As someone who absolutely loves sushi, I was heartbroken to recently discover that I can no longer eat fish. Eating salmon and getting sicker than I had been in a while was one of the worst experiences. Not necessarily because of the physical pain I was in, but more because of the emotional ties I had with salmon. When I went on a recent trip to Uruguay with my school, all I ate was salmon. It was my go-to protein source (besides tofu) and has been since I discovered I could no longer eat meat. Now, salmon was gone and so was sushi. Or so I thought.
A few nights ago, out of desperation to find something I could eat for dinner, I decided to make tofu sushi. I had made sushi at home in the past, so I knew it was a pretty simple and easy meal to prepare. I got out some seaweed, layered on some brown rice, avocado, cucumber, hemp hearts, orange bell peppers, and topped it off with grilled tofu. I had nothing to lose, I thought. Well, let me tell you, this tofu-sushi concoction far exceeded my expectations. It was delicious! This new meal excited me because it was next best thing to a cajun salmon cut roll (at least that's what I keep telling myself).
So, you can imagine my excitement, when one day in class my friend Emma approached me and asked if she could come over to my house to make sushi. She had heard that I liked to make it and wanted to give it a go. Two days later a few of my friends, including Emma, came over to make sushi. We made spicy tuna, cut up a ton of vegetables, and I made sure to grill some tofu. We set everything up on the table, and before I was even finished making a second batch of rice, all of the tofu was gone. The tofu was gone before the spicy tuna! Keep in mind that all of my friends (with the exception of Emma) came over to eat fish.
I was blown away. Not only did my friends like my tofu-sushi concoction, they liked it better than the fish-sushi we had prepared. When I originally told them about putting tofu in sushi they were hesitant. However, so was I. But that's the beauty of all of this. Finding vegan and gluten free foods is all about being open to trying new things.
I think that vegan/gf cake is delicious while my friends taste it and spit it out with a look of pure disgust. They want that buttery, delicious flavor of red velvet that my cake doesn’t have. So, you can imagine how good I felt when my meat eating friends found my food delicious! :)
Have you ever had one of those days when you can’t exactly pinpoint what went wrong? Well, I did, about two days ago. I was sitting at home complaining to my mom about my sub-par day at school while shoveling handfuls of popcorn into my mouth. I was simply having a bad day. Why? I have no idea. Anyway, about ten minutes into my complaining session, I got a text from my friend Hannah asking if I wanted to go to a cardio barre class in exactly a half hour. Hannah and I don’t go to the same school, so it is often hard for us to make time and see each other. It’s safe to say that the majority of our plans are a result of spontaneous planning. I jumped up out of the chair, ran to my room, quickly put on workout attire, and ran out the door. I don’t think I could have been more excited to receive that text.
As I drove to the cardio barre studio, I realized that I had absolutely no clue what cardio barre was. I assumed it had something to do with a bar, and I knew that it required a lot of strength. What I didn’t know, was that it would take just as much mental strength as it did physical. I arrived to the studio right on time, took off my shoes, and entered the room. Having never been to a cardio barre class, the room was still exactly as I envisioned. The one I went to has mirrors on all four walls, and each wall was lined with a bar. There were also two sets of two bars in the center of the room. Hannah and I each had our own bar in the center left of the room. The room was quiet when I arrived, however, within minutes, it transformed into a loud, motivation filled environment.
We began by doing some exercises on the bars themselves. We stretched out our backs, legs, arms, and chests. After about five minutes, I looked up at Hannah, my face beet red, and said, “Wow, this is difficult.” To which she replied, “Gab, this is still the warm up.” I knew then that I was in for a unique work out. Throughout the hour, we did a lot of cardio that involved core, leg, back, and arm engagement. When we did ab or arm exercises, we did them in squats. It was strenuous. However, the woman leading the class was extremely nice and helped me with just about every exercise we did. She probably thought I looked ridiculous, though she never made feel like I did. When I was pointing my toes instead of flexing them she walked over and flexed my toes for me. When I was leaning on the bar and lifting one leg up behind me, she helped me adjust the foot that was balancing on the floor.
At one point, I said, “I swear, by the end of class I’ll be able to get something right.” She laughed and went to go help someone else. As the class went on, I began to get the hang of it. I tried really hard to push myself to the best of my ability. And although this was an intrinsic motivational goal, it was also repeated multiple times by the instructor. Throughout the hour-long workout, the instructor kept reminding the room full of women to work hard for no one but ourselves. She taught me that each exercise has a purpose. When I rotate my core to one side, punching my arm with each rotation, I should be envisioning that I am pushing all of the negative energy out of my body. With each breath, I was told to gather strength.
I said something before about how while this was very physically demanding, it also required a lot of intense, positive thought. To be honest, sometimes it was hard for me to get into that zen mindset. I was still thinking about all of the work that had to be done and all of the college supplements that had to be written. However, by the end of the class, I was way calmer than I had been when I came in. I was even able to catch up with Hannah for a good 20 minutes after the class ended without feeling like I had to be going home to work.
So, while this class was hard, it taught me how much mental strength influences our body’s ability to workout. When I had a more relaxed mentality I became less tense and my leg was able to lift higher. I encourage all of you to do the same next time you work out. Regardless if you go to a barre class or not, try to imagine that with each motion you make you are releasing a stress in your body. That said, I 100% recommend everyone to take a cardio barre class at some point in their lives.
My name is Gabriella. Join me on my health and wellness journey as I discover foods that not only please my taste buds but my stomach as well!