Adjusting to Life After College

Post-grad is going to look different for everyone, however, it’s a huge transitional period for all. It’s possibly the biggest transition since the transition to college. Some of your friends may spend a few months traveling or just taking a break from all responsibilities before even thinking about job hunting, some may jump right into the “real world” with their new “adult job,” and some might not fall into any one specific category. No matter which path you end up going down, it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong path. While not everyone is going to experience the same emotions or have the same troubles, that doesn’t mean that your journey is any less valid. Maybe you move back home, you can’t find a job, your friends move to different cities or states; you may find yourself feeling really lonely now that you’re not five minutes from your friends at all times. Comparing your journey won’t do you [or anyone else for that matter] any good, and it won’t get you close to where you want to be any sooner either.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Theodore Roosevelt

We’ve all heard it, “I can’t wait for post grad because I’m going to have so much more free time.” Sadly, that’s not as true as you might think. By the time you’re at your full-time job, going to happy hour events after work, fitting in exercise, finding time to cook, grocery shopping, doing laundry, having ‘me’ time, seeing your family and more, you’re going to realize that life is nothing but a balancing act. Some of us struggle with saying no because there’s something so exciting about taking on way more than you can manage. Some may seem like they can’t find enough things to fill their time. Regardless of your situation, it takes time to find your flow of post grad and get into a new routine. 

While most people transition into the workforce after graduation, I began a 1,200-hour unpaid internship. This sets me up to be in a different position than most college graduates already. On top of my internship, I’ve been trying to find some side jobs to make money, and do things that keep me happy, all with little to no free time. My schedule has been insanely busy, and while I didn’t think this would be a problem because all my life I have been a busy bee, I’ve been having an even harder time adjusting than I expected. 

Just like in college, mental health can be one of the things that gets put on the back burner when going through a difficult time in our lives. This transition period was no exception for me. After completing an exercise that has you evaluate how you spend the 168 hours of the week, I quickly realized I was being extremely overworked. ‘Me-time’ and self-care wasn’t high enough on my priority list anymore and it was starting to take a toll on me. 

If you’re struggling through the first few months of post grad, know that it will get better after you create your new flow. If time management wasn’t a skill of yours before, it’s going to be now. Like any other period of your life, you and your mental health matter so much. Make time for yourself, learn to say no to people/activities/events that don’t bring you joy, and most importantly, be patient with yourself. We’re not meant to have this crazy journey called life figured out right away.

Finding Adventure Amidst the Unknown 

Moving eight hours away from home brings many changes, especially if you’re moving into the middle of the woods in Virginia. Now, I know what you’re all thinking — spending eight weeks at summer camp sounds incredible! Well, yes and no. While camp life has its perks, there’s a big difference between spending eight weeks outside at summer camp versus eight weeks in a hot kitchen at summer camp. This summer, I spent my time as a kitchen director for Kandle Dining Services at Camp Ottari [a Boy Scouts camp located on Blue Ridge Scout Reservation]. 

Before camp, I did what I usually do before going into a new situation — I set my expectations low, [and I mean really low]. Being disappointed is a difficult feeling. Going somewhere I knew nothing about without knowing anyone at camp, and truly not knowing what I was going to be doing in my job left a lot of uncertainty for the summer. The only thing I really knew for certain was that my days were going to be long and exhausting. Oh, and that I probably wouldn’t have phone reception. 

Turns out I was right; I rarely had reception at camp. When I did, it was so slow I might as well have not had it. I didn’t scroll through my Instagram feed for two months. Some people might have hated that and not have been able to survive without social media, but I loved the feeling of “dropping off the grid” right after graduation.

Before camp started, I told myself I was going to delete most social media apps off my phone. While I never actually did this, I still rarely went on those apps because of the lack of cell service. To do work on my laptop, I had to use a hotspot which wasn’t much “The toughest, yet best moments are the ones you realize you’re going to miss while you’re still experiencing them.”better. Unplugging was much nicer than I expected. I’ll be the first to admit I’m nearly addicted
to my phone, but while at camp, there were days I’d finish working and my screen time would be 15 minutes [and that was only from using my calculator!]. After averaging five hours of screen time prior to camp, seeing the time I spent “plugged in” to the Internet decrease made me feel so accomplished. 

Not relying on your phone is liberating. I wasn’t worried about what everyone was doing, where people were traveling or what Snapchat stories I was missing that day. I recommend everyone takes a break from their phones and social media if they get the chance. There’s a whole world out there right in front of us that we often miss because we’re buried in our screens. 

Camp reminded me of college quite a bit. I moved far away into a cabin [that did not remind me of college] with four people I knew nothing about. At the beginning of the summer, we were all just strangers with a common goal: work and gain experience in the kitchen. At the end of the summer, we were a family and saying goodbye was more difficult than expected. My staff and I spent basically every hour together. From getting in the kitchen some mornings as early as 5 a.m. to make 1,000 pancakes for campers to not getting out of the kitchen until 9 p.m. during our busiest weeks [with over 400 campers on-site!]. I was definitely right about working long hours and being exhausted, but never did I think about the joy this summer would bring.

Each week, I got closer to my staff and to the camp staff who did an amazing job of making camp feel like home to me — something I didn’t realize I needed so much. I won’t lie, the first few weeks were rough in the kitchen. My staff consisted of five girls and we cooked for 250 to 400 campers, depending on the week. As with any new job, there’s going to be an adjustment period for everyone. This summer was the first time Kandle was in the kitchens at Camp Ottari, so our staff had to learn together. Whether it was half of our ovens not working for three weeks or the fridge breaking halfway into the summer, there was always a new problem that needed fixing. While this definitely induced some stress, it taught me a completely different side of leadership and team management, an area I thought I was pretty good at. News flash —you’re never done learning or growing in a position. 

As the weeks progressed and my team and I found our flow, everything started to be more relaxed and fun. Between hanging out with camp staff after dinner, heading down to the waterfront to canoe, attending opening and closing campfires and ziplining through the camp, there was always something to do. Our day off every week consisted of less than 24 hours between Saturday breakfast and Sunday lunch, but Saturdays quickly became filled with adventures around Virginia with the kitchen staff. 

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Whether you’re going to camp for the summer or studying abroad, traveling alone or working the days away, these are my top tips to make the most of your time: 

  1. Put yourself out there! I know, scary right? Making friends while you’re in a new place can be a great way to get exposure to the new culture you’re in. 
  2. Ask for help. Chances are, you’re not going to be familiar with the new area you’re spending time in. The locals [and new friends you’ve made!] will have great tips for making the most out of the area, what places to see and how to spend your time efficiently. 
  3. Slow down and enjoy the moment. Working all day can be draining and there will probably be times when you can’t wait for that day to end, but there’s always room to find good in every moment. Eight weeks flew by in the blink of an eye. It’s the little things that got me through the rough days, the people I was surrounded with, and the memories I was making.
  4. Take plenty of pictures! This seems like a given, right? Especially with how popular social media is now. Looking back on the summer, I don’t have much to show for it, and I wish I had more pictures to show my friends to help explain my experiences. 

Camp is truly indescribable at times. I truly dreaded the thought of being surrounded by 400 Boy Scouts before heading to Virginia. This summer was filled with “had to be there” moments [my personal favorite], laughter, tears and, luckily for me and my kitchen staff, no food fights! 

 

The Truth About Dietary Supplements

** Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor, however I have a degree in food and nutrition sciences so I did learn about supplements throughout undergrad. I recommend consulting with your health care professional before taking any supplements. **

Whether you’re a health and wellness nut, an avid Instagrammer or you’re just up to date on your favorite blogs, you’ve probably heard people talk about supplements. The problem is, not many people actually know what’s in them, what they do or why they should or shouldn’t be taking them.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is responsible for regulating supplements. So, to start, you might be wondering what supplements are. Supplements are anything that contains a “dietary ingredient,” which can be anything from micronutrients [vitamins and minerals], amino acids, herbs or botanicals. People generally take supplements because they feel they may not be consuming an efficient amount of vitamins and minerals from their diet. With a balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, consuming all the essential nutrients should be a breeze. The problem is, many people consuming the Standard American Diet [SAD] do not even consume the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is where the best sources of vitamins and minerals come from.

An issue with supplements is how little regulation the FDA actually instills. There are no laws that requires dietary supplements to be proven safe before they are sold. THAT should be enough for people to be hesitant about taking supplements. Additionally, the manufacturer / seller does not have to prove the FDA’s claims to be accurate or true before the product is sold.  What you put into your body is so important, and with little regulation on supplements, it may be best to stay away from supplements unless absolutely necessary because we don’t actually know what is in that supplement that we’re putting into our body.

A supplement some may be familiar with, but may not truly realize what it is, is Herbalife. Herbalife is a company that markets nutritional and weight-loss supplements. This product can be found at a lot of pop-up store fronts in college towns with the word ‘nutrition’ in its name. A few examples being ‘Odyssey Nutrition’ in Athens, Ohio or ‘Greens Goodness Nutrition’ in Greene, Ohio — just outside of Akron, Ohio. Recently, Herbalife was reported to be associated with a case of fatal acute liver failure in a young woman in the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, Herbalife products have been analyzed to find traces of heavy metals, toxic compounds, traces of psychotropic drugs and highly pathogenic bacteria. While this is just one supplement company, it is not the only one to have evidence against it. Liver failure was also found in a patient after using Hydroxycut, another supplement company. Without regulation of the FDA, there’s no way to stop companies like this from putting these products on the market. It’s best to do plenty of research before taking supplement and as always, consulting with a healthcare professional before taking any new supplements. Even the supplements that people may see as harmless are not regulated by the FDA, so do we really know what we’re taking? This goes for supplements like iron, vitamins [A, B, C, D, E, etc.], multivitamins, melatonin, protein powders, branched chain amino acids [BCAAs], pre-workout, fish oil and so on.

While supplements can seem like they’re helping you achieve fitness or lifestyle goals, they could be doing more harm than good. Vitamins and minerals should be coming from food first, then if you’re finding you’re still deficient in an area after proper blood work is done, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian and see what you can do from there. Your body is important, and so is what you put into it!

For more information about research supporting diseased states after consuming Herbalife supplements, see below:

1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21173910?dopt=AbstractPlus

2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19157382?dopt=AbstractPlus

3] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11606-014-3153-x

Spice Up Cinco de Mayo With This Homemade Treat

Happy Cinco de Mayo! While some of you may be out celebrating with your friends and family at authentic Mexican restaurants, it can be just as enjoyable to create your own Cinco De Mayo meal at home! With minimal yet delicious ingredients, you can spice up your celebration with this DIY burrito bowl recipe.Cooking can be a hassle for some people, but this recipe is bound to show you how quick and simple it truly is to make a delicious meal, even on a time crunch.

What makes a delicious meal? The key is seasonings! Lucky for you, this recipe offers an awesome spice mix, similar to taco mix, but without the added sodium you would find in a pre-made packet from the store. For most, it seems cooking tends to be hassle because of the lack of knowledge on how to cook. Cooking is just like any other skill — the more you do it, the better you get! If it’s something you’re truly looking to improve at, don’t give up just yet!

The best part about Mexican recipes like this one is how customizable they are. With a ton of different topping options, everyone is destined to find a combination they like. Let your guests put all the fixings in their own bowl or tacos and they’ll assemble their own perfect combination!

DIY Burrito Bowl Recipe

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 3-5

What you need:

  • 2 to 3 chicken breasts [Substitute tofu or meatless crumbles if vegetarian or vegan!]
  • 2 cups grain of choice — quinoa, rice, couscous, etc.
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips~1 red onion, cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup corn [frozen, canned, fresh]

Spice mix:

  • 1 to 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tsp pink salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 TSP paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder

Optional Toppings:

  • Plain Greek yogurt [in place of sour cream]
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Shredded cheese
  • Salsa
  • Diced jalapeño [if you’re feeling spicy!]
  • Hot sauce

Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cook grain of choice according to directions on package.
  • Combine spices in a bowl, mix until well combined.
  • Prep baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper [lightly oiled.]
  • Prep chicken breasts for seasoning. Trim fat and other pieces of the meat that you may not want.
  • Evenly cover both sides of chicken breasts with spice mix. Set roughly ¼ spice mix aside for fajita mix seasoning. Place chicken breasts on baking sheet.
  • Bake chicken for about 20 minutes [baking time will vary depending on size of chicken breasts.] Once the chicken breasts appear white on the outside, start to brown, and juices are running from chicken, check for doneness by cutting into the center of a chicken breast. The center will be white if fully cooked. Any pink color is a sign that the chicken is not fully cooked. If you have cooking thermometer, stick thermometer in the center / thickest part of the chicken breast. 165 degrees F is the temperature at which chicken is fully cooked.
  • Cut bell pepper and onion into strips for fajita mix
  • Place 1 tbsp olive oil into a frying pan [oil is ready when it becomes loose, runny and spreads easily across the pan]
  • Add fajita mix to pan. Pour in remaining spice mix. Mix until evenly coated. Cover pan with lid. Stir occasionally for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Add garlic to fajita mix. Fajita mix is fully cooked depending on preference of doneness [crunchy peppers vs. soft peppers]
  • Drain beans and corn if canned. Rinse to remove added salt from canning process.
  • Once chicken is fully cooked, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. After, shred with two forks by pulling in opposite directions.
  • Assemble bowls, tacos or burritos! Customize to your liking by trying different combos of toppings and add-ins!

Best paired with a margarita on the rocks! Hope you enjoy : )

The Road to Becoming an RDN

If you ask most people if they know what a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist [RDN] is, they’ll probably say no. The sad part about this is that most people could benefit from utilizing an RDN at some point in their life. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “RDNs — are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.” Becoming an RDN is not an easy process, yet so many of us are entering the industry because we genuinely care about the health and wellness of others.

Being an RDN isn’t something kids typically dream of. Most kids hope to be professional athletes or celebrities, and they definitely aren’t thinking about becoming a healthcare professional. I was probably the same when I was younger, but then I realized just how much passion I have for food and nutrition sciences.

With the lack of nutrition education in the current school system, it took me a while to figure this out. Most people don’t get much exposure to how amazing and important nutrition is for everyone. It wasn’t until I got to high school, when I wanted to lose weight, that I started learning more about nutrition. My curiosity led me to want to learn more, to deepen my education and I learned the first step to becoming an RDN is to complete a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university. So, I enrolled at Ohio University.

During my first semester at Ohio University, I had my first nutrition class– Introduction to Nutrition. I was in love with everything about it. I had learned so much in just 16 short weeks and I was so eager to keep learning about how to apply what I was learning in the classroom to real life. Luckily, nutrition is something that can be implemented pretty instantaneously. During the fall of my sophomore year, I took a class called Professional Development in Nutrition. In that class, I learned I was on track to becoming an RDN and after undergrad, I would have to complete a dietetic internship before I would be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration [CRD] exam. This exam is how I would earn my Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credentials.

The application for dietetic internships is open twice a year — fall match and spring match — and is open for about three months. You apply through a website called Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services [DICAS] where you’ll enter your entire life — work, volunteer experiences, extracurriculars, courses taken, transcripts, grades, references, personal statements, resume and any supplemental application materials a program requires. It’s a stressful process. I applied for spring match, which opened mid-December and closed mid-February. On top of DICAS, applicants must create an account on an additional website called D&D Digital, where they will rank the programs they’re applying to. The entire dietetic internship application is a computer-based matching system — an algorithm. Applicants rank the programs they apply to then internships rank applicants. The algorithm does its job and determines if an applicant and a program match.

The first Sunday in April is match day. Applicants are able to log on to D&D Digital at 6 p.m. to see their matching results. I had to wait two months to hear back about the possibility of  getting matched with a dietetic internship and to find out of if I could continue along the path of becoming an RD. Did I mention the match rate is 49 percent? As if this isn’t enough stress added on top of the chaos of daily life and college, the internship is unpaid and costs to partake in, without the option for financial aid. As a college student on a budget, this is quite the challenge to face. There are scholarships for dietetic internships, but the internship itself is typically full-time, leaving little to no time to work on top of it.

Match day rolled around and I was out of town in Chicago for a work event, so I tried my best to keep my mind busy and not think about how my future was going to be determined by logging onto a website to either see the words “you have matched,” or “you have not received a match.”

I logged into the website and it told me to check back later. I refreshed the page. Check back later. Refresh. Later. Until FINALLY, I refreshed the page one last time and … I MATCHED.

I was ecstatic! The moment I had been waiting for for years was finally here. I’m a dietetic intern! When those three little words appeared on my phone screen, I did what any emotionally stable person would do … I cried. All of my hard word, the countless hours of studying, writing papers, volunteering, gaining leadership experiences on campus, it had finally paid off.

Nothing will ever top the pride I felt for myself in that moment.

This has been a long journey and it’s not over yet, but I’ve always loved learning and increasing my education about nutrition. I truly believe a balanced, healthy diet and exercise regimen can drastically improve one’s quality of life and I’m ready to show people that it can be enjoyable as well. If you’re considering a career in nutrition or dietetics, just know it’s doable and it will be worth it in the long run.

Personal note: If you or anyone you know is considering a career in the health and wellness industry and are looking for some advice, I am also always open to chatting about that! I can be easily contacted through my health and wellness Instagram @lemax_inCHAARG