Health

The Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Happy February, everyone! I love this time of the year so much. It’s heart month, Chris’ birthday month and of course, Valentine’s Day is coming up so there’s an extra dose of love in the air! Whether it’s loving on your significant other a little more, your family, or just showing yourself some extra love this month, be sure to make time for those who mean the most.

 

Chocolate Love

I thought it would be fitting to write about one of my deepest loves this month, chocolate. I have no regrets incorporating sweets into my diet every now and then. I think at this point in the winter months – regardless of where you live – it’s nice to just indulge a little bit more on things that make your taste buds and soul feel good! I’m here to encourage your chocolate habits but also to give you a quick reminder from the doctor side of me, enjoy everything in moderation.

 

The Benefits of Chocolate

We probably all know this to be true; dark chocolate is one of the best options out there in terms of sweet treats that stay in line with your health. The darker you go, the better it is for you. I suggest looking at bars that are 70% cacao or higher. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants – specifically flavonoids, and so much more! It actually contains more antioxidants than both green tea or red wine— Bonus! 

What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables but also in wine, tea, and you guessed it, chocolate! Chocolate specifically contains a type of flavonoid called Flavan-3-ols, which are very high in nutritional value. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant that help your body defend against harmful molecules that can be introduced in various ways like through stress, and just everyday living. Your body does produce antioxidants naturally, but chocolate is a tasty way to get bonus amounts into your system. Antioxidants help fight against things like inflammation, which is caused by germs, allergens, and other toxic irritants that trigger these reactions. 

Happy Brain

Dark chocolate and specifically, cacao, can help boost your mood! Research found that when participants consumed 48 grams of organic chocolate that contained 70% cacao, it increased neuroplasticity in the brain. This can help with mood, cognitive function, and memory. The perfect excuse to eat some chocolate while you study! 

 

Other Benefits

Heart Health

In moderation, dark chocolate can help improve your blood flow and help lower blood pressure. In addition, it’s convenient that we’re celebrating heart month because dark chocolate can also help raise HDL – which is the good cholesterol, but also prevents oxidation in LDL – which is the bad cholesterol. Plus, it can aid in reducing insulin resistance which helps with heart disease and diabetes.

Weight Control

As mentioned above, dark chocolate can help stabilize insulin which stabilizes blood sugar and helps manage appetite. Both of these results can lead to added weight control if that’s a goal you’re trying to achieve. Plus, it improves glucose metabolism, which will also help with weight control and prevent the onset of diabetes.

Glowy Skin

As if this list of benefits can get any better! There are many nutrients in dark chocolate that also benefit your skin and complexion. Some of those include manganese, which supports the production of collagen and helps keep your skin looking young and fresh. Then calcium, which helps repair and renew, and is so essential because our skin is constantly turning over. Lastly, the high levels of antioxidants in darker chocolate can help protect our skin against harmful UV rays from the sun. 

 

Moderation, Moderation, Moderation

This list is seriously impressive, but remember, moderation still matters. I am not giving you the green light to go consume all the mocha frappucinos. I mean, if you want to, go for it, but don’t expect these results! It is recommended that you stick to 1-2 oz of dark chocolate daily. Remember it is ideal to keep it at 70% cacao or darker! If the taste is a little too bitter for you, I love to break up some pieces with some nuts or berries and enjoy them together. Keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in calories and fat, again, not always a bad thing but if that’s on your radar, it’s good to know.

My Favorites

Alright, I’ve broken down all the info, now let’s dive into some of my favorite dark chocolate treats. I honestly love the classic glass of wine and a piece of chocolate pairing after a long shift when I need to wind down a little bit so I’ve definitely found my favorites over the years!

See’s Candy

I wrote about See’s in my last newsletter and I’m just such a fan. They offer the Classic Red Heart boxes of chocolate right in time for Valentine’s Day but also have one specifically for dark chocolate lovers!

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight Bar

This beauty sits at 72% cacao. Chocolate has flavor notes, almost like coffee or wine, and I find that this one has a deep roasted flavor, with notes of coffee. It pairs so well with an espresso or black coffee during that midday pick-me-up!

Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Intense Dark Bar

Lindt is such a staple and classic in any grocery store. I find their dark chocolate to be the perfect level of creaminess. If you’re new to incorporating dark chocolate into your life, don’t worry! It’s an acquired taste! I would recommend this Lindt Excellence bar as the perfect first place to start.

 

There you have it! A great way to kick of this month of love with some extra heart health tips and a way to indulge in delicious types of chocolate. What are your favorite dark chocolate go-tos? I’ll take any excuse to try more! 

 

Health

Recap & Renew – How I’m Prepping for the New Year

Can you believe it?! We’ve almost come to the end of another year! I love the end of December because, well the holiday time is filled with so much love and joy, but also because it’s the best time of the year to reflect on how far we’ve come. This is the time of year to dig deep into the good, the bad, and the in-between of the last 360-ish days. Then, we get to experience a “fresh start” in the New Year!

 

The reality is, we can experience a fresh start whenever we want, but there’s something about the new year that makes it so much grander. When I think about reflection and goal setting I get a bit overwhelmed. I barely remember what I did last week let alone in January of this year so I decided to break it down into manageable chunks; questions I can ask myself to help facilitate this process! If you’re like me and don’t even know where to begin when it comes to moving into 2020, I’ve broken down some tips to help you!

 

Recap the Good

First thing, identify your big wins! What experiences or accomplishments took place this year. The obviously stand out moments, maybe an event, graduation or career change (it’s okay if there are none!). Then move into the small wins, what went well for you this year? What area of your life evolved in a positive direction – think career, relationships, personal development. Maybe you scored the perfect winter coat for a good deal; it doesn’t need to be a super significant thing! Noticing what comes to mind will also show you what moments stood out for you this year. Browsing back through your calendar/planner can be a helpful reminder.  

 

This year, the good was SO good for us and we are both extremely grateful. We went on our big Europe trip which was an absolute dream! I also had the opportunity to become a partner at my work and continue to grow professionally. I was on a billboard for FIGS in Times Square in New York which is kind of a big deal! I still can’t believe that happened lol. Chris and I also bought and moved into our dream home which has been a really rewarding project. Thanksgiving in Michigan was also a very standout weekend with the fam. Needless to say it’s been a great year and I can especially say that, after taking time to reflect on it, I can really see how amazing it has been!  

 

Recap the Bad

I know, it’s the thing no one wants to do, but it helps us to be better for 2020! Plus as you were trying to think of the good I have a suspicion the bad stuff was bubbling up. Rest knowing that it’s already in the past! Don’t reflect in regret or anger, or shame or guilt, instead just identify what you learned along the way and how you can course correct in the New Year and take different action as you plan to tackle all of your dreams. There might be some things that you need to intentionally avoid, some self sabotaging thoughts that need to be tossed out the door, or people in your life that are bringing you down and you need to let go. We all have different versions of anchors that are weighing us down without even knowing, and this is an excellent time to reflect on that.

 

I found that I sometimes avoid my goals, even though I had plans to expand my brand, I let myself get paralyzed by imposter syndrome and I get worried that I’m not ‘ready for this’. Even though I’m already doing it everyday and you’re all here! I wrote a blog post about Imposter Syndrome recently which has more of my full thoughts and tips. 

 

I also found that I haven’t scheduled enough “true” downtime. Yes, Chris and I spent a lot of time traveling, and while the hustle and bustle of exploring new places is fun and inspiring it’s not necessarily restful. This coming year, I’m aiming to schedule more time with myself and truly resting. Staycations over plane rides, and quiet days once every other week minimum. To be transparent, I’m not sure what I’ll do to make this happen, but it needs to happen! I’m thinking I’ll look at my monthly schedule and lock down some catch-up days (which we know we all need), but then also some full rest days and make them non-negotiable! 

 

Plan for the Future

I’m sure you’ve read it a million times already but Start. Planning. For. 2020! And not just Jan 1 but the whole year. I think that there’s something magical about the fact that we’re heading into a new decade. Use this time to reflect on the last year or ten, appreciate how far you’ve come, then turn around and crush the next ten!

 

 

Goal Setting

No plan will move forward without some tangible and measurable goals! Dig deep into what you want to do this year, the things you want to achieve and who you want to become! From there, we can ask, “What do I need to do today to get me to XYZ?”. Get as specific as possible when writing your goals and make sure they are attainable but still challenge you. Finally, what measurable milestones do you have? If your goal is to start a blog what are the steps leading up to the launch? List out your steps and then create a timeline. 

 

What is it they say, “A goal is just a dream with a deadline” – don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure who said it. But, if you’re planning to set goals, then they need to be realistic. If your goals are really broad, try breaking them down into quarterly steps which will make them more attainable.

 

List Your Wildest Dreams

What wild thing – or things – do you want to accomplish this year? WRITE THEM DOWN! I think our brain/mind/ego whatever you want to call it immediately blocks us from dreaming super big because we are scared of failure. But no one needs to know about your big ambitions and perhaps if you are feeling doubt or you think others would doubt you then perhaps we are all simply thinking too small. Anything is possible for you if you are willing to go out a work for it! There is so much power in putting pen to paper, this is one of the best ways to manifest your goals and dreams into real life in my opinion. That and shouting it from the mountain tops can keep you really accountable. Give your wildest dreams a place in your day planner or journal, then they are always in the front of your mind. 

 

Find Your Tribe

Identify who is going to help you achieve these goals along the way. Who are you excited to spend your energy and time with this year? Who can support you and who are you excited to support? Maybe it’s your partner, or friends, perhaps it’s your mom. Regardless, find the people that are in your corner and those who are here to help you every step of the way! 

 

Cutting people out of our life is hard, even when we know it’s completely necessary. Maybe you have the friend you’ve known your entire life that is just so negative, the college friend who just hasn’t grown up, the family member who doesn’t support you whatsoever. I get that cutting someone off is way easier said than done, all we can do is limit the time we spend with them, redirect conversation when possible and at the end of the day remember not to take negativity personally and also know you are not responsible for other adults’ lives. 

 

Invest in a Planner

Whether it’s the Google Calendar app on your phone or an old school physical day planner, make sure you have something to write down these dreams, deadlines, and plans. It does not need to be fancy or cost $100; just a practical item that you can carry around and refer to to record your deadlines and appointments. Popular brands include Passion Planner, Best Self Co. and one of my favorites, Sugar Paper.

 

There’s no perfect way to plan for the new year but I do think reflection and setting new intentions is important and super valuable! I hope that this list can help you get started. Reflect, show gratitude, see how you can improve, and create  a detailed plan to make it happen! 

 

Cheers to an amazing year to come!  

 

 

Photos by Ali Foster and Zo’e Cole



Career

Addressing Imposter Syndrome: Why now is the time to let it go

Imposter Syndrome is a very real term that has come to light in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it or don’t quite understand what it means, the feeling of imposter syndrome is doubting that your abilities, knowledge and expertise earns you the right to perform in your current role. Thoughts like “who am I to ________” come to mind. 

 

I think Imposter Syndrome has really blown up as a conversation piece because through Instagram we are seeing so many people living unconventional lives and establishing careers that used to never exist, not to mention all those who work remotely. We share our highlight reel online but then don’t feel like we deserve to live it! 

 

Even though I’m an MD and I am definitely qualified in the world of health care, I still experience Imposter Syndrome when writing for my blog and showing up on Instagram. Who am I to tell you what’s going on and to suggest how you live your life? It’s such a crazy feeling and emotion that can definitely be consuming at times. 

What Is It? 

Imposter Syndrome can be defined as a chronic-self doubt and intellectual fraudulence that overrides our success. We get so caught up in the idea that we’re not qualified or even worthy to speak our thoughts out loud that we inwardly sabotage ourselves! 

 

It’s a brutal quality that can be detrimental to our progress and achievements. Imposter syndrome is common in people who strive for perfect or even fitting in their social circles (which, who isn’t?). But allowing imposter syndrome to consume us also really belittles our capabilities and our recognition of how far we’ve actually come! It can make us feel like the only way that we got to where we are is due to dumb luck. As if we hadn’t actually put in the work to end up where we are today! The feeling further contributes to social anxiety and other fears.

Why Do I Have It? How Did This Happen?

So at this point I’m pretty sure you can relate. And trust me you aren’t alone. Everyone experiences feelings of doubt in both career and social situations.

 

Circumstances that may contribute to Imposter syndrome include 

  1. Having a ‘not normal’ career or having an established career at a young age. How old you are in comparison to your colleagues can often become a trigger for feeling less-than even if you hold the same career title or sit above them in the office hierarchy. There is something about ‘respect your elders’ that was so ingrained into our minds as a child that we can’t possible assume we could be more talented than someone older than us. However, it’s totally not true! 

 

  1. Childhood experiences. If as a child you were told that you have to work really really hard to get the things you want, and now all of a sudden you have some success, whatever those may look like, and it didn’t seem ‘that hard’ you’re tricking your mind to believe you didn’t work for it! But remember all those hours you put in learning, or studying or working?! You DID the work! You deserve to be in the position you’re in now! 

What Happens

Depression and Anxiety

We know that one often leads to the other. Anxiety is often caused by the seeming need to overwork and continuously prove yourself to your peers or those around you. It can be especially exhausting and burden you while you’re trying to live out experiences that you truly deserve! 

Increased Fear & Mistakes

The anxiety that you experience could lead to an increased fear that you’re not going to prove yourself and that you’re going to mess up in some way. This fear is really what will end up making you mess up or make a mistake. It’s not happening because you’re incapable or not good enough, the fear and anxiety that lies in you will actually just cause you to make these mistakes! You’ll get so distracted and consumed by these emotions that you will find yourself self-sabotaging.

What You Can Do

There’s a lot that you can do no matter what type of mental health struggles you’re looking to overcome. 

Talk About It!

Meet with a trusted friend, family member or mentor and tell them how you’re feeling. If it’s someone who cares about you, they’ll listen and likely offer some good advice or help you see the circumstance from a different point of view! If you don’t feel comfortable discussing insecurities or mental health with a friend I recommend that you go talk to a therapist or a professional who can help you out.

 

Reframe Failure As Learning

Maybe you did make a mistake, and perhaps something hasn’t gone right, and you’re ready to write off your whole career or plan because you’re worried you’ll never be able to make ‘it’ happen! Please, don’t! Just take a step back and look at how much you can learn from this setback. This opportunity to learn will make you an even better student or professional!

Remember What You Do Well

Take a second to sit back and remember what you’re good at. Like, really good at. Maybe it’s related to your career or degree, but perhaps you just make the world’s best vegan brownies. Who cares?! Take some time to do what you’re best at and let that fill you up for a few hours. Then, hopefully you’ll have some renewed confidence to carry on doing what you need to get back to.

Remember That No One Is Perfect

Take a deep breath, in and out, a few times. Then calmly remind yourself that literally, no one is perfect. Especially the people that you’re seeing on social media. That’s only their highlight reel, which is okay! It’s just essential that you remember that there is a whole other part of their life back there! 

 

Imposter syndrome is definitely a part of the overall mental health struggle that we all go through, and it’s okay to admit that. I’m writing about this because it’s something that I’ve experienced and am continually trying to overcome even as I write this blog. But I keep going because I know that if I can provide helpful information to even a few people, then we are worthy of growing and learning together!

Action Step 

Take a blank piece of paper and turn it sideways, drawing a line horizontally through the middle. Put a small circle on the middle of the line. On the left side of the circle brain dump everything that you’d learned, worked through and experienced to get you to where you are now, on the right side write down a few accomplishments you’d like to achieve moving forward. Just like that you can see how far you’ve come, how much you know and how you ARE ALLOWED to play big, stand in your truth and share your passions with the world! 

 

Imposter syndrome is only holding you back from leveling up. When you feel the negative thoughts creep in continue to practice talking them down and counter those thoughts with positive mantras like “I am enough”, or “I’ve got this”! It won’t go away in one day, but one day at a time we can continue to practice remembering our value and our worth. 

 

Have you experienced this in life? 

 

Photos by Zo’e Cole 

 

Fitness

Have you jumped on the Peloton bike trend yet?

You thought spin was cool? Yeah, you’re right, but Peloton went one step further and brought spin to you. Through their top of the line bike and at-home programming, you’re able to bring a high-energy spin and cardio workout into your living room/spare room/basement – whatever you want. The creators of Peloton saw the need for an in-home workout that was challenging and “worthwhile”, as well as a need to workout with our complex schedules. 

The Peloton Community

Peloton has over 1 million individuals who are keen on improving their fitness game, the community is wild! Through their member technology and on-demand or live classes, members are able to log in and be in the same fitness class as people all around the world. Similar to other fitness apps there are badges that can be obtained and challenges completed but there’s also a fun opportunity to actually meet the fellow Pelotons in your screen though local-city meet ups.  

If you can’t attend the live classes because of your schedule, they are all recorded for you, so you have hundreds to choose from with just a tap of the finger. 

Peloton Pros

Convenience

As mentioned above, Peloton is convenient! I don’t always have the time to get to my local spin or group fitness class and now when I have a half hour to spare, I can just go downstairs and get an amazing workout in. Plus, the added convenience of not needing to commute to the gym or studio helps me to make better use of my time.

Options & Motivation

There are so many options for group classes! There are even options for workouts other than spin. From boot camp to yoga, to running, there are so many workouts that I can choose depending on my mood that day! Above all, this isn’t your typical workout DVD – you are truly able to interact with the instructors and participants inside your screen and maximize your motivation and excitement for each workout! 

Peloton Cons

Accountability & Connection

Over the years, I’ve learned that I like to sign up for and attend a class so that way I’m held accountable to my goals. Peloton offers really great resources for goal-setting and scheduling, but I find that physically attending a class helps me. In addition, attending a class helps me to interact and connect with the people in front of me. As much as I’d love to jet over to New York for a Peloton meet up, I’d much rather head to the coffee shop down the street with my friends after a good workout.

 

Repetition & Body Types

I find that workout DVDs or apps can be monotonous especially if you don’t feel confident enough to explore your options or try something new. In addition, not having a physical person present to check your form can really prevent you from wanting to move forward in the programming that you’re in. Also, I really like certain workouts for my body type and my muscle groups don’t like strength workouts all the time. At the end of the day, you need to know what’s right for your body and goals! 

Lastly, that bottom line. Peloton is an investment so if you’re going to go for it, you better use it! The bike itself starts at over $2000 and that’s just the start. I’ll break it down further below but the bike itself has a cost then the classes and “community” comes with extra costs too.

Your Investment

There are 4 packages that you can look at purchasing – all include the bike.

Basic Package – $2245

What’s included: The bike, 1-year limited warranty and delivery and set up. This package also includes the programming and subscription to the community and your exercises. 

Essentials Package – $2404 

You can also beef up your packages a bit to make sure that you’re able to have the best workout from the comfort of your home.

What’s included: The bike, 1-year limited warranty, delivery and set up and some extra accessories such as a set of weights, a set of shoes to clip into the bike and a pair of headphones.

Keep in mind that you don’t need Peloton brand specific shoes, but you DO need a 3-bolt cleat mount (often called LOOK-Delta or SPD-SL). 

Works Package – $2494 

Again, this package includes everything listen above but adds the following: a heart rate monitor and a bike mat. Great add ons to make your home gym feel more intentional!

Family Package – $2694 

If you have a partner that you think would also benefit from Peloton, then this package is for you! Everything listed above is included but there’s another set of shoes, another heart rate monitor and two water bottles included as well. This package is helpful if you need someone present to workout with you and cheer you on.  

When buying, don’t forget about the monthly fee of $39 to keep the endless classes and options updating, and at your service. 

All packages are available for financing and can be made in monthly payments that equate to some gym memberships. The difference here is that once you’re done your payments, it’s still yours and you still have full access right from home!

 

The Main Differences

So, what are the real differences between Peloton and a real in-person spin class? I found that Peloton seems to aim for high resistance all of the time during their workouts. Meanwhile, my local spin studio implements a lot more movement and choreography into the class which keeps us guessing and is oftentimes more fun! Sometimes a spin class feels like an all-out dance party on the bike and I find that Peloton focuses largely on resistance.

Chris thinks I’m crazy, but my thighs and gluts respond QUICK to heavy strength workouts and although I want a balance… I don’t want to be bottom heavy! Ya know what I mean?

Speaking of dance parties — both offer excellent soundtracks! Peloton even offers workouts that you can pick based on your preferred playlist. Whether you’re feeling a bit of 90s Britney or recent Pitbull tracks – it’s your call!

 

I’ll be honest, the Peloton was for Chris. It works great with his schedule. But I am definitely implementing it into my routine here and there. I really like our Peloton and would encourage you to do it if you’ve ever been intimidated by group workout, or you’re adamant about working out at home. At the end of the day though, I recommend trying one out if you can before you invest.

Have you tried a Peloton? Let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your thoughts. 

 

Photos by Alexandra Folster 

Dr. Majestic

I invite you to take a glimpse into my crazy, beautiful life in medicine and allow me to teach you my health, wellness, and lifestyle tips along the way. 

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