Such great heights

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

The title of this blog post captures the natural high I’m currently experiencing due to so many amazing things that have happened over the past month.  I’ll start by saying that I’m officially an RD-to-be!  After years of hard work, I was matched to a super-competitive dietetic internship and I couldn’t be more elated.  In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, in order to become a Registered Dietitian in the US, you have to be accepted and complete a dietetic internship.  All applicants rank their choices of internships (similar to how med students rank their residency choices) but not all applicants get accepted.  The acceptance rate for all internships across the US is something like ~49%, so the competition is fierce and the stress during the waiting period is intense.  I’m so excited for the internship and the learning opportunities I’ll be exposed to.

The period of time leading up to “match day” (April 2nd-the day all applicants find out whether they matched or not) was quite an emotional roller-coaster.  In addition to applying to internships, I was also in the midst of writing my master’s thesis.  I was feeling really overwhelmed, but luckily I have really supportive friends and family.  One of my family friends noticed that I could use a vacation and suggested we go to Sedona, Arizona and my response was a loud “YESSSS!”.  I had been to Sedona once when I was 15 and although it was only for a few days, it left a lasting impression on me.  We booked the trip for the end of March-early April, so that I could be in full-on relaxation mode on match day.

The trip itself was in a word, magical.  No written description of Sedona can do it justice, it’s the kind of place that you actually have to go to in order to experience the beauty.  We spent roughly 75% of our waking hours outside exploring nature by hiking and meditating outside.  I found out that I got into the dietetic internship on our second-to-last day in Sedona, so that night we celebrated and it was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.

I can’t wait to share more exciting updates about the internship when it starts, and hopefully I’ll be doing more traveling in the future when my schedule allows.

-Jess

Staycation Fun

This week I took a vacation from work.  Although I find my work fulfilling and rewarding, everyone needs a vacation and I’m no exception.  I thought about going somewhere during my time off, but sometimes I find traveling more stressful than it is relaxing so I decided to make this vacation a “stay-cation”.

This past week I’ve been going to the beach and spending a lot of time meditating, which is something that I need to consistently do in order to reap the benefits.

IMG_0487

Went to one of my favorite cafes and enjoyed a delicious smoothie and a good read

I also took a few day trips to my favorite towns on Long Island and ate at my favorite vegan restaurants (I might write a separate blog post on that!).  This past week I also explored some nature preserves, attended a powwow, and visited a farm that I used to work at many summers ago.

IMG_0474

This preserve (Norman J. Levy Preserve) was built on what used to be a garbage dump. The high point where I took the photo from used to be a giant pile of garbage and now is home to native species of grass, small trees, insects, animals and birds.

IMG_0346

A picture of the farm I used to work at! I actually worked with the animals but I would love to get my hands dirty working with some fresh produce!

IMG_0410

A photo of one of the highlights from the powwow.  Group dancing to drums and hymns of Native American tribes made this a magical experience.

While I was relaxing on the beach this week, I decided that I was going to stop drinking coffee for the remainder of my vacation (and hopefully keep this up when I go back to work).  I made this decision because I notice sometimes when I drink too much coffee (which can be as little as 1-2 cups per day), I feel really anxious in my stomach– like an annoying, uncertain gut feeling related to nothing in particular which lasts about an hour or two after I’ve overdone it with the coffee.  I’ve written about my history of insomnia and sleep disturbances and I know that having any caffeine affects my sleep cycle greatly. I’m hoping that I can keep my cravings for coffee at bay. Tonight my plans include going to a coffee house, so this should be interesting. I’ll give an update soon along with some more info on my favorite vegan restaurants. For more personal updates and (almost) daily food pictures, you can follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess

Some Updates and Happy Fourth of July!

I’m writing this post a little early because I know tomorrow I’ll be celebrating with family and friends.  It’s been over a month since I last posted and I completely forgot to post my June blog entry because June was a busy month for me.  June is a special month for Vitamin Valentine, because my first blog entry was in June of 2013.  When I first started writing VV, I mainly shared things that I was learning in my classes.  This summer is the first summer that I’m not taking any classes so I’ll be writing more personal things and continue to share my amazingly delicious and nutritious recipes.

So what else have I been doing instead of posting my usual entries?  Lately I’ve been going to the gym more often (yay!), but also not doing as much daily yoga as I would have liked (not so yay).  I probably only did yoga 2 times/week every week in June which may sound decent, but daily yoga and meditation really helps keep me grounded.  My goal for July is to get back to doing yoga on a daily basis.  To help me stay motivated, I bought a really funky planner that I’m loving right now. It’s called the Happy Planner.  It’s filled with inspirational quotes, places to track goals and to-do lists, and it’s super colorful which is always fun.

FullSizeRender-18

My planner and one of my favorite breakfasts (a whole grain bagel, almond butter, and banana)

For the fourth of july, I’ll be spending the day outdoors and hopefully I can do some yoga on the beach.  I hope you have a great fourth of july 🙂

-Jess

I’m a Yoga Teacher!

The title says it all! Last weekend I taught my first big group yoga class held at a yoga studio. It was an amazing day :). My friends and some family were there plus a few other people who just wanted to donate to a wonderful cause while experiencing the amazing joys and benefits of yoga. All of the proceeds of this donation-based yoga class will go to God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that prepares and delivers nutritious meals to critically ill individuals in the NY-Metro Area.

This class was so special to me because of what I chose to focus on: limitless love, or put another way, unconditional love for oneself and others. The weeks leading up to this yoga class were kind of stressful. From december to early february I was suffering with a cough that didn’t seem get better with rest, fluids, lots of vitamin C, and a big dose of antibiotics. I hate being sick, so it was stressful and annoying to be dealing with an illness. Then a few weeks before the original date of my yoga class we had a big snow storm so the class had to be rescheduled. Then, the rescheduled date had to be rescheduled for other reasons, so I was getting frustrated. I was also getting frustrated with other people who had no control over any of these situations. The night before the class, I meditated on what I’ve learned from practicing yoga and what I wish to share through my practice and teaching.

 I realized before my yoga class that sometimes we get so caught up in things we can’t control and get angry, annoyed, and frustrated, but holding onto those negative feelings just makes things worse. I realized that all of the events leading up to this class were actually showing me that I needed to focus on the message of my yoga practice: limitless love for all things and people, especially when things don’t go as planned. 

The stress leading up to the class wasn’t so bad because it made me realize the importance of acceptance. It ended up being an amazing experience and I think everyone in the class felt the same. The feedback I received from the class made me so proud and I realized how much I absolutely love teaching yoga. I can’t wait to teach more and I’m excited for the weather to get warmer because I have big plans that combine nature + yoga (my favorite things besides cooking nutritious and delicious things!)  If you’re interested in learning more about the yoga sessions I provide, click the “services offered” tab above. I hope to hear back so that I can share my passion and spread the love with yoga.

IMG_8612

Me and my sister with our post-yoga glow 

Namaste,

Jess

 

 

Feel The Love With Yoga

Om Shanti! Which is my way of saying peace and welcome. I’m starting this post with my favorite sanskrit phrase because I’m going to write a personal update about yoga. I wrote a post in 2014 about how I was embarking on a new journey to become a certified yoga teacher. Although I’ve been teaching private yoga sessions to a few friends and classmates, my first group class at a yoga studio is in a few weeks and I couldn’t be more excited. The process of becoming a yoga teacher was an experience I will cherish forever. I learned so much beyond studying the asanas (physical poses of yoga) and I can’t wait to share everything yoga has taught me with people who attend my classes (or take private yoga sessions with me).

An integral component of my own practice and something I want to share with others through yoga is the idea of treating all people with love and kindness. Yoga teaches us how freeing it is to let go of your ego and do all things with an open heart because that is when we connect most deeply with ourselves and others. Because of this, I’ve decided to make my first yoga class focused on heart-openers, which are poses that stretch and expand the chest. I’m also donating all of the profits of this class to God’s Love We Deliver, a charity which cooks and delivers nutritious meals to those living with critical illness in the New York-Metropolitan area. This particular cause is special to me because of seeing first-hand just how important proper nutrition is to those who are ailing.

FullSizeRender-13

The essence of yoga transcends the physical.

If you’ve never done yoga or if you haven’t had a truly enlightening experience, I encourage you to pick up a book on the philosophy of yoga and attend local yoga classes in your area until you find a community that makes you feel at home. Yoga is suitable for all people who wish to expand their consciousness through movement, better understand themselves, feel connected in a community, or for those who simply need to relax.

I plan on writing more about yoga and I will have an even more exciting announcement about yoga/wellness in the future so keep reading.

Update: a previous version of this post has the time, date, and location of my donation-based yoga class. To stay updated with details related to this class, follow vitamin valentine on Facebook and Instagram @vitaminvalentine, as there have been several changes related to this class.

Namaste ❤

-Jess

Sleep for Your Health: Some Sleep Hygiene Tips

As any health-conscious person knows, sleep is essential to feeling your best. Nearly everyone at some point in their lives has trouble sleeping. I sometimes wake up very early in the morning (like 3 AM-early), but I’ve found several strategies to help lull me to dreamland–and keep me there! Here are some tips I’ve learned on becoming relaxed to induce a night of zzz’s and a get full nights rest:

  1. This might sound like a no-brainer, but avoid coffee and any source of caffeine in the afternoon/evening hours. Even small amounts in chocolate and tea might have an effect on your system, so it’s best to avoid it. If you are a coffee drinker, try to stick with 1-2 cups in the morning and make it a goal to say “no” to that tempting mid-day iced coffee.
  2. Turn off any unnecessary electronics (i.e. TV, radio, computer), and keep your phone away from your bed when it’s time to go to sleep. Charge your phone away from your bed.
  3. Try to get outside or be around natural light in the daytime. This will help your body get more in tune with evolutionary-based circadian rhythms. Come nighttime, avoid bright lights and try to limit exposure to TV and computer screens.
  4. Even though you might be tired throughout the day, taking a long nap (longer than 30 minutes) might affect your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, try exercising or engaging in a physically or mentally stimulating activity to keep your energy up when you’re tired during the day.
  5. On the topic of exercise, find a time that works for you, and stick to it. Some people find that working out in the morning is not only more convenient, but sets the stage for a more energy-filled day. Others like to exercise at night. As long as it doesn’t prevent you from falling asleep, exercising at night should be fine. If you are indeed feeling a little pumped up after a PM workout, try taking a hot shower or bath to soothe and relax your muscles.
  6. If you’re sensitive to light while falling asleep, consider blackout curtains or an eye pillow.
  7. Pets are lovely, but if your dog or cat has a tendency to make your head its personal pillow at night, consider sleeping apart from your furry friend.
  8. If anxiety keeps you up at night, try to figure out what’s behind your worries. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that can be done via specific self-help books or with a therapist, and involves changing cognitive distortions (or negative ways of thinking) that can lead to depression and anxiety. Also, journaling might be helpful to sort through your own thoughts. Try not to judge your own thoughts and instead let your thoughts flow from your mind to your pen to the paper. Then, see if you can find a pattern in your thinking.
  9. Get comfy. I’ve mentioned making sure your sleeping space is dark and distraction free. You can also use aromatherapy, massage, and yoga to relax your body and mind. Lavender, chamomile, and jasmine are some scents that can come in the form of essential oils and lotions, and really do help one to relax. Yoga poses along with breathing exercises can help connect your brain to your body in a relaxing, healing way.

    a yoga mat, essential oil lotion + spray, supplements, and a dream journal = a peaceful mind at night.

    a yoga mat, essential oil lotion + spray, supplements, and a dream journal = a peaceful mind at night.

  10. Consider taking a magnesium/calcium supplement, or a small amount of melatonin before bed. (Always consult a doctor before taking any supplements though!)
  11. Keep a dream journal. I’m fascinated by my own dreams, although sometimes I wake up after a dream and can’t fall back asleep. Writing down themes of a dream and then doing something relaxing, like reading a beautiful poem or listening to a favorite song can help to you to relax and help you fall asleep again. Then in the morning, you can analyze your own dreams, if it interests you.
  12. Try yoga nidra, a type of guided meditation, or other guided meditation podcasts and tutorials that can be found using google or available through apple podcasts.
  13. Eat a light snack before bed if you’re hungry. Try to aim for a balance of carbs & a little protein. A small amount of trail mix, whole grain crackers with a tablespoon of almond butter, or 6 oz. soy milk & a banana are some suggestions.
  14. Try to stick to a routine. This includes when you go to bed, what time you wake up (or set an alarm to wake up) and what times you eat throughout the day. Although it’s fun to live spontaneously, our bodies were meant to sleep and eat at certain points. Get into healthy, realistic habits, and become more attuned to your body’s needs.

Well, those are all the things that have been helpful in my experience. I hope you have a good nights rest!

-Jess

My (new) Favorite Vegan Restaurant + Some Updates

I feel like I start every post lately explaining how busy I am, but it’s true! School is definitely hard this semester. This post is going to be a personal one, because I haven’t been cooking anything too creative lately (ok, that’s a lie, I’ve been making some delicious kale salads but I keep forgetting to take pictures of my creations and a food post without a picture is just sad.)

If you read my last post, you learned that I “ended” my vegan diet because I craved fish and chicken, etc. Well, I’m back to my old vegan ways because I kept getting grossed out about making meat and found I was completely dependent on prepared foods (like already cooked meat at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which ends up being really expensive). To me, being grossed out by cooking a particular food item is a sign that its just not going to work out. Now that I tried experimenting with a “flexitarian” diet, I feel I can return to my vegan ways and avoid some of the cravings that were sneaking up on me by paying closer attention to micronutrients to avoid certain deficiencies.

Although I’ve been busy, I did get a chance to take a mini-vacay in upstate NY where I ate at Garden Cafe on the Green, a cute vegan restaurant in Woodstock. I ate there twice. The first occasion I had a chickpea wrap with oven-roasted potato “fries) and the second time I had a blackbean-sweet potato burger. Both meals were delicious and I highly recommend the place if you happen to be in the Woodstock, NY-area.

a picture of the chickpea wrap at Garden Cafe.

a picture of the chickpea wrap at Garden Cafe.

 

In addition to eating, I also got to spend much time outdoors during my upstate getaway. I love exploring nature! This blogs tagline is “food for the mind, body, and soul” and I believe being in nature is one source of “food” for the all of the above! Fun fact: I actually used to be the education director of a nature preserve before I decided to go back to school for nutrition!

Had to stop and take a photo of this beauty!

Had to stop and take a photo of this beauty!

a birds nest I saw while hiking

a birds nest I saw while hiking

On a nutrition note, spending time outside, especially when it’s sunny, is a good way to boost your vitamin D intake, which often decreases during the winter months.

A short vacation wouldn’t be complete without going to a few souvenir shops, and that I did. Woodstock is a fun little town with a ton of cool stores that show it’s grooooovy history 🙂

a sculpture made of various knick-knacks

a sculpture made of various knick-knacks

Inside a thrift store.

Inside a thrift store.

I hopefully will have more time to post some of my recipes. After April I have finals for the spring semester…followed by two summer classes but making time for food (and creating healthy recipes) will always be something I love to share!

-Jess