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Lauren Folk

Why You Should be Listening to Podcasts

podcast

When was the last time you listened to a great story? Was it the last time your parents read you a book before bed? The last movie you saw? 

Podcasts are the perfect medium for the modern storyteller. While some podcasts help you escape into the story through a dramatic narration, others are information-based and leave you with actionable suggestions. Regardless, podcasts offer much more than traditional written media because they put a voice with words. You may have a favorite author or blogger that you love to read, but hearing their voice and hearing them express their thoughts literally adds a new dimension to their content.

For very little commitment, podcasts allow you to explore. Don’t like the podcast? Just switch to a different one! If you’re commuting, traveling, or just have time to kill, podcasts can be a welcome recess from music and an effortless method to learn. Though similar to listening to music, podcasts embrace the “multitasking” mindset and redeem lost time to continue to your personal growth. Isn’t that what college is all about?

Where to start? Investigate if your favorite authors and public figures have podcasts. Additionally, three recommendations are below: 

RadioLab– 

RadioLab is described as “a show about curiosity.” The podcast is not specifically about health or fitness, but instead investigates a new scientific question or historic moment, giving listeners an hour of easy-to-digest education. I feel like I’m learning about niche, interesting topics that I’ve never encountered otherwise. Some episodes make you laugh, some make you cry, but regardless Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich from RadioLab are experts in capturing and holding your attention. 

Listen To: 23 Weeks 6 Days

The Minimalists

This podcast is led by two men, Joshua & Ryan, who quit their corporate jobs at age 30 after feeling unhappy, overworked, and lacking control of their own lives. The two of them focus on the principles of minimalism, which focuses on “making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment.” The pair has written multiple books on the topic and publish their weekly podcast to discuss living a meaningful life with less and answer questions from their listeners.

Most of us college students have felt like Joshua & Ryan at some point in our lives: burnt out, tired, and overburdened with tasks to do and stuff to deal with. While their solution of fully embracing and practicing minimalism may not be realistic for all of us, their lesson is still relevant: embrace experiences and try to minimize the burdens we carry with us.

Listen to: 007 | Stuff

Nut Butter Radio– 

Homegrown by two members of the #FitUfam, Holly van Hare and Hannah Liistro, Nut Butter Radio discusses health/diet industry and everything about it- body image, food, and fitness. It’s really exciting that partnerships and projects like this can grow out of the work we do here at FitU, and this weekly podcast is honest, interesting and relatable. You’ll find yourself nodding along in agreement with Holly and Hannah- and may even find you’ve shared similar experiences. A podcast by two health-oriented women who know what college students want to talk about means Nut Butter Radio is a must-listen for FitU readers!

Listen to: #009: Dining Out Intuitively 

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Three Grocery Essentials To Make at Home

I’m a big advocate for quick cooking. Oftentimes, the possible shortcuts are worth the price, as some grocery items are better to buy than to prepare at home. In opposition, many of the food items we all stock up on every week are very easy to quickly (and cheaply) make at home.

Besides saving money, prepping a few basics at home also allows you to customize and be fully aware of the ingredients you put in your food. Instead of looking at the label of something and not knowing half the ingredients, you can rest assured that your staples are wholesome and homemade. 

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Hummus

Customize your hummus with additions like avocado, caramelized onion, parsley or roasted peppers by starting with this base recipe and combining all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. A can of chickpeas typically costs about $1, while a tub of hummus is around $3. I’ve used this recipe from Inspired Taste with great results. 

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Instructions: Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding water as necessary.

2. Pasta Sauce

Making your own pasta sauce can be as done in the time it takes to boil your noodles. Jarred tomato sauces often have a ton of added sugar, so an at-home version prevents unnecessary additives. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is simple. 

  • 1⁄4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped

Instructions: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion. Sauté 2 minutes. Add oregano and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook with stirring 3 minutes until onions begin to brown. Add crushed garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and sugar. Turn heat to high and cook with stirring until simmering. Turn heat to medium low. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in olive oil and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

3. Chicken Stock

The merits of rotisserie chicken are undeniable, one of which is the ability to make your own high quality, flavorful stock from the chicken leftovers. Not only is homemade stock delicious and cheap, it’s also lower in sodium and has a fuller flavor than bouillon cubes or boxed chicken stock. It also makes your home smell good. The recipe for a classic stock isn’t very specific, meaning you can oftentimes throw whatever vegetables you have into the pot. Use this recipe from Simply Recipes many times and keep the chicken stock in the freezer until needed. Like Simply Recipes, I put my chicken stock in mason jars.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken carcass (AKA leftover bones and skin)
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered (no need to peel)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch segments
  • Celery tops and 1 large celery rib, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • Leek or green onion greens (if you have them)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 quarts of cold water
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot. Add vegetables like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. Cover with water. Add salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer partially covered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon, and strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering an hour or two longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store. 

One of the other best benefits of cooking a few grocery basics at home means you can splurge on other items at the grocery store #treatyoself. All of the above recipes require minimal cooking time, keep well in the fridge, and use a lot of ingredients you might have laying around already. Prep the above recipes so you always have healthy staples available!

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Four Healthy Habits that are Never Too Late to Start

Healthy Habits that are Never too Late to Start

Although there are tons of different ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, there are a few common habits that the healthiest people in the world often practice. These healthy habits are neither dramatic nor difficult (no, you don’t have to do HIIT workouts every day), but instead represent greater lifestyle choices that are practiced by healthy people in every country, at every age.

The following are a few simple healthy habits that are easy to adopt, no matter what stage you’re at in life. While these healthy habits may seem obvious, they are often forgotten and are not pursued until the damaging results take place. Take care of your body with these simple tips:

1. Wear sunscreen.

Everyone needs sunscreen, regardless of age, gender or race. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lives, and the best way to prevent this is to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside (AKA every day). Wearing sunscreen not only prevents skin cancer, but also prevents the sun from damaging and aging your skin. 

habits

These days, sunscreen has evolved and become less sticky and oily, making it easy to add to your skincare regime. Many people get their protection through a daily moisturizer with SPF that they apply to their face and neck in the morning. Even if you haven’t worn sunscreen for years, start wearing it now to prevent further damage to your skin. While a tan may look good now, the effects of this sun exposure will be evident later in life. 

2. Drink water.

Everyone has heard the advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Although there’s no single number that fits all of us, The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. This number increases if you engage in activity that makes you sweat or if you live in a hotter climate. 

Drinking water helps your kidneys remove toxins from your body, keeps your skin vibrant and moisturized, and prevents muscle fatigue. Because the effects are seen so quickly (have you ever drank water while dehydrated and immediately felt better?)this is definitely a healthy habit to adopt, no matter your age. 

habits
The best way to ensure you drink enough water is to track your intake throughout the day. Many of us carry around a reusable water bottle, so figure out how many bottles of water you need to drink to hit your goal. I try to drink a gallon of water a day, and I know that five of my bottle equals one gallon. If I haven’t refilled my bottle three times by 3 or 4 p.m., I need to speed up my drinking. If this is too intimidating, try to drink a little more each day and be aware of how much water you’re sipping (and how much you aren’t sipping). Being intuitive is the first step towards healthy behavior change, which includes staying hydrated.

3. Go to the doctor regularly.

Anyone else put off going to the doctor in college just because Mom wasn’t scheduling your appointments anymore? While it can be difficult to find a new doctor or dentist wherever you go to school, regular health exams and tests can help identify problems before they start, and dramatically increase the chances of treatment and cure.

Most university health centers offer check-ups and STD testing, and can offer recommendations for primary care physicians in the area. A yearly visit to the doctor and biannual cleaning at the dentist are a necessary check-in to ensure our bodies are functioning properly. 

4. Get quality sleep.

It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial. Even without fully understanding what sleep does for our bodies, we know that going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible. Sleep is vital for many bodily functions that we need throughout our lives, like our metabolism, memory, learning, and emotional well-being. 

healthy habits that are never too late to startLike you’ve probably experienced after a good (or bad) night, the effects of your sleep occur almost instantly. Therefore, by improving your sleep, you’ll feel the benefits quickly. While the amount that a person needs to sleep every night differs for every person, finding your optimal number of hours is key. Do you feel tired if you get six hours of sleep instead of seven? Or if you get ten instead of eight (yes, it is possible to get too much sleep)?

Another step is to create a good sleep environment, void of distractions like electronics, light, or sound. Additionally, reserve your bed for just sleeping (not homework or eating) so that when you get into bed at night your body knows it’s time to sleep.

The key to a healthy life is prevention. All of the above actions are investments. If we treat our bodies well and invest in our health before they start showing signs of worry, we will live happier, healthier, and longer lives.  

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How to take a Productive Rest Day

How to have a Productive Rest Day

Here at FitU, we’ve gone over the importance of taking rest days. Oftentimes, people think working out every day is the best way to see results, whether those desired results are improving your lifts, losing weight, or just living a healthy lifestyle. While consistency is definitely important for achieving your goals, learning to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs is just as valuable.

Not only do rest days help prevent injury and encourage muscle recovery, but studies show that over-training can lead to excess levels of cortisol in your body. This can thus make you feel fatigued and depressed. In the end, taking a day or two off will help your body in the long run, and make your workouts more effective.

Just because you take a day off from your usual fitness routine does not mean you have to sit at home all day instead. Here are some ideas on how to keep moving, even on an off day. 

1. Deep clean your room or apartment.

Get moving and feel refreshed by vacuuming under your furniture and all those hard to reach spaces, deep cleaning your bathroom, cleaning out your fridge and changing your sheets. Not only will your health benefit from a cleaner space but there is a clear link between mental wellness and an organized, clean home. Blast some music and get moving like Mr. Clean.

2. Do an “active” activity.

Most cities and suburbs have tons of different events and attractions like rock climbing gyms, trampoline parks, or ice skating rinks. Be a kid again and grab some friends to tag along. Most of these options are cheap, and you’ll make memories and spend time with others in addition to keeping active. 

3. Stretch.

So many of us neglect this aspect of our fitness routine, despite the clear benefits it has to our bodies. It can be done just about anywhere at any time. Use a foam roller or do some yoga if you’re feeling fancy. 

4. Go for a walk outside.

This walk can range from a loop around your neighborhood with your family to a day-hike. Walks are free and benefit your health via a dose of Vitamin D and clean air. Being outside also improves your sleep and psychological health

A day off won’t kill your progress. As seen above, there are a variety of options in which you can make a rest day valuable and useful without traditional exercise. 

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Four Exercise Modifications For a Knee Injury

modifications for a knee injury

Knee injuries due to exercise are common and can be really frustrating to work around. If you have knee pain or are recovering from a knee injury, consider these four modifications to your workouts.

1. Lunges

Stationary or reverse lunges instead of walking or forward lunges not only prevents further knee injury, but also helps strengthen the leg muscles that affect your knee. With a forward lunge, your momentum of stepping forward puts all of your weight into the front leg. Couple this with improper form (like your knee going in front of your toes) and you place a lot of strain on your knee. Stationary lunges (where you stay in the lunge position and dip for each rep) or reverse lunges (where you step the leg back into a lunge for each rep) will prevent your momentum for going where it shouldn’t.

2. Running

Swap out your running routine with a more low-impact cardio option to reduce the stress you put on your knee. A few of the most popular options are cycling, swimming, or elliptical training. 

3. Leg Extensions

Rear-foot elevated split squat are a safer alternative. Leg extensions apply constant pressure on your ACL, and target only your quads (and not your hamstrings). Add in a heavy weight and you’ve got a drastically higher change of injuring your knee! To target your quads without this stress on your knee, try the rear-foot elevated split squat. Check out how to do one below!

4. Squats

Squats are an essential movement to any lower-body routine and can be harmless for your knees if done CORRECTLY. The first step is to make sure you have the right shoes on. That means lifting shoes or some other type of sneaker with a solid, flat bottom (no running shoes with tons of padding!). Additionally, make sure to warm up before you squat heavy and always check your form (via a mirror or a workout buddy). 

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What’s the Best Time of Day to Work Out?

what's the best time of day to workout?

Morning, midday, or midnight? What’s the best time to get your workout in? 

The answer is that it depends on what time works for you. The key to workouts is consistency– pick a time that you’re most likely to get to the gym and get moving. Even though there is research indicating that sticking to a specific workout time can result in better performance, higher oxygen consumption, and lower perceived exhaustion, the benefits of exercise are tightly linked to the quantity of exercise done. 

 

To find your preferred time of day, consider the following:

Timing

Are your days busier in the morning or night? Sometimes, it’s more difficult to work out at night as your responsibilities build during the day. 

Energy

How do you feel throughout the day? Body temperature typically increases throughout the day, so muscle strength and endurance peak in the late afternoon. The afternoon is also when reaction time is quickest and heart rate and blood pressure are lowest. 

Sleep

What time do you go to bed? Since exercise increases heart rate and body temperature, working out too late in the evening (generally after 8 p.m.) may cause you to struggle to fall asleep.

Enjoyment

Consider the type of workout you want to do. What’s going to incentivize you and make it a great workout? Does your favorite instructor teach at night? Do you love to watch the sunrise when you run? When is your workout buddy free? Working out shouldn’t be a chore, so optimize your circumstances to make it fun.

Life is all about balance-  struggling to fit in workouts shouldn’t be a major stressor in a college student’s life. Reaching your goals comes best with you setting your own schedule. Keep working!

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Why You Should Foam Roll

foam roll

Foam rollers have gained immense popularity in recent years due to the benefits they easily provide any athlete. Rollers are an easy way to achieve self-myofascial release (SMR), which is a technique used by massage therapists. To achieve this release, therapists apply a long duration dragging force across layers of soft-tissue in the body. After a period of time, the body releases the tissue and mobility between those sliding surfaces is restored. To make these changes on oneself, foam roll in place of a therapist’s hands.

Foam rolling causes increased blood flow throughout the body, better movement and increased range of motion. These benefits can decrease the chance of injury and recovery time after a workout. A decreased recovery time means more training sessions per week/month and results can come quicker. Ideally, one should foam roll both before a workout as part of a dynamic warm up and afterwards, but if you can only do it once, roll pre-workout. It will increase blood flow and reduce tension in your muscles. 

Here are a few of my favorite foam rolling movements:

Calves

Our calves’ range of motion directly influences our ankles, so be sure to warm them up before a workout. To roll your calves, extend your legs on the ground in front of you and place the roller under your calves.  Put one leg on top of the other, raise your hips and slowly roll back and forth. For more pressure, use a lacrosse ball.

Thoracic Spine (Upper Back) 

Not only does this exercise feel really good (like you’re cracking your back) but helps to warm up your shoulders. Lay on your back with the foam roller underneath you and below your shoulders. Rock up and down your back. 

Piriformis (Butt)

The piriformis is a muscle located deep within the hip joint. I love this exercise because it really gets deep to release knots and tension. While rolling, if you feel a sharp pain, you’ve found a trigger point! Rest on this knot and work it out before moving on. To perform this movement, sit on the foam roller, cross one leg over the other leg’s knee, and lean to the crossed leg’s side. Put your arm behind the roller to stabilize yourself, and roll back and forth.

Hamstring

Probably the most popular foam rolling exercise, and for good reason! Place the roller under your thighs. Your legs should be extended straight out on top. Raise your hips off the ground and roll back and forth. Place one leg on top of the other for more pressure. 

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Your Shoes May Be Killing Your Workout: Here’s Why

Although the holidays have passed, we all know that stylish workout clothes can make it feel like Christmas year round. A fit lifestyle often comes with an growing love for workout clothes, and if you’re anything like me, your sneaker collection continues to grow extensively. When shopping, many people prioritize the style or color of their sneakers over their function and design. Do we all do the same workout? No, so we are we buying the same shoes?

Bruce Wilk, physical therapist and owner of The Runner’s High, a running specialty store in Miami, says, “The average time a consumer takes to pick out a pair of running shoes is about 10 to 15 seconds.” 10-15 seconds isnot enough time to assess if a sneaker fits and will work for its intended activity over time. 

While style is definitely important (you want to buy shoes you want to wear), the correct shoe will prevent injury and also maximize the progress you see during your workouts. Outlined below are three types of workout shoes that all are designed very differently for their different purposes. There are many more types, like cycling, hiking, or Crossfit shoes, and I highly encourage you to do research and pick the right option for you!

Running Shoes

Running sneakers are designed with more cushion and stability than the regular training shoe. While some exceptions exist, like minimal shoes like Vibrams, most running sneakers provide shock absorption via air pads and cushions in the heel. Within this category there are many different types of sneakers designed to support the range of running styles our bodies fall into. Every person’s running gait is different, so to find the running shoe perfect for you, go to a running specialty store to be fitted.

At the store, an employee observes your running style and habits to fit you in the best shoe. Be sure to bring along a pair of your usual running socks, and shop later in the day. Your feet swell during the day, just like they do during a run.

Running sneakers are not designed for the lateral motions of regular training, and the padding makes it difficult to balance and exert force during weight lifting. If you want to avoid injury and see progress in your lifts, get a pair of lifting shoes!

Weightlifting Shoes

Ever seen people wearing Converse at the gym? No, these people aren’t making a footwear fashion statement- Converse have a solid, flat base that is characteristic of a weightlifting shoe! Lifting shoes don’t absorb impact like running or training shoes do, so they use all of the force your body produces to move weight. This is also why some people lift barefoot if the gym allows it- a minimal shoe helps strengthen muscles and stabilize the body.  

Additionally, some lifting shoes even have a 1/2-1″ raised heel. Olympic-style weightlifters use these shoes to achieve a deeper squat through increased ankle range of motion. They also help to improve your overall position as well so if you’re looking for a serious shoe look for that raised heel!

Cross Training Shoes

Cross-trainers are designed to play multiple roles in the gym. You can use them for almost any activity — yoga, elliptical, stretching, or a Zumba workout. Cross-trainers are oftentimes heavier than a running shoe, as they have more support for lateral movements. 

Unlike running sneakers, there are less options, as most training shoes don’t differentiate by foot type. Because they have no specific function, they are perfect if you like to mix up your workouts. You also need a general sneaker so you don’t wear down your running sneakers at the gym!

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How I Balanced My Love For Food and Fitness

How I Balanced My Love For Food and Fitness

Balance is everything.

Think you’re a foodie? I’m sorry, but I most likely have you beat. Living in Boston, there is always a hot new restaurant, festival or event, plus a seemingly limitless quantity of classics like Mike’s Pastry, and I love them ALL.

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and any excursion into the city oftentimes revolved around food. I grocery shopped and cooked for my family often, and my parents instilled the fun of trying new cuisines and the value of a night spent with friends around the dinner table. Through high school, my friends and I dressed up for nights out for dinner in the city, spent hours in our favorite diners and wore PJ’s while baking cookies.

As high school went on, so did many vicissitudes of my health and body image. Embarrassed when I couldn’t run the mile during my freshman-year gym class, I trained and ran a seven-minute mile during my sophomore year and beat the rest of my class. While the mile was not a big deal to my classmates, I had trained and worked my ass off for this moment.

I lost nearly thirty pounds via Weight Watchers my sophomore year, only to travel to Spain and gain it all back. I started running cross country my junior and senior year and cried before every race. Working on my fitness and health was not yet a desirable action for me, and every feat was a tortuous and emotional fight to the finish.

 

Young scrappy & hungry @hamiltonmusical

A post shared by Lauren Folk (@lfolk) on

Fast forward to my freshman and sophomore years at Northeastern University, where I treated my body just about the same as I did during high school.

I ate anything and everything 75% of my time, and enjoyed my time in a new and incredible city like Boston. The other 25% I ate INCREDIBLY clean and healthy, but often had breakdowns, hating how I looked and felt. While I wouldn’t take back these years, I knew in the back of my head that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and the best for me long-term. Forcing myself to make that change? I’m still working on it.

My epiphany came when I found the type of exercise that inspires me. I’ve consistently “worked out” since I was thirteen, which meant going on the elliptical and then MAYBE doing a few minutes of weights. Unsurprisingly, my body had not changed in years, and I was getting tired of the monotony of dragging myself to the gym. I’ve tried barre, spinning, yoga, and just about every other type of workout class out there, but nothing stuck and seemed like a workout I would consistently want to do.

I started my first co-op this summer. One day, I happened to get off at the wrong exit and drove by CrossFit South Shore. I had always been intrigued by the style and intensity of CrossFit, and on a whim, I signed up. It was one of the most impulsive things I’ve done, but after doing CrossFit for five months I’m finally starting to understand what I need to stay motivated and excited about my fitness and health. CrossFit got me back into running, and I just ran my first 8k turkey trot with a faster mile time than I ran 5k’s in high school. I became a dog runner and run a pooch named Hazel three times a week, which keeps me accountable. Plus, hello, dogs!

Finding a fitness routine that I enjoy has helped me establish and value the connection between my body’s performance and what I fuel it with. I’ve slowly started to realize that some type of change is necessary for me, and although I’ve had many setbacks, I’m on the right path to finding a healthy balance between enjoying Boston and enjoying how my body looks and feels. Over the past few years I’ve gained weight, but the first step comes with being more selective, specifically with my time and food.

The biggest change I’ve made? I’ve tried to revolve less of my time around food. It hasn’t been easy, given that for me, the best time is around the dinner table, but my friends and I make an effort now to try out new workout classes around town and go on walks. I also signed up for Weight Watchers again with a friend (check out our Instagram @TheBuffChix!), and although the weight isn’t dropping like it did in high school, it is a step in the right direction in my health journey.

I honestly would feel deprived and left out if I said “no” to all of the activities my friends invite me to, but there are many choices that aren’t worth it anymore. If I know I’m going to a great Italian restaurant, that means I should prep the rest of my food for the day. Then I enjoy company and eat pasta at the restaurant and LOVE IT! Teaching myself to be insightful with my choices will help me make the #gainz I want through CrossFit, run the times I’m aiming for with my 10k, and also eat the food I’m drooling after when out with my friends. I’ll never be able to eat clean all time, but right now, I’m working on doing that most of the time, and that’s the most anyone could ever ask for.


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