Friday, October 17, 2014

On a 29th Birthday, 29 Things I've Learned

A few things I have learned in the past 29 years...

1. When in doubt, put an egg on it. Preferably a runny, free-range, farm-fresh one. Get that yolk!

2. Tell someone when you are proud of him or her. We all can use a little boost and extra support. Life can be really tough sometimes. When I am proud of someone, I say it and I mean it. With my recent life and career change, I can't even express how much it means to me every time one of my friends tells me they are proud of me. 

3. When at a wedding, it is totally appropriate to start a Conga Line while dancing to Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long." If you don't like Conga Lines, then you don't like fun.

4. Pay it forward.

5. Do more yoga. Om om om om om. [But really, I know I rave about yoga all the time. I truly believe it's benefits are beyond amazing. The key is finding a teacher / studio you enjoy. And if you can't do that, try a short 20 minute yoga session via you tube or Yoga Glow.]

6. Eat dinner without the TV on once in a while. Smell your food. Appreciate your food. Practice mindful eating. Rest and digest.

7. Try to find an activity you enjoy for exercise. I think of my dear friend Lauren, who bought a Groupon for classes at a boxing gym earlier this year. Now, she does the boxing boot camps and absolutely loves them. It took her a while to find her exercise jam, but she found it. And she loves it!

8. Find ways to relax your mind. For me, this means yoga or watching my "bad" TV shows like Revenge or Scandal. After a hard day's work, my brain needs a break and frankly, I don't feel badly for watching bad TV for an hour or two.

9. The spiralizer will change your life. Just do it.

10. Handwritten thank you card > Email thank you. When I was still working in my advertising job, one candidate, fresh-out-of-college, wrote and mailed me a handwritten thank you note. It was well-written, relevant to our conversation, and kind. He got the job. I never forgot it, either! It's an old classic.

11. Don't skip breakfast. And make sure your breakfast involves protein. I repeat, do not skip breakfast.

12. I am still a cat person. Sorry I'm not sorry. 

13. Group texts with good friends are necessary. They make me smile.

14. Felicity is still really, really good. Team Ben then. Team Noel now.

15. Be a little more self-forgiving. Hot damn we can be hard on ourselves. I am extremely good at this! No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and learning from our mistakes really is the best way to learn. 

16. Learn to say no. And own it. <-----This is one of the greatest things I have learned in the past two years. My wise and beautiful friend Zoe told me this one morning while on a run and I will never, ever forget it. At some point in your life, you realize that you really can say no when you need to, and you shouldn't feel so guilty about it. You can't do everything. And you can't be everywhere. When I say no, I struggle a lot with feeling guilty, however, I'm working on this. 

17. Help other people and be kind. Karma is real. 

18. Always save the bacon fat. Fry some greens in it. So. good.

19. Grown-up sleepovers are totally a thing. Two of my very best girlfriends somewhat regularly sleep over when my boyfriend is out of town. I feed them (cinnamon raisin toast with butter for Jaqui and zoodles for Julie). They make me laugh. We giggle. We're silly. It's the best.

20. Don't ever trick your midwestern boyfriend who is afraid of eating Indian food for fear of public digestion-disaster issues into going out to dinner and surprising him with an Indian Food feast. You will owe him many, many things. 

21. Eat more bison burgers. Bison tastes like a lean beef and is full of healthy fats. I love a good bison burger.

22. It still isn't always your fault. Really. Ease up a little. 

23. Hydration is so important. So simple, but so important. Keep drinking water throughout the day (critical for good digestion) and avoid plastic water bottles. 

24. For all my San Franciscans - I can't believe I'm spilling this, but I think my favorite restaurant in the city is totally Cocotte. Don't tell anyone...but tell everyone. The roast chicken and cocottes are ridiculous. And the restaurant makes me feel like I am back in Paris. 

25. Not all trips have to be trips. Some can be vacations. Do you know what I mean? I used to be all about the traveling to see a new place. And while this is still usually my preference, sometimes, you just need a relaxing, Vitamin-D filled trip. Poipu, Kauai is my happy place. 

26. This guy is my happy place too. He laughs with me and comforts me when I worry too much, lets me listen to The Today Show with the volume way too loud every morning, and 98% of the time trusts whatever I'm putting on his plate (see number 20).

27. Spread love. Tell whoever you love, how much you love them. Tell them often. 

28. It's probably not too late for you to go for it - your dreams matter and please remember that. You can do it! Please don't give up.

29. Always have gratitude. As the homeless man on the corner once told me two years ago: too blessed to be stressed. 

Too blessed, to be stressed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Event Recap: An Evening of Empowerment - Holistic Breast Health Empowerment & Breast Cancer Prevention

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend an educational event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is in October. It was kindly hosted by Senspa, a local spa in San Francisco. The event was moderated by Naturopathic doctor Claire Graser, and featured a variety of alternative medicine practitioners, including a Naturopathic Doctor and Oncology Massage Therapist. 

When I received the email invitation with the agenda for the event, I knew I absolutely had to go:

· Learn about external harmful estrogens in our
daily life from Dr. Claire Graser, ND
· Why breast cancer rates in Sonoma and Marin
Counties are among the highest in the world and what you can do
to protect yourself - Chris Holder, Oncology ND
· A participatory class that will incorporate gentle
movement and lecture on lymphatic system function. - Ollie
Lobeck, Fajardo Method® Practitioner

I was especially interested in hearing from Dr. Holder, as he attended the renowned Bastyr University (just outside of Seattle, Washington). Bastyr University is the leading school in alternative medicine in the United States. I was fortunate enough to tour the campus last year, and although I couldn't make it work to attend their RD program, being on their campus had a significant impact in my decision to go back to school to become an RD

Dr. Chris Holder's talk on breast cancer prevention was incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring, as well as backed up by lots and lots of research. He is one of the most eloquent, detail-oriented, yet unpretentious speakers I've come across. There were many take-home points for me, but among the highlights, included the following:
  • At the root of cancer, there are three things: DNA damage, growth signals for cells to keep growing, and immune system suppression
    • Keep in mind, stress suppresses the immune system
    • Certain things can sit on our estrogen receptors and cause unwanted cellular growth - things such as pesticides (many are stored in fatty tissues), phthalates (what makes plastic soft and brittle and is also in many cosmetics, nail polishes, enterically coated pills, just to name a few), Bisphenol A or BPA (did you know this is in receipts?!)
  • Lets shift away from a mammogram being considered the only "preventative" measure but rather, more used for detection. A mammogram detects calcification in the breast tissue. Just because a mammogram is negative, does not mean you don't have cancer, especially if there is a lump; it's not perfect (nothing really is), but we should feel empowered to take preventative measures in other areas of our life. 
    • Note: There is a lot of controversy over mammogram use. Some argue that excess radiation can cause cancer, while others say that mammograms use such a small amount, that the risk is small. However, there are other options for those who choose to opt out of a mammogram. A Thermogram does not expose a patient to ionizing radiation and is considered an alternative to mammograms. It is not perfect either, but uses infra-red technology instead of radiation. Thermograms are FDA-Approved but still considered "investigational" in the US.
    • MRIs are an excellent way to detect cancer, however, they are so expensive that it is not as practical to utilize them in this way.
Though the subject was serious, the tone was educational and empowering. We can all educate ourselves and make small changes to help lead healthier, less toxic lives. Here are some recommendations:
  • Avoid using plastic or styrofoam containers (and avoid heating in them); opt for glass containers
  • Avoid food from cans lined with BPA, especially acidic foods such as tomatoes 
  • Check to see how your cosmetics rate in terms of toxicity 
    • In all honesty, this is the hardest one for me to do because cosmetics are expensive. So rather than do an overhaul of all my cosmetics, I have slowly, over time, purchased less-toxic alternatives. I love 100% Pure facial products, by the way!
    • The Environmental Working Group has a consumer-friendly Skin Deep cosmetics database, which rates cosmetics on a scale of 1 to 9 in terms of toxicity:
  • Buy mattresses that do not have flame retardants
  • Diet: eat real, whole foods. Eat organic and avoid pesticides. Limit refined sugar and processed foods. 
    • Unfortunately, eating organic isn't always available or accessible. Try checking out the Dirty Dozen list to help prioritize which foods should be bought organic:
    • Also, remember that you can often find frozen organic produce for cheaper than fresh. The freezer can be your friend!
When I left the session, I felt inspired, empowered, but also, frustrated. Deeply frustrated. During my time at Bauman College, I learned a lot about food politics and the corruption in the food and farming industries. And attending this session further emphasized how prevalent corruption in these industries is, especially in the United States. Just the simple fact that the European Union has banned so many foods that are sold widely in the US frustrates me. Or that it is nearly impossible in the US to get clean research funded to support alternative health approaches that might not make certain companies billions of dollars. 

But alas, I digress. 

Like I said, I left feeling inspired and empowered to keep educating myself on disease prevention. I believe in approaching health holistically or "wholistically" as my lovely mentor always says. This event was a reminder that we must continue to nurture both ourselves and others, and respect the body, mind, and spirit connection.

*Note: This event at Senspa was free and open to the public. I was not compensated for this post. I did ask permission to post about the event. All opinions are my own. The information discussed in the above post was presented in slides and referenced; I am not a Doctor but simply wanted to share my take-aways.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Sleeping In, Instead of Working Out

I've been thinking a lot lately about sleep. 

I am 100% a morning workout person. I always have been. I like getting my endorphins first thing in the morning, just like my Mom taught me. Now, I'd say, for the past year and prior to starting school full-time, I was pretty committed to morning workouts (mostly yoga). And I'll be really honest and say, I definitely strolled into my former advertising job a few days a week around 9:30am or 9:45am and not 9am on the dot, just so I could fit in a workout that started at 7am rather than 6am. [However, anyone that works in advertising knows that's fairly normal...especially if you're a creative. For a marketing/account folk like I was, it wasn't as normal, but was still acceptable]. 

But now, my life is very different. It's better too. But different. 

Now, each day, Monday through Sunday, has its own unique schedule. 

Now, all my priorities have shifted, except my commitment to my relationships with my loved ones.

Now, work is no longer a priority, unless I am physically at work, working (serving). I do not take work home with me (holy moly - this is amazing, by the way, after six years of doing the opposite).

Now, school is a top priority. And that means, my brain is constantly being stimulated. Neurons are getting fired like woah. And while I am loving learning new things, I am also finding that, simply put... I am tired more often.

I have also come to the realization that while working in my last job, though I did quite well, I was not really using my brain. This is an honest yet sad realization, especially given the duration of my time in that role (over four years).

There is lots of information out there about how much one should sleep. And I'm not here to answer that. I just wanted to share how I am feeling and to reiterate that sleep is a good thing and it is very important to listen to your body when it comes to sleeping. Our bodies are so damn smart and when we sleep, lots of amazing things happen to help us continue to live healthfully.

Did you know when you sleep, your body repairs the metabolic damage caused by free radicals? Free radicals are essentially the bad guys, are toxic, and accumulate with age, and antioxidants are the good guys that fight free radicals. That's why we hear "eat your antioxidants" or "those blueberries - antioxidant rich!" 
Bottom Line: Sleep helps with metabolic repair and metabolism. And let me just emphasize, sleep is critical for healthy metabolism. 

Did you know that when you sleep, your brain consolidates short-term memory into long-term memory? This is key for me right now with all my studying! Sleep also allows receptors in our brain to "rest and reset" so they remain sensitive. Sleep helps you remember the stuff you need to remember and be able to retrieve information faster.
Bottom Line: Sleep helps with memory and retention.

Oh, not to mention, when you sleep,  your liver works very hard to detoxify your system. And that detox is oh so important, given all the toxins in our world today (not to sound like a downer).

So lately, there have been some mornings where I just feel that I must sleep in an extra 30 minutes or hour, because I am really, truly tired. This means, skipping my planned morning workout. 

Do I love missing my morning workout? No. But there are days where I need the extra sleep more than the workout. 

I am so, so stubborn when it comes to my 'routine,' especially with working out. However, I am accepting that listening to my body and honoring its needs is more important. Especially right now. So I don't make it to yoga in the morning? No biggie - I'll just do a HIIT workout* in my living room as a study break later in the day, if I can and if it feels right. 

So whether you are a student or not, are you listening to your body? Are you giving yourself a chance to properly rest and reset your mind and body? Don't feel lazy because you slept in and missed your bootcamp one morning. Sometimes, you really need it. Learning to listen to your body is much easier said than done, because we are stubborn and are good at feeling guilty for not doing something (myself included). But I challenge you to pay attention and try. Because we all deserve a little extra rest once in a while. 

*I love free HIIT workouts and especially love the Fitnessista's You Tube Channel <-------- She is one of my favorite healthy living bloggers who offers excellent workouts (a variety of kinds, including Barre, Ab burners, Zumba, HIIT, etc...) for free. Among my favorite are her Tabata workouts which are 4 minutes short and HIIT. I highly recommend checking her out if you feel like you need to switch things up and have limited time to work out! 

**Note: sleep quality is a whole other issue, and if there is interest, I'm happy to do a post on it in the near future.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Some Eats, Lately

Another week has arrived! And it is already technically Fall, which means it is finally Summer in San Francisco. We may be a little behind on the weather front in San Francisco, but we make up for by being forward in other ways, I suppose.

During this past first week of October, I felt the sun shining on my back all day long, and I embraced the warm evenings with our apartment's screen door wide open. 

Life is picking up and the month of October is probably the busiest month yet...of this entire year. Lots of midterms will be involved, as well as lots of visits from friends near and far, a visit to wine country, a few friends birthday celebrations, and even a wedding. 

On the food-front lately, things have been fairly simple. I'm trying to be somewhat diligent  (but not drive-myself-crazy diligent) about packing food to-go for school or late-night labs. I am also focusing on hydrating all day long. Hydration is so important, whether it be for cleansing, skin health, or digestive health. Lack of hydration is one of the main issues I see with nutrition clients. You can estimate how much water to drink daily (rough estimate) by dividing your body weight in half and drinking that many ounces. Plus more for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage or exercise. I know it sounds so very simple, but it really can make a positive difference.

Now that we're all thirsty, here are my eats, as of lately. 

2 fried eggs with lots of red pepper flakes + 3 Medjool dates stuffed with almond butter & cinnamon

Overnight gluten-free oats in a jar with almond milk, flaxseeds, and almond butter. I don't eat oatmeal a lot, because it doesn't fill me up for more than an hour or two, at most. However, this tasted good during an early morning study session at the library and was a perfect on-the-go breakfast.

 Smoothie in the Vitamix...right before it broke 

Ice, frozen mixed berries, frozen spinach, coconut milk (from the can - it makes the smoothie so creamy), sunflower seed butter, 1 date. Organic frozen spinach is great for smoothies!

Staff meal at work: endive, radicchio, arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette + Grana Padano cheese (like a mild Parmesan), with a few bites of eggs with onions. My work makes really, really good, fresh, sustainable food. Just sayin' 

Gluten-free pizza dinner courtesy of Paxtis - my favorite Salsiccia pizza with fennel sausage and ricotta; the perfect meal to accompany a night of Physiology studying 

Spaghetti squash roasted, then topped with jalapeño chicken sausage, broccoli, tomatoes, and nutritional yeast - similar to my recipe here

What have you been eating lately? Please do share!

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Favorite 15-minute Meal (right now): Cheesy Pesto Zoodles (gluten-free, vegan-friendly)

These days, I don't have time to spend hours and hours in the kitchen to cook a meal. Between schooling, working, volunteering, studying, friending, boyfriending, and the occasional zoning out...ain't nobody got time for that. 

So lately, I've been keeping it simple. And I'd like to share my not-so-secret weapon for easy, quick, nutritious meals: the spiralizer (and this is the exact one I purchased).

Yup. It's back. It never left. And it's not going anywhere. Sorry (but not sorry) to my midwestern fellow.

My favorite meal right now is no-fuss, easy to throw together, and absolutely delicious! Here is how I make it happen in 15 minutes in my tiny kitchen.

The finished product

Side note: you could easily make this recipe by subbing spaghetti squash for zucchini noodles, especially if you don't have a spiralizer. But, I highly recommend getting a spiralizer - it's so affordable!

I spiralize my zucchini and create beautiful zoodles. I place them in a bowl, and heat them up for a minute to get some of the water released. Then, I take a paper towel and squeeze the zoodles as they release some water. This is the quickest/laziest way to get this done.

In a pan, I heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add chopped up a chicken sausage - this day, I used spicy jalapeño. I cook the chicken sausage while I finish the zoodles. 

I place a few dollops of pesto (store bought) on the zoodles and mix it in, gently; sprinkle in a few sundried tomatoes. Then, I place the zoodles in the microwave for another minute or so, and heat them until they are hot. 

Once the sausage is done, I put it on top of the zoodles, sprinkle with pecorino romano. Garnish the plate with some nutritional yeast for your extra B-vitamins. 

Voila! This meal is gluten-free, can be made vegetarian/vegan friendly by omitting the Pecorino and sausage, and is so good. Seriously. I've eaten it three nights in a row.