RAW Fueled Gym Commitment

I’m having a very RAW day today!

Okay…well, technically I kind of killed it with the cup of black coffee I had this morning, but in terms of actual food I’ve eaten today, both breakfast and lunch have been raw! I didn’t even realize it until after I finished eating. I’m going out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and the food will definitely NOT be raw, but it kind of made me realize how it would be pretty easy to eat raw once a week. I don’t think I could go every day on just raw food though.

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My post-workout breakfast consisted of coffee and the raw, dairy free, gluten free bars that recently started popping up at the cafe counter at the American Club. I tried the apple pie flavor and was very impressed. It was delicious, and kept me full until my 11am snack on a juicy, red apple. Honestly, I probably could have held off until noon, but I find its always dangerous to go into a meal starving because I end up with ‘eyes bigger than my stomach’ as my mom puts it–eating too much, usually of the wrong foods.

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For lunch, I had the Signature Raw Burger from the Living Cafe. I had them pack it to go when I was there on Sunday, and it held up nicely in my fridge and tasted just as delicious as I remember it being last time I had one. The burger consists of dehydrated mushrooms, seeds and nuts, and the ‘bun’ is made of lettuce. The burger is then stuffed with a large variety of colorful vegetables and some kind of creamy non-dairy sauce (frankly, I still don’t know WHAT it is, but it sure tastes good!).

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Don’t you just love it when something is really healthy and also tastes amazing? I know I do!

I think it looked twice as delicious after I broke up and mixed it around into a deconstructed burger

I think it looked twice as delicious after I broke up and mixed it around into a deconstructed burger

In honor of my RAW half day, I thought I would share with you some nutrition fun facts about why you should raw food more often. You may not take me seriously, but if Oprah says it, then it must be true, right? 😉 I like this article from Oprah because it gives a pretty balanced view on the subject, and doesn’t hype it up into some kind of miracle diet or suggest you should eat only raw food.

I also liked this interesting article on raw food from KristensRaw:

Most vitamins and phytonutrients are destroyed or damaged when cooked or processed above 130 degrees so they’re less available for assimilation. In short, when you cook your food, you’re destroying the nutrients. It’s like eating empty foods, or empty calories, that just fill you up temporarily. What’s the point? It’s a waste and you’ll end up not feeling satiated because there are not any nutrients, and your body needs nutrients. Eating fresh, organic Raw fruits and vegetables will increase the vitamins and micronutrients in your diet and you’ll feel the difference immediately. What’s more is that, once I started making it a point to eat all of the food I prepared at home, organic, it was shocking to me how untasty food became for me at restaurants. When I would go out and order a salad, it literally tasted like chemicals, or plastic, and was no longer a tomato or cucumber. No wonder people aren’t excited about eating raw fruits and vegetables. It’s because, unless you’re eating organic, it doesn’t taste very good.

Furthermore, heat damages proteins, causing the amino acid chains to congeal. Damaged protein is for the most part unusable and can be harmful to your body, causing inflammation and other problems. When food is cooked above 118 F, essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and enzymes are lost. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, begin to deteriorate at that temperature and are completely destroyed at 160 F. Too much protein in your body actually causes harm, but you almost never hear about that. It harms your digestive tract, your kidneys and much more by making your system too acidic.

When I used to sleep at night, I would often wake up in the middle of the night and tear off the sheets and my pajamas because I was sweating so badly. This is commonly referred to as “digestive fire” and was due to poor digestion and improper food combining. It was so uncomfortable. If you don’t sleep well, lack energy, or simply feel “off,” poor digestion is likely the blame. A well-functioning digestive system can help set you up for top physical and emotional well being. Moreover, good digestion aids in assimilation of nutrients, so your body absorbs all of the vitamins and minerals you’re eating.

A well-functioning digestive system also has excellent elimination, so you’re having regular bowel movements, which are essential to good health. A good rule of thumb: You should be having approximately the number of bowel movements EACH DAY for the number of meals you eat. So, if you eat 3 meals, you should have 2-3 bowel movements. When you’re just starting out with eating more Raw foods, it’s not unheard of to go to the bathroom as many as 4-5 times a day as you start to clean out your digestive tract! When people realize they should be having more than ONE bowel movement most days, they’re usually shocked. In short, you’ve probably been constipated, to varying degrees, your whole life.

When you eat a High Raw diet, you digest your foods much faster, which is one of the main reasons it provides so much energy. Digestion can be one of the most energy draining activities for your body, therefore, your goal should be to have quick and easy digestion. The simple carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients available in fruits and vegetables are readily used as fuel for the body. The time difference between eating a cooked meal vs. a Raw meal is significant. When you eat a cooked meal, depending on the food, it can take anywhere from 1-4 days to digest completely and be eliminated. Conversely, when you eat Raw food, your digestion can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how the food is combined.

There is a lot of information regarding this subject of blood pH level, that is, acidity versus alkalinity. Acute or chronic diseases thrive in an overly acidic body. Some common symptoms of being overly acidic are: arthritis, depression, fatigue, headaches, unclear thinking, canker sores, muscle stiffness, chest pain, stomach aches, constipation, irritability, anxiety, sinus problems, acid reflux, and restless sleep (just to name a few).

How do our bodies become too acidic? Diet is the primary cause. A diet that is too high in acid-forming food will cause the body to become too acidic. And what are acid forming foods? Sadly, the typical American diet of high protein flesh foods, high sugar, high fat, all contribute to forming acid in your body. Add to the list: dairy, flour products, most cooked grains, most cooked beans, candy, soda, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, chemical additives, preservatives, drugs, and synthetic vitamins — these are all acid forming.


I don’t know about you, but after reading more about raw food, I’m seriously thinking about making more of a point to incorporate raw food into my life! Anybody want to join me in a once a week raw food day?

My meals may have been awesome, but getting up this morning to get to the American Club gym was definitely a struggle.

Some days, it is just SO hard to get up in the morning, and skipping the morning workout for an extra hour of sleep is all too tempting. A lot of people who know me think I’m some crazy exercise buff and health freak, they don’t really see the struggle and discipline that it takes. It’s not as if those of us who make the effort to go to the gym daily have some special gene that other people don’t. Sometimes, I go to sleep just thinking about how excited I am for the workout I have planned the next morning, but most of the time, when I get up, I’m just plain TIRED and sleep looks so much better than exercise. But I fight it. I sleep in my workout clothes or put them right next to my bed, set my alarm 20 minutes before I actually have to get up (because I know I’m gonna end up hitting snooze at least twice) and force my butt out of the bed. You can get all the wakeup gadgets and tricks you want, but in the end, making that commitment to your workout routine comes down to sheer willpower and discipline. You know you should get up and hit the gym, so put aside whatever reasons you have fashioned for not going, and JUST. DO. IT.


This may sound harsh, but I think it’s that split second, every day, when you either reset your alarm for an hour later or throw off the covers and head to the gym that separates the fit, regular exerciser from the non-exerciser or the short term resolution maker that eventually drops off. Even if you go gym in the afternoon or at night instead of first thing in the morning, there will always be days when you would rather be doing something else, or you convince yourself that you ‘just didn’t have time’.


The truth is, just like we all find time to eat and sleep, if we really wanted to, we could find time for exercise. We just have to stop thinking of it as an optional activity and start thinking of it as something vital to your survival, like food and sleep. You just can’t live without it. 

Frankly, I really don’t think I can. Yesterday, my Zumba class was cancelled at the last minute. There was no notice, I just got there to find an empty classroom. Not getting my hour of exercise in really affected my mood, and I felt noticeably less happy, less energized. That said, the lack of notice on the class cancellation left me with no time to get to my regular gym before I met up with a friend for dinner. Rather than let that stop me from getting in any exercise, I decided to take the time that I did have and turn my journey to dinner into an exercise routine of its own and, still in my workout clothes with my gym bag slung over my shoulder, proceeded to powerwalk the 3 miles from the Zumba studio to my friend’s house. It may not have been the workout I had in mind, but at least it was the exercise my body craved. Yes, people definitely looked at my like I was a little nuts, as I lengthened my strides out and sped through the crowds (if I didn’t have that darn gym bag, i would have just gone running!) but it was totally worth it. Anyways, my point is, no matter what the situation, you can always find time for exercise, just like you can always find time for a quick bite for  lunch.


The First Six Steps to Tackling Your Hashimotos & Hypothyroidism

I went for Zumba this past weekend with a good friend of mine. She’s the only other person I know who is going through the same thing I am. Actually, her struggles seriously dwarf mine, although she’s such an amazing, positive person that you could never tell. After Zumba, she was telling me about her frustration, as someone with Hypothyroidism, with her weight. She spends one to two hours in the gym every day… and spends the ENTIRE TIME on high intensity. Her fitbit numbers are insane. Plus, she tries to eat healthy too. Despite all that, she still struggles with her weight.

Sound familiar to anyone? I know it sure does to me (note: this is not to say that I am currently concerned with my actual weight at the moment, or that anything below is intended to encourage people to lose weight. Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism have many symptoms. Many of them are subtle, not something another person might notice, but they significantly affect the life of the person with the disease. The below is intended to help deal with all those issues.)

I have by no means sorted it out, but I think I’ve learned a trick or two that have helped me out. And I’ve seen results.

After I was diagnosed with Leaky Guy and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I struggled with food for a while. It was hard for a healthy foodie like me to deal with a diet that, for the first three months, completely denied me the ability to eat fruits, vegetables and beans (except for one or two things, basically spinach and mushrooms, that kept me sane). I mean, fruits, vegetables and beans were my whole diet! I was only actually vegan for a bit over a month, but way before that, these three things were the central tenants of my diet. Basically, add a lot of yogurt and a bit of chicken, and you have my ‘pre-vegan diet’. 

Needless to say, I was struggling, not just in terms of how I was supposed to feed myself when I was allergy to 90 different common foods, and also emotionally. It was hard. I couldn’t eat out. I was so bored (or maybe even angry) with food that I would sometimes go to bed hungry because I couldn’t look at another hunk of chicken with rice/potato again. I stopped blogging. How could I be inspiring others to eat healthy when I was unhappy, living on potatoes and meat? Ever met someone who is intolerant to cucumbers? Yea, I’m that kid. Actually… I’m still not allowed to eat cucumbers…

Around the end of november, I FINALLY got most fruits and vegetables allowed back into my diet. Gluten, dairy, egg and soy free? Yea, that was NO BIG THANG after what I had just been through! Life was suddenly starting to look good again… and I think I am finally back in a place where I feel like a normal person.

Eating nothing but potatoes and meat does nothing good for your body.  It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in the gym, how many miles you run. When I gave up animal products, my body felt clean. efficient. When I eat  red meat, it’s like the difference between breathing in air in the New Zealand countryside versus breathing in air in China. You’d only understand the difference if you have been outside of the smog infested cities and had a lungful of clean air. Not to say that everybody should give up meat entirely, but at least for me, I’d be happiest being either vegan or on a ‘poultry only if it’s truly organic’ diet. Organic turkey breast is actually pretty good.

Anyways, I’m sure you guys just want me to get on to how I came about those so-called results I mentioned earlier, right?



You can exercise your ass off and follow all those health guides telling you to get whole wheat bread and salad…and still not see results… because, quite frankly, what is healthy for someone who, most likely, has gluten and dairy intolerance (and probably more) is DIFFERENT.


Intolerances aren’t obvious like allergies. You probably won’t give hives, your throat won’t start to close, your face won’t swell up, but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting you, and it’s certainly not no big deal, I’ll just ignore it territory. If you have intolerances or an autoimmune disease, take it seriously and follow the restrictions that go along with it.


From here out, I’m assuming you share my specific set of conditions: thyroid disease and the celiac disease that commonly accompanies it. For those to whom this doesn’t apply, but for others also struggling: I would strongly urge you to go see a nutritionist and get an intolerance test done, and if your results show some level 3 or 4 intolerances, get him or her to cater a diet specifically around your circumstances and goals. It’ll be money well spent.

For those who are curious, check out the 10 signs You Are Intolerant to Gluten!


Life doesn’t end just because you can’t eat bread and pasta. That said, resist the urge to head straight for the white rice and fries. You have better options.

When I am craving fries, I grab an organic sweet potato and bake my own at home. Pair it with a hunk of your favorite cut of organic meat, and a side of whatever kind of veggie you are allowed to eat. Remember, you are respecting your specific diet. If it’s considered ‘healthy’ but it’s on your DON’T EAT list, STAY AWAY.

Blossom’s Thyroid Kickin’ Sweet Potato Fries

1 giant sweet potato

Cayenne pepper

Himalayan sea salt



Organic coconut palm sugar

Coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400C. Cut sweet potato into slivers, like fries. Place them in a big bowl, and top with spices and a teaspoon of coconut sugar. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Mix together with hands until all the fries are well covered with the mixture. When oven is ready, spread the fries out in one layer across a slightly oiled baking pan (don’t want them to stick!). Leave them to bake until they are soft inside and slightly crispy on the outside. I check using the tip of a sharp knife in one of the thicker ones. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes in my oven, but it depends how thick you cut the fries so keep an eye on them.

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The best thing about this recipe: it’s really good for you, and not just because of the sweet potato, which is a great, low GI source of iron, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids and vitamins, B6, C and D. Cayenne pepper and cinnamon are both natural metabolism boosters, and coconut is great for the thyroid! Take that Hashimotos!

Zucchini is a fantastic replacer for pasta. You don’t need a spiralizer either. Just grab a zucchini and your vegetable peeler, and start peeling the zucchini like you usually would do with the first layer of your carrot…but just keep going! Put all of your zucchini peels in a bowl and top with pasta sauce. I think it tastes best when it’s covered with bolognaise made with organic ground turkey. Turkey is an alkaline meat, and it easier on the stomach than chicken, which can be hard for certain people (blood types A and AB in particular) to digest. This is great because, after you put the sauce on top, it tastes like you are eating pasta, but without the heavy carb load. If you are having trouble enjoying zucchini pasta, another ‘low carb pasta substitute’ is the konjac noodles people have been raving about for years. Personally, I prefer zucchini pasta. It has the right texture, it’s completely unprocessed, and there is no funny smell.


Coconut actually works to relax the thyroid, and get it working properly. My nutritionist has me take a tablespoon of coconut oil every day. It’s really not hard to get that when you use it in your cooking (I mix it with water when frying so I don’t use too much oil). Coconut oil also works great as a creamer in your black coffee (because remember, you have to nix the milk, cheese and yogurt). Don’t be afraid of the saturated fats either. Apparently, because coconut oil is a medium chain fat, it works to raise your GOOD cholesterol, not your bad cholesterol. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m okay with my good cholesterol going up.


Coconut water is not just good for your thyroid but it also has more potassium in a cup than a whole banana. Instead of drinking Gatorade, Pokari Sweat or 100plus, use this as your post-sweat beverage. Coconut water can also act as a smoothie base, if you are also allergic to nuts and can’t drink almond milk. I’d go for this stuff over rice milk, which is much higher in calories.

Keep in mind, this shouldn’t replace water. It does have some calories. But, in a number of instances where you are using other beverages, coconut does a better job (the oil in your coffee, the water in your smoothie and after sports… you get the idea)


Milk goes out, almond milk takes its place. You still get lots of calcium from the almonds, but its dairy and gluten free, plus it clocks in at only 40 calories a cup.

Keep in mind all of the hidden sources of milk. That dark chocolate bar? Yea, sorry, that’s gotta go. Research gluten free vegan recipes with raw cocoa powder to kick that chocolate craving.

A lot of chips, even gluten free corn chips, have some hidden milk in there. You’ll also find milk power hiding in gluten free bread and lots of other seemingly safe things. Who knows why, it seems so unnecessary to me.

Extra bonus? It’s not just good for your digestive system, but you’ll find you naturally lose a lot of your biggest sources of unnecessary fat when you kick the dairy. Your skinny latte has at least 100 calories. Americano has only 25.


I keep coconut palm sugar packets on my at all times. There are some who believe that people could be developing autoimmune diseases because of poisoning from fake sugars (splenda, equal, sweet ‘n’ low). All of that stuff has to go. Sadly, this actually includes a lot of the stevia brands. Most of these, like the ones from splenda and equals, are not 100% stevia. They still have some aspartame and only creepy stuff in them. Either get certified organic 100% stevia packets or certified 100% organic coconut palm sugar from your local health food store. Keep them in your purse, stash them at your desk and get a loose bag for cooking and bigger uses to use at home.

Get used to reading ingredients lists, and try, as much as possible, to go for foods that have ingredients list with only stuff you actually know and can pronounce (please don’t be a smart ass and say that you actually understand what aspartame is. You get my point). It’s not good for regular people but its POISON for you. You have an autoimmune condition. Your body can’t handle chemicals. Cut it out. You’ll thank me later.

GF foods


Now, the ingredients list thing should be obvious after the preceding five steps. Know all the hidden names for gluten, watch for gluten and dairy warnings, and stuff that has processed sugar in the first five ingredients shouldn’t make it in the cart, except rare special occasions that require cake.

I’m not saying to keep a food log so that you can obsessively count calories, but I think some of those calorie counting apps, like loseit, are a great way to getting yourself into the FOOD FOR FUEL mindset.


If you don’t understand the nutrition behind your food, it’s hard to give your body what it needs. So, spend a couple weeks getting to know the how many calories are in your favorite foods, so you know what should be taken in moderation, and learn what is actually a big source of carbs (there are lots of them outside of your grain family, actually), protein, fat, etc.

Those of us with hashimotos/hypothyroidism are supposed to be eating a diet that is high in animal proteins and healthy fats. According to my nutritionist, when you have my condition, your body doesn’t absorb protein as effectively as it should, you should be getting a good amount of it into your diet. Loseit actually presents this cute little pie chart that shows you what percentage of your intake is protein, carb and fat. Very handy. Don’t obsess over it, but I used it for a while to help learn about my food, and I will occasionally go back and record a day or two to make sure that I’m still on track.

Misery Isn’t the Only Thing that Loves Company…

So you know how everybody says ‘misery loves company’. Personally, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone on this, I think health and happiness do too.

It takes a seriously stubborn determined individual to turn down tasty but unhealthy food your friend or colleague offers you, or even to take just one bite of that so-called ‘treat’, when everybody else around you is enjoying it. Lucky for me, I happen to be annoying enough to put my foot down and flat out refuse to take a bite of most of the things that people offer me, and the harder they push, the less likely I’m going to be to accept. It’s the one great benefit of being impossibly stubborn. The fact of the matter is, when you choose to make the healthy choice, there is a tendency for those around you who know they should be making that choice too to start feeling GUILTY. Rather than following your example and backing away from the giant slice of cake they were indulging in, they figure that getting you to do the wrong thing too will make them feel better about their bad choices.Stubborn as I am, I have my weaknesses (for the last couple of months, it has been fries) and will occasionally give in an indulge. Rather than feel bad about it, I remember that just like one health meal doesn’t make a healthy diet, neither does one unhealthy meal make an unhealthy diet, and I make a point to give myself a bit less wiggle room the next couple of days in my meals, and workout a little harder.



Let’s say you weren’t graced with my enormous stubborn streak (in most cases, I’d say lucky you!), or you are too nice to eyeball the person holding the cake until they back away…slowly…and remember not to offer you cake again.

But they'll be really nutritious, healthy cookies... :D

But they’ll be really nutritious, healthy cookies… 😀

In that case, I recommend you remember that HEALTH & HAPPINESS LOVE COMPANY!

Have you ever tried going around the city and smiling at everyone you meet? Yes, some people will look at you like you lost your mind, but most people will smile right back! Similarly, a quick brush with a happy person can be completely infectious. I know that personally, when I am surrounded by optimistic, happy people, it tends to leave me feeling happier too. I like to think about this as I go about my day. Giving back doesn’t always have to be big, grand gestures, or donations to the impoverished (not to downplay those things in any way). Giving back can be as simple as smiling at someone on the subway (and not just the hot guy at the end of the subway car), or complimenting a colleague on the flattering dress she put on today. It’s not just that you could be improving their day, but I find that when I do that nice little something for someone, it makes me happier too (I guess that makes it somewhat selfish?).

Just like happiness breeds happiness, healthy living breeds healthy living too. Personally, I think this happens in TWO WAYS.

FIRST: You are much more likely to succeed, whether it’s a new workout regimen or a new, healthier diet, if you do it WITH someone! On the days when you are feeling weak or tempted, your partner in crime has your back, and is someone besides yourself holding you accountable. We all tend to be pretty prideful creatures, and our fear of being the first one to ‘mess up’ keeps us to our diet even when that darn basket of fries looks sooo tempting… *drool*…

SECOND (and my particular favorite): When you choose to make the hard choices, and eat healthy, other people NOTICE and it gets them thinking about doing the same too. When they see you get results (whatever they may be) from your healthy lifestyle, it INSPIRES them. If you can do it, so can they! I think this actually works best when you DON’T brag or make a fuss about your choices. You don’t have to go out of your way to hide it, but preaching turns people off in a way that living the example doesn’t (says the preachy blogger…).

Don't you want to be as awesome as this little guy?!

That seriously cute health freak you secretly wish you were. This little guy has a great diet. 😉

I’d like to think that I have had some small degree of influence on the people around me, or at least, given them someone that they can call their ‘PARTNER IN HEALTH’. A couple of my colleagues have, in the last couple of weeks, committed themselves to greater exercise and healthy eating. As part of this endeavor (in which they are all doing really well! One of them is already finished the whole INSANITY challenge!), we went out to lunch together to the newly opened location of one of my favorite organic restaurants, Real Food.

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Sam with her beetroot burger on a wholewheat bun

The new Real Food in West Coast Plaza is very close to work, although sadly, it’s not walking distance. In terms of the actual ambiance, I think this is my favorite location. It’s quiet, like the Killiney Real Food, but it has much better natural lighting, and also has outdoor seating! In terms of the actual quality of food, Real Food never disappoints, and both of my friends loved their meals. My brown rice bowl with chili came first, and I think they were pretty jealous of my choice… until their own food came out. I’m pretty sure they realized that everything here tastes good…

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My brown rice bow

So. We established that happy breeds more happy and healthy breeds more healthy. I’m making one final leap. Healthy and Happy are also pretty darn good at breeding each other! Think about it. When you exercise, it causes a release of endorphins, which makes you happy. Anybody who has ever watched Legally Blonde knows this very well. 



But it goes beyond this. Exercise gives a sense of accomplishment. I know this is definitely true for me! When I exercise consistently, I feel GOOD about myself. I have more CONFIDENCE, and I tend to smile more. This can be rewarding enough, in and of itself, to keep you going back to the gym day after day, so that, in a way, the happiness and self confidence breeds more healthy living!

It’s cool like that. 

I’ll leave you with a couple CALLS TO ACTION:

1.Commit to taking a step towards a healthy life. You don’t have to become vegan or 100% organic tomorrow, it could be as simple as incorporating vegetables (not counting corn and potato) into every meal.

2. Find a PARTNER IN HEALTH to join you in your new health goal, and hold each other accountable

3. Channel your ‘inner blossom’ and say NO to those people trying to throw you off your awesome health streak

4. Smile at a stranger, and compliment a friend or colleague today



Valentine’s Day: Love Your Family, Love Yourself

Valentine’s Day can be tough on us single girls. Sometimes, it feels like Valentine’s Day is not so much about LOVE in general, but about love between couples. Old me used to get sad on ‘V-DAY’ because it reminded me of how lonely I felt.

New me thinks differently.

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, and that doesn’t only apply to those who have a significant other with whom to enjoy the requisite chocolates, flowers and dinner. This year, I took it as a day to appreciate all of the love I do have in my life.

First, and most importantly, I have the love of my family. My dad has sent me and my sisters flowers every year for as long as I can remember. Even when I was a little squirt, barely in middle school, the flower guy would arrive on Valentine’s day (or sometimes the day after, depending on where in the world he was travelling at the time) with giant bouquets of flowers for each of us. It’s my V-day tradition, and I love it.



This year, dad got to spend Valentine’s day TWICE and have dinner with ALL THREE daughters. It’s not an easy feat…unless you happen to frequently hop international date lines between Singapore and New York. I have this strong association in my head between italian food and Vday, and I wasn’t about to let my gluten and dairy allergies get in the way! On my way home from work on Friday night, I picked up a box of Quinoa spaghetti, a box of gluten free, dairy free, egg free cake mix, and a carton of rice milk vanilla ice cream. The quinoa pasta topped with a blend of dairy free pesto, tomato sauce, nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes (don’t hate it until you try it–it’s amazing!). Dad liked the pasta so much, he couldn’t believe it wasn’t ‘real’ pasta, and the whole bowl disappeared before we even thought to get a picture. I’d say that is a sign that I did a good job with dinner!

I followed dinner up with my favorite cake mix. I am a TERRIBLE baker, made worse by how difficult it is for anybody to bake under the ‘gluten/dairy/egg’ restrictions, but I have found this box mix that is so good and so easy that even I can’t screw it up!


I got a box of the Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Dreams, Chocolate Cake Mix. This is my second time using the mix, and I have discovered that if you follow the instructions exactly, it comes out a bit dry, so I added two teaspoons of Egg Replacer. It’s been a long time since I’ve had normal cake, but this is the best cake I’ve had in memory, and my dad was a huge fan too!

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My younger sister is not always the best at keeping in touch, but it hasn’t stopped us from remaining really close. We’re only a year apart, and until we left for college, we pretty much went through everything together. Leaving home at 12 and 13 to go to boarding school on the opposite side of the world from our parents definitely sealed us in as life long best friends. When you have lived as diverse of a life as we have, there is quite literally nobody else on the planet who has gone through the same thing as I have, besides my younger sister. Getting to have a really long chat with her on valentine’s day was all the more special since neither of us are very easy to track down for skype or phone calls. It’s very lucky that our mom is seriously DETERMINED and will find ways to track us both down to chat at least once a week, even if it means calling my cell phone while i’m at work, using her skype credit.

Valentine’s day may be over, but I still urge any readers who let V-day pass them by without reaching out to their loved ones to pick up the phone today and do so! Love isn’t a once a year thing, and I know it makes MY day when I hear from my family… make the day of one of your family members and give them a random ‘I LOVE YOU’ call. 🙂

That said, there is more to Valentine’s day than just connecting to your loved ones! There is one person that we often forget on Valentines Day…ourselves!


Loving yourself is not just taking the time to appreciate what you have accomplished, but to initiate and/or recommit to self improvement goals. You know all those things you promised yourself you’d start doing back on New Year’s that, somehow, over the last two months, fell to the side? Now you have a legitimate excuse to light a little extra fire in your heart and channel it towards those things you want to commit!


Personally, this meant recommitting to my goal of putting a much greater focus on strength training. Around Christmas, I (or more like my nutritionist) realized that I had been really overstressing my body with the amount of running I had been doing, and it was causing my adrenal glands to be overworked. My family really backed this up, and strongly urged me to focus on a more varied workout program, featuring things HIIT workouts and strength training rather than long bouts of cardio.


My dad made his new year resolution to get more fit. He hired a trainer and has been doing to the gym to workout every morning for 45 minutes. When he came back into town the Sunday of Valentine’s Day week, I took this as an opportunity to kickstart my reaffirmation and started joining him at our club gym every morning. Seeing him insist, no matter how tired he was, to get up and get his butt to the gym every morning made me realize how I had lost my own sense of workout discipline and desperately needed to get it back! Sticking with him every morning that week helped me to get into the sense of routine I needed to keep it going after he left. I’ve committed myself to regular gym/workout routines, and I’ve only taken off one day since that Sunday we started.


I figured out how to put the P90x videos on my ipad and I have been taking them with me to the gym everyday. I may not follow the whole video exactly, but I use it as a basis for a serious hour of weights and sweat. A lot of their videos are very upper body heavy, so I like to balance it out and do about 40 minutes of P90X and 20 minutes of lower body work. That said, I want to get even better, and manage to finish the whole video, and then add in my legs work if I want! It’s good to have goals! They keep you from getting complacent in your workout.

SO. V day just passed! Don’t let this opportunity to reaffirm this year’s goals (or even to make new ones) pass you by! It’s not just about loving your significant other, and loving your family. It’s about loving yourself and doing what you can to make yourself into the person you want to be. At the end of the day, you are the only person that can make that happen.


Love at Living Cafe

I think I have a new love… and its name is The Living Cafe. I just finished one of their delicious Brown Rice bowls, complete with hormone free chicken and plenty of veggies.
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It’s the second time that I’ve been here in two weeks, and quite frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t been here more! The food is amazing, the coffee is so good I don’t even need to add sugar (that’s quite the statement for me), and the ambiance is just as amazing as the food.
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I’m struggling to find a term that adequately describes the atmosphere and decorating style of this cafe. I’ll try to describe it but honestly, just come and fall in love with it yourself. There’s something charming and homey about the mismatched tables in radically different styles that somehow still fit together, the mason jars of cutlery on the tables, the wooden ‘FRESH EGGS HOMESTEAD’ box on top of the glass case of baked foods that immediately cheers me up and puts me at ease. It’s cute and chic, without trying too hard. The place gets tons of natural light, reinforcing the cheery atmosphere of the place. It’s the people who come here that make the place, too. Families reinforcing healthy eating habits in their young kids sit next to a table of fit older women catching up over lunch. As I sip on my coffee, I see both a lady still carrying her yoga mat and a old man with a shock of white hair who head straight upstairs to the health store above. Although there are lots of expats here, it’s clearly a place frequented by health conscious locals as well. Just being around this crowd inspires you to keep healthy, although you’d be hard pressed to find anything on this menu that was actually BAD for you!
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I have a feeling I will slowly work my way through their entire menu over the course of the next few months, because everything on it sounds delicious! So far, I’ve tried their signature raw burger, and the chicken brown rice bowl. Out of the two, the raw burger was actually the one I liked better, but I’d happily order either one again.
Signature Raw Burger

Signature Raw Burger

If this place was walking distance from my house or office, I might just eat here every day, I like it that much. I have gotten so used to stressing about ingredients everywhere I go, its an unbelievable relief to be able to order off the menu without stressing about any hidden dairy in my food! When I eat here, I feel like a NORMAL EATER (strange concept for me, at this point), like I’m allergy free, because the menu is so incredibly gluten and dairy intolerance friendly. I could easily bring any of my vegan friends here, but they do have some meat dishes, if you have that friend who refuses to eat anything that doesn’t have some meat. The one thing I wish they had was WIFI! Then again, if that’s the only flaw I can find in this place, they are doing pretty great.
The Living Cafe isn’t the only new healthy/organic cafe I’ve finally gotten around to trying. Recently, I went to Original Sin, a well known Mediterranean vegetarian place in Holland Village.
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I went with a friend for dinner and I’m already trying to figure out when I’m going to find my way back there. This place was extremely allergy-friendly. Between Original sin and Living Cafe, I feel like I’ve been so spoiled in that area! These places are total proof that healthy, vegan food can taste delicious.
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Regardless of if you are a vegetarian or not, I’d recommend you give Original Sin a try!
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I’m not much of a wine person myself, but for those who like wine, Original Sin not only has organic food but their wine is organic too! I had organic wine during my holiday in New Zealand, and my uneducated tastebuds thought that the organic wine tasted just as good, in some cases better, than the non-organic stuff. Perhaps those wine connoisseurs can go and sample the organic wines at Original Sin, and let me know what they think!
I liked the tiled tables at Original Sin

Pretty table on a quiet street just off the vibrant main drag of Holland Village

Us organic/health foodies based in Singapore are actually really lucky. We have become quite spoiled for selection, and new places keep popping up! The days of ‘I like to eat organic so all my meals are home cooked’ is LONG GONE. Eating out for breakfast? No problem, just pop by one of the Real Food locations (there’s a new one at West Coast Plaza near my office!) or World Peace cafe. Lunch? Dinner? There are too many to list (but if you want to try, check out my Healthy/Organic Cafes page, which will be seeing even more additions in the very near future). I could eat lunch or dinner out at one of these places for  every day for two weeks without repeating a location.
 That’s pretty amazing. I’m proud of you, Singapore. 🙂

The Struggle with the Snooze Button

This pin from pinterest quite literally describes my day yesterday and to be honest, I’d definitely file it away in the ‘awesome day’ category.


It gets even better when you add ‘catch up on Scandal’ and ‘snuggle with puppy’ to the list.

My mom has a rule in her house that when we are leaving, we strip down our beds and put the dirty bedding into the washing machine so there is one less post-visit clean up task for her to do. This habit lead me to  discover another little bonus to cancelled flights: falling asleep to the smell of freshly cleaned laundry. I absolutely LOVE the smell of my mom’s laundry soap. Of course, I wash my sheets at home regularly but somehow it doesn’t come out with that intense ‘fresh laundry’ smell like my mom’s does. Sounds weird, but I think I feel asleep with a smile just because of that smell.

My sister got me a cute little single serving crockpot for Christmas. I’m really hoping it works in Singapore! I’d like to use it home, but also bring it to work to keep my food hot. My nutritionist has asked me to minimize my use of a microwave as much as possible, but I often eat lunch, and sometimes even dinner, at the office.

Having a crock pot somehow seems to have opened up all sorts of possibilities for recipes! I’m now DROOLING over all of these crock pot recipes and also over a plethora of gluten free vegan recipes starring quinoa. I’m putting the links here so you guys can drool with me. Better to drool over healthy food than over fatty fast food, right?




It seems like I will have some fun cooking adventures on the weekends after I get home!

During my last visit to my nutritionist, she had more changes in store for me than just stopping my use of the microwave. I am a notorious morning snoozer. No matter how many hours of sleep I got, if I’m not waking up out of my own free will, it will take at least half an hour for me to stop hitting snooze and finally get out of bed.I always seem to be exhausted when I wake up, although I usually feel fine after I get up and start moving around.


I’ve tried not using snooze (just didn’t get up at all), and even those apps that monitor your sleep cycles to wake you up, nothing works.


The casualty of this whole thing has been breakfast. I don’t have time to do anything fancy, but everybody knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day so I refuse to skip the meal entirely. Instead of eating too little, I solved my morning problem by leaving a box of cereal and a carton of almond milk in the office. I grab fruit as I leave the house so I’m still kickstarting my metabolism appropriately by eating within 45 minutes of waking up (and getting the fruit and veg that needs to be part of any meal or its not a meal), but when I get to the office I will make a bowl of gluten free cereal. I’ve discovered Nature’s Path has THE BEST cereals. I really look forward to that morning bowl.

This is my personal favorite. It uses a mix of grains including brown rice, quinoa, corn and flax. It's always healthier with a blend of different grains!

This is my personal favorite. It uses a mix of grains including brown rice, quinoa, corn and flax. It’s always healthier with a blend of different grains!

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Sadly, it turns out that my amazing Nature’s Path cereal has to take a backseat because I have been getting too much carbohydrates. My nutritionist asked me to make breakfast protein heavy rather than carbohydrate heavy. It’s an interesting concept when you think about it because almost all traditional breakfast foods (cereal, toast, pancakes, potato hash) are all serious carbohydrate dishes. She left me with a bunch of cool recipes for things like lentil pancakes (put lentils in a blender with a bit of water and herbs until it looks like pancake mix) and quinoa fish cakes but they all required so much prep time I couldn’t keep it up.

She then introduced me to Sunwarrior Protein Powder.

chocI went out and got myself a blender bottle and this stuff has totally improved my morning routine AND made my breakfast healthier! Now, after my daily battle with the snooze button, I throw one scoop of powder into my blender bottle and then fill it with almond milk (you can do it with water too) and shake like a maniac as I walk out the door. It’s raw vegan, high protein, no sugar or aspartame added (slightly sweetened with stevia), low calorie (80 cal per scoop), it tastes good, and it keeps me from getting hungry until lunch. I pair it with whatever piece of fresh fruit I can get my hands on for a balanced meal.

Here’s the description from the website:

Sunwarrior Classic Protein uses an old world process, combining the endosperm and bran from raw sprouted whole grain brown rice, to create the first completely hypoallergenic protein, containing all essential and non-essential amino acids in a perfectly balanced profile. Sunwarrior Classic Protein has the highest amount of (non soy) raw, whole-grain sprouted, vegan protein of any product available.

  • A great tasting plant-based protein with a silky smooth texture that blends easily without the chalky or grainy consistency found in other vegetable based protein powders.
  • Created with a low temperature, natural enzyme process that uses neither chemicals nor acid hydrolysis.
  • Free of gluten, solvents, GMOs, radiation, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, or artificial colors.
  • Naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, and other essential nutrients such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous, iron, and potassium.
  • Easily digested by children, the elderly, and adults.
  • Increases absorption and effectiveness of vitamins and minerals.

For anybody out there struggling to eat a healthy breakfast, or tends to be too lazy to grab breakfast at all, I’d give this a try!

The Benefits of Blizzards and Cancelled Flights

At this current moment, I was supposed to be in Chicago boarding a flight to Tokyo, the third leg of the exhausting journey home to Singapore. Instead, I am back at my parent’s home in Hilton Head.

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I got up for my 6:50am flight and arrived at the airport an hour before my flight only to find a line of people waiting to check in for the flight that twisting around the entire lobby of the airport. The flight to Chicago was delayed four hours and even if I managed to make it there, the flight out of Chicago was cancelled. It took four hours and two hours on the phone before I finally managed to get ANY flight at all. All flights out of the northern half of the US that could get me back to Singapore were cancelled, or fully booked and likely to be cancelled. Finally, the highly creative man from the airline managed to get me a flight out of San Francisco. Granted, it’s going to take me two days and 4 pit stops (DC, LA, SF and HK) before I finally get home on THURSDAY.

This is just the front of the line... it was so long we couldn't actually capture it all in one shot

This is just the front of the line… it was so long we couldn’t actually capture it all in one shot

I’m incredibly lucky, in a way, that I found out about the cancellation in Chicago while I was still in Hilton Head with my mom. Inconvenient and frustrating as it is to be three days late back to work, at least I will get to spend more time with my family and save the three days hotel I would have had to pay had I been stuck in Chicago instead of Hilton Head! That definitely leaves me in a much better place than than the many people all over the US who are struggling to get just about anywhere else via airplane, and considering the final flight I got is leaving out of San Francisco, I’m unlikely to get another flight cancelled!

Coffee was deserved seeing as we had been up since 4am. I bet that Starbucks had really good business today!

Coffee was deserved seeing as we had been up since 4am. I bet that Starbucks had really good business today!

Another benefit of my airline fiasco? I can join my mom’s partner, Ken, in his next P90X workout! I’ve been lucky to get to try two new types of workouts: P90X and Zumba. Our neighbour is an avid Zumba fan and took me along to her workouts while I was in town. I had SO much fun that I actually went out and bought the Zumba for Wii to do when I get home!

P90x is the other workout that I have been lucky enough to try during this visit home. Ken has been doing the upper body workouts for P90X every other day and I joined him for the last three workouts. I had no idea what a great workout it is! I always thought that P90X was too hardcore, something for someone much stronger and fitter than me, but actually it’s a workout for anyone and everyone. You just have to pick a weight, however light it may be, that you struggle with by the 8th rep (and struggle on until you can’t actually complete the next repetition). Ken is a great motivator and coach, and I’ve come to realize that up to now, I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough when lifting: I shouldn’t just stop because the muscles hurt and it’s getting hard. You have to push until you quite literally can’t finish the  next repetition. I’m definitely looking forward to doing the workout again tomorrow! Ken has given me the dvds so that I can keep going when I get back to Singapore, but it’s awesome to get in an extra workout with my ‘coach’.

In the meantime, I’m going to curl up on my couch with Thai Sweet Potato Soup with chicken (I’m kind of obsessed with the Pacific line of organic, gluten free soups), and a polka dot mug full of piping hot green tea. Anyone else find that soup and tea taste a whole lot better when it’s cold outside? I know I do! I’m going to enjoy this little bit of cold before I get back to the tropics on Thursday, and stretch my legs out before the dreaded two days of flying that starts Monday.

Fitness Gizmos to Help Make Resolutions Reality

I got completely gadgeted out for Christmas! Basically, if there is a cool fitness related gadget out that somewhat relates to my lifestyle, I (or someone else in my family) probably have it.

New gizmo #1: iPhone 5s

New gizmo #2: Fitbit Force

Fitbit Force and the dongle that sits in your computer so it syncs

Fitbit Force and the dongle that sits in your computer so it syncs

Within the realm of fitness, these two really compliment each other because my new fitbit automatically syncs and updates wirelessly straight to my phone! This is great because it means I get that detailed data throughout the day rather than just getting it at the end of the day as I did with my original Fitbit. Second thing I’m loving about this fitbit? It’s on my wrist yet the numbers seem to be just as accurate as with the old fitbit that I used to clip to my bra or waistband and I can read the numbers right off the band if I’m not syncing to my phone. When you finally reach your goal number for the day, it buzzes on your wrist.

For someone with as small of a wrist as I do, the fact that the band comes in different sizes and also has different notches like a watch band means that it actually fits my wrist really well!

New gizmo #3: Lumo

from lumobodytech.com

from lumobodytech.com

This relates to one of my 2014 goals of improving my posture. This thing looks like a plastic strip with a band. The band sits across your lower back, and the band adjusts so it sits comfortably. It syncs via bluetooth to an app on your phone (once again, go iPhone 5s!) and, once calibrated, it can tell if you are sitting, standing, or walking, and how good your posture is. If you slouch, it will buzz you to remind you to sit up straight. You can choose to either make it buzz once or to pulse (will keep buzzing every 30 seconds or so until you straighten) as a reminder. It’s also smart enough to give you time when you are moving before it buzzes, so it doesn’t go nuts if you just bend over to pick something up.

My posture is awful. The muscles in my lower back are so weak that if I wear it for too long my back starts to hurt and sometimes I think I’m as straight as I could possibly be and the darn thing is STILL buzzing me! You start to feel a bit wacko when you want to yell at the plastic strip on your back…

That said, my posture is already getting better and I don’t know if I could actually get my posture fixed without some kind of tool like this, so I’m very grateful.

New gizmo #4: Pebble


My dad got one of these a couple of months back and didn’t like it or use it, but I have been LOVING mine since I got it for Christmas. My texts and facebook notifications and any other notifications that pop up on my phone show up on my wrist with a gentle buzz so that I know to take a peek at my watch. This has been great when I’m workout out or doing something else where my phone isn’t open beside me. Friends always say I’m terrible about responding to messages, so I’m guessing this will help! It also has a silent alarm that buzzes on my wrist to wake me up. I tried it and it actually worked, plus its WAY less annoying than the song that plays in the morning off my iPhone.

Gizmo #5: Yurbuds Headphones

Okay, maybe this isn’t technically a gizmo but it’s a fitness accessory that I LOVE! I have taken these out on a couple of runs around the neighbourhood and they have done a fantastic job of staying in so far! I was running with dre beats for a while, which were awesome but sometimes it was annoying if I was running with a friend and wanted to take one headphone out to chat while still having music in the background. Anyways, they just snapped inside their case one day and I had been struggling to find anything that would stay in my ears since. I got to the point where I was tired of buying new headphones that wouldn’t stay in and/or would stop working because they couldn’t handle the sweat, and I started taping my apple headphones into my ears with band aids… looks funny but it definitely worked! I hate having to readjust headphones every five minutes but with these new headphones, they just stay in. I figure if they can last 10k without a single readjustment, I should be okay in longer runs too!

Besides my awesome gadgets, I’ve also been enjoying all of the amazing health food options American grocery stores have to offer. Walking around Krogers with my mom, I really did feel like a kid in a candy store. Some women get excited walking into a designer fashion store, I  find healthy grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, as well as fitness stores, FAR more exciting. Shows my priorities I guess!

One of the awesome finds was Hemp Milk! This is something I haven’t been able to find as of yet at the organic grocers I frequent in Singapore, but I have heard that out of all the plant milks, it tastes the most like cow’s milk. Perhaps I have forgotten what cow’s milk tastes like, but I thought this stuff was delicious! I don’t think I’ll completely replace almond milk with hemp milk, because almond milk is a good source of calcium for me and is lower in calories, but I thought hemp worked far better in coffee than almond milk does, and worked better in cereal too. It’s less watery than almond milk, which I like. I have seen on some blogs that people find it’s fibrous or something, but with the store-bought kind, I didn’t think this was the case at all. It was very smooth. I tried it in my pancake mix (a Christmas Day tradition at our house) as well with great success.

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The best part?

Hemp Milk doesn’t just TASTE good, it’s also great for you! Omega 3 is one of those golden words in the health world right now, and people are always challenging vegetarians and vegans about how its hard to the same amount of Omega 3 as  another person could get from fish oil. Hemp is a great source of omega 3, and is another great source for any plant-based dieters out there. Throw it in your coffee, in your baking mixes, or as the base of your protein shake (and then super O3 it by adding chia seeds in your shake as well!)

Hemp awesomeness point 2? I think I have mentioned this before, but I’m gonna say it again anyways! Hemp is one of the best protein sources available.

Why am I such a fan of Hemp as a protein source? Hemp falls into that amazing ‘complete protein’ category, along with quinoa.

Foods can be classified as complete, partial, or incomplete sources of proteins. In order for a food to be classified as complete, it must contain all eight essential amino acids. Hemp is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs. source

Hemp was listed as the #2 best protein powder for vegetarians on Men’s Fitness:

Derived from the hemp seed, this protein-rich plant source offers a complete amino acid profile, plus it’s highly digestible—meaning it’s a smart pre-gym supplement that won’t cause stomach issues during your workout. But hemp’s fat and calorie content can be on the high side, so if your goal is to cut, you might want to opt for whey or casein powder, says Jim White, RD, ASCM, HFS, a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (And for those not cutting? White says not to worry—it’s all healthy omega-3s and omega-6s.) source

Shape also put Hemp on their list of best protein powders, with the following explanation:

A near-complete plant-based protein, hemp offers the inflammation-fighting power of omega-6 essential fatty acids and is high in fiber, it’s a great choice for those following a vegan diet. Some studies have also suggested hemp protein may be more helpful in weight loss, thanks to its high fiber content, than other protein powders, says Mangieri. source

Okay I’m off! Something on me is buzzing…again… considering I now have buzzers on both wrists and my back, I’m started to get PHANTOM BUZZES. It’s funny but also a good thing because it prompts me to check my back even when I’m already straight!

I leave you guys with a challenge! Few people have families as supportive as mine, or who go as crazy with Christmas gifts as we do (I’m not the only one in the family who enjoys giving the perfect gift even more than I like receiving them, if that’s possible), but think about what changes and tools you need in order to make your goals happen, and then go out and take action! It doesn’t necessarily have to be something you BUY. It could be as simple as sleeping in your workout clothes, buying the metro/mrt card so you use public transportation to get to work (and thereby walk more) or searching youtube for a great tabata workout to do in the morning. Just THINK on all of the little things that will make your goal easier, and start NOW.

Taking a moment to appreciate accomplishments as I step into 2014

Good Morning and Happy New Year!

I had a great new year surrounded by family. I can’t think of a better way to step into a new year than being surrounded by loved ones.

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the family that puzzles together...

the family that puzzles together…

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This past year has been a pretty amazing one for me, with some life accomplishments I can really take pride in.

1. Hired a physical trainer

2. Finished my first sub 1 hour 10k

3.Finished my first half marathon

4. Finished my first sub 2 hour half marathon

5. Climbed my first mountain, Mt Fansipan, in Vietnam

6. Maintained my healthy eating despite discovering my 80+ allergies and Hashimoto’s diagnosis

7. Completed my traineeship with an amazing promotion at work

and finally…

my proudest personal achievement, something that I can think back on with pride for the rest of my life…

8. I completed my first MARATHON!

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I completed my first 42k in exactly 5:00:13. There were some unexpected issues that made the race more difficult, but I suppose that’s part and parcel of any marathon. If it was easy, everbody would do it, right? The first challenge came when my running friend Nicole, also running her first marathon with an aim of 5 hours, and I realized that we had been put into the second heat of runners but the 5 hour pacers were right at the start line and would start with the elite runners. The biggest issue with this wasn’t so much the distance between us and the pacers but the fact that they wouldn’t let the second heat start running until seven minutes after the first heat.

Night before prep for the big day!

Night before prep for the big day!


I’ve spoken before about how much a good pacer can help a runner in a race, and Nicole and I really wanted the support of those 5 hour pacers, and ended up going way too fast at the beginning trying to catch them, which we did within the first couple of kilometers. Once we caught them, we seemed to be in an excellent place, and would finish easily below the 5 hour mark as long as we stayed with the pacers.

The pacers were a wonderful, friendly, cheerful group and one of the sweepers had a speaker and was playing upbeat pop music for the surrounding runners to enjoy. They were so steady I pretty much stopped looking at my watch. With the great company, the first 30 kilometers flew by and I was feeling strong. Knowing that this is usually where ‘the wall’ starts for many marathoners, I mentally steeled myself for the next 12 kilometers. I hit the 35 kilometer mark still feeling strong. Every step after that was a new personal record, a new achievement, and my heart soared as I heard the pacers yell that we were truly marathoners now. There was some pain in my knees and hips but after that many kilometers, who WOULDN’T be in some degree of pain, right?photo 4

At this point, I thought that I had managed to avoid the dreaded ‘wall’ where your body just seems to physically shut down and you are going on the scraps of mental power you still have left, but I was SO wrong. Around the 36k mark I started to slip behind the group a bit, and somewhere around the 37k point that stupid wall popped up and I hit it HARD. The muscles in my thighs completely seized up and everything from my knee joint to my hip joint and every muscle in between was in agony, plus the pads of my feet were so sore it hurt to put my feet down.

Those last five kilometers were the longest, hardest distance I have ever run. I fell behind the group, but I promised myself that no matter how much pain I was in, I wouldn’t stop running. I wasn’t going to walk. I am a marathon RUNNER and I am going to run this whole thing-start t0 finish-no matter what it takes. The course definitely put that to the challenge, as we started to go down a long freeway ramp that was sending shock waves of pain up my legs. There is something powerful about the experience, and as I ran those last five kilometers, my heart seemed to expand and it seemed like all of my emotions were heightened. In all of my races before this, all I ever felt was an amazing euphoric high I find rather addicting, but there is so much more feeling in a marathon. Perhaps this is because it requires so much more heart, body and soul to complete the distance than it took even with the 32k race, and that is only 10k shorter.

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Running those last five kilometers, my heart felt so large it was going to burst, and I felt like I might start crying at any moment, but I wasn’t really sure if I was going to cry from the pain or because I was so incredibly, deliriously happy inspite of the pain, or because I was feeling so many different emotions at once that it was the only logical reaction my body could think of.

I got to the final stretch, somewhere between 1 kilometer and 500 meters left, at that point my watch had died (new lesson: if you are running a heart monitor, even my amazing garmin can’t last more than four hours) and I had no concept of distance or time except that I had been going for A LONG TIME and this stupid final stretch just didn’t seem to end. I rounded the corner to see my good friend Maeve, who had completed a half marathon that day, waiting and watching for me behind the fence, still in her running clothes. As soon as she saw me, she started ecstatically cheering me on and I guess she saw how much I was suffering because she actually JUMPED THE FENCE and joined the race again. I think it was really lucky that she was still wearing her half marathon bib and the finish line for the 10k, half marathon and full marathon was the same so they didn’t give her any grief.

I will be forever grateful to this girl and although we were already close friends, she earned a special place in my heart that day. She grabbed my hand and pushed me to go faster, pour every last ounce of spirit and energy I had left into that final distance. I don’t think I would have gotten my five hour ON THE DOT time without her.

Our friend victor pulled Maeve and I over for a picture right after crossing the finish line

Our friend victor pulled Maeve and I over for a picture right after crossing the finish line

We crossed the finish line hand in hand, arms up in the air, feeling strong, feeling like CHAMPIONS.

The overwhelming euphoria and rush of sheer emotion as I crossed the finish line is impossible to put into words that will do it justice, and maybe that’s okay, because it’s a feeling that only a person who completes such a feat, or something similar, would understand. It’s the real reward behind the grueling months of training and the agony of those last few kilometers. It’s something that, no matter how long I live, I will never forget. In a way, I’m glad that I had to struggle a bit in my first marathon because it made the experience that much more memorable, and the final accomplishment that much more gratifying.

Running another marathon is already on my list of resolutions for 2014, and next time, I am going to CRUSH that thing and get my 4 hour something marathon.

I really like new year’s resolutions. It’s like your Santa wish list, except that nobody else can make it happen, just you, which makes it all the more gratifying when you reach your goal.

For 2014, my wish list is as follows:

1. Actively work on maintaining a cheerful, positive outlook on life, and appreciating whatever comes my way

2.Run another marathon

3.Attempt a sprint triathlon (I was a bit nervous about putting this on the list, but I’m taking the plunge!)

4.Improving my posture

5.Keeping up with my healthy lifestyle

6.Diversifying my workout

7.Putting a greater emphasis on strength training

8.Keeping in contact with loved ones, both friends and family

9.Put more time into my blog!

What are your new year’s resolutions?

My Experience as a Newton Challenge Pacer

At the disgustingly early hour of 2:45am, I crawled out of bed to begin my day. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that some of my friends were still out enjoying their Saturday night while I was starting my Sunday morning! It doesn’t matter how many times I have to do these pre-5am wakeups. I will never get used to them. Frankly, I struggle to wake up any time before 8am!

By 3:45am, we were all gathered at the event tent at Big Splash. It was probably a good thing that we were asked to arrive as early as we did, because it gave us time to mentally wake up, get excited and take LOTS of pictures.

All of the pacers were to run with balloons strapped to our backs, and I was a little worried that having three balloons pulling on my shoulders would throw me off or something, but it was actually pretty fun running with balloons! I got hit in the head a LOT by the balloons of the two pacers in front of me, Marina and Patsy, but we were having such a good time running that it became more of an amusing joke than anything else. Running with balloons in our bright turquoise and yellow tops made it feel like we were a bunch of peacocks, and the balloons were our brightly colored tails. I really enjoyed our pretty peacock tails! (Yes, I’m aware, I have a very vivid imagination.)





There is something about the atmosphere in a race which makes any distance feel easier. The excitement and the energy from the event and the thousands of fellow runners all putting their training to the test, supercharges you and brings out a person’s competitive spirit in full force. It’s not that I am competing against the people beside me-the only person I want to beat is myself and the limits of what I feel I am capable of- but having all the runners around you keeps me strong and focused. I look at all of the people around me, some are three times my age, and I remind myself that I, too, have trained long and hard and if they can do it, so can I! Races make you feel CONNECTED. Somehow, even though it’s completely an INDIVIDUAL challenge, having thousands of people all engaged in the same struggle makes you feel like you are part of something bigger-a movement dedicated to physical and mental health and strength.

I thought that NOTHING could beat those feelings of euphoria, strength and connection that you get during a race, but I was wrong. When you run a race as a PACER, all of that doubles, because the race is no longer about you! Pacing, in my opinion, is a bit like cheerleading. A pacer isn’t just a moving thing that you follow in order to reach the finish line in a certain amount of time. A machine could do that. A running watch could do that. But running isn’t a just about the PHYSICAL motion of putting one foot in front of the other at a certain speed. Running requires serious mental strength, and your mental power becomes more important the longer the distance. It’s your force of will that will keep you going when you are 30 kilometers in, your knees are killing you and you’ve had chafing in that one annoying spot for the last two hours.


THIS is where Pacers really become important. It’s their experience as runners, to notice the guy who is struggling and to give him the tips and encouragement he needs to make it to the end. It’s their enthusiasm, to cheer on runners and boost their mood on the long stretches where they are losing moral and there are no spectators to cheer them on. It’s their strength, which they pass to runners through their encouragement, not letting the runners mentally give up because even though they may have temporarily forgotten it, that pacer knows they can do it, their body is still strong and the fight is just in their mind.


Now, I am just a first time pacer, so I am still aspiring to ‘pacer greatness’, but as I ran with my pacing group, and helped all those runners to keep running when they just wanted to stop and walk, and to reach or even surpass their time goals, I experienced a sense of connection and euphoria that far surpassed the usual ‘runner’s high’. Those 32k just flew by and the distance actually seemed pretty easy because I was so focused on the runners that I was pacing for, that I totally forgot about my own mental struggle to complete.




There was one runner who was running beside our group in the last five kilometers who was particularly amazing. This man was very clearly in a fair bit of pain. He ran the last 5k holding the side of his thigh the whole time, and even though he stopped to walk a couple times, he never stopped and he worked HARD to stay with our group. These kind of people are AMAZING in my opinion because they display such mental strength that they quite literally OVERCOME physical pain to reach their goals. I was really proud to have been able to run beside and cheer on this guy. He ended up finishing strong, just ahead of our group.


These past three months of training have bonded me tightly to the pacers in my group, all far more experienced and accomplished runners than I am, and I was really HONORED that they let me be a part of our little ‘Group D Family’.I say ‘family’ because I think that’s what the six of us became: a family bonded by weeks of disgustingly early long runs and the struggle to complete distances I have never run before. As the newest runner in the group, I definitely benefited the most. Our leaders, Patsy and Patrick, were always there with tips on improving my general movement, stance and stride, and the sheer energy ‘Chili-Padi-Patsy’ gave off kept me running on those practice runs, even when I wanted to strangle her for having SO much energy when I felt like I was gonna collapse.



For anyone who has been running races for a while and is looking for something further, I strongly recommend you give pacing a try. It’s an amazing way to give back to the running community, and the personal reward (no, i’m not talking about material things) is AMAZING.

This entry was posted on November 1, 2013. 3 Comments