Taking Back My Commute

When I was looking for my first RD job, I looked throughout all of Connecticut.  My thought process was something along the lines of, “Oh everything is within about an hour of everything else.” WRONG.  It was more the fact that if it was more than an hour away, we never bothered.

It was that idea that led me to my current position in Norwalk (which I do love).  Now, from New Britain it was 1 hour 15 according to Google, but in reality with traffic, construction and delays, allowing 2 hours every morning and evening was far more practical.  As my co-workers are well aware, having that type of commute with unpredictable drivers can be frazzling and really start your day on the wrong foot.

Well in the last  month I moved down to the shoreline.  I am still by no means close to my job, but I have stumbled upon an amazing alternative:

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!!!

Train Collage

 

I have been taking the commuter rail for the past month or so and it has changed my days so much, for the better.  I have to leave my house a little earlier but it pretty much takes the same amount of time.  Here are some of my observations from this experience.

Commuting time can be productive…or not.

While driving, I did my best to make the most of my time.  I had books on tape, listened to NPR and used the time to chat with friends and family, using a hands free device of course.  But I was still pretty limited.  Most people weren’t available to talk at the right time, and because my drive was so long, I heard the same news over and over.  Now I can read a book or magazine, text, jot down to do lists, blog or nap! I still don’t have a smart phone and the train doesn’t have wi-fi so I can just type and upload later, without the facebook/instagram/tumblr/buzzfeed temptation.  I recently reviewed a book for the Women’s Health DPG and was able to read and write it on my commute.

Stress can just ruin your day

Every morning I would have to choose which route to take, based on traffic, and I always seemed to choose wrong.  Especially close to NY, traffic piles up just because and it is incredibly difficult to predict.  If I was cutting it close, I would beat myself up for taking 95 and not the Merritt (or vice verse).  Being on the edge of your seat for 2 hours before your work day even begins is exhausting.  Now, I live by the train schedule which may fluctuate 6 minutes (rather than an hour).  I can plan on that and I know I will get to work on time.  So for those 2 hours, I don’t even have to think about it, focusing my energies on more enjoyable topics.

Traffic
On my way to the train, I get to watch all the traffic that I am NOT stuck in. #gratifying

I love casual social interaction

Driving, I saw my roommates in the morning, my coworkers during the day (all 6 of them) and roommates at night.  All great people, but its nice to mix it up.  I have already  made friends with a platform conductor who is a ray of sunshine, especially when its raining.  I have also had interesting conversations with others on the train and have overheard some very intriguing stories.  I also get to see new clothing trends sported by fellow professionals.  So much more stimulation, in a good way.  This gives the opportunity to tell a good story when I’m home or when I get to work, rather than talking about the jerk that cut me off.

Train People

Physical Fitness doesn’t only happen at the gym

The train station is about 1.5 miles from my office and I have the time so I just walk and track with my FitBit. There are well kept side walks the whole way, it’s safe and is an opportunity to get some steps in!  With such a long commute, exercising had been a challenge and I am so happy that I was able to build it into my day.  Timing forces a brisk pace and I end up getting about 1 hour of physical activity in per day (round trip). My average steps jumped from about 4,000 to 15,000.  Not too shabby.  To make this a bit more manageable, I wear sneakers and leave my nice (but not so practical) shoes at the office.  I also have an umbrella, deodorant and spray on sunscreen in my bag at all times, the necessities.

Fit Bit Dashboard

I missed the great outdoors

Prior to my job, I had never been to Norwalk before.  And after work, I had no motivation to go exploring.  Now, I walk through a huge chunk every day and am getting acquainted with its shops, parks and residents.  I can actually tell clients how to get to grocery stores and healthy restaurants.  It is so revitalizing to get fresh air, see the trees and flowers blooming and enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass in the mornings.

Norwalk Collage

I think the most important thing that this has taught me is that you are able to change your circumstances.  If there is a part of your day or your life that gives a lot of stress and aggravation, step back and re-evaluate.  You may be able to make a modest change that has a pretty great impact.  I would say that mentally, I am doing much better.  I am happier and more relaxed which I sure translates to a more pleasant person to live and work with!

What healthy changes have you made to your daily routine?

 

Perks of Being an Aunt

Last month, I got to celebrate my nephews 2nd birthday! I cant believe he is already so big, and he has a vocabulary I think some 8 year olds would envy.  A fun fact is that he was born the weekend I graduated from college, so he is a nice maker of how long I’ve been in the real world. Yikes, has it really been 2 years since I was a True Blue UConn Husky???  Quarter-life crisis aside, we all had a great time with the little munchkin.

He is super into trains so we went to go see Thomas! Seriously, this thing is like a rock concert for toddlers.

Thomas CollageAfterwards we got together for lunch, cake and presents.  In addition to Thomas, my nephew LOVES the movie Despicable Me.  He cant quite say it, so his requests sounded like “Pickle me”.  When we babysat it was a bit confusing, but eventually we figured it out.  In light of this, I decided to attempt my first Auntie confection.  And behold, the minions were born:

2014-05-05 09.03.51  2014-05-03 18.30.26

2014-05-03 18.30.18Aren’t these so cute??? I kept the recipe simple and made Martha Stewart’s vanilla cupcake recipe.  I then added a generous amount of blue food coloring to represent their overalls.  The batter was slightly yellow from the egg yolks so I had to use a lot of coloring to keep it blue, not green.  For the frosting, I made my first butter cream! Soooo good, but also made me realize just how much butter is in butter cream.  Well worth it.  I love the shade of yellow I was able to get.  Its so vibrant and is a pretty good match for the real characters. Because the frosting dries stiff, I did a base coat and then smoothed it out with a second layer of frosting to make a nice even surface for decorating.

When I was planning out my cupcakes, I was trying to come up with a creative way to decorate.  I was pretty sure my frosting abilities weren’t strong enough to do the eyes in white frosting.  Might have gotten a bit scary.  Instead, the idea to use mini marshmallows popped into my head! Using a toothpick, I drew pupils on the center then added some extra frosting to the bottom to act as glue.  I used a basic black gel frosting for the other details. Viola! To best represent the minions diverse personalities, I mixed up there expressions and number of eyes.  It was difficult to get the classic Whaaaaa? face, but I still got a nice range.

At the party, I think the kids were too young to really get it, but they went over well with the adults.  And the kids liked the flavor so win-win.

What whimsical baking have you done?

 

FitBit: a Bit of an Obsession

Back in December, I decided to treat myself to a gadget.  I had a bit of income from a retail job that I worked while I was RD Job hunting, and I hadn’t done something for myself in a while.  My friend Emily, who works on her feet all day, and I decided to go for it and get ourselves FitBit Zips.  We had heard great things from reviews and friends (*cough* Melissa) and wanted to see how active we really were during the day.  She got pink and I, of course, got lime green.  Well its been a little over 6 months now and I have to say, I’m still excited about it.

Basics:

  • The zip is a pedometer that can hook onto your pants or undergarments
  • It tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned-including calories from basic body functions
  • It syncs with your computer so you can see trends

2014-01-12 16.15.02

I wear this thing every day, occasionally missing it on the weekends.  When I first started it showed me that I was not as active as I thought.  I was on my feet for my job, but was really only walking 3000-4000 steps a day (goal 10,000).  Knowing his prevented me from over eating.  Now that I have activity built into my day and I am meeting my fitness goals, it makes it easier to eat appropriately.

More on the website:

  • You can track your food intake and it will calculate your needs for weight loss, gain or maintenace
  • You can manually enter activities not picked up like swimming or yoga
  • You can enter in your sleep for more complete wellness
  • You can compete with encourage your friends and other FitBit users!

Fit Bit Dashboard

Since starting my own FitBit journey, I have purchased them for Eric and my mom, and I know others are probably sick of me singing its praises.  But that’s not going to change anytime soon! I have found that having some accountability has made me much more willing to engage in both structured exercise and more activities of daily living.  If I’m reading on a couch and I’m thirsty, I’m more likely to actually get up and get water, rather than just sucking it up.  If a friend needs help moving something, I’ll lend a hand more readily.  I now see everything as an opportunity for steps.  I don’t think it has gotten truly obsessive, but it has made me more aware of activity opportunities.  A neat feature is that you can earn badges.  These can be a personal best for steps in a day or total miles over your lifetime.  Recently, I got this beauty:

Fit Bit BadgeAnd I am totally ready to walk 500 more. And wind up at your door… You can’t NOT sing that song. Right?  Overall, my Zip is very easy to use, is secured snugly and I love that it syncs, allowing me to see every step I’ve made over the past 6 months.  If you want a boost to get you going or to monitor your already active lifestyle, I say go for it.  They are about $60.00-$70.00 but you do get a lot out of it and it will last you ages.  Happy stepping!

Do you already use any other fitness tracking gadgets?

 

Fabletics Outline and Review

There is a relatively new company out there for women’s athletic apparel. Fabletics was founded in part by actress Kate Hudson.  I had seen advertisements on Facebook and around the web and finally, after hearing good things, tried it out and made an order.  Below is how the website works and my review of the products I purchased.

Image

So when you first go to the website, it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of selection.  The key is to sign up for an account.  When you do, it will ask you your sport preferences (yoga vs running vs swimming) as well as other factors that matter when choosing gear (outside vs inside, conservative vs showy).  From there, the site generates outfits for you, showing much more merchandise.  You can then purchase an outfit or individual items.  There is also the option of becoming a VIP Member.

The VIP Membership is something I signed up for without really understanding what it was, but it worked out in the end.  When you initially sign up, you get your first outfit at an incredible discount – between $25 and $30 for 2-3 pieces.  I saw that and just went for it.  Here are the details:

  • Fabletics will generate new outfits for you on the 1st of the month
  • The VIP prices are much lower than that of a regular user.  It appears to be about 30% cheaper.
  • You have until the 10th of the month to either purchase an outfit or decline.  If you do nothing, Fabletics will automatically charge your account $50.  But that money doesn’t go away, you can use it for future purchases.  What is nice about this is that you have the option of declining a purchase every month with no penalty.  And if you do forget, the charge can go towards something useful.

I didn’t really understand the details at first.  I started kicking myself when I saw they could charge me, but then I realized that the policy was actually very reasonable.  And if I don’t think I can consistently remember to skip a month, its easy to downgrade to a regular membership.

Other perks!

  • When you make a purchase, you earn points
  • When you review items, you earn points
  • If a friend you invite joins, you earn points
  • All these points can add up to free outfits!

This helps foster a community on the website and ensures that all the products have a TON of feedback regarding sizing, quality, style reviews and other important info that is so helpful when purchasing online.  And the points don’t expire for 2 years, so no rush.

Now that I’m done with the paper work, lets get on the clothes (obviously what you’re really here for).  I really liked a lot of the outfits.  The one I chose included a tank, sports bra and capris.  I ended up choosing different colors for all of the items – I was very happy to have the option to do so.  To test out the outfit, I took a Zumba class.

Rio Run Capri – Black and White

Image

To begin, I LOVE these pants.  The material is so soft, it feels nicer than a pair of Athleta pants I own.  They stretch well and most importantly, stay put! There was no riding up and I didn’t feel worried about the material stretching thin/tearing during squats.  Running up the side is a mesh strip for ventilation.  I was mildly concerned that modesty would be an issue, but the black is still very discrete.

One thing I will note is that the length is not a true capri, more like a knicker length.  It comes right below the knee and has some piping on the edge.  This could be a turn off for some but I got used to it and now don’t mind.

Doon Sports Bra – Salt and Pepper

Image

Unfortunately, this item wasn’t a winner.  I realize now that I should have ordered a size down from my normal, but even then I don’t think that it would provide the medium support it promised.  Very soft, but no support.  It does have a nice mesh back for ventilation.

To its credit, the grey is really nice.  It has enough black in it to give an intense, military-esc image.

Oula Tank – Ultra Lemon

Image

This tank is great.  Similar fabric to the pants in the sense that it is really soft and comfy.  It has a loose fit, great for running, dance, and cycling.  May be troublesome for anything where you fold or go upside down like yoga.  The ultra lemon color is more green than yellow, and very bright.  Both of those are pluses in my book! Nothing fancy about this one, just a good quality, solid tank.


 

Overall, I was very happy with my purchases, especially for the price.  I received an entire outfit for less than those Athleta pants I was talking about – and even those were on sale!  Everything was shipped quickly and I even received some sample hair products with my purchase.

If you are an active person or looking for motivation to become one, go ahead and sign up. There is really no risk.  Just know that the extra discount ($25 outfit) is only valid for the first 24 hours after making an account, so be ready to pounce!

If you are interested, use this link: http://www.fabletics.com/invite/47466393/

***Disclaimer: If you sign up as a VIP member using this link and make a purchase, I will receive points for referring a friend.

If I make any future purchases, I’ll be sure to review them again (in a much shorter post!).

What is your favorite source for cute, affordable, athletic apparel?

Messaging Tips from DC

So far 2014 has been a whirlwind! In January I started my first RD job, Eric and I decided to move up our wedding, we are in the process of buying a house, and out of the past 2 weeks, I have spent 6 days in different professional trainings.  Yikes!  Even though there will always be an excuse to be busy, with the warm weather, everything else seems to be calming down as well.  So I will take this opportunity to pass along some of the great lessons that I have learned along the way.

ImageOn March 30th, I attended the Public Policy Workshop (PPW) in Washington, DC.  This is a 3 day conference where RDs and DTRs gather to discuss pertinent legislation that affects our practice.  The first 2 days were spent in seminars, leading up to the 3rd day where we went to Capital Hill to meet with our state representatives.  Kinda of a big deal 🙂 In full disclosure, I was awarded a stipend from the Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group (WMDPG) to cover the cost of registration as well as other costs associated with attending (hotel, transportation, food)

In addition to learning about 3 specific pieces of legislation, we had multiple speakers discuss how to develop messages.  This is clearly very important when meeting with government representatives, but many of the lessons can translate to to blogging, public speaking and formal writing you may encounter in your job.  Here are some of the highlights, coming from a presentation by Joy Bauer, the Registered Dietitian for The Today Show.

Crafting Your Message

  • Start off strong.  No matter your audience, you want to engage them right away.  Powerful statistics or emotional stories are both good methods of grabbing someones attention.  Humor can also be a great tactic, when appropriate.
  • Less is more.  Think about what key messages you want your audience to walk away with and focus on them.  By being concise, your audience has a better chance of actually remembering the important points.  Weed out any fluff that doesn’t directly support your goals.
  • A picture is worth 1000 words.  The use of photos, videos, and demos has been shown to improve retention rates.  They can also help demonstrate your point.  For example, compare the following:

The average American consumes 6 cups of added sugar a week.

OR

Weekly SugarSee a difference?

  • Stress the Bottom Line.  Whether its an action plan or general take-aways, end strong and reiterate your main points.  When someone asks an audience member/reader what you were all about, make sure they have an answer!

Incorporate these ideas to strengthen your presence.  More tips to come!

What do you do to make your message clear and effective?

 

Google Helpouts

In addition to my new job at the Mid Fairfield AIDS Project (which I love!), I have recently been accepted to a new program called Helpouts by Google!  During my job hunt, Laryssa, a mentor from my internship sent me information on a new, up and coming opportunity to offer counseling.  She had seen it featured in a CNN article and thought that it would be up my ally.  This was back in November.  It did seem like a really cool way to work so I asked to join the network.  They screened me as a nutrition provider and then at the end of February, invited me to join! It seems that they only let professionals join if they feel it doesn’t exceed the need, meaning there isn’t a flood of providers to bog down the system.

ImageSo what exactly is this exciting new platform?  It offers a structured way for professionals and amateurs to work with clients through video chatting.  It is broken into categories including Art and Music, Fashion and Beauty, and (my favorite) Fitness and Nutrition.  Hobbyists can offer their services for free with cooking lessons, make up tutorials or instruct clients how to make outdoor furniture.  Professionals like myself can offer whatever they trade in like Guitar Lessons, Public Speaking Coaching or Tech Support for a fee.

ImageMy personal profile outlines what I offer: One-on-one nutrition counseling for weight loss/management, conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as general wellness.  I am listed as a Nutrition and Lifestyle Counselor which fits my philosophy that these aspects of health are best addressed though lifestyle changes rather than ‘diets’ and ‘quick fixes’ that may be trending.

This system is such a wonderful way to reach a whole new audience.  By removing the travel component, it makes setting up an appointment easier on both the client and the provider.  For example, if a mom with a young child wanted to lose some baby weight, she could meet during nap time.  No need to arrange for a sitter or fuss with travel after a long day.

It also allows providers to be more flexible.  I currently have my availability set for the weekends because I work full time during the week.  The first advantage is that I can see clients back to back more easily.  Secondly, I can still enjoy personal recreational activities. As soon as I finish with a session, I can go for a run, hang out with friends or go to a family occasion.  I wont have to hop in car to go home and spend money on gas.  This flexibility will allow so many people to offer and access important services, that otherwise would have been unattainable.

I am really looking forward to this new aspect of my career.  I would highly recommend browsing the site.  Many of the services are at a great discount, considering providers do not have to have a store front or office.Image

If you are interested in working with me specially, book an appointment today!

 

Do you like the idea of video chatting with a service provider?

RDN in Action!

So you may have noticed a bit of radio silence lately.  At first, I started working a couple of jobs in seasonal positions  – one retail, one at a gym.  Between those two, my free time was cut down significantly so I kept putting off blogging.  Then the holiday season was in full swing and life just got in the way.  But my very valid excuse for these past 2 weeks is that I officially started my very first job as a registered dietitian!

anchorman-teamjumpIt has been a long time coming and I cannot express how thrilled I am!  I am the new Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the Mid-Fairfield AIDS Project in Norwalk.  There, I work with clients one-on-one in counseling sessions.  Being HIV+ has some specific nutrition concerns (I’ll get into those another time), but clients have some concerns that are common in the general public.  Some people want to lose weight, shop on a budget or even just eat a more well-rounded diet.

2014-01-09 17.19.24

It is so wonderful to actually be practicing in this field that I have been working for so long to be a part of.  Over the past 2 weeks, much of my days have been spent getting oriented with policies, computer systems, fellow staff and just general daily operations.  During this time though, I have started to see clients!  I may have been a bit shaky at first but I really feel that I am coming into my own and developing a successful strategy that is all my own.

2014-01-08 16.59.282014-01-08 16.50.09

More to come later on as things progress!

 

What was your first career job?

 

5 Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving

Last week was the official kick off to the 2013 holiday season! This is a wonderful time of the year that I always look forward to, but it does come with its own pitfalls: cookies, pie, eggnog, and other delectable treats. For anyone trying to lose weight, or even just maintain their current one, this season can be a mine field. There always seems to be some party to attend, baked goods in the office or old friends meeting up for drinks.

In the spirit of enjoying the holidays while also enjoying good health, I reflected on my own Thanksgiving to try and find some strategies to get us through to January. Fortunately, I attended three celebrations and was able to try out different tactics at each one.

1. Eat Breakfast.

Especially for Thanksgiving, people will sacrifice their morning meal to “save room” for later. This is a mistake! At Thanksgiving #1 I showed up starving and ate my meals worth of calories in appetizers and then continued to have a full meal. By the end, I was too full (I was also wearing jeans, not the best Thanksgiving pants). The next day, I had a light breakfast and a late morning snack. I found that when apps went out at 2, I was able to be selective and moderate my intake.

2. Work Out.

This year, Thanksgiving had the most road races of any day, beating July fourth by a mile! No matter what event you have planed, squeeze in some exercise; it can set the tone for a healthy day. If you can’t get to the gym, go for a run, play some football with the family, take the dogs for a walk or dance through your house with your hubby. Taking 30 minutes can do a great deal for your body and spirit, not to mention stress level.

My future father-in-law and me after our self-created Turkey-Trot!2013-11-28 10.43.36-1

3.  Choose the Special Foods.

That’s right; enjoy Aunt Margo’s famous apple pie or Uncle John’s stuffed mushrooms. They only make them around this time so indulge a little bit. Conversely, avoid the usual fare. Skip the basic cookie platter and other foods that you can get at any time of the year. By focusing on the specialty items, you still get to satisfy your cravings without over doing it.

My first apple pie using my mothers’ secret family recipe 🙂2013-10-07 19.54.06

4.  Sip Your Beverage.

Eggnog! Cider! Wine! Beer! Cocktails! These all come with the season. The best advice I have is to simply savor them. To help, keep water nearby to actually quench your thirst. This lets you prolong your yummy drink while preventing dehydration and the dreaded holiday hangover.

5.  Focus on Friends, Not Food. 

Meals and drinks are nice perk of the holidays, but eating is not the reason you are together. Make sure you take this time to see all the friends and family around you. Personally, some of my family lives far away so I don’t see them a lot throughout the year. Ask questions, get and give updates and just catch up. You tend to eat less when engaged in a good conversation.

My wonderful roommates at our Friendsgiving.2013-11-30 20.46.11-1

Trick-or-Trot

Happy Halloween! This is one of my favorite holidays.  It combines outrageously festive dress and candy.  Now I may be an RD, but I still love candy.  In addition to the regular activities, my father and I decided to try something new for the both of us: running a 5K.  You may be wondering, wait a sec, you did a Half-Marathon, surely this is nothing new.  The fact is that my first race was 4 miles, and from there I have done a 10K, Half-Marathon and another 4 miler, but I completely skipped what is usually the first step in racing. 

With all of my longer races, my dad was really proud of me and said he was pushing himself a little harder in his workouts.  He is a gym regular and has routinely done 2 miles on the treadmill a couple days each week.  As a challenge, I thought it would be fun to up it to 3.1, and he was totally on board.  We trained separately, but came together this past weekend for the first annual “Trick-or-Trot”, a fundraiser for the Daisy Ingraham Elementary School PTO in Westbrook, CT.

 

IMG_0240

It was a very fanciful race with a costume contest, face painting, a bouncy house and a lot of children running alongside their parents.  I wore an old Native American costume over my running gear to get into the spirit.  My favorite group was a family of super heroes including a Batgirl mother/daughter pair, a Captain America father and a Buzz Light-year son.  The kids were pushed in strollers and would jump out and run a segment when the motivation struck.  It was so great to see parents getting their kids excited about exercise!

Wonder Woman pushing her child’s stroller.IMG_0246

It was a beautiful run that took us down along the beach.

IMG_0243

IMG_0245

IMG_0247

The last 0.1 miles of the race was uphill (isn’t that the way) and my dad was able to speed away from me for a strong finish.  I kicked it into gear and finished 3 seconds behind him.  Dad 34:45, Wendy 34:48.  Not too shabby considering I was at a wedding the night before!

IMG_0250

Unintentional Rocky Costume.IMG_0251

Proud finishers.IMG_0253

We both had a great time and I see more races in our future.  Maybe I can make myself a new Half-Marathon buddy.  (Melissa rubbed off on me). 

If you are a runner or an aspiring runner, I would highly recommend doing a 5K with a friend.  Having a race date will keep you focused on your goal and doing it with a buddy will make the day of a lot more enjoyable.  You can soak up the events associated with the race and catch up with each other. 

Who do you like to run with, and do you encourage others to race with you?

How To: Spaghetti Squash

A couple weekends ago, Eric and I took a trip to Bishop’s Orchard with his family.  It was such a beautiful day out and so nice to see Eric’s relatives. 

Bishops 1

Bishops Collage 2

 

After our picking we visited the store.  On display with the pumpkins was a box of spaghetti squash.  I have been meaning to try it for a while so I bought one.  When I got home, I kinda stared at it for a few days, trying to figure out how to prepare it.  After some thought (and googling) I finally made a recipe.

The Basics

To begin, cut the squash in half and scoop  out the seeds.  Then season with an oil and whatever spices/herbs you want.  Place the halves flat side down on a tin-foil lined baking pan and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 450.  When the squash is tender, remove from oven and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle.  Take a fork and scrape out the flesh into a bowl.  From there, you can prepare it in a variety of ways, just like regular pasta!

Squash Collage (1) (1)

My Recipe

I prepared my squash with olive oil, black pepper, basil, a little salt and garlic powder.  After I scraped it out, I added it to a pot of warm marinara sauce.  I let the two mingle for a while to get to temp and then I added some fresh mozzarella slices on top. 

Squash takes some time to bake, but its super easy to do.   This squash is grown in the winter so it is coming into its season, meaning it will be fresh and likely less expensive.

It’s a nice, low calorie, low carb option to replace traditional pasta, and it counts as a vegetable serving.  Win Win!

Squash Nutrition

What is your favorite way to prepare Spaghetti Squash?