The Chicken and the Egg

We just wrapped up National Women’s Health Week and it got me thinking, being a national woman and all, how most of my clients and classmates––females in their 20s and 30s––are just now developing their identities, getting their first “real” jobs, and starting families, while my close female friends and I are in our mid- to late-40s, reminiscing about the million lives we seem to have already lived.

I’ve always said it’s never too late to start…whatever––a new habit, a new skill, a new career––but sometimes, UGH. Who has the time and energy? The older I get, the more set in my ways I’ve become (mostly about my routine and schedule) and now, with what already seems like two full-time jobs, I have to add a third: taking care of myself.

I was tempted to title this post “The Spring Chicken and the Rotten Eggs” because I believe that, while I’m young at heart and open-minded enough to want to soak up every new lesson and experience that comes my way, I’m starting to physically and mentally feel different, depleted. At 48 years old, I act half my age, but feel twice it. (Granted, the last few years of returning to school and rotating through my dietetic internship probably fast-tracked the age process for me.) I’ve got so many thoughts and ideas rushing through my brain at all times and a fairly full schedule. Before my feet even hit the ground, I’m a good part of the way through my to-do list. Yet, no sooner do I break for lunch, it feels like it’s time to wind down for bed and I’ve barely chipped away at the rest of my daily tasks.

Way, way back when I first learned about how oocytes develop and transition to ova, I did some mental math and figured I’d be hitting menopause when I turned 45. (The average age in America is about 511.) It hasn’t happened yet, but with each passing year, it has become all I can think about, waiting for it like a phantom hiding around the corner, ready to pop out and surprise me at any moment. I so want to embrace the decades in front of me, but I’m a planner by nature and I’ll admit I’m concerned about how to work around some of these challenges that seem to come with menopause. I’m already anxious, irritable, and depressed on any given day, sweat profusely when I’m barely moving, and often find it difficult to concentrate on—oooh! Squirrel!

But I think it’s easier to do than to undo, so how should we prepare for what awaits us on the other side of this decade?

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(image credit: http://www.sproutlifestyle.com/)

For starters, let’s rejigger our numbers so that we’re not overeating. To maintain a healthy weight, we’ll require about 100-200 calories less each day than we did twenty years ago2. (Click here to calculate your daily needs.) But be sure to still pay attention to nutrition by eating high-quality protein (including those of the plant-based variety like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds), a healthy mix of fruits and veggies, fiber-rich whole grains, and good fats like those from olive oil, salmon, and avocado.

We should also be keeping active and including strength training in our weekly exercise regimen to protect bone density and muscle mass and reduce our risk of fractures (ain’t no fun getting a hip replacement at any age, let alone when you’re 70)3. Plus, if you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re likely to gain weight.

Calcium plays a major role in supporting our health as we age, so be sure you’re getting your recommended 1,000mg a day by adding foods like yogurt, sardines, tofu, or broccoli to your meals (click here to read my previous post on calcium)4. Vitamin D is a big deal, too, and the easiest way to get 600 IUs is through daily sun exposure. Be careful not to overdo it here, though, because you don’t want to chance getting sunburned. A mere 10 minute walk outside during lunch will suffice. Otherwise, you can add a mix of fish, fortified dairy, cheese, or eggs (with the yolks) to your daily meal plan5.

Sleep is also important. Start setting an alarm for yourself about an hour before bedtime and give yourself time to unwind, relax, reflect, and mentally prepare for the next day6. This means detaching from technology, so no screens once that alarm goes off.

I’m considering putting together a month-long challenge in July for females over 40 (but open to anyone who wants to join)––something related to weight loss and lifestyle habits. I realize the summer, which can be packed with graduation parties, barbecues, and other social events, may be especially difficult to stick to new eating guidelines; but that’s why it’s called a challenge. Besides, I don’t believe in waiting for the “perfect” time to start anything and I think if we can do it then, we can sustain it long-term.

If any of the above has resonated with you, regardless of your age or menopausal status, please leave a comment below. Let me also know if you’d be interested in joining our July challenge. In the meantime, please check out this handout (that I designed last year when I was a dietetic intern at Betances Health Center) to help you better understand some of the wellness measures you can take through each decade of your life or click here to access the fact sheet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics if you’ve already entered the wonder(ful) world of menopause.

References:

  1. Women’s Health: Menopause.” The Center for Menstrual Disorders & Reproductive Choice website.
  2. Warren, R.M. (n.d.) “8 Diet Changes Women Must Make After 40.” Health.com website.
  3. Munger, R.G., Cerhan, J.R. & Chiu, B.C. (1999). Prospective study of dietary protein intake and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 69(1), 147-152.
  4. Dawson-Hughes, B., Dallal, G.E., Krall, E.A., Sadowski, L., Sahyoun, N., & Tannenbaum, S. (1990). A Controlled Trial of the Effect of Calcium Supplementation on Bone Density in Postmenopausal WomenThe New England Journal of Medicine, 323, 878-883.
  5. Calvo, M.S., Whiting, S.J., & Barton, C.N. (2004). Vitamin D fortification in the United States and Canada: current status and data needs. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 80(6), 1710S-1716S.
  6. Jacobsen, M. (2014). Midlife Nutrition — Helping Women Over 40 Overcome Nutrition Challenges. Today’s Dietitian, 16(3), 30.

Tending the Farm

I started the DishWithDina blog back in April 2005 (Happy Blogiversary to me!) as a way to remember all the yummy places I went to after I moved to New York City from New Jersey. In the transition from one platform to another and then integrating everything into this website, I think I lost a handful of posts along the way; but, I kept all the business cards and photographs (I was snapping pics of my meals before Instagram was even a thing) from every outing.

One of my rules of living in the city has always been to never visit the same place twice. With so much to do and see and eat, why not try something different every time you leave your apartment or venture in from somewhere else? Besides, you can’t ever guarantee your favorite places will be around long enough, so might as well check out as many as you can before they’re gone. (RIP, Benny’s Burritos and 7A.)

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Babies! (04/17/2005)

Such is the way with life, too, though. I don’t think any of us intentionally want to regret not doing something differently, not pursuing an avenue because it was unfamiliar, or fearing what would––or wouldn’t––happen if we ventured off our regular path. In that realm is where I find myself these days. It’s been over six months since I completed my year-long dietetic internship and I am still having issues recovering from the (albeit sometimes self-imposed) toll that experience took on my brain and body. But, as the seasons change and the year progresses and time between the “doing” gets larger and wider, I find myself reflecting on what could be instead of what should have been.

My grad school is finally letting up (one class left!) to a point that I see more flexibility and freedom in my schedule. I’m allowing myself to try new things, to remember what life was like when I would roam the streets of Manhattan, weaving in and out of each neighborhood, tasting and sampling the cultures and the livelihoods that awaited me. I went back to practicing yoga this week after a three-year-long hiatus. I bought hydrating facial masks and have been using them regularly. I met a friend for lunch and then went for a walk afterward. I find myself bolting out of the building and going for a run the minute a ray of sunshine peeks out from the clouds. For the first time in years, I’m reading books that have nothing to do with food, nutrition, or science and everything to do with helping me get back on track, refueling and improving my psyche so that I’m well prepared to develop and grow as each new season unfolds and new opportunities come my way.

In addition, I’ve met dozens of wonderful new people, after starting my private practice in October, who have donated their time and energy to help get my business up and running and now they’re contributing to and breathing new life into this blog. I look forward to sharing more of their contributions––and more of my own insights––with you over the year. And I invite you to share with us what rituals you enjoy, what goals you intend to pursue, and what old habits in your life you’re letting go of in order to make room for new ones.

GIVEAWAY: Dailygreatness Training Journal

Last week, I wrote about my Attitude of Gratitude and did my first in a series of giveaways inspired by my experience of reinventing my career—and myself in the process.

I believe that reinvention means always striving to be a better version of oneself, not just stopping once a goal has been met. The past few years of being both back in school and in my dietetic internship have really done a number on my health and well-being, which is ironic since all I’ve been doing since 2013 is pursuing a career in the health and wellness fields. Not only do I want to lead by example for my clients and practice what I preach, but, as I reach my 50th year on this planet, I want to be sure I enter it with a fit mind, body, and soul.

On that note, one of my next goals—which some of you might have already seen hash-tagged on my social media accounts as “fitby50″—is to undo a lot of the damage I’ve done since I stopped working full-time and started going back to school. In a way, I think this experience has helped me become more empathetic to my clients who have had their own health and fitness challenges. It’s easy to think that saying, “just do it” can motivate someone into changing a behavior, but that’s not always the case when you have an unrealistic workload, don’t know how you’re going to fit one more thing into your already jam-packed schedule, are perpetually exhausted, and no longer have the mental acuity to care about anything more than just making it to the next day without punching a baby in the face or wanting to stepping into oncoming traffic (as told to me by a friend).

As much as love my high-tech tools, I’ve decided to return to paper planners and journals recently. There’s just something about scribbling on a page (and adorning it with colorful sticky notes) that makes me giddy versus typing furiously with both thumbs onto a blank screen.

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I came across the Dailygreatness journals through some random (or not so random, if you believe in the power of the universe…hmmm) online promotions and decided to order a bunch of different copies to check them out. I’ve used paper planners before, but have always thought they could be so much better if they combined a journal component, maybe threw in some motivational quotes, pretty pictures, colorful pages, etc. When I opened my Dailygreatness order, I squealed in delight because it does just that.

For this round, I’ll be giving away one copy of the Dailygreatness Training Journal (to U.S. residents only for now). From the product page:

The daily pages will guide you to create healthy habits through the 8 daily steps of training, diet & food journaling , meditation, gratitude, intentions, stretching, health tips and self-awareness. The weekly and monthly check-ins keep you committed, accountable and motivated. With a 12-week review to celebrate your progress, each stage lays the foundation for achieving your health & fitness goals, reaching your potential and creating a rocking fit body, mind and spirit.

If you’re interested in snagging this FREE copy (valued at $39.95 on the Dailygreatness site), please leave a comment below or e-mail me (click on “Contact” page for address) by 10pm ET Wed, 12/7/16 with the following:

  1. Your health & fitness goals for 2017.
  2. How you will “pay it forward” when you meet your goals (this could be in time, energy, or money).

Recipient will be selected at random and announced on Fri, 12/9/16. Best wishes and keep daring to be great!

Note/disclaimer: This is not an ad. All giveaways are new items I’ve purchased with my own funds and want to give away in hopes of passing along encouragement and positivity to others. I ask for nothing in return (though, if you wanted to follow my blog, Twitter, or IG accounts, or forward this post along to others, that would be rad). In doing this giveaway, I acknowledge a complete release of Dailygreatness, Rocking Fit, and WordPress by each entrant or participant and that this is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Dailygreatness, Rocking Fit, and/or WordPress.

Tiramisu

This has been one of the toughest weeks of my life, and that’s saying a lot after having survived my year-long dietetic internship (blog post on that coming soon). For many reasons, which I will go into detail at some point in the future, I reached the end of this week feeling quite downtrodden and in need of some cheering up.

Usually, when I’m feeling low, I watch or listen to something that makes me laugh; but, this week, that wasn’t enough. No sooner did the sun peek through on my mood than the dark cloud started creeping back over me again. I began to realize that comedy was a bandage over my wounded heart and soul. Instead, I needed to be resuscitated, to be motivated, to revisit and be reminded of my will to move forward. So, I cracked open some of my old self-help books, bought some new ones, re-watched TED Talks on emotional and physical fortitude, looked at photos from my vacations, and read through many of my journal entries over the past dozen or so years.

Doing my best to honor the pain and sadness I was feeling at the moment, I also started focusing on my future endeavors and reflecting on my past achievements. I don’t often give myself props for much, but I can honestly say that I’m really proud of myself. I’ve taken a lot of chances and risks over the course of my lifetime and sometimes things went terribly wrong and sometimes things lined up perfectly; but, I can never say that I didn’t try.

And, so, try I will again to gather the strength to let the light back in so I can share, pay it forward, and shed some on others who may need it more than I do. Perhaps a part of my story will resonate with you or maybe you just need a little cheering up yourself right now, so I invite you to listen to a two-part interview I did earlier this year with Pamela Mitchell, founder and CEO of The Reinvention Institute, for her podcast, the fittingly titled, The Liftoff Project.

  • Click here for Part 1
  • Click here for Part 2

I met Pamela over a decade ago and she has helped shape and guide me as I navigated the many twists and turns my life has taken since then. In keeping with the theme of shaping, guiding, and cheering up, I plan to do a giveaway of her book The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention the week of November 28 over on my Instagram account, so please keep an eye out for it if you’re looking to pursue a little reinventing of your own.

Ho-Ho-Hold off on That Holiday Weight Gain

Not too long ago, some fellow dietetic interns and I created a presentation for one of our classes where we reported on research findings about how college students tend to gain weight over the 6- to 8-week span of the winter holiday season (Thanksgiving through the New Year).

Shocking, right?

Interestingly, the study participants weren’t “traditional” college students, i.e., 18- to 22-year-olds. In fact, the age span included grad students, some well into their 30s.

The study showed that, as seasons change and colder weather approaches, students are more likely to change their food, mood, and physical activity for the worse. Indulgences over the holiday season can cause a significant increase in the percentage of body fat and fat mass, leaving students vulnerable to obesity development from those unhealthful holiday habits that may carry on further into their adulthood and passed onto their children or other family members.

Increases in body fat are a major factor in morbidity and mortality which is why it is important to strategize ways to maintain healthful eating and other lifestyle habits, especially during the holiday season.

I’ve shamelessly plugged this blog post for over a year, but it’s got a really good game plan about how to handle the urge to overindulge during the holidays. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are in control over what and how much you eat, and how much you get up off your couch and go play outside. It’s always easy to say that your splurge is temporary and you’ll go back to better habits “tomorrow,” but, there’s a real potential to turn that temporary splurge into a 6-week binge and, before you know it, you’re feeling groggy, gross, and regretful for the long haul. So, check yourself before you wreck yourself this holiday season and any time temptation rears its ugly head.