This food lover’s biggest challenge!

*** Before I get started… No, I do not look like a super model now; I am not lifting 250lbs overhead; I definitely do not have six-pack abs. What I am about to get into is not about magic. It is about struggles, efforts, emotional roller-coasters, realistic results and my feelings. Everything here is from my very personal, subjective point of view, and obviously, not everyone will have the same experience or opinions. 

First of all, thank God for grape tomatoes

Here’s a little background about me. I am a food lover with all these random cravings, which have to be satisfied immediately. Food is (almost) everything to me. 80% of my social media contents are food pictures. I think of the next meal while I am eating. Eating food (of my choice at the time of my choice) is one of the biggest joys in my life. When I plan trips (domestic or international), the first thing I do is to pick out restaurants and food items; then everything else is between meals. Yes, it is an obsession.

I was born and raised in a country where all three meals (and some snacks) consist of mainly rice and noodles – the “scariest” word in the world these days, CARBS! I have always been “fat”, according to Korean standards, and I have always been self-conscious about my body. I still am.

I have been doing CrossFit for about three years now and I absolutely love it; the intense workout totally takes your mind off all the trouble/anxiety for an hour and cleanses your body and mind; it keeps you fit; you belong to a very tight community. One of the things that keep me going back to the gym is food, though. I will run an extra mile and do five more back squats just for that cheesecake sitting in my fridge. Working out is great; however, everyone says that food control is a very important part of being fit. My CrossFit gym offers this nutrition challenge based on the RP diet by Renaissance Periodization a few times a year.

I kind of wanted to see what my body was capable of if I actually controlled what I ate – before I got too old. I had never read food labels or weighed my food before this challenge. I was hoping this strict meal/workout plan would give me more (visible) muscles and help me lose some body fat. And today, it officially ended. Whoa.

Here are the final results.

Duration September 13, 2019 – December 8, 2019 (12 weeks)
โ€œFight Gone Badโ€ score +37
Back Squats (lbs) +5
Deadlift (lbs) +5
1 Mile Run (seconds) -96 (It took me over 10 minutes before this challenge)
Rowing (seconds) 500m: -6                                        2000m: -22
Body Fat (lbs, DEXA scan) -13.8 (I am very happy that most of the total weight loss is from fat loss…!! Actually gained 1.3 lbs of muscles!)
Chest ((inches) -1 (Yes, boobs get smaller too…โ€ฆ)
Waist (inches) -4.75 (Less muffin top for sure)
Hips (inches) -1.75
Thigh (inches) -1.5
Arm (inches) -1.25
Weight (lbs) -14 (Weight loss each week was relatively consistent )

Overall, I am VERY happy with the result. Cardio workouts feel great right now, since I have a lot less to carry with the weight loss. I am ecstatic that the overall pounds that I lost is from fat loss. I did not really pay attention to weight loss before; a gigantic 25lb cat food bag weighs the same as the small dumbbell; so WHAT I lost, not how much I lost, really means a lot to me. On another note, I am not feeling as strong as I was about a month ago (FL1). Will get into that below.

Here’s the breakdown of each phase.

  • Base (Week 1 – Week 6) – I was very surprised at the instant weight loss and how long I could actually stayed at this stage. Also, that made me think, ‘how badly was I eating?’ Portions were just a little less that what I was already eating, but the biggest change at this stage was the kinds of food that I was supposed to eat: lean protein, healthy carbs, healthy fat. That got rid of a lot of things I was eating, though: pork belly, white bread, pasta, potato (chips), and pork belly and pork belly… The worst part in this stage, other than having to weigh everything and getting used to that, was the deprivation of my freedom to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat. After a couple of weeks, I had a mental breakdown and got seriously depressed. My solution to the blues was to watch a taco video on Netflix for 2 straight hours. Call me weird.
  • Fat Loss 1 (Week 7 – Week 9) – This was by far the best week as to the energy level and working out. I could feel my metabolism going! I had so much energy not only during workouts but also at work all day that I didn’t even need coffee throughout the day. I could definitely feel the muscle/strength gain and got to enjoy the pre-workout carbs, which I had never had before this challenge. The food was plentiful as well; I still got to eat protein, a generous portion of carbs (especially on workout days #motivation), fat and veggies at this stage. The biggest change here was the increase in veggie intake. 2 cups of veggies each meal are A LOT when you are eating every 3-4 hours. I think this was my favorite phase.
  • Fat Loss 2 (Week 10 – Week 11) – And there goes most of my carbs and hunger kicks in. Again, I come from a country where everyone eats so much carbs and still weighs 90lbs. Carbs are a must in my diet. Until FL1, this challenge was still enjoyable, but now I was not satisfied at all when I ate. I did this challenge with my husband, and we did come up with a lot of creative ways to cook delicious, yet healthy meals earlier. But at this point, food was just fuel – enough fuel till now.
  • Fat Loss 3 (Week 12) – Then, FL3 comes. Hangry all the time. No carbs, no fat. I was literally counting minutes during this stage repeating ‘what kind of life is this’ in my head. I got hungry 10 minutes after each meal, which actually made every single meal so precious! I cherished every single bit of minced garlic on my plate. Lean protein and 2 cups of veggies, that was it. I am absolutely glad that this phase was only for a week. It may have been necessary for the final cut, but this definitely did not feel sustainable at all.

From what I hear, one of the biggest challenges for some people is the actual cooking part. It indeed is very hard to maintain this kind of diet if you eat out often. I had to go on a few business trips while on this diet (THANK YOU, COLLEAGUES, FOR UNDERSTANDING MY BEING A PARTY POOPER & ORDERING BLUH FOOD), and I found it very hard to get enough veggies and good carbs from an order at most restaurants. A lot of times, there aren’t enough veggies on a salad so you have to order an extra vegetable dish. Even then, they are covered in butter and oil. Don’t get me wrong. Butter and oil are amazing things in life, but when your template says no fat… Also, a lot of seasonal vegetables that restaurants offer are root vegetables, most of which count towards your carb intake. Sigh… Challenges in getting good carbs, too… Sweet potatoes are usually covered in butter and sauces; rice is almost always cooked in something that I was not supposed to have; not a lot of restaurants have fresh fruit on hand. I even dreamt about opening up a restaurant where you could order food by your desired food macro. “Could I get 20g of protein with chicken breast, 2 cups of blanched vegetables, 10g of fat with almonds and 15g of carbs with berries, please.”

Eating out wise, going out to Korean restaurants was a little easier than other options, personally. There are always plenty of vegetables without heavy sauce, meat/protein portions are not ginormous, and you can always get “good” carbs from plain, steamed rice. The raw fish, vegetable, rice bowl was quite satisfying indeed.

To me, cooking/portioning was not a big deal. We cook all the time. We even enjoyed tweaking a couple of things here and there to make the macro work. For example, instead of using sesame oil, I crushed sesame seeds for more flavors. Mirin was used quite often to add some sweetness without using sugar. We used a lot of vinegar, Dijon mustard, ground pepper, red pepper flakes, lemon/lime juice, hot sauce, etc. to please our taste buds without adding anything unhealthy. Japanese tan-men recipe was used very often for our vegetable intake; obviously, without delicious port belly.

There are some food items that we absolutely loved having around. Cherry tomatoes are a godsend; they are very convenient to carry around and easy to store; they were an incredible lifesaver throughout the whole process. San Pellegrino replaced all our drinks. Also, tofu – especially the soft silken tofu; silken tofu is already ready to eat so it is perfect on a busy day; I usually add a little soy sauce, red pepper flakes and a couple drops of sesame oil. Pico de gallo is a delicious replacement for salad dressing or a heavy sauce!

Wait, did I mention Thanksgiving?

This challenge definitely made us a little shy about going to parties and hanging out with friends. It is possible, but to me, eating delicious food with other people is just more than putting edible stuff in my mouse. How was Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey breast wasn’t too dry; can’t say much about other dishes I chose not to eat. We did stick to it pretty strictly the entire time.

There were some firsts for me: food scale, pan spray (please don’t tell me what it really is… scared to know….), egg whites (I used to fight with my sister over the yolk), Amazon Fresh (another lifesaver!), drinking 1 gallon of water every day. Grocery shopping was something else. Because we had to eat so many vegetables (5 cups per meal between two of us), we basically went grocery shopping every other day. It was awesome that Whole Foods was in a walking distance and Amazon Fresh became free with the prime deal! I did run a spending report on my credit cards and grocery bills up by 10% compared to last year. At the same time, “food” category was way down too from not going out to eat as much. I started to take casein protein every night with this program too; taking the white power in small bags on my flight made me kind of nervous, but TSA didn’t have any issues. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Judgment and guilt. I have been always skeptical about people who are always “on a diet” aka not eating – without any substantial workouts. Or, all this craze about diet programs with fancy names these days. One of the things I learned from this experience is not all carbs are the same and neither is the fat. I could take 20g of carbs from a piece of cake (LOVE!) vs. take 25g of carbs from a half piece of plain, baked sweet potato; and I am confident to say that latter option is better for our body. For instance, during the first phase, I lost so much weight just by switching what I was eating, not necessarily by dramatically decreasing the amount of food I had been eating. Now that I have seen this change happen to my body, am I conscious about what I am putting in my body? Yes. Am I going to stop eating pork belly and cookie dough ice cream? Heck, no. Am I gonna be feeling guilty? Yes. Oh well.

So, what’s next? I am definitely keeping some good habits. Drinking lots of water. Eating smaller meals more frequently. Eating more vegetables. Comsuming a little less food than what body tells me to do. Brain, stop lying to me!! Also, we have been given maintenance templates and new base template to follow as well. We will see how that goes.

Today, I completed all the benchmark workouts and did the body scan. the DEXA scan guy looked at my numbers and said, “this is the best I’ve seen today! Keep doing whatever you are doing” and that made me very happy and sad at the same time. Because I know that I won’t be doing what I was doing last week, meaning some fat is coming back fast and my pants will be tight again. However, I would like to give myself a nice tap on my shoulder. I had never been on a diet, and this was an extreme challenge physically and emotionally. 

With that said, I also would like to take a moment to thank all the great coaches we have at the CrossFit box. I could not have made it this far without their guidance and cheers. The group of people in this challenge had a Facebook page as well, so we could share our difficulties and victories as well. Great to be around great people.

My big celebration meal tomorrow is gonna be this: ramen noodles with a whole egg (YOLK PLEASE) and a bag of potato chips. That’s right. Empty calories and bad carbs, oh how I missed you! So, here’s the conclusion. No pain, no gain. Or, should I say no loss. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nothing is free in this world and I have paid quite a bit this time. Now I am ready to get on the airplane and go get millions of tacos in Mexico! More “cheat meals” are ahead, and therefore, more food pictures are returning!! Stay tuned.

Special thanks to John for this amazinglicous hot sauce from Belize! We ended the bottle with the completion of this diet!

Asparagus meets pseudo-bulgogi!

Got some leftover ground beef? Make this asparagus wrapped in bulgogi marinade ground beef! Bulgogi is usually made with think slices of beef ribeye or briskets but who says you can’t use the marinade for ground beef?! ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

You can bake it in the oven (375F / 15-20 minutes) or simply cook it on a pan with some oil. 

For 0.5lbs of ground beef: 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of sugar or molasses, 0.5 tbsp of sesame oil, 0.5 tbsp of mirin (optional), minced garlic, chopped onions, chopped jalapeรฑos and some black pepper. 

That’s it! Super simple yet delicious! 

Hope you had a great Easter weekend! 

Getting my winter baking fix!

Once in a blue moon, I feel like baking. It might have been the snow on the ground, the cold crisp air or just me wanting some sweets but feeling too lazy to go get them. 

I googled simple brownie recipes and bam! Here they are all ready for my Sunday evening. And this actually is my favorite brownie recipe so far. Now time to devour while watching the golden globe awards!

Cheers to delicious winter! 

Recipe here!

Holiday cookie exchange 2016!

‘Tis the season! I am just coming back home from delivering cookies to our neighbors!

Baking isn’t my forte or my cup of tea at all, but baking for other people once a year is doable (well, with A LOT OF help from the hubby).

For the neighborhood cookie exchange, we baked two kinds of cookies. Got ideas and recipes from the Food ย Network magazine.


These tiramisu sandwich cookies were the bomb! Well, they could have been a little more moist but they tasted delish. I mean, how bad can they be when they have cocoa, espresso, vanilla, mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, Kahlua, butter, butter, more butter, sugar, sugar and SUGAR! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Then, hubby’s choice: peanut butter crinkles! These are firm on the outside and gooey inside…. Heaven in my mouth!

I gotta say, though. Every time I bake something, I keep thinking, “this much sugar?” ๐Ÿ˜‚ These peanut butter cookies had brown sugar, granulated sugar and powdered sugar (lots of it๐Ÿ˜ฑ). Oh well, not now then when, right?

It’s been so hectic. Now I’m ready to sit back and enjoy some Christmas music. Happy holidays!!

It’s the thought that counts; better when that thought is delicious!

My father-in-law is a HUGE fan of Linzer tarts. Since the whole fam is down here with us to celebrate the holiday season, I’ve decided to make his all time favorite snack!

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I gotta say, it’s a major pain to make these little delicious treats but it was definitely worth every bad word I let out of my mouth while making them! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I kept saying to myself, “it’s the thought that counts, right?” However, my father-in-law, aka a Linzer tart connoisseur, gave a generous 9 out of 10! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Now it’s time to enjoy!

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

It’s apples and apples!

I gotta say baking has never been my thing. It’s just too much precise measuring, timing, etc. Plus, it’s TMI! I don’t feel comfortable knowing how much butter, shortening (what the heck is this white substance anyway!) or sugar is in my desserts. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. ๐Ÿ˜‰ However, this Fall, I’ve been kinda “forced” to since I went to Hollin Farms in Delaplane, VA last weekend.

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So, what do I do when I have bags of apples? Gotta bake!

First, we baked a cinnamon crumble apple pie. Recipe is from Epicurious.com.

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I had never baked anything but store-ready-made-frozen-dough cookies but making this pie was a lot better than I had imagined. The best part? the crumbles!

Next, we baked “apple brownies”, recipe of which is also from Epicurious.com.

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This is actually my favorite so far. Crispy on top but super moist inside. Just the right amount of cinnamon. I brought this to work and the girls were literally moaning! #Foodgasm ๐Ÿ˜‰

And tonight, we made some “apple peanut butter cookies”. That’s right. Apples + peanut butter! This recipe I found on Taste of Home.

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Personally, I am not a big fan of peanut butter but the hubby is. ๐Ÿ™‚ They came out great. Very moist inside. The recipe says “grated peeled apple” but I chopped the apple with a knife. That way, the cookies definitely have more “texture” IMO.

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After baking the whole week, I did not feel like cooking tonight so we ordered some Chinese food. Guess what the fortune cookies said: “Apple” and “Sugar”! It’s a sign. We still have about a dozen of apples and that means we gotta keep baking! Bakers gonna bake, bake, bake, bake, bake~ Bake it up! ๐Ÿ™‚

Quick stir fry

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I just realized that I “cook” this quite often these days. It’s one of my favorite hodgepodge dishes and that’s just because it’s so easy to make!

Any leftover vegetables and/or any type of protein. Beef, pork, chicken, tofu or shrimp! I’ve tried all of them and they all turn out great.

On a pan, put some vegetable oil and cook garlic and onions so they get that nice color. Once they are cooked, dump everything in the pan. Depending on the meat/seafood, you might wanna put certain things a little later that the others. For example, beef or shrimp cooks pretty fast, while cabbages and peppers cook a little slower than that. Then you season what’s on the pan.

The key is the sauce. I don’t really like to use too much salt if possible. So these two things have become my BFF’s: oyster sauce & sriracha sauce! You can find sriracha sauce commonly in Thai restaurants or Vietnamese restaurants. This is easily found in any grocery store Now. THE SAUCE LITERALLY IS GOD’S GIFT! It can be used as a dipping sauce or it can add a nice spicy kick to your boring dish. Everything tastes better with sriracha. You can make an exotic aioli with it as well.

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When you are too lazy to cook anything fancy and you have a lot of leftover veggies – zucchini, onions, cabbages, peppers, string beans or any sort – chop them up and treat yourself and your beloved ones!

Weekend is here and the weather is beautiful! Happy feast!

Korean style spicy salad

20130331-202519.jpg What goes perfectly well with scrumptious bulgogi? This spicy, tangy, sweet salad! Any type of lettuce will do as well as bok choy, napa cabbage and/or spring greens. You can cut the lettuce into small pieces and mix it with the sauce. Add more if needed.
>>> The key is the sauce: soy sauce(2), vinegar(2), honey(1), minced garlic(0.5), red pepper flakes(1-2), sesame oil(0.5-1), sesame seeds(1)

So easy to make!

Orange garlic chicken – simple but great!

This chicken dish isn’t anything crazy. It literally takes less than 30 minutes to cook this delicious chicken. (Hmm.. Did I just sound like Rachel Ray? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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What you need (serves 2): 4 chicken thighs (deboned and pounded), 2-3 cups of OJ, 2-3 table spoons of minced garlic, jalapeรฑo bits (I used 1/2 of a whole jalapeรฑo)

Marinate your chicken in the ingredients above all together at least for three hours. Cook the chicken in a pan and season it with salt when cooking. BAM! Dinner is served!

I am not even sure if this is blog worthy but the chicken tasted so good that I had to post this for some novice cooks like me! A great dish is never impossible! You just gotta be willing to spend 30 minutes in the kitchen!

Bulgogi (beef) – Scrumptious but simple enough to make!

The picture is from the website of a famous Korean franchise restaurant called “Bulgogi Brothers.” They haven’t opened one in the States yet unfortunately. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ What you see up there is Bulgogi Bibimbap. “Bul” literally means fire, “gogi” meat, “bibim” mix and “bap “rice. It’s self explanatory except for the ‘fire’ part. That came from how it’s cooked and for more information, click the link above. ๐Ÿ™‚ Because I am too excited to reveal the recipe that’s so easy! There are more than a few different kinds of Bulgogi’s but this one is the most common and easiest one that you can make. The key is to get all the right ingredients. After that, it’s a piece of cake!

*** Recipe (2 servings) ***

<Meat>

You need thin slices of (usually) sirloin. I do have hard time finding this cut of beef at regular supermarkets. If that’s the case, go to H-Mart or an Asian grocery store nearby. They should have it and it doesn’t matter if it’s frozen. Get 1lb of the meat.

<Marinade – unit:tablespoon> FYI, everyone has a different recipe and this is my mom’s.

soy sauce (4-5), water (2), Coke or Pepsi (3), minced garlic (0.5-1), sugar or honey (1), sesame oil (0.5-1)

<Secret Ingredient>

Meat can be really chewy and here’s the ultimate meat tenderizer! Pureed KIWI! Use only half of the whole kiwi, though. Your bulgogi won’t even have big chunks if you put the whole thing – half joking. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you don’t have a kiwi, you can use half of a pear. This will add a nice tone to your marinade as well.

Now, you can mix everything together. You can put a little ground pepper as well. When you marinate the meat, you can also add onions as in the picture above. Let it sit for a couple of hours. You can even wait a day to cook it. Once you are ready to stuff your face with this deliciousness, cook it on a pan. No oil is needed. Add mushrooms (button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms are usually good), which go perfectly well with bulgogi. Cook it until it’s ready, which doesn’t take too long.

One thing about my mom’s recipe is that “Coke” part. You can add a little more water instead of that but her bulgogi does taste gooooooooooood. ๐Ÿ™‚ Like I said, everyone seems to have his/her own bulgogi recipe so do some experiment and find your own recipe! It’s another fun part of cooking, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Serve it over white sticky rice maybe with some kimchi. That’s one complete meal! Enjoy!