dogs · nutrition · running

running these days

i really appreciate everyone who took the time to comment on my last post! It’s nice to feel supported and to hear your thoughts. I’m sure I’ll write more about the topics of disordered eating, being a non-diet dietitian and nutrition myth-busting in general as I’m super passionate about these and there is just so much misinformation out there.

taking a break from nutrition-talk for a little bit of running talk, though, since I don’t talk about that nearly as much in my daily life. Running and I are in a weird place right now – I’m still enjoying getting out to the park regularly for some miles, but my desire to race is very up and down and my race times reflect that. In fact, I just ran a 10K at a pace slower than my marathon PR pace and felt like total crap.

race in which I felt like total crap. 

up until then I had been on the fence about a fall marathon, but took it as a sign that maybe this called for a hard no on the whole 26.2 thing this year. 2017 will be the first year I haven’t run a marathon since 2009 and honestly, it feels weird. Like, what is summer without an early Saturday morning 16-20 miler, or the fall without a marathon to look forward to as the temps cool down? Am I going to have so much FOMO during NYC Marathon week?

is this an existential crisis?

so dramatic, I know. But for a long time, I seem to have defined my seasons and scheduled life things around marathon training and everything that goes along with it. And thrived on it, really. I’ve always been an athlete and running marathons has been a way to fulfill that need to push physical limits and work towards new goals. It feels so strange to purposefully not do something that I have so enjoyed in the past, but I have to admit now that it also feels pretty darn good both physically and mentally. I have been loving waking up on weekend mornings and taking Peanut for a nice walk without worrying about getting in a crazy amount of miles before it gets too warm out or the park too crowded. And I love not being exhausted after said crazy amount of miles with little motivation to do much or make plans to go out. It’s also nice to go to yoga, take a barre class or day off without worry about how that affects weekly mileage, workout performance, etc. It is, dare I say, liberating.

it took me a little bit to realize that I’m still a runner, even if I don’t run a marathon this year, and that aside from all of the workouts, long runs, races and paces, I love the simple act of running and how it makes me feel. I think I lost touch with that a bit. So the non-plan plan for right now is to just run. If I feel like speeding up on some days, I’ll speed up. But if I don’t, that’s fine too. I’d like to do some shorter races in a few months – maybe a 10 miler and a half marathon – but not if it adds unnecessary stress or I start to feel burnt out again. Enjoying the fact that I can run is the only real goal for this year, and I think that’s a pretty good one.


peanut agrees. 

nutrition · running

a little on social media and disordered eating

recently I wrote this op ed for the Equinox web magazine Furthermore.

it’s called “just eat the pizza” and the title alone encompasses some of what my nutrition philosophy continues to evolve to these days. And that’s not to say I think people should eat pizza all day, every day – though it is delicious – but to try and avoid putting foods like pizza into certain categories (“bad” or “good”) or to always be striving to eat only things that are deemed “clean”, superlatively healthy, or whatever your definition of “perfect” eating is. Goals like this can come from the best of intentions – to feel better, perform better, etc. – but can so often traverse into more of a restrictive eating pattern, fuel a very destructive diet mentality and lead to disordered eating.

super delicious “earth mother” pizza from two boots with broccoli, spinach, mushroom, jalapeño, tomato and REAL cheese

even though I like the social medias like Instagram as much as the next person, I think it can absolutely fuel disordered and restrictive eating patterns and almost normalize them to a really vulnerable population. The problem stems from what makes Instagram and other social and digital media platforms what they are – pretty much anyone can say anything, especially when it comes to food and nutrition because most people have an opinion. Distinguishing between opinions and evidence-based facts gets so muddled and for the most part, doesn’t seem to matter so much. And if you take pretty pictures of your meals highlighting what they are “free” in, like grains, dairy, gluten, sugar, etc., these must be “bad” for whatever reason and you must know what you’re talking about when it comes to health, right?

but no!

something I saw recently that has been promoted by a heavily followed young RD (this is so disappointing), celebrity “nutritionist” and a popular health website is a week-long “sugar detox,” to help show people the “dangers” of added sugars in certain foods. Huh? It’s never necessary to do a “sugar detox” to become aware of added sugars in foods – especially to the people who are following these folks and reading the website in the first place. They probably already know! This is fear mongering, and another way to normalize restrictive eating patterns and diet mentality under the guise of something that sounds positive and “healthy.”

Let’s be real here – the added sugar in ketchup is not going to hurt you. But stressing about things like that absolutely can.

nutella and banana crepe. with added sugars. and also palm oil. unless you’re eating it all day, every day, it’s fine. really.

that’s just one example of the crazy things I’ve seen recently on social and digital media, and they just keep coming! I don’t follow a whole lot of these accounts, and I’m kind of torn when it comes to unfollowing them all, or checking in to see what’s happening every now and then because I’m bound to get questions from patients and clients about this stuff and it helps to be aware. Does anyone else feel me here?

if I could shout one thing from the rooftops (or the social medias, heh), it’s that you don’t have to eat super “clean”, restrict food groups, and police every bite that goes into your mouth to feel good in your body, perform well athletically and live a long, happy life. You just don’t. And if you obsess over that stuff day in and day out, you’re missing out on a lot of actual living. Because in a world where there are no “good” or “bad” foods, eating can’t be perfect or imperfect, it’s just there to enjoy. And when that happens, there’s so much more space to have fun and explore the things that will make you a truly happy, healthy person.

so interested in hearing thoughts on this, if you’re still out there 🙂

 

 

dogs · nutrition · running

the {life, dog, work, nutrition, running} updates

the other day I was thinking that, hmm, I wish I had an outlet to write about what’s currently happening in my life, my nutrition philosophy and how they have both changed and evolved a lot in recent months. And then I was like oh right, I have a blog space! It’s terrible how I’ve gotten away from regular blogging because I used to love it so much, but life happens. The blogosphere and social media has changed a ton lately too, with Instagram and podcasts and whatnot, it’s kind of hard to figure out which one to focus or say what on. I don’t even read a ton of blogs anymore, but the ones I do read are awesome, and I so appreciate people still putting out great content! I’m going to try to be one of those people again.

life updates
I guess the biggest update on the life front is my new-found dog mom status. In February, I adopted a ~3 year old Dorkie rescue from a shelter here in New York and she immediately became the light of my life.

peanut butter hogan. 5 lbs of ridiculous cuteness (i mean, that face…)

peanut was rescued from a puppy mill after being used as a breeding dog for most of her life. Before getting her, I had no idea that even occurred, but it does and it’s awful. The animals are kept in cages with little to no human interaction or medical care, and bred over and over again to make puppies to sell at pet stores. The Amish are HUGE offenders here – something else I didn’t know – and the way they treat their animals is appalling. Here is more information if you’d like it.

as a result, Peanut is a VERY fearful dog. It took her weeks just to walk around my apartment, and a few more weeks before she even wagged her tail. She is more afraid of people than other dogs, and any loud sound or big object (etc.). It breaks my heart in a way I never thought possible to think about what she went through. But! The good news is that she is making progress every day, and is the sweetest little girl who will be spoiled for the rest of her life. So here is my PSA – adopt don’t shop! Rescue dogs are the best.

work updates
since I’m a single dog mom, it has been an adjustment juggling work and dog momming, and if I’m being honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I live within walking distance of my job, which is awesome, so I can come home during lunch and take her out. This is also exhausting, however, and a bit time consuming. I try to schedule my patients accordingly and for the most part it works, but I’ve been feeling lately like something has to give so I can spend more time at work and so Peanut can hang out with other dogs a bit more. We’re trying out a daycare next week, so fingers crossed on that one! I worry about her so much because she is really tiny compared to other dogs (are helicopter dog moms a thing?).

anyways, in January I was promoted to “clinical nutrition and wellness manager” at the breast cancer center where I work. I love this title – it really encompasses what I’ve tried to build into my position since I started about 1.5 years ago, and that’s looking at the patients wellness as a whole in addition to nutrition. Sleep, exercise, stress management, etc. These play such a pivotal role in overall health and in the case of my ladies, the prevention of breast cancer recurrence. There is so much great research coming out about it as well!. Which brings me to…

nutrition updates
gosh, where do I start! I think I’ve mentioned on here my interest in intuitive eating, and that has only continued to grow after reading the book, continuing to practice yoga and meditation and following like-minded dietitians on social media, blogs and podcasts. My favorites are Robyn of the real life RD, Kylie of immaeatthat, Heather of the RD real talk podcast, Anne of fannetastic food, Alexis of hummusapien, Kara of the foodie dietitian, and Christy Harrison’s food psych podcast. I want to be friends and have such a brain-picking session with them – intuitive eating, body positivity and a non-diet mentality is hard to come by in the clinical setting, and I’m working really hard to make this a part of my practice.

cornmeal blueberry pancakes are never a bad idea!

my passion for this philosophy stems from my own personal struggles, as well as seeing so many of my patients come from years of yo-yo dieting, food restriction and poor body image that has left them totally miserable and lost. I’m also fascinated by the hormonal affects these behaviors have on the body and how we can heal them. This for sure is a whole new post(s), which is my goal for next time.

she comes to work after hours sometimes to help me with my groups 🙂 

I just told Peanut to hold me accountable for posting here, and she’s pretty hard to say no to, so…

(in proofreading, I realized I forgot to mention running. that’s for sure an indication of how my running has been going lately, for the most part. to be continued on that one…)

nutrition · running

nutrition and breast cancer

well, I’m glad I transitioned to this blog knowing there was no pressure to post on the regular! I’m not sure I even have any readers left, but I do still like to get my thoughts out there regardless of whether anyone is picking up what I’m putting down…

sunrise2

pink for breast cancer awareness month!

this month has been a busy whir of marathon training (taper is so close I can feel it!), a big nutrition conference (FNCE, for those of you in the “know”) and ongoing breast cancer awareness month happenings. I’ve worked exclusively with breast cancer patients for the past year at an amazing breast cancer center, and it has changed me in so many personal and professional ways. The ladies I counsel are tough, hilarious, generous and more inspirational every day. I look forward to going to work in the morning and coming up with new ways to incorporate the latest research into new programs, groups and strategies to get them excited about leading a healthy lifestyle (and preventing recurrence!). Nutrition and lifestyle (stress reduction, sleep, exercise, etc.) are paramount when it comes to prevention of both breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer diagnosis, and it’s never too early to make some changes if you need to. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and it also has the highest survival rate of all cancers, making prevention of recurrence so, so important and absolutely possible. Here are some of my top tips for breast cancer prevention I recently wrote about for the MSH blog, and they’re also wonderful first steps to adapting a healthy lifestyle and feeling good in general – what’s not to like about that?

eat more vegetables
high fruit and vegetable intake has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer and a higher long-term survival rate for those who already have breast cancer. Women with higher fruit and vegetable intake are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, which is also linked to reduced risk. I recommend at least five servings (1 cup = 1 serving) of fruits and vegetables daily; more than seven is even better. If it seems difficult to incorporate this amount of fruits and vegetables into your diet, keep it simple. Aim to make each meal colorful, slowly increasing fruit and vegetable content until they comprise at least half of your meal.

cook more at home
research shows an increase in survival rates among breast cancer patients with diets low in saturated and trans fats. In the standard American diet (shorted appropriately to SAD), these fats come from fried food, fast food, processed food, and high-fat animal products like butter, full-fat dairy, and red meat. I recommend limiting saturated and completely avoiding trans fat for my patients, though evidence is mixed on saturated fat intake for the generally healthy population. Instead, cook more at home! Not only can we control what goes into our meals – no sneaky high-fat additives – but we can also experiment with fresh, seasonal ingredients and pile on the veggies. Opt for baking, steaming or broiling lean proteins like fish, roast vegetables with a drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil paired with a whole grain such as quinoa, or create a one-pot wonder like hearty vegetarian chili.

limit alcohol
multiple studies have linked excessive alcohol intake to many different cancers, including breast cancer. Because higher alcohol intake is associated with increased blood levels of estrogen, limiting or cutting alcohol out of the diet is especially important to those with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. My recommendation when it comes to alcohol intake: less is more, and certainly no more than 2-3 drinks per week.

focus on real, “whole” foods
packaged food that seems healthy because of terms like “all natural,” “made with whole grains,” “lightly sweetened,” “low sugar,” “energizing,” “made with real fruit,” etc., can often influence our choices in the grocery store. Such labeling is unregulated and, quite often, these foods are full of junk (I talked about this in my last post too). Before adding these items to your shopping cart, take a peek at the ingredients list. Keep an eye out for added sugars, artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives, and chemical additives. Generally, if the ingredients list contains unrecognizable food items or items, it’s not what you want to put in your body. Focus on “whole” foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. This leaves little room in your diet for the processed stuff.

img_8386

yay plants!

my brain also is on information overload from the nutrition conference I was at this week, and I hope to post about an awesome talk I attended about fueling for endurance sports (and the importance of carbohydrates despite anecdotal hype to the contrary). stay tuned!

nutrition

on food choices, influence and the big picture

a lot is happening in the nutrition world right now (and the world world. yikes). Mainly I’m speaking of this article, which reported on recently discovered internal sugar industry documents that indicate top scientists in the 1960’s were paid to downplay the negative role of sugar in our health and shift the blame to saturated fat.

parisegg

not low in saturated fat

so many aspects about this report are notable. First, the sugar industry hand-picked the research these scientists reviewed to be published in a very prominent journal article, all in their favor. Study funding and financial compensation did not have to be disclosed at the time, and the public was in the dark as to just how much they were being deceived. Even though funding and financials must be disclosed nowadays, so many of the big food companies continue to try and influence public decision-making with less than honest strategies. Shifting negativity onto another food category as in this example, highlighting “health benefits” of their products that actually mean nothing, funding biased research studies, the list goes on. Whether we realize it or not, we are being influenced by corporations who care way more about the bottom line than our health. And because money is always the loudest talker in the room, I don’t see this changing any time soon. What we can change, however, is our level of education as consumers. Here are a couple ways to start:

don’t assume a food is “healthy” because of these labeling terms: “natural” or “all natural”, “made with whole grains”, “lightly sweetened”, “low sugar”, “energizing”,  “made with real fruit”, etc. These terms are NOT regulated by the FDA and mean absolutely nothing. Ironically, many if not most foods that do contain terms like this on packaging are full of junk that their manufacturers might be trying to distract you away from. Don’t fall for it!

read labels: and not just the calorie and fat content either. Make sure to check out the serving size and ingredients list. This is a good guide with a bit more detail, but in general, if the ingredients list contains unrecognizable food items and/or things that sound like they could fuel rocket ships, it’s probably not what you want to be putting in your body. And your body will thank you!

keep it simple: truly focusing on “whole” foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, low-fat dairy – means there is not a whole lot of room for the processed junk that the big corporations are trying so hard to persuade us to buy more of. A fantastic rule of thumb for most meals is to make half of your plate vegetables, 1/4 starch (so, a whole grain, bean, starchy vegetable) and 1/4 lean protein.

bowl

keep. it. simple

it’s also important to point out the other big picture here and look at how the original study in the ‘60s shaped the next couple of decades nutrition-wise. The low fat diet craze vilified any and all kinds of fat, and fat free, sugar laden products became extremely popular (I always think of those awful Snackwell’s cookies here). The incidence of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes also skyrocketed during those decades, and it doesn’t take much to realize the correlation. But, instead of getting on the bandwagon of “sugar is the devil,” let’s think about this a bit more. Vilifying a single nutrient is not going to get us anywhere (as evidenced by this whole story). The most important thing to focus on here are dietary PATTERNS. That is, all of the foods we eat, for a long time period. Changing dietary patterns – again, towards a more “whole” foods diet – is how we’re going to see actual change. Not so much swearing off every morsel of sugar (or whatever it may be) for the rest of life, or in my case, influencing others to do so.

so I guess this topic has gotten me a bit fired up, but I’ll stop for now. This is an important conversation to have, though, and one that I’ll continue here and in my practice regularly.

nutrition · running

marathon training lately

maybe it’s the gloriously cool temperatures that have finally reached NYC or the other marathons that are starting to happen around the east coast, but it finally feels like the fall racing season. And with that, some probably less than necessary second-guessing my workouts, mileage, long runs, rest, etc. thus far and wondering if I should be doing something differently. Even after 10 marathons, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing most of the time when it comes to training (though I’ve had my moments, I guess!). With social media being what it is, I also find myself comparing to others training sometimes – should I be doing two workouts every week? Running higher mileage? Less mileage? A longer long run? Doubles? The list goes on.

watch

too fast? too slow? i have no idea?

while it is helpful to read about new workouts fellow runner folk are doing, it’s largely not helpful to compare my running to anyone else’s. It’s all relative – one person’s fast is another person’s slow, and vice versa. Whenever I find myself falling into the comparison trap, I ask myself the same question:

is this useful?

if it’s not, and it often isn’t, let that shit go and focus on the present (and you!). This question also works for a lot of life’s worries and negativity (it only took me 34 years to make that breakthrough, by the way, thanks mostly to my yoga and meditation practice).

anyways! Early on I decided that for this training cycle, I’d focus on a quality Tuesday workout and weekend long run with a workout imbedded within to give me enough recovery time in between runs (getting old sucks) but also build speed and endurance. I also shoot for one day off per week and usually go to yoga on this day, plus around three other days over the week/weekend. Yoga has helped me tremendously in the past year or so as I’ve developed a regular practice – both physically and mentally – and I recently got an unlimited membership to my favorite studio. Best decision ever.

muffin

refueling after morning runs has also been a priority

so far, Tuesday workouts have gone really well and I’m getting better at pushing myself and managing pain. The long runs have been a different story, mostly due to the insane heat and humidity we’ve had for most of the summer. I haven’t done very many workouts within the runs because just getting through them has been enough of a challenge! And that’s ok (plus it has to count for something once the temperatures are nice and cool, right??). Last week was another warm/horribly disgusting one, and here’s what my running looked like:

monday: 8.5 miles easy a.m.; yoga class after work (always vinyasa)

tuesday: ~3 miles warm-up, 5 miles at tempo pace (goal: between half marathon/marathon pace so maybe 7:45 or so), 3 miles cooldown. This was mostly awful, if I recall correctly. I decided on a very hilly section of Central Park (starting up Harlem hill and going south on the west side), and went out way too fast so that the last few miles felt like a death march. I really need to work on that…

wednesday: off, blissful yoga class!

thursday: 9 miles easy a.m. with a few 30 second strides at the end

friday: 45 minute “meh” spin class at Flywheel, 3 or so miles running to and from studio. I usually just run on this day (around 7 miles) but this was a cutback week and it was 800 degrees out, so air conditioned spinning won.

saturday: 15 miles mostly easy, very hot and humid. I knew a workout wasn’t happening so just focusing on keeping a fairly steady pace and hydrating!

sunday: 8 miles very easy, yoga class in the afternoon

total of around 54 miles. My right foot had been bothering me a bit on and off, so cutting back a little on mileage was helpful and I’ll probably do this again a few times before taper. On other weeks recently I’m mostly around 60-65 miles, which might be my sweet spot of sorts as anything more hasn’t really seemed to benefit me in the past. This week has been gloriously cool in the mornings, and I am so, so ready for these fall temps to stick around!

nutrition · running

some nutrition myths vs fact

“I tried to stay off the internet until we met so you could tell me the right things to do,” said exactly one patient in all of my years as a dietitian thus far. This happened fairly recently so it’s fresh in my mind, and once I got over the initial shock at the novelty of this statement, it look a little restraint to not hug her.

getting lost in the black hole of nutrition-related Googling is just a couple fingertips away from all of us, and if there’s something of personal interest to fuel those searches – a new medical diagnosis, upcoming race, desire for weight loss – it’s easy to believe just about everything we read. I knew dispelling popular nutrition myths would be a part of my job when I became a dietitian, but I had no idea how much (ahh, the innocence). The digital age makes it pretty easy for incorrect information to spread like wildfire. I hear at least a few new and old theories every day, from the sort of fact-based (“I’m eating more beets because they will make me faster”) to the misunderstood (“Sugar feeds cancer”) to the completely crazy (“Someone told me that I have to go for a walk right after eating fruit and it has to be in the morning”). A good deal of my time is spent dispelling advice people have come across that isn’t based on anything other than opinions, individual experience and/or wonky science, and although I have to laugh at some of this stuff, I do take it pretty seriously. A lot of it is not only unnecessary, but it can be harmful and result in nutrient deficiencies, reduced efficacy of important treatments/medications, stress the body systems, lead to disordered eating habits, etc.

here are a few common nutrition-myths that come to mind:

soy causes breast cancer – not true! This is a very general and very misunderstood statement, stemming from the fact that soy naturally contains a plant-based form of estrogen (called a “phytoestrogen”). The assumption here is that these phytoestrogens may act as our own estrogen when we consume soy products, increasing the estrogen in our bodies and the risk for hormone sensitive cancers like breast cancer. But, all of the latest research is dispelling this theory and pointing towards soy products as being beneficial, if anything, for women with breast cancer or those at risk because these phytoestrogens do not act act the same way as our own estrogen. In fact, they may have a protective effect. The caveat here, though, is that this only goes for whole soy products. So, tofu, edamame, soy milk, tempeh, soy yogurts and the like are fine, but processed soy products with unnaturally high amounts of these phytoestrogens may be harmful. These are things like soy-based protein powders or bars, and soy-based vegetarian “meats.” The earlier studies that have linked soy and breast cancer have been conducted on mice who had been given unnaturally high amounts of soy protein isolate, which they metabolize differently in their tiny mouse bodies than we as humans do. This is a good basic resource for more information.

oats

(soy milk is a nice alternative to cow’s milk if you’re sensitive, with just as much protein! works well in oats)

low potassium levels cause muscle cramps – gah! How many times have you been told (or thought you had to) eat a banana to help with muscle cramps? This has never actually been proven, and although electrolyte loss may play a role in heat-related muscle cramping, potassium is not the key player. Sodium is. And even this depends on the individual – salty sweaters are more likely to experience muscle cramping during long endurance events in the warmer months due to excessive sodium losses in sweat. We (I am a super salty sweater!) can be proactive and try to prevent these types of cramps by consuming sodium along with fluids during runs. My favorite way to do this is with Nuun tablets, which contain 360mg of sodium per tablet (and funnily enough, their website states the potassium in the tablets will prevent muscle cramping. Time to update that, guys!). Most gels contain sodium as well, but the amount may vary. No matter what you’re using, it’s always important to check labels and make sure your sports drink/nutrition contains sodium. I’ve seen some runners using coconut water for long runs recently, which is an excellent potassium source but contains little to no sodium (so, no bueno!). Salty snacks before and after the run can also be extremely helpful, and there has even been some recent research on the role of pickle juice in replenishing sodium losses in sweat. Aside from sodium, though, a more common cause of muscle cramps is muscle fatigue, high intensity exertion and insufficient conditioning. The best way to prevent these may be to train appropriately (so don’t run a marathon on little to no training).

organic foods contain more nutrients than non-organic/conventional foods – incorrect! A pretty major study was conducted a few years ago comparing nutrients and health effects of organic vs conventional foods and found no significant difference in nutrient content between the two. This means the vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, protein, etc. content of your favorite fruits, vegetables and animal products is going to be about the same whether they are organic or conventional. There may be a slightly higher omega-3 fatty acid content in some organic animal products – dairy, eggs, chicken, beef – due to the different feed that animals are given, but this difference may not be significant. So what is the difference between organic vs conventional foods, you ask?

organic products are produced using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. In the U.S, products MUST meet USDA organic standards in order to be labeled “USDA Organic”. These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives. Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Do not use antibiotics or growth hormones on animals; no genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

so if any of these points are important to you, going organic may be the way to go if you can swing it financially, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting more nutrient bang for your buck. This is a great resource for more info.

eggs2

(eggs will also not raise your cholesterol!)

among many other topics, I also wanted to mention the alkaline diet here (and how there is no scientific evidence behind its principles) but that is turning out to be a whole different post. So stay tuned!