips.  Through chattering teeth he swore he felt fine.  Endorphins are a powerful drug.  He maybe should have visited the medical tent, but since I’m a nurse I just walked/carried him back to the car and took him home to warm up and eat, and he recovered just fine.

This was the first marathon I spectated, and I know it’s ironic but it was exhausting.  Every time I cheered (which happened often) Tybee got excited and jumped around too, until about 45 minutes in when she just gave up and lay down on the street.  I kind of felt the same way.

First I went to the the halfway mark to cheer, and I got to see this incredible dude who finished first place in 2:12. That is to say, I saw a flash of flying limbs and tiny shorts and then he was gone.

At the half, all the runners looked awesome.  They were smiling and practically skipping down the course, and I was sad that I had registered and trained and I wasn’t out there with them.

But then I cheered at the 23 mile mark, and saw all the same runners again, looking a lot less awesome.  They were not smiling and they were practically staggering down the course, and I was much less sad that I wasn’t out there with them.

I’m also super proud of my friend Isabel, who finished in 4:45 and didn’t even struggle.  Good job, guys!  I feel truly honored to have run with such beasts!

Holiday Stress, Holiday Eating, and How not to Stress about Holiday Eating

As a kid, I never understood why adults always said that the holidays were such a stressful time.  I mean, what’s stressful about spending two months wasting time at school making paper Indian headdresses and pilgrim hats and taking field trips to go see the Nutcracker, and then getting two weeks off during which you get a bunch of presents?

But now I’m sort of a grown up and I’ve hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner for eight, I am starting to understand what they meant.  Just putting up the Christmas lights was a good four-hour affair complete with torrential rain, copious yelling, a minor ladder-related injury and some tears.  December seems like a swirl of Black-Friday-Cyber-Monday-panic-shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone I know, a series of parties (and subsequent red wine hangovers) requiring me to figure out how to actually wear red lipstick while also eating food and always remember to add some Holiday Sparkle to my outfit.  Holiday stress is real.

But holiday stress isn’t just about shopping, decorating, and having to dress nicely.  The true spirit of holiday stress can be found in holiday eating.

Eating too much during certain times of the year is a special American pastime, and expressing guilt about it seems just as important.  Even if you’re not usually a person who worries much about food or their weight, it’s hard to escape having to feel bad feelings about what you eat during the holidays.

I got an email from the wellness program that I participate in at work detailing exactly how many burpees are required to burn off a single serving of mashed potatoes (around 70 million) and the fact that you would have to run, like, twelve marathons in order to feel okay about eating an average-sized slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Okay, yes, I am exaggerating.  Because no, I did not even finish reading the email.  I have enough dessert-related internal turmoil to make me pretty bonkers during the holidays, and I don’t need a side of guilt with my guilt, thank you very much.  And while it’s fine to be a little more active when you know you’re going to eat a lot of buttery carbs, equating each bite of your grandma’s famous mashed potatoes with a requisite number of burpees takes the joy right out of those delicious forkfuls.

So let’s all try to put things in perspective this year.  Thanksgiving is just a meal, albeit one which is more delicious and special than usual and which you might share with friends or with a lot of family members whom you might or might not get along with.  You might have eaten too much pie and drank too much wine because you were happy or sad or stressed out and that’s okay.  You don’t need to do 70 million burpees to make up for it (please don’t.  I think you would actually die).

You might eat too many Christmas cookies because you only make them once a year and when Christmas is over there will be no more Christmas cookies in the world so you better eat 10 more because THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE.*  And that’s okay.  You might gain a few stress- and food-related holiday pounds.  And that’s okay, too.  (That’s why we all love sweaters and opaque tights this time of year.)

Just don’t waste your time freaking out about it, because 1) The holidays are stressful enough without worrying about precisely how many grams of fat are in your eggnog and 2) The holidays exist so that you can spend time celebrating with your family and friends.  So relax, and eat, drink and actually be merry.

*You could also make Christmas cookies in March, if you wanted to.  I am pretty sure that the Christmas cookie police will not root you out and arrest you for inappropriately timed holiday activities.

Winter Squash and Parsnip Soup

I don’t like winter weather.  I grew up in the South, so a little snow flurry causing total panic and a statewide emergency once a year is about all I can handle.   The winters in D.C., where I went to college, just about did me in and are 80% of the reason why I moved California.  So yes, I am a big baby about cold weather, and while you might have had to trudge through the snow this week, I had to turn on my heat and ride my bike in the rain and it was hard.

Luckily, I spent half of Sunday peeling, chopping and cooking a metric ton of winter root vegetables–beets, butternut squash, turnips and parsnips–and making them into delicious warm hearty meals for the week.  I roasted most of them and served them over risotto (I used this recipe from The Newlywed Cookbook), but I still had lots of squash and parsnips left for this easy, yummy soup.

Winter Squash and Parsnip Soup

15645332669_ccd84cddf1_z

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 12 ounces butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped (use a food processor to speed up the chopping)
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cans low-sodium chicken broth

Instructions

  1. In a large dutch oven or stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.
  2. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the squash, parsnips and thyme and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.  All the vegetables should be soft.
  5. Let cool a bit before processing in batches in a food processor or blending with an immersion blender until smooth.
  6. Return to the pot to heat back up and serve with warm, crusty bread.  Enjoy!

My Ass is Weak and I Run Like a Spaz

So, as part of the sports medicine workup for my hip pain, I had my running gait analyzed by a sports medicine specialist and a biomedical engineer.  This meant I got to run on a treadmill with three people watching me intently the entire time, and then I got to review video footage taken of me running from every angle in SLOW MOTION.  This is a uniquely horrifying experience.

This is partly because watching yourself run on video in slow motion means watching every single micron of jiggly stuff on your body jiggle at quarter speed.  But it’s mostly because although you thought you were pretty good at running, you know, because you do all those marathons and stuff, you find out that actually you run like a total embarrassing spaz.

It became apparent that my hips wobble from side to side way too much, my feet cross over the midline every time I take a step, and my knees want to knock together so I compensate by turning my feet out like a duck.  And there are probably other things they said that I didn’t really hear because I was too busy watching my thigh fat bounce up and down in wide-eyed terror.

Anyways, all of this stuff happens because my glutes and my core are too weak to properly stabilize my body when I run, and it actually puts a whole lot of extra stress on my hips and knees.  This is apparently very common, especially in women.  They seemed surprised that I haven’t had an injury until now, and I guess it’s just because I’m a total badass beast.  Okay I know that isn’t really why, but I just needed to say something to reclaim a tiny shred of my ruined self esteem.

But, here is the good part:

They think the pain in my hip is just regular old gluteal tendonitis brought on by overuse and my bad running form, and it’s not actually related to my deformed hip.  So, according to sports medicine, if I do the butt-strengthening exercises they gave me and improve my form, I can probably run again once it stops hurting.  The orthopedic surgeon might have a different opinion, but for now let’s just hope he feels the same way.

Also, when I told my dad I had gluteal tendonitis, he said “tendonitis of your BUTT!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA” and I had to explain to him that yes, dad, all of your muscles are connected to some sort of tendon, including your butt muscles.  He still thought it was funny.

This guy has gluteal tendonitis and he is super excited about it.

This guy has gluteal tendonitis and he seems pretty excited about it.

Adventures in Cross Training

So, that pain in my hip led to an xray, which led to me finding out that I actually have a congenital hip deformity that I never knew about for my entire life.  This is not exactly what I was expecting to hear.  I got to see the films, and my pelvis is definitely lopsided, my left hip bones are shaped weird and and both my hip sockets are rotated backwards somewhat.

This is not my xray, it's from the internet.  Mine looks like this, but weirder.

This is not my xray; it’s from the internet.  Mine looks like this, but weirder, and sadly I don’t have a copy.

So I saw a sports medicine specialist, who said the pain might or might not be related to this weirdness, and who referred me to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who specializes in congenital hip deformities.  Hopefully he will be able to tell me what it all means and what implications it has for the rest of my life, because at this point I really have no idea.

I am also going to have physical therapy for six weeks to strengthen and stretch my legs and core, and I also get to go to the sports performance lab to have my running gait analyzed by a biomedical engineer, which is pretty futuristic and awesome.  The good news is that after that I might be able to run again, although racing won’t be in my future for a while and I don’t think marathons will ever.

In the mean time, I have been doing something I haven’t really done for years: cross training.

After being lazy for about two weeks, I decided since I couldn’t run I might as well try out the exercise classes that they offer at work as part of the wellness program.  Not only are the classes really good, and offered AT WORK so you don’t even have to go anywhere, but they actually reward you for participating.  It’s amazing.

But I found out that years of too much running and not a lot of other forms of exercise has made me kind of inept at other forms of exercise.  I tried Boot Camp and Kickboxing, and I struggled kind of a lot, which was made slightly worse as far as my pride goes because I was surrounded by women who, although middle aged, had arms like Michelle Obama and high kicks like a mom version of Chuck Norris.

I realized that although my legs look somewhat like the Hulk’s in terms of muscle, my arms are weak, pathetic little noodles and my coordination leaves something to be desired when doing kick-jab-cross-jab-kick-bounce-jab combos.  All in all, although I’m hoping to be able to run a little again soon, I think it’s probably good for me to branch out a bit.  Even if I can’t lift my arms above the shoulders for a few days afterwards.

Spicy Peanut Slaw with Brown Rice

So remember that time I stopped running for a few weeks because I was fine until all of a sudden my hip started hurting, a lot?  Well, I went and got those xrays that I had put off, and as it turns out I don’t have an injury per se, but I do have a significant congenital deformity of the hip and pelvis that is probably the cause of my problems and that I never knew about for my entire life until right now.  SURPRISE!!!!!!

This probably means that I can’t run marathons again, ever, because the stress will just cause more and more progressive damage and I don’t really want to have a hip replacement when I’m 35.

I feel old.

Also, I might need to change the name of this blog to something like hungrygirlsits.

But since I don’t really feel like dealing with this right now, let me distract us all with an easy, healthy weeknight recipe.  I sort of invented this one evening when I had all of these things in my fridge and not a lot of time, and to my surprise it actually ended up tasting pretty delicious.

Spicy Peanut Slaw with Brown Rice

15652928151_f1fd8e1227_z

Ingredients

The slaw15469645567_da998fff53_z

  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 package marinated tofu (I use this marinated baked tofu from trader joes), cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped or slivered
  • 1 small or 1/2 large avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonaded

The dressing

  • 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 2 tsp water
  • Dash of ground ginger
  • Dash of chili powder15034856924_bf80358a8e_z

For serving

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, tofu, almonds, avocado, cilantro and basil.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, water, ginger and chili powder until smooth.
  3. Toss the slaw with the dressing and serve over the warm brown rice.