El-Tanein Diet

Womans Hand Taking Food From Cafe Table With Dips And Drinks

I don’t do diets, not the ones that are temporary fixes at least. Your diet should refer to what you are ingesting on a daily basis, not the starvation fads that cut out entire food groups. It is essentially what you’re putting in your system’s fuel tank and is your primary source of energy. I pride myself on being someone who has a lot of self-control and discipline but that is catapulted out the window when it comes to food and all things cheese. Unfortunately, munching on a box of Cheez-its while vegetating on the couch does not go unpunished when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

And so comes the challenge: how to make better eating choices while sticking to a regular active routine. How painfully boring and trendy this quinoa-loving way of life has become but becoming a chia cheerleader is not the point. It’s about being fit.

After spending a few years behind an iMac screen for hours on end and my metabolism turning the ripe age of 27, my physical fitness is not at its peak. Ever since I started boosting my hours at the gym, I’ve been feeling stronger and tighter. Even though I do more reps now, have a Fitbit, and use 3kg baby-weights instead of the 1.5kg I started with, I still can’t tell if it’s really working. I have yet to really keep track of my progress and when you don’t keep track, you may not be pushing hard enough. Your body adapts and you have to shake things up again.


Gym: Membership that includes various classes, home treadmill
Wearables: Fitbit Flex, iPhone 5S
Apps: Fitbit, Nike+ Training Club, Nike+ Running


  • Do regular push-ups (I currently do modified bent-knee)
  • Plank for 2 minutes straight post-cardio
  • Lose 12kg by January 12, 2016 (2kg/month for ~6 months)
  • Work my way up to 6kg weights
  • Wear shorts to the gym without feeling the jiggles

Accountability is an effective tactic when it comes to motivating someone to change their behavior. It’s the main reason I can’t do DVD workouts. Besides the fact that a group’s energy is contagious, I need the public shaming to keep me going when I start to slow to a stop. El-Tanein Diet* is going to be my weekly post about my fitness journey. Every Monday, I’ll post about my week’s activities, total steps, weight loss, cheat meal and cheesy inspirational lesson. I’ll also try to throw in one outdoor activity to share. You don’t have to follow or read it but putting it out there will make me feel bound to an invisible contract (and audience) that will keep me in check. I’m not Serena, but whatever effort I put in, I’m #betterforit.

*a Lebanese phrase that roughly translates to “Diet on Monday” and is said out of guilt after hoovering an entire table of mezze over the weekend. However, the diet never comes and is always a Monday away.


Wake-up Calls

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

There are some conversations that serve as wake-up calls. You may not notice them when they happen and the person you’re talking to may not realize that they’re snapping you out of a hypnotic routine. They’re not telling you anything you don’t already know but they’re a human catalyst forcing you to react and turn off autopilot. Below are 3 of my own.

Spring 2007
I had wanted to change the major on my enrollment card before starting my first year at AUB but decided to give pre-med a try. Worst case, I would transfer to architecture after a semester. But every term, I’d start out strong, get encouraged to stick to it, and then steadily plummet to mediocrity by the time finals rolled around. In this particular class of my second pre-med semester, I had survived my 3rd quiz of organic chemistry with Dr. Kaafarani. By survived, I mean my average was now suffering thanks to tanking on the last quiz before the final.  Kaafarani noticed this trend and asked me how I was doing in my other classes. I told him the truth, that I was doing very well in anything that wasn’t pre-med and it wasn’t something I was used to since I had always been a high-achiever. “Have you ever considered pursuing a major in humanities?”

When someone says that in our society, especially an instructor, it’s as if saying you’re not good enough for the science route. But coming from him and the way that he asked about my academic history, interests, and saw that I could perform well, it seemed he was telling me what would take me another 2 years to be convinced of: I could do it but I just didn’t want it badly enough. I graduated from AUB and went into the design program at LAU that same year.

June 2014
I had just finished up with an AIGA ME event at Coop D’etat for Beirut Design Week. A couple of expats had joined me for some beers so we could all catch up with each others’ lives. I was talking about my job and what I wanted more of, where I saw myself going, and what I wanted to do when my friend said, “you’re living in your worst case scenario right now.”

Where I was, at that moment, was an option that would always be available to me. If I tried to go do something else for a little while and it didn’t work out, I could return to my safety net. Home wasn’t going anywhere. But if I didn’t try to explore the possibilities in front of me, I would not move forward. I would be accepting the back-up as if it were the only path I could be on. The next day, I asked for a transfer to another office within my company’s network. It didn’t work out but it got the ball rolling.

February 2015
I’ve previously posted about this particular wake-up call. Following the passing of a high school friend and then a girl in my gym class, the words of the instructor struck a chord. He told us,“tell the people you love that you love them when you can.”

Nothing new or profound about that statement but, in retrospect, it may have been a combination of things that made his words give me chills after an hour of cardio. Love is the sole motivating force behind everything I do and I’ve always felt that you should put your entire heart into every action. That month, I was feeling stuck in molasses, trapped in a repetitive cycle that even a quick trip to Dubai couldn’t break. I was losing my drive, my passion, my self. This wake-up call was more about time, how little of it is spent wisely, and how much of it is invested in the wrong places or people. Eventually, I resigned from my job so that I could take advantage of my abilities, my privileges, and my future but, in order to do that, I wanted to have some say in the present.

I don’t know if these examples are as monumental as I’m making them seem here; like I said above, they’re usually triggers to thoughts that were already cooking, coming to a steady boil. Still, they are the sparks that light the fire under you and we could all use some heat to catapult us out of complacency. Feel the burn.

Big Questions in Brooklyn


Being in New York City can make you feel small. And when you’re arriving from a dot on the map, it can make you feel like a speck of dust in a sandstorm. It was the first time that I stopped to think, not only about all that has happened to me in the last few years, but also where I may be heading in the ones to come. Turns out, I didn’t want to wait another 3 years to reevaluate – by then, it would be too late.

Spending a week in NYC was more of an investigative trip. I wanted to see if it could be a new frontier, the next step that would shove me out of my comfort zone and teach me more about who I am. The more I thought this way, the more I felt like a high school senior in need of a gap year, a lost guppy who wanted to find herself or was on some journey of self-discovery, a walking millennial cliche. Basically, I felt like a spoiled brat because I wanted more when I was and am already quite fortunate.

Honestly, only those who are blessed enough to have options at their fingertips have the luxury to think this way. When you are tied down with responsibilities and bills to pay, the path in front of you has limitations. But when you’re not surrounded by commitments that dictate your decisions, you only have you to answer to. The possibilities are overwhelming and have never been more daunting. It brings on inner monologues and sidewalk soliloquies that have your brain pondering things like What am I really doing? Why am I restless after 3 years at the region’s best agency? Am I satisfied with where my life is now? And if not, why am I wasting time being stuck? But where do I go?

If I were to move to NYC, or move anywhere that wasn’t my dear Lebanon, would I survive it? Am I as strong as I think I am? Like many people who were strolling the streets of Brooklyn, I found that I was having discussions with myself out loud; I was asking the big questions that come with being in a big city. Am I doing everything in my power to make sure the life I want will come to be? What is the life I want?

My closest friends are all abroad and the days are numbered when it comes to those who are still here. Most of my phone contacts have country acronyms next to their names because they’re abroad trying to make something of themselves. Am I selling myself short by staying behind? Is there more for me out there? In a country that can be so much but give so little, I am finding it increasingly difficult to pass up opportunities that would empower me as a young professional, experiences that would equip me with new skills, and chances that would expose me to hidden facets of myself I have yet to know. Can Lebanon give me that? Am I still betraying my country if I want more for myself? If I stay but don’t move forward, who am I really helping? In the end, wasted potential serves no one.

I’m grateful I don’t have parents that poke and prod about when I’m going to walk down the aisle or make them grandparents. Instead they entertain the same questions that I struggle with. My dad recently asked me if I ever give any thought to where my personal life is at. I think he worries that he instilled in me such a spirit of ambition that my careerist ways have backfired. Regardless of whether it shows or not, I do think about it. Even more now that I have entered Wedding Territory. For the next 5-7 years of my life, I will have, on average, 3 engagements/weddings to attend annually. Not out of desperation, lack of self-esteem, or fear of becoming a cat lady, but this brings on big questions as well: Will I find that person? Would I notice them if I did? Have we already met? What am I missing? and then the worst one of all: Is something wrong with me? 

If I were to move to NYC, or any other city that disconnects me from the world I’ve known for so long, would I become more guarded than I already am? Would I be so good at surviving that I become too strong? Would I be lonely? Will I miss out on special milestones for the sake of my own selfish drive? Does going solo really matter if it means you’re sacrificing moments with the ones you care about the most? If I leave, dad won’t be around to make Spanish omelettes with Kalamata olives on Sunday mornings. If I stay, I’ll never make them for myself. There’s always a fine line when trying to decide what’s best for you. In the Arab world, sometimes you have to cut the cord yourself.

I resigned from my job before boarding my flight to the States. A week after landing, as I stood on the edge of East River Park looking at the Manhattan skyline on my last morning in Brooklyn, a small voice asked, will Beirut be okay without me?

I know I want to find out.

Blissful Memories & Meals

College Hall

The Steps of College Hall

Bliss Street equals two things in my mind: food & AUB. It also equals a lot of memories that combined these two things. Upon reflection, I saw that the selection of where you were to eat lunch on Bliss was determined according to 4 factors:

• Money: how much you want to spend/have on you
• Health: how healthy you’re trying to be
• Time: how long before your next class that you’re actually attending
• Party of n: how many people are joining

So if you were eating alone, had only 5,000 L.L., and 10 minutes to spare – health goes out the window and you’re going to inhale a handful of Happy Meal burgers. However, if you’re 6 people with an hour and a half and 10,000 L.L. to blow, you’re having a Subway 6-inch on the Oval. This theory’s accuracy is not set in stone and does not count when determining whether you should go have a nutella crepe from Tonino because, in that case, the answer is always yes.

Here are a few examples of when this logic was used, unknowingly at the time, to determine where we should fuel up. Please keep in mind that this was pre-Urbanista/Paul/Roadster and, therefore, quinoa was still just the staple food in Peru. As you’ll see below, the health factor becomes more important as you age within the walls of AUB.

It was election day during the first semester at AUB and we were having lunch at “McDo” while students and people filled the street outside and chanted “Abou Taymoor! Abou Taymoor!” Somehow, our lunch transformed into a discussion about the political parties in Lebanon and whose actions could be considered justifiable given that the 2006 war had concluded just a few months prior. It was the first and last time I ever debated politics with my high school friends or anyone for that matter.

Burger King
Some time in Sophomore year, after a Bio 201 quiz II, we learned that Whoppers were the best medicine for failing pre-medical students. Vegetating on the couches in the back and singing along to their radio in a daze, this was the only way to numb the pain of a Charbel Tarraf multiple choice exam that included every letter of the alphabet as a choice. BUT WHAT DOES “a & b, except c – h” EVEN MEAN?

Universal Snack
Under the illusion that this was healthier than other options because it was “like eating at home”, Universal used to win the lottery quite often. It started out because of the escalope. Then it was for the potato salad. Then it was because you could have a huge plate of fattoush for 4,000 L.L. I think it was for the 80s music and the fact that you could have lunch with the whole restaurant at once – which was usually filled with a bunch of people you knew from other classes – since the tables were so snug. My dad keeps talking about how it was one of the first places to sell hamburgers in Beirut. He wants to go with me sometime because he hasn’t been since the 70s but I feel like I’d be betraying my AUB memories. Ah, the loyalties we form.

Forn Bakkar
An old couple worked at this bakery. It was up the street that leads to Ghali’s, right before Books & Pens. They used to make the dough fresh every morning and have falafel Fridays. One of us would go pick up the manoushes while the rest waited by Jafet library. It became a morning ritual until we saw the granny lick her fingers one too many times while kneading the dough as we waited for our kishik to come out of the oven. It’s closed now.

This was the first place I had ever eaten at on Bliss Street. I was in the 8th grade and my cousin had brought me to AUB to help her with a Powerpoint presentation. I remember analyzing the graffiti on the benches while we waited for the computer lab to open. When I saw “Kiss from a Rose” carved into one of the beams, I knew AUB was going to be a university that had people like me…in 5 years. I had a chicken avocado sandwich from EuroDeli as a reward for all my hard work. Before it closed in 2010, it was a place we’d frequent because we could order “salads.” Oh Pasta Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing, where have you gone?

Zaatar w Zeit
“Kafta 3adeh bas bela jibneh. W ana kafta 3adeh bas bela mayonnaise. w ana kafta FULL OPTION. w ana kafta bela jibneh w shawiyit mayonnaise bas m7amas ktir. Orders at ZwZ were all combinations of kafta that always took too long and made us late for class. But they were good.

Eventually, you get over the fast food craze and realize that you need to take care of your cholesterol levels. The BigMac just isn’t worth the hour on the treadmill – at least, not this week. Kababji became the healthier option because you could order half portions and have salads that didn’t taste like glorified grass. Most of senior year was spent here, and then many post-grad visits too when I was briefly employed at AUB.

Bliss House
Spicy chicken sandwiches on the steps of College Hall facing Jafet. When your Party of n > 10 and you have no classes to get to, the health factor is ignored, and you just enjoy life. After all, you’re only young once.

8 (More) Pet Peeves Resulting from your Facebook Newsfeed

Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 11.50.48 PM

It’s been a good 10 months since the first set of pet peeves but I just couldn’t wait a whole year to share these. That, and I’ve been posting about a lot of serious topics so it was time for a breather. Bring on the rant!

1. Using the word “dear”

I understand that this probably has to do with the French education system and the use of “cherie” but please stop using the word “dear” in English. You sound like my late grandmother and she was 72 sixteen years ago. This term of endearment is outdated and you shouldn’t use it if you are a) a member of Generation Y or b) pre-menopausal.

2. “Inbox Me”

But I don’t want to inbox you. At least buy me dinner first? This verbified version of the noun inbox sounds dirty and I mean Urban Dictionary dirty. Stop trying to make fetch inbox-me happen, it’s not going to happen.

3. @insertnamehere

There is no need to tag people on their own wallpost/photo/link. They’re going to be notified anyway, this is totally unnecessary. You have a Facebook account, you should know how it works. This is ❤ Likers’ evil cousin.

4. John Doe has invited you to like his new page The Dumpling Cardinals

Unless we see each other every weekend for the Friday wind down at Bodo, I will not like your page no matter how many times you invite me to. Improve your product, service, brand, blog or restaurant because if it were likable and I like it then I’ve already liked it. Don’t force it, just let things happen. TWSS.

5. Cursing with Asterisks

This is just as bad as cursing only you’re acknowledging that you’re using foul language. If people didn’t notice before, they will now because you’re using a digital highlighter with that puny star. If you’re going to curse, then do it or use a word close enough that people will get what you meant to type. Don’t wimp out on one letter. It’s no fun playing mental Wheel of Fortune when trolling comments. Buy a vowel. Go big or go home, p*ssy.

6. Newsfeed Flood

This is actually something I do. I’m completely aware of it and I’m sure I annoy people BUT theresjustsomuchhappeningontheinternetsIneedtoshoweveryone this interview…and this comic…and this Johnnie Walker ad, oh, oh and this article. Okay, I’m done. And btw, here’s my latest blogpost.

You need to be very selective with what and how often you share info so that you don’t desensitize your audience to all that awesome crap you’re sharing. You can go nuts on the Tweet button but FB will go numb unless you’re sharing super interesting BS posts. I didn’t think about the initials in the naming process. #fail

7. Feeling Add-on for a Status 

I’m sorry you don’t know how to express yourself using only words. Have you ever looked at those facial expressions? “Angry” and “annoyed” are the same constipated Grumpy Cat face. Those botoxed emoticons also have a very weird definition for “determined” and “accomplished” – what exactly did that pervy face just accomplish? Anyway, I hope they allow you to use emoticons during your wedding speech since you didn’t read enough as a child.

8. Candy Crush your face.

But no, seriously.

7 Useless Realizations at 25

1. You suffer from Low Battery Anxiety at least once a week. Usually it’s your cellphone at 12% at 9am with no electricity at home. You’ve always got the USB cable, or spare battery case, or car charger on you like it’s your First Aid Kit. God forbid it die and then you have to communicate like you did in the 90s which was through…carrier pigeon? Beyond that, you have a completely natural phobia of getting locked in in public bathrooms so you always take your cellphone with you. Plus, sometimes they have really cool soaps/signage/decor and you have to take a picture. And if you’re a guy, you probably take pics of other lovely-smelling things.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio has a net worth of a bazillion dollars, test-drives supermodels, hangs out with Scorsese, and is the embodiment of the fountain of youth. But he doesn’t know how to wear a watch. You slave away all day and then realize there’s a 14 year old somewhere learning how to DJ who’s going to be richer than you by next year because he named himself after some kind of pasta sauce and only wears solid colored V necks. Welcome to the working world.

3. Labneh sandwiches always taste better when your parents make them. You may be able to make risotto, herbed chicken, or koussa mehshe and outcook your parents in every other dish. Not with labneh. If you can make a better sandwich then you may have an illegitimate child running around (and about to be signed by the Disney channel) because only those who have been reproductively active have the white cream gift. Bazinga!

4. Putting your status as “busy” on any form of digital communication doesn’t work anymore. You used to use it to discourage bored people from reaching out to you for entertainment. They left you thinking, “why did I ever ADD this human being?! Shu labsa. I KNOW! I’ll appear busy…FOREVER.” We can all see through that and it’s ineffective. Now, you just have to be an adult about it. Translation: block, delete, or be a flat-out asshole and ignore them.

5. Your Facebook Newsfeed is going to be flooded with engagements and nuptials for the next 7-10 years. Supposedly, it’s not that weird for this to be happening more frequently even though your brain is not being able to fathom it all. I mean, one second your riding a skateboard like a toboggan down the incline by your friend’s house, tearing your neon shorts in the process of your smooth brake at the driveway. You blink and everyone’s having babies. Don’t panic, keep uploading pictures of your cat, it’s fine.

6. Youhavenoideawhatyouredoingbutyouregoingtowingitlikeaboss because you’ve got it all totally figured out, dude can you pass the mustard? I love chilled afternoons when I’ve got nothing to do. #hotdogs #thegoodlife #holyshitimwastingsomuchtimerightnow

7. You need to let go and move on. That letter from Hogwarts is never coming.

10 Questions with 1 Answer: NO.


If I #selfie then it doesn’t count as narcissistic, right?
No, you’re still randomly taking a photo of yourself in the bathroom. Hashtagging doesn’t erase the toilet in the background or the reflection in your glasses, it’s just you virtually owning up to it. Which is good: it’s the first step to recovery. Now, put down the camera.

Can I eat that Burger King anniversary offer all by myself and tell no one?
No, because you’re going to need someone to take you to get your stomach pumped and you can’t do that while parked alone on the side of the road patting down onion rings with napkins because “there’s too much oil.” Those oil inkblots will not save your arteries. You can limit the knowledge to the designated driver and hospital staff (who all went to college with you).

Is the DJ out yet?
No, but it doesn’t really matter because his/her music sounds the same as the crap you’re grooving to when you ask the question. At any trance event where you’re not wasted or high, you will actually notice that the music doesn’t change or get better, people just get more messed up as the night progresses and think everything got better. It’s not a natural sense of ecstasy, it’s MDMA.

Can I have another cookie?
No, because you’re 25 and that cookie is going to implant itself on your ass as a reminder that all cookies want to shack up with your ageing metabolism. There’s a joke here about Kardashians and moving too fast but it hasn’t formulated in my head yet so I’m going to just say “North West” as a placeholder.

Can I yell like a tennis player during this gym class because my muscles want to cry?
No. The music might be loud enough so no one can hear you but the electricity will cut, everyone will think you’re a sweaty freak, and you’ll have to find a new gym since they don’t support dry Herbal Essences’ moments. You just paid for 3-months so be quiet and FEEL THE BURN IN THOSE SHINS.

Will I ever get used to the term “babe” as a form of endearment?
No. Babe is a pig. Babe is a baseball player. Babe is a half-naked chick that surfer dudes think is like a totally bodacious specimen to ride. Babe is what girls call other girls right after they ask for a favor. Babe is one step away from Baby. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me babe. Ever.

Am I supposed to start up a start-up?
No. You’re not supposed to do anything except be employed. In this economy and country-with-no-stability-or-proper-water-filtration, any form of employment is a blessing but not everyone is an entrepreneur. However, if the start-up is your brainchild and it’s going to be your ticket to the top, good for you. If you don’t have a useful innovative idea that can work as a business and have no job prospects then go back to school or become an actOR. *extends arm like reciting thespian*

Does my cat love me?
No, he’s an arrogant abusive Angora who happens to be photogenic so no one sees the evil within. That’s right, you’ve adopted Cat Man Do from the Powerpuff Girls. You’re going to end up feeding it and cleaning it and loving it and even with all the Chemical X in the world, he’s never going to love you.

Is it about time I get married?
No, k thx, bye.