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photos and words by Caroline

Month: February, 2013


I know, the third part in this health series is long overdue. The lack of motivation I have been experiencing about writing is actually akin to the lack of motivation I have been feeling about exercise. How fitting. I blame February and its grey sky and the general malaise of a seemingly never-ending winter. Blegh. Also, I apologize if it’s been frustrating that these posts have been mostly geared toward females. I blame my constant reading of Women’s Health.

Anyway, here are my Top 5 exercise tips:

1. Learn to spell exercise. I have been auto-corrected every time I have written the word so far. There is no “Z” in exercise.

2. Try to have fun. Exercise is very difficult for people who don’t like doing things that aren’t fun. My father always says that he will start running when he sees someone running who looks like they are having a good time. Granted, I used to hate running but practiced enough that I came to enjoy the simple monotony of it and found that it cleared my head and reduced my stress. But running is definietely not for everyone. Which brings me to…

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Zumba may sound intimidating but you don’t have to have Shakira hips to be able to successfully Zumba dance or to have a good time doing it. Yoga (or hot yoga!) is a great way to exercise that is low impact but still very refreshing. If you hate sweating, there is probably a pool at your gym where you can swim laps. You don’t have to be an old lady to do water aerobics. (I took a class in college!) I tried snowshoeing for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it was a date. Yes, it still counts as exercising.

4. Don’t forget about the internet. There are great at-home workouts, Groupons for local fitness classes, and online (free!) workout videos available to you! I am WAY too accident prone to run when it is snowy/icey/slushy outside (I once walked into a glass window that I thought was a door. I have also twisted my ankle playing badminton) — SO I have been doing this Zumba video! It’s 50 minutes long, and the quirky British guy who leads it is just adorable. I feel kind of ridiculous doing it alone is my apartment, but less ridiculous than I’d feel trying to run on the ice rink that is my street. More things:

I should add: Beware of Pinterest when looking for fitness inspiration. While some of it is helpful and motivational, looking at pictures of super-skinny girls and wanting to be like them is not healthy. I would rather look at/read about healthy food that I want to cook! I have also seen things on Pinterest that have captions such as, “Eat ice when hungry” (ICE?!?) and quote Kate Moss as saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Well, Kate Moss clearly never ate frozen yogurt. Or macaroni and cheese. Or pad thai. Which brings me to…

5. Remember that your ultimate goal is to be healthy. It’s hard to write these over-arching health tips because everyone is different. Yes, obesity is a serious problem in our country…and yet there are still thousands of young girls who are starving themselves and doing jumping-jacks before bed in order to burn off the one bite of food they ate that day. I am not joking. Search through some hash-tags on social media. It is very real and heartbreaking. If you are running because it burns lots of calories, make sure you are intaking enough fuel so that your body can accomplish these runs. We don’t exercise to be thin. Your body is a gift and NOT your enemy. Take care of yourself. You are already beautiful.




Ah, I am writing this after having just awoken from one of those lovely Sunday afternoon naps—the kind where you don’t exactly plan on napping but simply start to drift off while reading for pleasure or watching a rerun of a show you’ve seen a million times. You’re doing something not very important because it’s Sunday and for some amazing that means you don’t feel as bad about not working out or watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on Soap net or eating nachos for dinner. I tried to nap earlier today but it was only three hours after consuming major amounts of coffee while out for brunch and I found myself lying awake and thinking, “this is what people who can’t sleep must feel like.”

I have never really had trouble sleeping. I’m great at it. I am almost as good at sleeping as I am at making a delicious guacamole. I know this is a blessing and millions of people have trouble sleeping at night, but I have rarely lied awake in bed for longer than five minutes. I will often sleep until noon when I don’t set an alarm. (I don’t recommend this as it is usually followed by intense feelings of having wasted your life.) I have fallen asleep while talking on the phone but neither do I recommend this as it is never appreciated by the person you are talking to even if it is 3 in the morning. (Can’t believe I did that so often–sorry.) I never even have trouble sleeping on the floor, or in close proximity to another person. (There was a certain spring break trip that involved ten people splitting the cost of renting a one bedroom condo. Yes, one of us did sleep in the kitchen.)

Of course, being able to sleep on command is not necessarily a good thing. Feeling sleepy and irritable during the day when you are unable to nap is bothersome, if not destructive to your career performance or personal relationships. Excessive sleepiness can be countered by maintaining a steady sleep schedule, eating right, and exercising—the three most important things to staying healthy! Or, your sleepy-ness could be out of your control and need to be diagnosed or medicated. Sleep disorders are very common, and I have been suffering from one for the past year and half or so.

I was taking a beloved afternoon nap when I awoke in my bed to find that I could not move. I couldn’t lift my arms, move my legs, or fully open my eyes. I could see the room, and was very aware of where my body was and also saw my roommate Emily enter the room, when I began shouting for her to wake me up. This lasted for about thirty terrible second before I was able to jerk my head enough to wake myself up. Emily was not home.

Feeling frightened, I did what anyone else would do. I googled, “I wake up and I can’t move.” Try it. You will find hundreds of links leading you to information about sleep paralysis. You will also learn that many of the webpages about this disorder not only mention demons but have pictures of creepy ghosts and ghouls on them. Very reassuring.

Despite the creepy 18th century paintings of demon-possesion, I dug a little deeper and found out this phenomenon is relatively common (although I have not met a real person who I know who has experienced it) and not dangerous. Your body becomes paralyzed while you sleep in order that you don’t act out your dreams. Smart thinking, really–but sleep paralysis is when there is a miscommunication. Basically your brain is saying “I’m awake now!” and your body is saying “Noooo, you’re not!!”

The creepy part about all of this is that I almost always hallucinate. I have only experienced sleep paralysis while napping (this is typical, because your body is unaccustomed to the unusual time of day and/or length of a nap) but I either see someone who can help me, or hear an intruder in a distant room. The last time I had SP, there was someone in the kitchen banging around. Other times, my boyfriend has entered the room and I have called to him for help. I have also seen my mother. No, I have never seen dead people. It isn’t like a dream. When I wake up fully and can move again, my hands and feet and body are right where they were when I was hallucinating. The only thing not there is the person I could see and hear so vividly. A description that is almost identical to mine is on an episode of This American Life called “Fear of Sleep.” Skip to two minutes in and listen to Denise’s quick story. Or listen to the whole episode, because it rocks.

Now that you think I’m crazy, I should say that this has only happened to me about a dozen times. It’s enough to write about, but not enough to disrupt my daily life. If I do experience sleep paralysis, I am usually able to calm myself down and remind my crazy brain that no one has walked into the room. Although I refuse to believe I am being possessed, I have actually found that talking to God while it was happening was very effective in waking my body up.

I haven’t given up  on naps completely, but they are rare. I now try to nap in moderation—only when I am very sleepy or didn’t get at least six hours of sleep the night before. It’s amazing how thankful I have become for a peaceful nap, and the whole experience has been a reminder of how much we don’t fully understand about the human brain and body. I could write forever about how freaking weird dreams are, but I will refrain and simply leave you with my story and hope that it has provided some comfort for those who struggle to find peace and rest. When it comes to sleep, we’re all a little crazy.



Inspired by my love of other health and foodie blogs (such as and I have decided to write a three-part blog series on health and the three things everyone MUST do to stay healthy: Eat, Sleep, and Move.

To begin, my personal favorite: Eating.

Eating right is very difficult, probably because there is SO much information out there. One week you read that eggs are a great way to start your morning with protein and then you read that the cholesterol in eggs clog your arteries as much as smoking does (this can’t be true—but I have heard this.) A grapefruit for breakfast sounds great until you are starving an hour later. To find out what foods are right for you takes research, failed cooking experiments, and plenty of encouragement. These are just some things that I have learned that I hope will be helpful to others.

1. Eat SOME junk food. I used to believe that never buying any junk food for myself would help me not eat it. This was a great theory until I begun repeatedly finding myself in someone else’s home and inhaling their Doritos like my life depended on it (also known as babysitting.) If you indulge your craving in at least semi-healthy ways (I keep lightly buttered popcorn and low-fat frozen yogurt in the house) you will be less likely to be at the Taco Bell at midnight ordering 6 crunch-wraps because all you have at home is quinoa and frozen spinach. Keep a box of whole wheat mac & cheese or a microwavable bean and cheese burrito at home for nights like these. When you moderate yourself instead on deprive yourself, you will find a greater sense of control and greater motivation to stay on track. Trust me, it won’t do you any good to be the girl at the party whose mouth is so full of Cheetos that you can hardly utter the words “but I NEVER eat junk food!!!”

2. STOP putting tons of milk/sugar/creamer in coffee. Seriously, just get over it. There is no need for this. If you don’t like how coffee tastes, stop drinking it. It’s probably healthier not too but all of America is addicted. So measure out what you put in. I measure a tablespoon of half&half every morning for a fairly big mug of coffee. Simply pouring in Coffeemate until you think you should stop is costing you calories and money. This rule also applies for tea. I used to DUMP honey and sugar into tea. Now I add a tiny bit of honey–if anything! Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice tea is the most perfect tea on earth and needs nothing added to it. Go buy it. They have it at Target.

3. DON’T skip breakfast. I didn’t learn this until I was in college, thanks to my raised-on-a-farm best friend who counted on me to meet her at her dorm at 7:20 every day before class to go to breakfast. If you aren’t hungry when you wake up, wait an hour and then eat something—preferably with protein. I love cereal but I find most brands aren’t very filling, so I eat GoLean Crunch with almond milk.

4. Keep track of what you eat. I’m not saying you have to count calories. This leads to things like googling how many calories are in two bites of your friends donut and may also lead to insanity. Just try keeping a record. There are plenty of smartphone apps to help you do this. Also, write down how much water you drink! I rarely drink as much as I should, but I drink much more when I am keeping track of it.

5. Make amazing food! Miracle foods are not those over-priced Special K breakfast sandwiches that are only 240 calories. (unless you absolutely must have a breakfast sandwich in the morning and are too lazy to make a much cheaper one for yourself.) I have found that a lot of the amazing foods that help me stay on track aren’t pre-packaged meals or “diet foods” but simply real, healthy options. If you want a low calorie snack, don’t reach for a 100-calorie package of dry, thin brownies–reach for a banana or a cup of greek yogurt, which has low or zero fat and around 15 grams of protein (depending on the brand.) Don’t force yourself to eat salads if you hate lettuce and have to drown it in fatty dressing to make it edible. Make a sandwich of whole wheat bread, spicy brown mustard (5 calories in a tablespoon), thinly sliced cheese (40 calories in a slice of Sargento ultra-thin colby jack), and a couple of slices of sliced turkey. Vegetarians can substitute a hard-boiled egg, and either can add sliced tomato and spinach. Yum! My point is, create your own meals. For dinner: less Lean Cuisines, more recipes. Try some of these.

7. Food Karma. My mama wrote “food is love” in the cookbook she gave me last year. Don’t be the girl who people are afraid to give christmas cookies to because you’ll never eat them. Be the girl who cooks way too much food for your friends and sends everyone home with leftovers. When you cook for people, it is a different kind of currency. What goes around, comes around. A free meal is in your future, and some delicious love and company is in your present. Having a healthy relationship with food is so important, and an important way of developing this is by bringing people together over a meal.

Happy eating!Image