My current internship rotation is a pretty big departure from the last one. It’s outpatient nutrition counseling at a community health center with multiple locations around the city; I’m splitting my time between Harlem, Chelsea, and the Bronx. The work is nearly all diabetes management, with some weight management and general nutrition guidance thrown in.
The work often feels repetitive, and in some ways I miss the intensity and variety of intellectual challenges that I had working in the hospital this fall. But this rotation brings me back to counseling, which is my passion; it’s the very thing that made me pursue the RDN in the first place.
Nutrition counseling is a funny thing. In some ways, it underscores how incredibly different each person’s food story is. It definitely affirms the fact that there’s no “right” eating style or nutrition formula for everyone; in many years of working one-on-one with people, I’ve yet to see an approach that didn’t have to be tailored sensitively to the individual.
Yet at the same time, I’m continually struck by how much shared terrain there is in peoples’ experiences with food. The internship year has given me an opportunity to work with new, and extremely diverse, populations of patients. In spite of how many cultures, ages, lifestyles, and stories I’ve crossed paths with, so much of what I hear echoes what I’ve heard from clients in my own practice for years. Every patient finds a way to communicate to me a fundamental desire to preserve good health. Most people say that they know how they “should” be eating, but that everyday life often vies with their intentions. Nearly everyone feels a little better when they move and eat vegetables.
And then there are the shared struggles. In nearly every nutrition counseling environment I’ve worked in, I’ve heard people admit to deep shame surrounding how and what they eat. People spend a lot of time apologizing, for the food choices they’ve made, for the things they crave, and especially for their bodies. Too big, too slow, too weak, too small—I hear so many apologies for shape, size and ability. Many people carry around good/bad binaries surrounding food; oftentimes, their conceptions were shaped very early in life, by caretakers or peers and the way their appetites were criticized.
I’m both heartened by how much we share in our experience of food and saddened by how universal these issues of shame, regret, and struggle are. I feel sorry that eating is so often complicated, be it for practical, socioeconomic, or psychosocial reasons.
What motivates me in the work is the fact that, at least once in each counseling session, I see a patient or client’s face light up in describing something positive about eating. It might be a memory of something delicious, the happy surprise of discovering that a healthful food is much tastier than was assumed, the pride and reward people feel when dietary changes lead to health improvement, or the relief they express when their experiences are acknowledged and validated.
In any of these cases, I feel deeply lucky to be present and to bear witness. This rotation is reminding me of how difficult and tricky nutrition counseling can be, but it’s also giving me daily reminders of why I love to do it. And it’s making me excited for next fall, when I’ll be doing it on my own again.
I’ll be taking my meals with a sense of appreciation for our shared experiences with food this week. Wishing you some good eats. Here are my recipe picks and reading links!
Green apple in guacamole! I’d never have thought of this, but I love the idea.
Pretty much drooling over Cadry’s vegan reuben. It looks so authentic, right down to the marble rye!
If I didn’t already love falafel enough, here’s a version that’s stuffed with vegan feta (made with Violife cheese, which is pretty great).
An umami-packed vegan miso mushroom bowl from the talented Ania.
Finally, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, the prettiest vegan chocolate cupcakes.
1. New research suggests that vegetarian diets might boost insulin sensitivity.
2. A really interesting article on the science that underlies loneliness. It’s a topic that hits close to home for me, and I like the author’s suggestion that loneliness is part of life, but that there are ways we can choose not to be crippled by it.
3. A very interesting new study points to links between metabolic factors and the risk of developing eating disorders. This is news to me, but I was interested to read that prolonged low body weight/BMI in childhood may be linked to higher rates of anorexia nervosa. I’d be curious to see more research on this, but the findings definitely help to explain why and how EDs can develop very early in life (before social pressures to diet would be prevalent).
4. I enjoyed this essay on the power and meaning of rituals. Especially this line: “Tiny, everyday rituals are a hand-crafted prayer to domestic order, beckoning the divine to step inside a moment.”
5. Perhaps I’m biased—rutabaga is one of my favorite vegetables—but I loved Alicia Kennedy’s tribute to the humble root (and the recipe that accompanies it).
Most of my breakfasts this winter have been in the form of baked oats, which I prep over the weekend and enjoy with fresh fruit and/or nut butter before leaving for work. This week, though, I’m returning to my savory breakfast roots with the leftovers of a favorite tofu scallion scramble. I’m sharing the recipe (long overdue!) in a couple days. Till then, be well.
(Long) Weekend Reading, 2.18.19 | The Full Helping
My closest friend from college and his fiancé were in town this weekend, and I had the pleasure of having them over for brunch on Saturday. I whipped up the butternut black bean enchiladas from Power Plates, along with a big salad and a pot of coffee. The three of us had a happy few hours of eating, catching up, chatting about the wedding next fall, and connecting.
When they left, I had the same feeling of loneliness that often hits me when I’ve just said goodbye to visitors. This is a relatively new feeling for me, as far as feelings go. For most of my twenties and the first couple years of my thirties, I relished my solitude. I liked hosting friends, but I was always secretly relieved when they went home and I had my space to myself again.
It’s different nowadays. I still enjoy my quiet time, but whereas my solitude used to feel juicy and pleasurable, it now often feels uncomfortably empty.
I’m thinking about this because, in about a week’s time, it’ll be two years since Steven moved out. Much as I’ve grown in the time since that breakup—in spite of all I’ve learned—that split changed my life in ways that I’m still adjusting to. One of them is a changed relationship with solitude, which doesn’t register as the pleasure it once did.
In the wake of that breakup, I spent a lot of time scouring blogs, books, and emails for comfort and advice. Much of what I read and was told about healing the heart, moving on, and readying oneself for future partnership implied that the trick is to find contentment with one’s life as it is. Including and especially the state of being on one’s own.
This is probably great advice. But, if I’m being honest, it always rings a little hollow. It’s difficult to find contentment in solitude when one is aching for partnership, which I am. I gather I’m not supposed to be aching for it. According to some sensible-sounding experts, I’ll never find it until I feel completely whole on my own. But the ache is there, all the same. The thing that made this particular breakup so difficult—the thing that still makes it difficult—is that the relationship was my first taste of longterm cohabitation with another person. The degree to which I liked it took me by surprise.
I’ve always spent a lot of time on my own. This was true when I was growing up (only child, hardworking single mom) and all through college and my early twenties. I suspect that my eating disorder compounded this; I usually preferred being alone with my food routines and fixations to being with friends or partners. Much of the solitary inclination, though, registered as a positive, as an expression of my independent nature and my capacity to find contentment in reading, cooking, and daydreaming.
When Steven and I moved in together—a first for me at thirty-two—I was nervous. What would it be like to share my space, my mealtimes, and my schedule? Would I irritate him, or him me? The answer was yes, obviously. Couples get on each other’s nerves. But for the most part, cohabitation was sweeter and more fulfilling than I’d imagined. The rhythms of waking and sleeping with another person, having shared concerns, tackling life’s little difficulties and talking through challenges, and especially the joy of having someone to share my food with for the first time in my life: I loved it, even at its most perfectly imperfect.
Now I find myself back on my own. It’s been nice, at times. Right now, with the DI and all of its stresses, it can be a huge relief to come home to an empty apartment, put my feet up, and do as I please. But it isn’t the same as it was before. It’s quieter than it used to be. And in spite of it all—in spite of a home space that I love, good friendships, a fulfilling relationship with food, hobbies that keep life interesting—I can’t help but feel that something’s missing. One day, if my life is more intertwined with other lives, I may look back on this period of freedom and kick myself for not having appreciated it fully enough. But I’d be lying if I said that I want to be this untethered forever.
The good news, I guess, is that I’m keeping the door open to change. It took me a while to date again, but I’m now in the swing of it. As anyone would probably tell you, dating in the day and age of dating apps is deflating and exhausting a lot of the time. (In my experience, 90% of the time.) But the longer I date, the easier it becomes for me not to take it too seriously. It’s no small thing for an introvert like me to be putting herself out there as consistently as I am, especially since the DI leaves me so little free time. But I’m doing it, I really am, inevitable lousy dates, miscommunications, and mismatched feelings aside.
Today, as I consider these past two years of independence, I realize how far I am from the kind of post-breakup, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes success story I’d like to tell. I’ve come a long way, but I’m still sad and angry sometimes. I often covet and idealize lives different from the one I have—specifically, partnered lives. I’m not about envying my married friends, even though I know that marriage is its own great feat of hard work and faith, far from a panacea or a barrier to loneliness.
I’m more at peace with the past than I was two years ago. I’m less inclined to feel sorry for myself or to see myself as a victim of what happened. The DI has encouraged me to put my self-care skills into action, and I get better with them all the time. I have a ways to go with the whole contentment business, but the past six months have taught me a lot about gratitude, which is something. It’s more than something, actually: it’s a lot.
It wasn’t a divorce, we didn’t have a child, and we hadn’t even been together for more than five years. But that breakup two seasons ago impacted me in ways others hadn’t, because it gave me a taste of what companionship and a vision of a shared future can feel like—what trust can feel like, too. The unexpected loss of those things knocked me off my feet, and I haven’t quite found my footing since.
Maybe I’m not supposed to have. Not yet, anyway. Maybe the disruption and struggle are encouraging me to be open to connection—to seek it out, even—in a new way. If this is true, which I hope it is, then one of the pieces of post-breakup wisdom I’ve heard most often in the last couple years is also true: I’m right where I need to be, whether it makes sense or not.
Thanks for two years of company, support, and for very often being my reason for keeping my chin up and moving forward. I am so very grateful for you all. Here are some recipes and reads.
A new baked, steel-cut oatmeal dish to power me through mornings at my internship.
Nothing beats a colorful kale salad in the dead of winter, and Eva’s latest creation looks so appetizing (to say nothing of the roasted garlic dressing that goes on it).
I love the looks of Alissa’s simple, protein-packed, chipotle tempeh taco filling.
This mashed avocado black bean quesadilla is going on my weeknight dinner rotation immediately!
I wonder if Tessa would ship some of these vegan, gluten-free brownie bites to me? They look delicious, and perfectly snack-sized.
1. Since my current rotation consists mostly of diabetes counseling, I was super interested to read this article on a possible robotic capsule for insulin administration in the New York Times.
2. A new Dutch study suggests that meat consumption may be linked to a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
3. This essay about the true meaning of self-care was published last spring. A friend sent it to me, it resonated, and I forgot to share it. Another friend emailed me the link this week, which means that I’ve officially been reminded! Worth a read.
4. Important reporting on Strep A, a pathogen that’s usually treated early in the US with antibiotics. In other parts of the world, treatment is far less accessible. One of the potential complications of Strep A infection is rheumatic heart failure, which is often fatal. Mosaic magazine looks at this overlooked, yet devastating health issue and examines why a vaccine, which experts say is feasible, isn’t a reality yet.
5. One scientist explains why she wears a pink hard hat for fieldwork, even when it’s greeted with hostility.
Wishing you a week of fulfillment on your own and with your people, whomever they are. Sending love, and I’ll be back around here in a few days with a new winter squash recipe.
Tofu Scallion Black Bean Scramble
As I mentioned in Sunday’s post, baked oatmeal was my breakfast mainstay for the first four weeks of my current rotation. I have a few weekdays with long commutes, which means that a pre-cooked,
ready-to-eat breakfast was a lifesaver. Plus, it was often freezing in NYC, and something warm and sweet hit the spot.
I foresee plenty of baked oatmeals (or baked oatmeal cups) in my future before the winter is over, but I’m officially getting tired of the repetition. And I’m missing savory breakfast, which is, as most of you know, one of my favorite things.
A new tofu scramble to the rescue. It’s not actually new, because I was making it a lot this past fall. But it’s been a hot minute since I whipped up a new batch. There are countless tofu scramble recipes that I love and rely upon, but this one has moved pretty quickly to the top of the list. It’s super fast, super easy, and, because it features black beans and kale as well as tofu, it’s especially high in protein (around 20 grams per serving).
A protein-rich breakfast, as I’m continually telling (or hearing my preceptors tell) patients these days, can help to keep one fuller longer. Not something I have to give too much thought to when I’m working from home and can easily reach for a snack whenever I get nibbly. But it’s a serious consideration for me this year, with a schedule that includes long commutes, packed mornings of patient appointments, and not always being able to eat when I planned on eating.
The other special feature of the scramble, aside from the beans, are the scallions. They replace onions, which I usually add to my scrambles, and they’re perfect for my busy weekends of batch cooking because they cook through faster than onions do.
You’ll see that I also add a bit of tahini to the scramble; it sounds a little odd, but it’s a trick I learned from this scramble recipe years ago. It makes the scramble ever-so-slightly creamy (imagine soft scrambled eggs, vs. drier ones). And the healthful fat makes the scramble extra satiating, too. Here’s the recipe.
|Tofu Scallion Black Bean Scramble||
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Serves: 4 servings
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or
- refined avocado)*
- 1 small bunch (about 6-8) scallions/green onions, tops and white parts, chopped
- 1 15-ounce block extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon tahini (or cashew butter)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt (more as needed)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1½ cups cooked black beans
- 2 cups raw kale (or another leafy green of choice), chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large, roomy skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the white parts of the scallions are tender.
- Whisk together the tahini, water, lemon juice, turmeric, and salt. Crumble the tofu into the skillet, breaking it into bite-sized pieces or smaller (this can be up to you: some folks like a chunkier scramble, others don’t—I’m in the latter camp!). Add the tahini mixture to the skillet, followed by the nutritional yeast, and mix well to incorporate. The tofu will turn a nice, golden color.
- Fold the black beans and kale into the scramble. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Season the scramble to taste with extra salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Enjoy!
This scramble is pretty simple, in so far as seasoning goes, but feel free to add garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, or other spices to your liking. The black beans can be exchanged for chickpeas, pinto beans,
kidney beans, or another legume, and if you’re running short on leafy greens, another chopped green vegetable will work well. I often use whatever frozen, chopped vegetables I’ve got at home in a breakfast
Sure, baked oatmeal is a fabulous make-ahead breakfast, but so is this: I usually make it on Sunday and enjoy it for the first three weekdays of a new work week. To serve, you can pair it with whole grain toast, an English muffin, corn tortillas, a whole grain, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes—plenty of serving options. If you’ve got some extra veggies to add, even better.
Wishing you a new week full of nourished mornings. I’ve got two weeks left at my current rotation; change is really the only constant this year! Thank goodness for grounding breakfasts.
Weekend Reading, 2.3.19 | The Full Helping
This week, two people who are close to me were waiting for news about their health. They both got the news they were hoping for, and a few days later, my oldest friend welcomed her second child into the world.
Things happen all the time that make us stop and reconsider what we have. Sometimes the things we fear come to pass, and we find ways to move forward, to cope with them, to make peace with whatever realities they bring. Sometimes wonderful things happen, which help us to celebrate the abundance of life. Sometimes we’re caught between two possibilities, and the outcome that keeps us and our loved ones just a little safer is what happens. That’s what happened to me this week.
In all of these cases, it’s easy to pledge more appreciation moving forward, but it’s tough to stay in a heightened state of gratitude for very long. Life moves on, with all of its daily irritations and challenges, and we lose some of the perspective we’d gained. This is natural, I think, and maybe it’s for the best. If we were always hyperaware of the fundamental uncertainty of life and the preciousness of what we have, it could become crippling.
This week, though, I haven’t bounced back to where I was before my loved ones got their news. A sense of profound gratitude has hung around me all week, and it’s still with me today as I write. Plenty of stuff has happened in the last few days—some of it irksome, some genuinely difficult—and I’ve acknowledged it while continuing to feel a sense of bone-deep relief that, right now, things are the way they are. Not always easy and certainly never perfect, but full of blessings.
Such are my thoughts on this game day Sunday. If you’re watching the Super Bowl, I hope that it’s fun and full of tasty snacks. And no matter what, I wish you a week full of things to be grateful for. Here are some recipes and reads.
My friend Brandi has a knack for amazing vegan sauces (a knack for most every kind of recipe, actually), and her pimento cream sauce is definitely calling to me.
Amanda’s sesame Thai rice noodles are so colorful (and they look absolutely delicious).
I love the idea of tempeh taco meat.
Too late for the Super Bowl, but if I’d gotten it together to make something appropriate for the occasion, I’d have made these brown rice black bean sliders with basil aioli. Yum!
I’ve yet to make a vegan version of spaghetti carbonara. Jasmin’s version is simple and looks like a perfect bowl of comfort food.
1. I’ve both seen and diagnosed a lot of malnutrition this year at work. It’s shockingly common in hospital settings, and I’m glad it’s getting some mainstream coverage.
2. A new study suggests that vegan diets may help to boost beneficial gut hormones.
3. I’m a huge believer in the additive value of small, daily movements (chores, walking, cooking, even marching in place) and their contributions to overall health/well-being. I love this NPR coverage, which details new research that links such movements to better brain health among seniors.
4. A cool look at gynandromorphs, also known as “half-siders” among ornithologists, which is prompted by a recent sighting of a rare, half-male and half-female cardinal in Pennsylvania.
5. An interesting, provocative meditation on the way that human beings have conceptualized monsters and monstrosity throughout the centuries, and how that dialog is being affected by contemporary technology.
Happy start to the week, friends. It’s not in time for Super Bowl Sunday, but I do have a tasty vegan chili recipe coming your way.
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