Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

Magic or Science?

With my first half marathon post-ACL surgery in the books and few more weeks until my first full marathon training plan starts, I’ve found myself floating around in this cloud of indecision and inspiration. If it sounds weird, just imagine living it.

I’ve only gone on about 4 or 5 runs since my half, telling myself to get back into the swing of things easily now because once full training starts, my knees will be begging for mercy. But at the same time, I’m anxious to get out there again and again because – and I’m not kidding here – every run since my half has been amazing. Like, A-MAY-ZING with a capital A. I feel lighter, my pace has improved, the hills are easier to tackle, my breathing is even, I fall right into a rhythm as soon as I start… it’s unbelievable!

actual photo of me running Sunday morning

How I felt running this past Sunday morning

Have I finally pushed through all of those crap-tastic training runs I fought throughout February and March? Is my running karma finally turning around after feeling like Homer Simpson for pretty much the first 2 miles of every. damn. run. I’ve taken in the past 6 months?

Probably not because that’s what I actually looked like running Sunday morning.

I’d like to think it’s magic. But when I examine the facts, I really can’t deny that everything I’ve heard about “getting out of running what you put into it” is really true. In my training, I added serious cross-training to strengthen my whole body and protect my injury-prone joints. As a result, my post-surgery knee feels stronger than ever (except when it’s humid. NOT when it’s humid). I built up my mileage slowly, and have seen my limits grow with every long run. I learned how to alter my pace to my distance to avoid burnout, and have found shorter distances to be much faster now that my endurance is built up. Sure, I went from a 13:00 mile to an 11:00 one, but hey, I was on track to break 10:00 before my injury and I never thought I’d see it again!

So while I’d like to think that it’s magic, the facts really don’t lie: training smart really does make you a better runner. Although a little magic doesn’t hurt.

What do you think? Have you noticed any improvements thanks to your training? Have any tips or tricks that you like to use? Share your story!

 

“80/20” or, “Liz Lemon is my Spirit Animal”

OK, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try my best to eat healthy, clean, non-processed foods but sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of time and effort to select and prepare healthy food to consistently stay on track. Also, let’s be honest: brownies, cupcakes, chocolates…? Yes, yum, and more please. I mean, come on:

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal

           Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.

Full disclosure: I totally understand the benefits of clean eating. I did the Whole Life Challenge back in September and it was a truly life-changing experience. You can check out their website for the details, but the short version is this: for 8 weeks you focus on your diet, exercise, and mindfulness habits to become a better you. The exercise and meditation parts are great, yes, but I found the most benefit from the eating part. You cut all processed foods, dairy, sugars, and starches out of your diet – no bread, sugar, cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc. Instead, the focus is on vegetables, fruits and pure protein. Sounds simple, but let me tell you: it was HARD! But to stay compliant, I found a ton of new (delicious and super-healthy) recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for the WLC: crab cakes made with almond flour, beef and spinach stir-fry, mashed cauliflower – days of tasty meals that have made it into the regular meal plan rotation and expanded our culinary horizons!

After the challenge, it was tough to stay compliant. As a compromise, I resolved to stick to the 80-20 rule when I eat now: 80% of the time, I eat clean, non-processed “good” food, while the other 20% is non-compliant “bad” food. I hate classifying it like that, but you get the idea. 

Which brings me to today. As I write this, New Jersey is smack in the center of a diet-ruining hat trick: a 2-day long blizzard, Valentine’s Day candy week, and Easter candy’s release week. Add to that the rungries I experience during half marathon training, and I’m in the eye of a perfect storm here. So to give myself a healthier option than eating every piece of chocolate in this house and that in all of the houses in the immediate area, I decided to bake my go-to 80/20 treat: black bean brownies.

I first discovered these little squares of magic (no, not that kind of magic) at a friend’s party a few years ago and fell in love. Yes, they’re made with a box of brownie mix, which is loaded with sugar and other processed things. BUT, instead of adding eggs, butter, and/or oil like you normally would, you simply mix it with a can of pureed black beans and voila: brownies! Delicious, dense, fudge-like brownies that are loaded with filling fiber. I usually make these for pot-luck parties or work functions – the trick is to not tell people what they’re made with before they try them. I’ve found that when I say they’re black bean brownies, people immediately wrinkle their nose and turn them down. “Hell no!” they say, “No way I’ll eat a brownie made with beans!” But then, they try it, and the clouds open up and angels sing and before I know it I’m holding an empty tupperware lined with bits of brownie. 

So trust me. You may need to make them a few times to perfect them, but I promise they’ll be a hit in your house. Bonus: no eggs in the mix means you can eat as much batter as you want. I may or may not have eaten half the batter tonight before baking my batch. No judgement here. Let me know how you like them, and feel free to share your favorite 80/20 recipes in the comments!

Black Bean Brownies

oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

          oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

Ingredients: 
1 box of brownie mix any flavor (13×9 pan size)
1 can black beans (15.5 oz)

Directions:
1. Strain and rinse beans, put beans back in can and re-fill can with water to top.
2. Pour can of beans and water into blender/food processor (I use the magic bullet) and purée til liquefied. 
3. Combine box of brownie mix and puréed beans in a bowl and mix with a spoon til lumps are gone. It’ll take a while. Consider this your arm workout for the day.
4. Bake according to box, checking towards the end. Might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but stick a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean you’re ready for brownies.