Presenting Ariana Rodriguez: From Food Puns to Venezuelan arepas…how this to-be Registered Dietitian and Foodie Finds Balance

My dearest readers,

I had the pleasure of re-connecting with a beautiful soul yesterday – Ariana Rodriguez and I first met at the University of Ottawa during our undergraduate degrees and have kept in touch as we both moved to Montreal to further our studies. Ariana has always been a great inspiration through the joie-de-vivre that she exudes and through the passion and love that she has for her work, as a soon to be Registered Dietitian. I am very grateful for the time she took to share with us her story and adventures, as we discussed where she draws her inspiration and fulfillment from, among many other things, over a couple of green banana specialty lattes – very fitting for the wonderful foodie that she is!

Ariana is a true believer that everything in life happens for a reason – for example, she explains that pursuing a Masters in Nutrition initially started off as a “back up plan” when she had been applying to medical school, but then ended up becoming her true passion and calling. Ariana reflects on how nutrition and food have such a huge impact on our lives in more ways than one – “If we think about it, food brings us together, there is a special social aspect to food. I see cooking as a form of therapy, as a beautiful creative process. I love how I can feed my body and boost my energy based on the foods I choose to put into my body. I am grateful to be able to share this love and passion I have for food and nutrition with others.”

This love and passion for food and nutrition comes across in Ariana’s tribute to wellness – a wellness platform entitled Nutrionari. (Check out Nutrionari on Instagram at @nutrionari )! The name is derived from a play on words that is just as fun as the food puns and posts that are weaved throughout this lovely stage for health and wellbeing. The word “nutrition” is combined with the sound of the suffix “–ary” referring to a dispensary (a dispensary in this case of knowledge related to nutrition), all while featuring the three first letters of Ariana’s name “-ari”. Ariana explains that she aims for “Nutritionari” to inspire others to lead a healthy life, all while presenting evidence based information in an accessible, fun and quirky way! She not only shares delicious recipes and exciting food-lover finds, but also promotes balance through the incorporation of wisdom and wonder related to friendship, family, mental health, and fitness.

When it comes to achieving balance in her life, and work-life integration, Ariana engages in many forms of self-care and encourages her readers and clients to do the same. For fitness and as part of her spiritual health, she practices yoga at least 3 to 4 times per week. She shares that she also fully enjoys her group dance classes, which not only spark her creative side, but have also allowed her to connect with others and foster new friendships. Family also means a great deal to Ariana; family and friends keep her grounded and support her each and every day in achieving her dreams and staying true to herself.

When it comes to her favourite food, Ariana explains that she loves all food but would have to say that she holds a special place in her heart for arepas – a tribute to her Venezuelan heritage. Essentially a corn patty stuffed with anything your heart desires (Ariana’s favourite stuffing includes black beans, avocado and plantain), she grew up eating them at least once a week and continues the tradition now in her own home. Arepas touch home for this foodie; a connection to her roots. (Her local favorite for arepas is Bocadillo Bistro on St. Laurent in Montreal – authentically Venezuelan).

When I asked Ariana where she draws her inspiration from, she described that she has always been drawn to what is different – different cultures, different perspectives. Her advice to you, my dearest readers, is to not be afraid to question, to discover, to learn – she encourages us to embrace our curious sides. “Love yourself. You are so beautiful. We are all different. Find what makes you tick, what you are passionate about and go with it! Find what makes you happy and embrace it.”

What is next for Ariana? She is about to set off on a gastronomic adventure as she departs for Europe in a couple of weeks, a heart open to discovery and exploration.

Thank you Ariana for sharing your story with the positively profession-elle community – you are truly an inspiration!

Ariana Rodriguez

You are LOVEd.We are ONE.

“You are loved.” “We are one.” – Two simple phrases that echoed this past Saturday morning at the Lolë Yoga and Meditation event that was held in Montreal’s Old Port. Almost 5000 people were in attendance; both men, and women, of all ages, colours, and walks of life, coming together to dedicate their yoga practice in a unified spirit of peace and gratitude.

Despite the morning having started off as rainy, by the time the event was due to start, the clouds had dispersed to reveal blue skies and a sun whose rays began to bask each and every participant as they settled onto their identical yellow mats. Peace; the word that resonated throughout the morning as we were encouraged to hold our “peace fingers” up as we flowed from one pose to the next. We dotted our practice by strong affirmations that “We are one.” We engaged in poses that required us to hold onto the shoulders of the people next to us for balance and stability. My heart was warmed by the sheer possibility, and ensuing reality, of so many people coming together in the name of a common practice, a common message, and common purpose.

What touched me the most was a simple exercise that we participated in during the meditative portion of the practice; a simple exercise that ended up speaking volumes. We paired up, three separate times, with three different people. We were to try and look at our partner in their eyes, for 30 seconds, without shifting our gaze. Subsequently, we were to validate out loud to our partner that they are loved. “You are loved.” From my perspective, one could tell that at first everyone was very quiet; the odd nervous giggle was heard from one moment to the next. However, what followed, was exquisitely beautiful. Participants not only looking at each other in the eyes, but smiling at each other with their eyes. The affirmation “you are loved” being followed by hugs among strangers. We were not just looking at each other, we were truly seeing each other. How beautiful it is to be seen, to hear that we are loved, to receive a simple validation of our presence and existence.

In great juxtaposition, the same evening, I saw a stream of posts and tweets about the tragic and disheartening happenings in Charlottesville. It was a striking reality to see that within the same day I could bare witness to such stark opposites, love and hate, peace and violence, “We are one” and “You are other”.

What I pray for, my dearest readers, is for more of us in this world to use our eyes to really see each other, our voices to affirm and validate each other’s worth, our minds to choose understanding over ignorance, our hearts to echo love and peace.

I end with a quote and call to action by poet and activist Cleo Wade “And may the appalling hate of others fuel you to step more deeply into your work as a warrior of love, justice, and freedom in the fight against oppression and bigotry.”

My dearest readers, let us be warriors of love, justice and freedom.

lole yoga

 

 

 

 

To smell the roses…

My dearest readers,

Montreal has the ability to captures one’s heart at any time of year, but as the summer-loving girl that I am, I would argue that this city encompasses a very special charm from within the warm embrace of summertime. A week ago, after a particularly long stretch of winter, I found myself with a warm and sunny afternoon off of work at the hospital. It was in light of this delightful summer afternoon that I decided to take the metro to Montreal’s Mile End – I had no real plan for the hours that stretched ahead – I was in a “wandering” type of mood. As I wandered, I stumbled upon an enchanting flower shop called “Dragon Flowers”, adorned with whimsical hanging bird cages and the most vibrant of flower arrangements. It was there, amongst the aromas of lilies and roses, that I met a beautiful soul – the store’s owner for 35 years, Ms Lau. Ms Lau had this way of handling the flowers as she arranged them into works of art. You could tell that after 35 years she still appreciated their beauty and still loved the creative process that filled her days at work. In fact, as she took the time to show me all the flowers, bringing them up to my nose so that I may appreciate the gorgeous fragrances, you could hardly call what she was doing work at all. I asked her how long she had owned her flower shop; she teared up as she spoke about her longstanding relationship with flowers and her shop. I left her shop feeling blissful at the prospect of having met someone who loves what they do so much. My dearest readers, how beautiful it is to be moved by what one does for work; to have a fulfilling relationship with one’s career. I felt truly grateful that afternoon for having taken the time to smell the roses, so to speak.

dragon flowers

Here’s to a construction season full of detours!

My dearest readers,

Before I moved to Montreal I was warned about the constant construction that seemed to be omnipresent in the aging city. I quickly found out that the warning was far from an exaggeration when a sign went up at the end of my street quoting an estimated three years until the construction being undertaken on my street would be over. The word “detour” comes to mind when I think of construction; the need for a necessary alternative to get from point A, to point B, in light of a temporary change in a path’s usual landscape.

My dearest readers, you might be wondering why I am choosing to lead with an anecdote about Montreal’s abundant construction in today’s post. The answer lies in an analogy I recently used with one of my patients. During a heart-to-heart conversation one morning on the ward she had thoughtfully expressed that she was “constantly feeling lost among all the changes – twists and turns – in her life”.  Her carefully chosen words prompted me to imagine the struggle she was voicing as a series of detours, at times veering her off the course she had expected or wanted, at times bringing her to unforeseen circumstances. It is there that I clarified with her if I had understood her correctly – was life seeming like a series of detours to her? She said yes.

This conversation went on to be a meaningful one for the both of us, with or without the analogy; it is this analogy of life detours however that stayed on my mind and inspired this post.

My dearest readers, we often speak of life as a journey and how we should do our very best to not lose sight of the journey itself as we make our way from point A to point B. What we sometimes forget, however, is to prepare ourselves for the numerous times that the journey itself undergoes some “construction”, so to speak, and sends us off on detours. The detours themselves are diverse. Some detours bring us to new faces; people who end up playing an important role in our lives. Some detours, on the other hand, distance us from once familiar faces. There are detours that bring us to places where we are challenged to step out of our comfort zone, while others lead us to places of safety and familiarity. Detours can be everything from derailing, to thought-provoking, to grounding.

My dearest readers, detours represent a fundamental notion that the road to success, to achieving one’s dreams, is rarely a straight one. And so, the next time you feel as though your life plans are under construction, try to be open to the detours that will present themselves. Remember that journeys undergo change; that when one road closes, another one opens.

I wish you all the most beautiful of detours this spring; may the landscape of your lives be anything but stagnant – let it be dynamic, and ever-changing.

My dearest readers, here’s to construction season!

Annual Post-it Notes for Positivity Event!

Thank you to those who attended Positively Profession-elle’s Annual “Post-it Notes for Positivity” event last night! I hope that those who stumble on these little positive messages hidden around the city will experience a brighter day and have a smile come to their face! My dearest readers, there is no act of kindness that is too small! You never know who may need a little bit of extra positivity on a given day ❤️

May the journey be long…

My dearest readers,

So much of what we usually do is intensely goal oriented and time effective; we often celebrate the swiftness with which we can get from point A to point B. We like to move quickly. We often strive to jump from one life event to the next, from one life milestone to the next, from one project to the next. We fast-forward through songs in our playlists and fork-down meals without savouring the taste. We rush ourselves through uncomfortable emotions and take little time to take in our surroundings.

“Ithaka”, by Cavafy, brings us back to the importance of slowing down the pace and allowing ourselves to wander. Ithaka metaphorically reflects the importance of the journey… the space between Point A and Point B where all the adventure and discovery takes place; “As you set out for Ithaka, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.” Not only might the journey be full of excitement and “thoughts raised high”, but it also encompasses living through very real emotions and challenges. “Ithaka” paints a fine balance between striving towards the dream while enjoying the process and experience of achieving said dream.

My dearest readers, as the holiday season unfolds before us, let us enter an “Ithaka” mind space. Let us not allow hectic Christmas shopping, busy social lives or cold snowy days to quicken our days to such an extent that we miss out on the beautiful subtleties of this special period of the year.

Wishing you all a long road ahead…full of adventure, full of discovery.

Enjoy…

Ithaka

  1. P. Cavafy, 1863 – 1933

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Unbreakable is, the body

My dearest readers, I recently finished my clinical rotation in pediatric oncology. The patients I worked with taught me so much about life; the potential for dire vulnerability at one moment and unbelievable resilience at the next. It was an emotionally taxing rotation; it is an understatement to call children and adolescents who are fighting cancer as the epitome of strenth. They are truly fighters. I wrote this poem as a reflection on my experience, to explore the idea that the sick body is not one that is broken but still holds so much strength…strength to heal, strength to inspire hope, strength to love, strength to leave a legacy. This idea stretches far beyond the wards of the hospital my dearest readers…we can be hard on our bodies at times. How can we be kinder to them? 
A bone marrow that is infiltrated, a heart with faulty pump
A leg that limps, a chest that collapses, a neck that reveals a lump
Why did their body fail them?

How easy it is for all the call shifts to tarnish the view
Of the human body…in all its supposed complexity
How easy to call it broken…

And yet there exist moments, reminders of the reasons
Not to reduce it down to that
Not to completely medicalize, not to demystify it

And so we are reminded of the resilience
That accompanies the vulnerability
The beauty behind the abnormalities, behind the so-called digressions

Instead of what’s broken, we might want to look at what is
Still beautiful, inherently unbreakable

Unbreakable are the smiles that turn up at the edge where lips meet cheek
Eyes that see the world for the first time, every time
The kind that spark tears of joy

Unbreakable is the little voice inside that says “I can”
The ears that weave together voices and sounds into life’s soundtrack
The quickening of a heartbeat, in love

Unbreakable is when a hand holds another, in unconditional love
The hardening of feet after years of wandering
Callused hands from years of work

Unbreakable are the butterflies that flutter inside
The wings that spread during a leap of faith, 
when we take a chance, on life…

Should we be able to see it, to appreciate it
In all its supposed complexity
Unbreakable is, the body