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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Now that my post-bacc is years behind me (I’m realizing as I write this that I began it in 2010, which is nuts), it’s very easy to tell an elegant story of adversity being channeled into growth, or about the benefits of experiencing rejection. I’ve been aware for a long time that I was probably spared a life that wouldn’t have been right for me when I didn’t get into medical school, but the passage of time has made it easy to forget how painful the loss of that dream felt when it first happened.

Over the last 11 weeks, I’ve had the interesting experience of getting a taste of the path not taken. I’m not doing medicine, per se, but I’m doing the kind of dietetic work that’s as clinical as it gets. Much of what I love about it—problem solving, the detective work of exploring a patient’s history, the intellectual challenge of establishing a problem and then finding my way to a suitable intervention—aligns with what I think I’d have loved about medicine.

The lifestyle, though, isn’t a fit. Maybe I’m saying this because it’s the first weekend since the DI started in which I feel genuinely and completely burnt out, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Oftentimes when I’m at work I feel interested, or even exhilarated, by what I’m doing. Yet it always feels as though I’m living somebody else’s life, doing someone else’s job, and I don’t think that has anything to do with my status as an intern. I think it’s because a part of me is strongly lit up, but too many other parts are dormant.

I miss creative work. I miss cooking with intellectual and artistic engagement, rather than trying to rush through my meal prep over the weekends simply for the sake of being fed. I miss having a little fun with food photography, which at the moment feels more formulaic and dutiful than enjoyable. I miss reading cookbooks and food blogs and recipes for inspiration; I miss writing about food from my heart and soul, rather than recapping what I’ve recently made and eaten.

I miss having a little unstructured time built into my days. Much as it’s been good for me to have a set schedule and structure in my life (so much that I’m already pondering how to have more of it next year), I’m not a person who’s capable of go-go-going. I’m too sensitive, too prone to burnout and overwhelm.

For a long time I accepted this while also wishing that I were more of a doer. The more time I spend in the DI, the less I idealize being able to work/do/accomplish nonstop. This, actually, is a huge gift: for the first time in my life I’m craving stillness not because I’ve tired myself out or gotten overly anxious, but because I’d very honestly rather have less to do than more.

Each weekend, I tell myself it’ll be easy to catch up on blogging and writing, along with errands and my DI class and other responsibilities. It isn’t—of course it isn’t. Blogging is my job. Thinking about and creating food isn’t just how I love to spend my time: it’s what I do professionally. For so many years I’ve had a hard time owning food/nutrition writing as my career; I’m constantly disclaiming that I’m also in grad school, also making my way into healthcare, also a former editor. The fact that it’s been so difficult for me to embrace a creative life has everything to do with my own insecurities and fears about charting an unmapped course for myself, rather than hewing to a clearly defined path.

As I noted a few weeks ago, the DI is teaching me a lot about how to trust in my own judgment. It’s also helping me to clarify some of my priorities as a person and a professional. I’m settling into the clinical work more ably than I expected to, which has been affirming. How surprised I’ve been, though, to realize that excelling in the ways I always hoped I could doesn’t entirely feed me.

Life never stops taking me by surprise, nor does it ever stop encouraging me to explore my hungers and the things that satisfy them. I’m writing this post from my sofa, draped in a blanket and feeling let down by all of the stuff I though I’d have energy to do this weekend and didn’t. But I’m clearer than I have been in a long time about what makes me tick. This is a gift, even if I won’t be able to act on it until after the DI is behind me.

Wishing you a week that makes you tick, even in the smallest of ways. Happy Sunday, and here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

Thanksgiving may be over, but that’s not gonna stop me from making Cadry’s adorable vegan stuffing muffins!

Ditto for Tamsin’s creamy mashed potatoes…

…and I’ll top it all with some of Marly’s vegan gravy!

Switching away from Thanksgiving fare, I’m loving Jess’ recipe for vegan stuffed pepper soup.

Finally, it’s been a while since I made homemade falafel, and Steven’s baked jalapeno falafel would be a perfect recipe to try.

Reads

1. I’m late to the party on this post, but so glad I found it, via Cup of Jo: 10 wise comments on breakups.

2. These tips on navigating Thanksgiving while in recovery could easily apply to the entire holiday season.

3. Kathryn Schulz’s terrifying, nuanced reporting on an earthquake that is supposed to hit the Northwest—though we’re not sure when.

4. Speaking of stillness/free time—and because the article title along is worth sharing—the profound pleasure of puttering.

5. This article, via the New York Times, echoes a lot of my own feelings about probiotics: helpful in particular instances (such as a bad bout of traveler’s diarrhea), but until we know more about how they work, there’s not a strong case for routine supplementation.

OK, friends. This sleepy DI student is off to take care of what needs doing before week 12 begins. Sending love.

xo

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

This year has been more extroverted than I’m used to, but also more solitary. On the one hand, I’ve been in busy workplace environments each day, constantly exposed to new colleagues and new patients. This is a far cry from the quiet, work-from-home life that I’ve been living as a self-employed graduate student for the last many years. It’s been invigorating at times, draining at others; if nothing else, a big adjustment.

On the other hand, I haven’t had the energy to spend much time around friends this year. I do my best to keep up with people and prioritize high-quality friend time when I can. But I’ve often been too tired to make plans in the free time that I get, when I’m not trying to catch up on schoolwork and the blog. And the last few months have been trying in ways that I haven’t really felt like talking about. Catching up with most friends means answering the question of how I’m doing, and I just haven’t wanted to get into it.

I always assumed that the DI would draw to a close and that I’d gradually rest up and start reconnecting with people. I didn’t expect to make a new friend in the midst of it—certainly not a close one—but that’s what’s happened. At one of my two elective sites, I’ve been blessed with the company of a co-intern who is quickly becoming a new, dear friend.

I say “blessed” intentionally. This last stretch of my internship hasn’t been what I expected and has been difficult all around, personally and professionally. To have a colleague and an ally has been incredibly comforting; it reminds me of what it used to feel like to have close coworkers, which is something I was fortunate to find in my first career.

My co-intern and friend is already a dietitian abroad, shadowing here for the sake of her professional development, and we share a love of food as well as nutrition. We grabbed dinner this week, and it was full of laughter and fun; we traded stories and shared impressions as if we were old friends rather than recet ones. I was reminded of how important friendship is, how much it gives meaning to everything.

I’m glad I’ve indulged the need to keep to myself lately. Sometimes socializing really doesn’t feel good, which is something I’ve been reminded of from time to time this year when I push myself too hard to make plans, more out of a sense of duty or guilt at being out of touch than a real desire to listen or share. Yet it’s important for me to keep friendships healthy even when my bandwidth is low. And what a nice surprise to be given this new camaraderie at exactly the moment when I thought turning inward and forging ahead was the only thing I could do.

I’ve got one week of rotations left, and I’m so tired that I haven’t really processed the reality of being this close to done. By the next time I check in on a Sunday, though, it will be very real indeed—and I’ll be able to tell you how that feels.

Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

Love this creamy, yet light summer cabbage salad from the ever-talented Heather.

A perfect tabouleh? Yes please! Katie has a knack for Middle Eastern inspired cuisine, so I trust her when she says this is the one.

No one makes hearty weeknight supper recipes like Jessica, and this tempeh stir fry with ginger peanut sauce is no exception.

I love the looks of Erin’s olive pesto pasta. I often end up with a half bottle of olives in my fridge and a lack of ideas about how to use them other than in salads. This recipe would be the answer.

And finally, dessert. This strawberry cheesecake from the talented folks at Sprouting Zen eats looks so good, not to mention super wholesome.

Reads

1. Scientific American brings some awareness to postpartum anxiety, which is distinct from the more familiar postpartum depression.

2. Leaky gut syndrome (also known as intestinal hyperpermeability) is incompletely understood in medicine so far, and like many diagnoses for which we lack a lot of knowledge, there’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation about it online. It may be some time before we have enough evidence to develop an understanding about it and clarify the contention that exists among practitioners about its very existence. In the meantime, I’m so glad that Food & Nutrition is making an effort to explain and explore this syndrome and its potential nutritional implications.

3. Some good, practical suggestions of inexpensive foods to buy when shopping on a budget. I’m a huge fan of frozen vegetables, and I liked the focus on everyday plant-based ingredients, like oats and legumes.

4. The New York Times reports on developments toward more gender equality in the sciences.

5. Finally, if you struggle with self-forgiveness as I do, a quick reminder: of course we mess up!

On that note, it’s time for me to wrap up what I hope will be my last working Sunday for a little while. Have a good night, friends.

xo

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

It’s interesting, what gets unearthed during stressful times. It was a long week, in spite of the July 4th holiday, thanks to my internship wrapping up and my mom’s knee replacement surgery. She’s doing really well, but these moments are fraught and trying for everyone. I haven’t exactly been a picture of equanimity or grace over the last seven days.

What I have been, though—and it’s been interesting to notice this—is honest. I’ve honestly expressed my needs (which included asking for help last week) and honestly communicated my feelings. Those feelings have been all over the map this week; they’ve included anger, frustration, resentment, fatigue, and anxiety. But I’ve allowed them to be what they are, and I haven’t edited myself around either loved ones or strangers.

I didn’t use to think of myself as being overly contained; after all, I share a lot of myself online, and I have no trouble opening up about seemingly intimate topics. The older I get, though, the more I realize how contained and controlled I can be. It’s not withholding of information so much as editing the narrative or the delivery in such a way as to make things sound a lot prettier than they’ve felt.

There’s much to be said for discretion and a health degree of privacy. But I’m always conscious of my impulse to control things, myself included. It’s important for me to close up the distance that I sometimes create between my inner experience and my outward behavior—a distance I maintain in order to make myself more palatable and pleasing—in the interest of giving others access to a more honest self.

This work, if you can call it that, includes being a little more impulsive, expressive, and not thinking so hard before I utter a word or give a response. It can mean stating boundaries when I sense that they’ve been trampled on or having the guts to articulate discomfort when I feel it. It means relaying sensations of vulnerability or hurt, rather than trying to maintain a posture of toughness around them.

None of this is easy for me, no matter how “in touch” with my feelings I consider myself to be. In many ways, the intensity of the last few months has exposed my nerves a bit, and while I dislike being irritable (which I am right now!), it’s not a terrible thing for me to in touch with a less edited, much messier self.

She’s interesting, this self; she’s pretty good at saying what she needs without stopping to worry about how she’ll be perceived. And in making a little space for her, I’m learning that my impulses and instincts are more trustworthy than I give them credit for being. My intuition endures a lot of cross-examination by my hyper-analytical, questioning mind; maybe I should spend more time listening to it.

I certainly haven’t found a way of communicating that’s a perfect balance of honest and conscious—both thinking and feeling, I guess. Maybe the deeper truth here is that a “perfect” balance is as much of an illusion as any kind of perfection is. My attempts to chart new territory, one exchange at a time, is the best that I can do.

Starting a fresh week with the intention of staying in touch with my experience—whatever that means and however it leads me. Wishing you a good one, too. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

I love the looks of Tuulia’s savory carrot and zucchini muffins. I almost never make savory muffins, but I always appreciate what a good snack they are when I do.

A hearty, versatile vegan lentil ragu from the wonderful Izy.

How scrumptious does Amanda’s homemade walnut butter look?

Tomato season is in full swing where I live, and I’ll be soaking up every second between now and October. This simple heirloom salad looks like a perfect way to celebrate.

And finally, a breathtaking vegan pavlova, thanks to the magic of aquafaba—and Agnes’ talent. (I used the translate function in Chrome to access the recipe.)

Reads

1. This carb champion never doubted the value of the macronutrient! But I was glad to see Carrie Dennett address one of the benefits of carbohydrates, which is gut health. Dennett accessibly covers new research into the disease-fighting potential of microbiota-accessible carbohydrates, or MACs. This is fancy terminology for the type of carbohydrates that feed healthful microbiota in our large intestine, thereby lowering inflammation and helping our bodies to fend off pathogens.

2. Via the New York Times, a second HIV patient has been reported to be cured of the infection.

3. Hospitals are loud! It’s one of the sensory experiences of working in clinical settings that I’ve noted most often in the past year. I’m pretty sensitive to sound, so I’ve wondered if it was just me. But this article in The Atlantic suggests that it’s not.

4. A look into the promise and potential of virtual reality as a form of therapy.

5. I’ve become a fan of Caroline Wright’s writing through Food52, and this essay is a reminder of why—so human and touching. Caroline writes about how her cancer diagnosis changed her relationship with tiramisu and with her parents (how’s that for zeugma?). Among other things, it’s a lovely expression of what it means to get older and to reconcile one’s ideals about how life should be with the reality that each one of us gets. It was a very good thing for me to read this week.

I’m signing off to gather up the last few hours of Sunday. Love and appreciation to you all.

xo

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Years ago, a yoga teacher of mine said something in class that sounded obvious, but wasn’t: “when it can be easy, let it be easy.”

I’ve mentioned her words on the blog before, so in the spirit of the quotation I won’t overanalyze it. But I will tell you that her advice has helped to guide me through this period of anxiety. It’s been especially helpful in the last week.

On Sunday evening, after I vented about my overwhelm here on the blog, I spent some time thinking about what could be simplified or made easier in the week ahead. Work projects couldn’t be, but there were lots of other things that could.

I reached out to a close family friend and asked whether she could help out with some of the care-taking after my mom’s knee replacement surgery on Monday. I ordered my mom some meals from Veestro, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about food during her recuperation, and I threw in a bunch for myself, so that I can spend a little less time on cooking and meal prep during this busy stretch.

I cancelled some work calls that didn’t need to happen right away and extended the deadline for a job that had snuck up on me. I asked a peer to walk me through an assignment I’d been struggling with. I delayed making plans with friends, explaining that it would be better to catch up when my rotations were winding down. I sent emails that were shorter and more to-the-point than mine usually are; I turned in a couple projects that I gave about 80% of my effort to, but not more, trusting that they were good enough as they were.

I asked my closest friend here in the city to keep me company at the hospital on Monday; I didn’t ask for company during my mom’s last knee replacement, and it turned into an unnecessarily lonely, tense day. I spent much of it looking around the waiting room at the hospital watching partners and families band together, feeling pangs of envy and sadness. Those feelings were (and are) honest and OK. But I don’t have to go it alone all the time, either, and I’m glad that I asked my friend for a little companionship during the wait.

It’s my tendency to take charge of things and then give them my all. I’m not ashamed of this; it’s part of how I work, live, and love. But I’m learning as I get older the profound truth of the observation that no man—or woman—is an island. It takes courage and wisdom to ask for help, to choose against things being harder or more onerous than they need to be.

This past week wasn’t easy, and the week ahead won’t be, either. Things will feel challenging until my rotations are over, and my RD journey won’t stop there: there’s an RD exam to take, and then planning what comes next. One lesson I learned as a post-bacc student is that it’s easy to live in constant anticipation of an easier, smoother, less demanding moment in time, telling oneself that the business of being at peace can be delayed until then.

It really shouldn’t be, though. There are always upswings and downswings in life, including periods that feel either especially stressful or especially sweet. But very rarely do the clouds part entirely, which makes it important to cultivate calm no matter how hectic things are. I’m beginning to understand that it’s almost always possible to simplify something, to put down an unnecessary burden or two.

That’s the spirit with which I’m looking ahead to tomorrow, anyway. And I’ll continue to issue myself a gentle invitation to let go of what I can and ask for help with what I can’t. Fingers crossed. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

I love broken lasagna, and I’m so intrigued by Lindsey’s tomato free version with vegan ricotta and pesto.

A great recipe for July 4th get-togethers: Sarah’s vibrant, layered bean dip.

These crispy, Indian-inspired vegetable and red lentil balls look like the perfect addition to salads, pitas, and grain bowls. You can use the Google translator function to check them out on Susann and Yannic’s page.

Lily’s oat seed crackers look like a perfect, portable snack for me as I wrap up the last few weeks of my internship, and her impassioned tribute to Joy Harjo’s work is as lovely as ever.

Finally, a perfect, all-American banana cream pie for Independence Day! Marly’s vegan version looks amazing.

Reads

1. The New York Times reports on the growth of Charley—now seventeen months old—who had a groundbreaking surgery in utero to correct spina bifida. Harrowing and inspiring.

2. Hypercholesterolemia, or clinically high levels of blood serum cholesterol, are improving but still far from ideal among American kids and teens. I like RD Keri Gans’ tips for prevention, which include increasing fiber, focusing on whole grains, and limiting fatty foods. To her suggestions for boosting omega-3 fatty acid intake, I’d offer a focus on chia, flax, hemp, walnuts, soy, and vegan DHA/EPA supplements.

3. I’m a big believer that all emotions, even those that feel most threatening, have something to teach us. I appreciate Amanda Mull’s reporting on their importance and validity.

4. Until I read this article I hadn’t given enough thought to the need for low-cost care for companion animals. I’m glad that New York City’s resources for vulnerable animals is growing.

5. Finally, happy Pride. The celebration in NYC has been inspiring so far. While I was thinking about the Pride March today and its meaning, I stumbled on Eric Kim’s article for Food52 about coming out to his parents. Kimchi fried rice plays a pivotal role in the family’s shared story—Kim is Korean American—and his compassion shines through every word.

In the spirit of compassion, connection, and celebration of who we are, happy Sunday, friends. I’ll be looping back soon with a new summer salad recipe.

xo

 

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