El-Tanein Diet Week #21

NRC poster

It’s been a slow return to the grind but I’m almost there. I’ve signed up at a new gym and I’ve joined Nike Run Club (NRC) so the workout tally should be more impressive as of week #23 once I find my regular rhythm.

Workout Tally

– 5.8 km run
– 5 km run

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Outdoor Activity

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My activity for this week was two runs with the NRC. The NRC is a group of peeps who meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the Nike store in Beirut Souks at 6:30 pm for a 5-6km run. It is open to everyone and it is free. As you run, there’s a coach who makes sure you’re running properly and keeps you motivated throughout so you don’t slack on the last kilometer.

I will admit that my first run was not pleasant but it was also my return to the fitness world after 3 months of fooding my way through Calatonia. That, and I had had soup for lunch that day. Not my smartest move, I know. It’s also because the runs are more about endurance than speed. For someone who does interval training, running at a constant pace for 45 minutes straight feels like a slow death. However, the second time around was better and the vibes in the group are welcoming. It’s not competitive or exclusive, it’s people getting together to move which was enough to get me to skip Bassem Youssef’s visit to AUB on Thursday.

Fitbit Flex

I forgot to charge it. I’m so bad at wearables.

Best Meal of the Week

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Souk El Akel in Mar Mikhael wins again. I brought dad this time around which was a mistake because he eats with his eyes rather than his stomach. In other words, he tries everything and passes the leftovers to me like I’m a compost bin. Meats & Bread’s WTF Burger was the star on the Christmas tree: black angus beef patty on lettuce and tarragon, melted cheddar, chips, and blueberry sauce.

Other Highlights

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AIGA ME Morning Toast: This Saturday was the 9th edition of our bimonthly breakfasts at Urbanista. Although it was a small group, the conversation was stimulating and was a good reminder that there are hungry minds in the region, minds that want to do more than what’s available to them at the moment. However, their frustration fuels their motivation to build something so maybe there’s hope.

Workout Track of the Week

I don’t know why I’ve become a 12 year old girl when picking workout tracks lately. I spend my days listening to rap and old school R&B then go workout listening to the Biebs and Jonas. Maybe it’s a new version of the Peter Pan Syndrome?

Cheese of the Week

It’s cold. Have some ohn-yan soup. I don’t know where Jamie Oliver is either.

El-Tanein Diet Week #20

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Before heading to Barcelona, I had done a recap of the goals that were set out at the beginning of the El-Tanein Diet series. Now that I’ve returned, it’s time to take a look at that list and see where to go from here. No more walking my way through meals of cheese and sparkling wine, it’s back to the gym for me.

UPDATED GOALS FOR EL-TANEIN DIET

  • Do regular push-ups (I currently do modified bent-knee)
  • Plank for 2 minutes straight post-cardio
  • Lose 15kg by June 12, 2016
  • Work my way up to 6kg weights
  • Wear shorts to the gym without feeling the jiggles
  • 10K steps/day or at least 50K/week total
  • 5 classes/week minimum
  • Run my 5K in 35 min or less
  • Run one 5K run/week
  • NEW: Join Nike Running Club
  • NEW: Walking to and through Horsh Beirut   

The original cut-off date for ETD was January 12, 2016 to total out to a full six months of recording and progress. Can you believe it’s already been 20 weeks? Well, I can’t either which is why I’m extending it to June and bumping up the kilos to be lost. It’s also because BCN took out a chunk where I was doing more chewing than toning. I did not balloon up over there but, knowing the sedentary car-dependent lifestyle of Lebanon, I am going to have to work much harder to balance my food intake and get healthy exercise back into my weekly routine.

I was too optimistic thinking that week #20 would have me back at the gym like it ain’t no thang. Coming back, at the start of Thanksgiving week no less, has been harder than I expected. Besides too much mezza, it’s taking me longer than usual to be okay with how Beirut has changed – or hasn’t – in my eyes.

Week #21’s post will be a status report to see where I’m at physically post-Barcelona; I need to see if I’ve lost the stamina that I built up over the summer. My gym has changed up its class schedule (and jacked up its membership fee) so that may affect my workout tally too.

I have nothing to report this week but I’ll leave you with this track:

As for cheese of the week, I will admit to inhaling lots of Cheez-its with white wine. It may be Barcelona withdrawal, filling the void that only cava and slices of cheese can fill, but I think it may also be the Kellogg’s product.

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I once saw something about Doritos on Discovery Science. It said that along with the perfect crunch sound, the chip flavor was purposely created to be the perfect balance between salt and sweet so that your body could never reach satiety, leaving you always wanting more. Cheez-its have got to be part of that club because they are my cheddar cheese Achilles heel and the archenemy of El-Tanein Diet. They need to go.

El-Tanein Diet Week #19

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Ah, my last week in Barcelona. I did my best to fit in as many leftover discoveries before I boarded my crack-of-dawn flight back to Beirut. Let’s see week #20 be filled with more fitness than food, inshallah.

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 7 days.

Outdoor Activity

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The entire weekend would suffice as my outdoor activity because I spent most of it hiking around the outskirts of Barcelona. Between Montjuic Cemetery, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta, and the Carmel Bunkers, I tried to take advantage of the sunny outdoors as much as possible.

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Fitbit Flex

I didn’t even wear it this week although now that I’m back in Beirut, I will have to since my activity will not be one that is iPhone friendly. Back to the gym!

Best Meal of the Week

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Lascar 74 is a “cevicheria” in Poblesec. It was my farewell dinner with the office and my first time having ceviche. I’m now a fan of Peruvian cuisine thanks to this dining experience. I recommend the guacamole (uchucuta) and the cheesecake de Lima. Not together, of course.

Other Highlights

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Xurreria Trebol: I had seen this spot’s churros behind the glass and made a mental note to go back at some point. All other churros tried in Barcelona were of the “tourist” flavor – too oily and stale. Trebol knows what they’re doing though. A little digging revealed that it’s one of the oldest xurrerias in the city and the only one that opens for 24 hours over the weekend. If you’re not a sweet-toothed person, they also make their own potato crisps. Otherwise, if you want beautiful churros served by a beautiful man, go here. Their churros are stuffed with dulce de leche, chocolate, or vanilla cream.

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Treated myself to a solo dinner at El Nacional on my last night: The plan was to just take a walk through the venue to see the setup because I’d heard good things about its interior design. But when I remembered I had tuna and brie left at the apartment, I figured I’d go all out on my last evening with some steak, cava, and lemon pie.

Workout Track of the Week

He needs to stop doing this. And by “this” I mean making this catchy music that you can’t help but sing along to. It’s too late to say sorry though because I’m hooked.

Cheese of the Week

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Cava, olives, and patacones with my book at La Xalada. What are patacones you ask? Homemade plantain chips with avocado, manchego cheese, and olive cream. That sums up what I’ll miss most about BCN.

El-Tanein Diet Week #15, #16, and #17

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I did it again. I bunched 3 weeks in 1 post.

Excuse: I’ve been in hermit mode ever since my roommate left because we went into overdrive before her departure from BCN. I’m a little burnt out in a good way. I came home each night last week wanting to catch up on blogging but would end up bingeing on How to Get Away With Murder. Damn you and your writers’ storytelling skills, Shonda. Then, the weekend rolled around and I realized that my time in Spain is also running out. Overdrive continued and I museum hopped and ticked off more stops on the “must-see” list before I return to Beirut in the time of cholera.

SERIO, I’ll post every Monday from now on since I’m down to TWO MORE WEEKS here. Gotta make them count! *presses play on 8th episode in a row*

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

I’m starting to give up on this accessory. I hardly ever sync it and forget to charge it most of the time too. It hasn’t been doing its job to motivate me and I only remember it’s there when I hit 10K which is rare during the week when I max out at 7-8K come nightfall. It used to be more effective when I was moving less. My walking here is more out of necessity than planned fitness so the counting doesn’t matter as much. We’ll see how I feel when I go back home.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Before I crown the winners, let me say that Barcelona is a designer-who’s-a-foodie’s dream. The restaurants are beautifully designed from interior to menus AND the food is usually delicious as well. Did I mention how much I love cava?

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Week 15: Tapas and sangria at Casa Lolea, a sangria factory located down the street from Palau de la Musica Catalana. I liked 3 things about this quaint little eatery: the cheese section on the menu, the sangria bottle design, and the truffle risotto.

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Week 16: Sunday brunch at Hotel Barcelo in Raval. For 25 euros/person, you get open buffet with a cocktail on the roof. Great view of the entire city and then you can go check out the stands on Rambla de Raval selling handmade goods.

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Week 17: Carrot Cake at Pudding, a cafe right out of Alice in Wonderland. The actual food is mediocre but the setup is great for coffee and carrot cake. Order the carrot cake.

Other Highlights

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Bibo and my leather obsession: I wandered into this brand’s shop in Born only to want everything. Turns out they’re all over Barcelona and they’re very fairly priced considering they’re selling Spanish leather goods. Sniff.

Working on my Barcelona clip: I’ve been trying to take some quick clips using my Polaroid Cube. Hopefully, something worthy will come of the footage. Otherwise, I’ll just show you some pigeons in Plaça Catalunya.

Being the oldest people at an R&B club: No one warned us that Otto Zutz is full of prepubescent hormones but they played some decent R&B so I danced my face off and didn’t care. Pretty sure some of the songs were older than the people dancing to them.

Going through McDonald’s Drive Thru in a cab at 3 am: I don’t know how this happened. Okay, I do. We told the cab we wanted an open McDonald’s and he didn’t tell us it was drive-thru only until we got there. We weren’t going to go home after going all the way down to the beach with BigMac anticipation. Ain’t nothing like heart-attacks in a box at 4 in the morning.

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Dressing up for Halloween:
First time since I was 12 maybe? I was La Calavera Catrina, an icon of Mexican dia de muertos. My roommate (dressed as The Joker) and I walked through the Gothic Quarter and danced to R&B (again) in a hole in the wall somewhere in Born. But all that was only after we walked back home to make sure my carved pumpkin was not a fire hazard. Oops. Apparently, Halloween isn’t really a thing in Spain but La Castanyada, a popular festival that occurs around All Saints Day, is a big deal in Catalonia.

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I was one of those losers in line for H&MxBalmain: 
But in my defense, I was fully aware of the idiocy of doing such a thing. In my normal life, I would not have done such a brainless act of pure consumerism but seeing that I’m living a semi-life here, I figured I’d see what it’s like to be a fashion lemming for a brand that I wish I’ll be able to afford one day. It felt like I was a Huffington Post Snapchatter covering the event; I was there for shopping but I felt like an observer because the whole thing was an outer body experience. I have never seen people behave like that for clothing. I’d always heard of people lining up for Apple products or new releases but it was truly fascinating to see the crazy come out. From an advertising perspective, the entire campaign leading up to the launch was genius. They gave us free coffee!

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Week 15:

Not a new track but I’ve had it on my playlist forever and I’ve been using it to put a spring in my step during the morning walks. Ever had a song that makes you strut a la John Travolta? This is my BeeGees groove.
Week 16:

My German colleague returned from a holiday spent in Bali. Doesn’t this tune sound like you should be in a hammock in Bali? Or working out at the gym…for your beach body. Right.
Week 17:

Can Ed Sheeran ever go wrong? Best leprechaun ever. I say that with love.
Cheese(s) of the Weeks

Some science for all you cheese lovers out there:

El-Tanein Diet Week #12, #13, and #14

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I think I need to come to accept that my workouts, while in Barcelona, are going to revolve around walking. I’m bunching the last THREE weeks in one post because I’m not sure how interesting things have been in terms of content for this series but I’m going to stick to the documentation. It took me so long to actually churn out weeks 12 and 13 that I might as well throw in 14 as a bonus. Hopefully, I’ll still try to get SOME form of conventional activity in before heading back to the gym…in Beirut.

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Ironically enough, I’m paying attention to this wearable less and less even though it’s tracking the only activity I’m really sticking to. My steps have continued to drop though, probably due to my tourist drive starting to wane as I get more settled here as a “resident.” However, even with that, I’m still getting higher totals than I ever did in Lebanon. I keep forgetting to charge it and losing data of up to two days by the time I realize it’s dead. Why isn’t this charged via kinetic energy? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 12: Solo lunch at Tapas 24. I was done walking all over the city and very tempted to just head to McDonald’s but walked the extra 10 minutes to have a couple of tapas with a glass of cava. patatas bravas, bikini comerç, and a bomba de la Barceloneta.

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Week 13: Lemon tart from La Bascula in Born. Having the vegan in town meant discovering vegetarian Barcelona. La Bascula is a vegetarian co-op that’s housed in an old chocolate factory. It’s on Carrer de Flassaders, a little alley full of Spanish boutiques.

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Week 14: Tickets Bar. I’m not ashamed to admit that I booked a table at this place in AUGUST. I’d read about it during my Barcelona research and it was listed as a must. They open one day two months prior every day at midnight. I was so intrigued by this but I’m not one for fine dining. However, I decided that this would be my only expensive dinner out for my entire 3 months here and it turned out to be a very laid back environment. And OMG THE FOOD. I’ll let the pictures tell you. They’re vertical because Snapchat is more forgiving on my poor phone memory.
(Add me: ferroberro)

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Other Highlights

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Them body issues tho.

Having Museum Days: Sundays in Barcelona are like Beirut in that they’re labeled “family days,” everything closes, and the only thing left to do is eat and be a tourist. I’ve been spending mine in museums or random art shows since most restaurants save their tables for parties of ANYTHING MORE THAN ONE.

Bought a Polaroid Cube: Instead of splurging on a GoPro before knowing whether or not I’d really use it, I opted for the more affordable yet lower quality Polaroid Cube. Let’s see if some Bambi vlogs get made with this new toy.

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Having a Roommate: My friend has moved in with me for the month. I officially have my first roommate.

Human+: This is a new exhibition at the CCCB that’s about humans, tech, and where we’re going as a species. Very interestingly creepy.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks


Because I’m not running, running, running. I’ve really got to though.


Because Jonas. Don’t judge.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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Receiving a bunch of jars of labneh from dad. Mom and vegan visited during week 13 and brought 3 kinds of goat’s labneh, marouk bread, and a couple of bags of pita. This is how Arab parents show they love you. Can someone send me tabbouli?

Here’s a dose of inspirational queso for you as well:

El-Tanein Diet #10 and #11

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I’ve decided that bunching the ETD posts into 2-week bits is better while I’m in Barcelona. Main reason being that I don’t have a lot of activity to report other than walking all over the whole city. I do plan on changing that up but I don’t want to get too repetitive and only be discussing what I’m eating. Although they come hand in hand when focusing on fitness, this is supposed to be a series about movement rather than a tribute to food.

Workout Tally

Walking my ass off for 14 days

Still can’t get myself to give up my morning walks to the office and I don’t think the rain will stop me either. It’s a 15-20 minute warm-up before I sit behind a screen for 9 hours. I’m really happy that I have this to wake me up prior and then after the day is over as well. Sedentary life at a desk can be so damaging so it’s become the highlight of my weekdays. I try to change up the route every once in a while so I can discover a new neighborhood, find another farmacia, or fit in some extra steps.

With that said, I’m still hoping to get some weekend jogs in. Since weekends are the days I get to really be Bambi the Explorer, I can’t help but deplete my energy wandering the streets looking for hidden gems. I’m trying to use the resistance tube regularly but that’s been as effective as my Duolingo Spanish lessons – meaning I’m doing it twice a week max. Catalan bread is still stalking me and now I’m crushing on its friend: bizcocho de limon (lemon cake) from Dia supermarket.

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again

Best Day. Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again.

I’m doing an average of 10.5km/day when not in the office so week 10 was ~78K and week 11 was ~75K steps. Even though this is higher than my Beirut weekly stats, the totals have gone down since weeks 8 & 9 so I should get back to my old weekend numbers.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 10: Bresaola with cava from El Jardi in Raval. It’s a charming tapas bar located in the gardens of old Hospital Santa Creu, around the corner from the famous La Boqueria. It was one of my first solo lunches and I didn’t mind one bit.

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Week 11: Media Pinta BrewBurger with a 1/2 pint of 5am Red Ale beer at Brewdog on Carrer de Casanova. After nachos, a burger, and brownies, my new colleagues and I played two rounds of Jenga. We defied the laws of physics and digestion.

Other Highlights

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Found Peanut Butter: I found the much smaller equivalent to Wesley’s in Barcelona: Taste of America. Got myself a jar of Jif. I prefer Skippy but it’ll do. The cashier began to explain, in Spanish, that I was buying the extra chunky variation. I blurted out a “…sorry?” even though I figured out what he was saying and he laughed,“You’re American! Never mind!” It seems I blend right in here.

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Trip up to Mount Tibidabo: We didn’t get to ride the old Tramvia Blau (blue tram) since it was a Friday. It’s only operational on weekends. That’s what I get for going to Tibidabo on my day off. BUT Tibidabo has a spectacular view of the city and you get to ride a funicular after having some gin & tonic at Mirablau bar halfway up the mountain. There’s a church and some rides at the top but the view is enough for the trip. Avoid the churros – not worth it.

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Attended my first Barca game at Camp Nou:
I’m more of a World-Cup-only football fan but it seemed wrong to not attend a game while staying in the home of FC Barcelona. With great seats thanks to friends at Fly-Foot, we got to see Barca’s win against Las Palmas with Messi’s injury in the first 10 minutes, Suarez’s two goals, and Neymar’s bad haircut. The energy in a stadium is so much better than watching behind a screen.

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Faborit for Light Lunches: So far, this is my favorite lunch spot away from the office. They’ve got a healthy salad bar, fresh juices, pastries, loyalty cards, and a green-walled terrace. I got the swing chair last time I was there! I am a child. The interior is just as warm and inviting. Did I mention it’s at the ground level of Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller? #designerd

Went Flexitarian Two Sundays in a Row: Read more about this here.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Fun, hip track to trot to. Not hardcore workout material but it’s a cheerful, summery tune. And the video was shot in Barcelona.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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I’m in love with burrata anything. I’ve had burrata back home but I don’t know what it is about this español cheesperience. Maybe it’s the arugula or the sun-dried/seared tomatoes but I can’t get enough.

El-Tanein Diet Week #8 and #9

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Botero’s Gato, Rambla del Raval

It’s too late to apologize for having to bunch the past two weeks into one post but getting settled, working full-time, and having some visitors has been keeping me quite busy. I’m still finding my rhythm here and I’ve got a few posts lined up about what I’ve been doing in Barcelona – I just have to sit and write them out in a comprehensive manner. It’s all on its way, promise!

Workout Tally

Walking my ass off for 14 days

I’ve been on my feet a lot. I walk pretty much everywhere and my Fitbit now loves me. I’m afraid of the size of my calves but I guess it’s good that this is happening since I refuse to forfeit my morning stroll for rushed gym classes. Hopefully, I will still appreciate them when the winter season takes over.

As for fitness plans and resistance training: I want to do weekend jogs in the park by the National Museum in Montjuic. I decided against getting a set of free weights and got a resistance tube from Decathlon since I need something temporary that’ll do the job. Along with some daily pushups and some Nike Training Club downloadable workouts, I should be able to stay on the track to getting toned if I avoid all the Catalan bread that keeps following me everywhere.

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

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I haven’t seen numbers like this on a consistent streak since I got the device. Walking to and from the office is making a big difference when it comes to my movement during working hours and my exploration of the city during the weekend makes up for the rest. I’m doing an average of 15km/day when not in the office so week 8 was ~85K and week 9 was ~103K steps!

Best Meal of the Week(s)

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Tapas and sangria at Numero Nueve in Born. This place can win the title for both weeks since I’ve been back twice since my first visit. I don’t even like red wine sangria. Yes, it’s that good.

Other Highlights

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New Instagram Series: For some reason, I kept on noticing the various storefronts of the pharmacies in and around town on my treks. I’ve turned it into a series on my Instagram account. Follow me or the series via #Farrahfindsfarmacias

Look Ma, tourists!

Look Ma, tourists!

Being a BCN tour guide after 2 weeks: I’ve had a few visitors and it’s been challenging to show them around while still being a tourist myself. However, it’s a blessing to have good company when you’re in a new place learning about Gaudi and tasting tapas. Going to museums, Pedrera, Güell, and Sagrada. It’s been an intense couple of weekends.

Workout Track of the Week

The track I’ve been walking all over Barcelona with. How Spanish, I know. Also, the Straight Outta Compton OST but I can’t seem to find a link for that anywhere.

Cheese of the Week

I’m going to go with sentimental cheese for my first two weeks away from home. I was warned about feeling homesick and lonely. Thankfully, I haven’t had much of a chance to dwell on the solo part of my solo expedition since my visitors list keeps growing. Who would’ve thought you’d get to have a little bit of home along for the ride. Now, where in Barcelona can I find some peanut butter?

El-Tanein Diet Week #6

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

I’m hiding behind the floppy hat of shame. Week 6 and 7 have and will be slow because my gym membership expired. I didn’t renew for the month since I’m traveling this coming weekend and, as it turns out, having guaranteed access to the treadmill at home isn’t enough variation to keep you entertained and motivated. I’m going to have to figure something out for week 7 before my flight but prepping for travel will also be messing with my schedule.

Workout Tally

2 20min runs

I’m going to have to pay for some individual classes this week because my discipline falters when it comes to treadmilling at home. Electricity cuts don’t help, but honestly, it just gets dull. I can safely say that the only reason I want to be faster on the machine is so the boredom ends sooner. Did I mention you feel like a human waterfall in this weather? The plus side is that you can run whenever you want…if you have power.

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With this week’s decreased workout level, I did notice my appetite was proportionate. The more I exercise, the more I become a human Hoover so it’s going to take some time to figure out the right balance of exercise and feasts.

I have been adding some goals over the past 6 weeks but I’m losing track of what they are since they’re scattered across the posts. I’ve compiled them below and will do so every 6 weeks to make sure I’ve got an updated list to keep referring to.

Recap of the Goals for El-Tanein Diet

  • 10K steps/day or at least 50K/week total
  • 5 classes/week minimum
  • Do regular push-ups (not 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
  • Run my 5K in 35 min
  • NEW: one 5K run/week

Recap of Mini Victories So Far

  • Average of 3 classes/week
  • Planked for 1:10 (up from 0:40s)
  • Up to 4kg weights
  • Running 5K in 40 min (down from 41:30)

Outdoor Activity

I never thought participating in a protest would count as an outdoor activity but walking around Riad El Solh Square for a few hours under the afternoon August sun is still something. I got a tan and mixed feelings about this whole “revolution.”

Fitbit Flex

Staying home is worse than office life when it comes to step count. Week #6 totals at a little under 40K, 10K short of the 50K minimum. Even with very little workout activity, I was almost there!

Best Meal of the Week

I headed to Zouk Mikael with the sisters for this weekend’s Souk el Akel at the old Zouk souks. It included the same stands I saw when I went to the downtown edition last month. Upon arrival, the sisters admitted they weren’t hungry and just wanted to see what the fuss was about so I ended up having dinner solo. I had a half pulled pork sandwich from This Little Piggy and a sloppy joe from Meats & Bread.

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I have yet to try the recommended sushi burrito because that combination seems insulting to both sushi and burritos. It’s like making a ribs pizza. Actually, that sounds genius. Let me think about it.

Other Highlights

Bought a Crop Top: I was never a crop top person. I’m not a fan of midriff baring but I’ve seen classy examples of how to pull off a crop top. I don’t think it’s the kind of style made for muffin tops or belly pooches so I figured it be a good motivator to get my abs in shape. I opted for one that was easy on the wallet too so it won’t break my heart if I only wear it around the house. H&M saving the day.

Workout Track of the Week

I don’t know why this was playing at Souk el Akel but it’s a song that was once used during Body Attack. It was weird to hear a song that is used during intense cardio while walking by food stalls and smoking barbecues.

Cheese of the Week

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Knefeh bi Chocolat: Since the above is called best MEAL of the week, I did not count my first encounter with the knefeh bi chocolat of Sea Sweet as the winner. I will say that it was the highlight gastronomically though. For those who don’t know, knefeh is baked white cheese pastry topped with semolina and syrup. Knefeh bi chocolat is a chocolate croissant stuffed with knefeh. I can’t for the life of me understand why people who discovered it this year decided to call it the cronofeh; it’s been around longer than the cronut and such a moniker does not make you salivate. Way to make something so sinfully delicious sound like a village with no gas stations. My reaction was, and I quote, “this is like whoa” and I could only eat 3/4 of the half I had before I felt the glucose seeping out of my pores.

I shall leave you with a cat meme.

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El-Tanein Diet Week #5

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I did a lot of research this week on fitness practices and what can backfire when you’re trying to implement long-term changes in your diet and gym regimen. Focusing on the wrong successes can be demoralizing because you think your workouts aren’t producing results and your motivation fizzles.

Workout Tally

1 Boot Camp
1 5K Run
1 Taebo

The schedule is slipping again – uh oh. I’ve got to get my butt to more classes or run more often. I did realize that going to 1/day is better than pushing for 2 back-to-back because I’m pretty wiped out by the second class which makes it less effective. I’ve got to improve my stamina before I up the daily tally.

According to the Discovery Science channel, running for a half hour will buy you a half hour of life so that’s the cherry on top of a treadmill session. One thing that I read about and fully support was beating your own records as a way to gauge your progress. It’s fair since you’re not depending on arbitrary numbers that don’t take other factors into account. I was also encouraged to take note of measurements instead of bi-weekly weigh-ins because it’s not always an accurate depiction of your progress. I’ll still keep track of my weight but it won’t be a cornerstone to this process; I want to focus more on breaking my own records. Time to get a measuring tape.

Mini Victories
Planked for 1:10 (up from 0:40 sec)
Ran my 5K one minute faster than week #3

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Fun Fact
The Nike+ Running app taught me that the interval training I’ve been doing during my runs is called fartleks. It’s a Swedish term that means “speed play.”

Outdoor Activity

I was supposed to be going on a walking tour this Saturday but it got canceled botching my outdoor activity plan. I should’ve gone biking instead but I fell asleep. I’m not even joking.

Fitbit Flex

Oddly enough, I got a few people asking me about my Fitbit and what kind of watch it was. After explaining the purpose of the wearable, the general reply was “so all it does is count your steps?” as if it was a useless pedometer. Besides the data that the app gives you, the wearable is also handy because it is a constant yet simple reminder of how inactive you’ve been during the day through 5 dotted lights that indicate 20% increments of your daily goal. You can also challenge fellow Fitbit users via the app so there’s the added competitive angle.

With that said, I missed the 10K mark every day this week so here’s a new goal: hit 10K steps each day or at least get 50K/week total as a minimum.

Cheat Meal

This is a category that needs to be rethought. After the last few weeks, I don’t think having a cheat meal has been wise and not because of the calories. I am eating normally throughout the week without blacklisting food groups. However, I don’t think there should be this one special meal because it creates pressure that leaves you disappointed and upset if you ingest calories that don’t make you happy. All you’re left with is guilt which gives this “reward” a negative connotation. I don’t want my diet to become something I obsess over, I just want to make the right healthy choices.

For example, when I was having spicy shrimp, the first thought I had was, “will I really enjoy this and is it worth the calories?” If the answer was no, I’d pass because if you’re ingesting calories and it’s leaving you guilty rather than satisfying an indulgence, there’s no win there. The problem was that I wasn’t enjoying food anymore. The key is to be unapologetic when you make your decisions but still be conscious of what you’re putting in your body. And if you have a cupcake, savor the moment, and don’t feel bad about it. Making yourself feel bad about having a treat also makes you feel like you need to be punished for committing food crimes and the punishment comes in the form of exercise. Working out is associated with punishment rather than feeling good.

I’m changing the name of “cheat meal” to “best meal of the week” because I’m avoiding bingeing and feeling like my workouts are a form of damage control. Instead of thinking about this meal as a “cheat,” it’s more about the epitome of flavor and satisfaction.

This week’s best meal was honey chipotle chicken crispers from Chilis. Not guilty although I admit, I can make an effort to choose best meals that have less fried items.

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Other Highlights

Lift Like a Girl Podcast: Nia Shanks hosts this weekly podcast that I just discovered. It’s more of a lifestyle podcast, not just about reps and fitness. This week’s episode introduced me to Lumoid, a service that allows you to test out wearables or other gadgets, choose your favorite, and return the ones you don’t like. She also talked about our habits, how we create them, and how to reshape them. Armi Legge of Evidence Mag discussed the 3 Rs of habits: reminder, response, reward. He also said that effectively changing habits could be better than setting goals and the way to do so is to change your response to reminders/cues. Let’s say you overeat (response) when you get bored (cue). Once you recognize that that is your response and you change it, your habit can be less destructive/unhealthy. It’s all about knowing what your triggers are. The habit I’m going to work on is drinking more water when bored instead of lingering outside the pantry.

Friday at Iris Beach Club: ‘Twas a lazy day spent in the pool and that’s not an understatement. Although this beach resort is of the pricier spots in the country, I can’t say it wasn’t very enjoyable to become a fish after being in the pool for 4 hours straight without noticing. I always wanted to be Ariel.

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Discovering El Hajj Ali: Another Sunday road trip had us wandering around Tripoli looking for a place to lunch. After taking a few wrong turns by the old fair grounds, we ended up at a Lebanese restaurant with generously large plates of mezza. We had a full table of food (and leftovers) for under $90 total for a party of 5 which is very fair considering the quality, quantity, service, and ambiance. Not a fan of the tabbouli though because it had red quinoa and pomegranate molasses in the dressing; I prefer the usual lemon oil.

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Workout Track of the Week

I put together a soundcloud playlist for my 5K runs. Feel free to use it if in need of some tunes. The track that pushed me to 9.5 on the tread was Kanye’s Black Skinheads. Only Yeezy would make you feel like he’s breathing along with your while you run like a maniac.

Cheese of the Week

I’m a fan of cheese and, when in need of a snack, I’ve been turning to mini Babybel singles or mozzarella string cheese. They hold off the hunger monster so you don’t end up getting cosy with the bag of nacho cheese Doritos.

I was exempt from a second 5K run on Sunday because our overused generator was like “f*ck this, I’m out” leaving us to the mercy of the electricity gods of Beirut. As we were all sprawled out on the cool floor tiles, I couldn’t help but wonder…

Are there any Zahle apartments available on airbnb?

El-Tanein Diet Week #3

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Week #3 has me feeling like less of a fitness fraud after last week’s debauchery. It’s gotten to the point where having a weekend without gym-time or activity just feels wrong. I can’t go two days without getting workout drenched, it’s an endorphin addiction.

Workout Tally

2 Boot Camp
2 Body Attack
1 5K Run
1 Taebo

5 classes and a run! Nothing like a bumpy week to make you move your bum during the one that follows. The trick is keeping the momentum going and not eating the entire ocean like week #2. The hardest side-effect that accompanies this endorphin addiction is constant hunger mode. This week, I’ve learned that with a lot of activity comes a lot of appetite so self-control becomes more important than ever and that’s something I’ve got to work on.

Outdoor Activity

I decided to go for a 5K interval run on the AUB track which would’ve been a fine idea on a regular day…in February. Of course, I went at 3:30pm when it 36ºC in July. In all fairness, it is not the 40s and 50s of the GCC but it can feel quite damp when you have to do 15 laps by the sea. Running around sunset would be a better idea but I doubt it’ll get that much cooler before November.

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• New goal to add to the original list: 5K run in 35 min or less

Fitbit Flex

The Fitbit has returned! Well, almost. It recorded the entire week except for Monday. My highest count this week was on Friday thanks to 2 classes followed by Decks on the Beach. Since the parties run late and we were dancing past midnight, the dance-steps counted all the way into Saturday giving me 8K total for that day even though I spent most of it leading a sedentary life behind my computer screen. Looks like Decks is another cardio class. Win!

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I hope the Fitbit will be back to 100% next week.

Cheat Meal

Thursday dinner at Acoté, Mar Mikhael
Bab el Wad Merguez Sandwich with Fries

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I waited for this sandwich all week and, it seems, my expectations were set too high. It wasn’t as good as I remembered and I felt like I had been cheated out of my cheat meal. The whole point of having a cheat meal is anticipation and reward so when you miss the mark, your brain is shrieking, “WASTED CALORIES!” The aches and sore muscles of my 5K run were mad at me for ingesting calories that didn’t make me happy, just guilty. I started calculating how many classes I sacrificed for that sandwich. The fear of disappointment from a meal is actually causing anxiety – WHO AM I?

I should’ve gone with my gut and had a slice of cake instead. Week #4 will be dessert-oriented.

Other Highlights

Arrival of the First Maktoub 3 Loubnan Postcards: I returned from a few hours at the beach in Batroun to find two postcards in my mailbox. Now that’s a good Monday. Check them out up close here. If you’re Lebanese abroad and haven’t sent a postcard already, get to it!

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Workout Track of the Week


I didn’t have my iPhone playlist updated for the 5K run so I used Soundcloud, where I also had not created a workout playlist. Thus, I just let it play remix upon remix of this track. It did the trick but my earphones didn’t do the bass justice. The track seemed appropriate given that he was in Beirut this week. My conscience wouldn’t let me go to his concert though.

Cheese of the Week

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Literal cheese: rkakat mi’leh ma’a basterma, or fried cheese rolls with Anatolian pastrami. Delicious. Just two of these suddenly made me feel better about having a dud of a cheat meal. Considering it was the only fatty item on the table, I’m reminded that our Lebanese mezza is a colorful variety of dishes that are healthy choices full of greens, legumes, and olive oil. It’s not hard to OD on mezza though; a dozen meat pies and a full plate of spicy potatoes with cilantro will still go straight to your thighs so it’s best to stay leafy. Our cuisine is a blessing, when you eat in moderation.

Time for week #4!
Warning: video below has profanity. OH SNAP.