Family, Fitness, RD Advice

The Kick-in-the-pants that you just might need

I have a bit to say this morning about inspiration, dedication and pushing through in order to better your health. WARNING: you may commit to lifestyle changes after this post!

When I was in the US for a month, I spent family time with my in-laws who are living in India for 5 years, also working with Mennonite Central Committee.

Gordon and Carol are the most giving people I have ever met. What I mean by this is that they give 100% of themselves to other people. They are wonderful hosts who enjoy the presence of their guests. They are caring servants that devote themselves to their field of work and being the hands and feet of God. They are tireless and always have time to talk when you need to. They are great people and wonderful in-laws.

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However, both of them decided that they needed to take time for themselves and their health. I don’t know if they both started on the same day or who encouraged who, but around this past April, they both started walking on their treadmill. In addition, they started eating smaller portions, and more fruits and vegetables.

When I heard about the habits that they were incorporating into their lives I was so happy for them. Gordon was getting up at least an hour early in the morning and walking while he watched TV. Carol was leaving work on time (instead of later) and walking in the evenings before dinner. They told me that after they built up endurance they would go farther and turn up the speed. Carol was keeping track of her weight and kilometers that she walked every day. And when I saw them at the airport I could see that their hard work had paid off. Again, so happy for these guys! They are still walking and sticking to sustainable eating habits that help them manage their health –  yeah!

I get over-the-top excited whenever I hear stories like these and see people change their lives for the better. My in-laws are an inspiration. They may not know this before reading this post, but these days, whenever my alarm goes off in the morning and I contemplate turning it off in order to sleep more instead of working out, I think of them. I think about their dedication to their health and I remember that I made that promise to myself as well. So I roll out of bed, find my clothes, put on my shoes and get to it. I am absolutely nowhere near perfect, I go in and out of periods of my life when I maybe get in 3 workouts a week, maybe. And I also do not have time to spend an hour working out every day. Some days, like this morning, I have 20 minutes, other days I have an hour and a half. I work with what I have and feel good about whatever I accomplish.

While I realize that setting your mind to it and changing your routine and eating style is daunting and difficult, it is possible. No matter your age, fitness level, time constraints, etc. your current and future health deserve it. Emphasis on future health. Health issues don’t occur overnight, they take years to develop. Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, etc. These are serious things folks and there is no better time than your right now to make sure you are doing all you can to prevent them. Okay, not meaning to scare anyone – but please, don’t set yourself up for this in the future!

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And, if you are wondering, “what will these changes do for me at this point in my life?” well let me give you some helpful reading material:

1. Whatever Your Age, Exercise is Essential

http://www.westlondonphysio.co.uk/news-articles/whatever-your-age-exercise-is-essential

2. Healthy Living/Exercise and Fitness as you Age

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/exercise-and-fitness-as-you-age.htm

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_olderadults/en/

If you are also thinking, “well I really don’t have that much time so I should just wait until I can be 100% devoted,” here’s a little more to give you that kick in the pants:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/ten-minute-workout-short-intense-hiit_n_2599429.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/well/move/how-to-do-the-shortest-workout-possible.html?mcubz=1

Lastly, if you are saying, “Meghan, I don’t have a gym nearby or I hate working out in front of others or I have no exercise equipment,” check out these great sites for at-home workout inspiration.

https://fitnessista.com/fitness-categories/

https://www.pbfingers.com/workouts/

https://www.peanutbutterrunner.com/workouts/

There is no great way to say this but….we all have 15-20 minutes a day to spare, no excuses, you can do it!

So, are you ready? Keep me in the loop if you are starting an exercise plan or need some extra motivation or ideas! You got this!

~The Optimist

Recipes

My Obsession with Pinterest Recipes

Hey guys, I know its been a while since I have posted so I decided to do a rather light and easy post to get back in the swing of things. Today’s post is about my obsession with using Pinterest as a recipe source and what my favorite recipes have been so far – I hope you enjoy and I would love if you commented with links to your favorite Pinterest recipes!

Pinterest

I love my Pinterest app. I think other than What’s App, It is the most frequented app that I have on my phone. I love that I can search for whatever I am in the mood to cook and I get literally an endless amount of recipes to skim through. One of my favorite parts of my Sunday mornings (or Mondays when I am behind my game) is taking the time to sit down and write out what I am going to cook for the week, using my Pinterest app to look up saved recipes and find new ones. I would say that there is rarely ever a week of meal planning when I do not look up and try a new recipe. Of course this opens the door for recipe flops because I don’t know how it will turn out, if Zach will like it or not, etc. But, its a hobby of mine to try new recipes out and I do LOVE to cook (its peaceful-most of the time) so I am willing to take that risk.

As of now I have 188 pins for recipes (from about 3 years of using Pinterest to plan my meals). I am definitely not an over-pinner, I will only pin recipes that I am 90% sure that I will make and I do often scroll through my board a remake favorites.

So what have I been up to lately on my Pinterest app? My recent searches have been:

  • Banana bread recipe My sister posted about banana bread cookies so I obviously had to then make banana bread (#cravings). Best Easy Banana Bread
  • Salad with bacon Bacon is expensive over here so I was looking to not just cook it up and eat it but for a way to incorporate in into a large dish that would give me the most bang for my buck, and it did! BLT Pasta Salad
  • Lentil Soup One of the FIRST lentil soup recipes that I have eaten and continued to eat for left-overs not only because it was the only thing in the fridge (meaning I am willingly looking forward to eating the leftovers of this soup. Golden Coconut Lentil Soup

My All-Time Pinterest Favorites:

 

What is I Pinned but still haven’t made:

Pinterest Flops:

*This may be actually good recipes and I just messed them up somehow with substitutions, etc. They may work for you, I am just sharing that they weren’t what Zach and I were wanting for a dinner recipe.

I also use Pinterest to look up hair styles, workouts, home projects, etc. Feel free to scroll through my folders. Again – not an over-pinner, but I like to think that my pins are high qualitySmile

Please comment below to share your favorite Pinterest recipe!

~The Optimist

Travel

Living in Lebanon – First 3 Months

The first three months – oh the highs and the lows.

I thought that I would write a post about my first three months living abroad in Lebanon. For those of you who don’t know about why I am here, please see this post, “We’re Moving to Lebanon.”

Recently Facebook created a custom post for me where they highlighted a group of pictures from this past spring (similar to the one above). The pictures included my mom and I during her visit to Pittsburgh, Zach and I when we first saw each other at the airport after 5 long weeks apart, me walking home from the flower market with a batch of flowers for my balcony here in Lebanon, Zach and I at a beach in Cyprus, and Zach and I posing on the Corniche in Beirut. The pictures are great and I remember being really happy in each of them but when I saw the post I got really emotional (sad, homesick, missing my family, etc). Those pictures just reminded me of home and of the monumental life change that Zach and I made with this move and our new jobs and the fact that I won’t come home (except for a visit), but actually to a home that I call my own, until April of 2019.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy with this decision. There are many things that I love about my life here. Like all the fresh produce,  the view of the sea, track workouts with Zach, the team of MCC workers that I have the pleasure of being a part of, ALL of the people at the health clinic and offices that I work with, Lebanese meze, the mountains and hiking in them, and the fact that Zach is happier with his job than any job he has ever had and he feels truly fulfilled in the work that he does. This is a lot to love and I try to constantly remind myself of how blessed I am to be here, but I still have moments, like the FB one, when I just can’t keep it together.

So please allow me to be completely honest with where I am in my cultural transition: I really miss home, my culture, my language, the efficiency of America, being able to spend money without recording every penny (or lira in my case), being able to spend money on clothing and non-essentials without feeling like I am draining my savings, my friends and family (my sister is pregnant and I won’t see the baby in person until he is well over a year old plus my mom has a big birthday coming up), my routine (this is a BIG one), my profession, good AC, and in general my old life.

I have been told by Zach that this is just a normal part of making a new life in a country that is not your own (he went through a rough transition as well, but struggled with different things), and I know that I am not the only ex-pat that has gone through the same emotions. But for real – what is happening to me? I am an efficient, motivated, optimistic person that MAKES THINGS HAPPEN. But lately, I have really been struggling with my purpose and my motivation and I just feel like a failure. The question of the month for me is, “God, why am I here?”

Along with the additional questions that I ask myself all day long…

What exactly are my job responsibilities? How can I learn Arabic faster? How can I connect with the local group of dietitians? Is there a cost-effective gym that I can go to? (nope) What is the cost to attend a fitness class? (too much) What can I do to make my grocery bill smaller? Will I get to use my training as a dietitian at some point? Why can’t I access Target’s website? Why do taxis honk at you so much? How do you convert grams into cups? (as I try to make homemade bread). What does that acronym mean? (referring to the hundreds of acronyms that NGO’s and expats use and just assume that you know). Am I being helpful at work or do people just spend all their time interpreting for me? And on and on…..

These questions overwhelm me to the point where I find myself extremely emotionally fragile and volatile (example: FB post tears). Thank God for Zach:/

I hope this phase of transition won’t last too much longer and I am sorry to burden you with my troubles. I imagine that everyone at some point in their life goes through a time when they don’t know what the heck they are doing. If this is you right now – I feel ya. Stay strong, don’t be afraid to cry sad and angry tears. Try to slow yourself down and realize that you don’t need to be productive to bring joy to others and yourself. Give yourself time and grace to figure out your life and what God has planned for you. All these things I say to not only you, but myself as well.

~The Optimist

Travel

My Experience with Meze

I am going to be honest, I have no idea what meze (meza?, mezze?) translates to. Since living abroad, I have had two different mezze experiences. I have had Lebanese meze and Cypriot meze. While mezze is slightly different in the community it is served in, the basic idea is that at the end of eating a mezze meal, you have consumed 10-15 small portions of the most traditional dishes that the country has to offer and you are stuffed and satisfied. It is an experience that you must have during your life – you will not regret it.

A note about my food pictures, they are not great, I apologize. The lighting in restaurants is never optimal, I hate being THAT FOREIGNER who is snapping pictures instead of enjoying the atmosphere and culture, and I am really interested in getting the food into my mouth as soon as possible. Never-the-less, I hope you enjoy.

Lebanese meze: I have had this style of meze a few different times and each meal has been different. All Lebanese meze menu items are small plates to be shared. Each restaurant does their own version of a meze menu but some of the common items you will see on all Lebanese meze include: Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Halloumi, Sausages, Hummus and Pita bread, Kibbe, French Fries, raw meats, and more. For a group of 4 or 5 we typically order 7-8 plates and that satisfies us. After living here for a few months I enjoy all parts of Lebanese meze, except the raw meats – haven’t tried those and I don’t think I ever will.

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Every restaurant has their own version of table snacks. Nuts and carrots were this one’s specialty. The pita bread is for the meal to come, to use to dip and grab food.

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Fattoush salad – my favorite. It has mint, radish, an olive oil dressing and crunchy thin croutons for the top. My favorite is when a restaurant adds pomegranate seeds and juice into the dressing

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What would a meze be without hummus?

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I don’t know why I don’t have my own picture of Grilled Halloumi – it is one of our favorites.

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Sausage – some places serve it in sausage form, this one did a scramble

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Kibbeh – Again, where my pic of this went, I do not know

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Kebob – chicken and lamb. Expertly seasoned!

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Although you can’t see it, the view from our restaurant was lovely, beside a babbling creekSmile

Cypriot meze: On our second to last night in the lovely village of Agia Anna during our visit to Cyprus, Zach and I went to a small village tavern for our Cypriot meze. When I asked the waiter what was included in the meal, he literally said, “We serve you everything that we have in our kitchen.” And then he asked, “Are you hungry?” I was not starving as we were at the end of a very food-filled vacation but I had made sure that I hadn’t eaten much earlier in the day. And 5 minutes after we ordered, the dishes started coming. Here they are, in order:

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Beginning dishes: Fresh pita bread, lemons, olives, tahinosalata, yoghurt

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Garlic bread

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Grilled Halloumi Cheese (Zach’s favorite)

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Noodles and parmesean cheese – I think traditionally a ravioli dish is served

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Courgettes with eggs (zucchini)

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French fries – I tried to not each many because of all the other new and different food

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Spicy sausages – one of my favorites!

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Souvlakia – can be either a chicken or pork dish, this one was pork

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Pork cooked in wine

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I believe this is chicken but cannot find the name online, it was good though

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Keftedes? I believe – they were good but not my favorite because of the seasoning

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Deep friend eggplant

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Grilled pork chop

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Slow-cooked rabbit leg – Stifado – this was delicious and tender!

To sum it up – meze is a beautifully delicious and filling experience, no matter the culture it is served in. Meze is a meal to be shared with others and is a long and special experience. If you come to either country, Lebanon or Cyprus, you will not be disappointed in your meal options, I promiseSmile

~The Optimist

RD Advice

To Diet or Not to Diet?

It was during my junior high years that I first put myself on a diet. I found the instructions for the diet on the back of my Special K cereal box. The diet included a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a Special K drink for lunch, and another type of meal replacement for dinner. The diet failed later that day when I realized that my mom would not buy me the meal replacement foods that I needed for this diet. “Sigh,” this wasn’t my last failed attempt, but after trying several different diet methods during the rest of my junior high and high school years, I finally began to “get-it.” Over the next few years, as I learned more about nutrition from my college studies, my body found a healthy weight and it has stayed there since then. Today, I thought that I would share with you my thoughts about diets and dieting.

1. When a new diet is introduced it almost never has any research that supports it. It is only after the diet has been around for a while that interested parties perform research studies and make conclusions about whether or not the diet actually works. Why do I say this? Example A: The Cayenne Pepper, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Molasses Beverage thingy that is supposed to “burn” belly fat. We all know how ridiculous this sounds and no, it was never researched and I doubt that anyone will ever fund a research study to see if this actually works.

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2. Dieting can start a yo-yo effect on your weight. You want to lose some weight so you go on a diet and you lose weight. You go off of the diet the when you have lost the weight or when you get fed up with denying yourself food and over time, the weight comes back. Yo-yo.

3. This is sort of connected with #2 but many diets are full of dos and don’ts. Because of this, certain foods are thought of as only “diet” foods and some foods are thought of as “dessert” or “treat” foods. To eat chocolate while on a diet is a sin and sometimes people who are not on a diet feel guilty eating this food as well. While there are foods that are more nutritionally dense than others, it does not mean that guilt and shame should be associated with (moderate) portions of foods that we love like chocolate, ice cream, cake, bread (CARBS AREN’T BAD!), good cheese, pasta, and meat, etc.

4. Some diets use a lot of processed and packaged foods. For example, Nutrisystem uses a lot of packaging to send prepared meals to clients. Walk down the health section of the grocery store and what will you see? A million little healthy snacks wrapped in individual portions and powders and seeds in plastic bags or containers. Don’t get me started about the price of membership for diets (not affordable for many) and for these “health food” items. Healthy should not produce that much plastic waste and should be affordable for all.

5. A good thing about diets? I have had clients in the past tell me that they learned about portion sizes and how to not overeat because of their time doing Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem. Proper portion sizes is not a topic taught in school so I would agree that if you have the money to spend to learn this lesson, it is a valuable one that you would hopefully not forget. You could also spend your money to meet with a Registered Dietitian for a session or two – I guarantee that portion sizes would be taught within the first session.

Whenever I would have a client come to me asking for me to “put them on a diet” these are some of the things that we discuss and then they usually agree that a diet is not something that they are interested in. My motto and the motto of most other dietitians is that no food is off limits and you can maintain a healthy weight and live a life free from chronic diseases by practicing healthy lifelong habits such as these:

-Eat three meals a day, don’t wait too long in between meals (4-5 hours max) or you might over-eat during your next meal or over-snack.

-Try to make half of your plate either fruits, vegetables, or a mix of the two and put your whole grains and low-fat proteins on the other side of your plate.

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-Drink water 80% of the time, eat/drink low-fat dairy (3 cups of dairy per day!), and only on special occasions allow yourself things like soda, juice, or alcohol.

-Watch your add-ons. These are items that we add to foods that increase the calorie content and do not add nutritional quality to our meal. Coffee creamer, butter, condiments (mustard is just fine), salt, gravy, jam, too much peanut butter, too much cheese, etc.

-Indulge in the sweet, savory, and salty but don’t go overboard. These are special foods and they don’t need to be eaten in large quantities and not every day, save them for special occasions and fun treats. If you think you might be over-indulging in these items, track how much of them you are eating and try to cut down to 3/4 the amount per week, and then 1/2 per week, and so on. My husband and I love to go out sometimes and treat ourselves to a nice burger – its a treat, not a habit.

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-If you have a desk job, be intentional about walking breaks. Try to get 20-30 minutes of walking during your work day. The office that I used to work in did two stair sessions (7 floors) per day. It was fun to get people involved in being healthy together.

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-In addition to this, try to get 3-5 days of exercise in per week. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (jogging, walking at a nice clip, swimming, biking, etc). If you prefer higher intensity workouts (interval training with short bursts of speed, followed by a moderate pace) the recommendation decreases to 75 minutes of exercise per week. The AHA also recommends at least 2 sessions of strength training (weight bearing exercises, these can be done with our without weights). They don’t give a time for this but anywhere from 15-45 minutes. Beyond 45 minutes and you might be over-doing it for your muscles. Whew!

This may look like a long list and I have to say that sometimes I fail at several of these (we all do at times). But that doesn’t mean you are a failure or that you should stop trying. Keep up the hard work and the habits only get easier.

What are your thoughts about diets? Have you ever tried any that worked for you or helped

~The Optimist