Monday, June 20, 2016

I Need A Detox


Pregnancy and breastfeeding are not times to run self-improvement experiments. Any very stressful period in your life, whether that stress is psychological or physiological, is better handled by getting back to the basics of self-care as opposed to engaging in 30-day challenges. That said, at almost seven months postpartum and with no breastfeeding for me, it's time to make some big changes. Why? Because my sugar cravings have gotten OUT. OF. CONTROL.

I have always been a moderator as opposed to an abstainer. When it comes to treats and treat-like behavior, I do better including these at a reasonable level in my life instead of setting bright line rules about not ever eating certain foods, etc. Some people, like me, stress more about the idea of missing out on something when they do that. However, this comes with the responsibility of actually moderating the food or activity in question.

When I was pregnant, I honored my (frequent) hunger and gave into most of my cravings in moderation. I wasn't devouring bags of chips and pints of ice cream, but let's just say I ate more than my fair share of dark chocolate almonds and the like. I definitely craved chocolate and fruit and other sweet things, while proteins and some rich foods left me nauseated. After my girl was born, I continued with these same eating patterns and choices under the guise of stress management as above. But it has gone on long enough, and it has morphed into something I don't like. I now need sweet at every meal (even breakfast), sweet in every drink, sweet when I'm bored, sweet when I'm stressed, sweet when I'm being social, etc etc. I have gotten into a habit of eating sweet things that before I would normally refuse, to the point where I was recently forcing myself to replace those foods with protein bars. Then I was eating 2-3 protein bars per day, trading one bad habit for a just slightly less bad one. Not a good cycle.

So I decided to start Diane San Filippo's 21 Day Sugar Detox. Before you roll your eyes, this is not your typical Hollywood cayenne pepper/vinegar detox. The program, similar to the popular Whole 30, is a whole foods eating plan designed not as a weight loss diet but more as a vehicle for habit change and mindful eating. It nixes any processed/packaged food, added sugars, artificial or natural sweeteners (stevia is a staple for me), and limits fruits, starches, or other non-vegetable carbs like those found in grains. Why not Whole 30 for me? I decided on the 21 DSD because 1) it's 21 days instead of 30 days and 2) it allows for whole dairy products, which I love (esp half & half in coffee) and didn't think I could practically stop eating right now without being too stressed about the whole thing.

While I'm not out to eliminate all sweet foods from my diet long term, I'm hoping this will help me reset my palate and change my habits. As I have learned from following Gretchen Rubin's work, habit change is quite complex and individualized. Different personalities respond better to different types of habit reinforcements. Some tactics I'm trying so far are to tell people about my plan and to journal (one of my favorite ways to beat stress). Not only am I quickly jotting down all the foods I eat, but I am also journaling about my WHYS. Why do I want to do this?
  • To set a good example for my daughter
  • To not lead a "double life" in terms of health, where I spend so much time and energy exercising and talking about balance/self-care all the negating my healthy habits with poor food choices
  • To be free from the highs and lows of sugar and sweet flavor dependence
  • To prevent downstream health consequences of constant sugar/sweet consumption, such as diabetes and weight gain.
Have you ever done or wanted to do something like this? Share your experience with us here! I'll be following up with a post on my results later this summer.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Lessons From My Daughter: Love Your Thighs

This picture does not do justice to the rolls

She's growing like gangbusters, stretching out the fabric of her footed onesies until her little toes are curled up and ready to bust out the bottom. So grow her thighs. I examine them in all their glory - soft, buttery skin with rolls of fat, they look like croissants. They are so voluminous that they get stuck in the leg holes of her little Bumbo chair!

I constantly want to kiss them, touch them. She's only getting taller, and her thighs will of course continue to change shape. When she becomes a teen, they'll change shape again. And again when she is a mom herself someday.

I never want her to be ashamed of them, and I never want her to notice me being ashamed of mine. This article gives great tips on how to talk to your children about body image and how to appropriately react if they bring up the topic. The process of course starts with being honest about your own insecurities and being careful about how you talk about yourself, in addition to being proactive and possibly using media to create teaching moments.

I've had my periods of body insecurity, as do many women who have been pregnant and/or who engage in athletic activities (especially those that involve an optimum strength to weight ratio such as climbing). But becoming a mom against many odds has made me proud of my body's power. If you'd like more inspiration, check out this article entitled You Are More Than Your Body(Fat), in which the author transformed her personal body-image demons via five key mindset shifts. From here on out, I vow to refrain from body shaming, publicly or privately. We should all do the same!

In love with this face

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dealing With The Transition From Maternity To Reality

A good reason to take time off of work

This article on KevinMD was published a week or so before the end of my maternity leave. As I read it, steam emanated from my ears. How dare the author insinuate that physicians lose their technical skills from taking time off equivalent to more than a mere weekend? What about those who must take prolonged time off for sick leave? And what about maternity leave? Are all female physician mothers, by the sheer reasoning that they had babies, now deemed incompetent?

First off, we all need ideal vacations from time to time. Unused vacation time can lead to higher stress levels and lower productivity (see how Americans compare to other countries here). The more likely scenario after a nice chunk of time off is to come back refreshed, not stale and rusty. When we become sick (as we inevitably all do from time to time since we are human beings), we need adequate time to heal physically in order to perform mentally.

I have now taken significant periods of time off of work for vacation, maternity, and sick leave, and I've never had a problem integrating back into the basic flow of my job. In fact, on my first day back to work this month, I had a patient go into anaphylactic shock in the OR - a very rare and deadly event. He literally had no blood pressure for a moment, but once I identified it I knew exactly what to do. I counteracted the reaction and saved his life with the fortunate and timely assistance of a couple of colleagues who I immediately called into the room (getting help is essential in these situations).

Integrating back into my work environment and performing the required tasks seemed like almost no time had passed. Of course there were a few changes to personnel, policies, etc., but mostly things were the same. What feels different is the transition each day from mom to MD and back to mom again. The preparations before a workday seem endless, and morning routines take longer than they used to. I must pick up my daughter from childcare at the end of the day, increasing my commute time and anxiety depending on how late my time in the OR has gotten. The evenings go by so quickly, and I feel I have barely seen her before she has to go to sleep. This is what other moms warned me about: not enough at work, not enough at home.

At the same time, I am excited to be working on this balance of career and motherhood. I'm currently fortunate to have the choice of both and to be able to explore their interplay. What about you? How did you feel returning to a work endeavor or other practice after a longer period of time away? Share your thoughts here!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lessons From My Daughter: Focus On People, Not Stuff

Happy and not impressed with stuff

As I begin to navigate this crazy journey that is parenting and mix it into my ever-changing practice of balance, I'm sure my daughter will be teaching me lots of things along the way. At 13 weeks old, she is now quite alert and adept at exercising her observational skills. She often watches us do things like our myriad preps and cooking projects in the kitchen from a little rocking chair or a floor mat a few feet away. Her gaze is strong, and I can see that she is making connections with what's happening around her. She smiles, laughs and makes plenty of eye contact. What she doesn't care about? Stuff. She could care less about toys, rattles that I shake in front of her, etc. She wants to know about us and reacts to our faces the most. Leaving her with a stuffed toy and walking out of eyesight does not bode well.

During this early stage of development, she's already figured out an important lesson in life. People have more to teach her than things. People have more to give. How to apply this to my life? As I do some spring cleaning this month (yes I'm on that bandwagon), I'm going to remember this and be ruthless in my decluttering. I'm going to make efforts to connect with good friends again now that I'm back from taking my maternity leave out of state. I will smile at strangers in the store, strive to make eye contact, talk to my neighbors more, and listen to my patients at work.

Have you learned anything new (or old) from your own children? How about your pet? Share your thoughts here!