Giving up my addiction

I am great at exercising, watching my alcohol intake and eating healthy 90% of the time, but I have a big vice. There is a habit that I just can’t seem to shake, I divulge in it at least twice a day – sometimes much, much more. I know it’s bad for me, but I just can’t help it!

I am talking about coffee.

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Oh coffee I love you. Not just because it wakes me up, I love the feeling of holding a hot cup of coffee. I love the smell of it. I love the taste and how warm and fuzzy drinking it makes me feel. When I say coffee, I mean coffee, none of those mixed mocha-caramel-frappe-whatevers, I like actual coffee with nothing added other then maybe a little milk.

marshmallows and syrup belong in hot chocolate, not coffee.

marshmallows and syrup belong in hot chocolate, not coffee.


That does make my daily habit a little healthier, much more so then my co-worker who drowns his cup in syrup and whipped cream, but sometimes I do wonder if it is good for me at all. There are countless studies claiming the negative effects of drinking coffee, and just as many praising it’s health benefits. In my research (yeah I researched) I found a few articles stating that coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer – this is assuming that you keep your intake under four cups a day and don’t add too much sugar, milk and whatever else you see fit.

So coffee may not be too bad, but like everything else it is all about moderation and I don’t think that my two a day habit is doing me too many favors. Last week, after a terrible nights sleep on Sunday which resulted in a millions coffees throughout the rest of the week, I decided to see if I could take a little break from the good stuff.

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Instead of waking up to coffee, I woke up to tea, because total caffeine withdrawal was not something I wanted to experience and I still want a mug of something hot in the mornings. It wasn’t as hard as I thought when I sat down with my breakfast, but once I got to work and started to get ready to teach I really missed the hit. I found myself feeling so tired and foggy, it was hard not to rush out and grab an Americano from downstairs. But I persisted (stubborn Taurus, that’s me), and made it through the seven days.

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Overall I really felt the positive difference in my mind and body.

While the initial hour in the morning was hard, the rest of the day I felt like I had much more energy and was more focused than I usually would be. Often I find myself wanting another cup around 1pm and 3pm, but I felt no cravings for coffee throughout the day. I definitely think that not having the caffeine crash made a huge difference in my attitude, there was no cranky teacher in the afternoon!
I also found that the usual cravings for sugary snacks that I have in that fateful 4pm-6pm period were gone. This was probably due to no caffeine crash as my body wasn’t looking for something to wake me up.
Overall I had a really good week. I am trying to continue the no coffee thing to see if there are any long term benefits, but am still planning on having a cup every now and then. What about you? Anything that you feel like you can’t live without?
And before I forget, Merry Christmas!!!
bm

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Things I’m Loving Lately

My Christmas present to myself was another iHerb order – like I need an excuse to shop on that site. I have so much great love for iHerb, not only can I order things that they don’t have in Korea, but I also get to order items you can’t buy in NZ. Plus the postage is super cheap and it always arrives within a week, although this is kind of dangerous.

I ordered a few new things this week and thought I would add them to the things I am loving list.

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This peanut butter may be my new favorite nut butter (says the girl who downed almond butter in a week last time she ordered it). I am not a big raisin fan but thought I would give it a try as people have raved about it and the cinnamon seemed kind of festive. Yes I did order a peanut butter because I felt it was Christmasy, I have problems. The peanut butter is super creamy and has just enough cinnamon and raisins through it without being too much – it is freaking amazing!! I have been eating it on oatmeal, smeared on apples or just the classic way with a spoon out of the jar. Classy!

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After way too much coffee over the past two weeks I decided to take a break from it for awhile. Somehow I made it through a whole week of work with none and actually felt amazing (but more blogging on that later). As a more natural source of caffeine I ordered this tea and fell in love. It is deliciously minty with a little hint of licorice. Even better it seeps really well so I am able to top up the mug with hot water a couple of times without it loosing any taste.
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Hot chocolate while it’s snowing outside, need I say more.
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Christmas nails!
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These dark chocolate bites are so yummy and make for a satisfying snack that isn’t unhealthy. I love the pomegranate ones, they have a strong taste and after two or three my chocolate cravings are happy.

it wont make you look pretty, but it will make you feel good.

it wont make you look pretty, but it will make you feel good.


Running is something that I go up and down with but lately I have really been trying to do it more. It is a great way to unwind and get some fresh air despite the cold months. As long as you dress right it really isn’t horrible being out there in the cold, after all you do warm up pretty quick.
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Strawberry season is here! That means giant bowls for $5 – my heaven.
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of course Christmas, and getting to spend it with some lovely kids. Makes it a little more special. Plus santa is coming to work this week!\

what are you loving lately?

Elvis Cupcakes (vegan!)

Banana, peanut butter and chocolate – the foodgasmic threesome.

Every bake sale needs something vegan so no one is left out. I wanted to make banana cupcakes because they are always yummy and the banana acts as a wonderful substitute for egg. But plain banana cupcakes are a little boring, and when it comes to vegan baking I always like to make it amazing so that it changes peoples minds. Enter peanut butter.

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These cupcakes are perfectly moist and have a deliciously gooey peanut butter filling. Make them for everyone, vegan or not, but don’t expect them to last long.

Elvis Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup oil or vegan margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 TB cocoa powder
  • 5 TB peanut butter
  • 3 Tb icing sugar

The Steps

Mash bananas in a bowl, add oil and sugar and mix well.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the wet ingredients and mix in slowly.

Separate the mixture into two bowls. Add the cocoa powder (Dissolved in a little water) to one of the bowls and leave the other.

Place a spoonful of the plain banana mixture into a muffin case then top off with the chocolate mix and give it a little swirl with a toothpick to create a marble affects.

Bake at 180degrees for about 15 minutes or until cooked.
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When these have cooled, mix the frosting up. Just mix the icing sugar and peanut butter with water until the consistency seems right. Some people like really thick frosting and others don’t so whatever your preference is. I cut off the tops, gave them a big spoonful of the pb mix and then put a little sliced banana on top to make them look good for the bake sale. But lets face it they are delicious and if they are just for family and friends then who cares, just eat them 🙂

How to Not Get Sick

Happy Thanksgiving American friends!

I have (obviously) never celebrated the tradition, but I appreciate that it is one of those days where you eat a lot and hang with family – my kind of holiday. I actually did go downtown for a thanksgiving meal at a foreigner café. The place is owned by a vegan guy and his no-vegan wife so there was some tofurkey options which were not too bad. I also took advantage of the holiday by getting a wedding dress for 70% off due to Black Friday sales – exciting!

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In other news, the weather is COLD! We got a little snow the other day and I have been running less every week. Despite this chilly weather I have managed to avoid getting sick thus far. I was looking back on the year and too be honest I have only been sick once and that when was I had a terrible flu. For someone who used to constantly have some sort of cold or sniffles this is a big deal for me and I thought I would share some of my tips on how to avoid getting struck down.

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– Invest in decent supplements. While I am one of those people who tells everyone to eat the vitamins rather then take pills, there are some things that we just don’t get for whatever reason. Vegetarians are usually lacking iron, particularly females as we lose iron every month (ahem), while B12 is the only vitamin which is fouyou can only get from meat. So I swallowed my pride and have always taken pills for these two. After hearing a lot about how cheap vitamins are cheap for a reason, this year is the first time that I have actually spent more then a few bucks on them and bothered to get expensive pills. If you ever look at the back of the cheaper brands the ingredients in the pills are really alarming. A lot of the time there are chemicals which can be harmful for your body and also inhibit your body from absorbing the actual vitamins. I have an iron/B12 supplement which I purchased after reading reviews online and checking the ingredients. It has definitely made me much less lethargic and I think has helped a lot in not being sick. Another thing to keep in mind is that caffeine affects iron absorption. If you do take supplements for this try not to have any caffeine two hours before or after taking the pill.

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– Eating healthy has always been important to me but this year I cut back on dairy a lot and noticed a huge change in my health. Not eating dairy makes me feel more focused and energetic, I do notice the difference when I start to add more back into my diet. While I am not saying go vegan, I am suggesting cutting back on some foods such as cheese and milk because it affects your immune system. Also, when I do eat dairy it is always good quality cheese rather then processed which I feel makes a difference.

– Lately I have been roasting garlic and eating it in everything. Seriously like four cloves a day. Roasted doesn’t affect the health benefits (which we all know about so I don’t need to go into), and makes it taste amazing. I really do believe that having so much garlic has stopped me getting sick despite running in the freezing cold.

– Ginger tonic! Prevention is the best. Every time I feel like I am about to get hit with something I make a batch of this and have a lot of ginger tea. As someone who really likes ginger this isn’t too hard, but if you aren’t a fan I suggesting doing a quick shot or adding in some brown sugar. There have been a few times that I feel like I am about to get sick, but this has managed to ward off any illness.

– Vitamin C. An oldie but a goodie 🙂 Your body can take in more vitamin C every three hours so I usually try to have a piece of fruit or a chewable tablet in this time (just those cheap ones kids have). It isn’t hard to get enough, think a cup of strawberries or an orange, but our bodies are unable to store the vitamin. With this in mind don’t go crazy all at once or your body will just flush the extra out, instead try to pace your vitamin C intake throughout the day.

it wont make you look pretty, but it will make you feel good.

it wont make you look pretty, but it will make you feel good.

– Exercise! Yeah I sound like your mum, but seriously eating well and getting some exercise do help your health. Even though it is cold, getting outdoors is really great for your body and mind. By getting in a couple of workouts every week you body will stay healthy and strong!

Sleep vs Exercise

Every morning my alarm goes off I have an internal battle. My body is engulfed by a cozy blanket and it does not want to get up. My instinct is to roll over and hit snooze on the alarm for another 40 minutes because my body is telling me that bed is awesome. There is another side, however, which starts to think about the workout I planned on doing this morning. It remembers the way I carefully got my workout clothes ready and debates how crappy I will feel if I miss the exercise. Usually this side wins and I drag myself out of bed but never regret it.

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There are some days though were I seriously wonder what is better for weight loss and my overall health – sleep or exercise? We all have those nights where we just can’t sleep for whatever reason, and in the mornings afterwards getting up a little bit early really does throw us off. While it may be hard to know knowing that your gym clothes are sitting by the door waiting, it does come down to one thing, sleep and exercise are equally as important.

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I feel like we can be our own worst enemies as we push ourselves to the limits and often work our bodies into an over-tired state. I know I am guilty of getting caught up in the guilt of skipping a day, thinking that it will magically make me gain weight overnight. While it is hard, we need to force ourselves to take rest days, they are such an important part of being healthy. Rest days gives your muscles a chance to change and grow stronger, as well as giving you mental break from the work. Sleep is when our bodies change their composition and grow stronger, missing it to get in a few extra kilometers or weights is not going to do your hard work any favors.
Countless studies show that when our bodies are tired it slows down our metabolisms and we hold on to fat much more easier. This comes down to two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which regulate our appetite. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach, leptin by fat cells; and they work together to tell your body when it is full and satisfied. If you aren’t getting enough sleep the these hormones are going to e out of whack and your ability to resist snacking on sugar and junk is weakened. I am sure you have noticed that having a bad nights sleep results in some bad cravings the next day!
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Sleeping is also good for our mental approach to exercise. If we are dragging ourselves out of bed and being pushed to the limits, chances are you are going to develop some negative feelings. It can be really frustrating to fall out of love (or like) with something you enjoy and is so important to your health. If you are really dreading that early morning wakeup, re-evaluate how often you are working out each week. If you aren’t taking 1-2 rest days, now is the time to start.
Basically, being overtired means that your workout may be a little counter-productive. not only does it affect how your body changes and grows stronger, but it also affects your diet and healthy eating mindset. If you are working yourself into overdrive like this because you are worried that missing a day will un-do all of the good work you have done you really do need to force yourself to stop.  

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Next time you are unsure about sleeping or working out, think seriously. How much exercise have you already done this week? Chances are this is a once off and skipping a morning isn’t a regular occurence for you. Take a look at how many hours sleep you have been getting and if it hasn’t been the recommended 8 a night for a few days then sleep is probably more beneficial then a tired, half-assed workout.
At the end of the day it is simple, sleep, exercise and eat well to be a healthy person. Our bodies are good at telling us what they need, you just need to listen.

The Trick to a Korean Sick Day

Heya

Yup still really sick. This is not fun at all as Korea has a very different attitude towards sick days compared to most Western countries. They do not care if you are contagious as hell, they don’t really give a damn if your body is struggling to do basic things like stand up. No, in Korea you better work no matter how sick you. It’s a sad fact but something that you need to accept if you are working over here.

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I felt unbelievably bad yesterday, (shivering all day and oh so achy) but I someone managed to pull out super human willpower and get through the day. I am very lucky to have a job where the classes are small so we sit at a table when teaching, if I had to stand up I think it would be a different story. Last night I came home and got into bed to rest, slept, and woke up feeling hopeful – before realizing I still felt like crap.

Anyway enough of my rant, I thought I would talk a little bit about how to deal with being sick in Korea. Obviously if my job was more physically demanding I could not be working right now and would have to confront my boss about the sick day thing. I have seen a lot of foreigners mess things up by getting really angry at their bosses and creating an awkward relationship, rather then trying to explain the situation calmly. Seriously screaming at your boss that ‘I have a right, it’s in my contact!’ doesn’t work in this country. Here are a few ways that I have found seem to work…
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First off if you are sick the best thing to do is to go in to work. It sounds silly but ringing up your boss and telling him over the phone isn’t a great idea. There is a stereotype in Korea that all foreigners like to go out and drink and are unreliable people. Of course this doesn’t mean every Korean looks at you like a dirty alcoholic, but it does mean that if you ring up your workplace claiming to be sick they can be a little suspect. Turning up shows that you do care about the job and gives a good impression while getting on their good side.

teaching colours through dominos is much more fun then cleaning.

teaching colours through dominos is much more fun then cleaning.

– Going in to work also means that they can see you and that they know you have tried. The Korean work ethic is a very strong one where you should be turning up every day no matter what (my co-teacher had her wisdom teeth out and then came into work, she couldn’t even take painkillers as they may have made her too out of it to teach kindergarten!) If you go into work, tell them you don’t feel good let them see your pale, shaky self, then there is a good chance you will get to go home.

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Another reason it is a good idea to go into work is that you will most likely get taken to the doctor, whereas if you were at home all day there is no one to help you with the language barrier thing. I had to do that at my old job, I was crazy unwell and came into work, went straight into the office and asked very nicely if someone could help me out by taking me to the doctors before class started. This attitude meant they did take me, I got medicine, and the doctor said I was really sick and should go home, win! 

Working in Korea does meant that you have to accept cultural differences which do include the attitude towards sick days. Basically, if you aren’t super unwell then you need to stick out the day. While back home you may have taken a day off work for whatever it is you have, in Korea you really do need to think ‘even if it is hard as hell can I get through today?’ Yes it sucks, but arguing with your workplace over something like this is so not worth it, remember the Koreans would come in if they were sick too, they are not just picking on the foreigner. If you are physically unable to work, but you have come in all weak and they still aren’t letting you go home then you may need to get firm and explain nicely that there is no way you can teach and that you have done your best by coming in but you really need to go home so that you will be better for the next day.

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I realize this makes Korean bosses seem horrible and unfair, they aren’t, like I keep saying it is just a cultural difference where you turn up to work no matter what. It does suck, but just remember you are in a new country and things work a little differently here. A lot of people end up having needless arguments with their workplace over this issue and, while you should put your health first, the right kind of attitude goes a long way in a situation like this.

Sickie Sick

So last night I casually mentioned to my mum in an email that I had gone a year without being sick, despite teaching little kids who pick their noses and don’t wash their hands – famous last words! Good thing I did skip zumba because yesterday I felt TERRIBLE! 

I wanted to get up and run but decided to sleep instead and woke up a little later to yet another chia pudding. Before work I grabbed a lot of tea to take with me and a little panadol as I was still feeling a bit run down.

I am not sure what happened but the flu hit me like a ton of bricks halfway through the day. So frustrated as I eat really well and have found that since eating mostly vegan my health has been really good. Whenever I get sick I hate how people automatically assume it is because I am a vegetarian, when in reality I know that I get far more nutrients and goodness in my body then the average person.

Anyway my day consisted of a lot of this…

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cherry tea, amazing

cherry tea, amazing


A S’more making class for a science lesson on chemical reactions (I am useless at science, this is my way of keeping it interesting for myself).

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And finally my folding and asking a Korean to help me by writing down the name of a good medicine to show the chemist. I should add that the Korean healthcare system is amazing and you can get pretty much anything over the counter at a tiny cost. They really do have the mindset that you can’t be sick and miss work, so have to get better as quick as possible.

My co-teacher was super lovely and wrote down all of my symptoms to show the chemist, I felt a little dorky handing over the note but it was so good to know I was getting the right thing. Medicine in hand I came home to crawl into bed with standard sick food.

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Marmite and cheese on toast. You can’t tell, but under that marmite is a heaping of crushed garlic, my breath stinks but I don’t want to be kissed right now so that’s okay.

Okay so I sound like a total hypocrite, but I do think that I have been eating more cheese and yoghurt lately and that it contributed to my getting sick.

you can find Greek yoghurt in Korea now, this is pretty new and exciting.

you can find Greek yoghurt in Korea now, this is pretty new and exciting.


Usually I tell people that my diet is full of plant proteins, iron and vitamins which has really made me a much healthier person. Before switching to mostly vegan I used to get sick pretty often, just things like the light sniffles, but now it never happens. Seriously I have not been unwell since last October and that amazes me. Maybe it was the extra dairy I had last week, or time for my immune system to pack it in, but I am going to try eat less cheese this week and focus on fresh veggies and goodness. The hypocrite part was my dinner, when I am sick I just want comfort food and this was it! 

So today I am still feeling really terrible, so achy and feverish. But sick days do not exist in Korea so I will be braving it at work.Lets hope I get through the day…

Weekday Eats

Heya, as I write this I should be at zumba! But I up feeling so run down and not at all myself and decided to stay home tonight. I don’t think an hour of cardio would have done me any favors, but that sucks as I hate missing a workout! I am trying to remind myself that I would just make myself worse and possibly get too sick for work and end up missing much more exercise.
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Anyway last night I did manage to get in a great run after work. The weather is finally cool, not too hot and not too cold so running is pretty magical at the moment. I managed 4k and came home pretty hungry.

For dinner I chopped up some weird pumpkin/zucchini and fried it with a little tofu.
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It tasted much better this way.

I served it alongside a little bit of the ratatouille.
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And with another big salad and half a rye bread roll.
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I am trying to get more raw veggies in my life, this salad had cabbage, corn, lettuce and sesame leaves – yum!
It seems like a lot of food but I hadn’t eaten much during the day and needed some carbs and protein in my life.
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Today I had another chia pudding and topped it with fresh nectarine instead of nuts. Pretty good.
After work I was pretty thankful for the meal prep I did on Sunday. I cooked up some pasta for the Mr, and a bit of tofu for myself. Then I mixed in the leftover ratatouille and roasted potatoes.
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Topped with mozerella, AH-MAZING!
I don’t know if other couples do this, but often when I cook a meal I will modify it a little to suit the man in my life. He eats much more then me, and isn’t as restrictive with carbs and dairy – not that there is anything wrong with these foods! I am going off how much exercise I do and how much I have eaten during the day, usually I had a carb heavy lunch so don’t want too many with dinner. Anyway while some people think it must be a huge effort, I don’t find this too difficult and it keeps us both very happy and full.
With that said, do you ever modify foods? Or would it be a deal breaker in a relationship. I am always curious to know.
I am off to grid up all the coffee I bought the other day so it’s ready for the morning, seems silly but it takes awhile (and makes the apartment smell delicious).
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Have a great night!

Sleeping In and the Crazy Pumpkin

And just like that it is Monday again. I managed to have a relaxing weekend, after the meal prep that is. Yesterday I skyped some friends, made my meals and then relaxed with a book. I took a rest day from exercise but did sneak in a little yoga just because I love it.

Eats included a salad with a rye roll and marmite, with nectarine and canned pumpkin on the side.
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Yup the first of September and I am getting my pumpkin on 😀

Speaking of, I saw this weird vegetable at the supermarket and just had to try it. It claims to be a pumpkin according to the Korean label, but when I cut it up…
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This is NOT a pumpkin Korea!!

They seem to do this with a type of zucchini you can buy in Korea which is called a ‘green pumpkin.’ It is kind of a cross between the two, but much much more zucchini then pumpkin. I roasted it up, but wasn’t really a fan. It tasted like a mushy, water mess.
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Dinner was still marvelous though!

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A big raw salad with cos, sesame leaves, corn, red cabbage, tofu and sun butter – amazing!

After dinner I just really wanted some chocolate and munched on a raw revolution chocolate, coconut bar. Now even though this is a very healthy choice I still felt guilty about it afterwards. I had snacked a lot while doing my meal prep so wasn’t hungry, I just wanted it. I had to remind myself that a raw vegan bar is NOT a binge! I shouldn’t feel guilty for curbing a craving with a healthy choice, compared to my eating habits a couple of years ago I have made huge improvements. After reflecting on how I have changed the bar didn’t seem like a bad choice anymore but like a reflection on just how much better I have gotten at eating whole foods and cutting out processed stuff. nothing wrong with a little treat when it is all natural like this 😀

Unfortunately mu neighbors started using a power drill and hammers at midnight (not exaggerating, they were renovation and it was so rude), so I got little sleep. It meant I had to cancel my run today in favor or a little more shut eye, which turned into a lot when I forgot to reset my alarm.

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I hate sleeping in!! I feel rushed for the rest of the day and as I didn’t have time to wash my hair I feel a little gross. Hopefully I can squeeze in the run after work , I hate skipping a workout but sometimes sleep is more important. 

Anyway lets hope that this doesn’t set the scene for the rest of the week. I am trying to set myself mini-goals, this weeks is less coffee and getting to sleep before midnight! What goals do you have?

My Korean School Lunch

Heya, hope you had a good day. I couldn’t shake that Friday feeling but only one more day 😀

I managed to snap a picture of my lunch today. Now my school lunch is not as bad as others, we have a lovely cook who makes some yummy eats. It is just unfortunate that a majority of them contain meat of some kind. The usual lunch will always have rice, a soup, kimchi, some sort of meat and a vegetable side dish. There are days like curry day (meat), or shrimp fried rice (the WORST for me); and once a month she does tofu day and I bask in the amazingness of the marinated tofu. I should also add that unlike many schools which just service white rice our cook changes between purple rice, mixed grain and rice with beans added – very much appreciated in this white rice loving country.
Anyways here was todays lunch.
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rice with barely and a corn salad. Not too bad, corn is really popular in Korea and a corn salad with some cucumber and mayo is a common side dish. There was pork cutlett for the others but I didn’t get in on that.
The soup today didn’t have any meat or fish like it usually does so I was able to eat it.
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A miso type soup with tofu, seaweed and mushroom. I always bring something extra to add for lunch because it doesn’t really fill me and I don’t want to stuff myself with rice to fill the void. I usually try to bring something with protein, although today I was lucky to get tofu with my soup. Lately my staple has been cucumber slices with hummus and corn (didn’t know about today’s salad), with a few black beans for good measure.
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As you can see I really try not to have to much rice. There is nothing wrong with it, but we eat rice every day with lunch and sometimes for dinner too! My focus is on veggies and protein which keeps me full until 6pm when I finish work.

With that said today I finally forced myself to have a rest day from working out. I realised it had been ten days in a row of exercise and gave my body a little break. I also went out for Mexican food and munched on this yummy burrito, nacho chips and actual guacomole!
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It was beautiful 😀