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! 

 

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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