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Hannah Liistro

Living Away From College: What I Learned About My Food Habits

I recently flew back to my home of the East Coast after a six-month adventure/vacation/internship in the San Francisco Bay Area. While I lived away from home and college, I learned a lot about my relationship with food…more than I ever anticipated to, that’s for sure, but beneficial in so many ways. 

My past eating habits were not healthy. They were disordered. 

In the Bay Area, I surrounded myself with roommates and anti-diet dietitians who eat what they crave and don’t put themselves on any diets, and I came to the startling realization that I had been in a restrictive, orthorexic diet mentality for the past 3+ years.

Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California 

In fact, it was even more years than this because I remember being a little girl, reading Us Weekly magazine, learning about the latest diets that the stars were doing, which celebrities lost/gained weight, and then thinking I had to go to the doctor’s office and not eat before because I knew they were going to weigh me. Then, in high school, I thought I needed to do ab workouts and only eat a smoothie before going to the beach in a bikini; when my friends and I took pictures, I thought I had to “suck in”.  

Later on, these thoughts manifested heavily in the form of controlling my food intake — from senior year of high school to the middle of third year of college. First, I thought I had to eliminate grains; I eventually went strict Paleo (I thought putting a label on my diet was healthy, but it was actually just legalized restriction) and wouldn’t allow any thing that was not Paleo-friendly into my diet. Then, I had a few short-term stints: low-carb Paleo, juicing, lemon water cleanse. Next, I decided to lift weights and count macros, then just calories. Following this, I went on a terrible 8-week long nutrition plan from a masked diet brand that starts with Tone and ends with Up. Afterwards, I tried going plant-based, and my reasons for doing so were far from environmental and ethical. From there, I went to just being gluten and dairy-free – here’s where I thought that I was “fine”, but I really hadn’t permitted all foods yet; my eating was still restrictive. And finally, in February while in California, I took on a Whole30.

Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California 

 And trying to do a Whole30 is what broke me. For the better. Because for the first time in my life, around 17 days into this month of strict Paleo, I came to terms with the notion that all of these nutritional adventures (yes, even Whole30!) were not healthy for me – they were restrictive and disordered.


They were marketed as a reset, a nutrition plan, a cleanse, a lifestyle, but I call bull-shit. They were all diets.

I had become a chronic dieter; I was restricting either food groups, specific food items, calories, macronutrients, or following some plan or Pinterest juice cleanse or reset for over three years. I had developed weird habits around food: I always thought about food, looked up what I’d order at the restaurant hours in advance, bring my own food to events if they wouldn’t have options that fit my eating style, and felt like I had to take pictures of every single meal I ate and post it to let you, a reader & follower, know that I was eating paleo/plant-based/GF.

I believed that I was on some higher moral ground because of what I ate. I was absolutely terrified to eat foods on the “no” list – like gluten, fried food, alcohol, and refined sugar.

I think I even forgot what foods I actually liked and wanted, and I definitely had no idea how to listen to my hunger cues.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California

But when I let go of my Whole30 attempt at the beginning of March, I made a decision out of respect for myself, my body, and my life that I would commit to unlearning all diet thoughts, all body-shaming and weight-related messages, and all, ALL food rules. No more resets, no more labeling how I eat, no more diets.

I am done. 

It’s been a process, and it will surely continue to be one as I move back to Boston and my lifestyle changes (you know, with doing the whole college thing again), but for the first time in years, I’m not giving a damn about what I’m eating, or what my body looks like.

I am understanding how to eat exactly what I want, when I am hungry (or just when my body wants something). I choose to surrender: I let go of controlling how my body looks and exists in the world. Instead, I will work towards practicing simple gratitude for its health, its capabilities, and its pure existence.

From here on out, I will move and eat in ways I enjoy, but I will never again try to manipulate, restrict, harm, or control the one vessel that I have been given to experience life.

Friend, I eat fast food sometimes nowadays. (I like Chick-Fil-A way better than In-N-Out, by the way.)

Whole Foods Market, Silicon Valley 

I eat bagels, doughnuts and cinnamon sugar pretzel bites. I also still drink green smoothies. All these foods fit in my new way of life. 

I don’t say, “Oh no, I can’t eat that” anymore. Period. It was all a lie. I f***ing love gluten!! (And I’m thankful that I’m not intolerant!!)

I don’t have any apps on my phone that track my calories, and I don’t spend time posting as much food on Instagram as I used to. It’s better for me that way.

I no longer spend money on nutrition plans or books that tell me what to eat. I recognize that the most important wisdom for what food I want to eat is already within me. I’ve got this.

I go swimming at the pool and wear sports bras with no shirt in yoga class, and I do not give a damn about how I look or what others think. It doesn’t matter.

And still, of course there are some instances when I accidentally return to my orthorexic, restrictive diet mentality. But now, more days than not, I feel free, intuitive with food, and not obsessed with what I’m eating and how I’m exercising. And that feels too freaking good.

In-N-Out Burger, somewhere in Silicon Valley, California 

We each are on our own journeys. Some, not all, are working towards being body positive, embracing Health At Every Size, and eating without obsession, rigidity, & guilt. We each have some type of body image + food story, but I promise you:

if you acknowledge that you’ve been dieting and food/body-shaming and want to free yourself, you have the power to do so. It’s work, and it’s not always easy, but you are not stuck where you are.

You’re only stuck if you believe that you are. 

Little shifts and positive changes will start to happen for you, if you give yourself honesty, respect, and love. You can do it. We both can (and will)! 

Check out these articles, too: 

The Whole30 Didn’t Work For Me, and That’s Okay

Sometimes, the plan doesn’t work. And that’s okay.

Disclaimer: Everyone has a different experience with Whole30. For many people, the Whole30 is an absolutely life-changing program that can transform their relationship with food, help them craft healthy habits, and alleviate health, skin, and medical conditions that have plagued them for years. 

For these reasons, I’m extremely happy that the Whole30 exists.

HOWEVER, what I’m here to do is give you my experience with Whole30. I can’t speak for anyone else. And I will be completely honest when I say that the standard Whole 30, strict-Paleo template did not work for, and was definitely not right for, me. 

What is the Whole 30? 

The Whole 30 is a lifestyle program comprised of two parts: elimination and reintroduction. This is something that I think many people forget, or do not realize. 

Not only is this a 30-day food and habit reset, but it’s also a program that has you reintroduce foods after the 30-day elimination.

In this vital re-intro period, you learn and understand how specific foods and food groups (grains, legumes, dairy, refined/processed goods, alcohol, and sugar) affect you on physiological, emotional, mental, and physical levels. From this knowledge, you can create your own personal definition of healthy eating (that may or may not involve the foods the Whole 30 cut out). 

The basic premise? Knowledge is power, so once you find how certain foods work for you, you gain control of your skin, energy levels, health conditions and digestion. Incredible. 

I’ve been a longtime supporter of the Whole 30 program and co-founder Melissa Hartwig’s approach to eating real food, finding food freedom, and creating a healthy, individualized lifestyle and diet that is right for your body and mind. However, I had never done a full Whole30 until this past February. Inspired by Food Freedom Forever and a desire to curb my sugar/dessert habits, I embarked on this journey. 

You can go to the Whole 30 website to learn, in detail, about what exact foods are included in the original Whole30 program (they now have vegan, pescatarian, and vegetarian options), but basically, for the past 30 days I ate a black-and-white Paleo diet. Well, mostly…

Some Context: I Have A History with Restrictive Paleo Diets

About two years ago, I put myself on an extremely rigid, “no cheats” Paleo diet. I was hooked on this craziness for over 12 months, and it was terrifyingly destructive to my relationship with food.

It was essentially a Whole 365, which is exactly what the co-founders of Whole30 advise not to do. But I didn’t know this at the time. As a freshman in college, all I knew to be “true” was that gluten and gluten-free grains were devils. Refined seed oils were horrendous. And sugar was something to genuinely fear and avoid under all circumstances.

I was convinced that these foods were “bad for me”, convinced they would make me gain weight, and felt sure they would ruin my digestion, skin, energy levels, happiness, and life.

(Mind you, I’ve been allergy tested by a naturopathic doctor. And while I do have actual allergies to dairy, all nightshade veggies, and random shit like oranges, garlic, and tuna fish, I’m not intolerant or allergic to gluten, sugar, legumes or gluten-free grains. Like, at all.

Thinking it was super healthy and good for me, I continued on this Paleo diet for months. 

Being in this place of rigidity fueled some intense cravings for treats. I wanted the things I could not have (ice cream, frosting, cookies, brownies), so I turned to the closest, Paleo-friendly option available: the jar — no, jars on jars on JARS, of nut butters. What started out as a snack that I occasionally enjoyed quickly evolved into a food I would binge on repeatedly for days.

It was not until I removed all dietary restrictions from myself (over a year later) that I began to remediate my relationship with food. I became happier and healthier again. It felt amazing to legalize the foods I’d restricted, such as oatmeal and quinoa, and I finally, finally stopped binging on almond butter. I no longer had a reason to; without me even trying to avoid it, the habit died on its own.

I’ve written more about my Paleo experience, and how I healed my food relationship and habits here

The Perks of Whole 30

Fast forward to February 2017: I’m taking on Whole30 for the first time, and the first two weeks of the program are fan-freaking-tastic! 

1. Tiger blood.

After the first two to three days, when I felt like my brain was about to explode due to a sugar hangover headache, I was on such a high. I felt like I had the tiger blood that Whole30-ers talk about experiencing at the end of the month!

2. My food felt energizing and satisfying.

I had a ton of energy at work, and I barely needed snacks during the day. My meals were delicious, satisfying, savory, and tasteful. I was trying out new recipes and creating a bunch of my own

3. My body felt a difference.

I was sleeping soundly (something that didn’t happen much before), my skin was getting clearer and softer, by week 3 I had NO cravings for chocolate or cake or any baked goods, and my hair was growing…wicked fast. I seriously feel like my hair grew three inches during Whole30. 


Even though my Whole30 is over now, these are the most profound effects that I’ve continued to see even after the fact. They are the benefits that inspire me to eat healthy. I really like sleeping like a baby, having clear skin & strong hair and nails, feeling energized all day, and not maintaining constant cravings for treats. Hello, non-scale victories!

The Dark Side of My Whole 30: What You Didn’t See

While I did experience all of these benefits and was eating delicious food (such pesto turkey meatballs and rosemary + prosciutto frittatas), there were some drawbacks to my Whole30 experience, and they all stemmed from that year of rigid, restrictive Paleo dieting.

Co-founder Melissa Hartwig explicitly states in her books that if you have/had an eating disorder, or specific disordered tendencies with food, to please work with your trusted healthcare practitioner to see if Whole30 is a good fit (or not) for you.  

This is what I didn’t do, and this is what I learned (the hard way) that I should have done. 

I thought that eliminating grains, legumes, alcohol, and all sweet treats for 30 days would help me to feel better and reset my relationship with food, but in fact, it made my connection with eating worse. After that two week high, I should have stopped my reset. Instead, I kept going. 

By week three, I was tired of a) eating eggs, and b) restricting food groups that I’d finally, after that year of fearing certain foods, integrated into my diet. 

Before the reset, I felt emotionally happy and on point with my digestion while eating non-Paleo/Whole30 foods– beans, occasional gluten-filled treats, oatmeal, quinoa, and dark chocolate. Since I knew this about myself and my digestive system, I became incredibly and enormously pissed off that I was not allowing myself to eat these foods. 

So what did this annoyance and restrictiveness cause during my Whole30? I was brought right back to the unhealthy cycle that I used to maintain when I was stuck in my rigid paleo diet — binge on almond butter (sometimes stuffing it in Medjool dates because hot damn that’s a fabulous “Paleo” treat), feel bad about it, restrict stringently for a few days, and then one night after dinner, dive face first into the current jar. 

I was hot and bothered that I was restricting myself like I had in my freshman year of college, and that my almond butter binging had come out of its grave. Upon realizing this habit had resurrected, I realized that since limiting myself to specific food groups was not working for me, I had no obligation to continue. If and when I wanted to, I could just…stop. I could simply start listening to my body instead of trying to work so, so hard to make the Whole30 right for me.

And let me tell you: this legalization of food (which I’ve realized is a gift of grace and kindness to my mind, my relationship with eating, and my body) has continued to bring me joy every day since I called off my Whole30. 

After Whole30: Benefits and Lessons Learned

Of course, within every experience, there are lessons to be found, and I certainly learned a lot about myself through doing this program.

Here are the things that my Whole30 taught me:

1. Even though ghee is clarified butter and contains no lactose, my body does not tolerate it well. I think I’m so allergic to dairy that even ghee is rough for me. Anyone want my jar of Fourth and Heart Vanilla Bean Ghee? It’s so good, and I wish it didn’t upset my digestive system. Ugh! 

2. Post-Whole30, I can now enjoy treats (a piece of dark chocolate, a slice of homemade banana bread) and not feel the need to consume the whole bar or loaf. This is truly my favorite improvement because I had a huge problem with eating dessert in mindless excess before Whole30.  

3. Eating meals without looking at my phone, my computer, or the TV are insanely more satisfying. 

4. Things that help me digest food better: taking a few deep breaths before my meals, and taking short walks outside after meals. 

5. Owning a food Instagram and food blog is way less enjoyable while doing Whole30, unless I surround myself with only Whole30 content (hard to do when I enjoy following lots of bakers and non-Paleo bloggers). 

So What Now?

My post-Whole30, healthy eating plan? To eat whatever the hell I want, when I want.

Because my restrictive past with food ignited a backfiring of my attempt at Whole30, I now try my best to exist in the entirely opposite realm. When I do genuinely desire a treat, whether it be once a week, once a month, or five times in five days, I allow myself to indulge and seriously appreciate that almond butter truffle, chocolate cookie, or slice of pumpkin bread.

In doing so, I don’t drive myself crazy with restriction, and I don’t enter the binge cycle that I know happens for me personally when I do restrict way too much. 

The Takeaway: One Program Isn’t for Everyone

Before Whole30, I thought that doing Whole30 was going to be the only way to reset and improve my food habits. After giving it my best shot, though, I’ve learned that this is not the truth. And in many ways, this brings me so much peace. 

My hope is that you experiment and discover what works for you (with food, wellness, and health habits). Whole30 is a life-changing program for millions of people; you could very well be one of them. Or not. While it has helped tons of individuals become happier and healthier, no single program is going to work for all us, and I think we should try our best to be A-okay with this. 

So go out there, experiment with different foods, be honest with yourself about what is working, and is not working, for you, and eat a delicious freaking cookie when you want it. 

Check out these articles, too: 

How to Incorporate Movement into Your Work (or School) Day

Time to break that Netflix binge, get up, and move!

While I’m a college student, I currently work a full-time job through my school’s experiential education program. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, in part because it’s led me to realize how passionate I am about workplace wellness. 

My work in the marketing department involves a lot of screen-time, where I sit. On my butt. At my desk. For 8 hours. I take lunch breaks, where I also sit. On my behind. In the cafe. Finally, I am cooped up in traffic for two hours each day (hello, California freeways!!). Does this sound similar to something you experience, too? 

It can be so easy to get in the cycle of: wake up, walk to class, sit in classes, walk to the library, sit in the library, walk to the gym, workout, go home, sit at the table for dinner, sit in bed and watch Netflix, go to sleep, repeat. I totally get it. I’ve been there. 

Even if we do workout for an hour each day, a key component to staying healthy and energized is to move as much as possible throughout the day. The New York Times reported a study which found that taking frequent, brief walking breaks throughout the day are “more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work”. 

In addition, people “who sit for more than eight or nine hours daily, which for many of us describes a typical workday, also are at heightened risk for diabetes, depression and obesity compared with people who move more often”. 

Photo via

Recently, there was one week where I got so fed up with all of this sitting I was doing that I started incorporating more walking, moving, and shaking into my week days.

I’ll be honest here — that week has completely transformed my entire workplace experience. It was this week that I began to feel tremendously more productive creative, rejuvenated, and happier at work. My efficiency increased, I began to think of more creative ideas within the projects I was working on, and my general contentment while at the office (speaking with colleagues, in meetings, handling fire-drills) skyrocketed. I even have started to trade my old snack-mindlessly-on-dried-apricots-even-though-not-hungry habit into a let’s-go-on-a-short-walk habit. This has been a win-win situation all around for me, and I know it will be for you, too. 

Because of this, I’ve become all-too passionate about integrating a bit of movement each day while at work, and I’m pumped to share what I have learned with you.** Let’s get MOVING, friend!! It’s so worth it. 

1.) Take a drink of water every 10-15 minutes.

Not only will you stay hydrated and maintain energy, but you’ll have to use the restroom more. This is one of the easiest ways to integrate more movement into your workday because, I mean, when you’ve gotta go, there’s no holding it for too long. 

2.) On that note, use a restroom that is far(ish) away from you.

For example, I work on third floor of a pretty large building, and I always opt for the bathroom that’s on the first floor. This enables me to get some stair-climbing in every hour or so. 

3.) Take walking meetings. 

If you can have a meeting with your team while getting some steps and fresh air, you’re set. Walking meetings and breaks enable you to stretch, get you to not look at a computer screen for a little while, and they are intellectually stimulating.

Side note: I know that some people like to take notes during meetings, which is why it’s helpful to be sitting at a desk for them. If you are open to a new format of note-taking, and really do want to have the meeting outside as opposed to in a boardroom, try audio recording the conversation, or writing notes on your phone. 

Photo via

4.) Walk somewhere for lunch as opposed to just eating at your desk.

If you don’t buy lunch at work, you can always walk with a colleague to an outdoor area or lunch space and eat there. If you can take an hour for lunch, I recommend eating for 30 minutes, and then going for a 30 minute walk! 

5.) Schedule walking breaks into your calendar. 

Every day at 2:30PM, a calendar notification goes off from my work email, reminding me to go for a 15-20 minute walking break. I look forward to this break so much — it’s short enough that I can still complete all my work in the afternoon, but it’s long enough that, when I arrive back at my desk, I feel refreshed, happy AF, and ready to tackle projects. 

**And no, I’m not talking about “movement” here as in ultra high-intensity strength training workouts…where you and I will sweat our literal faces off and need to take a shower. I’m all about HIIT, but I’m equally as adamant about not working out with makeup on. Eww. Save that for after work/school. Simply get up and get the blood flowing. It makes all the difference.

Check out these articles, too: 


Vegan Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread

Well that’s a mouthful. 

There’s no other way to explain this pumpkin bread than utterly amazing. I firmly believe that pumpkin-flavored treats are appropriate in all seasons of the year — not just autumn. This bread is perfect for grab and go breakfasts, a holiday gathering, or a baking night with you and your friends. Enjoy! 


Vegan Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread 

Time: 30 minutes

When to Eat Them: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack time 

Perks: vegan, DEELICIOUS  

Sh*t You Need:

1 box of Cherryvale Farms Pumpkin Spice Bread Mix
1, 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup of Wild Friends Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter (or any nut butter)
1/2 cup of chocolate chunks/chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons cacao powder 

The Recipe:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Spray a 9 x 5 pan with coconut oil cooking spray.

3. Pour about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of the melted chocolate sauce into each muffin cup. 

4. Once well-combined, add in the peanut butter, vanilla, and the chocolate chunks. Stir.

5. Pour the batter into the pan.

6.Once evenly distributed, swirl in two extra tablespoons of peanut butter on the top of the bread.

7. Bake for 50 minutes on the oven’s middle rack.

8. Remove from oven; allow bread to cool for 10 minutes; drizzle with peanut butter-chocolate sauce.

9. To make the peanut butter-chocolate sauce, melt peanut butter & coconut oil together in a small bowl, either in the pan or microwave (if using a microwave, 45-60 seconds should be perfect). Stir the cacao powder into the melted mixture. Drizzle the mix over the cooled bread.

Check out these recipes, too: 

Valentine’s Day Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Vegan & Paleo Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

A sweet treat for your sweetheart.

Vegan & Paleo Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

If I don’t have a stash of these in my home, you can find me dunking chocolate chips into the almond butter jar. I know, I know — I’m truly thriving. These almond butter cups are every paleo AND Reese’s cup-loving person’s dream, and I cannot wait for you to try them.

And, if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier this year, don’t worry — I’ve got you covered! The sweetener in these almond butter cups is pure, raw maple syrup, which won’t spike your blood sugar or cause junk food cravings. Make these for yourself for Valentine’s Day; I can guarantee that you’ll never desire a different nut butter/chocolate combination. 

P.S.: Don’t like almond butter? No problem! Peanut butter is BOMB in these cups as well. 

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups  

Time: 30 minutes

When to Eat Them: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack time 

Perks: gluten-free, paleo, vegan, no refined sugar, mind-blowingly delicious 

Sh*t You Need:

14 – 16 ounces dark chocolate
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup crunchy or smooth almond/peanut/cashew butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Wooden spoon
Mini muffin tray (or, you can use a regular muffin tray to make giant nut butter cups) 

The Recipe:

1. In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Once melted, add the dark chocolate and heat on low. Only heat it enough so that is just melted, being careful to not burn the chocolate.

2. Separately, in a large bowl, stir together nut butter of choice, the other tablespoon of coconut oil, vanilla extract, sea salt and maple syrup.

3. Pour about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of the melted chocolate sauce into each muffin cup. 

4. Add a spoonful of the almond butter mixture to each cup.

5. Pour the remaining chocolate sauce over each almond butter dollop until the cup fills up about 3/4 of the way. 

6. Freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer; top with sea salt, treat yourself, and ENJOY!

Having a party? If you have leftovers, or are making them ahead of time, store them in the fridge for a fudge consistency (after the 30 minutes in the freezer).

Check out these recipes & articles, too: 


What I Wish I Knew About High Impact Workouts

I have two main pieces of advice for girls who want to do, or who are doing, Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide* (or any high impact workout, for that matter): 

1. Have fun.

Don’t take yourself or the guide (especially those transformation pictures) too seriously. You’ll drive yourself crazy. Enjoy the journey, and don’t focus solely on the so-called “destination”, or end result. 

2. More importantly, protect your KNEES.

Our knees are so much more fragile than we think they are. We work them really hard with jump lunges, jump squats, jumping rope, weighted leg exercises, etc.

I used to love these moves because they would help me break a good sweat and contribute to a heart-pumping, invigorating workout. And while they are excellent plyometric exercises, if we are not careful, these moves can do (potentially long-term) damage to our knees. 

I did Kayla’s guide for six months, 3-4 days a week, with a walk, run, sprints, or the elliptical on non-resistance days. Then, I stopped this workout program because of light-to-moderate knee soreness. A few weeks later, the pain started to get very bad. Simple squats hurt, and it wasn’t cute.

After thinking that the pain would simply “go away” (it didn’t), I finally went to a orthopedic doctor. It turns out I have patella tendinitis.

Now, I wear a supportive CoreFlex knee brace when I workout. This is not the worst thing that could have happened, and I don’t need any type of surgery — for this, I’m grateful.

Going forward, though, I plan to be extremely careful with my knee. I’m only 20, and as someone who gets so much joy out of exercise, I do not want to do further damage to this crucial part of my body. Thanks to my newfound love for yoga, I’ve been able to work on strengthening while resting my left knee, but I still get twinges a few times a week.

I ice my leg every night now, and I can no longer do jumping, plyometric exercises or sprinting, which I used to enjoy. Maybe one day I’ll be able to, but definitely not now. 


A photo posted by Hannah (@wholesomelyhannah) on

I encourage my fellow fitness enthusiasts and high-impact doers to be extremely careful and loving to those knees of yours. If you don’t experience any knee pain and ensure safe practices when it comes to jumping or other high-impact exercises, good for you! Keep going.

For those of you who do exerpeicne knee pain, I totally get it — it’s so easy to want to fight through the pain because you want to see results, or because it’s “leg day”, or because this set has 30 jump lunges, but you’re only on number 15. 

Let me tell you from experience, though: pushing through the pain will enable you to see results, sure. Just not the kind you’re looking for. Instead, you’ll start to see sharp pains while going up stairs, feeling like something’s wrong in your kneecap each time you walk, and the inability to perform those same high impact exercises without an excess of pangs. 


A photo posted by Hannah (@wholesomelyhannah) on

If you ever feel sharp pain, don’t push through it like I did. You can still achieve an amazing workout, get your sweat on, and make fantastic progress in muscle strength by doing lower impact exercises. 

I encourage you to honor and protect your knees — you’ve only got two, and you have a whole life (filled with fitness!) ahead of you to live.

Check out these articles: 

*To read about my experience with Kayla’s BBG guide, read this article. For answers to more questions about BBG, check it out here


A photo posted by Hannah (@wholesomelyhannah) on

An Updated Version of the Classic Waldorf Salad (vegan + gluten-free)

Vegan Waldorf Salad | Fit University

Serve this salad for a flavorful and simple dish everyone will love.

Every time I used to go to California Pizza Kitchen, I’d order their phenomenal Waldorf salad, partially because it was huge, but mostly because it was oh-so-tasty. I don’t know who invented this combination of flavors, but I’m grateful for them. 

Since I’ve stopped going out to eat so much in the past few years, I’m not sure if they’re such a THING on restaurant menus anymore. What I do know, however, is that this juicy salad mixture needs to make a comeback, and it’s going to happen right here, right now.  

In an effort to eat more plant-based and improve the sustainability factor of my diet, this dish contains no animal products. I love the trio of balsamic vinegar (of course…do you know me?), crunchy red grapes, baby kale, and quinoa. There’s a fresh, light feeling to this salad, and I’m already dreaming about the next time I can make it! 

Time: 10 minutes

When to eat it: Lunch, dinner

Perks: Gluten-free, allergy-friendly, vegan

Sh*t You Need:

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
3 cups baby kale
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white beans
2 tablespoons hummus
1 – 2 cups chopped red grapes

Vegan Waldorf Salad

The Recipe:

1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. Plate, serve, and enjoy. Easy peasy!

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I Had This One Realization About Fitness, & It Changed Everything

Move and exercise in ways that you enjoy. Not how magazines, friends, apps, people on the Internet, TV shows, or celebrities tell you that you “should”. 

During my conversation with health coach & CPT, Cara (of the Balanced Bod) last week, I finally realized something that I had been unwilling to admit to myself.

I had been lifting weights at the gym at Northeastern on-and-off all year. While I certainly liked some parts of this form of exercise, there were other parts I simply did not connect with. It made me feel stressed out to know that I “had” to wake up and lift heavy things first thing in the morning (which is usually my favorite time of day to exercise). Despite these factors, I kept dragging myself to Marino, lifting the free weights, and working the machines.

I felt okay — pretty good, even, but I never could stick with any weight-training program for long, and I didn’t have a feeling of euphoria after these workouts.

This summer, I purchased a membership to a yoga studio (that included a much appreciated student discount), and I’ve gone almost every day. After each class, I feel full of strength, flexibility, and tranquility. For me, yoga is the perfect combination of strength training, core work, stretching, and meditation. I can already tell that I’ve improved a lot (physically as well as mentally) since I started in June. I uncovered that the reason I’ve been able to be so consistent with going to the studio this summer is because I genuinely LOVE yoga.

On my call with Cara, I came to terms with the fact that I was not able to stick with any lifting program for any period of time because I am not wholeheartedly passionate about this type of fitness. At the root of it, I was lifting weights because I had read and heard about the numerous benefits and the reasons why I “should” do it. I listened to those media outlets instead of myself; I became utterly lost and out of touch with my own passions along the way. 

My advice to you is to try every single type of exercise until you find one that you genuinely enjoy and connect with. Reach for that glorious post workout feeling. What’s even better is this: once you discover and choose to practice types of exercise that you love, you’ll naturally start to integrate fitness into your daily life. 

If you like weightlifting, that is wonderful! If you love running, run like the wind. If you enjoy dancing, that’s super cool. Do what works for YOU, and remember that you do not have to do anything for your health that you are told you “should” do. That is all pure bullsh*t. I hope you all go on and have a fantastic rest of your week!


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What You Need To Know Before Starting College

The transition from high shcool into college isn’t always easy. Here’s what you should know before you start freshman year.

For the past year, you’ve been a high school senior. You recognize almost everyone in school, you have your best friends by your side, and teachers know you well. You’ve been a captain of sports teams, a recipient of awards and honors, a lead in the school musical. You have been at the top of your game all year, and now you are a graduate of the place that you grew up in. Following a summer of concerts, beach days, road trips, and time well spent with the friends you experienced your entire teenaged years with, you will be a new student– a freshman again.

A freshman. That’s a foreign word to someone who has lived the past four years building a strong reputation, working hard in school, making friends, and creating incredible memories.

To my high school graduates — here is what no one told me about leaving home and starting my life again in a new city at a new school.* Here is what I wish I had known.

1) Your first semester may not be amazing. This does not automatically mean you chose the wrong school.

Hope for your first semester to be enjoyable, but if it is not, know that many freshmen all over the country are not having the time of their lives, either (ignore what they post on Instagram). Nobody told me that I would have a difficult adjustment, and I wish someone had prepared me for that. Academically, this change in schools and environment was not a problem (thank you, very rigorous boarding school). Socially, mentally, and emotionally, though, my first semester on campus was hard.

I missed my high school friends, feeling comfortable in my surroundings, and being individually known and recognized on campus. It was challenging to make friends at a big city school. Nobody told me it would be hard to do that.

Please know, though, that it does get so much better. Think of freshman fall (or whenever your first semester on campus is) as an adjustment period, not a time when you’re going to step foot into a new dorm and instantly have new best friends, people who genuinely care about you, supportive professors, and everything about your future figured out. College is a four (or five) year long journey, and all of these things will absolutely come with time. If you stay positive, hold onto the people who you really do connect with in the first few months, actively pursue clubs and campus events, and remind yourself why you like this school, your experience will improve… probably ten times over.

As I type this, I’m riding the bus back to Boston after a special weekend celebrating my sister’s high school graduation in our hometown. I can see the Prudential Tower now, and I feel so excited to jump back into my life this week at Northeastern and in this amazing city. I did not used to feel this way, at all. That first semester after Greece, I thought hated Northeastern (read more about that here). However, I gave it time, I pushed through, and a year later, I write this to you. I feel comfortable on campus, grateful to live in this city, and so happy with the friends I have made and the organizations I’ve become a part of.

homework school books

2) You do not have to know what you want to do with your life.

I mean it. And if anyone asks you what you’re going to do — at graduation parties, at celebratory dinners, you can tell them that you’re going to take up space. And that you’re going to have a damn good time doing it. It’s not a lie.

The whole reason you’re going to college is to educate yourself on what it is that you want to do, what interests you, what you like, and what you dislike. I strongly believe that any student does not need to have a perfectly laid plan before they even step foot on the institution’s campus.

Keep your genuine interests at heart (make a list of them), and I promise, everything is going to fall into place. It takes time, so be patient and honest with yourself. I’m going to be a third year in college, and I am still figuring parts of my life out each and every day. I’m completely okay with this, because I’ve had many interesting opportunities (and plenty of fun) thus far, so I know that quite a few things in the Universe are going right.

3) That being said, college advertises that you “have so much time” to decide on your major.

Now, I can only speak for a big school, but it did not feel like that for me. It actually felt kind of short. That being said, if you’re unsure of what you want to study or go into later on in life: strategically pick your freshman year and sophomore fall classes. Select ones that genuinely intrigue you. Read the course descriptions and ask yourself, “Do I want to learn about this stuff? Does this interest me?” Take risks. If a class looks difficult, but the content seems interesting, go for it. You may just find a professor you truly connect with or a concept that makes you want to major in that larger field of study.


4) It’s okay to miss your high school, family, and friends.

To my recent Miss Porter’s School graduates — I speak for other Ancients as well as myself when I say that we still miss those special days in Farmington. I miss it differently now; I look back at my time at Porter’s happily and nostalgically. During freshman year in Boston, though, I longingly wanted to go back to the supportive, small, and vibrant community (that, by the time I was an upperclassman, was truly my family). And at the time, I would not let myself believe this. I wanted to not miss the past, I wanted to be appreciating the present, but it was hard to do so when I couldn’t even look at the high school pictures hanging on my dorm room wall and not want to immediately return. So let yourself think about those memories, and talk to the friends and family members who helped you create the special times. After all, you did just spend the last eighteen years building strong bonds. Embrace them. Don’t bury them.

5) Do your homework.

Double check your tests before you hand them in, study hard, participate in class discussions, go to office hours, ask every question that you think may be “stupid”, but that you want answered. Professors notice the students who put in effort and go the extra mile. Your future self with thank you, big time. 

5) You don’t need to like your roommate.

You just need to be able to live with them. If you like them, that’s fantastic. I got lucky freshman year and had a roommate who I got along very well with. If you aren’t so fortunate, make it humorous, spend time in the common room to meet others on your floor, and know that you’ve got less than a year of living together ahead of you. In all seriousness, though, if it’s truly horrendous and there’s no way you’ll be able to make it through, talk to someone. The Housing Department at your college is there to help you.

6) Joining a ton of different clubs won’t immediately create a bunch of real, authentic friendships.

Instead, focus on sticking with the activist, musical, athletic, service, social, academic and/or career organizations that you really, truly connect with. You do not need to join a ton of different activities to make good friends. Deep, significant friendships will come from spending a lot of your time with the people in one or two organizations, not a bunch of different ones (where the people don’t overlap).


7) If it’s 7:00 pm and you want to get dinner in the dining hall, but you don’t have someone to go with, there’s a 100% chance that someone else is in the same exact situation.

So ask your roommate, or someone on your floor, or Facebook message that person in your class who you sat next to and seems really nice. Maybe she can’t go to dinner tonight, but another night. Maybe because of this, you’ll become friends. I wouldn’t be surprised — this has happened to me a few times now! And if you can’t find anyone to eat dinner with, do not go to bed hungry. Nope. Go to the damn dining hall, use that meal plan, eat food, and enjoy it. Everyone wants “someone to go with”, and I totally get that, but if you want to eat your meal and no one seems down, simply go. You may be surprised to know that others do this, too. (I know for sure it happens at Northeastern — back when I was on the meal plan, I saw people eating while studying or watching a YouTube video or texting all of the time. Human interaction can be more fun, but this is an option if you need it.)  

Until you get to college, though, enjoy your summer as much as you can. I hope you have the most amazing time with friends, family, dogs, cats, swimming pools, beaches, sunscreen, barbecues, Fourth of July fireworks, and s’mores. Be proud of what you have achieved so far, and know that the most transformative chapter in your life is about to start.

The transition in the fall will not be easy, your campus will not immediately feel like home, you don’t have to pretend to love everything about your new life on social media, and you may truly dislike your first semester in college, but my God, know that it is all worth it. I promise. Congratulations on your graduation — I’m excited for what the future has in store for you.



*Fully understanding that everyone’s experiences are different, here is a bit of context about the girl who wrote this: in June of 2014, I graduated from an all-girls’ boarding school where a supportive community, individual achievement, and academic rigor were top priorities. In September, I was transplanted into a northern Greek city for my freshman fall through Northeastern’s Program. In January 2015, I began my first semester at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The Northeastern undergraduate population is approximately 16,000.

The Argument Against Brunch


If I ever have to go to brunch, (yes, have to, it’s never my first choice) I eat a full breakfast a few hours beforehand.

People don’t like to eat brunch until 11 or 12, and by that point on a Saturday, I’ve already exercised, finished a reading for my International Relations class, probably gone grocery shopping, and definitely have been hungry and wanted to eat.

(A typical @wholesomelyhannah – approved breakfast!)

A typical @wholesomelyhannah – approved breakfast!

My mornings are so precious, so fleeting, and I am obsessed with enjoying them to their utmost capacity. I’m happiest on the mornings when I can workout, spend some time walking outside (weather permitting), and accomplish a chore or a task on my to-do list. I love to feel productive by 12PM on a Saturday, and not feel like my day is just starting with some eggs and coffee once noon drags around.


Noon. That’s my lunchtime.

That’s the other problem with brunch. It clumps two meals into one! Who made that a thing?

I see the side of, “Well it’s great because then you can just eat sooo much more food at one time,” but who actually feels fantastic after wolfing down a gigantic, stuff-your-face-with-bacon, pancakes, and a sandwich type of meal? I may feel stuffed to the core (literally), but I do not feel content or feel that perfect type of satisfied, like I do after my regular meals.

Doesn’t this look like a great way to wake up?

Doesn’t this look like a great way to wake up?

I want to be able to sit down to a meal at least three times every day. To me, this feels like I get to eat more food, because breakfast and lunch are separated and happen at different times. Brunch messes up this ideal schedule.

Plus, I feel more balanced and checked in with my hunger cues. If I’m waiting until I’m starving and then devouring too much food in one sitting, I feel off-balance. I’d rather eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and repeat.

Now, I understand that some people simply are not morning people, and some love the idea of eating a ton of food at one time on lazy Saturdays & Sundays. And that is absolutely fine. You do your thing! We all have to find what makes us joyous and run with it.


Other people, however, may just like the idea of going out to a meal on a beautiful weekend morning, which I can totally vibe with. Want to take me out to breakfast? Fabulous. I’ll be ready at 8:00AM.

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Your BBG questions, answered.

First of all, what is BBG, and who is Kayla? 

Kayla Itsines is a personal trainer from Australia who created the Bikini Body Guide and the Sweat With Kayla app. BBG first started out as a 12-week workout e-book, and has grown a lot since then: there are now multiple editions that all contain different resistance exercises (BBG 1.0, BBG 2.0, BBG 3.0 – found in the app). The weekly workout schedule consists of 3-4 days of resistance training, 3-4 days of LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio, and 1-2 days of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The resistance training workouts are incrementally challenging as the weeks progress.


Would you recommend BBG? 

YES. For sure. I talk in much more detail about what I got out of BBG in this article, if you want to check that out!

Essentially, BBG is an excellent tool for staying in/getting in shape, and it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule. The resistance workouts are a little under 30 minutes long and they can be accomplished at home or the gym. During the summer, I did all of these workouts in my backyard. At school, I did them in the studio rooms of my school’s gym (when they were free to use).

BBG is not easy, but it is truly an empowering and fun program. Even though it was so physically tough at times, much of it is a mental game. Once I got myself to push past the “AH I cannot do one more burpee” mentality, the workouts actually became enjoyable. It felt great to push myself, and I was always proud upon finishing each resistance workout; I know that you will be proud of yourselves, too! Furthermore, I liked BBG because I didn’t have to think about planning my exercise program — it was entirely laid out for me in an organized format and schedule.


Is it difficult to make time for? 

Nope! This workout program took up approximately 45 to 60 minutes of each day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the program has you doing resistance/bodyweight workouts. Each workout is said to be 28 minutes, but with set up, a short little warmup of jumping jacks, a 1 minute break in between each circuit, and stretching after, it took about 45 minutes of my day.

On the non-resistance days, there is the option to do LISS, so I would power walk (ideally outdoors, if it was nice out) or do the elliptical/spin bike for 30 minutes, about 3 days per week. During the final weeks (9 – 12), the guide starts incorporating HIIT. So on cardio days, I would add 10 minutes of HIIT (I liked sprinting on the treadmill) to my workout. I’m sure this probably sounds overwhelming, but trust me — when you’re doing it, it’s not at all! 


How expensive is it?

To buy the guide, it’s $70.00, but Kayla created an app recently, which is $19.99 per month. To be honest, I actually do not use the app or purchase the e-book guide…I got the e-book from a close friend. Since I know many of you may be college students who, like me, are always on the lookout for free goods, I’ve also seen the workouts on Pinterest. If you search the words such as: “BBG Week 1 Legs” or “BBG Week 1 Arms“, that specific workout will pop up.


What are the resistance workouts like?

The workouts incorporate many different types of bodyweight movements and weighted exercises. There are a lot of pushups, burpees, tricep dips, weighted squats, straight leg raises, jump squats, weighted lunges, jump lunges, commandos, jumping rope, and mountain climbers.

In general, since there are three resistance workouts per week, there will be an arm, ab, and a leg day. Even though the “ARMS” workout will be mostly emphasizing biceps and triceps, the movements that you do always end up working your entire body. There wasn’t a BBG workout that didn’t end with me red-faced and very sweaty!

The structure of the resistance workouts goes like this:

7 minutes: Circuit One
30 - 60 seconds: water break
7 minutes: Circuit Two
30 - 60 seconds: break
7 minutes: (repeat) Circuit One
30 - 60 seconds: break
7 Minutes: (repeat) Circuit Two 


I really enjoyed this structure because, when I was tired and didn’t want to do 5 more pushups, I just had to tell myself, “You can do it — you have less than 7 minutes to go!”. In moments of despair, reminding myself that I only had a few more minutes until a break made these challenging workouts manageable. 

In the second version of the guide (BBG 2.0), there is the option to do a fourth resistance workout in certain weeks — they are called “Personal Challenges”. Those workouts, while they are similar in movements, are different in structure; they are challenge/time-based. Here is an example of what one of them looks like! 


Did you follow Kayla’s H.E.L.P. nutrition guide?

I did not follow H.E.L.P. (Health Eating and Lifestyle Plan). When I started BBG during my freshman year at Northeastern, I didn’t have a kitchen (and how sad were those days), so it would’ve been really hard for me to follow a guide without being able to cook the foods I was supposed to eat. Additionally, I was also not in a place where I was looking to follow someone else’s food plan. Back then, I was just beginning to experiment with eating in a paleo way, and I wanted to have what I felt like eating. This meant way too much almond butter on a spoon a lot of the time, but that’s what I wanted! I do remember that I ate a lot of salads, chicken, veggies, almond milk, and fruit.

What I think is important here is that, while it’s great to exercise and follow BBG, it’s equally (if not more) important to refuel your body with nutrient-rich, whole foods. So if you follow the H.E.L.P guide, some other plan, or do your own thing, be sure to eat lots of veggies, fruits, complete proteins, and healthy carbohydrates + fats! To see what I eat these days, look over on Instagram 🙂

That’s a wrap for now — what other BBG questions are you dying to get answered? Send them my way!

I Can’t Feel My Legs When I’m with You: Let’s Talk BBG

For those of you who may not know, Kayla Itsines is an Australian trainer who designed the Bikini Body Guide, a 12-week workout program that incorporates resistance training workouts and cardio (both low intensity steady state, LISS, and high intensity interval training, HIIT). The workouts are known to be challenging, sweat-inducing, and just 28 minutes long. The Instagram community has grown exponentially in this past year, the app version of the guides has recently launched, and BBG girls in different cities and countries have started meeting up for workouts and brunches. It’s truly amazing what Kayla Itsines has created, and many girls who have done (or currently do) BBG agree that completing the guide has entirely changed their lives.

I finished about six months of BBG, and while I’m not doing Kayla’s program at this time, I wholeheartedly believe in the spirit of #thekaylamovement and everything that these workouts do to inspire, motivate, and unite women across the world.

I’ve gotten a bunch of questions about BBG and what I think of it, so I decided to detail my experience for you here.


I initially heard about Kayla’s guides during my freshman winter at college. A close friend of mine was raving about them, and at first, I was skeptical. I didn’t believe that 28 minutes was enough time to get quality exercise in, or that the workouts would be challenging. I knew that I liked fitness, though, so I chose to give it a try. The big question I had for myself then became: would I actually be able to complete a workout guide that lasted 3 whole months?


After Week 1 legs, I could NOT walk like a normal human being for at least five days. Nope. No way. The structure of BBG is that there are three resistance workouts each week, and they are to be done on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; LISS, such as power walking or the elliptical trainer, are recommended for the off days.

With my school schedule, I realized that it made more sense for me to do resistance on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday rotation. Each day, I’d finish classes, take my makeup off, change into gym clothes, and head next door to the YMCA and get my workout in.

And OH MY goodness.

All  of Kayla’s workouts left me out of breath, super sweaty, and always sore. They were physically hard, but even more so, mentally difficult (28 minutes has never felt so long!). Here are a few of the exercises that you’ll have to learn to love if you decide to try BBG: burpees, commandos, jump lunges, jump squats, squat clean & press, pushups, tricep dips, and straight-leg jack knives.

At times, I did feel like giving up, but I always told myself: “No — you’ve made it this far. You can keep going!” 



Some how, due to sheer will and a genuine appreciation for the efficiency & effectiveness of these workouts, I finished 12 weeks of BBG. Whew! I remember feeling like such a rock star after finishing that last burpee and hearing the timer go off.

When I got home for the summer, I decided to restart BBG from the beginning, and the workouts were not any easier. This, though, I liked — I wanted to be challenged, and BBG was the best way I knew how to add a crazy good workout into my day. I also really loved doing the guide in the summertime; with a picnic table bench to act as a step, a beach towel, and two dumbbells, I was able to do all of the workouts at home in the backyard. 



By now, I am sure that you’ve seen at least one jaw-dropping “before and after” photo on Instagram of a girl who did BBG for 12 (or more) weeks. The pictures are everywhere, and for some people, those images and transformation stories are what inspire them to give BBG a chance.

If you are up for a challenge and you have a positive attitude, then I 100% support you in trying out BBG. However, I don’t want you to go for it only because of the “transformation” photos that are plastered across social media. All of us eat different foods and have our own unique metabolisms; each one of us probably does the same BBG workouts a little differently. So of course, our bodies are going to change in different ways when doing this workout guide; because of this, we should not base our individual, personal fitness journeys on what we see others posting

Furthermore, doing BBG is so, so much more than “before and after” photos — these 12 weeks are not meant to be consumed with comparisons and critiques of our own bodies. If you are in this for the physical changes, that is completely understandable, but trust me when I say that there are far more rewarding shifts that can happen when doing BBG. 


This program is challenging, but it has allowed me to gain so much mental & emotional toughness, physical strength, and confidence with working out and being at the gym. Thanks to BBG, I’ve now done more burpees and commandos than I ever thought I would be able to, and I have learned to value exercise and make it a part of my daily routine.

Additionally, many of you may have read my post where I detail the lonely, confusing experience I had as a freshman at Northeastern, and I do believe that BBG helped me get through that. Having the consistency and the goal of completing the guide was always there; it kept me going, and it allowed me to work towards personal development. 

 So did I have a crazy “bikini” transformation after 12 weeks of doing this workout guide?

Nope, and I’m completely alright with that (for the girls that do — that’s awesome! Good for you!!). But, post-BBG, can I now do 30 pushups, 36 commandos, 15 burpees, and 10.0 miles per hour sprints? And actually enjoy doing those things? You bet I can. And these are the proud achievements that I cannot  capture in a before/after picture.  


After completing 24 weeks of the guides, I wanted to branch out and try other types of workouts. BBG has absolutely fueled my interest in exercise, and I did not want my fitness journey to start at week 0 and simply end at week 12.  

Right now, most of my gym sessions consist of lifting weights, power walking, and the Stairmaster, and I’m happy with where I’m at. Maybe I’ll go back to BBG in a few months, maybe I won’t. By then, there will possibly be a new workout guide out that I’ll want to try.

Or, maybe I’ll take a break from the gym scene and do yoga and Pilates all summer. It’s all uncharted, and I’m very okay with that — I encourage you to be, too! Your wellness journey is entirely dependent on what you and your body need at different points in time.

This is your path — no one else’s.

It’s going to be unique and filled with constant growth, and if doing BBG for 52 weeks is going to work for you and make you happy, then by all means, do that!! The pursuit of fitness is a personal path, and I encourage you to find what makes you joyful and excited. And then go eat some food. Because food.




Help! I Went Abroad And My Skin Freaked Out…

To whoever is having this problem right now: trust me, I know what you’re going through!

Everyone has different skin experiences, of course, so my causes and remedies may not be the same as what your skin needs. But I’m here to help however I can!

Let me give you a little background on my history with the issue.

While I had the absolute time of my life in Greece last fall (via the Program at Northeastern), I did experience something I’d never truly dealt with before: skin problems. In high school, I was lucky to never go through a serious acne bout. And upon arriving in Greece, my skin looked the same as it always had (clear, with the occasional blemish or two). But a few weeks into the semester, it all started to go downhill.

Well, what sparked the unwelcome change? And what do I wish I had done about it?


IMG_8061In Greece, I regularly consumed milk chocolate truffles, sugary marzipan, gelato, creamy hot chocolate, feta cheese, and Greek yogurt galore (nope, not Chobani. We’re talking the REAL stuff).

I would always have a stomachache after, but I thought that was my only side effect. I told myself I could deal with that, because I mean, it was only a few hours of discomfort. And who doesn’t love cheese?? But what I refused to believe was that the new acne spots appearing on my face (within a few days of eating these foods) were caused by dairy products.


I wish I had taken the diet-skin connection more seriously; had I done so, my skin probably would have remained clearer. At home, I never consumed as much dairy as I did while abroad. Read more about the relationship between dairy and acne here and here.


People who live in the Mediterranean are supposedly very relaxed, but me on the other hand? I did not adopt this attitude while living in Thessaloniki. In fact, I developed quite the opposite. I let every little thing make me anxious — catching buses and planes, finding our way around a new city, (not) getting lost, having enough food, packing everything I needed to, getting stuck in crowds and lines of non-English speaking human beings, watching my phone die… I was a total walking ball of anxiety. Stress plays a major role in all areas of our wellness, and most certainly in our skin’s health (and clarity). Read more about effect that stress can have on skin here & here.


I wish that I could have told my abroad self this: “RELAX. It is all going to work out. Take a deep breath. And now take ten more.” I should have taken myself for walks, gone to bed earlier, and talked to friends about this anxiety. I’m not sure what your stress levels are like, but if they seem elevated definitely try to: sleep more, practice deep breathing throughout the day, go on walks around your city, talk with your friends (in your abroad program or on Skype with ones back at home).



Because of this stress, city-hopping every weekend, sleeping in a super uncomfortable bed, and having such broken-up sleep (because I’d have to use the bathroom twice a night since I drank too much water before I went to bed…I know, I was crazy), I certainly did not get enough sleep in Greece. I know that for me, rest is crucial for decreasing stress levels, providing energy, and giving my body time to heal; I definitely believe that if I had gotten more rest, it would’ve helped my struggling skin out!


If you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep on weeknights, you’re a rock star. I know it’s a bit harder on the weekends (since you are probably traveling and catching planes, trains, and buses at weird times of the day/night…and not to mention going out and having fun). But if you shoot for 5 nights of the week with 8 hours of sleep, I think that will put you on a great track to success!


I tried to “fix” the problem by constantly touching my face (hello, germs!). This, my friends, NEVER helpful or worth it.


The skin on our faces is very delicate, and I wish I had respected that. My advice here is to avoid touching and popping stuff as much as possible. I wish I had told myself something like, “Your skin knows what to do and how to heal on its own… Be patient; it might take some time to heal, but it’ll get better!”


IMG_9677Okay. This is a big one. I’m not specifically talking about dairy products like above, but about unhealthy meals and desserts.

I completely understand that experiencing the food in different cities and countries in an integral part of the study abroad adventure. I can still recall how creamy the cookie gelato in Rome tasted, and how buttery and crispy the French fries in Brussels were. Do I regret constantly eating treats while travelling last year? Not really – food was a huge factor in our international adventures, and I’m sure it is for you, too; I certainly don’t want to encourage any abroad students to restrict (and not enjoy) treat foods.


In my experience, eating sugary, highly processed desserts, junk foods, and beverages (we can’t forget the rosé…) on a regular basis did have a negative impact on my skin. So, if you’re someone with newfound skin problems and want to figure out what’s causing them, I’d encourage you to take a look into what you’re eating, and try to remove some of the junk foods to see if it helps reduce blemishes. I know that this definitely helped my skin to get better, and it’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy eating a diet full of real, whole, unprocessed foods now. {If you want to check out what my meals look like on a daily basis, look here!}

I hope you have so much fun during the rest of your time abroad, and if you’re freaking out a bit about your skin (or if you’re not – that’s great!), just know that it’s going to get better. Take deep breaths, get some sleep, and just be conscious of the types of foods and beverages that you are fueling your body with. CIAO!

Dear College Freshman…It’s OK That You’re Lonely

college freshman

Dear College Freshmen