Of Mice, Bikes and Keeping goals in mind

Hi guys, I’m back after a rough couple of weeks. As a mentioned in my last post, change is never easy; it is wrought with many uncertainties and inherently involves some degree of risk. Sometimes things work out as or better than you expected, but other times the road is a little bumpier. I guess my road has started off a little bumpier than I would have liked, but that’s part of life!   The first week (Oct 6 – 10th) I had an unwelcome visitor in the form of a mouse (ugh). This past week, my bike, along with three other bikes in my apartment building, was stolen. I found out later that it actually happened on Wednesday night but I didn’t notice till Thursday. I ended up filing a police report, but then by a bizarre sequence of events, my bike was recovered! (Long story short, my movers accidentally bent the rim of the tire and so the back wheel wouldn’t turn; thus the thieves left it behind and my super put it in the basement). Anyway, Thursday night (when I thought my bike had been ripped off), was not pretty. I was really distraught about a whole series of things that had gone wrong since moving back, and was just an emotional wreck.

Through all these ‘festivities,’ and the roller coaster of emotions I was feeling, I found myself questioning a lot of decisions I had made – about changing careers, moving, relocating etc. I started questioning many decisions and asking a lot of “What if..” questions. Making a career change mid-life was not and is not an easy decision. You give up so much, including financial stability, a regular income and time, and put other things like relationships and life events on hold in order to pursue your dreams and goals. It is hard work and requires a huge investment of time, money and sacrifices – but it’s also so worth it to know that you are pursuing your dreams and not settling for anything less than exactly what you want. This past week, when things weren’t turning out to be quite as I had expected,I started comparing my life to those of others around me who have very successful careers and certainly a much larger bank account than I do right now. However, this comparison did nothing but augment my anxiety.  Thankfully, I have an amazing group of friends who are like family to me, and wonderful parents who were so supportive and talked me through the rough times. The odd recovery of my bike was also a nice sign (NYC’s way of saying “Welcome back – but you have to go through a period of hazing before you get settled in.” Don’t worry – I still love you NYC). So I am back, and looking forward to good things. I spent a lovely Saturday at a food festival with some dear friends, and had a great run around Central Park today – and loved every minute of it :) And I keep in mind why I chose to do what I do – because I love it. That’s why. I have a dream and I am pursuing it, and at the end of the day that is what I have to remember when things get a little rough.

This little episode did however get me thinking about our tendency to compare ourselves to others in different areas of life. For some it may be comparisons related to finances, lifestyle, careers etc, while for others it may be comparisons around body image, looks or athletic abilities. Whatever the comparison may be – is it really worth it?? Is it really necessary? And what exactly does it achieve? Not much, except for causing unnecessary mental anguish and preventing you from recognizing and celebrating your own accomplishments and abilities.

One area in which I hope to help my clients in the field of nutrition and health is dealing with negative self-talk and comparisons surrounding food and body image. Food can be such a sensitive subject for many individuals; eating a “bad” food can lead to a downward spiral of negative self talk, comparisons to other individuals with supposedly “perfect diets” and “perfect bodies,” and a great deal of mental anguish and distress. And yet the comparison is unjustified; it is a disservice to your own self, to your body and what it can accomplish, and to your lifestyle and needs. While comparisons can sometimes be a positive thing and drive us to make changes for the better (for example, make healthier food choices, exercise more consistently), they can become crippling if they prevent us from doing what is best for our own body. Someone else’s diet or exercise program may not be right for you, because your life is different; you are different. So that is one area in which I really hope to help individuals who are seeking to change their diet and/or lifestyle. To find what works for them, and to help them live their healthiest life.

What about you? Do you often/sometimes find yourself making comparisons between yourself and other individuals, and if so in which areas of life? Career? Finances? Social life? Fitness? What helps you break out of this mode of thinking?

Adjusting to life in NYC

Phew – I’ve been back in NYC and in my new apartment ( a studio) for a little over a week now – and yet I still have unopened boxes everywhere. So much for unpacking as soon as possible! Oh well – I will try to get most of it done this weekend. This past week has been busy (when is life in NYC not busy??!) but part of the reason that ‘unpacking’ was put on hold was because I had an unwelcome visitor in the form of a mouse haunting my apartment. I guess most New Yorkers would just say “Well that’s part of living in the city,” but it was such a gross shock to me. I hadn’t encountered any mice when I last lived in NYC, and certainly not in my suburban abode in Massachusetts. Anyway, the mouse fiasco occupied a large portion of my evenings – with calling and meeting with my superintendent, laying out traps, throwing away an entire pan of vegetables (including the pan) thanks to the  mouse ( I will spare you the gross details) and then finally dealing with the creature when it was caught. Hopefully that nightmare is over and not one that recurs (please, please, please!)

Despite the mouse saga, I did get in some quality workouts after work and make some quick, easy and delicious dinners this past week. I had done some food prep last weekend by roasting some sweet potatoes, carrots and an acorn squash, washing and drying lettuce for salads, chopping some vegetables to quickly saute or steam, and stocking up on almond milk, fruit and other staples. I had also portioned out some fish and chicken to grill or pan fry during the week, and made a batch of tuna salad and hard-boiled eggs for a few lunches so that I had healthy foods on hand for quick meals. Doing just this basic food prep saved me so much time and money during the week – and enabled me to eat some great, healthy meals, so it’s definitely worth it!

Three dinners that turned out great and were amazingly quick to throw together were: (you may recognize a couple from my Instagram feed):

Poached cod, sautéed rainbow chard, roasted acorn squash, salad and a side of salsa for dinner

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Chicken Kabobs with grilled zucchini and carrots, and sautéed Swiss chard topped with tomato and avocado.

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And a simple dinner of pan-fried salmon, sauteed vegetables and sliced tomato

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All three were simple, healthy and required minimal ingredients and time to put together. It was also much cheaper (and tastier and healthier!) to make these dinners at home rather than ordering or eating out. I will do a future post on how I put together these dinners after coming home from a long day, walking the dog, answering emails, and going to the gym – but for now I’ll leave you with the images for some inspiration. You can also follow me on Instagram @farahz78 for some quick breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas!

What about you? What kind of meals do you put together after a long day? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Changes

The last time I posted was in February  which seems like a lifetime ago. Life just got away from me and so many things have happened since then. In a nutshell, I graduated from Framingham State University with a Masters in Food and Nutrition, studied for and passed the RD exam (I’m finally a Registered Dietitian!!), did a Tough Mudder in Vermont with some dear friends, worked as a per-diem clinical dietitian in Massachusetts for 4 months while applying for jobs in NYC and Florida, went to 2 weddings, and then the biggest change of all….moved back to NYC for a new job! I’ll be working as a clinical dietitian at a long-term care facility in the Bronx and also building up my own counseling practice (which will be announced in the near future) over the next year or so. So yes, a lot has happened and although I’m very excited to be back in NYC and starting a new job as an RD, I’ve also felt incredibly overwhelmed the last month.

Moving is considered to be one of the most stressful events that individuals experience in their life; in fact, health insurance companies consider it a “life event” which allows you to change or enroll in a new health plan outside of their typical enrollment periods. I can testify to that. Yes – moving is stressful, even more so when you are moving out of state and trying to find a job and an apartment at the same time – and in NYC, the stress factor is multiplied by a 1000 since everything happens with such urgency you barely have time to consider your options before you have to make a decision. Fortunately, I have incredible friends who are essentially like family to me both in NYC and in MA, and they have been a Godsend. From housing and feeding me on my numerous trips down to NYC, to being there for moral and emotional support through this entire process- and I love them dearly. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this transition could not have taken place without their help. Thank you all – you know who you are :)

Moving on (no pun intended), in light of all the stress that has surrounded this move (from the movers not being able to fit all my stuff OR deliver it on time…yes, I still have no furniture and will not till Saturday (hopefully) – and I start work tomorrow, to several melt-downs as I was cleaning out my old apartment in Massachusetts, trying to squeeze everything in my car, and realizing that my new neighborhood is such a drastic change from my old neighborhoods  in NYC and MA), I started reflecting on what makes ‘moving’ so stressful.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s not just one thing that makes it so stressful, but a combination of various factors that compound the anxiety surrounding a move: the change in location, the disruption of your normal schedule, the start of something new (e.g. a job), the need to reevaluate what you want to keep and what to purge, the need to find new amenities at your new location and a new commute, the need to pack, the logistics of changing addresses and informing people of your new location…and the list goes on. Change is always stressful because it involves so many unknowns…What if this doesn’t work out? What if I hate it? What if  I made a mistake? Am I making the right decision? Is this what a want? What if….? And that list goes on…

But change is also exciting and invigorating – and that’s what I have tried to remember through the past month, and especially over the past week. I am starting a new career in a city that is like home to me. I will be in the same city as or close to friends who are like family to me, and I’ll finally be earning some money again after the last few years of grad school! :) The first few months and really the first year will still be a challenge as I get used to a 9 – 5 job and commuting again, and balancing work with exercise, a social life and some ‘me time.’ But I’m looking forward to my new life – near friends and family and a bustling city that I have missed over the past 4 years. I’m back NYC – albeit in a completely different neighborhood and with a different career, but I’m back and looking forward to exploring more of this challenging yet rich, rewarding and culturally diverse city!

What about you? Have any of you made a career change? Or moved out of state many times? What was your experience with moving? Would love to hear your stories!

 

 

Gluten-Free, grain-free banana bread

You guys!!!! I made a gluten-free, grain-free banana bread that actually tastes good!! (I tested it out on a friend and he liked it :)). I used this recipe from Slim Palate as inspiration and then modified it to use ingredients that I had on hand, and to make it a little lighter in calories and fat. My version didn’t rise as much as the original version, but it still tastes great. Since it doesn’t rise as much, I’m thinking it might be better to make it in a shallow, brownie pan and cut into squares or bars instead of slices. I made mine in a loaf pan and so the slices are pretty small – but they’re great as a quick pre-workout snack or a snack with some coffee.

If you cut the loaf into 12 slices, each slice is about 100 calories, 4 g fat, 14 g carbohydrate and 4 grams protein (So you could definitely have 2-3 slices for breakfast!).

Gluten-free, Grain-free Banana Bread (12 slices), based on this recipe from Slim Palate

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup cashew flour (can use almond flour instead)

1/2 cup coconut flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch salt

2 ripe, mashed bananas

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

1 Tablespoon date syrup or honey

1/2  cup applesauce

2 eggs

1/2 cup eggbeaters or egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Process:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon).

3. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then add in the other wet ingredients (oil, vanilla, date syrup or honey, eggs, egg whites (or egg beaters), applesauce) and mix until combined and there are no lumps in the batter.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until you have a smooth batter, without any lumps.

5. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 35-40 mins, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (Check the loaf after 35 minutes since cooking times may vary depending on your oven and material of the loaf pan).

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the loaf pan; cool for another 20 minutes before slicing and devouring!

Nutrition Information per slice (for 12 slices): 101 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g sat. fat), 14 g carbohydrate,  4 g protein

Pumpkin Coconut Flour Pancakes

Hello from the ridiculous polar vortex in the Northeast..I’m so over this horrific winter. I’ve had a lingering cold for over a month and am sick of sniffling all the time. Summer –  you can come on down anytime now. Anyway, here’s another recipe for you guys. Since I have cans of pumpkin hoarded from the Fall, it’s a past-due pumpkin recipe and also another coconut flour pancake recipe to add to the collection. I made these a while ago but am just posting the recipe. They turned out a lovely orange color  from the pumpkin and the egg yolk. Hope you like them!

Pumpkin Coconut Flour Pancakes (makes 6 small pancakes)

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup pumpkin

1/3 medium (or 1/2 small) banana, mashed

1 egg + 1/4 cup egg whites

2 Tbsp coconut flour

1 – 2 tsp ground flaxseed

Method:

1. Preheat a griddle on medium heat. While the griddle is heating, combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.

2. Spoon  approx. 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for 1 pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter.

3. Allow pancakes to cook for approx. 1 minute before flipping. Cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute more

4. Top with sliced bananas, maple syrup, walnuts and/or your favorite nut butter and enjoy!

Nutrition: 240 calories, 25g carb, 15 g protein, 7 g fat for entire batter (approx. 60 calories, 4g carb, 2.5 g protein, 1 g fat per pancake if making 6).

What’s your workout style?

Hello guys, how has January been treating you? We’ve had some freezing days here in MA and other warmer days like today – though it poured most of the day. Recently, I signed up for a free trial of an on-line workout program that provides a daily workout to keep you motivated. It promises to be challenging and get you results – and so it seemed like a good idea/deal. I’ve been feeling less than motivated to push myself lately, and have also been less active in general (blame living in the suburbs, driving everywhere and spending too long commuting the last semester). I’ve also gained a few extra, unwanted pounds and become softer and more jiggly in various areas….and lets just say my butt seems to have expanded overnight. (That being said, my arms are a lot more defined, muscular and stronger so I’m happy about that for sure….but my legs, butt and thighs could definitely use some more toning). So that’s why I decided to try something new and see if the on-line workouts would motivate me to push myself more. I know I used to run a lot more in previous years but lately, due to various injuries and inclement weather, I’ve either done a different workout or battered my knees and shins up on the dreaded treadmill. Needless to say, I need to get my butt back outside (no pun intended).

Also –  lets face it – my love of eating peanut and almond butter straight out of the jar, and my age-related slow in metabolism have caught up with me. I’m no longer in my 20’s, no longer run as much as I used to and can no longer eat whatever I want without a thought. So to get rid of the jiggliness and lose some of the extra pudge and pounds I’ve put on I’m going to have to be

(i) More mindful of the amount of peanut and almond butter I routinely eat,

(ii) Start running outside again more regularly,

(iii) Try to incorporate more non-exercise activity in general (walking, biking), and

(iv) Push myself out of my comfort zone and done some more HIIT workouts.

Phew – that was a long intro/ explanation as to why I signed up for the on-line workout program. Anyway, after a few days of not using it and then watching one of the programs, I realized that I don’t really enjoy the idea or the process of working out in front of a commuter or device (Though I don’t mind a DVD workout so much). To me, a workout is more than exercise; it’s “my time,” my time to relax and do something I want and enjoy, my time to zone out, a time to de-stress as well as get an endorphin high. It’s something I enjoy, but I enjoy it more when I’m either outside, at a gym or in the pool. Working out in front of a computer or device feels more like a chore, a targeted approach to “lose weight” vs something I enjoy….and I know I won’t stick with it. I need to enjoy it to do and stick with it. And as much as I need/want to tone up and lose a few extra pounds, I don’t want exercise to become a chore or something that I don’t enjoy anymore. So I cancelled my subscription and I’m happy with that. Though I will not ‘cancel’ my commitment to keep working out, push myself more this year, run more and be more active in general…and to be more mindful of my peanut butter habit (Yeah – that one’s really got to go).

I also need to re-vamp my non-existent social life….part of the late night PB treats and “parking my butt on the couch” sessions are probably attributable to not having a social life right now (thanks to living in the ‘burbs and being in school full-time). But that shall change after this last (YES!!!) semester. Wow, this was a long post (but much-needed). All right…I’m done with the therapy for now….Hope you all are having a great weekend and I shall catch up with you again soon!

 

Lemon Mint Green Juice

Morning! It’s freezing here in MA. Woke up to – 6 F and thought it was a nightmare, and that I should go back to bed and wake up to warmer weather (wishful thinking). Two of my friends are in San Diego and Miami right now and oh, what I would give to trade places with either of them. Anyway, I busted out my juicer again today (I’m telling you I’m hooked!!) I even went to the grocery store to buy lemon and mint just to make some fresh juice – and this is in 2 degree weather (that’s Fahrenheit FYI). So here it is, a lemon, mint green juice and it totally hit the spot. As a note, I refrigerate my juice for a few minutes while I clean my juicer; this serves 2 purposes – cools the juice down a bit so I can enjoy it and gets the clean up done without leaving it till later. So here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it….Hope you’re all having a great (and warmer) weekend!

Lemon Mint Green Juice (serves 1)

Ingredients:

2 stalks celery, washed

1/2 apple

1/4 lemon, peeled

1/2 cucumber

handful spinach

a few sprigs mint (2 -3 branches from bundle)

Method:

1. Juice all ingredients in a juicer. Enjoy immediately with a few ice cubes or refrigerate for a few minutes to cool before drinking.

green juice

So far so good!

Woke up crazy early to a snow day today. Went to an awesome hot power yoga class at 8:45 am (yes, in the snow). This was my 3rd yoga class this week so I’m off to a great start for 2014 (does this give me 2 “free” weeks if/when I’m not able to make it to a yoga class in 2014?? ;) Doubt I’ll be able to do 3/week (or afford 3/week!!) once my rotations start next week but it felt GREAT this morning. Plus, something I always forget and that I’ll have to remind myself of this year is that – you never leave a yoga class in a bad mood or stressed out. Yoga always has a calming effect on me – whether it’s a super hard or an easy class – and makes me feel more relaxed for the rest of the day/several days. Must remember that when I’m stressing out about my graduate oral and RD exams this year, and trying to find a job post-graduation.

In light of it being a snow day, I also busted out and used my juicer!! I bought it off Craig’s List months ago but never got around to using it. I have this one – a centrifugal juicer and not one of the super-fancy masticating ones. After some checking of the manual, produce washing and fiddling, I made a glass of celery, carrot, apple, cucumber and ginger juice (lemon would have been a nice addition). Verdict: the color wasn’t very pretty but it tasted delicious!! And so, so, so refreshing. Totally see the hype about freshly pressed juices now :) I probably won’t juice more than once or twice a week but it was definitely worth getting the juicer (esp. on Craig’s List!) to try it out. Just wish I had a dishwasher to deal with the washing up part (tho honestly, clean-up is super-quick).

Now I’m off to do some studying and then enjoying my last few days of freedom before final semester of grad school & internships begins.

Have you tried juicing? Or had freshly pressed juice before? Thoughts?

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! Just a quick post to say thank you for reading, and that I hope 2014 brings you the very best!  :)

I didn’t do anything crazy exciting last night – stayed home due to a lingering chest cold and it being freezing here in the northeast. Today started off with a quick mini-yoga session at home (one of my resolutions for 2014 needs to be to try and go to yoga once a week), a lazy breakfast, talk with my parents, dog walk and then an inordinately large amount of time spent shopping for a wool coat, and clothes for my baby nephew. (Coat shopping took forever because I’m so indecisive). Ideally, I would rather live in South Florida and never have to wear a coat or jacket ever again. (Sigh). Anyway, I came away with a navy blue wool coat – it’s slightly big in the shoulders but I loved the style over the “more practical” basic black pea coat….Just don’t like buying clothes/shoes that I don’t love. I also wanted to buy a pair of Nike running capris for $30 – which I would totally wear, but I’m trying to be frugal since I have other capris that I can use at the moment, and I’m still in grad school (last semester!!!!).

Also made some cashew flour pancakes this afternoon (still need to tweak the recipe so will post it later) and managed a 4.0 mile treadmill run in the evening even though I didn’t feel like running. Since one of my resolutions for 2014 is to get back into the running groove, I felt compelled to start the year with a run :) How did you spend NYE and New Year’s Day? Do anything fun?

All the best for 2014!!

Baking Experiments and Home-made Pumpkin English Muffins

Once upon a time (NYC time), I had a social life. At the moment I do not (perhaps because I live in Framingham you say…true, true…). Anyhow, due to (i) having a crazy, busy semester, (ii) coming down with a cold on Xmas day…that is still kicking my butt, and (iii) me being a wimp in the cold, I have been spending an inordinately large amount of time (for me anyway), experimenting with various gluten free recipes I’ve found on the internet and on various blogs. Being gluten free myself, I often find that many commercial products either lack fiber, taste, texture …or all of the above. I do have a few favorites: TJ’s GF rice tortillas, Food For Life GF Rice tortillas, Udi’s breads etc… but I really wanted to try baking some of my own GF foods. Well,… the GF bread experiment failed – totally my fault because I didn’t have the Arrowroot Flour called for in this recipe by TGI Paleo (and no, I’m not going “Paleo”…just like to eat as unprocessed as possible 80-90% of the time). I used 2 extra tablespoons of coconut flour and 1 less egg white, but it turned out flat and “foccacia” like….will probably still eat it because I hate wasting food, but lesson learned. Arrowroot flour/starch gives GF breads a lightness that cannot be achieved with only using coconut flour.

Next up, I found this recipe for Beauty and the Foodie‘s Low Carb Pumpkin Bagels which seemed interesting. I wasn’t so interested in the “low-carb” part (hello…I eat mucho bananas, squash & tortillas everyday) but the GF and pumpkin part were right up my alley. Plus I haven’t had a bagel in AGES! (I don’t like any of the GF ones on the market). Well, I don’t have a donut/bagel pan (but am totally getting one now) so I  made english muffins instead, using 6 ramekins. I also used 1 egg plus 1/2 cup egg beaters and 2 Tbsp date syrup as the sweetener, plus added 1/2 tsp xanthan gum. The recipe says it makes 8 bagels (but the pictured donut pan only holds 6….?)…so I made 6 english muffins. Just saying…. the nutrition stats work out to be different with 6 vs. 8. Using my modifications, each english muffin comes out to be approx. 104 calories, 4 g fat & 9 g carb.

Here are what my beauties looked like:

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I ate the ugliest one for breakfast this morning with some eggs, farmer’s cheese, TJ’s pumpkin butter, some fruit (1/2 banana) and my Pumpkin Smoothie…plus coffee of course (yes I eat big breakfasts!).

Taste-wise: mildly pumpkin flavored, not sweet at all (which is good in my books) and a lovely change from my usual GF foods! Let me know if you try my or the original version!

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