Don’t lose yourself.

pray.

Gosh I hate how cliche that title sounds, but it’s the topic of this post and the thing on my heart as of late.

First of all, I’ve been praying for a lot of grace and gusto going from six months of having virtually no hard schedule to a full-time work schedule soon. Even just training this week tuckered me out, but that was also due to the stress of wondering, “HOW WILL I REMEMBER EVERYTHING AND ALSO BE THE PT THESE PATIENTS WANT ME TO BE?!” I’m filling the position of another PT who is moving to another position within the same company, and her patients love her (for good reason; she’s awesome at what she does and super kind to boot), so I’m definitely feeling the pressure of filling big shoes.

As I said in my latest day in the life vlog, prayer is major key for everything in my life. So I have been telling God about the pressure I am feeling to be exactly like this amazing PT who is leaving, as well as the fear of losing my mind a bit due to having much less time to pray during the day (and mostly just my mind being filled with thoughts about my job).

There are productivity numbers to hit, patients to care for, nuances to remember, hours to work. No one by any means is putting any undue pressure on me, to be clear. But the internal pressure to rise to the occasion makes me panic and want to just do anything I can to conform and please. But I have to remember what I believe as a physical therapist, given the education I have received. And from a personal standpoint, I have to make time around my schedule for the things that build up my relationship with the One I love and to be intentional about sanctifying my work as one biiiig prayer to God.

I am 1000% having newbie professional stress that I know will subside with time. I am very open to new ideas and experiences, but in all of it, I do not want to lose myself.

eat.

On Sunday I made baked cinnamon sugar donut holes (mini muffins) using this recipe, since I don’t have a donut mold. They were everything I wanted in a homemade donut.

For work I’ve decided I will he making ham, cheese and lettuce sandwiches with mayo and mustard. Let me tell you, I LOVE this classic brown bag type of sandwich. Untoasted. It’s nostalgic somehow, even though I barely ate ham and cheese as a child?

move.

I’ve still been posting my workouts on my instagram stories (which are saved on my highlights!), but here was one of my favorites from the past week:

  • 100 American KB swings (broken up any way you’d like)
  • 100 goblet squats (I broke up into sets of 25)
  • 50 pushups (I did sets of 5-10 at a time for form)
  • 50 burpees (i did in sets of 10 any style you’d like)

This was a simple and quick workout that focused on form over anything! I’ve been really honing in on perfecting my form as much as possible with every rep to increase the effectiveness of the exercise and make my workouts more efficient.

groove.

On Sunday night I learned the dance moves to the bridge of the song “Amigas Cheetahs’ by the Cheetah Girls (go to 3:15 to see the part I learned). I have always loved that part of the song and also the dance moves but it only took me ten years since first seeing the movie to learn it. #disneydreamsdocometrue

I do the dance like twice a day at least now.

I typed this whole post on my phone because my laptop has decided to do magic tricks and make my whole operating system completely disappear??? Getting that checked out this weekend.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

So tell me:

Have you ever felt like the hustle of life / work made you “lose yourself” to any degree?

Have you ever made homemade donuts?

What is a silly childhood dream of yours? Has it ever come true??

Accepting truth, no matter who says it or how you feel

Heyo! I hope you all had a wonderful and restful weekend. If you did not, I hope that you are still receiving many instances of joy and peace throughout.

pray.

Although God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves and even to love our enemies, I’m sure we all know / know of people who we don’t really like (but who we ought to still love) OR people who we like but don’t trust fully because of certain things they regularly believe, say, or do (not that we can put full trust in any one person in the first place, but perhaps you get the gist).

Those people can be politicians, family members, friends, clergy members, bosses, colleagues, celebrities, anyone (i.e., human beings). I am talking about those people who, when they give some sort of advice or opinion, you instinctively react to defend yourself, oppose what they are saying, or criticize their argument in some way, because you know that they believe something differently from you or because they have said ludicrous things in the past. In a sense, you’re tempted to make an ad hominem argument, or attack the person’s argument based on your perception of his/her character.

I think most people know not to attack a person’s argument based on his/her character (although we see a lot of that these days anyway). But I can say for myself that I certainly do feel ~sOmE TyPe of wAy~ when someone with whom I don’t agree on certain things (not even hot topic issues, but just general approaches to daily life things) gives me their advice or thoughts. My immediate internal reaction is to push back somehow; there must be some disagreement here, because I subconsciously think (sometimes mistakenly) that we fundamentally don’t see eye-to-eye.

But that other person, whoever it is, can still say things that are good and true, even if not everything they say is good and true. They can still give me sound advice on specific things, even if they have given me unsound advice in the past.

That period of recognizing and acknowledging the truth in what that person is saying — and that period of taming my pride and replacing it with humility — is sometimes more painful than I’d like to admit.

So I have been praying for the grace of humility to accept and acknowledge truth when it is said and done, no matter who it comes from and no matter how I feel about it in the moment.

Oof that was a longer reflection than I thought it would be.

eat.

I bought avocados for the first time in a while, so I’ve been enjoying some classic avocado egg toast with sriracha the past couple days. Ooooo baby, this combo will never get old.

old pic but looks exactly the same – runny yolks FTW

I made Cookie & Kate’s whole wheat banana pancakes for a leisurely Sunday breakfast, and topped it with the usual plain Greek yogurt, pb, and maple syrup + a glass o’ milk on the side. I made the pancakes with “chia eggs” instead of real eggs, not because I’m actively trying to be vegan but because I needed to save eggs for ^^said avocado egg toast 🙂

also an old photo but looked the same (sorry, running out of media storage for new pics!)

Not gonna lie, I also baked Cookie & Kate’s banana muffins last night. I had many ripe bananas to be used, and I’m not mad in the slightest.

Lastly, I enjoyed a big ol’ ice cream cone while hanging out (socially distanced) with a high school friend last evening. I got blueberry cheesecake and “Captain Crunch Berry” flavors, and it was dreamy. Except that it was melting all over my hand at rapid speed, so I had to barbarically race to eat the whole thing.

move.

Friday’s workout was fun but hard. My quads were more sore the day after than they had been in a while!

5 rounds:

  • 200-300 meter run (I just ran down and back my cul-de-sac)
  • 10 asymmetric front rack KB squats (right side heavier)
  • 10 asymmetric reverse lunges R
  • 10 asymmetric front rack KB squats (left side heavier)
  • 10 asymmetric reverse lunges L
  • 10 double swings
  • 10 pushups

Be sure to check out my “moves part 3” highlights on Instagram if you want to see what these exercises are (it’ll be all the way at the end of the highlight)!

Yesterday I did Jen’s 1000 rep home workout, which is an old favorite of mine because it is composed of simple bodyweight exercises, yet it’s still challenging. I needed lots of breaks because it was so hot outside, and also I have not trained my stamina recently.

groove.

I went on a walk by the Hudson River on Saturday evening, and I can’t believe that after 15-ish years of living in NY, this was my first time walking this gorgeous boardwalk! It was a fun mini adventure.

lol @ the sunscreen-laden sweat dripping down my neck

My friends, Henok and Raymond, and I watched the movie Jojo Rabbit together (virtually) on Saturday night. I loved it. Both funny and heartbreaking, which is an interesting but good combo.

I also just realized that I can use “night shift” on my MacBook to make the screen easier on my eyes at night. I’m behind on the times.

Have a marvelous week, friends!

So tell me:

Do you have trouble accepting / acknowledging truth when it is coming from someone you normally disagree with?

What is the best thing you cooked / ate this weekend?

Have you watched any movies recently?

Do you use blue light glasses or night shift on your computer?

Patience, young Padawan.

Tropical Storm Isaias (how do you say this name? eye-ZAY-uhs or ee-sah-EE-ahs?) showed mercy on my area in New York, and I hope that’s the case for you too, wherever you are!

pray.

Definitely praying for healing, restoration, and peace in Beirut after the massive explosion that left dozens dead and thousands injured.

On a personal level, I am praying for a lot of patience as I try to open doors of opportunity and then see many of them close after the attempt… or at least close temporarily due to circumstances. In no way is my situation dire or hopeless, and I for that I consider myself very blessed, but my trust in the process and God’s plan during this time is being tested for sure.

As Yoda would say: “Patience, young Padawan.”

eat.

My favorite way to eat is with my hands. It’s a big part of Laotian (my mom’s ethnicity) food culture to eat things with your hands while sitting on the floor. The rice is so sticky that you HAVE to eat it with your hands. *heart eyes*

So yesterday, my lunch and dinner included things I could eat with my hands (at least partially).

Lunch/Snack: lettuce cups / crackers with tuna salad + a nectarine + dried pineapple + pistachios

Dinner: leftover roasted broccoli (yeah I eat that with my fingers cold and right out of the tupperware) + turkey cheese and spinach rollups + lots of roasted fries with mayo-ketchup sauce

Disclaimer: This particular day sounds kinda like a rabbit food type of day, but I ate a hefty amount of everything and also ate more than just this 🙂

move.

My legs were a little tired and sore, so my moves yesterday included a couple walks (before and after the storm) and some upper body training.

  • 3×2-3 pull-up negatives (8-10 seconds lowering)
  • 3 sets:
    • 12 lateral delt raises
    • 15 KB chest press + leg raise
  • 3×5 pushup negatives (4 seconds lower + 1 second hold)
  • a few sets of an exercise that I got from @daniellegertner

These were all fun and challenging to do!

groove.

I passed the National Physical Therapy Exam! Which means I am now a licensed physical therapist who can practice, baby!

What. a. relief. Now to secure a job 😀

So tell me:

What are some things you need extra patience for these days?

Do you like eating with your hands? Or are you a “use utensils whenever possible” type of person?

An Interview with Myself

I’ve been thinking about how I should format this first blog post in TWO MONTHS.

The best thing I can come up with to make it as concise yet comprehensive as possible is to do a sort of “interview” with myself.

First of all: how are you? It’s been quite the summer year so far. I consistently feel like the gif of Elmo in a sea of fire. It hits deep.

So here’s the interview with myself, in case you were interested.

What have you been doing since you last posted on the blog?

I was studying for the national physical therapy boards examination, which I took on July 28th. I am currently awaiting the results, and I am honestly nErVoUs; it was a challenging exam.

Last Saturday, I moved back home to New York (although “home” is a relative term, because I feel like Boston is a very real home to me now). So a lot of the last two months was also filled with relishing as much time as possible with loved ones in Boston while studying and keeping social distance.

Why did you decide to go back to New York?

Some practical/financial reasons mostly, which are now even more pronounced thanks to COVID. From the spiritual side of things, I feel like New York is where I am supposed to be, and I cannot pinpoint the specific reason for that. In retrospect, moving to Boston for college was a result of both practical reasons and a feeling of peace, even if I did not know what was ahead… and look how well that turned out 🙂

a pic from 2017 that sums up how I feel about leaving Boston

I am very grateful for my family allowing me to stay at home during this time!

So when do you start practicing physical therapy for real?

Good question. Given the current employment climate, your guess is as good as mine. I applied to a couple residency programs earlier this year, one of which I did not get into, and the other was cancelled due to COVID. Currently, just doing my best to seek and find!

Besides applying for jobs, I’m taking this interim to help around the house, work on some new/old fitness skills, BLOG (hi!), pray, and find different ways to serve and grow here in NY. Oh, and dance in the kitchen unapologetically.

Any follow-up to your last blog post re: justice for black lives?

There has been continual reading, listening, learning, aching, discussing (sometimes debating), supporting, and growing going on in my own life and in the community of people around me (even if through social media).

I can now highly recommend the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. My friends and I shared great conversations over the book, and I believe that it has changed us to be more aware, less passive, and more active against deeply planted racism in America and, in many cases, our own hearts. It’s a pretty quick read and very beautifully written.

The division about nearly every human issue in this nation is heart-wrenching. But the triumph of Goodness and Truth, although subtle and sometimes hard to sense, is always there, and I trust in that.

By the way, you can sign the new petition for Breonna Taylor here.

What is currently on your heart?

(I put this question in here because that’s what this blog is about, so I was going to share it sooner or later anyway.)

Well, besides all of the above, the current thing I feel I need to improve upon is staying true to my authentic self when I’m in any sort of social situation — with family, friends, strangers, anyone. Not saying I’ve been acting differently or “I’ve been hiding who I am!” Nah nah nah. What I’m saying is that sometimes I think I need to stand my ground more when I want to say something that I think is true OR refrain from any conversations / actions that I don’t think are the best, morally speaking.

I am the wettest noodle of all wet noodles, who is too agreeable for her own good. I know very well the standards I strive to maintain in my life — the integrity and love with which I want to live. And I need to start living by those things with more confidence, even if other people don’t necessarily feel warm and fuzzy about it all the time, including (especially) myself.

“There is no truth without love and no love without truth.”

Will you blog more now?

Hopefully! I think this blog/world could use some more light and things that edify the heart, so I am hoping to share more of my blog’s founding principles — prayer, eating, moving, and grooving — in a simple and engaging way to keep you feeling hopeful as well.

I just used hope three times. Get after that stuff.

Happy Friday! I truly hope you are doing well and staying healthy. ♥︎ Thanks for stopping by.

So tell me:

What have you been up to the last two months?

Do you ever struggle with being too agreeable? Or perhaps too confrontational?

What’s one great thing that has happened to you this week?

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.)