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The Single Most Important Habit You Need for Better Health

by | Apr 27, 2015

Woman Chopping Parsley

Have you ever tried something new for your health because you heard it was good––like buying cereal with extra fiber and calcium––but didn’t notice any real difference in how you look or feel?

You *hope* it is helping you be healthier and strengthening your bones, but you don’t have any way to know if it’s actually doing anything.

Most new habits people try fit into this category. They’re low impact and you get very little or no immediate feedback on how it will impact your life in the long run.

There’s no immediate benefit and, when it comes down to it, you have no good reason to keep doing it.

There are many problems with habits like these. One big one is that with no feedback you don’t know if what you’re doing is helping, hurting or just plain pointless. You have to act on faith that nutrition science (or wherever your advice came from) is steering you in the right direction––not something I’d recommend.

But an even bigger problem is that habits without an immediate and meaningful reward are the first to slip when life gets the better of you.

Would you rearrange your day to make sure you can do something that may or may not be important to you at some unspecified future time? I know I wouldn’t.

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For the Love of Food

by | Apr 24, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the worst US bird flu outbreak ever, the truth about slow-digesting carbs, and sugar reduces stress response.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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Away Court Habits: Living Well on the Road

by | Apr 20, 2015

Photo by ikarl67

When I was a kid I used to dream of one day having a job that would take me all over the world.  I have always loved to travel, so in my brain I envisioned a non-stop vacation filled with exotic places, foods and adventures.

Of course, reality is nothing like that.

There is a huge difference between traveling occasionally (whether for work or play) and traveling regularly, several times per month.

When traveling is a special occasion, there really are no rules. Foodists have accounted for periodic indulgences in their healthstyle already.

But when travel becomes your normal, your Home Court Habits become diluted and you need to integrate a new set of (much more complex) habits to make up the difference.

Recently my travel schedule has moved from periodic to frequent. And adjusting my healthstyle to account for the change hasn’t been easy.

Putting aside the difficulty of eating well at airports and on the plane, simply being outside your familiar environment can throw off even your most ingrained habits, like cooking and exercise.

After 6 months––and much trial and error––I’ve finally developed a set of Away Court Habits that help keep my healthstyle in check while traveling.

I won’t pretend that these are as powerful as my Home Court Habits, but after nearly two weeks away on my last adventure I came home feeling pretty darn good about my state of health and fitness.
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For the Love of Food

by | Apr 17, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the tastiest food is the healthiest, why some restaurants are eliminating tips, and BPA impacts fertility for three generations (!).

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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Wisdom Wednesday: Moderation is for Suckers

by | Apr 15, 2015
Photo by broterham

Photo by broterham

Moderation might be the most overused word in the entire nutrition universe.

I know, I know. You like the idea of not restricting yourself and being able to eat anything you want so long as it’s not “too much.”

It sounds healthy. Balanced. Sane.

You might have even mistaken some of my willpower bashing here at Summer Tomato as an endorsement of moderation. Something like, “Use a little willpower, but not too much.”

It sounds lovely. If only it actually helped you achieve your goals.

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Do You Secretly Hate Your Workout Classes?

by | Apr 13, 2015
Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Recently a good friend told me she was struggling to maintain her workout habit. She could force herself to go to a class every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to keep her in the shape she prefers.

She was relying on willpower to get herself to go and it wasn’t working.

“In order to build any habit it has to be rewarding,” I explained. “You need to love it so much that you’re willing to rearrange your day to make sure you can do it.”

I know this firsthand, because it happens to me all the time. Especially when you have a flexible schedule, something my friend and I have in common.

Every week meetings, calls and opportunities come up that conflict with my workout. But skipping workouts makes me miserable, so unless it’s a life or death situation I reschedule everything else before sacrificing my workout time.

There’s no way that would happen if I didn’t love my workouts.

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For the Love of Food

by | Apr 10, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week feminism and dieting don’t mix, willpower is redeemed, and how to improve your vision.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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Should vs Must: Why Your Best Intentions Fail

by | Apr 6, 2015

Photo by sookie

Last week I read a beautiful essay by artist and my good friend, Elle Luna, describing what she calls The Crossroads of Should and Must. In it she shares the lessons she’s learned after a year of choosing Must instead of Should.

“Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. ”

“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.”

Elle’s experiment took her from a tech startup, to an empty white room, to Bali, and ultimately to her calling: painting. Such a journey inward is never easy, but as was clear from the resounding response to her piece, the conflict between Should and Must is something that we all struggle with.

(Over the past year Elle has turned her essay into a beautifully illustrated book about finding your true calling. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion is available Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at book stores everywhere.)

At their core, Should and Must represent competing motivations. Should is our responsibility to others and the world at large. Must is our responsibility to ourselves. Sometimes these overlap, but often they do not. That is when we need to make a choice.

As Elle so eloquently explains, in most of our lives choosing Should is the easiest, safest path. But as I thought more about this I realized that the opposite is true for food and health.

When we choose what to put in our bodies, Must is our default.

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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 27, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Monsanto’s favorite product is linked to cancer, the truth about procrastination, and how to get kids to eat veggies at school.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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How to Be Happy: It Isn’t About the Dopamine

by | Mar 23, 2015

champagne

Last weekend I attended a fabulous party. There was excellent champagne, illustrious guests, spectacular food and beautiful live music. The setting was divine, and the cocktails were SO GOOD.

The only thing missing was water. I’m normally pretty good at staying hydrated, but there wasn’t an obvious water station. So to stay cool and keep my mouth from drying out I kept finding myself at the bar.

At least, that was my excuse.

One of the most notorious effects of alcohol is that it effectively shuts down your frontal lobes, lowering your inhibition and turning your mind over to your more primitive impulses.

It is absolutely insane to believe that the best way to keep cool at a party is to have a cold cocktail. It cools you down for maybe 10 minutes and only worsens your feeling of dehydration.

But the part of my brain that considers my long-term happiness was out of commission. My reward pathway had taken over.

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