To the ladies (and gents) out there trying to get a “summer body”

It’s SWEATING SEASON.

Boston is finally starting to heat up and I am looooooving it. As if I don’t go through laundry quickly enough, I am wearing multiple outfits a day now to accommodate my perpetual sweatiness. Actually, I am perpetually sweaty no matter what season it is, but now it’s profuse perpetual sweatiness.

Not that you care.

Someone on Instagram asked me last week to talk about my fitness journey a little bit, to which I agreed. I have talked about it a few times here on the blog, but I am always happy to share my story (which is ever evolving anyway) with any new friends (hi!).

For those who are returning readers (ily) familiar with my fitness journey, perhaps you can appreciate this post’s current perspective, which is in light of “summer body” season.

I made a little collage comparing pre-college and graduate school Alison. This will serve as a bit of context for the rest of my story.

D i s c l a i m e r: Please understand that every BODY is so uniquely different. There are some of you who currently look more like “pre-college” Alison who are perfectly healthy (i.e., no disordered thoughts around food or exercise, regular menstrual cycle, happy gal). There are some of you who look more like “grad school” Alison but may struggle with disordered eating and exercise, etc. And then there’s every type of body in between and beyond. Please do your best to know thyself. ♥︎

I won’t dive too deeply into how my fitness journey started, because I recently wrote a post about how it started very humbly with a Beyonce dance video and 15 minutes per day on the elliptical. Essentially, I am a naturally lazy person who was motivated to start working out by the will to lose weight in my high school years.

My story follows a relatively common narrative seen in many young women’s lives. She starts having an obsessive eating/exercise disorder because of sports or an innocent (or not) desire to get “toned”/less fat/whatever ➔ she has a deeply cutting revelation of her health state and embarks a long but beautiful push-pull journey of recovering (e.g., needing to take breaks from intense exercise in order to get menstrual cycle back) ➔ sometimes revisits old habits in times of stress and insecurity ➔ overall remains 99.9% recovered.

In no way do I mean to minimize anyone’s unique story, nor my own, but I am simplifying the narrative as a testament to how easy and common it is to fall into the trap of disordered eating and exercise.

(Here is a post about when I felt I truly stopped becoming obsessed with exercise and here is a peek into my undergrad workout routine, which is kind of similar to my routine now, except I am currently more lax.)

In all transparency, I do still go through phases during which I struggle with my body image and wonder if X, Y, or Z will help me feel better about myself. I attribute this to being a human who uses social media. However, fitness has slowly but surely become something that is first and foremost FOR function, mental health, and happiness. It is NOT FOR (or I avoid at all costs to make it for) a certain physique, weight, or “summer body.”

Back to the photo above. I had ripped abs in high school. You could perhaps say I had a nice “summer body.” True, I did a lot of core work, but the main reason my abs were so prominent is that I had very little body fat due to restriction of calories and overexercising.

I was chronically tired and unhappy.

I would like to draw your attention to my wrists in the first photo. I have genetically tiny wrists in the first place, but at that time, even I would think they were on the brink of snapping at some point. I don’t look incredibly unhealthy in the rest of the photo; some would say I look great. I remember people commenting on how fit and strong I looked (again, just because you could SEE my abs). But recalling how skeletal my hands looked, and, above all, recalling how unhappy I felt within, I know now that no external appearance made summer any better for me.

My workouts at that point had to make me want to die or else it wasn’t really worth it. I must admit that I did grow a lot in my general fitness and strength this time, because I pushed myself more than I ever did in my life (remember, I am a naturally lazy person). However, I could only improve to a certain point. There was very little rest and very little fuel to keep me going.

Refer to some of the above posts if you are interested in the interim between pre-college Alison and grad school (current) Alison. It’s been a long journey!

As the photo caption says, I have since gained 40-45 lbs in both fat and muscle (and maybe bone honestly; I was a late bloomer). You can no longer see a 6-pack. Who knows what you can even see; I don’t like posting my midriff on social media now (for modesty reasons, not due to any sort of shame for what my abs do or do not look like).

I am a pear-shaped, lower-body-heavy person who is consequently challenged by any sort of leg raise exercise. People (usually older Asian folks) have commented on how large and bulky I look. I have also gained weight pretty much every single year since I entered college (although my weight is probably at its happy point currently).

However, I am stronger, faster, happier, and healthier than I was in the first two photos, and I genuinely look forward to working out. And this freedom and joy in moving my body is worth so much more than a photo of ripped abs could ever capture.

Regarding my current fitness routine, quarantine has of course made me get creative. But even if the gyms were available, I like to think that my routine and mindset would be the same. 9/10 times I make up my workout the day of, and I frequently modify the workout as I’m doing it, whether it’s too easy or too difficult.

I could not report to you the number of workouts I do every week, because I don’t log them or premeditate the number (although I have been posting some of my workouts on my Instagram story recently to share ideas, so I guess you can check there to approximate).

I have learned a lot from physical therapy school, which helps me to think about different muscle groups and exercises that are for far more than an aesthetic.

I also have come to appreciate intentionality during workouts (thanks to the knowledge of some cool women like Natacha Oceane and Tanya Poppett). In other words, whatever you are doing, do. it. well. If it’s supposed to be explosive, explode for every rep. If it’s supposed to be slow and controlled working every tiny muscle you never knew you had, then do that. If you’re stretching, focus continually on the positioning of your joints. Adjust the reps and time as needed to make it quality > quantity. With this change, every movement session is an opportunity for improvement in fitness (note: not necessarily improvement in physique), because all my brain power is going into something particular, even if it is just the positioning of a stretch, for example.

More intention = better form = better motor patterns = better movement. And get sufficient rest in between! I guess this is how I always wished I approached fitness. If I could give advice to those trying to build up their fitness in a healthy way, this would be it.

So to all the ladies and gents out there tryin’ to get a summer body: I’m not here to tell you to stop your fitness or food regimen to get shredded for the summer. There are plenty of people who can do that happily and healthfully. I will just, as always, implore you to reflect honestly about the motivations, the goal, and how happy and healthy you are in the process.

A practical self-check is asking yourself how much time during the day you spend think about how you can achieve a certain physique goal. I can’t give you a certain percentage of the day, but if it’s “most of the day”, that could indicate the need for re-evaluation of your current habits.

You might not be “one of those people” who can get shredded without compromising mental/physical health. I am here to tell you that I understand the frustration of that deeply, and you are not alone. But the freeing happiness to which you are called is worth more than a “perfect” summer body.

My “summer bod” (whatever that means for 2020) is a short and stocky conglomerate of all the cells that are uniquely me. I’m enjoying fitness right now and I feel rested and well. I hope you feel rested and well, too. Ain’t no time for summer stressing.

(Disclaimer #2: All my recommendations are coming from my own anecdotal experience, as well as from others with whom I have spoken. However, I am not a medical doctor nor an eating disorder specialist. Please speak with other trusted healthcare professionals if you are seeking personalized help. As a resource, my friend Lauren Bickford, RD, aka the Food Fight RD, is a certified intuitive eating counselor.)

Current Simple Joys

Life is hectic and cluttered enough, so let’s keep things simple today.

current simple joys

Snow days.

img_7007

{last Thursday}

Making waffles with my roommate on said snow day.

img_7001

and glasses of milk in mason jars

Ecstatic Californian friends who have never experienced a snow day before (@Sarah).

img_7011

crooked smiles because I’m pretty sure the left side of my face was frozen

Sipping hot cocoa and talking about the mystery of the universe with friends after coming inside from the frigid cold.

img_7017

Situations/statements that make me or someone else laugh like an idiot.

When people do spot-on impressions of other people.

Workout dates with Christina.

img_7022

Followed by lunch dates + good lighting for food photos.

img_7025img_7030

@ Mei Mei’s Street Kitchen – we shared corn fritters…

img_7031

…and I got a classic double awesome 

img_7033

When my best friend gets me a piece of carrot cake with a glass o’ milk at the dining hall.

img_7034

Waking up after less than 7 hours of sleep but still feeling alert.

Bending over to stretch and letting blood rush to my head after a long day.

Perfect avocados.

img_7041

Which turn into perfect avocado egg toasts.

img_7042

When hundreds of gross anatomy flashcards pay off.

Friends who are undyingly loving of one another.

Gelato on sale.

img_7047

Painting my nails while studying.

img_7049

Standing close to the stage for an acoustic concert with my best friend.

img_7060img_7062img_7066

Hailey Knox opened – she is insanely talented!!!

img_7086

just supporting my close pals

img_7091

they are incredible ♥︎ 

Discovering a new song to play on repeat.

Breakfast that’s already made.

img_7112

Having pockets of time to move and groove in some way every day.

Mountains of guacamole.

img_7114

not a joy – stomach ache after eating this whole thing #whoops

FaceTiming with the family.

Having something to look forward to this weekend (retreat + long weekend + Rachel turning 21!).

So tell me:

Three current simple joys in your life!

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m Happier Without Instagram

SNOW DAY!!!

It’s been two years since our last snow day here at BU. The last time this happened, we were experiencing snowpocalypse and had 5 snow days on almost every Monday of the week from January-February.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

#tbt

Someone noted that the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year also…

Yesterday it was sunny and warm, except for the morning when I got to ice skate to dance class. This is actual footage of me walking  perilously penguin shuffling across the frozen-over bridge.

I have never more greatly appreciated the function of salt on the sidewalks.

From salt and snow to INSTAGRAM. (#NoSegueNoProblem #BloggerLife)

I’ve been on a break from (what used to be) my favorite social media platform for over a month now. I miss it sometimes as I’m not “in the loop” with health living bloggers and friends as much anymore, but I can’t say that I truly miss it. In fact, I dare say that I am much happier without Instagram.

The main reason for which I am happier is that Instagram was a comparison trap for me, whether I liked to admit it or not, and now I’ve finally cut it out of my life. This mostly applies to fitness. I am much more content with my workouts (vs. thinking about the workout that someone else posted on Instagram today), and I’m less concerned about what my body looks like on a day to day basis.

The temptation to obsess over comments, likes, followers and notifications is gone.

I feel incredibly liberated in not having any social media icons on my phone. I don’t mindlessly pick up my phone to check notifications anymore. My right thumb also feels less fatigued due to less scrolling (true story).

My attention span has probably improved.

I don’t crave noise as much anymore. In fact, I find myself craving silence, which never used to happen.

I take fewer photos, which might be more of an advantage for my friends/family than it is for me.

I just have more brain space without Instagram.

Disclaimers: I do still have Facebook, because it’s a practical way to stay in touch with people and organize school events. Plus, the temptation to scroll on FB isn’t as great as it is on Instagram. Also, I’m not at all saying that everyone will be happier without Instagram. I just know for myself that Instagram has more negative than positive effects on my life.

I’m only a little bit sad to be admitting all of this. I did enjoy sharing workouts and tidbits of life, but I don’t need it, and others don’t need my Instagram presence. I’d say a personal blog is enough of me in the world wide web.

Other scenes from the week:

img_6990

an evening with the brachial plexus

img_6989

check out this pristine sky on the day I gave my first campus tour in 8 months!

img_6985

one thing I like + one thing I like substantially less

img_6991

banana bread baked oatmeal with pb + glass o’ milk

img_6998

Thrive Market delivery! 

Some moves and grooves I was diggin’ these past two weeks:

// Lower Body Supersets //

  • 3×10 squats
  • 3×20 jump squats
  • 3×10 deadlifts
  • 3×30 side jump lunges
  • 3×3 wall walks
  • 3×10 box jumps

// Hillary’s 400 Heavy Rep Workout //

// 45 Minute Fightmaster Vinyasa Yoga //

// AMRAP and EMOM //

12 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):

  • 6 pistol squats each leg
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 situps

10 min EMOM (every minute, on the minute):

10 min EMOM:

  • Even: 20 hamstring ball curls
  • Odd: 20 KB swings

// Fitness Blender 20 Minute Abs and Obliques Workout //

// 16 Minute Workout //

4 rounds, 30 seconds work, 10 seconds rest

Stay safe and warm if you’re in the snow storm! Enjoy your pre-Friday, friends ♥︎

So tell me:

Have you ever taken a break from social media and discovered that you’re happier?

Is it snowing where you live?

Three things about your week!

Your favorite way you’ve moved this week.

What I’m Currently Craving For This Blog

The Lord is merciful. As soon as I complained about kind of hot and humid weather

BUH BAM.

Absolutely perfect weather these past couple of days. I went on a walk Monday morning, and it was…chilly(!) in the shade.

These pretty flowers are artistic expressions of my emotions in this weather.

IMG_2584

open, vibrant, kinda scattered, but loving life

Other reasons why the stressful Monday mood turned right-side up:

DSC_2705

perfect batch of peach banana overnight oats (added some Greek yogurt as per the OG recipe!)

IMG_2578

soft and satisfying chocolate chip cookie a la physical therapist

PLUS, my coworker gave me half of her homemade beef and egg empanada after I got a whiff of it and commented on how amazing it smelled. PLUS-PLUS, one of the patients brought me a box of cookies since it’s my last week at work! 11

I can’t handle the generosity *squishes cheeks in between hands*!!!

All these and other little sweetnesses (literally and figuratively) during my day are keeping all the stressful and/or negative things at bay. Like cramming all my study abroad preparations, because I’m a procrastinator.

Moving on…

IMG_2583

As I snacked on this new-to-me Pure Organic bar yesterday, I started to organize my thoughts about this blog.

I’ve had phases of both strict and lax scheduling for my blog. This summer I’ve been posting approximately twice a week, which feels natural with my work schedule. That being said, it’s always: a weekend recap post + some special themed or deep-thought post.

Don’t get me wrong, those posts always flow from a genuine place, and I’ve enjoyed writing them. However, I feel like I have SO MANY things in my brain that I want to write down and share with you almost every day. Especially as I’m experiencing a multitude of new events, emotions, responsibilities, people, places, and things at this stage in my life, I’m craving for this space to be filled with big AND little insights.

In other words, I’m craving slightly more frequent but shorter posts with the same kind of thoughtfulness and meaning as my mega long posts. I don’t want to squeeze everything that’s happening in my life into a single monster post all the time. I can share less of what happens but more of what happens in my head and heart.

I want to ask you guys more life questions. Questions about things that no one talks about but everyone probably thinks about. Not just, “what did you eat last night?” (although I do still want to know that too).

Don’t worry— I’ll still be talking about “healthy living”-related things, and I’ll still have longer posts. Also, I definitely will NOT be posting every day for the sake of it; I will post when I feel like I have meaningful or entertaining content to put out.

As Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers so wisely said: post what you would want to read!

Part of me doesn’t want to post this, because I know my schedule is about to turn upside down and inside out with studying abroad, buuuuut these are my thoughts and we’ll see if I execute the way I see it in my head. If not, then…nothing changes!

You know it:

meme humpday

[source]

So tell me:

What are some nice things about your week that are counteracting the stress?

Would you like to read short “thought/reflection of the day” or “story time” posts?

Friends Pushing Me to Be Better

I just ate a dinner of popcorn, Chex Mix, celery, chocolate cake, an apple, “gorilla dip”, and a singular chicken wing.

IMG_0136

#nutrition

Also, the only thing I watched from the Super Bowl last night was the halftime show and the Honda commercial with the singing sheep, and that was everything I needed.

IMG_0138

I love Coldplay, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars, but did anyone else feel like the halftime performance as a whole was a weird combo?

Anyway, I have nothing more to say about the Super Bowl, so let’s talk about how my wonderful friends have been kicking my butt in the best way possible.

Rewind to Friday: I had biomechanics in the morning, a good lunch with friends, bible study, a workout, homework, and productive procrastination (working on a birthday gift for someone!).

IMG_0103

Two of my dear friends, Mai and Kelsey, are in my bible study, and listening to their perspectives and insights on Scripture and faith in general was so inspiring. Most of all, their willingness to share their own doubts and trials humbles me to face my own doubts and trials.

Saturday started off with a walk through winter wonderland to get to work (unintentional alliteration).

IMG_0114

I tried to pack more substantial snacks so that I wouldn’t be so lightheaded and cranky like I was last week at work, but I guess all the walking, cooking, and cleaning I do (and the fact that I end at 2pm) just does me in. Needless to say, lunch was again demolished.

IMG_0128

While I was studying, my pal Connor came up to chat with me for a bit, and he gave me nuggets of wisdom to deal with my academic stress. His words were simple and things I knew logically, but I still needed someone to tell them to me in order to internalize it. 1) Happiness is important. 2) Don’t stress out because other people have more knowledge than you. Do what you need to do, but there’s no good in comparing and worrying.

Good stuff.

Saturday night involved a workout, some studying, and Tasty Burger (!!!) with the best friend.

IMG_0129

A cheeseburger from this joint was on our food bucket list, and Saturday night was the night to crush it.

IMG_0135

We liked their milkshakes as much as we liked their burgers! The shakes were uber thick and creamy. Like, you had to work those cheek muscles to drink it through the straw.

IMG_0131

love at first bite

Rachel and I talked about our Lent resolutions since it starts this Wednesday, and one of my things to “give up” is makeup. I don’t wear a lot, but I do wear a little every day. I told Rachel with hesitance that I would give up makeup, but the next day I told her I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. She insisted that giving up makeup would be good for me, and that I shouldn’t cave just because it’s hard (it’s definitely not supposed to be easy!). I agree. Wearing no makeup will help me focus on my character and fight vanity.

97ddca8d18da64f299b67d7c7eb891fd

[source]

My roommate Jordan also gave me a great slice of humble pie when I told her that I’m not always early (and sometimes a little late) to things, especially if I’m meeting with a close friend. She told me that everyone, close friends or professional mentors, should have their time respected. Duh, common sense, right? But it’s easier said than done for me these days (punctuality is slacking). Jordan is 100% right though. I should never take advantage of my friends’ time just because I’m close to them.

e38a3e5b6789f983464445d8d984efb2

[source]

Lastly, my amazing friend Christina invited me to do mobile soup kitchen with her last night. I joined her and some other kind volunteers, but I knew that I wanted to make it back in time for the Super Bowl halftime show. Towards the end of the route, I started to get impatient and antsy to make it back to campus, but just watching how patient, considerate, and kind Christina was with all the people we met was a humbling and beautiful sight. A lesson in selflessness right in front of me.

I am constantly in awe of my friends and the beauty of their souls. God is definitely shaping me up through their example and words. And of course, so many bloggers push me to be better too. Thanks, guys ♥︎

Hope you all have a happy week! We’re kind of hoping that BU calls in for a snow day today…

So tell me:

Do your friends keep you “on track”?

What is one lesson you learned/were reminded of this weekend?

Thoughts on the Super Bowl/halftime show?

Best thing you did this weekend. Probably Tasty Burger with Rachel!