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What it Feels Like to Have Iron Willpower

by | Jan 26, 2015

Photo by Kalexanderson

“I need to get motivated.”

“I need to stop being so lazy.”

“I wish I had her determination.”

“I need to just DO IT.”

I constantly hear people saying these things when they talk about eating better, exercising, or losing weight.

It’s also ingrained in the psyche of our culture. “No pain, no gain.”

Of course, these are all just different ways of saying you wish you had more willpower.

I get it. Willpower is an amazing thing sometimes. And having a strong reserve of it certainly has its advantages.

But there are also serious disadvantages.

I spend a lot of time here on Summer Tomato talking about how willpower doesn’t work for long-term goals. That our brains are built to run on habits, and that self-control should be used sparingly since it takes up so much mental energy.

Whether you agree with this premise or not (apparently this guy doesn’t), today I want to show you that even if you could get healthy through the strength of your iron will, you shouldn’t want to.

I know, because I have really strong willpower. And I used it ruthlessly for 15 years.

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Wisdom Wednesday: You Never Regret a Workout

by | Jan 21, 2015

Photo by Randy Son Of Robert

It’s a common misconception that San Francisco is warm and sunny. It isn’t. At least not usually.

As locals know, Karl the Fog is a year-round resident of the City by the Bay.

Karl’s favorite seasons are summer and winter. During the summer he likes to roll into my hood around 4pm, which is why SF residents always bring a jacket when we leave the house. Always.

In the winter Karl doesn’t restrict his visits to evenings, but pretty much hangs around all day.

Born and raised in SoCal, this took some getting used to. It’s normally pretty easy for me to stick to my habits, but nothing saps my motivation like day after day of gray skies.

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The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Fallacy

by | Jan 19, 2015


Sometimes the subtlest thing can derail a habit.

Of all the Home Court Habits I maintain to keep my healthstyle on track, cooking food at home is the most important. When I cook regularly (4-5 days a week) I can eat practically anything I want, maintain my weight and energy, and almost never get sick.

I don’t love to cook, but I don’t mind it. And over the years I’ve developed a system of supporting habits to make sure I do it regularly. It works for me.

Then last week, it stopped working. Despite having attended two dinners at the homes of friends (when I notably didn’t have to cook), when Thursday rolled around I had zero interest in making dinner.

Just the thought of going to the grocery store, picking out one of the same boring meals and going home and putting it together sounded like torture. So I turned on the charm and convinced my husband to join me at a restaurant instead.

I was relieved, but the situation didn’t sit well with me. I had only cooked dinner once this week, the weekend was fast approaching, and I already had plans for the next two nights. Normally I would jump at the opportunity to control what’s on my plate for one additional meal.

Where was my resistance coming from?

The easy thing to do would be to ignore my disinclination to cook this evening or chalk it up to laziness or my general apathy toward the kitchen. But that would be a mistake.

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In the Future Everything is Perfect

by | Jan 12, 2015

Photo by rhett maxwell

This week is so crazy, you guys. Today alone I have a client meeting, a lunch meeting, a 2-hour home repair that took months to get on the calendar, and I’m giving a talk before dinner. That’s on top of my normal writing deadline, dog walks and workout––not to mention eating, showering and looking presentable.

Tomorrow isn’t looking much better. And I’m traveling to five different cities in the next four weeks.

Last year with my wedding, site redesign, and book launch, I didn’t think my life could get any busier or more stressful. Somehow my schedule for this year is already more intense.

We all have things that make our lives crazy. If you aren’t juggling 12 projects and an insane travel schedule, maybe you have a demanding full-time job plus kids to raise, or you’re taking 20 units this semester and working part time to meet your ever-growing tuition bills.

The question is: where does this leave us if we want to start doing something new, like regular exercise or cooking? How will we ever be able to squeeze one more thing onto our to-do list?

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Wisdom Wednesday: Flakes Don’t Grow on Trees

by | Jan 7, 2015

Photo by Chicago Man

When I first took my “leap of science” to stop dieting and start eating Real Food, carbs were the scariest thing. I hadn’t eaten anything resembling a grain in years and didn’t know where to start.

So like any good American consumer I went to the cereal aisle and chose what looked like the “healthiest” cereal. It was a brown flake cereal with lots of fiber and omega-3s. It had the word “Nature” in the brand too.

I felt super virtuous.

Little did I know that even then I was being sucked in by marketing and pseudoscience.

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How to Eat Half a Donut

by | Jan 5, 2015

Photo by rpavich

Donuts are tasty, and foodists eat things that are tasty. I, therefore, eat donuts.

Although I’ve explained extensively what it means to be a foodist, people are often surprised to learn that I really do eat donuts and other indulgent foods. And I eat them whenever I feel like it.

But I’m so thin, how is this possible? If I can eat something so good at any time, why am I not currently lying in a pile of donuts and stuffing my face with glee?

This is an important question, because one of the most common concerns I hear from readers is that they feel out of control around snacks and other indulgent foods, and don’t know how to reign in their habit of overeating.

If you often feel helpless and out of control around certain foods and wish you could change your behavior but don’t know how, put away your phone and close your email. This one will require your full attention.
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Need Help Staying on Track in 2015?

by | Dec 29, 2014

Photo by erikthenorsk

I always struggle with how to advise people during the New Year.

On one hand I know that willpower-based New Year’s resolutions are a ridiculous farce that are bound to fail. On the other, I think any time of year is great for getting serious about making real healthy changes.

The key difference, as usual, is whether you focus on restraining yourself from pursuing your physical and emotional needs (certain failure), or whether you focus on building lasting habits you actually enjoy.

If you’re serious about building better habits, step one is being aware of your current habits. Step two is being realistic about which habits you can improve and how to go about doing it. Once you figure those out, you must consolidate the new habits with repetition.

Easy, right? Not a chance.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Airports and Cakes Don’t Mix

by | Dec 10, 2014

Photo by David Basanta

Recently I was traveling overseas and had a two-hour layover at LAX. Not excited about the idea of eating on the plane, I searched the airport for something resembling Real Food to keep me satisfied for the long flight ahead.

As has been happening at airports more often lately, I was pleasantly surprise to find several decent options and ended up with a tasty pile of beans, cauliflower and roasted squash.


You see, there’s absolutely nothing special about airports. 95% of the time the food is gross––the pizza is just as nasty as the salads. And sitting on my butt in an uncomfortable seat for the next several hours is nothing near a special occasion.

Normally I avoid eating at airports at all costs, but sometimes it’s just impossible not to.

When I am forced to eat in an airport I just try to find the healthiest, least disgusting thing I can get my hands on and anxiously await arriving at my destination and rejoining the world of Real Food.

To me, airports are like purgatory.

That’s why as I was finishing my beans and cauliflower I was so astounded to see someone walk past my table carrying a giant, four layer slice of red velvet cake.

Cake. At the airport.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

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It’s Not Shallow to Care About How You Look

by | Dec 8, 2014

Photo by Pavel P.

I had my first SlimFast shake when I was 11 years old and spent the next 15 years struggling my way through every diet under the sun.

Through all of high school and college I suffered from body image issues, fatigue, bad skin and thinning hair, all for a body I was embarrassed of.

If anyone knows how dangerous dieting can be for your mind, body and spirit it’s me.

At Summer Tomato my number one mission for the last five and half years has been to get people to stop dieting. Not only does it not work, it actually makes it harder to become fit and healthy.

Dieting also makes your life suck, and that is unacceptable.

I know this. But that doesn’t mean I believe you should give up on trying to look your best.

Far from it.

As strongly as I believe the word “diet” should be banished from our health lexicon, I feel equally that our bodies should be part of what makes life awesome. And that includes how we feel when we look in the mirror, and how others see us.

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An Uncommon Guide to Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

by | Nov 24, 2014

Photo by Bunches and Bits {Karina}

It’s official. Holiday season is here.

Starting this week health conscious people everywhere are bracing themselves for two solid months of parties, feasts and festivities.

To even the most dedicated foodists, it can be overwhelming.

Even though my #1 philosophy is that life should be awesome and you shouldn’t restrict yourself from things you enjoy, it can be helpful to enter the holidays with a plan to keep your healthstyle more or less on track.

These are the steps I personally take to make sure I don’t begin the New Year trying to make amends for the holidays.

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