Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!

A Fruit a Day…What Does it Mean to be Long-Suffering?

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. We are almost half-way through the study, having already tackled love, joy and peace. Today we get to look at one that I find particularly difficult to achieve in my own life: FORBEARANCE.

My thoughts on Forbearance

When I think of forbearance, the first thing that comes to mind is putting up with someone or something difficult. Forbearance is not a word I use or come across often so I had take more time than usual to research this.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Forbearance

The definition of forbearance is ‘the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry‘.

Synonyms for Forbearance

Long-suffering, endurance, fortitude, living with restraint, temperance, tolerance, leniency, mercy

Greek word for Forbearance

I had an interesting discussion with my husband about this. One of the ancient Greek words used for forbearance is makrothumia which means “long-tempered” (as opposed to short-tempered). What struck me about this word is that it does not mean we are to never get angry but rather that there can be a “slowness” to becoming angry. There is an element of forethought and consideration before we react to something.  So how does this relate to the concept of forbearance or long-suffering? If we are being patient with someone who really does not deserve it, then we are challenged with the task of exercising restraint and not getting angry with them easily. So much easier said than done but it is one of the fruits of the Spirit so something I intend to work on!

The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament describes forbearance as “God delaying his wrath”. So once again, there is an element of “delay” and not acting out on our first reaction or impulse.

Favorite verses on Forbearance

  • Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” Eph. 4:2
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”. Col. 3:13
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Final thoughts on Forbearance

The concept of forbearance or long-suffering is a sensitive area. It can be hard to find a balance between being patient with those who do not deserve it versus becoming a door-mat for someone. It can also be a challenge to try and put up with a difficult or inconvenient situation without getting upset or annoyed. How do we find balance? How do we know when enough is enough? I don’t think there is an easy answer to it. All I know is that I can certainly do with some improvement in this area. I get impatient with my children sometimes when I could be more tolerant of their tiredness or moodiness. It’s easy to get upset about traffic, about someone being insensitive, or about plans not unraveling as intended.  Makrothumia means not reacting angrily to the person or situation but patiently bearing it for the moment. It’s not easy, is it?

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patent and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.” –Wisdomcommons.org

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day…A Sense of Peace

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. Now that we have tackled the fruits of love and joy, let’s move on to the next one…PEACE!

My thoughts on Peace

When I think of peace, the first thing that comes to mind is a state of serenity. I imagine a still place at the center of a whirlwind where nothing is moving, nothing is being disturbed, it is perfectly at rest despite the turmoil going on around it.

Merriam-Webster Definitions of Peace

My favorite definitions are listed below:

  • a state of tranquility or quiet
  • freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • harmony in personal relations

Greek word for Peace

My husband is my go-to person when it comes to finding out the etiology of words because he has a great love of ancient languages such as Greek and Hebrew. When I asked him about the word ‘peace’ last night, he enthusiastically leafed through one of his ancient Greek Lexicons. The ancient Greek word for peace is eiréné (phonetic spelling ‘i-ray-nay’). It alludes to a sense of harmony, concord, security and safety. Peace also has roots in the word eirō, which means “to join, tie together into a whole“. I like this definition because it gives me the sense that when we are at peace, we are whole.

Fun facts about Peace

  • The ancient Greek word for peace was originally used to depict a state of calm or cessation of fighting during war-time. It is only more recently that peace has been associated with relationships, thoughts, etc.
  • The Hebrew word for peace “Shalom” was used as a greeting to indicate “peace be with you”. It also connoted a sense of harmony, completeness, prosperity, and welfare.

Favorite verse on Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 4:6-7.

Final thoughts on Peace

I don’t always find it easy to be at peace with current circumstances. Sometimes it seems there’s no way out and circumstances are hopeless. But I’m hoping to develop an attitude of peace even in those moments. I like the definition of peace regarding freedom from oppressive thoughts. It gives me the idea that even though there is turmoil around us, it is still possible to find a place of peace.

As I write this, I just read a comment from a fellow blogger who is going through a really hard time in her family. My heart feels heavy for her and I would just like to take this moment to share some peace with her. You know who you are. You are a strong woman with a beautiful family and you will make it through this difficult time. Peace be with you.

“Shalom…does not mean merely the absence of strife. It is pregnant with positive, active and energetic meaning and association. It connotes totality, health, wholesomeness, harmony, success, the completeness and richness of living in an integrated social milieu. When people meet or part they wish each other shalom, or they inquire about eachother’s shalom”.-William Chomsky from “Hebrew, the eternal language”

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day Keeps the Doctor Away…Let’s Start with Love

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I remember hearing this often when I was growing up.  At the time, it didn’t really convince me to eat more fruits and vegetables but now that I’m older, I have come to appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. This gets me thinking not only about my physical health but also my mental and spiritual health. Healthy food and physical exercise are good for our bodies. What sorts of things are good for our mind and soul?

I leafed through my Bible and came across this familiar verse on “Fruits of the Spirit”. To me, these are virtues that keep me spiritually healthy, partly because they require some action on my part. They are not just a state of mind but something that I can consciously decide to do.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Galations 5:22-23.

I decided to take a look at some of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of these words and compare them to how I feel they can be applied to daily life. I will tackle this over a series of posts just so we can take a detailed look at these words. Let’s start with love.

Love

There are so many forms and definitions of love but the ones I like in particular are these two: “strong affection for another; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. I like these two definitions because they acknowledge that love has a component of “feeling” and emotion as well as a conscious decision to care about someone else solely for their good. Therefore I choose to behave in such a way as to bring out the best in them. In the Bible, Jesus spoke of loving our “neighbor”. When asked “but who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29, Jesus went on to talk about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A selfless individual who decided to help a battered and bruised stranger at the side of the road, who had been brutally attacked by robbers.

When I was growing up, we passed by beggars in the street as quickly as possible. They were considered unsafe, it made us uncomfortable and we just didn’t really know how to respond. When I think about those moments, I really cringe at myself. How thoughtless and selfish of me! Jesus’ words to love our neighbor challenges me to find ways to help those who are hurting and suffering. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about pursuing a career in medicine. Just the idea of being able to heal someone’s diseases, offer them counsel, and alleviate their worries really gets me excited. One of my friends who is a first-time mom often calls me with motherhood questions (“White noise or no white noise? or “My baby is breastfeeding around the clock…help!”) I absolutely love these conversations because I can draw from my own experiences and alleviate some of her concerns. 

There is so much that can be said about the concept of love but what I have learned from my interactions with people and from observing my friends and family is that love in its truest sense is selfless and unconditional. The “feeling” of love may come and go. There are times when our significant others, children, brothers, sisters, parents may annoy us, make us angry, make us want to give up on them. Yet, we decide to still love them. We may see someone suffering who is perhaps not from our culture, not in our income bracket, who has differing opinions, or who we may not be able to relate to. Yet, we decide to still love them. Love is a powerful thing. Love erases fear, love erases prejudice, love erases judgement. The Bible itself said the greatest gift of all is love.

Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net

Week 2 is Through! The 30-Day Challenge Towards Wholesome Living Continues…..

Welcome back everyone! Can you believe we’re already half way through the 30-day challenge? I hope you’ve been seeing the benefits of your hard work towards attaining better health physically and mentally while at the same time preserving sacred time to be intimate with God and reflect on your spiritual state of being.

It has been a great past few days and I have to say that despite a brief period of discouragement last week, this 30-day challenge has done wonders for my life overall. Just knowing that there are others doing this with me and that we are accountable to each other motivates me to prioritize exercise, healthy eating and devotional time. I have found myself feeling more patient and just ready to enjoy each day as it comes.

This weekend was our first free weekend in months and normally that would mean that I am flitting around the house looking for things to “accomplish”. But this weekend, I just slowed down the pace of my mental thought, looked out at my backyard and just gaped at the beauty of the landscape. It had been weeks since we had gardened and things were getting a little out of control with the weeds and fast growing trees. We spent a good part of the weekend outdoors, clipping trees, pulling out weeds, while the kids ran around in the yard, and it was just….beautiful. When my son was telling me something for the thirtieth time, I didn’t distractedly say “oh, really, that’s cool”, I looked him in the eyes and laughed like it was the first time he was telling it to me. It was just amazing to be so in the moment with my family and with my surroundings.

My walks in the neighborhood with the kids were more enjoyable than usual because I decided to try and engage with whoever I passed by, be it a smile, a wave or stopping to say hello. It was something so simple, yet meaningful to me, and perhaps to the other people I met too, whose lives I don’t know much about but who may have been going through a rough time and needed that smile or moment of engagement from another human being.

The 30-day challenge has been going well the past few days with me achieving my goals of consistent exercise daily (at least 30 minutes), eating healthy and spending time with God. This week in particular I was aiming to eat some new foods just to introduce some variety into my diet so I opted for some tilapia, sweet potatoes and green beans which I hadn’t eaten in a while. I have also been using a spreadsheet of foods categorized into food groups so that when I am planning my meals, I can just look at the spreadsheet to see what foods I haven’t eaten in a while and to make sure I am including foods from every food group. Exercise-wise, I am finding myself feeling fitter and can already see physical changes in my body. I am more alert and energetic. I am starting to find ways to fit in exercise in my day no matter what. If you think about it, 30 minutes a day is not that much time even with a busy schedule. If I am having a really busy day, I try to consider what ways I can make my current activity into an exercise. For example, if I am alone with the kids at home and I can’t find the opportunity for exercise, we go for a walk together or they hang out in the yard with me as I am doing the gardening (which can be surprisingly strenuous, I was aching from having my arms over my head for an hour snipping branches and moving them). So don’t feel bad if you don’t always have time to do more ‘formal’ exercise. Even folding laundry or tinkering with the car can be done with a spring in your step and some exaggerated movements just to get your heart-rate up and your blood flowing.

Time with God has been awesome and I have not been restricting myself to one particular time of day. If I cannot do it first thing in the morning, I find moments throughout the day, when I can just clear my head of all “noise” and just focus on God and his goodness. I try to think of a few things to be grateful for and that puts me in a more positive frame of mind. Sometimes, I just sing as I’m going about my day and I find the kids joining in with dance-moves. Other times, I pray as I’m pushing my daughter’s stroller around the neighborhood. I find that the more I focus on God, the less I focus on me. And that helps me not to dwell on life’s uncertainties or fears. I trust God with the smallest details. No issue is too silly or insignificant for him.

So as we enter the second half of the 30-day challenge, I encourage you to keep going. If you fell off the band-wagon at some point, don’t worry! You can get back on! And if life is going a bit too fast, slow it down a little. Take time to enjoy each day afresh. The moments we have with people are the most important and will be captured in our memories for eternity.

Slow down...and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)

Slow down…and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)

Week One is Done! The 30-Day Challenge Continues…

My son and I have a funny routine at bedtime where we have a “sword-fight” after his bath and we end up rolling around on the bed grunting and roaring. As I walked into the room yesterday ready to get into battle mode, I was surprised to instead find my son with a huge grin on his face and his arms open wide. He then enveloped me in a long, warm bear-hug. Needless to say, I melted into a puddle of goo on the floor. My son is affectionate by nature, but moments like this never cease to amaze me. It was a lovely way to wrap up the first week of the 30-Day Challenge, a journey into wholeness… physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Here’s an update for you from the weekend:

  • Fitness: My greatest challenge with exercise is getting it done on the weekend because often we have social activities and are extra busy with the kids so it’s difficult to get that physical exercise in. Thankfully, I knew that I would be reporting to you early this week so I forced myself to make that time one way or another! Friday consisted of a nice, brisk 45 minute walk around the neighborhood with my daughter. Our walk took us through some woods in which I was hoping to stop and do some stretches and squats, but the palpable mosquito presence in the woods forced us to make a quick exit!

    My daughter and I going walkabout in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)

    My daughter and I going ‘walkabout’ in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)

  • Fitness: Saturday was busy with us hosting a good friend’s baby shower and so there wasn’t much time to work-out. However I am consoled by the fact that I was on my feet most of the day decorating the house, prepping food and attending to guests. Sunday was also busy with church and although I was feeling really tired, I decided that a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood was better than doing no exercise at all. If you are feeling tired or unmotivated about doing exercise, take heart! You don’t have to do a killer workout everyday. Just get on your feet in some way, shape or form, even if it’s gardening, doing housework, dancing, walking or riding somewhere instead of driving. And if you miss a day, don’t feel bad, try again the next day. You can do it! Today’s fitness consisted of a light 10 minute warm-up on the elliptical followed by a similar upper body workout as last week, including some additional wrist strengthening exercises. In addition to physical exercise, I realized the importance of having good posture. This is crucial for keeping our spines properly aligned and preventing back problems. I am quite tall (5 feet 9 inches) and so I have a tendency to slouch (I was reminded of this recently when I saw some pictures of me that a friend took). We often don’t realize the way we sit or stand, and this can have an impact on our overall well-being. So I have been making an effort to monitor my posture, particularly while sitting or standing. Here’s an interesting link I found with tips on maintaining good posture.
  • Nutrition: Friday and Monday went well for my nutritional goals but Saturday and Sunday consisted of two BBQs so it was difficult to keep track of nutritional content and to stick to healthy foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating less healthy foods now and again (they can be so delicious!) but I’m trying to avoid it becoming a habit. My goal this week is to try and eat some different foods compared to last week to introduce some variety in my diet. Let’s shake things up!
  • Spiritual: I thoroughly enjoyed having my prayer time during my walks outside with my daughter. It allowed me to put God in the context of nature and just appreciate the beauty around me. I loved those moments with my daughter where her eyes would light up when she saw a bird or a horse. Kids have a way of keeping things so fresh! I have really been enjoying reading what I call “chunks” from the Bible. In the past, I  had a habit of reading a few verses here and there but I am really enjoying reading scriptures in the form of complete chapters where I can get the full context and even imagine myself being there in that time. Despite the busy weekend, I definitely saw the difference it made to have time with God daily. It brought me to a place of reflection and to a time when I could continually unload and tell God that He is in control and all I can do is my best. It’s so comforting to know that we are not “doing” life alone. We have a Heavenly Father who is working out all the details of our lives. We only need to walk in faith and trust. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Phil 1:6.

Well done everyone for making it to the second week of the 30-Day Challenge. What exercise do you have planned for this week? Having an idea of what you will do each day will increase your chances of actually doing it. Formulate a plan for the week and try to stick to it as much as possible! You’ll hear from me again soon. Thank you for joining me on this challenge and keeping me motivated!!

Here comes Week 2 of the 30-Day Challenge…Keep going!!!

Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge….. It’s a Wrap!

Welcome back everyone. Have you been sweating? What have you been eating? How’s that devotional time going? Hopefully you are already starting to see some benefits of consistent exercise, eating right and having some quiet moments with God daily. We are drawing close to the end of the first week of the 30-Day Challenge and it’s been great!

Here’s a quick update for you:

  • Fitness: Today I did a very invigorating ~30 minute workout, the T-25 that focuses on cardio and stretches (thank you subsaharangirl for the recommendation). I have to say that this was a lot of fun. It was reminiscent of doing a hip-hop dance routine with old-school moves from the 90’s, all while getting your heart-rate up. Loved it! I also appreciated that there was one person in the video who did a modified version of each exercise which is great for those who cannot handle the high-impact version of the exercise. I am starting to realize that my previous attempts to really be consistent with exercise were being impeded by doing the same exercise workouts over and over. I think I was just getting plain bored! But having done a different type of workout everyday this week has left me feeling full of energy and motivated to keep going! If you’re finding yourself losing steam, perhaps try a new type of exercise or change up the scenery. It’s all about keeping things fresh!
  • Nutrition: I am definitely seeing the difference in eating the right type of food and eating every few hours throughout the day. I have much more energy! All nutrition goals for the day…..met!
  • Spiritual: I was a little bit distracted during my quiet time today partly due to some things I read on the internet that frustrated me. But I decided to just pray about it and let God help me get my attitude under control. Interestingly, I found a verse towards the end of 1 Thessalonians that was very appropriate for the situation, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else“. 1 Thess 5:15. I was also reminded about the importance of “putting on faith and love as a breastplate” 1 Thess 5:8. Breastplates were designed to protect the torso. In the same way, faith and love offer protection from the negativity that can fill our minds and hearts if we lose faith in people or have resentment. It’s not easy to forgive past hurts, but it surely liberates us when we do.

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge… It’s a Wrap! Well done everyone for getting this far! I plan to post my next update early next week so please stay tuned. In the mean time, keep going, keep exercising, keep eating right and keep feeding your spirit and soul! Onward…..

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net

Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge Finished!

Welcome to Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge! It’s not too late to get on board for a journey into creating better habits for your mind and body. For those of you who are already on board, how is the challenge going? If you haven’t already done so, please pick a friend who can hold you accountable to the challenge. Challenges like these are always easier with a buddy to give you some support (thank you subsaharangirl for keeping me accountable)! Everyone, if you can just make it to the end of these 30 days, you are well on your way to forming great life-long habits!

Today’s update is short and simple:

  • Fitness: I made it to the pool after putting the kids to bed and swam 26 lengths in a 25 meter pool for about 30 minutes. I usually do breast-stroke but I’m hoping to branch out and do more freestyle (front-crawl) as this works different muscles and it gives me more of a cardio workout. Swimming is a great exercise that works many areas of your body and there’s just something uplifting and calming about gliding through the water. It is a great exercise for those of you who have sensitive knees that cannot handle high impact exercise. It is also relaxing if you are pregnant and don’t really want to be jumping up and down too much. If the pool area has an attached sauna, this could also be a good opportunity to get in some relaxing “you” time (not if you are pregnant though, the heat is not safe for that little bean). Swimming can also break the monotony of any other exercises you may have been doing during the course of the week. Shaking things up in the variety of exercises you do can help prevent boredom and burnout.
  • Nutrition: The past 2 days have allowed me to see what is working and what is not in MyFitnessPal and I think I have finally settled on the amount of calories I need to sustain my weight, workouts and breastfeeding. This comes to about 2800 calories daily. It seems like a lot but I do have to keep in mind that I have a fast metabolism and do not gain weight very easily. If you are using MyFitnessPal to keep track of your calorie intake, it may take a few days of tweaking the program to settle on what goals make sense for you. The calorie intake that the program initially suggests is just a ball park and you may have to adjust it depending on your circumstances (like I did). Based on my new settings in MyFitness Pal, all my nutrition goals were achieved for the day! My focus for next week will be to try some new foods as I tend to eat the same foods over and over.
  • Spiritual: During my devotional time, I decided to start reading the book of I Thessalonians since I tend to skip over it for some reason. The first two chapters were Paul talking very warmly and effusively about the church in Thessalonica and what struck me was how much camaraderie, self-sacrifice and support there was among them. Now of course most churches of that time (and today) had various issues simply because of being made up of people, but it reminded me that the concept of the ‘body of Christ’ is so important. We cannot ‘do’ our faith alone. Just as we need others to help us achieve our goals in life, we need others to help us in our faith, both when we are high on a mountain of blessings or deep in a valley of difficult circumstances.

Day 3 of the 30-Day challenge is finished! We are already half-way through the first week everyone. Great job! Keep going!

Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is Done!

Today was another good day for the 30-Day challenge geared towards physical and spiritual wholeness. For those of you who have joined the challenge, keep up the good work and keep at it! It will be so worth it for your overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: Today I decided to focus on my upper body since I worked out my legs and abs yesterday and I have to admit that I am feeling quite sore today! This is often the moment when you feel you should take a break from exercise for the day but I find that one thing leads to another and before you know it, 2 or 3 days go by without any exercise being done.  In addition, I almost missed my window of opportunity to exercise today as I was studying for the MCAT and didn’t notice the time go by. I was tempted to say “well, it’s getting late now, how about we pick up on the exercise tomorrow”. But I decided that was not a good enough excuse. So I decided to stick with the challenge and do upper body strength training today. I warmed up on the elliptical machine in our basement for 10 minutes. The elliptical is a great exercise machine if you have sensitive knees like mine that can’t handle a treadmill. I do find it a bit monotonous though so I multi-tasked by studying some flashcards for the MCAT at the same time. I then did some arm stretches and did the following weight exercises using 8 to 10 pound weights for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each (which lasted about 25 minutes in total): bicep curls, overhead shoulder presses, and lateral shoulder raises. I also did tricep dips using a chair and modified push-ups (knees on floor). Today, I could only manage 2 sets of 8 reps for the push-ups. I’m sure this will get better with time and consistent workouts. In between sets, I walked briskly on the spot, did knee raises or multi-tasked and folded laundry for about 60 seconds. If you are thinking of starting weight training, it has significant benefits such as improved muscle strength and reducing the risks of osteoporosis later in life. All-in-all, a good day on the exercise front!
  • Nutrition: I decided to research the impact of natural sugars in the diet (from fruits, milk etc.) and it seems that these natural sugars are not much of an issue (within reason of course). The issue is “added sugars” like white sugar. I stopped adding sugar to my tea a few years ago and although it was difficult at first, I soon got used to it and hardly miss it now. I still like to eat chocolate and cheesecake now and again which is fine so long as it does not become a daily habit! In terms of my goals for today, I went over my calorie limit by a whopping 500 calories! I’m not sure how this happened but it could be that I am more hungry with the added exercise. So, I’m going to weigh myself at some point just to make sure I’m not gaining too much although gaining some weight would be great! Sugars were a little over the limit again because of fruits and milk but I’m not too worried about that since these contain natural sugars. So I’ve decided I need to increase my calorie goals in MyFitnessPal since I seem to be needing more calories than I thought.
  • Spiritual: Enjoyed my time with God this morning and I wanted to share a song I have come to really love singing and playing on the piano. It’s called “At the Cross” by Chris Tomlin and here are some of the words that really touch me every time I sing them: “There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies, There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide, where all the love I’ve ever found, Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life, I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white, I owe all to you, I owe all to you….Jesus”. This song constantly reminds me of God’s unfailing grace towards me. There’s nothing I could ever do that would make God love me any less. That’s unconditional love right there. I came to understand this better once I had kids of my own. Even though parenting can be difficult at times, it also brings so much joy and although the kids may drive us nuts sometimes, we can’t help loving them. It’s an in-built, unquestionable, and unshakeable love. My devotional time concluded with finishing up the book of Philippians. I came across some verses that really encouraged me, particularly as I’m preparing to sit the MCAT and apply to medical school, and there are days when the whole process can feel overwhelming. “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is done!…. I’m going to try make it to the pool tomorrow for Day 3 of the challenge! For those of you who are doing the challenge with me…..keep going! You can do it!

Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge Completed!

Today was the first day of the 30-Day Challenge aimed at improving our physical and spiritual well-being and it went very well! First and foremost, thank you to all my friends and family (including my wonderful hubby) who have been enthusiastic in supporting me through this and also to those who have agreed to take on the challenge for themselves. There is strength in numbers and just knowing that someone else is working hard at this just like you can give you the motivation you need to keep going and be consistent!

Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: I broke a serious sweat doing this cardio and abs workout for 30 minutes. This workout basically involves intervals and alternating between cardio and abs exercises. I had to do a few modifications for the sections that had high impact exercise because of my previous knee injury, however it still got my heart and breathing rate up and burned about 400 calories (I am not aiming for weight loss but I still need to keep track of calories so that I do not lose weight). I felt great afterwards! If you are just joining the challenge, you should try it!
  • Nutrition: In my preliminary use of MyFitness Pal, I calculated that I should aim for about 2200 calories of food per day to maintain my current weight (I have a hard time gaining weight). However, when I put in what I actually ate today, it came to 2600 calories! At first I thought I must have made a mistake in my calculations but now I am realizing that this is what I need if I am going to be burning 400 calories while exercising and also since I am still breastfeeding my 16 month old twice-a-day. I  decided to increase my lunch time pasta portion (since I was ravenous after the workout) and to add a snack of almonds in order to add some healthy fat. I had no idea it would end up with 400 extra calories than I originally planned but this is the reason why it’s important to track calories (at least initially) to know what’s really being ingested. I managed to steer clear of chips for the whole day. I didn’t even have the desire, probably because of the thought of being held accountable! 2600 calories seems like quite a lot, given that most nutritional labels are calculated on a 2000 calorie diet. I will monitor my weight but would not mind gaining a few pounds given that my BMI is on the lower side of normal. I also realized from monitoring my food intake in MyFitness Pal that I consume  A LOT of bread. It’s one of my favorite foods and if I had it my way, this is all I would eat in whatever shape or form. But I am realizing that variety is the spice of life and I must try to vary what I am eating a bit more. My sugar intake was over the limit today without consuming much processed food. It mostly came from fruits and milk (another favorite of mine). All other nutrients were within the ball-park of my target goals or slightly under the recommended limit so I’m happy about that!
  • Spiritual: I started off with some vibrant praise and worship at the piano followed by some prayer time. During my prayer time, I was reminded that there is nothing too small or insignificant for God. Sometimes I envision God so high on a pedestal that I wonder if I should really “bother” him with my little details. But I was reminded that he cares about us in our entirety. He is like a father who just wants to be there for us, to comfort us in everything, not just the big things. He longs to draw close to us and be intimate with us and my spirit feels rejuvenated when I feel I have made that connection with God. My devotional reading time consisted of reading from “Praise in the Presence of God” by Jack Hayford. I also love reading directly from the Bible which has so much good advice for daily living. Today I read a few chapters of Philippians and in this book, Paul’s passion for the church is so tangible. He also reminds us  to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). It reminded me that even though we may have noble goals and dreams, it’s important to make time for those we cherish and to value the people we encounter along the way. Our goals are never more important than the people we love or the people we meet.

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge completed. On to Day 2…….

Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net