#UltimateCoffeeDate | July Edition

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Hello blogger friends and readers!

It’s officially the second half of 2016 – month 7 – already!  Here’s another blog post for the #UltimateCoffeeDate link-up, hosted by fitness bloggers Lynda, Coco, and Deborah.

While we catch up over coffee, I’d like to share…

That I’ve been on healthylioness.wordpress.com for a whole year now!  This ‘anniversary’ is a reminder of why I started blogging – to keep myself accountable to my health goals and to stay connected to the Sweat Pink ambassador community. Now that’s something I can celebrate. 🙂

Next, I’d like to share… 

That my new favorite form of leisurely exercise in London is walking along the Thames River into the nearby town center.  It usually takes an hour round-trip, which is just enough light exercise for a couple days per week to keep the academic stress at bay. Plus, I get to take in the gorgeous scenery, say hi to the swans and ducks, and sometimes grab a coffee on my way back.

Do you have a favorite type of leisurely exercise?

Finally, I’d like to share…

That I’m desperately looking forward to (and praying for) warmer weather in London.  We had some great days in early June, but lately dark clouds have been hanging over the city. I always feel more energetic when the sun’s out, so here’s to hoping July holds some epic weeks of sunshine bliss!

What are you excited for in July?

Thanks for reading!

~ The Healthy Lioness

 

 

 

Hello June | #UltimateCoffeeDate

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Hey friends, it’s the first Saturday of the month so here’s another #UltimateCoffeeDate chat to get us all caught up about what we’ve been doing lately.  Thanks to Lynda, Coco, and Deborah for hosting this awesome blog link-up!

Ok, here goes…Let’s imagine ourselves sitting down at a quirky, hipster-meets-vintage-library cafe down a small side street in urban London.  I’d probably order a small mocha — who can’t resist mixing coffee with cocoa? — and maybe a blueberry muffin to go with it.

Now, while we catch up over coffee, I’d like to share…

That I’ve started running! Albeit very slowly. I’m mixing short bursts of running and walking to gently adjust my body to running using a C25K app. After taking that first step, I feel pretty great knowing I’m investing in my body’s health.

Secondly, I’d like to share…

That I’ve come to realization that the last eight months have been the most challenging of my life.

When I initially pictured life halfway across the world in England, I didn’t expect each day to bring sunshine and roses per se.  But I also hadn’t expected to be thrust out of my comfort zone in so many ways. From missing home, to dealing with health issues, and questioning life decisions, it’s been a complete whirlwind.

However, now that I’m in the homestretch of my studies, I can look back and see that what I’ve accomplished so far was pretty terrific. I’m well on my way to having spent an entire year in a different country, interacting with a unique culture, and ultimately learning more about myself as a person than I probably would have done if I’d stayed in California right after graduating.

Lastly, I’d like to share…

I recently discovered the delicious goodness of homemade baked sweet potato fries. And I’m addicted. Throw the slices together with some coconut oil, sea salt, black pepper and paprika and bake for a healthy, tasty side dish.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a very rewarding month. It’s officially summer! Go out and make the most of the sun, wherever you may be.

~ The Healthy Lioness

 

 

A Few New Stepping Stones

Happynew year!

2016.

A year that holds the promise of …Change. New adventures! Limitless possibilities…

But it is really, just another year, isn’t it? Like all the years before it, the way we signify the new year is simply with the change of the four-digit number on our calendars, computers and smartphones. Sure, it’s fun to celebrate the incoming year with a big bash and all, but by the time we’re mid-way through the first month, we’ll likely have adjusted and forgotten the initial hub-bub.

Though don’t get me wrong, I do love the idea and feeling of the new year as a fresh start. But that fresh start can come at any moment really. We just have to be willing to say today is the day that x stops, I commit to y, and z will happen. That’s why I started my new year’s ‘resolutions’ (if you will) earlier than January 1st. But really, they’re more like steps and new habits to help revamp and reinvigorate my lifestyle. And while they’re not explicitly related to fitness or physical health, I believe they’re necessary for eventually achieving a wholesome life, especially in terms of maintaining mental and emotional health.

I started with some very necessary self-reflection.  You know, thinking about who I am as a person. If I actually act the way I think I act.  I always find that I have the most clarity when I’m home where I grew up. Maybe it’s because I’m with my parents (who, let’s be honest, are my ultimate role models) or maybe it’s the rural atmosphere where I see one of the basic necessities of life (agriculture) occurring firsthand. It’s here where I get away from the metropolis and realize that a lot of what I thought I needed in my life (mostly pushed into my mind by our materialistic society) isn’t necessary at all. I don’t need fancy-anything. I don’t need to impress anybody except myself. I just need to ensure that what I do every day leaves me content and happy so that I’m able to share those positive feelings with others.

Next I moved on to thinking about gratitude and making it an integral part of my daily routine. Each night, I try to thank God for all the things I’m grateful for in my life. And you know what, it’s a really calming practice. Granted, sometimes it makes me a little more emotional, but I do find myself smiling and feeling happier as I fall asleep.

Then came my hopes and dreams.  The latter half of 2015 had me swimming in a sea of ‘O I could do this? Or this! Oh maybe this?’ as I learned about the possible career routes I could take with my masters degree. January, February and March will be spent taking this into deep consideration and making a well-researched, conscious move, hopefully in the right direction.

Now I’m working on developing a plan for a better year than the last. But as it often happens, when I’m faced with a big task like an academic assignment or pivotal decision, I want to do everything else except focus. So I think it’s rather perfect that I was recommended Marie Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. (The author actually mentions this phenomenon of avoiding the big task at hand…with the sudden urge to tidy-up — which I’m definitely guilty of.)

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I’m only about a third ways through the book right now, but I’m finding it quite useful. Kondo’s method of tidying up – by category rather than by room, and her emphasis on the need to undertake tidying up as a main event, rather than little by little – is profound. And I really think it’ll work. If I can get my living space organized (both in the US now and the UK, once I’m back) I feel I’ll have some much-needed mental clarity, with none of that physical clutter bogging down my subconscious.

And the rest of the plan…well, that’s still in the works. 😉 But I do know that it includes being more decisive and intentional with how I live my life. And that includes how I feel and act day-to-day.

So there you have it. My current, but flexible, ‘stepping-stones’ for a hopefully better life.

Do you have any New Year’s ‘resolutions’?
~ The Healthy Lioness

Revisiting Mindfulness

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Mindfulness has really taken off recently and everyone’s buzzing about it. I’ve even heard it mentioned in class this week and the other day I mentioned to a friend that I try to be ‘mindful.’

Over the summer, I was reading a great deal on healthy living, both the physical and mental sides, and had a pretty good idea of what I thought mindfulness meant.  But I often feel that it’s good to revisit certain ideas or mantras we’re aspiring to follow, in order to reaffirm the definition and recommit.

So what does it mean to practice mindfulness?

In the most simplest terms, being mindful means being aware.

Aware of your environment. Aware of yourself, your actions and your emotions. And crucially, aware of other people, their actions and their emotions.

It’s so easy to jump to conclusions without thinking things through or properly evaluating a situation and taking all sides into consideration. So if you make an effort to tap into your consciousness and pause for even two seconds to be aware, you have a better chance of responding adequately to the situation. It’s a great way to reign in impulsive emotions and helps to maintain healthy relationships.

I find mindfulness especially helpful on bad days. You know those days when you wake up and everything seems to be going wrong, even down to the small, minute things? Yep, those days definitely need mindfulness to stem the flow of negativity. Often, I pair mindfulness with a bit of deep breathing. 1, 2, 3. Ok, what am I doing wrong in this situation and how can put my feelings in check? Usually, the feelings will subside and I feel better, partially because I haven’t reacted rashly but primarily because I feel good for doing something positive. For me. And for others (in a way). If I can send out positivity into the world, I’m going to choose that option. I’d rather smile than frown. And hopefully that will rub off on someone else.

It’s also really important to be conscious of how other people are feeling and acting. When speaking with friends, I try to be a good listener, picking up on their tone of voice, body language and what they’re saying. And if they express a problem, I try to help in any way I can. Sometimes people just need to talk things out with someone. Or other times, there’s actually a way to do something to help out. And when you are able to aid them, it’s wonderfully rewarding. That’s mindfulness stepping further and influencing physical actions.

Hopefully you found this post interesting and helpful in reflecting on mindfulness.

Let’s be extra aware of ourselves and others this weekend and Happy Halloween everyone!
~ The Healthy Lioness

Healthy Sunday Snack: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Protein Clusters

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Happy Sunday friends!

A few weeks ago, I picked up chocolate-flavored whey protein powder from a sports shop in the hopes that by purchasing it, I’d be more motivated to workout and consume protein regularly.

It was effective to a certain extent. I’ve noticed a conscious effort to include sources of protein in my meals, in addition to fruits and veggies. But the thing is, I hadn’t actually been using the whey protein powder! That is, until today.

I came across the idea for peanut butter/chocolate clusters/balls while exploring Pinterest and fellow Sweat Pink ambassadors’ blogs earlier this week. I’m a HUGE peanut butter fan (I especially adore Skippy’s). So this healthy, sweet snack is perfect and I’ll definitely be making it again in the future. Below, you’ll find a summary of how I prepared the clusters (with approximate measurements, as I eye-balled the quantities of the ingredients). I decided to experiment with granola instead of oats, which most other recipes call for, but I think it came out quite nicely. Hopefully you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Utensils:
1 Medium mixing bowl
1 Baking sheet, lined with parchment/wax paper/paper towel.
1 Mixing Spoon
1 Large Spoon or Ice Cream Scooper.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Peanut Butter
2 Cups Granola (I used a raisin/almond mix, but choose your own preference)
1/2-3/4 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
1 Scoop/Serving Chocolate-Flavored Whey Protein Powder

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With your mixing spoon, combine the granola, protein powder and chocolate chips in the bowl. Then stir in half of the honey. Slowly add in the peanut butter, mixing in one big scoop at a time. Finish off with the rest of the honey. The end mixture should clump together quite well, but not be too-sticky or glued together completely.

Using your large spoon, scoop up enough of the mixture to form rounded clusters that fit nicely into your hands. (Make the clusters as big or small as you’d like). One ice cream scoop is usually a good-sized amount. Cup your palms, gently pressing the mixture into a rounded cluster, then place on the baking sheet.

Tip: Before forming the clusters with your hands, run your hands under warm water so they’re damp. It will help prevent the peanut butter and honey from sticking to your hands when trying to make rounded balls.

Refrigerate your finished clusters for at least 30 minutes before eating.

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Enjoy the rest of the evening everyone and cheers to healthy cooking!
~ The Healthy Lioness

Updating My Nighttime Routine

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had quite a bit of trouble getting a good night’s sleep each evening. Not only has it been difficult to fall asleep, but waking up constantly has made my nights (and as a result, my days) extremely frustrating.

So I’ve decided to take action.

By making 4 key changes to my evening habit, I’m hoping to make it a little easier for my body and mind to wind down.

Chamomile Tea
Following the example of my tea-loving mom, I’m drinking a hot cup of chamomile tea before bedtime. It’s supposed to be helpful in de-stressing the body.

Turning off Electronics
My daylight hours are already over-stimulated by news, videos and music delivered through digital screens, so I think it’s a good idea to stop the flow of information at least two hours before bedtime.

Instead, I’m planning on reading a few chapters from a novel – a fun, pleasurable read to contrast all of the studious (but usually interesting) texts I focus on during the day. 😉

Hot Shower
I’ve always heard that a hot shower is better for promoting sleep because it helps to relax the body. So instead of using warm water, I’m going to adopt hot water for at least 4 or 5 minutes during evening showers.

Yoga
Lately, my workout regimen has mainly included 20 min. sessions done in the comfort of my room a few times per week, but I’m hoping to get back into yoga. That’s why I’ve resolved to start off with some calming poses before bed. All I need is to do first is pick up a yoga mat from a local store on my next shopping trip.

While these changes may not seem drastic, I’m hoping they’ll be effective tweaks to my nighttime routine.

Do you have any tips for promoting restful sleep?

~ The Healthy Lioness

Why I LOVE Quinoa

  
My friends know it. My roommates especially know it. My family knows it. I adore quinoa.

You may be wondering at this point, ‘why exactly?’ 

I guess because it was a new ingredient/food that I discovered while trying to incorporate more protein-rich foods into my diet (as a vegetarian, I was finding it a bit difficult on a day-to-day basis). I can’t remember where I first heard about quinoa, but it was probably either a food blog or a health magazine somewhere. When I realized that it was a healthier alternative to rice and bread, I thought, I’d better try that out.

The first time I cooked with it, I used water and it wasn’t particularly flavorful. I think I also just threw in some sautéed veggies and maybe a sprinkle or two of black pepper. (I have since learned to experiment and liberally use my spices and sauces ;)). Instead of shoving the remaining quinoa to the back of my cabinet, I picked up a carton of veggie broth on my way home later that week and cooked it again. Boy, was that a good decision!  The broth made all the difference for me. Ever since then, quinoa has become a kitchen staple.

The top reason why I make it all the time is definitely the ease in cooking it. All you have to do is add two portions of liquid (veggie broth or water, your choice) to one portion of quinoa. So 2 cups of veggie broth to 1 cup of quinoa will create a yummy and fully cooked pot of quinoa.

Last week, while cooking dinner, I even boiled a portion of it specifically for lunch the next day. I let it cool, popped it into tupperware and left it in the fridge overnight. Before heading to campus in the morning, I just added in balsamic vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, basil and feta cheese for a simple, healthy ‘packed’ lunch.  But it’s also tasty when mixed in and cooked with sauces or tossed over with veggies for an easy stir-fry. 

So readers, have you tried quinoa? Are you a fan? Do you have any recipes you’d recommend?! I’d love to here your thoughts. 🙂

~ Here’s to tasty cooking adventures,

The Healthy Lioness

Balance Makes Me Feel #BosuStrong

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The #BosuStrong Challenge hosted by Fit Approach and Bosu has been incredibly inspiring and I’m so glad to be following all of the action on Twitter and Facebook!

As I find my new normal here in the UK, it’s becoming easier to organize my personal fitness and eating habits.  Trips to the grocery store are less frazzling (because I’m not lugging back massive bags to stock up on basics anymore). And as I get back into cooking real food, I get excited over certain products like edamame, blueberries, and ginger snaps! Yes, I know, those are common items available in the UK, but hey, they remind me of shopping for produce and snacks at the local shops back in California. It’s amazing how finding a few simple items like those can calm anxieties and make you feel more at home. [Shout-out to all of my #SweatPink sisters who have been a phenomenal support system, expressing their interest in my adventures and empathizing with my experience of homesickness — I’m deeply appreciative of all of the love!]

So as this post’s title points out, today is #totalbodythursday. To give my body a much-needed workout that targets all of the core areas, I plan to perform the following moves by the end of the day:

– Mountain Climbers
– Planks (Because who doesn’t love a good plank?!)
– Squats
– Tricep Dips
– Jumping Jacks
– Burpees

And hopefully I can squeeze in ten minutes of zen-inspiring yoga. Ensuring that I prioritize time for both my body, including workouts and healthy eating, and my mind makes me feel #BosuStrong. I’m trying to focus less on how stressed I feel and transform that negative energy into positive energy.

On that note, let’s spread a little extra positivity today.
~ The Healthy Lioness

London Adventures: Covent Garden & Soho

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Happy Sunday everyone!

Hope you’ve all been enjoying a re-energizing weekend wherever you are in the world. Right now, it’s about 5:30pm in London and most of my California friends probably haven’t even woken up yet. But those of us nearer to the Atlantic are just wrapping up our days, making the most of the sunlight that’s left.

Today I had the chance to travel into London by train and the tube (a.k.a. the Underground) with a friend who lives in the same university halls. Because I know many friends back home in the US would like to read about some of my UK adventures, I thought I’d share how today went while exploring one of the most dynamic cities in the world.

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We started off our excursion with the simple decision of making our way to the Covent Garden and letting the day take us from there. Our primary goal was to get a feel for the city of London and make the most of what would otherwise be a very lazy Sunday.  After topping up our Oyster cards at the local train station, we headed into the city, fueled with caffeine (as always) and prepped for just about anything. Once in the city, specifically the Westminister area, we were immediately struck by the presence of an extensive range of stores and restaurants outside of the Leicester tube station.

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After walking around the corner towards the Covent Garden, I quickly realized that our destination wasn’t actually a garden at all, but was an expansive cluster or ‘piazza’ of shops, restaurants, and market stalls. With hundreds of people browsing through the stores, listening to the live music, and enjoying the great food, the marketplace would be a great place to do Christmas shopping. Ranging from small trinkets, hand-painted portraits, clothing and jewelry stalls, the small and large shops offer gifts perfect for just about anyone. Our favorite store was an adorable place called “Sass & Belle” that offered cute little shabby chic trinkets. I would have bought just about everything in the store if I could!

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Next, we headed down the street to Picadilly Circus where the iconic tall plasma screens line one side of the street, overseeing a bustling crossroads bursting with people, cars and buses. The number of cool stores and restaurants, like M&M World, was amazing. We spent a great deal of time walking through the streets, taking pictures (how could we not?!), and being extremely touristy haha. Then we took a detour into London’s China Town, which was also abuzz with lots of people and aromas of delicious food.

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After regrouping during lunch, which consisted of yummy, hot soup & pie at a casual restaurant called EAT, we decided to venture into Soho, renowned for its array of high-end shops. It. was. huge. With street upon street of stores like Zara, Burberry, and John Lewis, it’s a very dynamic (and slightly pricey ;)) area. If only we had the money to go shopping at such expensive places! 😉

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All in all, we did a lot of walking, weaving in and out of crowds and dodging large groups of fellow tourists.  About mid-afternoon, we decided to call it a day and head back.  I’m now ending the day with a cup of coffee – pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, which tastes like Autumn – and writing this blog post. 🙂

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For this evening, I’m going to take some inspiration from the great play-writer and poet Shakespeare, and dive into a novel.

How are you spending your Sunday?
~The Healthy Lioness

Jumping in on the #BosuStrong challenge with #SweatPink!

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Hey there fitness friends & bloggers!

Super excited to be sharing a brand new & FUN mad lib today, as I join in on the second week of the #BosuStrong challenge headed by SweatPink & Bosu. Although I don’t have a Bosu to use right now (being away from home and halfway across the world makes that pretty tough!), I always need more work on improving my balance. Though I do wish I had a Bosu here in the UK – everyone’s Insta shares make the workouts look like so much fun!

Alright, here we go:

Mad Lib: 6 ways I stay balanced

If you forgot to join me last week for the #BOSUStrong challenge or just weren’t up for the cardio, make sure you join me this week as it’s all about the balance! We’re standing on one leg, lunging, and BOSU squatting our way through the week.

But balance means more than just being able to stand on one leg, it also means being able to do what you love while making healthy choices at the same time. It means putting in the work and still finding time for watching Suits on Netflix. Or eating all of the the creamy Cadbury chocolates but balancing it out with quinoa & veggie mixes. Or yoga (workout) and HIIT workouts (workout) at home when you can’t make it to the gym.

Here are the 6 ways I stay balanced – what are yours?

I make time for myself by sticking to a to-do list and rewarding myself with a sweet treat & tv time when I’ve checked most things off.
My favorite me time is sleep, a good book, and netflix.
My rule when it comes to a balanced diet is to include sources of protein & veggies with all meals.
I make fitness a priority by making daily tasks, like a trip to the grocery store, into a workout; I opt to walk instead of taking the bus and climb up the escalators instead of just riding them up.
When I get stressed or overwhelmed, my go to is chocolate.
I do try to stay active and as stress-free as possible to help my family stay balanced. I try to cook healthy foods to lead by example and introduce new meal options to my family.

So I want to know – are you #BOSUStrong? Copy and paste the above, fill it in and make it your own and then tag me in it and share with your friends! Let’s all be #BOSUSTRONG.

Now I’m off to do some yoga and squats!
~ The Healthy Lioness