Sunday, April 16, 2017

That's A Keeper 7

It's that time again.  My round up of my favorite "keeper" recipes.  I currently have a stack of "to try" recipes that is growing and growing by the day.  I'm obsessed with cooking anything and everything.  A few people recently have offered to be my quality assurance and let's just say that my family is one lucky family!  The other thing I'm obsessed with?  All the new cookbooks:  Vegan For Everybody, Over Easy, and A New Way To Bake - are just my most recent acquisitions.  Yes, there are SO many recipes to try.  I consider it my civic duty to bring you only the BEST of the BEST.  You're welcome.  Here we go:

Overnight Oats is my Jam.  Beets aren't my jam.  But I recently discovered a way even I will beets.  That's right.  You won't even know the beets are in your oats!  Beets for Breakfast!!  Just know your hands will turn pink and your kitchen may or may not look like an episode of Dexter (remember I need a Go Pro watching my every more...I am NOT graceful in the kitchen).  My recipe for overnight oats is simple:  1/2 cup of rolled oats mixed with 1/2 cup of milk (I use skim milk for the extra protein, feel free to use almond milk or whatever alternative milk of your choosing).  The next morning I add this Beet Berry sauce along with the nut butter of my choice.  Heat in the microwave for a little over a minute and voila, your breakfast is served.  Phenomenal.  I do not add any extra sweetener as I've adjusted over time.  You can too.  Believe me -  start reducing how much you use - in no time you'll be adding none.

For those that have kids that don't like vegetables, here's a recipe for you! Adults I'm looking at you too!  Yes you!  There are so many different ways to prepare vegetables in all their glorious forms, I find it hard at times to believe my patients when they say they don't like vegetables.  I say keep trying and then hand them a recipe.  While most people might like broccoli, I like this recipe because I'm able to use not only the broccoli crowns but also the stems - yes, this dietitian has thrown away way too many broccoli stems in her life.  Never again!  Less food waste is my goal.  And this recipe helps with that!  It gets better on day 2.

I'm a vegetarian and recently have been eating more seafood, so technically I'm a pescatarian (more on that later).  this dish is a combination of flavors that is OUT OF THIS WORLD!  I haven't been repeating recipes lately, you know because there's so many to try, but this one might need to be repeated this weekend!  The almond, parsley, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese topping?  The BEST - I want to put it on EVERYTHING!  Not only is it gorgeous, but it's SO flavorful.  Make this tonight!  And then let me know why leeks are so expensive - random question, but I need to know.

Crock-Pot.  Slow-Cooker.  Whatever you want to call it, they can be a life-saver when it comes to dinner.  When I lived in California I would take mine to work.  I'd start the crock-pot around noon so it'd be done by the time I would be leaving from work.  I didn't have an automatic timer back then, so this was the safest way.  Additionally this was the only way I'd eat meat - fall apart and where I didn't have to chew.  So it did save a lot of time and effort, but flash forward to now and I'm not sure why I still have one.  Enter this recipe.  Easy Split Pea Soup.  I threw everything in the crock-pot on high and three hours later, voila, a few lunches for the week, done.  I froze the rest as it made so much, but it couldn't have been any easier.  Really.  I'll need to find a few more to throw into the rotation.  And just a side-note, I didn't puree mine.  I like a little more texture in my soup and keeping it real, I didn't want to dirty my food processor.  I added some Greek yogurt on top instead of sour cream, creamy protein goodness.

I started training the first week of September for the Miami Marathon.  Right around the middle of October I randomly spot checked my food intake to make sure I was on the mark getting enough carbohydrates and protein.  As a vegetarian I do still consume milk, cheese, eggs, and yogurt, but with all the training I was doing I was not getting enough protein.  I was getting too many carbs and knew I needed to change it up.  I do not use protein powders but do use nuts in any form - nuts, nuts butter, and/or nut "cheese".  If I was tired of nuts I'd default and eat more cheese.  And while that most times helped me get enough protein my saturated fat intake was always too much.  Love cheese, but I was eating WAY too much.  So I decided to include more seafood.  I would eat fish occasionally when eating out, so yes, I'm technically a pescatarian, but I do/did that because many restaurants do NOT understand a balanced vegetarian meal.  Here I was in the thick of it training for this marathon and I wanted to make sure I was fueling my body right and helping to avoid any injuries.  So I decided to include fish three times per week along with my normal vegetarian meals on the other days.  This salmon recipe was on repeat for the first month.  I'd make the sauce for the week and it literally took just 5 minutes broiling on each side.  Quick, life-saving dinner.  But I knew I needed to change it up for boredom's sake.  I prepped the salmon the same way and then mixed it up like a deconstructed sushi bowl.   Didn't have time to roll sushi and brown rice as a complex carbohydrate had been a good fuel source for me.  I felt like I was winning.

But since it was still my go-to salmon I was starting to get bored.  I'm a vegetarian for a reason, I've never liked the texture of meat, so I was always hesitant to try seafood not only for the texture issue but also because I was worried of the "fishy" taste (or so I thought).  Enter halibut.  Yes, it's pricey and yes, I could have substituted another fish.  But you have to remember I was going for having a good experience with the fish and didn't want to fear that I wouldn't end up liking it.  This recipe by Williams Sonoma is beyond phenomenal.  You'll feel like a gourmet chef it's that good.  I rarely eat out and wanted to treat myself to nourished meals at home during this intense training.   Food for my body and soul. 

My patients are always telling me they don't have time to cook.  I'm a big fan of meal prep on the weekends.  You set the tone for the week and have key items already prepared so that when it comes down to the weeknights, cooking is a breeze (or at least a little easier).  I typically cook my grains for the week - brown rice, quinoa, whatever grain I'm using for the week.  They heat up just fine, there's no need to be cooking rice every night.  And with this next recipe, it couldn't be any easier.  I make the sauce up on the weekend, so when it comes to dinner, it only take 20 minutes in parchment paper and voila, dinner is done.  I do saute the spinach in the last 2 minutes of cooking, but it's the easiest way to get your vegetables in and not have to prepare too much extra.  Lemon-Herb Shrimp Packets - I've made it with fresh herbs and dried herbs and while fresh taste best, the dried ones worked in a pinch.  The best part?  THE easiest clean-up of all my dinners yet!

During my training I limited my desserts (and alcohol).  While I normally do have something sweet every day, I limit my portion size.  I am a dietitian that eats desserts, in moderation.  I've found that when I do allot for myself to have small amounts here and there it leads to less overeating (at least for me).  As I tell my patients, whether they are salty or sweet people, you have to learn how you are in regards to certain foods.  I get people that will tell me that they are "all or none people" and they prefer to go without desserts as it's too much of a temptation.  I've seen it way too many times that in those restrictive type atmospheres people end up overeating the very foods they were trying so hard to avoid all along.  Again, there's a lot more when it comes to food then just nourishment.  But back to desserts and training.  This was my go-to dessert during training- 4 Ingredient Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs - it made 8 eggs, so I had one for everyday of the week and the extra I ended up sharing.  Don't get me wrong - my birthday and the holidays fell during marathon training so I definitely had cake on my birthday, pumpkin tiramisu on Thanksgiving, and creme brulee on Christmas - but training was 4 months long so there was bound to be some desserts that entered the picture.  This recipe for only having 4 ingredients tastes like a replica of the Reese's eggs and is SO much better for you - minimal added sugar - and it felt like an indulgence.  I wanted to train hard and eat right and these did just the trick.  The best part?  The peanut butter dough is so pliable you can shape it into almost anything.  I made them for Valentine's Day (just forgot to take a picture of them) and made them into hearts.  Delish and way better for you than that other brand!

So there you have it.  My latest round-up.  Recipes that are keepers in my household.  That is, if I ever repeat a recipe. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hello Spring

Hello Spring
Here in Miami there isn’t much of a shift in the seasons.  The joke is that it’s always hot and sometimes just a little less humid.  This winter we’ve had the warmest winter on record (my brother is a meteorologist, I should know.)  But when you take a walk outside there’s no denying the sound of birds chirping or seeing blooms all over the trees

It gets us all excited for mango season – and when you see a tree that loaded with blooms, all the possibilities of what’s to come.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but we know whether it’s going to be a good season or a great season just from looking at the blooms.

To quote my yoga teacher, Marianne Wells Yoga School, “what does the promise of spring mean for you? Is there a thaw that needs to happen in your heart?  A pain, a loss that you’ve been hanging on to that you could release to the love and warmth of spring?  We owe it to ourselves to let go.  After all, nothing lasts forever.  That’s what the renewal of the seasons teaches us.”
And that got me thinking.  Sure I know my blog is normally about food and nutrition.  But I also write about well-being and the whole body-mind connection.  So I’m going to write about what’s been going on in my life.  It’s mainly been work as of recent.  I’m constantly trying to find a better balance between work and my personal life.  My previous job I had a 75 mile one-way commute.  Let that sink in.  75 miles one-way.  It was a 3-hour commute.  While the commute was a far distance I did at least drive against traffic – I know people that drive 10 miles and it takes them an hour in traffic – I’m not sure I could’ve survived that and often wonder how people do it.  Regardless it was 3-hours of my life spent driving daily.  When I would return home at night I’d be soooooo tired it felt like the life had been sucked out of me.  It’s hard to describe, but ask anyone that’s been so focused on the road, it’s draining.  Flash forward to my new job.  I have a 5 mile commute that takes about 20 minutes, some days 30 minutes.  But my days are long – from seeing patients and then charting on patient notes.  I always have the best of intentions of leaving at 4 – but I’d say in the last year that’s only happened a handful of times.  Most days I’m there at least until 6 pm (I start my day at 8) and then some days I’m there even later.  I’m not saying these things to complain, I’m simply using my life as an example from what we can learn from, what I can learn from. 

I love what I do and I love teaching people about diabetes.  I don’t love weight loss counseling – truth, there I said it – I like teaching people about eating healthy and with diabetes you’re able to show them how to manage their blood sugar levels with the food that they eat, the exercise that they do and an adjustment sometimes of their medication (and with insulin it’s even more exciting for me to teach someone about as it’s even better managed from the day to day checking of their blood sugar levels).  In these past two weeks I’ve had 2 patients with gestational diabetes and believe me when I tell you that their numbers are dependent on what they eat and we’re trying to completely manage their blood sugar levels with food and avoid using the insulin if we can.  The picture isn't the greatest, but you'll see below almost all of the patient's levels are at target - and the one that was above target two days in a row, so we switched her food at that meal and the next day it was within normal limits.  That to me is rewarding.
That’s the kind of counseling I enjoy.  The weight loss counseling is tough because it’s never about the food and so I don’t feel like I’m actually teaching patients rather I’m counseling them and let’s be honest I don’t have a psychology degree.  All of this background insight to simply say, I’m working too many hours in the day and I’m giving my patients beyond 100% and I’ve not been giving back to myself. 
My yoga teacher’s words really resonated with me the other day and had me really reflecting.  I always talk about ways to give yourself self-love – one of my recent blogs, Self-Care Sunday – was even on that very theme.  But I’ve been failing myself and not following through and actually giving myself my own self-love.  And because of this I’ve been feeling drained all over again.  It’s a repeat performance of my last job all over again.  And that’s why I started reflecting.  How am I going to change this?  How can I make this better?  It’s definitely time for a change and I know it cannot continue this way.
So yesterday I did all the things that I love and enjoy.  Probably should've spaced them out and not crammed them all in one day.  But I figured go big or go home!

-I meal prepped for just a couple of hours.  Setting up the staples for the week helps me (because I am getting home so late at night) that at least I can eat a good, hearty meal - because I am definitely not cooking once I get home.  Some people don't like cooking, but I find it can be relaxing.  I enjoy cooking healthy food that tastes good.  Nothing makes me happier - well, maybe grabbing a perfect picture of the meal I just prepared.  I styled a few pics of the food I'm eating this week.  Gotta document the healthy eats.

- I spent time with my family.  My mom shares a love of cooking, so we headed south to a fruit farm she knows of.  Great little find down south, Granddaddy's Farm Fresh Market, a small, local farm.  It's always rewarding being able to buy fresh food and support the farmer behind that food.  If I had to grow my own food I'd be doomed - I kill everything.  Thankful for the farmers that do grow the food.  The BEST strawberries I've ever had.

-I wrote a part of this blog.  I love writing when I have a theme and something I feel that people can learn from.  This week it wasn’t about nutrition but it was about a current theme in my life –and to be honest many of my most recent patients have complained of this very same thing.  Perfect timing and the writing just flows – welcoming Spring with open arms.  Things are going to change. 
-Yoga & meditation– I’m still nursing a rib injury.  I don’t have an interesting story to tell, I’m just a clutz.  Daily I’m doing something to myself, most times without harm, but this time I didn’t fair so well.  So I didn’t have any asanas (physical poses) except good old savasana – corpse pose.  But it was just what I needed to do – focus on my breath (that is hard to do with an injured rib) and just be still and present.
-HEAT game.  I LOVE sports.  Have I told you recently that I LOVE sports?!  My HEAT are pushing for the playoffs and they needed my support!!  Sure we got a L and not the W that I was hoping for, but there’s no other feeling that you get when you’re at the game cheering your favorite team on.    #HEATison   

-Reading.  I haven’t read an actual book in I don’t know how long.  Someone recommended Judy Blume’s latest book – "In The Unlikely Event"– and 75 pages in, I’m hooked.  I have to see how all the characters are connected and how this story unfolds.  I loved Judy Blume from her "Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing" days and she’s not disappointing me again.  Books are a great way to create an adventure.  This adventure keeps getting better page by page.  Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Immediately my job is not going to change.  It’s time consuming and at times stressful.  What I can change is how I spend my free time and make sure I’m giving back to myself.  I shouldn’t be cheating myself .  It’s the old adage – “You can’t pour from an empty cup.  Take care of yourself first.”   In order for me to make any impact with my patients I truly do need to start giving back to myself.  Spring is that time for change, growth, and renewal.  It is a time of new beginnings & new possibilities.    And it’s time to give back to myself because things are going to change…

Sunday, March 5, 2017

National Nutrition Month - "Put Your Best Fork Forward"

National Nutrition Month® - 2017

“National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  “Put Your Best Fork Forward” is the theme this year – encouraging everyone to make small changes over time that eventually will make a big impact on one’s health. 

Last week I had a patient come in to my office and literally wanted a quick fix for weight loss (not the first patient to do this, but just my most recent).  She continued to go on and list every (and I mean EVERY) excuse in the book as to why she couldn’t lose weight.  Today’s theme is not talking about other possible hindrances in one’s weight loss journey (i.e. hypothyroidism, depression, etc), however, she had a response for every suggestion that I was making.  She was a high intense person and was SUPER stressed with work and being a single mom.  I simply stopped and asked her how she was fueling herself with all this work that she was doing.  She had described to me going long periods of time without eating, she was a realtor and was always on the road and didn’t want to eat food out and about as she knows it’s not the healthiest.  She continued with more excuses/responses.  I explained to her that I would make lots of suggestions to her but I only needed her to pick ONE thing to work on to improve upon.  She couldn’t believe that I told her to make just one change.  I explained to her that the way I saw it is that one small change would be the most beneficial to her – it wouldn’t seem out of reach, it wouldn’t stress her out even more, and she was more likely to succeed.  Am I right?!  As the session continued I do believe she began to break down some barriers and realized that she has been putting too much pressure on herself and trying to do it ALL at once, and with no success I might add.  Her trouble area was rushing out the door without breakfast.  I suggested to her to have her son help prep some overnight oats for them both.  That way she could still rush out the door, but at least have breakfast on hand (not go long periods of time without eating, setting the tone for the day, etc).  She liked the idea. 

Here are a few versions of overnight oats that I’ve done recently.  I do prefer a little more milk with each bite, so mine might look a little “soupier” than you might like (I add an extra ½ cup of milk the following morning).  But the recipe is simple: ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup skim milk (or nut milk alternative of your choosing – aim to look for one that’s had pea protein added in, it ups the protein per cup of milk), 2 tbsp of any nut butter, ~1/2 cup of fruit (natural sweetener – no added sugar), and ~1 tbsp of chia, hemp, or flax seed.  This overnight oats is a game changer.  Not only are you having breakfast (which is important) but you’re also starting the day off with whole grains, healthy plant-based protein (from the nuts/nut butter), and healthy fats (from the nuts/nut butter and the seeds – chia, hemp, and flax) that will fuel and sustain you through the morning!  My patient I described wasn’t having breakfast and she wasn’t having nearly enough whole grains/fiber in her diet.  So little did she know she wasn’t just changing one thing but two. Ha!  All jokes aside, I really want my patients to start making these types of changes and implementing them for life – not just for some quick fix weight-loss diet.  My patient did like this idea and this was the goal of what we started to have her work on in this next week.

The other area that she wanted to focus on after implementing breakfast was dinner.  She knows she needs to cook healthy meals, but the bottom line is that she stated she didn’t even have time to go to the store.  Well, well, well.  Enter meal delivery systems.  They are ALL the rage right now.  I tried Hello Fresh recently.  I wasn’t sponsored to do so and this isn’t an advertisement.  I’m just speaking from experience of what meal delivery system I tried – please do your own research and see which one fits best for you – prices, menus, etc.  I opted for the vegetarian option and all the items were dropped off on a Monday afternoon.  It had 3 boxes of all the ingredients for three meals.  In essence each meal is supposed to make enough for two meals – mine ended up making three meals for two of the meal boxes.  Each meal was ready in less than 30 minutes and the flavor on all three was out of this world! Granted I only tried a week, but the truth is you can check the menus out and see what sounds good to you.  If this patient’s problem is that she can’t get to the store?  Hello!!  All the grocery items are there ready for you to go.  My patient after talking with her more was stopping each night to pick up food from a local eatery close to home, supposedly healthy.  Stopping each night for food?  And she’s pressed for time?  Her other struggle was finding something her son liked each night, walking the store not knowing if what she was eating was healthy (because of that health halo I do believe many patients are confused at the stores and don’t know what to buy).  I suggested to her trying a meal delivery system.  Sure she’s tired at night and doesn’t want to have to come home and cook – who does?  There are even meal delivery places that already deliver the food prepared – I told her that would be a decision she would have to make and then possibly transition to using a food delivery system that had all the ingredients.  I use the recipes I received from Hello Fresh still to this day – they’ve made the repertoire of “keepers” in my house – so as I told my patient the meal delivery system could be a great start for her to build on and then have viable options to keep with in the future.  She did like this idea and said she was going to do her research to see which one she would use.

The last area that my patient really needed to work on was time management/stress management (as she called it).  She doesn’t have enough time in the day and that stresses her out.  She is consumed by work, so much so that it affects her time that she spends with her son, her exercise regimen, and simple downtime (she has none).  I’d say this fits the bill of most Americans, she’s not alone.  The goal for her is to simply find ways in which to improve the situation.  One thing we thought about was having her workout with her son.  She didn’t think this was ideal as she likes to have her alone time working out, but the truth is she needs to work out and so does he.  They’re both not exercising and while she might enjoy the time alone from her son she’s also not been spending enough time with him as it is.  Just me looking in from the outside, easier said than done I told her.  She did like the idea and began to think of a few outdoor activities they could do together as a start.  While National Nutrition Month might be more weighted on nutrition, physical activity is a key, critical component when it comes to overall health.  I know in my own experience when I exercise I’m less stressed.  I believe that incorporating exercise will help this patient release a little bit of the tension/stress that she is feeling.  She might feel pressed for time and think that she can’t fit it in, but that’s the hamster wheel that she’s on – she feels like she can’t get off for even one second, when in reality, exercising will help her overall well-being. 

Small changes make a big impact over time.  Aiming to have breakfast daily, opting for 100% whole rolled oats instead of instant oats, or exercising a few days a week, when implemented, can make a big impact toward improving your overall health.  Drastic changes, like eliminating entire food groups, or adopting a major shift in diet are not necessary to be successful.  In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually suggest “starting with small changes in order to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is promoting this message of starting small this National Nutrition Month.  It’s a reminder to us all that “each bite counts and that making just small adjustments can add up over time.”  One step at a time, “Putting Your Best Fork Forward”, to create healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Self-Care Sunday

Self-Love Sunday
Valentine’s Day.  A day for love.  Love is defined as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.”  Love comes in many forms:  partnership, friendship, hugs, kisses, food, and even solidarity.   Many times on Valentine’s Day we put the focus on others in our lives.  But I challenge you this Valentine’s Day to love yourself.  The saying goes, you can’t love someone else until you truly love yourself.   YOU are special, YOU deserve love, and YOU should practice self-love.  Here are a few suggestions to show yourself some love:

Self-Acceptance – Accepting yourself for who you are is one of THE most important steps to self-love.  In this world of social media there are posts/pictures all the time that can lead one to begin to compare themselves with others.  Social media tends to promote “perfect pictures” and that’s not always truth.  Stop comparing yourself and begin to accept yourself.  We each have beautiful qualities about ourselves, whether they be physical or emotional, that attract people to us.  We definitely don’t need to look like or act like anyone else but ourselves.  We are unique and different.  That’s what makes the world so beautiful.
Minimize What’s minimalism?  Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.  We often times begin to accumulate “stuff” and we often equate this “stuff” to love.  When in fact, sometimes this “stuff” is literally weighing us down.  It doesn’t mean you’re not able to own material possessions, but the problem today is the meaning we assign to our stuff.  We at times give too much meaning to our things.  A minimalist will search for happiness not through things, but rather through life itself.  This Tuesday is Valentine’s Day.  Rather than buy yourself something that will only last for a small moment in time, i.e chocolate, flowers, etc, treat yourself to an experience – something that you will be able to look back and remember – really living in the moment.  Which leads us to the next way to practice self-love:
Pamper Yourself – Respect your body for the amazing vessel that it is!  Take care of your body.  Simple self-care techniques:  exfoliate your skin, take a soothing bath, get a mani/pedi, indulge in a massage, prioritize your sleep routine – all of these are ways to show respect to your body by showing it the love it NEEDS and deserves! 
Nourish Your BodyI talk about this one all the time as a dietitian.  The old saying, “you are what you eat”.  There is some truth to this.  Our bodies naturally detoxify themselves (that amazing liver and kidney just doing their thing!)  But if we continuously put junk in, we will feel like garbage.  Replenish your body with real, whole food.  Food can provide the nutrients our bodies need and help sustain us by providing us with the nourishment that we need.  This is just one other way to show yourself some love – choosing healthy food  WILL help you to thrive!
Write yourself a note – We all have our days.  Some days are busier and more stressful than others and that can get the best of us sometimes.   Try writing yourself a positive note or have an inspirational quote you like written somewhere so that you can see it first thing in the morning or during the day (when you need to get over the mid-day slump).  We all can use a pep talk sometimes and having the reminders nearby is helpful (so the negative thoughts don’t take over)
Be the ENERGY you WANT to attract – “Your friends should motivate and inspire you.  Your circle should be well rounded and supportive.  Keep it tight.  Quality over quantity, always.”  As we get older, the number of friends we have does tend to shrink – it’s the shift from having a large volume of friends to having those close to us that we can truly depend on.  Your vibe attracts your tribe – be the energy that you want to have surrounding you: uplifting, supportive people.
Be Grateful– Finding things to be grateful for on a daily basis can help change your inner dialogue.  Last year I made the commitment to start my day and end my day with one thing that I was grateful for.  It truly helped change my perspective on things that I used to think would be “earth shattering” or I would let ruin my day. 

We so many times tend to have negative internal conversations with ourselves.  Practicing gratitude can help change this internal chatter.  Are you grateful for a healthy body – that moves and allows you to be able to do exercise?  Are you grateful for your sense of smell – for those freshly baking cookies in the oven –currently the situation in my house.  Are you thankful for being able to learn from your mistakes?  Are you grateful for this present moment?  Gratitude is an attitude of practice.

Let It Go– This is definitely easier said than done.  But the truth is you never really are able to move forward unless you do leave the past in the past – “You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” ~Louise Smith  Each day is new and fresh and I do believe that’s helpful in committing to letting things go.  Again, easier said than done, but a step in the right direction if you truly want to move forward.

“Me” Time– Everybody needs ME time.  Taking time out of the day, even if it’s just 10 minutes is so important for us.  We often times give so much of ourselves – whether it’s at work with our patients or whether it’s at home with our family – the key is to give back to yourself so you have more to give to others.  If you run yourself into the ground, what good will you be to anyone else?  Don’t feel guilty or think you’re being selfish, think of it as giving back to yourself.  This giving back will help you recharge, reset, and re-energize!  Not only is this important for you but it’s important for those around you as well.

Disconnect To Connect– In this day and age, we are TOO connected – from our cell phones that receive emails from work to our smart watches that receive text messages (thanks Fitbit Surge, but no thanks).  Truly take time at the end of the day to disconnect from all of your devices.  Evidence shows that our devices are creating havoc when it comes to our sleep patterns – even MORE reason to disconnect.  Take time to reconnect with how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and even what might be going on in your body – I use it as a wind down time before bed.  I reflect on the day and write down in my gratitude journal a few things that occurred during the day.  A calm mind helps for sound sleep.

Positive Affirmations– With time, positive affirmations can help transform our mind.  Truly focusing on the positive moments in our day will help in removing that negative chatter I mentioned before.  Start with something positive about yourself.  It can be something as simple as your hair looks good this morning or something from the previous day that you’re proud that you accomplished – possibly handling a stressful situation at work in a positive manner.  Stay consistent with your positive affirmations, over time it will help change your outlook and again remove the negative self-talk it’s so easy to get into the trap of.

Learn Forgiveness– with yourself!  No one is perfect and I’ve always said that practice is what makes perfect.  There are going to be some hits and misses – the true failure lies in not even trying!  So be a little easy going on yourself and be proud of yourself for even trying.  Today I tried making homemade rolls once again – epic fail.  Instead of getting upset with myself I already told myself I WILL be trying again (I’m already reflecting on what went wrong).  And while bread making is not something to get uber upset about, remember this practicing forgiveness goes to the deeper stuff – not beating yourself up at the latest “mistake” you made but rather focusing on what you did learn from the situation.  Each struggle or mistake helps you to learn new things.  This in turn helps us to be strong, amazing people – sure that have some imperfections but that make us each unique beings.

Practice Saying “No”– This one is important.  Learning to say no helps you to set boundaries for yourself and helps protect you (from those that WILL take advantage of you).  Believe me when I say it IS uncomfortable to say no but it IS important.  There’s no way for you to please everyone and sometimes you already have enough on your plate – saying yes will only add to that stress and create aggravation.  Remember the goal is to practice self-love – respect yourself by standing up for yourself – and practice saying no (so when the time comes you’ll be able to put yourself first and say no!)

Have FUN!  Do not get me wrong – there is definitely a time and place for being serious.  But on the flip side, make sure you leave some time for FUN!  When was the last time you danced?  You sang karaoke? Or went paddle boarding?  I’m reading the book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and this is the essence of her novel – she wants you to embrace your curiosity, find what fuels your happiness, and face your fears – so you can uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.  Be creative and find what stokes your spirit – giving back to yourself with some fun!

So this Valentine’s day, as you may be off showing all the special someone’s in your life how much you care for them, don’t forget about YOURSELF! 

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – The Budda

Monday, February 6, 2017

Full on Crazy!

Full on Crazy

It’s a week after the marathon and I think I literally am still on a runner’s high – no lie.  Best.Feeling.Ever!!  I’ve been telling everybody I come in contact with about the race (okay, that might be part genetics – making friends with random strangers, thanks dad.  But here nor there, I’ve been telling everyone!)  I’m proud of my accomplishment and do believe it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I wrote a post about contemplating doing the marathon, Half or Full on Crazy, and in that blog I said that I was training for my friend Marcela.   The truth is that’s the reason I started training, but in the end this race was for both of us.  It definitely started out as me supporting her and running the longer runs with her.   And I’m not sure when it shifted, but along the way my co-worker kept telling me that “I should be doing this race for myself too”.  4 months is a long time to commit to training for a race, but it’s that consistency that helps you push through on the actual race day.  Here are a few things I learned throughout the training and a re-cap of our race (with a few pics throughout my training runs): 
4 months - my training guide

My brother is a meteorologist.  I had asked for a weather report for race day a week out (as they can have an overall accurate forecast that far out).  “Mid 50s with clouds marathon time,” he said.  A couple of days closer and he said, “Light winds.  Clouds.  No rain at the start but 30% during the race later on.”  Not the weather forecast you’d like to hear.  I live in SUNNY Miami.  I’ve been training since September in record heat weather for this time of year (January had 8-record setting days in the 80s).  I run faster in the cool weather as everyone typically does.  I had run in the rain during training a few days but only 6-8 miles.  26.2 miles in the rain?  Not something I was looking forward to.  And more than anything I was worried about blisters.  They say you have to “train in the elements”, well these were some elements I wasn’t able to simulate.  Marcela and I were in corral I – let me break that down for those that don’t understand that:  The race started at 6 am.  Corral I didn’t start until 6:43 am!!  Talk about lag time.  I know I’m not fast, but out of the 30,000 runners only 3,000 were running the marathon.  You’d think they would have had us a little closer to the starting line seeing as I’d be running WAY longer than those doing just the 1/2.  There was no rain at 6 am.  My brother’s forecast was accurate.  At 6:40 am, it started pouring rain.  I looked over at Marcela and the wave of people running with us to get to the starting line and we were all still in good spirits.  We were finally starting.  What’s a little rain anyways, right?  About ½ mile into the race, the course takes you over a bridge to the beach – a little incline, nothing too steep, but it was at that moment I looked at Marcela and I said, “I’m not sure I can do this if it keeps raining for 26.2 miles”.  Cold, miserable, and with our heads down (rain pelting in your face is not the most pleasant thing in all the world), Marcela as positive as ever said, “we’re doing this”!  I guess after a mile or so in the rain started to subside and it was just drizzle at that point.  Marcela and I started to pace ourselves and start our intervals that we are used to doing and it felt like any of our normal runs during training, only with thousands of people running with you.  There was some music, there were people clapping and cheering here and there, anything to keep us motivated.  Running the streets of Miami was truly amazing.  Having the streets closed down and you running your city.  Marcela and I both said that we were glad we had chosen Miami as the place to do our (one and only) marathon.  We grew up here and there’s no better feeling of pride seeing the beautiful city we call home. 

Marcela and I knew there were going to be moments in the race that we’d get a little overcome with emotion.  We weren’t sure at what point or where but we were ready (or so we thought).  The other thing Marcela and I had talked about prior to the run is that we would finish together.  I had never thought otherwise, but a couple of people had asked me prior to the race, if something were to happen would I go ahead (like if Marcela was running slower than I) – again, never a thought that had entered.  I think that’s where Marcela and I are similar in spirit – we were in this together.  We weren’t worried about our time, we just wanted to finish.  We were each other’s cheerleaders throughout training, so we needed each other. 

We were coasting along.  Miles 2-13 were easy breezy.  When we were training we had so many long distance runs that 13 miles seemed like nothing (yes we know 13 miles is no small feat all you ½ marathon runners out there, but when you’re running 26.2 miles, it pales in comparison or at least that was my mental way to look at it).  Approaching mile 13 there was a road division:  those running the half marathon and those running the full.  I jokingly looked at Marcela and asked her if she wanted to quit now.  She knew I was joking.  We did the ½ marathon in 2 hours 27 minutes and felt great – with the weather conditions the way they were, we felt we were doing quite well.  My brother was there shortly after the curve separating the ½ from the full.  Marcela spotted/heard him first.  We stopped to take a picture – and I have this look of joy on my face – I think it was plastered on my face the whole race.  I’m not sure if it was a literal runner’s high, but every picture I have I was smiling or focused on running.  Marcela got a little choked up seeing my brother – I didn’t get emotional for some reason.  It just wasn’t my time.  That happened about a mile later.  We had met a lady prior to the race that was raising money for a charity, Team Lifeline, that raises money for kids with cancer.  Talk about an inspiration – giving back to the families to allow kids to have experiences during their cancer treatment that they might not be able to do (with all the costs of treatment).  Well, probably around mile 14 I saw a lady run past me with a shirt that had a picture of a child with cancer.  It said, “Running for Joshua.”   My nephew’s name is Joshua and while I didn’t know this little Joshua she was running for, I knew in that moment I was so blessed to have a healthy 6-year old nephew.  I had no idea when one of my moments in the race was going to come, but it was right then.  There were other signs that said something to the effect, “you think running is tough, try having cancer”.  I’ve seen them before and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful I’m healthy.  Running puts things in perspective and makes you all the more grateful each step you take.
Mile 13 - Feeling Fine
I don’t remember exactly what mile it happened, but Marcela and I both started having issues with our IT band.  I think it was right around mile 15.  Throughout all of our training runs (the 16, 18, and 20 miler) we had had no issues.  So we were quite surprised that we were experiencing pain.  We kept blaming the rain and the cooler weather – what else could it have been?  Marcela did more strength training on her non-run days.  I had been doing yoga.   We were smart about our training plans this time around (2-years ago we weren’t all encompassing of including both strength and cardio training).   We kept going back and forth between each other and making sure each one was okay.  I knew that Marcela was in pain but I also wanted to make sure no further injuries would happen by continuing to run (just to say we had finished the race).  My foot also felt a little off – my left foot is the one I broke 4-years ago and I’ve always said it’s never been the same.  Here it was acting weak when I needed it to be tough and strong.  Mile 16 Marcela’s parents were on the course – got a little choked up, how could we not?  So uplifting to see the ones you love there cheering you on in the cold and rain – who knows how long they had been there – but to see their smiling, cheering faces was just what we needed in a moment of pain.  The miles kept passing us by, some felt slower than others, but next up was mile 18 – Marcela’s husband and children were there (along with close family friends).  The look of joy seeing Marcela’s kids hugging her and cheering her on, priceless.  Each mile was definitely made easier by seeing loved ones.  The course looped and at mile 20 we were able to see Marcela’s parents again.  They jumped to the other side of the road and cheered as if it was the first time seeing us again.  While we were struggling and in pain, we definitely tried to remain strong in front of them – I’m not sure if they knew at that time how hard we were running and in what pain we were running. 
Mile 22 there was beer.  I’m not a beer drinker, never have been, never will be.  But I asked Marcela if she wanted a little shot of what they were giving.  She immediately responded, “yes!”   As we were stopping I heard my name being called – at the beer tent, lo and behold was my friend Jillian.  Another photo op, and once again, the look of elation on my face.  Mile 22, only 4 more miles to go.  We knew there was going to be “a wall” and past mile 20 I had always said it’s going to be all heart.  I just didn’t know those last 4 miles were going to feel like forever.

I stopped at a porta potty shortly after mile 22.  There were a few pit stops along the way.  Let’s just say what we all know – I’m thankful that there is a place to go to the bathroom along the way, but let’s face it, they are beyond gross.  At this particular spot, it was a little hard to close the door lock, but I wanted to make sure no one walked in on me.  I felt the porta potty shift and I won’t lie, I thought that I might turn the whole thing over – all I could keep thinking is, “Who put the toilet on an incline?  Is this some kind of sick joke?  Please, please, do NOT tip over.  I do NOT need poop on me.”  I safely made it out. Phew. 

Throughout the whole race, Marcela and I had been averaging between 10-11 minute miles.  I knew our miles 23, 24, and 25 were our slowest.  I just checked my Fitbit and sure enough if we had been running at that pace throughout the race, we would have been doing 15 minute miles.   We walked a little more in between intervals, we stopped at the medic tent for some cream – we did what we needed to do in order to finish the race.  There was no stopping us.  This is what we had trained for and it was all coming down to this last mile and a quarter – because the last .2 of the marathon feels like a full mile.   I think I had a hard time processing the actual moment I crossed the finish line – what all the 4 months leading up to this meant – I do have a smile on my face – but more than anything I have this one picture where I’m looking back for a second, because while this was my moment to shine and cross that finish line, I wanted to make sure Marcela was right by my side.  We had trained together, laughed together (we had some interesting training runs.  When you run that long there’s always a story to tell), cried together, and well, I wanted to cross the finish line with her literally.  5 hours 24 minutes.  That was our official time.  We had kept pace with the 4 hour 30 minute pacer for the longest and then with the injuries started slowing down.  People always ask you how fast you ran the race.  I’ve always said that we’re not fast.  But that truthfully doesn’t tell the whole story of our race – you can read my excerpt and see all the stories there were along the way (and I didn’t share them all).  Running for me has taught me so much more than tagging a time to the race – and yes, believe me I know there are people out there trying to improve their time and win these races.  When I walked the full marathon in 2008 the headline in the paper the next day was, “It all came down to hosiery” – the difference in between the 1st and 2nd place winner were a mere 10 seconds.  The 2nd place runner had to stop and fix his sock and that made him slow down just enough to come in 2nd.  Yeah timing is important, and sure we were frustrated that we hadn’t finished with a better time.  But the truth is finishing this marathon is one of my greatest achievements ever.   I can’t speak for Marcela, this is only the story from my point of view.  But as the saying goes, "I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life."

A few things running has taught me along the way:
Put your mind to it and you can do ANYTHING. 
Training is KEY.  Stay consistent with your runs will help more than anything – even as hard  as it is to wake up at 5 am to go for runs, stick with it!  Even on vacation in Italy I was running.  No days off!
Nutrition is a given.  Maybe one day I’ll write a blog about what I ate during training.  As a dietitian, it just comes natural to me in knowing what to eat.  The only change that I did a few weeks in is to add in some seafood.  As a vegetarian I found it hard to get all of my protein simply from a plant-based source without going nuts from eating too many nuts! (and I don’t use protein powders).

Be mindful.  My runs turned into running meditations.  It was just me and the open road.  There is no better feeling than having a clear mind.  I did the 18-mile run on my own and I never thought I would have been able to run for 3 hours solo.  Running helps relieve stress and is ever more important to help you focus on your breath in moments when we sometimes forget to breathe.

Time Management.  Training takes a lot of time, let’s face it.  There were Friday nights I turned down social events.  I had to wake up early for my runs.  Call me a party pooper or call me focused.  Either way you start making time for things that are important. 

Sleep.  Just like nutrition you start learning how important sleep is to your overall health.  I didn’t do the best in getting to bed early every night.  And my runs would be effected the next day (and also my work).  I did increase to three cups of coffee/day – I enjoy coffee but I wasn’t drinking it because I enjoyed it.  So about a month out from the race I cut back to my normal 2 cups/day and started going to bed earlier.  And just a side note, I used the jelly beans during the race that had caffeine.  I didn’t want a caffeine withdrawal headache during the run, so I practiced with some caffeine (nor did I want the runner squirts – google that if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about!)

Challenge yourself.  Do something that’s out of your comfort zone.  Make a goal and commit to yourself to reaching it.  Never in a million years did I think I’d run a full marathon.  Believe in yourself.