To keep with the theme of self-love and doing things that make your heart happy, I’ve also come up with two recipes for personal lava cakes: red velvet and chocolate hazelnut (recipes at the end of this post)! Because there’s no better baking equivalent of a happy, melting heart than a gooey lava cake! The recipe makes two of each, so they are perfect for sharing with a Valentine, Galentine, or keeping for yourself because #selflove!!
Pointe Studio is a wonderful, women-owned company that makes adorable grippy socks and other accessories that are perfect for keeping your feet clean, safe, cozy, and stylish during workout classes like barre! I love their mission of fun and functional products that empower your workout and lifestyle, and their styles of socks are so creative and colorful! They recognize the power and peace that comes from a great workout, as well as the importance of balance and taking breaks - we share the same perspective on self-love, so what better time to partner up than Valentine’s Day! You can find a pair of socks for any personality or mood, and it makes barre class even more fun when I look down at my socks and they are literally smiling back at me - you’ll see the socks I am talking about later in this post!
So, let’s talk about self-love, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day! Of course, Valentine’s Day is not the only day to think about loving others or yourself, but I think it always serves as a nice reminder when it comes around. I’m answering some questions from the team at Pointe Studio to share my thoughts and advice on wellness, and I hope these questions and my answers encourage you to consider your own ways to practice self-care!
Q and A with Pointe Studio:
Why is self-care/self-love so important? And what are some of the things you do for self-care/self-love?
In medical school, I spent the last two months learning about the heart in our cardiovascular unit. All hearts are a little different, and interestingly there can be medical and physiological effects on the heart from significant emotion, so broken hearts do have some truth to them! Fun fact: there’s actually a type of cardiomyopathy named Takotsubo that occurs almost exclusively in women that happens after a traumatic emotional event or stress. We need to take care of our hearts physically by exercising, eating healthy, and other healthy behaviors, and we also need to take care of our “hearts” emotionally. And that is why self-care has so many facets and is so important! If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t effectively care for others.
Some of the things I do for self-care are: going to a workout or dance class, going for a walk in the city or along the river or lake, hanging out with friends, FaceTiming my parents or siblings, exploring a new neighborhood in Chicago, stopping by the farmer’s market when it’s in season, coming up with a new recipe and trying it out, reading a book for fun, watching a feel-good movie, doing a face mask, stretching while listening to calming music, or meditating. Most of these are things I do every so often when I feel like I need some extra self-love or relaxation, but I try to do something for myself every day to take a break from school and studying, and find some mental clarity and de-stress. Finding the beauty in everyday moments, or creating little moments that bring us joy, can really make such a difference. I notice that when I start the day with the mindset of gratitude and happiness, I believe that I am having a good day, and that makes all the difference!
My most regular self-care activity is working out. I typically do a workout five to six days a week, while remembering to listen to my body and give it rest as well. I love workout classes like barre because I know I will be challenged, and I get that social aspect by connecting with the community at my studio! It gives me an hour to set aside whatever I am learning in school and focus my mind on strengthening and stretching my muscles, and I always feel reinvigorated after a good workout class. Sometimes it can seem like I’m drowning in responsibilities and information from school or life, and taking a step away from that is really beneficial. In yoga, meditation, barre, or whatever your relaxation technique is, I think it’s crucial to embrace the control you have in that moment to make the practice fully yours. Coming to yoga or barre classes allows me to take a break from life’s stressors and ground myself when I feel like things are overwhelming in life.
How do you find time to incorporate all of the things you love to do on top of medical school?
Something that really struck me about my medical school is their strong emphasis on wellness. Wellness is important no matter what you do in life, but it is especially key in the medical field, because burnout is such a prevalent issue in both students and providers. I love that my school encourages students to find balance in our lives and practice wellness in all aspects. We go into medicine because we have an innate desire to help others, but sometimes that can cause us to prioritize the wellbeing of others over ourselves, and neglect our own needs and happiness. There has definitely been a big shift in medicine in the past decade or so towards prioritizing wellness and balance - it used to be that taking care of yourself was seen as a sign of weakness or lack of dedication to one’s studies or career. I’m very grateful to be going to medical school at a time and place where this is no longer the case.
That being said, medical school is by far the greatest challenge I have encountered! There is always more to learn and everyone feels that they are behind on reviewing or understanding, and it is easy to compare yourself to others. One thing that has helped me is to recognize that no matter how much you study, you can’t possibly learn everything, and you have to find balance or else you will drive yourself crazy if you constantly study! Taking breaks and doing things you love actually makes you a more effective student and caregiver because you are happier, more motivated, and more energized.
I think that the biggest reason why I have survived medical school to this point is because of my extracurricular involvements! Being involved in clubs at school and doing activities like my blog and exploring Chicago outside of school lets me meet amazing people who inspire me and remind me of why I want to be a doctor. But, I wouldn’t be able to fit in all these activities and maintain my study schedule if it weren’t for my organization and time management! I have a tendency to want to do everything, and can easily overschedule myself, especially when I get excited about something (whether that be a research opportunity, new recipe I want to make, or place to visit in Chicago). I have to be conscious to leave space in my calendar for studying and resting to not overwork myself. However, I also think it’s important to be flexible and be able to adapt to changes without stressing yourself out too much.
I plan my activities and life out very far in advance, so I really rely on my planner! This helps me be able to keep on seeing friends outside of medical school as well. I also like using the iPhone “Notes” app because it syncs between my phone and computer, so when I have things to add to my to-do list, or spontaneous recipe or blog post ideas, I can quickly jot them down. Keeping things in one place is handy so I can find my thoughts and ideas.
Time management is so important! It is critical to know yourself and your capabilities so you have a realistic sense of how long projects or activities will take you, and then to allot yourself enough time. I find it helpful to give myself deadlines or time limits - for example, I will schedule an hour to make a presentation to ensure that I stay focused and get it done efficiently. I write down in my planner what I want to accomplish each day, and often number tasks by priority so I know where to start. Sometimes having too many tasks to accomplish can just be overwhelming, so choosing one salient task to start with and then cross off can help you feel productive and encourage you to keep working. Crossing things off my to-do list or planner always makes me feel accomplished!
I usually meal prep on the weekends to make myself food to eat during the week. This saves money and a lot of time! Here is a post I wrote with my tips on meal prepping and some recipe ideas. Planning my meals in advance helps me know what groceries to get and make sure I can eat healthy meals throughout the week. When I have early classes, having breakfast made in advance (such as overnight oats) is a real time-saver!
Do you have a daily routine?
One thing that was quite the adjustment from college to medical school was that my class schedule changes every day, every week! I am very much a person who likes routine and consistency, since I like to know what I am doing and plan my life far out in advance, as I described earlier about my planner! But although I might be waking up at different times each day for class, ending class at different times, going to clinic on the West Side of Chicago versus being in the hospital close by, I do try to keep some things consistent every day! Typically, I wake up, hold a plank for five minutes (sometimes while studying flashcards), meditate while looking out my window (either on my own or using the Headspace app subscription I have provided through school), wash my face and do my skincare routine, eat breakfast, then head off to school.
If it’s a day where I start class a bit later, sometimes I will make myself a fun breakfast, like waffles or pancakes or try a new recipe. If it’s a day where I have class or work early on, then I typically will prepare breakfast ahead of time - my go-to is zucchini overnight oats! I have a recipe for this on my meal prepping post (linked earlier), and it’s a great way to sneak in some extra veggies, and I promise you won’t taste the zucchini!
I typically bring my lunch to school when I have classes and/or clinic all day, so I pack it the night before. After school, I like to take a break from thinking and do a workout! The barre studio I work at is super close to school, which is so handy! I always keep a pair of grippy socks in my backpack so I am ready to go to a barre class! Then, I will come home and shower, eat dinner, and study.
Any tips or tricks to power through a hard workout?
I like to set an intention at the beginning of class, reflecting on why I chose to be here and what my goals are, both long-term and short-term. Maybe today I really just want to make it through thigh work in barre class without fully straightening my legs - those of you who do barre know how hard this can be sometimes! Or maybe I’ve been really trying to work on my back flexibility for months, and it’s good to remind myself of that at the beginning of class so I get deeper in this stretch when it comes up.
One of my common mantras of an intention is “strength and perseverance” - when my muscles start shaking or I feel like I want to give up, I remind myself that I am strengthening my mind and body and that I came here to challenge myself and believe in myself enough to keep going. Repeating this phrase in my head helps me push through! Counting down in my head helps - I tell myself to do eight more of a movement, and then once I do that, I often feel like I can do another eight!
Getting to know the people you take class with can be so inspiring. I think working out with a friend is really great, because you can encourage and empower one another! Watching my friend killing it in a dance class helps me believe that I can master a new move, or inspires me to add more expression in a combination. We are always stronger together!
Reminding myself that I am lucky to have the chance to be at the workout is helpful too. My body is healthy enough to do such great things and keep me moving, I have access to a barre studio that feels like a home, and I am able to make time to prioritize my health and fitness. Not everyone has these privileges, and when I workout, I make the most of it. And of course, having a fun workout outfit and accessories like Pointe Studio socks always helps motivate me!
What motivates you to keep going with everything you have going on?
Looking around and finding things to be grateful for brings a new outlook to my day. It may sound cheesy, but I often look around while in class or while walking in Chicago and think about how lucky I am to be where I am. When I think of where I was a year ago, it’s crazy to see how much has changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined! Last year at this time, I had no idea where I would be living and which medical school I would end up at. I couldn’t have known the great friends I would make at school and in Chicago, how my blog would grow and help me further integrate wellness into my life, and the amazing personal growth I would experience. Thinking of the big picture and how every challenge I face is one step on my path towards my end goal of becoming a doctor helps me reframe my outlook.
It’s easy to get caught up in little details. Another thing I do is to think about what will matter most five or ten years down the road, either for personal memories or for helping me gain relevant career experience. For example, if I plan to study all night and a friend texts me asking to spontaneously meet up, I might initially be stressed at the thought of not getting as much work done as I planned. But when I ask myself, in five years, what will I value more: remembering the fun conversation with my friend as we walk along the river, or that one night I reviewed five sets of lecture slides? I think the answer is pretty obvious! And I know myself well enough to know that I can catch up on studying or whatever other tasks I need to get done. Or, in terms of career development, shadowing in the interventional radiology operating room may take a lot of time during the week of an exam, but it’s intellectually stimulating, helps me understand how the organ system I’ve been stressing about studying relates to the human body as a whole, and reminds me that I am in medical school to eventually improve patients’ lives.
Thanks for reading, and I hope at least one thing I said resonated with you and will inspire you to take a bit of extra time today to spread love to yourself and those around you. There are many aspects to self-care and wellness, including physical, mental, social, and emotional. When we get caught up in our busy lives, it can be easy to let these things slip away. But it is so important to make sure we take care of ourselves - one way we can do this is by figuring out the things that make us happy, and making sure we find a way to keep these sparks present in our lives.
I hope you have a great Valentine's Day! To treat yourself to something fun, fashionable, and functional, check out Pointe Studio’s fun socks and use my code “barreandbrunch” for 20% off – and don’t forget to enter my giveaway of Pointe Studio socks on Instagram!
Now here are the recipes! The red velvet lava cake is a smaller adaption of my Vegan Red Velvet Cake with Tiramisu Frosting and the Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake can also be found here (including a larger version to make this for about 10 people).
Notes on ingredients:
I recently discovered white whole wheat flour and have been using this a lot in baking! It is nutritionally similar in vitamins, minerals, and fiber to whole wheat flour because it is made of whole grains, which have important health benefits that I’ve learned about in school. However, it has a lighter texture so it makes baked goods fluffier like all-purpose flour! Adding wheat gluten also makes baked goods rise more, which is great for cakes like these. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour or wheat gluten, or if you are gluten-free, you can substitute all-purpose flour and you won’t need wheat gluten.
I have used beets in a few red velvet recipes (check out these donuts!) to make the red color for the red velvet cake as a way to incorporate vegetables into baked goods - if you haven’t figured out yet, that’s a theme of my healthy desserts! You don’t taste the beets at all - my sister proclaims often that she hates beets, but she loved my red velvet recipes even after she knew there were beets in them!
As I've talked about previously, I have been making most of my recipes plant-based recently after learning in medical school about the benefits. If you aren’t vegan, feel free to substitute a regular egg for the flax eggs or use regular milk! You could use almond milk as well, but I wanted to make these recipes allergen-friendly, so I chose oat milk.
For the chocolate hazelnut lava cake, I made my own healthier version of Nutella, but you could definitely use regular Nutella as well! The amount of maple syrup you add to this recipe depends on how sweet you want it, and how sweet the chocolate you use is - it’s up to you!
Vegan Red Velvet Lava Cake Recipe
Makes 2 small cakes
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with about 5-6 tbsp water, and refrigerated for at least 5 minutes until thickened)
4 tbsp oat milk
About 4 oz of cooked beets (I used half of the packaged kind from Trader Joe’s) and their juice
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup vegan butter/spread (I used Earth Balance), melted and cooled
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
About 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp coconut sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly spray cake pan with cooking oil.
2. Prepare flax eggs in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to set.
3. Blend all wet ingredients except the flax eggs and apple cider vinegar until evenly mixed and there are no beet chunks visible.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add in the flax eggs and apple cider vinegar. Use a hand mixer to evenly combine.
5. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then mix gradually into the wet ingredients. The batter will be thick and spoonable.
6. Add the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out mostly clean – the inside should still be a bit gooey so you get that “lava” cake texture.
7. Let cool slightly, and enjoy warm! I spread melted chocolate on top of my lava cake, which was delicious.
Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake
Makes 2 small cakes
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with about 5-6 tbsp water, and refrigerated for at least 5 minutes until thickened)
½ cup vegan Nutella
¾ cup chocolate milk of choice (I used cocoa bean Koia)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup vegan butter/spread (I used Earth Balance), melted and cooled
About 1 tsp vanilla extract
Splash of almond extract (optional)
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup cocoa powder
Dash allspice (optional)
Pinch of salt (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare flax egg and set aside in fridge.
2. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
3. Add in the dry ingredients and use a hand mixer to combine. The batter will be fairly thick and dense.
4. Spoon the batter into a well-oiled miniature cake pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just the top and sides are firm, but a toothpick inserted into the middle isn’t fully clean – you want the center to be still gooey!
5. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then enjoy warm! This is delicious with vanilla ice cream!