The Sunrise

Last Wednesday when my alarm went off at 7am to get ready for a teaching day, I noticed something different. Yesterday when my alarm went off at 7am to get ready for Expérience Glendon, I noticed the same thing.

The sun was out.

I tend to spend my winters in hibernation; staying in whenever I can, struggling to wake up in the mornings and struggling to find the motivation I need to get things done. Coincidentally, that’s the time of year when things really pile up.

However, I find that the strangest little things can give me the biggest wake-up calls. I still don’t know what the wake-up call was last year that caused me to become my healthiest self. But what did these early sunrises tell me? They told me it was time to pick up the habits I’d left behind and get my butt in gear. They told me it’s almost Spring, and that my final exams of my degree are right around the corner, followed by job interviews and the working world. They told me that right after Spring comes Summer, so now’s the time to stop making excuses for re-visiting unhealthy habits.

They say it takes three weeks to form a new habit. The truth of this statement could be argued, but regardless there’s no secret to sticking to a routine—you just have to do it. It’s not easy, but only a few days after this wake-up call I’m eating better, sleeping soundly and exercising almost daily, and I’m reaping the benefits all thanks to the sunrise.

What’s your sunrise?

It’s no secret that Instagram is pretty big motivator for me as well. Here are some of my favourite Instagram accounts on my following list that inspire me daily:
Oh She Glows, Andie Mitchell, Essena O’Neill, Nutrition Stripped, Kayla Itsines, Flourishing Health, Nutritionista Renée, The Cucumber Queen (a friend of mine!), Rachel Brathen (Yoga Girl), Kerri Verna (Beach Yoga Girl), Kino MacGregor (KinoYoga)

I changed my life in four months… This is how.

It’s funny how you can read or be told something over and over again but you don’t realize its importance until you really, really put it into practice or experience it. In this case, that thing is that weight-loss is not a diet; it is a lifestyle change. It’s so unbelievably cliché but I can now truthfully attest to its truthfulness.

I’ve been inspired to write about this since I arrived home from exchange but I haven’t been able to convince myself that it was a good idea to publicize this topic in my own case. But, here it is, because I want people to know how I changed my own life so that they may be able to do the same thing themselves. I haven’t posted any photos of myself in this post because I didn’t feel it necessary, but you can check out my food photos on my Instagram account!

Backstory: I gained 30 pounds in my first year of university alone. That summer, I lost 20. I gained it back within months of being back at school. My weight gain in three years of university totalled 42 pounds, but fluctuated a lot under certain circumstances, like when I had my jaw operated on. In short, my weight was an awful number and I had never truly hated anything so much in my entire life. My clothes didn’t fit, and at my worst I barely fit into an XL. It just wasn’t me. But I also questioned that belief because I couldn’t find the motivation to make changes drastic enough to get back to where I was before I started university.

My mum has instilled a lot of belief in me of the good of holistic medicine since I was about ten years old. We both see a naturopath (she more regularly than I) who has, in turn, shown me that my body is not meant to ingest certain things. In the last couple of years I’ve experimented with a gluten-free diet only to discover that I react to gluten, and the more I went on and off of a gluten-free diet, the worse my reactions would get. This was a huge starting point for my weight-loss, and with research I have learned that going gluten-free for good and losing weight did not happen at the same time coincidentally. As the gluten-free duck said passionately: “Don’t eat gluten for 30 days and tell me how you feel!!”

I’ve lost 35 pounds since December. It’s difficult to picture it because I’m tall and weight is easily hidden, but those 35 pounds were there and had to be lost. I am undoubtedly proud of myself, but there is still a lot of work to do!

My real weight-loss journey began when I returned to Brussels after Christmas. I had spent much of first semester binge-watching TV shows and binge-(insert other verbs), and despite the amazing time I was having travelling, I wasn’t the happiest me I could be.  I couldn’t possibly tell you what exactly clicked in my psyche to give me a completely new outlook on how I should be living, but that click happened at some point at the very beginning of January of this year. One would say it was a New Year’s resolution, but this so-called “psyche click” happened so subconsciously that I wasn’t really aware of it. With a lot of time on my hands living in Brussels, I developed a serious love for cooking and improvising (usually successfully!) with new recipe ideas and I grew extremely proud of what I was doing because I knew that I was becoming much healthier because of it.

Even though I don’t know why I so suddenly changed my lifestyle, there are definitely some contributing factors. The first was, and still is, the people who surround me daily. Several people I lived with in Brussels during my second semester hugely motivated me to live a healthy life, and vice versa. We worked together at living better and always had each other’s backs. Now that I’m home, I’m spending my days with my fellow lifeguards at the pool, who all live extremely healthily because we all motivate each other to do so! My co-workers keep me sane and healthy every day and I cannot give them enough credit for that.

Another factor is Instagram. Yes, you read that right. It’s no secret that I LOVE to take photos, and it’s also not a secret that I spent a very large amount of time on Instagram while I was gone. I discovered some amazing communities on Instagram (particularly the #vegan and #rawvegan communities) that inspired me to start posting photos of food that I made and loved. Taking photos of my food to post on Instagram has become a completely normal thing for me, though some people (including some of my friends) will never understand the need for it. Digitally sharing my food with others and being inspired by others doing the same thing has had a massive impact on my weight-loss journey, and though I will probably never be able to eat a vegan diet consistently, I have grown a love for vegan-inspired dishes thanks to the networks I have found and now follow. I work with a girl named Lauren who has a phenomenal Instagram account featuring vegan and raw vegan dishes of her own creation, and her photos are AMAZING. She has helped to instil in me a love for beautiful, healthy food. Check her out here.

For many, every single thing I’ve said in this post is extremely cliché and easily laughable, but for me, these things have become game-changers in my life. I’ve noticed that along with a spike in trends like the gluten-free diet comes a spike in people who make fun of those who choose to live that lifestyle. Nothing makes it ok for you to target a friend or acquaintance who makes these kinds of choices. If there’s one thing I can say to those people, it’s that there is no excuse to ever make a friend feel like they’re being “ridiculous” or “excessive” for choosing to live their better life, which is exactly what I am doing now!

PS: I still gorge on chocolate whenever the craving hits. That is something I will never, ever get rid of!

PSS: My posting hiatus is over and you’ll be hearing from me more regularly from now on!

 

In which I ramble on about taking care of myself—you should too!

As I near the end of my exchange (*cue tears*) my funds are running lower and lower. I’ve planned the last of my travels in April and I’ve booked my flight home in May, so all that’s left to do is enjoy the two months I have left. I’m not travelling almost every weekend like I used to, so with more time at home comes more downtime! Remember how in January I chose to be mindful of my mind and body for the whole year? Well, I’ve been using my downtime to do exactly that. I’ve made a total lifestyle 180, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Life as a student, especially in residence, is difficult when it comes to taking care of yourself. Food options are limited (though manageable) and in my first year I found myself surrounded by friends who were staying up until 4am every night of the week with pizza and ‘beverages’. Motivation to exercise was limited, along with that to maintain healthy day-to-day habits. That along with my lack of self-control was a bad mix. I LOVED my first year and everyone who was there with me, but I was heading down a slippery slope towards a really unhealthy life.

Since first year my Freshman “15”—heavy quotations—has fluctuated greatly, as I live and eat really healthily when I’m at home with my parents (shout-out to Mama Wass for being the health nut that she is!). This semester, however, I’ve made a promise to myself that I will keep my habits under control and take command of a healthier lifestyle for good.

I’ve been eating a ~95% clean and gluten-free diet (beer included!) this semester, which has settled my stomach beautifully since I’m gluten-intolerant. My plates are always comprised of at least 50% fruits or vegetables along with my lean proteins, which is something I’ve always known to do but struggled with.

Whoever made this .gif deserves an award. #kale

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day! Pictured are 3-ingredient pancakes (1 banana, 2 eggs, cinnamon) with an apple and low-fat plain greek yogurt. It’s usually this or a packed smoothie (banana, greek yog., kale, frozen berries/mango)—YUM

Having been a dancer I used to be in super-crazy-good shape, but I’ve lost almost all of that in university. Swimming, however, will always be something that I’ll stick with thanks to the best job ever! I’m a self-proclaimed yogi but classes here are expensive far and few between in Brussels, so I bought myself a really cheap mat and have been leading myself through practice whenever I’m feeling distracted or irritated. I’ve also made a habit of practicing Sirsasana headstands every day regardless of whether or not I’m working out, because the benefits are super awesome!

I try to go to bed before 12:30 every night, as opposed to 3 or 4 in the morning like in first semester. When I go to bed at by 12:30 my body clock wakes me up at around 7:30 or 8am, which is pretty darn cool because I get so much more accomplished in a day! I used to always get the same amount of sleep, but clocking that same amount from 3am to 11 never benefitted me and probably doesn’t for anyone.

TL;DR— You can take command of your lifestyle as long as you are mindful of what your body needs and is asking for. And eat your veggies!

But enough about me doing boring, non-travelling stuff. I’m going to Ireland tomorrow and there will most definitely be a post about that next week!