The Power of Tea (And Other Healthy Habits)

Brace yourselves, friends, because I’m fairly certain I’m jinxing myself with this post. Alas, I’m all about (or trying to be) sending positive thoughts into the universe, so we won’t even think of it in that way. Somehow we’ve made it to March, with all the weather ups and downs, without me getting sick.

I’ve had the sniffles for a day or two throughout the season, but I drank tea with lemon and honey and it never came into fruition!

Unfortunately, this post was inspired by my mom feeling under the weather with what she termed, ‘the man cold’, because she was up only long enough to walk the dog (good on her!) and enjoy this breakfast I made:

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To go along with the meal, I accompanied it with a warm mug of green tea with the secret ingredients to a healthy life. I’m not kidding, if there is one elixir for a healthy life (except for say, WATER), green tea would be it. Swirl a dash of honey and a spritz of lemon in there and you’ve got yourself a good old-fashioned remedy.

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I know my good health fortune owes thanks to a few factors, steady and consistent exercise and a (for the most part) healthy diet included. But I cannot say enough about the health benefits of green tea. Partly this is thanks to the fact that I don’t have the patience to seep (HA!) through the science of it all, but there is science involved. It also helps that the only liquids I drink are water (drink more water!), tea (green tea, black tea, all the tea!), coffee (also proven to be healthy), and the occasional alcoholic beverage (red wine has antioxidants and tequila just loosens up everything!). Let’s try to focus more on the water, coffee, tea thing my friends.

It was during the Lenten season four years ago that I said goodbye to soda and I don’t even miss it anymore. I know that no one wants to hear it, and I kinda hate to say it, but soda is so so bad for you. Seltzer is only a sort of option because it has the fizz but it’s an acquired taste and won’t taste as satisfying as soda, at first! So, sorry, but cut it back, then cut it out and move on. Your tastebuds and your hot bod will thank you for it!

I will be the first to admit that my diet could use some tidying up (too much sugar!) and I’m working on that, but overall, I eat well. This means I eat a ton ton ton of fruits and veggies with every meal. Leafy greens in particular- give me all the spinach! Once again, we’re hit with all the science behind how important it is to eat those fruits and veggies, but rather than rant on and on about what I only know at a glance, I’ll say this: there are fun ways to eat those fruits and veggies and it can be fun to explore! However, if you don’t have the time, patience, or the care to do that exploring, then just eat the veggies plain, grilled, or roasted, but you still gotta eat them! Also, the more you eat them and move away from processed foods, the better they taste. Promise!

Moving onto exercise….I know I like and do exercise more than the average person and I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of that. I didn’t wake up one day and decide it, I worked for that! Thing is, it’s a habit, just like so much else what we do in life and my day isn’t complete without it. Each day doesn’t have to be perfect, well-choreographed, and butt-kicking, but it should be done. Your body is stronger than you can even imagine and it yearns to be challenged, just as much as that mind. So work it! Exercise leads to healthy and healthy leads to happy. It’s one of those things you’ll look back later in life and think If I’d only done more….or If I only started then…or, I think you get the picture.

Unfortunate thing is, none of these alone or together are a cure all for anything. I’m just talking about staving off the cold or the flu and even if I follow all of these rules, those icky germs can still work their way into my system. But overall, doing these things will help a ton when it comes to recovery, emotional wellness, and physical health. And you will feel a heck of a lot better when you are healthy.

Just something to think about!

Have a great weekend everybody and-

Ugh….I just sneezed, but I don’t think it’s a thing…

 

Improvisational Cooking: Creative in the Kitchen

As a writer and daydreamer, I like to think that I am observational. I do have supreme organizational skills and can focus on smaller details, but last night, from the lack of sleep the night before, I was kind of a mess. I couldn’t stop yawning and was tucked into my bed by 9:00 PM on the dot. And I don’t remember much after that. After dinner, I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea to ease digestion and settle my stomach for rest, but I made it halfway through my cup last night before I realized it tasted funny. I never put the tea bag into the cup, so I was just drinking hot water and didn’t even notice. I think this says more about me and how tired I was yesterday than the tea, which is just awkward.

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Notice the tea bag in this photo! Evidence that I haven’t completely gone bonkers- yet.

Looking at this picture, I can see that it is not one of my “dark” days for my eyebrows. Yes, I have eyebrows. When I was teaching, I had a student ask me why I didn’t have any, which was discouraging. I happen to have alarmingly light eyebrows, lasting remnants of what was once shockingly white blonde hair from the ages of 3-5. I had no hair before that, prompting my mother to pierce my ears from the moment I left the womb and forcing her to tape little pink bows on top of my head. My hypothesis is that my light eyebrows and thin hair are the product of the same thing, but what that thing is, I don’t know. All I know is that very light, almost non-existent, eyebrows cause my already large head to appear larger. Some might even say that I have a five-head. It’s good that I can talk about it now.

The cold does not make waking up early and trekking it to the gym any easier. Since I’ve survived so far, my hope is that once it’s warmer-if it ever is- and the day’s longer, it will be even easier to wake up in the morning. My one complaint, other than the usual dreadfulness of hearing the alarm clock blast, is stepping outside into the frigid air and waiting eons for the car to warm up. I don’t even wait, I just drive, and by the time I’m comfortable, I’m pulling into the gym. Wah. It’s been good so far though and there’s no denying how much better I feel throughout my day once I’ve gotten that workout in!

My day started with a scoop of peanut butter, chopped banana and strawberries, rolled into a whole wheat tortilla. I would have snapped a picture, but the banana wasn’t looking too fresh- even though it tasted great- and I didn’t think it needed to be documented forever.

At the gym, it fueled me through a kettlebell and a dumbbell circuit. For each, I did 4 sets of 12 reps. Kettlebells included swings, deadlifts, shoulder raises, high lifts, and mermaid raises. For dumbbells, I made it through kickback rows, alternating shoulder presses, alternating bicep curls, alternating front lifts, and used the stability ball for overhead extensions and bench presses. Alternating weight, grips, and equipment- even for the same moves- help to keep your body guessing and makes a workout more effective. I haven’t done box jumps in a few days, so I went through 4 sets of 12 reps of those and did a short plank sequence before jumping on the treadmill for a two-miler.

I was feeling nice and energized after a shower and sat down to enjoy this bowl of oats. The night before, I mixed oats, cinnamon, raisins, dates, mashed banana, walnuts, and milk to make overnight oatmeal. I threw some blueberries in there for an extra health kick. The cold oats with my hot coffee made a nice dynamic duo and I was satiated until lunchtime.

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I was such a big fan of my lunch! I had more of these chicken meatballs- four is one serving and they are so SO good! I threw them into stir-fried veggies of peppers, carrots, baby spinach, mushrooms, and snap peas on top of some rice and mixed it all with a thai peanut sauce. It made my stomach happy because it was yummy and healthy! I rounded out my meal with a juicy orange. This time of year, it’s better to have an excess of vitamin C than not enough to stave off colds!

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Look at these bad boys. Aren’t they beautiful? I had high hopes for these fish tacos. I seasoned tilapia with a little Cajun seasoning, chopped it up and tossed them onto two corn tortillas with a medley of fresh veggies- baby kale, butternut squash, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms. I also drizzled some cheese and more of that Thai peanut sauce on top. Once I bit into it, it became apparent that the shells were not sturdy. Improvising, I decided the tortillas didn’t taste well enough to waste on my calories, so instead I took out the filling and ate it like a stir fry. For my grains, I had two pieces of whole wheat sour dough toast. The end result was a divine meal, even if it didn’t look as pretty as what you see now.

photo 3Reminder that food can still be fun and tasty when it’s healthy. It just means you- or the person who cooks for you- has to tap into their more creative side. I forget this sometimes, especially when it comes to the weekend, but I’m making more of an effort to try new recipes and home cooking rather than spending money on food out at restaurants. Half the time now, I find myself disappointed or thinking I could have made a dish fresher, healthier, and tastier, not to mention cheaper, if I made it myself at home. Maybe this means I need to have a dinner party!

Hydrate Till You Glow

One thing I find I don’t frequently, if at all, talk about is what I drink. I drink a ton- of water that is. Another important facet of my weight loss and sustainability has been my habit of staying hydrated throughout the day. This seems easy peasy. We all need water to survive. It’s funny though how, if we don’t focus on it or make it a point to drink more water, we end up not drinking enough. People rely heavily on coffee to stay focus and energized, and believe me, I get it, but water helps a lot too, and you would probably feel a lot better if you drank more water.

Every day, even before breakfast, and we know I love breakfast, I have a large glass of water. I chug it down, whether my body feels up to it or not because it instantly makes me feel more awake. It’s like magic. Then I’ll move onto my warming cup of coffee. Coffee is another thing I have been working on. I do love it, but I’ve been trying to train myself to drink it black. I moved on long ago from any kind of sweetener (except for Iced Coffee where I still use half a sugar packet-ugh!) and only drink it with milk or cream. There was that awful realization that the creamer I was using had a ton of creepy, icky fake things inside so I quickly moved away from that and now use a dash of half and half whose only ingredients are milk and cream. Slowly but surely I’ll move away from even that.

After my water and coffee during breakfast, I’ll move onto another tall glass of water and a cup of tea. I do drink my tea completely black because I like the taste more that way. Tea is something I drink way more of in the cooler months because hot tea just doesn’t make me feel great when it’s hot and humid outside.

Throughout the day, I make a conscious decision to drink water on a consistent basis to the point where it’s not even conscious anymore. If my glass or water bottle empties, I fill it and drink some more. I am especially aware of how much water I drink on the days I run because not enough leaves me parched and tired, while too much makes me have to pee- having to pee while running makes running not fun.

One trick I’ve learned in drinking water is by infusing it with fruit. That ish is everywhere, first seen at my undergrad cafeteria. It’s another obvious, and these infusers are everywhere. It softens up the bland taste of water and makes it go down easier. I’ve never loved juice or any of the fancy waters they make sweetened. It always tasted false and full of product. With my more defined and healthier palate, I can’t drink any of that stuff at all.

To get that palate, I had to let go of something I never thought I would be able to- soda. Listen, diet soda was a fixture of my childhood and life, mostly because I spent a lot of time with my Nana and her sister and they were diabetic so they drank a ton of soda. I get it, we didn’t know how bad it was then, nor the importance of drinking it on the rare occasion. I was popping soda like I pop water now. NOT GOOD. I gave it up for Lent one year and I was literally having dreams about it. How sad is that? I was so addicted to that carbonate stuff that I barely functioned during those months.

When I was first getting serious about my weight loss, I knew that soda would have to go. It ended up being not as hard as I thought. My roommate and I made a joint goal to not drink it for a week, then pushed it to two. Then we decided we would give it up for Lent again, indulged in one more glass, and I haven’t drunken it since. There is the rare occasion that soda will find itself into a mixed drink, but I’ve found that I am put off by the taste and it makes me feel gross. Since going off the good stuff, I realized that I have more cravings and appreciation for naturally sweet things, like fruit and vegetables. That’s probably a combination of not engorging myself on fake products, being conscious of what I’m eating, and appreciating food more in general.

Sometimes, life can seem boring when you only drink water, coffee, and tea, especially when you are out to a restaurant. In these cases, if I’m ever feeling left out when one of my friends or family members orders a soda, I go for an unsweetened iced tea with lemon. The other downside is that I have to pee all the time. It’s never-ending and I have no shame.

Another drink I haven’t talked much about is alcohol. I do enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on the rare occasion, especially if we are having Italian, but even then I’d rather spend those calories on a cookie. I’m not much of a drinker and I don’t have to drink much to have fun. On holidays or special events, I’ll probably drink more wine than normal, but it doesn’t take much to leave me flushed. When I go out with friends, it can sometimes seem awkward if I don’t get much to drink, but again, I’d rather spend those extra calories on food, and also, it’s just expensive to go out, sheesh. I’m not against drinking, and I’ll indulge every so often, but when it comes down to it, I’m not that adventurous. I like wine and if there isn’t any good wine or if I’ve had my fill, I drink water. No apologies.

Now, excuse me. I am about to enjoy this large glass of beautiful water.

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