Tuesday, January 10, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 10

(This is a randon shot I took in downtown Baltimore some time back that makes me smile so I included it).

Happy Tuesday all!  I hope your week has started out well. Yesterday most of my day was spent at Hopkins and I am back there again today.  When I stopped working in healthcare I thought I was finished spending long days and evenings in a hospital.  *shakes head*  However I was able to practice a little meditation in one of the waiting rooms and even found vegan food (without oil) in the cafeteria so those were both positive aspects of my day. Some days you just have to look for the small wins.

Here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how far we have come during the first 9 days of January:

Day 1 – Defined Success and What is/was Holding Us Back

Day 2 – Determined our Purpose and Looked at Passion

Day 3 – Listed Our Goals for January

Day 4 – Listed the Things We Have Needed to Work on for a While

Day 5 – Looked at Optimism vs. Pessimism and Fear vs. Intuition

Day 6 – Practiced Conscious Eating

Day 7 – Hara Hachi Bu

Day 8 – Taking the Stress Out of Meal Time

Day 9 – Acknowledgments

Yesterday we worked on acknowledging all the great stuff we do each day.  This might have seemed like a silly exercise but I hope that you will try it for a few days and see how it works for you.  If you are someone who is self-critical and/or pessimistic you may find it to be very useful. I know it was and continues to be helpful for me.

No excuses, Do it Anyway:

Today’s post is a similar to the blurb I wrote about are you interested or committed.  People who are interested in health follow “their plan/program” until something better comes along or they encounter a bump in the road. However those who are committed just do it.  One of the big differences is that you have to believe in what you are doing or it is difficult to stay committed.

Monday was a good example of what this means so I will share that story with you as an example.  I spent the entire day at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday, literally from noon until after 10pm.  Since this was not a planned trip I had no food with me and was at the mercy of what was available. For those of you who have never been to Hopkins is a huge complex of interconnected buildings that cover many blocks in a part of Baltimore (it has its own zip code) that I would otherwise go.  Given the geographic location there was no way I was venturing out of the hospital to find food.   Needless to say this was not the easiest environment to stay healthy, but you know what I managed to do it because I am committed.  When I finally left the waiting room to find food I ended up at Subway, because that was the best choice.  I got a whole grain veggie sub with every available veggie they had and fat-free dressing.  They also had dried apple chips and water and combined with the sub this was dinner.  This follows my principle of making the best choice in the moment.  For Monday night this was the best choice, not one I would make generally (due to the amount of bread) but more than acceptable given the situation.

I could have used this unplanned trip to the hospital to buy some comfort food (translation sweets) which seemed to be everywhere. However being healthy is important to me so there was no way I was going to eat something that I knew was harmful for my health.  After all how foolish would it be for me to eat “crap” and head back the nursing floor? 

The primary reason I am able to eat a healthy diet no matter where we go is that I understand the ramifications of poor eating habits.  For many years both my husband and I ate for taste and health was only a minor concern.  However now that I have researched health ad nausem I can’t unlearn all that information and eat things that I know are bad for me. These days when I am faced with eating in a unfamiliar setting I just make the best choice that I can in that moment.

Since I am sure many of you feel lost in these situations I wanted to tell you the types of things that I look for when making food decisions.

1.       The first thing that I always do is survey the environment.  I never make hasty food decisions.  I walked around the hospital cafeteria to see what was available. There were a few things that seemed as though they might be acceptable choices. 

a.       There was a bean soup (which could have had ham or bacon and definitely had oil) which was a possibility but I kept looking. 

b.      Additionally they had a salad bar but many of the options were marinated and I knew that meant oil and while I am not 100% opposed to oil I like to know what it is and since I didn’t I kept looking. 

c.       There was a Baja Fresh which had a veggie salad with beans.  However I worried about the type and amount of fat in the beans and I didn’t want the fried taco shell.  I could have ordered the salad not eaten the shell and that was an option if I didn’t find something else.

d.      The Einstein Brothers Bagel that I expected to have fresh fruit and bagels and nut butter but I didn’t see those probably because of how late it was when I arrived.  Either the whole grain bagels would probably have white flour and possibility egg wash but overall not a bad choice had it been available.

e.      In the end the veggie sub from Subway with the fat-free (and consequently oil free) dressing was the winner.  It had a reasonable amount, though not nearly enough, veggies and it didn’t have oil.  Also while I didn’t love the idea of that much bread without it there wouldn’t have been enough calories which was also a concern.

2.       After I take a survey of what is available then I make my decisions based on a few things.  Last night I knew that I needed the calories from the bread of the sub which I why I went with that option.  If I had some information about what was in the bean soup I might have gone with that for the same reason calories.  Instead I added the small bag of dried apple chips to my meal which was only 45 calories, and no fat, but it added a little more nutrition to the meal.

3.       In situations like yesterday I also look for food items that I can toss into my purse for later, like the apple chips.  I was hoping to find trail mix but didn’t see any for sale.

4.       I ask other people for suggestions. In this case I talked with the nurse and explained my requirements and asked her for suggestions.  While not many people are vegan that you will meet, most have an idea of where the “healthier” foods are located and that is useful information too.

5.       I try to remember that I am basically at the mercy of what is around me and realize that perfection is not going to be possible.  It is important not to beat yourself up in these situations. You don’t do anyone else any good if you are so rigid in your thinking that you won’t eat anything because you don’t know precisely what is in the food.  It is the totally of your food choices that matters in terms of health not any one individual meal.

I hope that this helps you to see what I look for when I am out of my comfort zone.

Today’s exercises are:

1.       Even if you brought your lunch to work today take some time to check out the available options.

2.       Make a list of what you think might be good food choices.

3.       Check online sources to see what nutrition information is available for these foods.  For example did you know there is a garden salad at McDonalds which is vegan, without the dressing?  I didn’t know that but when I checked the website there it was.  However this would be useful if you were stuck in car on the expressway and you are hungry.

4.       Try to talk to people who have more information about the food to help you rank the options and then rank them in terms of healthfulness.

5.       Put one healthy item in your purse or desk with a long shelf life for “emergencies”.  I now have trail mix, fruit chips, roasted seaweed and green tea bags in my purse, just in case.

6.       For extra credit grab piece of fresh fruit to take with you when you leave the house in the morning.

It is much easier to make healthy choices when you have planned.  Even if you normally take your lunch to work knowing what you can grab is good for those times when you need it.  My husband has scouted out a number of options near his office that he falls back on when he works late I only sent him lunch not dinner.  For those of you in Baltimore here are Dan’s suggestions:

1.       Peking House (on Baltimore Street) has something called the diet special number one.  He asks them to add cashews to that for a little additional protein and some fat. 

2.       Java Joe (on Baltimore Street) always has at least one vegan soup.  Additionally they have a sandwich called the Park Street which he has the leave the cheese off and add tomato.

3.       Me Kong Delta (on Saratoga) has the tofu spring rolls with peanut sauce which we both love.  Two orders of those are a meal.

4.       Shula’s (on Fayette), and yes I mean the steak house, has a grilled veggie sandwich that is vegan if you leave off the buffalo mozzarella. You can also get veggies on the side instead of potatoes.

5.       Cazbah (on Charles Street) has a veggie casserole that is vegan if you have them leave off the cheese. Dan really likes this. They also have other veggie options so you might want to check them out they have good Turkish food.

While most of the time Dan takes his lunch to work there are days when he works through dinner. I feel much better knowing that he has found some reasonably healthy vegan options close by.  I realize that being vegan when you are out seems nearly impossible when you are new to this way of eating but it is possible and gets much easier the longer you do it.

Progress on my goals:

1.       Newsletters – No progress on this goal on Monday because of my unexpected time at Hopkins.  Life seems to be getting in the progress here.  *ugh*

2.       Body Bugg – Eight days in a row wearing my bugg and going strong. I think this has become a habit again.  ;-)  If any of you want to know more about this let me know and I will include details about it in an upcoming post.

3.       Date with Dan – We will be getting back to this very soon once the crisis is over.

4.        Measuring calorie dense food – Given where I was on Monday this didn’t come into play.

5.       Working on my business  Again no progress on this goal on Monday for the same reason as item one above.  However I am hopeful that I will get back to these tasks very soon.

How are you doing making progress on your goals?  I hope you are pleased with what you have accomplished so far.  Remember change takes time it isn’t instantaneous.  Being healthy is a mindset that you need to cultivate.  But if you keep at it you will definitely get there!  Devoting as little as 15 minutes each day to your goals will make a difference.


I asked you to continue to write daily acknowledgements so that you develop the habit. In order to remind you to write your acknowledgements I jotted a few down to share with you.  Given my day I wasn’t writing these when they happened so there are fewer than I would normally have, but here goes:

·         Quick thinking and driving worked out well yesterday and what could have been a disaster was simply a bump in the road.  All my reading about health paid off yesterday and for that I am very happy.

·         I am very pleased with myself for sticking with my healthy eating routine under very difficult circumstances.

·         Until yesterday I had not realized how laid back I have become.  I am in a bit of shock regarding my ability to meditate and not catastrophsize in the waiting room.  Also I am glad that I was able to remain calm for Dan.  He worries when I get anxious so my being calm was huge.   This actually feels like a bit of a miracle for me, so I am proud of myself.

·         I knew that having a calming influence yesterday would be useful and I reached out to three friends.  Typically I am that person who always says that “I am fine, I don’t need anything,” so being able to ask for help was also a big deal and I am glad that I did it.

·         I walked to the car last night by myself late at night.  Given what I shared with you about the attack many years ago I am sure you realize what a big deal this was for me.

·         When I arrived home late last night the last thing that I really wanted to do was put up a post.  However I had made a commitment and I didn’t want to let anyone down.  In retrospect I am happy that I took the time to do it even though I just wanted to crash.  I think I have become a little too loose in terms of commitments since I retired.  It feels good to what I said that I was going to do.

I hope this gives you more of an idea about writing acknowledgements. Did you write your acknowledgements today?  I really hope that you took time to pat yourself on the back for those things you did right today.  We can all use a little positive reinforcement sometime. 

Random Observations:

It is always a little strange to be vegan in a non-vegan world.  Being a vegan in a hospital is particularly odd.   I am always taken back by the realization that so few health care employees are vegan or know much of anything about vegan food.

However at least health care employees are curious and ask questions about our vegan diet and I think that is a good sign.  The most common question I hear is “what do you eat”?  Omnivores always seem to have trouble imagine meals without meat and dairy.   I still remember back when I had no idea what vegan food to eat as well so I like to take my time and give them good suggestion.  As tough as it was initially to figure out what to cook and eat now it is a breeze.

I had a nice conversation with a hospital dietitian. We chatted about the types of diets the patients arrive eating, what percentages of them are open to change while in the hospital and how frequently he sees the same patients readmitted.   Our conversation was more than a little sobering.  When we were talking about his typical interaction with patients I was very interested. He said that when people say things like, “I don’t have time to cook, or the food won’t taste as good” that he always knows that they aren’t going to change. I would suggest that these roadblocks are all mental.   If you tell yourself you can’t do something then you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t do it.  I wanted to toss that out in case it applied to anything in your life.  His words definitely had a ring of truth for me.

However the dietitian and I both seemed to enjoy talking about nutrition with each other.  He made a few suggestions for me about the Hopkins School of Public Health that I am going to look into.  He was also curious about what we eat for typical meals, and tried the pizza nuts that I brought from home and enjoyed them a lot.  He liked the pizza nuts enough to ask me how I made them and what was in them.  J  Overall it was a nice meeting, not exactly necessary in our case but still good.


I had many plans for my Monday which went right out the window.  Unplanned trips to the hospital are stressful for everyone and being a formal hospital employee does not make me immune to that stress.  Needless to say I didn’t photograph any food during my day which I am sure you understand.

It surprised me that I was able to meditate in the waiting room.  The old me would have been in a panic and catastrophisizing about every possible horrible outcome. However this time I was able to release my anxiety and simply wait for information from the medical team.  I really have come much further than I ever expected was possible given my underlying pessimistic personality.  ;-)   It fascinates me how much more mellow I have become, but I like it.  Apparently the daily meditation I have been doing for months is starting to pay dividends.

Please don’t expect to see much on my daily updates for a while until life settles down again.  I will keep my laptop with me to write posts but I won’t be carrying my camera because of all the other stuff I have been lugging to and from the hospital.

Happy thoughts:

·         Things at the hospital are progressing “perfectly” according to the medical team.  Many of the doctors have been very complimentary about our diet.  It makes me happy that medical science is starting to come around to the benefits of lifestyle changes.  *woo hoo*

·         The chaplain who stopped in the room today told us how peaceful it was entering our space.  When I asked the nurse about this she concurred that we are less stressed than most of the patients.  Funny, I never thought of us as that peaceful but it was a nice compliment so I will take it. BTW having a chaplain visit was initially a little distressing when the first thing you think of is last rites but that wasn’t why she was there. Apparently the chaplain just likes to stop in and see if anyone needs to talk which I thought was very nice touch.

·         Everyone at Hopkins has been extremely nice.  Both of us have been very pleased with the level of customer service.  Dietary stopped in to go over the vegan food options and help with meal planning.  The nursing staff has been incredible.  All the doctors have been patient and willing to answer questions which is very nice since I tend to ask a lot of questions as you can probably imagine.

·         The internet access at the hospital has been fairly stable thank goodness. I was a little worried about being able to get online for some webinars I had scheduled previously but this hasn’t been a problem.

·         I really enjoyed my conversation with the hospital dietitian.  He has my mind spinning about my next education endeavor. As you probably figured out by now I need little provocation to sign up for a course, certification program or any other educational opportunity.  He definitely had some ideas that I didn’t think of. Courtney you should expect to see some questions from me soon.  ;-)

·         I managed to squeeze in a little time on Tuesday to listen to two webinars. The one this evening on time management had a few good tips.  I will be trying those out and if they work for me I will share them with you because you know I love to share.

Signing Out:

It is good to have Monday behind me.  I don’t want any more days like that one any time soon or preferably ever.  On the bright side life is starting to return to normal and that is a very good thing.  Hopefully by the end of the week it will be like nothing ever happened (like in the ServePro commercial).  J

Clearly my week has been a great one so far, but it hasn’t been horrible either. I am doing my best to look at the positive side of things. All-in-all I know our outcome is better than most people in our situation but still it is tough to realize that you don’t have complete control over everything that happens in life.  I suppose this is where that meditation work has come in the most handy.

I am expecting tomorrow to be a better day and Thursday to be even better.  If you have time to send some positive thoughts our way they would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you are having a good week and I expect to talk with you again tomorrow.

I thought we would end this post on a light note.  It is hard not to smile at a 30 pink flamingo on the front of a restaurant. For those of you who are Gordon Ramsey fans he was at this restaurant in October and the episode will air in Febrary I hear.  I hope I remember to watch it. 

On the pink flaminog note good night all. Talk with you again soon.  :-)


  1. When my hubs was hospitalized a year ago, I was dismayed at how unhealthy all of the food was both for patients and visitors.(luckily his good friend is the chef in charge of food services there. He would drop in and visit with special meals he made just for me; like a large veggie plate with freshly made hummus)

    Keeping you both in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. My mom spent over two months in the hospital late last year. I spent a week with her when things looked very grim. I am a gluten-free vegan, but find that when traveling I sometimes have to eat some meat or starve. In their little town there were not many options, and the hospital food was awful! 20 years ago this hospital offered healthy meals and attracted church crowds on Sunday for their good healthy food. I starved my whole week there eating basically lettuce leaves, onion, and cauliflower.

    I will be praying for both of you.

  3. Oh Alicia, I am so sorry to hear Dan is in the hospital. I won't e-mail you because I know you are busy and overwhelmed right now, but know that I am thinking of you both.

    And please, e-mail me any time with questions :-)


  4. Sorry to hear that Dan is in the hospital, do you mind saying what happened? When I visited my sister in a Phoenix hospital last summer, I was amazed at their fantastic and inexpensive salad bar. It was so much better than anything I saw them bring to her room. In fact, I missed it after she was discharged! When on a road trip, we usually lunch at Subway although I know the bread isn't great (apparently German Subways have a nice dark dense bread). I ask them to start with spicy mustard on both sides of the bread and finish with as much spinach as possible.

  5. Ali, I just stopped for a minute & said a prayer for you two. I hope by now (as I'm reading this a few days after you posted) that Dan & you are back at home.


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