Bigger Fish to Fry

When it comes to getting away (from it all and for a decent stretch of time), how often is too often, if there even is such a thing? How much is not enough? I just returned from a week-long vacation after having not been on one for over three years, so, to answer my own question: three years might be too long to go without getting away.

This trip was pure bliss, not just because I was traveling with my honey, but because I’ve been so bonkers with school and business responsibilities, I promised myself I’d embrace the feeling of doing nothing. Being ever the planner, though, I enforced a strict dress code of “nothing with buttons or zippers!” and made sure everything we packed fit into carry-on luggage only so we could whiz through the airport as we pleased. Nothing will hold me back from bliss!

Thankfully, I’m not the outdoors-y, adventurous type to begin with, and the bf accommodates my lackadaisical ways, so it was easy to forego signing up for excursions and saying no to the local tour vendors who marched up and down our beach every hour, trying to lure us from beneath our umbrellas and onto a parasailing boat.

TCI Beach Umbrellas

I’m fine right here, thanks.

Grace Bay Beach ranks every year as one of the best beaches in the world and is located on the island of Providenciales within the Turks & Caicos Island (TCI) chain. We’ve been to Grace Bay three times and it was our second time back to Alexandra Resort (the same spot we booked the last time we took a vacation), which just turned all-inclusive and lost on us because we don’t eat a ton while we’re away, I’m a teetotaler, and see above regarding excursions. Meal prices onsite seemed a little exorbitant for us as a pay-as-you-go couple and TCI imports almost everything, so, while we made a point to go grocery shopping as soon as we landed and most of the items at Graceway Gourmet were equivalent to what we’d find shopping at home, quality-wise, it was a little challenging sticking to our food budget.

Version 2

“Ugh with this view,” said no one ever.

I think it goes without saying that when you’re on an island getaway, you’ll be eating a ton of fish (if pescetarianism is your thing). In TCI, though, most of that fish is in the form of conch fritters or fried grouper, so we were happy that our supermarket haul allowed us to give our tummies a break every few meals.

Version 2

A delightful veggie platter from our grocery trip.

Toward the end of our stay, we ventured back to have a meal at Lupo (you can’t really take me anywhere without me having a pasta craving at some point), a delightful rustic Italian restaurant that we found during our last stay on Grace Bay three years ago. I was thrilled to see they were still open for business and thriving.

Version 2

Enjoying Lupo leftovers (with a handful of greens thrown in, of course) on the balcony.

Now that we’ve returned from our getaway, I think I’m still in vacation mode and hope this feeling lingers a little longer. Being in New York City, it’s easy to get caught back up in the whirlwind of this environment and forget all about riding that wave of rest and relaxation. But, I’ll tell you this much: there is no way I’ll be letting another three years pass without giving myself another proper vacation. After all, what’s more important than to empty out your brain every so often, visualize amazing things, and take in some of the beautiful gems that nature and life have to offer you?

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?

17th-Menopause-talk

(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.)

Sunday041705

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.

Things We Don’t Talk About at the Table

Ah, poop. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four-plus years of studying nutrition, it’s that Registered Dietitians loooooove to talk about poop.

And why shouldn’t we? It’s the one way to determine how healthy our clients are eating––whether they’re getting enough fiber in their diets, if they’re drinking enough water––and how healthy they are in general1. The color and consistency of someone’s bowel movements could help diagnose everything from stomach ulcers to celiac disease to colon cancer.

If you didn’t already know, there is a ginormous amount of evidence that the gut and mind are very much connected, so it makes sense that April is not only Stress Awareness Month, but it’s also IBS Awareness Month. (I could write about and discuss mental health and all facets of gut physiology every day for an entire year and wouldn’t make a dent in the amount of topics that can be covered under these categories.)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of those elusive gastrointestinal conditions that seems to get diagnosed only after other conditions can be ruled out, which can be frustrating for the person with IBS because there are sometimes no physical signs and no specific cause for it. People with IBS usually experience abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea (IBS can be considered IBS-C with constipation, IBS-D with diarrhea, or IBS-A when alternating with both), and/or bloating, among other things, and may also have some sort of sensitivity to stress and diet. None of these triggers may seem consistent during each flare-up, so it’s important for anyone suffering from the condition to jot down the what, when, where, and how an episode occurs to help recognize if there’s a pattern they can relay to their doctor.

Thankfully, once diagnosed, people with IBS can manage their diet, lifestyle habits, and stress to keep their pain and discomfort under control. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) also helps as we understand how to incorporate a healthy, balanced diet and other treatment guidelines, based on scientific evidence, to manage the condition2. An issue with looking online for self-treatment of IBS is that it can be quite confusing and, because the human body is so magnificent, there is no general rule that applies to anyone suffering with IBS. Instead, it will most likely be a trial-and-error approach in adjusting one’s intake of fiber, carbohydrates, and fat to determine what alleviates or exacerbates the symptoms. The good news is that researchers continue to study nutrition therapy for IBS, so expect to see even more information on this issue in the very near future3.

If you think you might have IBS, please meet with your doctor first and request a referral to a gastroenterologist and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. It’s no fun being in pain, but it’s less fun having your condition worsen because you don’t understand what role your diet and lifestyle might play in it.

References:

  1. Greenfield, P. (2014). 7 Things Your Poop Says About You. Prevention website.
  2. Palmer, S. (2009). Soothing the Symptoms of IBS With Diet Therapy, Today’s Dietitian, 11(6), 34.
  3. Gibson, P.R. (2017). The evidence base for efficacy of the low FODMAP diet in irritable bowel syndrome: is it ready for prime time as a first-line therapy? Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 32(S1), 32-35.

Boiled Over

It’s fitting that April is Stress Awareness Month, being that I, along with so many of my friends, classmates, and colleagues, are suffering from anxiety and malaise lately. For me, it’s the perpetual reprioritization of school assignments and business ventures, both time-sensitive, that have me shirking my self-care. I also thrive on sunshine and all we’ve had lately here in the northeast has been clouds, rain, and more clouds and rain. Being in the health and wellness field doesn’t mean I don’t suffer the same triggers and effects as the rest of the population when it comes to mindlessness and emotional eating. In fact, that sometimes adds to my stress because I should know better and do better and be the example to my clients and everyone else in my circles, but I’m only human.

I realize it’s easier said than done, but reading the research and other information that’s out there lets me know I’m not alone and has helped me gain control––even if only temporarily––over some of my knee-jerk reactions when it comes to dealing with stress. I’m sharing the following with you in hopes that, if you are dealing with stress in your life, this might help quell your angst as well.

When it comes to overall wellbeing, I believe four factors play a role: food, mood, sleep, and exercise. Stress can affect any one of those and when one falls down, they all fall down. In regards to hunger, specific hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, insulin, and ghrelin are responsible for the food choices we make1. Being stressed also tends to leave us sleep-deprived and unmotivated to exercise (or motivated to drink alcohol), which can contribute to weight gain2.  But, when we overeat, comfort eat, and/or deny ourselves sleep and physical activity, we end up feeling guilty and, most likely, more stressed for having made poor decisions, falling off the wagon (if we were on one to begin with), and needing to start all over to get back on track to health.

Obviously, focusing on a healthful, balanced, nutrient-dense, mostly plant-based diet can help support us in times of stress and in general as some anti-oxidant foods can also act as anti-anxiety foods3, but how do we get to that mindset when we’re already so far down the rabbit hole?

One small step you can make is to clear the clutter, both figuratively and literally. Stop to reassess the true problem at hand, take a breath and step aside for a moment to get your thoughts together and decide what the next step should be, focus and figure out if there’s anything you can do to get rid of the stressor(s) in your path, forward plan to be sure you’re getting enough breaks during the day and the week so you can enter into challenging situations with a clear head to begin with instead of an already muddled one, watch a funny show, reach out to friends who can talk you down from the ledge you’re on and help put things back in perspective, meditate for 10 minutes or go punch something (preferably an actual punching bag) for 20, tell someone you love them, and, while you’re at it, tell yourself the same.

References:

  1. Lebre, M. (2016). Stress and weight management — Learn about the body’s physiological responses to stress and effect stress has on weight managementToday’s Dietitian, 18(4), 42.
  2. How stress can make us overeat. (n.d). Harvard Health Publications website.
  3. Naidoo, U. (2016). Nutritional strategies to ease anxietyHarvard Health Publications website.

Stick a Fork in Me

The end of a year is often time for reflection. For me, this has been both one of the best and worst years I’ve ever experienced. While I’m glad 2016 is over, I am grateful for so many of the opportunities that came my way and am looking forward to my future endeavors, both personally and professionally.

As a small business entrepreneur, it’s often difficult to separate out the work stuff from the life stuff. While I’m not big on resolutions, I will be taking into account the things that caused me the most stress over the past 12 months and diminishing those items that are within my control going forward.

gone-fishin

To start, effective tomorrow, 12/23, I have promised myself a reprieve from social media until after the New Year. I am desperate for a brain break, but have also been feeling a lot of eye fatigue and recently became afflicted with “texting elbow” (it’s a thing), so it’s time for a physical and mental detachment to allow me to do some soul-searching and reprioritize what matters most to me.

Another reason why I’ll be offline starting tomorrow is to help my mom prepare our annual Christmas Eve dinner menu. I won’t be uploading pics of the spread until January, so, until then, I invite you to peruse through some of the holiday posts from my archives:

Come January, keep an eye on this site for so many fun things I have in the works for 2017, like one-week challenges, a four-week fast-track program, free book giveaways and promotions, the launch of my YouTube channel, and much, much more.

I wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday season. Eat well and be well. See you again in 2017!