Monday, August 30, 2010

Three Cities, One Weekend

One visa, two bus rides, and approximately 20 hours of travel later, this weekend has come to a sunburny close.

Me and the “Bean” in Chicago

Chicago was good, and, actually, not a complete food nightmare. Since I couldn’t fit my running shoes in to the small carry-on I took with me on the Megabus, I wasn’t able to run in Chicago, but still managed to end my week at a roughly even scale of points use (perhaps a tiny bit over). I also didn't get to run in Athens during my 22-hour "WOO! I can see Jon again!" visit where, instead, we spent 9 hours outside in the 94º heat working our garage sale. That said, I stepped on the scale yesterday when I was at home in Athens and was down to 169.8, so hopefully I’ll see a bit of a loss tomorrow when I hit up the WW meeting at lunch with Deb!

I’m still working on figuring out a lifting plan, so once that’s figured out (hopefully this week), I can start doing that, but for now, I’m trying to figure out the workout plan for the week. I’m currently car-less, so we’ll see about getting to the classes. Ideally, I’d love to hit Zumba and Pilates tomorrow night, but we’ll see with my carless status. My minimum goal is to hit at least 3 of the training runs this week so I can move to Wk 2 (Aerobic intervals, Gentle pushes, and the 6-7mi long run on Sunday). I figure the 3-4 mile easy run on Saturday probably won’t happen since we’ll be in Auburn for the first football game of the season! Woo! Without any group fitness classes, that’d put me at 26 activity points for the week… Not too shabby, especially considering that there will definitely be a lot of food and beer involved in tailgating!

Anyway, I don't have a ton to talk about this week. Just looking forward to getting those runs in and going down to Auburn for the weekend. I'm so glad we were able to work a game in before I left for France! I know I'm a new football fan, but, still, seeing how much Jon loves it, I would have been bummed to have missed the entire season!

Question, do any of you have any good running book recommendations? My friend Christina @ Making Healthy the Norm recommended a book on lifting, which looks great, and I plan on using it to figure out my plan, but I’d love some running tips as well!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mini-Goal Self Challenge: Day 2

Quick post since I'm WIPED out, but I'm determined to keep myself accountable for this mini-goal challenge I've set for myself.

I planned out my whole day of points before breakfast and clocked in at 24.5, including a dinner time stop at my favorite: Chipotle. I was feeling really great about this until I realized en route to work that today was a fun morning at work where they were giving the entire company muffins and smoothies! I should've just stayed at my desk, but I went over with my girls and grabbed a bran/apple muffin (and turned down the smoothie) for an estimated 7pts.

I tried not to beat myself up over it and was planning on cutting back on lunch to attempt to make up for it... but the hunger and the knowledge that I had a run tonight had me eat what I'd brought anyway, so I'm ending the day with 31pts and 8APs from tonight's run:

Tonight was the first official night of my half marathon training and it called for a 2mi warm up, 5-7 aerobic intervals with recovery jogs and a 2mi cool down. At the beginning, this run felt AMAZING. In fact, so amazing that I ran my first mile in 10:24, a pace that I haven't hit in eons! I thought I was going to be able to keep that up, but clearly I was too ambitious as after that first mile, the rest of the run was really downhill (and I don't mean in the running down hills sort of way). My feet started hurting, and my right one even kept feeling like it was asleep. I ended up walking a bit between intervals and then after my first mile or so into the last 2 miles, I couldn't deal with the foot thing anymore, so I walked mile 5 all the way home.

Not my best run by any means, but it happens to everybody, so I'll just get back out there tomorrow (or Thursday, depending on the training schedule) and keep on trucking. Same with the food--not the best, but DEFINITELY not my worst "splurge" ever and I made up for it with my APs tonight. This goal is so happening!

On that front, one of my co-workers gave me a "miracle" cleanse diet thing that you do for a week and are supposed to drop at least 5lbs... I'm debating trying it just to kick start this whole process, but I'm torn. I've lost the first 20-25 just cutting back and moving more, so I almost feel like doing something like that would totally be cheating all my hard work and sounds a bit unhealthy... So, I ask you, my dear bloggie friends, what do you think? Have any of you ever tried one of these cleanse-y vegetable soup things?

Oh, and last thing... The YMCA lady hasn't called me back about the 1-month membership thing... I've done it 3 times before and this time when I called the girl at the desk told me I'd have to pay a $150 joining fee... to join for one month. Needless to say, that won't be happening. Hopefully if the lady calls me back we can work something out. If not, maybe I'll just buy the 30-day shred of something to do as Xtraining. What do you think?

PS- Tricia @ Endurance isn't Only Physical is doing a Surgoi give-away with running gear! Definitely entered and have already fallen in love with a pair of long running tights... Not gonna lie, these might have to be a pre-France wintery running gift to myself...

Monday, August 23, 2010

WW Weigh-in and back to work

Finally, after a little over a month, I was able to go to a WW meeting and hit up a weigh in. Here are the official stats:

Weekly weigh-in: 173.2
Loss: -.8
Total loss: 20.6
Emotion: Ready to kick butt!
LBS to go to 164 mini-goal: 9.2

It was up a few from Sunday morning, but that's what you get when you weigh in pre-food first thing in the morning and then after work. Still, I'm down from the end of Alabama, so I'm counting that as a win. Plus, I'm at 24.5pts for today (out of my allotted 24 daily points +.5 from weekly), so I'm feeling pretty good. I really just need to focus on storing up points for this weekend's trip to Chicago to get my French visa! I can do this!

It felt so good to get back to the meeting and into the groove. Now I just need to recapture the zeal I had last summer. Hopefully, being back at LPK for this month will help. Plus, I'm going to try and start weight training (as per Christina's reco), so I just need to figure out a place to do that and we'll see what happens!

Happy Monday, all! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back home and back to blogging

Whew! After a day of approximately 24h of travel, I'm back home in the States and currently residing in Cincinnati for most of the month so that I can work and earn some money before I go back to France. This Paris trip was definitely interesting and, most importantly, taught me a lot about myself and how I function. It also served as a more or less one month break from WW. I only counted points 1 entire week and, due to circumstances outside my control, I missed all of the WW meetings I'd considered attending. That said, I still looked at what I ate and kept up with my running, but still.

Thankfully, when I stepped on the scale at home this morning, I clocked in at 171.2, meaning that I'd lost roughly 3 lbs from my weigh-in in Alabama. Nothing stellar, since I'd previously been as low as 165, but I'm elated to know that not counting, I was able to at least maintain my weight while still incorporating baguette, pain au chocolat and other French delights into my diet.

While that's a comforting thought, I'm going to set myself a goal of breaking 165 before I leave to go back to France. That's a little more than a pound a week and would at least put me on track again by breaking that plateau. Starting tomorrow (when my points tracker resets itself for the week), I'm going to get back into WW like I'm new at it. There's a meeting at 6pm tomorrow night, so I'm going to stop by and get back into it. I'm ready to knock off the rest of the weight and train up for my runs. I'm sick of running a 12-minute mile on average and I'm sick of not seeing any progress and continuing to pay for WW.

PLUS, I don't know if I told you all, but I have two new runs in my future (hopefully!). The first is almost a 100% definite run: a half marathon on November 13th in Cognac, France! My new, future roommate in Avignon has a bunch of friends there who we could stay with and I'm so into this idea of running tourism. Also, I emailed a bunch of the other language assistants and I think some of them might join too! The other possible run would be the Barcelona marathon on March 6, 2011. That'd be during one of my vacations and, hopefully, during one of the times Jon plans to visit, so we could train separately and run the same race "together." Even better is that our friends Sonita and Martin are going to be living in Barcelona this year, so we could visit them at the same time! Wins all around!

Finally, the last bonus of these two races is that they fit perfectly together training wise. I found these two plans on Runner's World (Half and Full) that I think I'm going to follow and they time out perfectly against one another if you count back from the March 6th race day. I'm really intimidated by these ideas though since my current long run is only around 6 miles.

To get this ball rolling though, I would love to get some advice from you, my lovely blog readers, on the following:

1. If you track calories (and not just points), what site(s) do you use?
2. Any fun advice for running cross training?
3. Any must-reads or key training tips for cutting down on mile times?
4. Any general long run training tips?
I'm feeling SO intimidated!

Okay well, more on coming home from Paris and such later... I just wanted to tell you all that I'm back in the blogosphere in a more regular way and hope to FINALLY be giving you all some more positive weight loss feedback after a month of Parisian indulgences. :)

Can't wait to see any of your tips!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A rainy start to our last week in Paris...

So, it's our last week and Paris has decided to rain on my parade. Last night, I sat down and planned out two runs that I really want to do before I leave--the first hits the Eiffel tower, Trocadero, Étoile, the Champs-Elysées and Tuileries, and the other involves taking the metro to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont to hang out and then running back to the dorm. I'd hoped to wake up and do the second run this morning, but, like yesterday, it has been raining all day. I'm really hoping to be able to squeeze them in this week before we leave, so I hope to weather clears up! I'm also going to try and hit that WW meeting this week since we have more evening free time this last week.

In other news, I found my apartment in Avignon for the duration of my teaching assistantship! It's adorable and way closer to the university than I was when I was actually ATTENDING the university... Unfair, right? Anyway, the apartment is fully furnished and I'll be living with a student at the university named Claire. We've never met and I've not technically *seen* the apartment in person, but I think it should be great. Plus, it's more information than you get when you move into your Freshman dorm, right? It's such a relief to have found a place! Now, I just need to get all of my paperwork in order!

Other than that, I don't have much to report in the running/eating/whatnot arena, but here are a few snapshots from our last, rainy weekend in Paris:

Doing a bit of rainy souvenir shopping by the Seine

A mix-your-own bag of gummy candies for the movie... More expensive, but *bonus* portion control!

View as we left the dorm after yesterday's rain... Gorgeous sunset

A rainy view from my window

Taking a break from the rain by stopping for lunch in a crêperie near Notre Dame de Paris

Hopping on the nearest metro to get home and out of the rain

Oh, and I leave you with my favorite song of the moment. I stumbled upon it because one of my co-workers in Cincinnati just got married and this was the soundtrack for their "same day edit," a really cool idea I'd never heard of before where the whole day is filmed and then mixed and the short film is presented to everyone onscreen at the end of the reception. Interesting, huh? I love the chorus:

Hey boy, won't you take me out tonight?
I'm not afraid of all the reasons why we shouldn't try
Hey boy, won't you take me out tonight?
I get excited when I think of crawling into your arms.

What can I say? I'm sappy and, in many ways, very ready to go home and snuggle. Anyway, sorry it wouldn't let me embed the actual music video, but the video this guy made is actually pretty sweet.

A Day at Hammam Pacha

Friday, Judith and I spoiled ourselves by spending the morning and afternoon visiting the Hammam Pacha right in the 6ème by our dorm. (“Hammam” is the Turkish word that the French continue to use to refer to Turkish baths.) When I was in France in 2009 for my research, I went with a girlfriend for my first ever visit to a Turkish bath at a hammam in Arles. I haven’t found anything that’s exactly like it in the States, but it’s essentially a spa.

You start with a shower using savon noir (black soap) and then spend around an hour alternating between a “lukewarm” room and either the sauna or the steam room.

Steam room! (Photos of the hammam borrowed from its website)

Next, using an exfoliating glove, one of the ladies rubs down your entire body to get rid of any dead skin (the amount of dead skin that comes off never ceases to surprise me).

After rinsing off, you can continue alternating between the various rooms, or relaxing in the jacuzzi as well. From there, you get to pick what treatments you get extra. Judith and I opted for the package that included a 15-minute oil massage and a facial. It was a-mazing. I still have a cough, but the tea they gave us really seemed to help my throat quite a bit as well. Kind of expensive overall, but I’m so glad we did it.

The jacuzzi, located in the "lukewarm" room.

The "Rest" room, where we got our facials

Me, back at the dorm after my first facial, sans makeup. I'm a pretty big fan of this! So exfoliated!

Now, to tie this into one of the many themes blog (of course): body image. I’ve never been to a spa in the States, believe it or not, but, in France, the hammam is either gender-specific (like the Hammam Pacha) or gender-restricted based on day/time/etc. (like the Hammam Chiffa in Arles). Thus, most women choose to either wear only their bikini bottoms or to go nude completely while lounging in the various rooms and relaxing. This can be incredibly intimidating, especially as an American, since French women are “known to be beautiful” (I put this in quotation marks because it’s really just a stereotype). In fact, before we went, Judith said a friend of hers who used to live in Paris warned her to “be prepared to have her self-esteem shredded” by going into the hammam.

Interestingly enough, this was not at all the case for me (nor Judith, I believe). Everyone there was there to relax and take care of their own bodies, not to look around and critique and judge others. Honestly, there were all types of women there, all of who were, in my opinion, just normal women—no supermodels at this hammam, ladies! It was actually really empowering to see so many different body types and to see so many confident women—I actually left feeling better about myself rather than having my "self-esteem shredded." Interesting, I feel.

Anyway, I totally recommend it. If you're ever in Paris and want a splurge check it out. If not, who doesn't need some good R&R every once and a while?

Question of the day: Have any of you been to American spas? What was the body vibe you got there? Empowering or more of the "shredding" nature?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perfect, Parisian Day

So yesterday was a perfect, Parisian day. We went to the neighborhood of Saint-Denis, which is the first neighborhood north of Paris, to see the famous basilica there that where almost all of the kings of France have been buried. Somehow, my lucky stars were aligned and we got there just in time for a free, guided visit of the basilica. Sadly, I was the only one who could enjoy this stellar opportunity since it was in French and I'm the only completely bilingual person on the trip, but I'll tell them about it, don't worry! The tour lasted almost two full hours and took us all through the crypt and the heart of the church, explaining the history of the basilica as well as the various burials there and the impact of the French revolution.

Les vitraux in Saint-Denis basilica... Some of the panels date from the 12th century and the rest are from either the 19th c. or today

Look! A little market outside the basilica. I found some AWESOME presents for my mom, Jon's mom, and Jon's sister (and perhaps myself... ::blush::) here. I've found too many great gifts for everyone here and rather than not buy them, some are just going to have to be moved to Christmas (since I can't really afford not to!). I'm so excited!

Since the tour had lasted so long, by the time I got out of there, everyone from the group had left to go back to Paris. So, instead of leaving immediately, I found a quiet café in a little park, ordered an espresso, and just relaxed and enjoyed the early evening. It was nice to be in a quieter place for a few hours, since I'm not used to living in big cities and, in Paris, it's never really quiet and peaceful. That said, one thing I always miss about France is the plethora of cafés, where you can stop by for a 2 EUR coffee and sit outside on their terrasse for as long as you like. That said, in France, I always miss traditional American coffee shops, but, hey, I guess you can't have it both ways.

Mr. Garmin failing to locate us in Paris. He's apparently homesick.

Once I got back to the dorm, Nikki and I decided to go for a run, following the path I took on Sunday, only with a shorter cut, bringing the loop closer to 5 miles than 6. In the end, we ended up running 4 miles, since we walked the first mile, while waiting for my Garmin to clue in and chatting on the phone with a potential apartment for me in Avignon this year. The run was okay, not stellar. We ran at a decent pace (11:10 minute mile average moving pace), but I had a side stitch for most of the run... UNfun.

All in all a perfect, calm day. Very peaceful, which is just what I needed. I really am loving being here in Paris and learning new things about the city by running various routes and exploring different museums and restaurants, but I'm also very much looking forward to coming home and running in my old, familiar places, seeing Jon and my family, and getting back on serious track with WW. Although I've been tracking and running (not to mention all the walking), I'm still really scared about stepping on the scale at my first WW meeting back. Speaking of which, look at what I found in a bookstore yesterday!

WW cookbooks! It was weird though, because they didn't have points per serving in them... What gives?

On a different note, last night I was showing Nikki some old photos (I forget why) and I was really struck by how different I look compared with my Freshman year of college (in the first set), my sophomore year (in the second set) and, finally, my junior year (in the last set). I know the "today" photos on the right aren't the best for comparing, but looking at those other photos was such a shocker for me! (*Apparently, I can't format correctly, but the photos will have to wait till the end of the post...)

As a preface, seeing these photos really made me feel like I've made a ton of progress, even if I have been struggling here in Paris this trip as well as for a long time before coming here, gaining and losing the same 10 pounds. I know that if I get back to really, seriously tracking when I get home, I can even make these new photos "old, before" photos if I kick it in gear and get to it.

Anyway, on that note, I'm off for a visit to the Turkish bath near our dorm with Judith--I'll let you all know how it goes since I've never seen anything like it in the States!

Oh, and one question: Anyone have any good running/training/motivational books to recommend? I really need to up my running pace/game in general. I started looking at potential half and full marathons for Jon and I to run together in Europe in 2011 and if I plan on making that fantasy a reality, I need to push past this 5.0mph pace!

And now, the progress pics:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summertime sickness and my new favorite fruit

First off, I appear to have come down with some random illness in Paris, I'm guessing a sinus infection? Last night, I think I was running a fever because I was absolutely freezing and then ridiculously hot a few hours later... No fun. Thankfully, I was able to sleep most of today and go to the pharmacy to get some medicine. France's health care system is much different from ours at home, a fact that can be annoying since you have to go to an actual pharmacy to get any kind of medication... including advil. On the other hand, for minor illnesses like this, it's actually kind of nice because I was able to go into the pharmacy, tell the pharmacist my symptoms, and come out with a cough syrup and some pills for 7 EUR. AND, *bonus* the cough syrup actually tastes amazing. It's apricot flavored and makes me think of the scene in Mary Poppins where she gives the kids their medicine after playing in the rain.

Thankfully, I'm feeling much better now, though this has reiterated how much more irritating it is to be sick when you're not at home. Example: last night while feeling crummy, I was on the phone with Jon and he suggested I make myself a cup of tea... This would have been wonderful for my throat, but, alas, I don't have tea OR a coffee mug to make it in here, while I have a plethora of both at home. No fun. I swiped a glass and some tea bags from the dining hall tonight though, so it's all good.

As for the favorite fruit part of this post, I just wanted to say that I've finally tried raw figs and, wow, I'm in love. My family in France actually has a fig tree in the yard and we were able to pick some a few weeks ago and since then, I've been hooked. I'd never had a raw fig before and let me tell you, they're fabulous. They're fun to eat, since you can eat the entire fruit and easily break them apart, and they have a light, refreshing taste that's perfect for summer. I'm definitely going to have to keep looking for these babies when I get back home... DELICIOUS. If you've never tasted them before, I highly recommend it. Plus, they're really high in fiber. Win!

That's all I've got for now, folks. Sorry for the random post, but I haven't been on a run since Sunday, what with being sick and all (I miss it). Instead, I've been sleeping and watching True Blood on my computer (why is it that every time I come to Europe, I get addicted to a new American TV show? Weird.)

Night night!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Second to last week

Well, last week's goals went well for the most part. I successfully tracked everything I ate for the week and, even though I ended up being in the red for my overall points for the week, I feel really good about at least knowing what I ate and knowing that tracking helped me keep some splurges down. I also probably underestimated my walking around Paris points, but no matter.

I've bumped my runs up to at least 5 miles at a time, which takes me about an hour, and I'm hoping to continue to lengthen my runs as we move forward. My best run for the week was Sunday night, when I plotted a great run that took me from our dorm to the two islands in the Seine, where I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the sun set. I pre-planned it using and then printed out a map in case I either a) got lost or b) decided I wanted to lengthen/shorten the route. I ended up only doing 5.5 miles instead of the 6 I had planned because I took a wrong turn, but it's all good. Here's the route as Mr. Garmin tracked it. I've noticed that MG has a lot of trouble acquiring the first GPS signal when I turn it on, which is a pain, since I get really impatient, since as soon as it look like it's almost finished acquiring, the bar jumps back down and I have to wait again... Irritating. That said, there's at least .5 miles missing from this map since I started the timer and started running while the signal was still being acquired, so my results might be a bit skewed too?

This is my pre-planned route

This is my actual route, minus the untracked bit of course, but that follows the planned route perfectly.

Here are a few photos from my lovely iPhone that I snapped during the run... next time I run at sunset, I'm bringing my real camera...

Crossing over to Ile de la Cité via Pont Neuf... which, despite being named "New Bridge," is actually the oldest bridge crossing the Seine.

Another view from Pont Neuf

It's really hard to photograph yourself with an iPhone...

Casually jogging by Notre Dame

Either Pont Louis Philippe or Pont Marie crossing over to the Rive Droite from Ile Saint-Louis

A view of the sun setting and the backside of Notre Dame de Paris from Pont de la Tournelle

A view of the Panthéon in the distance as I jogged around the outside of the Jardin du Luxembourg

Overall, I really enjoyed this run, though next time, I want to start with the city part of the run, so that I can end up on Ile-de-la-Cité a bit later so I'm there exactly as the sun is setting. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the steady incline that I encountered on Rue des Écoles... I ended up stopping mid-run to buy a bottle of water. Through this experience I learned that the only way to avoid having a French salesperson complain about you not having coins to pay for small items is to appear in their store, panting and drenched in sweat, and apologize for only having a 20 EURO bill to purchase your 1E10 bottle of water. I've also learned through my recent runs that one must use an iPod and earbuds when running in Paris. I know that I run in skin-tight underarmour and am running through a city filled with people, but still, I really hate getting constant cat calls and, shall we say, audience commentary as I am running. On this particular run, I had a garbage truck pace me for half a street while the guy in the passenger seat hung his head out the window checking me out/cat calling. That said, the iPod serves to filter out a majority of the less blatant comments and make for a more peaceful run, for which I am oh so thankful. As beautiful as Paris is, I am looking forward to going running back at home since a) other walkers/runners are more friendly when you pass them and b) less "audience commentary." Allez-y, mademoiselle!

This run was great because it was the longest I'd run without doing any loops. As such, I'm finally starting to get a sense of where things are in relation to one another, at least as far as the Rive Gauche and a tiny bit of the Rive Droite is concerned. Lately, I've also tried to cut back on my metro use and start walking instead. As of late, I'm starting to find the metro a bit suffocating and tedious. Plus, walking around randomly has also led to me finding a majority of my purchases as well as some fun cafés and such. The extra activity points don't hurt either. ;-) Then, if I get lost, I can just use the iPhone to get a map/directions to walk home... not too shabby.

Aside from running, the past week was pretty eventful. Aside from our usual schedule of class in the morning/museum in the afternoon, on Friday night, we all went on the Paris Pub Crawl in Montmartre. For the 12 EURO fee, we were able to go to 4 bars and get a free shot with each beer/cocktail... Let's just say we had a lot to drink. It was a ton of fun--I even got to make friends with a nice guy from Québec named Guillaume who indulged my dorky side and talked with me about the linguistic and dialectal differences between France French and Canadian French. So fun!

Finally, this week also involved a lot of shopping... I've almost got all of my presents for my family (and Jon's, of course), though I'm still stumped on a few people...

We made a first visit to the famous Parisian puces or flea markets, where I snagged a pair of fake wayfarers for 10 euro (sadly, I think I still want the real tortoise shell ones...). I'm going to have to go back with more cash next time so that I can get some more presents. I've also learned this week that having an H&M close to our residence is really bad for my wallet, but wonderful for my wardrobe. Today, I went in looking for a tank top to go under this interesting sweat shirt/shawl thing I bought at Zara and left with a new jean jacket, a pair of red flats (10 EURO! Too hard to pass up!), and the tank top. The best part? The jean jacket fits and it's an American size 10!

I made Abby take a photo of me so I could see what the fakeys looked like... not too bad!

All in all, it's been a successful week. I didn't make it to WW, but Judith and I want to go this week (or next) so I can at least check a meeting out and, hopefully, bring back some French language materials to show everyone at our meetings back home!

I guess that's all I've got for now... Next time, hopefully I'll have another good run to talk about, as well and Judith's and my highly anticipated visit to a hammam in our arrondissement. I went to one last spring in Arles with my friend Nolwenn and it was amazing, so I'm hoping this one is great too! Hope you're all doing well, I'm sorry I've been so bad about reading/commenting on your blogs, I promise I'll get back into the swing of things as soon as I have more free time!

PS- Jon and I are signing up for the Hocking Hills Indian run on September 18th! Since it's a trail run (and we're trail run virgins), we're going to do the 10k distance. I know it's not the half marathon I was hoping to be running, but I'm still so excited to get back into race-training mode and to run another race with my boy! :) It'll be a packed weekend since the race is near Athens and we're going to my mom's birthday dinner that night in Cincinnati, but it's definitely worth it--I wouldn't miss either thing. It's shaping up to be quite the weekend. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Behind on blogging and a bout of homesickness

I know I'm being on a few runs, but I think I might leave the detailed posts about them out, and just pick up from here since I feel like I've really fallen behind with the blog.

I got to spend this weekend in the South of France with my French family and the friends I made the last time I was here and when I studied abroad in Avignon. It was really relaxing and stress-relieving to get out of Paris for a weekend and to go somewhere that I recognized and felt at home, especially since in many ways, the house my family lives in in Miramas was my "home" when I studied abroad. We had a really fun weekend grilling out, camping with friends, and going to the beach. I even got to catch a French film I'd wanted to see in theatres with my cousin before we went to meet my train in Aix-en-Provence. All-in-all, it was really what I needed this weekend to be. Sidenote: I accidentally forgot my swim suit in Paris and ended up buying this one at a Wal-Mart like establishment (called Auchan) for 7 EURO. Win.

I'm not going to lie, so far, this trip to France has been the hardest I've had yet and it's been alternately interesting and stressful to see that happening. It's mostly stressful because any time I'm unhappy here now, I then immediately think about how I'm going to be back here soon and for 9 months, which makes it worse to think about. I've thought a lot about it, and talked a lot about it to my "boss," my cousin Michel, and Jon, and I think it can be chalked up to several things:

1. Food
2. Fatigue
3. I miss Jon

I've already talked a little bit about the food I've found here and how I've been eating, but I don't know if I've successfully communicated how much the food here has been stressing me out. First off, I have really bad "stimulus control," especially when essentially on vacation in one of the food capitals of the world. It's been near impossible for me to say no when people want to grab a bite to eat and to stay inside and eat a frozen dinner or something instead (Living in a dorm REALLY makes me miss my kitchen). I also love trying new foods and going out to dinner to chat, so it's been hard to avoid.

Second, not being able to eat what I usually eat has been difficult to adjust to. I talked to Michel and my "aunt" Marïthé about it this weekend, so I think I'll be able to do better these last few weeks back here in Paris. My main food goals are going to be to cut back on the French bread and dessert consumption, try to eat smaller servings, and to keep eating my regular all-bran breakfast and the low-cal snacks I found at the market:

Look! A few of my low-cal, fiberific finds. I don't think you can find this Special K thing in the States (I'm not sure), but it's DELICIOUS. I'm thinking of bringing a packet back to my WW meeting at home to have some show and tell.

As for the fatigue, this weekend helped a lot. Coming off of the trip to Alabama without any time to really unpack/repack and then forgetting my carryon at home was really stressful and once I got here, we all hit the ground running, so I don't think I ever really calmed down. This week, my goal is to take at least one night to myself to go for a walk, perhaps catch a movie, whatnot and just relax a bit.

Finally, the missing Jon thing has been pretty big, honestly. It kind of makes me feel like a big baby, but again, I arrived in Paris, tired and stressed out and went immediately from seeing him literally 24/7 like I had for 2 weeks in Alabama to being separated by originally a nine-hour time difference and an entire ocean... Not fun. I still miss him a lot, but it'll be okay. I have my aunt's iPhone to use, so we have Skype, international texting, etc. to communicate, so it's not like we can't talk to/see one another, but it's still difficult. At least this will get us into a habit for when I come back. Also, Jon thinks he's going to come visit me twice next year so we can "do Europe," so that'll be really incredible. I keep seeing things in Paris and wishing he were here to experience it with me, so it'll be great to have him here for a few weeks at least.

Overall, after talking about it and doing some thinking while I was away from the group and Paris fora few days, I'm feeling a lot better. It is very interesting to see how different this experience is from my prior ones. It's amazing how different it is when you go to a country and just want to embrace everything and indulge in the food versus when you arrive in that country and still want to watch your food intake and eat more or less what you usually do.

Anyway, tomorrow should be good. I'm planning on a morning run and then having a healthy day--my aunt even sent me back to Paris with a bunch of tomatoes and homemade taboulé (my fave)! Here's to a healthy, less stressful week in Paris. I'm committed to making the remaining time the best, healthiest (mental and physical) time in Paris I can.

On tap:

1. Attending a French WW meeting
2. A visit of Montmartre, Père LaChaise, and the Pompidou center
3. A few runs
4. A relaxing weekend :)

Question: Have any of you ever had similar experiences on vacations? What did you do when your usual food wasn't available?