Diary of a bodacious dietitian, Plant-based Eating

How we can be happier, why I love hugging, and a healthy vegan snack

First- Happy New Year to everyone!

I hope we all had an amazing celebration over the holidays. We went to visit my family in Cincinnati for about a week. Then we came back for a Ravens’ game and live comedy show in Baltimore at the Hippodrome. The Ravens’s game was super fun! But they didn’t exactly pull through for us. Nonetheless, we had an awesome date despite the 20 degree weather!ravens game After the game, we went to the 9:30 John Oliver show, and Dr. P and I had the opportunity to meet him after the show! It was fantastic. He’s such a nice guy.

hippodromeJohn oliver comedy showMore on this later when I have time to write the New Year’s Eve night and resolution post! We are starting a month of not buying anything new so I wanted to write a whole post on why and how we’re doing it.

Should help increase our mindfulness! Now let’s check in on baby bee.

Baby Update

Bee didn’t sleep well last night. We are doing the “I don’t know what to put her in at night” dance. She is right in the middle of being too big to swaddle and too little to deal with having arms. She impulsively gnawis on them and startles herself.

We now have to put her in the most enormous Swaddle Me on the market given she’s in the 95th percentile for length and 90th for weight, and she always MacGyver’s one arm out,  or, not unlike Houdini, she manages to get both arms and the majority of her torso free which sparks cries and a visit from Mommy at 3 am.

Aunt Carolyn gave us a new semi-swaddle option that zips so she can’t wriggle out. It’s not technically a swaddle as it has room for her arms to be up like a chicken, all high and bent. She napped in it yesterday, but I’m quite convinced she loathes it.

But I did snap this photo before her morning nap that makes me think it’s growing on her?

baby in swaddle

Anyway, we changed her from semi-swaddle thing to giant Swaddle Me and again at about 4:30 am into an armless sleep sack that was adequate until 6:30 when I scooped her crying, sniffling form up and put her in my bed. I think she might be getting sick.

Hopefully nothing good snuggles can’t cure!

baby face

No. seriously, I have always suspected snugs and hugs are like actual medicine, and an article I read at 3 am this morning, after one of her wake-ups, further backed my suspicions.

What we can do to be happier naturally and why I love hugging

My girl, Pam, likes to share stuff she knows I’ll like. This was a neuroscience piece from The Ladder that discusses brain changes that occur with certain behaviors. With it being the beginning of a new year, we are all contemplating parts of our lives and behaviors that could change (and I’m not just talking about changing baby sleep wear!). So I appreciated the topic as I too have areas I want to focus more intentionally on this year.

The article was a long one- I think I contemplated finishing it later because, afterall, it was 3 in the morning! But it really spoke to me so I read it in it’s entirety. I’ll sum it up for you:

  1. Our reward centers (which involve dopamine production and use) respond to us feeling guilt, worry, and shame. This is why some people seem to get joy from perseverating on negative thoughts. But gratitude ignites these brain centers more powerfully and effectively by boosting dopamine production in our brain stem (much like Wellbutrin does) and serotonin production in our anterior cingulate cortex (just like Prozac). So be grateful to be happier! 
  2. The pre-frontal cortex controls rational thought and problem solving while the amygdala is in charge of base emotional or animal-like responses. When we have negative emotions, our amygdala is fired up, when we are being logical and are in control, our pre-frontal cortex is more active. By simply identifying and naming an emotion, we can decrease amygdala activity (hence, control our emotional response) and increase pre-frontal cortex usage. Suppressing emotions doesn’t do this. Only recognizing and naming them. Using mindfulness helps to do this. So identify and name negative thoughts instead of suppressing them! This can help limit emotional eating too.
  3. Deliberate decision making increases dopamine and functions as a way to increase our feeling of being in control, but only if we are making decisions without worrying too much about perfection. If we put off decisions because we want it to be the absolute best decision, this can cause more anxiety than anything else. But setting a goal and achieving it, making the decision to pursue something when we are say, maybe 80% sure vs 100%, can lead to greater happiness. Also, making the decision to do something because we find pleasure in it- not because we feel we “should”- increases dopamine production as well. So find a gym routine you like, for example, not one you think you should be doing, and you will find more natural happiness doing it on a very chemical level. So pick a direction and go with confidence!
  4. Hugs, dude. Physical touch quiets the part of the brain associated with pain and increases oxcytocin, while feeling excluded can cause our physical pain centers to ignite. Crazy, right? So snug, hug, pat backs, give nuzzles, and generally be awesome.

In the book The boy who was raised as a dog, written by a psychiatrist based on his case studies, he worked with a 4 year old girl who had failure to thrive since she was 6 months old. No specialist could figure out what to do. She just wouldn’t grow despite adequate nutrition and tube feeds and supplements and fortified foods. Oy. Enter psychiatrist who did a simple history with the mother and figured out that she wasn’t properly touching the child during feeds or play. The child was literally starving for touch and wasn’t properly assimilating her nutrition due to this. Once the mom started touching and hugging and comforting her, she gained 10 lbs in a month! I love this. Hugs are food.

My decision to not let perfect ruin good

The other part of this article that really stood out was the decision making piece- not to let the good decisions wait because they aren’t perfect (good shouldn’t be the enemy of perfect, right?). I have a problem with this. I tend to wait and wait and think about doing something bold until I know I can do it with ease and precision which can lead to it never happening. For example, this blog. I have a gajillion posts I’ve started and never posted, because I feel they aren’t up to snuff.

Silly. It’s silly.

I’ve seen this with clients over and over as well. We are afraid to make the wrong decision so we make no decision. But deliberateness and intention make it so that we shouldn’t be afraid. If we are intentional, it doesn’t matter if we are perfect. So this year, I’ve chosen to try to be more deliberate and confident in my good (not perfect) decisions. Like this post- I won’t edit it for an hour like I usually do (maybe just for 20 minutes…have to start somewhere, right?!), but instead I’ll look over it, decide it’s good enough, post it, and get on with my day.

I want to post more often, and that is the only way that I can. I also want to grow my private practice, and I have been afraid to market it out of fear I haven’t set it up perfectly.

There isn’t a model I can follow for a virtual private practice so how do I know if it is the right way to go about it? I don’t! And I need to be ok with that. We all do. There are not right answers- just good ones.

A healthy vegan snack idea

Now here is a delicious snack I ate while writing this post. I thought I’d share because who doesn’t love delicious and easy snacks?

Just a couple plain rice cakes, 2 tbsp natural peanut butter, natural raspberry reserves (a superfood with a high antioxidant level), and sesame seeds.vegan snack

The sesame seeds add a huge chuck of calcium (30% of daily value) and iron (25%), 4 gm of fiber, and 5 gm of protein in 30 gm (1 oz). They do have 2 gm saturated fat (I aim for less than 3 gm per serving in most foods), but the fat is largely made up of stearic acid which has a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.

vegan snackRice cakes are low in calories and they satisfy our need for crunch. Peanut butter is a great source of protein (peanut is nut with highest amount of protein) and healthy omega-6 fats, and jam is spectacular despite it’s bad rap as a sugary treat. If made from fresh berries, the antioxidant level is preserved, and if eaten in a reasonable amount (1 tbsp or so) it is only a serving (15 grams of carbohydrate).

My dog sat next to me the whole time I ate just begging for scraps. Yum.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Tuesday!

xox Joanna


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