10 Ingredients for a perfect weekend

  1. Sunny weather in the 60s
  2. Chinese take out for Friday dinner
  3. Catching up on Portlandia
  4. Free Starbucks drink Saturday morning
  5. Garage sales
  6. Beautiful tulips all throughout my apartment (courtesy of Whole Foods’ one-day-sale magic)
  7. Catching up with an old friend
  8. Dining al fresco for lunch in Durham
  9. Finally finding girl scout cookies after weeks of searching
  10. UNC-Duke basketball tonight!

winter weather wonderings

Greetings reader:

In no particular order of importance or chronology, here are some thoughts from my head:

  • I started my new job at the county health department this week. I think it will be really great. And I learned about a new diabetes drug, which was exciting for me Smile
  • There is a winter storm today, which allowed me to leave work early.
  • It’s 25 degrees outside and raining right now. I do not understand how this is possible. Thankfully, the DOT brined all the roads, so this morning’s sleet melted, but now I bet it will all freeze. But seriously, how can it now be raining if it’s below freezing? I don’t get it. However, I also live in the south, so I suppose I shouldn’t be expected to understand winter precipitation.
  • So far, my ‘snow day’ has included many episodes of The Mindy Project, a large pot of coffee and a frozen pizza. The gym was a possibility, but is clearly not safe in this weather, so I will now turn my attention to making study sheets about vitamins A, D, and C, as well as community engagement for public health nutrition initiatives. Jealous?

What I’ve been Up to

Hello dear reader – however many are left after my admittedly long hiatus from blogging.

Welcome to 2013. Lots of exciting things going on this year, including graduating from UNC with my MPH in public health nutrition, and starting a new job at the local health department. I’ll also be finishing up my lease, and (fingers crossed) finding a place to live with Matt and our dogs. So here’s to new adventures!

Just to catch you up from my last post in August 2012

  • I’ve been faithfully exercising with my mobile app “Gym-pact” and have not had to pay money at all. I’ve actually made a few bucks myself. This means no missed workouts. However, I’ll admit that I’ve been easy on myself, and have only been committing to 1-2 workouts per week, which some weeks are just a casual dog walk. Therefore, I’m going to try to kick things up a notch this year, with some actual heart rate – increasing exercise choices. Harley isn’t much into fast or long walks anymore (more on that below), so the gym and bike will need to be my new exercise buddies.
  • Harley has had some health scares late last year. Ever since around Thanksgiving, it had been hard to get him to eat well. Physical exam and blood work all looked great, but something was clearly up. The vet (who I swear dreams about cancer) did some x-rays, and showed me a few very faint spots which she believes are pulmonary nodules, and recommended a very expensive oncology workup at the nearby vet school. I chose not to proceed with costly tests that wouldn’t change how I care for him, but felt terrible having to leave him for almost a month while I visited by family in TX during the winter break, followed by a 3-day nutrition policy seminar in DC. I’ve been feeding him a variety of canned food, as well as homemade satin balls (recipe here, although I bake mine little mini hamburger sliders). His weight has been stable over the last month, and we’ll hope for the best! I actually wonder if these “pulmonary nodules” are just scarring from his car accident / heartworm complications from years ago.
  • I’m in my last semester of courses at UNC, which means no more evil metabolism coursework. My remaining classes are: micronutrients (my last biochem class ever!), translational research and grant-writing, and then my master’s paper, which at this point in time is a policy brief regarding nutrition wellness policies in hospitals throughout NC and SC.

I do plan to continue blogging (don’t all roll your eyes), and will hopefully have some fun things to write about. Perhaps more recipes, book reviews, random thoughts, etc.

Have a great Monday and week!

cheesy bread and health

Not to confuse you, but today’s post contains 2 completely unrelated topics: my love for cheesy anything bread, and my battle for regular, routine physical activity to promote overall good health. I am not insinuating that cheesy bread promotes health, although it might promote mental health. A life without cheese or bread is not one worth living, in my humble opinion (I don’t know how those paleo folks do it…).

First… cheesy goodness

Have you ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse? If so, you might be familiar with those delicious, soft, chewy cheesy bread rolls that you are supplied with in endless quantities. I found the recipe today and am looking for an excuse to make them! And yes, as a vegetarian, I have been subjected to the extremely overpriced salad bar at numerous Brazilian steakhouses. The cheesy side dishes were the only redeeming quality of these visits.

Now… burn those calories

I started the Couch 2 5K program yesterday, after downloading the handy app. (This, of course, makes me feel validated to bake the previously mentioned cheesy bread). The app was great in that it allowed me to listen to my own music selection, and just chime in every 60 or 90 seconds and tell me to either start running or walking. I was dripping in sweat after the 30 minute workout, and have slightly sore quadriceps today, so I’ll take that as a success! (as a grad student success – I also was able to finish my class reading during the run/walk workout!)

In starting this C25K program, I feel the need to find a way to motivate me to see this program to completion. Two ideas are floating in my head. First is to sign up for a local 5K event in November. I should’ve been able to make it through the 8 week program by then, and even if I cannot run the whole 5K, I will be much more successful and confident than I am today!

I know from personal experience how motivating it is to already have a race in sight. I trained with Team in Training for 2 half-marathons (2008, 2009). I kept detailed workout logs, with each session documented (weather, attire, mileage, physical symptoms, etc). For anyone who knows me, this shouldn’t come as a surprise Smile

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So, a race can be a great motivator, something to set your sights on for the long-term. But what about something to motivate you during the training process? When regular workouts are getting old/boring/time-consuming, and/or grad school becomes ever-more-intensive.

Well, having a team or a friend to workout with is always helpful. We call this accountability. And it certainly helped for my half-marathons. But right now, I don’t have that.

I’m considering an iPhone app called Gym-Pact, which uses financial incentives (i.e. the threat of taking your money away if you don’t workout) to keep you on track. You make a pact each week for how many workouts you plan to do, and how much money you’re willing to lose if you don’t. You then log in those workouts at your local gym (using GPS check-ins) and either make money if you successfully logged in enough workouts, or lose money if you fail. Where does the money come from? All the couch potatoes who don’t make it to the gym.

It’s grounded in wonderful behavioral economics theory (which we all know I love), which might actually be the biggest reason I’m considering it. haha. It’s not a method for getting rich or anything, but the threat of losing money is a powerful motivator, especially for poor graduate students!

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes…

Fall is Almost Here!

Is anyone else as excited as I am for the arrival of fall???

Currently, I am sitting in a starbucks, wearing a sweatshirt, sipping Pumpkin Spiced Latte (too rich for me to drink normally, but they handed out free samples, so I’m indulging with my vanilla latte), studying insulin signaling pathways. How wonderful this morning is….. (and even though I am not at all excited about 2 more semesters of biochemistry, at least we’re studying insulin right now, which makes me think of diabetes, which I love*, so it makes it bearable).

So, yes, fall is almost here. Classes started back this week, and I have a lighter course load this semester (3 classes for credit is sooo much more realistic in graduate school than the 5 I took this past spring!). I am most enjoying my health law class, as it is a complete break for all things nutrition and biochemistry, but so important to know and understand in our current political and healthcare climate. We have only had 2 classes thus far, and so many things are finally ‘clicking’ that I didn’t understand before! And no, it’s not like being in law school  (thank heavens). I have made some interesting comparisons however, between the business-school type of students in this class, to my nutrition cohort in all my other classes. First of all, there are men in this class! Crazy… that’s somewhat of a foreign concept in nutrition. Secondly, business students ALL seem to have mac computers, multi-task furiously throughout the duration of our classroom lectures, and DO NOT have water bottles planted at every desk like us nutrition students Smile

Some other things that I’m looking forward to with fall’s impending arrival:

  1. Bike Rides in cooler weather
  2. Sweaters and scarves
  3. Fall-scented candles
  4. Baking with pumpkin!
  5. The return of all my favorite TV shows
  6. Holiday planning

That’s all for now folks. Have a great weekend!

* Disclaimer: when I say I “love” Diabetes, I don’t wish the disease on anyone, but I find it fascinating to study and learn about. It’s also my favorite topic for nutrition counseling. For us Type-A / control freaks, this is the type of disease I can appreciate – something over which the patient has direct control and can measure direct effects of their lifestyle.

Book Review From the Desert

Greetings from Albuquerque! I am out here for the week visiting my sister, who just moved here for graduate school (apparently my path towards MPH had to be one-upped by a path towards PhD… haha).

I thought I would share with you a little review on the book I finished last night:

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The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell was a great read. While it is a non-fiction book, it was immensely interesting to me, as it discusses how epidemics spread. And no, not just epidemics as in diseases, but any movement (fashion trends, smoking rates, successful marketing or educational campaigns, etc). He outlines the main reasons why some ‘epidemics’ are able to spread successfully, and why others fail, and then illustrates with case studies.

Having taken a few classes this past year that touched on epidemiology, social marketing, and successful public health communication, this book was a great compliment. Highly recommend!

I also packed another book of his to read, which I plan to start soon (if I can pull myself away from the London2012 excitement on the TV!)

I’ll be back later to share some of my adventures out in the desert!

Loving the Olympics

Hey all!

I have been thoroughly enjoying the Olympics, and I hope you have too. We started with a big gathering at my apartment to watch the opening ceremony, which involved 15 of my classmates and friends / significant others, lots of food, and an overwhelming amount of attention for Mr Harley.

So far, I think London has done a great job, and I’ve spent many an hour glued to my couch watching all the events. One of my classmates from middle school is an Olympic rower for Australia, so I’m hoping to catch her events!

I will say, however, that with this being the first summer Olympic games since social media exploded, it’s made for some interesting challenges. Namely, it’s impossible to wait for the evening NBC coverage without having already heard the results from facebook, twitter, NBC.com, various blogs, friends, radio, etc. I feel like I need to step away from my computer and TV entirely until the games are over!

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In other non-Olympic-related-news:

  • This week marks the end of my summer internship! I have had a great experience at a local non-profit here in Chapel Hill that works on public health / wellness initiatives, and am even starting to think about how it could form the basis of my Masters paper (which I really don’t want to start yet….)
  • I am having a new roommate move in to the apartment in the next week or so. She’s a high school English teacher who finished graduate school here at Carolina and seems like a great fit. Plus, Harley approved of her Smile
  • I’m heading to Albuquerque this weekend to visit my sister for a week! She just moved last week for her PhD program at UNM in anthropology. New Mexico is a new state for me, so I’m excited to see what’s around, spend time with my sister, nephew (Sullivan the fox-dog) and mother, who is still helping my sister get settled in.

Hopefully I can start more regularly blogging soon, folks! The summer was busier than anticipated during the week, with both a full-time internship and summer course, and my weekends were reserved for hanging out with the BF, so now I can hopefully get back in the blogging groove for the fall!

Have a great day!

My own Tour de france

Summer sports have been all up by alley these past few weeks: Olympic trials, Wimbledon, and now the Tour de France. As I start riding my bike more and more, and even the smallest of hills seem to slow me down and mess with my confidence, I think of those bike riders in France. How on Earth they ride up mountains and go 100+ miles everyday for 3 weeks is beyond me, but it makes my rides seem like child’s play.

MapMyRide set up a bike challenge this month “Le Tour 2012 Challenge”, during the same time period as the Tour de France. You can select your distance to aim for – 100, 544, 1087 or the full 2173 miles. I went with 100 miles, which seemed doable in 23 days, right? That’s less than 5 miles a day, definitely attainable!

And then all the 100+ degree weather came, and even biking first thing in the morning is brutal. For the most part, I’d rather be biking than walking, jogging or running in this heat. The breeze keeps you (somewhat?) cool, and it’s not until you stop riding that you realize you’re completely soaked with sweat.

Here’s where I stand so far in the challenge. Not as far as I hoped to be at this point, but I think/hope I can make up for it.

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Not completely terrible, but I only have 2 weeks left to go 65+ miles.

Thankfully, mother nature is helping me out this week. Check out the upcoming weather forecast for Chapel Hill – I don’t even know how awesome a week in the 80s will feel!

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Assuming there won’t really be storms every single day, this could be great!

Elizabeth Goes to the Beach

Yesterday, on a very hot day in North Carolina, this was my view:

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Matt and I both took the day off and went to the beach for a spontaneous day trip. I am not a huge beach person, ever since my first trip as a toddler when I swallowed too much sea water, threw a fit, and had my parents pack us up and drive all the way home. However, I’ve learned a few things that made yesterday enjoyable:

- wear lots of sunscreen. I was fortunate enough to not receive any significant sunburns (apart from random splotches on my ankles). Matt, however, wasn’t quite lucky enough and is suffering from lobster-syndrome today Sad smile

- wear a hat – I ran to Target the day before and found a nice hat on sale. The hat + sunglasses definitely protected my face!

- bring reading material. I packed a few magazines and my latest book (Tina’s Carrots’n’Cake book that I found at a local thrift store last weekend), which made sitting in the heat a little more bearable.

- have things to do on the beach (goes along with reading). Matt and I brought my parents Bocce Ball set (although I remembered this set was french, and called Petanque), which was a fun distraction from the heat. We set up a little ‘court’ on the sand, and had fun, despite the fact that most of the people walked right through our game with no attention paid. Rude Americans.

And lessons I still am learning:

- bring a beach umbrella! – I can only imagine how much better it would have felt to sit in shade instead of full sun…

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We had a fun 3 hours on the beach, followed by an incredibly delicious late lunch at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn in Wilmington. The place reminded me a lot of the ‘weird’ restaurants in Austin, TX. So many vegetarian options! Thanks to Matt’s sister, Lauren, for the recommendation!

Iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts (I swear I can see their logo from a mile away!) continued to cool us off, for a little thrifting (you know me!) and walk around downtown Wilmington. To my complete surprise, there was a Coldplay tribute band playing a free Friday night concert downtown, but we weren’t able to stick around, due to the heat + very full stomachs = need to sit in air conditioning!

All in all, a fun day at the beach. Next time, we’ll bring more sunscreen for Matt, an umbrella for me, and plenty of ice cold drinks!

heavy breathing

This Monday, I had the day off from school, although we had a take-home midterm exam to complete, so it wasn’t really a day of rest. My plan was to complete the take home exam… until my bike shop called and said that my bike was back and ready for me to pick up.

Success!

I was so excited to have my working bike back in my little apartment, that I immediately mapped out my first “real ride” to conquer Tuesday after work. I was aiming for 10 miles, but settled for this almost- 8 mile route through Chapel Hill neighborhoods. I got the route sent to my phone, started my timer, and was off.

Below is the elevation graph. I had seen this before the ride, and knew it would be hilly, but I live in Chapel Hill, so I wasn’t too concerned. After all, isn’t that what having a bike with 24 gears is for?

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Yeah… see that this route ranged from gradients of –4% to +5%? Do you know what they means? Let me tell you…

It means that the first 2 miles of your ride is really nice. Flat greenways through neighborhoods, riding past families out with their dogs, feeling happy with the breeze blowing in your face.

THEN you hit mile 2.5 and it the road becomes a flipping cliff straight up into the air. Of course, I changed into a lower gear, but didn’t make it very far at all. Even my quick stops for water and checking the map wouldn’t help restore my legs. I ended up walking up most of that hill, and even walking was a struggle because my poor quads were screaming for pain. I don’t remember ever breathing that hard in my life!

The next few miles had some ups and downs, but it wasn’t too bad overall (until I forgot to continue my timer on my iPhone during one of my many water breaks that I take because I’m not coordinated enough yet to drink water while riding) . And then you hit mile 5.5 going downhill. I never realized how scary downhill can be! Granted, I was also on the very narrow sidewalk of a really major road, and the sidewalk was bumpy and not fun, but I was having to completely ride my brakes the whole way down to control my speed. It was potentially more terrifying than the uphill. At least I could stop going up a hill (and lay down and cry). If something happened flying down this hill, I’d most likely fly off the bike and die seriously injure myself.

And then the last 2 miles were perfectly fun and flat. Why can’t it all be like that??!!?

It ended up taking me a full hour to do this 7.8 mile ride, which is pathetic, but certainly a humbling experience. And amazingly, I haven’t been sore at all in the following days. Maybe I should go out and try this ‘bike’ thing again…

However, my next route (9 miles tonight!) will have a beautiful elevation graph like this:

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Much better Smile

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