6 of My Favorite Vietnamese Dishes

6 favorite Vietnamese dishes

  1. When I finally get my own clay pot, I’m making “kho” (i.e., caramelized) everything!
  2. Lemongrass is one of the staples in Vietnamese cooking.
  3. When I visited Vietnam, one of my favorite experiences was sitting on the sidewalk, on little plastic chairs, eating Banh Beo. Delicious!
  4. As a kid, on Sundays we’d always eat either Pho or Banh Mi. If you’re even in SF, the absolute, hands-down, best place to go for Banh Mi is Saigon Sandwiches in the Tenderloin.
  5. This is one of my go-to dishes when I want comfort food and feel like soup. Although I don’t always make it the authentic, traditional way, the fiancé and other people who’ve had it have always given me rave reviews.
  6. This is a classic Vietnamese desert- my dad is known to eat at least two large servings when we go out to eat.

You can find most of these awesome recipes thanks to the Ravenous Couple. 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Do you have any favorite Vietnamese Dishes?

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Weak Glutes

I always thought that I had pretty strong legs. Hell, I can press more than my body weight (last time I checked, I pressed about 130 lbs). But as I stated in my last post, I’m pretty sure the changes in my schedule and lack of adequate training led to my injuries. After doing a lot of research and talking to my fellow runner friend, I’m 99.9% sure I have IT Band syndrome.

Dr. Metzl from runningworld.com tells me that it’s because I have a weak butt and need to do lots of strength training and stretching. When I was living in Arizona, I definitely was more consistent with this (I worked out at least 5 times a week and was more consistent with yoga). But now, it’s back to the drawing board and retraining my body over again. I hope that I have enough time before Nike Women’s SF in October! Here’s one of the strength training program Dr. Metzl put together that I found (videos here). I put together a little cheat sheet so I could take it to the gym with me…it might be useful for you too!

Dr. J D Metzl's Iron Strength Workout

Race Recap: SF Giants Half Marathon

I started running races three years ago, starting with a 5k, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Since then, I’ve ran a 10k, 12k, and three halves, with the latest one being the SF Giants Half Marathon yesterday.

Giants medal collage

This particular race was the hardest one I’ve ever done, for a couple of reasons.

  • I didn’t get to train properly due to the moving and being in transitional period. I started my longer runs less than a month away from the race- no bueno!
  • Along the same lines, I didn’t get to do my normal strength training and yoga practice, which I’ve realized plays a HUGE role in my running.
  • This led to (I think) my “runner’s knee” problem. My last couple of long training runs were really difficult- I would get sharp knee pains, to the point where it was really difficult to bend my knee. My hip flexors hurt. I was hoping that my shoes were the cause, but after I changed my shoes to my older, trusty ones, the problems were still there.

Race Day

The weather was perfect: foggy and cool, which makes for the perfect running conditions. The first 2-3 miles were pretty good- no pain, no tightness, and I was taking it pretty “easy,” considering what I can normally do. Miles 4-8 were still ok, but I definitely was slowing down because I could feel my hips and knee start to tighten. During this time, I kept telling myself, “The body is strong, you feel no pain.” It worked, for a while.

Mile 8-9 was excruciating. My knee would not bend and it hurt so much to keep running. I really considered calling the fiancé to come pick me up in the Marina because I was worried that I couldn’t keep going. But I stretched for about 5 minutes and got my knee and hips loose enough to keep going. The rest of the way back, I ran 30 counts on then walked for 30 counts. The stiffness in my leg forced me to have a pretty hard foot strike, so my ankles started to feel some pain as well.

I finished at 2 hours and 40 minutes, my worst time ever, even worse than my very first half. I was a little disappointed, because I’ve been working hard to improve my times and my goal had been getting under 2:15. But I try to remind myself that I have another half in October and want to make sure that I’m not too injured to run that. So now it’s time for rest and rehab.

Below are some pictures from the yard- my favorite home away from home. The grass was amazingly soft, and that was the closest I will ever be to the infield =).

20130804 Giants field20130804 Giants Finish Linegiants field

Keeping Up With The Jones


I’m not talking about keeping up in terms of materialistic things, money, or things like that. Rather, lately I’ve definitely been thinking about how hard it is to keep up with the big-time content producers on social media (e.g., blogs, twitter, facebook, and so forth).

A part of the problem is that I still feel like I’m in a transition mode: I’m temporarily staying with family until my full-time position starts, I’m in a temporary admin gig, and I’m commuting to that gig at least 2.5 hours a day. This is extremely different that my life just about a month ago, especially the part where I had time and energy to consistently get a good workout in (so important to me!), let alone write/blog. I am also still trying to figure out how much I want to be “out” there in the social media world. Navigating as a mental health professional and wanting to maintain some anonymity because of the nature of my work is also another problem.

A part of me criticizes myself and calls me “lazy” and “not good enough.” Too lazy to get up early to go work out. Too lazy to spend some time to come up with some really great content. Not good enough or smart enough to come up with interesting stuff. And then I have to remind myself to be compassionate with myself…that it’s ok. The world isn’t going to end and I’m still making choices that are consistent with my values. Like getting more sleep and rest to take care of my body, instead of pushing it to work out and fatigue my body even more. Being thoughtful about what I actually do write about (e.g., things that are important or inspiring to me, rather than just any old topic). Or spending time hanging out with the fiance rather than being on the computer (after being on the computer for work for 7+ hours).

That being said, time for date night!

Have a great weekend!

Any tips on how to navigate the professional and social media world? Or how to fight fatigue to come up with some good content?

How to Be an Expert

At this stage in my training and career, I still have the “impostor syndrome” at times; in certain situations, I definitely feel like I’m an impostor, that I don’t know as much as I really do, and that I’m incompetent. Some days I wonder, will I ever be considered an “expert” in a particular area, whatever being an expert means. These insecurities aside, I know that there are some secrets to excelling at whatever it is that you do in life.

The first is practice, or more specifically, deliberate practice. Studies (e.g., Ericsson, et al., 1993) have shown that it is not necessarily the length of time one spends engaged in the work/activity/sport/etc, but the intentional efforts to get better (e.g., asking for feedback, reviewing tapes, repeatedly doing the same or similar task, etc). No wonder my high school coach constantly yelled at us, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Asking for feedback and trying to learn what you can do better isn’t easy, as often times criticisms doesn’t do a lot for our self-esteems. I have definitely learned over the years, however, that asking what I could do differently or better has made me a better writer, clinician, and overall person in general.

This leads to my second point: having a growth-mindset, a concept that was developed by Carol Dweck and her colleagues. First, lets talk about the opposite: fixed-mindset. Individuals who have a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is changeable (i.e., fixed) and as such, may value looking intelligent over trying to learn. Those who have a fixed mindset may give up on difficult tasks or opportunities because they fear looking stupid or inept (or insert any other perceived negative characteristic). This mindset leaves people stuck because they never take any risks or put themselves in situations in which they can learn more.

On the other hand, having a growth-mindset means that a person believes that they can learn and get better over time. Individuals who take this approach are more likely to take risks because they don’t fear failure or have negative thoughts about what failure means. This means that people with a growth-mindset are more likely to engage in deliberate practice and intentional efforts to get better (i.e, identifying areas of growth and working hard to improve).

So bottom line: to be an expert, you have to be willing to work hard, be willing to learn, be willing to receive feedback, and practice, practice, practice. 

Any ideas on how we can foster a growth-mindset in ourselves and in others? What are some things that get in the way of getting into a growth-mindset?

New Name, Same Mission

This will be a short post, but I just wanted to explain the name change. As I wrote before, one of my favorite mantras was shared to me by a good friend of mine. Like naming babies, naming blogs can be pretty personal, so when I realized that “Sound Mind, Strong Body” was really important to her too, I decided to rename the blog. The mission is still the same: I believe that working on your mental health, fitness, and nutrition simultaneously will help to foster an incredible, meaningful, fun life. Thank you all for following and helping to support this baby blog! More substantial stuff to follow =)

Fun Fridays

Why “Fun Fridays?” I believe that balance is key to a healthy, happy life…and balance includes fun! Since many of the posts during the week tend to be more on the serious side, I want to make sure I balance things out with funny articles, movies, recipes, and other things to see or do.

1) As a HUGE Friends fan (don’t judge me, you know you loved it too!), this was hilarious to me.

2) On my list to watch: Fruitvale, Red 2, and R.I.P.D.

3) I need a clay pot ASAP to make this!

What are you doing this weekend?

Too Many Gone Too Soon

I’ll admit, I’m a huge Glee fan- from the very beginning, the show, it took me back to some of my very favorite days of competing in choir in high school (oh so long ago!). And so, the news of Cory Monteith’s passing this week was devastating to me. Not just because a beloved character, great actor, and amazing singer is now gone before his time, but because his death highlights the very human struggle millions of others also battle: substance abuse/dependence. The news of his accidental overdose brought back memories of my work with a previous client/patient…and how, despite how well the client/patient’s life was going post treatment, he, too, overdosed on drugs.

A driving force for my work and passion in working with substance abuse and addictions is that the substances completely devastates people’s lives and too often, end their life too soon. I’ve seen how addictions can tear apart families, lead to feelings of anger, shame, sadness, and anxiety. The struggle to cope with “life on life’s terms” often lead to further destructive behaviors and isolation. Celebrity stories only give a glimpse into the profound experiences of many others who battle with their mental health and substance abuse. I wonder with each death, are we (community, family, substance abuse treatment, etc) doing enough?

While I have witnessed the depths of suffering, despair, and hopelessness associated with addictions and mental health disorders, I’ve also seen individuals with incredible resilience. They have inspired me with their abilities to persevere through adversity, surviving traumatic experiences that would cripple anyone: sexual abuse, neglect, prostitution, or combat. Their willingness to push through feelings of fear, hopelessness, and inadequacy and in their recovery, begin to take risks to address their issues, integrate and strengthen their sense of self, and achieve their goals to start living full and meaningful lives moves me. I have been honored to work with those who allow me to accompany them on the journey out of the darkness. I continue to hope that my work (both clinically and through this blog) will inspire others to seek help needed: you are not alone.

If not happiness, then what?

In my last post, I wrote about the elusive chase of happiness and the cost of staying stuck in the chase. So if happiness is not the (only) end goal, what is? One end goal that I propose is compassion (including self-compassion).

What is compassion? The word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher and expert, compassion is comprised of mindfulness (i.e., noticing that others are suffering), feeling “warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way,” offering kindness and nonjudgmental attitudes, and understanding that suffering is a ubiquitous human experience. Self-compassion is comprised of the same elements, but directed towards the self: noticing that you’re experiencing something difficult, saying or doing kind things for yourself, and knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles.

It’s not easy to be compassionate towards ourselves, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve been told all your life that you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not X enough. Maybe you’ve made mistakes in the past and can’t or won’t forgive yourself. Whatever the reason, non-compassion can lead to, at the very worst case scenario, self-destruction (e.g., not taking care of your body, letting others take advantage of you, substance abuse, etc).

So how do you start treating yourself with compassion? One way is to start practicing mindfulness, as mindfulness is one of the elements to compassion. What exactly is mindfulness? It is a nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening in the here and now- so focusing on your present moment experiences, without judgment. Start by spending a few minutes each day being mindful, then build up to longer periods of time, if you wish. You can do a mindfulness meditation practice or you can simply notice what’s happening in your experience. For example, as you’re eating, notice the taste, textures, and smells of the food. As you’re walking, notice how your feet feel as you hit the ground, how the wind or sun feels on your face, describe the scenery. And if your attention goes elsewhere, acknowledge that your thoughts went elsewhere, tell yourself, “it’s ok, I caught it,” and just go back to what you were noticing. The key to mindfulness is that you approach your experiences with compassion, rather than judgment. The more that you get used to being compassionate with yourself, the more integrated self-compassion will be in your life.

You can also start practicing deliberate acts of kindness towards yourself, even if you feel like you don’t deserve it, don’t have time, or whatever reasons your mind gives you. In fact, if you’re having a difficult time with self-care and self-nurture, schedule some time in your calendar for yourself and treat that appointment as you would any other. Make a list of activities that bring you pleasure and joy and do them. Allow yourself to take mini-escape. You deserve to take care of yourself and treat yourself with compassion!

What gets in the way of treating yourself with compassion? What are some ways you show yourself compassion? 

Here are some links to compassion/loving-kindness mindfulness audio:

Dr. Kristin Neff’s website

Series on loving-kindness

Fun Fridays

A few fun and yummy things for the weekend:

1. Hilarious and unfortunately, so true.
2. Comedy weekend:

  •      Grown Ups 2
  •      Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

3. After coming from NYC, I was craving kimchee fried rice for the longest time…this was a pretty good recipe.

What are you doing this weekend?