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.

IMG_7700 IMG_7741

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.

IMG_7759

IMG_7758  IMG_7760

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

IMG_7727

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.

IMG_7770

El-Tanein Diet Week #5

IMG_7565

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

IMG_7590

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.

IMG_7588

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.

IMG_7615

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.

IMG_7670

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 #4

Courtesy of Gratisography

Courtesy of Gratisography

Week #4 disclaimer: I got sick toward the second half and was incapacitated for 2 days followed by a Sunday with the fam. That left me with 4 days to be active so there’s my excuse for my mediocre performance.

Bi-weekly weigh-in: -1 kg. I’m not sure if that’s because of the workouts or the fever-induced dead appetite but there you have it!

Workout Tally

1 Boot Camp
1 Body Attack
1 20min Run
1 Taebo

IMG_7291

Not as impressive as last week‘s tally but still better than week #2. Despite the gross heatwave, I did shift up to 4kg weights. I was optimistic that I would be hitting the mark this week as well but viruses don’t care what you want to do with your life.

Outdoor Activity

Although it wasn’t major movement, exploring Sawfar in the early afternoon sun during this week’s heatwave worked up a bit of a sweat. Read more about the two afternoons spent with the Sursock family here.

IMG_7367

Fitbit Flex

3 days out of 7 were almost flatlined thanks to viral fun but at least the Fitbit is back to recording all my lack of movement. Check out the numbers next to my strongest week yet: one spent walking all over NYC. Even on my most active days with all the gym classes, I haven’t hit those kind of numbers since. This was not the best week to compare to but you get the point.

IMG_7461

Cheat Meal

A friend’s dinner in Broumanna would qualify as the cheat meal since it was a home-cooked buffet pre-fever when I still had a decent appetite. Check out that spread:

IMG_7372

I’d like to mention here that having a cheat meal once doesn’t mean I’m not eating carbs or having something sweet the rest of the week. I do have a little to curb the cravings and avoid bingeing/inhaling a whole bowl of cake batter. It’s all about portion sizes and choosing the right foods. My vegan sister, who has done in-depth research in nutrition, recommended that I “follow my hunger signals” in order to control my growing appetite. She didn’t mean eat whenever you get the urge; she meant avoid too many restrictions and skipped meals because you’ll end up overdoing it when you DO eat.

Other Highlights

Watched Paper Towns: I may have said that this movie is “the Breakfast Club of our generation” to a friend. That may have been an exaggeration but I did like it as a high school story in comparison to the crap that came out when I was pseudo-studying for SATs. It’s got the right dose of corny and its soundtrack introduced me to this track:

Ordering Salmon at Couqley: Feels like a crime to do so but I did not have steak frites and opted for the no-sauce-smothered no-fries-included salmon plate. It was great and light but I don’t feel like I went to Couqley because of it. That, and they were out of creme brulée. Bittersweet blessing?

IMG_7338

Another Anti-Corruption Protest: The crowd has grown since the first protest that is focused on the garbage crisis here in Lebanon. There’s room for more people so I hope that more will be inspired to join in each session. The more people who show up, the more we may be able to prove that we want change and the active citizens outnumber the passive followers.

IMG_7401

Discovering the Diaspora Museum: At the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference this May, it was announced that 7 houses bought by the government would be converted into a Lebanese Diaspora Museum in Batroun. Yeah, I didn’t know about it either; I stumbled across the site while exploring the inner streets of the seaside city. It’s got something to do with Gebran Bassil so maybe I’ll shoot him an email.

IMG_7431

Went looking for El Cartel: No amigos found. Last month, I read about two guys from Reno who set up a taco hut by LAU Byblos. Dad and I made it our summer mission to find them and test their skills. However, when we found their “Tacolicious” place, it was closed and up for rent. Does anyone know where these guys went?

We went to El Molino instead and split a plate of subpar enchiladas. Looks like nothing beats homemade tacos for now. When is Loca coming to Beirut? Please?

Workout Track of the Week

This track isn’t for intense workouts but it’ll do the job if you just need a tune to keep you company on a power walk or warm-up. The video is also a super violent spoof on the advertising world which I can totally appreciate. Headbutt your way through life, people.

Cheese of the Week

This week’s cheese comes from Junot Diaz’s book, This is How You Lose Her. In the last few pages, he writes a very simple line: “the half-life of love is forever.”

A “half-life” is a nuclear physics term that is used to describe the life span of unstable atoms. It describes radioactive decay. So the half-life is how long it takes for something to decay to half its original amount. My nerdy self feels all warm and fuzzy.

I’ll leave you with the best of my new idol, lumpy space princess. Never underestimate Cartoon Network’s ability to make disturbingly entertaining cartoons.

El-Tanein Diet Week #3

IMG_7046

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.

IMG_7037

IMG_7044

• 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!

IMG_7262

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

IMG_7082

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!

IMG_6958

IMG_6966

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

IMG_7144_2

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.