My pattern for the last few weeks has been to feel extremely optimistic about my productivity level on Friday night, when the weekend begins, and completely overwhelmed by midday Sunday. I was so behind on so many things yesterday that I decided to save this blog post for my lunch break today, and I’m glad I did. It feels good to write with a little peace and clarity, even if it’s later than I hoped.
It’s no secret that Melody Beattie is one of my favorite authors. I’ve mentioned various books and quotations of hers so many times on this blog that I fear I’m starting to sound like a fangirl (but maybe I am?). I follow Melody on Instagram, too, and she recently posted a quotation that stuck with me:
Work at learning to have fun. Apply yourself with dedication to learning enjoyment. Work as hard at learning to have fun as you did at feeling miserable.
My first reaction to this quote was resistance. It felt a little harsh to me, the idea that people work at being unhappy. But in the few weeks since I first read it, the quote keeps coming back to me. And my inner experience has actually pointed to ways in which it’s truthful and relevant.
I don’t think I work at being miserable, but I do think that I tend to give painful or frightening experiences disproportionate power in my own narrative. I often assume that the “bad” things that have happened are more likely to happen again than good ones. I dwell a little too much on hurts, not enough on joys. And I’ve noticed that, when I’m in a new situation in which many outcomes are yet possible, I often tell myself that the one I’d least like to happen is the one that’s coming.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to challenge this kind of thinking, but it’s not easy. A lot of it is learned, picked up long before I could be conscious of the fact that other attitudes are possible. As my therapist pointed out to me a while ago, there’s no easy road map for changing a lens we’ve been seeing through for as long as we can remember.
Time and patience, though, can work their magic in small, gradual ways. In the last few months, I’ve invited myself to give equal weight to everything I feel and experience. This doesn’t mean denying or disavowing the tough stuff, but rather resisting the urge to dwell on it–or to gloss over what’s hopeful.
One example of this is my spell of body dysmorphia in September. In the past, I might have been easily thrown off kilter by it, or spent a lot of time obsessing over what it meant. Instead, I told myself that it was like bad weather passing through and encouraged myself to ride it out. When I wrote about it during NEDA week two weeks ago I was struck by how much it already felt like a distant memory. I was conscious of the fact that it happened and curious about why it happened, but I didn’t allow the recollection of it to eclipse the many moments of feelings strong and solid in recovery that I’ve had this year, too.
The other example is a recent visit from loneliness and longing for partnership. My desire to share my life with someone is a constant, but a month or so ago I went through a few weeks of feeling that desire with particular poignancy. In the past, this too might have been something I dwelt on or used as a starting point for all sorts of projections.
Instead, I wrote about it here, which felt like a release. I let myself feel all of the things—frustrated, lonely, mad—and then I invited myself to let the feelings go, so that I could feel other things as well. A month or so later, I feel more at peace in my space and with my life as it is. I’m not minimizing how real my feelings were when I sat down to blog about them, only acknowledging that a change in feelings is real and possible, too. And it can happen quickly–from week to week, even.
I’m not sure if this is what Beattie means when she talks about working at having fun, but I think it’s connected. I tend to assume that happiness gets sprinkled onto life experience like pixie dust from time to time. And I’ve had moments like that: moments so unexpectedly sweet that they feel like an act of grace. But the older I get, the more I see that happiness can be consciously cultivated, too. This involves a willingness to let go of suffering when the time is right, to not regard pain as being any more sticky or powerful than pleasure. It’s all part of life, all worthy of attention and acknowledgment. And it all demands a little “work” sometimes.
I’m wishing you a week that makes space for everything: gifts and the struggles, laughter and sadness, pain and pleasure. Each of them just passing through. Here are some recipes and reads.
First up, a delightfully simple broccolini side with lemon caper sauce.
A mouthwatering vegan BBQ tempeh burrito. I plan to make all of it, but the tempeh crumbles alone would be a great meal prep staple.
This wintery curried potato, cauliflower and lentil salad has my name on it.
I love the looks of these easy chickpea fritters (and the bowl they’re served in).
It’s been ages since I made my own seitan, but the universe keeps sending me hints that it’s time to start doing that again. This vegan corned beef recipe, which can be made in the slow cooker, is my latest reminder.
1. A really interesting new review study links low-carb diets to greater risk of atrial fibrillation. Some of the suspected mechanisms for this pattern are reduced electrolyte intake, dehydration, and increased inflammatory response.
2. Jason Saltzman, the successful CEO of Alley, opens up in Entrepreneur about his experience with anxiety. I always love it when this conversation gets attention, and I was particularly struck by Jason’s contribution because I don’t often read about mental health in the business/entrepreneurship space.
3. On a similar note, CNN published a powerful profile of tennis pioneer Julie Heldman and her experience with bipolar depression. Heldman is able to reflect on her childhood and her experience with mental illness with incredible clarity and peace.
4. It’s standard advice not to share too much personal information at work, but does opening up ever bring colleagues closer together? Quartz reports on situations when personal disclosure, especially when it comes to stigmatized identities, may have an overall positive impact on professional culture.
5. Finally, and so sadly: there’s only one wild, free-roaming elephant left in the Knysna forest in South Africa.
Alright, friends. Happy Monday, and I’ll be back later this week with an easy baked bulgur and chickpea recipe.
Weekend Reading | The Full Helping
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I probably should have thought to post something festive before today, but instead it’s coming to you in a day or two. It’s a very tasty cabbage and pasta recipe, which I hope you’ll like.
I wrapped up another community rotation of my internship this past week. This rotation included a lot of group education and a little bit of counseling. In both contexts, I was touched, as I always am, to be reminded of how deeply people care about nutrition and what they eat.
It’s funny: in my nutrition grad program, we received so much guidance on motivating people and helping them to overcome their ambivalence. Motivational interviewing is virtually the only counseling technique we were taught, which I thought was a disservice. I understand why this was the way it was: our program was geared toward group education, rather than individual counseling, and one of the assumptions made was that we’d be working with groups of people who weren’t entirely sold on getting nutrition guidance in the first place–for example, those who have been referred to a dietitian by a primary care provider.
The relentless focus on motivation and “rolling with resistance” always struck me as limited, because my overwhelming experience has been that people are interested in food and strongly motivated to eat better. For a while I wondered if my experience was intrinsically limited by the population of folks I’ve crossed paths with as a nutritionist, but now that I’m more than halfway into my internship, I’ve only seen more proof of how much people care and how motivated they are.
From what I can tell, what stands in the way of meaningful change isn’t resistance or ambivalence so much as circumstance. It’s hard—really hard—to change one’s eating habits even when circumstances are working in one’s favor. It’s even harder in the face of life’s many difficulties, including financial hardship, stress, mental illness, family obligations, time constraints, and so on. Even with strong motivation in place, life can and does get in the way.
This isn’t to say that incredible dietary transformations aren’t possible even when circumstance is stacked up against it, nor to suggest that all nutrition patients and clients are strongly motivated. I guess I’m just struck by often people’s desire for change shines through to me.
I’ve seen so many examples in the last week alone, from the patient who broke into tears as she told me about a recent osteoporosis diagnosis (and her confusion about what to eat for bone health) to the patient in her early 90s who explained to me with pride his efforts to cook more vegetarian meals. None of my patients this year have lacked barriers to healthful eating. In spite of that, they care, and they’re doing their best.
This all makes me think about an article I read a few weeks ago, which makes important points about the way we construct and label laziness. I’m linking to it in my reads today. It also reminds me to be compassionate to myself when things stand in the way of what I’d like to do. My mind’s refrain is always “I could have done more,” but it’s often the case that I actually couldn’t have, because circumstances (fatigue, scarcity of time, being distracted by something more urgent) stood in the way. I wanted to do more, which is fine to acknowledge, but it’s different.
Wishing you a peaceful Sunday, with full recognition that you’re doing your best. We all are. Here are some recipes and reads.
Lauren’s split pea soup with cheesy sage dumplings is the definition of comfort food!
I can’t get over how authentic Anastasia’s vegan tofu benedict looks.
I love the texture and color contrast of Stephanie’s smashed chimichurri potatoes.
A perfect weeknight supper recipe for creamy, peanutty noodles and mushrooms.
Finally, how adorable are these bunny-shaped vegan Easter rolls?!
1. Recent research has called into question the idea that eggs raise blood cholesterol, but a new study affirms the case for dietary moderation.
2. I love variety, but I also know the pleasures of a tried-and-true meal. I smiled to read this article on people who eat the same thing every day.
3. Edith Zimmerman grapples with the awareness that happiness is fleeting.
4. This article about California’s wild flower superbloom brought a smile to my face.
5. Finally, Devon Price on why laziness doesn’t exist.
Much love to you this evening, friends. A veggie-packed pasta recipe is coming your way in a day or two.
Weekend Pause, 3.3.19 | The Full Helping
Hi friends! I’m a little short on words after NEDA week and pretty tired besides (I started a new rotation for my dietetic internship this week), so I’m taking a Sunday afternoon pause today.
I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your responses to the last few posts, here on the blog, on Instagram, and over email. It takes courage to share, and this conversation is enriched by every new voice.
Back to business as usual, I’ll be posting bright and early tomorrow a simple recipe for ginger baked apples that have been making my winter oatmeal bowls extra special. Till then, have a restful evening.
Weekend Reading | The Full Helping
I’m keeping this weekend reading post short and sweet, mostly because my writing energies have been wrapped up in posts for NEDA week 2019, which begins tomorrow! It won’t be a regular week of recipe-sharing here on the blog, but rather a week in which I take some time to celebrate the recovery process, with all of its challenges and gifts. If you take interest in this topic, perhaps you’ll check in from time to time.
For today, I wanted to share my appreciation for the responses on last Sunday’s post. It’s funny how writing works: when I wrote that post last weekend I thought I was venting about something that had been weighing me down. That was partly true—it felt good to get it off my chest, so to speak—but as is often the case when I write, the experience was healing in unexpected ways.
What I’ve felt most of all since publishing that post is a sense of relief in having articulated what I want without apology. I spend a lot of time yearning for partnership and an equal amount of time telling myself that I shouldn’t want it so much, or shouldn’t talk about the fact that I want it. Not sure what that’s about: I may be afraid to want what I want lest it not happen. And I may be—well, OK, I know I am—embarrassed to admit that I’m lonely.
It was powerful to put into words the thing I wanted, without apology. It felt good to stand in my truth, even if that truth involves a craving for what I don’t have right now. It was somehow important to articulate the desire in all of its urgency, rather than trying to pretend it’s not there.
Since last weekend, I’ve felt much more at peace and content in my space. Writing about the yearning didn’t make it go away, but it helped me to release some of the pent up energy that comes from carrying that desire around as privately and tightly as I do. Thank you for listening and for bearing witness.
And now, I’m jumping right into the recipes and articles that caught my eye this week.
No matter how long I’ve been vegan, I can’t get enough simple baked tofu recipes. This one looks so crispy and good!
Speaking of tofu, how about an easy homemade ketchup sauce to go with it? I have a pretty intense love of ketchup, and I’m sure I’ll dig this.
I’d never have thought to make pulled sweet potato (the only “pulled” vegan dish I’ve made has been with jackfruit), but Allie is onto something cool with these tacos.
Been a while since I made a good collard wrap. I’m loving the looks of the mushroom walnut filling in Lindsey’s colorful rolls.
Finally, I’ll take all of the homemade vegan cinnamon rolls, please and thank you!
1. Undark reports on a new program that’s trying to break the taboos surrounding menstruation and female physiology in Afghanistan.
2. A topic that would never have occurred to me, but it’s fun to consider: what will space suits look like in the future?
3. A new study suggests that higher intake of whole grains is linked to a reduced risk of liver cancer.
4. The New York Times profiles Edray Goins, a prominent black mathematician. The piece sensitively portrays Goins’ isolation within his chosen field, as well as the subtle racism and moments of exclusion he’s encountered over the years.
5. Finally, Mashable reports on a pretty hilarious Twitter thread of people sounding off about having forgotten words in public. My favorite?
One of my cleverest and most fabulous friends at university (now PhD in neuroscience) once forgot the word for what she wanted in a restaurant and tried to explain with “like a really REALLY wet salad”.
She wanted soup.
Have a wonderful Sunday, friends. I’ll “see” some of you around here for NEDA week! And for those of you for whom ED recovery isn’t of interest, I’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming starting next week 🙂
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