Monday, August 1, 2016

There's Something About August

I’m not sure if the words haven’t been invented yet or if I’m in desperate need of a vocabulary refurbishing (I’m thinking it’s the latter), but I can never seem to find the words to explain how little miss August makes me feel. Yes, she is definitively considered just as much of a summer month as June and July, but for some reason whenever I wake up on August 1st, I feel... different. On July 31st, I naively believe that summer will last forever and I’ve got all the time in the world to hit every roof top bar and ice cream shop in NYC before the season’s end. Year after year, however, when the clock strikes twelve, August wraps me in a blanket of uneasiness and I think to myself “I have thirty-one days left to live. I must make the most of my time here.”

The irony of someone demanding that you relax and enjoy the present moment is that it’s pretty difficult to relax and enjoy yourself when someone is demanding something of you. Most of the time when somebody tells me to “relax” or “chill”, I’m like the little aliens from space jam that steal the NBA’s talent and become huge, obnoxious monsters. Furthermore, when I tell myself I need to be present and cherish the moment, my mind goes into overdrive and I start worrying about whether the cashier at Whole Foods gave me the correct amount of change for the water I bought three weeks ago.

As much as August gently screams “live in the moment”, my boisterous mind screams “You need to relax. Are you relaxing? How do you really know if you’re relaxing? You need to enjoy yourself without worrying about what’s next. Or money. Or how you look in your bikini. Stop thinking. Are you seriously still thinking?” a smidge louder. Being present and mindful is something society talks about so haughtily, but can never actually execute, and without sounding too much like a bohemian-vegan-yoga instructor, it is essential to one’s peace and happiness. That is why, for the remainder of August, I’m making it my number one priority to be more mindful.

Why am I bothering you with this? Well, for one, because you guys are the only thing I can think of to keep me (actually) accountable, and two, because chances are, if you’ve been reading my blog and can relate to the absurd things that go torpedoing out of my mouth, you need to work on your mindfulness too. It seems fairly obvious that you accomplish a task most efficiently when you’re giving your 100% concentration and effort, and yet here we are eating dinner while simultaneously scrolling through Instagram, watching the latest Real Housewives, and trying to have a conversation with your roommate. What is the secret to doing it all? It’s not doing it all at once.

For the month of August, when I’m doing something, that’s all I’ll be doing. When I’m out to dinner with a friend, I won’t bring my phone and I’ll savor every last bite of my gluttonous meal. When I’m working out, I won’t think about what my post-workout snack is going to be or what other tasks I should be accomplishing by day’s end. When I’m dipping my toes in the ocean, I’m not going to think about whether or not my baby abs are poking through my pouch that day.

I implore (and sort of beg) you guys to undertake this challenge along with me; if not for the betterment of your entire wellbeing, do it for the sheer, disturbing fact that it is August...and her days are numbered.

The Slowest Fast Known to Humankind

Recently, I attempted the inconceivable. No, I didn’t try to abide by the serving size suggested by “doctors” on the peanut butter jar...I tried one of those damn juice cleanses. At a BBQ during July 4th weekend, my friend Emma and I declared (while inhaling a hot dog battered in beer in the same way I imagine whales quaff krill) that come Tuesday, we’d make up for all this debauchery with a 3-day juice cleanse. It all seemed so daring and exciting four cocktails in. Come Tuesday, the excitement was nothing but a figment of our imagination.

While normally we leave anything we spoke about in one of our drunken stupor’s in the past, along with what’s left of our dignities, we realized we might have taken things too far when SOMEBODY thought it was a good idea to bring alcohol-infused Funfetti cake with SPECULOOS FROSTING. Whoever you are, I want to kiss you, and kill you.

Before we could wrap our heads around the unfeasible journey we were embarking on, we paid $189 dollars to be absolutely miserable for three days. There are SO many fricken’ juice cleanses out there now-a-days (seriously, they’re popping up like Starbucks in urban cities), we were a little overwhelmed when picking our poison, but we ended up landing on the Juice Shop Cleanse. The three-day cleanse (fast) consisted of 102 liquid ounces a day of algae elixirs and local, organic cold-pressed concoctions that came in dainty glass bottles in flavors like kale and celery, beet and carrots, pear and chia seed and, the utter ambrosia, raw almond and Himalayan salt. They promised detoxification, recalibration, and regeneration, and since neither of us knew what any of those words meant, we thought it was the obvious choice.

So, how did it go? If I could compare my experience to another’s, I imagine it would be similar to a bear coming out of hibernation for 8 months and not being allowed to eat until they are willing to kill their cub for food. Are you wondering whether or not you should embark on this preposterous journey? Well, before you do, let me tell you about my own experience so you know what lunacy you’re getting yourself into.

Day 1:
Morning: I wake up unsurprisingly anxious about this challenge. I am repeating a mantra of “you can do this, you’ve been awake for an hour,” in my head, and I’m feeling wired and confident. Downed my first juice, ironically pondered about how “this is a piece of cake,” and was on my way for some “light exercise.”

Mid-Morning: I have no idea what the hell light exercise is, I run 4 miles and have to actively tear myself away from the treadmill. Feeling good from the exercise endorphins, but also have a pit in my stomach with the message “what have you just done...”

Lunch: Downing my second juice of the day and I’m still feeling pretty swell. Thinking this whole thing might be a breeze for a tenacious nugget like me. Life is good. Bless up.

Dinner: OH MY GOD I AM DILAPITATING. The “I am feeling good and ready to take on this challenge” feeling fades faster than it began. I am god damn STARVING. My stomach is growling incessantly and I drank enough herbal tea to drown a small village.

Day 2:

Morning: I am savoring every single tiny chia seed swimming in my morning juice.  I desperately attempt to reach the ones on the very bottom of the stupid bottle with my tongue before I realize I resemble a seagull picking up scraps in the garbage.

Lunch: I start fasting on the Juice fast. The Deep Greens will not go down, no way, no how.

Dinner: Irritable is the understatement of the past twenty-two years of my existence. I can’t talk. I can’t think. The only thing I can do is scroll through the best food accounts on Instagram and dream of a day when I am no longer in chained to the chair that is health. I am also thanking Jesus, Mary, and whoever else wants to listen that I didn’t work out today because yesterday, that resulted in a ravenous lion that only Sex and The City and 10 mg of Melatonin could tame.

Day 3:
Morning: I cannot go in public. I will physically assault somebody.

Lunch: I have a persistent headache that I think is here to stay, but I’m not so much thinking about food anymore. I’m thinking about the end goal and how tomorrow could possibly be the best day of my life. Not only do I get to reunite with my significant other, but I also get to speak to my family and friends again without wanting to throw them off a cliff. I’m also itching to get back to the gym, even though I am getting out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs. I start to feel extremely proud of myself until I snap back to reality and realize this race is not finished.

Dinner: I imagine it was similar to somebody running the last mile of the Iron Man: Gluttony is within fingertip distance. Do. Not. F***. This. Up.

Takeaway: I really just wanted to see if I could do it. And yeah, I can do it, but that’s if I don’t make any sudden movements, speak to anybody, or leave my bedside for 3 days straight. This is never happening again, so savor that sm

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pizza and Tranquility

I am debatably one of the most irrationally stressed out human beings you will ever encounter in the online atmosphere. My life goal is basically to calm down.  And if I didn’t already have enough to worry about (I honestly have nothing “real” to worry about), a new study found that women who were stressed burned 104 fewer calories after a high-fat meal than those who weren’t. That’s 11 pounds in a year! Just from being too tense! The stress also didn’t have to be about something that was endangering your life or wellbeing. The study described “stress” as arguments with friends or significant others, trouble with kids, or work-related pressures: three things that basically make up the storyline that is my life.

Eating an entire pie of pizza after a rip-my-hair-out type of day isn’t something I’m proud of, but hey, it happens. And now, after the extremely stressful day that lead me to eat 8 slices of pizza, I have to worry about not stressing about it because that will leave me even worse off! God, it never ends.

I’ve been scavenging magazine and online articles regarding stress busters from the time I could spell the word STRESS. Everybody needs relief from time to time: some need it once a month, and others (like myself) need it every hour or so. Here are some of my highly effective stress reduction techniques that you guys can use in a pinch when your roommate eats your last banana for the third week in a row.

Go Outside:
When you go outside, you realize you are actually NOT the center of the universe. You are just a measly little speckle of dust tumble-weeding through the universe. When you realize this, your problems won’t seem as big, and your stress won’t be as strong. Personally, ten minutes a day keeps stress at bay.

Repeat Yo’self:
When you do a repetitive activity, like vacuuming or reciting a word that illustrates how you wish you felt (sane) is a quick and easy way to achieve Zen. Studies have shown the effects lower pressure, slow the heart rate, and slow your breathing. The important thing here is to focus on a word, your breath, or a movement and to bring attention back to it if negative thoughts come a knockin’.

Twirl in a Circle:
Now, give me a chance here people. I know twirling around in a circle and saying what’s bothering you out loud is a bit foolish, but that’s exactly the point. You’ll feel ridiculous and probably start laughing, and it’s actually pretty difficult to be stressed and laughing at the same time. I have learned to master it, but I am of a different breed. Seriously try it the next time you want to throw a chair through a window, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Take a Dip:
A Swedish study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that floating in water triggers the body's relaxation response, helping lower stress-hormone levels. Furthermore, almost 80 percent of the subjects showed improvements such as feeling less tense and depressed. Even more of a reason to make nice with that irritatingly wealthy friend that has the dope stone ground pool.

If you have any tricks that tame your madness, I implore you to enlighten me with your wisdom in the comments. Seriously, this girl needs all the help she can get.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How To Make Your Lulus Last Longer Than a Celebrity Marriage

Is Lulu Lemon comically expensive? Yes. Do the seams of the clothing sometimes come undone a little too close to the time in which the clothing was bought? Certainly. Will that deter me from living, breathing, eating, and dying in them? No. Never.

I am the FIRMEST believer in the saying “look good, feel good,” and while Lulu robs me of most of my income, the euphoric state I enter when I slip on a pair of their pants is not something I’m even considering giving up. However, what I HAVE given up is my abhorrent treatment of them. I get disgustingly sweaty when I workout. If I were to compare my sweat pores to another’s, I imagine it would be like an apple to a grape. As of late, when I’m returning my clothes to their immaculate state, I’ve been giving a little extra tender love and care, and I’ve really noticed a difference.

Improper washing and senseless missteps have the potential to destroy or significantly reduce the longevity of your workout attire. If you have any interest in keeping your ego-boosting-go-to’s in rotation for years to come, here are six helpful hints on how to wash your clothes so that they stay in as great shape as you will.

1. Use the right detergent. Sport-specific detergents assist in fighting odor from intense sweat sessions and remnant bacteria. Many of these detergents are also made to protect technical sports fabric.

2. Use the right AMOUNT of detergent. Hey over-achievers, did you know that too much detergent can actually cause a new kind of stink? Since washers only put in enough water to wash out a set amount of detergent, the excess detergent gets left behind in your clothes, creating a perfect humble abode for fungal growth, which can lead to that lovely mildew smell.

3. Turn those babies inside out. Most of the sweat and bacteria is on the inside of the material, so don’t make the washer work more than it has to (trust me, it won’t). This will also help to protect the color and any kind of detail on your clothes (ahem, LULU WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU.)

4. Do not go near fabric softener. This is probably the cardinal rule of activewear maintenance. For one, fabric softener coats the clothing, which can trap the bad smells. Secondly, coating can build up over time and damage fabric. And thirdly, if your activewear is moisture-wicking (Lulus claim to fame), fabric softener will inhibit this technology.

5. Bieber got it right: use cold water. More specifically, use a cold, gentle cycle to prevent shrinkage and the breakdown of materials. If you opened your eyes once in a while before your 7 a.m. spin class, you would notice that on just about every piece of activewear you own, the instruction label says cold-water wash only.

6. Don’t touch that dryer. Air-dry ‘til the death of me (or my leggings). This prevents pilling, decoration dulling, and melting off (particularly reflective detail) and assists in the overall lifespan of your product.

If you take away anything from this post, just please, I absolutely beg of you, don’t be the girl that smells. Nobody in the history of anybody will like you.

Monday, July 25, 2016

How To Get Fit When All You Have Is A Tree

A couple years ago, any gym equipment that forced me to adjust it to cater to my own needs was completely off limits (i.e. if you weren’t a box or a ball, I wasn’t coming near you.) Last summer my friend finagled me into going to a TRX class at our local gym, and while I was pissed I had been conned (she said it was a “good class” not a “good TRX class”), I was also secretly glad I was finally getting the chance to learn how to work this hanging conundrum without ending up like this unfortunate soul:

Needless to say, I LOVED it. To be clear, I enjoy classes that make me feel like I’m going to die. If I’m not drenched in sweat, saying nasty words about the teacher under my breath, or breathing like I’m being chased by a fricken’ cheetah, the class is a failure and I’m never going back. So if you’re more of the restorative yoga, hiking on flat terrain, elliptical type, maybe avoid this type of exercise. But, if you freakishly enjoy being tortured until your muscles are shaking like JLO, I highly recommend TRX.

TRX suspensions are one of the most versatile and confusing pieces of equipment I’ve ever come across in the gym. TRX stands for Total-body Resistance eXercise, and was originally used by militaries as a serious form of strength conditioning. Yeah, point proven. They are lightweight, yet incredibly strong adjustable straps and handles that can be anchored to pretty much anything. Like, anything from your bedroom door to a tree in the middle of the park. TRX uses nothing but your own body weight and gravity as resistance, and since it packs down into a small bag, it's perfect for people who travel or are too lazy to leave their bedroom. Trainers swear by it, and since it offers hundreds of exercise options, you can sculpt your entire body from literally every angle.

If you’re keen on giving the TRX a go, here are a few simple exercises to get you started off:

TRX Push Up:

Stand facing away from the TRX with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold handles at chest height in front of you, arms extended and palms facing the floor. With body aligned from head to heels, shift weight to balls of feet and bend elbows. Push up to return to starting position.
Reps: 10

TRX Inverted Row:

Lie faceup under the TRX with knees bent and feet on floor. Hold the handles over your chest, arms extended and palms facing each other. Bend elbows, pulling torso up until your body is aligned from shoulders to knees. Extend arms to starting position.
Reps: 8
Sets: 3

TRX Lunge:

Stand facing away from the TRX with left foot on both foot cradles and hands on hips. (Legs should be extended.) Bend knees until right thigh is parallel to the floor; rise up to starting position. Switch legs to complete set.
Reps: 10 on each leg (That's 20 total in one set for you fools)
Sets: 3

TRX Pike (These kind of suck, in a good way):

Begin in a suspended plank position with your feet in the TRX loops, toes facing down and wrists directly underneath your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe. Pressing down through your palms, lift your hips up towards the ceiling by drawing your legs towards your chest until you look like an upside-down V, or as high as you can go. Slowly lower your legs and return to the starting position
Reps: 10
Sets: 3

As always, if you're feeling a little confused and don't want to end up like the distressed fellow pictured above, consult a trainer for assistance because they're supposed to know what they're doing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Brigitte Gilbert: The Angel That Inhabits a Modern Day Hell

When I first caught a glimpse of Brigitte Gilbert, a tiny twenty-something Asian with spiky black hair, it was a few years back when I was an avid Bikram Yogi enthusiast. For two years, I literally inhabited that sweatbox of a torture chamber and refused to go a day without deepening my practice. After a year at my local studio, I began to become accustomed to the teachers that taught there, knowing exactly what they would say (including their corny jokes that they would add in for some comic relief in the whole obliteration) for the full 90 minutes before they even stepped inside the room. When I walked in one Saturday morning after a particularly stressful week, I was exacerbated to find a new teacher, Brigitte, that would be teaching Saturday mornings from here on out.

Who was Brigitte? Would she allow me to drink water after tuladandasana? Would she hold salabhasana longer than she was supposed to? Would her voice annoy the hell out of me?

All of my qualms were silenced as soon as she entered the hot room. I may be making this up, but I’m pretty sure her spiritual energy carried her to the podium, without her feet touching the ground. I’m kidding, but seriously, her energy literally put my mind at ease before she even opened her mouth, and when she did open her mouth, it was as rhythmic as a song.

She spoke with such peace and proficiency that you would’ve thought she was Bikram himself.  She made it a point to help each and every student in the class (on a Saturday morning, that meant about 40 people) and made it her duty to explain why we were doing every pose and the benefits that would result from them. Her subtle touches throughout the class put me so deep into poses that I realized I had executing some of the moves incorrectly for over a year! That single class completely changed my outlook on the entire Bikram Yoga Practice, and a Brigitte idolizer was born.

Two years and many brutally beautiful Saturday mornings later, I’m surprisingly still in love with her. She’s extremely busy shuffling back from New York City Bikram locations to Long Island locations (because everybody wants a piece of her) but I was lucky enough to get her on the phone for a few minutes to pluck her brain about why she got into Bikram Yoga and what she loves most about the life-changing practice.

KG: TELL THE TRUTH: why did you start your Bikram Yoga practice?
BG: Haha! As if I’d lie to you. I first started my practice when I was 17, and it was primarily for the physical benefits, but I was quickly drawn in to the challenge of breaking down the barriers that I had instilled in my own mind. I enjoy doing things that scare me, and practicing Bikram yoga on a daily basis whilst trying to quiet my rampant thoughts scared the hell out of me. So I did it everyday until I was able to silence every negative thought that entered my headspace.

KG: Wow. I imagine I’d be a lot more pleasurable to be around if I had that skill. Why did you decide to take your practice a step further and become a certified Bikram Instructor?
BG: I’ve practiced yoga for as long as I can remember, but Bikram Yoga was the first time I felt deeply challenged- mentally, physically, and emotionally – all at once. After I fell in love with the practice, I felt there was nothing left to do but become a teacher, so I could inspire others in the same way that I am everyday.

KG: How vigorous is the process of becoming a Bikram Yoga Teacher?
BG: What others view as hell, I see as heaven. The harder you are forced to work for something, the greater the sense of accomplishment will be in the end. Bikram training includes the study of Bikram’s history, therapeutic application, asanas (poses), alignment, nutrition, human anatomy, and physiology. The part that scares most people off, however, are the twice daily 90 minute (or longer) classes that you must take for six weeks straight.

KG: What is your favorite part about the Bikram Yoga Practice?
BG: First and foremost, I love how it’s made for everyone. There are no requirements or prerequisites for anybody stepping into a Bikram Yoga class. The goal is to try your best, and whatever your best is, is always enough. I also love how it simultaneously forces you to let go of your ego, while also building it up. Bikram can synchronously break down a big ego, while giving you the self-confidence you lack to help grow into your true self. It’s the most humbling, gratifying, extraordinary experience I have yet to encounter, and somehow everyday is completely different than the last.

KG: For all the non-kram’s out there, that’s pretty hard to believe, considering the practice consists of the same 26 poses day after day.
BG: Yoga is a practice, not a perfection. Everyday I am faced with different challenges and obstacles that I must overcome, forcing me to further my practice and learn things I never knew I was capable of comprehending. The 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, veins, ligaments, and muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function. In a mere 90 minutes, the 26 poses force the body to self-regulate and self-adjust to life’s complications, and since I am faced with new challenges every day, the self-adjusting process is different every day.

KG: Last question: Do you do anything besides Bikram Yoga?
BG: Nope, that’s it Katharine.

KG: That’s what I thought. Thank you so much for giving me the wee bit of time you had between classes today. Get back to the room of the doom, and I’ll see you soon.
BG: No, thank you for allowing me to share my deepest passion and life-long journey with your readers. Namaste my love, have a wonderfully peaceful day.
^Seriously, was this girl sent down from an angel asylum?

If you ever feel the desire to tango with the devil, I HIGHLY recommend you go to one of Brigitte’s classes. She is regarded as one of the best Bikram Yoga Teachers in all of New York City and can quite literally be the spiritual healer you never knew you needed.

Little Bites of Health

In my 22 years on this earth, I have never found such overwhelming happiness in such tiny form than with bliss balls. These humble little spheres are the poster children for healthy delicacies.

While I often find my-gluttonous-self having to actively try not to pop these bad boys like tic-tacs, normal human beings that have a lick of self-control will find just a few of these treats to be extremely filling and satisfying to that perennial sweet tooth. By using all natural ingredients and bountiful superfoods, your body won’t take the form of the balls themselves after eating them, but if you’d like to make your shape more, um, round, you can make these little nuggets as unhealthy as you’d like! The possibilities are somewhat endless, and experimentation with making them is almost (almost) as fun as inhaling them.

Another bonus about these little fellas is that they take a mere 20 minutes to make, and you can make a bajillion of them and store them in the fridge for the week. These balls have been my go-to lately to bring to BBQs and dinner parties because, for one, I know not all of the food there is going to suck, and two, people think I put in a lot of effort for them, when in reality, I just took remnants from the fridge and threw them into a plastic baggy.
If you are somebody in desperate need to step up your snack game, or you’re a sane individual who knows what’s important in life, here is how to concoct two of my favorite bliss balls:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Balls

  • 24 fresh dates, pitted
  • ¼ cup of almond meal
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • As many mini chocolate chips as your heart desires (I use enjoy life because, health)
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut, toasted
  • Place the dates, almond meal, maple syrup, coconut oil, and cacao powder in a food processor.
  • Process for 2-3 minutes, until all ingredients are combined.
  • Scrape down the sides of your food processor, add peanut butter, and process until all ingredients are combined.
  • Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the mixture, add in your desired amount of mini chocolate chips and roll into a ball with your hands.
  • Repeat until you’ve used up all of your mixture.
  • Roll the bliss balls in the toasted desiccated coconut.
  • Put in the fridge to set for around one hour or until set.
  • Enter state of complete and utter bliss
This recipe makes about 20 bliss balls. They will keep in the fridge for about a week or so, but if a week (or a day) goes by and you still haven’t demolished the batch, you don’t deserve them anyway.

Chocolate Caramel Nut Balls

  • 1 cup of medjool dates
  • 3/4 of a cup of almonds
  • 3/4 of a cup of walnuts or any other nut
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of hemp protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder
  • Place the almonds, walnuts, ground flax seed and chia seeds in your food processor
  • Blend for 1 minute, until the a flour forms and the nuts have crumbled
  • Add the remaining ingredients, pitting the dates before adding them in
  • Use your hands to roll the mixture into little balls, place in a bowl, and store in the fridge
  • Try not to eat all balls in under 24 hours

Pro Tip: Put in a baggy and take to the movie theater. You'll save an abhorrent amount of money not having to buy popcorn and you won't go to bed smelling like burnt butter.