tested and bested: intermittent fasting

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Photo credits to freestocks.org.

Is it even possible as a college student anyways?

Short answer: Yes!

Slightly-longer answer: Yes, but your social schedule may take some hits.

I first heard about intermittent fasting, or ‘IF’ as it’s often lovingly referred to by a bounty of health bloggers, through the same place I hear about most of my other future health endeavors: the internet. It seemed as though, out of nowhere, IF was mentioned by every single one of my favorite health youtubers and sites for its mind-body benefits. I’m not above ignoring my biases, so after Whitney Simmons, one of my all-time favorite fitness queens, hailed the benefits of a week of IF, I was sold.

With a lineup like lower inflammation, regulated hormones, weight loss, lowered insulin resistance, and improved cognition, I found myself skeptical and intrigued (there’s that ‘scientific mindset’ I was taught in the 4th grade at work). Sure, I could spend another few hours sucked into the black hole of Healthline articles and bodybuilding forums trying to sort through the testimonials of others, but I felt that a much more efficient use of my time would be to cut to the chase. There was only one way to truly see how my body would truly react: test it myself. I made a plan and set out for the week.

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taste test: which healthy cookie-dough recipe reigns supreme?

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I tested five of the most popular healthy cookie dough recipes on the internet so you didn’t have to. And because it would be delicious. Starting from the top center and moving clockwise, we have dough from: Popsugar Fitness, Natacha Oceane, Well + Good, Goodful, and Tastemade.

I haven’t been this excited about a health trend since just about every wellness guru on planet earth told us we needed to be sleeping more.

There are few things in life that give me as much satisfaction as melting into my couch at the end of the day, switching on Netflix, and spooning mini-mountains of Toll House cookie dough straight into my mouth, salmonella be damned. But real talk though, I haven’t done that since about the 4th grade; most health-conscious individuals, for good reason, wouldn’t advise.

A few years ago I felt like I couldn’t scroll through my Instagram or Facebook feed without witnessing the masses lose their minds over everyone’s dream come true: the opening of cookie dough restaurants. Places like DŌ Cookie Dough Confections in New York City and Doughp (pronounced ‘dope,’ it took me a second too) in San Francisco cropped up suddenly, serving safe-to-eat scoops of flavored dough like it’s ice cream.

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#tbt to when I spent over an hour waiting for ‘unicorn’ flavored dough (whatever that means) from DŌ in nyc earlier this summer.

Thankfully for those of us plebeians who aren’t about to hop on a plane to try some, the internet saved the day.

Hundreds of edible, safe-to-eat cookie-dough recipes can be found online. Baked cookies are almost a thing of the past. While most of these recipes are loaded with dairy, butter, and sugar, leave it to the health community to find a way to hack the system. Do you really expect us to sit around and watch everyone else have all the fun?

Therefore, I had plenty of recipe options to choose from. I selected five from some of the most popular wellness websites to pit head-to-head for the incredibly imperative task of determining which healthy cookie dough is actually worth the effort.

But I didn’t do it alone. As I’ve been keeping keto, I wouldn’t be able to try most of the recipes myself, so I recruited the assistance of the biggest sweet-tooth I know: My mother.

This was serious business. After spending an entire afternoon practically covering my entire kitchen with almond flour and scraping concoctions out of the bottom of my Vitamix, I handed my mom a plate of five individual servings of health-conscious chocolate chip cookie dough (I’ll never get tired of typing that). She knew none of the ingredients of each nor where each recipe came from, but she knew she loved cookie dough, and what else really matters at the end of the day?

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My mom, living her best life honestly. I better win daughter of the year for this one.

A lot of stuff, but for the purpose of this post, nothing else. She rated each dough out of five, with five being the best. She also commented on texture and appearance for the total package. In order to not demolish my entire pantry, I quartered each recipe, but I’ve written out the full measurements below. I skipped on writing out each step for you, but check out the links for full instructions.

So, is cookie dough you can shovel in by the spoonful without worrying about your waistline too good to be true? Let’s meet the contenders.

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my favorite health dives in San Francisco

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Now just imagine this avo toast coming your way. Photo credits to Instagram/@janeonlarkin.

I admit calling them ‘heath dives’ is oxymoronic. This won’t come as a shock, but in one of the United States’ most health-conscious cities, any restaurant serving the health community has to expertly curate and slave over every element of their aesthetic appeal to if they want to survive the criticism of the masses. Un-instagrammable avocado toast is basically a death sentence.

The ‘dive’ reference nagged at my mind for the sole unifying quality I picked up on between each of the five places I chose to highlight: they portray a sense of effortlessness, feeding into the dream that both healthy eating and living is far more attainable than buzzing through a fast food drive-thru.

My Summer roommate and I had an absolute blast scrolling through Yelp to find the health food gems of the Bay (she compiled a list we would religiously cross-off for each location we’d hit up). I’ll love the Midwest until the day I die, but one aspect’s it’s missing is the plethora of health-conscious restaurants SF provided (to put things in perspective and for some greater insight into the Midwestern cuisine I grew up with, check out this recent Buzzfeed article. Peep the story, then cleanse yourself with this one).

While everything from the breadth of options (vegan, raw, non-dairy, non-gluten, and of course, organic) to the eccentric atmospheres were wholly impressive, let’s not forget the core reason these joints made the cut: their food is damn good. In-N-Out who?

Judahlicious

Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that acai bowls are my actual kryptonite. I spent easily more time and money than I should have this Summer attempting to crown a winner for the best acai in the Bay (keep an eye out for a future post). When a friend of mine showed me a photo of her acai from Judahlicious, I made an actual two-hour trek from my apartment to try it (I know, I easily could have ubered, but it was a particularly nice day and the two-hours adds to the drama of this post).

My god. Just look at it. Soak it in. The sheer artistry. This bad boy is dripping with peanut butter and smothered in superfood toppings like banana, maca, goji berry, hemp seed, bee pollen, and housemate granola. It’s not the most wallet-friendly deal around town (depending on the amount of toppings you add the price gets steep quick). The taste, however, was refreshing, not heavy, and never mundane.

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my top 5 holy-grail fitness vloggers

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Photo credits to Instagram/@natacha.oceane

If you’re anything like me, you can binge-watch fitness and skincare videos like they’re the newest season of Game of Thrones (but if they’re about health, that counts as being productive, right?)

Navigating the fitness YouTube scene can be, in a word, overwhelming. Colorful, bold block letters teasing #bootygains come at you left and right. You scroll down miles of ab selfie thumbnails. You think you’ve seen enough Gymshark apparel to memorize their entire Fall collection.

Wading through the endless fitness content is off-putting for many, but once you peel back the layers of supplement sponsorships and ads for self-made workout apps, real, valuable information from passionate individuals in the fitness community rises to the top.

With all that being said, you’ll find my top five favorite fitness YouTubers below (in no particular order, that would be like choosing a favorite child). Each one not only provides sound information and tips for anyone from the beginner cardio bunnies to the bonafide gym buff, but also transcends the realm of simple hiit workout demonstrations into a world where fitness can be a fun and meaningful lifestyle in their own unique way.

Chloe Ting

Ah, Chloe. The adorable little (I’m not kidding, she’s 5’1”) aussie from Sydney. Her personality is endearingly awkward, and her 10-minute ab circuits pack a serious punch.

Seriously, though, incorporating her ab routines into my workouts every other day have been the best thing to ever happen to my midsection. They’re quick, effective, always incorporate some elements of hiit cardio, and the structure of her videos allow you to follow along with each timed exercise so you don’t have to mess with your own timer.

Chloe is an extremely accessible fitness blogger. Her workouts are challenging sans intimidation factors.

Bonus: As she jet-sets around Europe (she doubles as a travel vlogger, honestly what a life), she takes the time to shoot outdoor workouts via drone. Pairing a hiit set with such epic, high-def footage almost seems funny to me, but I’m not opposed.

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my month-long affair with the keto diet

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Ketogenic fat bombs. Photo credits to Instagram/@keto.connect

I’ve never been much of a ‘dieter,’ per se. I’m not a fan of the restriction that often lives hand-in-hand with promises of certain physical or mental benefits here and there. Isn’t the preservation of your overall sanity worth more than any (often short-lived) pride you get for turning down dessert?

A month ago, my answer would have been absolutely. However, 4 weeks into doing keto and I was amazed at how my sanity didn’t even seem tested. All the negative connotation associated with ‘dieting’ seemed to fade into the background, along with my cravings for sugar and pasta.

But that’s skipping way far ahead. There’s a lot to go over about this way of eating that’s suddenly sparking major interest in the health community. Let’s begin with the basics.

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Wellness blogger Lee Tilghman (@leefromamerica), while not a strict ketogenic eater, is a big proponent of adequate consumption of healthy fats in a balanced diet. Pictured above are her chaga coconut fat bombs (photo credits to Instagram/@leefromamerica).

What is keto?

A ketogenic diet is one comprised primarily of fat and next to nothing in terms of carbs, with moderate protein. In legitimate macro terms, that means that my daily caloric intake would need to come from 70-75% fat, 15-20% protein, and a *minuscule* 5-10% carbohydrate.

Once you’ve been eating this way for a week or so (duration varies from person to person), you enter a state of ketosis. In this state, as opposed to running on glucose derived from carbs, your body begins producing ketones for energy.

Essentially, your body runs on fat, not sugar.

This switch in energy source is supposed to come with a slew of health benefits: increased energy levels, sharper mental focus, weight loss, hormone and blood sugar regulation, and glowing skin are just a few of the features that drew me in.

While all grains, sugar, fruit, and root veggies are a no-go on this plan, most keto-aficianados stick to meals filled with meats, high-fat dairy, avocado, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and tons and tons of vegetables. The closest cousin I can think of to this plan is paleo, as meat and veg seem to be its staples.

For the first week or so, keto followers experience something called the “carb flu” or “keto flu,” where there body, so accustomed to running on carbs, isn’t quite sure where to look for energy. You also lose quite a bit of electrolytes through this process (sodium, potassium, and magnesium are the big three), so every keto website on planet earth recommends taking supplements to ease you through the transition.

Alright, I just gave you the *way* simple run-down of keto. If you’re hungry for more, check out this thorough explanation.

Why did I do it?

Honestly? It seemed like a challenge. To actually manipulate the body to run on an entirely different fuel source seemed like a crazy experiment almost too good to be true.

Not to mention I dragged a solid partner-in-crime into doing it with me, my dad. Having someone to keep me accountable and answer all my questions made the process run a bit more smoothly (cue the daily phone calls: is cauliflower a carb?)

Oh, and the celebs who’ve done the same provided some extra motivation (Kim K, Vanessa Hudgens, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, and Adriana Lima! Are you kidding? Sign me up).

The breakdown:

The first shopping trip: Went terribly. I loaded my cart up at my nearest Whole Foods with items I had been conditioned to avoid for years: bacon, butter, heavy cream, ghee, cheese, you name it. I flipped flopped about keto so many times I turned a 15-minute grocery trip into about an hour (several calls to my dad for advice contributed to this time-suck. And also checking out all the pretty, overpriced things Whole Foods has to offer). After filling my cart with heaps of veggies to qualm my anxiety about clogging my arteries, I checked out and decided to dive in.

Continue reading “my month-long affair with the keto diet”