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

by | Mar 23, 2015


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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Why I’ll Never Tell You to Eat “Heart Healthy” Foods

by | Mar 18, 2015

Photo by Rubyran

If you want a glimpse of hell you needn’t look any further than my inbox. Every day, without fail, I receive dozens of pitches from people that would love to hijack my site to serve their own purposes.

Whether it’s PR firms trying to get me to mention their clients’ crappy products or spammy content marketers pitching horrible and pointless articles to get some SEO juice from a respected site. I’ve seen everything. You might not realize this, but one of my many jobs is to protect you guys from the onslaught of BS the internet is trying to hurl at you.

What’s interesting though is that so many of the guest post pitches I receive rely on exactly the same formula. It goes something like this:

_(insert number)_ Essential _(insert food or nutrient)_ for a Healthy _(insert body part)_

Clearly this formula works on many health and nutrition bloggers, or all the content marketing folks wouldn’t be using it. But it also embodies everything I despise about nutritionism and the misleading health advice we’ve been fed for the past half century.

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16 (more) Enlightening TED Talks for Foodists

by | Mar 16, 2015

TED Cuddy

Once again, this week in Vancouver the illustrious TED Conference will commence. I love TED talks, and last year I compiled a list of my all-time favorites on food, health and happiness.

I put together another list of my favorites this year. As tends to happen in life, my interests shifted a bit to focus more on psychology. Specifically why we think, act, and make decisions the way we do. In other words, how we choose to make life awesome.

If you have never heard of TED, their mission is to shine the spotlight on brilliant people who have “ideas worth spreading.”

Traditionally talks were 18 minutes long, but have recently been cut to 12. Little bite-sized nuggets of wisdom it’s hard not to love.

I hope you discover some new people and ideas that make you think.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Salad Dressing Is Your Friend

by | Mar 11, 2015

Photo by juanpablo.santosrodriguez

When I was a teenager, salad dressing was the enemy.

Sure I knew salads were the best choice for losing weight. But dressing, that evil temptress, tried her best to undo all the pain and suffering I just knew was necessary to get the body I wanted.

I remember once getting into an argument with my dad. (The poor man had endured years of my refusing even a drop of fat on anything I ate.)

He had made a substantial (and delicious) Cobb salad for dinner, and was offering me a bottle of low-fat ranch dressing to top it off.

I self-righteously retorted, “Salad dressing defeats the purpose of eating a salad.”

“No it doesn’t,” he explained with exasperation. “The purpose of eating a salad is to get your vegetables and leafy greens in for the day.”

Clearly we were speaking different languages.

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Am I Obsessed With Losing Weight?

by | Mar 9, 2015
Vacation stats

Vacation stats

Last week I wrote about the 5 Things I Always Do When I Want to Lose Weight. It is about how I handle it when I come home from vacation and feel uncomfortable in my clothes.

In general people loved it and it performed really well. But a couple of people took issue with it, claiming that it came off as too “obsessive.”

They said that I shouldn’t be spending vacation time in the gym and shouldn’t care so much about getting healthy when I return home. The implication being that these actions were somehow emotionally unhealthy.

At first I was really confused. For nearly 6 years here at Summer Tomato I’ve been writing about the dangers of dieting, paying special attention to the psychology of food, health and body image. I even wrote a book about it.

Do these guys seriously think I have an unhealthy obsession with weight loss after all that? That I don’t know the value of taking breaks and enjoying vacation? That I feel guilty about indulging in delicious food? That I don’t realize that intentional self-restriction is a terrible idea?

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5 Things I Always Do When I Want to Lose Weight

by | Mar 2, 2015

Photo by angeloangelo

I recently returned from an eight day vacation in Dubai. I never thought I would visit the Middle East in my life, so I was determined to make the most of this unique opportunity.

Every meal we had was lavish and indulgent. Every day we drank champagne and cocktails.

And although I logged over 100,000 steps during the week and made great use of the gym at our hotel, there was no denying that my clothes were uncomfortably tight when I got home.

Naturally, I regret nothing. I don’t mind how I look when I’m a few pounds heavier (most people wouldn’t notice), but I wanted to get back to my normal weight because I am more comfortable there. My clothes fit better and I feel more myself.

I’ve written before that I don’t believe in cleanses, detoxes or diets. Instead I rely on my Home Court Habits to get me back into my comfort zone.

But over the years I’ve noticed that there are certain habits I focus on more intently when I’m actively trying to lose weight.

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5 Lessons About Exercise You Can Learn From Your Dog

by | Feb 23, 2015

The same thing happens every day. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining. Whether we had a late night encounter with raccoons or we’re well-rested. Shortly after lunch every afternoon my dog Toaster wanders into my office and puts his little head on my lap.

It’s time to go to the park.

While it’s clear that Mother Nature plays a roll in his timing (potty time is a an excellent trigger), it doesn’t take more than a glance to realize that there is a deeper motivation under all that fluffy fur.

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