Weekend Reading
March 8, 2020

The mood in NYC has been a little tense this week, as we all endeavor to be intelligently cautious about COVID-19 while also avoiding unnecessary fear. I’ve felt relatively calm, but I had a moment of worry a few days ago when I learned that an acquaintance was self-quarantined.

To be clear, this acquaintance is fine and well: the self-quarantine was a voluntary and temporary precaution. But it’s hard for the mind not to spin at these moments. I wondered about the last time we’d seen each other and whether I’d seen my mom directly after, as seniors are the population most at risk right now. Should I avoid seeing my mom for a while, I wondered? I wasn’t sure.

In the end, I reminded myself that my mother still works full time as an educator and that there’s no way for us to guard ourselves from exposure in this big, hyper-connected city that we live in. The best we can do right now, I think, is to stay calm, take reasonable precautions whenever possible, and be caring and compassionate to each other.

That last piece strikes me as the most important, because it’s the thing that I found most easy to lose sight of when I started to worry about my own well-being. When I got the news about my acquaintance, I’m sorry to say that my mind started immediately scrolling through our last contact and to whom I’d seen after; I didn’t stop to wonder, first and foremost, about how this person was doing. No matter how precautionary, self-quarantine must feel unsettling, not to mention boring from day to day. Space is limited in NYC; being able to get out and move around is something we all might take for granted a little too easily.

Self-protection is a natural impulse at a tense moment like this, but I’m reminding myself that it should always go hand-in-hand with a sense of responsibility to others. Crises remind us that it’s important to look out for ourselves, but they also give us a strong reminder of how interconnected we are. As the week went on, I allowed this latter fact to guide my behavior; I took a lot of time to ask people how they were doing and feeling, my acquaintance included.

It was the least I could do, and while I wish I’d started the week with that kind of attitude, I was glad to regroup and move forward from a heart-centered place. I’m still feeing calm about what’s going on, but I’ve been reminded that the situation is real and still uncertain; there’s no way to help the uncertainty, but we can do small things to help each other while it lasts.

In a spirit of caring, here are some recipes and reads. Happy Sunday.

Recipes

A beautiful, vibrant vegan malai kofta.

I love white chili, and I especially love any recipe with soy curls! Can’t wait to try Alissa’s white chili, which uses both.

I’ve been getting lazy with my tofu preparations lately. Sarah’s tofu steaks are good inspiration for me to play with.

I’m loving the crispy spinach fritters in this red lentil dhal.

A creative spin on traditional oatmeal cookies! This version is made with cashew butter and blueberries.

Reads

1. In keeping with today’s theme, a closer look at why common means of preventing wintertime illnesses work. First, a peek at the science of hand-washing.

2. Also, the NY Times reminds us why we should try to touch our faces less often (I’m pretty sure I touch mine a lot—it’s especially a habit when I’m writing or trying to think about what I’m going to write).

3. Switching health topics, more evidence in favor of decreasing red meat consumption.

4. I was really interested to read about a new study that examines why skipping breakfast is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The original article can be found here.

I’m a big advocate for breakfast (and consumption of regular mealtimes and snacks in general) within my dietetics practice. This is mostly a practical position: regular mealtimes at regular intervals seems to be the most effective strategy for most people when it comes to managing appetite, maximizing a variety of foods throughout the day, and staying well-energized.

Even so, I’m conscious of evidence tying breakfast skipping to CVD, and I’ve been curious about it. This article proves risk and association more than causation, but it’s interested in causation, too. It explores some possible mechanisms, such as over-activity in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, which lead to elevation of cortisol and blood pressure, and impaired post-prandial insulin sensitivity. I thought it was a cool read.

5. This article is written specifically for those in STEM fields, but I think it has useful wisdom for anyone at any stage of his or her career. The advice is to go beyond seeking a single mentor, and instead to assemble a mental “board of directors”—academic advisors, friends, colleagues—that can offer perspective and support as you navigate professional challenges.

I’ve been helped and advised by more people I can count in all of my work endeavors, but the article has me thinking about how I could be a little more proactive in seeking feedback when I come across an obstacle or conflict.

I’ve got a sweet treat on the way this week, in keeping with a recent chocolate-chip-in-everything baking phase. Till soon.

xo

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