2016 – The Year of Growth

There are tons of posts, memes, statuses, tweets, etc. floating around on social media about how 2016 was the worst. There’s even a song about it. True, 2016 certainly had its low points, just like every year. I definitely experienced quite a few! But, 2016 needed to happen. 2016 was the year of growth.

2016

Reflections on 2016

2016 was the year I became a researcher. I designed and led my own pilot study and a whole lot went “wrong.” At least that’s how I felt in the moment. I struggled with having parts of my pilot study not go exactly how I meticulously planned. But, that’s the nature of research. You can plan the perfect study, but the secret is that there’s no such thing as a “perfect study.” Research is about executing a well-designed study, and that also includes having multiple back-up plans. I learned how to re-group and ask other questions to guide my pilot study. I formulated new hypotheses and took a slightly different direction. Nothing was ruined. In fact, this made my pilot study stronger because I thought more about what I was doing, decided precisely how my hypotheses were to be measured, and grounded my study design in theory. This experience helped me design an even better full-fledged study that was built off of the pilot study.

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2016 was the year I took a risk. I took on a big leadership position and I was so excited. But, at first I had much to learn about being a leader. My passion came off as overbearing and my meticulousness came off as constraining. However, I was willing to learn, to change, to become better. I researched leadership styles, took workshops, read books, talked to others in leadership positions, and, most importantly, practiced. Slowly, I started seeing improvements. I’m still working at this position every day, but I feel this is the way it’s supposed to be. To be an effective leader you need to constantly work to improve.

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2016 was the year I gained confidence. I started believing in myself and what I have to offer to the nutrition world. I learned how to speak more confidently and act more like a professional. Gone are the days of wearing gym clothes to the office. Dressing more professionally really does make you feel more confident :). I passed my Qualifying Exam in November and being more confident was likely a contributing factor (along with a whole lot of hard work, research, studying, coffee, and practicing).

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2016 was the year I finally became a morning person. I used to dread getting up before 8:00am. However, going through graduate school, I realized I needed to get up earlier in order to accomplish more and have time for a sit-down breakfast (my favorite part of the day!). I started small, setting my clock back to 7:30am, then to 7:00am, and finally to 6:30am. This isn’t super early, especially compared to a lot of other people, but to me this is a whole lot earlier than where I started. Some days I even set it back to 5:40am to catch a sunrise spin class :). Starting my day earlier gives me more time to ease into the day and I feel less rushed. Less rushed = less frazzled and being less frazzled is better for everyone.

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This past year, I grew a lot as a researcher, leader, professional, student, and a friend. I’m excited to see what 2017 brings. This year, I’m making SOULutions (not resolutions), thank you Robyn.

This year, I will be…

present. I will take time to truly relish moments, people, places. When I’m with others, I will be in the conversation and not thinking about my to-do list.

organized. On that note, segmenting my time into chunks throughout the week will better help me stay on task and increase efficiency. I’ll have discrete times to think about my to-do list. Segmentation is the best.

supportive. I want to use this platform to share evidence-based nutrition advice and help you achieve your goals. I want to show you how to incorporate aspects of healthy living into your life.

I hope you have a Happy New Year and cheers to 2017!

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What are your SOULutions for 2017?

How are you ringing in the New Year?

 

 

Impostor Syndrome

There have been times where I looked around and couldn’t believe how I got here. Somebody pinch me….amiright?

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Impostor syndrome is most certainly a “thing.” Everyone in our graduate group is fantastic and brilliant, sometimes it’s hard to not compare.

Our new cohort of students just started their first year. During orientation, we had a panel of us “seasoned” students share our experiences and answer questions for the first-years. It didn’t take us long to get on the topic of impostor syndrome. I was surprised to learn that these people I admire felt like an impostor at times too. Although it felt oddly comforting to not be alone in this feeling, we shouldn’t be wasting energy feeling this way.

Someone out there saw something in us and we deserve to be here. We’re not perfect, and will never be. Perfection is a fantasy. But, we’re here to learn and strive to do the best we can. We will never know everything, but we will know enough to make informed decisions and use our knowledge to design studies to answer our questions.

During our Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology Research Symposium a few weeks ago, I placed first in the poster competition. I couldn’t believe it.

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Sometimes the feeling of being “not good enough” creeps in. It’s time to let that feeling go. I’m learning and will always be learning. Learning new material, learning from my mistakes, learning from others, learning from myself.

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Have you ever felt like an impostor? How did you overcome impostor syndrome? 

A New Beginning.

This past week marked the academic end of my third year as a doctoral student and official transition into my fourth year.

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Truthfully, this past year was hard. It was hard on myself, physically and mentally, which led to it being hard on others in my life. I certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable version of myself during this stressful period. It’s something I must work on.

Being a PhD student is filled with many ups and downs. As my professor says, “if it was easy, anyone would do it.” Currently, I am on a much-needed vacation  and already feel like so much weight has been lifted. I wasn’t on my computer for an entire day and it was blissful.

I plan for this vacation period to serve as a reflection period for how to move forward in more productive ways rather than letting the stress turn me into an ugly stress monster. It’s stressful stressing about stress….am I right? 😉 It’s just not worth it.

Although this past year had some low points with research not going the way I anticipated, it was filled with many learning opportunities. I certainly learned many lessons in conducting research and will take them with me moving forward into the next project. Sometimes I feel stuck, but I need to remind myself I am growing and I don’t know everything and never will. Sometimes things are just out of our control and that’s okay. We just need to re-group and move on to get out of the mud. I am thankful for the people around me that taught me this.

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I want to reignite my passion for nutrition, starting with this space. I aim to have a consistent posting schedule filled with summaries and commentaries on current nutrition research topics. I want to share more quick and easy healthy meals/snacks to show healthy living is possible, even in the throes of graduate school. I also want to be honest and let others know you are not alone when you feel overwhelmed in school and work. These periods pass. It’s only when they’re gone that we’re able to appreciate them for what they’ve taught us and how strong we really are to make it through. I hope you stick around for this journey.

The Work Will Always Be There.

Truth.

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The past few weeks have been especially draining. Every minute seemed to be assigned to complete some sort of task. The work just never ended. I spent the entire past weekend in the lab and only left to go home to sleep. But the sleep was restless because the dreams were about the work. I hit my breaking point.

The work will always be there. There will always be something to do and if there isn’t, you will find something to work on. We are driven to perform and accomplish. But we need balance. We need nights off to watch reality TV with good friends and hot cups of chamomile tea. We need that time to prepare healthy food to nourish our bodies. We need time away from the screen and a chance to explore nature. We need to get lost in a good book. We need to make time to live.

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The work will always be there, but the world is rapidly changing. We need to make the time to see the places, the people, the things. Sometimes I need a reminder, and maybe sometimes you do too.

A Day in the Life

Every day in graduate school is different, but always involves lots of running around :). I thought it would be fun to document a “typical” day. Here goes!

5:47am alarm goes off. Yes, that is an odd number and yes it made sense to me when I set the alarm the night before. Now it just seems wacky. I plug my Jawbone UP band into my phone to check on my sleep status.

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Not so hot, Debbie. I turn off the light and attempt to go back to sleep, but I am already awake, so mission aborted and I hop out of bed.

5:50am I get ready for a sunrise spin class. I usually like to take workout classes in the afternoons around 5/6pm, but this week my afternoons are jam packed, so I figured I would attempt to become a morning workout person.

6:00am leave for the gym. Why is it so hard to wake up early?

6:07am hating life and missing my bed.

6:10am arrive at the gym. How are people smiling so early?

6:15-7:25am spin class + quick elliptical to get those endorphins coming. Smiles start making sense.

7:28am drive home and hop in the shower. Make breakfast and get ready for an 8am conference call.

8:00am on the call just in time. I slowly eat my breakfast and drink coffee. What is life without coffee?

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9am drive to campus.

9:15-11am meetings. Eat 3 dates and they are delicious.

11-11:50am work.

11:50am heat up lunch. Mmmm! Gimme all the veggies. And couscous.

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12-1:30pm lab meeting.

1:30-2:30pm work.

2:30pm pack up to head to a site for the research pilot I’ve been working on with some of my lab mates.

3pm arrive at the site.

3:05-4:40pm research work.

4:42pm head back to campus.

5:03pm go back to lab and work on a few things. Attempt to fight through the never-ending emails.

5:40pm head home. I’m ready to eat!

5:50pm arrive home and immediately eat this beauty. Cara cara oranges = amazing.

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6pm throw together a salad for dinner and make lunch for tomorrow. In this one we got mixed greens, shredded carrots, beets, tomatoes, chicken, dried basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. All the colors!

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6:10pm salad is demolished. I am a beast.

6:15pm go back for the pita chips. The best. Multiply the amount of pita chips in this photo by at least 20.

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6:20pm make a cup of chamomile tea.

6:30pm roomie comes home and we chill and chat about our days.

7pm answer emails and finish up some work.

8:40pm decide I should stop neglecting my blog and type up this post. Realize my life is pretty much gym, work/research, eat, sleep, repeat.

8:57pm done writing and will start getting ready for bed and call the BF. Maybe I’ll read a little? Who am I kidding, I’ll probably scroll through the Instagram and look at puppy and food pictures.

And that’s a wrap! 🙂

 

 

Becoming a Graduate Student

Graduate school is funny. A week ago I wrote a post about how I was finally starting to feel like I had a handle on things as a graduate student. Good thing I didn’t publish it yet because that feeling didn’t last long. Some days I feel like I have everything together and other days I struggle.

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Just a photo of me and my good friend, graduate school ;).

This is probably why we surround ourselves with mentors and others who have been through this crazy period called “graduate school.” They’re there to help support us through this awkward phase and transition us to become researchers, professionals, and someday, experts. They remind us that being a graduate student isn’t forever. They’re the inspiration that one day we will finish and move on to other paths.

These wonderful people help us forge our own paths. Sometimes it gets sticky, but the view is worth the effort.
These wonderful people help us forge our own paths. Sometimes it gets sticky, but the view is worth the effort.

Although I have days where I feel like things are crumbling, I also have those days where I’m on top of the world. They say that’s normal. As I enter my 3rd year of graduate school, I notice how different I feel from when I first entered. I’ve grown in the past couple years and accumulated experiences that will help me move forward. I just have to keep trucking along and sometimes this means taking it one day at a time. They say that’s normal too.

Some of my lovely cohort. Allison was there too. These people keep me going :).
Some of my lovely cohort. Allison was there too. These people are amazing.

Embracing Failure

Yesterday I got rejected. I opened my email and found out I did not get a writing position that I had wanted really badly. Immediately, my heart sank and I felt crushed. Rejection truly does sting. I was on campus having a pretty good day, but all of a sudden it was as if I resorted to age 7, where all I wanted to do was go home and crawl under the covers. Funny how a simple email could do that to a person.

I called my family and the BF and confided in them how crummy I felt. That helped a bit. However, I initially did not feel comfortable opening up about this rejection to anyone else. Isn’t it strange how we can’t wait to tell everyone the moment something good happens to us and we plaster our successes all over every social media outlet, but the second a failure happens, we close up? We keep failure within ourselves, or confined to a small circle of confidants. No one posts about a rejection on their Facebook status.

But we should. We should embrace the failure as a chance to grow. As a chance to get stronger. As a chance to become better.

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As the day went on, I began to count my “wins.” These are seemingly small things that sometimes get overlooked by the “losses” that seem humongous. A student went out of his way to tell me how much my review session helped him on the exam (win). I didn’t have to bike in the rain (win). I was having a good hair day (win). I needed to not allow this “loss” to make me lose sight of the “wins.”

I opened up about this rejection to my professor, my lab group, and my friends in my program. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received. The “loss” became a lot smaller as I changed my mental mindset to realizing not getting this opportunity was going to teach me more than actually getting the opportunity itself. I am embarking on a career path where rejections and failures are commonplace. I am no stranger to rejection, but embracing the failure is something my perfectionist self still needs to work on. Not getting this position doesn’t mean there’s something internally wrong with me, but just that I wasn’t the best candidate for the job. Now, I can work on becoming a stronger applicant for future endeavors.

I have a rejection to thank for that.