Sign up

You deserve to feel great, look great & LOVE your body

Enter your email for your FREE starter kit to get healthy & lose weight without dieting:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Foods that help depression and anxiety, how much exercise you need for lifelong youth, and how bad habits impact dad’s swimmers

by | Aug 3, 2018

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

This week foods that help depression and anxiety, how much exercise you need for lifelong youth, and how bad habits impact dad’s swimmers.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

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

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.

Read the rest of this story »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How I Lost 60 Pounds In 1 Year With A New Healthstyle

by | Mar 23, 2011
Patrick in Sept - 20 lbs ago

Patrick in Sept 2010 (20 lbs ago)

I recently learned about Patrick from a comment he left here at Summer Tomato. I was astounded by his tremendous weight loss success and touched by his story of how he got there.

Patrick describes himself as “just a regular guy that works a corporate job who decided to educate himself with the internet and use the knowledge to upgrade my healthstyle.”

I hope he inspires you as much as he’s inspired me.

P.S. Because of Patrick I’m now doing interval training again, and I’ve noticed a difference in less than a week. w00t!

How I Lost 60 Pounds In 1 Year With A New Healthstyle

by Patrick Birke

My journey really began two years ago with the birth of my daughter. She was born in March, and the following summer my wife and I bought out a friend’s CSA (community supported agriculture) summer share who was moving out of the neighborhood. With ¾ of the summer season left, we received more vegetables than we knew what to do with.

We began making our own baby food for our infant daughter. Steaming fresh veggies, pureeing them and freezing it into ice cube trays was the perfect way to feed her over the next year without the need to ever buy store bought baby food. By the time the season was over we were hooked on the CSA. The three of us even went to visit the farm for their annual fall harvest celebration, we picked our own pumpkins and saw where all of our yummy veggies were grown.

This was the first step to the new me. I was introduced to fresh vegetables that I would normally pass right by at the grocery store (things I didn’t even know they had, but have now noticed) such as kale, swiss chard, fennel, leeks, rutabaga, turnips, squash, brussels sprouts, rhubarb, just to name a few.

That fall we ran out of our CSA stock but we did purchase a half cow and half pig from a local farmer to get us through the long Minnesota winter.

Local grass-fed beef is great, but I quickly learned that it cannot be the only thing in my diet.

By spring 2010, I was up to 200 pounds. We signed up again for the CSA summer share but I knew if I wanted to lose weight and gain muscle, that diet alone would not do it. So I joined a gym. I have belonged to various gyms in my life and even have an elliptical in my basement, but I never lost weight in the past because I hadn’t changed my diet.

I started out slowly, going only once or twice a week. I would use the elliptical for 50 minutes while watching an episode of True Blood or other action show where the cast is ripped. This was great motivation to get to the gym—I could go get bad Chinese food with my co-workers or I could workout and see what trouble Sookie Stackhouse was in today.

In summer 2010, we began receiving our CSA summer share again. We made it a fun weekly routine to pull our daughter in her wagon to the CSA drop off location in our neighborhood. We would also stop by one of the dozens of farmers markets around Minneapolis to fill in what we needed.

I was back on a balanced vegetable diet and increasing my gym time to 2-3 times per week, but the picture was still not complete. The next piece of the puzzle was to start cutting things out that I don’t need. This includes soda, fast food, frozen pizzas, delivery pizza, milk, juice, processed and packaged food, etc.

Breaking these habits did not happen overnight, but over the course of the year I’ve done pretty well. Cutting out soda was easy, especially when I gave up coffee (which was not for weight loss reasons, but for caffeine withdrawl headaches). Since I spend my lunch hour at the gym, I no longer get fast food for lunch. Instead I bring a sandwich (tuna, turkey, chicken, etc.) and a piece of fruit. There are times when I do buy my lunch, but I get a salad instead.

I still enjoy going out to dinner with friends or family and am not too concerned about what I eat there, but I am mindful of the pitfalls (dinner rolls, buffalo wings, movie popcorn, cookie dough Blizzards, etc.). At home we occasionally get take out, but it is just as fast to cook something than wait for delivery or pick up take out.

By cutting these things out, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, I started to really see some progress. I lost 40 pounds by the fall of 2010 without starving myself or counting calories. I am conscious of portions and always read food labels, (especially for the first few ingredients) but it does not rule me.

By fall, I had run out of True Blood and switched to shorter television shows on the elliptical, using the remaining time to lift weights. Again I started slowly with just a few weight machines. I also went back to the internet and read about the benefits of mixing a lifting routine with interval cardio.

I decreased my time on the elliptical, increased my time lifting and started experimenting with intervals on the treadmill. Some people might call it HIIT (high-intensity interval training), but I like to think of it is as MIIT (moderate-intensity interval training). I could always run faster but I am not interested in blacking out or throwing up after a workout, because I do have to go back to work!

Over winter 2010-2011, I was doing a 10 minute warmup on the elliptical (now watching The Tudors in 10 min intervals), then lifting for 20 minutes (I mix in free weights with weight machines), then 20 minutes of intervals (one minute walk, @ 4 mph, one minute jog @ 6 or 7 mph, one minute run at 9 or 9.5 mph, repeat).

Although the treadmill calculates less calories burned doing intervals verses just running @ 8 mph for 20 minutes, I get super sweaty and feel great! Again, I use my phone to motivate me, I listen to Stuff You Should Know or other podcasts while lifting, and Girl Talk or other up tempo music while running.

I now go to the gym 3-5 times a week as my work schedule allows. I work in a very tall building in downtown Minneapolis, so the days that I cannot get there (due to lunch meetings or other) I run/walk up the stairs between meetings, sometimes more than 10 flights at a time. It gets the heart pumping, but I don’t even get winded anymore.

From fall 2010 until now, I have lost another 20 pounds bringing the total to over 60 pounds. My weight has plateaued again, but that is fine. I am slowly gaining muscle while losing the remaining belly fat, which means my weight is pretty stable.

For the winter, we signed up for a winter share from the same CSA. We received a lot of root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.) along with fruits and vegetables they saved from the summer and froze. We include spinach, kale or chard in almost every meal we can. The CSA also includes really good bread and granola they make on the farm.

These days it is all about routine and spending time cooking with my family. We plan a vegetarian night (Meatless Monday!), a fish night (ahi, salmon, sword fish, etc.) and a meat/pasta night (local beef, pork or chicken). With enough leftovers to get us through the rest of the week. My wife and I both bring our lunches and snack on nuts or fruit between meals.

Although I have cut out a lot of junk food, I don’t feel like I am missing out. I still enjoy alcohol and have a glass (or two) of wine or Scotch almost every night. I try to stay away from sugary desserts, but do have the occasional piece of cake or ice cream.

By reading Summer Tomato and the links that Darya provides, I have started to incorporate other foods such as white beans, lentils, quinoa, etc., especially on vegetarian nights. I’ve learned to love food and really pay attention to it instead of just cramming anything into my mouth. I’m always looking for new and interesting recipes. I’m even starting to get to the point that I can make dinner without having to pre-plan it, just by using what is on hand.

This summer we’re signed up with the CSA for our 3rd year, and have added a fruit share. I’m on the look out for an egg share and possibly a bread share, though I might try to start baking my own bread instead.

To summarize, I attribute my weight loss success to a combination of diet, exercise and cutting out the junk. Each one of those things alone would not (and have not in the past) accomplished it. The love of my family and cooking together keeps me going everyday.


Patrick Birke

Tags: , , , , , ,

Why I Make Homemade Baby Food

by | Feb 1, 2010
Riley and Root Veggies

Riley and Root Veggies

Today I am honored and humbled to have longtime friend and colleague Jennifer Freese share her healthstyle transition from not-so-healthy scientist to thriving new mother.

Jennifer was blessed (cursed?) with the gift of proximity. She sat in the desk and worked at the lab bench directly adjacent to mine for four years at UCSF. As a result she saw firsthand how I gleefully integrate healthy living into my freakishly busy schedule.

Jennifer’s story is the perfect example of how small, gradual and customized changes can transform your life. She started shopping at the farmers market so she could bring fresh produce to make beautiful salads at work (I’m famous for this in the lab). She started jogging regularly, although she swore she could never be a runner. She even switched a few meals a week from red meat to fish, despite her Midwestern roots!

Last year Jennifer had her first child, and is now imparting her healthy lifestyle to her new daughter. I’m thrilled to have her share her story with you.

Homemade Healthstyle: Lessons In Making Baby Food

by Jennifer Freese

I was lucky enough to work with Darya in the Pleasure Lab for four years. It’s hard not to be influenced by her passion for food and a healthy lifestyle. Not just the book recommendations and exercise tips, but watching her effortlessly practice habits which to me seemed impossible. Seeing her live and eat changed how I think about food.

Darya taught me about healthy eating and how to really integrate it into my life. I now love shopping at my local farmers’ market almost every Saturday. I fill my plate with vegetables and eat whole grains I had never even heard of before. Since I do the grocery shopping and a majority of the cooking for the house, my husband has necessarily upgraded his healthstyle as well. And now I’m passing this lifestyle on to the newest member of our family, my daughter Riley.

When my daughter was a few months old we went over to a friend’s house for dinner. I was stunned to see my friend whip open the cabinet and presented her toddler with mac n’ cheese (pop off the top and serve), a handful of yogurt melts (freeze dried yogurt), a banana, and toddler formula.

It was the most highly processed, colorless meal I’d ever seen.

That evening, I thought about how easy it is to go from the jarred pureed baby foods to the now popular grab-and-go toddler foods to adult TV dinners and fast foods. I vowed that when my daughter started solid foods I would do things very differently. I’d already toyed with the idea of making my own baby foods, but it seemed like a lot of work. However, I decided that shaping her tastes early with fresh foods was worth the effort.

Learning to cook for a baby required some research and planning. There are many opinions on how to introduce solid foods to babies and as a scientist I was compelled to read up on all the theories. I am happy to say that Riley enjoys most of the foods I’ve presented to her. In hindsight I think all the time I spent deciding what should come first–pears or peas–wasn’t worth the worry.

Most of the recipes for first foods for babies are the same: steam the fruit or vegetable until very tender, blend and serve. My husband gave me a fantastic gift for my 1st Mother’s Day: the Beaba Babycook and the Cooking for Baby cookbook. The Babycook is a steamer/blender/defroster all in one that I use almost daily. The cookbook has given me recipe ideas beyond simple pureed foods, suggestions for tasty combinations and flavoring with spices and herbs.

Obviously making baby food takes more time than cracking open a jar. I have to plan ahead and make sure I’ve started steaming long before mealtime. Hungry babies do not wait patiently for dinner! I always make large quantities and put some in the fridge for the next few days and freeze the rest. I was surprised at how long it takes to measure out all those 2 oz portions. But once I make that time investment, my freezer is stocked and I have food ready to serve in the future.

Making my own baby food allows me to serve Riley a greater variety of foods and flavors. Roasted red peppers, cilantro and amaranth are not typical on the ingredients list of jarred baby foods. My hope is that this early exposure to a greater variety of foods will help her keep an open mind about food in the future (although I’m sure she’ll go through picky phases like all kids). For now she is growing and thriving and that tells me my time is well spent.

The affirmation that I was doing the right thing came on a camping trip when Riley was 8 months old. I brought some homemade food, but I also took along a few commercial jars. Yes, sometime convenience is really nice, especially in the woods without my Babycook!

It seemed like a good idea until I opened the jar of peas. Unlike my vibrantly colored homemade peas, these were gray and didn’t smell right. Not wanting to influence Riley I disguised my doubts and put a spoonful in her mouth. She completely rejected them.

Not only would she not eat the jarred peas, she wouldn’t eat fresh peas for two weeks. I guess they had lost her trust.

I have since tried some other jarred foods (now I sample everything before I give it to her) and truth is, they just don’t taste like their fresh counterparts. How can we expect a toddler to enjoy fresh green beans when all they’ve had is processed pureed green beans that taste nothing like the real thing?

My experience with Riley is that she enjoys what is served but is reluctant to accept change. I’d much rather she enjoy freshly prepared fruits and veggies and reject the processed food.

Don’t get me wrong though, we’re not only about healthy eating. For Riley’s first birthday I plan to stick an entire mini cake in front of her and let her go at it. But since I will make the cake myself, I feel better knowing every ingredient that is going in her mouth, on her face, in her hair, and on the floor!

Tags: , , , ,