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When to Give Up Trying to Start a New Habit

by | Jul 28, 2015
Photo by Juanedc

Photo by Juanedc

By summer 2005 I had two marathons under my belt, San Francisco and Big Sur. The Big Sur race I finished in April was especially difficult with a couple of notoriously killer hills, but I finished with a respectable time of 4:14:33.

I had been training for long runs for nearly two years in SF and was feeling pretty confident, particularly about my speed on relatively flat courses. So I got this brilliant idea that I should try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Back then, to be able to run in the Boston Marathon you had to first finish a race in under 3:40:00 for my age bracket (today it’s 3:35:00 for the same group––one I no longer belong to, alas). So qualifying for Boston would have been a big deal for me, but I was up for the challenge.

In September 2005, I signed up to run for what I thought would be an easy, flat race called the Sacramento CowTown Marathon and gave myself just over a month to get my speed up to qualify. This decision elevated running in my mind from a hobby, to a sport. I have a fierce competitive streak in me, so with only five weeks to train it was game on.

On race day I was pumped. I felt strong and energetic, and the weather was perfect. I was on pace to finish well within the 3:40:00 requirement for Boston––until mile 25, when one slightly awkward step tweaked something in my left knee.

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The Secret Ingredient You’re Missing for Stronger Motivation

by | Jul 14, 2015

heart petal hand

I hear it all the time.

Whether it’s a friend who is struggling to lose weight or someone I overhear talking in line for coffee, there’s always a hint of desperation in their voice:

“I know WHAT to do to lose weight, I just need to DO it. I need to get more motivated.”

There is a grain of truth to this statement. If you can find the right source of motivation, you’d shock yourself with the things you could accomplish.

But if you’re even thinking this way in the first place, you probably already know how important it is to eat well and stay active. You ARE motivated.

In fact, you might even be motivated enough to sign up with a personal trainer, or pay a nutritionist to overhaul your diet.

So why is it still so hard to follow through on these commitments?

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How to Detox Without Starving Yourself

by | Jul 6, 2015
Photo by Robert Gourley

Photo by Robert Gourley

Earlier this year my husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. If you were following along, you might remember that we didn’t get to have much of a honeymoon after our wedding since my book was scheduled to launch just four weeks later. (Yes, I regret these events being so close together. C’est la vie.)

So for our first anniversary we felt we deserved a real break, a relaxing trip with no friends, family or even Toaster. We took five glorious days off and chilled on a beach in Mexico, making a point to spend more time in the spa than in the gym.

As you might expect we felt a little doughy when we got home, so we immediately called our local juice company and ordered a 7 day detox cleanse to make up for it.

JUST KIDDING.
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The Healthstyle Struggles I’ve Faced Since Launching Summer Tomato

by | Jun 29, 2015

Photo by vanz

I’ve always been very honest about the fact that I spent over a decade of my life struggling with food, health and body image. That getting to the place I am now was a process of trial and error. That I am not more gifted or special than anyone else trying to lose weight and get healthy, but that I have simply found a better method than the one we’ve been given by the dieting and health industries.

Yet something strange happens when you have a successful blog or book. People look at you differently. They don’t see all the struggles and failures that you went through to get where you are. They only see the result and assume that you’re blessed.

They say things like, “I understood from reading your book that you have tried every diet out there, just as I had, but you are the original Foodist and how could I possibly ever be as good as you?” (An actual comment from a reader).

Like many of the limiting beliefs that hold us back, the idea that one person is uniquely talented and therefore her results cannot be replicated by regular people is a cognitive illusion.

I’m not a supermodel. I’m 5’5″ and probably always will be (fingers crossed for a growth spurt!). I’m not talking about changing your genetics or reaching the top 5% of hot bodies.

I’m just talking about being a normal person with the goal of being healthy, looking your best and having a positive relationship with food.

This is achievable by anyone.

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Why It’s Worth It to Keep Trying Foods You Don’t Like

by | Jun 9, 2015

Sardine on a stick in Kyoto

When I was kid (you know, before my relationship with food was completely warped by my mother’s dieting habit), I was actually pretty normal.

I loved ice cream, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the strawberries I picked with my grandma.

I shamelessly copied the food preferences of my fellow classmates, and rejected things like onions and tuna fish for fear of looking uncool.

And of course, there were many foods I absolutely hated. At the top of the list were cilantro, lima beans, spinach and brussels sprouts. But I was also not a fan of eggplant, cucumber, beets, egg yolks, most fish and rye bread. The list goes on.

Of course, with time I grew out of my childhood tastes. Little by little I learned that spinach can be delicious in a fresh salad as opposed to the frozen gray-green slop my parents served, and that cilantro tastes completely different when used in Vietnamese cooking compared to the Mexican food I was raised on.

That’s normal, and you probably have similar stories of foods you’ve come to love as your palate has matured.

But I’ve noticed something funny about people over the age of 25. From what I can tell many––if not most––of the adults I speak to about their food preferences have reverted to the stubbornness of childhood when it comes to certain foods.

The argument goes something like, “I’ve tried olives a zillion times. I just don’t like them, so what’s the point of trying again?”

This line of reasoning makes intuitive sense. Life is short, so you shouldn’t waste your time on things that don’t make you happy. YOLO.

But you can probably guess that I don’t feel this way. Ant rants aside, my opinion is based on a somewhat unique set of experiences that, if you haven’t been through them yourself, you might not fully appreciate.

I’ve witnessed firsthand how much more enjoyable life is when you choose to like more things, and for this reason I feel compelled to share my story and hope to convince you to try again.

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The Exercise Rule That Will Keep You Fit Forever

by | May 19, 2015
Photo by lintmachine

Photo by lintmachine

Have you ever started a new habit with a lot of enthusiasm and built up some great momentum? Maybe you were able to workout three times a week for an entire month. It feels great, and every day you stick with it you’re strengthened to continue tomorrow.

But then something happens. You have to go away to a wedding a long weekend, or your kids both get sick at the same time and force you to drop everything to care for them.

Your momentum is broken, and when things settle down you find yourself ordering takeout and skipping your workout to watch the latest episode of The Voice (it’s cool, I won’t tell anyone).

Momentum can be both a blessing and a curse. When it’s on your side you feel amazing and it becomes a catalyst for even more positive behaviors. When it’s against you it somehow saps the motivation out of almost everything you do. I call this lazy couch momentum.

To avoid succumbing to the lazy couch momentum I follow one simple rule:

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How to Start a Habit You Don’t Enjoy

by | May 12, 2015
Photo by douglemoine

Photo by douglemoine

Something amazing happened this morning.

Instead of hopping out of bed, having breakfast, then plunging myself headlong into work, I casually sipped my coffee, ate my muesli, then wandered into my office for a 30 minute meditation session before even turning on my computer.

What’s amazing isn’t that I’ve done this once, but that I’ve been doing it for months.

Even more amazing is that I love it.

Meditation is not an easy habit to develop, because the reward is not immediate or obvious.

Sure I know what the reward is in theory. Meditation is supposed to help me focus better, reduce stress and increase contentment.

It should help me be more creative and do better work. It should help me build deeper relationships with the people I love. It should be easier for me to appreciate the important things.

Only it’s incredibly frustrating to try to focus on my breath when new thoughts distract me every few seconds. It takes time out of my day I could really use for other important things. And during most of the session I feel like a total failure.

I want all those benefits, but gawd I’d rather watch paint dry.

Of course meditation isn’t the only habit that fits in the “I know I should, but this really doesn’t feel very rewarding” category.

I felt the exact same way about flossing my teeth, which I now do daily (even on vacation!).

For you maybe it’s getting enough exercise or eating vegetables that still feels more like a chore than a rewarding habit.

So how can you get over the hump?

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Wisdom Wednesday: Stop Checking Nutrition Facts

by | May 6, 2015
Photo by Enokson

Photo by Enokson

Most people don’t believe me when I say I remember learning about mitosis in 5th grade, but I do.

And I’m not talking about the kind of remembering where I vaguely recollect learning *of* it. I was fascinated by the stages of prophase, metaphase, anaphase and telephase, and couldn’t believe that our chromosomes did such a beautiful dance every time a cell would divide.

I mean, have you seen it?

In high school, biology was always my favorite subject. I even took an extra class in physiology just for funsies.

And after dicking around as an English major for a few years at Berkeley I ultimately graduated with a degree in molecular and cell biology. (I won’t tell you the kinds of grades I got in my MCB classes, because you’d hate me.)

That’s how much I love biology.

As you can imagine, this kind of devotion to the microscopic secrets of our body added plenty of fuel to the fire of my dieting obsession.

Calories, carbs and fat counts? Couldn’t get enough of ’em. I had piles of notebooks filled with each sinful and virtuous molecule I consumed, and took an embarrassing number of nutritional supplements.

Had the Quantified Self movement been around back then, I would have been a disciple. (Soooooo glad it wasn’t).

I know the temptation to count and quantify what you eat. It feels good. It feels like control.

But it isn’t.

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Introducing Homo nutritiocus: The Perfect Eater

by | May 4, 2015

Photo by Kaptain Kobold

Since the discovery of the vitamin, scientists have hypothesized the existence of a previously undiscovered species, Homo nutritiocus. Homo nutritiocus or Nutricons, as I like to call them, eat for one reason and one reason alone: optimal health and nutrition.

Nutricons are completely rational about their food decisions, which is why they are so insanely healthy. They eat three balanced meals every day and always include five to seven (depending on the current health recommendations) servings of fruits and vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables and lean protein are their favorite foods, of course. They never add extra salt to their food, because flavor is irrelevant. They do treat themselves to dessert every now and then, but only in moderation.
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How I Learned to Cook Without Recipes

by | Apr 29, 2015

darya-veggies-blog

Going away to college was a huge shock for me.

I was so neurotic about food at the time that I refused to live in the dorms and pay for the required school meal plan. So I got an apartment with some friends and attempted to feed myself for the first time in my life.

Oh boy.

For the first few months I ate out every meal. In Berkeley this was fun since there’s so much great food, but the novelty eventually wore off.

I also didn’t appreciate the extra 25 pounds that all seemed to pile onto my thighs. So I decided to start making more meals at home.

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