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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Five or so years ago, I sat in my apartment in DC one late winter evening with my friend Reed. We were surrounded by dirty mugs (we’d actually taken pictures at the number of coffee cups in my dishwasher as a joke, to document how hyper-caffeinated we were), index cards, papers. It was a chaotic scene, and I was adding to the chaos with something resembling a meltdown over not being able to figure out a complicated genetics problem.

We were approaching the second exam in our genetics class. The first exam had taken us all by surprise: at that point I was used to getting Cs on post-bacc tests, but most of my peers weren’t, and a hush had fallen over the class when that test was handed back. Few had done well, and some of us had done worse than others.

For me, it wasn’t the single grade so much as the prolonged discouragement of feeling as though I couldn’t catch a break in the program. And I hated the thought of spending yet another semester with the heavy burden of having to redeem myself on the next test, or else end up with a grade on my transcript that I wouldn’t be able to recover from.

Reed and I had been doing our best to prepare ourselves for the test. He was as calm and organized as ever; he’d shown up at my place with an action plan and a stack of neat, detailed flash cards. It was no surprise: Reed was a supernaturally talented student, and in fact, seemed supernaturally talented at everything. He ran weekend marathons and practiced jiu-jitsu at the blackbelt level while achieving near-perfect grades in our program and continuing to work in finance nearly full time. It wasn’t even possible to resent all of the talent and ability, because on top of everything he was a really nice person—and an unusually patient study buddy.

Me? I wasn’t handling our study session so well. After my fourth or fifth crack at a tricky problem, I was begging Reed to simply give me the answer. “Just tell me how to do it,” I moaned. “Once I know, I’ll get to the answer and I’ll show you.”

Reed shook his head firmly. “You have to struggle a little so that you can get to the answer,” he said. “You won’t figure it out until you do.”

I kept trying to convince him that I wasn’t game for this struggle, and he kept refusing to buy it. “I’m going to stay here until you work your way through it,” he said. (It was past midnight).

I was tired and irritated to be getting this kind of a push from a friend, but Reed’s insistence worked. An hour later, I’d solved the problem and explained it to him in my own language. It wasn’t a test or a tutoring session, but it was probably the first real learning breakthrough of my post-bacc, and there were more that followed.

I think about Reed’s words each time I’m feeling spectacularly ill-equipped to do something. I think about how sure he was that, if I spent enough time with it, I’d figure the problem out. The greatest challenge of my post-bacc wasn’t the difficulty of the classes, or the workload, or even the sleep deprivation. It was my belief, which seemed to get affirmed with every poor grade, that I just didn’t have the brain for science. Reed believed otherwise, and his faith softened my own lack of confidence.

This week, I began my second clinical rotation. It’s at a large hospital, and I’m working in acute care. It’s a much faster pace and a more stressful environment than my first rotation. I’ve learned how to apply clinical judgment in the last seven weeks, but now I’m facing cases that are a lot more medically complex than most of the ones I’ve seen. It’s daunting, and while I haven’t completed an assessment on my own yet, I’m wondering if I have the critical thinking skills to do it.

I’m glancing back to that night with Reed and reminding myself that discouragement and self-doubt can be much bigger obstacles than lack of knowledge or practice. I’m keeping in mind that every single dietitian goes through this experience; my current preceptors did it, too. I have to imagine that no one feels prepared, or able, at the start. Interns do their best, and preceptors are there to guide, support and teach them along the way.

At my last rotation, one of my preceptors noted that I was still hesitant to address labs in my assessments. She was right: I still had the feeling that I wasn’t ready for the more medical parts of dietetic practice, interpreting bloodwork included. “Take a crack at it,” she said. She wasn’t being flip; she went on to explain that she’d correct me and explain my mistakes if necessary. But she wanted me to try.

She wanted this, I know, because it was her job to help me become more confident. And confidence, at least in these types of settings, isn’t a have or a have not. It’s acquired through practice, through trying and sometimes failing and then trying some more. My preceptor gave me the same push that Reed gave me five years ago.

Today, at the start of week 2, I’m giving myself that push. I don’t expect to wield perfect clinical judgment this week, but I’ll challenge myself to keep trying. That same, excellent preceptor at my last rotation said to me at the beginning, “what we’re really looking for is growth.” Growth I can handle; growth I can do.

Wishing you all a great Sunday, and a good start to the week. I’ve got a cozy new soup recipe headed your way in a couple days. For now, here are some links I’ve been enjoying.

Recipes

I cook with cashew cream all the time, but walnut cream? What a great idea (and great looking risotto) from my friend Erin!

Has anyone else started collecting Thanksgiving recipes yet? This vegan pot pie is going on my list!

I love the idea of a mole pasta, and this particular one looks so cozy and filling. Bonus points for plant protein from black beans.

Can’t wait to try this wintery cauliflower, black lentil and carrot salad with some of my tofu feta.

Finally, a stunning dessert: vegan black sesame chocolate cake with matcha cream cheese frosting. I’m not a huge matcha person, but this would be a welcome way to enjoy it 😉

Reads

1. I enjoyed this touching essay by a pediatrician, published in the New York Times, about wearing a hijab around family to help mask the side effects of chemotherapy.

2. An interesting new study, conducted by a doctoral candidate in the UK, associates vegan diet with improved mental and physical health for Type 2 Diabetes patients.

3. I’m sort of fascinated by flow states, and this article touches upon their relationship with the perception of time.

4. Amanda Mull’s hard-hitting, insightful perspective on the language and branding of new health/nutrition apps, home testing kits, and other technologies. Her take, which I think is compelling, is that the emphasis that these technologies place on “optimization” echoes and potentially reinforces the perfectionism and rule-bound thinking seen in eating disorders.

5. I’m not a mother, but having had my own brushes with mental illness, I’m really grateful to Alissa Ambrose for this essay on post-partum depression.

Till soon,

xo

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Nutrition and Wellness

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

As I write this post the wind is howling furiously outside my window, and my apartment, which usually manages to stay pretty warm no matter what’s going on outside, is decidedly drafty and chilly. It’s a true winter’s day in New York City. Because of that, because of recurring sinus stuff that won’t quite quit me, and because tomorrow is the very first morning of my new DI rotation, I’ve barely stepped outside today.

Years ago, a day like this—sedentary, indoors, very sleepy—would have felt threatening at best, intolerable at worst. I’d have forced myself to move more, and if I couldn’t do that, I’d have forced myself to do more. My ego would be challenged by the lack of doing, my ED by the lack of movement, the terrible feeling that I had to earn my right to eat.

Most of the time, I find that growth and evolution happen so gradually and in such small ways that I can only take stock of them when I gaze back over a lot of personal history. Lying on my sofa today, I realize how different a person I am (in many ways—certainly not in others!) than the person who started blogging nearly ten years ago. That I can give my body permission simply to be—especially when being looks like hours of lying down, sitting still, eating what I want, ignoring work I don’t have energy for—is, when I think about it, pretty enormous.

This perspective is all the more poignant to me in the wake of Mary Oliver’s death. I, along with so many people, have been feeling grateful for her poems and her legacy. “Wild Geese” has a special place in my heart, because for many years it was an ED recovery anthem of sorts for me. If you don’t know it, here it is:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

When I first read this poem, I was so intertwined with my disorder that the very word “soft” was triggering for me—let alone “soft animal,” which had the additional, threatening implications of instinct and hunger. (“Full” used to be a trigger word, too, which is part of the reason I reclaimed it in my blog title.)

I said a prayer that time, faith, and many re-readings of the poem would give the word new meaning, and they have. Nowadays I love the words “soft” and “softness”; I especially love to think of them as an approach to living. “Wild Geese” gave me a much needed push to recognize and respect the wisdom and necessity of my body’s wants when I was in recovery. It continues to teach me a lot about allowing myself to go with the flow of things, to ease into life’s greater rhythm rather than conforming to a frantic, self-created one.

Challenging as the hours and schedule of the DI have been so far, they’ve tested my capacity for self-care. I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve passed this test (OK, maybe not the best metaphor) with lots of lovingkindness and self-compassion. I’ve managed to take as much rest as I can in the moments when I can, reserving my energies for the work that needs to get done. I’m cutting corners that can be cut. I’m skipping what doesn’t need doing. I’m getting better at knowing when to call it a day.

This may sound very obvious—shouldn’t self-care be second-nature? But I guess the point is that for me, taking care of my body hasn’t felt like instinct until recently, and I’m still learning how to do it. I’m thankful for the artists, poets, songwriters, fellow bloggers, and other creative spirits who have guided me along the way.

In the spirit of wise self-preservation, I’m publishing this post in spite of the fact that I was too busy resting yesterday and today to hunt for articles and links. You might be unsurprised to learn that I was not too busy to look at food photos and recipes 🙂

Here they are.

Recipes

There is nothing I love more than a good, old-fashioned vegan bowl with lots of hippie vibes. Hannah’s got a recipe for a great one: the Mother Earth Bowl from the restaurant Flower Child.

With the DI recommencing, I’m thinking once again about good, homemade snack ideas. I love Kiersten’s caramel nut granola bars!

Exactly the comfort food I wish I had on this freezing cold night (I’ve got this soup, which is pretty good but not as good): Jess’ buffalo cauliflower mac n’ cheese.

New Year’s celebrations are over, but I always love a bean and collard dish, and right now I’m all about Traci’s Hoppin John stew.

Finally, a perfect, earthy grain dish for winter (starring farro, which is a personal favorite of mine!), courtesy of the lovely Erin.

And in lieu of the regular reads, a link to Rachel Syme’s tribute to Mary Oliver in The New Yorker. It resonated with me; whether or not you’re a fan of her work, perhaps it’ll resonate with you, too.

Happy Sunday, friends, and take good care. I’ve got an easy rice-and-lentil dish to share with you this week.

xo

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

This whole business of self-compassion is most definitely a practice, which (for me, anyway) means days that come easily and days that don’t. Yesterday was a difficult day. I forgot something relatively important, which I should have remembered (and had set numerous reminders to myself about), which set off a spiral of anxiety about feeling unproductive, disorganized, etc.

This is a typical cycle for me: giving myself a break, often because I’ve gotten sick, and then undoing a lot of the gentleness with a subsequent panic about what hasn’t gotten done. The inconsistency in my productivity and motivation, the cycles of procrastination and doing, is something I’m still working on—and I know that burnout has plenty to do with it. But enhanced insight has yet to lessen the worry that I feel when it seems as though I’ve fallen behind. And the DI creates more deadlines, paperwork, and logistics than usual.

I do think I’m becoming more adept at breaking the familiar cycle once it starts. At the heart of this is the fact that I don’t want to waste any more time than I already have with the exhausting business of self-blame. In the past, I suspect that negative self-talk and self-censure was so much a part of my way of being that I was attached to it, whether I knew it or not. I feel very differently these days—aware that we’re all our worst critics sometimes, conscious of the fact that all behaviors take a while to change, but very ready to change this one.

Yesterday I spent my afternoon feeling especially rotten about myself. It didn’t take me long to realize how much I didn’t want the remainder of my Saturday to follow suit. I downloaded Kristen Neff’s book, which had been on my wish list for a while. I spent some time with it, and with Sharon Salzberg’s introduction. Then I met up with a friend for dinner before attending a kirtan at my yoga studio.

In spite of the fact that I’ve never been much of a singer—not for karaoke, not even in the shower—I love kirtan. I can’t think of too many life experiences that give me more joy than mantra and song with my spiritual community, and last night was no exception.

My friend and I were running late (as always), so the music had already began when we arrived. I found a blanket and joined in the song with something that felt a lot like glee—I haven’t been able to practice yoga with regularity this fall, and I’ve missed my home studio more than I realized. I didn’t know how much I was craving the company of my fellow yogis until last night, nor did I understand how starved I’ve felt of a sense of devotion to something bigger than me.

I spent the next two hours singing, clapping, snapping, and occasionally jiggling a tambourine in celebration. Celebration of what? I don’t know—the kirtan had a new year’s theme, but I wasn’t really thinking about the transition from last year to this one. If anything, I was celebrating the practice of new beginnings, which is personal and unattached to the calendar. I was celebrating the fact that my day could have felt a certain way, and a mere four hours later feel so differently. I’ve been ruminating lately on the power of starting fresh with each breath, each new moment, and last night felt like an embodiment of that possibility.

Most of all, though, it was a celebration of shared voice and song. And it reminded me that, while my practice of self-care often looks like taking it easy, resting, giving myself the gift of solitude, cancelling plans to take it easy, etc., that isn’t always what’s needed. Sometimes the best medicine is for me to step outside and choose to be with my community. I sometimes forget what a gift it is that it’s there. We’re all stumbling and celebrating, on our own and sometimes, if we’re really lucky, together.

I’m starting this new week with a sense of lightness and gratitude—and lots of video clips of last night’s music on my phone, which I’ll watch whenever I need to be transported back to the feelings I felt at the kirtan in the days ahead.

I wish you some inner or outer music of your own. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

I think I’ve met my next vegan breakfast taco!

A very cozy, very easy, wintery potato goulash.

I love the looks of Steven’s protein-rich Southwestern vegan posole.

Another simple meal: Aysegul’s one-pan Mexican quinoa.

Finally, Sarah has created one of the most beautiful whole roasted cauliflowers I’ve ever seen!

Reads

1. On the topic of burnout, a few readers have sent me the link to this Buzzfeed article now. I’ve found it to be, just as they did, incredibly relatable.

The article identifies a constellation of struggles, but especially a difficulty in managing everyday tasks and errands, that I’ve had a hard time owning up to. Why? Because the whole issue feels incredibly embarrassing (why should so-called adulting be so hard for me?), and because until now I understood it solely as a symptom of my depression, when I could admit to it at all. I may be much less alone than I think I am.

I don’t want to say too much, as the article’s worth reading in its entirety, but I did especially love this quotation (underscored to me by a reader and friend who was compelled by it as I was):

But for the first time, I’m seeing myself, the parameters of my labor, and the causes of my burnout clearly. And it doesn’t feel like the abyss. It doesn’t feel hopeless. It’s not a problem I can solve, but it’s a reality I can acknowledge, a paradigm through which I can understand my actions.

2. A fascinating look at alpha-gal allergy—which makes people allergic to animal meat and anything derived from an animal or its excretions—and its link to tick bites.

3. This interesting article reports on biomusic, an interface that allows for detection of anxiety or other emotions via physiological signals. It holds special promise for researchers and caregivers working with patients who can’t communicate through motion or words.

4. This New York Times article describes early research on the power of expectation or belief to impact satiety and the capacity to exercise. It’s one intriguing experiment only, and the results—which point to belief/expectation as vying with genetics in mediating the food/exercise-related measures—don’t mean that genetics are unimportant.

Still, I paid attention when I read this, as it’s long been my observation that strong beliefs and outcome expectations (for example, the idea that one’s relationship with food is incurably damaged) can reinforce struggle with eating and fitness.

5. It’s taken me years—and a lot of failed baking experiments—to figure out this critical distinction.

Speaking of Taste, the magazine has helped to make possible an awesome ebook promotion of Power Plates! For the next week, the Kindle version of the book is only $2.99, which makes it a great deal. If you’ve thought about getting the book but have been deterred by the price point, if you’d like to explore the recipes before or without investing in the hard copy, or if you’re a fan of cooking from your Kindle in general, you can check the promotion out here 🙂

Happy Sunday, friends. I’ve got an awesome, healthful cookie recipe coming your way in just a day or two!

xo

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

A week-long head cold wasn’t how I planned to begin 2019, but the nice thing about having some time off from the DI is that I’ve been able to absolutely nothing in the last few days, aside from drinking tea, answering emails from my phone, and catching up on television.

In the past, I’ve been great at talking about the importance of rest and slowing down, very bad at actually doing those things without an overlay of guilt or nervousness about what isn’t getting done. It’s amazing how fully and happily I’ve embraced staying put this week. I’m so grateful I feel that I can actually let things slow to a halt and give my body a chance to recharge.

In the spirit of not filling up my time any more than I need to, I’m keeping the weekend reading intro short today—with the sincere hope that, even amidst the hustle and energy of a new year, you can all find small pockets of rest and restoration this week, too.

Enjoy the reads and recipes, everyone!

Recipes

First, I’m loving Sue’s bright, crisp, and colorful black-eyed pea salad for the new year.

I make a lot of tofu scrambles, but I haven’t made one with different spice blends or global flavors in quite a long time. I’m getting inspiration from this vibrant curry tofu scramble, via Gastroplant.

Vegan comfort food perfection: a creamy baked gnocchi dish with lemon zest.

I never say no to a dish with pearl couscous! This seasonal salad also has pumpkin and pomegranate arils, and it’s easy to veganize by using maple syrup in the dressing.

Christmas may be over, but I’ve never been more excited to bake. These chewy vegan ginger almond cookies look fantastic, and they’re now at the top of my list.

Reads

1. Amanda Mull has some critical, humorous, and compelling thoughts on cosumerism and the culture of New Year’s resolutions. I especially liked this:

Accepting the fundamental fact of myself has allowed me to take stock of the things I do and to change the things within my control that I dislike. None of that has involved buying something on sale.

“Accepting the fundamental fact of myself”—sounds so simple, yet what a challenge it is, and how freeing when it actually happens.

2. I had a very difficult time reading this New York Times piece on wildlife electrocution, but it’s an important topic and worth sharing.

3. An interesting new approach to treating addiction by modulating memory.

4. I couldn’t believe how science writer Josie Glausiusz has often been told to make her articles digestible: by writing “[s]tories that pass the “Aunt Myrtle” test—would your hypothetical elderly aunt be able to appreciate our work?”

Glausiusz writes,

Along with many other science journalists, I have encountered this stereotype time and again. We are advised to ask scientists to explain their research to “your granny,” “to your mother or a ninth-grader,” to “Aunt Gladys.” As Einstein supposedly said in innumerably repeated memes, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” (The quote is “probably not by Einstein,” according to the Ultimate Quotable Einstein, published by Princeton University Press.)…

The well-worn formula is a prime example of the subtle ways in which sexism pervades science in a manner so entrenched that it is difficult to recognize. We are never asked to explain science to “your dad” or “your granddad.”

Kudos to the writer for sounding off about this kind of sexism and ageism in science journalism!

5. And while we’re on the topic of women and science, an awesomely comprehensive reading list.

Wishing you a great start to the second week of 2019, friends. Be back this week with an easy slow cooker recipe, which can transition perfectly into plenty of not-quite-a-recipe recipes.

xo

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