Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good. Have your own Feel Good Diary to submit? You can do so here!
Today: A former engineer who believes in focusing on “engineering a healthy and spontaneous life.” She works to make her nutrition and lifestyle as simple and efficient as possible, while traveling often. She and her husband never miss a workout together, and their mantra is “Just Duo It!" After leaving corporate America, she says her main goals are to make each day meaningful and rediscover health after burnout.
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Occupation: Couples wellness coach
8 a.m. — I wake up after a restful nine hours of sleep (ah, the benefits of being self-employed!). I tug on my sports bra and shorts while my husband begins his pre-workout ritual of applying a few drops of rosemary essential oil mix to his hair. We grab my iPad and our workout tracker sheets and head downstairs to our apartment gym. We do a 35-minute HIIT workout via iPad, which targets our back and biceps. I’m exhausted from my run yesterday, but I push through. Near the end of the workout, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Are those my triceps?! I'm stoked because it's the first time I'm seeing them — high five to that. The workout routine is part of my online subscription to Beachbody, which costs $8.25 each month.
10 a.m. — After a shower post-workout, my husband and I begin our work day at the bustling coffee shop next door. While we typically work from home to stay on budget, we were feeling stir-crazy.
We sidle up to a spot at the bar surrounding an antique bean roaster. After living abroad in South America for the past year, it’s refreshing to get fast WiFi. I order an avocado toast for $10 and a Hawaiian Kona coffee for $3.50, which I believe has a more full-bodied flavor profile reminiscent of red wine. Delicious.
I pull out my Beachbody Nutrition+ tracker app to log my general macronutrients (carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dressings or oils). I believe in eating well with high nutrient foods without skipping any food groups. The app helps me make sure I don’t over- or under-eat.
6 p.m. — My husband and I love cooking from home so much, we're writing a cookbook for healthy couples to make fancy AF dinners from home.
Tonight, we’re making Asian cod en papillote with baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. Cooking en papillote is French for cooking inside parchment. This is one of our favorite methods. It’s like a moist, mini-oven that keeps food soft and fragrant. I believe it’s healthy because you don’t even need oil or butter. For this meal, we used a homemade sauce from soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, ground ginger, garlic powder, and cornstarch with a dash of salt and pepper. We cut out a big heart-shape of parchment paper and load up the left side of the heart, layering the ingredients. We fold up the parchment and pop it into a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.
Organic Atlantic Cod from Whole Foods costs $3.30 per fillet. We purchased the mushrooms and bok choy from our local farmer’s market for $4. Fifty square feet of parchment paper can be purchased for $4 from your local grocery store. The rest of the ingredients were already in our pantry.
Daily total: $33.05
8 a.m. — I go down to the gym with my husband for a shoulders workout. We high five after combinations of shoulder presses, upright rows, front raises, and shoulder flies. Before we leave the gym, we take a selfie and post it to our free Challenge Tracker app, where our team of workout accountability buddies post daily. I believe you’re more likely to work out with accountability partners. Outside of my husband, I rely on my workout community to keep me engaged and working out every day.
After the workout, we make our way to the hot tub. Someone we see often in the hot tub where we live is a retiree who we dubbed "Hot Tub Buddha" because she doles out health wisdom on the daily. Today, her advice is to stretch every day, telling us: "if you can extend an inch, you extend your life by a decade." This fits perfectly with my New Year's Resolution of improving flexibility. I make a mental note to stretch for 10 minutes before bed.
6 p.m. — Continuing on with the cooking adventures, my husband and I make roasted harvest vegetables with sheet pan chicken. Although I'm typically a vegetarian, I make an exception for these kinds of recipes, especially since we’re creating a cookbook. We coat four chicken thighs in extra virgin olive oil, chili powder, salt, and pepper and lay them onto a baking sheet. In a separate bowl, we add olive oil, two cloves of chopped garlic, a sprig of chopped rosemary, orange zest, one sliced fennel bulb, rainbow carrots, and six sliced beets. We mix with orange juice and season with salt and pepper. After placing everything as a single layer on the baking sheet, we cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. It's divine and showcases the most gorgeous range of reds and oranges. The dinner totals up to $20, with a combination of ingredients we bought and already had on hand.
After dinner, I wind down, perform my normal nightly routine of reading and stretching, and I fall asleep to the Hawaiian breeze flowing through the window.
Daily total: $20
10:30 a.m. — I’m a smoothie fanatic. I view drinking smoothies as an opportunity to fill in any gaps of nutrition and address how I’m feeling that day. Today I’m sore from working out, so I focus on anti-inflammatories to help muscle recovery.
In a blender filled with almond milk and ice, I add fresh ginger, cinnamon, walnuts, and a small handful of frozen kale. Along with it, I add a scoop of our vegan Café Latte flavored nutrition powder from Shakeology to create a "Gingerbread Smoothie." It hits the spot.
My husband and I purchase Shakeology monthly because it's so easy. It's made with over 70 superfoods, so we know that we're covering our nutritional bases when we don't have time to "eat the rainbow." It’s $100 per month.
1 p.m. — My husband and I do gym workouts four days a week, so the rest of the time, we focus on active recovery. Today, we downloaded our favorite yoga routine by Tony Horton onto my iPad and headed to Waikiki Beach, a 10-minute walk from our apartment. Once there, we found a spot, spread out our towels, and did sun salutations to the hot noon sun.
I appreciate the restorative aspects of yoga, but, truth be told, I like it more because it’s instructive. Yoga shows me exactly where I need to improve my balance and my strength. Is my left leg stronger than my right? This helps me figure it out, so I can do other strength training accordingly.
5:30 p.m. — After several hours of work, I spring a surprise on my husband: happy hour! I rarely drink, but a friend of mine discovered a happy hour special, and I’ve been dying to try it. We order an organic margarita pizza with two drafts of Maui Brewing Company beer, all for $20. My husband gets their award-winning Coconut Hiwa Porter while I opt for the Pineapple Mana Wheat beer. The pizza was incredible and we tell our neighbors at the bar to try some. We finish with a bowl of spicy, boiled peanuts that taste a lot better than they sound.
Daily total: $120
7:30 a.m. — A favorite part of our week is our Wednesday "Old Man Workout" group. My 60-year-old father, who lives here in Hawaii, found the group on a jog two years back. Comprised of a dozen men between the ages of 45 to 75, the group decided, collectively, to start working out on the beach for an hour every Wednesday morning. The best part? After the workout, everyone brings coffee, cookies, and snacks, and it turns into a social hour.
Our workout begins with a walk along the beach. These guys know all of the locals and catch up with everyone they pass. Then, two lines are drawn in the sand, about 25 yards apart, and we do a series of grapevines, skips, and sprints between the lines. Next, we move to the beach wall to work on core exercises, push-ups, and squats. To finish off the hour, we practice our balance and stretch.
Now, coffee hour begins! We shoot the breeze, chug coffee, and eat cookies. As the youngest in the group, we get lots of advice during coffee hour — on everything from business to "Don't forget to call your father!" The advice and workout is free.
11 a.m. — It’s time for private surfing lessons I found on Groupon for $89. The last time we went surfing, my husband took a board to the face (fin first) in Costa Rica. This timeI’m optimistic, because Waikiki is allegedly the gentlest place in the world to learn to surf.
It's a calm day, and the waves are rolling in at two to three feet. We paddle out about a hundred yards, and my instructor positions my board in front of a wave. I hear him shout "PADDLE!" He shoves my surfboard forward and I pop up to take the wave. I was not expecting to do so well on my first try. My husband and I catch a dozen waves each and are both giddy on our surfing high.
5 p.m. — After working for a few hours back at our home office, my stomach begins to rumble. My husband and I decide to try another Japanese food indulgence: musubi. This handheld, triangular rice burrito is our go-to snack. It’s typically made with spam, but we opt for the healthier fish-filled and seaweed-filled options. Musubis may just be the most affordable snack in Hawaii. My favorite seaweed musubi runs a cool $1.88.
Daily total: $90.88
7 a.m. — When my husband and I left our corporate jobs in 2017 to work on engineering ourselves into the healthiest we could be, we decided to travel to a new location every two or three months. Soon, we’re moving to Colombia. With our upcoming departure from Hawaii in just two days, my husband gifts me a surprise trip around the island. He tells me to meet him in the lobby at 7 a.m. sharp. I come downstairs to find... an obnoxiously bright blue jeep with monster truck wheels. I jumped in happily, not knowing where we were going.
He speeds down the highway towards Hanauma Bay, the famous snorkeling cove. As I pull my hair into a ponytail, he pulls into a sleepy neighborhood next to the bay. He guides me as we walk along the highway to a gated trail, which we duck under despite the "no trespassing" sign. The trail leads straight up the ridge of a volcanic crater. It's a glorious 20 minute hike to the top, and we take some goofy yoga photos as the sun rises over the ocean behind us. My husband pulls out a Hydro Flask of coffee and two bananas, which we snack on while watching the sun rise over the beautiful Hawaiian mountains. Next we head to a cafe for breakfast. My meal of biscuits and gravy cost $9.
My husband rented the Jeep through Turo, a company that's like an Airbnb for cars. With our $25 off our new customer discount, the car came to $100.
3:30 p.m. — We pull the Jeep into Waimea Valley. Set inside a leafy valley, Waimea boasts a large botanical garden with a one-mile walk to a jungle waterfall. Admission to the falls is $12. Once at the waterfall, we see a gaggle of tourists clinging to the rocks surrounding a 45-foot, pounding waterfall. Wearing a life jacket is mandatory, so we slide on the cold, wet vests and gingerly climb into the rocky, freezing water. We begin to race, swimming against the strong current to see who can make it to the waterfall first. Of course, my childhood swim team days didn't fail me. I pulled in for the win.
After the waterfall, we pack up and head home, enjoying the sunset from the Jeep. Mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, it’s important to take breaks as a form of self-love and self-care.
Daily total: $121
8:30 a.m. — I go to the gym for the third day this week. It’s leg day. I follow along with a 30-minute routine on my iPad, that included deadlifting, sumo squats, and side-lunges. The last half of the workout was a brutal series of HIIT including 60 seconds of soccer sprints, 45 seconds of burpees, 30 seconds of jumping alternate lunges, and 15 seconds of bear crawls. Repeat, and repeat again. Ouch.
12 p.m. — Since this was my last full day in Hawaii, it was time to start cleaning out the apartment. In our fridge was a motley array of random vegetables and grains. My husband and I decided to make lunch into our own episode of Chopped, using only what we had in the nearly empty fridge. Pairing lentils with fennel? Why not? Quinoa and beets? Sure! Frozen corn with ginger? Well, we'll figure something out.
My husband and I create an incredibly odd stir fry, seasoned with curry powder, but ate enough food to last the whole day.
Daily total: $0
8:30 a.m. — Today, it’s a chest and triceps workout. My husband and I hit the apartment gym once more. We make it count, with chest presses, tricep kickbacks, and skull crushers. We finish off with two core exercises, bicycles and planks, before collapsing into the mat.
For the past year while traveling throughout Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru, we never had access to a gym. While we considered buying a local membership, some of the gyms we visited seemed too crowded. We subsist on Beachbody B-LINES resistance bands, $19.95, and our traveling YOGO yoga mats, $62.
11 a.m. — Time to pack up for our next adventure. While we aptly play Tidying Up with Marie Kondo for some background noise on the TV, we gather all of our stuff into the living room.
9 p.m. — After giving the apartment a deep clean and turning off the water, we lock up the apartment. It's bittersweet. But, we would be more sad if we weren't moving to Colombia. The next chapter is only just beginning.
Daily total: $81.95
Weekly total: $433.83
Reflection: The most negative thing about our wellness routing is cutting our sleep short. Sometimes when you're on the road, you're stressed about finding an apartment, or you accidentally work too much. I feel it when I don’t get a good night's sleep. To combat this, I always travel with my own pillows, sleep masks, vitamins (like calcium and magnesium), and a portable sleep sound machine.
The biggest, most positive impact in my wellness routine has been being selective about the foods I eat. Not only do I eat organic, I push myself to cook with foods I've never personally cooked with before (like artichoke!)
It’s important to act like an engineer or a scientist and document how each food makes you feel. You learn a lot about your body when you do this.
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