Month: September 2014

An Eating Epiphany

My Crash Course in Healthy Eating

With a new month approaching and a looming birthday in the not-too-distant future (where I will inevitably be one year older, and I hope wiser!), I am dedicating the month of October to a self-imposed healthy eating challenge. I realize the month in which Halloween falls (and the likes of Candy Corn, Pumpkin spiced lattes, and candy apples are abundant) may not have been the best month to begin this 30-day challenge, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

A little background on why I decided to implement this challenge for myself. Many reasons brought me to this point, but the two factors that made me realize I need to change my ways were my thyroid cancer diagnosis last year and that I just don’t feel well. I am constantly tired and sluggish, and while my thyroid medication plays a role, I’m sure my eating habits are to blame as well.

Last week, I took the first step towards health and wellness. I saw a nutritionist. I wasn’t sure how the meeting would go, and I was slightly afraid that the nutritionist would be horrified by what I thought constituted a meal. But when I met Kim she was sweet and bubbly. I instantly took to her energetic personality and felt like I was talking to a good friend. Kim started the session off by asking me why I had come to see her. I told her that I had never been mindful about my nutrition in the past, and that I was–to put it bluntly–tired of feeling tired. I mentioned to her my love of chocolate, including cookies, cakes, and basically anything sweet. I recognize this is a problem – not so much that I like sweets, but that I have no willpower to stop at just one or two. One of my goals for this challenge is at least to curb my sugar addiction. Kim was very sympathetic and suggested that I not try to cut out sweets all together, but that I work on my self-restraint. She thought it was fine to indulge once and a while, but not at the expense of replacing good calories – something I am guilty of doing!

As the conversation progressed, Kim reviewed my breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices and offered suggestions on ways I could make them healthier. She then went over nutrition labels and proper portion size.

Kim’s action plan for me was straightforward, and I think I can incorporate it into my everyday life. Her ideas included:

Eat every 2 hours: She likened it to “grazing” so that you don’t get too hungry to the point of crashing and making poor dietary decisions.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day: I already do. I have found that keeping water at my desk reduces the desire to grab something sweet or just eat when I’m bored.

Prepare meals the night before: This is probably something I should start doing, since every spare minute counts for me when I’m rushing out the door (and probably why the morning trips to Starbucks have become a daily occurrence!).

Make smoothies and incorporate vegetables: I am not a huge fan of anything green (with the exception of cucumbers and a Caesar salad), but this I can handle. I love smoothies, and they are great between meals!

Have healthy snacks available: I’m partial to Trader Joe’s fiber bars, which are high in fiber and don’t have a lot of sugar. Kim thought they were a good start, and recommended carrots and peanut butter as another alternative.

Go nuts: Walnuts and almonds are the best nuts to eat, and also a great snack! They are high in protein and very satisfying.

Start small: Kim thought I should slowly introduce new vegetables into meals I like to prepare. One meal I instantly thought of was my quesadillas. By adding broccoli or kale, I can make them much healthier.

I am really glad that I took the time to see a nutritionist and that Kim was so helpful. I realize that years of poor eating habits will not be changed in a mere 30 days, but I hope that I can break some of my bad habits, reduce my sugar intake (dependence?), learn how to prepare healthier meals, and feel better!

If you have any advice for me, great recipes I should try, or your own story to share, I’d love to read about it in the comments. Follow along on Instagram and Twitter to see my progress and what I’m cooking in the kitchen!

Five Things I Love About Fall

Pumpkins

Now that fall has officially arrived, here’s what I’m looking forward to this season….

Cool Weather: This is a pro and con for me. I love that fall brings blazer, sweater, and boot weather, but it also means that we are that much closer to winter…and snow!

Pumpkins: One of my favorite things to do as a child was to go pumpkin picking. Long Island has great farms out east and you can spend a day picking out pumpkins.

Candy Apples: Another one of my childhood favorites–the sweet sugar glaze covering a juicy, crunchy apple is perfection!

Apple Picking: A fun thing to do when the weather cools down and a great way to stock up on fresh apples. There are plenty of orchards on Long Island, and if you have extras you can make candy apples or apple pie.

Candy Corn: I know I should have outgrown candy by now, but these pure tri-colored sugar candies are one of the best fall treats. Eat them alone, or add them as decorations to your cupcakes and cakes this season.

Thyroid Thursday

Thyroid Cancer - Get a Neck Check

Image Courtesy of ThyCa

Can you believe this is the last full week of September? It is also the last week of Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month! I’m glad there is a month devoted to the ninth most common cancer (according to ThyCa, 62,980 people in the United States will be diagnosed in 2014)- but awareness should take place every day. It’s important to know the signs of a thyroid problem and have your neck checked regularly. Symptoms include a lump or fullness in the neck, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or changes in your voice. While most thyroid nodules are benign, your doctor should check them.

I am forever indebted to my doctor who took the extra time and performed a neck check. Had it not been for his thoroughness, I don’t know when I would have known about my thyroid cancer. I also must stress the importance of finding a good endocrinologist, one who will listen to you and answer your questions thoughtfully.

If you know someone battling thyroid cancer, offer to bring them food, make a meal for them, or just go and visit with them. Although they may look fine, thyroid cancer, like other cancers, leaves an emotional scar.

For further information, please visit the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association (www.thyca.org).

Stay strong thyroid warriors!

Lovely in Leopard

Lovely in Leopard

I am embracing a new trend this fall…leopard. As I have gotten older, much like my new-found love of bold lipsticks, I am seriously crushing on animal inspired prints.

For those that are too shy to wear a full-on leopard print dress, you can start small – with accessories! A leopard print belt, scarf, or bag can instantly dress up any outfit. Don’t think leopard would go over well in your office? Go for a muted leopard print in black and grey and pair it with a solid colored top or pant. If you’re really averse to looking like something on Animal Planet, it’s easy to love a pair of leopard print shoes. I know what I’m looking forward to–going shopping for leopard flats and wedges!

So try something new (or if you’re already a leopard lover – add another piece to your closet!)…and enjoy the many options you have to make this style your own!

Serenity at the Spa

OPI Fall Colors

It’s not often that I take a weekend (okay, more like a day) to unwind and unplug, but after a particularly busy week it was nice to have one day to myself. On the agenda for Saturday was a mani/pedi at Danfords Hotel and Marina’s Blue Sapphire Spa. The day would have gone off without a hitch had I remembered that Port Jefferson was hosting a Dragon Boat Race and the already bustling town would have an even more treacherous parking situation. After a futile attempt to park in one of the municipal lots, which resulted in a broken passenger’s side window (An explanation: as I electronically rolled the window down to ask a woman if she was getting out of her spot, I heard the car’s window slide down and then shatter into the bottom of the door. When I tried to roll the window up a horrible crunching noise ensued.), I returned to Danfords and opted to have a valet park it. Since I had a broken window, I figured that would be the safest option.

I tried to compose myself before entering the spa, but I could feel the tension from the events of the last 15 minutes replaying in my mind. Fortunately, as I opened the door to the spa, I was greeted by a friendly face who checked me in and offered me a cup of coffee as I waited for my appointment. I have been to Danfords plenty of times before for dinners and overnight stays, but this was my first time at the spa. The blue walls and calming music slowly began to make my hectic morning a distant memory. I eased into a cozy couch with my coffee and waited to be called for my appointment. The stillness inside made it easy to forget the crowds of people at the harbor front watching the Dragon Boat Race going on mere yards away.

Once I was called for my appointment I felt relaxed and ready to enjoy an afternoon at the spa. I opted for a classic manicure and pedicure and brought two polish colors that I have been wanting to try for a while. My friend Cathy picked a plum OPI color as a gift for my birthday last year; it’s the perfect fall color. I decided to go with OPI In The Cable Car-Pool Lane on my toes and another new color for me, OPI Taupe-Less Beach, on my nails. I was pleased with both colors and think they complement each other nicely.

OPI Taupe-Less Beach

OPI In The Cable Car-Pool Lane

Overall, I had a relaxing afternoon at The Blue Sapphire Spa and enjoyed being pampered. The staff was very professional and the spa itself was a beautiful place to get treated to some rest and relaxation. Of course, no trip to Port Jefferson would be deemed a success without a stop at Sweet ‘n’ Savory, located conveniently across the street from Danfords!

Waiting for the Weekend

As another week comes to a close I can say with absolute certainty that I have been counting the seconds to Friday since Monday. This has felt like a never-ending-week–and when you hope every day is Thursday all week, you can imagine my disappointment!

Frank Melville Park - Setauket, NY

{Yes, those are turtles on that log!}

One highlight was visiting the Frank Melville Park in Setauket during my lunch break mid-week. The peaceful setting almost made me forget about the lengthy to-do list I had waiting for me when I returned to the office.

Now that the weekend is about to make its debut, I am looking forward to some much needed down-time – with no plans and nothing on the agenda except maybe a visit to the spa at Danfords Hotel and Marina (a mani/pedi never hurt anyone! ). Even though the 400+ emails currently sitting in my inbox will probably still be there on Monday, I am eagerly awaiting my well deserved quiet weekend.

Happy Friday!

Thyroid Thursday

Synthroid 112

Can you believe we are halfway through September and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month? While awareness should take place every day, I hope all the articles, photos, and tweets I’ve shared have inspired you to get your neck checked and learn more about thyroid cancer (the ninth most common cancer in the United States according to thyca.org).

I wrote a post to celebrate my one-year thyroidversary back in June 2014 (you can read it here). Now that I am past the one-year mark, I thought I would share what I have learned going through a cancer diagnosis.

I was very fortunate that my cancer was found early and from the start I had a good team of doctors. I would advise anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer to get a second opinion before making any decisions. After I was diagnosed and had a consultation with an endocrinologist, I saw three surgeons. With each appointment I learned more about my diagnosis, asked questions related to the surgery and post-operative care, and took notes on how they treated me as a patient. When I finally decided to have surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College (after almost two months of research), I knew I made the right choice. I felt confident in my surgeon and the hospital. He explained the procedure at length to me and even gave me his email address in case I had any questions after the consultation.

My endocrinologist warned me, “Don’t turn your diagnosis into a ‘research project.'” Nevertheless, doing your homework and making sure you find the right doctor whom you feel comfortable with is critical. Also, being mentally and physically prepared to undergo surgery is important. I had initially scheduled my surgery for May 2013, but then postponed it by a month. My diagnosis so frightened me that I needed more time to process it all. By the time I went for my thyroidectomy in June, I felt informed and confident.

While the surgery and recovery went well, I did struggle at first with my Synthroid dose. I was put on 88 mcg before my surgery because I was also diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. After a few weeks on Synthroid, I began to feel sluggish, weak, and have stomach pain. I told my endocrinologist about my symptoms. To my surprise, he was not sympathetic and brusquely told me to see my primary care doctor.

After the operation, my surgeon increased my dose to 100 mcg to account for the fact that I no longer had any thyroid hormone. Weeks after my surgery my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels were tested and my surgeon told me that everything looked good and that I should continue on the same dose. Later that same day, though, my endocrinologist called and said my levels were still too high and he wanted to increase my dose to 112 mcg. You can imagine my surprise and confusion after the call! For most of the year following my surgery I saw my surgeon regularly, seldom seeing my endocrinologist, and remained on 100 mcg of Synthroid. It wasn’t until April 2014 that I saw my endocrinologist, and again he advised me to increase my Synthroid dose to 112 mcg. After a tense conversation, I reluctantly conceded, more because I needed a new script than that I actually agreed with him. He explained that the higher dose was necessary to prevent the cancer from returning, but there were risks to being on a higher dose when it wasn’t required due to high TSH levels. I left his office that day upset, confused, and reluctant to take the higher dose of Synthroid.

As a rule, I have always preferred to take the least amount of medicine possible. While I understood why the endocrinologist believed a higher dose was necessary, the contrast between his and the surgeon’s interpretations of my blood results was frustrating. The former seems to be more concerned with surpressing the TSH to almost non-existent levels and less with how the patient feels on a certain dose. I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of increased energy levels on 112 mcg, and I must be candid: I prefer to be on a lower dose.

In the end, after speaking with many thyroid cancer survivors, I have learned the importance of finding the right endocrinologist–one who will listen to your concerns and frustrations and not base their recommendations solely on numbers– because as a survivor you will be dependent on them for prescriptions, and even more importantly, on their knowledge and guidance for future care.

Fall Pairings

Is it too soon to be pining for the warm, summer months? After two days of chilly (highs in the low 70’s, which felt much cooler) fall weather and having to break out the sweaters during the day and comforter at night, I am sorely missing those nice sunny days. I’m sure the grey, cloudy (and let’s not forget rainy!) weather isn’t helping any. Has anyone else noticed the days slowly getting shorter? Yes, fall brings the return of some of my favorites – riding boots, long coats, pumpkins (and pumpkin lattes!), apple picking, chunky sweaters – and makes me feel like it is okay to stay in pajamas all day while snuggling up with magazines on the cozy couch. But I am not ready to say goodbye to my summer staples!

In an effort to extend a few summer looks, I’m breathing new life into my signature dresses by pairing them with blazers, tights, and boots this season.

Fall Pairings

{H&M dress & Anthropologie sweater}

Fall Pairings

{Banana Republic dress & H&M blazer}

Fall Pairings

{Banana Republic sweater dress & Franco Sarto riding boots}

Working on the Workspace – Part II

Working on the Workspace - Part II

Ceiling light
wayfair.com

Light bulb lamp
$485 – alexanderandpearl.co.uk

Contemporary lighting
$205 – outthereinteriors.com

Eiffel tower table lamp
$45 – target.com.au

Wool area rug
homedecorators.com

Square area rug
homedecorators.com

Interior wall decor
$120 – bonanzamarket.co.uk

Black furniture
amazon.com

Computer desk
target.com

My lofty goal of having my home office completed by end of summer may have been slightly ambitious. In an effort to speed up the process, I have decided to put a few of my favorite items, and some from my wish list, together to serve as much needed inspiration. During a late-night Target run last week I managed to pick out a rug, similar to the ones I’ve been eyeing for a while and those shown in this post. Now that I have the desk (the glass L-shaped desk shown in the post is my actual desk circa three years ago) and the rug, I feel like I can finally start to work on the decor. While I would love to have a glass chandelier hanging from my office, I doubt that will become a reality…but a girl can dream!

A Closet Full of Nothing to Wear

Fall Wardrobe Organization

Let’s be honest. We all have those mornings where hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock five times in a row is so much easier than trying to get out of bed on time. If you are anything like me, you probably spend way too much time calculating the last precise second of precious sleep you can enjoy before you need to wake up…or risk being extremely late for work!

This week was just one of those weeks for me. I felt exhausted from the minute I woke up each morning, and even extreme amounts of Starbucks and espresso were not enough to do the trick. On top of that, despite many shopping trips and closets and dressers brimming to the brink of explosion, I found myself wrestling every day with the same old nagging dilemma. What am I going to wear? We all have those moments, right? In my defense, this question seems harder to answer now that the mornings are chilly, but by 10 am the fall sweater I thought was a good idea seems completely unnecessary. This is the reason why summer is my favorite season – a light, colorful dress and you are good to go!

Since I seem to be struggling lately with my wardrobe, I have decided to use this weekend to take inventory of items in my closet that I no longer wear, don’t want to wear, will work for fall, or won’t use again until next summer. Needless to say, I think some organization is in order. Hopefully this well-intentioned (and much needed!) project won’t send me running to The Loft or H&M in need of new fall essentials!

Wish me luck!