October Goals

I know its already a week in but I figured there was no better time to start mapping out my goals then the present. Fall has been crazy so far but I love how busy I am. It’s keeping me moving and, most importantly, it’s keeping me in the moment (something I’ve always struggled with).

Here are a few things I’d really like to accomplish this month:

  • Finish my workout log for work. We have an incentive to do 52 workouts from August-October and I’m almost done but still, it’ll be an accomplishment. On top of that, I’d like to workout 3 times a week (minimum).
  • Pass all of my exams this month! I have so many tests coming up and while I’m using this time to procrastinate from studying, I have time scheduled to knock out the important things coming up.
  • Finish one book. It really shouldn’t be hard, I’m almost done with two but taking the time for myself to actually read them is difficult (no my textbooks do not count as reading).
  • Attend one Junior League event. I have had to miss out on a few Junior League events due to my crazy schedule recently and I really want to get some time in with the League. If I can at least put in a few hours of volunteering, I’ll be extremely happy.
  • Focus on eating plant-based again. When I recently stressed myself out, I noticed that my eating habits took a turn which didn’t help my mood. One thing I really want to focus on while I’m so busy is keeping myself healthy by eating the right foods. It’s can be difficult to eat healthy while working nightshifts as there is always the temptation to eat all night to stay awake which leads me to my final goal.
  • Come up with a healthier schedule for my shifts. Since they tend to be a lot slower (depending on my patients) I need to keep myself busy. I’ve been attempting to study for my CCRN certification although it gets difficult sitting for long periods at 3 am and not getting drowsy. I think I might need to start taking walking breaks around this time to re-energize myself halfway through the night. I’ll report back next month with my results!

 

So there it is, 6 relatively easy goals for the month. Hopefully I can accomplish them all.

 

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Physical Changes Since Going Plant-Based

Now that I’ve truly committed to the Plant Based Journey, I feel like I should update on the physical changes I’ve experienced. I don’t have a crazy weight loss story or dramatic loss in inches from my body but I have experienced enough of a benefit that I can honestly say there’s no turning back now.

Getting personal with things, it’s been three cycles since I’ve started to change my diet and I’ve already noticed an improvement in many things. I came off hormonal birth control last May and switched over to the copper IUD. I will say, things got kinda wonky there for a bit. Between having cramps for the first time in years and having some of the heaviest periods imaginable I almost went back to my GYN to have it removed. I knew the first few cycles would be rough but I was persistent in waiting out the symptoms to see if things balanced out (I also just dreaded getting it out since it hurt putting it in). It took until December for me to get any kind of relief (conveniently around the time I started to completely revamp my diet….). Last month, I noticed my cycle was shorter, less heavy, and I only cramped for one day instead of three days like I had become accustomed to.

I also became used to breaking out the week before my period started. It was how I new my cycle was about to start but this month, I didn’t even get a blemish! In fact, my skin got even clearer the week before my period showed up and a friend of mine even commented on how great my skin looked (without makeup). I have the type of acne that forms painful cysts and scars for months on end. While I still have a few blemishes, my skin is very smooth and there haven’t been any new demons popping up (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself).

I also noticed that my energy levels are improving. The last few months before I started to eliminate animal products from my diet I would get exhausted on my period. It had gotten to a point where I was ready to call in sick from work. I’m not sure if I was anemic since I never actually went to the doctor to get my blood checked but I can say that last month my energy levels were so much better and I was at least able to make it through each day. This month, I was even able to do some light exercise the first few days and I was able to get in about 4 miles of walking on the worst day.

Speaking of healthy eating to help with menstruation, Dr. Greger posted this video last week on Fennel Seeds and ginger for menstrual cramps and PMS. I know its anecdotal but I have been incorporating ginger into my diet more…

Finally, and most importantly to me, my mood has dramatically increased over the last two months. I’ve written about my struggle with depression on this blog before and I’ve always been proud of myself for being able to manage things with mental exercises. I never really put a link to diet and my mood but I have noticed things being a lot better. I know my mood will always fluctuate to some degree and there were obviously precipitating factors to my depressive episodes in the past but anything I can do to keep myself in a healthy state is worth it to me.

 

Nacho “Cheez” Sauce

You guys. I have something amazing to share with you.

I’ve been incorporating more potatoes into my diet recently thanks to my favorite youtube vlogger High Carb Hannah. She’s doing a 30 day potato cleanse eating nothing but potato recipes and non starchy vegetables. While I haven’t gone completely potato based, I have been inspired to eat more spuds lately. I’ve been eating a lot of oven baked fries with dipping sauces and tonight I made this insane cheese-y deliciousness.

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There are a few recipes out there but I made mine based off of what I had on hand in my kitchen. I’m pretty excited about the results. So excited in fact, that I used an oven baked potato fry to wipe my Vitamix when I was done. And since my sauce is all veggies and no fat, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. In fact, I sat down for more.

Nacho “Cheez” Sauce:

3 chopped potatoes-I used 2 red potatoes and 1 gold potato

3/4 yellow onion diced

3 large carrots chopped

1 cup chopped sweet peppers

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon chives

dash of cayenne pepper

sprinkle of salt (I added mine after I portioned it out so I could use less)

Boil all of the veggies in water. Place nutritional yeast and spices into Vitamix then add boiled veggies and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, you can add some of the potato water to thin it out. Add cayenne and salt to taste.

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Voila! Perfect, delicious sauce made before you have time to bake a potato. Obviously, this sauce does not have the same taste of cheese but if you’ve been plant based for more than a few weeks (or just never really liked processed cheese) you’ll go nuts over this stuff. I made enough to fill two mason jars full!

I’ve already decided that tomorrow I’ll be having a loaded baked potato with this stuff all over it topped with salsa. Is it bad that I’m drooling for tomorrow’s dinner already?

30 Days of Plant Based

Well its finally February which means I have officially been eating a vegan/plant based diet for a whole month. There was a slip up at the beginning of the month but I’ve since learned to navigate the social scene a little better (and I’ve gotten better about standing up for myself and stating my preferences). Today in fact was a pretty big victory for me. We had a work lunch party for my boss and of course there wasn’t a single option available that didn’t have some sort of animal product in it. Mostly meats but of course, even the veggie sandwich was mostly mozzarella cheese. Rather than make a big deal about the salad I had waiting for me in the fridge I just took the cheese off and ate the bread/minimal veggies.

Obviously not the ideal situation but in recent weeks I would’ve just eaten the sandwich and told myself to eat healthier later. And while I did have a salad waiting for me, I didn’t want to disrupt the social situation to make a big deal. I’m pretty excited that I was able to compromise by making a healthier choice while still navigating the social environment. I’m finally starting to see the bigger picture. There’s always an excuse. Always a birthday or a vacation or whatever. But the better thing is that I’m finally starting to stand by my change in eating habits which makes it much easier during awkward moments. And I love the food I do eat so I really don’t feel like I’m missing out.

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Crabtree Falls in 60 degrees with snow and ice still everywhere.
I had an interesting thought this weekend about lifestyles and social interactions. I went hiking with a friend and a few of his buddies I didn’t know on Sunday. After our hike, we went to Devil’s Backbone for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to see more than one vegan option on the menu as most local breweries only have food options that are laden with meat and dairy products. Markus mentioned to the group that I am vegan now and someone inevitably asked me where I got my protein from. It made me giggle since that’s the first time someone has actually asked me that and of course, that seems to be the go to vegan question. I didn’t really have time to answer the question as the conversation steered elsewhere but my hesitation made me think about how many people stereotype vegans as being overly aggressive or pushy in their beliefs and how to address the question without coming off like I was trying to convert the masses. I also hesitate to call myself a “vegan” since I identify more with the whole foods plant based diet than I do with the ethics of the vegan movement but I also don’t eat only whole foods 100% of the time (looking at you, Trader Joe’s vegan snacks).

Seeing things from the opposite perspective makes me realize that when you live in a world where your wants/needs/values aren’t the norm it can be stressful. Obviously my food choices are not the end of the world in the grand scheme of “marginalized” or minority groups. However, it is an exercise in compassion for other groups of people that may not have the luxuries I have had. As a white, middle class person I’ve always enjoyed a pretty comfortable existence. I’m beginning to get a small appreciation for other groups of people who face very real and much worse stereotypes. And I’ve only been eating this way for a month!

I’m excited that this new journey has already started to stretch me into new territories both mentally and physically. I will be doing a post soon about the physical changes I’ve experienced in the last 30 days. I can’t wait to see what next month brings!

 

 

Peanut Butter Banana Bread Cookies

Southerners are crazy. Although I grew up in the South, I still claim that I hail from Philadelphia since, technically, I was born there. Considering both of my parents grew up there and I spent a large part of my childhood in South Jersey/Philly visiting family and friends, their habits and traditions rubbed off on me growing up. Therefore, I like to claim I’m not from the South. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely has its charm and I love living in Charlottesville but there are certain things about the South that I still can’t wrap my head around.

For instance, their ability to handle snowstorms. As I sit here typing this blog post, there’s a blanket of snow on the ground. It’s only been snowing for an hour but by the way people have been freaking out all week, you would think the world ended three days ago. Everyone claims that we don’t get snow in the South but I doth protest. In the past few years we’ve had some of the highest recorded snowfalls on record. IT DOES SNOW IN THE SOUTH. Why have we not figured out how to handle it?

Apparently a neighboring county closed schools yesterday.  Like before any precipitation had even been predicted much less appeared. And apparently traffic was so bad in Washington D.C. that it took my best friend 7 HOURS to get from the grocery store to her house (12 miles away). I tell you, people around here are nuts.

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For my part, I woke up this morning and got a quick workout in at 9Round (for the first time since being a nurse I had the snowstorm off) and then ran next door to Giant to pick up some fresh produce that I was running low on. Of course, it was packed and apparently out of potatoes? Like I said, it’s a snowstorm-not the apocalypse. I got home just in time to park my car before the flurries hit and warmed myself up by baking the most incredible cookies ever. Here you go:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread Cookies

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup oats

2 Tbs dehydrated peanut butter powder

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1 ripe banana

1/3 cup almond milk (I used 1/2 cup but it was a little too much)

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbs chia seeds

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Mash the banana in a medium sized bowl and add in almond milk, vanilla, and chia seeds. Once that’s mixed up add in the rest of the ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

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They may not look like the prettiest cookies you’ve ever seen but don’t let that fool you! The taste is like any great peanut butter/banana/chocolate chip combination should be. In retrospect, baking cookies may not have been the best decision when I’m going to be stuck inside all weekend…

Curry Creations

It’s cold outside. Finally. Growing up in Virginia has taught me that there is no rhyme or reason to Mother Nature. Seriously, where else in the world does it go from 60 degrees one day to 30 degrees and back again? Oh well, I guess I should be used to it by now.

This week I kept myself warm by cooking up the most tasty curry I’ve ever made. I adapted the recipe from plant-based on a budget. I used green onions and omitted the coconut oil. Because I was trying to cook without the coconut oil, I forgot how quickly garlic burns and immediately destroyed the bottom of my largest pan. I tried to get the burnt bits off by running the pan under water and of course, let out a cloud of smoke that set my fire detectors off (at least they work right?).

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Luckily for me, I had only used half of my green onions and was able to start over although I had to use a different pan (I was starving and didn’t want to take the time to fully clean the original pan right away). Because of this, I omitted the carrots and snow peas but I did add in some fresh basil and sprouts right at the end. The basil really enhanced the flavor. I also used coconut cream instead of coconut milk but this was only because that is what I had on hand. I do like using coconut cream in my curries although only every now and then as it is very high in fat. In the future, I’ll stick to buying coconut milk.

All in all, this curry is amazing. The only change I would make to the original recipe is that I would leave out the salt. It may have been the curry powder I used (I had a curry powder mix from a local cooking store) but the saltiness was a little overpowering in my version.

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I apologize for this post being later than I had expected. The newest ios update for Macbook apparently is is not compatible with my camera. It took a few days but I figured out that I CAN upload my pictures from my camera to my phone and then share them in iCloud to my computer for blogging purposes (annoying and super frustrating, but effective). Hopefully Sony will send out a new update for their app sharing soon as this is sure to drive me crazy.

Good News to Ring in the New Year

I have really exciting news! I found out a couple of weeks ago that I got into graduate school!!!!  I’ve been accepted to UVa’s Doctorate of Nursing Practice program. I’m still waiting to hear back from one more school but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be returning to UVa to become a Triple HOO regardless. It just makes the most sense financially since work will pay for most of it (who can argue with free grad school-especially since I’m still paying for undergrad…).

I spent a lot of time going back and forth with where I wanted to take my career but ever since I made the decision to apply I’ve felt a new resurgence for my chosen path. I’ve only been a nurse for a few years but during my time in the Intensive Care Unit, I found myself emotionally exhausted (often before I even entered the unit-knowing what was awaiting me). The most frustrating part of that was that many of my patients had illnesses that could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.

I know you can’t save everyone with dietary changes but I found myself so frustrated with the way America’s healthcare system is designed that I was seriously considering leaving the profession. It was around that time that I learned about the powers of plant based medicine. More importantly, I learned how many practitioners there are in the country that have found a way to blend lifestyle habits with modern medicine and I realized that you can have both!

I’m looking forward to working with patients to change their lifestyle through dietary modifications while also using modern medications and I’m glad that I have learned about the plant based lifestyle early on. I’m really committed to making myself healthier because I want to set an example for the patients that I treat.

I know how hard it can be to eat a vegan/plant based diet especially when coming from a poor or underserved community. I’ve witnessed the foods that my patients consume on a daily basis and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to show people how healthy whole foods are accessible even in areas where affordable options are scarce.

It’s so wonderful that this news came right around the New Year. I’m feeling very positive as 2016 begins. I can’t wait to see what it brings.