Weekend Reading, 12.11.16
December 11, 2016

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

As you can see, it’s been a busy weekend over here! For a long time I’ve been hoping to make this blog more user-friendly. It’s been my intention to offer more easily searchable recipes, useful resources, and a brighter, cleaner design. I’m so happy to introduce you to the new look on this wintery Sunday afternoon.

If you start to poke around, you’ll find that recipes can now be searched according to dietary preference (gluten-free, tree nut free, no oil, etc.) or meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, quick & easy, holidays, etc.). There’s an online shop, where you can find some of the kitchen tools, nutrition resources, and even a few pantry staples I rely on. The getting started page will allow you to search through the site according to categories of content (nutrition & wellness, food & healing, vegan recipes), and the about page will tell you a little more about the story of how this blog came to be.

For those of you who might be interested in exploring my nutrition counseling, I want to share that I’ll be taking a short hiatus from my practice until early 2017. I plan to resume my work with clients in February. If you’re interested, I’d love for us to discuss your nutrition goals and whether or not I can be of service to you. You can be added to my waitlist by emailing me at gena@thefullhelping.com.

Finally, if you opt-in to email updates and my newsletter, which will be launching in the new year, you’ll also get a handy plant-based starter kit. It features a list of pantry staples, a vegan grocery store checklist, and 15 super quick, super easy recipes to help kick start your exploration of vegan cooking. It also features 5 important vegan nutrition tips and some longterm strategies for savoring a plant-based lifestyle.

This blog has always been, and continues to be, my passion. I hope that the new features make it just a little more welcoming and useful for you.

It’s a good day to be talking about changes, because change has been very much on my mind these days. I was chatting about change a little last week–specifically, cultivating the capacity to await change patiently–and in the last few days I’ve actually had a chance to see the fruits of change in action. A few situations came up that have historically brought on a lot of anxiety and struggle. I was surprised to find myself responding to them quite differently than I usually do, with a sense of equanimity and resilience.

Of course, I could see certain patterns creeping around the edges, little panicky tendencies bubbling up. But for the most part, I was able to confront familiar triggers with a different attitude. I haven’t done anything specific to make this shift happen, but I have trained myself to have faith that difficult scenarios are only temporary, and they’re often resolvable–if only because our perspective on them can change.

It was a happy surprise. In the last month I’ve felt discouraged with the seeming intractability of certain dispositions I see in myself, but this is a reminder that change is real and possible. Often it happens so imperceptibly that we’re not able to register it at first, but the arrival of an old challenge makes us aware that something has actually shifted. I had a lot of moments like this during ED recovery, and–as I mentioned this past summer, when I wrote about recovery as a practice–it’s fascinating and heartening to encounter them elsewhere.

This week’s links include some very cozy, comforting sweets and eats from blogger friends, as well as a few provocative reads about health and medicine.



Who doesn’t love a good cup of vegan eggnog? There are so many brand-name versions these days that I can barely keep track of them, but it’s also super easy to make your own version for friends, family, and entertaining. I’m loving Renee’s rich, creamy version, which is made with cashews and dates.


Anya’s root and fennel soup has all of the hallmarks of a great cold-weather soup: it’s creamy, thick, comforting, and grounding. But it’s also surprisingly and delightfully green, which isn’t something I associate with wintery soups. It’s also topped with tender roasted cauliflower, which I imagine adds a lot of texture and flavor. Such a wonderful bowl meal.


Speaking of grounding, wintery bowls, I’m loving Sarah’s turmeric chickpeas with lime couscous. I don’t use pearl couscous often enough, but I do love its texture and chew, and this vibrant recipe is a good invitation to pick some up.


Amanda has a special talent for creating recipes that are obviously flavorful and complex, but also easy and intuitive. My latest favorite is her Asian-inspired tofu cocktail sliders, which feature marinated tofu and tart pickled carrots. Such an inspired dish for parties and sharing (or for keeping all to yourself).


Shortbread has always been one of my favorite holiday treats, especially since it’s so amazingly easy to make and store. I’m inspired by Consuelo’s five ingredient vegan shortbread with its lovely chocolate glaze, and I may just be trying a batch this coming week.


1. As some of you might have seen, for the first time since 1993 US life expectancy has declined. As is always the case with this kind of data, there are many complex factors at play, but it seems that mortality from Alzheimer’s, suicide, and heart disease have definitely gone up (some of this may be due to better reporting than to increased prevalence or incidence of disease). So too have accidental deaths, including overdoses of alcohol and drugs. MIT Tech Review takes a hard look at how the new report sheds light on the opioid epidemic in America.

2. When I first read about the Aspire Assist weight loss device, my reaction mirrored that of many others: I found it deeply troubling. To me, it seemed like a medically sanctioned form of bulimia, at least on first inspection, and I worried that it might fuel or create disordered eating, which sometimes goes undiagnosed in obese patients.

I have to admit that Nitin Ahuja’s article has made me question and look harder at my initial reaction. While I remain uncomfortable with the idea of the device, Ahuja reminds me that the true measure of any remedy’s value is whether it consistently and effectively improves patient outcomes and quality of life. He writes, “[a]n earnest commitment to wellness entails an openness to effective therapies that might seem ill-fitting at first glance.” Many of the most effective and accepted treatments we have were at one time considered unlikely or even repugnant, but those that work have stood the test of time.

The jury is certainly still out on the Aspire Assist, and if it ever does become a mainstream form of treatment I think that it will have to be tightly regulated, prescribed only when patients have been thoroughly screened for ED-susceptibility. But I question the immediacy and force of my rejection, especially since early feedback is promising. We’ll see what longterm follow-up tells us.

3. I began my career as a post-bacc student lit up by the promise of preventive medicine, by my faith in lifestyle interventions as a means of mitigating the toll of chronic disease. I’m every bit as passionate about preventive medicine today as I was back then, but working in hospitals and studying medicine showed me the equally vital role that healthcare providers play in helping to ease the experience of terminal illness. In their enthusiasm for treating and curing, many medical (and dietetic) students forget how important it is to stand by patients who are at the end of their lives.

A new class at Columbia, called “Life at the End of Life,” is designed specifically to prepare aspiring med students for the realities of end-of-life care. Shayla Love notes,

In an increasingly tech-enabled medical profession, where death is postponed as long as possible, the class challenges pre-med students to confront that ultimate reality, and to learn how to guide patients and their families through it. And along the way it’s challenging their field’s hidebound distinction between medicine and palliative care — between doing everything to keep someone alive, and helping them die with dignity.

Committing to a career in medicine means caring for those who may not recover with the same energy and empathy we bring to curing. I really like the idea of this class.

4. In the mood for a good medical detective story? Maryn McKenna reports on a child mummy that was found with the oldest known smallpox virus (dating to the 1500s), a discovery that is compelling scientists to reassess their understanding of the virus and its origins.

5. A beautiful and sensitively reported piece on one veteran’s fight to preserve and protect rainforest regions of the Olympic Peninsula. The article raises the question of why quiet and quiet spaces are precious in our world. On the one hand, they actually serve a biological purpose; some animals actually need quiet to eat and reproduce. But there’s something about quiet, the author seems to argue, that is existentially worth fighting for:

Some people have never experienced quiet like this. Its spaciousness can be almost frightening. But there are questions you can ask yourself here that are easily forgotten once you drive back onto the highway and head toward the streetlight glare and the clamor. In the absence of noise, you can consider what it feels like simply to be alive. To stand here and listen, with the breath of the wind in your ears, is another kind of freedom. It is worth asking whether quiet like this deserves to be defended.

I grew up in a big city, which afforded me little opportunity to experience true silence. Dead quiet can sometimes make me uncomfortable, so accustomed am I to the white noise of traffic, pedestrians, kids being let out from school, and other city sounds. Still, I see the beauty and value of physical spaces that have not been subjected to human activity and infrastructure, and I’d mourn their loss were they to suddenly vanish from our world.

I hope you enjoy the links, friends. I’ll be back this week with a hearty, cozy, and very simple winter stew–just the thing to warm up with through the holiday season.


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  1. Hi Gena–congrats on your new look–especially love the weekend reading photo. Type is a little small for an old one like me, but I can always zoom in. 🙂 Loved seeing the decadent shortbread recipe, but most of all REALLY loved the piece about quiet in the Hoh Rain Forest and how it’s healing veterans. These places very much need our reverence and protection, so I deeply appreciate your sharing it and knowing this, even as a city dweller who doesn’t get to spots like this much at all, or maybe wouldn’t. The article reminds me of some research I’ve read Japanese scientists doing on being in the forest. How the smells emitted from the evergreens actually lower blood pressure and can help heal heart disease and cancer. They call it “taking a forest bath.” xoxo

  2. Your site changes make everything even more inviting than before! I don’t comment too often, but I really value your blog, especially the Weekend Reading. 🙂

  3. The new site is much easier to navigate! Love how easy it is now to find recipes and the products category is great, too. Thanks!

    My apartment was pretty chilly this weekend and that means baking to warm things up. So I made a version of your plum blackberry crisp with what I had on hand – apples and blueberries – then treated me to vanilla cashew cream to top it off. The apartment smelled as yummy as the crisp tasted, and (best part) I got to eat it for breakfast, too.

  4. Hi Gena! The new site is absolutely beautiful and lovely to use 🙂
    And well done on your different approach to your recent changes – it sounds to me like testimony to long, hard, slow, quiet work in therapy. My experience has also been that I don’t feel I have made progress until I come to a situation that a past version of me would not to have been able to handle at all and I find myself navigating it with minimal discomfort. And suddenly I’m aware of the power of the incremental building of resilience.

    Much love (and I’ve also got Anya’s soup SO bookmarked, did you see her chocolate beet layer cake too?!) xx

  5. Your new look is lovely! I loved the old look. I love the new look. I always enjoy your posts. May peace and acceptance continue to embrace you.

  6. Thanks Gena, for including my tofu slider in this weeks list. The site looks so wonderful. Nice one. x

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