Allison Tsai

Knock It Off with ‘Breast Is Best’ Already

Knock It Off with ‘Breast Is Best’ Already

In severe situations, it can even lead to inadvertently starving your baby—a scenario Dr. Castillo-Hegyi knows firsthand. “I found myself with a dehydrated, jaundiced baby, because of my inability to produce milk when he needed it.”Imagine if the nursing staff at the hospital where you gave birth didn’t even give you the option to formula feed. This is the reality at hospitals that adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative—a designation given to hospitals that enforce guidelines and practices that meet strict criteria around breastfeeding. In practice, this can look like a nurse who repeatedly discourages you from using formula or the complete removal of nurseries, which historically have been used to give new parents a few hours to sleep, and can involve supplementing with formula. Again, this adds to the undue pressure on birthing parents to chestfeed exclusively.Perhaps if the message were different, fewer people would find themselves in situations like the one Castillo-Hegyi faced. “Formula has been demonized, weaponized, and moralized, but as far as nutritional content, it’s so expertly developed for absorption, and it contains every macronutrient, micronutrient, vitamin, and mineral that breast milk contains,” Jody Segrave-Daly RN, MS, IBCLC, a former NICU nurse and lactation consultant, and co-founder of the Fed Is Best Foundation, tells SELF.The bottom line is that the benefits of being fully fed far exceed the differences between being breast or formula-fed, she says.It’s time to reframe this messaging so parents feel empowered.The antidote to this exclusive breastfeeding-is-the-only-way messaging, Dr. Castillo-Heygi says, is to start speaking the truth. “The differences between breastfeeding and formula-feeding are not as big as advertised,” she says. “So, if you are struggling to feed your child with breast milk alone, do not despair. The best option for you and your child’s health might be combo feeding with breast milk and formula, and if you can’t do that, or it’s impacting your mental health, exclusive formula feeding is also a healthy option.”Fed is best. Period. “We want your baby to be fed and get the nourishment that it needs to continue to meet these milestones, and give you peace of mind,” Conyers says. “The goal is to have a healthy, thriving baby.”The other big factor to consider is yourself, says Gunyon Meyer. “We want a mom who is mentally and emotionally healthy, too,” she says, for the sake of you and your baby. If chestfeeding is causing a problem with mood, depression, or anxiety, then it’s time to think through other options.There are benefits to formula feeding, too. The big one? Freedom. Since the onus is no longer on one person to shoulder the entire responsibility of nourishing the baby, other caretakers can step in to bottle feed—and bond with—your baby so you can take a shower, go for a walk, have a glass of wine without guilt, sleep, oh, and go to work for eight hours. Of course, pumping and freezing breastmilk is also an option, but that still equals less freedom due to all the pumping that has to take place.

This Vegetarian-Friendly Meal Kit Helped Me Get Out of a Cooking Rut

This Vegetarian-Friendly Meal Kit Helped Me Get Out of a Cooking Rut

It’s nice knowing that essentially any ingredient that can be certified organic in a Green Chef box, will be, and their gluten-free ingredients are certified as well. So, you might be paying a bit more for this label. I’d consider ordering a box every once in a while to get out of the mac and cheese rut that occurs when a toddler runs the house.Order and Delivery ProcessUsing the Green Chef website is easy and clear. Everything is laid out with images of the food, which you select and checkout. Once you confirm your order you can cancel, change, or swap out meals up to seven days before it’s scheduled to be delivered. My only issue was that I wasn’t entirely sure that my meal kit was scheduled even after submitting the order, but an email confirmation was all I needed to sit back, relax, and wait for all my glorious produce to arrive.Delivery was a breeze, it was dropped on my doorstep on the appropriate day, and all the meals came in separate brown bags containing the necessary ingredients, as well as recipe cards with easy-to-understand instructions.Ease of UseThis is where I need to add the caveat that I have precious little time to spend peeling, chopping, and waiting for things to cook. Green Chef is worlds better than other meal kits in this regard, as there is nary a “chop up garlic and smear it into a paste using nothing but the back of your knife” in the instructions. As I mentioned, all the tasty sauces are premade and ready to be poured into whatever concoction is bubbling on the stove. Many of the vegetables were already chopped and in bags. The one aspect that elicited a groan from me was that all the meals required three different cooking vessels—a pot, a saute pan, and a baking sheet, not to mention mixing bowls, and other cooking utensils. I try to stick to two at most, and maybe only one, if I can get away with it.And since I can’t keep a secret, I’ll tell you: I did my own thing with the chickpea bowl, and didn’t roast the chickpeas separately from the carrots according to instruction. Instead, I threw them all on a baking sheet with oil and spices and let them all brown in the oven. Had I done them separately, I think the chickpeas would have come out a bit crisper and better, but it was still a tasty meal, so no regrets.Generally, I think, for a person who can spare 30 minutes (most of the meals only require 30 to 40 minutes from start to finish), Green Chef is a pretty good option. Nutrition ProfileWhile I liked the flavors of the meals, the calorie count was pretty high for me (around 800 calories per serving), and I’m guessing much of that was from the rice. The breakdown of protein, fat, and carbs isn’t readily available on the recipe cards, and I have a feeling my protein intake would be low if I only ate these meals. That said, they do use lots of colorful vegetables and legumes in the vegetarian menu, which is a bonus when it comes to fiber and other nutrients.Overall Taste and SatisfactionAll of the meals I tried came with fresh, high-quality produce and ingredients. The premade sauces were all very flavorful and dialed up the taste of the otherwise ho-hum bowls. My one complaint is that I wish there was a bit more variety, creativity, and perhaps a few recipes that relied less on simple carbohydrates, like white rice. The portion sizes were pretty generous, in my opinion, and would definitely satisfy two people.My final thought is that Green Chef is decent—if a bit pricey—option for people who are looking to get out of a meal rut, and multiple people in the family will eat the recipes. You also may need to be in a stage of life where roasting, boiling and sauteing different things at the same time to prepare one meal doesn’t make you break out in hives. Related Reading:

I Didn’t Always Embrace My Chinese Heritage. Here’s How I Plan to Change That for My Son.

I Didn’t Always Embrace My Chinese Heritage. Here’s How I Plan to Change That for My Son.

When people looked at me growing up, I’m not sure exactly what they saw. They probably couldn’t tell I had ancestors from Italy, England, Scotland, Slovakia (Vikings, no less, but that’s a story for another day), and, yes, China. These identities met and mingled, and eventually melded into the DNA of a quarter-Asian girl living in Akron, Ohio.What I do know is they saw someone… different. As a kid, I never quite fit in, with comments from classmates like “What are you?” and “Where are your chopsticks?” jolting me out of a lulled sense of belonging and laying the groundwork for life-long anxiety.The biggest difference between me and the other Asian kids I knew, was that most of them grew up with parents who immigrated to the United States, so they had the shared experience of living in their home country to connect them—something I never had. The only thread I had was my grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. when he was a teen, before the dawn of communism in China. When he came here for high school, stayed for college and medical school, eventually met and married my white grandmother, and settled in Ohio, there wasn’t a whole lot of culture left. My dad and uncle grew up in the 50s and 60s, a time when embracing your Chinese heritage wasn’t exactly the norm. Once my brother and I came along in the 80s, our grandfather was the only person who held the key to that part of our identity.For us, that meant hanging out at the local Chinese restaurant eating braised tofu and shark fin soup (something I was embarrassed to even mention to my friends), dodging the Peking duck hanging from the ceiling in our grandparents’ basement, and listening to stories of my grandpa’s adventures as a young man. My grandfather was gregarious and loved by the community, but most of all he was loved by me, the so-called “apple of his eye.” He died when I was seven, and although I can’t say that I immediately embraced being Chinese, as it took over a decade to feel that pride, his memory is a big part of why I want to wrap myself in the armor of my Asian heritage and teach my young son to wear it proudly, too.In the flash of a devilish grin or the tilt of my son’s head thrown back in giggles, I can sometimes see a glimpse of my dad or grandfather. But to the untrained eye, my son doesn’t look Chinese at all, nor does he share my Chinese name (I kept it for myself after marriage for many reasons, but one was to hold on to that part of my identity).They say your genes are made up of all your ancestors who lived before you. Maybe you have the same smile as a great, great uncle who died well before you were born. Or maybe your laugh is identical to a long-forgotten sister who your grandmother cherished from way back when. I like to imagine that even though our ancestors are no longer here—we’ll never know the warmth of their hands or the bite of their humor—they are still within us, showing up for their great, great (infinitely great) grandchildren in these small ways. Maybe my son shares one of these traits with my great grandfather or his father’s father. I’ll never know for sure, but here’s how I plan to keep our culture alive through him.Connect through family recipes (with a vegetarian twist).Since my kid is all in on pizza and mac and cheese at the moment, this one may have to wait a few years. But we do have a collection of Tsai family recipes in a bound cookbook—stir-fried cellophane noodles are my favorite—and I want to share my love of these flavors with him. We may have to skip the Peking duck since we’re vegetarians (Peking tofu just doesn’t have the same ring to it), but we can improvise.

Racecar Driver Samantha Tan on Eczema, Mental Health, and Why Asian Representation Matters

Racecar Driver Samantha Tan on Eczema, Mental Health, and Why Asian Representation Matters

How do you take care of your mental health with such an intense sport?Right before I get in the car I have really bad anxiety. I always try to tell myself that it’s good because it keeps me on my toes, but it’s hard to not overthink things. It’s important in racing to be able to minimize that anxiety and compartmentalize, and really focus on the task at hand. Most race car drivers have this thing called a race ritual. For me it’s just finding a quiet spot in my trailer and listening to music. I actually used to draw a lot before a race so, if I have time, I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and doodle something. It just gets me in this really calm state. So that’s what helps me the most.I also had to come back mentally and emotionally from the biggest crash of my career in 2017. I was at this race called Road America in Wisconsin, which has a notorious corner called the kink. It’s a very fast kink that you’re supposed to flat throttle through—I hit the wall going 100 miles per hour. It was pretty terrifying. They teach you to pull in both your arms and legs the moment you know you’re going to hit the wall, but, unfortunately, I had my foot on the brake, so I sprained my ankle. Other than that I walked out of the car unscathed.That’s how safe race cars are nowadays, but it definitely destroyed my self-confidence as a driver. I basically lost faith in myself in that moment. That was a turning point in my career because it made me question all of my motives, all of my goals, and whether this was something I really wanted to pursue or was even capable of pursuing as a young Asian woman. I got back in the car a week later and pushed through it. Three years later, I went back to that track for the first time and thought, This is my time to prove myself. I podiumed and it was a very emotional moment for me because I really reclaimed that experience for myself. I showed that I put in so much work, so much time, and it finally paid off.I don’t really think about that crash anymore—I’ve moved past it. But now I use it as part of my race ritual. I think about all the times I have overcome challenges and performed at my best, and I really put myself in those happy moments where I’ve even surprised myself a little bit. That proves to me and my brain that I can do this, I am good enough, and I can go out and kick ass.As one of the few female Asian racecar drivers, do you feel like you have to deal with stuff that your male counterparts don’t?One of the reasons I love racing is because everyone can compete on an equal footing. It’s 85% mental, and in general, physical strength isn’t a factor. But, I did get my period the past two race weekends and it was terrible. I was so tired, and literally sitting on the grid with cramps. I remember talking to one of my guy friends afterward and being like, ‘Can you imagine having cramps?’ And he was like, “No, I literally cannot imagine.’ This is something that female athletes have to struggle with and something that my male competitors don’t even have to think about at all. But I did win, so it just shows that, yes, I can still compete—and win—on my period.

I’m a Black Woman Who Survived Breast Cancer. Here’s What I Want Other Women of Color to Know.

I’m a Black Woman Who Survived Breast Cancer. Here’s What I Want Other Women of Color to Know.

In some ways, though, my mom’s journey with cancer prepared me for the long fight ahead. A month after I completed chemo, I had a double mastectomy per my doctor’s advice. I knew that after the surgery I wasn’t going to be able to pick up London for a while, and it was really tough having that talk with her. Even saying goodbye to her before my surgery was really difficult, because I didn’t want her to see me like that. I was already bald and sick because of the chemo, and then I had to go to surgery. When I came out, I had two surgical drains on my sides. Even though she didn’t totally understand, she knew something was different. It was such a hard recovery, and I was essentially immobile for two months.Then, a couple months after that, I started radiation therapy. Since I had stage III cancer and it had spread to my lymph nodes, radiation was a way to make sure there were no lingering microscopic cancer cells. Just trying to survive was like a part-time job. For five weeks, I got up at 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, to go to my treatments. These appointments often lasted hours. Afterwards, I would come home and just rest.On April 28, 2021, a year after I first felt that unusual ache in my breast, I was officially declared cancer-free and done with treatment. That’s the date I plan to celebrate my “cancer-versary.” But I still feel the mental and physical weight of chemotherapy every day. I struggle with overwhelming fatigue. Sometimes, “chemo brain” strikes mid-conversation, and I can’t remember what I was saying. Thankfully, though, my hair is growing back, and I’m strong enough to pick up my daughter again. I’m just happy I’m still around to thank my family, who helped me so much through my treatment and recovery.Now, I’m deciding whether or not I want to have reconstructive breast surgery. It was my personal decision to go flat—I didn’t want to put my body through any more at the time. I’m comfortable with my new body type and having fun trying on clothes and figuring out what works for me, at least for now. Whatever happens in the future, it is my decision—one thing that I finally have power over. The last year was a whirlwind of treatments and doctors making decisions about my body. It’s nice to have some control back.Cancer has taken a lot away from me, but it’s also helped me find a new meaning in life. During my chemotherapy treatments, I would sit alone in the hospital for half a day. It gave me a chance to practice self-care in new ways—something I had a hard time prioritizing before my diagnosis. That’s when I started journaling. Taking pen to paper awoke a deep passion for writing in me, which I then started doing on Instagram. I’ve shared everything about my journey with breast cancer and all the feelings that go with it. I want newly diagnosed people to use it as a guide, and more importantly, to know they’re not alone.That’s how I caught the attention of the Young Survival Coalition, who offered me a part-time job as a community content coordinator. It’s changed my life in ways I didn’t realize were possible. Now, I can reach out to other breast cancer patients who went through similar experiences that I did and help them tell their stories, too.Sharing my pain now has a purpose. Spreading the word about breast cancer, especially in women of color, has become one of my passions. When I was first diagnosed, other survivors (we call them Pink Sisters) helped me make sense of the journey. They answered all of my nitty gritty questions, like what to expect from chemotherapy and what I need to have at home after surgery. So I want to pay it forward.

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