Working On It, Week Three: When Life Gets In The Way

Hello there! How’s your past week been? Did you climb any rocks or try a group fitness class? Me either, but I thought about it. Tonsillitis brought my wellness journey to a sudden halt. I didn’t do any exercise and then felt irrationally guilty and disappointed in myself. I imagine that dumbness is the pressure of trying to make up for 30 years of body neglect at once.

So, sadly I don’t have any exciting discoveries or gym stories to share with you. Welcome to the electrifying unpredictability of a weekly column, I guess! What a ride.

While on my sick bed, I spent a lot of time eating scones and pondering how we’re supposed to live a healthy lifestyle in a world that doesn’t give a fuck about whether we make it to the gym before closing time. Real life shit so easily disrupts my lofty health and fitness aspirations and sometimes it’s a struggle to find a balance, like maintaining an exercise routine while on work trips, or eating nutritious meals in weeks when there are lots of social gatherings planned.

In retrospect it was seriously naive to assume that changing my lifestyle to accommodate a whole swag of new healthier habits would be easy-breezy. But in terms of trying find that balance, here are some of the things that are/aren’t working.

Not working: Getting other people on board with my health goals

Last year I moved into my 76-year-old great aunt’s apartment in preparation for my move overseas. While it’s been a total blessing financially, it’s blowing my healthy intentions to hell. As an example, my great aunt loves to turn fatty cuts of meat into thick stews that “stick to your ribs” and then cook the vegetables in the drippings. And the baking! Oh god. The baking. Cakes and biscuits are available 24/7. Sometimes she brings me a tray of freshly baked scones, jam and clotted cream while I’m Skyping my gal pal. It’s a dream and I don’t know how to turn it down.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I would’ve killed for this kind of comfort food as a child. As as an adult, though, it’s wreaking some serious havoc on my body. In the first month alone I outgrew all my jeans, picked up a cool cholesterol problem and started having all these fantasies about injecting pureed spinach into my veins. It’s been a time!

This must be a fairly common scenario, yeah? Living with someone whose diet and lifestyle influences yours? Maybe you’ve got a partner who’s a sugar junkie or a friend group that socialises over beer and burgers. Cooking meals myself is an obvious solution, however my great aunt is super possessive of her kitchen and takes a lot of pride in being the family cook. She’s also made it hilariously clear that she much prefers the taste of her cooking better than anyone else’s. So! Here are some ways that I’ve been able to slightly soften the impact of her cooking:

  • I found some 2/3 sized dinner plates and asked for my meals to be served on those instead, to limit the amount of not-so-healthy food I’m ingesting. Doing this led to the discovery that a 2/3-serve of food is actually totally adequate for my needs and just as satisfying as a full serve, except for the week before my period when I definitely need an ice cream and chocolate peanut granola bar chaser.
  • About 1-2 a week I’ll do a late-night gym session after work so that I have a valid, inoffensive excuse for skipping for dinner. (There’s an expectation that I’m present at meals).
  • I’ve started stocking the fridge with reduced-fat butter, cheeses and creams for her to use in all her cooking.
  • Once a month I’ll elbow my way into the kitchen and cook a big batch of something meat-free and nutritious. It’s partially in hope that my cooking style will slowly influence her cooking style, but mostly so that I’ve got relatively healthy food for the following week. Last month it was these delicious black bean quinoa burritos with a tomato and cucumber salad.

So if you’ve ever shared a living space with a partner or family member who wasn’t on board with your health goals, I’d be super interested in hearing how you navigated that.

Working: Walking

A few months ago I quit riding the bus. For whatever reason my basic brain just accepted that buses no longer exist in my world and that if I want to travel anywhere, like to my day job, then I need to get up at a stupid hour and hike 40 minutes to the train station. So far I’m finding it to be a super effective way of making sure that I get a decent amount of physical activity done each day, regardless of how hectic my work or social schedule gets.

I’d say the biggest benefit to these long ass walks is having those 10,000 recommended daily steps in the bag, which is helpful on days when everything goes to hell and I don’t have time for other physical activities like going to the gym. Also getting out of bed super early is great for organising my thoughts before the rest of the world wakes up and gets inside my head.

That’s all I’ve managed this week. What have you been up to? Are there any health and wellness things you’ve been conquering, or things you’re struggling with or want advice on? I probably can’t help you but I bet someone else can. Let’s talk it out in the comments!

Coming up next week: I’ve decided to start this 30 day ab challenge. I haven’t done a sit-up since high school so it’s gonna be interesting. Do you want to do it with me? It could be fun? Download the 30 Day Ab Challenge free phone app and we’ll compare pain/progress next week.

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. I started doing freeletics, because I had no idea what I was getting into. Now I like it because it works but I hate it because who wouldn’t hate doing 150 burpees with a timer going.

    Also right now I have a stomach ache and its making me want to skip the freeletics and instead go for the pizza, which seems like maybe not the right choice?

    • 150 BURPEES.

      Wow. That’s amazing.

      I had to do 10 burpees once and I could barely handle it.

      You should definitely choose pizza over 150 burpees.

  2. It’s so hard to work on having a healthier diet when suddenly the control you’re used to having over your food is taken away (for better or worse). I totally felt that last year when I moved away from home to live with roommates who were way more into Cheez-Its and ice cream than the kale salads and chicken I had at home. I wish I had some helpful advice, but it sounds like in this case portion sizes were the way to go! Keep rockin’ Crystal, I love the column.

    I read the first one just a few days after I started my own workout habit. I have done some weightlifting, but now I’m also mixing in the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from the Youtube channel Yoga with Adriene. I had always felt entirely too self-conscious and ashamed when I went to group yoga classes, but in the privacy of my room I am able to focus on honoring my body and giving myself time to think and stretch. And yes, there are often pools of sweat involved, so I know it’s working!

    Best of luck. I can’t wait to see what you are able to achieve!

    • I’d really like to try yoga in the coming weeks, I’ve never done it before. Do you have any feelings on whether the 30 Day Challenge is an okay place to start, or if maybe I’d be better off doing a beginner’s tutorial? Similarly I’d prefer not to do a group class but I suspect there’s a bunch of introductory videos on YouTube.

      And thanks! All the best with getting back into your workout routine as well.

      • So far, and I’ve only done three days, the 30 Day Challenge has been great as a beginner. My only yoga experience was about five years ago, so although I’m familiar with some of the basic poses the pace is totally suitable for someone on the less conditioned and less flexible edge of the fitness spectrum (like me!). For more challenging poses, she explains ways that you can make them more difficult or work towards them if you can’t quite do them yet. So for me, as a semi-beginner it has been perfect but I recommend trying it out and seeing if the style and pace feels right to you!

      • I’m doing the challenge too, and it is very beginner friendly! I’m beginner+ myself and there are things I can’t do yet but Adriene always provides options. She has a “yoga for absolute beginners” video too, I haven’t watched it but I’m sure it’s great. Everything I’ve watched on her channel is pure gold.

  3. My kid has been sick and so I haven’t made it to the gym with childcare in over a week. Trying to justify that I went camping over the weekend and hiked on the beach and climbed on driftwood logs and didn’t watch any TV, so that’s exercise…right?

    • I’m no ruler of exercise but yes, I think those things are definitely exercise. Plus walking on the beach is hard! (or maybe that’s just me…)

  4. I’m so pumped about this column! I’m trying to get back into shape because I’m going back to school where I study dance soon, and it’s a bit of a struggle. The worst part for me is having a really irregular schedule and not being able to stick to a workout routine…maybe I need to start getting up at 6:00 a.m. to run or something. (cringe)

    • Good luck with finding the time. I’m not sure if you’re a person who enjoys silence but that’s at least one good thing that 6am offers.

  5. I read this thing that said when you make fitness-related rules and then punish yourself like a child when you don’t follow the rules, you’re more likely to stick to a work-out plan… So, I started withholding my morning coffee from myself until I do a small wake up workout. So far, it has worked like magic.

    What I have learned is coffee is my one true savior.
    All hail coffee.

    • I do something really similar, I’m “not allowed” to wash my hair unless I get a run in. I need to wash my hair every other day, which is conveniently exactly as often as I want to run. It works super well, having gross greasy hair is a great motivator to get my butt outside!

      • The hairwashing trick has been perfect for me! Somehow the only thing that makes me cringe more than working out when I’m feeling tired or gross is having disgusting hair, haha. So glad it has worked for you too!

    • Wow, withholding coffee is serious.

      I do a sort of similar thing where I only let myself listen to my favourite podcasts when I’m working out. It can be super motivating if it’s a really great series.

    • I tried to do this but then I just did what I wanted anyway? I just have terrible self control haha.

  6. it can be so hard to have health goals and live with people who love to cook for you. i am vegan and my mother is southern born and bred. need i say more? “what do you mean the biscuits arent vegan? i used butter not lard?” bless her. i cant imagine if i lived with her, it would be a constant battle. it sounds like you are compromising which is about the best you can do sometimes. something i did was i got really good at cooking healthy meals and i totally converted her on some of my preferences, such as using coconut milk whenever and however possible and showing her the unlimited potential of the avocado. best of luck!

    • Oh wow, yeah I can imagine how difficult that would be. Conversion is definitely one of my goals, and there have been small wins. She’s recently started cooking with chicken breast because I’ve managed to open her eyes to cooking methods and recipes that don’t make it dry and tasteless.

  7. i tried the 30 day ab challenge the last time i was on tour, and was thinking i again need to do something like this. being on tour takes me out of my regular exercise routine and doesn’t give me time to supplement with fun outdoor activities.
    i will say last time i made it to day 9 of the ab challenge. but i’ll try with you!

  8. Maybe I should do the 30 day ab challenge? Should I? Crystal, tell me things; I’m not sure how to work out when it’s not in a class with a group.

    • Yes, you should! We’re all gonna try it, and at the end (or whenever we stop) we’ll all feel really accomplished and proud and ab-y. But in the comfort and privacy of our own homes. It’s gonna be SO GREAT.

      • Is there a day when this starts, I would totally be down with a programme … I need a start date and rules.. but rules I don’t feel like I have to run away from when I break. I need rules and flexibility and someone to hold my hand who is not Mr. Motivator… I feel like Mr. Motivator was perhaps just a UK thing?

  9. Switching to a longer walking commute is a great trick to get a little more movement in your day! I just started nannying a couple of months ago for a couple of babies and I have never walked so much in my life. I’ve always been pretty athletic and will periodically get serious about some routine but the last year or so I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Although I got down on myself at the beginning and didn’t feel like it “counted” as exercise, my mindset has totally shifted in the past few weeks, and today I’ve done a week of consecutive yoga practice…feels awesome, and totally right.

    I would like to go to a studio at least for 1-2 classes a week, but working slightly-longer-than-business-hours makes it hard to get to classes on time, so for now I’ve been using online classes from, which have been awesome, although I think a total beginner might want to find a teacher at least once a week to prevent injuries.

    • It’s great to hear that you’ve been able to alter your thinking and find a routine that feels rad! Good luck with getting to classes soon.

      Also thanks for the tip on, and finding a teacher. Trying yoga is something that I really want to look into soon and so I’ll keep it in mind.

    • I agree. I started cycling in January and my tube to work used to take 25 minutes my cycle is also 25 min… so I get 50min exercise without having to find extra time to do it so there are no excuses… my commute is actually shorter if I speed up so in getting fitter I’m actually winning back time :)

  10. Another great aritcle as usual!!

    Meal prep is hard, no doubt. I still live with my parents which can be a little hard on the kind of food I should be eating. My mom is convinced she owns the kitchen. Lol.

    I think eventually my parents caught on with the kind of food that is a little better like low fat milk..or omega 3 rich butter..turkey mom now cooks a lot more chicken and fish for me. And Ive noticed how she trims the fat off beef. I like that they are supportive of me. My mom even buys me my own bread..anything that isnt white lol.

    I think i will switch to brown rice soon. It feels a lot more filling than white and goes well with my meals.

    Getting sick is one of the worst things EVER.. i try to really rest but I feel like I get more sick if I dont go to the gym. Unless of course Im running a high temp and Im all curled up in bed shivering.

    I used to not go to the gym after work..i get off 7pm..then I realized that the time I get home til the time I actually go to sleep would fit a gym session.

    Idk if i have any stories to share….hm. Oh! I can now squat 135lbs. Yay!!! Thats a PR for me. I also really try to do 30mins cardio on my non lifting days so my body can keep up when I add weight to my lifting days.

    • I keep reading too many mixed answers on if brown rice is really better than white rice. But, based on what I read it could be as some white rice, specially the lower cost ones made in America do some things to it to make it more white(read it on a vegan forum, but not 100% sure on accuracy).

      Also that excellent news on the squats.

    • I switched to mainly using brown rice a couple of years ago- I find it more filling too :) I put it to soak in cold water with a pinch of salt in the morning and cook it with a few curry leaves, all of which (apparently) make it more digestible/nutritious.

    • Congrats on the squat goal!

      It’s so great that your mum is supportive and making an effort to keep the foods you prefer. That’s really sweet. Keep us posted on how you find using brown rice.

  11. Also yes to walking!!! My co workers and I meet up in the morning before our shift to climb the stairs from the 1st floor to the 7th floor! =) its a great way to start !

  12. My roommates happen to be my parents. I am trying to keep a vegan diet and it’s reasonably working well at home. My mother is on board, and cooks many nice vegan meals for me. On the other hand my father is less supportive and trying things to get me to eat more meat and dairy. He’s also fairly big on bread/carbs, which I am really trying to avoid, but it’s hard as they taste soo nice toasted on a Panini maker. Not to mention my parents for a while had a pension for making two large handmade vegan pizzas, and i’d be the one eating half of it for dinner. Thankfully, I sometimes have willpower avoid it, and they are make one pizza now vs two.

    On the other hand they too like to exercises, eat fruits daily, and also eat steamed and cooked veggies. Plus, my mom’s been make vegan fruit hemp-protein bars that is very good.

    • It’s cool that your mother’s so supportive and that they’re on board with exercise and vegetables as well.

      I understand your struggle with toasted sandwiches, they are damn delicious and my great aunt offers them to me all the time. I’ve made a deal with myself where I still eat them but only when I’m really hungry. (I used to eat them just because they were offered, regardless of whether my stomach really needed it).

      • I have that problem. Like this morning I had a bowl of cereal, and a vegan protein bar, yet I was offered an avocado sandwich and was like yeah. I need to stop agreeing to eating it.

  13. Totally with you on the bus thing. Buses are just the absolute worst, and walking is definitely preferable. My theory is that anywhere worth going to is accessible by public transport, but places only accessible by bus are questionable.

    • Buses are the worst. I don’t mind the vehicle itself, the ones in Sydney are quite well maintained. It’s the waiting that kills me. Never knowing when the next one is going to show up.

  14. wait I’m doing a different 30 Day Ab Challenge?! not sure it’s working though SO I’M GONNA BE DANGEROUS AND TRY YOURS AT THE SAME TIME…

    also y’all can I have some positive vibes sent my way because I just signed up to run a half marathon in October??? and now I have to TRAIN FOR IT? IN THE HEAT? so I could use any/all advice that the Straddleverse might have for how to properly train :)

    • congrats on signing up for a half!! Is it your first? Training can be overwhelming if you let it get too complicated. I’m one of those idiots who runs ultramarathons…so i run a lot. One of the best things you can do is set up time goals for your training as opposed to mileage. Such as ‘I’m going to run for 30minutes today’ instead of ‘I have to run 3 miles today’ If you’re consistent with it, and mix it up, you’ll get plenty of mileage. Plus, it’s easier to fit into busy schedules…it’s not ‘ugh, I’m supposed to run 6 miles today and I don’t think I have time.’ it’s ‘I’ve scheduled an hour of running time today and I’m going to make it happen!’ Good luck!! (if you want specific training help, feel free to send me an ASS message, bc it’ll make Carmen smile)

    • Oh wow, two ab challenges? What a machine. Please take care, though! I don’t know how many ab workouts is too many ab workouts.

      I have no idea about marathons but I’m sending you lots of positive vibes!

  15. I am trying to be a runner, or at least be able to run as a form of exercise. I can barely run a mile and a half – who are these people who claim to run marathons and what not. I’m also disappointed by my times, but at least I’m getting to the gym 3x week, which is more than the 1x week previously. I also play around with the machines when I’m at the gym. I’ve tried the weird pull-up machine, and I did a few bench presses on the guided thingy (not free-form yet, too scared of that).

    Two weeks in and I’m more sore and tired than when I started. Isn’t exercise supposed to be energizing? I’ll update next week.

    Good luck to everyone! Hang in there, even with tempting food and summer illnesses :(

    • I’m sorry that you’re not yet stoked with your running times but I personally think you’re a rockstar for getting to the gym 3x per week, that’s a solid effort.

      I found that it took a few weeks to get past being tired and sore, but the energising feeling definitely kicked in soon after. I think your body just needs a little time to adjust to doing that extra work.

    • When I first started running, I barely made three quarters of a mile before I had to walk the rest of the way home. Within two years I ran a half marathon! Hang in there, you’ll get better slowly but surely :)

  16. As someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder something I’ve learned (and am still learning)….

    Everything In Moderation!

    It’s OK to eat grandma’s buttery, carb heaven food. Sometimes.

    When I go home, I often struggle with my parents’ unhealthy (at least in my eyes) eating and exercise habits. I am very active and a vegetarian, and often my lifestyle gets made fun of at home. But again, balance. I could definitely learn a little from them about letting go.

    • I can’t put anything in my mouth without feeling guilty about it but I’m working on not letting it overwhelm me.

      I think moving in with my girlfriend (out of my parents) has helped a lot. I cook all of my own food now and it makes me feel better knowing exactly what is going into the food I make. I also find cooking a huge stress relief.

      Staying body positive is something I struggle with everyday but I know it’s a work in progress and I’ll get there.

      • Ella, I definitely agree about not living with parents. Whenever I’m home, my mom tends to approach my eating and exercise habits with an aggressive, accusatory tone. Not helpful!

        I get a lot of pleasure from cooking my own food as well. I think it’s also important to be OK with others cooking for you, going out to eat, etc. Sometimes I miss out on social gatherings (potlucks and other gatherings focused on food) because of my fears around eating. Definitely something I should push myself to do more often.

        I’m glad we can have open and honest conversations about eating and exercise. We’re in it together!

    • I’m the same – letting go can be really hard but really good emotionally.
      I’m working on creating a balance between ‘physically healthy’ and ’emotionally healthy’ foods, which I have really struggled with before.

    • Badass.

      Did you have to do the 25 second plank? I’m assuming it’s the same routine for everyone but I’m not sure. I felt it was a lot of plank for my first day.

      • I did! And I’m on the first beginner track! I went in being like 25 seconds? That’s not even half a minute! And then it was the longest 25 seconds of my life.

  17. I’m down! I have downloaded the app, we’ll see what happens. I might also try doing the push ups one because I drunkenly pledged to start doing them last night to my friend. My arms are honestly the part of my body I like the least in pictures.

    • Awesome! I had a similar thought about the push up challenge! I figured that if I was already gonna be sweating up my bedroom floor then I may as well throw some more exercises in. But then I tried doing a push up and I couldn’t even do one.

      I bet your arms look great in photos but keeping drunken pledges to friends is important. Good luck, if you attempt it!

      • I actually have done the push-up challenge (I didn’t finish, but I got a bit in) and you can do it modified push up style (put your knees on the ground).

  18. Thank you for the article. I’m enjoying reading all this stuff.

    Over the last few years I was super fit and mostly healthy but I went overseas then came back, changed jobs and got lazy and it’s been so hard getting back into it.

    I’m slowly getting back into it. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past so I’m trying so hard to not fall back into destructive patterns. My health is more important than being skinny. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

    I like your idea of walking everywhere. I live about 20 minutes from the train (walking) and 2 minutes if I drive. I start work early so always get a carspot which has made me lazy.

    This uncharacteristically cold Melbourne (Australia) weather isn’t overly enticing but I might just have to push myself.

    • Thanks for this! Health over being skinny…so so important to remember, yet so so hard sometimes.

    • ^ What Katie said. Good luck with avoiding destructive habits.

      I totally feel you re: walking in this winter weather right now. I’m finding that the one positive thing about it being freezing out is that it encourages me to walk a lot faster. It’s way too cold to stroll. Keep me posted if you decide to try it out.

  19. This is something that my fiancee has been struggling with- her work schedule is pretty erratic right now (though it’s expected to calm down a little once she’s no longer considered to be in training), and that’s made it hard for her to get back into a routine, it seems like.

    I’ve been trying to figure out how much (if any) I should bug her about working out (since she’s repeatedly stated she’s not happy with her current fitness level), since I don’t want to stress her out any more than she already is.

    On the food angle, it’s also been a bit tough, but that’s mostly because it turns out the closest grocery store to us has kind of an underwhelming produce section (I mean, they didn’t have portobello mushrooms *or* sugar snap peas- what gives!?) I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a better store, even if (unfortunately) it’s a bit longer of a drive.

    • Maybe you could ask your fiancee how much she wants to be bugged, if any? It’s something that could so easily go either way – she might find it demotivating or she might appreciate a little nudging. Hopefully she can tell you what’s best!

      And good luck with seeking out those snap peas.

  20. Switching the baking ingredients to low/reduced fat ones is SUCH a good idea, i commend you, I am going to have to try that.

    • It’s awesome! Substituting applesauce for oils and eggs, whole grain flour for regular flour, etc. is, in my mind, equally delicious and much more nutritious (and happens to rhyme, apparently).

    • Good luck with it! My experience has gone well so far, in that there haven’t been any complaints about a noticeable difference in the baked goods.

  21. I’m down for the ab challenge. What levels are people doing? I have a pretty strong core, but how advanced is advanced? I don’t mind a challenge, but wary of being unable to sit up in the morning to get out of bed!

    I think every one should follow the Moderation Movement on Facebook. It is the best, most sensible approach to food and nutrition. I have to follow a fairly strict ‘diet’ (thanks diabetes) and it is such a great reminder that certain foods aren’t the enemy – its just about making nutritious choices as much as you can and not feeling shit about yourself when you don’t.

    That doesn’t stop your nanna bringing you trays of scones, but there’s nothing wrong with scones if you’re making more nutritious choices for your other meals.

    • Beginner right here. Hopefully there’s a reader out there who can advise on what the more advanced levels are like!

      And yes, very true, scones are great. It’s not often possible for me to make healthy choices for my other meals, which is the real problem. But soon! A few more months. And I’ve gone ahead and followed the Moderation Movement in preparation, I had a quick glance and it looks neat. Thanks for the tip!

  22. i downloaded my fitness pal and i have been reporting my meals like a BOSS and i even reported my desire to eventually maybe buy a bike to some people who maybe know of a bike someone might want to sell me. i am inching towards taking care of my body like a person…?

    and anyway i just came here to post this:

    • Haha thank you Stef. I am thrilled to hear that you have been owning My Fitness Pal. Good luck with the bicycle hunt! Please keep us posted on your journey to becoming a bike rider. Please.

  23. This article is so great. Despite having an uneventful week, you’ve still inspired me to add a lot more walking to my daily routine. Also, I want to make those black bean quinoa burritos immediately.

    I’d also like to note that I’ve never seen you as happy as when you’re smashing those freshly baked scones on Skype. “Clotted cream” is such a weird name though!

    • I’ll teach you how to make those burritos on Skype one day. Your quinoa might end up being a little crunchy though, fair warning.

      You’re right. The word ‘clotted’ doesn’t make the cream sound very appealing.

  24. You started out this post saying you’ve totally been failing at exercising more, but then at the end mentioned that you’re walking 40 minutes (each way?) to the bus. Walking is totally legit exercise that SO counts! Sounds like you’re rockin it.

    • Oh no, I definitely think walking is a valid form of exercise! When I mentioned not exercising for the week, that included walking because I was in bed all week. Looking at the article now, I can see how that wasn’t really clear.

  25. Crystal! It’s okay to be kind to yourself when you’re sick!

    The way I think about it – I try to make the choices that are best for my body. If I’m healthy, that means exercising, but if I’m ill or severely depressed, sometimes that means giving myself a bit of space. Rest is an important part of taking care of yourself.

    Treat your rest days like your workout days: important and unmissable.

  26. I downloaded the 30 day ab challenge–hopefully knowing yall are also participating will give me some motivation to stick with it. And I downloaded a 30 day push-up challenge because I’m a glutton for punishment slash I think future Joanna will be super dedicated (and fit!).

  27. I really wish I worked out properly but I’ve accepted that for the time being I really don’t have the time/energy/spoons to get to the gym so I stick with walking to school/work/etc, which usually gets me 1-2 hrs a day so that’s not too bad. Hopefully some day I’ll get my diet-laundry-schedule-shower situation all in place and actually work out properly.

    Really enjoying this column – good luck with your adorable living situation!

    • I like that “diet-laundry-schedule-shower” are all clumped together because yes these are the things that have the power to make me fel extremely competent as a human or extremely NOT

  28. So I am not going to lie – I’m going to have to catch up on the previous articles you’ve written on this topic BUT I am super freaking excited that you’ve started this here in AS Crystal! I remember when Sarah Croce was going to have a health/fitness section on here and I have been looking forward to seeing regular articles related to physical fitness ever since. (That’s not to take away from the general wellness articles…I’m just very excited!)

    Now on to what you’re talking about here.
    You’d think figuring out food and listening to your body would be easy – for some I guess it is…for me not so much.

    I absolutely understand how living situation can encourage positive or negative relationships/habits with food.

    I have lived with my parents for nearly all my 24 years. I did a short 1.5 years out of the house for school but came home to finish.

    Though it is incredibly nice to have such a solid relationship with my folks (and to be able to live in a home where there is no want) over the years I’ve realized that we don’t have an ideal relationship with food. Oversized portions and endless snacking options where there are probably 2x the amount of less nutritious pickings provided have totally skewed my view of how to eat for my body.

    I totally relate to the discovery of finding that smaller portions can satisfy and sustain you but I still struggle with regularly practicing portion control. Growing up the way that I have it feels like missing out if you’re not overindulging.

    I made a true effort to kick myself in to gear when I began my career last year. I stepped on the scale for a physical and found a shocking number blinking back at me. It was just a number but I was horrified. The scale helped things click for me – I had truly become blind to my habits and my health. I ignored the groggy, irritable, exhausted, uncomfortable feelings and just chalked it up to the aging process (seriously…) and the stress/work of a new career.

    Since October of last year I am down 60 lbs, gained more strength than I ever have had and have hit somewhat of an athletic peak (throughout school I was highly involved in athletics so this is fucking awesome to be peaking now….)

    BUT the struggle for me still lies in consistency with food and being influenced by other peoples eating habits. I am capable of making myself workout – but lack control with diet. This has definitely caused me to stall progress – I go from being very rigid, to too relaxed because I feel deprived, then to manageable, sustainable eating…then starting the cycle again.

    It’s tough to yoyo as I do but I have found that continuing to seek communities that support body positive views that respect an individual’s progress and accomplishments over their physical body composition have helped me keep moving forward.

    The two coolest things I’ve experienced in this process have been: finding out my body is capable of athletic feats I had never conquered and how my acceptance of my own body type (socially considered less than ideal) has transformed the way I view others.

    I think I’m just typing and rambling now…I’m just excited. I love Autostraddle, I love all of the body positive campaigning that goes on here, I love that the women on this site exude confidence and strength, and I am so happy to have a section like this.


    • I’m super freakin’ excited that you’re excited!

      It sounds like you’re totally kicking ass with your athletic endeavours and learning some rad things about yourself and health along the way – congrats! That’s awesome. I hope you’ll soon find some of that same success with balancing out your diet.

  29. I really think I should 1) start following this column and 2) do that 30 day ab workout since I realized halfway through this article that I was literally eating nutella out of the jar while reading, so…

    • Yay for considering the ab challenge! Also, Nutella consumption is encouraged here. Everything in moderation, right? Plus Nutella tastes better straight from the jar, I’m pretty sure it’s a scientifically proved fact.

  30. There are days like today in that I’ve been awake since 5am due to some adulting I needed to take care of – that results in me being too tired to come home after a workout to prep my own dinner so I justify it by getting some take-out. However, I have a pretty strict vegan diet, so I can’t go out and pig out if you will. Thankfully there’s a lot of healthy take-out options in my beach town that I can justify on days like this.

    Having said that though, said local healthy vegan joint also has cookies and cheesecakes from time to time and I can’t help but pick up a few slices (or 5).

  31. Living with family whose eating habits are so different from yours is very challenging! I don’t live with my parents anymore but now when I visit I see how their habits used to effect me. I used to snack all the time, almost constantly it seemed like, because that’s what they do. Now I hardly snack at all, its a lot cheaper this way too.

  32. Those are really good cooking tricks, but I still love the sound of your great aunt and her baking obsession!

  33. I love reading this! Get’s me a bit motivated and I need all the motivation from every little source.

    I’m trying to change my extremely unhealthy life too, not soooo much yet but at least in little steps.
    For 3 months now, I’m biking to work 3 times the week. And I love it! I already used my bike on pretty much every other way before but not when I have to get up that hill. So proud that this is working now. Even though when I reach my workplace I’m suffocating and bright pink but my colleagues are very nice and do not mock me. But it is so much better than the bus!!! Buses are hell!
    I’m also eating a lot more salad for dinner or lunch instead of school cafeteria lunch or Pizza at home. But sometimes it is so hard to make all that food! I’m trying to prepare it ahead for a couple of days, most of the vegetables last a couple of days in the fridge even when they’re chopped. But it takes a lot of time and sometimes I can’t bring myself to do it. Last night I was tired and put a Pizza in the oven. :(
    But reading this got me motivated enough to get into the kitchen now and chop some salad! Yay! :)

    • Solid effort with the biking! And getting more salad into your diet. Those seem like pretty big steps to me, it sounds like you’re doing great!

  34. I’m loving this column… much like watching reality tv, where other people have to do difficutlt and arduous tasks while you sit on the couch. I mean, while you empathise with their pain or something like that, which would imply I’m a better human than I really am…

    Good luck though, Portion control is the way to go, and a tough skin when they suggest you’re awful picky. :)

  35. I adore this series! I started going to the gym about two months ago and it’s been going okay. I haven’t been as much the past week or so due to work and having a friend staying but I’m hoping to get back to it tonight. Something I’ve found which has worked for me is just going and doing what I want – I had a stint a year or so ago when I had a gym membership for three months when i was living back at home but I’d go and make myself do a load of treadmill/rowing machine/cycling stuff that I really didn’t enjoy. Now what I’m doing is going along and doing some weights, or taking a yoga class. Even if I’m working out for a shorter period, I’m going way more frequently and enjoy it loads more.

    The yoga classes have been a surprising success for me. I hated any sort of group fitness activity at school and wasn’t sure how I’d find it. I read a thing a while ago about trying to move your body in a meaningful way – I don’t want to lose weight or anything, but feeling like my body is more powerful has been really good. I tried doing a bit of yoga at home but tend to stop after a few minutes, so going along and having to do a full 45 minute class has been really helpful.

    Tbh, the gym mainly works for me because awful at making myself do things and if I’ve paid money I’m too stubborn not to go.

    • Good luck with getting back to it!

      Yeah, I feel that finding activities you enjoy is super important. It’s something that I’m still figuring out in terms of my own routine and barriers, but there have definitely been things in the past that I’ve loved (boxing, softball, basketball) and it made ALL the difference when it came to motivating myself. It’s so great to hear that weights and yoga are really working for you right now!

  36. my girlfriend eats super healthy, for her it’s both important and enjoyable. her idea of a treat is a fresh apple… also she exercises quite a lot. i’m hoping that some of this will rub off on me :D it can be motivating to find a sport that’s fun and someone to regularly do it with.
    on the other hand, i’ve been getting her to try vegan cooking and she’s into it.

  37. I did core at the gym on Sunday and I am still not able to push myself out of bed.
    BUT I have downloaded the app and will attempt to roll forward for Day 1…

  38. This is all so on point Crystal. I’m absolutely loving this column.

    On the food thing, I totally hear you. When I used to live in a share-house, I’d always lived with girls, but then got a guy housemate and *omg* I put on so much weight.

    And then more recently, I’ve been working really hard on getting fit and healthy. And I’ve found it a bit difficult sometimes, going to people’s houses for dinner, and then facing the situation of not wanting to eat the meal that has been cooked because it’s just the most unhealthy thing. But then I don’t want to be rude, or seem ungrateful.

    Oh oh oh. And on the 30 day abs thing. I’m just finishing up doing the 30 day squat challenge! And it was GREAT! I was pretty dubious at first. But you just have to do the number of squats required over the course of the day (you don’t have to do them in one go). And I’ve found that I do some in the morning and some at night, and because I can squat anywhere, and don’t need gym-clothes to do it, I haven’t missed any days! Even when I’ve been travelling!

    Onward to next week!

    • Well done on finishing the squat challenge! That’s impressive.

      I did the first day of that challenge and smashed it, I was super impressed with myself, but then I could barely walk for the next two days, ha. So I quit but I’ll reconsider starting it once the ab challenge is over.

  39. When y’all comment on how adorable my great aunt is, it’s difficult to tell if you’re referring to the photo in the post or my story about scones. So just to be clear – the image isn’t real, it’s Stock Photography Grandma with some crafty photoshopping from the amazingly talented Intern Nikki.

    My great aunt really is adorable though, so thank you everyone.

    • I’m sure the woman in the photo is somebody’s aunt. We can be happy about that. <3

  40. My roommate is basically family and also a fantastic chef. Whenever stuff doesn’t sell at his place he brings it all home, so I have zero chance of fitting in my jeans while living with him. When I have tried healthier options he gets insulted so now I eat all fruits and veggies during the day away from him, and then binge on short rib stew at night.

    • That sounds like a tricky situation. I imagine I’d feel very torn between wanting to eat all the fantastic food and also not. Your strategy of only eating his food once a day seems on point, good luck with it!

  41. I’m walking, but doing almost nothing else in the way of exercise. I would like to fix that. Maybe I will try this ab challenge, plus pretend that the subway station closest to me no longer exists.

    I’m also bookmarking that black bean quinoa recipe. Mmmmm.

  42. I tried doing a 30 day plank challenge that just ended miserably, because I started it the same month that I was going to a music festival and was in a wedding, i.e. NO TIME. My gf just joined a roller derby team, and we’re going to do a squats challenge together. ALL THE CHALLENGES!

    Also I’ve skipped spin this week and last week and also feel crazy guilty so I’m thinking I’ll go tomorrow.

  43. Why don’t you just send your greataunt over for a bit of a vacation in Germany? *cough*
    I applaud your 2/3 plate idea and I’d add a salad to that!
    Salads take up space on your plate and they lighten the heavy, meaty stuff up somewhat while being good for you and your intestines.
    It’s an easy habit to form, if you don’t use it to punish yourself.
    Some chopped tomatoes,some batavia, some roasted pine nuts,or crumbled feta. Cover with some high quality balsamico and you’re good to go.Experiment with dried tomatoes,olives, whatever and see what compliemnts the dishes you’re having them with.
    And if you still feel stuff gets too heavy, skip the rice, the potatoes,the bread. Your greataunt is less likely to take offense at skipping those than the main dish!
    Also, if you should decide to go full on low carb, the high fat meat sides don’t matter as much.
    I’ll join in on the ab challenge and haul my ass to the gym, today, you guys are very motivating.
    Also, I’m due to hang out in a bikini at a Lesbian pool party in Barcelona in under a month, so consider me doubly motivated!
    P.S.: If any of you have some advice on healthy, quick food options that are grain/diary free, that would be super appreciated. Ever since I decided to eat healthy, I’ve had trouble feeding myself sufficiently. Where I’d opt out for cake or chocolate bars due to laziness earlier, I now need to peel an avocado, eat some smoked salmon,fry an egg.
    However, I feel the day coming nigh when I will not be able to stand the sight of either of those three options anymore.

    • Good luck with the ab challenge and getting back to the gym! I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling motivated.

      I’ll hopefully start writing about healthy, quick food options in a few weeks. I’ve started doing some research in preparation for when I move overseas and can cook whatever the hell I want.

    • have you experimented with chia seeds? you can soak them in any non-dairy milk, almond milk makes it super creamy, and add vanilla and/or lemon zest. just put the mixture in the fridge overnight and have it as pudding with additional fruit the next day. or add cocoa and dates (or any sweetener suitable to your diet). my favorite combo is hazelnut milk and cocoa (though i find it difficult to find unsweetened nut milks in germany, usually there is some agave involved and it might not be what you are looking for).

      also, does quinoa count as grains? because some days ago i came up with a simple flour free cracker recipe (at least i think i did), where you soak quinoa over night, discard the water and puree the (uncooked) quinoa to a creamy paste, add any seeds you like (i used poppy seed, flax, sesame, sunflower seeds and pumpkins seeds) and some salt, thinly spread it on a backing sheet (a non sticking silicon baking mat comes in handy here) and put it in the oven. and have an eye on it! i didn´t stop the time but i think it burns easily, so you better know your oven… let the cracker plate cool and break it into pieces. (maybe one could use a pizza cutter or something to mark some lines in the unbaked batter so the pieces will come out the shape you want them?)
      store them in an airtight container, et voila: a quick snack.

      also, crystal, i already love this column!

  44. Oh boy, roommates who eat junk food. My roommate is wonderful, but she thinks healthy eating is a granola bar that’s 95% sugar. She’s very supportive of my immortality quest, but it’s tempting when she has Corn Pops (I don’t know if they have them in Australia, but it’s a sugary kids cereal) on the counter.

    My family is thankfully pretty health conscious. I was brought up without chips, soda, etc. My mom lost about 30 pounds over a decade ago and has kept it off. My sister is a gym rat. It’s super helpful. The only thing that’s difficult in regards to eating with my mom is that she doesn’t believe in vegetarianism, and she just doesn’t grasp the concept of me not eating meat. She’ll often suggest we eat at places that don’t have healthful vegetarian options/protein.

    • I’m glad your family are health conscious and able to be supportive in your efforts! Except for the vegetarianism, sorry to hear that.

      I spent the first 30 years of my life thinking that I was being totally healthy by snacking on granola products. It wasn’t until I started using My Fitness Pal that I realised how much sugar I was consuming!

  45. Ughhhh. Ughhhhh. I am on day 5 of the Ab challenge or something, done over like 3 weeks. So I GUESS I could start doing it every day uugghhhhhh fucking core strength.

    I am just not feeling fitness today in general. It is a period week so I have been eating approx everything while unhydrating, and at the end of today’s run my body was like “HARD NO.” I took like a 5 min break and then did the last 5 min though, so I’m still proud of me. I’ll just have to repeat that run.

    • Good job on finishing that run! You should feel proud. What if you did the ab challenge but only every second day? It would be an increase on your current schedule but still not as intense as doing it daily.

      Am I doing this motivation thing right? Maybe I should be encouraging you to do it every day, ha.

  46. I guess I could do the ab challenge. I don’t work out nearly enough over the summer, because I’m not spending all day walking around my many-acred college campus. But laying around is so nice…

  47. Kuddos on the walking, its the one thing you’ll be doing alot when you move overseas. Just think of all of your new healthy practices as practice for your big move.

  48. I would totally be with you on that 30 day ab program if not for the exercise involved. That and now every time I think of ab exercise, I remember that coregasm is a thing that exists and I just want to cut out the middle man.

    I guess that means I’m the bad influence on both good and exercise. I’ll just be quiet now.

  49. i’ve always lived with roommates or partners who were similar to me in the way i choose to eat, so that’s never really been an issue. my boyfriend and i have been living together for almost two years and we almost always eat a healthy dinner together, so that’s really helpful for feeling satisfied that i’m doing something good for my body at least once a day.

    i think two problems i have with “easy, at home” exercise are 1) i’m usually only home for a few hours of the day and more importantly, 2) i’m just too self-conscious to work out in front of someone who isn’t also working out.

    i’m slowly trying to phase the bus out of my routine, though it’s much easier to do this now as opposed to the totally oppressive winters here in Chicago.

    • I feel you on being too self-conscious about working out in front of people who are not working out. I don’t have any advice, sadly, I’m still trying to work through those feelings myself.

      Good luck with phasing the bus out of your routine! I’m already getting anxious about potentially having to give up my walking routine when I move to Chicago in October.

      • This article is making me realize that I can switch to a train commute in Chicago to get my exercise in by walking to the station and to the employer. But yes, the Chicago weather can be pretty atrocious January thru March, and that part would be challenging… :/

  50. I’m a big fan of making exercise part of my day-to-day life by walking/biking as transportation. It totally cuts out the hard part of motivating myself. Plus, I work out as part of my job too, so now I’m totally off the hook lol.

  51. I physically moved the vast majority of my worldly possessions, of which I have too many, into boxes/bags, out of a house, into a vehicle, out of the vehicle, into a new house, and onto shelves/closets etc. It was exercise, damnit, particularly because half of those boxes/bag were at least half full of books. Lovely books I’m fond enough of to move repeatedly.

    Also, spontaneous full body dance parties of one in the new house. Because I can (literally didn’t have proper space before for more than a minor wriggle). Dog: “I was napping. Until you did that. Are we going for a walk? I think it’s raining, but maybe I would go for a walk if you need a walk.”

  52. A week’s break certainly won’t impede your progress. Now, exercising whike you’re sick, otoh…

    This article was interesting for me to read because I kind of have the opposite problem. I live with my mother and she’s suuuper diet focused. She’ll bake, eat one bite and tell me to eat the rest so she won’t be tempted, haha. So maybe it’s not exactly the opposite problem, since I end up being the one who gets thrown off their diet.

  53. Crystal, I love the artist’s depiction of your walk, which sounds like the walks I take. I would particularly like to know what prompted the Yeah in the latter 75% of the walk.
    I try to walk after work along the coastal walkway. My thoughts would be something like

    Beautiful winters day for a walk, let out my pent up stress etc
    MM Im hungry keep on walking
    Ha ha I know what I will make for tea yeah
    My knees hurt
    God Im unfit but carry on to the wind wand (actual landmark)
    At least I’ve fed the cats

    What do I have that is sweet?

  54. I have no wise advice as I’m still struggling with this myself. But I related to so much of your post that it actually made me feel better about lack of exercise in my life this week. Definitely going to be reading this every week now!

  55. I feel so much better about myself after reading this! I’ve also been struggling with getting fit and although I try to use my time valuable by biking to work every day, I just can’t seem to find time to do more exercise. I recently had a friend question my exercise habits and I just felt like eating more sugar after that. Maybe I should try to join the challenge as well!

  56. I was on my GAME the entire two months before camp, but have been slacking the entire month after coming home. Post-camp sadness took all my motivation out of me.

    If anyone is looking for free workout routines, or challenges, please please please give neila rey’s website a try! EVERYTHING is free, 90% of it requires no equipment, and there’s literally SO many different things for so many different people. I’ve gone through their 30 day HIIT challenge, 30 day ab challenge, and 30 days of change. They also have a daily workout they post each day, and short 7 day challenges for people who don’t want to commit to a whole month. It’s such a great resource, and has given me so many options.

    • Thanks for the link! I’m recovering from an arm injury and their “foundation light” program looks like just what I need right now.

  57. Wait! I do have something productive to say! The people I live with are my main reason I over-eat. It’s my own waste aversion, but I’ll eat the food the kids don’t eat frequently. Mostly to solve that, I’ve been making smaller portions and if anyone is still hungry they can eat salad, carrots and ranch, or fruit.

    Something that may help your situation is the simple idea that half your plate should be fruits and veg. Perhaps your aunt can get on board with that if you have bagged salad or something and say, “I’d appreciate if I could have half a plate of salad and half [whatever’s being served].”

  58. I’ve been using fitbit to help keep me on track with what I eat and how much activity I am doing during the day. It has really helped to keep me accountable because I tend to want to snack a lot during the day which really adds up after a bit.

    Are there any fellow straddler fitbitters who would like to form a group or participate in friend challenges? That could be a thing!

  59. I would be in for Fitbitting stuff! I can be added here, I think, if I didn’t fuck up the HTML on that.

    Although for the past several days my air conditioner has been dead so I’ve pretty much just been lying in a heap on the floor sobbing into the cat’s fur about how gross it is and how hard moving at all is. But we got a portable A/C unit hooked up in the room with the treadmill last night, so I’m back on the exercise wagon this evening.

  60. I’m a big fan of apps that help me do things, but they’re hit or miss sometimes. I know I’m a week behind but I’m gonna download the ab app and see how it goes!

  61. Reading this late was good timing. I was just thinking today that I should just walk more. After I realized that in the time I spent sitting outside the grocery store waiting on the bus, I could have walked across the bridge and been home.

    Luckily, my city has a 30E/year bike service where you pay for the year then take a bike for 30min free anytime you want. Since I signed up for it, I have been looking for excuses to take it.

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